Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chinese Food and Boxes

Not much progress on the cable piece, but the scarf is coming along - and that's a toque-in-the-rough, waiting to be cast on. Not much time for knitting these last days!

First - to one and all, Happy Boxing Day! It's a British tradition and enjoyed by others "in the Commonwealth", according to Wicki. There are a variety of reasons and meanings given; apparently it's traditionally a day of gifting one's staff and employees. And "Chinese Food"? Well, it's a sort of sub-culture tradition for Jews to go out Christmas eve, which they're not celebrating, to Chinese restaurants, because they're open, presumably because the proprietors are perhaps Buddhist and also not celebrating. Of course, there's that fabulous scene in "A Christmas Story" where the family is enjoying their Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant after the neighbors' rotten dogs ate theirs. {whew}

Bottom line: Christmas eve and Christmas Day are over, and I have a moment to spend with Daisy and write a post.

Christmas Eve day we celebrated with #2 Son and children. It was a first, the "new arrangement" owing to the new divorce. It was perhaps a little awkward, but mostly awfully fun, for me. One thing I did that I've SO wanted to do for a while was put new "I'm this tall" lines in my hallway. Granddaughter M has grown a spurt (she'll be taller than me, probably by this time next year); Grandson C is several inches taller than his last line. And we managed, M and I, to maintain a tradition shared (quietly) by the two of us since she was about two years old.

Every year, I set the figure of Jesus aside in plain sight, and when M came over, I would say "The baby Jesus isn't in his manger, it must not really be Christmas!" Then she would find the baby and run over to put it in the creche, THEN I would say "Aaah, OK, NOW it's really Christmas." And this year, when she's 11 years old and a beautiful "Tween" and becoming sophisticated and probably too old for such things - she did it, and looked very pleased when I said "Yes! Now it's really Christmas."

The visit was actually very nice. Mr Dearling (AKA "Grampy") made a lunch for us. For himself, Granddaughter M and me, "Croque Monsieurs", a favorite of hers whenever she comes over to visit with us by herself. Usually she helps Grampy make them, but this time we were visiting in the living room. OK, Dale-Harriet, we're game -- we'll play, whazzis "croque monsieur"? Well, here in L'Amerique, it's a grilled-cheese-and-ham sammich. Sounds more elegant in French (what doesn't?) This is a family-friendly blog, please keep your responses to yourself. Kthx.

For #2 Son who apparently doesn't like ham - grilled-cheese sandwich. (We didn't tell him that, in French, that's "Croque Madame"....he doesn't speak French anyway.)

And for young Grandson C? "Peanut-butter sammich, Grandma" No butter, no jelly, nothing exotic -- JUST peanut butter on bread. A gentleman of simple discernment, I like that.

All in all, a nice visit and by next year all these new arrangements will be old hat and comfortable and I'll look back on this and shake my head with relief. We had a quiet evening after they left, nice and peaceful. And it gave Mr Dearling an opportunity to engage in another of our personal little traditions.

The Hearts. It goes like this: We hadn't had a Christmas tree until Mr Dearling moved in with us. (See November 26 for details.) We of course had no ornaments. Mr Dearling bought some of the tiny lights and friends gave us ornaments for that first tree.

That first year - I bought a heart ornament for Mr Dearling. And I've gotten him a new one each year since. I made the ticking heart, hand-sewn with linen thread and stuffed with clean raw wool.

This is the new one, blown glass with beautiful glittery gold letters. It's a bit of a challenge each year - while heart ornaments are popular, it has to be just the RIGHT one. So far, so good. NOTE: I also buy a new star ornament every year, as a gift for Granddaughter M's maternal grandmother, a tradition started the first Christmas after her August birth in 1996, to note the "little star we share". She gives me an angel in return.

To continue the "Tradition" theme...we always go over to our friends Jack and Ginny's house Christmas Day night. (I've mentioned them before - she's the master quilter/knitter/embroiderer/cook who illustrated Golden Books in the '70s; he's a master photographer with a retrospective of Madison going back to the early 1940s.) In past years their son Steve and his wonderful bride Marcia have joined us from Fairfield, Iowa, but this year they went to her people. Steve is building the most beautiful geodesic dome house you ever hand and literally by himself . He's had help only for things like the pouring of the concrete floor, and of course has the wiring and plumbing checked for "code". But this remarkable young man, possessing all of the artistry of both parents coupled with an incredible curiosity, thoughtful approach to creative problem-solving and a lot of gumption, is creating a comfortable, cozy and wondrous home. He posts pictures of his progress - go to Steve Tiffany's Home Page and click on "geodesic dome". Prepare to be amazed. (In fact, I think he developed the magnetic poetry sets you see everywhere too - check out the rest of his website. I consider it a point of pride that he calls me "friend", and that his parents honor me similarly.)

OK - are you back? Have you EVER?? 'Cause I haven't. OK - back to our visit to his parents' home. We always sit around and overeat ridiculously on the most delicious tidbits, interspersed with a wide variety of fascinating topics, observations, recollections and kitties. This year Ginny made spanakopita (her daughter-in-law Marcia's succulent recipe) and she found some lobster bisque to start with that was chunks of lobster in a tomato-based cream-and-butter soup. I believe the correct description is "to DIE for!" And I? I brought something, too. NOTE: here comes another story; skip ahead or go get a cup of tea.

When I was 13 years old, I was invited to the bar mitzvah of a kid I knew from Sabbath School. I'm not sure why I was invited, and I think that was the only bar mitzvah I've ever been to, excepting that of my #1 Son. I do remember the kid's name, but I don't remember one single other thing about the event....except this: they served these incredible little toast rolls stuffed with mushrooms. They were delicious. Now, in all honestly, they have NOT been on my mind consistently in the intervening FIFTY-ONE years. (Thanks for the math, Mr Dearling.) But I did happen to recall them for some reason when tossing about for something yummy to take along to Jack and Ginny's. And guess what, ladies and gennulmen? I found a recipe for them on line!! THE INTERNET RULES! {{ahem}} 'scuse me.

They turned out VERY well. You see them here on my pet wheat-bedecked plate, in company with one of Ginny's hand pies, little tasty tarts filled with ground beef and raisins, spices and dried apricots; the crust has sour cream in and I'm dreadfully addicted to them. They were VERY nice with my mushroom rolls. NOTE: ever since my children were little, we've had "pet" spoons, pet cups, pet plates. Took Mr Dearling a while to catch on, but now he has pets too.

When my children were in the 4-18 range, known as the "you're-using-my-cup-get-your-hands-off-my-plate-MOMMY-he's-looking-at-me" stage, I assigned certain dishes to each kid, for his (or her) exclusive use. They all respected it instantly and to the letter; I doubt if they have any such peculiarity in their own homes, but *I* still do. What're you looking at, shut up. I like it. And this is my pet plate. So nevermind. I have plenty of other dishes and spoons for guests, so most people aren't even aware of this little - quirk. Move along, these are not the 'droids you're looking for.

So the first half of the holiday is successfully completed. To conclude,

here's Mr Dearling's creche with the baby in place. These are Fontanini figures, based on some life-sized figures dating to the Renaissance in Italy. Admittedly, there are a couple of folks that may be lacking in historical documentation - the tiny bunny angel seems to have fainted with excitement, but the baby bunny is clearly in awe of the goings-on. I myself do not know of any verification that there were rabbits, either spiritual or infantile, at the Nativity. There are, however, some twenty additional characters in the whole display (one for each year - see November 26 again).

This little guy just seems to fit - no idea where we got him but it was years ago. His little paw to his amazed mouth looks realistic to me in the scene. And I can only believe the baby would have been happy to see such a thing.

This is the newest figure, and I admit she's my favorite; a young girl busily spinning the fluffy wool on her distaff. She's ordinarily positioned with the group of shepherds and sheep, but this year I thought she should be quietly watching over Joseph's shoulder. Her face is so gently but she never stops in her industry.

Even though I grew up in a Conservative Jewish Home, I find it undeniable that the Nativity Story is a perfect story in every way, and I've always loved artistic representations of it. I took a class at Macalester called "Jesus and His Interpreters" which fascinated me every single day. The professor, Dr. Dawe, was wise and sound - he explained historically a lot of the biblical stories, including the Nativity. He pointed out that the story was not new, that in fact it's a retelling of the birth of the Egyptian god, Horus, born in a humble stable on the banks of the Nile to his parents Isis and her brother-husband Osiris. And yet, before the end of the class, none of us doubted the sincerity of his faith, and while he did not convert me he gave me a real appreciation for the historical Jesus and his life and times.

I hope, most earnestly, that you all enjoyed a warm and merry Christmas and that you count among your gifts a whole set of delicious new memories to take out and enjoy throughout the coming year.


Anonymous said...

I love reading/hearing/learning about the historical/mythological antecedents of familiar tales. Somehow I didn't know that the Christian nativity was based on Egyptian myth. Thanks.

kevin said...

nice star wars reference!

Kitty Mommy said...

Those bunnies in the creche are precious. Sounds like some lovely holiday traditions!

Diane said...

Beautiful traditions.

Anonymous said...

Amazing Dome House! I love stuff like that. Is the house in Fairfield, Iowa or near Madison?
BTW the link isn't correct but google is my friend.
Love and Hugs and Happy New Year

Vicki Knitorious said...

Wonderful! Thank you.

(I think that wheat plate is one of my sister's designs!)