November 29th, 2009

life is good


Year after year, the things I am thankful for remain much the same. They're so obvious, they almost go without saying. And yet, to go without saying them is unthinkable; I can't take them for granted, and yet isn't that what we do, so much of the time? We go through our daily lives and we can't fall down on our knees every moment. There's lunch to be packed and homework to be done and beds to be made and meetings to go to. There are cookies to be baked and children to be hugged and dogs to be walked.

So we can only pause, now and then, to suddenly stare about us and blink in the sudden glare of realization: what we have. What surrounds us. How full of beauty and pleasure and laughter and delight our lives are. Some of you might be thinking, "Hmph. Speak for yourself, missy" and of course, I am. That's all I can do. But even in the roughest of tough times, there must be some light that shines, something that speaks to your soul and gives you cause for gratefulness.

For the past 13 years, we have gathered our closest friends (and sometimes our family) together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Anders and I provide the turkey, stuffing (inside the turkey), mashed potatoes and gravy. Everything else is delegated. One person brings pumpkin pies, one brings extra dressing, the one that's a chocoholic brings a chocolate dessert. Someone is designated to bring the black olives and the cranberry sauce, and sometimes there is green bean casserole and sometimes there is a tossed salad and sometimes there is some other traditional dish: corn casserole, savory sweet potatoes, broccoli & cheese au gratin. Wine in bottles and boxes. Smiles and laughter and now, all these years later: memories and shared history; stories of us, our past and our friendship.

Some friends have moved away, some can't always be with us, and one has passed away. Sometimes we have new friends that we ask to join us, but always the people we invite are those with whom we feel a bond of friendship and tradition that makes us look forward every year to the next celebration. There's something special about this gathering, and though I miss my family and the traditions of my childhood, it feels right that here in Sweden we have built up and refined and made something of our own that we can share and revel in each year.

Tomorrow: cookie baking & a 50th birthday party open house!

By the way, for those of you who care, I went with Martin and a girlfriend Friday night to see New Moon and well, maybe we were just in the right mood, and maybe it sounds really silly, coming from a mom and woman who is well past the demographic these books and movies were aimed at, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. It was MUCH better than the first one, and it was especially fun for us to listen to an entire packed house of theater-goers, the vast majority of whom were teenage and adolescent girls, gasping with sheer joy every time one of the two male stars took off his shirt. If you're at all into Twilight, it's well worth the ticket price.

*Title from a quote by John F. Kennedy


It's official! The holidays are here! We started decorating the house today, went to a glögg party and I "baked" the first cookies of the season. Using the term "baked" very, very loosely. My friend Debbie served these at a book group this past year and I've been badgering her for the recipe ever since. I decided they would be the cookie I'd take to the AWC Holiday Cookie Exchange, and when I called her a couple of weeks ago to remind her, she said, "Darn! I was hoping you'd forgotten about them, because I was going to make you a tin of them for Christmas!"

"But that's okay," I said. "I'm going to give these AWAY, so I'll need MORE. Plus, when would I ever refuse cookies? Never! That's when!" So she caved in and gave me the recipe, and I went grocery shopping yesterday (after cleaning and setting the table and before my pre-party NAP) and bought the ingredients. Except our local grocery store didn't have one of them, so I had to drive into Lund to the big mega-everything grocery store to get them.

SO GOOD. And SO easy! And I actually had enough that I can take some extras with me to give to the poor people who didn't sign up for the cookie exchange, AND take some to work AND still have some for us at home. They're so festive with the white, red & green!

Cranberry Pistachio Bark
500 grams quality white chocolate
250 ml. dried cranberries
240 ml. unsalted shelled pistachios

Roast pistachios at 180C for 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or on low heat (keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn). Stir cranberries and pistachios into melted chocolate. Pour onto foil-lined (25 x 38 cm) edged cookie sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then break into pieces. Makes about 750 grams.

I made 2 batches, and used an extra small bag of pistachios and cranberries each, and another 100 grams of white chocolate. I had to make 72 cookies, but since this was broken into pieces like brittle, I had probably twice that. It makes a LOT of cookies! De-double-licious!
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    Johnny Mathis—It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
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