All is calm, all is bright

I’m a sucker for yore. You know, those happy golden days of yore. Next to the colonial period, the days of yore are probably my favorite historical time period. (They made such great apothecary tables…anyone??). It’s why I love Christmas season; underneath the tinsel (does anyone actually still use tinsel??) and conspicuous consumption, there’s something timeless and a little bit magical. 

I’m up early this morning. Tony Bennet is crooning from my iPhone, telling me to have myself a merry little Christmas. I think I just might. While I pack up my things for a week-long retreat to a cabin in the woods, I light all the candles in my living room as the sugar plum ferries dance around the room (they would sound much better coming out of those wireless speakers I asked for this Christmas… *cough* Dad *cough*). My decorative ornaments are hung by the fire with care (don’t have any stockings) and o! my little Christmas tree is brightly shining in the window (because it’s almost 8am but it’s still dark out. Thanks, Seattle). 

In Christmases of the 80s yore, my grandfather put on scratchy records of Frank Sinatra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and my grandmother hung antique window ornaments and set out cheese plates with christmas tree napkins for the friends in town who would stop by during cocktail hour.

(Come, they told me pa rum pa pum pum. Pandora moves on to the Little Drummer Boy.)

I would put on my best for Christmas Eve (which ranged from a black velvet vest with red turtleneck to a blue star-printed pant suit - my fashion sense would have done well in yore). We traipsed to my aunt’s house where cold cuts spread on in fans on Spode Christmas china and fancy hors d’oeuvres beckoned. My Uncle Bob poured champagne and my dad filled trays with his homemade angel bars. We were allowed to eat as many of these crunchy nut bars with sweet icing as we could muster. If Christmas had a flavor, it would be nutty pecans and a shortbread crust.

Music billowed out of my aunt’s grand piano to mark the end of Christmas Eve. I spent a good part of every year trying to cajole Brian, my eldest cousin, into joining us around the piano for Christmas carols. Not much of a singer, that one. The rest of us belted out tunes: Away in a Manger. Joy to the World. Adeste Fideles (or Oh, Come All Ye Faithful for those of you that, unlike my mother, choose not to sing it in the original Latin) We Three Kings, with each verse divided up into solos so that my Aunt Joanie would bring the myrrh and Gam could carry the frankincense. (By the way, did you know that “Orient-are” isn’t actually the name of the place from which these three kings journey…)

Our set always closed with an obscure German carol we call “Children, Dear” that to this day I have never heard anywhere else (except from the green fuzzy worm toy that sings when you pull its tail that my aunt Punky found in a random toy store).

Children dear tomorrow-morrow morning will be merry Christmas day!

We went home to watch the tree twinkle through the grate of the iron balcony in my grandparents attic. Long after it was age-appropriate (read: last year), my parents filled our stockings while we were asleep and snuck new presents under the tree from ‘Santa’.

My grandparents have both passed on, my aunt now hosts her own grandchildren, and my family has redefined our traditions up on the island with long-time friends and our own scraggly tree. I still fall asleep Christmas Eve with that anticipation of magic and happy memories of Christmases of yore. 

Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. 

Angel Bars
From Joy of Cooking

My dad makes these every year and takes them in decorative tins to parties and holiday visits. We also keep plenty to just eat at home, along with fudge, persimmon cookies, sugar cookies, and other low-fat delicacies. :) These will keep sealed in an air tight container for several weeks. For the base: 

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar until well blended. 

Beat in egg and vanilla. 

Slowly add in flour (with salt mixed in to it) and beat until well blended. 

Pat the dough evenly into a greased 9x12 inch pan. 

Bake about 15 minutes.

For the top layer:
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups (11oz) brown sugar
1/2 cup (5.8 oz) flaked coconut 
1 cup (4.3 oz) chopped pecan nuts
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients and spread over the cooked base. Bake for ~25 minutes.

When cooled, top with:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon until mixture is thinned to a good spreading consistency. 

Cut the final, 3-layer bars into small rectangles.