stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I do moderate Valentine's Day things.  We like to go out for supper together, and we usually exchange flowers and/or cards or small food treats (not chocolates--diabetics have their limitations).  Oddly, we tend to run this out over multiple days.  We're pracitcal enough not to mind if we can't go out on the actual day, and are perfectly happy to do a romantic evening out earlier or later in the week, to allow for busy schedules or overly-crowded restaurants.  And doing a few small things over two or three days is more fun, we think.

But it's always interesting being married to another man on Valentine's Day.

Case in point: I sent flowers to Darwin's office this year.  I've done this before--despite sentiments of the anti-Valentiners, I've never felt constrainted to the holiday--so I'm no stranger to the process, but I still find myself twinging a little bit at putting loving sentiments on the card from Steven to Darwin and knowing the florist will read and copy my words onto the card.  It's a remnant of the "what will people think?" fear I grew up with.  I ignore it, forge ahead, and wonder if the twinge will ever evaporate entirely.

Flowers have a special significance for Darwin and me because on our first date, I arrived at Darwin's house with a red rose and a chocolate-covered strawberry.  He was startled and touched (a man had never brought him flowers or candy before), and he later told me that he started falling in love with me right then.  So flowers forever.

Anyway, I sent these flowers a day early because I wanted to avoid the rush and also give Darwin an extra day to enjoy the bouquet.

Darwin liked the flowers very much, and sent an "I adore you" text with a photo of the flowers when they arrived.  He said the entire office smells like flowers now.  And the women in the office were a-twitter, sniffing that =their= husbands didn't send flowers.  One of the women pointedly informed her own spouse that her boss's husband sent him flowers at work, unlike SOME husbands she could mention, and the next day, the same type of bouquet from the same florist arrived for her.  Straight guys can be taught!

I also shopped for a card.  This is tricky when you're a man looking to buy for another man.  You can search in the generic "Valentine for Anyone" section, but those don't mention romantic love.  And the ones in the "For Him" or "For Husband" section are often clearly from a woman--they sport graphics of an opposite-sex couple, or they say "From your loving wife," or they make other references to opposite sex pairings.  (I don't begrudge this--straight people need valentines too--but it would be nice to shop for a card with the same number of options opposite sex couples have.)  I hunted around, and did find myself wondering if anyone at the store noticed I was a man checking out the cards in the "For Him" section.  This didn't bother me, per se, but I still wondered, and then I didn't like that I was wondering, and then I stopped thinking about it so I could look for a card that wasn't all girly.

I found one and wrote my own sentiments in it in my nicest handwriting.

On Valentine's Day itself, Darwin arrived home from work a little early with flowers of his own for me!  I love them.  The card I bought is pictured with them.

We went out to Casey's in downtown Wherever, a restaurant I call the Irish Sushi Pub.  It's an Irish pub with a sushi bar in it (only in America!), and we like it because I can have sushi (which Darwin dislikes) and Darwin can have pub food (which I often find dull), so we're both happy!

We talked and ate, and during the meal, I often touched Darwin either on his hands or on his arm or even his neck, a gesture you don't often find between two men but which is something I often do without thinking.  He's my husband, after all.  The (rather older) couple one table over noticed this, and the stiff looks began.  I ignored them.  What were they going to do?  I don't think Darwin noticed--the couple wasn't much in his line of sight.  If anyone else in the restaurant noticed Darwin and I were a couple and disapproved, they gave no indication.  About halfway through my and Darwin's meal, the older couple left with one final glare, which I refused to acknowledge.  Darwin and I had a splendid time, actually, and if our presence ruined the other couple's Valentine's Day outing, too bad for them.

The rest of the evening is nunuvyourbeezwax.  :)
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Today, Maksim (my youngest) said that he had become tired of single people complaining that Valentine's Day only reminded them that they're alone.  "If they're lonely," he said, "they should go out and find someone. Or go do something to keep their minds off being lonely instead of complaining."

I think he's right.

Every single year, the litany of people who tear their hair out over Valentine's Day seems to grow.  So, without further ado, we present Solutions to Valentine's Day Complaining!

"I'm single and alone, and seeing all this couples stuff for Valentine's Day makes me feel like a lonely and inadequate loser. I wish Valentine's Day would go away!"

Has complaining about being alone solved your problem?  I didn't think so.  If you're lonely, get off your ass and go places where you'll meet people.  YOU have to take the initiative.  No one is going to knock on your door--you have to do the knocking.  Number one thing?  Volunteer.  There are endless local charitable or political causes that need hands.  Number two?  Go to free lectures at your local library or museum, even if it's something you're not hugely interested in, and hang around afterward to chat.  And get off you damn phone.  It's easy to blow off people in a text.  Talk to people face-to-face and make an actual connection instead.  There are seven billion people in the world.  If you're lonely, it's because you've chosen not to meet people.

"Valentine's Day is so exclusionary.  It's all about couples!  I'm not lonely, but I'm single, so I'm excluded."

When the hell has that been true?  You exchanged valentines with all your classmates and your teacher in elementary school, and didn't have a giant orgy afterward, I hope.  Give valentines to your friends.  Buy a big box of those kid valentines and give them away to random strangers on the street with a "Happy Valentine's Day!"  Make a batch of valentine cookies and hand them out at work.  Hell, one of my students today gave me a cookie.  It was so nice of her!  Go out to eat by yourself while you read a romantic novel, tip the server huge, and write "Happy Valentine's!" on the receipt.  Find a way to include yourself in the festivities, and stop complaining.

"Valentine's Day is so commercial.  I'm sick of being told to buy cards or chocolates or diamonds or restaurant food.  I hate this holiday!"

Sorry--is someone holding a gun to your head and forcing you to empty your bank account?  If you're tired of TV ads, don't watch TV.  I use my DVR to skip commercials, myself.  Problem solved.  Don't want to buy a card?  Make one!  It'll be way cooler anyway.  Or write a letter expressing your feelings.  Or make a special meal.  (My god, I would be thrilled.)  Exercise a little free will.  You'll be surprised at how much you enjoy it.  Meanwhile, knock off the bitching.

"Restaurants are soooo crowded on Valentine's Day, it just wrecks the whole going out thing."

Then have a nice candle light meal at home.  If part of the point is not to cook, order food and put it in nice serving dishes.  Or, even better, go out the day before or the day after Valentine's Day.  Another trick?  Go to supper early, like at 5:00.  The restaurant is fully staffed in anticipation of the dinner rush, but all the other complainers are foolishly waiting to eat at 7:00.  Use a little thought and creativity instead of complaining!

"My boyfriend/girlfiend/husband/wife/sex robot never gets me anything for Valentine's Day.  He/She/It is the least romantic person in the world.  All the other boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives/sex robots buy a romantic present, but I get nothing!"

Use your words, sweetie.  That's the second reason you have a mouth.  (Oh! Did he go there?  Yes, he did!)  Sit your b/g/h/w/sex robot down a week before the big day and say, "I want a romantic gift.  In my mind, it shows you care about me. It's due on Valentine's Day.  I will also give you one.  If you don't give me one, I will feel hurt and angry."  If your sex robot doesn't come through, you'll either need to leave the relationship, or decide if you can overlook this flaw.  And stop complaining about Valentine's Day.

"We get back so late after all the Valentine's Day stuff that we're too tired to have sex before we fall asleep."

Have sex before you go out.  Problem solved.

Happy Valentine's Day!


A couple more were called to my attention through this piece of work:

"I hate the pressure it puts on me to be romantic."

Oh, sweetie pie!  Open your mouth and use your words again.  "Honey, I want to do something fun and romantic for Valentine's Day, but I feel under the gun about this, and that makes it no fun and not at all romantic for me.  Do you have any ideas?"  Seriously.  If you can't use your words like a big person, your relationship probably won't last long anyway.  It's not the holiday that's causing the problem.  Stop complaining.

"I hate the colors."

So how do you survive the rest of the year? It's not like red, white, and pink are whisked away the other eleven months because you dislike them.  Maybe you can wear sunglasses, or write your legislator to demand a law getting rid of those three colors so they won't offend your delicate sensibilities, though I don't know what we'll do about all that white snow lying around, offending you. Do you complain about all the red at Christmas, too?  And the pink at Easter?  Just wondering.

"It programs couples into thinking February 14 is the only day they can express their feelings to one another."

Valentine's Day is the only day you can express your romantic feelings. And Christmas programs people to think it's the only day they can rejoice.  And Halloween programs people to think it's the only day they can be scared.  And Independence Day programs people to think it's is the only day they can feel patriotic.  And Memorial Day programs people to think it's the only day they can remember fallen soldiers.  Yeah.  If you're foolish enough to think Valentine's Day is the only day you can express romantic feelings for your partner, do your partner a favor and break up now.  And stop complaining.

(Yes, I'm aware that I'm complaining about people complaining.  It's Valentine's Day irony!)

Happy Valentine's Day!  Smooch it up!  Give the complainers something to complain about!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The New Year's Eve party was big as these things go--fourteen people.  (Yes, I know this is small compared to some, but it filled our house nicely and kept me prepping and cooking for two days, so that definitely qualifies as "big.")  As with any party of this size, the real work comes AFTER: the cleanup.

I've come across one of the fastest ways to clean up: just throw it out.

My natural inclination is to keep and store extra food from a party.  Seal those crackers in a bag.  Pour those chips back into the sack.  Put the dip back into a bowl.  Put the veggies in plastic containers.  Keep the leftovers for later!

But I've come to realize two things.  First, a lot of these leftovers don't get eaten.  Darwin and the boys don't eat chips much, and they definitely don't eat leftover crackers or cut vegetables or dip.  So it sits until I eat it (and most of it is bad for me), or until it goes bad.

The other thing I realized is that wrapping and sealing and saving takes so much TIME.  Seriously.  It takes considerable time to root through the containers and find the right size for a given food, and then hunt up a lid.  Or to carefully pour everything into a plastic bag, seal it, and find a place for it in the cupboard.  It may not sound like it does, but it does, especially when you have lots and lots and lots of these things to do.  The minutes add up.

So . . . pitch it!  During the Great Cleanup after the party, I just dumped it all into the trash.  (A chunk of it I did send home with guests who wanted it, though.)  Bowls of chips?  Gone!  Dip?  Down the disposal.  Mashed potatoes?  Gone!  When in doubt, trash it!  The meat and cheese we kept, but everything else?  Out!  It sped up the cleaning process quite a lot.

We all slept in on New Year's Day, but when we got up, Phase II began.  This didn't involve throwing things away.

Although Darwin and the boys complain about it, New Year's Day is always dismantling day.  I'm firm on this.  We take down the tree and all decorations and put them away because on this day, everyone is home and available to help.  If we put it off, there's always someone who isn't around, or it becomes easy to say we'll do it later, and then we're into February with Yule decorations still in the living room.  No.  Holidays are over, decorations come down!

So Darwin, the boys, and I stripped the house clean.  They grumbled and complained, but in the end were suprised at how quickly it went.

"It's always faster to put them away than it is to take them out," I said.  "And now we have the living room back!"

Additionally, and a bit shockingly, Darwin cleaned off his desk. (!)

The New Year begins with a clean house!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
No one came over to our house for Thanksgiving because I was recovering from surgery.  And at Christmas we all visited other people's houses.  So still no one came to our house.  This seemed to please Darwin just fine.  When his sister, who hosted Christmas, said she wanted to have New Year's at her house as well, Darwin was perfectly ready to do it, and I pitched a royal fit.

"No one came over here the entire holiday season!" I snapped.  "Not once!"

"Isn't it great?" he said.

I adore my husband dearly, but sometimes he does miss obvious cues, like when I'm ready to draw a kitchen knife from my extensive collection.

"What," I said carefully, "is the point of buying a house designed for entertaining if we never entertain?  As I recall, you saw this place and remarked how great it would be to hold parties here."

"Well, yeah," he said, "I guess we can order a few pizzas and buy some chips, and if everyone comes over at eight or nine . . . "

This was where he found himself staring down at the business end of a meat cleaver.

"Oh," he said meekly.  "Should I tell people it's seven?"

Relish tray (olives, cheese spread, crackers, crudités)
Gourgeres (cheese puffs with gruyère)
Shrimp cocktail
Sugar snap pea and strawberry salad
Braised carrots
Parmesan mashed potatoes
Buttered corn
Hawaiian rolls
Glazed ham
Sirloin roast with bacon stuffing

Dessert breads (banana bread, fruitcake)
Atlantic beach pie
Assorted sodas, beer, and apple ale

Yesterday I prepped.  I sliced raw vegetables.  I made gourgeres balls and froze them (for popping into the oven tomorrow just before supper).  I peeled potatoes and put them into a cold water bath, ready for boiling tomorrow.  I fried and crumbled bacon, sauteed carrots and onions, and split a roast in half so I could fill it with fragrant stuffing and tie it shut for tomorrow.  I baked two tartly sweet beach pies.

Today is finalizing--cooking and setting up.  Minor details!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A new kind of Christmas lights have emerged.  They're a combination of laser lights and LEDs.  The unit looks like a miniature flood light on a stake.  You drive it into your lawn, plug it in, and it floods the outside wall of your house with a pattern of light.  They're a fast, easy change from unlooping miles of cord, standing on ladders in cold weather, slipping and falling, and paying high electricity bills.

The NEW YORK TIMES is critical:

Not overtly, you'll notice.  But the reporter spends a great deal of time interviewing people who dislike the new lights.  "Lazy," says one guy who starts setting up =his= complicated house lights in August and who talks about a "steady flow" of cars driving by his house, even though he dislikes hanging the lights.  (Sounds like he's in a "keep up with the Dickwads" competition with his neighbors.) Another house lights enthusiast dismisses the new kind of lighting with a sniffy wave, describing them as asthetically displeasing.  Of course, he runs a business that charges $2,500 and up to decorate people's houses and apartments in Manhattan.  Who have thought?

Despite this criticism, the new lights are flying off the shelves.  Last year, I noticed one at a neighbor's house for the first time and instantly decided I wanted a set, too, but the stores were all sold out.  This year, I found  them in October at the store and snatched up a set before they could vanish again.  I tucked them away until it was time to decorate.

I adore  them!

See, I love having house lights.  I really do.  It looks so nice to have windows outlined in colored lights, especially when you're coming home in the dark. It makes the house look happy and festive.  But putting them up is such a pain, especially when you work two jobs and are raising children, and . . . and . . . and . . . Putting them up is a cold, frustrating job.  Taking them down--ditto.  So these new lights?  Glee!

I took a little light out of the box, twirled the stake into place, and plugged it in with an outdoor extension cord.  The whole yard flooded with a rainbow of light.  I aimed the light where I wanted it (so it would light the main part of the house), and pushed the stake into the ground.  I repeated the procedure with a second one to light the garage.

Done!  I now had a nicely lit house with only a few minutes' work.  And the LEDs will only add a few cents to my electric bill.

The TIMES can stuff it.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I were supposed to go to Ypsilanti for more research on Sunday, but a big weather system moved in.  HUGE STORM! the weather service shouted.  MANY INCHES OF SNOW! ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD GO OUTSIDE IN THIS!

So we nixed the trip and decided to decorate the house instead.

We got started just as the storm began in earnest, so we had the perfect Michigan combination of snow, pine boughs, lights, and decorations. Darwin got all dressed up:

Maksim figured out where the lights plugged in.

Aran took more photos.  He was also our designated top-of-the-tree decorator.

I had bought a pine garland and intended to use it as a runner for the dining room table, but it was way too long.  Darwin had another suggestion, and it came out beautifully:

In the end, it all turned out just lovely.  With the snow coming down outside and the lights on inside on the tree, everything felt soft and cozy.  I even made a batch of cookies (and started two other batches of treats that have to refrigerate overnight).

Dinah gave her stamp of approval.

Not long after that, my phone rang.  Snow day tomorrow!

We're ready!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last night we did Halloween.  Maksim was conflicted.  Should he go out trick-or-treating one more time, or give it up now that he's in high school?

It was low-key for me.  As I observed elsewhere, no one in the house is really enthusiastic about carving or decorating, and it's a lot of work if I'm the only one.  So this year I just hung a metal jack-o-lantern on a hook in the yard with a flashlight in it and put a bowl of candy by the front door.

Aran put on his pirate costume.  He loves handing out candy:

In the end, Makism decided to go.  He wanted me to go with him for company.  Well, all right.  I almost never get to wear my red cloak anyway.  We have a wide selection of costume materials in our house, so outfits weren't difficult to come by.  I wore a medieval devil's mask with my red cloak.  Maksim wore a cloak of his own with a skull mask and a crown--the king of death.  I was going only to observe, of course.  My t-o-t days are long past, even if I weren't diabetic.

It was a perfect night for trick-or-treat.  Clear, 50s, still air.  Cool enough so you didn't sweat, not so cold you had to wear a coat over your costume.  (Last year it was rainy and COLD.)  And there was no one out.

Seriously.  We went around the entire subdivision and didn't see a single other trick-or-treater.  Maksim cleaned up, as a result.  "Here!" people groaned.  "Take a handful!  Take two handfuls!"  One guy tipped most of the bowl into Maksim's bag.  His pillowcase swelled to the size of a watermelon.

Back home, Aran reported only getting four or five visitors of his own, so we added our own bowl to Maksim's collection.  Darwin joined in to look.

In the morning, Maksim placed huge bowls of candy all throughout the house. 
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We've given up on the pumpkins.

Really, I'm the only one who seems to care much about carving Halloween pumpkins.  Aran has never much been into them--he only did it because we told him to.  Maksim liked it at first, but in the last few years has also lost interest.  They don't specifically ask, "When are we carving pumpkins?"  Darwin says he wants to carve pumpkins, but doesn't actually do anything about it (like buy pumpkins or set aside time to carve them).  It becomes difficult and a chore to be the only one who wants to do a particular thing, and it's no fun to do it with people who are uninterested, so this year I said we're giving it up.

Darwin objected strenuously, and I said I'd be glad to carve them if he'd buy some pumpkins.  When we were at the cider mill (which had a large collection of them), he didn't say anything about picking some out, not even to say, "Steven and I will carve, even if you boys don't want to."  So the subject dropped.  Maksim and Aran were just fine with the idea.

I bought a metal jack o' lantern with a hanging handle and put it on the shepherd's crook by the front walk.  On Halloween, we'll put a candle or a flashlight in it to show that we're willing to hand out candy.  And thus we've completed our Halloween decorating.

Samhain, however, is another matter entirely...
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I needed to do some shopping, and we stopped to look at some Halloween decorations.  Mind you, it's still early October.  We discovered they were nearly all gone.  The store (Lowe's) had already transformed into Christmas Town.

And, to my shame, I caved a little.

Last year, I saw a number of houses decorated with little spotlights that basically sprayed colored lights or designs across the front of your home.  I liked that--you just drove the spotlight's stake into the ground, plugged it in, and voila!  Holiday lights!  No stringing, no climbing, nothing.  But when I went to the store to find said yard lights, I found them all gone.

"They go really fast," the clerk said, "and since they're a holiday item, we don't re-order them."

I made a mental note to get them early next year.

And now it was next year.  At the hardware store, I remembered my mental note and dragged Darwin into the Christmas display to find said lights.  We found several fine examples and selected two, despite my internal alarms that were screaming, "You're encouraging the store to bring in Christmas stuff EARLY! Stop it!  Stop it!"  But I did it anyway because I knew I'd forget the lights later if I didn't get them now.

At this moment, they're sitting in the garage, waiting for December.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Last weekend was Beltaine, but we didn't do anything.  This was partly because Maksim was at his mother's and partly because the weather was just awful and partly because Aran is coming home this coming weekend for his birthday, so we decided to move Beltaine to this weekend.  We--and by "we" I mean "I"--are planning to see the CIVIL WAR movie and set up the outdoor altar and do the birthday cake thing.  It should be a nice weekend!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
New Year's Eve, 2016 was supposed to be a large party.  No one had been to our house over Yuletide and Christmas, and New Year's was supposed to be the biggie!  But as the day grew closer, one by one people who had confirmed they were coming canceled, some on the day of the party itself.  (A bunch of people who said they might come also said they couldn't come, but they don't count, since they weren't confirmed.)  In the end, it was down to just three guests.

Well, fuck 'em.  We had fun anyway.  We played games and played penny-ante cards and watched the ball drop.

And now it's 2016.  2015 was a rough year for Darwin, so we're looking forward to 2016 being different.

On New Year's Day, we did the annual cleanup.  By January 1, I'm always done with the holidays.  I want my living room back and I want the chaos to end.  And everyone is always here on January 1.  So I round up the household and we dismantle all the decorations.  Back they go!

When that was done, I cleaned my desk of all the accumulated clutter.  I went through every piece of paper, every card, every note.  Almost all of it went into the trash.  Then I cleared off the bedroom dresser and nightstand.  I do this every year, since holiday busy-ness and chaos always leads to clutter.  Now everything is sleek and clean and ready for the new year!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The schools should be closed all week this week, but Michigan's legislature added five days to the calendar, so schools were open on Monday and Tuesday.  Normally this wouldn't bug me overmuch except that I'm still sick.  I have no voice, I tire easily, and my function is sharply limited.  This means I arrive home from work exhausted.

Tuesday, today, was Yuletide.  Technically it started yesterday, but the solstice came at about 10:00 PM, so we celebrated it the day after.

Although I'm on the mend, I was still wiped after a day at work and my voice is virtually non-existent.  Normally I cook up a big dinner with a fancy dessert, and then we have the Yule ritual to welcome back the light, and Mother Berchte pounds on the door with her sack of presents, which we then open.  But the thought of doing all that this year was just too overwhelming.

Here's where I really wish I belonged to a nice big coven, where I could just say, "I'm sick.  Someone else will have to handle Yule this year," and it would happen.  But we're family tradition, and Aran is autistic and Maksim is still young, so if I don't make it happen, it doesn't happen.

Sorry for the complaining.  It's been a long week.

Anyway, I declared it would be Yuletide Light this year.  I made a simple dinner of fried potatoes and sausage (Ukrainian stir fry, we call it), with fruit bread for dessert.  Then we did a shortened version of the ritual, and we discovered that Berchte had left her sack of presents on the front porch.  We opened and enjoyed them.  Aran got a stylish new shirt and a DVD.  Maksim got--uh oh--an espresso machine.  Darwin got two personalized coffee mugs to replace ones that had broken weeks ago.  And I got a soft white sweater.

And then we were done.  Yuletide Light!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
After Halloween ended, the Samhain prep began.  I made apple crisp and chocolate brownies, both with ice cream, and set up the altar for the first time in the new house.  We set candles everywhere and let them, then set wards and blessings all around the new house.  We brought the Goddess in from outside and set her under the altar, and performed readings to see what the upcoming year would be like.  We rang the four wind chimes that hang outside the house.  ("Never take down the wind chimes," I admonished, "or THEY can get in.")  Afterward, we extinguised all the candles, leaving the house dark but for a few glow sticks.  Because the finished basement is pitch black, we ended up playing scary hide and seek with costumes.  The new house is enormous, and lends itself to such scary moments, which was a lot of fun.

And now it's the new year!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
We asked some of the neighbors what the local trick-or-treat situation was generally like.  They said it was on the slow side, rather like it is everywhere these days (though in our old neighborhood, it was non-existent--nearly everyone was from the Middle East, and everyone acted like they'd never heard of Halloween, even after several years in the United States).  We got a decent-sized bowl of candy and Maksim dressed as a vampire knight:

2014-10-31 18.48.30

The weather started off cold and rainy, then turned snowy. (!)  Maksim went out without a coat at first and we hit half the neighborhood.  (Maksim knows the neighborhood, but it's no fun to go out by yourself, so I went along.)  About half the houses were open for business, and a couple-three had done scary yard displays.  Maksim scared the bejabbers out of a couple teenagers, which he thought was splendid.  Then we stopped home for heavier coats and a warm-up before hitting the other half of the neighborhood.

We saw maybe fifteen other trick-or-treaters.  This meant that people were giving out large treats and saying, "Take three!  Take four!"  And in a very short time, Maksim had a huge haul.  Most of it was some variation of chocolate.  Wow!

By the time we were done, the snow was coming down pretty heavily, though it wasn't sticking on the ground.  We were both glad to come in!
stevenpiziks: (Carved Rock)
Christmas Eve we drove up to Saginaw.  The weather, which had been dodgy lately, cleared up nicely.  When we got just a little north, all the trees were coated with crystalline ice and glittered like they were covered in diamonds the whole way up.  Beautiful!

We first went to a restaurant to have lunch with my dad.  It was a big Christmas sausage fest--all guys at the table.  It was a lot of food and conversation.  Our server was a delight.  She moved out coats and the gifts to a vacant table for us, took a picture of us, and kept the glasses filled.  (It was at Logan's Roadhouse on Tittibawassee Road, if you're ever in the area and need a good place to eat.)  It was great seeing everyone there!

Then we headed over to my mother's.  There, it was a really big group, since her new husband Gene's family came over.  Whew!  After several small Christmases when everyone was divorced and single, we were suddenly exploding in all directions.  Vast quantities of food were consumed, including exquisitely decorated cupcakes Darwin got from a little bakery in Lake Orion.  Everyone had trouble eating them because they were so cute--but we forged ahead.

The gift exchange was great fun.  We'd drawn names to exchange gifts with, but many of us cheated and gave Mom presents anyway.  Heh.  The big hits of the night were a handmade quilt that went to my brother Paul from Connie (Gene's daughter-in-law), the letter my sister Bethany wrote me (which made me cry), and, of course, the huge surprise--a set of ink portraits my brother had drawn of Bethany and her partner Bill, and of Darwin and me.  We were totally blown away!  Much of the evening was spent admiring them.

Afterward, we split into our component parts.Read more... )

Yule, 2013

Dec. 26th, 2013 06:55 pm
stevenpiziks: (Cup)
We held Yule at my house.  Darwin came and observed rather gingerly.  The entire Mother Berchta thing made him a little nervous.  (He's too tasty for his own good.)

The boys and I set candles all about the house, then turned out the lights.  We welcomed back the God and the sun, and relit all the candles.  In the middle of it exploded Mother Berchta, as she always does.  She zeroed in on Darwin right away for examination, but declared him too stringy to be edible.  Maksim turned a little mouthy, so Berchta sat on him on the couch while she handed out treats and presents until he begged for mercy.

And then it was opening presents.  I gave Darwin a custom-etched freestanding glass plate with his family crest on it.  He adored it.  It was a fine evening.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Thanksgiving went nicely for us, thanks.  We had a little bobble getting up there--a bad accident all but shut down the highway and we spent considerable time shuffling around it--but we decided that although we were delayed, someone else was having a horrible day, so we were glad to let it ride.

We gathered at my mother's house and consumed much delicious food.  Mom and I ran the kitchen, then let my brother and sister clean up.  A great deal of conversation and game-playing followed.  Aran's high school marching band played during halftime at the LIon's game, which thrilled Aran considerably.  We also set fire to the huge brush pile my mother gathers every year from her trees.  It turned into quite the inferno, and this thrilled Maksim considerably.  Darwin and I stayed inside, though.  :)

The drive home was a little iffy at first due to some snow, but it cleared up a few miles down the highway, and we were home.  A fine celebration!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I had a small triumph this year.  I used a stencil.

I know: you're ecstatic, too.  But run with me, here.  For years and years I've always looked at those enormously complicated pumpkins that people carve using stencils and wondered how the heck they do it.  Those little pumpkin carving knives are just not all that great for this kind of thing. I can barely hack out some triangles eyes and a mouth.

But this year Darwin bought a pack of pumpkin stencils, and I decided I would do my level best to try one. I picked out one the book said was easy, laid it over the pumpkin, and immediately decided the key was to go super slow.  I pricked out the design (smarmy comments welcome) and then set to work with the little knife.  So much slow carving and removing of pumpkin flesh!  In the end I came away with a wonderful grinning cyclops jack o' lantern.  I felt enormously proud of myself.  Go me!

Darwin and the boys, meanwhile, hacked and slashed with great glee.  Darwin did try a stencil, but it didn't work out, and he rescued his pumpkin by carving a different face on the opposite side.  Whew!  We put them all on the back porch to keep them safe from marauders and lit them.  Awesomeness reigned.
stevenpiziks: (Light)
Joyous Yule! Mother Berchte arrived. Much food, many presents, the light returned, and the days are growing longer at last!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Thanksgiving went off beautifully!  The heavy lifting was done the day before, so I was able to get up nice and early to attend to the turkey.  Rinsed off the brine, stuffed it, put it in the roaster--and found the bird was too high.  Well, that was no problem, really.  I leaned hard on it.  Crack!  Now it would fold a little.  The turkey doesn't care if a few bones are broken.

Then it was prep, prep, prep.  Potatoes, fruit and dip, heating cheese dip, and so forth.

People arrived--my parents, my in-laws, my brother and sister, my cousin.  When it came time to take the turkey out, I enlisted my father and father-in-law, and then my father-in-law assisted with the giblet gravy and did the carving.  So the men did the meat.  My mother, however, was Side Dish Woman and coordinated the stuff that needed to be put into the oven and heated.  The buffet was arranged, and lo! It Was Good.

Brining the turkey--highly highly recommended, peeps!  The turkey was flavorful and tender and juicy.  Just fantastic!

Before, during, and after dinner was much socializing and making of strange noises, as my family is wont to do.

The cleanup was epic.  Whoof!  But at last it was all done and order was restored.  A fine Thanksgiving it was.


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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