Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Too-Short Life

My Aunt will start the new year by burying her youngest child.  Suddenly my problems seem insignificant.

I got word yesterday morning that my Cousin - my Dad's youngest sister's child (the youngest of her three daughters) - died suddenly.  Her live-in boyfriend returned home from work on Friday and found her on the couch, dead.

There was no sign of forced entry into her home and there were no marks on her body, nor alcohol / pills lying around that would indicate any sort of violence or suicide.  According to the coroner, she looked "peaceful."

I am ashamed to admit that I did not know this particular cousin well, and so I don't even know exactly how old she is.  (I mean, "was.")  (God, that's hard to write).  She is (was) quite a few years younger than I am, and I have always lived hundreds or thousands of miles away from her.  My Dad was not particularly close to his youngest sister, either, and so we did not visit with her often as my cousins and I were growing up.  There is no anger or estrangement, just not a particularly close relationship.

But I do remember visiting my Aunt when I was about 35, and this particular Cousin of mine was in college at the time.  I was driving through the town my Aunt lived in, and stopped to visit for a while.  My Cousin was at my Aunt's house with a few of her friends that day, and we all had dinner together.  I am guessing she is (was) now in her early 30's.

I remember that she was beautiful, vivacious, and friendly.  I remember that she laughed a lot with her friends and family, that day that I visited.  I remember the obvious love between her and my Aunt.

As a Mom, I cannot even imagine the sadness and despair my Aunt must now be feeling.  To lose her youngest child, at a too-young age...  It hurts just to think about it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reminder: Eat Your Black-Eyed Peas for New Year's

My yearly reminder to all of my blogger friends:  For good luck and prosperity, you simply MUST eat black eyed peas first thing on New Year's Day (which, in my world, means they must be eaten at 12:01 a.m., along with your champagne toast to the New Year!)

For a more detailed explanation of  the reasons why you must eat black eyed peas[footnote 1] first thing on New Year's Day, please see this prior post.

For a recap of the bad luck I experienced the one and only year that I forgot to eat the darned peas, please see this prior post.

Here are some links to recipes that will make them delicious for you:

1.  Healthy and Delicious: Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon

I'm not sure how the word "healthy" got included in the title for a recipe that includes bacon but I can vouch for the fact that the bacon will make it delicious!

2.  Crockpot Black-Eyed Peas With Ham

Ham is good, too, and perhaps more traditional than the bacon.  In fact, real Southerners use ham hocks.  Yum!

3.  Spicy Black-Eyed Peas With Tomatoes

And in Louisiana, they like their food spicy.  (See, e.g., Jambalaya).   These are a nice change from the salty, slightly sweet versions above.

Note that the first two recipes call for dried or frozen peas, which taste better than canned, but take longer to prepare than the kind out of the can. No procrastinating if you want them ready on time!

Then again, you could probably substitute the canned peas.  They wouldn't be as delicious, of course, but it would be easier.

Or, if you actually like the canned peas (like I do), and/or if you won't be home but want to be sure you get your good-luck-peas, you can just pop open a can, dump them into a bowl, heat them in the microwave, and you are ready to go within two minutes on New Year's Eve!  Definitely lacks the gourmet flair, but it's quick and practical and will keep you from suffering horrible bad luck all year!

I wish you all the best for the coming year.  May you all be healthy, happy, and prosperous.

* * * *
Footnote 1:  That would be a good name for a punk rock band, wouldn't it?  "The Black Eyed Peas". . .

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

My kids made a gingerbread house.

My daughter ate the gingerbread tree already.  She said it was delicious.  It looks delicious, doesn't it?  (Good thing I got a picture first.)

We also decorated our tree.  And put the train around the base.  And bought presents and wrapped them and put them under the tree....

And I put a couple of decorations out front, to cheer up our house for the neighbors...

Check out the refurbished newspaper vending machine that my husband converted to use as our mailbox.  The plastic light-up snowman is a nice touch, don't you think?

I sent Christmas cards to a few folks.

I decorated the mantel and our green m&m...

I was hoping that if I gave her my duster, she'd use it.  (So far, not working...)

We've been to a holiday party or two.  And had lots of fun, too, actually.

But something is missing this year.  Our pal Sparky.

This is a photo of him from last winter, when we visited the snow.  He was notoriously hard to photograph -- as soon as he saw the camera, he'd come toward you trying to sniff and lick the camera.  But here he is in all his fluffy glory.

He always loved the snow.  And damp grass in the springtime.  And the mountains.  Life just isn't the same without him.

But life does go on, and it's Christmas, and I love it as always.  The decorations, the baking, the once-a-year Christmas music, the lights, the gifts, the festive atmosphere, the celebrations with friends and family, the love in the air ... I look forward to it every year, no matter what.

Merry Christmas, everyone.