Christmas Fails–And a Hot Cocoa Recipe!

Blast! I can’t blog tonight, I announced via email to the Golden Hours Team (Lanier and her husband-strategerist, Philip). I’ve had An Afternoon—a two-hour traffic jam, an ornery 14-year-old (with autism, to boot), and a freshly groomed hound who got into whatever it is dogs get into when they go out to the loo and come back smelling like death and trash and sardines. Back to the bath Hazel went, which meant afterwards cracking open another jug of liquid plumber to unclog the fur-filled drain. And chasing a terrified dog around with a blow dryer. Like I want to spend my time coiffing my canine.


In other words, somebody licked the red off my peppermint.

So I’m on strike—for the night… or not. After I’d burnt milk on the stove for cocoa (I always manage to burn the milk) and I’d joined Hazel fireside to enjoy some Wet Dog Scent (I lost the blow dryer battle), I felt my fingers itching to fly across the laptop keyboard. My fingers (and other various parts) are also literally itching. It happens every December—I ransack yard and woods for greens to decorate with and–presto!–24 hours later, I’m reaching for the Benadryl. The holly and the (poison) ivy, indeed!

I can’t quite stay away—I love writing for Golden Hours, and I love hearing back from you, dear readers. Blogging about Christmas has forced me to slow down and savor. (Got to put your money where your mouth is.) So this evening I choose you—over Netflix or an oatmeal soak or a well-deserved Diphenhydramine-coma. And tonight I feel compelled to tell you that though I’m having a marvelous month, not every hour is golden. Here is where I list my holiday fails, lest you think life around here is always lovely:

This keeps happening:



I haven’t had time for a real conversation with my spouse since the day after Thanksgiving. (The kids are home from college.) Luke and I try to catch up before bed, but one of us always drifts off. It’s not fun being the one interrupted mid-sentence to the sound of your beloved’s sleep-breathing, so I make sure I am thoroughly tired before turning in so I’m the one who falls asleep fastest. Sort of like the game Catch Phrase but with snoring.

I practiced combat dining the other night when we went to dinner at one of Hotlanta’s hottest nightspots. Our party of eight could barely squeeze in the front door–the fire code capacity was exceeded long before our arrival, I think. After we negotiated our way through the body-packed bar to our table, I was exhausted. Too. Much. Input. But I had a whole night of competitive talking ahead. I’d saved up, but my stores are never this full. (Earlier that day, I apologized to daughter Emma for being so quiet. “I’m saving up,” I explained. A fellow introvert with social tendencies, she understood.)

I watched a holiday makeup video tutorial before I headed out the door this morning. Ever seen one of these? I was going to do it: Prime! Highlight! Contour! But the effect was clown-like—and shinier than my Christmas tree. Perhaps I don’t have the proper blending brush? Twenty minutes and two dozen Q-Tips later, I was toned down enough to face the day—if the grey cloud cover persisted.

In the book of Advent readings I’m going through, I’m just starting Week Two of Advent. But it’s nine days until Christmas. Note to self: Stop reading books with anything like a schedule attached. Then maybe you’ll stop having the anxiety dream about taking a final exam without having shown up for class all semester..

Store-bought eggnog has an expiration date printed on the bottle. Abide it.

The poison ivy has now officially spread to my face.

All of these things are terrifically minor, but you know how little things can irritate like a tag on a t-shirt. Tonight I’m tired in body, but not spirit.

“… Not one had understood how much less painful it is to be tired in your body than to be weary in your mind…” ~ Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “Bid the Tapers Twinkle,” Journey To Christmas

That being said, I know some of us are weary in mind—lonely, grieving, heart-sick. Christmas magnifies whatever we’re going through. The light will overcome the darkness, but this is hard to fathom when all is not nearly as it should be in our worlds. I stumbled onto this essay about holiday loneliness the other day—it reminded me mightily of the hope, but it also brought back difficult Christmases. And even when everything seems perfect—the cinnamon roll dough rises and no one talks politics at dinner—we feel a sense of loss, of longing. The Savior has come, but until he comes again the not quite pangs persist.

But you know all this.

I (obviously) love Christmas, even the sentimental, busy mess it has morphed into. Warts and all. So bring on the mishaps and the misadventures—the mess of glitter and scraps of wrapping paper and milk boiled over onto the stove! My work desk is littered with gifts, swooped up in haste from drowning after I over-watered the tree. Tidiness and order is for January. For now, let chaos reign!


p.s. During the Advent Tea Lanier hosted a couple weeks ago, she burnt the gingerbread. To a crisp.

Laura’s Cocoa (without the burnt milk)

whipping cream
unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Ghiradelli)
tea bag

Dump some milk–and maybe a bit of cream–into a nonstick pan. Heat on stove on low. Place a wooden spoon in the milk to keep it from boiling over, but do not be lulled into a false sense of security by this nifty kitchen trick. Do not walk away, start blogging, or phone your best friend. When the milk is steaming, add however much cocoa powder it takes to make you happy, a glob of honey, and a pinch of cardamom. Whisk until ingredients are combined and the milk is frothy. Add a black teabag–I like Earl Grey. Let the tea steep a minute, then pour into mugs. Imbibe.



  1. Speaking of Christmas magnifying things, one Christmas several years ago, I was standing looking at the packaged chicken meat in my little local supermarket here in Japan, listening to Jingle Bells playing over the loudspeaker, when a canticle of sorts started forming in my mind…

    Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
    Aargh, my cancer is back
    Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey!
    And this time around I’ll need chemo
    Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
    I wonder what chemo costs, by the way
    Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!

    (I’m fine now.) Thanks for writing us this post. It had that rare combination of being absolutely hysterical (“death and trash and sardines”…”two dozen Q-Tips later”…) and deeply meaningful.

  2. I just loved this piece. I had to laugh out loud a couple times. And then became pensive with the very meaningful.
    That’s my girl.

  3. Laughed so hard I spat my iced dirty chai all over the Christmas beach holiday glamour. Laura, honey, your kind of “real” is a friend to all of us!!! Loved this

  4. Laura, I enjoyed this so much!

    How’s this for keeping it real: until this post of Golden Hours I was reading them each day, now I find there are three I haven’t read!

  5. Thank you for being so real – this is my life the past week and I wondered if I was the only one as peruse Instagram and Facebook – you know the “why does everyone else have this holiday thing together and I. just. don’t. You made me laugh, first while reading your post and afterwards at myself. Thank you for bringing joy to my day.

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