Monthly Archives: December 2014
It has been my blogging tradition to do a post about my family’s holiday meal. This year everything was different – literally everything! My whole perspective on food is shifting because of the bariatric surgery I had in July. I’m eating pretty normally now – normal apparently for normal people. I’m still astonished by how little food it takes to make me feel satisfied. The problem is that my volume is so low I can’t seem to get enough protein. So not only is protein a priority, it has become the priority.
The second thing most different thing was the menu – or perhaps how the menu was established. Entertaining at this level has become a little too much for my Mom and Dad. (They still do it occasionally, but we won’t “make” them do it for us anymore.) We see how long it takes them to recover. That won’t stop them from contributing! You may recall that although my sister hosted Thanksgiving my Mom made the turkey (and stuffing and wild rice) and my Dad baked bread and there were contributions to the appetizer table.
This year my 21-year-old daughter (the baker) decided she was going to take on the family holiday. She’s worked in a production kitchen. She’s helped plan and prep meals for weekend retreats. She’s had lovely dinner parties for 4, and hosted (with help) dinner parties for 8. But the family holiday is a whole new level of stress. She’s got her Grandmother’s china setting for 12. She’s got enough open space in her apartment. She’s got the culinary chops to pull it off.
She doesn’t have place settings for 20, or 19, or 21 or Who is coming to this event anyway?!? She doesn’t have table space or seating for that many – room, but not the furniture. She doesn’t have linens or enough silverware or glasses. She also is waitressing, covering shifts for everyone who asked off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day along with her regular shifts. Five busy and under staffed work days followed by a dinner party for 20ish you’re hosting on Saturday is something only to be undertaken by someone that young. Oh, and my parents coming into town planning to stay with her as well.
She really was brilliant. She told everyone what she was making (ham and mashed potatoes) and what they were to bring. She rented tables and washed up my old linens and dug out my stored silverware. She did everything in her power to make sure everyone would be comfortable, contributing, and welcomed. For most everybody that was enough. The few lines in the sand she drew (no you can’t bring him he wasn’t invited/if he doesn’t want to be here he can go home) were appropriate and as gracious as possible.
I ate all week. Karina, Orion and I opened presents to each other Christmas eve and I made king crab and beef tenderloin. I had a crab leg and maybe an ounce of beef. On Christmas day Karina panicked and I went over to help her decorate her tree and get the house ready. She took me out for lunch – Chinese of course. Friday my parents came into town and we went to the restaurant where Karina was working for dinner. Mom had mussels, Dad had a vegetarian pot pie, Orion had fish and chips (and my fries and Mom’s fries) and I had a steak and Stilton pie (mostly just the insides). I baked my Mom a birthday cake and so we had some of that as well. The restaurant staff was happy to have their share of cake too. Plenty to go around when a “piece” amounts to a few bites.
Then there was the big dinner Saturday. Dad made a tin of his caramel corn (a tin the size of a 4 gallon tub) and several loaves of bread. He swore they’d eaten all the gravlax (he makes that too) for breakfast. (Some found its way to my refrigerator, but no bagels.) Mom brought shrimp dip, oysters and caviar, and artichoke dip. I added a cheese ball (Mom’s recipe) and some pomegranate salsa and chips. Just a little to whet the palate! I managed to have a bite of everything but some of it waited until the next day.
Dinner was the lovely bone in ham that Karina made, along with her mashed potatoes and gravy. Darcy put together a beautiful spinach salad with almonds and blueberries. My Mom dug out her homemade blue cheese dressing. I roasted up some vegetables. My little sister, Janine, made desert – a raspberry bomb – a tradition from our childhood that I haven’t had in years. What a treat! (2 bites worth, but I know where the leftovers are….)
You’d think I would have taken photos, but I was busy helping out in the kitchen and getting the tables set. Kept me from drooling all over the food that I couldn’t eat. (Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t have done it. There was too much!) It was actually a more simple meal that we usually have, but it was especially tasty and more than enough.
We were missing Andrea (part of the reason Karina hosted was because our Thanksgiving hosts were out with his family) and my niece. But we did have Janine and her boys (another coup for Karina). Everyone left early. The elders were tired, Janine had to get home, Darcy and Zac had more relatives to visit before the day was out. Karina was asleep in my lap within an hour of everyone leaving.
I’m so proud of my daughter for pulling off a daunting affair at her age. She may even be willing to do it again next year (paper plates?).
We’re in that space between the winter solstice and the New Year. Unless you are a committed last-minute shopper, most of the hustle of the season has ended. It is time to raise a cup, relax, and enjoy the celebrations. It is a time of quiet, a breath before the round of New Years eve parties and Super Bowl buffets.
It is the darkest time of the year. The solstice marks the sun’s return, but we won’t really notice that the days are getting longer for at least a month. The holiday lights reflected on the snow bring a hint of magic to the darkness. It is a time to review the past year and make plans (goals and dreams) for the next.
This is a family time of year. That family may be blood, or may just be your close friends. But it is a time to connect with those we love and care about. It is a time to share, not only in our exchange of presents but in our presence.
The darkness can be bittersweet, especially for those who have suffered a recent loss. I have had years where much of my silence was missing companions. I have had years where I couldn’t afford to purchase gifts and had to make due. I have had years where my children and I were adopted by secret Santa’s who made our holidays bountiful in spite of our poverty.
At the heart of the darkness is the light that comes from gratitude. I am grateful for the loved ones in my life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend time and share laughter. I am grateful to have food, and warmth, and shelter, knowing there are many who go without. I am grateful to have the energy to participate in the holiday season in ways I couldn’t even imagine a year ago.
I am grateful to people I’ve never met who have bought my books and who read my blog. I’m grateful for the opportunities and ability to express myself and for my voice to be heard. I’m grateful for the family and friends who support me, promote me, and direct others to my work.
I am grateful to still be open to growth and learning. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to further my education either through independent research or through classes. I’m grateful for the writers who inspire me, who make me think, and who challenge my world view. I’m also grateful for the one’s who express what I feel more eloquently than I could manage on my own.
May you find the space to take a breath in this part of the seasons celebrations. May you welcome in the magic, and the darkness, and the light. May you find renewal at the center of the unknown. Please cherish this Yuletide Season. Happy Holidays!
I haven’t done holiday baking for years. It’s hard to make dozens of cookies when you can’t stand for more than 5 minutes at a time. It’s impossible to make breads and sweet rolls when you don’t have the energy to do the kneading.
It seems odd that I would take on a project about sweets 5 months after a gastric by-pass. But in my twisted mind it makes perfect sense. If I’m seriously limited in what and how much I can eat I want what I choose to be exactly what I want. If I take a bite of a sugar cookie I don’t want a grocery store bakery model.
My sense of proportion has changed too. I don’t feel any need to make dozens of cookies for everyone I know. Most of the people I know have 1. Dietary issues related to allergies 2. Weight concerns 3. General health concerns 4. Bake themselves – for the same reason I want to. They know what they like!
So in spite of the surgery, and in spite of the car accident I decided I wanted to do some baking this weekend. I trimmed the tree. I gathered up groceries over the course of the week. I spent some time cleaning too. My cookie cutters haven’t seen the light of day in ages. In fact, I discovered many of the one’s I remembered moved out with my daughter 3 years ago.
Thanks to the surgery and subsequent weight loss I wasn’t so exhausted from doing the prep that I couldn’t do the actual cooking. I’ve had plenty of days like that. It’s exciting just to be able. But there was a small snag. I had to babysit this weekend. Karina’s puppy Minnie was over while she attended a conference.
Minnie could have been the one thing too many that put me over the top. And I am definitely feeling like I may have over done it a little this weekend. But the weather was crazy warm (it got into the 50’s!) which made putting the dog out at 4am a little less unpleasant.
What I hadn’t expected was for Minnie to be such a “helper”. It never occurred to me to worry about the dog climbing up on the table. I did wonder what she’d gotten into when I saw her with a nose full of powdered sugar, but thought I’d dropped something onto the floor. However, she didn’t hide the evidence of my date walnut tart.
I guess I’ll have to find something else to bring to that pot luck. I certainly won’t be tempted to eat too much. Luckily I got most everything packed away before I took the tart out of the oven and left it alone to cool. I’m just grateful Karina is the one who’ll have to deal with doggie diarrhea. That I’m not up for.
I didn’t post on Monday. I could make excuses. I took an extra shift at Gilda’s Club. I was in a (little) car accident over the weekend. The holidays have thrown off my schedule. I spent the day on the phone to doctors and insurance adjusters. I haven’t been sleeping well. The list goes on.
The fact of the matter is I just needed to take care of myself first. Still do. No excuses necessary.
Hoping to catch you all again next week.
I’ve started to write today’s blog several times over the course of the holiday weekend. I had a follow-up post about gratitude. I had a post about family and relationship dynamics. I always have the option of a post about food, and this year in particular with the huge Thanksgiving meal a challenge after my bariatric surgery. I had a post about the weekend and going to see comedian Josh Blue.
I don’t want to finish any of them. In fact the only thing I really want to do is crawl back into bed under the covers. It’s Monday. It’s COLD outside (the windchill is hovering near -15 and the temps are just above Zero). I didn’t get to sleep in all weekend. It’s the post-holiday let down.
There is some comfort in returning to routine. The problem is that between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanza all routine gets thrown in the trash (along with the excessive packaging). There is a LOT of cleaning to do. There is a LOT of cooking to do. There is a LOT of decorating to do. And then there’s shopping, and wrapping, and writing out cards.
Since Thanksgiving was so late this year I’ve been able to keep my head in the ostrich hole for almost the entire month of November. Now I’m somehow surprised that it’s December and I’m not ready! Somehow I don’t think going back to bed will help.