I haven’t journaled since Friday, so here’s a quick recap.
Saturday dawned bright and cold. We went to the mall and got the boy out of his snowsuit and boots, and into his shoes. We waited in a very short line for Santa, who was wonderful. Liam found his little Santa hat this morning and tucked it into the tote bag we brought with us, saying that he was going to be Santa’s helper when he got there. He put it on just before he got his turn with the Santa, and told him (rather shyly, for some reason, we aren’t sure what happened to the exuberant kid who’d been waiting in line) that he wanted a train. “A train? Like a Thomas train?” said Santa. And the boy turned huge eyes upon him, as if to say, You *do* know everything!
Then we picked up another gift that I hadn’t been able to get the day before, and we did groceries, and picked up the photographic proof that the boy saw Santa. (Good grief, look at how tall he is, especially when compared to last year.) Then we went to get the tree.
The tree was a bit of a challenge this year. Usually we get our tree at Ikea, because they plant one for every one sold plus give you a twenty dollar credit toward a purchase in the new year. I thought to check the web site before we left to see what time they opened, and found a note informing shoppers that they were out of trees and were not expecting another shipment. Crisis! So we decided we’d get it at Canadian Tire, our pre-Ikea supplier. Except when we drove there after the Santa visit, we discovered that Canadian Tire wasn’t selling them at all this year. What to do? It was past lunch, and we needed a tree or the boy would move into Irreversible Cranky Mode thanks to being out among crowds all morning, an empty tummy, and the increasing need for the regular nap. So we stopped by the independent seller halfway home and discovered that their prices were entirely reasonable. I chose one and HRH and Liam carried it to the car, the boy quite proudly holding the trunk end while HRH tucking the branches under his arm. When we arrived at the car HRH said, “I’m going to put this is the trunk.” “You can’t do that,” I said. “Why not?” he said. “It’s the same size as your cello.” I squinted at the tree and began to laugh, because he was right. It was still wrapped up in netting so it slid in quite readily and all he needed to do was bend the top in around the edge of the opening.
We let it rest for a bit and melt while the boy napped. HRH found the stand, set it up so the branches could relax, and we discovered that I’d picked a very nice little tree indeed. We brought the boxes of decorations up from the garage and put the lights on. When the boy woke up he was very excited and helped hang ornaments (including the Lightning McQueen one, which he was delighted to see and kept petting while he hung other ornaments; he has been warned about playing with it and the other decorations and so far so good) until he decided to watch a movie. This was fine, as we were getting to the more delicate things anyway. In what has now become our Solstice eve tradition, once the boy was in bed HRH and I ate sushi and finished decorating the tree. I also made a pecan pie for the next day’s party, and HRH and I co-made two batches of ginger cookies. Not gingerbread, not exactly gingersnaps, just ginger cookies, made with real fresh ginger (plus some black pepper because I find everything ginger tastes better with pepper).
Solstice morning was lovely. We had the upstairs neighbours down for our traditional Yule gift exchange and brunch. Blade made his incredibly light, fluffy, and delicious cinnamon rolls, stuffed with pecans and raisins (and I ate four of them!). HRH made waffles and we broiled turkey-pork sausages. Between the rolls and the waffles, though, we opened our stockings that hang from the banister in the stairway between our flats and the bigger gifts that were under the tree. My entire stocking, and I do not lie, exaggerate, or engage in hyperbole when I say this, contained chocolate in some form or another. (Oh, wait; there was a vial of red ochre powder. But it’s the exception that proves the rule!) There were truffles, fleur de sel caramels, organic Belgian drinking chocolate (solid chocolate that must be melted before imbibed!), and there was another container of drinking chocolate under the tree. Plus I got HRH’s peppermint bark, because he knows he’s going to eat piles of treats at Christmas so I inherit his chocolate, muah-hah! Saxon Chocolates, the official sponsor of the contents of my Yule stocking, are now one of my favourite chocolatiers; I can’t wait to taste those caramels. The boy was very excited because he got a Hot Wheels dune buggy and Lego vehicle sets as well as a Thomas milk tanker he’d wanted forever (now out of production… I love eBay). Somewhere around the end of brunch it began to snow, and it wasn’t just snow, it was heavy, thick, gorgeously blizzardy snow.
Sunday afternoon we were scheduled to be at a co-coven Yule party, so I made the second dessert (the evil chocolate torte that has rapidly become my signature dessert) and my contribution to the Secret Santa cookie exchange that we do. Since my recipient specifically requested that I make corn bread if I had drawn his name, I made a batch of corn muffins while I mulled cranberry juice to take with us for ritual. Thanks to the blizzard we were late, but everything was cosy when we arrived. We laughed and talked and exchanged presents and snacked. Our hostess had found old-fashioned ribbon candy, which I haven’t seen in years! Everyone was pretty much thrilled with the gifts they got; we’re a pretty good bunch when it comes to checking wishlists and buying things that people really want. I got a copy of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Yarn Harlot book, and the Philip Glass: Portrait album that AngÃ¨le Dubeau & La PietÃ released this year, so I was filled with squee. (Thank you, Aurora!) We ate a delicious spaghetti dinner with the best meatballs I’ve ever had, and the pecan pie and chocolate torte were served for dessert. Our ritual was short and focused and also seemed to give everyone what they needed, and was sealed by toasting with the mulled cranberry cider. Then, as much as we wanted to stay, it was back home through the blizzard to relive the local grandparents of Liam duty.
Today the boy was dropped off at school, and HRH tried to do the last of the holiday shopping. We gave up in exasperation. Everyone’s getting gift certificates this year. That way everyone can choose what they want or need. I’m odd; I’m a firm believer in gift certificates being the perfect gift, but I still like to give people things that they can unwrap. Ah, well. It’s the thought that counts, and we really did try, but nothing we needed or wanted was in stock or in the right colour. The parental units will understand. (While being foiled at Chapters I did finally see two copies of Elizabeth Bear‘s latest hardcover, All the Windwracked Stars, for which I’ve been searching since its release. I know where I’m going when the 30% off hardcover sale starts post-Christmas!)
And that brings us to just about now. The sun has started its journey back to us, we have all survived the longest, darkest night, and the season now continues to unfold with light and joy and family and love. My parents spend the day with us on the 24th, and both sets of parents are here for the 25th. Tomorrow we pick up the turkey where it waits for us, and it will defrost in the garage. I’ll brine it as usual. Looks like HRH and I won’t be exchanging gift(s) (it was to have been a co-present) again this year, but it’s a minor issue. Tomorrow we have dear friends over for a session of seasonal music-making and food, and Saturday we see even more friends. Apart from today’s shopping argh, things are wonderful, and the rest of the week looks to be increasing the wonderful quotient.