The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day 24 — “That Pioneering Spirit”

Today, I am not going to dwell upon my fantasy football team getting beat late in the fourth courter of last night’s game. I’m not. And by not doing that, I also won’t have to dwell on how much money I didn’t win in my fantasy league, or the fact that had Phillip Rivers not played by far his worst game of the season I would have won easily. I also won’t have to dwell upon the Chiefs losing, you know, in real football, and our playoff projections progressing in a rather dismal direction.  I’m not going to dwell on being the one seed and losing, not going to dwell on having by far the best record in my league, not going to dwell on the fact that I beat the guy who beat me twice this season. I’m not dwelling on this stuff. That wouldn’t be healthy. I’m just going to post a few pictures of me wearing my fantasy football championship rings and call it a day. That seems healthy.

In today’s Christmas Eve post, I want to write about some firsts we’ve had, and about some pioneers I know. Definitely not about fantasy football.

Yesterday, knowing we were going to church in the afternoon with Sonja’s family, we skipped morning services and headed to the zoo. One of the things we love in summer is taking the kids to the zoo, but yesterday, with both of us on break, Sonja and I decided to take the kids. It was the first time we’d done that in the winter, but it was a nice day. We spent some time in the aquarium and gorilla exhibits, and saw the elephants indoors. The leopards were outside. We walked around and enjoyed the sunshine before heading home to feed the kids lunch. It was a good first.

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From there, we went back to the church we used to attend with Sonja’s mom. We’ve stopped going there in favor of a church that’s a bit more our speed, though we enjoyed it. This was the first time we had gone on the 23rd to Christmas Eve-Eve services, because  Sonja’s mom has to work on the 24th. It wasn’t the first time we’d returned since leaving, but it was one of the few times, and we enjoyed the services and got a bit nostalgic about the place where we got married.

Back home after services, we had family and friends over for dinner. When my mother-in-law asked me about the wine, I was eager to tell her about it. Rob Griffin, the proprietor of Barnard Griffin, is someone I deeply admire. A UC Davis grad, he left the promising opportunities of California wine country to make wine in the then sparsely populated and unappreciated Columbia Valley of Washington. I’ve written quite a bit about him, but long story short, his willingness to be daring paid off not only for him but for all of us who love Washington wine. He forged a path that many have since followed, and his wines are terrific. Last night, I served his Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 2014, which is ineffably smooth and beautifully flavorful, a textbook example of why we love CV Cabs. It paired very nicely with our raclette and gave me another chance to tell people about Rob’s great wines. Win-win.

For dessert, our neighbors outdid themselves by bringing chocolate lasagna. It was amazing, and it seemed appropriate to me to pair something special with it. I snagged a bottle of wine that they had actually given us earlier, a wine made by another wine pioneer I admire greatly. Bill Oliver, founder of the Oliver winery in Indiana, is very much akin to Rob Griffin for taking a chance on a place most people wouldn’t attempt to make wine. Bill’s Cabernet Sauvignon is what made me come to admire his winemaking so much, though in time I’ve had many of his wines and truly enjoyed them all. The 2007 Creekbend Chambourcin Dessert wine is as good as most any fortified wine I’ve had. Rich and sweet in a ruby style, it weighs in at nearly 21% and was incredibly smooth. I took the opportunity to talk to my mother in law about a second pioneer of winemaking, and we enjoyed our chocolate lasagna immensely.

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After that, it was dark outside and the Gudgel Family got to enjoy our first luminary night at home. It’s something our neighborhood does every year, but we’ve never been home for it until last night. Sonja and Titus spent quite a bit of time lighting candles and putting them in bags before dinner, and though we missed the chance to stroll the neighborhood and enjoy the sight of all of them lit up, it was nice to have finally been able to use the luminaries we had purchased four years ago when we moved into the neighborhood.

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From that point, we were joined by more neighbors and my in-laws departed. Sonja gave me one of my Christmas presents early, a very nice set of poker chips, and we used it to play poker late into the night. It was a truly enjoyable way to forget about my fantasy loss (which I’m still not dwelling on) and to catch up with our friends. It was the first time we’d hosted poker, but given that Sonja and I both enjoy playing quite a bit, I don’t suspect it will be the last. Perhaps next time you’ll join us?

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

Mark

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