Friday, we woke to snow. After hours of shivering under a too-small-for-our-bed down comforter from the guest room – ours is, inconveniently, at the cleaners – of blanket tug-of-war with Alexi and then Alexi and Cal, who joined us at some point during the night – I gave up on sleep. I sat up and looked out a window expectantly. As forecasted, illuminated in the streetlight below, the first snow of our winter fell in silvery silence. Minutes later, Cal sat up and leaned against me; we watched its steady rhythm in the windless darkness. The peace of it overwhelmed me like it was Christmas embodied, descending upon the neighborhood.
I’ve settled into the clear, frost-encrusted days, the steel-skied drizzly and snowy days and the rhythm of the fleeting daylight. I stay in with my people when I can. I cook and bake. We go to bed early and get up on the later side.
Our Christmas tree – 8 ½ feet this year, a record – fascinates Nelly. She seems to enjoy its fir scent as much as we do, and has taken to nestling under its lowest branches. She tries to drink its water. The cats bat at low-hanging ornaments. Cal keeps close tally of how many presents there are for each of us.
The best advent moment of the past week was spending the morning with Cal and his third grade class at a local food bank. From huge vats, we bagged portions of dried alphabet pasta for later distribution to families. When Don, I think his name was, came to explain what we needed to do, he began by saying, “First, you have to sort the pasta by letters of the alphabet…” The kids looked at him solemnly, wide-eyed, until someone burst out laughing. We filled bags and sent them on their way with a blessing for those it will feed.
The days are filled with friends. Yesterday lunch, Jenna and Kate joined us for steaming bowls of red lentil soup and clementines. Tonight, Molly and June came over, and after linguine with clams, June took her first steps. Witnessing the moment felt akin to seeing a shooting star. Tomorrow lunchtime, we’ll again share soup and break bread with more of those we love.
Over the next couple of days, we’ll prepare for the arrival of family, and ready ourselves, inside and out, for Christmas.
At the top of my Christmas grocery list someone added an addendum. “Pancake ingredients - the non-oatmeal kind. Enough for more than once this week.” Pancakes, in our house, are the gold standard for breakfast. My beloved buttermilk pancakes are what someone wants for the week of Christmas; here's how I make them.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 ½ cups buttermilk, preferably Bulgarian
¼ cup (½ stick) melted unsalted butter, plus more for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Berries of your choice, for serving
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs and buttermilk, then mix in the melted butter. Slowly add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined with a wooden spoon.
Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat, and brush or spray it with vegetable oil. When the skillet is hot, scoop out the batter in scant ¼ cup portions, leaving plenty of space between pancakes. Cook until the small bubbles appear in the batter and the underside is golden, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook the reverse side until golden, about another minute. Regrease the skillet, and repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve topped with butter, berries and maple syrup.
Yield: about 6 servings