Wednesday, December 27, 2006

laughing (almost) all the way

Well, Christmas came and went, just like every year.

As I mentioned, we spent the afternoon of the 24th with the in-laws. Mr M's mother made rabbit, which turned out very nicely. If you've never tried rabbit, you should. Even Boy10 will eat it, calling it "perfect chicken". Mother-in-law is not a great cook by any means, but what she does cook for us, she cooks with love, and that's what counts. Father-in-law was his usual difficult self, still not quite getting the "do unto others" thing even at 77 years old, and these visits have become increasingly trying over time. That's why we have had to reduce the Christmas Family Togetherness from two days to one. That way our little family of four can create its own stress-free traditions in peace.

Speaking of traditions, I like to think back to the Christmas Eves I spent as a child. My Oma and Opa, my dad's parents, lived in Austria and every year they would send us a Christmas parcel. The contents rarely varied: for each of us three kids there would be a beautiful handknit sweater, an enormous bar of Milka milk chocolate and some cold, hard cash in Canadian dollars. For the adults there was a large block of Emmenthaler cheese (yes, my grandparents sent cheese through the mail!), several tubes of Lustenauer Senf (a special type of mustard made in Lustenau, a town in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg where my dad grew up) and sometimes even a salami or two. As you can imagine, things started getting a bit whiffy after several weeks in transit.

In the days leading up to Christmas we'd wait and wait for this large, stinky parcel to arrive so we could open it up on Christmas Eve in honour of my dad's Austrian heritage.

This Christmas Eve there was chocolate but no handmade sweaters. We also managed to rustle up a few open-faced sandwiches for dinner that evening.

Mr. M found an intriguing salad recipe in one of those free magazines the supermarkets give out. The ingredients were mixed greens, smoked eel, apples and walnuts in a balsamic vinegar and honey dressing. Smoked eel doesn't agree with me, so I didn't try any, but both Mr. M and Boy13 agreed that the combination was "interesting". Boy10 says he refuses to eat anything that looks like a snake.

On Christmas Day I talked to my youngest brother (the new dad), my nephew (the new big brother) and my parents. My brother was busy being amazed that his little girl was actually sleeping between feedings (big brother screamed non-stop for the first 6 months of his life), my nephew was busy eating all the candy he could get his hands on while nobody was looking, and my mother was busy preparing a Christmas dinner for 12. Well, 11, really, since one of the guests would be dining exclusively on mother's milk.

My mum made duck breasts instead of turkey which got me thinking that I might just try something different next year as well. Turkey is nice, but I found myself wanting something more exciting. We'll see. Anyway, we did do the turkey thing this time, along with cheese and bacon mashed potatoes, garlic and lemon green beans, red cabbage and a bit of stuffing. Every year the stuffing uninitiated try a spoonful and say "I'm sorry, I can't eat that." All the more for me!

For dessert we always have something that, for lack of a better name, we call "tutti frutti" - it's a trifle-like concoction of pound cake, mandarin oranges, vanilla pudding and lots of whipped cream. The other dish is chocolate and vanilla pound cake with chocolate pudding on top. That's Boy10's favourite although he did sample the orange version this year for the first time and enjoyed it. Oh yes, just a warning: if you send your husband out to shop for dessert ingredients without specifying the amounts, he'll come home with a 1.5 kg can of oranges and a litre of whipping cream. Anyone want to come over and help finish it off?

December 26th is known as Boxing Day in Canada and people often have a breakfast or brunch on that day as well. We had a nice leisurely meal - cranberry muffins, popovers, crusty rolls, bacon, orange juice and hot chocolate.

All that kept us satisfied until Tuesday evening when we had...what else...turkey sandwiches.

Can you believe that I didn't gain a single pound through all of this? Neither can I.

We caved in to conspicuous consumerism and got the boys a Wii game console. It was the only thing they really wanted, and it's tons of fun for the whole family.

Mr. M and I bought ourselves a nice joint present this year.

It's a rocking chair for those lazy days out on the deck. It's made of eucalyptus wood so hopefully it'll last until we're old(er) and (even more) crotchety. When the weather gets warmer I'm sure there are going to be a few arguments about who gets to sit in it and when because it's awfully comfortable.

So yes, all in all it was a pleasant Christmas. I get kind of melancholy at this time of year, missing my Vancouver family so much, but I also feel very thankful to have people who love me right here within hugging distance.

And this little guy, my favourite snowman cookie jar, never fails to put a smile on my face.


At December 28, 2006 12:22 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, your presentation is amazing. :-)

P.S. I'd love to help with the oranges and whipped topping... as long as I can have some cake too. LOL!

At December 28, 2006 12:41 a.m., Blogger Tim Rice said...

Thanks for sharing your Christmas. I enjoyed reading about it. Made me hungry all over again even though I just finished supper. :)

At December 28, 2006 1:36 a.m., Anonymous Maribeth said...

First, great pictures! Second, it sounds like fun. All of it. I am all for eating great things! LOL
I'd like to try cooking duck next year. Perhaps I will experiment over the year so by next Christmas I'll be able to do it well.

At December 28, 2006 2:09 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yummy meals and a lovely family to share them with. You really did have a sweet Christmas.

At December 28, 2006 10:55 a.m., Blogger Alison said...

Looks fantastic, just as I expected :) I covet your rocker too :)

At December 28, 2006 10:37 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Maria - Thanks! I have this thing about symmetry. :-)

Tim - I was glad to read that you had a joyful Christmas as well.

Maribeth - It's just not Christmas without way too much food! Duck is really nice, but it tends to shrink down to nothing. It's easier of you cook the parts separately. We recently had duck legs and they were so tasty.

Dixie - Yes, I'm thankful to have my three men, both large and small, to share the holidays with.

Alison - Even though it's freezing outside sometimes I just bundle up and go sit in that chair. I think we may have to get a second one. :-)

At December 29, 2006 4:34 p.m., Blogger The Big Finn said...

How can anybody not like stuffing? It's pretty much just bread for God's sake...

At December 29, 2006 4:35 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see you had such a nice Christmas! Your food looks delicious! The pictures even made my stomach rumble, which is a feat right now, let me tell you!

Hope you have something fun planned for new year's eve!

At December 29, 2006 6:35 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I just love your new chair and your deck! That's like a total dream! I just love being outside as much as possible though, and I'm sure that's why I love that...

and all that food, it looks incredible! YUMMY!

At December 29, 2006 10:15 p.m., Blogger christina said...

TBF - I dunno, must be a cultural thing. It's just not done much here so people, including my own flesh and blood, are suspicious.

Betsy - Hope you're feeling better soon. We WERE going to have a very quiet New Year's Eve but somehow ended up with a party of 10 plus a dog. Go figure.

Expat - When we moved in here we doubled the size of the deck and we sit outside whenever we can. It's like a little green oasis.

At December 29, 2006 10:18 p.m., Anonymous Lisa said...

Beautiful as always, Christina! I had a great time describing all this to G. I have you so built up if he ever meets you he'll probably expect you to roll in on a cloud wearing silvery gauze, the wind blowing your hair back and wafting the delicious smell of the perfect cheezy bacon tarts you're holding in both hands while an orchestra plays in the background. :D And heck yeah I wanna come over and help you finish it off! *lol*

At December 30, 2006 9:58 a.m., Blogger vailian said...

These traditions, which get so thoroughly mixed up at Christmas time, are great. I had a VERY traditional German Christmas (for the first time ever, none of my kids were there, and I spent it with my girlfriend's family) and did pine for some North American elements, but the Girlfriend is adamant that Christmas is only authentic when done her way. (I enjoy it, so don't complain). My poor older son was in Italy, Cologne, London, Spain, and Berlin during the Christmas week, so he is completely confused.

At December 30, 2006 11:07 a.m., Anonymous waltraut said...

What an interesting and inspiring blog, I plan to be a frequent guest. Greetings from Switzerland.

At December 31, 2006 12:05 a.m., Blogger christina said...

Lisa - Hoo boy, if we do ever meet, G's going to be SO disappointed to find out that I'm just a mere mortal under all that bacon. :-)

valian - When my husband's Oma was still alive and his parents were younger we kind of had to adhere to the German traditions and I have to say that I felt a bit left out and invisible. It's better now that we can combine things.

waltraut - Well thank you! I hope you'll stop by again some time.

At December 31, 2006 6:18 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

You make me drool with envy, Christina! I am a reluctant cook at best, although we did have a great Christmas dinner. But the left-overs are killing us and now we are resorting to hot dogs...

Anyway, I actually came by to wish you a very Happy New Year and am so glad to see (and read) that you ahd a wonderful Christmas).It's like an open house, except we can't taste you lovely food! :)

At January 02, 2007 5:33 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

LOL over Lisa's comment! :) Maybe one day Donica will actually meet you, too. :)

Anyway, you always take the cake, as I say, on your traditions and meal presentations. We all drool!

At January 02, 2007 10:58 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Cathy - Thanks so much! We didn't have many leftovers but our fridge is still FULL of just whatever and I HAVE to clean it out tomorrow.

Ginnie - Oh yes, it would be wonderful to meet Donica some time. And you know me, I MUST cook. I can't help it. :-)


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