“Time is a fire in which we burn” and man, is it getting hot in here! Between my two jobs (waitressing and mothering) the holiday season is like a roaring bonfire that’s just a little bit out of control. The kids dance around in the glow, while I pace, frazzled and sweating, dragging around a bucket of water because I’m afraid everything is about to go up in flames.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty of the season.
I love the light and the sound and all the goodwill towards men; I just wish I had a team of firemen at my disposal to man the hoses so that I could take a moment to sit back and roast marshmallows. I imagine though, asking Santa for a team of firemen might not be taken entirely in the spirit of the season and ends with me stuck on the naughty list.
Despite the craziness, we did get by. Christmas lists were checked off (Thank you amazon.ca) Recitals were attended (albeit a little late) and parties were supplied with baked goods (and only half of them were store bought).
That, my friends, is a called success, even if there were bumps in the road.
I try to encourage the kids to get involved in gift giving, but thanks to restrictive legislation, child labour laws leave them with big hearts but small wallets. Fortunately, making gifts is an economical tradition that reminds kids that the true meaning of Christmas is in giving, not receiving (even if that sometimes translates as giving the dog a haircut after we somehow manage to glue glitter to the top of his head.)
This year in an attempt to spare my sanity (and the dog) we left the glue gun in the craft drawer and headed to the kitchen to make something yummy to help our loved ones celebrate the season. By mixing together a few dry ingredients, available at most grocery stores, we made a Christmas coffee guaranteed to perk up even the most exhausted holiday reveller. Simply add boiling water and enjoy. I decided to whip up some homemade Bailey’s, as a grown up addition, to sweeten the deal.
Part of the secret to successful gift giving is the presentation (or finding the right container), as anyone who has ever received a box of wine will tell you.
I left the Bailey’s in the blender and threw it in the fridge until I could find something pretty to put it in. As the Advent calendar counted down, I was finally able to find bottles with screw tops at the craft store. In a twist that I found less than amusing at that stage of the game, they didn’t actually include said tops. Luckily, as I flew into a rage against the establishment (which I am sure is also responsible for the 12 hotdogs to 8 hotdog buns packaging conspiracy), my husband discovered that any 2 litre twist top lid would fit the bill. As a parent that discourages the consumption of pop, this posed a moral dilemma. A quick calculation of sugar consumption, hyperactivity and dental bills versus convenience had me sending the kids out to canvas the neighbourhood (much to their disappointment). Luckily we were able to benefit from the neighbours vices and, just in the nick of time, we had everything we needed to complete the task before the first of our guests arrived.
I’m sure some people have parties where they calmly sip martinis while leaning against the fireplace mantle gazing contentedly out the window, waiting for their visitors, as the tuna carpaccio chills in the kitchen. Ours is more like a military operation with me barking orders like a drill sergeant.
“I need eyes on the ground STAT retrieving and putting away clutter. I need cover for the canine division. We need to get them cleared from the control center and put safely to bed. I’m going to need someone on main floor bathrooms and someone manning the door for early arrivals. We’ve got laundry to fold and dishes to wash. WE NEED TO MOVE PEOPLE. Let’s suit up, complete our missions and report back.”
As everyone scatters, I make one small tactical error. As I reach into the fridge to retrieve the blender, I try to shift the plate of hastily placed shrimp with cocktail sauce (our version of tuna carpaccio) and somehow lose my grip, splattering 64 fluid ounces of homemade Baileys across the kitchen.
There are moments when time flies and time where it stands still. As I balance there in a puddle of sticky alcohol there is a instant where everything is held in suspension. The round eyes of the children, the look of pain on my husbands’ face as he mourns the loss of perfectly good alcohol, the perking of the dogs ears as they calculate how to best access what they feel is rightfully theirs as ‘floor food’. All is observed in the split second it takes for me to get a hold of whatever is crawling up my chest and getting lodged in my throat. It might be hysterical laughter, it might be a sampling of the type of vocabulary I witness in the kitchen at work but sets a bad example in a family atmosphere or a torrent of tears that would destroy the hurriedly applied mascara that counts as my ‘evening look’ over the holiday season. All options seem potentially uncontrollable, so I say nothing. I hold on to that moment for as long as I can until time speeds back up. The kids throw themselves onto the dogs to run interference, my husband pulls it together and starts damage control and I cringe as I think in passing that I would have shaved my legs if only I could have guessed my husband might spend part of his evening licking Bailey’s from them.
I’ve included the recipe for Homemade Bailey’s below. It’s incredibly hard to clean up off the floor, but incredibly easy to enjoy over ice (or, as my husband can attest, on legs). If time flies for you over the holiday season, but you’ve learned to be the pilot, make some Bailey’s ice cubes to keep the flavour pure.
1 cup half and half cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cup Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
I hope ‘T’ drinkers and ‘T’ totalers alike managed to find at least a moment to enjoy the magic of Christmas. Until next holiday season, I wish you all the very best in 2016.
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. ~Peg Bracken
*initial quote courtesy of Delmore Schwartz