The house smells like cookies, and outside the rain is steadily falling. It isn’t often that I slow down enough lately to really appreciate the sensation of being totally present for a moment. Today looks to be the day. Shopping is on my mind. I haven’t done much yet. Don’t plan to do a lot. Minimalist, is the description for this year when it comes to spending in the stores I’m afraid. As I said in an earlier post Rick and I have given each other a new dishwasher for Christmas. As a matter of fact it’s humming away quietly in the kitchen as I write.
No sooner did the new dishwasher get pushed into the wall we noticed the house wasn’t as warm as usual. I did what one does in such a situation, I stood in front of the thermostat and ramped up the temperature. After an hour or so and some added insulation it didn’t feel a lot warmer. Oh-oh. I took it higher and told Rick. Dressed as if preparing to man a sled team across the Arctic, he went outside to explore. As I’ve mentioned, Rick is not overly burdened when it comes to fixing things around the house. Exploring the heating unit would most likely involve scratching his head, turning something on and off, and coming back up to ask if the number of the heating and A/C company could be found. I don’t mind this slight flaw. He has so many good points, he needs a flaw or two to balance himself out. Certainly I have a few to balance out on my end.
Once the gentlemen arrived on scene from the heating and air company he quickly assessed the situation determining this time we’d dodged the bullet. Further explaining, however, the unit has twenty-three years of service behind it and one of these days the problem will be of more major proportions likely resulting in the purchase of a new unit. That’s exciting news. I’ll add that to the list of expenses associated with the house we can’t afford to fix along with the new roof, another imminent disaster looming in the future. Believe it or not I tend to be an optimist. Not a full-fledged one, it’s true, but I do prefer to exist at least for the most part on the brighter side of the moon. Occasionally I stray onto the dark side, but I try to keep it to a minimum. It is a happier place to focus on what is in your cup rather than what is not. On the bright side we have a lovely little house in the tall trees, cozy with lots of windows to highlight the view. Particularly at this time of year, but all year really, I am appreciative for all I have rather than getting too bogged down in the spots where something might feel a bit lacking. Working at the food ministry with people truly down on their luck or simply weathering a bump in the road allows me a frequent glimpse into how close most of us are to being without the basic necessities to make our lives comfortable.
When my children were small we lost their dad rather suddenly to kidney disease. He was thirty-three. I was really a kid myself, being four years younger. Up until that point my husband ran the ship. Finding myself on my own was to say the least a bit bone jarring. As absurd as it sounds to me now, I didn’t even know how to manage a checking account or pay bills. Nothing was planned beyond the week we were in. At that age you see your lifetime spanning out far ahead of you, and think little about what to do should that not be written in the great plan. Thankfully, there was a small life insurance policy, but there were also mortgage payments, bills and debts to be considered. For three years things were quite tight for us but we managed. I had a good job that didn’t pull in a huge salary so we cinched our belts and learned to adapt. Although missing their dad, both kids remember those times as good times surprisingly. When money is short it tends to bind you together. Creativity comes into play when planning activities. I found new avenues for fun things to do. When it rained we built forts in the living room out of a card table and some blankets or went to a matinée with my handbag filled with chili dogs wrapped in foil and plastic bags packed with popcorn. Cheating perhaps, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
I’ve written about this before, but I think I will again. Our first Christmas on our own wasn’t on its way to be the merriest. There was little in the coffee can for all the frills that year such as a tree or much to put underneath it. As Christmas approached the kids were pushing for a date to go tree shopping. Up until the weekend before the big date I’d stalled them with one excuse or another. Friday after work I picked up the children at day care and stopped for a few things at the store. Coming in through the garage at the back of the house my daughter went to the front to gather the mail and pick up the newspaper.
I heard much excitement and my name being yelled from the other room. Walking towards the commotion I saw my two little ones standing at the door staring at a huge fresh tree blocking the view. The three of us stood there in the doorway wide-eyed none of us speaking. Finally, I gathered my wits and dragged the lovely tree inside only to find behind it several large bags filled with lights, ornaments and trim. An angel for the top had been included. A kind gesture. A card had been placed on top reading, “Merry Christmas to all, love, Santa” written in my father-in-laws highly recognizable, if barely legible script. Many of those ornaments still decorate my tree. One small act can make such a difference to another person and bring such joy to the person extending themselves.
To me these are the memories that mark Christmas as such an incredibly special time of year.
I am in possession of a huge bag of fresh lemons if you’re sensing a theme in my recent recipes. This was light and delish.
Lemony Shrimp and Sausage Fettuccine
3 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced into 1/2″ pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or mix of cherry, grape, heirloom)
juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
Cook sausages and slice.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
Heat olive oil in saute pan over med.-high heat. Add shallots, garlic, pepper flakes, and green onions to pan. Saute for 3 mins.
Add shrimp and saute 3 mins. until pink ad firm (do not overcook). Transfer to a bowl.
Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up bits on bottom of pan. Add reserved pasta water. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice. Cook until tomatoes are cooked through, about 1 min. Return sausage to pan and shrimp mixture. Simmer until tomatoes begin to wilt – 2 mins. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta.