The Christmas Chronicles, Part 3

The topper of Lauren and Justin's Christmas tree -
The topper of Lauren and Justin’s Christmas tree –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The day after Christmas seems surreal.  After the flurry of choosing gifts, wrapping presents, baking biscotti, making fudge, and savory dinners, the day after The Big Day, is a bit of a letdown.  Yet imbibing a cup of hot tea with the family as we tried to look refreshed at the breakfast table was laid back and cheerful.  Although my thought had been to ramble around the charming brick street village of my brother’s town, taking a peek in the boutiques, and flipping through books at the new little bookstore, it was not to be. While my dear sister-in-law Kelley and I figured we were invited to my niece Lauren’s new in-laws for dinner that evening, it turned out that dinner would be at 2:30 p.m.

“No matter,” I told myself, “It means I will have to return for browsing in the village at a later date.”

We ducked over to Lauren and Justin’s to meet their cat Oliver.  I chuckle over their naming their black cat Oliver, for I had a white cat named Oliver for ten years. Oliver is quite a character, like most cats I know, but he is affectionate, playful and an all round darling furry fellow.

My daughter and my niece with Oliver the Christmas Cat -
My daughter and my niece with Oliver the Christmas Cat –

My niece’s husband Justin has the nicest family. They are of French Canadian extraction, and up until two years ago, they lived in Vermont. His father is a computer wizard and his mother taught French for years in a Vermont secondary school. Each time we have dined with them, the food Ann cooks is a marvel of French Canadian with a twist of Vermont cuisine. December 26th’s fare proved fine too. We have learned that Vermont folks use a preponderance of their tasty maple syrup in dishes such as simmered beans, baked ham, and, I think it might have also been in one of the savory meat pies. As an Italian American in the Heartland, I grew up thinking maple syrup poured over a stack of pancakes was how one ate maple syrup, mighty good it was. However, Anna, Jim, their son Justin and daughter Sabreena have happily broadened my maple syrup horizons.

Ann and Jim laid a beautiful table for our day after Christmas dinner -
Ann and Jim laid a beautiful table for our day after Christmas dinner –

We all exchanged gifts, and talked, and laughed as we marveled at the sunshine offsetting the chilly weather.  After coffee and Buche de Noel, we piled into the car and headed back to Frank and Kelley’s.  In looking over the landscape of Christmas Eve with Uncle Sam’s family, Christmas Day with my brother Frank’s family, and the day after Christmas with Justin’s family, I realized once more how grand this Christmas of 2013 was because we spent it with those we love best.

Buon Natale!

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…”

Our friends' blue and silver Christmas tree -
Our friends’ blue and silver Christmas tree –


As we drove south on Christmas Eve, patches of snow dappled the landscape.  In the northern most part of our state, there was snow.  I have driven through plenty of treacherous winters to go “over the river and through the wood” in order to reach family for Christmas.  A reprieve from our snowy, icy Christmases was indeed welcome.

After attending Mass on Christmas Eve, we drank and toasted over a delicious dinner prepared by my niece Lauren’s fiancé’s family.  Justin’s family hails from Vermont, although both parents are of French-Canadian ancestry.  This is critical knowledge because it affected the Christmas Eve dinner in a good way.  The hors’d’oevre were sublime, mostly because I am a seafood aficionado and the sea scallops wrapped in bacon were done to perfection.  The sharp white Vermont cheese was a taste sensation too.  Summer sausage [ironic, I thought, for a December repast], deviled eggs, foie gras, and Brie en croute with mango chutney, fruitcake, and toasted seasoned walnuts rounded out the nibbles.

English: Photograph of a Bûche de Noël, by And...
English: Photograph of a Bûche de Noël, by Andrew Pendleton (, released by the photographer under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.5 license. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main event then appeared, or rather I should say, main events.  Specially ordered maple-cured ham, two meat pies [one made with pork, light on the potatoes, and heavenly spices; the other with beef, heavy on the potatoes]; mashed potatoes [can there ever be enough potatoes?], sweet potatoes [ditto], white beans with maple syrup and bacon, squash, red beets, salad with feta cheese, and another salad made with shredded cabbage and fruit.  We wined and dined near the blue and silver decorated Christmas tree.  An impressive Buche de Noël the finale of a meal most different from an Italian one on Christmas Eve. However, the good fellowship and a willingness to partake of another family’s traditions made for a memorable dining experience.

Ciao for now.