Christmas & New Year’s at Chez Herkes are pretty simple: our house is an Introvert Haven on both the Eves and the Days.
How does that work? Well. Spouseman works on jigsaw puzzles or Legos or plays video games, I watch movies, play with the train set, put up ornaments (yes, I often wait until Christmas Eve to do the tree) and putter around the kitchen when I’m not curled up on one of the bean bags with a new book to read or puttering with the book I’m writing at my desk.
AND we’re open to friends dropping by any time after 7PM on the Eves and after 1 PM on the Days. (Always wise to inquire if we’re on a walk through the neighborhood to admire holiday lights or get fresh air, but other than those excursions, we’re IN.)
Nothing is going on, but company is welcome. That’s it.
There are non-traditional holiday movies on the television in one room all day & night (for several years we did a Bad Movie double feature on NYE, but it got awfully organized and was causing me unfun panic and so it was retired in favor of more Introverting In Company like we already did on Christmas.)
ANYway. There’s usually quiet music in the non-television room, and there are comfy chairs available for sitting with snacks and beverages pretty much everywhere because that’s how I roll. And of course there are foods and beverages for snacking. Because for me holidays mean food, and food is yummy.
Zero planned activities, zero zero formal socializing. Conversation and catching up are cool, just not…required. Quiet parallel play like reading, crafting, surfing the internet via phone or tablet, or watching television–that’s as close as things get to a theme.
The new house give us SO MUCH MOAR SPACE to stretch out! I can’t wait to holiday here.
Friends whose holiday travels bring them past our road less traveled on their way over the river and through the woods are welcome to drop by for a mug of cider (or a beer or wine or a cuppa hot tea) Settle in for awhile or just decompress for a the length of a nosh and a sip. Some years we have several drop-ins, many years it’s just Spouseman & me, but always, it’s simple, and nerdy. (see below)
I’m indulging myself with a post on a topic I like to call, “Weird things about me it’s useful to know.” I’ve been clicking “follow” and “friend request” on social media quite a bit of late, so it might be relevant.
Today’s topic: seasonal hibernation.
From mid-November through mid-March-ish I become a sleepy, grumpy cat who lacks the strength needed to maintain a Public Face and handle Other People. I don’t actually sleep more, but I have to warn y’all, I do pull away from the everyday world.
A similar retreat predictably happens in early summer, so it isn’t a light-related thing. Nor is it a bad thing. It’s simply a cycle I’ve noticed. I have energy phases. Not ups & downs so much as shifts between outward-tolerance and inward focus.
This inward phase starts around Halloween, and I’m in full retreat-to-the-den mode now.
This is blog-worthy for two reasons.
1. Buffering. I never want friends to feel neglected, but my emotional tank drains and freezes. Simple activities that come more easily during other months (never easily, let’s face it, I’m profoundly introverted and let’s not even mention the anxiety) take me ten times longer to accomplish and take ALL my energy.
I’m talking little things like reaching out and making phone calls or sending messages. Things like responding to emails, texts, or social media. Important, adulting, professional things. Necessary-to-modern life things. Yeah.
Conservation gets me through. I limit or put off outside obligations until the season turns and I come ’round face to the world again, about the time crocuses open to greet the returning sun. This allows me to devote my small energies to stuff like washing, dressing, creative projects and research. I do my best research in January. ADHD hyperfocus FTW.
Also I ramp up activities like baking (SO MUCH BAKING) blogging like this, decorating my space with sparkly brightnesss & color & coziness, and so on. Nesting, denning, hibernating things. Wrapped-up-in-me things.
Is it selfish of me to go dark in The Giving & Socializing Season? Yeah, I’ll cop to that, but self-care isn’t only a buzzword. Gotta put on my oxygen mask if I’m to be any good to others…
…because the OTHER thing I’ve noticed is that if I fight this deep-rooted need for quiet downtime, if I pour energy into Pretending Normal and Performing Enjoyment through the gray of winter, an emotional crash-and-burn of epic proportions WILL follow.
NO THANK YOU.
Which brings us to the second reason I’m bothering writing about this:
2. Boundaries. Guilt trips do not motivate me, but every so often someone treats clearly-defined requests for space as a challenge to be overcome with shaming, or they interpret low enthusiasm for their <insert personal topic here> as a value judgment or a failure to care enough about them. Friendship bridges have burned over this.
I’m hoping this forthright admission now will prevent misconceptions later. So. If you didn’t know this about me, now you do.
A. My online presence may appear to contradict what I’m saying here. That’s not ideal, but that’s a professional obligation as well as a personal pleasure, so I ALWAYS scrape up new posts and (nearly always) manage to reply to direct contact. (NOT FB Messenger. Sorrynotsorry.) I lean hard on memes, GIFS, and my habit of sharing random sock & lunch pics. (BECAUSE WHY NOT? I LIKE FUN SOX.)
B. Needing to be quiet and unsocial is NOT the same as wanting to be alone. Even when I am a sleepy, grumpy cat, I love being around people doing things. From a corner. Watching.
Having good friends in my Nice Quiet Space, hanging out doing their own Nice Quiet Things. (Or Nice Loud Things, as long as I don’t have to be loud too) is the absolute BEST. I mean, then I can feed people, and that energizes me. Super-best is when they invite themselves over so I don’t have to spend energy to reach out.
But I will invite as much as I can, and I will NEVER be hurt by declined invitations. I grok needing bubble time. Second best is when I get invited to other spaces by people who make it explicitly clear it’s okay for me to lurk in corners and not stay long.
C. Communication is the most stressful part. I do a fairly good job of faking people skills, but it’s ALWAYS an exhausting job that requires constant mental processing and accessing memorized talking templates while monitoring a bunch of verbal and non-verbal feedback loops to assess efficacy. Example below:
“Did I react appropriately to that exchange of information, why did they shake their head at what I said, what does that expression mean, they said a nice thing but the tone doesn’t match, why is that posture vibe scraping my nerves, was that a rude comment, was I too loud, too abrupt, what does that smile mean in this situation…aaaggghhh!!!”
Yes, that is what conversations are like for me. Yes, every conversation. Even ones I enjoy with people I love. Multiple channels running all the time, and a lot of saved verbal scripts used. So I guess that’s a whole ‘nother Weird Karen Thing. Point is, it’s never an easy haul, and in the cold midwinter I don’t have the mental muscle to power through much of it.
That’s all there is for now. Next post will be about baking again. Or maybe about more weird stuff. Time will tell.
I’m not getting any creative writing done because reasons, so to quiet the brain buzzards I figure I will share a baking adventure. WITH PICTURES!
(What are brain buzzards? YOU know. They’re the lurking voices inside that squawk, “quit whining and do the work, lazy woman, Real Professionals produce, you could do more if you tried harder, blah, blah, blah…I mean, they’re right, but I prefer to drown them out than listen.)
ANYway. Cookies. Swedish butter cookies were a holiday tradition when I was growing up in the Morris household, (the M in K.M. stands for Morris) I recently found my mom’s mother’s recipe card for “Grandma Watson’s Swedish Butter Cookies” complete with instructions for a “slow oven” and mentioning butter from the ice box. I haven’t scanned the cards yet, so no pic, sorry.
These cookies were a one batch once-a-year treat because, while they were delicious, making them was a demanding process requiring tons of work, complicated prep, and expensive ingredients. And drama. I remember much trauma with stickiness, wax paper, and fretting about wasted dough & much worry over burning. And they never came out quite right despite always tasting fab.
Then I made them for myself the first time on my own, away from the traditions and procedures of my youth. And I learned a secret I’ll share today: THESE ARE THE SIMPLEST COOKIES EVER.
Unless you are a perfectionist. Then they are a hell recipe. I am not a perfectionist. My kitchen mantra is, “More flavor, less effort.”
I can whip together a batch of these cookies faster than the oven preheats–which is saying something because a “slow oven” is only 325 degrees F.
So. Let’s make Swedish Butter cookies together.
Start the oven preheating, make sure the rack is in the middle for best baking, and gather these ingredients:
Yeah, that’s all.
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1-2 tbsp of syrupy goodness. (I like half honey+half almond extract. Maple syrup is popular with others. The big thing is, some sugary syrup. Things don’t cook right without it.)
Here’s the one paragraph summary.
Cream the butter & sugar, add in the syrup & mix until creamy, mix in the flour until it forms a lumpy dough, form up into a ball by hand, divide into four lumps and roll into sticks, dust with colored sugar if you want, and bake 20-25 min at 325 until golden. Cut while still warm. Done. SO. SIMPLE.
The devil is in the details. Pics are worth a thousand words, so here we go:
Cream butter & sugar, scrape down the bowl & add syrup, it looks like this:
Mix in the syrup until it’s all creamy like this:
Then scrape down again (the red bit in the pics is my bowl scraper resting on the mixer stand) add the flour and mix until it comes together. Note that it isn’t all in a single ball, and it’s STICKY:
Don’t add extra flour or liquid or mix with the mixer until it’s a single lump, the cookies will get kinda tough (BUT NO BIGGIE IF YOU LOSE FAITH AND DO THOSE THINGS THE COOKIES WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS)
In any case, if the dough doesn’t come all the way together after a minute or two of blending, stop the mixer and push it together into a ball by hand with the scraper. Then divide the ball into 4 parts and shape into logs.
Did I mention it’s sticky? How gooey depends on too many factors to worry about. This is where I get mega-lazy. If the dough can’t be handled easily, I run water in the sink and wet my hands before dividing & shaping the dough, re-wetting whenever things get unwieldy. And don’t stress the logs being equal sizes or the same length or evenly rounded. Close enough is fine. Mine came out pretty well this time:
So, now all you have to do is bake them. 20-25 min at 325 degrees. When they’re going golden brown on top (or around the edges, if you sugared the tops) pull them and cut into slices. Cool and then try not to eat them all in one sitting.