Tuesday, December 31, 2013

CHRISTMAS MORNING


 
 
 
 
 

Catching up with the Old before the New turns:

Chris and Caro and I just opened and admired and chatted and laughed, in that easy way of family or old friends, enjoying the contents of the stockings like little kids. We opened our presents to each other, and were pleasantly surprised and delighted, all around.
 
One last unexpected item, Chris handed to me in an envelope, and it WAS a surprise---I hadn't thought of it in a while.   And, true to his imaginative self, he'd even skimmed through Sweetpea's movie shelf for just the item he wanted.  It tells a story in itself. 

 I've long wanted a board fence to enclose the far back of the arbor, and something so frivolous and thought-of-maybe-twice-a-Summer was just a passing fancy, but Chris Never Forgets.  Moire non of the fanciful silliness we got into regarding decorating the fence, and having a big gathering to get all the grandchildren into the Tom Sawyering of it, and how we'd buy out Sherwin Williams and it would become a Mural for The Ages.
 
 
  

 
 After about an hour, I came down to cook bacon---glass-bacon we call it, for they both like their bacon cooked to a shattery finish, to crunch into little shards---to go with the gorgeous lemony Danish coffee-cake Caro had made before dawn.  Remembering the tee-ninecy, sumptuously-sauced potatoes from Christmas Eve, I put them in a pot and gave them another quick simmer, to remove some of the butter and sour cream and cheese, drained them, and took it all up with big square Christmas plates and a pitcher of tea.

 

I’d heard more clatter than Santa on the roof from up there, and knew it was Chris setting up a new little table in the sitting room---it’s just a folding stand, maybe 2’x 4’, with a top which rolls up like clattery marimba keys.   It’s just the cleverest thing---a camping table (as if) and we set it with a cotton cloth, plastic plates,  whatever-glass we’d brought with us, and last night’s cheese ball in Tupperware.  Caro had been busy with her immense new wok, and had made the most golden scrambled eggs and some little sausages, and she’d cut a fresh pineapple and set out a dish with a bit of Brie, Lil and Ben’s marvelous fruitcake just-arrived-in-the-mail, and more of their glorious candied figs.



Just look at the layers of tender crust and lemony filling and icing.

 

 
What a feast, and what a wonderful time---we recounted the fun of Christmas Eve, laughing at the long mis-communication between Chris and Sweetpea, as he was wearing the earphones to her new little boombox, trying to get it all connected, and she was showing him her two new FROZEN Princess dolls from Caro. 

 

Look at these, Ganner,” she said, waving two Barbies in the air like semaphores---and he answered, “Almost got it!”

 

 These are the Princesses, Ganner.”

 

Yes, I can hear it now,” he’d say, nodding and bobbing the pouf on his Santa Hat.

 

They’re the ones you and I saw in the movie!” she shouted.

 

It’s moving right along!” he’d say enthusiastically.

 

The rest of us were about to burst from laughing, and we started getting into the conversation, shouting out, “Three O’clock!!”  

“Blue!”

Egypt!” and just cackling as they kept talking at odds.

 

We also reminisced of our own childhood memories, of books and visits and bbs and bikes, of do you remember the night the two ladies both caught their hair on fire at the cantata, and the time Mrs. Smith  fainted into the poinsettias?

 

We sat at that sunny table, so oddly plastic and plain for a Christmas brunch, and talked for more than three hours.   We were all in easy chairs, in our comfy clothes, with the ease of a day to spend together, and that was a marvelous gift, in itself.

 

There was no scurry to get the dinner on the table hot, no bring more chairs, no run-up-and-get-the-Pink-Salad, no FORGOTTEN THING.  I kept thinking of the folks timing the turkey, stirring the last-minute gravy, side-stepping two little boys chasing each other past the rattling good china cups all stacked for coffee-with-dessert, and hoping that THIS year, everything will get onto the table hot-all-at once.   

 

I miss those times mightily, the  preparation and all the happy confusion and family closeness that those things have brought all the years.  But what we experienced yesterday, on that quiet day, was also a blessing, just to sit and talk and remember, with folks who share so many of the same memories, amongst the scattered wrappings and leftover Christmas lights.    

 

 
 



Monday, December 30, 2013

CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER

 
The Christmas Eve table---like most everything this season, bright and cheery, but just a tee-ninecy bit slipshod, with a a small degree of forgotten thing to the whole affair---note the other plate still sitting stacked at my place.
 

 

The glorious tenderloin Chris marinated and grilled.   It’s been his major request all the years we did parties, and it was absolutely perfect.  (He’s all about the meat, and never has been one to prink about with the niceties, such as wiping down the platter before presentation).   In THIS case, we coulda served this in a cardboard box, and nobody would have cared.
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 The table, with salad, potatoes, a little dish of fettucini/Colby for Sweetpea, the tenderloin, and Mother’s little string-bean dish with Asian green beans, cooked down low and savory.



 
 
 
DDIL's splendiferous Cheese Ball.   I’ve been sampling and carving away at it for the week, now, and one day, it made an absolutely superb Grilled Cheese for lunch. 
 

 
 

 
 

 

The salad---super snappy---I admit a too-heavy hand with the Dijon.


 
 

The pasta---a nod to many, many seasons past---my Mother always had a dish of macaroni and cheese on the Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.


 
 
 Tiny baby Yukons, soft as marshmallows, with a sour cream/butter/salt dressing and the cheese melting as the photo snapped.
 

Tangy lemon-drop cake with poured fondant.

 



Slices of the luscious, moist fruitcake which arrived in the mail from Ben and Lil.

 

 
 

 

Along with two bags of their coveted, sweet candied figs.  I swear, Fauchon would be pea-green.

 
 

And up to open presents.  And of that, moire non.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

THE DAY AFTER


It's a quiet morning---just the hum of the heat and the crackle-drop of the ice machine, as I’m sitting here in the dim.   The round golden lampshade beside me and the strings of little Christmas lights stuck on strips of ribbon like glowing Candy-Dots are the only illumination in the room.

 

 

What a contrast to previous day-after-Christmas mornings, when the house was full of chillun and sunshine (indeed it IS a glorious sunny day outside, with the living room and kitchen and sitting room upstairs filled with sun, to the delight of Pete the Canary).   And every time I’ve been up, Fuzzypup has moved on with the traveling rays across the carpet, sunning his little shaggy body.   We’re usually all in a merry chaos, with scattered presents all in stages of use and noise, with the scents of bacon and coffee and French Toast in the house, and today, only the coffee.   And me.

 

Chris stuck his head back into our room when he left, “You sleep long as you can, and have an easy day.  We’ll order Chinese for supper.”

And so I did, and have tried out the new pack of Hills Bros. K-cups (they come in little saggy-bottom packs, like a tee-ninecy upside-down mob-cap, with a flat round top of rigid plastic, and a silky little bag of coffee hanging below.  They remind me of a Lilliput version of those old-fashioned ashtrays which stayed put, even on a dashboard, because their heavy leathery bases were full of bbs.  Delicious.  I’ve had two BIG cups.

 
Our day yesterday was the quietest in the history of our family, I think, with just the three of us of the house, late rising, venturing up to the living room about eleven, coffee and tea in hand, to greet each other in robes and snuggies, and to open our presents to each other.   We’d shared Christmas Eve with Sweetpea and her family, with a raucous, laughing good time and a good roast beef dinner, and of all that, moire non.

I hope your holiday was a wonderful, joyous celebration.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

BON HIVER!

 

Our beautiful old plantation bell, frosted like a Wilton Wedding-Cake-Topper.   The ring beneath is an old piece of pink McCoy that we put out for bird-water in Summer.  Winter dish is nearer the house.

And the warmth  inside:  Sweetpea and I happened upon the beginnings of a little celebration at the church one day, with a whole troop of ladies bringing in boxes and bags of beautiful things, to decorate “their” tables for a tea party.
 
 


A bit of Indoor Wonderland.

 

 

The seasonal glow of Reds, like breakfast for young Royalty.





The rich shine of Golds.


 

This charming, homey Burgundy array made me think of baking cookies.

 


 The cheery Candy-Stripes of sugar-plum dreams.

 
 
 
 
 

 
 




The cool elegance of Icy Blue.

 

The sumptuous pomp of Purple.
 




Pale Blue and Christmas Candy.


 
 

And the charm of PINK is always in fashion.
 

 
There were several more in progress as we had to leave.  One young woman hurried in in a bustle of snowy unloadings and unwrappings, and was beginning to set out her tablescape.  The most intriguing items I’d seen all day were the gorgeous pair of red suede peep-toes with six-inch heels that she set in the center of the table before beginning to set out the dishes.

 

I’d have LOVED to see that one completed.



Linking today to Beverly's PINK SATURDAY.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

CHRISTMAS TEA, 2013


Our little annual Christmas Tea Party, on Sunday, December 15.  We six regulars gathered just at twilight, and Chris and Sweetpea went out to a movie for the evening.   We swapped our usual burgundy-and-pink for bright reds and greens and gold and white this year, and the whole room was made brighter with several strings of little lights.   Chris surprised me with a couple of strands one morning---I walked in to see colorful twinkles all across the far wall, strung freehand in loops and swags, and altogether charming to my country-girl, neon-loving heart.
 
They have their own tee-ninecy remote, to make them do all their dancing---how nifty is THAT?
 
 
 


The party table---phone photos, in their usual blur when I’m getting everything onto the table.




Some charming little Christmas Tree ravioli, with bocconcini and grape tomatoes in a red wine vinaigrette. 
We’d intended to put the tri-color tortellini onto skewers with the cheese and tomatoes, but he also brought home these, and I couldn’t resist.   We’ll have a pasta night sometime during the holidays and use the other package, plus the tortellini, with several sauces.
 
My favorite is browned butter and  dry, aged Mizithra.





Plump little fennel-sausages, in a cranberry-mustard glaze, Egg Salad Sandwiches, Red Pepper Jelly on Cream Cheese, and the little mannaze dish holds Curry Mayo.   I’d not made it in years, but it was a Southern standby in the Seventies, for every kind of party.

 




And of course, Paminna Cheese in all its shining glory.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Crudite with Bleu Cheese Dip, and a dish of Chicken Salad in an old candy dish---the kind that has a tall lid an Archbishop would envy.  Everyone could choose to have their salad on a croissant or crackers.





 
Caro’s Asian Meatballs, without which no party . . .
 

 
Hot Artichoke/Parmesan Dip.   Four ingredients, two minutes to make, ten to bake. 
 


And of the Cookies and Candies and Barks and Hats, moiré non.
 
How I wish you could have joined us!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WAYFARING STRANGER?


 
 
 
 
 

In looking for pictures to accompany a little reminiscence of Christmas, I Googled “Nativity Scene,” and got floods and archives of everything from actual pageants, with live animals, to ivory crèches and plastic roof-only little depictions, with varying numbers of participants, from just Mary and Joseph with the Baby, to enormously-elaborate carved sets with enough folks and animals to populate Oberammergau.

 

And one little oddity caught my eye---in the little plastic ones I was looking for, was a strange little figure, always striding in from the left, clad in anachronistic high-boots, tam and Alpenstock, with a knapsack on his hip.   I first took it as a little inside joke, perhaps, on a Made in Germany model.   But no, he appeared in the Hong Kong and China editions, as well.   And perhaps they ARE copies of that original little thought which began as a jest, and has been perpetuated-in-plastic for some time now.

Sometimes he seems wearier than others, more care-worn, more exhausted from the long, long journey.
 
 
 

 

And others, he seems to burst in from Stage Right with a bright clarity, eager to see the Babe, rushing  to arrive.




Now I’m wondering about his history, his enduring entrance into such a way-before-his-time tableau, and it strikes me that EVERYBODY’S welcome.   Anybody could have walked right up to that gathering, and been welcome to stand
 
and worship, or rest a while in the meager shelter. 

 
 
In this photo, he seems obviously shepherd, for the walking staff has a decided crook. 

 
 
  



 

The tableaux are always the same, with all the expected figures in the same places, and the onlooker/ visitor walking right in.  He’s always attached to the scene, glued in his accustomed spot, and I wonder---if ever he were included in the separate figures that we all arrange on our buffets or beneath the tree---would we wonder who he IS, and how he strayed into the Christmas box, and where would we PUT him?   Is he the Wanderer we’re told to welcome and comfort? 
 
 
I know.   The strangest things capture my imagination, and off I go.   But the enduring little character, with his hiking boots and Alpenstock/staff, his bright little pair of plus-fours, appears to be from Europe, dressed for days in the mountains, or from Scotland, ready for a long hike in the Highlands, strayed somehow into such a moment in time which changed the world.
 
It’s WAY early, and I’ve been up since just before four, so my thinking processes are either alert and sending those synapses into overdrive, or I’m soggily musing on what might be.   Train of thought; stream of consciousness---whatever it is that sends my thoughts flying beyond reasoning.
 
Perhaps it’s because I woke up smiling, thinking about Sweetpea’s pronouncement at Christmas a couple of years ago, “And did you KNOW that Baby Jesus had to sleep in the sheep's dish?”
 
It just seems such a sweet little oddly-arranged COME YE, that it’s just taken my imagination for a run around the block before the caffeine has kicked in.  Anybody know who the little figure represents?
 

 

Monday, December 16, 2013

AND SWEETER

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our party last night was a nice evening---six ladies together, all old friends or family, all relaxing together, eating good party food, laughing and talking.   It’s all a little bit of a blur to me, all the fun and work and putting-together, and even the hurried photos I was making as we bustled about, chattering and setting down dishes and brewing the tea, but it was lovely, I think.

 

Chris and Sweetpea went to see Frozen whilst we ladies gathered and ate and talked, and just as we finished the cheese course and were heading upstairs to get all those boxes and tups and bags and plates of cookies and candy and other delights to share around, our movie-goers returned.

 

Click of two doors, burst of snow-stomping feet at the top of the stairs.   Cheery calls of “We’re HOME!” down the stairs, and then they burst brightly into the room, in a swirl of energy and color and a warmth that belied their rosy cheeks and shining eyes in all those heavy clothes.

 
 
 


Chris, of course, was in his Santa hat---I’ve told you he wears it for about a month every year, to the delight and puzzlement of many a little one at the next table, or passing on an escalator or in a car.   He’s just the picture of the Jolly Guy, himself, and I cannot imagine The Real Thing having a kinder, happier nature and outlook.

 

They just exploded into our midst, all light and color, as we ladies sat looking on at the pair.   I cannot tell you the joy in my heart to see these two, so close, the Child of his heart, and the Ganner of hers, in from their outing, and eager to tell of their adventures.   I wish you could have all shared that magical moment---I know I’ll carry that spot of BRIGHT with me for all my days.

 

Of the party, moiré non,

 

 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

SHORT AND SWEET


I ran to the nearby grocery store for just a couple of items, and got in a line of four people or so, directly behind an older lady, one of the sweetly-disheveled ones whom I think of as Doddery Dears.   She had on a little black tam to match her sweater, both garnished with generous helpings of face powder and white lint, as well as several gleaming pinkish hairs from her slightly-askew wig, and one of those purses-within-purses into which she was delving, with her smudged little eyeglasses sorta side-saddle.  She just felt as if she NEEDED me, needed Everybody, to guide and aid her progress.


(Quite different, you understand, from my own three-score-and-eleven, and my fashionable get-up of red hoodie over shorts and T-shirt, with baggy gray socks and ratty  clogs.   I rationalized that I’d get DRESSED if I were doing the groceries for the week; for two things, you just grab the keys and dash.   At least this time, I didn’t have leaves and sticks in my hair).  (Or a broom over my shoulder).


I like to have my money already in my hand before they ring up my items, so as to delay folks behind me as little as possible, and to be visible to the fewest in my own slipshod state---not to mention those CAMERAS which seem to be everywhere.   I have no doubt whatsoever that my own progress through life must be the source of levity in shadowy viewing-rooms throughout security ranks everywhere.

I saw from her several dips into her purse that she must be getting her own card or check or something ready.    She dug around all through the first person’s transaction, finding a crumpled bill, then bit by bit of change.   Then she put the little bar divider on the counter, set her bananas and Jello and eggs and bread down, and went back to mining her purse.

Down onto the counter amongst the groceries went her keys, her wallet, her glasses case, assorted little gews and gaws, a mint or two, several bobby pins (I have yet to figure out how digging three bobby pins from the recesses improves your chances at finding your money, but then I’m a pocket-person, anyway).   On and on went the excavation, through the next person, and then it was her turn.   The cashier was quick, the food was bagged, and still Our Lady of the Linty Sweater pursued her digging and sorting with the zeal of a Leakey.

She was up to her elbows in that purse---I expected her to do one of those Ernie Kovacs bits and pull out a horse, or at least an umbrella, and was perfectly prepared to grab her around the waist if she toppled in. That thing looked like one of those late-night Ron Popeil offers---the ones that the sides expand to hold your scarf, and then if you’re called away, you can just plump out some more pockets and crevices and go to Europe without excess fees.   And if you order right now, you get six steak knives and a foggy watch?   You know---one of those.


Now, I’ve got up to the cashier without my debit card, having left it in another pocket.   I’ve completely forgotten having broken that last twenty I was carrying, and had to accept a bit of change from the kind man behind me to eke out my $5.29 purchase when I thought I had plenty. 


I even had a lovely thing to happen once, long years ago at the register when I hadn’t noticed I’d written the last blank check in my checkbook.

 

 I said, “Oh, gosh!  I don’t have a check; I’ll have to run to the car and get some.”


 An eightyish gentleman, long known to me from his coming into our office, apparently heard only the first part, and being, as he was, dependent on his own check’s arrival every month for his livelihood, said, “I’ll pay fer it, Hon, til your check comes.”


Sorry---I DO take mind leaps to memories of old times.

And I just kept thinking, Older lady.  Bananas. Bread.  It's not like it was a National Enquirer.   Anyway, I thought I could see a five and a one in the hand hanging onto the purse as she foraged, and so I asked, “How much else do you need?   Let me help.”


“I need a dollar and twelve cents,” she said.


I handed it over, the cashier finished up, I moved forward. 




Dear Lady picked up her bags, turned back and said, “Thank you SO much, Honey---you’re a lifesaver.  All I’ve got is hundreds---we’re going to Maui in January!”


Thursday, December 12, 2013

WARM THOUGHTS


From letters to two friends this morning, with thoughts of all my faraway friends who drop in here:

 

Hey, this what's-left-of-a-morning.   I'm a lazy girl today---Sweetpea's little program last night was cute as the pie they were singing about, and the whole fifteen-minute show was encompassed in a thirty-minute drive each way, with the snow blowing sideways across the road, and all the lights of cars and buildings and businesses and neon all-a-twinkle in the Rain-X coating on the windows, and the chill dropping minute by minute on the little degree-thingie on the dashboard.    And of course, I wore an old plastic Christmas-Tree pin on my coat---it's been around since plastic was a pup---cause that's what Grandmas do.  You wear a plastic Christmas ornament/holly/tree on your lapel to a Christmas program with kids. 

 

 

It was FABULOPOLUS.  They sang their little hearts out, with her in a swingy, swirly red velvet dress and all the little girls dressed as if to go see Nutcracker, as we had last weekend.   THAT was a snow-on-the-ground day, as well, and we wore velvet and sparkly pins and she spent more time in the back of the box, dancing to the music JUST FOR HER< THAT ORCHESTRA, than in her seat looking raptly over at the magic on the stage.

 

I digress.   If you could hear the distinctive, unmistakable sounds here behind me---the scrooooooooch-scritttttttttch-scurch of a great roll of strapping tape being wound round and round a huge box of goodies for the FL clan---you'd know Chris' destination for the day.  Everything (I'll have to go look and see if he DID leave the sink) is in it, including my previous NOOK all loaded with everything I've been reading for the past two years.   And many, many are little-girl books---Alcott and Understood Betsy (my all-time favorite of all) and the Maida books, and all of Austen, with lots for DD and DSIL, as well.   For any of your own little ones, DO look into Betsy and the Maidas, for they were the delights of my heart when I was very young, and I don't think they've faded with time.

 

Our little annual tea will be this weekend.  Just us same six ladies as always, and usually about the same menu, for one is GF, and has never been able to eat much anywhere else.   Even my recipe for Paminna cheese is right, and she digs right in.   (as much as a lady of my age, and of genteel raising and dignified bearing, can be said to partake in that fashion).

 

Must get me to the work.   Much to do---Chris did some of the party-shopping yesterday and he came home with all sorts of goodies---including charming three-color Christmas tree-shaped ravioli from Sam's---can't wait to see how they cook.   We planned tri-color tortellini, on skewers, cold, threaded with grape tomatoes and bocconcini balls and a pesto drizzle, but these are too cute to pass up.

 

 

It's really always a little supper, rather than tea, with a Christmassy table. And then we clear away, and go upstairs and get the cookies for our swap---spreading them all OVER the tables down here, and laughing like little kids. Our oldest lady is 87 (Honey, whose birthday breakfast I do every June) and dating the nicest gentleman. Blushes and simpers all round.  
 
I'm SO looking forward to a pretty occasion, for we've not really entertained since last January on Chris' birthday.  Houseguests, yes; comfy big meals with paper plates and everybody cheerfully dishing up and carrying things from stove to table, yes;  holidays with the traditional dinners and the pretty plates and cloth and hearts full of celebration, yes.  But an occasion to polish silver and get out the Mammaw goblets and dust all those top teapots WAY back in the corner---not in a while.   Just haven't felt like it.

 

You'd make our table absolutely exponentially more wonderful, had we a transporter to hand.   And Sweetpea and her Ganner would stay home from the movie and she'd entertain at her own table, pouring out for your own little ones.   (She's long known "finger on the pot-lid" when she pours, and now with her tiny newest pot, I've caught her with three fingers on the handle and index on the lid, deftly pouring one-handed whilst she creams and sugars with the other).

 

Love to you and all in your own homes.   Warm, warm love, and thank you for these five years of visiting us here at Lawn Tea.

 

rachel

 



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CHRISTMAS PRESENT





Our dearest Christmas Dreams came true last night, with the arrival of our sweet new Grandson.  He and his Mommy and Daddy and Big Brother are all just fine, and in a state of wonder and joy, as are we all.

 

 

He brings our number of Grands to Eight-and-Two-Greats, and we are truly blessed. 

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

FIND YOUR DREAM




Into every Christmas season, there floats a bit of lagniappe or two, just happening along to Bright you.  Sometimes these floating, ethereal wonders have the gentle touch of a caught breath, and others have the impact of a crescendo-wave---they sweep you away so fast and so far that you’re swirling and swallowing and tumbling, and at last left gasping on the damp sand.

 

Caro called down the stairs just now, “Mama, when you have a minute, look at the program from Rockefeller Center.   It’s all cued up, and you just can’t miss this song---it’s real and she’s not just pretending for the camera like the others---you can even see her breath fogging the air.”

 

And a voice like this seems as if it WOULD dominate and take over the entire being to whom it’s entrusted.  It must have a life of its own, brilliant with tone, and vibrant with joy and power.

 
I hope you’ll watch---I’d love to share this Christmas Gift with you.  It will leave you breathless.

rachel