Holed up in the new homestead with the house full of family, two wood stoves firing at maximum capacity in the pouring cold rain, non-stop rotations in the kitchen for preparation of the next meal, while happily working our way through season 1 of the Gilmore Girls, makes for a pretty darn wonderful start to the holiday.
Preparations have included lasagna to put in the oven the night Molly returns home after being in Peru for the past ten months. The sauce: 2 large chopped portobello mushrooms sautéed with a chopped medium onion in olive oil. Then add equal parts prepared tomato sauce and canned fresh tomatoes to match volume sautéing in the pan. Simmer on low with cover on while preparing rest of ingredients. Partially cook one pound of lasagna, rinse in cold water and lightly rub with olive oil. Thinly slice one small butternut squash and one medium zucchini. Rinse and dry one medium bunch of fresh basil leaves. Grate an 8 oz. block of fresh whole milk mozzarella cheese. Let sauce cool a few minutes before assembling. In a 9.5 x 13.5 casserole, begin with a scant layer of sauce, first layer of noodles, butternut squash in single layer, sauce, and half the grated cheese. Next layer of noodles, zucchini and fresh basil, sauce, rest of grated cheese. Layer last of the noodles, spread last of sauce to completely cover noodles and cover with a generous layer of fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly and squash is soft.
Twenty four hours following Molly’s arrival the third generation arrives (the grandparents) and a rhythm of gathering food, preparing food, and eating food officially begins. Christmas Eve is the day I always make my father’s favorite kurebies; Greek almond crescent shaped cookies covered in snowy white powdered sugar that my grandmother would make every year at Christmas. The recipe I use is written down from a phone conversation with my father’s older sister, aunt Mona, from the instructions she wrote down from her mother, my grandmother Galata, a classic recipe that includes a demitasse cup full of anisette and a saucer full of sugar, toasted almonds, fresh lemon juice, eggs, flour, and a copious amount of butter. This ritual signals the end of the week of baking cookies to prepare for the holiday…
The kitchen is truly the heart of this new home of mine, shared openly with the adjacent family room complete with flat screen and five seats for movie watching in the warmth of a new wood stove on one side, to the stair leading upstairs to a wide hall and two comfortable bedrooms, a window to the front yard and street that signals public presence, and most significantly, connected via sliding windows to the large three season porch which frames gorgeous views to the wild beauty outside. It’s amazing how easy it has been to be in this kitchen and truly feel the heart of all that happens. More amazing is how perfectly everyone seems to fill and fit into the generous places here when being outside is not a great option.
A friend recently told me about a book he is reading that has a house inhabited by two witches. The house has consciousness and is “alive”. When it realizes that guests are coming, it will add a room. If there is something that needs safe keeping, it will hide it. At times that something is needed, it will produce it. If it’s unhappy or happy about something, it will show it. I think about how much this story resonates as we have flowed through this Christmas week, through the ease and the bumps and the acceptance that this is where we all are in expressed fears and hurts and happiness and anticipation. Smiling, thinking of the number of times in my life I have been named a witch for ‘knowing’.
The rain finally stops on Christmas morning. Like a miracle, light from the inside, in reflection, begins to move outside….
By early afternoon the sun is out and we to finally get out into the woods for a walk. As much as home here inside the ever so accommodating house feels complete, I realize in the showing of my beloved woods to Molly that this grand space outside continues to feel like an extension of the living room to me, inviting rest and breath and reflection.
And the roaring brook that catches the filtered light continues to feel like an extension of the ease of movement from one space to another, balanced, natural and inevitable, with purpose and without agenda.
My mother gifted me with a whole box filled with her beautiful pieces of pottery, bowls I specifically asked for. Stacked next to the stove, ready to receive the Christmas lunch soup, I marvel at the beauty of these individually crafted bowls as they nest together. I begin to re-arrange the open shelf that holds the growing collection in order to make room for these new pieces. It tips towards me and throws the stack of larger bowls I have had for years, rarely used, onto the counter and floor. The sound of the crash tells all. The bowls have all broken in some significant way, leaving shards and debris all over. I slowly pick it all up and stack, and with tears, go to show my mother. We both start laughing at the same time, recognizing the preciousness of the moment of letting go of something old in order to make way for something new…
I think, so this is what balance feels like…..