Christmas Day

Christmas Day dawned bright and chilly.  The boys raced downstairs and commenced with opening.  I got very few pictures because I was just enjoying it, and also indulging in my OCD need to keep up with the mess.  I took some videos, but pretty much the only pictures I got were of food:

Someone got a lot of Batman stuff

Someone got a lot of Batman stuff

Cinnamon rolls, pre-burned butter

Cinnamon rolls, pre-burned butter

Snacks on a cupcake stand - great idea I got from somewhere

Snacks on a cupcake stand – great idea I got from somewhere

Prime rib Christmas dinner.  Man was it good.

Prime rib Christmas dinner. Man was it good.

We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sadly I stupidly did not put them on a jelly roll pan because I don’t have one, and somehow did not think about the fact that the butter in the filling would melt and pour off the baking sheet and burn on the bottom of the oven.  Which is precisely what happened, making it a challenge to get them fully cooked.  We managed and everyone ate them, underdone and somewhat charbroiled, but I need to buy myself a jelly roll pan for sure.

For lunch we had finger foods – cheese, crackers, fruit, chips.  And for dinner we had really fantastic prime rib which I undercooked and had to put back in but it worked out, plus potatoes and cheese grits and green beans and whiskey glazed carrots that were truly divine.  Those I will absolutely make again.  It was a really good dinner.  The day itself was mostly eating, playing with toys, managing trash – there might have been a nap.  A perfect day.  I’ll never forget my brother putting together this laser game (not real lasers, fake string “laser beams” that protect a prize and you have to wind your way through them, Mission Impossible Style, without touching), and also him and Craig playing a 4 foot tall jenga game (Craig was really, really good).  We built new Lego sets and played with new art supplies and Liam played a new video game or two.  All in all, a great day, insufficiently captured in photos but so it goes.

The day after Christmas I took off work, and mostly actually got to be off duty.  At this point I don’t remember much about this day except I think we went to see a Christmas light show that we had not yet gone to this season, and got burgers at a local place

Uncle Randy reads.

Uncle Randy reads.

Liam focuses on Legos.

Liam focuses on Legos.

Uncle Randy reads part two

Uncle Randy reads part two

Burger time

Burger time

Liam is just this bad at smiling for the camera, whereas Jack was seriously grumpy and faking a smile.

Liam is just this bad at smiling for the camera, whereas Jack was seriously grumpy and faking a smile.

This was Craig's outfit for the Christmas lights.  He charmed many.

This was Craig’s outfit for the Christmas lights. He charmed many.

Uncle Randy went home the next day.  I went back to work. The Prof kept the kids the rest of their time off, spending some days at the zoo, at the movies, and otherwise hanging out.  The following week was in-law time – we had skipped Christmas as their house so we could save up the vacation/travel time for an epic trip – to Disney World!

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Post Holiday Update

I have sat myself down to write some updates a few times, but technology has always foiled me.  So many barriers between me and my one true love – writing for pleasure.  (OK, I have more than one true love – making music, exercising hard, cooking, acting, but that doesn’t work as well rhetorically).  The Prof has been out of town for several days, and thus I have had no uninterrupted time for a while.  Nevertheless, though he’s not back yet, I am sitting down and attempting an update.  Assuredly I will be interrupted a billion times and probably by the end of this, my tone will be exasperated and distracted.  But done is better than perfect, at least as far as this blog is concerned, so here we go!

  1. Christmas
Christmas Eve table

Christmas Eve Eve table

I love to entertain – to set a fancy table, plan an elevated menu, get out our seldom-used silver and napkin rings.  This is My Jam, and my Christmas treat.  I couldn’t manage it (without being bitter and overworked) on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – there are too many kids and not enough adults to do the other Holiday Cheer Creation Work that needs doing – so I did it on Christmas Eve Eve.  Our menu was giant homemade meatballs and marinara on rigatoni, salad, and garlic bread, and yes the children ate it at this white table on this china while sitting on these nice chairs and the only one who spilled was me.  We are working on civilizing them.  (Liam tends to eat with his fingers like a caveman and then wipe them on the chair he’s sitting on, so we draped his chair in a towel.  One day he’ll stop this, but in the meantime, we take precautions!)

Lucky us – my brother came to spend Christmas with our family this year.  He is a biologist doing a post doc in Germany right now, and came home to my parents’ for the holiday.  This is an “off” year for my side – all the married kids spent Christmas at the in-laws’ this year, leaving my parents alone – so I invited my parents to our place but they were taking a break from travel after a lot of recent trips.  They sent my brother down to us, though, which was wonderful for multiple reasons not least of which being Uncle Randy was awesome at playing with the kids and their new toys.  And he is another adult to enjoy my fantastic cooking (*brushes shoulder off).  He came in town on Christmas Eve Eve and tucked into meatballs with the rest of us, which was great.  He then went to bed at like 7pm because he was still on Germany time – ha!

On Christmas Eve, which was a Sunday, we skipped morning services as we had a full church evening coming at us.  Instead we walked a couple of blocks over to a playground/dog park/coffee shop that we love, and tossed a football a bit before enjoying some lattes and a muffin.

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop Dawg

Coffee Shop Dawg

After the playground, I squeezed in a little cooking prep before heading over for the first evening service at 2:30.  This is our first Christmas Eve at our home church, since we usually travel, and we learned that they typically do a family service/kid pageant at 4, and an adult candlelight service at 7.  I was backstage mom-in-charge of the Angels Stage Left for the pageant, and the two older boys were shepherds (Kneeling Shepherd and Standing Shepherd With Staff – a dangerous role to say the least and staffs had to be confiscated during practice numerous times).  The older youth group children read the famous usual Bible passages, while the younger kids entered at the appropriate time in their costumes and then stood in a nice tableau/wiggled and picked at their costumes and got into trouble.  It was all very wholesome and lovely, and I enjoyed getting to know the little girls in my charge.

Standing Shepherd with Staff shoots his mom a peace sign

Standing Shepherd with Staff shoots his mom a peace sign

Liam being an idiot in the front right

Kneeling Shepherd being an idiot in the front right

During the break between 2:30 rehearsal and 4:00 church, various shepherds, angels, and livestock oohed and aahed at the church train platform.

During the break between 2:30 rehearsal and 4:00 church, various shepherds, angels, and livestock oohed and aahed at the church train platform.

One of my Angel charges and one of my Shepherd sons in a pre-show chat

One of my Angel charges and one of my Shepherd sons in a pre-show chat

These flimsy halos required a lot of shoring up, and there were feathers everywhere, but man isn't it charming?

These flimsy halos required a lot of shoring up, and there were feathers everywhere, but man isn’t it charming?

Joseph checks his email

Joseph checks his email

Just a coupla sheep

Just a coupla sheep

Backstage whisper giggles

Backstage whisper giggles

Blowing out the faux candle was a fun activity that kept them busy for a while, as they waited for their entrance.

Blowing out the faux candle was a fun activity that kept them busy for a while, as they waited for their entrance.

I specifically requested that I not be in charge of my own children, but somehow a Shepherd snuck his way back into the Angel's backstage wings (ha! pun)

I specifically requested that I not be in charge of my own children, but somehow a Shepherd snuck his way back into the Angel’s backstage wings (ha! pun)

Once my angels made their entrance, I was free to sneak out to the congregation and watch - I got this pic during showtime.  They did great.  A little wiggly, but great.

Once my angels made their entrance, I was free to sneak out to the congregation and watch – I got this pic during showtime. They did great. A little wiggly, but great.

After the pageant was done, we took some pictures, helped pack up the costumes and props for next year, and then headed home where I heated up the turkey tetrazzini I’d pre-made for their dinner.  I left them all munching and headed back in for 6:15 call time for our 7:00 service – the choir had a major role in this one, so I couldn’t skip it.  We sang lots of carols, and Silent Night by candlelight is a lot more effective and lovely when it’s actually dark outside, so I didn’t mind going to 6 hours of church on Christmas Eve.  Although when I got home to do the usual Christmas Eve things at 8:30 or so, I was pretty wiped.

Nevertheless.  We wrote letters, we set out cookies and carrots, we sprinkled reindeer food, and we snuggled the Littles in their beds before playing Santa’s Helper.  My brother was around to help too, so it didn’t take long, and then we all went to bed ourselves, ready for an early morning.

Liam is no-nonsense

Liam is no-nonsense

Jack's gonna Jack.

Jack’s gonna Jack.

Craig managed to do a really decent job of scrawling his name to Santa.  That'll do, at age 3.

Craig managed to do a really decent job of scrawling his name to Santa. That’ll do, at age 3.

Santa food, in pinterest-worthy presentation

Santa food, in pinterest-worthy presentation

Sprinkling reindoor food on our postage stamp "lawn."  Frankly, its just One More Thing that I would love to not bother with, but they always get baggies of cheerios and glitter from school, so we do it.

Sprinkling reindoor food on our postage stamp “lawn.” Frankly, its just One More Thing that I would love to not bother with, but they always get baggies of cheerios and glitter from school, so we do it.

From inside the warm house Virgil be like - "why, fools?"

From inside the warm house Virgil be like – “why, fools?”

Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the House, Shirtless Boys Stick Their Hands Down Their Pants

Twas the Night Before Christmas and All Through the House, Shirtless Boys Stick Their Hands Down Their Pants

Bear, hanging on by a thread.

Bear, hanging on by a thread.

Not my best effort this year but it was a long day.

Not my best effort this year but it was a long day.

No hearth, so we improvise.  Also - I bought PB Kids matching stockings this year in a post-Christmas sale, and I'm v. excited!

No hearth, so we improvise. Also – I bought PB Kids matching stockings this year in a post-Christmas sale, and I’m v. excited!

Ready!

Ready!

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Christmas Menu

The last time we had Christmas at home was 5 years ago, in Alabama, and while we enjoyed it very much, it was somewhat marred by tornadoes, which is a natural disaster I do not weather well (pun intended).  Earthquake this California girl any day, hurricanes you’ve got plenty of notice, but a tornado . . .  Anyhow, I made a delightful meal that tasted like ash in my mouth as I watched stalwart news reporters calmly telling us when it was time to shelter, so I’m excited to give that meal a do-over.  (Knock wood, salt over shoulder, etc.)

So I’m excited to once more be holiday meal planning!  Meal plans for the full week below – I don’t really get much time off for Christmas (I’m taking the first week in January), so I want it not too complicated, but still special.

Meanwhile, just a few bullet point memories to capture here:

  • Jack is teaching himself how to play Silent Night on the piano.  He’s really stuck with it, and it’s the first piece he’s picked out by ear after a year or two of lessons.  I’m getting a video – I may even devise a duet for us.  He’s so earnest, so heartbreakingly pure still, here on the verge of 10 and adolescence and Feelings.  I’m excited to see who he becomes, but I love who he is right now so much.  He’ll still bring me a book and sit in my lap to read it.  (He’s way too big to do this.) (Of course, I suffer beneath his gangly weight and read for a while anyhow.)
  • Liam is just over the top enthusiastic about everything Christmas.  He just is absolutely thrilled by every tiny Christmas detail.  He’s missing his two front teeth right now, which exacerbates his lisp.  So basically we live with a short, excitable Daffy Duck, who shouts a very spitty “thith ith awethome!” every five seconds, and it’s pretty adorable since Liam is our little cynic most of the time.  He got fully into making gingerbread houses at a friend’s gingerbread house making party (yes – and it was so cute) – he is thrilled by lights on houses around town, he painstakingly decorated Christmas cookies at home, he screamed out the names of every thing he saw at the drive-through light show we went to last night, he proposed that on Christmas Eve we sit on our front porch and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and sing carols (which YES).  He’s maybe going to be one of those adults who has a Christmas Year Round room in his basement.  Everybody needs a soft spot – Christmas is Liam’s, and Liam is mine.
  • This is a placeholder for a cute thing Craig did which I wrote down on a sticky note at work, and forgot there, but I’ll update and edit to add it since I’ve 100% forgotten what it was.  It’s not this, but I do know that we have a giant wooden advent calendar with little doors, and when you open each door we put three small candies in (3 M&Ms or something similar), except several mornings Craig will sneak downstairs and stuff his cheeks with candy from the wrong day, and we turn a blind eye because he’s so cute.
  • The Prof is our Christmas cookie maker.  He’s slowly adding a new variety every year – this year it was candy cane cookies, which is a strand of dyed red peppermint cookie dough twisted with a strand of plain dough, bent into the shape of a candy cane and sprinkled with crushed peppermints.  Mmmmm.

So that’s my little Christmas snapshot.  The boys are going to see the Star Wars movie later today, while I finalize wrapping and cook prep.  I’m desperately churning through an overdue doc review, but once I get that off my plate I can relax and enjoy Christmas Day.  Then I have a chaotic week back at work, and then a week off!!  It can’t come soon enough!

Here’s our menu.  Wishing lots of food, family, friends, and love to you and yours –

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Christmas Adam (this is a joke, but it denotes the day before Christmas Eve – I will be at church a million hours on actual Christmas Eve, so we’re having our fancy dinner tonight)

Christmas Eve

  • Turkey tetrazzini – I’ll make this ahead, and the boys can heat it up without me

Christmas Day

Christmas Night

Day After

  • Beef nachos (with the leftover beef)
  • Slow cooker refried beans (these are already made in the freezer)
  • A southwest style salad

 

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Christmas is Settlement Season

I have never been so slammed in December.  Last week I pulled an all nighter – basically worked 36 hours straight, with an hour or two break here and there to give the kids dinner, sleep for an hour, take a shower.  I’m digging out . . . it won’t be this way forever . . . but it’s a real pain in the neck that this is happening in December.  Now I did take the morning following my work marathon to sleep in, wrap some presents, and all around regain my composure, before arriving at the office at 11:30 to bill a full 8 hour day.  That break did help, and I’m throwing elbows to make room for that kind of self care during this busy season/holiday season, so I don’t die of a heart attack.  Still, I’m going to have to work this coming weekend and the next, in order to meet all of these deadlines that have randomly fallen all together.  It really chaps my hide when folks purposefully set deadlines around the holidays to try to encourage settlement.  I’m not in control of settlement, but I suffer the consequences of imposing crushing work around a season you’d rather be slowing down – and multiply it by numerous cases, and you have the Reluctant Grownup, reluctantly billing every day of a month that also requires her to generate (and participate in) Holiday Cheer.  Nevertheless, it is what it is.  This job pays the bills and then some, so we make it work.  Also, I have a full week vacation coming up the first week of January, and at this rate I can take that and still be ahead on billables for the year.  This firm is pretty good about leaving you alone on your vacation, so I just have to stagger through the next few weeks and then I can relax and breathe.  [In Disney.  With three small children.  Five if you count the nieces too.  SOUNDS RELAXING, NO?] [I genuinely am excited.  I love Disney.]

Meantime, it’s Saturday and we are motoring through some chores.  The Prof is making Christmas cookies, and we’ll have friends over to decorate them later.  My firm Christmas party is tonight – at one of the old guard restaurants in the French Quarter.  My genius self kept the laundry going through my all nighter (if I’m up and here, might as well), and as a result we have very little laundry to do.  It’s a small thing but I’ll take it!  I’m also checking in on Christmas gifts – we are in pretty good shape, most of them bought and mailed, and just need a few more.  Because I love and rely upon these, I thought I’d give a list here of stocking stuffers I’ve bought for the boys this year.  Enjoying the Small Things always does a great stocking stuffer roundup and gift guide too – check her out!

Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty – I got all different colors and kinds for my three sons and two older nieces.  Secretly I cannot wait to play with this stuff.

Instax mini film – as their main gift, we bought the older boys two small Polaroid-ish cameras to snap pictures in Disney World.  I’m sticking some film in their stockings.

Photo albums – I got some cheap, floppy photo albums for them to put their Disney pix in, not these but similar

Shrinky dink minis – each boy got a different kind (dinosaurs, vehicles, mermaids maybe?)  I think they’ll love making them – I did as a kid.

Blue and green nail polish – Craig is in a phase where he loves to wear nail polish, like me.  His daycare teacher used to paint all the kids’ toenails with blue polish, and he is addicted to it.  I am totally fine if he wears red, purple, pink, sparkles (which is what I have in my personal stash), but I also wanted to get him some more neutral colors.  These are going in his stocking.

Big League Chew.  The kids love this.  It’s kinda weird to be, like, emulating chewing tobacco, but whatever.

Fun bandaids – we go through bandaids like it’s our job, so I always get some for their stockings every year.  This year I got Candyland, Crayon, and My Little Pony (Liam is a definite Brony right now, and Jack loves it too although he is embarrassed to say it and begs me “please don’t tell the boys at school.”  [insert predictable rant])

Toothbrushes and toothpaste, plus candy, because we like irony.

Mickey t shirts – I got us each a shirt to wear in Disney, and I’m going to roll them up and stick them in the toe of the stocking.

Magazines – I always dash to Barnes and Noble and grab a relevant magazine to tuck in the top of each stocking.

So, there’s our list!  Stocking stuffers are my fave – in years past I’ve done geodes, Sun Art (it was cheaper when I did it!), fun erasers, ink and stamp kits, cookie cutters, marbles to go in their marble run, pirate gold, sparkly rock collections, gum, bandaids, etc.  So fun to collect these little treats.

Now, for the week’s meals.  I have to hop onto a conference call in a half hour, so I’ve gotta wind this up, but I’m excited about what we’re having for dinner this week because it’s FINALLY COLD down here and while I’m not sure how long it will last, it’s always more fun for me to cook in the cold.

Baby it’s cold outside.  Hope you’re staying cozy and warm with the ones you love.

 

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Saturday Morning Meal Planning and Train Track Engineering

My shirtless three year old son (soon to be four!  FOUR!) is studiously banging a wooden hammer on some wooden train tracks, to make them “stick together.”  Our Christmas tree lights are a-twinkle – the boys decorated it and so it is predictably bottom heavy with ornaments and bare at the top.  I artfully arranged some glass ball ornaments in bowls and vases around the house, and Liam keeps helpfully emptying them and putting the ornaments on the tree.  “I found these over here so I hung ’em up for ya, mom.”  Thanks bud.

The Christmas season is upon us.  Halloween is probably my favorite time of year, but it kind of blew past me this year and I never really got into the swing.  You know how some years, a holiday is just sort of perfect, and other years, a holiday sneaks up on you?  I missed a good Halloween, so I’m trying to wallow a little more in Christmasness to make up for it.  I even put up the tree on a random Tuesday night after work while the Prof was at a work event, just so we could have it up a little longer.

We had a really wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents’ place in Nashville.  All but one brother in law and my brother were there.  My brother is living in Germany for a bit, and couldn’t swing both a Thanksgiving and Christmas visit – my brother in law had other obligations that kept him home.  But all of my sisters, two of their spouses, and their children were there, and we made a happy and contented jumble.  The boys ran around outside with the neighbor children, and we did a lot of eating and drinking and cooking and did some adult dot-to-dot pictures that a partner bought me as a thanks for working a difficult case.  (Adult as in hard, not XXX rated!)  I was also able to bill quite a few hours on the drive up and the drive back, which allowed me to take four full days off (Wed – Sat).  That was great as I have worked most weekends lately – full days in some instances – and I needed a break.

This week’s meals are a nod to the fact that we have tons of evening activities and may have to heat something up individually certain days.  I have 3 (count ’em, THREE) evening holiday events next workweek, and the Prof has two, and then we have my work Christmas party next Saturday.  I’m tired just thinking about it.

So, meals are as follows:

  • PW cauliflower soup.  I made this before Thanksgiving and froze it, so all we have to do is heat it up.  It’s delicious – tastes a lot like potato soup, and the Cajun spice gives it a nice kick.
  • Dressed up ramen.  Not a great idea to eat ramen too often, as it’s full of sodium, but on a chilly winter evening, a steamy hot bowl of noodles hits the spot.  I throw in frozen veg and usually swirl a raw egg in the boiling broth til it cooks (sort of “egg drop soup” style), easy, peasy, cheap and good.
  • PW chili.  This week’s rotation is heavy on the Pioneer Woman, but that’s cause her stuff is usually pretty simple and crowd pleasing.  I made this Thursday from stuff we already had in the pantry and fridge, and I made double so we’ve got enough for this week too.
  • 12 minute chicken and broccoli.
  • Spaghetti with frozen meatballs and jarred sauce.

Happy December to all!  Only 23 days left in the advent calendar, til Santa Claus comes.

Posted in Bitchin in the Kitchen, Holidays and Celebrations | Comments Off on Saturday Morning Meal Planning and Train Track Engineering