Yesterday was a busy day. Therefore, I am writing this post using handy section headings (because I can’t figure out how to organize all this stuff. Hooray for section headings!)
PART 1 – Jujitsu
Ace received his first white stripe in jujitsu. Stripes and belts in jujitsu take significantly longer than in Muay Thai or Tae Kwon Do. Ace started jujitsu 2 years ago, and he is just now receiving his first stripe towards his next belt. It’s all based on mastery of the techniques, not a combination of mastery and time put in like the other martial arts forms at our school. And jujitsu is hard. It’s all about muscle control and weight shifts. It doesn’t look like much more than people rolling around on the floor, so it’s not showy, but it requires incredible body control and stamina.
Ace loves it.
I need to brush up on how the advancement works, but I think he might manage to get to his next belt sometime before he’s 40.
Part the Second: Bob the Elf
In between my Muay Thai class yesterday morning and Ace’s jujitsu class, we decided to walk over the nearest Starbucks, which is in a Safeway grocery store, to get a chai.
I was dressed like this because I am a sexy beast.
I go out in public like this after kickboxing more often than I should probably admit. And, yes, my legs were freezing.
While I got my chai at the Safeway, Ace made a new friend.
Internet, meet Bob the Elf.
Bob was 50% off, so we decided to purchase him as a present for my mother. Yes, Bob stands up on his own. He also has no eyes. It’s a bit disturbing, but he’s still cute.
By the time we got back to the martial arts school, Ace and Bob were BFFs. He began posing Bob around the school and asking me to take pictures.
Bob the Elf will guard your bag
Hey, what does an eyeless elf have to do to get some service?
Bob the Elf was here
(I don’t know where Ace gets this desire to take funny pictures of inanimate objects thing. Maybe from his dad . . . )
It quickly became apparent that Ace was not going to let me give Bob the Elf to Grandma, so then this happened.
And then there were two
Part the Third: Over the river and through the woods . . .
It was more like over the Beltway and through the soul-crushing traffic – so less picturesque than the song – but we did eventually make it to Grandma’s house to bake Christmas cookies.
Grandma’s house was beautifully decorated for the holiday, which made it the perfect place for
THE RETURN OF PLUSHIE THE UTERUS
People have been asking me about Plushie in the past few weeks. I haven’t abandoned her. It was just that between the hospitalization of my friend, the three week plague in my house, the crushing work load of the end of the semester and then the recent news events, I haven’t been feeling the lightness of spirit that is necessary for composing ridiculous pictures of a plush uterus. I’ve been missing her, though, and with the rapid approach of Christmas, it was time for her come back.
Plus, she just had to meet the elves.
Two elves and a uterus walk into The North Pole …..
Part Four: And then we baked cookies. (How’s that for a rough transition?)
I don’t particularly enjoy cooking, but baking? I love to bake. I think it’s because I love all the wonderful smells – vanilla, cinnamon, cardemom, chocolate. The smells are heavenly, and the mixing and measuring feels meditative.
It’s a tradition in my family to make a variety of cookies to serve as dessert with Christmas Eve dinner, as well as to give to friends and neighbors.
My grandmother would make gallettes, pizelles, date & nut cookies, and pita piata. She would pack the cookies into tins and ship them around the country to her daughters and grandchildren. Christmas was always ushered in by the arrival of the big round tin from my grandmother filled with layers of cookies packed carefully in waxed paper.
While the pizelles and pita piata made sense as traditional cookies in my Italian family, the gallettes do not. As I kid, I assumed they were another traditional Italian cookie, but they’re not. As an adult, I discovered that they’re French. The gallette is the most central cookie in my family’s Christmas tradition. It was served on Christmas Eve with the dinner of pasta and fish. My grandmother made hundreds and hundreds of them every year, supplying not just her Christmas Eve dinner, but those of all her daughters as well. How did a French cookie become the centerpiece of our Italian Christmas Eve? I have asked my mother and my aunts, but they don’t know. It just is. It always has been.
Gallettes are extremely labor intensive. The dough has to be mixed the day before and refrigerated overnight. Then you cook them, two at a time, on a hot iron over the stove burner. You have to time it precisely – 30 seconds on one side and then flip for 30 seconds on the other. The iron is heavy and it takes hours to get through the entire bowl of batter. My grandmother taught me to make them, but I don’t do it every year because it’s such a giant pain in the ass. But this year, my mom wanted to make them, so each armed with a gallette iron, we got to flipping.
The first hour was a disaster. The batter was sticking to the irons. We had the wrong type of oil. The irons weren’t hot enough; then they were too hot. At one point, I sprinkled some water drops on a hot iron and managed to launch a fireball into the air. It was not going well.
By hour two, though, we finally got it all together, and standing shoulder to shoulder at the stove, my mom and I managed to turn out several hundred gallettes. We tried to chat, but every time we did, we lost track of the time and left the cookies on the iron for a few too many seconds and burnt them. We had to use stopwatches (Yes! Stopwatches!) to make sure we turned the irons at exactly the right time. We ended up having to stand in silence with all of our attention focused on the cookies. I thought about the hundreds and hundreds of gallettes my grandmother used to make. I don’t know how she did it. She must have stood at her stove flipping the iron for WEEKS before Christmas.
“I feel good about making the gallettes this year,” my mom said at some point. “I don’t feel good making them, but I feel good ABOUT making them. ”
I felt good about making them as soon as we were done making them.
This is the result of 3 hours of work (and that doesn’t count the mixing of the batter the night before.) I plan to make gallettes again in 2020.
Stand back! We have gallette irons!
PART FOUR: I went home and fell over.
I love Christmas, but it’s exhausting.
Merry Christmas Eve Eve.