MY LIFE - Holidays are here

MY LIFE - Holidays are here

Meteorological winter and the Christmas season are both officially here, and for once I am officially ready.

Bright and early on the first morning after Thanksgiving, I sprang into action. Off came the pumpkiny orange and black fall-themed mailbox cover and on went the wintry snowman one. Ditto with the decorative garden flags. Up and down the cellar stairs I went, armloads of scarecrows going down, snowmen coming up. Scarecrows have been uprooted from the front lawn and giant pumpkins sent off to New Hampshire for grandson Matt’s chickens to feast on while I plan how best to dress the big bobble-headed gnome that sits on the lawn under the living room window for the new season. And the wreath of colorful autumn leaves has given over its spot on the front door to bright green spruce with a red plaid bow.

Armed with a pair of balky pruning shears, my daughter Kathy and I spent quality time together on Saturday morning scouting the area for winterberries, our new annual tradition. Last year was our first time doing it, with me leaning over, precariously hanging onto branches and cutting while she grabbed onto the back of my jacket to keep me from tumbling down into disaster. It was so much fun we decided to make it an annual thing. The flower box under the kitchen window now has a festive air to it with pine boughs also adding color to the arrangement.

And I, a notoriously last-minute shopper, even have two bags ... albeit it very small bags ... of Christmas gifts already bought and waiting to be wrapped.

Three boxes of Christmas cards sit on the desk along with three books of holiday stamps. If all goes according to plan, they will soon be winging their way near and far to wish family and friends good cheer.

I have even been giving thought to holiday baking, with a practice run of stollen, a traditional German Christmas bread. I had never seen or even heard of stollen until two years ago when I first tried my hand at making it. The first batch went into the trash, followed by a frantic call to the King Arthur Flour people whose recipe I was using to find out where I had gone wrong.

Turns out when you substitute all purpose flour for pastry flour you need a little more water. Second batch was better, but this year I tried a different recipe. One batch makes three loaves that need to be brushed with melted butter and then thickly coated with confectioner’s sugar so they look like baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths.

I cannot tell a lie. Last weekend I ate the first slice, unbuttered and un-swaddled, hot from the oven. Between the two of us, my daughter Barbara and I polished off the first loaf by morning. I ate the last crumbs of the last loaf before bedtime last night, and although I have all the ingredients for another batch, including a 2-ounce nip of dark rum, I don’t know if my diet can take any more. It is just so good, with its load of raisins, chopped almonds, and candied fruit I cannot resist just one more thin slice at a time if it’s there.

Then we have the holiday wardrobe. For all my years of volunteering for Adopt-a-Family, I always had enough winter-themed shirts to see me through the whole week, but alas, time has taken its toll and the shirts have grown tired-looking and old. This year, I decided to treat myself to new ones. Fortunately, none were expensive because what I now have is a whole new wardrobe of seasonal T-shirts, turtlenecks, and one lonely but lovely bright red Grinch sweatshirt. Oh, and one new $3 pair of Christmas tree earrings.

Let the bells ring! Let the snow fall! Let the Christmas season begin! I am armed, and I am good to go!

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.