When I was little, my parents won awards in Hampstead, New Hampshire for their light displays. It was a daylong project, bringing the lights down from the cold attic, stretching them out and checking the bulbs, and rewinding them for my father to hang. My mother tightened every bulb, giving the recalcitrant ones a quick lap of the tongue to start them. Once they were in order, my father ran extension cords across the yard. Each tree was a different solid color; the house was outlined in multi-colored huge bulbs; a white cross rested in the peak of the house, visible from a mile away. They also lit the manger scene of cement Mary, Joseph, and Baby (they weighed a ton. I moved them for years.) While my father swore at the strands of lights, my mother created wreathes for every window and re-wired window candles so that each reached a plug without an extension cord. I loved walking around the dark house, turning each on in the frosty evenings, bringing light into darkness.
At the same time, I was haunted by the simple strands of lights hung in various stores around town. We did not live in a wealthy area; people considered their electric bills, even at Christmas. The drug store where my father bought a bottle of Channel Number Five each Christmas Eve had one strand of bulbs hung over the drug counter, entwined with a tinsel swag. The grocery store might have lights around the windows, but not through the entire store. Houses outlined their front doors, for the most part, or put candles in all of the windows. Everyone did something and the results glowed along the dark country roads we traveled.
For several years, after we moved into our house, I ran lights around the roofline, stretching from the top of the ladder to hook the wires over the peaks. It was hairy. When we repainted two years ago, I took them down and did not feel like rehanging them on a rainy night in December, so I wrapped the two strands of large lights around the front porch and covered the arch with three strands of colored twinkle lights. It takes a little less energy—so I turn them on a little early, on the first night of Advent, bringing some light into the darkness of our neighborhood.
Mac and Cheese
I make this in my mother's old casserole dish. It tastes better.
Cook about 2/3 pound of small pasta, like elbows or ears. Pour into the casserole dish.
Make a cheesey white sauce with two cups of milk, two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of flour, and a big handful of cheese that melts , like cheddar. our this over the pasta. Add about two cups of chunks of various cheese ends, like cheddar, provolone, Parmesan, or Swiss. A mixture is best.
My mother laid slices of orange american cheese over the pasta...I do not. Cover with bread crumbs and bake until bubbly.
You can add various veggies, like roasted cauliflower, or peas, or ....