Home for the Holidays

The fireplace crackles. A beautiful, comforting sound. One that calls back childhood spent staring at well wrapped gifts and sitting up close to a Christmas tree, inhaling its fresh cut scent. The light casts a glow that does not extend too far, but I do not mind. The bustle of our household, one human child and two fuzzy ones engaged in full play mood, has sent me into crazy panic mood worrying someone will get hurt, knock down the tree, damage presents, or all of the above. To sit and gaze at the mesmerizing fire removes a sense of worry after the condensed and busy work week. There is no danger of leaving the fireplace unattended.

Let me present to you the 2020 Arendelle Castle Yule Log.

Apparently, this is Disney’s second foray with an Arendelle Castle Yule Log. We missed out last year while at my parents’ house but that’s ok.

This one looks great in our new home!

We are like many families spending the Christmas holiday clustered in our respective home. This year we’ve kept our social gatherings to a minimum and mostly hang out only with people we know regularly wear masks due to the nature of their work environment and who are willing to abide by the mask mandates that have become a regular part of life this year. Also, like numerous friends, I am not entirely upset to be staying home for the holiday. 2020 has layered on the stress. To unwind a little more by sleeping in my own bed, avoiding long lines in airports and on the roads, and eating my preferred meals and desserts sounds pretty appealing after the months and months of disruption to our routine.

To those who do not share my view, I respect your feelings on the matter. I realize not everyone wants to get through the end of the year by yet more “alone” time, away from friends and/or family. Many people want to be out shopping late, attending festivals and holiday parties, and soaking in all the nuanced ways one can celebrate the holiday season. I am choosing to state Christmas to reflect my own beliefs and holiday seasons to respect many others who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day. I do my best to state “Happy Holidays” to people as we come upon days off from work unless someone has wished me a Christmas greeting first and then I recognize him or her in the same manner. My understanding that this holiday season looks very different from others is also why I did not mark this post “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”

Instead, I want to focus on expressing gratitude for everyone who comes to visit my blog and for the good fortunes I’ve received this year that have allowed my husband and I to provide presents for friends, family, and one stranger this year plus some donations to a few key people. Bringing joy and relief to others has made me feel like I am doing my part to care for the many communities I belong to in a way that respects them and also protects my own resources should this year toss a few extra difficulties our way.

For anyone who is not used to spending Christmas in your own home away from a throng of friends and family, I hope my words bring comfort. I’ve spent a few holidays away serving in Iraq. I’ve spent a few holidays away due to being broke. I’ve spent a few holidays away due to conflicting time commitments. The pain of these moments hurt and you are allowed to be frustrated, maybe angry, sad, or even bitter. At the same time though, you can also recognize the situation as an opportunity for personal growth. Do you have some books you’ve been meaning to open that you wouldn’t have wanted to read on a plane crowded with strangers? How about that online fitness class that will allow you to build strength without you feeling self-conscious around strangers in the gym? Not that we need to finish out the year being ultra productive but sometimes around this time of year it can be hard to fit in time for one’s interests and hobbies when everyone else is asking us to attend holiday parties or we are expected to meet obligatory family gatherings. This year you don’t have that problem, so indulge in filling your cup and tending to your own self-care needs!

Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have some tokens of our normal celebrations and then some ways of recognizing we are just a party of three this year (plus the fuzzy kids). Tonight, I am making a sheet pan dinner although it is called a tray bake as I pulled it from the BBC Food site. I originally doubled the recipe when we offered our home to a few friends but things did not work out and so we are enjoying the creamy chicken, bean, and leek tray bake tonight and enjoying leftovers this weekend. Tomorrow is where I really pared things down and reduced the prep and cook time for my part. We will be enjoying a smoked duck and pairing it with the potato, celery root, and pear gratin recipe I found in Clean Eating magazine. I am finding great comfort this year in purchasing frozen dinner rolls. I love bread and rolls, but I had zero interest this Christmas in making a recipe that required hours of my time. We also picked up a key lime pie for tonight and a yule log for tomorrow from The Great Gadsby Bakery here in Gilbert. Their website is currently being updated so I recommend also checking out their Instagram.

For anyone still struggling with a dessert idea and you do not have the option to purchase from a bakery and maybe lack the desire, the time, or resources to make a yule log of your own, I have you covered. One of my favorite desserts from years back was when I made the chocolate biscuit cake Prince William had as his groom’s cake. The cake is incredibly decadent, easy to make, and can be made gluten free. I used the Schar brand gluten free shortbread cookies when I made the cake but now I know where I can find tea biscuit cookies if I want to make this cake for someone who does not have issues with gluten. Here are some photos of my creation from a few years back. We popped our leftover slices in the freezer and I would gladly make the cake again next time I have a large gathering and most, if not all, are serious chocolate lovers.

So as I close out this entry, I wish you all good things as 2020 comes to an end and I look forward to catching up with you again in January.

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