Today's long-awaited blog will be a mishmash of Christmas images and thoughts, starting with the traditional Mahon Camel Cookies. Saudi Arabia is dear to this family's collective heart (and the family is dear to mine), so I started making molasses camels for them. I had trouble this year. I used the wrong recipe (from The Joy of Cooking), and produced a dough as stiff as pasta dough, which Olga tells me is as tough as the dog biscuit dough I'll be making for Benji later on. I let Mike test-drive the camel, and it came up substandard for both taste and texture, so I herded the rest into the trash and went back to the tried and true Ms. Crocker. As you can imagine, the dough sometimes gets stuck in those hooves, so we have to pretend that some of the camels are sitting down.
These festive bells are made with The Joy of Cooking's Rich Sugar Cookie recipe, substituting 100% of the vanilla with 150% of maple extract. Yum. Meee. For the paint, I beat an egg yolk with another drop or two of the maple, some water, and some food coloring.
Moving out of the kitchen into the living room, behold this package from a dear friend in The Land of Several Lakes. It was a tight fit in my mailbox, so I had to yank it out, and when I did, it fell to the ground and was hoisted, sort of, on its own acorn. As you can see, that acorn is really in there. I'm counting it as a Christmas Miracle, right up there with the fact that I was able to use Photoshop to erase enough of my friend's address to render him or her anonymous.
Now let's go outside to the Fallen Santa. I raved enough about this last year, but nothing exceeds like excess. Really, in the daytime, it looks as if hordes of barbarians entered the village and slaughtered all the brightly dressed townspeople. Or maybe the Florida sun melted all of Santa's helpers and then the cooler evening hardened them again. And again. I mean, it's cheerful in its own way, but gee, the same could have been said about my grandmother's funeral procession (sixty miles from Kane to Oil City, PA, at 40mph, the teenagers and mid-twenties in the last cars, laughing and singing with the radio, carrying on as if death had no sting).
Down a couple more blocks, though, you'll see this holiday-heavy lawn. These people keep the decorations inflated -- and aloft! -- all day and all night.
I sure hope the Santa Pilot stays clear of all that Spanish moss, which, by the way, was used to stuff furniture, like sofas and mattresses, in the Olden Days. This is on René's street. Further up 49th (maybe around 5th Avenue North), but sadly without a photo here, is a house with five trees in row, each in a rainbow color (=). [The preceding is not a ridiculous emoticon of a surprised person with vertical eyes, which would be surprising, indeed, but the equal sign, indicating the desire for equality under the law for non-heterosexual people, too.]
And look at this inclusive setup, on 58th Street: a dreidel and a manger. I can't tell if the dreidel is looking curiously at the manger or if it's acting in a menacing fashion, but it doesn't matter: They're together.