Intuition, foreboding, and faith create unexpected connections as an artist in her studio feels guided to create an unexpected painting, whose subject is an adventurer caught in a storm on the side of a mountain.
Each of us experiences some sort of evolution when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Miranda Jones still enjoys the Christmas traditions her parents started, and this year she’ll be joining them for a special trip to revisit favorite childhood traditions. But she also wants to create her own traditions in her new home, Milford-Haven.
She invites over the small group of friends she’s made during her few months since moving to the Central Coast, honoring and including them by asking each to bring a favorite dish. Sally, a restaurant owner, brings her “Christmas eggs,” Kevin, a construction worker, brings sausages, Samantha, head of the Environmental Planning Commission, brings a beautiful fresh fruit salad, and Miranda makes her signature “Watercolor Pancakes” (the recipe at end of book).
Sharing the preparation of the food is a prelude to sharing what really matters—the sense of connection, community, and mutual support. Each of these characters is on a journey to find a more evolved sense of home, and this cozy, cheerful interlude reassures and uplifts their spirits, while filling their bellies to capacity.
Small celebrations like this have always been important to me, and they’re still among my favorite events to plan for my core group of friends. I hope you enjoy something similar during your holidays.
When Angels Paint
Among Miranda’s very favorite things to cook were her “watercolor pancakes.” A personal invention dating back to her childhood, the from-scratch endeavor never failed to call forth some of the sweetest of her memories, including the Christmas morning her mother announced that her younger daughter—then aged twelve—had transformed the family kitchen into an artist-chef’s atelier. Miranda had then proudly presented multi-colored stacks of pancakes to her patiently waiting family. Overlooking the uneven sizes and occasional lumps, her parents and even her sister has praised her efforts, giving her a quick round of applause before the wares were sampled. Giggling at the recollection, Miranda set about step two in her process: dividing her pancake batter into four equal batches, then spooning in the pre-mixed homemade vegetable dye food coloring she’d prepared a week earlier. She chuckled again as one bowl’s contents turned pink, the next pale green, the next sky-blue, and that last a vivid yellow. By the time Sally bustled in with her tray of spices and a dozen eggs, making herself at home in Miranda’s kitchen, the doorbell rang again to admit both Samantha and Kevin. Sam carried her fresh fruit salad to the counter, added some vanilla yogurt, then carried her beautiful serving bowl directly to the dining area. “Miranda, your table looks fabulous!” she enthused. “Those dishes! Where did you find them? And those darling pine-tree linens? And the miniature trees for your centerpiece?” “Oh, here and there,” Miranda called, winking at Sally. “Want the sausages to go in that cast iron skillet?” Kevin asked. “Yup. All ready for you.” “They’re pre-cooked, just need to be warmed up a little,” he explained, washing his hands in the kitchen sink. Sally’s sunny side up eggs were now nestled in Miranda’s largest Chantal skillet, bubbling and popping invitingly, while Miranda began flipping the first of her pancakes on the electric griddle she’d plugged in farther down the counter to give her cooking guests room to work. Ten minutes later, everyone served themselves, admiring Sally’s red-and-green sprinkled “Christmas Eggs,” Kevin’s plump apple-sausages, Sam’s fruit salad, and Miranda’s homemade flapjacks. When plates had been carried to the table and the gustatory offerings admired, the four friends took a moment to hold hands and give thanks—for the season, for the friendships, and—in the case of Sally and Sam—for the holiday cease-fire. “They really are watercolor pancakes,” Sally cooed, “just like you said. Moon in the mornin’, however did you think o’ such a thing?” “Mind of a child,” Miranda replied shyly. “Heart of an artist,” Sam contradicted. “Should we eat them, or frame them?” Kevin asked with his customary candor. Everyone laughed. Then, everyone ate.