Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ghosts of Christmases Past

We went to Midnight Mass, and in a real departure for our family we even opened our presents before Mass so that we (meaning mrangelmeg specifically) could all sleep in this morning.   Well then, what am I doing up at quarter past why the heck am I awake?  Maybe it is the fact that unlike the last four or five years, we actually have snow this Christmas (boy have we had snow).  Maybe it is because this is the first Christmas since our oldest daughter moved so far away and she couldn't get back this year.  Maybe because this is the first Christmas since my mom died and I am really missing her.  But I am sitting here on Christmas morning and remembering absent family members and Christmases past.

We opened presents on Christmas Eve most years when I was little, because we went to Midnight Mass and we could all (meaning my dad specifically) sleep in on Christmas morning).  We always got crisp new jammies on Christmas,  they were never wrapped, but would magically appear on our beds somehow while we were eating dinner on Christmas Eve.  The Jammies were supposed to help us sleep better on that magical night.

On the occasions that we didn't open gifts on Christmas Eve,  we would still have gone to Midnight Mass, so our parents had a rule about when we were allowed to wake them to open presents in the morning.  We had to wait patiently,  or as patiently as nine anxious children could, until the streetlight out in front of our house went out.  it was then and only then that we were allowed to knock on their door and tell them the exciting news that we had already discovered;  Santa had been to our house.  

I remember waiting anxiously, sitting on the radiator by the front window in the living room willing with all my might that the light would go out.  We carried this forward for our children by telling them that they weren't allowed to wake mrangelmeg on Christmas morning until the security light in our driveway went out.  

On the sleep in mornings we were allowed to wake up any time we liked, but we were not allowed to wake or disturb our parents on Christmas morning.  We had to play with our newly received loot as quietly as possible.  This was always much easier for me, who usually got books than my brothers who got GI Joes or Rock-em Sock-em Robots or Slot Hockey games.   Inevitably, they would get really noisy.  

The lasting memory I have of those Christmases though isn't the gifts, but having the family all together.    One year, we went into Midnight Mass with just a few flakes wafting through the air, and came out an hour and a half later to a total blanket of white, that by morning was one of the worst blizzards the area had ever seen.   The snow was so deep that hardly anyone drove on the streets for days.   We lived about seven weeks from Church and the entire family, all eleven of us walked through the two feet of snow to Mass the following Sunday.  

Christmas was a time to be together.   Another of our spectacular Christmases was the year my oldest brother came back from his Naval posting to Okinawa to spend Christmas with us.  We were so happy to see him, and he decided to "share the wealth" with his military pay that year.  The very large living room seemed to be buried in gifts.  But we were so happy to have Mike back that our bountiful harvest didn't seem to matter.

Our greatest gift on Christmas was family, which isn't a surprise at all to me since the real gift of Christmas was the Christ child.   For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.  The greatest gift of all was a gift of Divine Family. It's not the Christmas presents that we love so much, it is the Christmas Presence.

I think I will call some of my siblings today. 


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Baking

So I spent the day baking.  For those of you who know me, you know that I really hate to cook, so this was not helping me get into the Christmas Spirit.  In fact, I think my Facebook Status today might have said Fa la la la la de freakin' da.   

In honor of everyone doing so much baking I wanted to share a post from my beloved husband mrangelmeg;  This goes back to 2005.    Enjoy:

<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><

This all began with an inocent enough request from a friend of mine for a recipe for Persimmon Cookies from my husband's mother. The following is what she got in three email exchanges. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Mrangelmeg is a genius, and very funny, and I love him dearly.

Part I: Here is my Mom's recipe for Persimmon Cookies:

1 cup persimmon pulp 1 teaspoon baking soda (not powder)
1 cup sugar (it used to be 2 cups, but since you're so sweet, 1 cup is enough)
1/2 cup margarine or butter (Mom just uses stick margarine)
1 egg 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cloves (I asked Mom to pick one and she said she uses somewhere in between. I guess that means 3/8 of a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 cup chopped walnuts (Mom had an option to substitute raisins for the walnuts. She has never put raisins in persimmon cookies, but if you want to go ahead and ruin a perfectly good batch of cookies, feel free to use raisins)
Instructions: Beat persimmon pulp thoroughly. Mix in soda. In separate bowl, cream sugar and butter/margarine, then add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and mix into creamed mixture. Combine all ingredients and drop by teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Mom reminded me that this was for one batch and she always makes a double. She further reminded her engineer son - no fewer than three times - that in order to make a double batch, you need to double the above ingredients. Since you have the PhD, I'm only telling you once.

You can freeze persimmon cookies to enjoy later ... say when we might be back at St. Meinrad again. If you freeze them, or leave them out for a few days, they will turn from reddish-brown to almost black. They still taste as good.

Part II: Raisins and Persimmons
And, for the record, I like raisins, too ... but only in oatmeal-raisin cookies (2nd favorite), raisin bran, and raisinettes ... as God intended them to be. Raisins do not belong in persimmon cookies. I even have scriptural backing on this from the Book of Raisins found in Codex XIII from the recently discovered Nag Yerhubbi Library (the Nag Yerhubbi Library also includes "The Gospel of Trash" and "The Apochryphon of the Leaves").

A fragment of the surviving Book of Raisins text was originally interpreted as: "... thou shalt not combine the dried fruit of the vine with other fruits ... ... verily I say: excessive combining of fruits will bring about the people of the village." Of course, now we know the end of that sentence should have been translated as "The Village People."

Regardless of translation, raisins are not to be combined with persimmons. Speaking of discovering ancient religious texts, another little-known fact is that Rastafarians actually discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls and were told by the Jewish scholars of the day that God's Word could be found inside the scrolls, also known as the rolling papyrus, or more to the point ... rolling papers. And that is how they got their start.

I just heard that on Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" on the way into work this morning, so it must be true. Feel free to cite any of the above research in your coursework; and have a nice day!

Part III: Further Research

The Nag Yerhubbi writings as the Neuter-o-Canonical apocrypha (apocrypha meaning "hidden away" or secret -- so don't be surprised if even your professor hasn't heard of them). They're also sometimes referred to as the Canon-and-on-and-on-ical Scriptures.

As hidden as they may be, I'm sure that John has heard many of the Nag Yerhubbi volumes proclaimed in his household ... perhaps "The Exegesis on the Toilet Seat" being one of the most cited books. Certainly, John is familiar with the longest book, "Litany of the Honeydew," the first Chapter of which begins: "Now that you're retired, maybe you could help out some around here."

On a historical note, the scribes that copied the sacred texts would meet about once a month and painstakingly copy each letter. Some would write so hard, they would even get cramps. Of course, the Nag Yerhubbi texts were not written on scrolls, but on individual sheets of paper and bound into large books, called Codexes, as at Nag Hammadi. The blank sheets were manufactured in pad form, similar to paper pads we have today, but the Nag Yerhubbi paper was much, much larger than the pages found at Nag Hammadi. Thus, the Nag Yerhubbi scribes called their paper source the Codex Maxipad. I know a few more historical details along these lines, but enjoy sleeping indoors far too much to list them here.

Finally, the Nag Yerhubbi documents will not be hidden much longer, as the Lifetime Network plans to feature them as part of a miniseries about all Old Testament and early Christian scriptures. The first episode is being shot right now and the working title is "The Burning Bush" featuring Farrah Fawcett as a young Moses (a stretch, but this is the Lifetime Network after all). The final release title is expected to be "Torah! Torah! Torah!" which ends with Pat Morita starring in the role of Joshua as he plans the sneak attack on Jericho. The scripts for the Nag Yerhubbi segments have yet to be written, but I'm sure the Lifetime Network will portray the men as kind, caring, and sensitive (that has to be the least believable line of this entire thread).

I think that's all I can safely say about the sacred texts in the Nag Yerhubbi Library; I'm already at risk of a discovery any day now at Nag Damaggi.