I recently made 27 apple dumplings. And soon I'll be making about a dozen more. It was my opportunity to put on some Christmas music (thank you Pandora.com) and do some good menial tasks in silence. Delightful! Almost as good as the morning I drove from our house down to Cambria along my very favorite country road (Santa Rosa Creek Rd) to get some chocolate sauce and other gift items to send back east. The dumplings remind me of my grandma and great-grandma, and maybe that's why I love making them. Also, they cannot be rushed. It is slow work making the dumplings - peeling, coring, filling, then wrapping and baking. It makes me slow down and gives me time to think. And did I mention the quiet? Except for the music, of course - side note: when you choose "Chieftans Holiday" music as your Pandora.com station, you get some great Celtic-style Christmas songs and, occasionally, a hilarious holiday Irish drinking song thrown in (there's one that tells the story of an Irish man who couldn't make it the whole way home on Christmas Eve and had to sleep in a church and woke up during midnight mass, for example). My other favorite thing about making dumplings is that there's not really a recipe. When I asked my grandma for one, she didn't know it, and just started making them, saying, "Well, you just do this, and then add some of this, and then do this, and then sprinkle on some of this...." so I gathered the info on my own, frantically writing down what I saw her doing. And they turn out all right! Just like having your own personal apple pie, and even better with ice cream. The taste of Christmas, to me.
In the slowed-down-ness of Christmas vacation, we are also finding time to play games and watch some of our favorite holiday classics ("Home Alone", "A Christmas Story"), and to enjoy some things that only happen around Christmas, like the Garden Farms Holiday Parade (truly a sight to behold!). Last year, Jamey got to dress up like Santa and lead the way. This year we got to dress up Sandy the '62 Rambler and drive her in the parade. I have to admit, the car was pretty cute with all of the decorations that Grace and her friend Shelly put on. There was also an assortment of old trucks, tractors, wagons, a wheelbarrow or two, a couple of horses, and a Porsche that I didn't even know my neighbor owned (what a show-off!). The parade started at one end of Walnut Avenue and proceeded all the way through the neighborhood to our neighbors' garage (which looks like an actual garage from the outside, but has couches, a wood stove, and a beer tap - probably for home brew - on the inside) for grilled sausage and tri-tip, because in Garden Farms, we're always on the lookout for a reason to enjoy some barbecued tri-tip!
Later that evening Jason and I went down to SLO for the annual Christmas carol sing-along at our church, which I love. If you are not yet in the Christmas spirit, try reading the verses of O Holy Night (2 is my favorite) or What Child Is This? I secretly sing these two songs to myself when impatient or greedy people in cars or stores make me forget momentarily what Christmas is really about.
In the words of Tiny Tim (the Dickens character - not the odd 60's singer), "God bless us, everyone!"
Hope you all have a wonderful, meaningful, peaceful Christmas!