Holidays

Final Countdown

Well. Not final. To be fair, I might write again before all this is over. I just realized it’s been a few days since my last confession. So, here it it: 12 days to go. 33 miles to run. 2.75 miles a day if I wanted to run every single day. And I want to. But, I have obligations. For starters, I have a date with a certain New England football team on 12/24 in Foxborough. Could you see it? Excuse me, Mr. Brady, but I need to run around your football field 4+ times. Can you delay the game if I get a quad cramp? Um. No.
So, here is the plan:
12/21 6.5 miles
12/22 2.5 miles
12/23 6 miles
12/25 5? I’ll be at my sister-in-law’s for an all day brunch. Think they’ll miss me for an hour or so?
12/26 3
12/27 5
12/28 3
12/29 2

I am still (still!) telling myself I can’t do this. I am still waiting for the epic fail. My legs have been holding up and. And! And, I registered for St. Pat’s! So, there’s that. The game plan after 2016 is this: rest for a solid two weeks. In that time, develop a new yoga & strength training routine. Gradually add the run back into the mix. Sometime in late January-early February start training for Holyoke’s notorious hills. This year I have Millz by my side (aka speedy because he finished the Safe Passage 5k in 16 minutes. Yikes!). He’s never run longer than 3.1 miles and I don’t know his hill strategy, but I do know he’s fast!

Anyway. That’s that.

Categories: Confessional, Hilltop, Holidays, life, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mexican Mayhem

Ever since I married into the family I have been a guest at my in-laws Italian Christmas party. Held every year on the Saturday before Christmas, the Italian side of the family gathers for feasting, cookie swapping and hooting over lucky scratch tickets. It’s a thing. It’s their thing. Now it has become my thing. Kisa and I will attempt to host, for the first time in history, The Party.
I am undaunted and unfazed by this turn of events. I’m approaching this party like I planned my wedding: by analyzing how it’s expected to go and doing it all backwards. My first dance was the last dance. My cake was a pie. My champagne toast was many Tuaca shots. I wore boots and a 13 horned hat. I did not throw my bouquet. I almost threw up from fear but ending up laughing outloud.

The Italian Christmas tradition is turning into Mexican Mayhem. We won’t be serving prime rib or swampy vegetables simmered too long. Instead we’ll have a buffet of mix and match fillers: chicken, beef, sofritas, shrimp, salsas, guacamole, rice and beans to fill tacos, burritos, quesadillas. A margarita bar and chili-chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake for dessert. Mustaches, sombreros, and holiday music south of the border style. That will teach ’em to nominate the Kisa and I to cook!

In other news (what else? Running!), here’s the lowdown: 71 miles to go. Covered so far this month:
12/1 = 6.55
12/4 = 9.15
12/6 = 7.00

I’m on track to finish this thing. I’m still not 100% confident and that makes me talk out loud. I ramble on about the numbers constantly. One thing I need to remind me & myself is not to rant too much around the Kisa. He thinks I’m obsessed. No. No, he doesn’t think. He knows I’m crazy. He watches my mouth and checks my eyes for lies. I know he’s looking for happiness; To make sure this is what I want & I’m psychologically sound doing it. Well, you know what ZZ Ward says, “‘Til the casket drops…’til my legs just break…” I’m going to keep going.

So. Having said all that. The agenda for this week: 6 tomorrow & 9 on Sunday. In between, baking Mexican shortbread and spicy sweet chocolate chip cookies to test. Buenas noches.

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Starting This Thing

I have always been the pushover peacekeeper. To my detriment I never decide to take the wheel and drive. I’m the one in the back seat, plotting the fastest, convenient, and simplest route. I’m the one never saying a word. If I were at sea, I would be adrift with the tide, meandering with the pull of the moon. I can see me now, bobbing and ducking under the waves. Sinking until eventually I’m more under than not. Finally I drown.

But, no more. I’m starting this thing called Done. D.O.N.E. It sounds terrifying and terrific all at once. Take Christmas cards. I used to mail a card to everyone in my address book, taking care to care. I mean really care. It was rare if I just signed my name and called it good. I really tried. I’d promise myself year after year not to be let down if I didn’t receive one with half as much thought in return. But, every year it was the same thing. I’d feel slightly slighted. This year I’m not sending cards to family or friends. Fukc ’em. Instead I signed up to send 10 random cards to 10 random strangers. I specifically requested international addresses. That way, if I write to a serial killer it will take him some time to find me.

The other thing I’ve started is Over. O.V.E.R. It sounds stupid, but when it comes to my running I’m starting over. Really, from scratch. This week I ran 66 minutes and covered 6.28 miles. No big numbers, No big deal. It has been two months since I ran with carefree joy. These days I run with demons called pain and worry, one for each shoulder. I need to get past them.

Okay. So my real issues are not with Christmas cards and mileage. I’m talking in code for relationships put asunder and death did us part. I’m not ready to confront the walking away I must do…nor the going away you just did.

Categories: Confessional, Hilltop, Holidays, life, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where Was I?

Hands down, this is my busiest time of year. Staff reviews, cookies and more cookies, end of year reports, greeting cards, budget rewrites, deflecting family stress like Wonder Woman, finagling time with friends, wrangling the cats, catering to a (sick) husband, wrapping presents, unwrapping holiday decorations, untangling miles of lights, winterizing Hilltop (and now Bat), cooking, shopping, trying to stay faithful to the treadmill…It doesn’t help that I have a bunch of “annuals” coming up. Under the hood, onco, breast squisher, arm pricking, strapping on….ooh that sounds more scandalous than it really is. The list goes on and on.

This last weekend we managed to squeeze in sushi, a movie out, lego fest, a full Thanksgiving dinner (complete with sour cream apple pie), holiday decorating, a birthday party and a movie in… and to think the family wasn’t even here 48 hours. When the last of them had driven away and we had the house to ourselves every room seemed huge and silent. Kisa sat mute on the couch. Captain America and crew had left the building taking every noise with them. I didn’t know what to feel. It was like I didn’t know where I was. The cats stood in front of me asking, “now what?”

Now what is this – a holiday party with Kisa’s side of the family. I’m to bring the appetizers (something other than shrimp). Now the sister is calling saying “Christmas before or after Christmas at my house. You are welcome.” Who does that? She does. I don’t remember saying Thanks. Not even at Thanksgiving. Should I stay or should I go? Be the good daughter? Or stay and be my bad, self-destructive self? I would consult me but moi would like nothing better than to hide under the covers and will it all away.

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Blessed are the Flexible

I have this magnet on my fridge that reads, “Blessed are the flexible for they are never bent out of shape.” It was a favorite saying of a friend of my father’s, a weather bug named Charlie. When Charlie passed away, a victim of cancer’s grip, this magnet was handed out at his funeral as a way to remember him with a smile. I go through days and even weeks repeating the words “blessed are the flexible” like a mantra just to get through.

The Thanksgiving holiday is one such time when the mantra is in full repeat mode. I’m a broken record. For weeks the Kisa and I didn’t know our T-Day plans. We thought we knew when we said absolutely and even defiantly, “this year we are in Maine!” Maine. Did that mean Rockland? Monhegan? Portland? Peaks? Did that mean we drove up on Tuesday? Wednesday? Would we buy groceries or eat out? Who’s doing the cooking? Would we pack nice clothes or come as we are? Decisions, decisions with nary a plan in sight.  Typical situation. Finally, after much back and forth debate I put my foot down. Monhegan. Wednesday. We cook. Done. I couldn’t remember the last Thanksgiving spent on the island. Plan B was Rockland. Still Wednesday. We still cook. I insisted.

We didn’t count on needing a Plan C. Plan C: No one do anything anywhere with anyone from my side of the family. But, Plan C it was. A gale was predicted so no boats. We couldn’t get on the island and mom couldn’t get off. No Monhegan. No Rockland. End of story. Bags were unpacked. Food not bought. Disappointment heavy on my shoulders I went to bed at four in the afternoon and slept my tears away for the third year in a row.

Blessed are the flexible for they are never bent out of shape. We are flexible. Mom will come here. Not in time for Thanksgiving. Not in time for her birthday. But, no matter. We don’t care. We’ll give thanks a week late. We’ll have cake and eat it, too. I’m already planning the Thank You menu.

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It’s Beginning to Look

It has been ten years but I finally convinced Kisa to get a Christmas tree. A real, honest to goodness, pine needles and sap, living, breathing tree. It took me three hours to decorate it and three minutes to decide I’m conflicted. For starters, I’m not used to having to buy a tree. Call me spoiled but where I’m from you cut down your own tree and heft it home. I have memories of my parents scoping out the perfect spruce, eyeballing it from every angle, finally deciding on “the one” only to not find it again when we returned to cut it. See, searching and acquiring couldn’t happen on the same day for some reason. It was always a process. Painstaking. Going back, Dad and I would circle trees that all looked the same asking each other, “is this it? Is this one it?” When we finally decided we had refound “The Tree” we would haul it home for mom’s inspection. She would inevitably sniff, “that’s not it.” Dad refused to go back into the woods so he would make do with a hacksaw and drill – literally cutting branches from one side and drilling them into another to fill mom’s imaginary gaps. I’m surprised we didn’t break out the gorilla glue and duct tape to finish the project. In the end we had a perfect tree even if we had to tie it to the wall. It was perfect. At least that’s how I remember it.

The other conflict I’m having is the absence  of family. Decorating and dolling up the house has been completely and utterly up to me this year (and every year, come to think of it). My husband has admitted the decorations and red and green look nice but he’s never been “into” hanging boughs of holly and all that jazz.  It never bothered me in the past. I guess having a fake tree took the romance out of decorating it – plastic upon more plastic. This year as I negotiated ornaments, breathed in pine and hummed Jingle Bells I was filled with nostalgia. I couldn’t help but think of Christmases long, long ago on the island. It’s one of the few memories I have of  — and I and the act of being sisters. Each taking a turn to hang something precious on the tree; handmade ornaments that meant something.

So, here I am. Conflicted and content all at once. I guess that’s the status quo this time of year. It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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Talk the Turkey Talk

I thought I would be stressed about hosting my first Thanksgiving. I was picturing no space in the oven, chaos in the kitchen, complaining behind closed doors. Kids breaking things, pets peeing in corners, adults drinking too much. Raw turkey, burnt green beans, egg shells in the mix. Worst nightmare. Take-out anyone?

Not so. I did some research. I made a timeline. I discovered it really doesn’t have to be difficult. The whole day could, potentially, be very simple. Anticipating problems equals problem solving. No space in the oven – get a turkey roaster that can sit on a counter, freeing up all the oven space I need. Find stove-top recipes. Chaos in the kitchen – kick ’em out! If you aren’t working get out. Go hang out! Complaining behind closed doors – that will probably be me – so, simply don’t let it happen. Kids breaking things – don’t leave anything out that can be broken (duh). Pets peeing in corners – Indy will behave, I’m sure. I don’t know why she’s a concern. Adults drinking too much – again, that will probably be me – so again, simply don’t let it happen. As for the cooking disasters I nightmare about? Practice, practice, practice.

The Menu:
Herb roasted turkey OR cranberry orange roasted turkey…we will roast a tester tomorrow to see how it all works out.

Sausage cornbread stuffing OR sausage garlic bread stuffing…I already made a batch of the garlic bread kind and I loved, loved, loved it. We’ll test the cornbread stuffing tomorrow.

Cider gravy or cider gravy…it just sounds too good to try anything else. Again, I’ll make it tomorrow just to see what happens. Do I really need a fat separator?

Cranberry sauce 1: Tuaca touched (in honor of the wedding)

Cranberry sauce 2: Chipotle touched (in honor of smoky heat)

Mashed potatoes…carmelized shallot buttermilk or garlic? Leaning towards the buttermilk…again, we’ll test tomorrow.

Sweet potatoes – in years past I made cajun inspired potatoes served in orange shells. I think straight-up sweets with mini marshmallows will do the trick this year, in honor of the kids.

Green beans – this year I am saying no to the standard casserole – you know the one – the cream of something soup with crunchy onion things on top. This year I want to do something that will not need the oven and be just a little different. Something with yummy bacon and garlic.

Pearl onions – these will be new as well. Pearls with raisins, honey, butter, almonds, sherry…should be fun. I’ll make a mock-up of those tomorrow as well.

Dessert – something simple – pumpkin pie whoopies with ice cream. It’s my mom’s birthday so I’m wondering if a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting might be nicer?

So. There’s the menu. Minus the bread. I’m really still trying to decide to do about that. Tomorrow, I cook. And cook.

Categories: Confessional, Hilltop, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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