one perfect night

Any parent of small children can tell you: stuff usually does not go according to plan. You either learn to live with this, become flexible, and go with the flow, or you spend a lot of time frustrated that life never just GOES RIGHT. Someone will always poop their pants on the day you forgot to pack a spare outfit, but never on the days that you did, you know?

But in the same vein of my “it gets better” post, I think it’s important to notice when things actually do go really really right. It may not happen often, but I promise, it does happen just often enough that if you take time to notice, outweighs so much of the “STUFF NEVER GOES RIGHT” frustration.

IMG_2980

Last night we had one such perfect night, and after we got the kids to bed and fixed our ritual fancy drink, my husband and I clinked our glasses and remarked on what a great night we’d had. It started when both kids actually took good naps, so we were primed and happy as we set out. We met up with some friends with a son our girls’ age at a local pizza place, and everyone sat in their chairs and happily ate their food, which was served promptly, and no one spilled any drinks or threw any fits. The kids entertained each other with silly antics and enjoyed sprinkling their own cheese on their own pizza, and we got to chat with some actual grownups, too.

IMG_2979

Then we walked up the street a couple of blocks to the fanciest hotel in town, The Capital Hotel, for their annual Christmas tree lighting. The Capital does it up right– there was even a man literally roasting chestnuts on an open fire right outside the front door. The girls were given jingle bells on red ribbons as we walked in. We each had a tiny glass of egg nog. There were Nutcracker ballerinas wandering around, and my two little ballet dancers stared at them in awe. “Ballerinas LIKE ME!” Etta exclaimed. Claire got one look at the giant tree in the center of the lobby and declared: “It’s ENORMOUS!” Each girl got one perfectly iced sugar cookie, and Etta chose “a star LIKE ME!” while Claire went for a red and white candy cane.

IMG_2989

 

The girls led us up the grand staircase to the upper balcony, which turned out to be a perfect spot from which to watch the tree light up, and left us perfectly positioned to be third in line to see a wonderful, real-bearded Santa when he assumed his perch on a reserved velvet sofa nearby. Third in line is ideal, it turns out, because the kids can see other kids greeting Santa and surviving, and you have just enough time to rehearse what you’re going to tell him you want. (Claire, a jack in the box; Etta, an umbrella, a typewriter, a music box, and a vacuum cleaner. I have no idea where my kids got such retro wishes, either.) A friend happened to be nearby just in time, so we even got a lovely picture of all four of us with the Jolly Old Elf, who gave each kid a jumbo candy cane, and then we headed toward the door.

IMG_2988

IMG_3017

We arrived home and they gave up their largely unfinished candy canes without a fight (shocker), got into jammies with Etta only vetoing two pairs before settling on one, and did our nightly Jesse Tree reading before stories and bedtime, which also went smoothly. By the time I was mixing us up some cranberry rosemary Moscow mules (recipe soon, I promise), I was basically high on visions of sugar plums. I know how rare a night like that is at this stage of parenting. I’ve been through enough of the opposite to know I should be thankful. If this one perfect evening with family and friends is the closest thing we get to a Christmas miracle this season, I will count myself lucky.

IMG_3020

I’m looking forward to this season with our girls. They are full of wonder and hope and joy and innocence, and it turns out they are capable of some pretty magical moments. And when they’re not, and things don’t go according to plan? At least I know I’ve got my cranberry rosemary mule recipe perfected…

IMG_3018

a holiday gift for you

Garnishing the Russian Tea with cinnamon sticks and orange slices would be a good idea! Image via Flickr user thedabble under a Creative Commons license.

In my “nightmares before Christmas” post, I mentioned Russian Tea, which is a holiday tradition in my family.   I served it at last year’s Thanksgiving Potluck, and our friends all demanded the recipe.  When I announced this year’s Thanksgiving Potluck, people wanted to know if I’d be serving the Russian Tea again, pretty please please please.  I should say first off that Russian Tea is not, as far as I know, actually Russian.  My family is not Russian, and the roots of this recipe as far as I know them, are to vaguely English/Irish folk in rural Arkansas.  My Memaw made this tea every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I remember, serving it from a big commercial-type percolator that always kept it a little too hot– I’ve scalded my tongue almost every holiday, because I can never wait for it to cool.  It was only later, as an adult, that I emailed my mother for the Russian Tea recipe and learned that it was originally supposed to be spiked with booze.  Which may be the real reason it goes over so well at our potlucks.

So, my holiday gift to my readers, thanks to a comment from reader bluebears, is the recipe for this yummy beverage.  Think of it as a spiced, citrusy cider alternative, and spike it with either dark rum or bourbon.

Russian Tea

Boil 4 cups water and steep 4 regular-sized tea bags.  Add to that mixture in a large stock pot 1½ cups sugar, 2½ cups pineapple juice, 1½ cups orange juice (frozen concentrate, not diluted), 6 Tsp. fresh lemon juice, 8 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 8 cups water.  Bring to a boil, serve warm, add dark rum or bourbon as desired.

Easy double batch:
Boil 8 cups water with 8 tea bags, add 1 large can pineapple juice, 1 family size frozen OJ, and 12 Tsp. lemon juice, 2 cups sugar, 16 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, and 16 cups water.

I made mine in crock pots for my potluck, which worked fine and kept it warm, but this recipe usually works best in a really large stock pot.  I like to keep leftover tea in pitchers in the fridge to make individually microwaved cups throughout the holiday.  Oh, and you might want to add the alcohol to each cup at time of serving to keep the uh, buzz-inducing-part, from getting cooked out.