ANNUAL STEAK DINNER
For the past few years, a selection of my gal pals from NYC and I have engaged in a traditional New York steak dinner. The core of the group has been myself, my NYC piano-playing bestie, my freshman college roommate bestie and Piano friend's friend who has the same name as me. Since she is a brunette instead of a blonde, we have a perfect good angel/bad angel bond. Other years we've had additional NYC lovelies but this year it was just the four of us. We decided to check out Keens Steakhouse in midtown and were not at all disappointed with the decision. Two of us met early in the bar and kicked off the martini trend which resulted in a severe bout of tipsiness as the night wore on. But all in all, we had some succulent steak, some sumptuous sides and a grand ole time catching up.
Christmas eve continues to be one of the highlights, not only
of my time at home, but of my whole year. I get to frolic with some of my favorite family members, drink eggnog and indulge in mountains of kielbasa.... Ooooh, kielbasa. My polish ancestral treat. The only thing I really know about my cultural history and a tasty delight that I only get to have when visiting home. My uncle and cousins are fantastic cooks so we always leave quite full to the brim with food and libations. This year we all decided to contribute to charities in lieu of gifts. Well, mostly in lieu. We made a point to include a small token to open so that we retained the usual gift wrap fanfare around the tree, but with the added bonus of knowing that we were helping many important causes in this day and age. With young nephew dancing around piles of gifts by his side, I hope we were preserving our future all around.
This year, Christmas day was at my own dear mommy's home sweet home: the house I grew up in and where I stay whenever I am back in Connecticut. The siblings and I spent time decorating the tree, making cookies, cupcakes, and generally preparing for the day ahead. In the morning, we traditionally head over to my dad and stepmom's house so that we can get spoiled rotten even more by whatever Santa dropped over there. We then came back to help my mom, my baby sister, and the dog and cat get ready to receive our extended relatives. The day ended up being relatively calm and drama-free. Family members got along with family members, we ate and drank mimosa (my mom's idea) and celebrated the day. It ended up being the last time I saw one of my cousins, who we had just learnt was diagnosed with very advanced breast cancer just before the holidays. Sadly, she only lived a few weeks after Christmas but I am glad to have the memory of a merry holiday with her to cherish.
MARK TWAIN HOUSE
Growing up in New England meant living in a historically significant part of the United States. My hometown is almost exactly two hours to Boston and two hours to New York City. Connecticut itself has tons of historical spots worth exploring. And so, our schools would often take us on field trips to local landmarks such as Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport, the Noah Webster House and the Mark Twain House, which is only about 20 minutes from my town. Since I haven't been to any of these locations in easily a couple of decades, I wrangled my sisters into an afternoon at the Mark Twain House. It's a beautiful colonial building, very well-preserved and maintained. Guides tour you around the building and tell the tales of one of the United States' most notable authors. From Tom Sawyer to Huckleberry Finn to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain was a master of fictional accounts. We had a lovely time jumping back in time for a few hours and most particularly, donning the period clothing available to wear in the adjoining museum.
It becomes harder and harder to get friends together when people start moving away, getting married and having all the babies. I was therefore super excited when two of my Connecticut besties and I managed to get together for a night in fancy pants New Jersey. These are the ladies I went on a cruise to the Greek Isles with a few summers ago, one of them is Dancer Friend (not able to fly home from Ireland this year) and all of them my dearest oldest friends on the planet. One of the ladies lives in CT and was fantastic enough to take a night away from her young son and drive me down to NJ for a ladies night of fun. This particular gal and I have a knack for chatting away and getting lost en route to meeting the others (it happened once before in Ireland), so it was not very surprising when our gracious host greeted us several hours later than planned. Fortunately, she had her cutie baby girl to keep her company and was more than ready for a lovely night out. We had a delicious dinner out on the town, several fabulous cocktails and they finally got me to watch Bridesmaids. I don't think I could have really imagined a better night with friends.