Monday, December 29, 2008

A Down East Christmas

After the stormy Christmas eve, Christmas day dawned bright and beautiful.
Santa had visited, filling the stockings, the dogs approved of the seating arrangements, and preparations were made for a hearty breakfast, including the wonderful Trader Joe's Pain au Chocolat.

Alas, my stocking (given to me by my grandmother some five or so decades ago) finally bit the dust. Here is a memorial photograph.

Pain au Chocolat Before and After
Lindsey and Donna joined us after breakfast for some fun and games. Donna let Jimpy and me help her assemble her viking lego ship from Santa.
Jaime's (and Dave's) gift included several puzzles with a felt roll to preserve puzzles in progress - a big hit.
Preparations were made for a festive dinner including beer butt chicken!
The sun went down on a successful Christmas, with stars shining above and the birch trees ghostly white off the porch.

I love our new sink!!!

A few weeks ago, I was suffering serious withdrawal. Our fancy, expensive faucet had been slowly deteriorating and finally reached the point of no water emerging at all. When we were originally fixing up the kitchen I had wanted a black double bowl granite sink; when we got it home Cici took one look and said "that won't fit!" She was right. Sniff.

Well, since the faucet was no longer working and we needed to replace it, it seemed like an opportune time to find a black granite (single bowl) sink that WOULD fit. After dragging a patient Jim through several big box home improvement stores, we found one that wouldn't break the bank.
And, a faucet which coordinated nicely. Be still my heart. I'm even enjoying doing dishes!

The perfect spot to park Devil Ducky and friends!

A Moveable Holiday

For the first time in nearly two decades (or more), the feast of Yule was celebrated far away from 02138 in the wilds of northern Maine.
The cats had a holiday from Bonnie, as she accompanied us on our journey.

We packed the minivan like Santa's sleigh and went on our merry way over the snow-covered mountains. Our first stop was in Concord, NH, to pick up Jaime on her way down from a ski trip with her high school buddies. While making the transfer of yet more "stuff" into the sleigh, I caught sight of a very impressive lamppost.

Bonnie took advantage of the idle time to make some doggie snow angels.

Foolishly following the advice of Queen Tom-Tom, who told us that the fastest way to Bethel, ME was THROUGH the White Mountains (which MIGHT have been true in more clement weather), we drove ever further northward. The icy rain turned to snow reducing traffic to a crawl but also providing incredibly beautiful mountain scenery.
Alas, not only did Queen Tom-Tom steer us wrong route-wise, she was also unable to locate our destination (can you hear Jim-Jim saying "I told you so?") Jaime saved the day by calling the owners, and after 6 hours we finally arrived at our beautiful home away from home, shortly followed by Cici, Jared and Molly.

The before and after of building the fire:

The before and after of the hot-tub:

And then, the stockings were hung on the window with care. . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow, Snow, Go Away - Come Again when we're up in Maine!

This past weekend marked the first big snow of the season. It was the energizer bunny of snowstorms - it kept going, and going, and going.... Quite a bit of time was spent shoveling out.
Scenes of Narnia's endless winter abounded - even with lampposts.

A greenhouse at Harvard was a festive sight.
Some of us shovelled less than others, preferring to spend time making canine snow angels, or "snow surfing" (Jim involuntarily!)

Still others of us just stood there getting a gentle white frosting. Or maybe not so gentle!

We got about 18 inches overall, with a soupcon of ice to make things interesting.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jack Frost has come to town

On one of our weekend walks, we hiked over the hills of Danehy Park with our ever-adventurous canine. BRRRRRRR!
We braved the cold another time to head to Harvard Square - to buy Jim a pair of shoes with treads so that the ever-adventurous (and strong) canine wouldn't pull him off his feet, and to buy the much desired marzipan pigs at Cardullo's. Now that Out of Town News has gone the way of all flesh, it seems like Cardullo's is one of the few "original" landmarks remaining in the Square. I noticed that Crate and Barrel, which had long resided in the old Design Research space (how that must date me!), is also leaving the Square for Burlington.... I'm still mourning the loss of the Bookcase on Church Street, which I spent many an hour (and dollar in) as a pre-teen.
To console myself (not to mention warm myself!), I had a hot chocolate at Burdick's. Mmmmm. Not all change is bad.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Birthday

My mom would have been 77 today. I bought my sister, my brother and myself small marzipan pigs in her honor. Maybe if I'm a good big sister I'll actually send the pigs off....

It's surprisingly sad, another small good-bye in this long process of grief. There are many small reminders along the way, but a birthday is a larger reminder. I think of birthdays as reminding me of joy and gratitude - and now, this birthday reminds me of sorrow. Still, I am glad that I had many years of being reminded of joy, and that my mom lived long enough that I was able to appreciate her.
Jeremy sent this picture of her marker to commemorate the occasion. I had stopped by her grave when I was last in Cincinnati, but alas, the marker was not to be found.

Giving Thanks for After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup and Stoupor

Jaime turned us on to this wonderful (if artery-clogging) soup a few holidays ago. We've never looked back! I add a few cranberries to brighten the soup up a little.

1 leftover turkey carcass
3 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
3/4 teaspoon pepper

Place turkey carcass in a soup kettle or Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove carcass; cool. Set aside 3 qt. broth. Remove turkey from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; set aside.
In a soup kettle or Dutch oven, saute the onions, carrots and celery in butter until tender. Reduce heat; stir in flour until blended. Gradually add 1 qt. of reserved broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Add cream, rice, salt, bouillon, pepper, remaining broth and reserved turkey. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until rice is tender.

Unlike the wonderful soup, made three days after the actual day, the actual Thanksgiving feast was somewhat muted this year. It was the first Thanksgiving without Collie, signalling the coming change from intergenerational holidays to a less inclusive time, with primarily older adults and dogs. Jaime, Jared & Cici represented the younger generation. The festivities were held at Arthur's - and on the chilly day, the roaring fireplace was most appreciated. Molly enjoyed the leather sofa. I enjoyed making some interesting butternut squash and brussels sprouts dishes, along with the famous chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and marsala cranberry sauce.

On Saturday, I tried my hand at butterflying my organic, free range turkey. I saw a little instructional video on-line and thought it would be fun. It's a good thing Jim was not there with the digital camera! I also read "Cooks Illustrated" and was convinced by their discussion of slow roasting of turkeys. Once I'd wrestled the bird into some sort of submission (minus its backbone and few of my finger tips which went into the stock) and buttered and herbed underneath its skin, into the oven it went for a long, slow heat bath. To my surprise after the wrestling match, it turned out wonderfully. I'm definitely convinced on the slow roasting. The butterflying - maybe not so much. Jim made his famous trademark mashed potatoes, and a second coming of Thanksgiving feast was enjoyed by all.