Friday, December 31, 2010

new year's eve or is it?

My paternal grandfather used to shout, "Happy, happy, happy, Merry Christmas!"  

He liked to cook and he very often made Brunswick Stew for holidays or for Sunday dinners.  The rich stew took a few days to make and I remember how anticipation would build because most everyone loved it.

On the eventful day, he'd duck into the kitchen now and then to "check on the stew".  That really meant, have a shot of whiskey.  After a couple of trips to the stove, he'd return to the room with cheeks a little rosier than normal, and in a jovial voice exclaim, "Happy, happy, happy, Merry Christmas!"

Funny the things we remember...

I never recall seeing my grandfather, holiday or not, in anything but a perfectly starched dress shirt and tie.  Ever. 

Our family seems so small now.  No one makes Brunswick Stew.

My sister and I work to make sure the family holiday celebrations continue.  We have our own traditions; to start, cheap champagne and Mom's Scallion Puffs.  But despite all efforts, this year nothing is happening.  Zilch.  "Crazy Dallas weather," we curse out loud, comforted by strangers we overhear in line at the market, saying the same.  Everyone's sick!

So, it looks like the luscious, linguine dinner I'd planned, will have to wait a few days... 

I'll ring in the New Year myself, in a quiet way.  At midnight I'll whisper, careful not to wake Spoke, "Merry, merry, merry, Happy New Year!"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

no question about it

Today, a nap.
A nice long nap.
A day-after, I-hope-the-phone-doesn't-ring kind of nap.

1950s throw by Georgia Lowder.  Ganny to me.


On Christmas Day back in 2003, my mother gave me two special gifts.  One was a Waterford crystal jar, the other; the small book, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

In the wee hours following Christmas night, I placed the jar on my glass desk, sat down, and in the quiet, read the entire book. 

Whether you have known the beach, had a marriage or not, had children or none, there's "so much in this little book," as my insightful mother inscribed. 

I have shells collected from years past, which I look at with wiser eyes now. 

And the crystal jar ... it has and will always remain empty, reminding me that less is more.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010


This is Oplatki, a Catholic communion wafer, shared in Polish homes on Christmas Eve.  It's a long standing tradition in Spoke's family. 

When she moved to Dallas, we began to spend our Christmas Eves with Kevin's mother Ellie, and Aunt Millie, her sister-in-law.  The two ladies spent much time together.  (Think a Neil Simon play; that's how they were.)

Until the later years, Ellie would do the cooking for the Christmas Eve dinner.  Of course it was always fish, and since I raved about them the very first time, she'd make Egg Noodles with Poppy Seeds, just for me.  She was like that. 

The Oplatki, often blessed by parish priests, would be waiting on a small china plate and when dinner was ready, Ellie would break the wafers.

You'd be given a piece which you'd offer some of to another person, taking a piece of theirs at the same time.  You'd both eat the wafer as you do at Holy Communion, then hug and wish each other blessings for the coming year.  By tradition, you will break bread with everyone present. 

There may be lumps-in-throats, even tiny tears, as one might get a little sentimental, or come to realize any old issues just melted away. 

Spoke and I would put on a big, romantic show for the ladies when we were sharing our Oplatki.  They got such a kick out of that.

I'm proof that you don't have to be Polish or Catholic to celebrate with Oplatki.  I highly recommend it.  It's quite a warm-fuzzies tradition. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

here we go

Bah Humbug!

So much to do and so little time.  No cheer to be found. 

That whirlwind of unwanted but unavoidable activity, is coming.

It's coming on Christmas,
they're cutting down trees.
They're putting up reindeer 
and singing songs of joy and peace.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on....


Better get to it.  

We have an odd, narrow hall closet where we tuck away boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments.  I  unwrap old ones...

and newer ones...


Spoke pours me champagne. 


I take a break.  Relax.  The wind is really howling this evening and I find myself humming again.

The snow is snowing,
the wind is blowing...

Before I know it, the wreath is on the door, every room in the house glitters, and I'm thinking maybe tomorrow I'll make that cranberry sauce. 


Bring it on.  I'm ready.

Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed, chopped fine
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
several gratings of fresh nutmeg

Place all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. 
Reduce the heat to medium low, cover but with the lid cracked open a little, and simmer until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has cooked down to a sauce consistency. 

It will thicken as it cools.

{This is the sauce that Dear Old Dad exclaimed at Thanksgiving,
"is so good it should be bottled and sold". 
The very dad who refuses to knowingly (wink-wink) eat anything with a jalapeno in it.}

RIVER by Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, December 7, 2010