It’s long lines and piles of boxes at the post office. Kids lingering a little too long in the toy aisle, mentally writing their notes to Santa. Pine needles in everything, from my sock to the dog’s fur. A scent of cinnamon in the air. Holiday movies on repeat. It’s Tony Bennett and Andy Williams and Nat King Cole and Burl Ives. Christmas cards from friends, near and far, on every window sill and shelf. Last minute gift-buying and secret treasure stashes all over the house. Strangers sharing holiday wishes as they pass each other on the sidewalk. The innocence of childhood awakening in all of us…even the not-so-young ones.
For our little household, Christmastime is also about red and green dog toys that only come out for the season. It’s John singing the wrong words to Christmas carols while doing the dishes in a Santa hat. Big brass bells that cling-clang whenever the front door is opened or shut. Waking to the sounds of snowplows and avalanche bombing. Sipping eggnog while exploring the neighborhood Christmas light displays. Sharing stories of our favorite childhood memories over a lingering candlelight dinner. Keeping old traditions alive while starting new ones together. And it always ends by singing, “Happy Birthday, dear Johnny…”
This was our first Christmas as a Mr. and Mrs., so it was already going to be special. It was also our first holiday season in our new house, and the first time spending it alone, just the two of us. With the whirlwind year we’ve had, especially over the last few months, being HOME for the holidays was just the ticket. We made a plan weeks ago, but we couldn’t have predicted how wonderful it would be.
First, we got gussied up for a Christmas Eve date in Old Town Park City. We made reservations at Grappa, one of our favorite fancy spots in town (remember this?). We arranged a car for safe transportation, which was smart on a snowy night, and smooched Cholula goodbye for a couple of hours. Tummies grumbling, we arrived just a couple of minutes late for our 7:30 reservation.
The tiny foyer was stuffed to the brim with other hungry holiday patrons- at least 50 other people seemed to have 7:30 reservations, as well. After checking in, John procured some wine and champagne being offered on the house and we chatted with some of the folks also waiting. (We kind of had to. We were basically sitting on each other’s laps.)
We were some of the lucky ones. When the hostess shouted our name from across the room, I WHOOPED like I had won the lottery- or at least a game of Bingo. We headed up two creaky, garland-laden staircases to the quaint third floor, leaving the mayhem and noise below us. The décor was warm and glowing; the bartender wore a Santa hat. This was going to be good.
Our favorite cocktails in hand, we perused the menu. Osso bucco? Butternut squash risotto? I immediately centered in on my all-time favorite dish, offered as an appetizer- cioppino. We added the pork belly and brussel sprouts, happily munching as we awaited a grape and gorgonzola salad.
And then, the stars of the show: Spaghetti and spicy meatballs in an arrabiata sauce and whole wheat braised pork cannelloni. Italian Christmas eve feast perfection.
There was no way that we were going to finish everything- but pasta leftovers are always a good thing! A glance at the dessert menu was too much for us, but we did have time for a French press coffee and a macchiato before the car arrived to take our overstuffed selves home.
We made it home safely, the snow still falling outside. With few precious minutes until The Big Day, it was time for last-minute scribbles on cards and tucking away stuffers for stockings. Christmas Eve date night was memorable- and possibly a new tradition for our little family.
We snuzzled our furry beast, kissed each other good night, and dreamed of a white Christmas.
Up next: Caviar, nose-less snowmen, Korean street tacos, and lots of candles.