Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas "Presence"

Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us,

if we

only look, and see.

~ Mary Oliver ~

True enjoyment of these holidays (holy days) is what my heart wants this year, and so I’ve just done the strangest thing!

I hauled out the many Christmas decorations from the garage cupboard, stacked them all in the front hall, and then put all except two away again!

Instead of the usual holiday fuss, my old patchwork Santa and my jeweled tree are the only decorations in our home this year. I am giving myself, family and friends the most meaningful gift I can give, my full Christmas Presence! I am simply spending real time with them, looking through new eyes in a state of wonder.

Presence began with a spectacular lunch at the new True Food Kitchen with my oldest friend Alice--we met when only three. Our lives have been full indeed--of beauty and poignancy, and hardly what we expected. We love reconnecting to share what is meaningful now.

Afterward, we strolled through Roger’s Gardens, perhaps the most amazing nursery/gift shop anywhere, and right in our backyard. We admired and photographed the Christmas trees made from vintage earrings made by my talented friend Margaret Larkin to post here for you. Simply taking in the sights of all the beauty filled our hearts.

Yesterday, Ted and I took advantage of the Balboa Island Holiday Home Tour and walked two miles around the island to view the insides of homes we've been strolling past for years. What a festive treat!

The Victorian home on the left often wins the Sweepstakes prize. And each little garden patch was imaginatively decorated.

Last night, while listening to Christmas music and stirring in blessings and poetry, I made 34 sparkling jars of Sugar Plum Jam.

And today, for you, I made the following Pumpkin Fudge. So delicious and full of holiday flavor.

Tomorrow I will celebrate the holidays with lunch with my dearest friends at our Emergency Book Club.

Being present to the beauty of all our shared holiday decorations is the very best gift I can give this year to myself and to everyone else!


Some prefer this creamy spiced fudge to my Divine Chocolate Fudge, especially during the holidays. So easy to make and perfect for a last minute gift!

3 cups sugar

20 large marshmallows

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter

1 (6 ounce) can evaporated milk

2/3 cup pureed pumpkin (can use canned—freeze rest for another use)

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1-1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate morsels

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted plus 24 toasted pecans, to garnish

Line an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan, or the 8 cavities in a mini-loaf pan with parchment paper (preferably unbleached). Or, lightly butter a flat cold surface like granite or marble, or even a baking sheet. Set out a large rubber spatula.

Combine the first seven ingredients in a heavy-bottomed 5- to 6-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly with a large wire whisk or a sturdy wooden spoon. When the marshmallows melt and the mixture comes to a boil set your timer for 12 minutes. Stir almost constantly until the buzzer rings. Now is a good time to stir in your wishes or prayers for those who will enjoy your Divine Fudge.

Remove from the heat and very carefully (it is super hot!) stir in the white chocolate morsels and nuts. Beat constantly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is very smooth. Quickly pour into the prepared pan(s) or onto a cold surface, using a rubber spatula for spreading the fudge evenly and making a few decorative swirls in the top.

Cool overnight before removing from pans. If not making in mini-loaves, cut into pieces. For best flavor, serve fudge at room temperature. (I wrap loaves in individual plastic bags, clear mini-treat bags made by Wilton available in the candy making section at Michael’s craft stores.)

TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE: Fudge becomes firmer the longer it is stored and keeps beautifully at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator up to a month, or in the freezer indefinitely.