Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Light and Warmth
I feel like I am finally catching my breath after what has been a wonderful Christmas celebration lasting, oh, two weeks or so. Since I wrote last we have had several more family gatherings, some where I was a happy guest, and some where I was the busy hostess (not less happy, just too busy until AFTER the party to notice). We had our largest family party early this year since several people had plans to leave town. On Christmas Eve we had a more intimate gathering of ten at my SIL Jane's house. Jane has a passionate interest in cooking, and she reads things like "Gourmet" and "Bon Appetit", so you know when you go there you are in for a treat. Jane raised only boys and none of them have an interest in cooking, so I think she was delighted when our neice Colleen turned out to share her passion. (Our nephew Jeff also is an epicurian and a fine chef in the making, but he was out of town.) The two of them worked all day together in the kitchen. Here is what we were served: A lovely creamy crab bisque soup, a tender filet mignon with savory mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes flavored with horseradish, european greens lightly dressed in vinagrette, and freshly baked rosemary bread presented in a Christmas tree shape. We had wine, water, and coffee to drink. For dessert we had a lovely layered sorbet creation topped with fresh mango and rasberries. Just in case that was not enough, lavish platters of cookies, peppermint bark and truffles made the rounds.
After all that good food and wine, perhaps I can be forgiven for nodding off periodically during midnight mass. I took the precaution of telling my nephew Kevin (seated next to me) to nudge me if he saw me fading fast. My favorite portion of the service comes at the end when the lights are lowered and we light our candles, passing the flame one to another, until the church is filled
with a glowing light. While we do this, we sing "Silent Night", and as the voices swell and the light grows, it gives me chills every time. I can feel the memories of Christmas crowding in and feel the presence of all the family members I loved and lost standing with me. Tradition brings life to memories.
At our house, the food is usually basic, but it is homecooked, tasty, and plentiful. On Christmas morning we brought Jerry's father over for a breakfast of omelets, homefried potatoes, bacon, sausage, and lemon poppyseed muffins. We had classic Christmas carols (think Bing Crosy and "White Christmas") playing in the background, and a lovely fire in the fireplace. Despite a wet fog early in the day, we had to run around opening windows to get the place cool enough for a fire. Jerry trekked up the hill to the woodpile for just the right logs, but it was worth it to see how much his dad enjoyed the fire. Clyde is 90 years young, and we treasure the time we have with him. He has a story or memory to share for every occasion. After a nice visit, we took him home for his nap.
Yesterday I made lasagna dinner for Clyde, my nephew Kevin, and his girlfriend Deb. We packed the whole lot up in laundry baskets and took it to their house. Along with the lasagna, I fixed a pretty salad and some steamed asparagus. I picked up some hot french bread from the handy Von's bakery, and I made a fast peach cobbler for dessert. I don't use a written recipe for my lasagna, but I always use fresh herbs, chopped mushrooms and veggies, and a nice red wine in the sauce (you know, one glass for the dish, one for the cook. ) After dinner, I packed up the leftover lasagna in single serving boxes for their freezer.
Today I am grateful to be home with no special plans. I may very well remain in sweat pants all day, spending some quality time at the computer or in my studio. I should at all costs avoid useless television, but it is possible I will find a schmaltzy old movie to watch. The best part of all this is that it is GUILT FREE because I have a whole week of vacation left. The house cleaning, closet cleaning, decoration packing, can wait. And that planning for the remodeling project, that can wait too.