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"You hope, and I'll hurry." - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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"You hope, and I'll hurry." [Dec. 11th, 2009|10:44 pm]
Marissa Lingen

I try to be reasonable with my loved ones and, when I can manage it, with myself. I try to avoid setting up situations where I have an absolute requirement nobody knows about, or when something simply must happen that is not actually very well under anyone's control. Mostly I try not to have absolute requirements at all, but when I do, I put out the signs in advance: I tell anybody else who is relevant, with plenty of notice, and I do what work I can, and I try to smooth the way.

This year I am running low on cope. A few of you seemed to think that my earlier entry about Grandma's appendectomy was claiming that there was nothing good about 2009. People, there is hardly a day I can't think of good things about, much less an entire year. But 2009, really no lie, has been hard. Has had good stuff in it. But lots of hard stuff, and not as much of the "this is good but hard" as one might hope in that context. It has not been "I am sitting around whining over nothing" hard. It has been "this temporary disability is not acting very temporary" hard, and it has been "what on earth do we do without Grandpa" hard, and several other genuinely difficult bits as well. I mean, we keep on. We do what we need to. But some days that's easier than others. And this is the third Santa Lucia Day with the vertigo as a constant companion. After Thanksgiving, we've gotten into the third time through for everything now. We've done two full years. I did not want to start on three. But here we are.

So the long and short of it was, I knew that I absolutely needed Santa Lucia Day to go right this year. I absolutely needed to have lussekatter ready and waiting Sunday morning. There was not any wiggle room on this. There was not any room for "what if I don't have the energy, can't we do it Tuesday instead" or "what if something time-consuming comes up with getting Grandma out of the hospital" or "what if we get another curveball, pleasant or unpleasant." And there is no buying lussekatter or having someone else make them. They are my lussekatter what are mine. I make lussekatter for Santa Lucia Day, and this is at least as important as eating the said lussekatter.

So this morning I stirred the dough together. It took a long time to rise, but was gently behaved once it did, or at least well-behaved for lussekatter. I have done this enough times now that I have my calibration from "merely a pain in the butt" to "do not eat me, crazy yellow dough, or at least spare the rest of the family," and this was far towards the former. Then in the oven it rose like crazy, uff da, never saw such a size differential between the step where I stud the individual buns with dried blueberries and the step where they come out of the oven. The house smelled of yeast and saffron, and my hands feel better, and I am dizzy but resolute, and I have lussekatter. And also I gave some friends some cookies and gave timprov an early Christmas present and went to see Grandma in the hospital. I pummeled, I sang, I gave. And here we are, and come hell or high water--if the sun doesn't come up Sunday morning--I have done the part I can do to bring the light back, and there will be lussekatter for Santa Lucia Day.

Happy Santa Lucia Day, and here's to making certain of the small things we need.

2006 2007 Part 1 2007 Part 2 2008

[User Picture]From: ckd
2009-12-12 05:12 am (UTC)
Tonight was my own celebration of winter and the coming return of the light, as I was at Christmas Revels. Song and dancing and light and joy, so that even when leaving Sanders Theatre into the deep and dark December there was cheer, and the MBTA cooperated by having trains arrive right as we reached the station, in both directions so nobody had to wait....

The concept of rebirth is very central to me this year; part of that wound up being my first time at Revels, and in fact my first time in the lovely acoustical environment of Sanders. (Great seats, too.)

Happy Santa Lucia Day to you, and once again thank you for your annual lussekatter post.
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From: swan_tower
2009-12-12 06:36 am (UTC)
You just made me so very homesick for Harvard.

Not for Boston, so much; I need sunlight too badly to miss Boston winters. But Harvard, yes.
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[User Picture]From: ckd
2009-12-12 03:22 pm (UTC)
Are you planning to make it to Vericon again this year?

(Apologies for the icon, but it's the closest I have to a "Cambridge" userpic at the moment.)
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From: swan_tower
2009-12-12 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'll forgive you the icon -- THIS TIME. :-)

(At least it isn't a Yale icon.)

Sadly, no Vericon for me; the shift in schedule put it on the same weekend as ICFA and I, after much agonizing, chose the latter.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2009-12-12 05:16 am (UTC)
This annual post is something I look forward to as part of the holiday season every year. I lit my candles yesterday, improvised as they were, and I am very glad that your lussekatter is behaving, and that your Gramma is doing as well as can be expected.

We'll do what's necessary.

Edited at 2009-12-12 05:50 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: aedifica
2009-12-12 05:20 am (UTC)
I caught myself nodding seriously while reading your post.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2009-12-12 06:25 am (UTC)
My street-name-day again and I've spent a total of like three hours at it. Happy Santa Lucia Day! :)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-12 12:16 pm (UTC)
The proper day isn't until Sunday, so maybe you'll get more time there then.
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From: swan_tower
2009-12-12 06:37 am (UTC)
Warm glow over here that you have lussekatter. Happy Santa Lucia Day, indeed.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2009-12-12 07:08 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: elisem
2009-12-12 11:11 am (UTC)
*sitting here quietly overflowing with love because the world has you in it*
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-12 12:18 pm (UTC)
Say, I need a new idiom. I used to say, "I tripped and fell and lo and behold there was this thing for you." Now the falling is too literal for it to work well idiomatically. Still. There's this thing for you. Because at some point you might need this thing.
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[User Picture]From: intrepida
2009-12-12 12:50 pm (UTC)
Happy return of the light!
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[User Picture]From: pnkrokhockeymom
2009-12-12 02:30 pm (UTC)
I find you awesome. I'm very happy you have lussekatter.

Today, I am going to dress. I am! I will not come up with any more excuses. This post helped.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-12 05:19 pm (UTC)
When you wrote that, I was not sure dressing was the right option for today. But I am now convinced, and as a sign of my conviction, wearing my best black snowflakey I R REEL MINNSOTAN THIS R REEL SWETTER sweater.
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[User Picture]From: buymeaclue
2009-12-12 02:47 pm (UTC)
Here, here, and so glad there will be lussekatter, and your lussekatter at that.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2009-12-12 02:59 pm (UTC)
That's one I'm still working on, that if I need something (rather than simply wanting it a lot) I will tell everyone relevant, as well as doing what I can about it myself.
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[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-12-12 03:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for helping the sun come back. We need it in Maine, too . . .
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2009-12-12 05:21 pm (UTC)
I really need to try making lussekatter one of these years. And I'm glad your grandmother is doing better; my sister had the exact same thing happen to her, and I can only imagine the extra anxiety involved when such a thing happens when one is of venerable age and not a bouncing twenty-ish person.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-12 09:42 pm (UTC)
We are used to thinking of her as bouncing, too. Nothing like having her 97-year-old sister around to make 77-year-old Grandma look less venerable--and yet realistically we do have to admit that she is not as young as she once was.
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[User Picture]From: cissa
2009-12-12 11:43 pm (UTC)
I will make my lussekatter tomorrow, I think.

Thanks for the lovely post.
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[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2009-12-13 03:22 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zelda888
2009-12-14 03:29 am (UTC)
I went back and read the whole series, and I... I think I've come to the right place.

Whether I am Baking for Christmas in any given year, or Not Baking, the one constant is that I always make saffron buns for my grandmother. It's a tradition from the Cornish part of my family, and the recipe I use is my version of my mother's version of what my Great Aunt Gert used to do. I don't need it the way you do the lussekatter, but I have a suspicion that Grandma might.

But I deeply love your symbolism, and I generally find myself with a deal of saffron around the house this time of year. May I ask you a few technical questions, that I may try a practice run, and perhaps join you next year? Namely: Do you use the "active dry" yeast from the little packets, or is there something else I should be looking for? Do you bloom the yeast first, or just throw it in to munch on warm milk and sugar? How do you grind the saffron (I generally get the things that are still recognizably crocus parts)? And what songs do you sing to your dough?

Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-14 12:22 pm (UTC)
I am glad when people feel they've come to the right place.

I use "active dry" yeast, but not from the little packets, because I use too much yeast for that to be economical. Instead I buy a little jar of the active dry. Not instant, just active dry. It goes in my rosemary buns and my rye buns and my lussekatter and whatever other bread I mess with.

And no, I do not proof the yeast (I'd be interested to see in what regions people "bloom" and in what regions they "proof"--dialect differences are awesome), I just throw it in there.

The saffron goes in my mortar and pestle with a tablespoon of sugar. Some brands of saffron grind beautifully, falling to bits with the first crunch, and some do not at all. I'm not sure why. But if there are threads here and there in the buns, it won't matter.

Songs vary according to mood that year. The ones I pretty much always sing are Mountain Goats' "This Year," Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," and "In the Bleak Midwinter" because it's the most cheerful Christmas carol I know ("snow is falling, snow on snow, snooooow ooooonnn snooooowwww!"). Other than that, I have been known to sing "Joy to the World" and "NyQuil Driver" and "Now the Green Blade Rises"/"Noel Nouvelet" and "Solar Flare" and various other things. There is a stage where I need a really hard 4/4 rock rhythm to make the punching go right, and it has to be a 4/4 rock rhythm that doesn't require guitar or bass or drums or anything but can work for only one voice and punching. Other than that it can be anything, particularly in the less-punchy bits of the kneading. "Snow is Gone" would work, but I'm a little superstitious about singing that one if we haven't had much snow up until the time I make the lussekatter.
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[User Picture]From: zelda888
2009-12-14 04:15 pm (UTC)
Whereas I resent being forced to buy *three whole* packets of yeast, when I will only ever use one! I make Dilly Bread rarely enough that the previous yeasties are always past use when I come to it again. (And trying to make sense of my dialect is an iffy proposition. My parents are both from Ohio, but I'm an Air Force brat who grew up all over the US. I'm firmly on the East Coast side of the soda/pop divide, but otherwise I'm rather a mish-mash.)

Mortar and pestle, check. Having spent way too many hours of my life grinding dried marigold petals (for professional reasons, not culinary), I'm inclined to blame too much moisture for the ones that don't grind right. We did the drying ourselves, and even when they were all done the same way, there were some individual plants whose petals just had more "substance," and wouldn't give up the last traces of water to become brittle. Then when you have different brands and suppliers in the mix, you add the possibility of different thoroughness in drying, and different aridity of storage conditions on their way to you.

a really hard 4/4 rock rhythm to make the punching go right

Hmm. My repertory right now really doesn't include anything that answers this description. We'll see what I can do about that.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2009-12-14 05:19 pm (UTC)
Well, the hard-punching 4/4 thing is sort of like lullabyes: you can make nearly anything into a lullabye if you sing it right. My brother-in-law does a version of "All Praise to Thee My God This Night" that can get a good wham! in on each word, if you're vehement enough about it.
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2009-12-14 04:44 pm (UTC)
I'm glad there were lussekatter. Perhaps it is a little thing, but it is an important little thing, and it's not only important that the important little things happen, but it's important that they stay important.

To my mind, one proves yeast. One blooms gelatin. The gelatin is being given a chance to find its feet and thicken up a little; whereas, the way I store yeast, it literally is proving itself - I keep yeast so long that I'm never sure whether it's alive, hence I always feed it first and see if it wakes up.
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