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.