Happy Xmas

December 24, 2010

In a perfect world, this would be our big fancy “Christmas post” where we’d find wonderfully elaborate words to wish all our readers and all our friends – on Ravelry and elsewhere – a very merry Christmas and thank you all for your interest in our somewhat incoherent, if not disorderly, blog. Also, this post would be accompanied by a flashy computer-animated Nativity Play with bright colours and lots of special effects, not to mention the kind of sounds you’d only expect to hear from a pinball table or a 1980ies Steven Spielberg movie.

In the real world, we’ll just limit ourselves to a simple Merry Christmas and thank you, folks, and add yet another photo of a medieval piece of art:

It’s a 15th century relief from the church of San Nicola in Altamura, Italy, and though it’s neither colourful nor flashy, it does show the Nativity. And, if you look at the whole thing, you’ll realize that it has all the qualities a good Nativity play should have:

First and foremost, there’s the obligatory sense of naivety which is so characteristic for every proper Nativity Play. Then, there’s the full cast of angels playing their lutes and of shepherds playing their flutes (and see, there’s even a rhyme in it). And aren’t those sheep just adorable? Just look at the way they’re huddling together, cuddling up so tightly that they seem to be pushing each other out of the picture, almost like a flock of lemmings just about to jump off a cliff. Actually, those sheep even look a bit like lemmings, don’t they?*

So, this post may not be as fancy as we’d imagined it to be, but we hope you give us credit for creativity: Seriously, what other blog offers you the Nativity with lemmings?

And that’s goodnight from us, at least for this year… We’ll be offline for the next week or so, but we’ll be back in 2011 and we hope that so will you!

Take care, have a Great Christmas and New Year,

[c] & [m]

* I just checked in the Bible: It says “the shepherds were watching over their herd” (Luke 2,8), there’s no mention of sheep. So, strictly speaking, they might have been herding lemmings after all…

Exile on Zen St.

December 22, 2010

Traditionally, around the beginning of December, [m] and I put up some Christmas decorations around the apartment*, start listening to Christmas-y music**, and spend every free minute doing loads and loads of Christmas baking. Well, not this year…

This year, for a number of reasons, we simply didn’t have any free minutes for most of December. Which means: No Christmas decorations, no Christmas music, and no Christmas baking. While this is certainly a pity it wouldn’t actually be a problem, unless, of course…

The problem is that both [m] and I come from regions and from families with a strong tradition of Christmas baking, and as our families will receive many visits from friends and relatives over the holidays there is indeed a need for cookies and pastries to offer to all the guests. But while [m]’s mum is a prolific baker herself, my mum isn’t. In my family all the Christmas baking has always been done by my grandma who comes from the “more than anyone could possibly eat”-school of baking. However, she’s not getting any younger and her age is beginning to show, so her output of Christmas cookies has drastically decreased over the past few years. And that’s why my mum has come to rely upon me (and [m]) to cover our family’s Christmas baking.

So, feeling a certain sense of obligation, these past few days I squeezed in what is best described as a last minute baking marathon. I was hoping that as soon as I’d made myself comfortable in the kitchen and put on some Christmas music, the spirit of the season would come over me and I’d be all jolly, ho-ho, baking along like Santa and his elves or something like that.

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t quite work out. In retrospect, it might have had to do with my choice of music: Perhaps, the Stones’ Exile on Main St. isn’t such a perfect Christmas album after all…

Fortunately, though, something even better happened: Once I’d began weighing flour, beating egg-whites, adding sugar, etc. etc., my mind switched to a Zen-like baking mode where I became so immersed in the baking that everything else became marginal and unimportant except for me and the dough my hands were kneading that very moment. So, in the end, what had looked like a dire and stressful obligation, turned into a joyful and relaxing experience. Ah, Edward Espe Brown would be so proud of me…

* No, nothing fancy, just some fir branches and some old fashioned “straw stars”, i.e. star ornaments made of thatch…

** No, nothing corny… Usually, we settle for Long Ago & Far Away by Charlie Watts which isn’t even a proper “Christmas album” but just a collection of old jazz standards that somehow emanates a cozy feel we find suitable for the season. Also, in my opinion, it’s the best solo album any of the Rolling Stones has ever done. Oh, and don’t worry, Charlie doesn’t do the vocals himself… But I’m digressing…