Just wanted to point out that it’s 12-20-2020. That’s a lot of twos.
I’m happy to report that the 2020 Peanut Brittle Campaign is winding down. After a batch tomorrow morning, we will have surpassed the annual 20 pound allotment, and with boxes shipped off to sisters and brother, and others wrapped up for delivery, I’m guessing that once again we will have a few pounds left over – hopefully it will keep. That’s the trouble with making a lot of candy – it’s like going through a buffet and each dish looks great, and so you end up with having to put side wings on your plate, and wheels in order to get it back to your table…
Back when we lived and served a church on the north side of Fargo, we decided it would be fun to decorate the house and make tons of goodies and invite the church members over for an open house on a Sunday afternoon in Advent. We accomplished three things with that: we got the house all ready for Christmas, and we also were able to count it as the annual walkthrough of the parsonage. The third thing that happened, besides being able to enjoy our friends packed into the parsonage, is that we also finished all the baking and goodie making for the season! We were much younger at that time, of course, but I think we probably put together 20-30 different kinds of salty and sweet, sugary and chocolatey yummy things. It was also lots of fun.
The trouble of course is that once you get in the habit of making goodies (we ended up doing it for 12 years in two different churches), when Advent rolls around, it’s hard to hold your horses, and go back to making a reasonable amount of Christmas goodies. Year after year, we ended up making a ton of stuff – for the four of us. Besides the peanut brittle, we made toffee, chocolate nut rolled townhouse crackers, party mix, little cream wafers, peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookies, peppermint balls, and chocolate covered nearly everything, from peanut butter wheat thins, to peanuts, to sunflower seeds to pretzels to broken bits of peanut brittle, and on and on. It was pretty much a diabetic coma in the making…
Finally last year, after we finished building the Christmas Castle of Sugar with all the different kinds of goodies, for some reason they were not displayed for all to eat. Instead, “someone” decided it might be better to just store them out in the sub-freezing garage on the shelf/shelves. Great idea, except for the old maxim, “Out of sight, out of mind.” We made a ton of stuff, but they pretty well sat in the dark garage from the day after Christmas until we threw them out that first warm day of Spring.
There are times in life when you come to a resolution. I remember that one time when I was heading down a ski slope that was probably two levels above what I should be skiing, and I came to the realization that indeed, I could die, or be at least seriously maimed for life on that very slope. Common sense, maturity, and a good dose of fear ended my skiing for my lifetime. The same or similar revelation came like a flash of insightful light as we were throwing all those wonderful goodies in the trash last Spring. The insight was, “Randy – don’t be stupid.” That’s all. Short and sweet.
So this year, as Thanksgiving came and went, and we began four week march to Christmas, we got intentional. So, set the peanut brittle off to the side – I am bound to feed our extended families with it, so I have to make a lot. However, we made the decision: there are four people in the house, and so each person can select a – one – single – no more than one – goodie that they would like made for Christmas. This amounted to close to an 80% drop in goodie making. Sugar futures plummeted, I am sure. And so that’s just what we did -- sort of.
We made peanut butter balls, which are created by mixing Rice Krispies and butter and stuff into balls which are then dipped in chocolate. We made the chocolate wheat thins, which as I mentioned are created by slapping some peanut butter between two wheat thins, and then dipping them in chocolate. Perhaps you are finding a common theme. We did deviate a little when we had a small amount of chocolate left, and so we made some peanut brittle crumb chocolate balls.
The third thing on the list were a little number called Scotcheroos. This is made by mixing Special K with peanut butter and butter and butterscotch chips and then smashing it into a layer in a buttered glass pan, and then pouring a mixture of chocolate chips and more butterscotch chips over the top and letting it cool. I think there is a warning label attached to that one. Finally, we brought out Randy’s favorite, known in most circles as Christmas wreaths, where you take Corn Flakes, and mix then into melted marshmallows and butter, which is infused with green food coloring to look like a forest. They are then topped with red cinnamon hots, and left to cool. Over the years, I have found unnecessary effort needing to be used to make actual little sticky wreaths with a hole in the middle. Doesn’t work, first of all, and it just makes a mess. I have adapted the recipe by calling them Christmas bushes instead. Just drop a nice pile of the green stuff on the parchment paper and toss some red hots on and we are good. Tastes exactly the same, but half the mess.
So there you are! Cross family Christmas goodies Lite. Except that we also made Puppy Chow, where you take Crispix cereal (I am sure that the folks at Kellogg’s ought to write us a thank -you note) and mix it with peanut butter, butter chocolate and butterscotch chips – the whole shebang, and then, just when you think you are done, you pour in nearly 4 cups of powdered sugar and shake it all up. To tell you the truth, I can’t eat it. It hurts the glands at the back of my jaw with the unbelievable sweetness.
And that was that! Except for the triple batch of Party Mix, with a nod to the folks at Chex cereals. And we also got in the mail the big box of fruit flavored candy that we order each year, along with a special candy cane peppermint chewy thing.
I think that’s all. After all, there are only four of us, and …
It’s a tremendous amount of work to be intentionally disciplined to refrain overdoing anything. Especially in this CoVid time, our human nature wants to reward and indulge just for making it through one week after the next, and hearing that indeed, it could be spring before “normal” becomes more than something wished for. “I deserve” is always a dangerous claim to make, since it doesn’t come from any perspective than our own brains. So, an intentional way of thinking slows things down, and considers whether indeed I have or do deserve what I believe I do.
I like to say, “Don’t believe everything you think.” An internal balance is the best tool for intentionality in this world – even if it is over something for Christmas that is chocolate covered…
Word for the Day: apoplanesis. Pronounced apo-plan-EE-sis. If I were to demonstrate the word, I would end up doing anything but doing that, and instead, I would spend my time telling you about something quite different, like the way we set up the Santa figurines on the mantel this year, and put them with the matching reindeer next to them. When you turn the light on over the mantle, it makes for a really nice display, but you know how important light is during this time of the year. Especially up here in the north, even with the northern lights, the days are so short and we have to make the light ourselves. I know a lot of people who use those “White Light” fixtures to get past the winter blues. If that is a problem for you, I would recommend you see your doctor for help.
So, “apoplanesis” really means “leading astray.” You tell someone you will address and issue, and then you simply never do by taking the conversation into a far off field. Politicians are great at not answering in a straightforward manner. I think they get how to do that from both teenagers, cheating spouses, and five year olds…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.