Year end wrap up, 2008

This Christmas has been one of the most relaxing we've had since... well, last Christmas.

We've made a habit out of low key holidays since we got the first kid, and with the addition of the other one, we've re-committed ourselves to not ever leaving our house again during a national holiday. Not even Arbor Day. This gives us the opportunity to really enjoy our house, the full fun and fruit of decorating our home and putting up the trees - Every year we get two Christmas trees. Because even before she was bringing home macaroni ornaments, I knew that I wanted to have a "kid's tree" where macaroni ornaments could go. And a grown up tree that was everything fancy and beautiful like I saw in those magazines, but could never have because my Father, the Surgeon, always insisted on tinsel and giant, fist-sized colored lights, when I wanted simple white lights and traditional ornaments. This is so much part of our annual holiday tradition now that the Critter looks at other kids who don't have to put up with the second tree thing as if they live in a magical story book land, you know, you've heard about those places, but gee, I always thought they were just made up.

Every year, we tell our family that as much as we'd love to see them, we have the children and an aversion to fighting our way through insane Christmas airport traffic while trying to keep a pair of small, feral monkeys from eating one another, flinging their poo at random strangers, or telling me right after we get in line at the check-in desk that she really needs the toilet right now. But we're here, and our door is open.

This year, for the first time, one of our family members called our bluff and came to stay with us for the duration. My Bride's sister arrived just before the 3 feet of snow we got the weekend before Christmas and stayed for the duration. In the Critter's eyes, her Auntie ranks someplace between Minnie Mouse and Baby Jesus, so actually having her here at Christmas time made her head explode just a little bit. It also gave my Bride and I an extra barrier between sanity and the endless parade of "When does Santa get here? Is he on his sleigh yet? Don't the reindeer get tired? What shall we leave out for Santa?" questions.

I've many things to be thankful for this year, probably most of all the opportunity to be at home, safe and warm with my loving family while this snow accumulated outside (seriously.. for a boy from Georgia, getting 3 feet of snow in a couple of days was a daunting experience. I was looking at my chainsaw and the forest behind our house thinking that I might need to tackle a couple more trees before it was all over).

But a very close second in order of thankfulness was the absolutely fantastic set of spice jars I received this year from my sister-in-law. Oh my God, these things are fantastic. I've been wanting to do this for years, ever since I saw Martha use these, but I didn't want the whole magnet backed thing, because a) I figured they'd just get messy if they were out all the time, and b) I don't have anything to stick them on that's ferrous except for the front of our dishwasher. And who puts spices on the front of their dishwasher?

But look at how beautifully lined up and organized they are! It gave me the chance to consolidate, clean up, throw out old spices and really see what I had hidden away in my cabinet. Every time I open the drawer and see these I am inspired to cook new and different things. I've already found myself using things I had forgotten about (toasted rice - one of the key ingredients for so many southeast asian dishes that you've tried to replicate at home, but can't figure out what that last ingredient you remember tasting and feeling in your mouth - it's partly about the texture - it's probably toasted rice.)

In the new year, I hope to carry this spirit forward and re-claim some of the organization I've lost in the past few months during all of the move craziness. There are a hundred and one little projects to do - I finally started converting the attic into a playrooom for the kids, and I have to say it's looking pretty cool. I laid out the raised beds for this year's new vegetable garden before the ground froze. And then there're the chickens we're getting this spring. Because everybody needs some chickens. Right?

In addition to the house projects, there are a dozen or more other, professional efforts that will keep me going in the new year, which I'm really looking forward to, but I'm hopeful that I will also have the time and inspiration to write more in one shape or another. Or at least photo-document some of the madness that keeps us hopping.

In the mean-time, I hope you are having a lovely Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/or Pagan Yule Log. Whatever floats your boat.

Here's to another fantastic year, from our house to yours.