The gifts I purchase all year long are out of the closet and lined up on the long table in our sun room, along with rolls of wrapping paper I bought on sale after last Christmas.

I’ve removed ribbon, bows and decorations from boxes and bags and begun the slow process of making our house look like Christmas.

Holiday cards, return address labels and postage stamps are ready for writing and mailing. I started last night — 16 cards done and some 100 to go.

I was smart this year and bought almond paste early. It’s one of those baking items that tend to fly off the shelves as Christmas nears.

On my list of things to create: stollen bread, a sweet, braided yeast bread with almond filling, topped with white icing, chopped walnuts and maraschino cherries. It was a favorite of ours growing up and my mother baked it to perfection.

I’ll create the usual cream cheese cookies, which are soft and tasty with just a hint of almond. Cut into the shapes of Christmas trees, bells, gingerbread men, stars, hearts, angels and musical notes and decorated with colored frosting, they are sweet and delicious. Can’t wait to try the new decorating tools I bought at a kitchen store in Portland last summer.


I must make Phil’s favorite — chocolate chip cookies with crushed candy cane baked in. I’ll mix up peanut butter fudge from an old neighborhood recipe, make peanut clusters using cocktail peanuts and melted Reese’s Pieces and whip up my mother’s party mix by combining various dry cereals, mixed nuts and pretzels tossed with Worcestershire sauce before baking.

There’s a lot to do to keep up with the demands of the season.

We must shop, bake, buy the tree, decorate, string lights, wrap, write, and make our homes feel warm and festive.

This all requires much multitasking, in addition to taking care of our regular responsibilities such as work, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, doing the laundry and tending to the pets.

There are also gatherings to attend, parties and office events. And we must make time to watch holiday movies, especially the old ones, yes?

As the holidays creep closer, we wonder how we can make it all come together, but somehow, such as when one is planning a wedding, everything seems to miraculously fall into place.


The place looks great, guests are happy and sated with good food, drink and company, and everything goes off without a hitch.

Then the stress just seems to fall away.

Which is all to say that the rushing, planning and doing is worth it. It’s fun being in the frenzy of the holidays, seeing people out and about in the weeks before Christmas, tending to last minute affairs.

When it’s all over — and it will be over, with a long stretch of nothing much ahead as winter sets in — we will have good memories to keep.

We’d do well to savor each day of the holiday season, as it will be over in the blink of an eye.

Merry Christmas, and may we all be blessed with a good dose of snow.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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