I have to admit, I’ve become kind of a Grinch when it comes to this time of year. I can get all the gifts purchased, but exactly where are the elves who swoop in to wrap this tower of terror? My travel schedule has demanded that I become a cyber shopper and then you are overwhelmed when all the boxes hit at once. When did I order that?? I get text messages every hour that something else is being delivered and the poor concierge at our apartment is really tired of hauling all my stuff up the elevator.
After we moved from the house to an apartment, I lost all motivation to drag out all the tinsel and trappings, so right now all the presents are stacked in a chair in the corner. Fa la la la la. I used to be one of those who decorated everything in the house, changed out coffee cups and towels, blankets and pictures on the wall, if it moved it was Christmasized. But, now, I’m really excited about buying a couple of red candles and setting them out. Holly Jolly.
I began a tradition many, many years ago that I just can’t make go away. When I was a young and eager wife, I told Joe that I could put together lovely Christmas platters for some of his best clients and wouldn’t it be so impressive if everything was homemade? Yes, I know there are professionals who put together corporate gift baskets but we were going to do them from the heart. And so, began the saga of the eternal nights of banana nut bread.
You must understand that banana nut bread is not something that you just spontaneously say “I think I’ll go whip me up a batch”. It takes military level planning. You must buy the bananas ahead of time so they can ripen. Green bananas do not a good bread make. But, you must judge how far ahead to buy them so they don’t go completely bad. There is a precise formula for proper browning of bananas and for days your kitchen smells like. . .rotting bananas.
Then, you pick your night and begin. My recipe makes 3 loaves at a time, so I’ll have three in the oven, three more in pans waiting to go in, three more in the bowl waiting to be poured, rinse and repeat. This year I was up until 1:30, hoping that the timer on the oven would wake me up if I dozed off.
Most people seem to like my banana bread. But the secret to my success is in the icing. Whipped cream cheese and powdered sugar with nuts scattered in. You could put that stuff on a brick and people would eat it.
I had done this for several years for Joe and then, when my sisters and I went to work for InSight, we decided we should do something nice for the people who help us during the year—mail carrier, UPS guy, printers, IT specialists, etc. And so, the Christmas platter saga expanded. I now bake somewhere between 15 and 18 banana breads a year along with several pans of fudge and cookies and appropriately colored accessory treats. Finding just the right balance of stuff, and a platter that everything fits on, and cellophane to wrap it all up. It’s a lot of work.
Every year Joe says, “I’m not going to hand out platters this year. It’s just too much trouble for you. Let’s not do them”. And then, when I head to the kitchen to create the mess of flour, sugar and eggs and buttermilk, he always says, “Well, since you are making some, I need 3. No, how about 4. Maybe 6.” Every. Year.
But, in between the shopping and the baking and the wrapping, underneath in my Grinchy heart, while cleaning up the residue of sugar, chocolate and marshmallow cream from my countertops, I know that there is something beautiful and amazing and magical about setting apart time, in the dark and cold of winter, to just be happy, to just be grateful, to just be overwhelmed at the gifts of life and family. And to be mindful of so many who do not have such opportunities or such blessings.
So, my holiday wish for you is that you find time to stop and be in awe at the joys of your life, the trials you’ve survived and the promise that next year will be full of surprises and challenges. And maybe a little bit of cream cheese and powdered sugar and a red candle thrown in for good measure. Merry, Merry.
Glenda Stansbury is Marketing Director of InSight Books and Co-Founder of InSight Institute Certified Celebrant Program. She is also a speaker, a trainer, and an observer of life, and one of Doug Manning’s adorable and talented daughters. You may email Glenda at OrdersAndInfo@InSightBooks.com.