Hey All! Happy New Year! I meant to publish this post on Saturday, but I’ve been having MAJOR issues with this laptop and my iPhone. So–without further ado (let’s hope)..
Even though Christmas was, technically, last year, I hope everyone enjoyed the Holiday Season!
The nest is empty now. I can hear my husband upstairs. He is on the phone with his credit card company to dispute a charge from Mealey’s Furniture. We purchased a small armoire for one of the guest rooms and the piece arrived damaged. I won’t elaborate on the God-awful customer service of Mealey’s because that’s an entire blog post.
Chippy is in his usual spot-the top corner of one of the loveseat in the sun room.
My home may be an empty nest but Chippy sure loves to nest in between the cushions of the love seat and sofas!
It is 2:41 PM. Honing in on late afternoon and the sun is beginning its descent as the shadows outside grow bigger and darker. I’m enjoying a cup of afternoon tea accompanied by three types of biscotti that I made for Christmas. And I’m savoring them even though I gasped at the sight of my bare body after taking a bath just an hour ago. I gained weight in the Autumn to Winter months and even though Winter officially began eight days ago,
And as I write this post, I’m enjoying the same cup of tea but no biscotti. I’m through with carbs for a while and have to go through withdrawal! Oy! But I’ll tell you, this biscotti was great–and I thought the recipe was a fail but I had to let the biscotti cool off completely!
I’m planning my weight-loss strategy for Oona’s wedding this coming summer. But I’ll be honest. I’m enjoying tonight, tomorrow night and New Year’s Eve to the fullest—even though I’ll suffer the pangs of a “food over” (my term for a hangover but with food), I’ll have that foie gras anyway!
Our last meal of 2018 started off with my homemade bread, The Good Loaf, Pate Foie Gras de Cannard and a nice Sauternes wine. Goodbye carbs!
The house is so freaking quiet. The background din of the kids’ conversations is over. The TV is resting from an overload of sporting events, Christmas movie marathons (when did “Die Hard” become a Christmas movie anyway?), and Netflix documentaries.
The house went from this….
To this in a matter of hours!
No more greenery, ribbon and lights on the bannisters
festive pillows and throws packed away till next November..
Back to normal…
…and the Ponsettias on the armoire have been replaced with Ruby’s (My beloved yellow lab, Rest in Peace), stuffed toy, Baby, who watches over us.
But allow me to backtrack….
A week ago, today, in fact, as I write this, we picked up Jake at Philly Airport. The ride home wasn’t animated because my oldest son is the quiet man. But his presence makes me happy.
Even as a young boy, he was the quiet one–but the thinker and listener!
The duck was great. (Christmas Chronicles—All I Want is a Freaking Duck!!!) In fact, the two ducks were great. Jake, Bonaparte and I sat down to a wonderful dinner and at meal’s end Oona and Sam arrived with Gracie in tow to commence dining on Duck Number Two.
Why make one when two ducks are just ducky!
And might I add, Bonaparte got rid of my pillows to sit on CHIPPY’s love seat with our grandpuppy Gracie!
On Sunday, Roman arrived and the little kiddles were complete. The house was happy as everyone went on as though they lived here permanently. Jake went off to the gym. Oona and Sam did laundry. Roman walked the dogs. I cooked. And Bonaparte went upstairs, closed the bedroom door and read the papers.
Now that Roman (from Christmas’s past where the best gift is an empty box to play in…
…and my baby girl Oona were home–it was like old times (exept now my chin has disappeared and I need my eyeglasses on 24/7. I also had all my hair!)
Dinner was the most requested meal—Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken and the kids were stuffed and satisfied. And later on, we gathered in the living room—to talk, watch TV and just enjoy each other.
The most requested dish–but this time I made it with five pounds of chicken thighs!
Our Christmas Eve was pleasantly uneventful. I worked during the day. There’s something so Dickensian about working on Christmas Eve though. Lighter traffic doesn’t necessarily make the morning or evening commute pleasant—It just makes you wonder what kind of company you really work for! In any event, the workload was steady and all my tasks were completed by the early dismissal of 2PM.
Yes. In the world of me, all companies would be off on Christmas Eve as well as Christmas Day!
And this is what I love about my kids. They went to a movie in the afternoon—they saw The Mule (which did not get rave reviews from my little crew of film critics). And, leave it to Jake, they found an “authentic” Chinese restaurant to take food home for dinner. And when I say authentic, I mean it. the restaurant, Han Dynasty, has two menus. An “Authentic” menu and “American” one. And my quiet man, Jake, treated us all!
In my real-life version of A Christmas Story we eat Chinese on Christmas Eve–in the house!
We all went for the good stuff. Bonaparte went to McDonalds.
And, by the way, my new favorite food of all time is “Dandan Noodles”, a subtly spicy blend of noodles pork and Sichuan peppers. We all agreed that moving forward, Christmas Eve dinner from Han Dynasty would be a tradition. With Bonaparte’s Quarter Pounder from McDonald’s naturally.
And now—for Christmas Day. If you’re familiar with this blog and have been reading for over a year, then you are aware that we no longer exchange Christmas gifts. There is no point. My children live away from home. Los Angeleeeeezzz, Cincinnati and New York City. There is no need for them to lug and drag gifts from point A to point B. There is nothing that I need except for a chin lift of which my children refuse to be a part of. There’s really nothing that I want except, in my being of deep shallowness—a chin lift!
As we move forward, it’s “presence” not “presents” that make our Christmas a happy one. This gifts were donated to a child who’s parents couldn’t afford to buy them. I hope they made her happy!
But seriously. We all decided after that first year of non-gifting that we were all relieved of the stress of picking out something that anyone would really want, like or need. We were relieved that we weren’t wasting money. Money could be better-spent on travel.
There is a flip side of that though. No longer does anyone wake up at the crack of dawn to see what’s under the tree. Instead, I’m up early preparing for Christmas dinner and slowly everyone makes their way downstairs to morning coffee and for me to distribute the Christmas Stockings!
It’s all very chill.
Christmas Dinner this year was a success! My ex-husband and his girlfriend arrived almost on time! And Bonaparte’s daughter and her family arrived almost on time—and their dog Rosie was with them so at this point we had three dogs and 11 people in the house!
Yes. Our two-dog house expanded and these two were at my side the entire time I was cooking. Just waiting for any morsel to drop on the floor!
The REAL Three Dog Night! Chippy, Gracie and Rosie!
Bonaparte’s granddaughter, Sophie, loved the American Girl gifts we gave her (we gift the grandchild!!)
And—despite the drama of Christmas Eve…..WAIT! I didn’t tell you!
OMG. Bonaparte took it upon himself to tell his granddaughter that there is no Santa Claus!
I swear I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to. The actual texts–I’m in the blue!
Jake, Roman, Oona and Sam stood there stunned.
My eyes straightened out for a moment! This was beyond any WTF moment ever. Who tells an eight-year old that there is no Santa? Hint: A certain Frenchman.
Well…. the story unfolded and what happened was this. Grandpa Frenchman drove granddaughter to school. And in the fray and confusion of dropping granddaughter off (perhaps granddaughter needs to take the school bus moving forward), a conversation ensued. Granddaughter was talking about those who believe in Santa vs. those who don’t and somewhere in this valley of lost in translation, Grandpa Frenchman blurted out that there is no such thing as Santa.
When we all cornered him, he simply stated that he really wasn’t paying attention to the conversation but paying more attention to the traffic. (Further proof that school busses are a good thing). Anyway, all was remedied and his granddaughter hasn’t stopped believing!
OK—back to dinner.
My cooking uniform–if you think I’m ruining a good wig with all the steam and heat from the oven–think again!
We started off with the infamous gougeres and Kir Royals. Followed by a trip to the table. Everyone took their places and sat patiently whilst I brought out all the dishes. I started with the beautiful slow-roasted beef tenderloin and it turned out perfectly. Red in the middle with a light crusting of sea salt and pepper and Rosemary that I ground with my mortar and pestle. A huge dish of Three-cheese Macaroni and cheese—with the addition of cream. Mashed potatoes, pan-roasted Brussels Sprouts with cranberries and a cranberry glaze, honey-glazed carrots and various sauces.
When I tell you that I was licking my chops like a hungry dog I am not exaggerating. That meat was the only thing I wanted.
Yes. Tis true. The dogs ate better than I did on Christmas Day..keep reading…
Apron off. Good wig back on. I smiled as I made my way to the dining room to take my place at the foot of the table.
I had the good hair, Alice by Uniwigs LaVivid Collection and the pretty makeup–Subculture eye shadow palette by Anastasia Beverly Hills! I was ready for dinner!
And then I spotted it. The platter that the glorious beef sat upon. Only there was nothing on the platter. I looked around the table. Everyone had one, two, three and more slices of this manna from a heavenly cow. Everyone was chomping and telling me in-between bites that it was the best meat I’ve ever roasted.
I couldn’t take a photo of MY beef because it was all eaten by the time I got to the table! But you can tell from the wear on the pages of the Foolproof cookbook that I make this meat every Christmas!
I looked at my Frenchman. He looked at me with guilt. And quickly shoved the last bit of meat that was on his plate in his mouth.
This was the Christmas I got no meat.
Instead, I picked at the Macaroni and Cheese and joined in the conversation.
The mac and cheese BEFORE it went into the oven!
Overall, Christmas dinner was a success. A house full of family and extended family who got along well and three dogs who played, begged and were just as happy as the humans.
Everyone knows when you come to my house you eat well!
And that evening after everyone left, we sat around gabbed a bit then went our separate ways into the hall of slumber.
It was the day after that affected me more. Oona and Sam left because their plans included a wedding that they needed to get ready for. And I honestly think they also just wanted to be in their own home. The home they are enjoying as a young couple who are continuing their own wedding plans and enjoying their lives as a twosome.
Ain’t gonna lie. It was sad when these two kids (three counting Gracie) left. Selfishly speaking, it’s almost painful that they have their own lives without me!
Jake had to fly back to L.A. due to business commitments. His job is an important one and his visits are shorter and shorter.
That face you make when you get into the car and your son is doing the driving!!!
But—before Roman and I dropped Jake off at the airport, we continued a new and ongoing tradition. The Philly Cheesesteak never-ending competition. This year we went to Dalessandro’s in the Roxborough Section of Philly. As we parked the car, the scent of onions frying wafted through the air. With each step we took that brought us closer the aroma became stronger.
Dalessandro’s. Home of a GREAT Cheesesteak–but more than that. I loved the Roxborough section of Philly. It reminded me a bit of Queens, NY and I miss that city living!
I don’t know what it is with Philadelphians and Cheesesteak but this local joint was mobbed. We three enjoyed the sandwiches in the warmth of my car and the consensus was that the meat and cheese incorporated together was genius. The bread very good. The sandwich enormous but the onions, as great as they smelled, were a slight disappointment. I was expecting more of a char and having them sliced in rounds then fried. They were cut into squares and were sweated more so then actually fried.
I can’t even begin to tell you just how good this was–even if I wasn’t crazy abouot the way the onions were cooked!
My ass became wider by two inches.
Our ride to the airport was short and sweet and the second of three children was off to his life across the country. His quiet approach finds this mom to be intimidated. And I’m oftentimes at a loss for words because I ain’t too smart. So, I’m afraid that my conversations won’t be interesting. And that makes it even harder to say goodbye. I always fee that I’ve failed him during his visits. And I need to stop because I’m starting to cry.
Jake’s distance in LA makes me more sad because the older I get, my time is limited and…..well, you know…
While still relatively early, Roman and I decided to return to Center City. One of his friends was playing at a club and we tried to catch the show but it was sold out. I guess we shouldn’t have waited until the last minute. And so, we drove down to South Street, parked the car and walked all that fat from the Cheesesteak sandwiches off.
Hanging out in Philly…
South Street was relatively quiet but this tree was a beautiful sign of the Holidays!
We took the long way home and drove through neighborhoods looking tripping the Christmas lights fantastic. There’s something about houses with tons of Christmas lights and decorations that makes you happy.
I’ll admit, this brought back memories. The kids and I would always drive around during the Christmas seasons past to look at the decorated homes. I miss that.
From the subtle…
..to the more spiritual….
…to the more…..
….entertaining and illustrious!
Back home, Roman got Bonaparte hooked on the street artist Banksy by requesting we all watch a documentary on the elusive artist. And it was a relaxing evening.
Roman left yesterday. Being a parent doesn’t get easier as the kids grow from child to adult to adult that has moved.
Roman was the last to leave and Bonaparte was very understanding of my sadness. I really don’t like living far from them but times are different now!
My mood when the kids left–fading and invisible.
Life as we know it isn’t the life we had when we were younger. I remember Christmas as being a time of family gatherings and family visits. Even on Christmas day. All of our relatives lived within 40 minutes of each other—the farthest being my grandparents, my aunt and another aunt and uncle who lived in Queens. Everyone else was out on Long Island. And within 20 minutes of each other.
Circa 1960–December at my Aunt Anne’s and Uncle Larry’s I think–or perhaps Aunt Catherine’s and Uncle Johnny’s house. From Left to right. My brother Tommy; my cousin Michael holding Tommy, my sister Theresa, my cousin AnnMarie, my cousin Kate, my cousin Brendan and me!
Last year with some of the cousins that were in the photo above!
Family as we know it now is spread throughout the country. Siblings no longer have homes down the street or ten, twenty minutes away. They are hours and states—sometimes continents away.
And the hard part is letting go. Our Christmases heading to the future as a complete family are limited. Once Oona has children of her own, she will follow my train of thought. She won’t leave her home at Christmas because it will be for her children. Santa will come to her home.
That’s where memories are so important. Memories of childhood through adulthood. We need to hold on to them as we lose the physicality of our children being with us. They don’t need us anymore. They become their own entities—and in the end that is a beautiful thing and the best gift we can give our children is independence and their being their own person.
And so, I hope each and every one of you who are reading this blog have been blessed with wonderful memories of Christmas!
Let’s move ahead and look to the New Year as a new beginning!
All the best for 2019!!!!!!!!!
Well, oh boy. First, I think our kids do still need us even though they have their own lives. They need a core that keeps them from spinning off into space, is how I think about it. We are that center, that core. And it still matters even though they are adults. At least, that is what I tell myself.
I have a question. I am divorced and not dating, and I cannot even fathom ever ever ever meeting my ex’s girlfriend. He and I get along well for the children and he has never initiated inviting her to any of our ‘family’ gatherings but to quote you, about other things, I can’t even…
How did you get to the point where you could accept his girlfriend, or was that only possible after you had Bonaparte?
I know, that might be way too personal but I thought I would ask because you are so honest.
Keep on keeping on – and happy new year!
Hey Maryellen. OMG. It’s not too personal a question at all. Divorce is always somewhat daunting a subject but certain aspects can always be addressed. I look at it this way. Whatever differences my ex and I have, that’s between us. My ex-husband (still) is a recovering alcoholic. I won’t go into past details. But, even if he wasn’t I believe we would have gone our separate ways eventually because we were growing apart anyway.
There was some bad stuff going on which I also won’t elaborate upon but over time–things have a way of working themselves out.
Now–I never want our kids to be in a situation where it’s awkward to have both of us together. There is no tension at all. The fact that the kids live so far away–on holidays they shouldn’t have to divide their time between us–and so, I invite my ex and his girlfriend to spend that time with us. Everyone gets along just fine and it makes the kids happy that they can do less traveling and that we aren’t at each other’s throats.
Oona is getting married in July and it would be awful for her to have two parents that won’t interact or be kind to one another. It’s all good. You’ll see. It’ll take time but I swear to you it’ll work out! Hugs for the new year!! XOXOXOXO
Happy New Year!
My wonderful dermatologist lists this cosmetic treatment on her new website. I had never heard of it before. Sounds better than surgery. Best Wishes, Carolyn Mann Austin TX
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I received a call from the doctor today so I’ll be making an appointment for a consultation!!! It sounds like it could be a good thing–right???!!! XOXOXOXO
Catherine, what a lovely idea for gifting! A beautiful new tradition for your family. Happy New Year!
Hi Jackie! Yeah–there’s nothing that we need or want and it just makes the holiday stress-free! Happy New Year!!! XOXXOXOXOXO
Happy New Year! Hadn’t read a post from you lately but figured that you, like many of us, were caught up with prepping for the holidays. A lot less drama for us this year not having Gramma and Poppa visiting ( love those kids but having to spend Christmas Day in the ER with my 92 year old Mom was not fun) this year our grandson was 13 mths old and he and his mom and dad spent Christmas Eve ( his Dad’s birthday) with us, stayed overnight and over to other Grandma’s for a visit with cousins and Christmas dinner. It works because they live about ten minutes away. I can vouch for not travelling with young children over the holidays though. After our darlings arrived we made a pact that Christmas would be spent at our house not hundreds of miles away at our parents places. We would travel at New Years to see them. It worked. There is one distance that we can’t travel to and that’s to the dear ones we have lost. First Chrstmas without my dear MIL. She loved Christmas so much. Having our grandson with us this year helped my husband enjoy the day a little more.
When you started telling the meat story I thought it would end with dogs running off with the roast. You worked so hard to present that meal and when you sat down the meat was all gone, eaten by the fam! I say not fair to the cook! My Dad wouldn’t let anyone touch a fork until my mother had sat down to eat. Like we would be salivating buckets but no way could we eat until everyone’s butt was on a chair and Grace was said. So next year you cut yourself a nice portion then throw the rest to the hungry hoards!!!!
Hey Momcat! Oh boy–I’m so happy to be back writing the blog. The stretch between November to New Year’s was just so freaking crazy–especially with work. It may be empty now but at least I can get back to writing. That first Christmas without my dad was a toughie so I can imagine how your husband feels——I feel for you all.
I had that same pact. Don’t leave the house for Christmas when the kids come. I didn’t care how many guests came over either as long as I was in my home! My daughter feels the same way. She said when she and Sam have children they will not leave the house during the Holidays. I’ll go to her!!!
As for the meat–the human animals got to it. And–I let lose on Bonaparte when everyone left. Needless to say, that won’t be happening again!!!! Happy New Year to you and the family!!! XOXOXOXO
Congratulations on raising three children who are strong enough to fly away but still want to come back to visit the nest!
Hi Jean! Thank you!Your words made me feel much better. I am happy that they do return! Happy New Year!! XOXOXOXO
What a fabulous time you had! But that Bonaparte prefers a hamburger from the MC over authentic Chinese food is beyond me! Happy New Year!
LOL!!! Nancy. I can’t even deal with his affinity for McDonalds. It’s just so wrong on so many levels–we all have our vices and I guess McDonald’s is better than cigarettes!! Tee hee!! XOXOXOXOXO
Ha ha, yes it is!
A lovely post, as always, Catherine. I hate the silence in the house when everyone has gone too. Somehow it is a physical pain, Onwards and upwards, now Oona’s wedding to look forward to!
Happy New Year!
Hi Judy! OMG. That silence is deafening–isn’t it? Yeah. I’ve already started the weight loss for the wedding. I put on about 15 pounds so I got some extra to lose! Happy New Year to you as well! XOXOXOXOXO
I, like everyone, was super busy this morning and was quickly deleting emails I don’t have time to read. Yours was on this track to quick deletion, but I paused for a second and started to read. Then I kept going, got hooked, finished, and now I’m crying. I feel for you, adjusting to having your kids far away and leading their own lives that don’t include you. My boys are not quite at that stage but that sadness is already looming. Our parents’ generation didn’t seem to have such a hard time letting go, but I think we raised our children on a more personal level, and really feel the pain of losing them in our daily existence. My husband’s family lives in Montreal, all within 15 minutes of each other. That has its ups and downs, and I think they would like a little more seperation honestly, but I will be really at a loss when I’m simply not relevant in their lives anymore and visiting me becomes more of an obligation. You inspire me to – well, I don’t really know what, but you do inspire me. Maybe not to wallow because I’m not the only one this happens to so life goes on. Happy New Year and thanks for a great blog post.
Hi Cheryl! I’m very happy that you didn’t delete me! LOL. But you know, you bring up a great point about our parents not having a hard time letting go! I’ve always wondered about that. My mother was constantly repeating the same sentence “I cant wait until you kids are all out of the house”. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I thought her words were horrible! Then I thought perhaps my parents didn’t have such a hard time letting go because there were so many of us! Or perhaps it’s that depression baby generation who grew up so fast.
I will say that my husband is fortunate because his daughter lives only ten minutes away–he sees her often because he takes his granddaughter to school. Wish my kids lived that close–LOL!!! Hope your Canadian winter isn’t too harsh.
But your boys–enjoy them while they are home–trust me–make every second count!! XOXOXOXOX
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A lovely post, as always, Catherine. I hate the silence in
I learned of your blog through a friend who first sent it to me…I live overseas. I loved it at first read and it is so relatable! After finally figuring out how to subscribe, I received a few blogs but now I get nothing. Can you advise on how to subscribe and stay subscribed? Happy New Year!! Big hugs, Maria
Hi Maria! Thank you so much–first for enjoying the blog and second for bringing that subscription issue to my attention. To subscribe look at the far right column. There’s an Instagram photo (if you see this tonight 01.02.2019) there’s a photo of me, directly underneath that, there’s a follow button for you to click and add your email address! Thank you so much!! XOOXOXOXOXO
Happy New Year – what a lovely large family gathering for you. For the 1st time in my 61 years James and I had a Christmas with my little brother and sister along with their families. I was adopted and we found my siblings 6 years ago. Although our daughter was missing due to work commitments this year has to be one of the best.
Sounds like you had a short but very sweet Christmas with lots of food, laughter and doggy fun times.
Since my SIL died, about 25 years ago and my mother came to live with us, Christmas has always been at ours – with my brother and niece coming to stay. Even when my niece and son, (respectively, not together) had 2 little girls each we still had it here. But now my Mum has been gone for a while and the little girls are 3 and 6 Christmas has moved to my son’s house 250 miles away. My husband would rather be at home even though it is an enormous amount of work but we don’t want to miss spending it with all the children so we stay at their house. It is not easy, as we are so much older, but as long as we are invited we will go. With families spread so far apart nowadays it is the one time of year we all try to be together.
Regarding the beef – I would have been mad too. Always wait for the server is the rule.
Hi Jenny. Oh I know that day of the kids no longer coming “home” for Christmas is drawing nearer and nearer. My daughter has already informed me that she will be following MY rule (as I did when my kids were young) of staying home for Christmas when she has children. (I’ll be visiting her).
The main reason the hubs and I have started our Thanksgiving in Paris tradition is because the kids are spread so far apart and Christmas is the only time we can convene! Oh…that beef. If my father was still alive, he wouldn’t have let ANYONE eat a bite until I sat down to eat. Times sure have changed!! XOXOXOXOX
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