food + family

Last year, because our Christmas plans involved whirlwind trips to Austin, Houston, and North Carolina, we decided to take it easy and stay put for Thanksgiving. Because it revolves around food, family and gratitude, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday — and the prospect of Thanksgiving dinner for two didn’t quite have the feel of holiday to me.

So we brought down the serving dishes from my grandmothers and Joe’s cousin Jeanie, the china from my great-grandmother, the glasses from my brother and sister-in-law; we used recipes from Joe’s mother and set the table with linens made by mine; and, by the time we sat down to eat, we felt sufficiently surrounded by food and family:

thanksgiving dinner, 2011

This year, we’d planned to head to Greensboro, NC, to spend Christmas at Joe’s parents’ house. But thanks to an ill-timed blizzard, once again we find ourselves staying put. This time, my parents live here, and my aunt and uncle will be in town. So, though we’re staying in Madison, it doesn’t mean we’re without loved ones nearby. However, it means Joe won’t be able to celebrate Christmas back home — only the second time that’s ever happened.

So, when we had my parents over for pre-Christmas chili a couple of nights ago, we found ourselves once again using food as a proxy for family, reaching for Joe’s mother’s cornbread recipe, the perfect complement to the perfect food for a cold, ice-covered day:

It was all so good that we’d eaten almost everything before Joe thought to take a picture. Almost everything, but not quite:

snow day

The second biggest snow storm in Wisconsin history blew through town yesterday, causing us to cancel our eagerly-awaited Christmas trip to North Carolina, but giving us a surprise day of doing nothing but eating, walking the dog, and watching the snow fall (and fall and fall and fall — for more than 24 hours!).

how Joe spent his day
how I spent my day

We lost power last night around 7. The power company warned us we were among 4,000 homes without power and likely wouldn’t get it back until morning, so we hunkered down with a houseful of candles, played some music, and whipped up a pot of rosemary orzo, the only thing in our house that wouldn’t require opening the refrigerator. (Lucky for us, though, we were only without power for less than a couple of hours.)

The snow emergency lasts through Sunday morning, and though the skies were blue today, the roads are still a disastrous mix of ice and slush, so they canceled school for the second day in row — and because Joe’s office closes when the schools do, we stayed home and spent the day digging our house out of the snow drift.

post-blizzard
digging out the driveway
poor, buried front steps
our cedar tree snapped and buckled in the storm
our snow-logged back porch and chicken coop
it’s hard to believe it looked like THIS three months ago.
the snow from the porch became snow mountains
for scale, Joe amid the snow piles
I was really happy about shoveling that driveway!
four hours of shoveling later, and we’re still smiling

spring

This time of year, there shouldn’t be birds outside, in the early morning time. There shouldn’t be bare stretches of shoreline, raw and mud-brown, circling the lake. There shouldn’t be green buds shrugging themselves against the half-thawed earth of our yard.

This time of year we should still be hunkered down, holed away under blankets and space heaters and old wool sweaters pulled from the bottom of the pile. We should be wading through snow drifts up to our knees. We should be trekking across frozen lakes, red-faced, frozen-teared, feeling the sting of thawing noses and fingers as we end up at the coffee shop on the other side, leaving our snowshoes and skis at door, shaking the ice from our heavy-coated limbs and stomping inside. We should be frozen under ice. We should be aching toward spring, the idea of it existing as whisper, as vaporous half-memory. The warmth of any sun should feel as foreign as moon-travel, as the art of walking upside down.

The birds woke me up again today, as they have since Saturday. The lone pile of snow that remains behind our house has shrunk to a husk of gray ice. It is so forlorn that “pile” doesn’t suit it properly — it is more a half-hearted reminder of a winter that never quite came.