It’s September 25, and so begins the countdown to Christmas. With 91 days until Christmas Day, I say this not to rev consumerism engines, but to orient my mind as to what kind of life I’d like to be living by then. Spoiler alert: I’m exhausted, so my goals this year are not about achieving anything more than memories and maybe stronger nails.
The holiday season is a time of tradition, of decor changes, baked goods, casseroles and movies. Of throw blankets, banister adornments, coordinating throw pillows and winter candles. Cookie swaps, close friends for dinner, a set table. A jar of oranges set with swirled peppermints. Gift wrap, bows and music. Snow and slippers.
Each year I do a holiday autopsy, leaving myself notes for the following year of what made the worth-it list. Huge hit, and completely unexpected, last year were the Corn Cookies from Milk Bar and the Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Food Lab. My note from last year’s Thanksgiving:
THE IDEAL 2018 THANKSGIVING MENU
Baked sugar brie with apple slices
Sage stuffing with celery, mushrooms, challah
Shaved Apple Cranberry sauce with toasted walnuts
Brown butter mashed potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes (sliced into coins, not mashed with marshmallow, ick!)
Crisp bright green beans
Vinegary Collard greens with Bacon
Brussels sprouts with burst of lime
Sweet potato pie
Dark Cherry Pie
Not derby pie
We’re not Italian, but half of our family is, so we sometimes celebrate with the 7 fishes. This Christmas Eve, I think I want to add the Greek possibilities of Pastitsio, with our family’s signature spanakopita triangles (yes, again) with Galaktoboureko for dessert. Though Pastitsio is the Greek Man’s Lasagna, so who knows what will happen this year.
I grew up with a beautifully dressed bibb lettuce salad, followed by steak and lasagna, with potted paperwhites at the center of the dining room table. Mom’s sugar cookies, pies, and chocolate chip cookies.
I WISH HALLOWEEN DIDN’T EXIST
I despise Halloween. I tell Phil each year that we need to leave town and pretend the holiday doesn’t exist. I don’t like answering the door or escorting kids as they do the knocking. I hate buying crap costumes made of flame-retardant poly. I will never be a person who tolerates sewing homemade costumes. Can someone please make this holiday go away?
I wish there was an overall Holiday Manual or Course you could download, including everything from when to schedule hair blowouts, an ideal offering of pedicure ideas, outfit ideas, makeup looks, hair looks, handmade card and craft ideas, dinner and a movie pairings, and when to buy new holiday decor. Because I’m already bored of last year’s decor. There has to be a way to mix things up each year, while keeping some of the favorite traditional elements.
As for the life I’m hoping to fashion by Christmas, I want to wear jeans daily again, drinking pots of tea, and days upon days of plaid and tartans. Velvet ribbon belts or hair ties, I want stronger nails. Like, pregnant nails. Prenatal vitamin nails. More writing, more snuggles, less makeup, more perfume. Less work, more homemade memories.
Because you all ask me every year, I’m posting some of the recipes again here:
DUMP AND RUN CORN PUDDING
This is the best recipe for corn pudding, ever. Rave rave rave reviews each and every time. What I love most? You just dump and run, and then it’s done. Love it.
2 cans of corn kernels with juice (14.75 oz. Or 15 oz cans.)
2 cans creamed corn
2 boxes corn muffin mix (Jiffy or Krustaez for an all natural alternative)
2 sticks of butter, melted
2 cups (1 container) sour cream
Mix all together and bake in a casserole dish at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
STEPHANIE’S SAUCY CRANBERRY COMPOTE
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
3 (16 ounce) cans whole cranberry sauce (not jellied)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 (16 ounce) package frozen strawberries, thawed and drained
1 (6 ounce) can mandarin oranges
Orange zest (not sure how much)
In a large bowl, mix together the pineapple, cranberry sauce, walnuts and strawberries. Mix in orange zest. Cover and chill overnight before serving in glass serving bowl. The truth is, you can’t screw this up. Just drain out the juice, or it will be too watery. And if you want more mandarin oranges in it, just add them. Everyone, EVERYONE, loves this, and it’s so damn easy. The shaved apple idea comes from my father’s late wife, Carol. She used McIntosh.