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Archive for December, 2010

Don’t kill the world

Bobby Farrell died today in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the age of 61.

If you’re between 35 and 60 and grew up anywhere other than the United States, you’d probably know that Farrell was the male member of Bony M, a famous disco band from the 70s and 80s. (Although Americans may remember some of their tunes: Mary’s Boy Child, Rasputin, Daddy Cool, and By the Rivers of Babylon.)

This is news in our house because Brian toured with Bony M through Europe as a child — he even sang with them on the equivalent of the European Grammys, and appeared on the 25th anniversary of Spanish television. If we lived in Russia or South Africa right now, he could be signing autographs. But no, he’s still slaving away on his computer, earning our bread and butter.

Bony M was one of the first “fake bands” put together by German producer Frank Farian (he went on to produce Milli Vanilli, and a few others.) By fake, I mean that only two of the four “singers” really sang… and Farrell was not one of them. Brian liked him, though, along with the other members of the band.

I have Brian’s permission (given very reluctantly, I might add) to post this music video of him singing with Bony M. I can’t believe we found it online. It was filmed near Wimbledon, at a time when music videos were becoming the hot new thing. You might want to prepare yourself for the hair, clothing, and bizarrity of this song.

Bizarrity is not a word, but it’s totally appropriate here.

You should also prepare yourself for the cuteness that is the little boy in this video. You will have to endure over three minutes of the aforementioned bizarrity before you get to it. And then you’ll hate me because you won’t be able to get the song out of your head. Just my Christmas present to you.

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We purchased this lovely ornament last Christmas from Harmony and have hung it in our living room ever since. After the kids come home, we’ll put it on our tree each year. I love it. (Harmony just arrived home with her beautiful daughter from Ethiopia, by the way. What a fantastic Christmas present!)

This would be me on Christmas morning with the googley-eyed frog winter hat that my husband bought me. Immediately upon opening it I thought I’d never on God’s green earth don such a thing in public, but after trying it on, realized that of course I will. You can see why — it’s hilarious!  And warm.

Here’s our tree. It started out crooked, dried-out, and mediocre and then turned rather pretty once it was decorated. It’s still crooked, however.

Speaking of decorations, here are my feet:

I love red shoes, and although I wear these all year long, they’re perfect for Mass on Christmas morning. I just had to show them to you.

Saint Nick was good to our house, despite the fact that we’re trying to save for babies and the second half of a sofa and a partial kitchen renovation (to fix a leak) and a host of other things. We both get excited by books so we each got a few gems. Brian’s favorite alcoholic beverage is sake, so I got him a few special bottles, plus this lovely glass sake set:

If you’re wondering what a test tube is doing in the box, you’re supposed to put a little salt and water in there, freeze it, and drop it into the sake pitcher to keep the liquid cool. The best sake is always served cold, which is something I learned after living with a sake lover.

I didn’t want to make this a food post, but of course I can’t resist mentioning our menu. It’s a tradition for us to make Christmas eve all about seafood so I made fish chowder and biscuits, and we brought home some fantastic oysters from my favorite fishmonger, fried them up and gobbled them down with a homemade dried cherry and orange remoulade sauce:

Theses were so yummy I can barely talk about it.

I made pumpkin waffles for Christmas brunch and served them with maple sausage and fruit. Here was our Christmas dinner menu which we prepared together:

  • A Heritage turkey, roasted in our little rotisserie oven
  • Shitake gravy with dry sherry
  • Southern cornbread dressing (a Paula Dean recipe Brian found)
  • Southern-style sweet potatoes
  • Creamed spinach with garlic
  • Gingered Carrots
  • Winter fruit salad

For dessert, I made Brian’s favorite: A Mississipi Mud Pie. Which is really just a chocolate pudding pie with whipped cream. He tells me it’s the best one I’ve made — but he says that every time. We wanted to keep dinner simple since it was just the two of us, and it was perfect. The gravy was a delicious twist on a traditional staple. And you’ll notice the southern-style dishes… for no reason other than Brian’s got some southern leanings and I love it, too.

It couldn’t have been a more quiet, peaceful, easy Christmas. A good one to go out on. Next year’s celebration will no doubt be a whole different ballgame.

This begins the Christmas season for us… I like to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas in some way, up until the feast of Epiphany (also known as the feast of Three Kings).

I hope you enjoyed your weekend wherever you were. What were your highlights?

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He is born!

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

– The Gospel of Luke, 2:8-11

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Almost there

Happy Eve of Christmas Eve! We’re getting ready over here… shopping is done, groceries are bought, tree is decorated, menus are planned. Everything went into the mail on time. Now there’s wrapping and house cleaning and food prep to do — and hopefully time to allow myself to reflect on what Christmas is ultimately about: the birth of Jesus. I love this holiday.

In the meantime, here’s something neat: A 15th century icon of the Madonna and Child was just found in Ethiopia. You can read the story and see a picture of the triptych here. The article reports that monks at the Monastery of St. Stephen, on an island in Lake Hayq in the north, believe the icon — known as The One Who Listens — to be miraculous. It is certainly lovely and so interesting how different places in the world write their icons.

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That’s my birthday card from Brian. The romantic part was written inside, but apparently he continues to find me funny. This year for my birthday he wanted to make me a special meal. The way to Zoe’s heart is through her stomach, in case you didn’t know that by now.

What you do need to know is that while I enjoy cooking, the real talent in this family belongs to him. I do most of the ordinary, every day stuff around here. I’m also the baker, and I do traditional fare really well. But when it comes to gourmet, nouveau, exotic, ethnic, he’s your man.

I had no idea what was on the menu so I was surprised by each dish. Not only was everything fan-friggin-tastic, but very tailored to me. Brian made it as seasonal, local, and organic as possible, and picked recipes he knew I’d like. Then he presented his creations:

First up was this gorgeous golden and red beet salad with goat cheese and arugula, topped with pistachios. Beets are one of those things you either love or you hate. I am a lover. And this was delicious.

Then the main course arrived:

Pan-seared ahi tuna with a shitake ginger lime sauce. The tuna couldn’t be better because we get it from an Alaskan fisherman who only sells the best sustainably-caught seafood. And that sauce? Let’s just say I came so close to licking my plate and I can’t believe I didn’t because I was in the privacy of my own home and would, like a monkey, do something like that. But I refrained because my husband has better manners than me and this was a special dinner.

Dessert was a fun surprise:

A creamy rice pudding with toasted almonds, topped with a cherry cachaca sauce (cachaca is a Brazilian rum). It was lovely — and so so good.

It could not have been a more perfect birthday meal. Cooked meticulously with love by my very own private chef. And no, you can’t have him.

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Chemistry?

It’s scary to read hard adoption stories. Especially the kind where parents and children aren’t bonding well and the issues linger. Sometimes when I read about it, I wonder whether and how chemistry plays a part. Usually we only hear of chemistry in terms of sexual attraction, but it’s actually a big part of any relationship, including parent and child.

We’re more drawn to people with whom we have a natural chemistry… which isn’t easy to define. To my mind, it’s a two way street and a combination of personality, finding common ground, and an “x” factor that’s tough to describe. There are probably things we don’t even think about like pheromones, vocal quality, gestures, and spiritual factors.

A parent may not have the easiest time always liking a child, or being in sync with him, but when you’ve been bonding with that child from the time he was a baby zygote, you’ve got major advantages. In adoption, however, two strangers meet — parent and child, both of whom have a history before they meet each other. They may have a natural chemistry — or not. If they don’t, it seems to me that attachment can be extra difficult. Not that it can’t happen, but it’s going to be more challenging. I suppose this could be an argument for matching parents and children. But how would you begin to do that?

I never hear this discussed in attachment books. The role of personality alone seems like it would be a factor in bonding. If you have a harder time liking a child or tolerating her temperment, it would not only be painful to admit, but tough to deal with. And what about the child? Surely, even if she isn’t self-aware, there are still things about an adult that make him or her easier  to feel comfortable and safe with.

Or maybe I am full of caca over here.

They say caca in Ethiopia, actually. Which is funny because when I was little we had a part-time nanny/babysitter who used the word, and as kids we found it entertaining.

Anyway, what do you think? Not about caca, of course, but about chemistry — or personality. How big of a factor do you think it is in bonding and attachment?

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Christmas gifts

It happens every year. I think I have all the time in the world and suddenly Christmas is on my doorstep. Part of the problem is that I never feel like doing anything Christmassy until my birthday is over. Which means I have two weeks to prepare. When almost everything has to be mailed, this can be a problem.

I’m trying to keep it simple this year, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no such thing, unless I just tell everyone “no gifts.” (Which I’m actually saving up for next year.) I have two parents (divorced, so I can’t send them just one gift to share), nine siblings, and eleven nieces and nephews. I have in-laws, four God-children, and a number of friends with whom I traditionally exchange gifts. Oh, and there’s a husband in there.

Anyway, it all makes for a lot of packages and mailing costs, even when it’s just small stuff.

I don’t buy my siblings gifts unless I’ll be seeing them over the holidays. Actually, of everyone, they’d be the most fun to buy for so it kind of stinks that they’re the ones I leave out. John will be coming for New Year’s weekend with his girlfriend so that will be a treat.

I’ve taken to buying my God-children special Christmas tree ornaments each year so that when they leave home they’ll have their own little collection to bring with them. And, luckily, my sisters love nice books for their kids.

Parents, on the other hand, are tough. You want to buy them gifts, because… well… what kind of a kid would you be if you forgot your parents? But it’s a challenge — especially when you have to mail everything.

My father is almost impossible — there are only so many times I feel like buying and shipping a really expensive bottle of Scotch. My mum is easier, but she’s becoming more of a minimalist as she ages, and she lives in Canada, so I have to send things in, like, August to get them there on time. My in-laws appreciate anything we send, but they’re also at an age where they don’t want stuff they don’t need, and they neither drink alcohol nor gorge on chocolate so what is left, I ask you?

What tends to happen is that I leave my poor husband last because all my time is spent getting everyone else’s stuff bought, wrapped, and mailed, including cards. I suppose he better get used to it.

I can’t remember the last time I went to a mall at Christmas time. I try to avoid them like the plague because they make me dizzy. I like to support local shops when possible and otherwise, I buy online.

I think I’m beginning to sound a little bah-humbug over here. But once we get a tree up and all the gifts are mailed, I’ll hopefully feel a bit more of the Christmas spirit.

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