Doing Christmas

Welcome to that weird in-between week between Christmas and New Years! Or, as I saw someone refer to it on FB, the “taint of the year”.

So, how did Christmas go? Actually, it was fine. You make your to-do list and it seems overwhelming and then somehow it all gets done.

I knew I didn’t have to do Christmas cards this year, but I wanted to. They manufacture ‘sympathy Christmas cards’, designed to send to the bereaved, but I wanted to send out something similar that would be appropriate from the bereaved. I found a lovely one, with an outdoor white pine tree, and inside, the Eskimo proverb, “Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” And sent those out.

As expected, I got a couple of cards addressed to both of us. (including one that was immediately followed by a sympathy card, as she probably sent out the first card right before getting the note in my card to her) Not a big deal.

Gift-wise, I kept it simple, but needed to buy real (i.e., not gift card) gifts for my great-niece and -nephew, so Amazon’d those to Minnesota. And for my dad and brother and Xmas Eve guests, for under the tree. Oh, yes, and stocking stuffers. I’d picked up some nice socks for Dad and Sam in Rochester, only to realize later I’d already picked up some gift socks, oh well.

For decorating, since I’d been out of town the weekend of the 10th, I had to get the tree up the weekend of the 17th. I’d helped C with it before, of course, and had dismantled it many a time by myself, but this was the first time I assembled it from the ground up. I pulled out all the lights, but just decided to do an inner strand and outer strand of lights for each rank. I added the tree topper, the Swarovski ornaments (we have many – that was C’s go-to gift request for many years), and a few others. It was sparse, but looks fine, actually. No garland, no icicles, and easily two-thirds of the ornaments we own are still in the boxes. I’m going to spend some time in January inventorying all the ornaments we have, to get rid of some, and rethink their storage. Also to make notes to myself like, “the red runner goes on the mantlepiece before everything else” (I missed that this year) and “put the white square table cloth on the floor and the tree stand goes on top of that” (missed that one too). I did get the mantlepiece mostly decorated, although I left off the traditional row of “Rudolph” ornaments, because I’m so tired of them. Maybe I’ll just put up Yukon Cornelius next year. And Charles’s mom’s ceramic tree with the light bulb in the center, which I adore and which is featured on the foyer table.

Anyway, it was fine for a first go-round and I’ll make notes for next year, based on my time and energy level.

So I was hosting my dad and my brother for the Christmas weekend. This wasn’t such a big deal – they’ve both stayed here a couple of times already this year, and Sam was actually going home early. But Sam fractured his toe rather spectacularly and could barely walk (he’s doing a bit better now), and had to bow out. So it was just Dad and me from Thursday night through Tuesday. Dad showed up as planned late Thursday afternoon and we got caught up, then went out to the Queensboro for burgers.

Friday, we had tickets to the Whitney Museum to see the Hopper exhibit. By this time we knew the weather was going to be bizarre (rain, snow, temperature dropping 30 degrees within hours), so sorta kinda prepped for that. Rather than trusting public transit, we just Ubered to the museum. Hopper exhibit was great, rest of the exhibits not so great, but OK.

When we left, it was still reasonably warm and not that rainy, so we decided to take the E train up to 5th and 53rd and at least try to go see the Rockefeller tree and Fifth Avenue. By the time we got there and got out of the subway, though… pouring rain, freaky winds, not at all what we’d left. Got maybe a half-block down Fifth Avenue before we decided to give it up as a bad job. A shame. Back to Jackson Heights, Indian food for lunch, and then home for the rest of the day. We would have gone out for dinner, but by then it had gotten very cold, so I made the frittata I’d planned to make for breakfast the next day, and that was fine.

Anyone who knows us well knows that Charles lived for the holidays. He loved hosting big dinners and would start Thanksgiving and Christmas planning months ahead of time, with each meal planned (not just the big ones) and lists of prep, and schedules and so on. For him, these events were the equivalent of what a recital would be for me. And he was really good at it. So how was I going to even attempt to host a Christmas Eve dinner? Well, first, keep it small (just Tessa and Susan), second, have it mostly catered, and third, be willing to accept help.

I’d had discussions with Susan and Tessa, both of whom are good cooks, about what they’d be willing to help with, and had vaguely planned to make a pork tenderloin – which I’d never done before, but C used to do them all the time and it seemed simple. I also know how to make mashed potatoes and have a really good lemon-ginger green bean recipe I got from Weight Watchers. But, as I’d hoped, the Queensboro offered a holiday catering menu, so rather than relying on the pork tenderloin, I ordered stuff from them.

So Saturday, I fed us breakfast, then prepped the apartment for guests, hand-washed the gold-plated flatware (fancy!), cleaned the green beans, then set out the coffee table snacks. Susan and Tessa showed up, and there was much snacking and chatting, and then I went out to pick up the food from the restaurant. Thank goodness for S&T – they ended up helping a lot – Tessa prepped the potatoes, but Susan kind of took over the potato process, and also put the salad together. I did make the green beans pretty much by myself, but everyone helped with everything. Our kitchen is bad for multiple people working in there, and C used to kick guests forcibly out, but we had all four of us in there doing stuff, which was fun. “Dad, fill the water glasses”, that sort of thing. (I will say that I was totally stressed out about all this and may have not been on my best behavior, but everyone was understanding.)

And dinner was great! We started with shrimp cocktail (from the restaurant), salad and bread. (I’d pulled a frozen loaf of olive bread from the freezer that C had made, but it didn’t defrost or heat well. Luckily, Susan had brought a fresh loaf of something else.) Then we had duck (an entire duck! which Dad and Susan had to figure out how to carve), a lasagna, the mashed potatoes and green beans. Plenty of food, all delicious.

Susan had brought an eggless cake (she can’t eat eggs) that was a variation on her usual buche de noel recipe, and Tessa had bought very fancy cookies (really more like little pastries) and a Latin-American meringue cake (might be a “Mostachón”, maybe?), so plenty of dessert, plus the various candies and such on the coffee table. Coffee, tea, dessert, a lovely evening.

Sunday was Christmas, just me and Dad. We got up, had coffee, opened presents, and then I served C’s traditional Xmas breakfast of bagels and lox, yum. The rest of the day was Dad mostly watching football or playing on the computer, while I did dishes and figured out how to repackage and freeze most of the lasagna. And phone calls – I’d forgotten that niece Samantha would actually video-call us so we could watch the kids open our presents live – that was fun, and they liked what I’d sent. Lunch was just leftover snackies from the day before, cheese and sausage and such. And dinner was … gosh, I don’t remember what the protein was, but I reconstituted the mashed potatoes and served with green beans.

Monday was more lazy. It was still cold, we didn’t go out and do much of anything, but the project of the day was to install the old living room TV in the bedroom. First we had to deconstruct the old setup (and dust everything), and bring the old TV down to the basement. Then I had to find HDMI cables… and, as I feared, I had the same problem I’d had in the living room – three HDMI devices to input, but only two ports. I had a little A/B switchbox, so just used that again to switch between the DVD player and the Roku. (This TV is a good TV, but not a ‘smart’ TV, one of the reasons I upgraded.)

Also, I had three Rokus, only needed one, but had to use the ‘stick’ one because I didn’t have enough HDMI cables to use one of the other ones, and also couldn’t find the remote for the stick one. So we went out for lunch and to run errands and to buy a new HDMI cable, and then while we were happily eating Thai food, I remembered where the third Roku remote probably was, and sure enough, there it was when we got back.

For dinner, we asked Susan to join us and went to Bistro Eloise. Dad had never been, and it was really lovely. Dad had clams and Bouillabaisse, Susan had mussels, and I had French onion soup, Dad and I split a Caesar salad, and I had the lobster risotto special, excellent. We invited Susan to park and come up for dessert, but she declined. We made a short night of it ourself.

And then Tuesday we had a leisurely morning (more bagels and lox) and Dad packed and left for the airport.

So, success! Next year, I hope to have my act together more, but even if we just did this all again, it would be fine.

What else is going on?

I’ve been doing physical therapy this month, two-three times a week, to help fix the knee/leg problem that turned out to really be a back problem. Most of the PT has just been stretching exercises and working on the leg machines. My last session is today (at least, I hope it’s my last session) and I see my doctor next week. I suspect the followup will be daily stretches etc. on my own (I have a list) and I’m going to join the gym and keep doing the leg things.

Oh, yeah, and it would help if I dropped some weight – so low-carbing and stop drinking and power walks and once I get down a bit, I’ll start ice-skating again. Feels good to move, and of course I’m haunted by the Deep Suspicion that C would still be with us if he hadn’t just completely stopped moving during that first year of COVID.

Two weeks ago, during my one day a week in town, I snuck out of the office across the street to Citibank to get C’s accounts moved over to an estate account I can access. So we started the process to get the new account created, but had to wait until that’s done to move the other accounts over. I fully expected to be able to do this last Wednesday, but it wasn’t done yet. And then I checked again yesterday and, still not done. This is annoying, but the only thing that’s time-sensitive here is getting donations made in C’s name before the end of the year, and I’ll just do that from the joint account for now. Then, once the new year gets going, at my leisure, I can modify the two joint accounts and do the other things that will get the estate wrapped up.

Got a good end-of-year review at work, that was nice! Next year’s gonna be busy, though.

The Ruddigore stage director and I have been reviewing audition videos and are very close to having that casting discussion. Be nice to wrap that up, then I’ll turn my attention back to analyzing the score variants and choosing what we want.

Normally I’d do an end-of-year wrap-up post, but this is not the year for that. I’ll blog about next weekend after next weekend.

Happy New Year!

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