What? Christmas is Over?

Sort of sums up December…wine was involved.

Kind reader,

Where has the time gone? Or, more importantly, you may be asking (no worries if not)…did I fall off the planet?! 

Regrettably, it has been awhile since I’ve put pen to paper, so to speak, but yowza has time flown!  November is but a blur.  How is it possible that Thanksgiving has come and gone?  In fact, really….Did November happen at all?  I may have been abducted by aliens or temporarily sucked into some black hole in the universe because…honestly my normal routine, for inexplicable reasons fell by the wayside.  I fell off, for example, the gym wagon preferring Hallmark Christmas movies to pumping iron.  Nor did I make homemade tortellini for our Thanksgiving meal, something I have done for a handful of decades. 

For goodness sake…did I even eat turkey and my favorite stuffing? 

Oh silly me. I kid.  Why yes!  Whew!  My waistline knows for sure!

Through the fog of sweet treats and libations memory serves (thankfully) that turkey and all the delicious trimmings, to include a pecan pie to die for, was enjoyed at my house.  As a matter of fact, Sis and Company hauled their dishes to share through the modest pathway that connects our back yards.  Of course, we ate ourselves silly and as we did so our lively chatter included everything from tortellini making strategies, what gifts were left to purchase and wrap and Christmas traditions, past, present and future. 

Which brings us to a few days shy of the end of December. Where in heavens name did that entire month go? Remnants of holiday ribbons and bows that adorned packages are piled in a glass bowl still on my coffee table. As I regarded them this morning over my second cup of coffee I realize I’m stunned. What? Christmas is over? Christmas– and with it, the sounds and sights of the season– has come and gone?!

Poof. Just. Like. That. Gone for another year.

Still…If I sit very quietly with eyes closed, the days leading up to Christmas return. I listened to Christmas music and hummed my favorite carols from morning to night. I gushed like a kid over the twinkling, bright holiday lights that lit up everything from neighborhood trees to greenery on our mantle. And I smiled from ear to ear when I attended my nephew’s holiday concert. Oh the joy in his parents eyes, and mine, to watch our little man play his saxophone!

Yes, I hold dear all the sweetness, love, joy, laughter and holiday lattes as well as a few tears thrown into the mix too…because, well…it is that time of year! It never fails, nor arguably should it; the time of year when we often reflect upon not only a host of Christmas memories from long ago but also on a lifetime of relationships with family and friends. The good and the bad and everything in between.

So….this Christmas eve had Sis and I in my kitchen kneading pasta dough. Nothing quite gets one into deep rumination like kneading dough for eight to ten minutes, by hand. Sure, I could use dough hook to do the deed but it is so much more satisfying to put heart, soul and muscle into the dough.

Photo by Theme Photos on Unsplash

“Mom would be so proud that we are carrying on her tortellini tradition,” said sis as she pressed the heals of her hands deep into a ball of dough.

Eh, si cara I thought as I reached for the bag of Tipo 00 flour. “Yes, and she’d really love our new tradition from the past four or five years… the “tortellini wars”… with our Italian family in Italy,” I said. Indeed…my favorite cugino of all time, Paolo, had just days before messaged from Italy. “Tortellini Team Udine” had thrown down the gauntlet preparing a whopping 516 tortellini!

Lord have mercy! Who is going to eat all that tortellini? Are they feeding the Italian Army?! There’s no way we’re going to beat them this year,” I thought.

Sis, in a deeply pensive mood, lamented for a moment as we kneaded away. “I’m so glad my young son loves helping in the kitchen,” she said. “It makes me sad though that after I’m gone there will be no one to carry on this holiday tradition.”

“You don’t know that sis,” I said stopping for a moment to take a sip of red wine…because….well, one cannot possibly make tortellini without a glass of wine nearby. “He loves helping us with tortellini and he’s getting good at rolling the dough through the pasta machine and knowing when the thickness of the pasta is just right to begin the next step in the process: adding the filling and folding the dough into the requisite ring (belly button) shape. Mark my words sis, all that you do, especially during the holiday season, will not be forgotten by that great kid of yours. And, truth be told, I’m still amazed that my daughter holds certain traditions dear. With our less than ideal relationship I would have never thought it possible that she too would carry on the pasta-making tradition.

This seemed to lift my sis’s spirits. And so, on Christmas eve, with some extra hands to help (my nephew, and even my husband!) we got into a steady rhythm with peaceful Christmas piano music in the background as we worked, churning out 496 tortellini–my half filled with a leek mixture and my sister’s half filled with a finely ground mixture of mortadella, prosciutto cotto (the cooked variety) and pork loin. Yes, dear reader, this mixture proved to be absolutely divine with butter and sage!

And indeed…I will confess that my competitive spirit kicked in. So much so that since some of my prepared leek and parmigiano filling remained after I ran out of dough, I was fully enthusiastic to knead up another batch of dough to move us triumphantly over the finish line to a first place victory. Alas, my team was apparently exhausted and were a sip of red wine close to revolt (full disclosure: we would have been perilously close to missing Mass) so my plan was summarily overruled. Harrumph.

Next year, Tortellini Team Udine!

Alexandre-the-Greatest will surely carry on this tradition long after I leave this planet!

As 2019 comes to a close I can only let out a long, slow breath filled with infinite gratitude. The next moment could bring heart wrenching pain or joys beyond belief; there may be harmony or incongruity, love or extreme dislike (you get the gist) …that is the journey of life. Really, the mess of it all is not for the faint of heart. Still, up or down, great or small, I’m eagerly anticipating it all. So tonight, as I ponder on past, present and future, I’ll raise a glass to those I’ve lost, to those who are still here and to whatever awaits in the new decade.

There is bliss in that.


It’s Not Christmas Without A Trip Down Memory lane

IMG_3458It’s still pitch black out. Most folks are still snuggled in their beds. I would be too if it weren’t for those constant videos in my head… and, when I’m just able to slow them to barely a whisper….

Rocket-man starts snoring.  Oh dear…not again.

I may as well be standing on a platform at the train station.

I reach over to nudge him in hopes that it disrupts and quiets his breathing pattern.

No luck.  The freight train sound continues.

In the dark I reached over to find my headphones on my nightstand. Let’s try a Headspace guided sleep meditation to drown out this rythmic din.  Andy’s oh so lovely voice starts out by saying: “In the stillness of lying down at night, we suddenly see and we hear all our thoughts.”

In stereophonic sound, I would add.

I struggle to follow the guided meditation and give up well before the selection is over, a first since being fairly consistent with Andy for some two months now.

Not wanting to start my day by getting my tinsel-in-a-tangle, I quietly surrender and make my way downstairs. I make myself a pot of espresso and soon find myself sitting in front of the Christmas tree at 4:30 in the morning.  Espresso in hand I drink in the merry, sparkling lights and memory-evoking ornaments dangling from every tree branch. For a moment I think about seizing the early morning stillness to sit on the meditation pillow since I caved much too easily not a half hour before.

I toss the thought.

I embrace the silence…plus, I want to enjoy my Christmas tree.

I shiver against the chill in the air so I reach for a throw that is draped on the sofa. I wrap it around me and in an instant I’m warm and feeling incredibly thankful for the present moment.

Which oddly enough takes me into the past….down memory lane.

My heart stirs at Baby’s First Christmas ornament, purchased when I became a mother. That one is thirty-five years old!  I look at it with a mixture of joy and sadness….IMG_2261

I smile at the little Hawaiian girl on one branch. She’s from my one and only trip (so far) to Hawaii a little over five years ago. I spent two weeks on Oahu and marveled over daily rainbows and breathtaking ocean views. There, I went scuba diving and watched in awe as a large sea turtle dined on bright purple tube sponge coral.


On another branch is an Eskimo Santa from….you guessed it….Alaska. What fond memories I have of running the Anchorage marathon and visiting my favorite Aunt and Uncle. They opened their home and their hearts and cheered us to the finish line. There was endless daylight and multiple moose sightings on that trip. And I’ll never forget the day after the marathon. There I was taking a walk in my Aunts neighborhood trying to get the post-marathon soreness out of my tired body. A lady driving a mini-van pulls up beside me. She’s got a friendly smile. I’m thinking perhaps she sees that I’ve got a hitch in my giddy-up due to marathon soreness. Nope. She’s just informing that a bear (yes…a BEAR) is wondering around the next street over. “You might want to get inside,” she says as she drives away.  IMG_5695

Rocket-man (who also ran the marathon) takes off running back to the house. Me? My legs wouldn’t budge. I cried out in useless indignation: “Hey, wait up!” Naturally I made it back alive. I “playfully” gave Rocket-man a piece of my mind for his “It’s every man for himself” escape.  “I only had to out-run you,” was his retort.  (Yes. I’m still married to him!)

Sigh….Yes, It’s not Christmas without a walk down memory lane.

So many years of memories are on this tree.  Too many to recount in this space without boring you to death….

Ornaments from my Germany years and London and Italy too.

White House ornaments from more than a decade of living in the Washington D.C. area…

An ornament commemorating my daughter’s graduation from Drexel University…

An ornament too for all those years of marathoning….IMG_5696

And yes, as much as I loathe football, there is one Steeler ornament (Troy Palomalu,43) on the tree.  It’s only fair, after all, that Rocket-man’s love obsession has a space on the tree.  IMG_0268

I’m jolted out of my trip down memory lane by the musical sound of an alarm clock coming from the basement.  For a nano-second I’m puzzled but then remember that my man-child still resides there.

So ends my early morning quietude.  It is just as well.  My coffee is now ice-cold and The Poodle is up from his own cozy bed.  The day must begin in earnest.  There is much to do before the house is full of Christmas chaos.

As I head to the kitchen to brew another cup of espresso I remind myself that all of these memories, from the dear to the painful and everything in-between, are all part of the beauty of living.

There IS bliss in that. ❤