sparkly bits.

Let me tell you what kind of girl I am. I am the kind who will put the day to blessed rest by changing into my pajama pants, making a cup of tea, turning off the phone, TV and computer. I look for the plumpest clementine in the basket and plop it in a bowl along with three bittersweet buckeyes. I gather my blanket, book and snack and arrange them around me like a menagerie. I sit in a room entirely void of noise, and I don't move for the next several hours. Does that make me lazy? Well, I'm alright with it if you are. The lack of worthy options only reinforces the fact that I have things on my mind, and it just so happens that I cannot write, think or read with the TV or radio on. (Fall asleep with the TV on? How is that even possible?)

I hear nothing but the sound of the furnace kicking on and I hope to high heaven that no one comes to the front door. I wish I could think tonight about decorations or upcoming jolly. I've got plenty of good things in the pipeline. But the last few months have worn me down and my heart leans slightly toward the heavy side. I can't put my finger on it exactly. Maybe heavy isn't the right word. It's not really sad either, not all the time. It's not exactly worried. But I can see it sitting there, with it's little brow furrowed a bit, gazing far off into the distance.

It's contemplative. dreamy. wistful. It's a wistful heart. That's what it is. It's got a lot on it's mind, this old heart of mine.

I won't begin to imagine how others react to these things. It doesn't even matter. The point to me is that I am not the first person to feel strung along by Life. This precarious high-wire teetering is not unique to me. It's not that I am questioning the way things are, not at all. I just imagined it going down differently. I fully expected my obedience to be rewarded with things in this world. and it has. I'm not complaining. it's been good, mostly. but just maybe, I have reached a point where life quits giving as much, and starts taking more back.

So, maybe it's no coincidence that my heart tug-of-wars with my head over how best to celebrate this year. All I can say is, my celebrating seems different. still, I'm thankful for it. I am learning through all of this how to hear the voice that matters most to me. I am learning the value of life for life's sake. Over the next hour, I will eat my clementine and my triple dipped bittersweet chocolate buckeyes in solitude and peace. The Advil is already scrubbing the ache from my head and the tea is just right. I will pick up my thoughts, right where I last left them. I'll see the glow of a thousand lights through my window. I will feel them in my heart. I will hope to never, ever, trade in my ideas for ideas that are far less shiny.

And while we're on the subject, I was reminded today of an all-time favorite Christmas song. It made me happy and sad at the same time, but then that happens a lot lately. It may have taken me all of the live-long month of November until now, but the trees and decorations are up, in all their artificial charm and finery. I'm sorry to say that I didn't enjoy the putting up as much this year. Those strands of lights plum did me in. The tangles, the inexplicable blinking, the deadbeat chains. the MIA bulbs. my villages still in their boxes. What I do enjoy is having it up. I enjoy seeing the glow from the dark of the hallway. It warms me. inside.

Today already feels better.

Yesterday was grumpy and snappish. Just the opposite of holiday spirit. My patience dangled as precariously as a trove of glass ornaments in the wake of a wiley two-year old.

But today?

Today I woke up to a sparkly clean house, thanks to a sudden burst of energy yesterday. I grumbled my way through each chore, but once it was over, I was so happy that I forced myself to tidy the heck up. why? because I like it that way. tidy. everything in it's place. One of these days I'm pretty sure I will be my old self. I'm waiting for my old zip to return. but until then? I'll take what I can. I'll take it.

I'm noticing this week, that December's light has an allure all its own. I guess I've never noticed before. It's not glowy, like September's. It's not showy, like June's. It's blurry and blue-tinged. wispy around the edges with just a touch of melancholy.  A whisper of beauty with very little time to run outside before the light fades. These days are shorter and chillier, but I'm toasted up with the truth of the season this year, and the knowledge that love  has no end, after all.

 Speaking of sparkly lights, I am still fully enamored. Right now, I am moving along to the song of memories still to come. showing my gratitude through everyday stuff, even while saying things like "this day has been exhausting!" still I'm hard at work, fashioning something out of nothing. everything. wielding hope, compassion and gratefulness. They, along with love, are some of the brightest parts of me. They inspire me to try harder and try less. They inspire me to eaves-drop like no body's business.

They are my sparkly bits.
just sayin'.

Dark Chocolate Buckeyes
adapted from Saveur
yield: about 30
The dab of shortening adds gloss and helps prevent the chocolate from blooming (developing those unattractive, entirely harmless white blotches). I keep a trans-fat free tub on hand, pretty much for this purpose alone. If you have none, never fear: just add a teaspoon of corn syrup and/or 2 teaspoons of butter. Both will work toward the same end.

Please note: you will need several skewers or toothpicks for dipping.
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy, salted peanut butter
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
9-12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Lindt's 70% bar)
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening

In a medium mixing bowl, place powdered sugar, peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla, and salt, and beat well with a wooden spoon until no streaks of powdered sugar remain. I prefer to spend the last minute kneading by hand, which pulls it all together spit-spot. When mixture is homogeneous, roll into 1" balls and place on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until firm, 15-20 minutes. (If your freezer is inadequate, decks and garages work well this time of year.)

Melt chocolate and shortening (or butter and/or corn syrup, if using) in a small, heatproof bowl, set over a small pot of simmering water, stirring often. Using a kitchen towel to protect your hands (bowl may be hot), remove bowl, and wipe any water from the underside.  Remove pot from heat.
Use a wooden skewer (or toothpick) to spear a peanut butter ball, then dip the ball almost but not entirely into the melted chocolate, leaving a small circle (1/2" in diameter) of peanut butter showing. Holding skewer, twirl gently to release excess chocolate, then set circle-side up on a second wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Carefully remove skewer (I use two skewers, the first to hold the buckeye, the second to release, as follows: gently press blunt end against peanut butter circle, until buckeye releases from first skewer.)  Repeat, until all peanut butter balls have been dipped, reheating chocolate if buckeyes begin to get mired in the bowl.

Freeze buckeyes until firm, 1 hour or overnight. With a clean, dry finger, smooth toothpick holes left in peanut butter, nudging a bit until no hole remains.

Buckeyes keep well, sealed airtight, 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.
P.S. Good luck with that.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.


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