Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Girly Girl Weekend

I guess I started my weekend a little early, with a Yellow Springs jaunt with my cousin Leah. My aunt Jeanie was planning to go, too, but the bronchitis had not let go of her yet. So, it was just the two of us. We started with lunch at The Winds, always a good thing in my book. We split the Winter Is Upon Us salad, mixed greens with pear slices, cheddar, fennel pistachios and a pear vinaigrette as an appetizer. Then, she chose the steak frites with garlic aioli and I had the Blue Christmas, a dish I dream about all year. It's very simple, but very good. It combines Christmas limas with cabbage, blue cheese and hot rice. Dessert was their incomparable chocolate mousse for me & Jeni's fabulous cognac ice cream, with a shortbread cookie, for Leah. After lunch, the snow was coming down in giant gorgeous flakes, making it seem like we were living a fairy tale. We poked around the shops & I picked up a few little things for J's stocking. On the way home, we hit Target for a few things, including a sweet little purse for me to carry to the seminary's Christmas Ball.

There was just enough time for me to have a tub and primp for the ball. I dressed in a black taffeta ball skirt, dark red velvet bustier with beadwork and little black velvet jacket. Of course, I wore my tiara, with dangly rhinestone earrings & a matching necklace. My new little purse, with a sparkling rhinestone clip, and my princess shoes (black satin mules with rhinestone straps) finished off the outfit. I drove over to Dayton, chatting with my cousin Nola about scheduling a visit, giving my car to the valet and walking into the hotel with a small amount of social anxiety. Grace and her fiancé invited me to sit with them. She looked lovely, in a black and white gown and filmy wrap. The ball was interesting, with some nondescript hors d'oeuvres, a worship service in the middle and a lot of people in much dressier clothes than I usually get to see them wearing. When Shane and the other Grace walked in, I thought, "Wow, they look like they should be at the Oscars." Grace was all glammy in a stunning red satin gown she had made. It looked like the stuff of designers' dreams. I was happiest of all to see Laura & Brendan. Laura cracked me up when they were leaving, saying the ball was "kind of like the Taliban hosting a wine tasting." I talked Grace into taking my package, a pink boa in a Tinkerbell gift bag. I'd looked for a tiara, but hadn't found a suitable one. Grace was trying to talk Jared's fiancée into taking it & I finally told her just to take it. She loved it & posed for pictures. The gift I chose turned out to be homemade cherry jam. I was thrilled with it.

I was so thrilled, in fact, that I was showing it off at the after-party upstairs in the hotel's rooftop lounge. Martin asked what kind & I told him. He grinned & said, "I know who picked those cherries" and pointed to himself. His wife had pitted them & made the jam. Yum. We had a nice time visiting & listening to the band. I had a bowl of French onion soup and a couple of Starliner martinis, made with espresso, Stoli Vanilla, Bailey's and Frangelico. Finlly, just before midnight, the party began to break up. I drove out of the parking lot, feeling like Cinderella leaving the ball, at 11:59. Funny what constitutes a late night these days. That is, when I'm not staying up until 3 or 4 to finish a project I've procrastinated on doing.

Saturday morning, I packed my bags, loaded the car & headed for Medina. My women's art group was getting together for a Christmas lunch at Miss Molly's Tea Room (www.missmollys.net) and then having dessert at Lee's house. We had a wonderful time, with delicious lady food. I chose the tea sandwich sampler, with small heart-shaped tuna salad, chicken salad and pimiento cheese sandwiches. I had strawberry pretzel salad on the side and Christmas tea to drink. Everyone (but me-I have to finish mine & mail them out) had brought little gifts for one another. They were so festive, passed around the table in their charming wrapping. There was everything from scrumptious treats to art supplies to hand-crafted ornaments. Mine will probably pale in comparison. I felt bad, too, that I hadn't completed them in time to bring them, but everyone was very gracious. I hope they like them. Our visit to Lee's house was great fun, with a tour of her elegantly decorated house and her swoon-worthy art space. My favorite part, though, was her 5 cats.

I arrived home around 5:30 and had a little nap with J before it was time to head out to her company Christmas party. Pie came home for the weekend, skipping his wrestling tournament to do so. Boot chose to stay in PA for the tournament. J had given them the choice regarding what to do, but invited Boot out to dinner, at least, if he chose to stay. When she arrived at the house to pick them up, their father told Pie to tell J that Boot didn't want to see her. Pie actually told her the truth, which was that Boot was at the high school running with the varsity team. He ran in to get Boot and the three of them had a nice dinner together. What an evil man their father is. Just nasty! I expect Pie will catch bloody hell for choosing to spend the weekend with us and for telling the truth about his brother's whereabouts. I am really proud of him for acting with integrity.

I am also proud of how well-behaved he was at the party, how good-natured he was with everyone & how he went ahead & bowled even though he isn't very good at it. I am not such a fan of bowling alleys, but it was great to be with J and Pie. We went home fairly early. I was glad Pie wanted to go because I was ready, too. I'd taken a book, but it felt kinda wrong to whip it open & start reading. I felt rather like Graham. We saw some beautiful Christmas lights on the way home.

In the morning, J and I went to church, where the kids did a mixed media pageant that combined the stories of Jesus' birth, the little drummer boy and interviews of families in the congregation about their Christmas traditions. It was really sweet and it was fun to hear about the other people's traditions. What a cool idea to interview everyone. After church, we went home and summoned Pie from his lair. He was having a blast playing video games & was not very interested in being taken out for a special birthday lunch. We offered Dave & Buster's, we offered Red Lobster. He chose gas station food, much to J's chagrin. But, hey, he was the birthday boy & he got to choose. We ate at a BP & then took Pie to the video game store to spend his birthday money. J also showed me the games she would like if I get her a DS for Christmas.

Pie spent the afternoon blissed out on his new games while we watched a special about the best Christmas towns in the U.S. We made time before we had to return Pie for cake and singing. He was so sweet as he blew out his candles. I hope he made a good wish. He ate a bunch of cake, saying he wanted to have as much of it as he could while he was with us because his dad wouldn't let him have it at home. He said if we sent it home with him, his dad would just tell him wrestlers don't eat food like that & would take it away & eat it his own self. What a nasty man.

He drowsed all the way home as J and I made plans for my graduation party menu. He gave us sweet hugs & headed inside. We stopped at Bob Evans for dinner on the way home and went to bed fairly promptly once home. Last weekend of my commuting career! I am so glad I get to be with J all week soon, instead of just on weekends.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving & After-Party at Hickory Hill

We celebrated Thursday with the boys. J went to pick them up while I stayed home & cooked & decorated the table. We got fall leaf confetti & turkey paper plates & napkins. I put cream-colored candles in the crystal candle holders my almost-grandma gave me. I put out the (now-unusable but still cool) turkey salt & peppers that belonged to my great-grandmother & were on the table every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My grandmom gave them to me two years ago, along with the cut-glass compote she always put the raspberry Jell-o in. I also put out leaf/acorn salt & peppers we bought this year that actually work. By the time J & the boys got home at 11, the house looked very festive indeed. The boys were on good behavior, which was nice. Boot hung out with us in the kitchen for a while, then watched football while we finished cooking. Pie was friendly, but went pretty much immediately to his room to play X Box. He doesn't get to play live at his dad's, so he was anxious to re-connect with his game buddies online. He did come up every once in awhile to say hello & drink some olive juice. He has loved that since he was little and it's a special treat we don't often let him have. Funny treat, eh? The sodium worries us, though, so he doesn't usually get it & it becomes a treat.

We sat down to the table at 2, so we all had time to relax before we had to take the boys home at 7. Boot opted for a nap, as did J. Pie played video games & I watched the Macy's parade, which I had recorded in the morning. Our feast consisted of a turkey cooked Nigella Lawson's way (we debated the best way to cook it & I won), mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, rolls w/pumpkin butter, cranberry sauce, raspberry Jell-o with raspberries in it, pumpkin pie, derby pie and peanut butter pie.

After we took the boys home, we drove back to our place and flopped on the couch with leftovers for dinner. J didn't have to work in the morning, so we got to bed kind of late and then lazed in bed in the morning. Then, we got up & ran some errands before coming home to work on an invite list for my graduation party. I then packed my bags (seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time packing & unpacking bags these days!) and loaded the car. I headed for my mom's in West Virginia and J headed east to pick up the boys for the weekend. Yes, we had them Thanksgiving from 9-9 and then for the weekend, yet their father wouldn't allow us just to keep them for the time between 9 Thursday and 6 Friday. An extra 6 hours of travel time due to his desire to spite J. What a petty little man. it's not like he actually enjoys their company.

I arrived at my mom's around 7:30, after stopping in Sissonville for blue cheese and finding that the bakery had the most adorable chocolate-dipped pretzel rods & candy canes. I hadn't thought of dipping candy canes, but I plan to now. I had to pick some up, along with a packet of cheese straws. I love good cheese straws! My mom had just arrived on the ATV when I drove up, so we unloaded my bags onto the ATV and headed down the road. The big hill is not nearly so scary when the road is dry! The mud really makes it slick, so I was happy not to have rain. It's also lots more pleasant not to get wet! When we got close, I could see the cozy kerosene glow coming from their house. I love that. I could also smell the woodsmoke from the stoves in the house & the shack.

We sat around & visited Friday night, having Boca burgers for dinner & listening to "This American Life." I'd taken a bag of magazines and an Advent calendar for my mom & it was fun to watch her go through that. I was unhappy with myself, though, for leaving the recipes I'd meant for her at home. Oh, well, I can send a package. Maybe I'll include some fudge or something. I'm hoping to have time to make fudge this week for my classes. My friend Mandi offered to share Paula Deen's recipe for fudge made with Velveeta. I am scared of that! Graham was very happy with the peanut brittle I made for him, so I bet some fudge would be appreciated, too. Just not with processed cheese food in it! I do want to try it, out of curiosity, but not when I am feeding it to other people.

My mom came over & slept in the shack loft with me. She'd gotten the fire going nicely, so we were toasty warm for the night. Of course, we weren't so toasty when we awoke in the morning to discover that the fire had gone out, but with the nice thick blanket she's got, we were fine. We went over to the house for breakfast, egg and cheese muffins my mom put together. I also got to go through a bunch of old photos and pick ones for my collection. She had a big stack of children's books to show me (Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, one by Toni Morrison about the end of segregation) and Graham had some photography books for me to see, too. They also checked out a Martha Stewart book about Halloween from the library for me to see. My mom has discovered that she really likes Martha Stewart's ideas & recipes. Yay. We both really want to make these little crepe paper pumpkins that you put treats inside. They are like the magical crepe paper balls that my mom made us for Christmas a couple years ago, spilling out little trinkets and candies as you unwrap.

We went out & raked leaves, too, gathering piles on a blue tarp and hauling them to the big leaf pile. Graham was up on the rooftops doing the gutters while we did that. He got some cool pictures of the buildings from the roof of the house. Bobo was busy relaxing in the center of our ring of leaves. He is so cute! They continued to work on gutters and my mom was holding a ladder for Graham. I noticed Bobo sitting in grey and white splendor right on the top rung of the ladder as Graham cleared leaves. When I went inside for my camera, he ran down the ladder and moved on to his next activity. Pity. It would've made a great picture. While they finished up the gutters, I went in & finished my book pile. I'm glad my mom loves children's books as much as I do.

We headed down to Lenore's around 5 for dinner & a movie. I was sorry I'd forgotten to bring "The Lost City" but Graham had gotten "To Have and To Have Not" from Netflix and it was fun to see that. I'd never seen it before. My mom & Graham had just read the story & were blown away by how much Faulkner altered the story for the screenplay. I was impressed that the film had Hemingway as author of the original book and Faulkner doing the screenplay. I didn't even know Faulkner did screenplays.

Before the movie, my mom and I made dinner. I did a pumpkin potato pie from Rachael Ray's magazine (and boy, was it good) and a chocolate pecan pie (I forgot the Jack Daniels for derby pie at home, so I considered subbing rum but forgot to stir it in before dumping the filling into the crust-twas good anyway). My mom did a salad with iceberg lettuce (Lenore can't have spinach or more exotic lettuces because she's on Coumadin), chopped pears, blue cheese and walnut pieces. After the movie, my mom and I got out our flashlights & got back into our boots and hiking mindsets. It's hard to imagine doing that hike every Saturday night at midnight or later just to get home after going to dinner and watching a movie! I managed okay both directions, but I was glad to climb up in the loft & read when we got back! When I awoke to the sound of rain Sunday, I uttered a little prayer of thanks that the rain held off until our hike was past. Walking that sloppy road in the rain, with the orange clay mud adhering to your boots and making them slick and heavy, is no fun. It's those nights that I am especially grateful when Graham has gone ahead and lit the lanterns, because they are the most welcome sight in the world when you're wet and road-shocked!

We visited over a bagel breakfast, then got to work (play!) on making popcorn & cranberry garlands while Graham worked on organizing all their information on gas wells. The gas company wants to drill a well very close to their house and because my mom & Graham don't have mineral rights, they don't have a say. However, they want to know as much as possible about it so they can hold the gas company to the standards they are supposed to follow. It makes me sick to think of all those beautiful woods being desecrated for the sake of another gas well. There is one along the road to Hickory Hill and it seems odd that they have to have another so close by. I am praying that they somehow decide not to drill after all. Odds are way against that, but miracles do occur. Graham showed me pictures they took on a "field trip" to a gas well being drilled and it looks awful. My mom compared it to something the White Witch did to Narnia and Graham mentioned Sauron.

Viva joined us on the couch as we strung the garlands. Luckily, she was more interested in pets and sleep than in playing with the string. Had it been Bobo, we would not have had it so easy! When we'd finished, we went over to the garden and hung the tied-together garlands on a cedar tree for the birds to munch. It looked so festive & pretty! Then, we took a lunch of popcorn with nutritional yeast, cheese and cranberry sauce over to the shack while Graham napped. We sat by the woodstove, ate and talked. Too soon, it was time for me to pack up & leave. Graham got my things wrapped in plastic & loaded on the ATV for the ride out. They are so organized. I wouldn't begin to know how to live out there. The ride up the big hill was plenty nerve-wracking with the slippery mud, but we made it just fine (and with not too much mud on our pants). I was glad, though, to have a hood on that covered my eyes! We bid one another farewell. It was easier to leave knowing that we'll see each other again in just a couple of weeks. She's coming for my last week of school & my graduation. Yippee!

On my way back through Sissonville, I had to stop at Tudor's Biscuit World. They are usually not open when I am going through, so I took advantage of the hour and got a sausage biscuit for the road. My drive home was fine, just dull and rainy. I don't like going home to Cleveland from there. The route home to Dayton was always so much more interesting, lots more to see. Oh, well. 77 is not such a bad interstate at least.

I was happy to get home to my darling wife. It seems to be a smart idea to try & steer fairly clear of the kids for now, while Boot is being largely oppositional and grumpy, but I sure do miss J. We spent the evening working on my graduation party invites (which I need to mail today!) and getting her packed for the national sales conference in Chicago. I was happy to climb into my own red flannel sheets, under my own pretty comforter, next to my own wonderful wife! I used to go visit my mom and mourn having to go home. Now, I miss my mom, but I have great things to come home to.