The school sleepover went quite well actually, and aside from being somewhat exhausted I seem to have made it though unscathed. I did have a major setback about three hours before the event while baking the gingerbread house components. My carpenter sweetie was teasing me about being a cookie carpenter and I was just congratulating myself on making the dough come out exactly even (not a spare gingerbread man’s worth) when I realized exactly why it is that he builds houses and I don’t. I had somehow forgotten to make the walls for all 8 houses. I made the roof pieces and each of the ends, but no walls. Drat! I flew to the local grocery store to get more molasses, rushed home and made more dough, tossed it into the freezer to chill, and turned off the oven to let the last two pieces finish baking as the first students arrived. Whew.
The houses did pretty well. I should have made twice as much frosting though, and will remember it for next time. They definitely held together well-that Royal Icing stuff is ridiculously cement like-and the kids were thrilled with the results. Here are some photos, starting with humble beginnings and ending with a couple of photos of our hot cocoa mix project.
We were quite prolific. I had the kids from 2pm until 10 this morning and we managed to needle felt a small creature (finch, pig, hen and chicks, dog, bat), create a layered candle, make two mugs of hot cocoa mix, build and decorate gingerbread houses, eat supper, play White Elephant, read the entire book of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” watch three holiday movies, eat tons of cookies from the cookie exchange, sew a hat and scarf set, and actually get some sleep.
I am supposed to be working on the dreaded holiday letter instead of writing another blog post. I have had quite a bit of fun with holiday letters over the years but every idea this time around seems contrived. For several years I wrote a full page of outrageous lies–that our 12 year old had received a restraining order from a famous musician for stalking, her younger sister was training for the beauty pageant scene and had to use the curling iron in the outhouse since we don’t have indoor plumbing. I said that we had joined a cult, that Robert had taken two more wives, we had discovered that we had been a sheik and a Celtic mermaid priestress in our former lives. The more outrageous the better. The first year I wrote a both a normal letter and a fake one and randomly sent them out. Since our lives are quite colorful in reality, many people really did believe some of that junk and the rumors that went around our extended family and friends were priceless.
Then there was the year that I sent a holiday Mad Lib. Do you remember doing those as a kid? Mad Libs are a word gamewhere one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, usually with funny results. Another year it was a holiday crossword, and the year after that I did a hilarious quiz. Last year I said Bah Humbug and sent a regular letter. This year I toyed with the ideas of trading cards, comic book cover, and flip book but I just don’t have the time and energy. I just wrote a draft of one and read it to my sweetie but he says that only rural living people will get that it’s a joke. Here’s an excerpt:
“Dear Friends and Family Members-
This adorable note is being sent on paper I made myself (from wildcrafted nettle fiber, silk cocoons which we raised ourselves, and recycled plastic bags which I don’t use but gathered from our unenlightened neighbors) to tell you what we have all been up to.
Since we are self-employed, I had the time to get up early this morning and make a new sofa with reclaimed barn timbers and glue made from local tree resins. After hand carving traditional Salish designs and decorating it with pigments made from aronia berries I gathered on our property, Violet got out her loom and wove a tapestry cloth in crimson and chartreuse. We covered the sofa with the fabric using upholstery tacks we made ourselves in our charcoal fired blacksmith shop. Yes, we even make the charcoal.
By then, it was time to start setting the table for our standard farm breakfast. Willow accidentally broke a place setting the night before, so I collected clay from the local creek and made another set of dishes, stamping them with an elaborately handcarved woodblock I’d created before bed. We prepared a delicious porridge made from home grown oats, our own dried blueberries, honey from our bees, and wildcrafted hazelnuts. The girls milked the goats and prepared a fresh chevre-as we’re vegan we don’t actually eat animal products but a farm breakfast just doesn’t look right without a tray of cheese and fresh butter! We ground our own flour (by hand) from our no-till wheat field and made fresh bread using the sourdough starter that has been in our family for 389 years. We got out the 200 pound press and squeezed out some fresh apple cider using heirloom apples that we grew from trees which we grafted ourselves using cuttings from local abandoned orchards. Robert took his handsaw and cut a section of an alder tree which we harvested in accordance with our eco-forestry plan. He carved our family name onto the board which he used as a smoking plank for the freshly caught salmon he brought from the creek. The “Goforth” salmon was served with fresh dill grown in our own handblown glass cloches out in the garden, and topped with roasted homegrown chestnuts.
After dressing in clothing made entirely from natural fibers which were handspun, hand dyed, hand woven, and hand tailored, we went to work. Willow is attending her 2nd year of college but got up a bit early before class to make 375 bars of handmade soap which she will sell at the local farmer’s market. Violet is busy with her homeschool assignments but she also raises a flock of 23 ducks, manages a local children’s garden, weaves and sews all of her own clothing, and makes the family supply of toothpaste. Robert spends his days as a carpenter and timber frame builder, but he also makes time for his specialty horticulture garden, and his travels in his handbuilt, woodfired hot air balloon.”
Ugh. I’m not usually a drinker but perhaps a hot toddy would make this letter writing go a bit quicker. Any suggestions? On the letter, not the drinking…