Yesterday morning we had a presentation of Christmas symbols, with associated songs, in church, and I enjoyed it both times. My solo was fine. It even snowed, so we didn’t have to feel silly singing “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

Then I came home and spent the afternoon and evening with my in-laws, not understanding anything that was said. Actually, the English speakers in the group (the thirty and under crowd) did have some conversations in English, but mostly it was all Lao at our house. Sometimes my nephew would speak English, but that was just bits of English thrown into an otherwise all-Lao discussion, thus:

“foreign language foreign language”
“Oy! I don’t have any business here! Pai Florida!”
“foreign language foreign language”

The boys and I maintained polite smiles.

At one point, all the guys enjoyed a football game together. However, I don’t speak football either.

It was still nice to see the in-laws. The difficult times were when all the men trooped out to smoke. My sons took this as a chance to talk to each other, and I was left with my sister-in-law, whose English was pretty well exhausted once she asked me how old I was and how much I weighed.

We looked at family photos together and smiled a lot.

It is Advent now, and time for me to get back to work after the long and relatively work-free weekend. For today’s song, I offer you “People Look East.” This song was written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1928 and set to the traditional French carol “Besancon.” It is therefore a fun, danceable sort of tune. Here is an amateur choir singing it, and you’ll notice that it’s quite fun even in that form. Here are the words. Here’s a guitar arrangement.

This is a blithe and merry song that you can sing while you do household chores. Its words are perfect for that:

“People, look east. The time is near
of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
trim the hearth, and set the table.
People, look east, and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.”

It’s also a good one to sing when you have people celebrating Christmas in a secular way, as in offices and schools, where it is sometimes considered offensive to mention Jesus in the context of Christmas. This song never mentions Jesus at all. When we sing it in church, we figure that “Love, the Lord” is Jesus, but it’s really left open in the song. Farjeon was considered a mystic, and you may already know her lovely hymn, “Morning Has Broken,” which was recorded by Cat Stevens to great popular acclaim.

I have lots of household chores to do today, and an encyclopedia article to write. I have about ten projects that are sort of hanging around waiting to begin. I don’t like this at all. You won’t be amazed by that, I know, but it is one of the drawbacks of self employment: you have to wait for people to agree to pay you before you can start work. Actually, I’ve been in salaried jobs where I had to wait around for other people, too. It’s just that I would like to spread all these jobs out and do them decently and in order this month, rather than having them all bunch up right around Christmas. And if they are all actually going to fall through, I need to get looking for others.

However, I have plenty to do today, including rescuing all the papers I shoved into the file cabinet before my guests began arriving on Tuesday night. I’ll use GTD and get them sorted out swiftly.

I also have butterscotch chips left over, so I’ll make these excellent cookies with them:

Turtle Dove Bars

Makes about 36

For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pecan halves

For the filling:
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butterscotch-flavored chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

To make the crust, combine all ingredients except the pecans in a large mixer bowl and beat until well mixed and particles are fine. Press into the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ baking pan. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the crust.

To make the filling, combine 2/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 242 F or a small amount of the mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball. Immediately pour over pecans and crust.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until entire caramel layer is bubbly. Immediately sprinkle with butterscotch and chocolate chips. Allow to melt slightly (3 to 5 minutes). Swirl chips leaving some whole for a marbled effect. Cool completely and cut into bars.