Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! May your merriment be plentiful and your company warm.

--Aine and Jason

Friday, December 19, 2008

Visions of Sugarplums (with a few sugar quills and chocolate frogs...)

As I'm busily preparing for the Evans' family Christmas, I thought I'd share a bit about our celebration. Particularly, the food!

In our house, Jason is the cook, and I am the baker. (Though as most moms know, I cook the everyday, routine dinners--they're just not as gourmet or tantilizing as Jason's creations...) So for our family Christmas we go all out. I've been known to bake as many as 13 different cookies, plus other delights, such as a chocolate Yule log or German nut stollen.

I have recipes that my german grandmother shared when I was a teenager (thank goodness I set a date to bake with her, my notebook in hand to record them). She was a wonderful baker--she ran an informal baking "business" in her Philadelphia home with her girlfriend. They were known for the hundreds of tins of cookies and doughnuts they created and gave to churches and neighbors every year at Christmas. The recipes that I recorded that day are full of phrases like: "a pinch of...", "two handfuls", "about two cups", "until it looks like", "use a light touch", etc.

And, the dinner that Jason prepares to precede all these sweets is grand. Here's the main event:

Yes, we roast a pig in our fireplace every Christmas Eve... Jason is "the man"! He needs to turn the spit every hour through the night. Surprisingly, after twelve years of sleeping on the couch, he has yet to meet Santa...

But Santa snitches a piece of pork each year as he fills the stockings! The girls have wondered if he gets burned when coming down the chimney. We've explained that Santa has other methods of entering the house.

My personal belief is that he know, he is distantly related to that famous Dumbledore family. Have you noticed the family resemblance: long white beard, twinkle in the eyes, loves children, employs hundreds of house elves...? Santa uses reindeer instead of thestrals because they're less creepy. But clearly he is no muggle. He obviously uses a time turner to get the job done in one night, and I bet he makes use of an invisibility cloak through the year. (Otherwise the paparazzi would have had a field day!) But I digress...

So what are some of your favorite holiday foods?

Have a Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nutcracker Dreams

This post was inspired by K.Lawson Gilbert's poem "Jo"
Thanks, K!

When I was a girl I took dance lessons. Ballet, tap, jazz. The usual mix. But it was ballet that captured my heart, and "dancer" was one of the first roles added to my self identity.

I took lessons seriously and became competent enough to be invited to join the local company's production of The Nutcracker. As a result, some of my fondest Christmas memories are associated with practices and rehearsals. The Nutcracker Suite is now strongly associated with Christmas in my brain. Just hearing the first few notes of the overture instantly puts me in a "preparing for a holiday party" mood.

And just because this video is entrancing, here is a unique version:

My most special Christmas present ever was the nutcracker that my parents gave me at the end of the closing performance the first year that I danced in the Nutcracker. I spent hours in my room dancing with that wooden soldier as if I were Clara. I still get teary every year when I pull it out of the box where it spends most of the year nestled with my small collection of nutcrackers. I remember feeling disappointed that it had a screw mechanism to crack nuts instead of the usual lever, but now I am glad for its uniqueness.

For several years I danced with the Candy Canes, then I graduated to the Russian Trepak. Here I am, probably at dress rehearsal when Mom could make me pose for the Polaroid.

Hearing those parts of the Nutcracker Suite evokes visceral reactions and sensory memories. The sound of the orchestra, the hushed voices waiting in the wings, the smell of rosin, the swish of tutus as dancers hurried backstage for costume changes. Even today, when I hear the ending notes of the dance of the reed flutes (or "Mirlitons", which preceded the Candy Canes)-- I feel the fluttering in my stomach.

The first notes of the Candy Cane dance or Russian Trepak would sing, and I would be transported-- I was no longer me. My arms and legs knew when to flex, when to stretch. I gracefully moved through the choreography, barely aware of each step as it flowed into the next. Rather, I felt the warmth of the stage lights, noticed the brightness of the costumes blurring by, and of course heard the music which fed my muscles.

I was no longer me-- I was a dancer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Single (the second in a series about relationship...)

(image from:

I'm finally adjusting to being single. Woo hoo!

Now, you can lower those raised eyebrows-- I'm not talking about my marital status! I'm talking about my sense of self. You see, unlike most people, I did not come into this world alone. I am a twin-- I have a twin brother. Since my first cell divided I have been with another. My first night sleeping outside the comfort of mom's womb, I was not alone. I was never just "me" in school-- I was "one of the twins" (kinda like "Seven of Nine"… ha!) So, it has shaped my sense of self in an unusual way.

When I first started dreaming of falling in love and getting married, I assumed that Mr. Right and I would have such a close bond that we would effortlessly know each other. I think my vision of a mate went beyond the typical best-friend and soulmate ideas, because I already knew what living as part of a pair entailed.

My brother and I were always together when playing. We helped each other throughout development. He made me laugh when I got frustrated. I pushed him around on a wheeled giraffe when I was first to walk. He fixed broken toys for me, I helped him with his homework. We often finished each other's sentences. And, to the frustration of my sisters, we frequently communicated nonverbally across the dinner table, laughing at unspoken jokes.

As we grew into the teenage years, we drifted apart, had different friends and different interests. I developed a strong, stable, healthy individual self. But my vision of a soulmate was already formed.

To make matters worse, I am an "Idealist" personality type. As Keirsey says in Please Understand Me II, Idealists are unique in their approach to mating. The other temperaments are realistic-- they assume their mates to be fallible. But Idealists look for "more than life partners in their mates-- they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense, sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them: their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division and their search for wholeness. Idealists firmly believe in such deep and meaningful relationships-- they will settle for nothing less-- and in some cases they try to create them where they don't exist." (Does this sound familiar those of you who are also Idealist types?)

Yep. That's what I did. But as I'm growing and experiencing life, I'm learning that such idealism does not lead to true intimacy. It can be taken too far. As much as an idealist would love to have a mate who fits their vision exactly, it is not reasonable or realistic. An idealist's vision of how things should be, can frustrate or even stifle others in their lives.

I've learned that for two to become one, they must first be two complete individuals. The early stages of a relationship feel like oneness, but that is fantasy. When a couple first falls in love they lower all internal boundaries and experience the feelings of merging with each other. Lovers often say that he/she "completes me". But this is not true oneness. True oneness can only develop over time. And the prerequisite is two complete people, each able to do all that relationship requires (according to Drs. Cloud and Townsend in Boundaries in Marriage ): give and receive love, be responsible, be independent and self-sufficient, live out values honestly, have self-confidence, deal with problems and failures, live out their talents, and have a life. My initial vision of a soulmate looked more like the merging of two incomplete people (very romantic, but not healthy!)

So, for the first time in my life I'm drawing boundaries around my "self" so that I can assess where I need to grow to become a more complete individual. It's exciting! I'm rediscovering the core of my self that is independent of any connections or relationships (a rather large task for me-- see part one). As I strengthen her, I will have more to give to others. And that is the basis for a true soulmate relationship!