for entertaining. While we don't have any big bashes planned this year (Pete threatened to host the office holiday party, but that is on hold for the moment), but are hoping to welcome a few local friends to our house. Thursday we had the extraordinary luck of hosting out of town family member for dinner.
My stepbrother, Forrest, was in town for a conference in Napa Valley. While I can't say we felt sorry for him (Napa is still calling us), we thought it would be the ideal time to get together at our home, if his schedule allowed. For a change we were only 40.4 miles apart vs. the usual 2,093. One of the teeny-tiny, itty-bitty issues we have noticed with our lifestyle is that it is often difficult to get visitors.
Schedules and airline ticket prices have frequently conspired against us, and we have not been able to entertain family the way we would if we lived down the street and vice-versa. We may not have time on trips to visit each person at their home, and conversely, we host many more local friends than we do relatives. Thursday evening was a happy change to that routine.
Forrest was able to grab the evening and the rental car, and arrived around 5 p.m. to the bustling household. He and the kids (still tempted to say 'girls') had a good bit of quality time, and we enjoyed that all-important afternoon super-strong cup of java while waiting for Pete.
It was not terribly grand dinner, just Chicken Francaise, broccoli, pasta, bread, and a field greens with berries salad, but seemed to fit the bill. It was the first time I used the Le Creuset pan for this particular recipe, and I was thrilled with the way it turned out. And, of course, the clean-up can't be beat.
After fresh berry pie for dessert, we were able to chat and relax over the postprandial carafe of coffee. It was so refreshing to have a new guest in the house, though he was certainly not a new friend. We realized after all of these years, it was the first time he had met the cat or watched the kids in their home environs. Simple (and perhaps odd to some), but made me realize just how far away we are, even when on the same continent or in the same country.
It had been a long day for all of us, and after a last cup for the road, Forrest headed back up north. I tried to type the blog post at that point, but realized I was really quite tapped out. The dinner was truly a treat, but it had been preceded both the chaperoning of a field trip, and a trip to the eye doctor.
Kelsey's class visited the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, CA, for a unique hour-long version of the classic holiday tale, The Nutcracker. I drove Kelsey and three members of her gaggle from school. They wore their winter best (minus the unnecessary wool coat and gloves), and perched on the edge of their seats for the entire performance. I am not sure Kelsey blinked, and the applause was thunderous from our section of the theater. The only iffy parts were getting to and from Walnut Creek.
Thanks to slow drivers, a European-style parking garage (NARROW!), we almost didn't make the eye doctor appointment. We were already a few months behind due to the doctor having to cancel, and his schedule being full for months, but were pleasantly surprised: no new prescription as her eyes are improving! Yes, this makes me very happy. This assuages a tiny bit of guilt I have felt all of these years about her eye condition. Not our fault, I know, but what parent doesn't feel bad when their child has vision (or other impairments)? We can't even blame anything or anyone, since it was "just a fluke occurrence", but still feel for her and improvements (not stronger lenses, again) are always welcome.
The pictures above would have been more scenic at the Arts Center, however, not much time for photo-ops before or after the show. The photo of Kelsey on the left was taken early in the a.m., not long after she was able to get herself ready for school in the shortest amount of time on record. The preparation included self-styled ponytails, and when Nicholas saw her all dolled up, he shouted, "Pretty!" and made her week, if not year.