A good portion of the day was spent playing Catan. The boys have now lured cousin John William and Jeanine into the cult. I was taught the game by my nieces during my last visit to Minnesota. I, however, opted to spend the day organizing my office and refining plans for my upcoming travels. Much depends on the weather and my final itinerary will be decided in real time.
The winter edition of the Colorado College Bulletin (large format magazine) featured two unrelated stories about Nicolai. The first concerning his participation in the TREE (Teaching and Research in Environmental Education) program and the second about his soccer exploits in Costa Rica. He remains thrilled with his choice to attend Colorado College and has been thriving academically.
It has been a real pleasure to listen in on the kitchen conversations amongst the kids as they debate topics ranging from politics, to sociology, to the environment and capitalism. It is satisfying to see that our investment in their education has yielded intelligent and caring citizens of the world.
Our home has four furnaces and three air conditioners configured into five zones (1st floor, 2nd floor, master bedroom, basement, and shop). Two of these are now controlled by Nest thermostats replacing the programmable Honeywell controllers I installed when we first moved in. Our local natural gas provider was offering a $150 rebate on each device which motivated the purchase. The new thermostats are much more elegant in appearance and far easier to program and operate. It took me about 20 minutes to install each and I will add additional units when rebates are offered again.
Recognized as one of the best farm to table restaurants in the state, Woods Hill Table is a local culinary gem. Our family dined there this evening to celebrate being together. As the children have matured and grown more independent, our time together as a complete family has become increasingly rare. In a matter of days Kyle will be off to California, Nico back to Colorado, Maya re-immersed in high school, Jeanine into the demands of her job, and I on my next travel adventure. More than the food was savored on this evening.
A planned “boy’s breakfast” at Concord’s Club Car Cafe morphed into a family breakfast at Babico’s (the girls wanted in and the Club Car was closed). Visiting Maynard provided Jeanine the perfect opportunity to show off the new Open Table facility which is under construction there. Build out is proceeding well and it will not be too long before I post a photo of the grand opening.
It’s not Christmas at the Calabria household until Jeanine’s pop overs are out of the oven. Prepared only once a year they are a cherished tradition. This year’s batch was outstanding and we enjoyed them with a wonderful beach plum jam from Martha’s Vineyard.
The family spent the rest of the day sloooowly opening presents as is our custom. I really like the photo that Maya took of me as I was opening my gift from Jeanine, a luxurious bath robe. I guess I was not as naughty as I thought.
Kyle is as trim and fit as we have ever seen him. Feeling a need to exercise, he completed a set of finger tip pull-ups using the mouldings in our kitchen. I exercised by running for my camera. Nico and Maya passed the time in a less strenuous but no less entertaining fashion. All the kids can play music but it always sounds best to my ear when they do so together.
After enjoying our traditional dinner at Chang Ans with the Budris family (13 years and counting) we all attended the Christmas Eve service at First Parish. Jeanine signed up the entire family to serve as ushers and I am happy to report that there were no fires resulting from the candlelight service on our watch. After returning home, the kids did the bulk of the work preparing our favorite Zeppilli Balls (fried dough covered in honey and sprinkles).
The kitchen was full of young adult cooks this evening. Nico was joined by Karuna and Maya by Caleb as they prepared Coconut Chicken Curry and various yummy baked goods. Jeanine and I attended a holiday party while Kyle visited with high school friends in Boston.
Earlier in the day we bid farewell to the VW Jetta Sports Wagon which was Jeanine’s until she unapologetically and shamelessly commandeered my new BMW. It was subject to a generous buy back program from VW as mandated by their Diesel Gate emissions scandal settlement with the US government.
Nicolai returned from Colorado this afternoon uniting the family once again. I was thrilled that both boys agreed to join me for my soccer practice this evening. Few things bring me more joy than playing soccer with my kids and I was thrilled that both boys were interested in joining me for my outdoor soccer practice this evening. Temperature was just under freezing which is quite pleasant if you dress properly. Kyle has not lost a step and still has some very sweet moves that I need to learn from him. Nico was in fine form as well, picking apart the defense with his precision passing. I managed to show the boys where they got their skills from with 3 goals including a nice diving header.
Jeanine is never happier than when the family is together. Kyle returned from California late this evening looking trim and fit if not entirely exhausted. His work has been very challenging over the past few months so we will make sure he is well fed and rested before he returns. We are also trying to persuade him to consider a job in the Boston area so we can see him more often. If you know of an opportunity for a brilliant finance/computer science type please let us know.
The need to test a new camera and lens setup had me venture out into the frigid cold in search of highly detailed scenes to photograph. I didn’t need to look much further than our own downtown cheese shop for just the ticket. Of course, it could be that my choice had something to do with the wonderful Caprese sandwich that they serve for lunch.
Trimming the Christmas tree this year was especially enjoyable. The family was joined by Maya’s new boyfriend Caleb and his sister Sara. Many hands made the work go quickly as we enjoyed holiday music, the first fire of the season, and a Jewish apple cake that Jeanine whipped together. I think Kyle and Nico will find the decorations up to par when they return home later this week. “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.”
The first significant snowfall of the season left us with about 5 inches of fluffy powder and morning temperatures in the teens. It was a good day to spend indoors. Using a recipe from her upcoming cookbook, Jeanine baked ten cranberry-lemon bread loaves. She spent the rest of the day trying to keep Maya and I away from them. I spent the day obsessing over the photo kit I will bring with me when I head out to the Southwest for the first two weeks of January. Weather permitting, I am planning a long hike and overnight at Havasu Falls which means carry weight will be a factor. My standard travel set is 12 pounds. Ideally, I would like to cut that by half for the 24 mile round trip hike. These days I prefer to limit my total pack weight to 30 pounds and a 20% allocation to photo gear seems about right.
In preparation for a tree trimming party tomorrow, we started decorating the house and added lights to our Christmas tree.
I finally got around to writing our 2016 Holiday Letter and have posted the text here for those who may not be on our mailing list. The complete letter with many photographs can be found at 2016 Holiday Letter
Dear Family and Friends,
2016 finds the Calabria family healthy and happy in a year marked by major transitions. We continue to reside in Concord, Massachusetts but are planning to downsize (location still undetermined) when Maya leaves for college. The year has been characterized by much travel and many new beginnings. Carl continues to post daily photos on our family website and we invite you to visit with us at www.carlcalabria.com
After volunteering for 3 years as the President of Open Table, Jeanine accepted the paid position of Executive Director this summer. Her first challenge has been to find a new facility for the community dinner program and food pantry. Managing the 300 person organization, soliciting donations and preparing for the move has been both exciting and exhausting. Jeanine completed a 25 mile Ride for Food to raise money for area food relief and also completed writing her memoir cookbook to be published soon.
Since graduating from Santa Clara University last December, Kyle has been working as the Trading Operations Manager at Decker & Company, a boutique Asian emerging and frontier specialist broker. He spent three months living in Thailand as part of his introduction to the company and now lives in Menlo Park, CA. This year he obtained his Series 7 and Series 24 FINRA certifications and is waiting to learn the results of the CFA Level 1 test he recently completed.
Nicolai is a junior at Colorado College where he has just completed their semester long TREE (Teaching & Research in Environmental Education) program at the Catamount Center, located on the North Slope of Pikes Peak. Nico was named co-captain of the USA National Amputee Soccer Team and traveled to Costa Rica to compete in the Copa Internacional where the team placed third. Nico earned team MVP honors and is now the all-time leading scorer for the US.
Maya, in her senior year at Concord Carlisle High School, is deep in the midst of the college application process. She spent 6 weeks of the summer interning at prestigious Brookhaven National Labs where she worked analyzing data for a researcher who is studying the quark gluon plasma. She played varsity soccer, is co-captain of the nordic ski team and co-president of the National Honor Society. Over the summer she travelled to California with Carl to visit schools and for a mini vacation.
After 36 years in high tech, Carl began dabbling in retirement. Unsure if he will simply complete a “gap year” or begin a new chapter of travel adventure/photography, he has visited 9 countries, 22 states and 10 national parks so far this year. He spent 2 weeks with Jeanine in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and then another 2 weeks solo in Myanmar and India. Carl still plays Division 1 soccer (over 50s) and travelled with his team to Iceland to compete in an international friendly.
Now that Maya’s soccer season is over, I have decided to sell my dedicated sports photography setup. It has served me extremely well but will see little use now that the kids are all finished with high school sports. I have a different kit I will use for Maya’s nordic skiing and for Nico’s future amputee soccer events. I spent the day taking “glamour shots” in my studio and expect my listings will net me close to $12K for the lens, camera and tripod.