We had so much fun together. Ama and I were chaperones for Callum's class trip to the Nutcracker. The last time I'd been to the Nutcracker was when Ama chaperoned my class trip. She was here for the school holiday program (and let me just say, much improved over last year. really.) and general Christmas-y stuff. The cookies were key.
So we had a mini Christmas last night (two! Christmases!). And opened some presents.
Callum's favorite gift from Ama was a robe. He's been wanting one for ages, even before Harry Potter and dress robes and class robes and Quiddich robes. He loved his robe. Wore it all eveing (stripping down into jammies right in the living room), slept under it and only took it off when the neighborhood boys wanted to go out and play.
Some Tintin of his own rounded out the night. Not too shabby. It's cold, cold here today. So Neel started a fire for us, with clear and grave concerns about our ability to tend it. My mom has this ginormous fireplace in her house, and she has a fair hand with a fire. I'll have to get her method sometime. But I'm not doing too badly here.
And now what's left is the clean up and gearing up for Alfie. He comes tomorrow and there is laundry to be done, beds to be made, surfaces to be cleared...gifts to be wrapped! And all I want to do is knit or research lavish and expensive knitting projects. I love winter break.
It's fascinating to me how the universe hands you just what you need...although not always in the way that you think would be most helpful. Yesterday morning, I was sort of be-moaning our busy weekend. After a crazy and hard camp week, all I wanted (and felt we needed) was rest, rest and maybe a little more rest. But summer is busy. We wanted to pick up golf shoes for Neel, check out a stone yard for some possibilities for a new patio, Neel and Callum had karate and I needed to get to the grocery store. There are also those concerts we've been enjoying on Saturday nights. We wanted to get over to that again too.
And then Callum came downstairs from bed with his eye completely gunked over, and, well... pink.
Every thing changed after that. All our plans came to a full stop. The dreaded pink eye. After a quick trip to our doctor's after hours clinic we came home for the duration. We've all had pink eye, but this I don't remember about conjunctivitis: Callum felt crummy all day and his temp jumped way up yesterday afternoon. He fell asleep twice and clearly felt miserable. I don't remember feeling sick with pink eye, just pitching a big fit when it was time for the drops. And fear not, we're getting that too.
I did go to the grocery store, but other than that we've been holed in all weekend. Marking time with Johnny Quest videos and the rest we all need. I did some cooking yesterday. Made the potatoes that are on the cover of the Splendid Table cook book, and some southern style green beans, designed more for nourishment of the soul than the body. Simmering them all day with brown sugar and bacon tends to eliminate the nutrient factor.
Camp again next week, our last of the summer. It's cooking camp and I'm with the older kids this time. They can be sassy, but that's a different set of problems than with the younger set. I leaned my head out the door on Friday to tell our camp director, "You owe me big."
"Who pooped?" was her immediate response. It was a poop and a pee (two different kids), but who's counting. I think I need to rest up.
We're back at Summer Camp this week (it's nearly killing me this go around), and Callum and I are both coming home tired and cranky (who me?). Until I have the energy for a real post, I thought I'd tide you over with some of our summer days. This first picture was taken at the bay this weekend. Just the three of us hanging in the water. The red flags were up along the oceanfront (thanks to rough surf and rip currents), so we opted for calmer waters.
I had a great morning on Saturday. Went for a run, came home, waited on the front porch for Neel to get up and make coffee. Once he did, we lingered together while Callum slept on, we chatted some and I was able to go almost cover to cover in this cookbook. What slow-paced relaxing bliss.
On Saturday evening, the 'hood traipsed over to the campus of the local university for an outdoor concert. These are free every Saturday in summer (that night was bluegrass), and a wonderful, wonderful way to spend the evening. Expect more posts from this patch of grass in the coming weeks.
Even before we got the Wii and Callum became a pro at tennis, Neel had been talking about teaching him to play. We both have played off and on in our distant past (I calculated on Sunday that it had been 25 years since I'd last played tennis. YIKES.), but this was a pastime that followed neither of us into adulthood.
Neel was talking about it so much that Callum and I decided to get him a racket for Father's Day. And really, for this to work, we had to get Callum a racket too. Happy Father's Day, Callum! And suddenly, tennis is back in our lives.
It's been a long time. When I was really young, younger than Callum is now, we lived in a great old house across the street from the small liberal arts college that my parents had attended and where they met. That college campus was a big, big part of my life when we lived in that house. All sorts of memories have come flooding back as I write this. I'm sure I'll start exploring them on this blog at some point. Anyhoo... tennis. Right directly across the street from our house was the entrance to the college and the college tennis courts. Mom and Dad, you'll have to help me out here, but my first memory of being on a tennis court is of riding my trike around as my parents played. We did this a lot. Lots of Saturdays, I think. And I may have whapped the ball a time or two. The image in my mind is of old, cracked courts and ginormous magnolia trees with lots of dropped leaves. I think, on one side of the courts, you had to go down a hill to get in. Am I right? Those courts aren't there anymore.
We moved, and moved again, and I was a teenager and there were courts nearby again. Around that time I was also going to camp, and every summer I signed up for tennis as one of my classes. Again, beat up courts surrounded by trees always dropping their leaves around the edges. My main memories of tennis at camp are how bloody hot it was and this one camp counselor who made the mistake of calling me, "Watch" one day when he needed to know what time it was. Of course I developed a HUGE crush on him (I was twelve, people, give me a break.) and we got to be great friends. But again, I digress. I didn't really think I learned much at those tennis sessions, but I learned on Sunday that some of it "took."
So here's the really cool part. The house that we live in now is several blocks away from a local university campus. We're not really as connected to this campus as I was to the one I grew up near, but we get down there enough. Bike rides, usually. Someday football. But now, there's tennis. So this school recently opened a multi-million dollar indoor/outdoor tennis facility, and man, it's a doozy. We thought that the outdoor courts were free to the public, but that was too much like history repeating itself. Still, for a mere $10 an hour, you could get a court, indoors or out. Indoors: you know, air conditioning. Not bloody hot.
The goal was to introduce Callum to tennis, and we did that. But I was surprised at how much fun Neel and I had. My backhand is still (oddly enough) better than my forehand, and I'm clearly tilting my racket, causing some serious pop-ups. I never had a serve before, but Sunday, I did. And by "having a serve", I mean "throw the ball up, hitting it with the racket and getting it across the net." Go figure. Neel's skill is what he remembered, and he did a great job guiding Callum through his first attempts. And Callum, as with everything he tries along these lines, picked it up quickly. He amazes me.
Oh, we had a great Father's Day yesterday. Neel deserves it (Not that my poor dad doesn't. He spent his Father's Day on a plane, waiting two hours for his luggage and then an hour and a half cab ride with a manic cab driver. Happy Father's Day, Dad!). If I had to create the image of a dad for my son, I couldn't have picked a better model than Neel. It's hard for me to write about what he means to me and our family. So I won't. I'll tell you about our day instead.
We played a little tennis and watched the start of The Queen. We looked for honeysuckle and climbing hydrangeas at a garden center (to no avail) and wandered around a sporting goods store before watching Callum scale the rock climbing wall. We cooked out and had pie. We started the day with Meet the Press and ended it watching golf. "Neel," I said, "we're getting old." I can't imagine a better man, or a better dad to grow old with.
It was already 81 degrees when I got up before 6 a.m. this morning. Yikes! And looking like our third or fourth day in a row of near or over 100 degree temperatures. You'll rarely hear this said in my family, but it's pretty much too hot to even go to the beach.
Oh, but it's summer vacation. Bliss. I had my last faculty meeting of the school year yesterday, and although I'll be working over the summer, the schedule shifts and softens into easier. A lot of what I need to do I can do from home, and I'm finally starting to settle into the realization that we're, for the next ten weeks at least, a bit freer. Like I said, bliss. A weight I didn't know was there has lifted a bit. It's the gift of time, really. I look around at my house, at all the disorder and disarray, and I'm thrilled to have the time to tend to things. To clean up and clean out and paint the dining room and pay attention to the blog and cook and sew.
Callum and I made all sorts of summer plans over lunch yesterday. He has some work to do himself to get ready for third grade, and he'll have to go into my office once a week or so with me, but we seem to have mapped out the plans for a pretty nice routine. It will involve the Wii a good bit, I have a feeling. When I got home yesterday it was pushing 101 and I told Callum that I would not press him to play outside. So he worked on his tennis skills while I payed bills, and then we made soup.
Chilled Avocado Soup, to be precise. Before we did anything else, Callum read the recipe for me and we determined that we needed to chill it for two to three hours before serving. So soup before Wii. Callum did so much of the work for this. We cooked together some last summer, but it's amazing the difference a year can bring. I told him to get out a step stool, and I was the only one who needed it!
He chopped all the avocados, measured the yogurt and chicken stock, stirred the soup and even helped clean up. As my friend Ben is always saying, "many hands make light work." This extra set of hands make the work light and fun, for sure.
The soup itself was pretty good. Not a home run. I added some cumin, and that helped. It was a bit thick. More smoothie than soup, perhaps. I have to say, gang, that the consistency reminded me of Jen's avocado salsa at Gringos, so with some adjustments to the seasonings we may be onto something here. First summer supper. Good with BLTs too.
Here's a close up of Blue Rain Room, a painting from my dad for my birthday. He's been on a real sculpting and painting tear lately and the results are quite spectacular.
Full on: we have it propped on the mantle for now. There's no good spot, nor good light, in the actual Blue Rain Room, so this piece is awaiting a permanent home. It might be the mantle, but it might be somewhere else entirely. Haven't decided yet.
Oh what a lovely birthday. I mean it, I've had the loveliest celebration that lasted days and days. I've had, as I mentioned before, a slew of not-so-special birthdays, from plain old meh to downright miserable. Not this year. This year I felt cherished and loved and celebrated just the way a person should be on her birthday.
I took a great yoga class, and it was thrilling to watch friend after friend walk in to join us. Then off to lunch for more surprise guests and a fabulous meal. Not to mention presents! I wasn't expecting presents!
We snacked on chicken and olives and pistachios and champagne and watched Callum chase away the seagulls and the fog roll in. I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I love the ocean and how grateful I am to live near it. But those are thoughts for another post.
On Friday night, SOBO helped me celebrate with a fire pit, lots of food and, ahem, lots to drink too. It was my favorite kind of Friday evening. Hanging out in my most comfy clothes, kids and dogs running around. The buzz of laughter swirling around me.
Tyler made rum punch, Jean made Sangria, Rebecca made this lovely dessert and all I had to do was show up!
Even Bear Grills says there's nothing better for morale than a fire.
I love this picture of the morning after...testament to the wonderful evening we had. And even after that, the festivities weren't finished. Neel took me to dinner on Saturday night and surprised me with even more friends....my very favorite way to spend an evening. Good food, good drink, and the warm and wonderful company of those I am fondest of. My only regret was not having my camera handy, for lunch on my birthday, for dinner last night, for the tulips my dad sent me and for the extra helping of dessert that Rebecca made for my breakfast (right Neel?).
So here we are at thirty-eight, facing a whole new year. This past year has been a good one, and I have high hopes for the next. I guess birthdays are time to take stock, and I've been doing that too. I'll probably process that here as I figure out what is going on. For now it's enough to face the busy last months of school, Callum's play next weekend, and the one year anniversary of this little blog. I've been considering an overhaul...what do you think?
Never, in a million years, did I expect these words to come out of my child's mouth:
"I am obsessed with knitting."
And you know what? He pretty much is. I'm thrilled about this on several levels, not least of which is that the first time or two I tried to teach him were most decidedly unsuccessful. For my dexterity challenged son, this is a huge accomplishment, and I'm proud to say that he has more than risen to it. Given what a lousy teacher his mother is, his feat was even more momentous.
Not wanting to stop there, we decided to teach Ama how to knit too. We spent several lovely hours in front of the fire on a chilly Easter morning just...knitting.
Callum really wanted the whole family to be knitting, but alas, this is as far as Neel got. (And really, why "alas"? He was bitching and moaning the whole way. Much better to keep his hands free to poke the fire.)
Despite the inevitable tangles, I couldn't be happier. It's thrilling to hear him say, "Oh good! We can knit while we watch the basketball game!" And as we were reading The Phantom Toolbooth last night, I looked down to see his hands trying each gesture, his index fingers as needles. It's more than just the knitting really, it's this boy getting his fingers to do the little things he wants them too.
Of course none of this would be possible without the dedicated assistance of our noble friend.
Optional, but totally necessary, cookie baking. Oh my gosh, those cookies are good. Aren't they pretty too? We used a cookie decorating kit that my mom brought along with the egg decorating kit. Both were from Williams-Sonoma, and while short on directions, they were loads of fun. The cookie recipe came on the back of the box of cookie cutters, and can I just say, cream cheese? Oh, delish. We have a tried and true cookie cutter recipe that has seen this family through generations of Christmases and Valentine's Day. This new recipe may have trumped that. It's hard to feel nostalgic for Joy of Cooking's rich roll cookies when there's cream cheese involved.
And then there was dinner. Roasted corn casserole, asparagus with almond-lemon butter and ham with a molasses-coffee glaze. The glaze made it, really. Not too sweet, slightly smoky with a coffee undertone.
Good dinner, good day, good times.
The best Easter present of all was the first-of-spring arrival of our very first nephew! Welcome to the world Baby Kieran Sebastian! We haven't even met him and we're in love with him already.
Neel's mom was Irish (she's the lassie on the right). She immigrated to the US in the early sixties where she met Neel's dad who is Indian. Our family joke is that they fell in love over their united hatred of the British. She was born in 1939 in Southern Ireland and had memories of seeing Nazi ships (and British ships) come into the harbor near where she lived. Neel's granddad, her father, had general store on the border of Southern and Northern Ireland, and she and her brothers and sisters would sneak goods across the border into the north. Her siblings ended up as nurses, a drunk and a priest. How much more Irish can you get?
It's no wonder that we all feel a little greener today. We celebrated yesterday with corned beef and cabbage (not actually an Irish dish) and Guinness (extra stout!), and today, I'll leave you to celebrate with this. A poem by one of my favorites and of the Ireland's greatest.
When You are Old, William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with a love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the shadows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
...For May 4th where Callum will play the role of the Lion in our school's production of The Wizard of Oz.
I've been feeling pretty low the past few days, but this news perked us right up! Callum kept asking if it was a big part and Neel had to dash out and bring home Judy Garland. The Civil War will linger on one night longer.
Oh, and if you head over to npr.org there's a cool article about extreme knitting. Makes me feel like a total slacker for being on such scarf kick these days. Rectangle, rectangle, rectangle. Blah, blah, blah. Sort of how I've been feeling lately. Blah.
I'm going to click my heels together and hope for sunnier skies tomorrow.
Oh, happy happy birthday to my best beloved and dearest friend. We've spent more birthdays together than we have apart now... I'm grateful for every single one, and I look forward to all the rest. I love you like the stars above...
Well, I took a little bit of a break there didn't I? That was unexpected. I kinda thought I'd blog a lot while we were home from work and school, but no go, huh? I never dreamed that I'd ever work at a school (now that's a whole other post), but I love the build up to the holiday break. The concerts, the parties, the wee gifties in my mailbox. A school is a vibrant place to be when the kids are about to go on vacation. The teachers and staff get a little excited too. As exciting as it was, boy we all needed a break. And we took one too. Here's a brief recap.
It all started when my dad got here for Christmas. We went to dinner a lot. We went to the mall a lot. We went to the grocery store a lot. We ate a lot and drank a lot. I think there were cookies too. Thank God my mom sent them or we wouldn't have had them otherwise. I kept trying to figure how we had Christmas cookies every year when both my parents worked full time. I just can't get it all pulled together. And then I realized that my grandmas always stepped in and made us cookies. Well, Ama (Callum's grandma) stepped in and made us cookies. Ama to the rescue. You've heard all about our SOBO progressive dinner, boy that was fun. But there were other parties too. There were oyster roasts (I ate oysters!), and a lovely Christmas Eve Eve party where someone asked my dad if he'd ever considered retirement communities (If you've ever met my dad, you'd know how funny that is. And if you've ever met me, you'll be able to guess how quickly we turned "retirement community" into "assisted living." Sorry Dad. You know we're not thinking along those lines yet.) Nice evening. We ate chili and drank beer and sat under a tent in the dark back yard as the rain dripped down. It was good to just sit and let Christmas slip up on us.
On Christmas Eve morning our fridge died. Right after we did all of the grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner. That was fun. Neel moved all of our frozen stuff to a freezer in the lab... and I promise that's not as scary as it sounds. We made do with two mini fridges and a cooler on the back porch for the almost two weeks it took to get the damn thing fixed.
Christmas Eve evening was great, sausages and seven-layer salad. Oh how I love seven-layer salad. It was the kind of the kind of salad I never had except at a potluck. And you knew it was a good potluck if someone brought seven-layer salad. And then one Christmas, when Neel and I were living in Pennsylvania, after my Grandad had his stroke, we were all gathered at my Grandparent's house for Christmas. On Christmas Eve a friend of my grandparents came by and brought us a seven-layer salad. I can still picture him, and I have no idea who it was, silhouetted by bright sunshine in the arched door of my grandparent's home. It was a generous gift, really thoughtful at that time of year when you're busy doing cooking and baking for your own family. He didn't linger. He handed it off and ran, and ever since I have had this image of some friend of my Grandma Charlotte's making that salad and then sending her husband out to deliver it. And that day was the first time it occurred to me that I could actually make seven-layer salad. Okay, so I'm a little slow, but I've been making it ever since. What a lot to say about seven-layer salad. I'm glad we had it on Christmas Eve. And then Santa dialed up an early Christmas present when the San Diego Chargers won their game against the Broncos, but that meant we stayed up late and totally forgot to leave him milk and cookies. I'm hoping that by bribing him with Scotch next year, he'll forgive us.
Par for the course, Callum slept in on Christmas morning, but that meant I could get up and make bread pudding for Christmas breakfast. We ate that while we opened presents. There were a lot of presents... it took hours. We talked to friends and family and settled in for the day. We stacked our presents under the tree and looked at new books and kept the fire burning. I always knit something for myself on Christmas so I worked on a scarf while Neel, Callum and my dad put together roller coasters and played video games. We had Beef Wellington for dinner and chestnut soup and lots of Champagne.
After Christmas things become a blur. We went to the mall to spend gift cards (just trying to do our part to keep the US economy plugging along), and went out to a last dinner with my dad before taking him to the airport. Pretty sharpish after Christmas I took down the tree. As much as I love putting the Christmas stuff up, oh, I love taking it back down. It felt so good that I rearranged our living room and tv room and have all sorts of plans for remodels we can't afford. We had a lovely brunch with some good friends on a gray and rainy Sunday. A fire in the fireplace, she crab soup, ham biscuits, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, egg and cheese casserole. Man, I love brunch. I wish we did it more. We should do it more. It was just the best way to while away a dreary afternoon.
Oh the things we did over this lovely long break. We played games, both video and board. We watched football, both college and pro. The dogs escaped at least three times. Once on Christmas morning. My personal favorite was when it happened right after Neel came in and announced, "They're not getting out now." I finished my scarf and promptly sprained my wrist, so that was the end of knitting for awhile. I had a New Year's Eve lunch with some girlfriends where we struggled to come up with some decent resolutions. We split our New Year's Eve with friends and family. We sipped Patrone from the bottle and ate salmon fresh from Alaska. We drank (more) Champagne and we watched movies and played with a Wii. (Some of us are still yearning for said Wii.) We stayed up till midnight (no small feat for this family!) and shot off bottle rockets. Welcome, 2008.
Oh the things we did this long and lovely break. It's no wonder we all look like this (the girls got matching collars and leashes in their stocking). We're coasting into the weekend with more football, more games and more relaxing. It's been a great finish to 2007 and a great start to 2008. I've been doing a lot of thinking about things. Those of you who know me or who have been hanging out in the Blue Rain Room a while now know me well enough to know I'll be talking about all of those things soon enough.
We started the day with a conked-out fridge (great timing, huh?), and are finishing it with a frenzy of wrapping. In between was a requisite trip to the mall and some present delivery. Christmas Eve is such a funny mix of frantic and final. You hit a point where there is nothing left to do...or at least nothing else you can do.
Traditionally, we'll have sausages for dinner tonight. This dates back to Christmases spent with a German friend of ours and it stuck. And then we'll settle in. It's funny. When I did that Christmas meme, it made me think about how differently Neel and I have framed Christmas for our family than how I spent Christmas growing up. My dad and I talked about it a little this week. For him, it was some about the presents, but a lot about the fighting going on around him too. For me there was none of that. My grandparents were there. Black bean soup for dinner with Moyers potato chips. When I was very small we went to Christmas Eve services, but as I grew older we stopped doing that. We opened our presents on Christmas Eve (here's hoping Callum doesn't read this!) and Santa came on Christmas morning. It was all about the presents the food and the love. I thought we did it perfectly and loved every minute of it.
We do it very differently now, and I still think it's pretty perfect. A big part of me misses having a place to go for Christmas Eve services, but we haven't found our home for that yet. So tonight we'll eat some sausages and watch some San Diego Chargers football. We'll open our presents on Christmas morning, with Bloody Marys and bread pudding, and finish the day with Beef Wellington and a lot of champagne.
What a month it's been. I didn't do a lot of crafting or baking or any of the other things I used to do when I was home with my boy and didn't have a job to go to everyday, but man, we had a lot of fun. School's out now, so we'll see what the next few weeks bring. I feel like my family is wrapped around me right now, in the best of ways. Merry, merry Christmas. My heart is full.