Popping The Cork for 2022

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Wowza it’s been a couple of weeks! I’m just now literally exhaling (e.g. relaxing) from the whirlwind of all the holiday activity.

The house was practically bursting at the seams with family and friends. It was truly lovely to have sis and family make the excruciatingly long drive from Northern Virginia for their first Florida visit. Though sis said it was to see us settled in our new home , I’d say (wink, wink) they visited (earlier than anticipated) to see their second grandchild who had entered the world just six weeks earlier. My brother-in-law was bowled over with love the second he laid eyes on his granddaughter and his radiating joy while holding her truly lit up the entire room. My daughter and her husband also made the trek, via airplane, from Chicago. The duo brought with them fabulous cheeses from Chicago’s Eataly for our noshing pleasure as well as cooked up a steam in my kitchen preparing delicious fare including from scratch Foccacia with fresh herbs and savory sweet potatoes Au gratin from our favorite Ottolenghi cookbook. Not to sit by idly, my nephew, who at thirteen is growing increasingly adept in the kitchen, whipped up a couple of pies (one Key Lime and one pumpkin), my sis made her delicious meat sauce for our meat lasagna, while I prepared Marcella Hazan’s fabulous vegetable lasagna. Later, the guys inaugurated our new outdoor grill–grilling a hefty sized eye of round to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

While our area–sorely lacking in good restaurants– did not particularly thrill my daughter, a three-hour sunset kayaking tour through mangroves did. We all had a Christmas Eve blast–as well as a good workout–navigating through a dense mangrove forest and a myriad of water trails on the Indian River that had us in a twist as to sense of direction. No siree-Bob… I was not (ahem) one bit afraid of the approaching blanket of complete darkness. Let’s just say ’twas a very good thing we had an excellent guide as I suspect we’d all still be trying to find our way out of the maze of waterways! Unfortunately, during our kayaking adventure we did not manage to see manatees as they opted for warmer locations on the Banana River, a thirty-one mile lagoon between Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island. Nor were we lucky enough to spot dolphins that frolic in the area…however, watching the sun set over the water was spectacular!

A Merry Christmas Eve adventure looking for manatees and other creatures

We did have one surprising visitor that had us laughing in delight. Imagine our shock at finding Glorfindle-the-Christmas Elf hanging out in our pool just days before Christmas! Of course we were concerned that he’d forgotten sunscreen but that mattered not; he seemed to enjoy five days of pool time, each day in a different pool floatie and I’m certain he was happy not to have to wear a mask! Miraculously too he managed not to get eaten by The Poodle!

Glorfindle visits the free state of Florida!

After family left I’ll admit to feeling mighty blue for the day. The house was quiet once again and The Poodle was depressed too without his best friend Nica to pal around with. To get my head out of my heartache for a spell I cleaned like a fiend. Out the door went another three containers to the donation center! After all that work we popped the cork for 2022, making it ’til well past midnight, with sincere hopes to an end of mandates and other such madness happening around the world.

Finally, on New Year’s day after a scrumptiously delicious meal of Lentils and spicy sausage I took down the tree, shedding a nostalgic tear or two as I went about carefully packing away my prized tree ornaments. I couldn’t bring myself to pack away Flora the Flamingo that sis had brought us. She’ll sit in outside on the patio, at least for awhile longer, because…well….it brings a certain amount of bliss to my day.

And, speaking of bliss; for this new year, do something, no matter how big or small, that brings any amount of bliss to your day. I for one hope that a Rumi saying helps guide me even an inch forward this year. That would be something!

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love; It will not lead you astray

~Rumi

Less than Twelve Hours Left…

As the “worst” year draws to a close I struggle to find something profound or remotely poetic to say in this here space. Alas kind four readers, I’ve got nothing. I am weary to the bone from the events of the last ten months. And, as if Covid, insanity politics, riots destroying cities, cancel culture, friends who have unexpectedly passed and loved ones who have lost so much, the life-quake still residing in the basement, and a host of other little p.i.t.a. issues…as if those weren’t enough...

….my “rock” gets pink-slipped. How on earth does that happen with years of rave performance reviews?

Indeed, this year has been one Stink, Stank, Stunk after another.

Full disclosure; it’s not as if my husband didn’t see this coming months ago when a reorganization literally dumped him into the wrong division. He’s been clamoring to get out of said division and back into his areas of expertise since, even as desks and business units played musical chairs with people’s livelihoods. But now, at the wise young age of sixty-three he’s considered a “pale stale male.” I probably need not elaborate. Still, he never envisioned getting a pink slip. And, although inching ever closer towards contemplating the next chapter, we weren’t quite ready to make big changes.

Now, along with trying to navigate the life-quake and other family issues, we are trying to figure out what IS next. We’ll sail through it and land on the other side says my rock. He is ever the optimist and I am thankful for those reassuring words even If I struggle to believe. Covid of course continues to make it quite difficult to investigate options. Plans to travel this year and check out potential places to hang ones’ hat for a spell have been dashed of course.

Last year this time we were spending the day with sis and family. In her cozy basement family room we ate ourselves silly and raised bottles of champagne to the new year as we danced jigs and blew on our party horns like little kids. This year we’re laying low in our own abodes. I tell sis I’m probably not going to watch the ball drop with Ryan Seacrest. I get that he aims to bring “fun” into our homes but honestly, I’m not up to listening to President-Elect Biden incoherently blather on about healing and unity.

So, today as I scrolled through Facebook over early morning coffee I see this meme by self-help guru and blogger Mark Manson. I’ve not read his books but occasionally I stop and read his insights on FB in an effort to find something (anything) useful to impart on the man-child residing–OH SO TEMPORARILY– in the basement. Like I don’t know this already…but yes, It speaks to me in my present state and of course, gives me pause.

So here we come 2021. I’ve got a few more hours to wallow in my little pity party and then, as the ball drops– as God is my witness– I endeavor, with every fiber of my being, to move the F**K on, even if I have to fake it.

Seriously folks, I am praying for an infinitely better year ahead. From my heart to yours, may 2021 bring you peace, love and joy and keep you in the best health possible.

Kissing Christmas 2019 Goodbye

Kissing Christmas Goodbye: “At least we’re together in the box.”

Kind reader, I feel compelled to correct a sentiment from my previous post. There, if memory serves, I lamented about how it took hours to put up Christmas decorations on, for example, the foyer staircase but only two minutes (if) to take it all down.  I was dragging my feet, if you recall over even getting started on packing away Christmas for another eleven months.  My family will attest that I usually have everything down and put away with lightning speed on January 1st!  But this time around was different.  Chalk it up to this whole aging thing I suppose.  I simply was not ready to stop my nightly ritual over the past month of sitting in the near darkness of my living room to admire the lights and decorations on the Christmas tree and fireplace mantle.  I wanted to keep all the Christmas memories alive from years past, swirling in my head and heart..yes, even the not so good memories.    I did not want to forget the stories of some of my most treasured tree ornaments: The ornament from our week in Hawaii or our long weekend in Alaska… or the two that represent baby’s first Christmas, nor the ornament purchased years ago in a German Christmas market on a frigidly cold day in December….

…so many ornaments (simple and inexpensive, I might add) and with each, a recollection dear.

So, when I took the tree down on January 6th, I managed to spend as much time (if not more!) with its “undressing” as I did in its adornment.  I didn’t plan it that way but after five minutes into the process, it evolved quite naturally and I think it may become my new post holiday ritual.  It came, however not without caloric implications.  Sigh. 

Indeed, I do believe I actually gained a pound in my effort to slow the process of putting away Christmas (which is not quite how I wanted to start my New Year’s fitness resolution).    How did I accomplish such a feat you may wonder?  My strategy was genius–so it seemed at the time–and took the better part of the day.  So, if slowing things down is on your list of things to try, say for next holiday season, here is what you must do:

  1. Take one or two (max) ornaments down from the tree and take special care to wrap them just so and place them thoughtfully, mindfully, in the appropriate storage container…
  2. Then take a break.  This step is paramount.  Step one was, after all, emotionally taxing…
  3. Fix yourself a cup of coffee and grab a holiday cookie.  In my case, I had a large holiday cookie tin filled with homemade Pizzelles.
  4. Sit down and savor the cookie whilst admiring the tree. Then, of course, you’ll need to spend time cleaning up the powdered sugar that has fallen everywhere.
  5. Return to step one to begin the process again.
Until next Christmas Mr. Nutcracker

So, I have packed it all away, save for the outdoor lights which is not in my job description (hint, hint Rocket-man!) and am officially kissing Christmas 2019 goodbye. Now begins, in earnest a scaling back on all things coated with powdered sugar and the like.

I’m okay with that. Christmas 2020 is 351 days away. Besides, patience is a virtue, right?

There is bliss in that.

It’s a wrap…well, without the bows.

Twelfth Night Blues

Photo by Cristina Crawford

Peeps…I’m dragging my feet today.

No…It’s not due to fatigue, although I am tired from a small get-together I threw on Friday evening. It’s been many moons since I’ve properly entertained, and it was a spur of the moment decision, so I was anxious about the whole thing.  I was relieved to have my sis’s help hours before folks started ringing the doorbell.  While the planning, cooking and cleaning was a wee bit stressful since I was out of practice, in the end–I’m happy to report– it was all a delightful success.  We noshed on an assortment of Italian munchies I had put together such as an Italian version of deviled eggs–uova in funghetto— which are boiled eggs bathed in a spicy tomato sauce.  Polenta bites and dips of delicious sun-dried tomato and chickpea and spinach and artichoke were a hit.  It was the muffaletta sliders that would steal my husband’s heart.  Stuffed with my favorite Italian “deli” meat, mortadella, as well as provolone, soppressata, cappacolla, and a heavenly olive tapanade, he would have eaten a dozen of them before guests arrived if allowed.  My heart went for a new recipe I tried of stuffed mushrooms–so delicious was this recipe that my soul was singing with joy as the smell of garlic, cheese and white wine permeated every room in the house.

…and don’t get me started on dessert.  Between my ricotta cheesecake squares, pecan pie from Mom’s pie shop in nearby Occocuan, and homemade pizzelles at the hands of my nephew Alexandre-the-Greatest, you can, kind reader, understand why I am not hopping on the weight scale anytime soon!

To be clear, I’m dragging my feet for an entirely different reason than post-party “hangover.”

I’m simply not ready to pack Christmas away for another eleven months.

I believe I am not alone in thinking that this holiday season flashed by in blink of an eye.  For me anyway, It is still a blur of lights, wrapping paper, bows and pomegranate martinis.  Furthermore, it confounds me every year that it takes days to decorate for the holidays but minutes to take everything down! For example, it took me the better part of an hour to get Christmas greenery with lights and pretty silver bows to look just so on the entryway stairs. It took two minutes to take it all down.  Two minutes!

Now It is the last night of the twelve days of Christmas, the eve of Epiphany when the Magi visited the newborn baby Jesus, carrying with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  There is an intentional slowness about me today knowing that tomorrow morning I’ll be taking the Christmas tree down and once again, packing away with a certain tenderness, mixed with nostalgia, all the ornaments and Christmas decor.  I struggle too with memories of Epiphanies long ago when my children were young.  How excited they were about the coming of La Befana, the Italian good witch…an old woman flying around the world on her broom bringing sweet treats and small gifts to children everywhere.  In our home, on the eve of Epiphany,  I’d leave a basket by a window and watch with delight as the kids found La Befana’s gifts of candy and a small toy the next morning.

Sigh. My eyes well up with tears as I type. So many memories.  It’s all good though…even the less than stellar holidays.  I’m lucky to have them all…so much better than the alternative!

So kind readers, Happy New Year! Cheers to 2020. May the year be filled with love, joy, kindness and even 2020 insight. But, more importantly, may there be an abundance of blissful moments for you and yours.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash