Winter’s Slow-Moving Tale

Just before Christmas, 2012, we received quite a helping of snow. Depending on how you feel about snow, news of an approaching storm can affect you in myriad ways. For me, I was delighted. Even though I’ve been a Midwesterner for over seven years, now, snow still excites me. But, my delight was halted once I heard the storm had been given a name (Draco). It was poised to drop not only snow, but wet, heavy snow — the kind which brought our whole world to a screeching halt in March 2012 when snow was falling more than two inches per hour.

Draco arrived in the morning and gathered strength throughout the day. By night, the world became a swirling mass of trees bending to the ground while the ground reached to the sky — wintry vertigo. Draco did bring snow, but he didn’t bring nearly as much as his unnamed predecessor. However, as he was so willing to point out, quality is just as important as quantity. As trees bowed and swayed in the vortex of wind and heavy snow, some eventually snapped, effectively throwing us back into the Dark Ages. Shortly afterward, while sitting in the dark reading by lamplight, it occurred to me that our Christmas Lunch — the one I’d been planning and looking forward to for quite some time — may not happen, this year.

Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit how depressed this made me. Goodness knows, we’re blessed to have electricity — that it’s something we can truly miss when it’s taken away — unlike so many people around the world who have never had it enough to miss it. Besides, as I noted back in March while under the thumb of a blizzard, being temporarily without electricity is oddly peaceful and liberating.

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Still, now that I’m an adult, Christmas is a completely different kind of celebration than it was to me as a child. Now, rather than presents and decorations, the most treasured and enjoyable parts of the holiday season revolve around preparing food and sharing it with the people closest to me. My oven — though not as sparkly as the Christmas tree — is practically the heart of all Christmas celebrations and does not operate without electricity!

In late December, still heading toward the solstice, daylight was fleeting enough as it was. We missed the comfort and glow of electricity perhaps more than usual. On one of those cloudy days during the power outage, James and I took a walk just before evening, to look at the snow and get away from the darkened house for a little while.

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Though I was sulking and a bit angry at winter, I was soon distracted from my funk by the all-encompassing beauty of winter’s mess. There’s a hush that falls over everything when it’s covered with more than a foot of snow — and yet sound travels faster in the cold air. Nature seems fast asleep and yet the slightest color or sound is that much sharper and poignant in winter.

In the few moments of wintry twilight, before night took hold, we were surrounded not by white but periwinkle. The sun was setting over the distant hills and the sky — still full of heavy clouds — was a study in blues and violets rather than grey. The surrounding forest with its shadows and bare limbs holding up heavy loads of snow, the snow-covered hillsides… even the air itself — all was colored in a bluish glow.

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Though I’d like to be able say the joy of being surrounded by all of those colors was enough to completely lift me out of my sunken mood, even my love of all things blue and silvery wasn’t enough to completely elevate my spirits. I was grateful for our little walk that day, and for the brief moment of periwinkle skies, all the same. By the time I’d taken three photos, the colors were gone with hardly a trace left behind, and night had set in. You’ve got to be fast to catch wonder, sometimes.

Holding onto hope that power would be restored, I was not willing to call off our Christmas Lunch. Happily, just before it would’ve been too late and all the grocery stores would’ve been closed for the holiday, the lights suddenly came back on and bathed the house with light. I didn’t jump up and down, but I know my eyes were probably beaming.

Each year, my biggest Christmas wish is to spend the holiday with my beloved and be able to surround us with a festive menu. I was getting my wish, this year, after all.

French-Style Country Bread


Baked Ham with Spiced Cranberry-Orange Glaze



Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Onions & Bacon



Carrot Puree with Hazelnut Tapenade



Zuccotto Cake

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If I’m not mistaken, this might’ve been the very first time I’ve prepared a holiday meal and have been 100% satisfied with the results. An unexpected Christmas gift! In particular, the Zuccotto Cake was tremendously fun to put together and was a mouthful of different, delicious tastes — like a party in every single bite. Raspberries, hazelnuts, toffee bits, whipped cream, chocolate, creme anglaise… soo much to love about this dessert!

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And so, it’s January once again and the holidays are behind us. Much to the chagrin of the ancient Mayans and countless other naysayers, we’ve been granted another fresh, clean year — another chance. What better way to start the year than in sheer gratitude?

Recently, I was awakened from sleep in the middle of the night by moonlight beaming into the bedroom. The moon was not full, in fact it was waning toward its last quarter. Clear nights are a rarity in these parts during winter, so to my eyes it was as though a small sun had traveled across the sky. The deep, white snow all around echoed and amplified the dulcet light of a silver moon shining down from an endless sky of blue and twinkling stars. The shadows of naked trees ran on for miles with no foliage to stop them. In a startling moment of lucidity, I thought to myself, “If only we could all be like snow — reflecting the light all around us so that even in times of darkness it can be like daytime.”

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Winter and its slow-moving tale are only with us for a brief time. Darkness and cold may keep us indoors more than we’d like, but that’s a mere blessing in disguise. While the sun peeks through and turns the sky into a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes and the wind howls just outside the window, what better time to make sketches of what we hope to shape this new year into? Under the snow lies a garden yet to be planted, fruits yet to ripen and amaze us.

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~ by Jason on January 7, 2013.

22 Responses to “Winter’s Slow-Moving Tale”

  1. Beautiful, as always. Loved your statement of us reflecting light. Hugs, and blessings. Sally

  2. Beautiful pictures. We have loads of snow that I enjoy looking at through a window from a warm vehicle or room. πŸ™‚ You certainly have a way with words. Reading your posts is always a pleasure. It’s like poetry. The food! Hope you saved me a plate! Everything looks delish!

    • Thanks for reading. I enjoy your posts, too. You’ve got to try that Zuccotto Cake recipe (it’s linked with the title of the recipe in the menu I listed). I know you’d enjoy making it.

      • I tried making sponge cake once…failed horribly. This looks so good though. I wish I lived next door to you and could eat all these lovely things! If I ever try this I will let you know. I would consider it a personal triumph if it did turn out! πŸ™‚

      • Maybe the trick to sponge cake is mastering folding the egg whites into the batter… At least that’s the toughest part for me. Since you made the White Almond Cake with Cherry Cheesecake Filling, I think you’d find this recipe a breeze – it’s a lot more forgiving (ganache can hide almost any mistake!).

  3. As always Jason, your prose is beautiful… and thanks for spending Christmas Eve and dinner with us…. and some of that wonderful zuccotto cake on the Day!

  4. Awwwww, I know you love it there in Michigan and that beautiful white stuff that starts with S will always be like a beautiful white blanket to me.I don’t and haven’t seen it as often as you but I love looking at it πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t want to drive in it but looking is enough for me.I know your mood at to be in the dumps thinking you wouldn’t be able to cook for Christmas.But I’m glad it all worked out.I’m glad it was tasty too <<< Lucy πŸ™‚ anyway I loved the pics and the story as usual.I love and miss ya'll MOM

  5. Absolutely beautiful! I know the feeling of delight when the power comes back on… so glad you were able to celebrate and enjoy the day!

  6. No time for breakfast this morning…that cake is making my mouth water!! πŸ˜‰

    • No breakfast?!! That’s probably my favorite meal of the day! Hope your mornings from now on involve at least a bowl of cold cereal. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading.

  7. Always a stunning display… And I love your stories. How cold, with no electricity?! And your recipes and food… There are no words. Divine.

    • Thanks for reading. πŸ™‚ A big saving grace in our home in wintertime is our big woodstove. It was dark as could be in the house, but at least it was toasty & warm. We have a furnace, but we tend to rely on the woodstove for most of our heat December through early March. The downside is trying not to go into a sleepy trance while staring into it – especially in the evenings when the sun is long gone, but there’s still more work to do.

  8. Jason,
    Oh my gosh, the photos were gorgeous, your words inspiring, and that cake heavenly. Not sure about those other things, just don’t know if I could do Christmas without turkey, dressing, and coconut pie! Not to mention potato salad, roast with gravy, and of course cranberry sauce.
    I sure hope we can make it up there this summer, would love to visit. Enjoy the company and the food. You really would be good at the bed and breakfast thing, you should open up two rooms of your home to rent out on weekends…..your menu would sure to please!
    Love and miss you both
    Aunt Lisa

    • Thanks for reading, Aunt Lisa. πŸ™‚

      Yeah, when I moved out on my own back in 2002, I started daring to make a very heavy menu distinction between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like to think of Thanksgiving as turkey, stuffing/dressing, cranberry sauce, and all things pie. Christmas, in our house, is more laid back (no bird taking up the oven for several hours): baked ham, a few low-drama veggie sides, and a very high-drama cake. You might’ve noticed, though, the ham had a very Thanksgiving-y glaze on it with the cranberries. πŸ˜‰

      We hope you get to come visit us, this summer!

  9. Once again, you have captured the essence of the season.

    I believe we all carry that light within us…regardless of the darkness of winter. That special light creates life, joy, love, and brings special friendships to us all.

    I, personally, use this time of year for rejuvenation, quiet creating, and planning.

    You have a special gift of writing…thanks for sharing!

  10. Okay, so I am a little late for the Christmas season, but your dinner looked amazing!!!

    • Thanks, Brenda! It was my favorite holiday menu I’d ever put together and — for once — everything turned out exactly the way I wanted. I’m trying not to worry that next year’s will automatically pale by comparison. πŸ˜›

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