Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas week in Providence

So, we didn't go to Michigan for Christmas. On the face of it, Susan and I were saddened by the fact that we wouldn't be with her mother for Christmas. We were relieved, however, by not having to drive in such prolonged nasty weather with the promise of more to come while we hunkered down in western Michigan praying for a glimmer of sun to lead us home.

The good news was that Bernice enjoyed a wonderful Christmas get-together with the Ten Have-Chapman side of the family in the greater Rockford area while we spent Christmas day at Dick and Dorothy's in Douglas, MA, along with Frank, Cathy and Mieke. Friendly, family, tasty food and a warm house in winter. A pretty good way to spend December 25.

Susie and Mieke

dining in the sun room

cauliflower soup - Dor is the queen of soups!

Cathy wondering how she got involved with such a crazy crew

Dick querying Mieke


beef (or boeuf) bourguignon, mashies and green beans
We no sooner returned home after Christmas dinner  than we turned around and came back to Douglas for another family dinner. OK, so we waited a day, that's true -- and it was nice to see niece Mallory (all the way up from Texas) and her dad Steele (all the way down from Worcester -- pronounced Wooster - and no, I don't know why).

Another tasty meal two days in a row, this time Dorothy's classic meat loaf and mashed potatoes (de rigueur), accompanied by lots of smiling faces (compliments of Mallory, Dick, Susie and Steele, all of  whom led the field that evening in happy faces).

Dorothy and Mallory in the kitchen

Dick and Steele sharing a moment of a tale well told

Daughter and father

Two days later we were out again for dinner, this time a simple four-block walk to Andrea's apartment. Joined by Andrea's mom the inimitable Barbara F. and Dick and Dorothy the four of us shared a lively evening of good wine and scrumptious food: slow-cooked chicken with root vegetables. It was a quiet, star-studded night as we strolled the 5 minutes it took us to get back home.

Not a bad way to spend a Christmas week totally unplanned and yet so completely satisfying.

Barbara and Susie

Dick taking a break from papers and grading


Dorothy tells a story that captures Dick's smile

Next up: Happy New Year to you!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas in Michigan 2012

This picture was so good it demands a repeat, particularly since we didn't get back there in 2013 as planned - thanks for the photo Aunt Thea!
Taken by Aunt Thea at Bernice's condo, Grand Rapids

Monday, December 23, 2013

Michigan cancelled for Christmas

Well, OK not all of Michigan has been cancelled for Christmas -- although I suppose certain parts of the greater Detroit area won't see much holiday cheer this year. It was just our trip to Michigan to be with Susan's mom for christmas that was cancelled, and abruptly at that.

So, here's what happened.

The weekend began with a bang, or rather the French Tarte ended the year with a bang. For the very first time she sold out every single thing in the shop, down to the last shortbread cookie. She even had to pull a half dozen coffee-filled profiteroles out of the reefer at the last minute to help someone out of a tight jam.

ricotta tarts with raspberries
bouchon - buttermilk cakes rolled in coriander sugar

matcha raspberry financiers
Michelle from next-door -- Jamie Oliver at Home -- buys a load of goodies and teddy bears to boot!

So, we had a nice dinner at home that evening -- friend Lee dropped by to chat and have supper, which included these superbly scrumptuous tiny Brussel sprouts from Pezza Farm finished off with butter and maple syrup (from Sugar n' Spice in Rutland of course!).

After leaving the shop Saturday afternoon we picked up our car rental. Since we were expecting a long ride out west (and back of course) in winter, we opted for an upgrade to an all-wheel-drive SUV and found ourselves with a Volvo S60. Indeed, the weather in the midwest seemed to be developing into something of an ice demon so we felt upgrading to an AWD vehicle was the way to go.

Since we opted to break the trip up with a stay at the Oban Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake we figured it would be about a 6- or 7-hour drive and so took our time Sunday morning, enjoying coffee and packing the car.

It was 64 degrees (F) with a light mist in the air when we pulled out of our driveway and pointed ourselves north up Route 146 heading for I-90, the well-worn and well-travelled Mass Pike. The temps were still hovering in the mid-60s as we cruised down the highway expecting to hit Albany before noon and Canada and our inn before 5pm.

It didn't quite work out that way.

We pulled off at the Ludlow service plaza for a bathroom stop and pick up some bottled water. While we were in the car Susan's mom called and told us that conditions in Grand Rapids were, in a word, terrible. The problems centered more or less on serious icing and that wasn't predicted to change anytime soon. She was concerned that our journey would prove perilous, particularly the closer we got to Michigan.

Anyway, after we rang off we sat for a moment and thought about what to do next. We decided to turn around and go home. This quickly became the right decision. I called our inn in Canada to see if we could cancel at such a late hour. Sure enough, they were experiencing ice problems as well and were willing to forgo charging us -- which leads me to say here and now that we should certainly stop and stay there someday. Very nice people.

So we turned ourselves back east and about an hour and a half later pulled back into our parking lot. After unloading the car we gave it back to Avis and spent the rest of the day feeling sad at not being able to be with Bernice for Christmas but also terribly relieved at not having to drive 900 miles, half of which would be in nasty weather with questionable roads.

So, I'll leave you with this, lighter, happier note -- and turn your speakers up:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Update in late December

Just a few random visual thoughts from the one place in North America where the idea of smooth pavement has yet to catch on and the concept of storm drains still elude the governing nabobs (see Colonel Kurtz). . .
That's right, I stand at work. . . thanks to Grant Geske!
Lindsay AKA Buffy isn't normally this shy. . .
The end of fall at Hope Artiste Village
Tallulah's Tacos at the Winter's Farmers Market

Gateau Breton - go to Brittany to sample anything better!

bouchon - buttermilk cakes with coriander sugar
And there's no brunch quite like the brunch at Nick's on Broadway.

pumpkin frittata

omelet with sausage, boursin and red pepper