Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Just enough holiday insanity

Steve and I promised not to get any gifts for each other this Christmas. I had surprised him with a birthday/Hanukkah couple of items (a book that I could not resist, and an old TV comedy series on DVD). We are both up to our gills in books, music, food and all the other stuff we like. I told him that just the pleasure of his company during this lots-of-down-time holiday season would be enough for me. To which he replied, "In that case, let's get each other gifts." You have to know him to appreciate that...

Anyway, he was the one who caved/covered his butt by surprising me with a copy of Julia Child's My Life in France. I've only just started it but of course it is wonderful. Our "real" holiday celebration was the classic combo of Christmas Eve at my aunt Patti's and Christmas Day lunch and gift exchanging at my brother Dan's.

As usual, about 30 adults and kids invade Patti and Jim's tiny cottage on an overlook in Hull. The lights and decorations can be seen from space. The kids race from one end of the house to the other (not a long distance), weaving in between the adults, collapsing to the floor to shred the paper from a new toy or gadget, and disappearing periodically into a small bedroom where there is - YES - a computer they can fight over to see who gets to play the latest game. The adults usually hang out, catch up on family gossip, and drink too much. This year we did that but with the added insanity of a Yankee Swap a la my mom, who had a method that proved to be madness. It all worked out in the end and everyone had a good time. I thought it was successful as Steve and I ended up with the same two items we brought.

Dan and Chrissy's Christmas hosting was great as usual, with a successful "pot luck" approach resulting in far more delicious food than even the fairly big crowd could consume. I brought a pan of roasted sweet potatoes and onions to go along with all the meat (roast turkey, roast ham, roast beef) plus the gifts for the kids and the adults' "secret Santa". Chrissy's brother Bill entered with raw ingredients and proceeded to make a to-die-for shrimp scampi that started with two sticks of butter. Her dad, Jim, made his traditional grape leaves - one of those things I have to have, no matter what else I eat that day.
We cap off the day with a birthday cake for Nick, the Christmas baby who is - gasp! - 8 years old. Brother Joe always has to have the first taste of frosting. This family togetherness is fun for me and right about the right-sized dose. I get to see the kids all excited to open presents and check out everyone's Christmas tree. We haven't had a tree in probably 10 years or more, and I don't miss it at all. We make the rounds and visit and provide the ooh and aah for those folks who really put the effort into the decor. Seems to work!

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