Peeling the Eggplant

Lollypop Santa

We’ve all heard the story (possibly apocryphal, but it’s a good story so, who cares?) about the woman who was making a roast. Her daughter, watching her, asked, “Mom, why are you cutting the ends off the roast?”

The mother replied that she was doing so because it was the way she learned from her mother, but didn’t know why it made the roast better.
Together, they went to the other room to ask Grandma why the ends were cut off the roast, and the old woman replied that she’d HAD to do it that way, because it was the only way the roast would fit in the pan.

Similarly, those of us who grew up with grandmothers and mothers who peeled eggplant before using it, also peel eggplant. But the thing is, you don’t actually have to peel eggplant for most dishes. Sure, it feels rubbery when it’s raw, but it cooks down fairly well.

Holiday traditions are sort of the same way. Some of them, like the roast, or the eggplant, we do because we always have. I grew up with a butterfly at the top of the Christmas tree, and the first year I had my very own tree, I felt guilty for putting something OTHER than a butterfly up there. Then my husband and I found a lovely quarter-moon ornament and that was our topper in the first years of our marriage.

More recently, as our (fake, plastic, pre-lit) trees have become taller and taller, we’ve had to adjust the topper again. Currently, it’s an angel I bought at Cracker Barrel, but I picked her because she’s got this delicious smirk, as if she knows some great secret.

Sometimes, though, traditions have to be completely new. Since moving to Texas nine years ago (yes, that feels like forever to me, too) we’ve planned Christmas Eve to be our night. Sure, we might go to a Christmas Eve service (or two – because I love midnight mass, so even when we were at UUCOC, we’d still go), but otherwise, we keep the evening low-key.

Christmas Day, however, is all about inviting friends and “chosen family” over for brunch. Everyone gets at least one present to open, and we celebrate with laughter and good food.

I’m sure as we age, we’ll come up with some newer traditions even than those, but whether we spend Christmas with just ourselves, or with other people, whether we peel the eggplant, or not, the entire season will be full of fun and friends and fabulous food.

Today’s Santa: The very young child of a friend dubbed him Lollypop Santa, and the name stuck. He’s from Cracker Barrel. Seriously, sometimes they have great decor.

Holidailies 2013

This is Your Brain on Ice

Red Santa

I lived in Colorado for seven years (on and off) and I never learned to ski, but I did learn to ice skate, and ever since my booted-and-bladed feet first touched ice, I’ve been in love with the sport.

These past few Sundays have found me sitting on the bed folding laundry and watching figure skating competitions. I’m not sure who I’m rooting for, which means I don’t much care who wins, but I enjoy the skill and artistry, even so.

My own skates sit, idle and dusty, at the top of the hall closet, their blades covered in purple and turquoise guards bought eons ago from a rookie player from the San Jose Sharks who was doing his time in the pro shop.

My first skating memories, however, have nothing to do with rinks and music, and everything to do with funky metallic ‘thermal’ socks that made my feet itch and sweat, and snow-packed rolled-up cuffs of jeans, and water ripples frozen into the surface of the ice.

We skated outside, and stayed out til the ice and snow had frozen our laces to the point where my best friends Siobhan, Larissa, and I would seriously contemplate walking home on our skate-guards or attempting to skate down the road, frozen three feet thick with old snow and dirty ice.

That was in Georgetown, when I was seven, and The Town would turn the baseball diamond into an outdoor skating rink for the kids, so we wouldn’t take it into our heads to go all the way out to the reservoir. (Don’t tell my mother, but sometimes we DID go all the way out there on our bikes, but never to skate.)

So we would turn circles and try basic spins, and hope that our short and sassy Dorothy Hamill-esque haircuts looked as cute on us as they did on her.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t.

I’m not sure why ice skating is on my mind tonight, but it might have to do with the recent re-discovery of this ancient picture of me:

Skating in Evergreen

I don’t really remember the day, but the notes on the back, in my mother’s handwriting: January 1st 1977, Evergreen Lake, CO. Elevation 8,500 feet. Temperature 6 degrees. “If you take my picture I’ll scream.”

Today’s Santa: On my fireplace mantel, every year, stand a collection of Victorian-esque Santa Claus dolls. This one is one of the oldest, the red one.

(Hey look, doing Holidailies just before midnight…again.)