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2015 December 10
by Rachel Turiel


Deer-fat candles, Dan’s latest experiment. Friends and relatives: coming to a gift box near you!

Rose is balanced on a chair, placing candles in our family’s menorah, while I am hitting the household “hot spots” (couch clutter, table crumbs from breakfast, bathroom sink) before our Hanukkah guests arrive. Rose is wondering about “tardition,” as in, “is it tardition to place the candles from right to left?”

Rose takes a break to twist wire onto a small zoo of clay teddy bear ornaments, which she hangs merrily (merrily, being code for so earnestly enthusiastic we need to remind her to breathe) on our Christmas tree. She twists wire, hangs bears, and sings, “Hang your ornaments on your tree, but it doesn’t have to be a treeeee!”

Indeed. Last Sunday, the kids cut a few pine, spruce and fir boughs, which are now bundled together, strung with lights, stuck in water and sitting festively on our living room floor like many others that have come before.


Why yes, that is our treeish.

I’ve realized that all the Christmasy things we opt out of no longer put me in a neurotic tailspin of over-analyzation. The kids are getting more comfortable with being different, which is something I hope they can draw from as teenagers, that we never did anything just because everyone else was doing it.

Every night, after kissing the kids and crossing my fingers that I won’t see them again before 6:00am, I step back into our darkened living room, glowing with strung lights; our little tree trinket-ed and cheery; and I feel a pang of gratitude for the sweet traditions that invigorate this cold, dark time. And really, tradition is just that pot that’s been bubbling on the stove long before we were around, brightened and carried forward by what we add to it now.

Rose is back to the menorah, changing out the candle colors to better reflect her mood. “Light one thousand lights!” She sings. Col squints from the couch.”Do you know how many one thousand actually is?” he counters, being the head buzz-killer of the pragmatists society.


Rose, singing and candle-arranging, and chocolate coin-dreaming.

Although our freezer is brimming with meat, Dan has been Robin Hooding around, picking up roadkill deer and bringing, er, deer legs to the people! He keeps the hide, brains, backstraps and that little red gumdrop of a heart (one currently winking at me suggestively from a bowl every time I open the fridge, saying perhaps, “Yes, you are the kind of person who frequently eats roadkill deer heart.”) Our friend, Sam, who teaches lego robotics classes, was so jazzed to get a set of deer legs to butcher, he gave the kids some prized legos from his collection. He said, “You’ve got a lot of one thing. I’ve got a lot of another thing – this is great! No money needs to change hands.”


Grilled deer heart, about which Dan aptly says, “It’s the sausage that the deer made itself.”

Every morning, Rose asks, “Can we open a Hanukkah present now?” And I explain about the tradition of lighting the candles at sunset, bringing light and warmth to the house, and how only after that do we open a present. If this falls short, I invoke my grandfather, Jack Turiel, who was an orthodox Jew and knew something about tradition.

Rose nods, goes back to Legos, and tries again the next morning.


Holy Hanukkah bonanza: Let there be light! And Legos! (Thanks, Sam!) And eggnog!


The morning’s coffee has included eggnog from the first blink of December, upon which Dan announced, “I feel an eggnog binge coming on.” This is our go-to eggnog recipe.

Col’s friend, Seneca, (who often wanders through our kitchen peering into bubbling pots on the stove) helped me on a recent sleepover to make this gifty spice mix: (don’t you love that paprika color at the bottom?)


paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, thyme, cumin, fennel, chili powder

We are now accepting applications from dogs who need home care. They must, like Chica, who came to stay with us over Thanksgiving, be “good” dogs, as Rose says, which means: they lick your face, don’t mind being carried around, come with outfits, respond to various nicknames, get along with rats, and accept small table scraps, which they shouldn’t take, but which the people under ten can’t resist offering. tardition5
For Hanukkah, we gave the kids the opportunity to help plan a short, winter trip to Northern New Mexico. They can use maps, internet, and experts in the field to make their decision. Is this a thinly veiled plan to insert some homeschooling into the holidays…well, maybe. Col has chosen Los Alamos, to go to the science museum and Bandelier National Monument, and Rose has chosen, no joke, to be completely in charge of our meals for one full day.

Winter cold frames. Hallelujah.tardition9

Don’t let not having an actual computer keep you from typing your heart out:tardition10

Pick up sticks, not just for the 1950’s family.

The whole jiggy: lighting the menorah, singing the prayer, Dan’s sinew strands lurking, and deer fat candles burning,


Last night, after a menorah/hair-burning incident followed by wrapping paper accidentally flung into the lit menorah, Dan sang, “Hanukkah, it’s a phenomena, lets not burn our house down.”



12 Responses leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    December 10, 2015

    I love “tarditions”! Y’all are such a joy to me…

    So, do the deer fat candles smell like anything in particular?
    And how many deer per candle, or candle per deer? ;)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      December 11, 2015

      They don’t really have a scent, and looks like you could get quite a few candles out of one deer’s fat, like maybe 10-20 small ones?

  2. Mollie permalink
    December 10, 2015

    Love the description of Col as head buzz-killer of the pragmatists society. Hilarious.

  3. Kyce permalink
    December 10, 2015

    Hey, if you want to come for a longer trip to New Mexico, you can housesit our good chickens in Santa Fe. Nothing says Christmas like Canyon Rd and pueblo dances…

  4. December 10, 2015


  5. December 10, 2015


    congrats to Rosie’s first on-stage performance…she met, calmed, and walked a Dragon…
    see my FB page for a pic of her and D-cat doing their gig…

    and to Col, the Mighty Friendly Ambassador handing out the Programs…

    How Stinkin’ Blessed Are We to have these Souls c(om)e from the likes of Thee and me?

  6. Ellen permalink
    December 10, 2015

    What a perfect set of qualities that a good dog must have. Who wouldn’t want such a remarkable dog?

  7. Melissa permalink
    December 14, 2015

    Lovely! I hear you on making your own way through this season….and I will be curious to hear how Rose’s day of food turns out (;

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