Tomorrow morning I'm packing Iggy, Smokey, and Oreo up, along with seventeen metric tons of laundry, and we're returning to Brooklyn. I'm sad to be leaving my parents' house, even though I feel like I've done little more than sleep and mope while I've been here.
I think that with all the heavy emotional stuff going on this year, I've forgotten to mention the really lovely parts of the holidays.
As a family we started a new tradition, celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Vigilia) on Christmas Eve. Because they live at the shore and my brother is a charter boat captain, my family was amply prepared for such an occasion with some of the freshest and most amazing seafood I've ever had. We didn't exactly follow protocol, what with the dried salt cod and eel and such, but it was a damn fine meal.
(My mom is so cute. As I blocked the kitchen doorway taking this photo, my brother was cussing up a blue streak behind me but she kept smiling.)
We technically had eight fishes, but my mother doesn't eat salad dressing, so she had seven. A few had multiple preparations as well:
New England clam chowder
Fried calamari with marinara sauce (also served with the most delicious onion ring fish).
Fried oysters and scallops
Scallops broiled with Parmesan and herbs on toast (these were insanely good).
Toodle (tuna-noodle) salad
I must confess, I don't much care for fin fish or oysters at all, so I only had bites of those. The scallops were some kind of heaven, though, and one of my fried scallops was the single best bite of food I had all year.
I was in charge of dessert, so I got cannoli and three flavors of Ciao Bella gelato: coconut, pistachio, and nocciola (hazelnut).
We also had a very delicious wine, which made gift-wrapping quite a creative endeavor for me later on that night. On one of my brother's gifts I just wrote "Santa had waaaaaay too much fun at Seven fishes man." The next morning, I saw that I'd kind of crumpled the paper around the package, then taped another piece to the back. Maybe not my finest hour, but a fun one.
We hadn't decorated our tree until fairly late in the season. My mother actually finished decorating it on Christmas Eve. The rest of us had given up much earlier, but she persisted in getting another fifty pounds of ornaments on it. Between knitting my father oiled wool gloves and getting up close and personal with the tree and the dogs, I had a heck of an allergy response going on, so I was pretty woozy.
Christmas morning was nice, though I was cranky from staying up so late finishing the Secret Santa lace scarf (which I designed). I got her the stinking gift card anyway, but I made sure there was something handmade and personal in the package, and she really loved it.
My family gave me over-the-top amazing gifts, as usual. They are generous people who spoil me rotten, and I'm looking forward to playing with my new stuff.
I'd prepared the dough for some delicious Earl Grey tea cookies, but I fell asleep after breakfast and my mother baked them for me (she's so nice). They came out spectacular, but I didn't get a chance to photograph them. I'll definitely be making some more soon though.
We had Christmas dinner at my aunt's house with my mother's family. It was a very nice time, and I was looking around thinking how comforting it is to have a warm and loving family. I'm really glad that I'll get to see my father's family in Hawaii, because I was getting a little sad thinking how infrequently I see them.
Our New Year's was pretty low key. I slept all day, woke up for a delicious ham dinner, then watched TV with my mother. She and I agreed that unless you go to a party or are with a crowd, New Year's is pretty anticlimactic. The next day, my brother told us about the lamest New Year's Eve party he'd ever heard of, which ended around 10:30pm.
The cats have spent most of their vacation on my twin-sized bed freaking out when the dogs come in the room. Iggy bit my mother, scratched my brother, and turned into a lawnmower on my father's leg one morning. They don't seem to realize that it's nothing personal, he's terrified of the dogs (he's never seen a dog before and the trifecta of lab, lab puppy, and very loud dachshund is a lot to take in). They'd get all up in his grill, he turns to a hissing, puffed-up Halloween cat, and then one of my family members sticks a limb in his range. I tried to liken it to how they might react if a zombie walked into a room with a few Kodiak bears behind him, but none of them are buying it.
My mom says the cats are so bored that they're going to put on a play. Cats,specifically.
An exciting thing that happened over the holidays is that my brother moved out of my parents' house and into a new condo with an old friend. He's still back and forth getting things or stopping by for meals, but it's very exciting that he's in his own place. I'm not sure if he's teasing, but thus far he's refused to tell any of us his address so we can't come by. I think this is rather foolish, since I desperately wish my parents would come up to my apartment more often. They tend to show up with casserole dishes full of venison macaroni and cheese or cases of wine, and while they're there, they're wonderful company and tend to fix things too! I'm sure he'll come around on that after one or two visits.
Yesterday I was feeling either nostalgic or festive (it's just hard to tell sometimes), so I baked a chocolate chip cookie cake which was insanely delicious.
It was not an easy proposition, since Smooch had chewed up the recipe card, and I had to kind of cobble it back together from the pieces of Christmas ornaments she'd also chewed (I think I got it right).
I put these twee little dollops of whipped cream on top, but because it was fat-free, they melted down the sides in the refrigerator. Whoops.
This may not have been the most photogenic cake, but because it used tons of brown sugar and vanilla, it tasted like cookie dough. Yum.
(If at this point you're thinking I take a kind of insane amount of photos of food, you are absolutely correct. I did, however, make a lasagna and it went undocumented. So yknow, progress?).
The four of us had dinner together last night, followed by cake, and it was a very cozy, warm and peaceful feeling.
I always hate when the holidays end. This year is especially precarious because I haven't quite sorted out what I'm going to be doing this spring. I have to figure all that out, but it happens that the day I leave for Hawaii is also the first day of the new semester, so it'll be another two weeks (and almost February) before I can make definite arrangements. Yes, this scares my pants off, but I'll see what I can do.
I have a few more errands to run today before I head home, which I'm dreading, but I am super-excited to see my sweetie tomorrow afternoon!!! And then in like a week, I'm going to Hawaii!