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That Time of Year

So, I’m getting pretty excited about the holidays. I usually do but I’m on it a little earlier than usual this year.

On Friday night Greg surprised me (or tried to) by taking me to see A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre downtown—something I’d told him I really wanted to see. I really love the holidays, okay?

And I know it’s a little early for this sort of thing but it was so good and it totally put us in the holiday spirit. After five years of 75 degree Southern California Christmases, it was utterly charming to walk out of the theater into the cold, November night, pulling scarves tighter and hurrying for the train station.

Chicago itself is already decked out for the holidays—twinkling lights on all the trees downtown and big trumpets over the festive window displays at the Macy’s on Michigan Ave.

On Saturday, a gloomy, rainy sort of day, we went on an excursion to Chinatown, which neither of us had ever visited here. We ate potstickers and I bought a couple of pairs of Chinese house slippers – the velvet kind with little sequins like I used to wear in the winters in New York – and we meandered through aisles of dried shark fin and bins of mushrooms and jellied lychee candies. Past the old Mandarin-style gates at the entrance to Chinatown you could see downtown Chicago misty and ethereal in the afternoon drizzle.

I spent most of yesterday cleaning my little house, dusting and rearranging, putting away sweaters and washing laundry. I also went down to the Apple store to have my computer looked at. The diagnosis is that it’s possibly something with the fans but it requires me dropping off the computer for at least four days, something I’m not ready to do just  yet, so I went home again and am back to propping it up with a fan blowing on it.

I went to Trader Joes in the late afternoon and it was absolutely packed with people shopping for Thanksgiving week. I can get pretty irritated by a crowded TJs but yesterday I didn’t mind it at all. I picked up groceries for the house and for a little dinner I was cooking last night.

My friend Cat was in town this weekend and I wanted her to meet Greg and his roommate Tarek so in the evening they all came for dinner. Cat and I actually met over the summer on a 4th of July flight to Boston. She’s wonderful – incredibly vibrant and outgoing. She’s a yoga instructor and spends half of her year teaching yoga in exotic locales. She was on her way back from Hawaii when I met her and now she’s on her way to Bali and Australia.

I worked on the house all day and by the time everyone showed up it couldn’t have been cozier. Candles were lit in every room and I’d put out cheese and crackers (a nice white Stilton with cranberries and a Cotswold Cheddar). On the TV in the corner I was playing a fireplace DVD that my friend Channah sent me one year. It’s just a DVD of a cozy fire, replete with crackling and popping and optional holiday music. It might sound cheesy but we all agreed that it  made the house feel ridiculously cheery and warm.

And we just had the loveliest dinner. I made panko/parmesan encrusted chicken breasts topped with a tomato-basil coulis alongside roasted garlic new potatoes and green beans almondine and I also made a plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. After dinner we all sat around "the fire" and  laughed and drank too much wine and then, amidst much laughter and cajoling,  the boys hung a coat rack for me in the hallway.

After everyone left and I was alone in the house again, Chet Baker playing softly on the stereo, I sat at the kitchen table finishing the last sips of my glass of wine. I looked around at the candles and the pots and pans in the sink and, perhaps for the first time since I moved here, I felt truly at home.


  1. It really was a lovely dinner! Glad your feeling comfortable with your new town. Tell Rendal “meowrr”.

    Comment by Tarek on November 19, 2007 at 9:38 pm

  2. Thanks, Tarek! I’m so glad you were there!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on November 21, 2007 at 9:16 am

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