(Christmas Time Is Here by Sarah McLachlan)
For the first time in three years, my dad and I got to go to Macy's for their holiday light show. This was a tradition from my childhood that we revived when my dad started working in the city and I was laid off from my job in 2006. The light show features the world's largest and oldest pipe organ (in continual use), is narrated by Julie Andrews (obviously not in person), and has been a Philadelphia holiday tradition since my father was a child in 1956. Honestly, it's nothing spectacular compared to the visual stimulus offered these days, but the nostalgia can't be beat.
After breaking our necks to watch the show (we were on the ground floor - the show takes up a vertical stage from the 2nd through 4th floors), dad and I ambled through the City Hall quad to the west side of Broad Street to wander through the Christmas Village. After seeing our share of Bratwurst and Schnitzel shops and glancing over the various wares of the jewelry and pretty scarf persuasion, we dodged several groups of oblivious school children to head into the underground "streets" of Philadelphia.
Neil Gaiman's first attempt at a literary novel (with actual words!) was the stunning Neverwhere, a dark mix of sci-fi and fantasy. In the novel, we follow the hero through an alternate City he never knew existed until a random act of compassion pulled him underground and into another world. I don't want to spoil anything by summing it up, but if you like to look at things from a different point of view, I can't recommend this book (or ANY of his others) enough.
Our jaunt through Philadelphia's belly was not nearly as interesting as the hero of the novel, but we weren't looking for adventure, we were trying to walk without having to constantly interrupt our conversation to dodge an unruly crowd of Charter school kids. Nevertheless, there was something creepy-cool about walking relatively silently beneath a city that was presently teeming with life and activity. As we walked and talked, Dad shared about an event at his church tomorrow - an event where less-advantaged neighbors are provided with gifts to give their families and a basket of food to make a nice holiday dinner. As long as they're in the nice cozy warm church, they'll also be treated to a somewhat lavish dinner. Dad chuckled a bit, telling me one of the dinner options is Shepherd's Pie, which is not standard fare in those parts of town - I didn't even know what it was until I found Sarah Kramer's recipe in How It All Vegan and discovered it to be one of Mister's favorite things!
So of course, that got me somewhat fixated on making this hearty, warm Favorite Dinner tonight. I can't even remember the last time I made it, since it's fairly time-consuming and not really a warm-weather food. Well, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees over the last couple of days, so I figured tonight was as good a time as any. I have made this enough times to have a mental inventory of its ingredients, so after Dad and I said farewell, I headed home by way of SuperFresh, where I picked up some mashing potatoes and a few other essentials.
After we put up our little Charlie Brown Tree and some scant decorations throughout the apartment, I'd worked up enough of a hunger to think it was time to make dinner. Oh no! I remembered that I'd given my copy of HIAV to a friend at work because her son was having some dietary issues and she wanted to try a vegan diet for him (there is an entire section in HIAV devoted to child vegans). I have no doubt I'll get it back when I see her again, but I didn't have it tonight. What to do??
The interwebs never let me down.... so with the help of this vegan-celiac website, I made Mister one of his favorites and we all munched happily ever after.