Merry Christmas!

It’s quiet inside and out this morning. The Texas Gal is sleeping in, and the cats are scattered and napping after their breakfast. Outside, our alley is undisturbed, a nearly constant state, especially in the colder months.

And we are almost prepared for the holiday tomorrow. We will be in the kitchen this afternoon, preparing a potato dish, some deviled eggs and a dessert that we will take with us tomorrow when we go to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities’ suburb of Maple Grove, some fifty miles away.

As for our own Christmas celebrations, this evening we will forsake the cold dinner of shrimp and potato salad we’ve had on Christmas Eve for each of the last ten or so years and instead will dine this evening on a ribeye steak we picked up the other day. (Side dishes are yet to be determined.)

And our gift-giving is done. In the waning days of November, we decided that we would each choose a small addition to our individual hobby collections, augmented by an experience that the Texas Gal would choose for us.

Unsurprisingly, she added a tool to her sewing room, an attachment to her machine that enlarges its base, making quilting and other tasks easier. Also unsurprisingly, I chose music, adding to the CD stacks two albums: First, Bob Dylan’s Travelin’ Thru, the most recent of his Bootleg series, this one featuring alternate versions of songs from the sessions for the albums John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and Self Portrait as well as sessions with Johnny Cash and Earl Scruggs; and second, the fiftieth anniversary release of The Band’s second, self-titled album. Along with the original album, the new release includes alternate versions and out-takes from the sessions as well as the original rough mixes of The Band’s performance at Woodstock. I have yet to thoroughly digest either of the packages.

And there was the experience. With the Texas Gal keeping our destination a secret, we left St. Cloud for Minneapolis the other morning, and met my sister and brother-in-law for lunch at Murray’s, a legendary downtown Minneapolis steakhouse. I’ve heard talk of Murray’s since I was young and had long wanted to dine there. The Texas Gal and I had the lunch portion of the restaurant’s Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two, a twenty-eight ounce strip sirloin that was carved at our table. It was worth the wait (and pricey, though not as much so as it would have been at dinner-time).

And unless the Texas Gal has more surprises planned, that’s our Christmas celebration. Except that, more importantly, we’ll spend time tomorrow with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew, my niece and her husband and their two young sons.

May you all spend your holidays at a place you can call home with those you love and who love you back.

And here’s the original version of Darlene Love’s “Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)” from the 1963 Phil Spector album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records.

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