OK, so the stores have looked like Christmas since about September, and the weather here in upstate New York hasn’t been very Christmasy (what a blessing!), but it seems that Christmas will happen, whether I am ready or not. What do you do to prepare for Christmas?

• My Christmas card picture is taken, but not made or written, or sent! (Although I did buy the stamps last time I had to go to a post office!)

• The wreath is hung

• The candles are in the windows

• Kids are asking that we decorate more like these people, an annual debate

• Contemplating what Christmas goodie to bake for the ward Christmas party—I think the Christmas pound cake is the top contender

• Advent Calendars are out in full force: each kid gets one of those chocolate ones to avoid tears at bedtime, and our family one that adds a piece to the nativity set each day until Christmas Eve.

• Essential shopping is complete; optional shopping seems to never end

• One more Ward Choir Practice before the Christmas program; the downside of having a student direct the choir is that she wants to do the program early in the month before she goes to her people

• Christmas music played in between favored NPR shows: I favor traditional songs and skip anything Santa. Singing along is required.

Overall, December caught me by surprise: that late Thanksgiving tricked me into thinking I had another week or so. I don’t. Oh well–my loss is the children’s gain as they have less time to wait before family gathers.

My big decision this year is whether or not to get a tree. I have eschewed one for many years, but feel that we could use a little extra jolly in the house this year. Still thinking on it–feel free to weigh in. (N/B–I will not entertain the idea of a fake tree, however, so don’t even try it).

How is your season going?

At Your Service:

1 c. margarine 1 tsp. salt
½ c. shortening 1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. sugar 1 tsp. almond extract
5 eggs ½ tsp. red food coloring
1 c. milk sugar to taste (1-2 Tbl.)
3 c. flour 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Cream margarine, shortening and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs all at once. Stir flour and salt together and then add it alternately with the milk to creamed mixture. Save out two cups batter. Pour the rest into a greased and floured tube or bundt pan. Mix one cup of the saved batter with red food coloring and almond extract. Melt the squares of chocolate in the microwave or over hot water. Add up to one tablespoon of hot milk if necessary. Stir the chocolate into the other cup of reserved batter and add sugar to taste. Alternate the colored batters over the top of the cake. Run a knife through to swirl. Put into a cold oven and turn it on to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil until cool. Invert onto a plate and sift powdered sugar through a doily on top. Cut into thin slices to serve. This cake keeps moist for several days.