Archive for the ‘Christmas’ tag
… Boxing Day.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” scans better, frankly. But I will take snow on Boxing Day instead. Frankly, a snowstorm late Christmas Day/early Boxing Day morning was probably for the best, as any earlier and it would have made my family’s drive home a little bit too exciting.
This was the first time ever that John and I hosted anyone for a major holiday – my Parents and Jeff came down from Cleveland and braved our cat-infested household (…allergies…) to spend Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day with us. We have had people over before plenty of times, but never for a major holiday… so I may have gone a bit overboard on the food. I also baked three different kinds of cookies (coconut macaroons, brazil nut cookies, and pizzelles) and John baked several loaves of bread. We had stuff that never even made it out of the fridge and onto the table. Eh… more leftovers for John and myself. I suspect that it will be several days still before we have to actually cook something.
Anyway, I like hosting. It gives me an excuse to break out Grandma’s china and the antique wineglasses.
Christmas Eve dinner was fairly traditional. Mom brought perogies and oplatky (but no sadanka soup) and stollen, and I made tilapia filets. After dinner – card games, scrabble, cheese, crackers, and desserts. Christmas day, after the flurry of present opening, and more card games and scrabble, was turkey and stuffing with root vegetables and sauteed asparagus. Followed by more card games until my folks had to leave for the 4-hour drive back up to Cleveland.
Followed by an evening of relaxing and leftovers and getting immersed in some of those new books.
And the next morning… snow.
We went for a walk to the arboretum, of course. How could we not? Snow!
I got a lot of nice things for Christmas (the sweater that I am wearing now, a GoPro Hero 3 camera, home-made wine, books, a beautiful snow globe…) but honestly, the best thing was having my family down here for the holiday.
And the snow, and getting to walk in the snow and enjoy the beauty and quiet of it all with John.
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always goes by at a breakneck pace. This year was accompanied by a lot of actual breaking.
My (much beloved, much upgraded) desktop computer was limping along, so I replaced it with a new laptop. (Said laptop is still not quite set up optimally… but it is getting there.)
I shattered a glass by putting it in the dishwasher. (Not sure how that one happened.) I also managed to awkwardly yank a mug out of the cabinet, bouncing it off of the counter and onto the floor.
Someone (not sure which of the two cats is at fault, but I can guess… Percival) knocked my pretty vintage sugar bowl off of the counter and onto the floor, scattering china bits and sugar cubes everywhere. This one happened after bedtime, and the crash got John and myself out of bed to investigate. This one was probably my fault. After all, I had left a box of catnip on the counter.
Percival also batted a ceramic saki cup onto the floor right in front of us.
My phone started to glitch out (the SD card dies, it lost most of my account information) and I had to order a replacement (which will hopefully arrive soon).
Finally, as my last act on my last day of work this year, I got to wave good-bye to my company laptop as the guys in the office mail-room packaged it up so that it could be sent out for repairs. Hopefully I will get it back before I have to start up work again in the new year.
We set up and decorated the tree and hung lights last weekend… so far none of those have been knocked down and broken, and I remain cautiously hopeful that it will stay that way.
I just finished taking our Christmas lights and decorations down. They are back in the basement, in storage boxes, waiting until next mid-December, when they will once again be brought out and put up.
Last year John and I did nothing for the end-of-year holidays.
Which is to say that we just stayed home and had our own little cozy celebration. I was in the middle of a year long bout with oral surgery, and wasn’t feeling up to even faking like acting social. So we stayed home. We put up a tree, and had a holiday dinner, and watched “The Thin Man” and “A Christmas Story” (two of the best Christmas movies out there, in my opinion), and exchanged presents, and lounged around, and relaxed.
This year, to make up for last year, we went everywhere. We went to Michigan to spend Christmas with his folks, and we went to Cleveland to spend New Years with my folks. And in between we did holiday-oriented baking and replaced the garage door. (The torsion spring on our old, original to the house, garage door snapped, so we replaced it with new springs. Which turned out to be insufficient to life the heavy, solid wood door. And since it turned out that the old, solid wood, door was falling apart anyway, we ended up just ordering a new garage door.)
We ate entirely too many cookies and cake and chocolate nibbles and holiday breads and rich delicious food.
While we were in Michigan with John’s family we lit the menorah and went to see “Tin Tin” on Christmas Day. We also ate a lot of very delicious food and played a lot of card games.
While we were in Cleveland we went to see my Grandmothers. I seem to have the good luck of always catching both of them on relatively “good” days. We played pool (I lost badly) and Scrabble (I won!). We dressed up (how often do I really get a chance to wear my 1940s blue mink jacket? Not often enough) and went to see the Cleveland Pops for New Years. (It was an amazing show. I had a great time.) And we ate a lot of very delicious food.
A lot of very delicious food was pretty much the theme for the holidays. We are both paying for that now.
Anyway, now the the decorations are put away for another year, the holidays are officially over.
Time to get back to normal.
Grandma always made the best Christmas cookies. Almond cookies and brazil nut cookies, cut out into different shapes and sprinkled with colored sugar.
She hasn’t made those cookies in years, and I missed them.
Then it occurred to me – that I had the recipes (actually, it is great-grandma’s recipe) for those cookies, and if I wanted to have them again so badly, then I could just go ahead and make them myself.
I even had some of her old (very old) cookie cutters that I could use.
Honestly, the hardest part about making the cookies was the ingredients. It was easy enough to find the blanched almonds, but it was tricky finding the brazil nuts. Especially since the most common way of getting brazil nuts around here is in the shell, as part of a mixed nuts arrangement. And I wanted just brazil nuts, and I wanted them shelled. (Since I really didn’t want to spend a lot of time with a nutcracker in order to make these cookies.) I ended up having to go to a health food store for them.
Then of course I had to grind the nuts up into a fine (well, as fine as I could make it) powder to mix in with the flour and the rest of the ingredients… but once that was all done, the rest of it went pretty smoothly.
And the cookies turned out great. They were just as delicious as I remembered.
We did a little holiday decorating. Not too much – we don’t do outdoor lights at all and we can’t have too many tchotchkes and baubles out because of the cats – but I do like to put up some lights and decorations.
As I have mentioned before, John and I live in a neighborhood where the population demographic skews toward the retired-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands end of the scale, and boy do they all love their festive decorations. We have everything in our neighborhood, from the stately and tasteful all of the way to the gauche and gaudy. There are too many people who like those giant blowup yard decorations. There is one neighbor who has some kind of outdoor slide projector that they use to project seasonally appropriate images onto their garage door. (They have images for every single holiday, day of celebration, and season.)
Personally, I like Christmas lights on houses. I prefer white lights to colored (though I do enjoy the white and blue Hanukkah combination that you sometimes see) and I hate hate hate those blinky or “moving” lights. Words of advice for people lighting their houses… I can tell when you get lazy and just drape one of those nets of lights over a bush, and it really doesn’t look as good as you think it does. Lighting trees in your yard looks really nice… but remember to light some branches as well as the trunk, otherwise when it gets dark out and the lights go on, all that people can see is the glowing column of the trunk, which looks weird. But who am I to criticize? It is not really like John and I do a heck of a lot of outdoor decorating.
The first year the we lived here we gave into peer-pressure (we didn’t want to be the only unlit house on the cul-de-sac and drag down everyone else’s festive spirits) and put up a couple of strings of icicle lights around the porch. Every other year since then we have thought about it, said “to hell with that” and confined our decorations to the inside of the house. The (real) tree goes in the library where it can be seen through the front windows, and the icicle lights get draped around the front windows and back door. We also put little tiny ornaments on the potted clementine tree in the kitchen, because why not. Every year we lose one or two ornaments to the cats and to our own clumsiness.
Speaking of decorating, I also like poinsettias. And every year I mention how I would love to get one for the house, but that I won’t because it is inevitable that the cats (Merlin in particular) would chow down on it and then I would have to clean red and green cat puke off of the carpets. And every year someone gasps in horror and says something like “But why would you want a poinsettia? Aren’t they poisonous?” No, they aren’t. Or, rather, they are poisonous in the same way that apple seeds are, in that it is pretty much physically impossible to eat enough to poison yourself.
We haven’t done any sort of decorating at all yet this year.
I just managed to get my cards yesterday. I meant to have had them all done much earlier. Heck, I had all of my holiday shopping done, delivered, and wrapped before Thanksgiving. But you know how it goes… you have everything all ready to go ahead of time, and you think to yourself, “man, it is way to early to send these out yet”. So you put them aside and go do something else, and then you realize that it is midway through December, and you should have gotten everything off to the post office by now. I also meant to get custom cards made with some of my photography this year, but that didn’t happen in time either, and I ended up having to buy cards at Target like everyone else in the country.
Ah well. Next year maybe.
After all, isn’t this what the season is all about? Critiquing other people’s decorations, and procrastinating holiday errands until the last minute?
What can I say? They were very nice. I was off on vacation from Dec 22 onward. Most days the furthest that I got toward getting dressed was putting on a pair of flannel pajama pants (or yoga pants, to mix it up a little), a t-shirt, and slippers. It is going to be oh-so-difficult to land back in the routine of turning on the alarm clock and going to work again after two weeks of hardcore lounging.
While visiting relatives and being with extended family on the holidays is always very nice, there is something to be said for the quiet celebration at home. Because of the timing of Lori’s wedding (more on that later) holiday travel ended up being too difficult to arrange, so we stayed home with the cats.
One of John’s presents arrived early, and, when we opened the box, turned out to be unwrapped, so we decided to start enjoying it a bit in advance of the holiday. It was the full DVD set of the A&E series A Nero Wolf Mystery. I loved them, and now intend to read the novels by Rex Stout that the episodes were based on.
Christmas Eve we had Chinese take-out (from Nanking Inn, our favorite) and watched more Nero Wolf, then had dirty martinis and watched “The Thin Man”.
Present opening was on Christmas morning, after the first cup of coffee and before bagels and lox.
I got a very nice bathrobe from Pam (John’s stepmom), so now I can finally get rid of the green terrycloth one that I have had since college. It is about time, as the green one was getting really threadbare. I have already spilled coffee on the new robe.
Among other things (squishy bowls for backpacking, a pair of heavy plastic “training” longswords, and a USB-powered plasma globe for my desk) John got me a remote controlled helicopter. (He got himself one as well.) I love it (the cats waver between ignoring them, hating them, and being intrigued by them.) But of course loving the helicopter doesn’t mean that I am a very good pilot. I am not. The controls are rather delicate, and I have a tendency to over-correct, which means that my helicopter gets bounced off of the ceiling and floor a lot. I am still working on getting my helicopter to hover smoothly, let alone actually fly it somewhere with any degree of success.
The big present this year was the Kindles that I got for John and myself. They are wonderful because you can get so many out-of-copyright stuff for free from Amazon.com and the Gutenberg Project. They are also dangerous because you can get a lot of almost-out-of-copyright stuff and large collections for very cheap from Amazon.com, and those $.99 purchases do tend to add up after a while. I am currently working my way through the Complete Oz Series by L. Frank Baum (all 15 books for $.95 on Amazon.com) in between breaks for mid-1800 British humor writers (“Three Men and a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome is a new favorite).
The Kindles will also make it easier for us to winnow our library down to a more manageable level (we currently have books stacked in every room except the laundry room), as we will be able to replace a lot of our trade paperbacks and hardcovers with Kindle editions. The old editions, out-of-print books, and antiques will not, of course, be subject to this.
After Christmas we flew down to Dallas, Texas, for Lori’s wedding. (more on this later)
We flew back home on New Years Eve. I had no interest in spending New Years in a hotel room (no matter now nice a hotel room it was) in Dallas, and once the wedding was over, there wasn’t much reason for us to stick around.
Last year we went to a friend’s New Years party. This year we had frozen pizzas and mixed drinks after a long day of airplanes and airports, and then went to sleep well before midnight because we were exhausted.
We did end up having the white Christmas that I wanted, but by New Years it had warmed up and rained several times, so we had a green (actually greyish brown and muddy) New Years.
The project at work that has been consuming much of my time is done, the report written, and the presentation presented. All of the final meetings, small projects, and end-of-year wrap-up at work has been wrapped up. I am on vacation, and will not be darkening my office door nor cracking open my work laptop until next year.
I am more then ready for the end of year holidays.
If I lived in New York, I could be watching the Yule log (now available in 3D and HD) channel right now. (According to the NY Times, New Yorkers have been watching the Yule Log channel since 1966!)
Tree: obtained and decorated? Check. We did that one a little while ago. Though the poor tree did have to endure several days of a bone-dry tree stand before I remembered that it needed to be watered. Sorry, tree! Still, the initial drought doesn’t seem to have done any lasting damage… no more needles then would normally be expected have fallen off. We even decorated the potted Clementine tree in the kitchen with tiny little ornaments and hung icicle lights in the library windows.
Merlin ignores the tree. Thank god.
I kind of wish that Percival would ignore the tree, as I have found lights askew and ornaments on the ground on several occasions. Though at least he is not actually trying to climb the tree. (That I can tell.) He seems to limit his play to the low-hanging stuff and to burrowing around in the bedsheets that we pressed into service as tree-skirts. He is also drinking the water out of the tree stand.
All in the mail. Packages too. Hopefully everything will arrive in time. The Post Office is a special ring of hell this time of the year.
The sweetbreads (actual bread, and not pancreas) are done, though I think that I might want to make another loaf of date nut bread at some point. I also made a batch of pizzelles using the special, gourmet, vanilla extract that Ted and Sabrina gave us. Sadly, my tongue is not gourmet enough to tell the difference between special, gourmet, vanilla extract and run-of-the-mill grocery-store vanilla extract. Still. Tasty pizzelles.
I even have a small fruitcake in the freezer for New Years Eve. Though I have to admit that I got it at the bakery, rather then making it myself.
Gifts all wrapped? Check.
All wrapped and under the tree. Percival is fascinated by the bows on some of the packages that came in the mail from John’s Dad. Obviously they are cat toys and are there for him to bat at and chew on. He managed to pick up the smallest package by its bow and was carrying it around the first floor with him when we caught him and confiscated it. Now the boxes with bows are turned upside-down and kind of wedged in with the rest of the boxes to try to discourage that kind of play. Why didn’t we just take off the bows? I am not sure… I think that we felt bad at completely depriving Percival of a source of fun, so we just decided to make it hard for him to play with them.
Cleaning done? Check.
Everything is done. All errands have been run. Everything is cleaned. Everything is ready. I have nothing left on my pre-holiday countdown checklist to check off.
All I have to do today and tomorrow is to relax and enjoy myself. Books will be read. Games will be played. There will be much lounging around to be done.