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" … a warm and festive season blooming here inside."

The westerlies wrestled with a cold front heading South, promising but not yet delivering some sifting snow. It sure felt cold enough, though, as the first concerted cold settled in around the place. The fireplace burned all day long. The ovens contributed their part, too, for this sunny freezing Sunday marked the start of the season. The prior weekend, The Muse peeled oranges, lemons, and limes, candying the result along with eerie Buddha Hand citron fingers chopped small. The countertops had been stacked with baking trays overflowing with waves of drying peel, disrupting our regular routine through the week. I finally found some space for them atop the larder fridge in the garage so I could concoct my suppers in some semblance of peace, just in time for The Muse to turn the kitchen into a Stollen factory.

She made fruitcakes first, a cool dozen little loaves reeking of brandy and rich spice.
Those needed to just sit for a day before baking, so the dining room table held that bounty. The stollen-making starts with macerating candied fruit in brandy and rum to soften them up some from their drying week. My job was to wash out containers as they emptied, the vapors pouring off into my nostrils as I sprayed out bowls and scrubbed utensils. The Muse has a routine, slightly improved each year, and my presence can only complicate the process. The kitchen table becomes a kneeding board swathed in flour. I pour additional cupfuls into the sticky dough as she does the heavy lifting and turning. A dozen fruit and nut infused loaves turned out in turn, a half dozen at a time, to rise and punch down twice, before settling into their final proofing and bake, the house transformed by the aroma alone.

I'm reading and waiting for the contractor to come over to complete the very last of the internal finish work around our new window. I'd stained the sill and trim, though The Muse thought me too conservative with the hue. "Too light," she insisted, though they seemed to match well enough once mounted. I shuffle back and forth between the carpentry and the cooking at two projects' beck and call but with no particular project for myself. I was just pleased to be able to be of some assistance. This is The Muse's season. She brings a dozen and more family traditions which have been stuffed in storage boxes since last Advent and seem anxious to present themselves again. The house, she insists, needs a thorough cleaning before she'll consent to erecting the tree and all the attendant decor, but that can't happen before the interior work around that new window gets done.

The afternoon extends almost forever with that second stollen batch still undone. The largest mixing bowl can only hold half the volume she feels we must distribute, and next weekend she'll start the poppyseed stollen, doubling the output to two dozen loaves between this Sunday's Dresden stuff and next week's follow-on poppyseed production. After, an additional week of various cookie and candy work should yield the proper variety and volume. Then I'll package up the stuff for shipping by Christmas. A few days before the holiday, I'll start writing my annual Christmas poem cycle, but poems don't make any home smell seasonal. I'll leave the bulk of the visible and olfactory decorating to The Muse, who renews herself with it. I try to stay out from underfoot, having inherited few seasonal imperatives from my folks. I gladly eat my share of the resulting stollen and replace ornaments Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat tugs down from their boughs. I might even consent to dream aloud as the westerlies wrestle with southbound cold fronts, a warm and festive season blooming here inside.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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