Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Our holiday plays out in three acts -- the scene shifts, the players have to vary slightly, but it is one beautiful Christmas, made only more special by its quick appearance and then quick passage.

Perhaps the most custom heavy is Act I, played out on the 23rd this time, when my girls and their guys arrived from a weekend in Chicago. I'm to cook dinner, but I'll be doing it at my older girl's home. The tree is there -- it is the holiday hub for us this year.

A quick stop at the farmhouse, a chat with Ed...

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...and off we go. Ed stays back at the farmette for this one. There are two traditions that we observe that are just entirely alien to him -- exchanging presents and eating a meal of beef fondue. There's a lot of bend and sway in him these days, but life is best if we allow each other to choose for ourselves where the bend and sway takes place. So tonight, he stays home.

Therefore it's the two young couples, and me, and it is such a beautiful evening! (Oh! And Goldie the cat. ...Who loves enclosures!) A few snap shots to bring back the best images:

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(he's from Minneapolis, she's from Madison, the present is from her sister + husband)

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(what did I tell you...)

The beef fondue is a quirky meal to have in place for Christmas Eve. I reached for it some two dozen years ago: feeling overwhelmed with work, kids, Christmas baking, meal planning, gift buying, wrapping -- the usual holiday stuff that drives a young parent to near panic as the holidays approach -- I needed a special but also easy meal for Christmas Eve. Nothing is easier than cutting up portions of good (pastured!) beef and making a half dozen dipping sauces for it. 

These days, fondue carries the tag of being so retro. Well now, I am that old! It was common when I first started cooking -- especially cheese fondue, which I think was America's first wake up to the idea of using a good, flavorful cheese in a dinner menu. Our version uses beef boiled in an herbed broth.


(Here you see Goldie's caretakers giving her the treat of cooked beef. She did not reject it. Neither did Isis when I took his share home.)

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So long as we're now in the retro mode, I make, as you know, crepes Suzette (which, of course, means flaming them in a Grand Marnier orange sauce).

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We sip sherry at the end (not so retro anymore! This one is making a comeback!) and sing along to the too familiar songs from Christmas Even on Sesame Street. (The girls were babes when that tradition got started. Their partners kindly humor us on this.)

And then Ed comes to pick me up and to deliver the errant gift that refused to be UPS'ed on time and it really is such a fantastic evening!

And now it is December 24th and it is as cold as I remember it ever being on this day! (The temperatures never get beyond the single digits.)

I see the sun rise from our bedroom window and I am just so happy to be entering now Act II of our holidays: breakfast at Hubbard Diner.


Ed joins us for it. I'm well dressed this morning -- all gifts from my girls -- and this is the last hour that we have with my littlest one and her fiancee, so you'll see more pics of her and (sadly) none of my other girl and her husband! Never mind, the older two will make an appearance in Act III tomorrow!

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It's sad, of course, to see my youngest then take off. There are too few meals in life with your kids, and especially with those who live in far off cities. But, this year we had two Acts together and so I have few complaints there.

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The day refuses to get any warmer. It is too tempting to stay in the farmhouse and admire the sky, the snow, the winter sun from within. No! Mustn't get soft! We get in the car and turn toward the park down the road.

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And we spend a wonderful hour on the ski trails.

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The sun is low when we return to the farmette.

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We pull into the driveway. We'll be spending a quiet evening with Isis. Basking in warm thoughts!

I'll leave you with this last image from the old orchard -- for your own Eve.

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For Ocean readers who celebrate Christmas -- may you have a joyful holiday! Ed will say -- every day is a holiday and in that spirit, let me wish for all of you a time full of good cheer, good food and, of course -- enduring love.