Friday, December 30, 2011

Home Again

I'm glad to be posting after a three-day break, but I'm too full of cheese and chocolate-caramel fondues from the Wine Cellar tonight to concentrate well.

Before we left for Bethlehem, we had to take Snicky to the vet. She kept trotting in and out of the litter box and clearly had a urinary tract infection. A small accident on the bed clinched it. Her timing was perfect; how lucky that she didn't wait to get sick until after we left. Snicky doesn't mind staying at the vet since they discovered her sadistic tendencies. They always put her in an upper cage where she has a clear view of other cat patients enduring blood tests and other procedures, and they claim she's riveted by this, glued to the gorey scene. They gave her antibiotics, discovered she's gained a half pound (a happy surprise), and kept her well fed. She's home now and doing fine.

Christmas week in Bethlehem was busy, full of family, and very well decorated. The high points were my niece's handmade potato pierogies, hanging around in my sister's house, and watching my family unwrap their presents. We made a terrific haul ourselves, of books, kitchen things, and more, but I most loved watching my dad enjoy his new Hush Puppies with handy Velcro straps that will save him lots of time getting dressed in the morning. He's 97, slowing down a bit. He claims his old shoes took him nearly an hour to put on because they were falling apart.

We also love the Morningstar Inn, a Colonial Revival mansion on the prettiest street in town. We always reserve the room that reminds of our own bedroom, only bigger and better. We pile on the quilts and pillows at night, read by the parlor fireplace, and stuff ourselves on magnificent breakfasts — homemade doughnut holes, warm and covered in cinnamon sugar; poached pears in raspberry sauce; fruit salads drizzled with pomegranate seeds; heart-shaped waffles with strawberries; oatmeal-banana-nut pancakes; cranberry-almond-cream coffeecake muffins. The place is beautiful at any time of year but the vintage-style decorations at Christmas are magazine-worthy. I love the wreaths made of masses of antique Christmas tree balls and the 1970's ceramic lighted tree that looks like one of my mother's creations.  It sits on a Japanese tansu under a Moroccan carved mirror. Worlds are colliding, but the odd thing is that those worlds collide similarly in our apartment, too. We feel the innkeepers are kindred spirits, right down to the cat stories.

Bethlehem is famous for the simple white electric candles everyone puts in each window during the holidays and beyond, especially in the olest buildings and houses downtown. From our candlelit windows at the inn, we looked out to see a 19th-century streetscape of candle-filled windows, and it was lovely, a scene to remember.

Coming home, we stopped for lunch and a visit with an elderly friend who lives up the road from Martha Stewart. He has two cooks — pretty sumptuous for a fellow who lives alone and doesn't care about food. One of his cooks has been with him for nearly half a century, and neither ventures far from an early edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (or so I assume). The table is set with hand-painted Limoges and old sterling made especially for the family. Every dish is loaded with butter and cream, the vegetables are savagely overcooked, the lettuce is iceberg, your spoon will stand up straight in the heavy cream soups, the blueberry muffins are rock-solid and overbaked, and the turkey leftovers are stretched with canned cream soup, more cream, and bacon. Then there's pumpkin pie with whipped cream, ice cream, and cookies for dessert. Whenever we visit, we have the sort of meal that puts us in a dangerously soporific state as we get back on the road to Boston. We are surprised that someone actually made such a meal in 2011 and astonished that we ate all of it and can still move. It's hard to imagine this was a typical upper-class luncheon menu once upon a time. No wonder people didn't live as long back then. (The one modern concession is fat-free bottled salad dressing. But that choice also boggles the mind.)

Thanks to sports radio, NPR, and a Connecticut station that plays entire Led Zeppelin live concert recordings, we made it. It's great to be home. And I'm still full of fondue, and I'm going to bed early.

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