“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”

As I was walking downstairs this morning, I could smell the Christmas tree. I smiled. I love that smell and can’t think of no better way to greet the morning. Right away I went over and turned on the tree lights. They brightened the room and chased away the clouds and the rain.

Yesterday Gracie and I went about doing a couple of errands. She got her nails trimmed, and while I waited, I bought her a few surprises for Christmas. I also stopped at a favorite bakery to get cookies to bring to the library for this week’s Christmas open house. The bakery owner, whom I see all the time, was there and asked what I was looking for. I told him about the open house and the library. He said he loved libraries and then he gave me three packages of his cookies as a gift to the library. How kind that was! How generous! I am forever thankful for the goodness in people.

I got a call from my friend Bill who had somehow managed to track down Patrick, another volunteer with whom we had served in Bolga. I had looked for Patrick for a while but never found him. Bill found a story in an Iowan newspaper about Patrick and send an e-mail last September asking if the Patrick he’d found was our Patrick, but Bill didn’t get an answer until now when Patrick called him. Pat’s memory is a bit fuzzy. He barely remembered Ghana let alone any of us. He asked Bill if there wasn’t also a gal in Bolga. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say gal. Bill told him I was that gal. I had to chuckle as did Bill. I have Patrick’s phone number and am aimin’ to give that galoot a call. I’ll introduce myself as a gal he knew from way back when.

I have a story I like to tell this time of year about my first Christmas in Ghana, my very first ever away from home. I was   homesick and sad. My mother tried to help so she sent me a small tree, ornaments from our family tree, brick crepe paper so I could make a fireplace and a small stocking to hang. I decorated my house but it didn’t help much. Besides, the weather was all wrong. It was the harmattan, the driest time of the year with a hot, dusty wind which blew each day and covered every surface in my house with sand. The heels of my feet cracked from the dryness, and I had to walk on tiptoes until the skin hardened. The only redeeming parts of the harmattan were the nights. They were cold, put a wool blanket on the bed cold. I’d leave all my windows open so I could snuggle under my blanket. It felt a bit like winter.

The nights in Bolga were quiet. They were bright with stars which seemed to blanket the sky. I was in bed trying to fall asleep on a night close to Christmas when I heard a small boy singing. His voice carried though the night air. It was the only sound I could hear. He sand We Three Kings, every verse. His voice was beautiful. I don’t know where he was. I guessed he lived in a compound near my house, but that didn’t really matter. He gave me one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. He gave Christmas.

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40 Comments on ““As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.””

  1. Morpfy Says:

    TURTLE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

    Serves 15
    ——————————–

    Ingredients
    Crust:

    1 1/2 cups thin chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 30 cookies)

    1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

    Filling:

    1/4 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

    2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

    1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

    4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

    1 cup packed brown sugar

    2/3 cup granulated sugar

    5 eggs

    Topping:

    1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

    2 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    1 cup caramel topping

    Instructions
    Prep Time: 20 Min

    Start to Finish: 9 Hr 5 Min

    1.Heat oven to 300°F. Wrap foil around outside of bottom and side of 9-inch springform pan to prevent drips. Spray bottom and 1 inch up side of pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press crumb mixture on bottom and 1 inch up side of pan. Bake crust 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool at room temperature 5 minutes. Refrigerate about 5 minutes or until completely cooled.
    2.Meanwhile, in another small bowl, mix flour, pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin; set aside. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. On low speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Gradually beat in pumpkin mixture until smooth. Pour filling over crust.
    3.Bake 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes or until edge of cheesecake is set but center still jiggles slightly when moved. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Turn oven off; open oven door at least 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes.
    4.Cool in pan on cooling rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.
    5.Just before serving, sprinkle pecans over top of cheesecake. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate and oil uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted. Drizzle chocolate over pecans.
    6.To serve, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake; carefully remove side of pan. Drizzle caramel topping over each serving. Store covered in refrigerator.

    • Kat Says:

      Morpfy,
      I so want to bake this. It sounds perfectly delicious!! I’ve copied it into my files. It will definitely be made!!

  2. im6 Says:

    Posted this on my Facebook page, but thought I’d share it here, too. There’s more than one birthday in December, ya know!

    Happy 140th birthday, Keith Richards. Amazing, isn’t it? He doesn’t look a day over 135.
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m1rolnsB051qcx3szo1_400.jpg

    • Hedley Says:

      Keef has a birthday ? I was woofing with Jim Fusilli about whether or not the Stones and their 50th Anniversary plunderings were relevant. He objected to my ageism approach and I respect that. I see the Stones, and a whole bunch of others as spent creative forces.

      Exile on Main Street was a drop dead brilliant album, Dont miss “Crossfire Hurricane” on HBO which shows the Stones in the midst of chaos. Mick and I both went to the LSE albeit at different times. Happy Birthday Keef and lets rip this joint

      • Kat Says:

        My Dear Hedley,
        I agree with you about spent creative forces. Everything about us ages as do voices. Trying to replicate the sounds of forty years or longer just won’t happen. Sometimes it is right to bow out and live on your legacy.

    • Kat Says:

      im6,
      He looks like an old woman who has lived in Siberia the whole of her life. He’s even wearing a babushka.

      • Hedley Says:

        Kat, if you get the chance, Do watch Crossfire Hurricane, its a fascinating documentary of the Stones in the late 60s and early 70s. Aside from the music it shows the problems associated with live music culminating in Altamont.

      • Caryn Says:

        I think he always sort of looked like that. 🙂

        Re old singers keeping on keeping on: Tom Rush has done a wonderful job of adjusting his vocals to his aging larynx.
        But there is a point at which you just can’t flounce around the stage like a 20 year old anymore.

    • Birgit Says:

      Oh, how could I miss Keith’ birthday?
      Keith Richards – Run Rudolph Run:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_utGmmAaxHg
      May these old legends live and sing forever until they die happy on stage!
      Says a Stooges fan.

      • Kat Says:

        Hi Caryn,
        Sad to realize he hasn’t changed. For some people that is a compliments.

        I’ve found many more folk singers seem to keep their voices.

      • Kat Says:

        Birgit,

        I hadn’t heard this before-thanks for the posting! A Stooges fan, yikes!

      • Hedley Says:

        Birgit – I like Chuck Berry better.
        Whenever Keef starts singing the whole audience would head for a potty break…..Here comes “Happy” and there go 5,000 people.

        “I’m Bored, I’m the Chairman of…”

      • Birgit Says:

        Hedley,
        too bad that Chuck Berry’s birthday is in October 😉
        I’ll try another time to convert you to the Stooges and their singer. Iggys Christmas songs are horrible. Even for a fan.

      • Bob Says:

        The amazing part is that he is alive, active and performing after abusing his body all these years. Those guys were the poster children for drugs, sex and rock and roll 🙂

      • im6 Says:

        Is Chuck Berry still performing? He turned 86 in October. Little Richard just turned 80 on December 5. Both look better than Keith.

      • Hedley Says:

        im6, Chuck plays about once a month.

  3. olof1 Says:

    I sit in my living-room every morning now where my little tree stands and it smells so nice and the lights in four different colors burn so bright. That’s Christmas for me 🙂 My breakfast tastes so much better this time of year even if it’s the same thing I eat most mornings 🙂

    Nights are so quiet here too but I never hear anyone sing, but sometimes I hear our plow gut curs when he has to plow the road because of snowfall and he wants to do something else but that sort of doesn’t bring out the Christmas feeling in me 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I still have lost of things to buy tomorrow and dog treats for Christmas is some of those things. Cat food as well since they didn’t have the kind my cats eat at the store I went to today. My cats rather starve than having anything else 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      It’s true that what is usual becomes amazing at Christmas. Lights shine brighter and the world looks prettier. People seem nicer.

      It was the song which brought Christmas to me. It seemed like a miracle to hear that song when I was feeling so homesick and sad about missing Christmas at home.After that I made Christmas in Ghana complete with sugar cookies!

      Cats are fussy eaters. Dogs will eat just about anything.

  4. Kat Says:

    MDH,
    Altamont was the end of the era of flowers and free love. I’ll never understand what prompted the Stones to hire the Hell’s Angels for security.

    I was in Africa at the time and read about it when I got my Week in Review from PC Ghana. I was horrified.

    • Hedley Says:

      It isnt very clear whether or not the Stones actually hired the Hells Angels. What is apparent is that was uncontrolled violence from which the Stones had no easy exit.
      Setting aside Altamont, rock shows in the 70s had a potentially dangerous side which we tend to forget.

      • Kat Says:

        MDH,
        I always believed they had hired them, but that could be a mistake from way back, something I think I read.

        When I got home in 1971, I found a very different America from when I left in 1969.

      • Hedley Says:

        Kat,
        You had been under Ghanaian stars listening to Ralph strumming Joni.

  5. Birgit Says:

    Beautiful Ghana story in times of Christmas commerce.
    A girl from Australia told me, that they traditionally go to the beach on (summer-) Christmas. A Ghanaian probably also feels misplaced in a snowy Christmas setting. May be that’s where “home” is, the place where Christmas (or a comparable traditional holiday) feels allright.

    • Kat Says:

      Birgit,
      Christmas there had no commercialism attached. We got together at my house with friends and strangers passing through town that Christmas. Everyone brought some food, and we, Patrick and I, got beer. We sang Christmas carols together. It was a good Christmas.

  6. Bill S. Says:

    Kat:
    Last year you told the same story about your first Christmas in Bolga, and it’s worth re-telling every year. I think we spent Christmas in Lome, Togo that first year. Afterwards we returned to Accra, and Kevin was born Jan. 5th. He will be 43 in a few weeks.

    I never had grey hair before I had kids…..

    • Kat Says:

      Bill,
      I like to tell this story every year because it means so much to me. You know how cold it gets at night during the harmattan and how clear the nights are. I was lying there under my blanket feeling pretty sorry for myself then I heard his voice singing of Christmas. It was a gift.

      I never left Bolga until April after the PC office sent us letters wondering why they hadn’t seen us. It seemed none of us had left the Upper Region, and Peace Corps was a bit worried.

      During Easter holiday I went to Accra, collected my dollars and then went to Lome. On the way back to Bolga I visited you guys and saw Kevin for the first time. No way that was 43 years ago!

      I swear you always had a touch of grey!!

  7. Cuidado Says:

    I put my tree up yesterday but chose a birch for a change. I do that every once in a while. It looks beautiful but there is no smell. I do have a great smelling pine candle though. 😉

    My favorite of all Christmas songs is We Three Kings. I would have been gobsmacked to hear it as you did.

    • Kat Says:

      Cuidado,
      I will never forget hearing that song in Ghana. Every Christmas that memory comes back to me.

      I think the smell is my favorite part of the tree. When I was getting my masters, I had to go to Boston. I remember a man was selling trees which were on both outside edges of a sidewalk. I loved walking through those trees and taking in the smell of that pine. No matter when or where I smell that, I am always brought to Christmas.

  8. Hedley Says:

    And the MDHs have a huge night out. The Prince will be appearing in the First Grade Christmas Concert at his school. It begins at 7.00 pm and seats are being saved for us. It will be very poignant.

    • Kat Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      Poignant is exactly the perfect word. I know many parents, grandparents and anyone watching the concert felt the same way and thought of those other small children, those babies.

      • Hedley Says:

        Each morning I have been over reading the NYT descriptions and getting “upset”. I know that it will be an issue tonight when I see all those little ones and our Prince in the middle of them.
        I am hoping for a Pumpa-Prince photo and I know that there is a new pictureof him coming for me at Christmas.
        He and I always start the same way.

        “Which boy does Pumpa love most in all the world ?”
        “Me”
        “How do you know that ?”
        “Because you always ask me”

  9. Kat Says:

    MDH,
    I got an out-loud chuckle at the Prince’s answer!!

    • Hedley Says:

      Being a Grandfather has brought joy that I never expected.

      The Prince has always known how I feel about him. We do stuff together..go to the Lions in matching jerseys, watch Snow Buddies, aggrevate Mrs MDH.

      He asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had ever had to go the Principal’s office…a red flag so we asked. Turns out he made a visit for crushing a juice box and squirting the contents over a chum

      • Kat Says:

        MDH,
        My brother-in-law feels the same way. He has a 6 year old grandson also and they do so many things together including camping and fishing. Ryder loves his Pa. Now Rod, my BIL, has a second grandson and though Declan is only 5 months old, I already have several pictures of Pa and Declan together.

  10. Morpfy Says:

    For that Christmas morning Breakfast a tasty treat……
    EGGNOG FRENCH TOAST

    Ingredients
    •8 eggs
    •2 cups eggnog
    •1/4 cup Imperial Sugar® / Dixie Crystals® Granulated Sugar
    •1/2 teaspoon vanilla or rum extract
    •20 to 26 slices English muffin bread
    •Confectioners’ sugar, optional
    •Maple syrup

    Directions
    •In a bowl, beat eggs, eggnog, sugar and extract; soak bread for 2 minutes per side. Cook on a greased hot griddle until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
    Serve with syrup. Yield: 8-10 servings.

    • Kat Says:

      Morpfy,
      This sounds perfect for Christmas morning. I wonder if you can make it a day ahead and let it soak.

  11. Bill S. Says:

    Is “galoot” the masculine form of “gal”?


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