Monday, January 1, 2018

A Few Christmas Scenes

Well, Christmas has come and gone. It always feels like the work will never be done but then the day arrives and after that it's time to pack it all away for another year.

The baking all got done and I even got the Christmas Dinner table set on Saturday night before Christmas Eve.

We were invited to friends' for Christmas Eve lunch and it was such a treat: lightly falling snow outside, seeing our friend's brand new home, eating on Friendly Village china (a shared love), enjoying good fellowship. It was a gift!

The dessert table...yum, yum!

There was time for Laura's weekly Sunday afternoon tea, which felt even more festive being Christmas Eve.

The living room was ready for Christmas morning!

After church we had our family pow-wow but it included extra special food treats: Portuguese cheese puffs sent from down the street, crispy chicken, pears, apples, fancy cheeses and nuts sent from another friend.

I had my red shoes on -- a little gift from my mom.

And then it was Christmas! And a white Christmas at that! The kids get up around 8 to do their stockings and by the time breakfast is ready it ends up being 10 am for present-opening. We started with the Queen's speech which made me almost teary-eyed this year. One never knows when it will be her last speech and she is a huge role model for me personally. We read Luke 2 and then came the presents.

Traditional morning food:

Laura looked super cheery in her new scarf!!!

My mom arrived and joined the fun as Michael handed out what was under the tree.

The older boys were pretty excited about their warms scarves and soccer balls.

There was an hour to sit and enjoy some hot tea and bask in the glow of the holiday before guests began to arrive. We had friends from church and three new friends we had never met -- international students from downtown. It was so fun to get to know them and learn about their countries of origin (India and Sri Lanka). Several people played games, there were meat pies, cheeseballs, spiced olives, and hot cider to enjoy as well.

Part way through the afternoon I started in on Christmas dinner with help from several of our guests. One guest even made an impromptu pan of Indian chicken which was SO good. Around about 6:30 it was time to eat!

We had chicken with leek sauce, ham, potatoes a la Nigel Slater, colored carrots, Sri Lankan potato and fish balls, asparagus, rolls, roasted butternut squash, mashed cauliflower, and a fancy jello I was trying out for something else.

We had fun introducing our guests to British Christmas crackers with the crowns and jokes inside.

Then we congregated in the living room for another first for most: a White Elephant game. Plenty of fun and laughter.

We ended the evening by bringing in the flaming Christmas pudding with the lights dimmed and everyone singing, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." It was so much fun!

And now today we've packed Christmas away and just this hour divided up the last mince pies: two per person. School begins tomorrow, my Paint Your Cake and Eat It Too class begins tomorrow, and Rachel leaves for Spain on Wednesday. 

A very Happy New Year to you all! May God bless you in this year ahead.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23

Today felt like Christmas Eve: it was an all-day baking day, neighbors were delivering cards, the house was getting cleaned up (slowly but surely). Best of all it snowed this morning! The snow is melted now but there is a promise of more to come tomorrow!

A few neighbors gathered for tea this morning -- an hour out of our busy days that few of us could afford but we wanted that rare connection with each other, and we had it! We sipped tea, enjoyed Christmas treats, talked about what we were cooking -- the four of us at the table represented four different countries of origin so that meant quite a few different Christmas traditions and foods.

Back at home the baking loomed like a dangerous mountain I had to climb but didn't want to. Because of our allergies and sensitivities if I didn't bake we wouldn't eat. There is no popping in a shop and taking the easy way out. At times I felt the drudgery of it but there were also moments that were special -- the ones when the kids came in the kitchen for a few minutes to lend a hand.

The Christmas pudding went into the pot before the morning tea, so it boiled away most of the day while I baked the cookies. One child was bribed with computer time to make the mince pies while I was away. There were tea rings and gluten free tea rings and a million meat pies for our traditional hike. I also found myself babysitting a jello salad which I needed to try out before my class begins next week. You would think making jello was easy, but not when you have to wait for layers to partially set and then almost fully set, etc. I'm so done with jello molds -- but I'll have to make it all over again for the class!

I roped two children into wrapping all the stocking stuffers which helped a great deal. I can hardly believe that by 8 p.m. all the baking was done and the table nearly set. Michael suddenly got the idea to have a White Elephant gift exchange on Christmas with all our visitors so he volunteered to go to Walmart to get what we needed (I was very impressed). Andrew was checking on me every five minutes begging for a haircut so we managed to get that done and then James was patiently waiting for me to finish sewing his new stocking which he designed (it includes leather). Maybe we will get to bed at a decent hour tonight!

I think this will be the last of my "advent calendar" posts. Tomorrow we enter that blissful day of no to-do lists. There will be church morning and evening and we've been invited to lunch with friends which will be a huge treat. I think maybe we'll read Becky's Christmas for Laura's tea time and then after evening church we have some goodies set aside for our Christmas Eve family pow-wow. And then it will be Christmas.

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22

Christmas is closing in and the parents are feeling this keenly. Today was the beginning of my baking, a very strange feeling for me as I used to begin even in November! I seem to bake less and less each year. Perhaps that is good, for many reasons. I also made the last, I hope, run to the grocery store.

There was a lovely reprieve over lunch when a friend came by for a visit and we sat with a candle burning and the greyness of the day out the windows and the cheery Christmas colors inside. Another sweet moment was when a neighbor acquaintance rang the doorbell and delivered a beautiful tray of assorted homemade cookies.

Michael volunteered to help with the wrapping tonight and he's been holed up in our closet for hours. As I was mixing up the last batch of cookie dough I found we had no peppermint flavoring left! Just the time to have a child with a driver's license who actually needed to go to the store anyway! Thank you Rachel!

Michael and I are fighting colds, hoping we can make it through the weekend and not get worse! Also feeling thankful these are only colds and not something worse.

It was very warm here today -- low 50's but I see the temperature is going to drop sharply tomorrow and we have the promise of a bit of snow. Very exciting!

I think I better go rescue Michael and see if we can get some rest before the final day of prep tomorrow!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December 21

Today was a Mom-Rachel day. Rachel's about to head out to Spain on January 3rd and today was the only day we had to shop for her trip, get a haircut, find a few clothing items, etc. So off we went for another day on the road. We were fairly successful in the five and a half ours we were out. Rachel began to fade half way through and I had to convince her that she needed a Starbucks (??!!) to keep going. Sure enough, it helped.

In Zionsville we crashed a mystery lunch at the local tearoom on a mission to get a packet of tea and probably ended up in everyone's home videos as they took turns singing Christmas carols. We also now know where to find local, Indiana-themed gifts, and where not to find them.

We limped into the driveway with a few minutes to devote to my J. R. R. Tolkien lesson plan and a few minutes to throw taco meat on the stove before Michael and I drove away to see Murder on the Orient Express with some friends and the kids went their separate ways for the evening.

And now we come to the weekend of Christmas! It's here! I'm a little overwhelmed by the mountain of food prep yet to be climbed, namely the baking. But there are a few treats of visits with people along the way to help me along. And, I hope, only one more shopping trip to make.

Sleep well!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20

Today was an especially delightful day. I got to spend the morning with two dear friends in the beautifully decorated and festive home of one of them, enjoying conversation, good food, tea, and just the kind of fellowship that a soul needs at Christmas. Our hearts were brimming as we left.

Checking my texts as I got in the car I found news of the birth of a dear friend's baby boy. Another reason for great joy. It's made me happy all day just thinking about that precious child.

The fun over, it was time to hit the shops: Costco, Payless Shoes, Trader Joe's, Joann Fabrics, Thrifty Threads, Salvation Army, Half Price Books and JC Penney. I did feel very grateful to be able to do the shopping on my own with no children in tow! On the way home I picked up a friend to spend the night with my boys and we stopped for one last errand at the library.

A cup of tea and a sit-down was in order and I pulled out a book that had nothing to do with my class or Christmas and thought I'd steal 30 minutes of rest before getting dinner. But sitting in the living room drew Rachel out of the office for a chat (which is rarer than having a rest) and then Michael even came and sat down (also rare) so I had my tea and had a few chats and was very grateful for a rice cooker and some leftover soup.

It was C. S. Lewis tonight for class prep and now I think maybe I should try again for that rest......

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19

I only took one picture today (this one) but I should have taken a picture of the bags and bags of groceries sprawled helter-skelter on my kitchen floor. That would have summed up the day much better.

I started the shopping at the local international grocery store where the smells combined with Bing Crosby singing transported me right back to Christmas in Uganda. I filled my cart with gluten free flours, a few bags of tea for my class, and two packages of sugar-coated fennel (also for said class). Aldi, Meijer, and Kroger followed.

The kids unloaded the car while I popped some meat in the crockpot and got the turkey carcass into a pot to bubble away all afternoon. The Dollar Store was next on my agenda. Last year I promised myself I would take care of the stocking stuffers in one fell swoop at the dollar store. So that is what I did. A few more errands and it was time to pick up Rachel and Andrew from their volunteer work at school.

I took a few minutes to squeak out a little illustration of a Victoria sponge cake since I need to be in practice for my class which begins two weeks from today. Back in the kitchen I finished up meal prep and popped some food in the car to take to a family with a new baby. It's always fun to visit new babies and hold them! After a nice visit I headed home to finish up some baking and get back into the life of L. M. Montgomery so I could finish her lesson plan. And now to bed!

Monday, December 18, 2017

December 18

A week until Christmas! Hard to believe, although part of me will be glad to have the Christmas deadline over with and get back to regular life.

This was our first weekday of the school holidays! Yay! The big kids slept in, of course, while I got up as soon as I could manage and got a batch of cookies going and a few other every morning routines like yoga and my quiet time. By the time the kids were up, fed, and "family worshipped" it was 10:30 -- not my idea of an early start on the morning.

Our plan was to sew together the History of Christmas quilts we've been making in school the last three weeks. We got David's top put together and Laura's started. Then some friends arrived and I paused the quilts to stitch a bunch of Boy Scout badges onto a shirt for a friend.

After lunch I headed to the post office where everyone else in town had also congregated. Fortunately the line for the automated machine was only 5 deep rather than 15. Back at home I hit the books again, working on my L. M. Montgomery lesson plan.

I cooked a turkey yesterday so we could have leftovers for a few days and it was "heat up your own dinner" night since James and I took off to get a few things at Joann Fabrics before rendezvousing with the entire family to see the new Star Wars film. Everyone else is much more into it than I am but it is fun to go as a family and I enjoyed hearing a group of men in their 40's audibly respond to the movie as it went along. Hilarious!

Time to get some rest and maybe a few minutes to read.....

(For those interested, here is the key to the Christmas quilt: 1) Jesus' birth; 2) Rome's Saturnalia celebrations which occurred around the winter solstice; 3) Boniface, Apostle to Germany and the legend of the oak of Thor; 4) Christmas in medieval England with yule logs, mince pies, and holly; 5) St. Francis introduces live nativities; 6) Martin Luther relishes Christmas, preaches many Christmas sermons and writes Christmas carols; 7) the puritans react to the drunken revelry and ban Christmas in the UK and other countries; 8) Christmas in colonial America; 9) Christmas in Victorian England; 10) Christmas in America in the 1800's; 11) the history and legends of Santa Claus; 12) Christmas today in our family)