Here's what I have to say about Valentine's Day: What. Ever.
Which is a huge improvement on how I used to feel about what is certainly The Most Exclusionary Holiday Of All Time.
...and then she paused to think.
Wait! Maybe it's not THE most exclusionary holiday. If you think about it, most holidays exclude someone.
Religious holidays exclude those of other religions. National holidays exclude those of other nations. Couple holidays exclude those of us who aren't coupled. (Just like couple dinners and couple vacations. Come to think of it, it's all just more of the same.)
I'm less bothered by all the rest of the coupley stuff these days, so I suppose it makes sense that I'm less bothered by Valentine's Day.
Or maybe I'm just dead inside.
It's hard to say.
At the moment, I'm muddling through my sixth illness of the season (five colds, one flu), and a weekend in bed isn't the best thing for the old emotional well-bring.
Not that I don't LOVE it when I'm (barely) standing in my kitchen, wishing I had mac and cheese because it's the only thing that will make me feel better about the fact that I can't actually really BREATHE, but my legs are too buckly and my mind is too cloudy for me to, oh, DRIVE SAFELY to the Vonn's four blocks away, and putting a humidifier together feels literally like rocket science and every move I make results in something falling and breaking, and that's a bitch when you have two dogs who don't understand English words like "FREEZE! DANGEROUS GLASS SHARDS UNDERFOOT!"
It wasn't that bad, really. Although I did, in my sick-induced clumsiness, break things.
Yeah, okay, it was that bad.
But no paws were injured in the making of this blog post. My dogs are, when it suits them, very well trained in the sit-and-stay department, and they waited politely while I swept. And bitched incoherently.
I'm a bit of a recluse by nature. I could easily live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with only my dogs for company. And a computer. And wireless internet. (I'm a recluse, not a Luddite.)
But I've noticed that lately I'm more inclined to get in touch with friends. I'm not sure when it started or exactly why... but it's definitely a positive turn.
This Sunday, for example, I'm having two single girlfriends over for dinner. (Sunday, of course, is Valentine's Day. Woo hoo. Yay.) I'll be roasting a chicken the very-simple Thomas Keller way, and doing an array of veggies and sides from Salt to Taste.
I've been reading Salt to Taste every night in bed, but hadn't actually cooked anything from it. So tonight, when I got home from work a little early, I decided to transport Salt to Taste from the bedroom to the room it was actually made for (that would be the kitchen) and cook up some scallops.
I make a mean scallop! Who knew? Which hopefully means Salt to Taste is as promising as I imagined it would be.
I'm thinkin' dinner on Sunday has the potential to be hugely yummy. And I already know the company will be outstanding.
That said, I'm planning to have a lovely day: breakfast at my favorite diner (where I'll be reading The Happiness Project, which FINALLY came in the mail today... yay!), a walk/jog around the park, a trip to my favorite store in the whole, entire, wide world (Williams Sonoma) for cooking tools, picking up some new sneakers to start 2010 off with some cushioning, a phone conversation with an architect whose work I admire (gotta get this remodeling thing rolling), putting some final items into my 2009 Memory Book, and making myself a really terrific dinner (roasted chicken, homemade mac and cheese with mushrooms a la Mark Peel, swiss chard, followed by a Moosewood Cookbook homemade cheesecake-- starting January 1 I'm back to all-healthy-all-the-time, so I'm going out with a culinary bang!).
And, if I'm very lucky, a trip to see WP's baby!!! Since everyone at my dad and step-mom's house was laid out with either a cold or the flu, I've been avoiding WP's house until I know I'm germ-free. But if I'm still feeling well tomorrow, I'm going to assume I've escaped unscathed. Then, watch out Mixed Nuts, here I come!
A perfect day.
There's only one problem. What the heck am I going to do with all those yummy leftovers?
How do you plan to spend the last day of the decade?
I get such a kick out of Ill Doctrine. Which is part of why, today, I'm letting Jay Smooth do the work for me. The other part is that I think I'm getting sick, so I took some nighttime cold medicine, and the wooze has begun.
Anyway, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Or totally not. Up to you.
Spent more time in the kitchen today than I have in the last six months put together, and it was lovely. Tossed out a couple batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, round after round of filled cookies (I'll be posting my great-grandmother's recipe here in the next couple of days), and my straight-from-Smitten-Kitchen sweet potato & swiss chard gratin.
On the schedule for tomorrow: My dad's making waffles for breakfast, I'm making walnut bars for my dad, and of course present opening, Christmas dinner, and MORE COOKIES. Both eating and making. Cuz you really can't ever have enough.
Oh, and in between all the cooking and baking, lots of cuddling with Daisy.
Look! You can't even tell she had surgery on that eye, anymore. She's all better, and happy and comfortable here in Phoenix. Which makes me both happy and sad.
''Tis the season to be slightly depressed. Or REALLY depressed. Or just kinda malaise-y with a touch of the melancholy.
I don't mean everyone, of course. Some people are downright sunny this time of year, and to those people I say, "You are SO annoying," and then I add, "And, also, I'm jealous."
This year, I am uniquely un-depressed, which I attribute almost entirely to acupuncture. Still, in this season of stress and busy-ness and two wars and no health care reform (yet?) and commercialism and obligation and shit-who-did-I-forget-to-get-a-present-for, I thought it might be nice to remind ourselves (read: me) that there is good in the world.
So. In no particular order.
Things That Are Good In The World:
2. Friends who are thoughtful enough to have babies.
3. Pretty much friends in general.
6. Gainful employment.
7. Dyson vacuum cleaners.
8. Solar panels. Please let me be able to afford them when I remodel.
9. According to an article I read in the New Yorker, the Chinese are actually pretty on top of this whole global warming thing. I mean, not that they're turning anything around yet, but they've got some serious tech in the works. Sometimes I forget that, uh, nobody else wants to breathe shitty air, lose the ice caps, destroy coastal regions, etc., either.
10. My friend Bob's mole sauce.
11. Any movie with Hepburn and Tracy. (And most movies with Cary Grant.)
He loves them. I mean LOVES. Why? I'll never know.
Because these are NOT good cookies... and I'm a girl who appreciates her sweets.
But these cookies? Yuck. Yu-HUCK.
For starters, they're molasses based, which isn't awful, but isn't exactly a snickerdoodle (the best cookie EVER). Then, right in the middle (and this is where the "fill" part comes in) there's a big dollop of this weird, disgusting date/fig/apricot goo.
I don't know if my great-grandmother invented them, or if she just propagated the horror, but this fill cookie thing has been going on for at least seventy years now, and there's no end in sight.
This year the fill cookies are my responsibility. Woo hoo!
For your amusement, here are the emails that my step-mom, AF, and I exchanged today:
AF: Emergency question----- Are you bringing filled cookies for Bob for Christmas? He just announced he has to have some and I will make them if you are not but I only have 3 days to do it.
(AF's spending Christmas with her daughter, who is getting out of a care facility after a very serious bout of H1N1. Scary.)
Me: Ha! I thought I would make them when I get there-- can you leave the recipe out?
AF: Sure, it's in your book I made for you too. Thanks.
(AF, who's a brilliant cook, made me a book of all her favorite recipes-- and the fill cookies.)
Me: The REAL question is: can he wait that long?
AF: That is the real question! When I said you would make the cookies when you got here he said, well, I don't know. That's awfully late.
Just makes you smile, doesn't it? Or maybe it's just me.
That's the upside of traditions. When you're part of them, even if you don't entirely understand them, even if you don't like them, even if you never, ever, ever want to eat one... they make you all warm inside. And that's what Christmas is all about.
I didn't realize this when I brought them up. Obviously. Or I would've skipped the subject all together.
Or maybe I wouldn't have. Because I really have loved hearing about your traditions-- you've given me some wonderful ideas for when I have my own future family. New PJ's every Christmas Eve is probably my favorite. (Although a new Christmas book every year is a close second.) I also love one of WP's family's traditions: each person is responsible for doing one other person's stocking. Every year I'm amazed at the thought and care and love and joy that WP puts into that stocking.
Anyway. All of this thought on the subject of traditions has made me realize how few I have. And how many I've lost. And that kinda sucks.
When I was a kid, we had traditions. I was always in charge of setting up the manger, a collection on ceramic figurines my mom painted when she was in her twenties. And at my mom's house we had a large Christmas tree on every floor, which meant three full trees to decorate, and then a couple smaller trees for good measure. And every year my grandmother made Swedish cookies, and my mom and step-dad had a big dinner on Christmas Eve. We opened presents Christmas morning, and then I went to my dad's for Christmas with his side of the family. There were always Christmas cookies and egg nog and, every now and then, caroling. Once or twice we went to church. And then we didn't anymore. And when my step-dad died, Christmas got very small-- just me, my mom, and my grandmother. And then all of my grandparents died, and that was that for the Christmas cookies. And pretty much every thing else.
And then my mom re-married, which was great for her. But meant that I was plugged awkwardly into other people's Christmas traditions. Not even plugged in, really. More like, standing there watching. (I am compelled, at this point, to briefly recount my first Christmas with my step-dad's family. They're all wonderful, and though I only see them once every year or two, I like them all very much. But they have seriously tradition-heavy holidays, including dozens of extended family members, and hours of rounds of gift opening. And on that first Christmas, my introduction to the whole clan, I sat through three hours of gift opening during which I had one gift to open-- a pretty bronze pin from my soon-to-be-step-sister. My mom got me nothing. For Christmas. Neither did anyone else, but it's hard to blame them, since they'd never met me. Which is a great way to spend Christmas, by the way, watching people you've never met open lots and lots of presents. Never occurred to my mom that the whole thing might be, y'know, kinda painful or difficult or awkward for me. But whatever. I'm over it. Clearly.)
It's hard to find your place within other people's traditions. Because they have a whole language, a whole set of common experiences, not mention a history and bond that I just won't ever share. And since I alternate Christmases with my dad's side and my mom's side, I'm not even consistently around for the holidays, so there's no real foundation for growth. I just don't fit. I'm not necessary. My presence doesn't detract, I hope, but it certainly doesn't add.
Can't say it doesn't suck.
So, on alternating years, Christmas at my dad's house is a relief. Mellow. Stress-free. Familiar. Fun. And I think it makes a difference when I'm not there.
I am SUCH a whiner. Seriously. I'm about to make myself vomit. This is what Christmas does to me. It makes me maudlin and self-pitying. Which breaks Rule 1.
ARG! I suck.
Anyway. All of this is why, a couple years ago, I decided that I was never going to be on my own for the holidays again. I knew I wasn't going to meet a guy, since that is apparently an utter impossibility for me in this lifetime. So I was going to have a kid IMMEDIATELY. Partly because the holidays are always more fun and meaningful when there are kids around. And partly because I'm just so tired of being the one who's always alone.
I'm tired of standing on my own two feet. I want someone to lean on. If I can't have that, I at least want someone who leans on me. Someone I belong to. Someone who belongs to me.
Which is not a reason to have a child.
So I didn't. I waited until I was actually ready. I waited until now.
And maybe, by next year, if I'm very, very lucky, Christmas won't be about me at all. It will be about some new little being... a new little being who will have a brand new set of pajamas every Christmas Eve, and who will settle into bed Christmas Eve night with a brand new Christmas book, and wake up Christmas morning to special stockings and caroling, and an ornament all his (or her) own...
'Bass Ackwards and Belly Up' and 'Footfree and Fancyloose' tell the story of four best friends who commit the ultimate suburban sin: putting off college to pursue their dreams.
Publisher's Weekly said: "Full of romance and adventure, laughter and tears, the story is a reminder that veering from the straight and narrow road doesn't always lead to a dead end."
L.A. 2009. I’m stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway, listening to Isabella Rosselini on NPR. Isabella, for some reason, mentions that starfish are one of those rare species that can reproduce asexually, and I realize that if I could do that, I wouldn't have to worry about finding a boyfriend/husband. I wouldn’t have to internet date! I wouldn't have to figure out if I want to/can/should have a baby/adopt a baby/child on my own. I wouldn't have to stress about things like FSH levels, or weigh my feelings on in vitro versus adoption.
I would just have a baby. Thus began my starfish envy.