Before and after above. I should have taken a close-up of the dirt! Trust me, it wasn't good.
We came back just in time to go to our neighbors' annual holiday shindig, which is always catered with delicious Polish food. Mmm...pierogies. Sunday morning we went to Naperville for Zoya's birthday party and even though we had to leave early, we had a lovely time -- thanks to Huzefa and Fatima for letting our kids gleefully exhaust themselves in the gym. It wasn't easy to convince them to leave.
Kevin's parents arrived Sunday afternoon, and took us out for dinner that night at Marion Street Cheese Market. Which I love, and I especially loved the bruschetta -- I had two kinds: Heirloom potato confit + caramelized peppers + black garlic aioli & Maple Soy glazed pork belly + boiled peanut hummus + local kimchi. Both DELICIOUS. I'm a good enough cook that sometimes I get cranky when we go out to eat and the food is basically what I would have made at home. I promise you, I wouldn't have made either of these at home. Although perhaps I should. His dad and I stopped at Whole Foods afterwards and picked up dessert, since Kavi had been PROMISED a cupcake as compensation for our having to leave Zoya's party before the cake-cutting. Mini fruit tarts and eclairs for the grown-ups, yum.
Monday afternoon, Kevin and his dad went out and got us a tree. I had suggested 8', but they came back with 7', since apparently waiting 'til the week before Christmas doesn't allow for the best selection of trees. It's fine - 7' looks nice, and next time, we might do 8 or 9. It's nice having 10' ceilings. :-) It's a pretty tree, only a little smushed on one side. You don't notice it at all once it's all decked out. Fa la la la la.
That night, Kev's parents babysit for us and we used the last of my sister's birthday gift card (THANKS, sis and other sis!) so Kev and I could take a basic knife skills class at Flavour, our local cooking school. Where I promptly learned that I've spent thirty years using a knife wrong. Argh. I found the grip they showed me really awkward at first, but it was more comfortable after three hours of practice -- and it does feel more secure and as if I could go faster with it eventually. But conscious practice is going to be required. I also don't like the way chefs are supposed to chop onions; I'm going to stick to my current methods. But oh, the ceramic knife I got to try was COOL. And shockingly light. Neat. Thanks to Kev's folks for the babysitting -- it's great that the kids are so comfortable with them now. Frequent visits do help. I am really envious of those parents who have grandparents near enough to babysit often!
Next came some holiday misery, as on Tuesday we went to SIX stores before we found mini LED lights for the tree. Here are the stores that failed me: Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Home Depot, Lowe's, and even TARGET. Oh, Target. I thought you would always be there for me, no matter what. I may never feel the same way about you again. In the end, it was CVS -- CVS! -- that came through. I bought all the mini LED lights they had left, which was just one string more than barely enough. Kevin's dad very kindly strung up the lights, and the tree looks all glittery. I was a bit mopey (yes, I shed an actual tear, which is sort of ridiculous, but did I mention SIX frackin' stores??! I was pretty cold and exhausted by the end of the run) because they didn't have the kind that blink, which I have fond memories of from my childhood, but the steady glow is also quite nice. I'm happy with it.
And then the children came home and helped decorate the tree. They were AMAZINGLY good. No wanton destruction, lots of cheerful and charming childish running about, and very few demands. Kavi did insist that SHE got to put the star on the top, which was a logistical challenge, but in the end Ron managed to lift her high enough that she could do it. Ann has a very sweet photo on her camera of the whole endeavor which I will share with you anon.
I have a lot of ornaments. So many that I didn't need to use ANY of the ball kind to fill out the tree. Hm. I may have to slow down my ornament-purchasing madness, which is just as well, since we're treading the edge of actually being out of spending money. Oops. I foresee at least three months of austerity ahead. Luckily, we all like ramen. And grilled cheese sandwiches.
We did an early Christmas with Kev's folks and exchanged presents -- the children got a puppet theatre with puppets, and a small indoor trampoline. Much shrieking and tears ensued. They liked their presents -- they liked them a little too much. Also, I think all the Christmas excitement was getting to them; Kavi in particular was wound up to a rather frenetic pitch. It's partly our fault for letting them eat cookies when they came home instead of a more sensible snack. Oops. But eventually we fed them something real, and they calmed down a bit, and actually played with the presents like children, rather than screaming monkeys.
Okay, things are blurring here -- somewhere in there, Monday morning, I think, was also an impromptu visit from some old friends, Priya and Anand, who were in town and came by for lunch. I picked up the wild mushroom soup from Whole Foods (really remarkably good), and then made grilled gouda cheese sandwiches with tomato and avocado. Very yummy, although in retrospect, I wish I'd done something slightly simpler, since I spent a little too much time in the kitchen cooking, rather than chatting. But they were also trying to wrangle two small children, include an infant so attached to his mother that he wouldn't let the poor girl put him down for two seconds. I had so much sympathy for poor Priya -- I remember that age, and I would have been pulling my hair out if I were her. Sometimes you just want two minutes to yourself to BREATHE.
In any case, I'm glad they came over -- Roshani and her son came too, and Kev's parents ate with us, and I think people had fun. My theory is that in some ways, when you socialize while you have very small children, you're doing maintenance of your relationships more than anything else. It's not that you actually get to TALK to your friends, but rather that you're signalling that hey, I still like you a lot, and someday, when I can peel this small creature off of me and convince it to QUIET DOWN a tad, we can have a normal grown-up conversation again that isn't punctuated by cleaning up bodily fluids. Won't THAT be fun!
Yesterday morning, one more piece of the house came in, the art glass window, designed by John Curran of Curran Glass. I was all set to design collaboratively with him, but then I loved the first thing he showed me, so we went with it. :-) The main panels are glue-chip glass; the little diamonds are florentine, and the wavy kind is corella classic. LOVE. It totally makes the kitchen, and now we just have to solve our backsplash dilemma. More on that anon.
That afternoon we had the changing of the guard -- Kev's parents left (SAD! WE MISS YOU!) and my parents arrived, overlapping for a mere fifteen minutes between flights. They got to say hi and shake hands and such. And I showed my parents the house, which they haven't seen since we bought it, and I think they were pretty surprised by how much it's changed since then. A lot. They seem to like it. :-) I managed to make a beef curry and cauliflower-potato fry that were reasonably decent, although spicier than they're used to eating these days, it turns out. Whoops. I guess Kev and I like it hot.
And then we put the kids to bed and collapsed, even though I had a new Julia Spencer-Fleming mystery that I was dying to read. I managed maybe fifteen minutes of reading before I crashed out at 8:30 or so. But then I woke up at 3, so I should get at least an hour or two of reading time before chaos erupts again. Today, I pick up my sister at 11:30, and then my other sister and her husband arrive tomorrow, and then my first sister's husband comes in on Saturday, and we'll have a lovely full house for the holidays. Yay yay yay. It makes me happy. :-)