Posted in Arlington, Christmas, Family, Hanukkah, Holidays, Massachusetts

Enter Ancient December

It’s finally cold outside. I need my winter coat. No snow yet, but the local shops are putting up their displays and the Town is getting ready for a holiday blow out this weekend: tree lightings, caroling, special promotions at shops and restaurants. White lights are draped over trees in Arlington Center and trees are on sale, ready for ornaments all all that.

Holiday Display
Ginger Bread House at The Artful Heart

We’ll probably pick out a tree this weekend, just in time to kick off Hanukkah! I’ll have to dig out my husband’s menorah and remind him to get candles so we can light the thing. My travel arrangements for Buffalo are set and I’m starting to look around for presents to purchase or make.

Okay, so this is feeling cool. I’m getting into it. It’s been a little hard to get into the spirit since my mom passed, but enough time has transpired so that I can feel that holiday joy in my heart.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Posted in Christmas, Family, Hanukkah, Health, Holidays, Just Bitching

Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3?

Finally, after yet another bout with an unexpected and unwelcome virus I’ve managed to get myself both outside and active as well as inside and working. At this point, this foolishness has been going on for about two months and I’m not out of the woods yet. So far I’ve had visits from two different viruses, one of which may have been some version of mono. At least that’s what the tests might indicate. I came down with a run-of-the-mill cold about two weeks ago and am still stuffy and more tired than I should be.

And no one, no one, knows why or how I got those hallucinations in November. At this point I’ve had three separate blood tests, a CT scan, an MRI, visits with a psychiatrist, neurologist and a neuro-opthalmalogist. I’ve had my central and peripheral vision tested, my blood drawn and my head examined – literally. So far we’ve determined that I’m not psychotic, don’t have a tumor, don’t have Charles Bonnet Syndrome or anything in my blood that would suggest a source of the visions. The first blood test took place in the emergency room while I was actively hallucinating, so they really started at the beginning. I have an EEG scheduled for January and after that I am done with this crap.

I haven’t had any hallucinations since that one day but am going crazy trying to figure out what the hell happened. Did I eat something? Touch something? Smell something? My doctors don’t think so, based on the sequence of events and the fact that this thing only lasted one day. So, what is it, damn it? Tell me!

I just don’t want that to happen again. It was like going on a bad LSD trip, or so I’d imagine. Whirling things, snakes and bugs, all coming at me. Yuck.

Anyway, I’m back to work and am slowly starting to dig my way out of my backlog. Fortunately, it’s a quiet time of year so I can get away with a lighter task load. I’m leaving for Western New York and Christmas on Sunday. The hubby will be driving out later, after his classes get out. I’m not planning on bringing my laptop along!

Anyway, Happy Hanukkah for those who celebrate the occasion!

 

Posted in Easter, Family, Food, Holidays, Home

Brunch on the Spot

I hosted a last-minute Easter brunch today. Most of the people I invited already had plans. My mother- and father-in-law were available though, since they do Passover, and we ended up having an extraordinarily lovely afternoon with delicious food, a quiet street and plenty of time to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

I’m learning how not to kill myself preparing and hosting food events like this. I put together a quick bread yesterday that used up extra ripe bananas and nuts. I also whipped up some deviled eggs and cut up a pineapple. The rest were things that were easy to throw together today, like a fruit salad and fruit smoothies. The most work – and it was minimal – were buttermilk blueberry pancakes. I just weighed up the dry ingredients and blenderized the liquids. I had leftover buttermilk from an earlier cooking project, so I felt even more virtuous.

The meal started with champaign mimosas, which calls for half orange juice and half sparkling wine. Pour and stir. I also had chicken sausages and turkey bacon, but we didn’t consume those. I popped the sausages into the broiler and then forgot about them. Oops! Good thing we have smoke detectors.

So, a lovely and low-labor day. Nice!

Now, how about you?

Posted in A Bit of This, A Bit of That, Arlington, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Massachusetts, Seasons, Winter

Getting Into The Spirit

It’s December. Time to get ready for Christmas, and the first such event without my mother. I’m not pushing myself too hard to ring in the holidays, but don’t want to sit it out, either. I’ll be heading back to Western New York with my husband and I’m looking forward to seeing my father, brother, sister and brother-in-law.

I’m trying to think of new ways to celebrate. Maybe have our Christmas Eve dinner at someone else’s house. Change the menu. Have fun with the family and spend time with them in ways I didn’t before. See if I can introduce new family inter-dynamics. Who knows?

There will be a holiday kick-off for the Town of Arlington on December 7, this coming Saturday. The lights are going up in the trees, local shops will be holding special sales and promotions and Christmas preparations will be in full swing. That’s when I’ll get the tree, which we always buy at the Boys and Girls Club. Maybe I’ll get new lights and other decorations for it. Like I said: mix it up a little. I think that will work!

Posted in Family, Health, Life

A Passing

My mother passed away last night. She was 89 years old and in poor health for many years. She was in a skilled nursing facility and had recently contracted pneumonia. I am told that she died peacefully, in her sleep.

I’m saddened but also relieved. In some ways I lost my mother some time ago, as her mental and physical health declined. She was no longer the same person. My own expression of grief occurred a few months ago, following a message from my sister. At that point my mother had again fallen and was in the Emergency Room. My sister was of the opinion that she would not be coming home. I remember sitting at my desk in front of my computer and writing this in my personal journal. I cried for her then and said goodbye. I let her go in my heart, wrenching as that was. I remembered that time when speaking with my brother this morning about what had happened. I relived it in my mind’s eye.

Will I cry again? Probably. But the wrenching, goodbye grief may have already passed. I’m waiting to hear back from my sister with updated funeral arrangements. After that my husband and I will prepare for our trip back to pay our final respects and lay my mother to rest.

I was very close to my mother and knew that she had limited time. I made a decision over a year ago to spend as much time and share as much joy as she needed. I cared for her in Buffalo for seven weeks, then regularly went back and forth to visit her for shorter periods of time. I spent one Thanksgiving in Buffalo General Hospital when she was there. I also saw her at home and had the time to take her out and about. She and I savored walks and gardens together (she was in a wheelchair). We laughed. We had meals together. We opened presents on Christmas, Father’s Day and her birthday. I feel content with that. I did what I felt I needed to do.

So, farewell Helen Rydzynski. If you have an afterlife, may it be filled with the joy you gave us. I’m sad to see you go, but relieved that your suffering and illnesses are finally at an end.

Helen Z. Rydzynski July 28, 1924 - November 2, 2013
Helen Z. Rydzynski
July 28, 1924 – November 2, 2013
Posted in Food, Holidays, Recipes

A Fruit Cake For A Flamingo Dancer

Well, I rarely equate September with fruit cakes, but others most clearly do. I’ve been challenged to come up with a fruit cake to live in history in the electronic archives of a certain Australian blogger – our very own Flaming Dancer!

So, my dear, this fruit cake is for you (I suppose you could interpret that comment in a number of ways, but I’m offering it in the nicest one possible). This is from my battered and loose-paged “Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies” and has been on my favorites list for many, many years.

It’ll go splendidly with (or in, I suppose) brandy, coffee, tea, eggnog or what have you. It doesn’t last a week in my household and often travels great distances, in expensive Express Mail envelopes, around holiday time. You may need to decode the ingredient and temperature measures to match what you have, but the effort expended will be worth it!

California Fruit Cake

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of one 9×5 inch or two 8×4 inch loaf pans with parchment paper.

Mix together in a large bowl:

  • 3/4 cup (3.75 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add and mix thoroughly with your fingers:

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 packed cup (5.5 oz) dried apricot halves
  • 2 cups (12 oz) quartered dates
  • 3 cups (10 oz) walnut halves

In a small bowl, beat until light:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix, using your hands, until all of the fruit and nut pieces are coated. Scrape into the pan and bake for about one hour and 10-20 minutes for the smaller loaves, or one hour and 30-40 minutes for the larger loaf, or until the top is deep golden brown and the batter clinging to the fruit and nut pieces seems set. Tent loosely with foil if the loaves are browning too quickly.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 – 10 minutes before unmolding.

Wrap, airtight, and store at least three days before serving.