We had a standing ovation for the music in church yesterday, an odd thing for a church, where the music is worship and not performance, but it did make us feel as though they had really liked the music. It was not a Lessons and Carols, because the notes between the pieces were historical notes about the music. That was surprising, but of course I liked it.

turtles mess Then I came home and we made turtles and fruit and nut clusters and eggnog cutout cookies.

Perhaps you have never made turtles. This is a great thing to make with kids. Here is how you do it:

Arrange 5 pecans into the shape of a turtle. If you are not very imaginative, you can think of it as a 5-pointed star.

Melt caramels over low heat and stir in a spoonful of cream. You can make your own caramel, and we have done that sometimes, but kids will have more fun if you use ready-made caramels, and it will still taste very good.

Also melt chocolate in a double boiler, or whatever your personal preferred method of melting chocolate may be. My late sister-in-law did hers in a coffee carafe, but I found it surprisingly difficult to get the chocolate out. If you like mocha, you could do this and then make a pot of coffee and not feel that you were wasting anything.

Spoon a dollop of melted caramel onto the pecans, leaving the tips of the head and feet (pecans) showing. Then spread melted chocolate over the caramel. Depending on how many kids you have, you can do an assembly line with these and get lots made at once.

If you use foil, as we did this year, you will then want to put your turtles into the freezer for a bit so you can get them off the foil in one piece.

Because of the boys’ depredations on the freezer-stored cookies, the whole cookie and candy making thing is cookie messbeing done this year in a messy burst rather than a pleasant gradualness.

The result may be fewer kinds of cookies and candies, but the boys claim that we usually have too many. I am not sure where they get this austere attitude toward cookies, since they are able to eat them in massive quantities.

I will be making up the cookie boxes today for the postman, Schwann’s man, and UPS man. It happens that all these people are men, and that is why I describe them in this way. We used to have a UPS woman, and she used to bring cookie boxes to us, so that it was an exchange.

We do have an occasional female letter carrier. However, she is just the substitute, and will not take packages unless you force her to, so she does not get a cookie box. Only the good and deserving postman gets the cookies.

quick mealWith lots of sugary things packed up and the mess cleared away, we had a quick and reasonably healthy meal.

Considering the things we slapped together this weekend and called meals, this was downright wholesome.

This is why the Holiday Grand Plan has you make freezer meals, so that you can eat properly even when rushed. I cannot explain why my freezer contains nothing but two whole turkeys. I suspect that after-school snacks had something to do with it. Teenage boys can think of large pans of lasagne as after-school snacks just as easily as they think of cookies that way.

 We also lighted the Advent candles, though they have not stayed lit for very long this year. This is because the boys think it is funny to extinguish them in novel ways such as passing their hands over them or leaping over them or — you get the picture, I am sure. Especially if you have boys or if you ever were one.

This is an Advent wreath, in case you are unfamiliar with this advent wreathcustom. There are three purple candles and one pink candle, to be lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and often there is also a central white candle to light on Christmas day. If you attend a church where Advent is observed, or have a strong family worship tradition at home, then you will also have readings and hymns and stuff. I do that in church, not at home. I think it would be distracting to have the boys leaping over the Advent wreath while we read out bits of Mark and Luke.

Then we watched “How the  Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas,” reviewed for #2 son’s final exam today, and fielded calls from #2 daughter on her party preparations.

It is one week before Christmas, which is exciting if you have done everything you need to do.

I believe that I have. I am still having the occasional burst of inspiration, but that is part of celebrating. Now I merely have to avoid sounding smug when people tell me how behind they are and how they haven’t done anything and their lives are in a state of chaos.

Here’s something I thought of doing with soldered charms.

hymnal marker

If you use a hymnal in church, it is handy to have a multi-armed bookmark, so that you can mark all the hymns before the service and not be searching all the time. Often these are made of ribbons, but I found this silver chatelaine and attached charms to it. This allows the user to pin it to her music bag so as not to forget it, and also to remove the charms if she wanted to use one for a pendant.

A calming song for today, in case you haven’t done everything you need to do: “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” This is a fifteenth century German tune, in a setting by the great Michael Praetorius. It is one of the most beautiful tunes of the many beautiful tunes in Christmas music. If you have musical friends, gather them up and do this in four parts. If not, you could stand on the sidewalk, singing it or playing it on your flute, and passersby will hear it and decide that they will, henceforth, be nobler and kinder than they have been, and rush off to do some good deed.