Packages of Goodies

November and December were rough this year. Just so many deadlines and so much I was trying to get done. Tack a migraine on top of that and I felt like I was slogging through mud. The first order of business for the month was getting a start on my holiday baking. Last year we cancelled our annual holiday party thanks to Covid and really missed it. This year, with the Omicron variant now rearing its head, we still weren’t going to have an in-person gathering, but decided instead to make it virtual. And since we were doing it virtually, we decided to also send out some goodie boxes with some treats in them to the people that typically attend the party. So, I needed to get started on my baking so I could get these treats in the mail.

bowl of golden raisins and cranberries and a cup of dates

First up was fruitcake. I made this for the first time a few years ago and it was delicious, so we decided it was an excellent candidate for mailing. I put dates, golden raisins, and cranberries in it. It turned out really good and so many people asked for the recipe once they received their packages that I posted my recipe on the blog.

cross-stitch pillow with a deer and a crown that says Yule surrounded by pine branches, a pinecone, and a quartz crystal

Even with all the crazy deadlines and holiday stress, I did try really hard this month to give myself some moments of respite. One of the things that I’ve been really enjoying is a new account I found on Instagram, Gritchenwitch. She also has a blog, which is lovely. She’s been posting her seasonal altar as well as her hearth craft practice, and it’s really been inspiring me. I decided to take some time to set up my small altar in our meditation space to reflect the season, thanks to her influence. I put my Yule sabbat pillow as the focal point (which I had done last year as well), and then I added some greenery, a pinecone, and a quartz crystal point. It was something small and simple, but it felt like I had breathed some life into this sacred space.

sifting spices into a bowl of flour

Next up on the baking agenda was spiced nuts, which were going in the goodie boxes, and pumpkin bread which was just because I wanted some.

dark room with a Christmas tree lit up with white lights

We got the house all decorated for Christmas the first weekend of December, so that we’d have everything up in advance of our virtual party. I absolutely love having the tree lights giving off that warm glow in the house. There is something so cozy and comforting about it.

feet wearing fair isle socks, Captain Picard on the tv

Since finishing Sopranos, we decided to start watching Star Trek: Next Generation. This is the series that made me fall in love with Star Trek and it brings back a lot of memories.

spritz cookies in flower and tree shapes with red and green sprinkles

I spent a day working on the Spritz cookies. I’d made them for our party a couple of years ago and loved how they turned out. But, I didn’t have a cookie press, so this year Eric got me one so that I could try it out. It took me a good while to get the hang of it, but most of the cookies turned out ok. I made three batches and only caught one potholder on fire and had to treat one burn with lavender oil. o_O

rolled out gingerbread dough and cutting out gingerbread boys and girls with a cookie cutter

Next up, gingerbread cookies. I made the dough while I the spritz cookies were baking, but it has to refrigerate for awhile, so I left the actual baking for the next day. I wanted to do gingerbread girls and boys, so I had to dig my cookie cutters out. They make me think of my mom because we bought those cutters together when we were on our big Martha Stewart obsession years ago.

We had our virtual party on the evening of the 11th, and it was fun to be able to visit with people but not nearly as fun as in person. Here’s hoping we can do in person in 2022. We got the goodie boxes filled with treats and boxed up to go out in the mail that Monday. It was a lot of work, but I hope they brought some joy to people’s faces. I printed out a little note to put inside the boxes with our wishes for a happy holiday season and a list of the goodies we included: fruit cake, spiced nuts, spritz cookies, and gingerbread cookies. I may have eaten about ten spritz cookies while I was packaging everything up.

black cat in kitchen window looking out

Once I had the boxes mailed out, our party behind us, the decorating done, my chart released, and the guild website finished, it felt like I had the bulk of my to do list behind me. Still a ton I wanted to get done before the end of the year, but it didn’t feel quite as suffocating.

On the 16th, I got to do something really fun. My friend, Susan (Professor of Words) was doing a lecture series on the films of Guillermo del Toro and she offered to do the one on Crimson Peak again for a few of us in the Bloodmilk group that had missed it the first time around. It was a such a great (virtual) class and she talked a lot about the themes and symbolism, the costumes and set design, and the cinematography. It was so good getting to discuss this beautiful gothic film I love with other likeminded individuals. She’s going to do her class on The Shape of Water in January, so I’m going to sign up for that one too.

I was able to take the rest of the year off from work. That sounds so indulgent when I say it, but it was much-needed. Especially with all the push push push to get things done over the past few months. I did manage to be somewhat productive though. In my efforts to start “clearing”, Eric helped me with my email and setting up additional filters to help weed through the chaos. My email is a huge energy drain, so having a plan of attack to deal with it and also setting myself up to be better able to manage it going forward.

peanut butter cookies

I’ve also been thinking a lot about clearing my physical space too. Not only of clutter, and things I don’t use, but most importantly of things that have a negative emotional charge to them, things that make me feel bad every time I see them. It’s kind of the opposite of the KonMari idea of surrounding yourself with things that spark joy, by removing things that don’t. It’s also a concept in Feng Shui – to remove things from your space that lower your chi. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this in the future.

The other thing that Eric and I worked on over my vacation was giving my websites/blogs a facelift. It had been a long time since I’d really worked on them and they all got new themes and a bunch of other aesthetic changes. It feels so good to give them a refresh and a new look.

apple pie fresh out of the oven

For Christmas Eve dinner, Eric made crab cakes (for himself), spaghetti with marinara sauce (he also put clams in his), tuna steak for him and chicken for me, with zucchini and yellow squash. It was all delicious. For dessert, we had the apple pie I made that morning with vanilla ice cream. After dinner we settled in to watch Miracle on 34th Street, which I had never seen.

apple pancakes and bacon on a plate with a fork

On Christmas morning, we had apple pancakes which are a Christmas tradition for us. We went to Eric’s parents’ house for dinner that night. His mom has cancer and was not doing well, so we spent a good amount of time over there during the holidays – both of us and also Eric by himself. Trying to get in as much time with her as possible. His sister made chicken piccata and spaghetti for dinner and then we had pizza dolce she made for dessert. It’s been years since I had that. On the way home, Eric decided to take the long way and we looked at Christmas lights. I don’t remember doing that since before we were married. But, it was nice to look at the lights and listen to Christmas music and dream of the day we’ll have a house of our own.

slice of pizza dolce on its side on a plate with a fork

On New Year’s Eve, we lost Eric’s mom. I’m so grateful we had the time with her these past ten months and that nothing was left unsaid. I’m glad too that we had Christmas Day together, as a family.

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