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After coming back from Mass this afternoon, we set about to make our little Christmas Eve feast. A little of this, a little of that. We can’t do all fish because of Tim’s allergies and Tom’s gout, but we always have our baccala salad that reminds me of Christmas with Grandma Caruso and crab cakes. To that we added a little shrimp cocktail, roasted hot peppers, stuffed mushrooms, pork dumplings and homemade bread. Probably the best part of the meal this year though was the fact that I had my men with me to celebrate. Thinking of those who weren’t as lucky. It’s really who you spend the time with that matters, not what you do with the time.
We had a good Christmas Eve and I hope that you all did as well. Merry Christmas!
It was a lovely last few days. So nice to step away from the routine of regular life and actually enjoy time off without feeling guilty. We arrived home this afternoon and picked up the boys from their week-long canoe trip this evening. While a mom can complain a lot about kids being underfoot or difficult, this mom was very happy to hear from her boys this morning (their first contacts with the outside world in a week) and see them tonight.
Tonight, the house is back to its usual self–at least for a day and then two of the boys are off again.
It’s always challenging when the boys are off from school and I work from home. My schedule is thrown into a tizzy – attorney me collides with mom me and all sorts of guilt comes along for the ride. I remember when I used to complain (to myself mostly) about how crazy they made me when all they wanted was food and someone to play with them. Now, thinking back on that I realize that I did have all the power.
I could tell them when to eat, what to eat, what to wear, what we were doing and miraculously they listened and they did as they were told. These days, everyone has a mouth and an opinion. Even a simple thing like lunch or dinner takes on new levels of difficulty when everyone can actually voice an opinion about it. I honestly can’t really remember the last time I cooked something that I wanted – now almost every meal is to either conform to 1) a time schedule – it’s what we can make and eat in the allotted time between activities, pickups, drop offs and the like; or 2) who’s eating with us – they have friends and their friends have likes and dislikes – vegetarian – vegan – you name it and I am not the type of person to throw food on the table and demand the attendees to “take it or leave it” (mostly because I guess that they would just leave it and me with a load of uneaten food); or 3) dietary issues – different from likes and dislikes these are medically restricted things such as my one son’s allergies (no nuts, peanuts, sesame or white fish on the menu) or my husband’s avoidance of foods that trigger a painful gout attack (no tomato, no beans, no spinach, no shellfish and the list goes on). I adjust, I occasionally grumble and complain, but I deal.
I could tell them that we were going out and they would get their coats on and go.. no grumbling, no complaining. Instead these days my plans revolve around their plans. Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful that they are healthy and I am forever reminding myself when I grumble or cry how much worse it could be and how lucky I am. Yet, school vacation is always a challenge – conflicting desires, emotions.
There is a Dave Matthews’ song “Where Are You Going” that was playing on the radio today while I was driving. One of the lines is “where you are is where I belong” and it is particularly fitting in light of a conversation we had just yesterday. There is a neighbor’s house that has been the subject of some speculation. We know the people that live there, not that well, but well enough to know that the husband was being relocated out of the country and the wife and children were to follow at the end of the school year. The house went up for sale and then the sign was gone and the house appeared empty. We assumed that they had in fact moved since one of the neighbors said they saw a moving van. Suddenly, just the other day, we saw the woman out running and the house suddenly has activity again. Tom’s comment was maybe the women went over, didn’t like it and came back. I thought that it was an odd comment since I can’t imagine that scenario in my life. He asked me if he was forced to relocate for work to a place that I didn’t particularly like would I move. Without blinking an eye, I answered that of course I would. He is where I belong. Home is not so much about a place, but the people that make it cozy, familiar, safe and fun. Where I belong is with him, no doubt in my mind, that is where home is -wherever in the world that might be.
Probably my biggest challenge this week will be to make the type of birthday cake that my oldest requested for his birthday. It’s something that I have not made previously. It’s really not so much the difficulty but rather with the method of execution. He wants molten chocolate or lava cake for his birthday. This requires not one big cake, but rather, individual cakes. Again, not the end of the world except that we will have a company, an extra five people, maybe six, which means that I have to make 10 cakes. Now, you see my challenge. For anyone that is not familiar, lava or molten chocolate cake is a chocolate cake with a creamy or melted center. Not something that you can really make earlier in the day and serve later. It requires a from-the-oven service, not easy to accomplish times 10.
Several of the recipes that I have found (which are all pretty much the same ingredients) indicate that the cakes can be made ahead of time and simply cooked at the time that you are ready to eat. Sounds easy, right? Well, not for me. Make ahead and then cook or partially prepare and cook later is the kiss of death. The bagels I made the first time promised a do-ahead recipe, which turned into the ugliest looking flat bagels that anyone has ever witnessed. Another time, I tried to pre-make something it was also a disaster. Not something that I want to experience with a houseful of hungry kids dying for cake and certainly not something that I want to blow for one of my boys’ birthdays – after all they only come once a year.
As I was making soup today for dinner tonight I was chopping up the vegetables. As I was chopping the celery it occurred to me that while I love the winter, I do miss the ease, satisfaction and good taste of those homegrown vegetables that are prolific during the summer months. As I stared at the store-bought celery on my counter, the word that popped into my mind was “anemic”- pale, lacking color. I remember wistfully the dark green leafy celery that grew so darn well through the entire summer. When I needed celery for soup or salad or whatever, it was there for the taking. A whole bunch or a couple stalks.
Now, until well into the summer of next year, I have instead the pale vegetables to look forward to seeing. The celery that is about 10 shades lighter than mine and the tomatoes that look too orangey-pink to call themselves red are abundant in the supermarket. Sadly, the farmer’s market around here just doesn’t have these kinds of things during this time of the year, although they will appear far quicker at the market than they will in my yard.
I would be curious to find out the difference, if there is one, between the nutritional value of my celery (or any fresh farm grown celery) compared to the ones available in the supermarket, which seems that it must contain less nutrients just by virtue of its pale color.
Here is a worthy cause. The Vermont National Guard Foundation is trying to raise the sum of $200,000 to bring the Vermont National Guardsmen and Guardswomen who are in training in Indiana home to Vermont to spend Christmas with their families before being deployed to Afghanistan for their respective duty tours. The Foundation has calculated that with $200,000 they will be able to bus all the 700 Vermont Guards home to spend the holiday with their families. For those little boys and girls, husbands and wives, parents and children – I think this is a great cause.
If you have it in your heart and your wallet to spare a little cash to make some people’s Christmas a little happier, here is the link to the Vermont National Guard Foundation where you can make a donation. If you live in Vermont, various local groups and individuals are taking up this cause. For example Price Chopper stores in Vermont are taking register donations and will match donations up to $10,000.
Two young sisters from Burlington, ages 11 and 9 are canvassing their neighborhood collecting cans and bottles to redeem to donate to the cause. Their story can be found here.
As of November 12th, the organization has raised $150,000 toward their $200,000 goal. So close, relatively speaking and I am sure that there are a lot of people keeping their fingers crossed that the goal will be met and some will have something special to celebrate this holiday season.
Tonight we went down to Bob’s Diner in Manchester for dinner and then to the Northshire Book Store. All the men agree that Bob’s has the best milkshakes around. We were convinced that tonight must be “launch your own backyard fireworks” night because on our way back, we passed two backyard displays. We also passed a petrified raccoon that looked like it was dropped from the sky and froze with legs outstretched in fright before it expired.
As we were making our way up our road (for those of you that don’t know, we are three miles from the south up a dirt road) In the summer the road always looks small and narrow at night with the headlights illuminating all the greenery around us. I remember several years ago, before we moved up here permanently, when we would come up for the weekend or vacation, driving that last stretch of roadway, always felt like we were entering a magical, special place, with the trees falling over the roadway and the grasses and weeds and wildflowers on the side of the road. It always felt like we were going somewhere so far from our normal lives. Tonight, driving up that same stretch of roadway, all of us in the car, reminded me of those drives up from NJ. I would have never even fathomed that we would be making the drive to our permanent, real home – but I am glad that we did.
We picked up the boys last evening. Everyone was so tan! They looked like they had spent the week in the islands, but I guess being on the water for 8-10 hours a day for 5 days will do that to you. Everyone was happy, talking over each other, trying to fill us on in all the different aspects of the trip. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and it appeared that the whitewater rafting trip that was a bit of an after-thought, was a big hit!
It was nice to hear voices and laughter in the house again. It truly is a big empty house when the boys are away. Everyone was up and out this morning to get new books to take with them for scout camp which starts tomorrow. Today is a busy day, unpacking, laundry and getting things ready for tomorrow. Of course, there’s a lot of just hanging around too – the boys have an appreciation for the comfort of their beds after this past week.