Thursday, December 25, 2008

12/25/08 Merry Xmas!

We're weird. We don't get up at the crack of dawn to open presents, and our kids don't bug us to. Maybe we should, because we never finished opening them today.

One tradition we started some years ago will contribute to this materialism sloth: leaving one unwrapped gift per child under the tree, so they can jump right in Christmas morning to play with something. This year that worked against us, since the items in question required some help unpackaging, and one child insisted on asking permission first (guess who), but we did get to snooze late and make a late breakfast.

I made pancakes from a Cook's Illustrated recipe (technique, really) that I've made before, and I'm beaming proud and happy to say that Dave loves them. The kids, eh, they like pancakes period, they're not discriminating. But Dave is a tough audience, and he really likes these ultra-fluffy buttermilk pancakes. It makes me feel like a real cook when I can make a very standard dish (pancakes) and make it exceptional.

We had to get everybody outside; the boys were bouncing off the walls, so I concocted a weak excuse to go to the jobsite. We all trucked over there to measure a thing or two, pick up mail, check out test-paint...and really, just wander around. Dave and I both like doing that; it helps us see the space as a home, rather than a jobsite, and we always come away with ideas. And future punchlist items.

Despite the ideal photographic conditions and a good selection of backgrounds (despite the construction dust), Katrina wouldn't cooperate with a photo. "NO PICTURE! NO PICTURE! NO PICTURE!!"

The boys point out their favorite colors. This is a good spot in the house to test-paint colors for all different rooms, since it's lit (our house has no electricity right now), but without direct sun.

Back at The Ranch, it was finally time to open some gifts. I made up another new "tradition" this year that will expedite things: whoever's turn is next to open a gift has to throw away the wrapping of the last person's gift that was just opened!

I didn't take photos of everything, but the kids loved their gifts. Julian said, of a book of 101 Science Experiments from Aunt Stephanie, "I'm going to do all these ess-periments and then I'll be a real scientist!" Gabriel got so involved with a robot toy from Bonne Maman that he refused to open any gifts after that! So thank you Aunt Stephanie and Aunt Laura, for those lovely still-wrapped parcels for Gabriel. Leave it to Gabriel to find a new angle to gift-un-wrapping.

Katrina went about methodically pulling out each alphabetic puzzle piece from this book, loudly reciting the object's name for each piece.

Even though this was supposed to be a lighter year, there was no shortage of bounty and a sense of plentifulness. The kids loved everything, and I'm sure Dave and I will too when we get around to opening them!! Thank you all!

I was reeling from a horrible headache today, so took a nap in the late afternoon. As it turns out, that caused me to miss a phone call from my East Coast family, one I wasn't expecting at all or I'd have instructed Dave to wake me up. This is one of those consequences of living with a "migraineur" -- when they say they need a nap, they really mean it, so it didn't occur to him to wake me. I'm heartbroken I missed the call. It's Christmas! Damn these headaches.

Then I kicked into gear with one of my new favorite parts of the day: cooking. I should have prepared most of this yesterday, but...oh well. Still, with a huge late-afternoon scramble, I managed to get everyone seated at 6:30pm. Our dinner menu:

Stovetop-roasted chicken with lemon & herb sauce
Sauteed green beans with herbs
Mashed potatos
Ciabatta stuffing with chestnuts and pancetta

The first two items came from Cook's Illustrated, a very special issue to me. I just got subscribed to CI by donating to a local public radio station, and the first issue I got happened to be one that Laura & Ryan used for our fabulous Thanksgiving feast. In fact, the sauteed green beans were the same ones that Ryan made, though he did a better job of it (crisper). I'm not a big stuffing fan, but Dave is, and I'd saved the stuffing recipe from a Giada di Laurentiis show for a year. But it was my favorite item of all, it was so tasty.

I really had fun making Christmas dinner, though I was mindful of the many times my poor mother was trying to enjoy Christmas morning with us and zooming out again and again to check something in the kitchen. I "solved" that accidentally by serving Christmas dinner at dinnertime, instead of late-lunch-time, but that has its consequences too.

Then the kids got to indulge in their decoration efforts, by tearing apart the gingerbread house, and eating the cookies they'd decorated. Every year we do a gingerbread house or cookies, I feel like we just managed to squeak it in -- they're not established as traditions yet. But the boys are getting old enough to remember stuff like this, and it seems we eke it out somehow every year. So maybe these will be new traditions. That would be nice for me if they remember decorating Gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies as part of the holiday. Next year though, I'll make the gingerbread house.

First they had to endure a group photo. Katrina, clearly, was quite miffed at having to sit in my lap. But I love this picture because of the boys' expressions: Gabriel in the classic kid-fake-smile, Julian in his usual face-making mode (and oh, those lips!).

A cookie improved her attitude.

Time to take apart the gingerbread house! I think the boys had more fun making it than eating it. The cookies were much more popular for actually eating. Phew. Nice to know I can compete with a $8.99 kit from Target.

I was intrigued when a longtime friend from many years ago, who's still single (ladies alert -- I know Boston's Most Eligible Bachelor!), asked me what I was doing for Christmas. That question, until fairly recently, was a perfectly normal one. That's what you ask young adults who've moved away from their origin families. But once again in my life, where and who I spend Christmas with is a given.

And now if you'll all excuse me from this Christmas glow, I have a birthday cake to make.


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