Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I did! I was worried that I would be come over-emotional at the thought of the holidays and family far away, but several things conspired to make this holiday one of the best ever.

My Nativity scene, carefully shipped to me by mom and dad and set up in a bright spot.

First, I had a four-day weekend. CW give its employees eight hours of vacation as a birthday present, and since my birthday is on the 21st, I took it on Thursday, had Friday off for the holiday and voila. Secondly, Jeff had to work. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today. So it was up to me to do the last-minute shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking etc. (I apologised for the carnage when he came home from work on Friday and he cheerfully said "That's okay, that will give you something to do on Sunday.") Creating food for other people, being out amongst shoppers and driving around listening to Christmas music helped me to get in the spirit, instead of feeling rushed and put-upon.

Christmas Day we drove to his parents house for dinner. At first it was chaos, with three Southern ladies and one Yankee attempting to get dinner on the table, but eventually we all settled down and dove in. Ham, turkey, chicken, sweet potato souffle, collard greens, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, dressing, and four different desserts: black forest cake, pecan pie, lemon chiffon pie, and German chocolate pie. For seven people. Kizzy was going beserk trying to get at the food. I bounced up and down so often to take care of him it was like having a two-year old at the kid's table. I didn't buy him anything for Christmas, but Jeff's mom gave him a present: letting him clean out the stuffing pan with some extra ham.

After dinner we exchanged some presents. Jeff's mom and grandma gave me some lavender-scented hand lotion, having cleverly deduced I like lavender after seeing it in the bathroom at Thanksgiving. The best present had to be the one given by Jeff's aunt to his mom: red, green and white Italian candy. Feeling generous, she opened the bag and tried a piece before passing it around. "I don't want to say anything bad, but this is the worst candy I've ever tasted!" Consternation followed, as we tried to figure out why. It looked like ribbon candy, it was brightly colored... "Maybe it just tastes funny because it's Italian and we're used to American candy?" I suggested. But the mystery was solved with Jeff's aunt examined the package tag. "Sissy, it's pasta!" she exclaimed. And we all realised that the "ribbon candy" was actually bow-tie pasta with spinach and tomato additives. Hilarity ensued.

After that we dug into the mountain of desserts and enjoyed a cup of coffee. Jeff's uncle has traveled extensively for his job, so we swapped stories of our favourite places. ("Ever been to South Dakota?" I asked him. "No," he said "Ever been to Maine?") But we got going around nine o'clock when the snow started falling. I wish that Jeff and I had had time to open presents earlier, because when we finally unwrapped about ten-thirty that night I opened a hand-held mixer (thanks mom and dad!) that would have been super-handy for my mashed potatoes...a little lumpy this time, but still tasty.

Our Christmas tree. Only about five feet tall this year but dripping with ornaments. Notice the pile of as-yet unpicked-up wrapping paper. There are some good things about not hosting the holiday...

I got up to make Jeff a leftover-ham sandwich and see him off to work today. The sandwich will either be for lunch or emergency provisions if he slides off the road, for the snow has continued to fall and has now swept up into a blizzard. Poor Kismet took two steps onto the porch this morning, peed, and has been inside curled up on the couch ever since. I washed the dishes in the kitchen, made a leftover ham omelet and toast for breakfast and have been pretty much curled up next to him. The snow coming off the river makes the house feel like a ship rounding Cape Horn. Wanna see?

The wreath on our front door. For the record, I know that most of the loyal readers perusing this blog have experienced massive snowfall like this, but here in Virginia many believe that this may signal the beginning of end times.

Jeff (On his way home from work, trying to convey the mess on the streets while his girlfriend tries to hang up the phone so he can concentrate on driving, already): "I mean, I have never, ever, EVER seen anything like this!!"

Me: "These are the kind of snowfalls I remember from my childhood."

Jeff: "Oh? (xylephone, Looney-Tunes eye blink sound) Really?"

Me: "Oh yeah. Now hang up and drive safe!"

My car as viewed from the front door.

The dock that leads to a staircase descending thirty feet to the James River. Not shown: the opposite side of the river, half a mile away, or the whitecaps that are ferociously pounding the beach.

Our neighbor's trees.

A view from the upper deck. This photo was taken by briefly opening the door, shoving my camera through, snapping whatever I could catch, and then slamming the door against the howling wind. But not before....

A hearty dusting was strewn all over the floor. Arg. But you know what they say! When life hands you snow...


(About a second after this photo was taken the snowman pitched facefirst onto the he's now gently melting away in the sink. That's the worst part about this storm: the snow is the perfect weight packing snow needed for snowmen and it's too horrible to go outside. Arg.)

Meanwhile, I know you're all wondering where Kismet is. He is right where he has been for the past couple of hours.

Although he did look up when I plopped down to start blogging:

And now he's snoring.

So that's where we are...snowed in, anxiously awaiting the return of the prodigal boyfriend and enjoying some darjeeling tea, NPR and internet, trying to stay warm.

Merry Chrismas everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas makes you feel emotional...

It may bring parties or thoughts devotional...Whatever happens, whatever may be, here is what Christmastime means to me...

I guess I'm just going to have to deal with the fact that from now on, whatever happens, Christmas is going to be an emotionally fraught landmine field for me from now on. Between losing Grandma one year ago today and having to pack everyone's Christmas presents into boxes for shipping (including one that would have been used an excuse to steal Lily for a couple of hours instead of being described as "a present with some assembly required"), it's been kind of complicated. I'm sort of at sea here. We are not hosting Christmas this year, and as a childless couple, Jeff and I haven't really had to do any serious shopping or manuevering to deceive small people. Don't get me wrong I've been busy (I have a new respect for my parents, who managed to decorate, buy presents, deceive small people, enjoy holiday concerts, and still find time to bake sugar cookies for decorating) but the madness isn't nearly as great as it would be if I was at home, preparing for Christmas Day. This year Jeff valiantly volunteered to work so another employee could travel home to be with his family, and I'm staying too. I bought a tiny tree, which barely comes up to my shoulder, and we decorated it in stopgap plastic ornaments. I'm not used to having a tree that looks like it came out of a catalogue. We have candles in the window, which is a Southern thing, and Jeff's dad brought over his Christmas village for upstairs. My sole contribution to the decorating, apart from the tree, is a hollow snowman figurine that is being built by a little boy and girl. His hat comes off, and he holds red and green Hershey's kisses. Mom got it from her oldest sister. When I was younger, Mom would manage to fill up the snowman when I wasn't looking, as soon as I got it out of the box. I was so mystified by the fact that one minute I was unpacking the empty snowman and the next minute he was full of kisses that for a while I was fully convinced it was Christmas magic or possibly elves. This year I made sure to have the kisses on hand before he came out of the box.

One of the things I haven't been doing this year is going to church. I really enjoy the Advent season and the build up to Christmas Eve. But I haven't found a new church yet. Truth be told, I'm a little daunted and exhausted by the idea of finding a new church and a new congregation. When I stopped attending the church in Williamsburg, no one really noticed...and even after going there for two years, I still had people coming up to me saying "Welcome! We're glad to see you, are you new here?" So probably the next church is not going to have 2,000 members. It is very hard to find a congregation where I feel comfortable, being as liberal as I am. There are PLENTY of churches around here...unfortunately, most of them probably would prefer I was not living with my boyfriend.

Anyway. Sort of all to seek about what Christmas is this year. I'm trying to get into the spirit, but I sort of don't have the energy this year, you know? I'm looking forward to this afternoon, however, when Jeff and I are heading over to Busch Gardens to experience their Christmastown...even though this year has been oddly out of sync, there still is a small child in me who delights in lights, singing and drinking hot cocoa.