Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Holidays!

That's my wonderful Mom who celebrated her 89th birthday on Dec. 1st! My sister's and I celebrate Christmas Eve at Mom's home (which she shares with my second sister for many years now). The sister who lives in the Catskills brought along her two little chihuahua-mix dogs. They behaved so well during this first trip away from the mountains, we took them over to my brother's apartment in Manhattan for our Christmas Day family reunion. What a treat for everyone!
That's Pepe and Alco getting acquainted with new surroundings as my sisters Anna and Elizabeth reassure them after their 3 hour drive into the big city -- a new experience for 1 1/2 year old dogs which have never been away from their mountain home.

Some of the treats we enjoyed after a scrumptious dinner: sugar glazed gingerbread heart cookies (the only store bought item), a bowl of mixed dried fruit compote (my specialty), a ginger-spice cake (which I baked for the first time from a family recipe but had to phone Mom late night to clarify some of the instructions--turned out fine after all); beautifully wrapped green tin from my sister-in-law Krysia full of home baked Polish gingerbread cookies (she and her sister and family bake over 1,000 of these each year for the holidays) and next to that is my sister's delicious Walnut Torte. No calorie counting allowed during the holidays.
We gathered round the table and said a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of the past year and then offered individual wishes as we broke/shared the "Oplatek" (a thin wafer blessed by a priest, usually sent to us from our family in Poland) with each person at the table. The feasting began with conversation ranging from memories of past holidays with loved ones who have passed away to catching up on current adventures, then we paused the eating to sit around the Christmas tree and sing traditional carols in Polish and our favorite American ones too. Since we all love to sing and enjoy the three part harmony we manage for most of the carols, this part always lasts a while. The little dogs cuddled in our laps and listened quietly. We opened the presents Santa managed to deliver before his midnight trip around the world and than had our coffee and wonderful deserts. Another great Christmas!
Christmas Day morning started early when the dogs had to go for a walk. We then "discovered" stockings full of goodies and opened those together. After breakfast we went to Mass at a church which had a full musical program for the occassion. We drove to the cemetary to place a wreath on my father's grave and sang a few carols for him in the freezing wind. We were so cold after singing that we walked over to our aunt's grave and said a quick prayer and told her we'd sing for her in the car on our way to Manhattan to see the rest of the family. I'm sure she understands.
We always enjoy the family gathering on Christmas Day because we don't get to see everyone very often during the year. My sister brought her new video camera, handed each person a verse of the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and filmed us each reading our part. It was a lot of fun and we're able to view half of it on Flikr but the second half doesn't want to load. Does anyone know what may be causing the problem? She's trying to compress the file but it's still cutting out at midpoint.
My Mom and sister Hanka came to visit me in CT on Sunday. As a respite from the Christmas flavors, I prepared a curried chicken with garbanzo beans and spinach stew served over Indian basmati rice. It was a long and wonderful visit, even though we'd just spent several days together in NY.
So, all focus is now on my continued job hunt and tomorrow's New Year's festivities. After a while it all feels surreal. I wish you continued good humor as the holidays continue.

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