I finished reading Performance Anxiety. It was set in Canada, and I learned only one new word from it: “garburator,” which is apparently the term for a garbage disposal in British Columbia. There were perhaps too many characters; it was hard to care about them all. The musical background was handled well, though.

Today is the day for the big cookie baking. I must deliver 6.5 dozen to Mrs. Santa’s Kitchen, a charity fundraiser, in the morning, so I figure that will be my Friday evening. I’m thinking I’ll put on a movie while I decorate.

Some of the ladies participating in this recently had a cookie exchange. I’ve had these before. It’s a party where everyone brings a batch of cookies and you swap, so everyone goes home with many different kinds. Mine was fun. This particular cookie exchange is an annual event, and has become competitive.

Not merely competitive in that unpleasant pissing contest way that sometimes underlies things that aren’t supposed to be competitive. They actually award prizes.

I saw some of the cookies. I even tasted one: a snowman with a wee scarf made by weaving tiny strands of different-colored dough together, and a matching hat. It was quite charming. It could have been made from Fimo and put on a Christmas tree.

In fact, it should have been. It tasted like nothing. And since I am not supposed to eat sugar, I don’t like it when I break the rule and it turns out not to be worth it.

I’m breaking that rule every day lately, I confess. I will wait till after the holidays to deal with that.

Today is the day for gingerbread. And possibly also The Empress’s enormous sugar cookie recipe.

These will be plain cookies, though they will also be delicious and worth breaking rules for. But I must think of some very exciting way to decorate them. Not that I intend to join in that competitiveness, but knowing that at least some of my fellow bakers take their cookies very seriously, I don’t want to let down the side.

#2 son, on the other hand, needs an authentic French recipe for Buche de Noel and intends to make one for his Monday French class, thus scoring extra credit points to make up for the homework he has skipped. So it will be a big baking weekend around here.

We clearly need something really inspiring to sing for the occasion. So today’s song of the day is “What Sweeter Music,” a setting by John Rutter of a poem by Robert Herrick to another of those great 17th century German tunes.

Here are the words for you:

What sweeter music

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!
Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this day
That sees December turned to May.
Why does the chilling winter's morn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly shorn
Thus on the sudden? Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis he is born. whose quickening birth
Gives life and lustre, public mirth,
To heaven and the under-earth.
We see him come, and know him ours,
Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is, we find a room
To welcome him, to welcome him.
The nobler part of all the house here,
is the heart. Which we will give him:
and bequeath This holly, and this ivy wreath.
To do him honour. who's our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

Robert Herrick

Herrick is the guy who wrote “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” and he wrote this poem for the king of England, presumably intending the dual kingly allusions to flatter old Charles. Other people besides John Rutter have arranged it, but Rutter’s version is very beautiful, and he has recorded it with the Cambridge singers. If you like choral music at all, this would be a good CD to add to your collection.