I’ve been partitioning Christmas. That’s what the reassignment of the Christmas tree location tells me. We moved it to the back of the house this year, at one end of a skinny room ending in the wood stove that my daughter said would make it a cozy companion. She was right. This location makes sense. It’s in the hot cocoa-drinking spot, the hub of the house. Now we can see it while we’re chopping onions, solving math problems, buttering toast, cutting paper snowflakes, stirring cream into the tea.
When the tree went up I saw that, prior to this year, I crammed the entire holiday into the front room. No wonder I’m always so antsy by the end of the season. Four sets of Christmasy figurines, a stack of once-a-year children’s books, candle holders, stocking anchors, a mushrooming pile of holiday updates from friends, plus the bedecked tree, all in our small living room. It looked like a kitsch shop at a tree farm.
Last year, I got rid of a few things (two fake tabletop trees are the only ones I recall a year later), to better fit it all into four garage-worn boxes. And moving the tree means our holiday decorations, such as they are, are spread between the front and back of the house. There are fewer things. There is more space.
I’m surprised, though. The tree, being less flanked and superiorly located, looks so…unmoored. The rearrangement isn’t working the way I thought it would. I keep wanting to futz with it, tweak the branches, move it a little to the left. Something isn’t right. The air in the back room feels too new, like it’s never held a six-foot-tall tree and wouldn’t know what to do with one, anyway. It makes the tree look like a first-time pageant contestant who’s obligated to perform with the house lights up. Maybe it’s the walls. Are they too lemon-cheerful for the dark season? Do they deflect, stubbornly, winter warmth?
It was hard for me to abandon the corner picture windows in the front of the house. They’ve lived up to the grand expectation of framing the iconic every year, and so faithfully. I miss the obvious spot, the backdrop of glass and its dewdrop reflections of the lights.
I hung lights over the windows as compensation and the strand was long enough to drape over the mantel, too, behind the kids’ domino-like nativity set. (It’s always one of the angels, top-heavy with wings, that bumps a halo and brings the whole thing down.) At least, with the lights, the front of the house feels more cheerful, less forgotten.
It could, despite my humdrumness about the whole thing, be a good thing that we’ve moved the tree; beneficial that it feels less like the fifth and more like the first Christmas in this house. If I can put away my desire to have everything stay the same, it may lead to new traditions. And fewer presents. The space in the back is tighter. Maybe it will curb my desire to buy, buy, buy.
I admit this: we have big Christmases. I try to purchase handmade and local and fair. The stockings contain fair-trade chocolates and organic satsumas. I eschew the mall unless it’s impossible not to. But still, even though I buy carefully, we end up with way too much stuff. I often don’t realize it until we’re wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve.
Maybe less space will help me turn off the compulsion to fill it. After all, if there are too many gifts around the tree there will be fewer places for people to sit and eat one of my husband’s sweet rolls. Less to buy means less to wrap and more time to cook and prepare the space for togetherness. I think I’ll focus on that.
A big bag of kiwis came to us by way of my sister-in-law whose friends bought a house this fall, complete with a hardy kiwi plant in the back yard.
Kiwis grow prodigiously. I was told once that a single plant can yield over 100 pounds of fruit. No wonder they’re giving them away.
Rather than hide our stash in a series of fruit salads, I decided to make a simple kiwi syrup. Since simple syrups last so long in the refrigerator, we’ll be able to enjoy a version of this drink on Christmas day even if our fresh kiwi source has run its course.
Sparklers may feel more like summer but bubbly drinks can also be re-imagined in the winter as festive fare. Serve this in the late afternoon, as a precursor to dinner. Or serve it to the kids on New Year’s Eve. It’s light, fresh and merry enough for glass clinking.
Holiday Kiwi Sparkler
adapted from La Fuji Mama
Honey kiwi simple syrup
4 kiwis, washed, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
2 cups water
1 cup honey
1 kiwi, peeled and cut in half
juice of half a lime
⅓ cup honey kiwi syrup
mint (optional, for garnish)
The recipes I saw for a honey simple syrup call for one part water to one part honey. That sounded like a lot, so I modified it by halving the honey, which is plenty sweet.
Combine water, honey and four sliced kiwis in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve honey completely. Do not bring to a boil like I did: the kiwi slices will foam and start to fall apart.
Fish out the kiwi slices with a strainer and place on a cooling rack situated over a piece of waxed or parchment paper to catch drips of syrup. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment and dehydrate in a 200° oven for a few hours. (You won’t need these for this recipe, but they’re fun to have on hand to use for a garnish later.)
Using a canning funnel, pour the syrup into a mason jar and allow to cool.
In a wine glass, combine the flesh of half a kiwi with the juice of half a lime. Crush the fruit and juice together. (Not owning a muddler, I used a small pestle and took extra care with the ceramic against the glass.)
Add ⅓ cup of honey kiwi syrup and top the glass with sparkling water.
Garnish with crushed mint, if you have some, or a fresh slice of kiwi.