Wednesday, December 31, 2008

december 31 and ready

Two years ago at this time, Colin and I were getting ready to storm the Champs Elysées in Paris for an all-out New Year's celebration in the city. It was exhilarating—and I don't normally enjoy New Year's Eve—with the thousands of people drinking Champagne in the street, toasting the Bonne Année, speaking different languages, falling into nearby cafés and restaurants for a late-night meal. I'll never forget that gigantic crème brûlée we had that burned for almost as long as Mummy's figgy pudding. We were determined to have a good time (and we did). The party wasn't so much a focus on our accomplishments of the past year, but an enjoyment of the thrilling moment and excitement of what was to come. Our relationship was on the cusp of a great thing...

Now, two years older—and a little wiser—I'm feeling much more determined to reflect on the milestones of the past year, for they are great indeed:
  • Colin got a promotion and is working his dream job at Burton; I'm working my dream job at EatingWell
  • I snowboarded off a jump in the mini-park at Stowe—and landed it perfectly
  • We took a trip to England; Colin met the English cousins, aunties and uncles
  • Colin's sister Jill got married
  • Colin and I bought our first place together, a home we absolutely adore
  • My sister Hannah moved to Portland
  • Au Lait lost three pounds—that's a lot for a cat
  • Mama Sonia—my last living grandparent—passed away. One of the last things she said to me was, "this is part of your education." Indeed is was.
  • Our parents—the Walls and the Algers—met for the first time up in Vermont; we had dinner at Trattoria Delia
  • Colin and I got engaged; he proposed under a tree at the Christmas tree farm
  • My sister Emma gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; I became an auntie

This year, we're celebrating New Year's in our new home. And we are ready to celebrate with gratitude and anticipation for the year ahead.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

distractions and contractions at Christmas dinner

Well, we made it through Christmas—a day we'll remember forever—though looking back, it seems as though everything were on fast forward.

It all started Christmas Eve. Em, Kev, Colin and I went out for sushi at Asiana. We knew Emi might have her baby at any moment and so we wanted to make the most of our time together. Dinner was wonderful. It was so quiet all around town. We ate a lot of maki. Emi had the non-sushi kind. I got a crazy roll called Kiss the Dragon and my favorite mango martini. We got to ride home in Em & Kev's new car—a Passat wagon—that they had already outfitted with a baby seat.

The next morning was Christmas. Em & Kev came over for breakfast and my parents arrived with lots of prezzies and all of the stockings (apparently Santa was too busy to bring them to Burlington himself). Kev made some fabulous bacon—the thick-cut kind from his special pig. Emi had made cranberry muffins and cinnamon rolls. Col served mimosas and bloody Marys (an Alger family tradition). Emi ordered an extra-spicy virgin Mary. She later told us she thinks that was the thing that put her into labor—her contractions started right after that. They went home for a while to rest.

Kev got new glasses in his stocking:

A little later, slight chaos ensued. Auntie Lucy and Uncle John arrived. I started prepping Christmas dinner. Colin was working on his mom's famous crab dip. We put out the ham. The pastelles were steaming. Dinner was just about ready.

Suddenly, my knife slipped as I was cutting an apple into matchsticks for the salad—and it sliced into my pinky finger. The cut was pretty bad and my mom said I should probably go to the emergency room. So Col and I jumped into the car and sped off to the hospital. An hour and a half, one tetanus shot and a glued-up, bandaged pinky later (thank God no stitches!) we arrived home again just in time for Christmas dinner.

Emi and Kev had arrived. My sis was more flushed that usual. And she kept leaving the room every few minutes. Was it really happening?

We sat down to a wonderful dinner with ham, smoked trout, pastelles, rice & gandules, tangerine green beans, and the red & white salad that started it all. Then there was the figgy pudding to ignite. But Emi wasn't in the room.

"Em, do you want to see the figgy pudding?" we yelled out.

She came in for the figgy pudding. We lit it. We took pictures. We pulled the crackers and put on our crowns.

Emi was gone again. Then she was back.

"I think we need to go," she said. It was really happening... We all got up from the table and tried to keep busy.

Colin and I finished the rest of the Abbot's Table while we video chatted with Hannah for a while. We pretended to eat popcorn together and chink our glasses in a toast. Then we took pictures of each other as though we were at the same party. We kind of were. And the party was fun.

The next morning, we woke up and got ready to go visit Colin's family in New York. Papa had news about Em—they had checked into the hospital at 5:30 in the morning. Holy cow!

We were packing up the car when Papa cried out, "it's a girl!"

What?! We were all in shock. So soon? Then we were all crying and hugging each other. She did it! Emi did it! I don't know why I think I expected her to be pregnant forever. The baby thing felt kind of surreal.

But she's real. And she's beautiful. And she's a really great suckler. Her name is Sapphire. Holy crap, I'm a auntie!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

gift wrap

Tonight after work, I picked up a big brown box from Em & Kev's house. It was filled, I knew, with prezzies from the West Coast—our sister Hannah wrapped them with care and shipped them off to arrive just in time for Christmas.

When I got home, I place the cardboard box untouched by the Christmas tree. I let it sit there while we cooked and ate dinner, while we did some things around the house. But finally, when Col relegated me to the living room for some personal time, I sat face to face with the cardboard box.

So, I decided to open it up.

I cut into the tape on the top and let the flaps fall open. Inside the box, Hannah was everywhere—she was in the beautiful wrapping paper, the artfully placed ribbons, the intricate hand-cut tags and graceful writing.

I felt my eyes begin to tear. I miss her. I do. I wish she could be here for Christmas, to see my ring and to be here when Baby Kouri arrives.

I pulled out one thoughtfully wrapped gift after another, and as I carefully peeled away the bubble wrap and blew off the packing peanuts, I felt somebody else's presence in that box, too: Mama Sonia.

Mama Sonia always used to send us boxes filled to the brim with prezzies, wrapped in luxurious papers, labeled with embossed stickers advertising the local gallery or special boutique where she bought them. She was always so thoughtful with her gift-giving. So thoughtful with the presentation. The whole package, which always included a Harrington's ham, smoked turkey breast and a huge round of Stilton cheese.

Hannah, you reminded me of Mama Sonia tonight and I felt like both of you were with me by the Christmas tree—the tree that witnessed Col's proposal, the tree that was felled in a fit of love and bliss. Now you (your prezzies) are posing prettily under it. And Mama Sonia (her hand-stiched angel) is perched at the tippy top. And the Harrington ham is chilling in my fridge (Poopy, I just read your blog about the chicken, so I know you can especially appreciate this point!)

You're here in spirit. xoxo

Friday, December 12, 2008


Every time I sit down to write this post, I come up blank. Part of me doesn't want to write it, because if I do it means that the one I wrote before it won't be at the top of the page anymore. Plus, whatever words I choose sound trite. Is it okay if I stay quiet for a few more days? I think I need to bask a little longer...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

o christmas tree, oh my!

This weekend, Col and I went to get our Christmas tree. It's going to be our first tree in the new place, plus we're hosting Christmas dinner this year, so Col had his heart set on 1) the biggest tree ever and 2) cutting our own.

He did some research and found a tree farm in Stowe, called Paine's, not far from the mountain access road, so we went there after snowboarding on Saturday.

When we arrived, we asked one of the guys, "where are your biggest trees?" He told us we'd have to walk all the way to the back of the property to find them. The walk was at least a half mile, but we were up for it. So we grabbed a saw and were off. We held hands the whole way. It was quite romantic actually.

We finally found the tall ones. The were really tall. But kind of scraggly around the middle. So we kept searching, zig-zagging in and out of tree lines, over stumps, under branches. Suddenly, I backed myself into a ditch and my foot landed in a deep puddle of ice water. It was so cold and wet! But I was determined to keep my spirits up. So we kept looking.

Finally, we found it. Our tree. It was perfect! Full and beautiful. And perfect. Here it is:

So we found it, but then we had to cut it down. Col got down on his knee to inspect the trunk and bottom branches. Then this happened:

"Will you marry me?" he said and burst into tears. That's right, Col pulled me down under the tree and proposed right then and there. It was the most romantic thing in the whole world. I was completely surprised and unprepared, but I managed to squeak out an "Of course I will!" before we both turned into puddles. The man in the tree tractor drove by at least once. He must have wondered what the heck we were doing.

After our little romantic session, we still had to cut down the tree. You know what they say about big trees: Big trees, big trunk. It took a while, Col was still shaking from the whole ordeal, but finally that man of mine cut down the tree.

We spent the rest of the weekend calling family and friends, drinking champagne, and of course trimming the ginormous tree, which, by the way, fits perfectly in our place.

And tonight we made some origami peace cranes for ornaments. Aren't they cool?

Holy crap, we're engaged. Loveyoubye

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