work in progress

The last few weeks have been packed with activity. (Personal. Professional. Political.) I’ve been pulled in lots of directions with a variety of projects, and a few things haven’t quite gotten finished.

When my mother visited for Thanksgiving, one of our planned activities was to make gingerbread houses. We are not ones to buy a kit with a pre-baked house. We make the dough from scratch, and each design our house. (Or structure, which is not necessarily a house. Last year I made my town’s Town Hall building. This year my mother made a Japanese gate.) In any case, the way we do things, it’s a multi-day process.

gingerbread1-ingredientsHere we put together the ingredients for the dough. My photo library tells me this was November 30th. I then mixed each batch up to let it chill overnight. (Possibly a few overnights.)

gingerbread2-modelWe all designed prototypes for our structures using cardboard. I used a stack of leftover political mailers.

gingerbread3-cutThe cardboard/cardstock cutouts then served as the stencil for cutting out the baked dough.

gingerbread4-hardeningThe cut pieces then needed to dry out some more before assembly. They smelled amazing, but the particular gluten-free blend of flours I used was a bit fragile and persnickety.

gingerbread5-part-builtMy house took a while to assemble, as there were some breakages that needed repairing.

gingerbread6-undecoratedAlso, the thickness of the baked pieces meant that my walls and roof didn’t quite fit together as intended. I improvise by making a tower to cover for a gap between the walls. I was quite pleased with the new shape. All that was left was to decorate and embellish (and cover my messy seams), and my gingerbread house would be ready to display.

The trouble is, this project isn’t exactly the only one that I’ve been working on. The big “distraction” was a conference deadline, and three of the research groups I am involved with were planning to submit. The deadline for a 4-page paper was December 21st. (The deadline was then somewhat extended such that an abstract, title and author info could be submitted on the 21st, but the full paper could be edited until January 3rd before being sent out to reviewers.)

The loosening of the deadline left a bit more breathing room for things like holiday shopping and political protests. But in spite of getting our tree up and decorated right  after Thanksgiving, I haven’t managed to put up many other decorations. We are the one house on our little street without festive lights and/or other outdoor decorations. I find it amusing that my little gingerbread house is leading a parallel existence.

gingerbread7-with-candy-pile

Tonight I hope to do some decorating. Of the gingerbread house, not the real house. (The bulk of our Christmas decorations are staying in bins this year.) Phoebe still had plans for landscaping her gingerbread house that she didn’t have time for, so I am using that as an excuse to make up a batch of the appropriate icing so we can get to work. (But I’m also  prepping for Christmas dinner, need to excavate our dining room table, and need to wrap a big pile of gifts…So we’ll see.)

entering the holiday whirl

holiday-whirl

We got our Christmas tree this weekend, which is remarkably early for us. We even managed to put it up the same day. (There have been years when the tree sits outside for a few days before coming inside.) I got a few photos of the kids decorating the tree, and this one was my favorite. The motion blur was completely unintentional, but it made such a beautiful circular pattern. As one friend commented on Instagram, it captures the feeling of the holidays.

look whose stocking (again)

stocking-ornament
On Friday, I helped out in my son’s classroom holiday party. We were encouraged to share holiday traditions. I organized a craft making little felt stocking ornaments, and shared the story of the time my family made our own Christmas stockings. (It’s amazing to realize that I wrote the post about that 10 whole years ago.)

Go see me in a concert!

stop-motion-tree1

I missed posting yesterday, because I was getting ready for a concert. Actually, what I was doing was putting together my late submission for the The Eleventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, graciously hosted by Neil at Citizen of the Month. Go check out all the songs and photos! (And look for my stop-motion video doodling, accompanying a recording of “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” )

 

boughs of holly (friday foto finder: Christmas Decoration)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “Christmas Decoration.” My own halls remain undecked, but these holly boughs I came across last December would make an attractive decoration. Except all the snow on them would melt and leave puddles in the halls. Does the song specify that the boughs of holly should be free of ice and snow? Because that could be a real mess.

To see what festive arrangements might be decking some other halls, ride your sleigh over to the fff blog.

It’s beginning to look…marginally more like Christmas

I love the festive trappings of Christmas–the trees, the bright decorations, and especially the lights. In the long dark nights, it is so cheering to see the bright and colorful displays. However, getting things to look festive takes time and energy. These are things that I don’t have in excess just now. We managed to get our tree on Sunday, before rushing off to a recital, but had no time to put it up. (As I headed out to the garage before driving in to work, I was happy that John had remembered to take the tree off my car.)

We also picked up a little dangling ball of Christmas greenery. These probably have a name, but I don’t know what it is. I hung it out on our front porch, on a hook helpfully left by the previous owners. If I had to do anything more than that, the festive ball would probably be dangling less festively from a doorknob.

Our new neighborhood is much more of a neighborhood than our previous one, which was really more of a road through the woods with houses on it. And the new neighborhood apparently goes all out for holiday decorations. I feel like the neighbors might be a little disappointed that we aren’t joining in the spirit. But I can point out the ball, right?

In this photo, I was trying to capture the drips of the oh-so-festive freezing rain we had today.

And in zooming in to check the focus on my drip, I was amused to see my reflection, awkwardly hanging on to the porch pillar as I tried to get a better angle on the ball without stepping out onto the treacherously icy steps.

Ah, ’tis the season.