Until Monday, we’d planned to drive to Las Vegas to spend Christmas with our son, daughter in law, and grandchildren. Since our daughter Polly was coming with us, we’d have a rare photo opportunity: our whole family, all three generations, in one place at one time. Alas, our daughter in law Beth, a school teacher, felt something coming on and got tested. She’s positive and the trip is off. Beth, like everyone in the family, is vaccinated; she’s experiencing only mild symptoms. So far it’s just her … the other Vegas Woodfords have tested negative. On to Plan B: Christmas at home. One for them, one for us, 400 miles apart. The family photo will have to wait.

Hence, the annual holiday letter to friends and family we posted yesterday (we weren’t planning on sending it out until closer to New Year’s Eve, after we got home and had the new photo copied and printed) contains this photo instead, taken in July at Big Bear Lake, California.

L to R: Gregory (w/Piper), Beth, our grandchildren Taylor & Quentin, Donna (w/Mr. B), moi

Polly wasn’t with us on that trip, so we were one short. Our grandson Quentin, we’re told, has changed a lot since then (going away to college will do that). We’ll make it up to Vegas, probably in the spring now. It’s unlikely Polly will be able to travel with us then, but we’ll take another family photo anyway. It’ll at least have more dogs in it.

Of course we’re disappointed, but given all we hear about the latest Covid variant and how infectious it is, it was probably inevitable someone in our family would get it (I’m surprised it wasn’t Polly or Taylor, both of whom have to work around others, or Quentin, who’s in college and exposed to hundreds of people every day). It’s probably also for the best we stay apart for now. It’s very encouraging to hear Beth isn’t affected badly, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it stays that way.

As for us, we’re having Polly and our friend Mary Anne over tonight for our traditional Christmas Eve spread: clam chowder, cheese biscuits, and a shrimp boil. Christmas day, it’ll be just us, our dogs, and Polly, with a post-gift exchange breakfast of Donna’s eggs Benedict and my own sautéed scallops & spinach over pasta for dinner. Pretty much a normal Christmas for us.

The Yuletide spirit has yet to kindle in my bosom, but will later today when I start making the clam chowder, a family recipe passed down by my father, who actually got it from a magazine or newspaper (we all wanted to believe it came over on the Mayflower, but Dad popped our bubble about the time he told us Santa wasn’t real). Mayflower or not, it’s a damn good recipe, and all us chillin cook up a pot every Christmas Eve. Here’s how to make it, if you’d like to try it yourself.

Donna’s been making Christmas cookies and candy. Most have already gone out the door as gifts, but I rounded up a few for a photo. She made the pinwheel cookies at my request. My mother used to make them when I was a child, and I remember how much I liked them. Yep, they’re still great, but it turns out they’re a lot of work! And certainly not on my food plan!


Mid-50s and rainy here in Tucson, with more of the same in tomorrow’s forecast. That’s as close to snow as we get hereabouts, and we’ve learned to love it. We hope at least some of you will enjoy a snowy Christmas, and we hope all of you have a great one.

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