Monday, December 29, 2014

The Christmas That Almost Wasn't

Mommy has been saying for a while that this is her last year hosting Christmas Eve.  "I've been doing it since we lived in the apartment house - that was  long before you were born," she told me.  "And I'm tired.  I'm 88, after all.  It's time for you all to form your own traditions."

Not bloody likely.  Christmas is about family, and although we are very different people we are fiercely loyal.  And Christmas is sacred.  Family only; attendance mandatory.  

The day before this Christmas Eve, mommy called.

"I am too tired to do Christmas Eve this year.  I've been doing it since before you were born, and I'm just out of gas.  I'm 88, you know."  Even tho we bring all the food and drink, just getting the house in order and the table set is too much.  And she can't sneak off and have a rest in the middle of Christmas - so we were on our own.

I asked Wally about moving it here, and he said we were having Christmas Day dinner here, and it would just be too much.  

Mommy had called all her daughters, my sisters, and I found out later one of them had cried for an hour.

Christmas Eve morning mommy called.   The Seattle contingent had arrived late the previous evening, and not having Christmas together was not part of their plan.  Thank Goodness.

 "Would it be alright if Rick, Carol, Ian, and I came for supper?"  she asked about noon on the 24th.  No problem, I can rustle up supper for 6 from the pantry (thank you Maria Franceschini and your pomorolo!)

"Sure" I said. 

"And may I invite Mary and Brittnee and Debbie and Damon?" she asked.  

What could I say?  I was so happy we were having family Christmas, I didn't care if we had to eat cinnamon toast for dinner.  

I was not going back to Lunardi's - it was crazy busy there, just looking for a parking place was taking your life in your hands...  But we had cream and butter, fettucini and parmigiano.  And Pomorolo thanks for Maria.  

A few nuts, a lot of chocolate.  Some of the salad we had planned to serve Christmas day, some pears and apples, and lots of cheese.  Helps to be Swiss.

All my sisters brought things - chocolate and snacks, wine and good cheer.

So we had the miracle of the loaves and fishes - there was plenty of food.  And we sat and told stories and opened presents and laughed until it was very late and Ally was asleep in mommy's lap, and mommy was nodding off on Ally's lap.
It was a great Christmas.  Made more precious for the fact that it almost didn't happen.  Christmas Eve is here next year.  Mark your calendars.   

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Books: Food For Thought.

"Admiring houses from the outside is often about imagining entering them, living in them, having a calmer, more harmonious, deeper life. Buildings become theaters and fortresses for private life and inward thought, and buying and decorating is so much easier than living or thinking according to those ideals. Thus the dream of a house can be the eternally postponed preliminary step to taking up the lives we wish we were living. Houses are cluttered with wishes, the invisible furniture on which we keep bruising our shins. Until they become an end in themselves, as a new mansion did for the wealthy woman I watched fret over the right color of the infinity edge tiles of her new pool on the edge of the sea, as though this shade of blue could provide the serenity that would be dashed by that slightly more turquoise version, as though it could all come from the ceramic tile suppliers, as though it all lay in the colors and the getting."

I am somewhere between picking out tile and living with meaning.  And I am keenly aware of how strongly I am influenced by my surroundings.  

I am not happy in an ugly place.  I am not calm amid a mess.  I crave order, small touches of beauty.  It doesn't have to be expensive, some of the most beautiful things are the simplest.  A flower, a twig covered with lichen.  A picture from a magazine, a tin that once held cocoa.   A pencil drawing made by a child.  A book with a beautiful cover.  All these and more are on my night table.  

What's next to your bed?

You can read more - and find more books that will have you drooling - and thinking - on Brain Pickings Weekly. 

Happy Reading.    Happy Thinking.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Gift of Memory

Long before Christmas, a box arrived from my friend Aileen.  You'll remember her, so many of my favorite things to cook have come from her.
She has decided not to have a tree anymore.  After years of collecting ornaments.  And she decided to give them to me.  Lucky me!
Thank you Aileen.  Every time I look at our tree I think of you - of biking in Morocco, of picking green beans at Round Swamp.  Of biking to Shelter Island coated in bug spray.  Of my first cosmo (but not my last), and the recipe you coaxed out of the reluctant bartender.  Of long summer evenings listening to the waves and watching the fireflies.  
Thank you.  For your memories, for the memories we share.  
It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yosemite in Winter

We live in a place with no snow.  If you're shoveling snow, that probably sounds like a great idea, but it's been raining for weeks and we needed a little winter wonderland.  So we headed for Yosemite...
It was like being in an Ansel Adams photo.  Compete with wildlife...

Our friends were in the Bracebridge Dinner, a medieval pageant and feast.   And the Ahwahnee was warm and cosy. 
It's beginning to look a lot like...