With three young children in the house, we were up before the sun Christmas morning. As we gathered upstairs to see what Santa had brought, we were delighted to discover eight tiny reindeer (ok, not so tiny, and actually elk, but close enough) in my parents' backyard! We all huddled by the window to gaze in awe at the amazing and beautiful sight.
As the day brightened, the elk began to wander over the hill and out of sight.
A little while later my dad and my 6-year-old nephew Matt went on a walk. As they crested the hill, they spotted the elk grazing in the distance.
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen were accounted for; wonder where Rudolph was?
One of my favorite Christmas songs is Kate Smith's rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The final verse never fails to evoke tears from me.
The carol is based on a poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow penned the piece while nursing his teenage son after he was seriously wounded in the Civil War. (A wonderful article detailing the circumstances that led to the composition of the poem can be found at: The Christmas Carol Soldier, by Rev. Robert Girard Carroon.)
Wishing each of you a Merry Christmas marked by hope and peace.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
'Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
I've been working hard to get my Christmas cards in the mail, finish my shopping, wrap everything, ship a couple of packages and do some Christmas baking. I also continue to serve as nurse to Hockey Boy, who has had a miraculously quick and easy recovery from his tonsillectomy, with only one 12-hour period of bad pain on Day 5 when his scabs began to fall off (thanks for the warning, Kim!).
Apologies for negligence in blog reading and posting this month. Here, briefly, is a little video I received from Vivian's aide yesterday. In it she is working at her classroom's "Smart Board" to match upper- and lowercase letters.
He had the tonsillectomy done at a pediatric facility, and I told him he won the prize for Best Patient in the recovery area; everyone else in there was crying! He says that it feels like "really bad strep throat," but on a scale of 1-10, he gives his pain a '3.'
We got home mid-afternoon, and he has been very good about taking his medicine every four hours and drinking a lot of water. I've been pleasantly surprised at what a trooper he's been. I know that we have a ways to go (his doctor and others have told us to expect a two-week recovery which will put us right at Christmas Day), but so far, so good.
Thank you for all of the kind words and prayers.
Not even 5 minutes after waking up in recovery, Hockey Boy had reached into his pocket to retrieve his cell phone and respond to a text! I had no idea he'd brought his phone with him into the OR, though I suppose I should have guessed that
Egad! Did someone pick up my house and move it to the Frozen Tundra? It was 25° this morning in Dallas! Since I was home anyway listening to Christmas music and working (theoretically) on my Christmas cards, I decided to make some wassail.
My mom gave me this recipe many years ago. If I'm making it for a crowd, I use my large silver percolator, but when it's just for my family, I make it in my Dutch oven on the stovetop.
Tie together in cheese cloth:
6 sticks cinnamon
16 whole cloves
1 t allspice
¼ c sugar
2 c. cranberry juice cocktail
1 large can frozen apple juice concentrate, diluted (plus an addition can of water)
1 t bitters* (optional)
Simmer 10 minutes then remove spice bag. Serve hot. If made in a 30-cup electric percolator, place spices in basket (use same amount of spices and multiply recipe by four).
*I have absolutely no idea what the bitters add to this recipe, but I always use them. I think this bottle has lasted me 20 years!
My favorite kitchen reference, the Food Lover's Companion, has this to say about bitters: "Made from the distillation of aromatic herbs, barks, roots and plants, bitters are a liquid used to flavor cocktails, aperitifs or foods. They are also used as a digestive aid and appetite stimulant. Bitters generally have a high alcohol content and are bitter or bittersweet to the taste. Angostura bitters, called for by name in many recipes, is simply the trade name for a brand of bitters." I think perhaps bitters is similar to vanilla extract, in that it tastes terrible by itself but lends a nice flavor when added to other ingredients.
I write all of my favorite Christmas recipes in this book. It's quite handy to have them all together in one place
Vivian wearing her "strawberry pants" (albeit backwards) last Memorial Day
If you read my blog much, you may have come to the conclusion that while the rest of our family has varied wardrobes, poor Vivian is clad primarily in the same pair of jeans and either a Curious George or Dumbo t-shirt. This is not due to neglect or favoritism toward others on the part of her costume coordinator (me) but rather is attributable to Vivian's strong preference for an extremely limited circle of clothes.
Her trousers of choice are a pair of Lilly Pulitzer jeans embellished with ribbon and an a applique that she calls "my strawberry pants." Lilly pants work well for Vivian because they have an adjustable elastic waist that allow her to manage taking them off and on by herself. But as is apt to happen when an article of clothing is worn and laundered every other day, these beloved pants are developing holes and becoming much too snug. And sadly, my search for another pair of "strawberry pants" has been in vain. In fact it can be difficult to find any Lilly pants in Vivian's size because not many stores carry them that big.
Enter my sweet blog friend, Hopsy, who was making a pilgrimage to the Lilly warehouse sale in Pennsylvania last month. She very kindly offered to look for pants in Vivian's size.
Hopsy texted me excitedly from the sale that she had found three pairs: pink corduroys, green corduroys and blue jeans. After Hopsy delivered them to me, I realized that the strawberry applique on Vivian's old pants was made of pink and green corduroy! So when I took the new pants to have them hemmed, I asked the tailor to use the excess material from the corduroys to construct a strawberry on the jeans. I also took him some cute pink and green ribbon to use at the bottom of each pant leg.
When I picked the pants up today, I was positively thrilled with how they turned out. I showed them to Vivian and she smiled and exclaimed, "My strawberry pants!"
Vivian with her new pillow at Mimi's on Thanksgiving Day
Vivian came home from school the other day carrying a pretty pillow made of brown upholstery fabric. I asked where the pillow came from, and she replied nonchalantly, "I made it."
Vivian is not prone to telling stories, but this did not seem to me a very reasonable scenario. Attempts to glean a different answer from her, however, were unsuccessful.
Shortly thereafter I received a series of texts and pictures from her wonderful teacher:
"When Vivian says she made her pillow, believe it! Vivian saw another student working on a pillow for Family & Consumer Sciences class. She said she wanted to make one, so we did. She was so proud of it that she carried it with her the rest of the day."
"Yes, that is Vivian ironing!"
"Once she ironed in a crease, she had a guide for cutting the fabric."
" Her foot is on the pedal and she is sewing. I just helped guide."
Hooray for Vivian and hooray for wonderful teachers!
Last night the weather forecast predicted snow for us in Dallas today. Dots began excitedly plotting for a school cancellation before I reminded her that snow is pretty rare here and the weather people typically have to forecast it about five times before we actually see any flurries.
So, it was a really fun surprise when around 7 a.m. we began to see large white flakes fallling from the sky! It was even more exciting when they continued and even stuck a little bit.
Of course the snow is melting quickly and I know our little display pales in comparison to the thick blankets of white enjoyed by my friends up north, but our snow was very pretty to see while it lasted!
View from my dining room - I started putting up Christmas decorations yesterday
My mom brought me that cute Rudolph for our front door. I haven't yet hung the fresh wreaths on my windows
I believe I have previously documented here that Rudolph is a year-round attraction at our house thanks to Vivian's great fondness of him and his red nose.
Hockey Boy had a tournament this weekend, and we spent much of our long weekend at the rink. The venue's employees had zealously decorated for Christmas, and the festive Santa pictured above was in the lobby.
Vivian spotted him immediately as we entered the rink and said indignantly, "Hey! Santa have to get off that tractor! Where is Rudolph? Rudolph have to pull Santa's sleigh!"
My Cooking Club met last week. Once again we enjoyed delightful company and delicious dishes from our current cookbook, Peace Meals., by the Junior League of Houston. The surprising highlight for me was the Cauliflower Gratin. I have NEVER liked cauliflower - thought it smelled awful when it cooked and tasted bitter when eaten. This preparation, however, had a wonderful flavor. I'm planning to make it for my own family soon.
My assignment this month was salad. I chose to make a Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad. It was a nice mix of flavors and received favorable comments
Our main course was Autumn Braised Brisket. The meat was incredibly tender and very tasty
Susan's table looked so pretty - perfect for fall
For our dessert Ellen made this Apple Cranberry Galette. It was delicious - just the right amount of sweetness blended with the tart apples and the tangy cranberries
She topped each slice of the galette with fresh whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon - heavenly!
Sweet Potato Fries with Asian Dipping Sauce
Brie, Serrano and Fig Panini
Beet and Blood Orange Salad
Autumn Braised Brisket
French Onion Bread Pudding
Apple Cranberry Galette
As most of you know, I have wonderful neighbors, but certainly heading the list is my friend Karey.
Karey and I share a love of needlepoint, cooking and family. Her daughter, Allison, and Dots have been best friends since they were two, and Karey and I started our Cooking Club together four years ago.
Vivian loves to go over to Karey's and play with Allison's brother, Mark, and their family's delightful, smart and well-behaved dog, Ladybug. Vivian refers to Karey as "Mark's mom."
Today when Vivian got off the bus, she immediately opened her backpack and pulled out a piece of paper.
"I color this for Mark's mom," she told me, as she headed down the block toward Karey's house and not ours.
I caught up to Vivian and asked her if she knew Mark's mom's real name.
"Allison's mom," she answered without missing a beat.
The first year that I taught school, one of my second grade students brought me a loaf of homemade Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread. I thought it was so fabulous that I begged her to ask her mother for the recipe. I think that I have made this every fall in the 23 years since Kelley's mom so generously shared her recipe with me.
2 eggs 2 c sugar ½ c vegetable oil 1 c pumpkin 2¼ c flour 1 T pumpkin pie spice 1 t baking soda ½ t salt 1 c chopped fresh cranberries
Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin and mix well. Sift together flour, spice, soda and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in pumpkin mixture. Stir just until ingredients are moistened. Stir in cranberries. Pour into greased and floured loaf pans (2 large or 4 small). Bake at 350° for an hour (large pans) or 40-45 minutes (small pans). Turn out onto wire rack and allow to cool.
My dad sent me this picture yesterday. Our family had driven to the northeast for my brother and sister and me to stay with our aunt and uncle in Connecticut while our parents went to the Olympics in Montreal. We were at the Statue of Liberty. I believe my sister and I have matching Famolares with white socks - quite stylin'!
I baked banana bread yesterday and sent some loaves to school with Vivian. Her sweet teacher sent me the picture above with this note: "Vivian sliced and toasted the banana bread to share with her friends. Thank you so much!"
In March of 2001, while visiting Florence, Italy, Robert and I took a day trip to the Tuscan town of Siena. Our guide parked her car in a lot outside the city walls, and we wound our way through a warren of narrow cobblestone streets toward the piazza in the center of the town. About halfway there, rain began to pour. We had one tiny travel umbrella between the three of us which was pretty much useless. When we arrived at the trattoria where we planned to have lunch, we were completely drenched and very cold.
As we entered the little trattoria, the owner told our guide that she was out of pasta dishes and most everything else. (I noticed a large rowdy group of men at the back of the restaurant drinking grappa and wondered if perhaps they had eaten all of the food!)
Perhaps because of our bedraggled appearance and desperate expressions, the owner took pity on us and offered to go back to the kitchen and prepare a pot of Tuscan bean soup for us. We gladly accepted her offer.
When our large steaming bowls of soup arrived, the kind lady drizzled some olive oil and grated fresh parmesan cheese over the top. Robert and I devoured every drop! We both thought it was about the most delicious thing we'd ever tasted.
Sadly this was before I had a digital camera, so I have very few pictures from that day. How I wish I had a picture of that delicious bowl of soup!
I have attempted to recreate the dish we so enjoyed in Siena. This version is likely not even close to the real thing, but at any rate it is probably Robert's favorite dinner that I make. It is incredibly easy and fast to prepare and tastes great the next day too.
1 grocery store roasted chicken chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots or 8-10 baby carrots, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 box chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can white beans, drained
a couple of generous pinches of Italian seasonings (I used basil and oregano this time)
1 box penne pasta, cooked al dente and drained
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, to grate over top
Saute chopped vegetables in a little bit of olive oil under tender. Add chicken, broth, beans, tomatoes and Italian seasonings. Let simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir in pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls. Grate fresh Parmesan over top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Enjoy!
Note: Robert and I were in NYC last weekend with for him to run the NYC Marathon. Robert's twin brother, Charles, ran with him.
Charles and Robert had to catch a bus for the starting line at 5:30 so I very generously got up and took their picture before going back to bed
Charles took pictures of the marathon staging area. An estimated 43,000 runners participated in this year's NYC Marathon!
This was Robert and Charles's 13th Marathon
It was Robert's second time to run NYC, which he cites as his favorite, and Charles's first
Meanwhile, Patti and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then walked to Mile 17 (at 2nd and 64th) to try and spot our runners. Here we are passing Central Park. Aren't the leaves beautiful?
I am very blessed to have Patti for my sister-in-law. We get along very well which is handy because our husbands are extremely close
We arrived at our watching spot about 15 minutes early and edged our way to the front. Right on schedule Robert and Charles ran by! (Robert is in orange and Charles in white on the right-hand side)
"Good luck, guys! See you at the finish!"
What would be the opposite of running 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning? Perhaps sitting in a cafe near Carnegie Hall and sharing an eclair?
The Family Reunion area on Central Park West was a bit of a zoo, but we finally located Robert and Charles
Charles and Robert posed with their medals as we made our back to our hotel
I'm so proud of Robert!
We enjoyed the evening wine reception at our hotel before heading out for our victory dinner (sadly this dark grainy picture taken with Charles's cell phone is the only one I got of the four of us in NY)
For dinner we met an SMU friend who'd also run in the Marathon. Lisa lives in NY and had made reservations for us at a fabulous Upper East Side Italian restaurant called Nino's
After dinner we walked around Times Square. We saw a lot of runners sporting their medals
Monday morning we did a little souvenir shopping before stopping for a slice of NY pizza and heading to the airport
Married for 27 years to Robert, three kids: Will (23), Vivian (20) and Dots (17) ~~~~
Majored in mathematics at SMU, taught elementary school for six years before Will was born, currently tutoring math ~~~~
Things I enjoy: playing duplicate bridge, working NY Times crossword puzzles, reading good books, entertaining, visiting with friends, planning trips, traveling, playing board games, spending time with family, cooking, keeping up with old friends ~~~ happy to correspond with other parents about raising a child with special needs
I unintentionally contaminated all of the pictures on my blog when I changed my privacy settings on Flickr. I am working backwards to correct them all, but it is quite a tedious procedure! If you encounter a post with error messages from Flickr where the pictures should be, then I haven't gotten to that post yet. Please let me know and I will update it immediately. Thanks for your patience!