Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Christmas

Not being Christians, we're pretty flexible with our celebrations of Christmas.  For us, in our Unitarian Universalist way, the holiday is all about families and the special blessing that children are.  When I emphasized this to the kids last night, Bud said, "Mom, we're nine.  It's all about the presents."

At least he's honest?

I was the same way at that age and I managed to grow out of it.  Growing up is the key.

Anyway, wanting to be with family for Christmas, we opted to move our celebration to this weekend since Goo has to work on Christmas and, at the time, we weren't scheduled to be in Texas.  As I think I told you, when we moved our Christmas to today, we then moved our plane tickets and get an extra 60 hours in Texas.  And another Christmas!  This time, with my folks.

The kids didn't really get into the particulars of how we swung that.  We casually said we'd checked with Santa and he'd okay'd it.  Only last night did Bud ask how I contacted him--via email?  No, I said, owl.

(That's a Harry Potter reference, folks.  Also, because snowy owls have been spotted along the CT coast.)

We think they know, but we're not asking. They were very uninterested in logistics this year, unlike years previous when we've discussed Santa as a Time Lord (and/or a stalker.)  And I'm wondering if they're not asking so we don't tell.  It's vice versa for us.

All of which is to say that Goo came last night, after the cookie party, and we had a very enjoyable evening.  We ate gumbo and cookies and Sis's homemade fudge.  We watched silly YouTube videos. Goo and the kids did Pokemon cards. We discussed Piano Guys and the kids played some of their songs.  We put out cookies and eggnog for Santa and scattered carrots and oats outside for the reindeer. We finally got the kids to bed.  

And we adults stayed up too late talking and wrapping presents.  Way too late.  But we hadn't seen Goo in a long time and we love hanging out.

Thank heavens for Goo.  Because when the kids woke up before 6 a.m., having been told there would be no presents before 7 a.m., he kept them company and distracted.  While Mama and I grabbed an extra hour of sleep.

And then Ma and Gong arrived and the festivities began straightaway.  (Not like the stories of my maternal grandfather who apparently made Gommie and her siblings wait for him to shower, shave, and dress before they could see the tree!)

Stuffed stockings and a full complement of presents under the tree.  Just like when I was a kid, we start with stockings and then open presents in round-robin fashion, one at a time.  (The only difference is we don't read the Christmas story aloud from the Bible.)  And though I'm not nine, I will tell you some of them.  Bud and Sis always give each other the presents they like best; this year was no exception.  It's one of their favorite parts, the planning and shopping and wrapping and putting them under the tree early and shaking them and then opening them very first on Christmas morning.  And so they squealed and hugged and ducked hugs and fell to the floor giggling.  Legos. Art supplies.  Dragons.  Stuffed bunny.

They always buy us presents, in addition to making bracelets or drawings or such.  They got me right on--soaps, lotions, chocolates, candied almonds, food writing books, more soaps, and some doodling supplies.  For Mama, they got art supplies and puzzles (and I got her a little Saw-Whet owl trinket in memory of Block Island and a book on birds of prey.)

And Santa--with our permission, which we gave in advance, about which they did not ask--gave them a Wii U and some games.  Yep, we have a games console in the house. And so they played MarioKart, Infinity, Fantasia, some game called Toad Tracker.  Goo and Mama, who used to open presents on Christmas Eve and then stay up playing all night even after their parents went to sleep, have longed played video games for Christmas, starting with Zelda and such.  So Mama, Goo, and the kids played, while I read and napped; Ma and Gong watched and napped some, too.

We made an amazing breakfast, namely the Deep Dark Gingerbread Waffles from Smitten Kitchen.  I LOVED them.  Great rich flavor, chewy inside a caramelized outside.  Mama also made eggs, corned beef hash, and scrapple.  Then it was back to gaming and books and napping.

Later, casually, we had muffalattas and leftover gumbo, everyone grabbing a plate when the mood struck.  So easy, so relaxed.  

(Not to say it was all perfect; there is always a little stress and conflict when families get together.  But I go to therapy sometimes and it pays off.  Today was one of those days when, instead of taking it personally and defensively, I could accept all of our quirks and have sympathy for all of us, mostly. I wish that were everyday.)

Ma and Gong left late afternoon, but Goo stayed on for more games and ordering out pizza.  We won't see him for awhile because he doesn't have much time off, so we were taking advantage of our time together.  

I had expected it to feel not quite like Christmas, since the rest of the world didn't stop.  But it did. It absolutely felt like our Christmas (except that we could order pizza, but by then it was okay.)

And guess what?  It even flurried for a few minutes and dusted our cars!!

(Now, as the day ends, Mama and I are relaxing to one of our favorite holiday films, Love Actually.  We had almost showed it to the kids this year . . .until we remembered the sweet romance between the porn stand-ins.  Acted out by Bilbo Baggins.  It'll stay our adult holiday tradition a bit longer.)

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Deep Dark Gingerbread Waffles
These might be my new Christmas breakfast treat--like a rich, gingerbread sticky pudding.  Amazing!  

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, yogurt thinned with a little milk, fresh apple cider or even stout beer
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for brushing waffle iron
Powdered sugar for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, molasses, sugars, egg and butter until combined. The butter will likely firm up and make little white splotches throughout; this is a-okay. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Heat waffle iron to a middle heat. Either brush waffle iron with melted butter or spray it lightly with a nonstick cooking spray. Ladle gingerbread batter into waffle iron until they’re about 3/4 filled out. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions. In my waffle iron, I like to cook them 1 to 2 minutes more.

**My note:  this is key.  They crust up and are better after a fashion.  To remove waffles: Open waffle iron. Wait about 30 seconds, giving them a chance to steam off a little. With tongs in one hand and a small spatula in the other, gently, carefully lift corners of each waffle section enough to slide the spatula underneath, then lift and slide some more until you can get the section out. Curse Deb, because these waffles are very sticky and eager to tear. Trust Deb, that they will be worth it. Spread them on a tray in a single layer to let cool slightly; within 1 minute, they should be crisp to the touch and easier to lift. Repeat with remaining batter. Try not to stack waffles — even though they’re firm, they will stick.

Serve immediately, dusted with powdered sugar and, if you’re feeling fancy, a dollop of barely or unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.

1 comment:

  1. I have to point out that Christmas is a corruption of Christ's Mass but by celebrating on the Solstice you probably got it right, I have no doubt that people in the upper sections of the northern hemisphere have been celebrating the lengthening of the day for thousands of years. And no bad thing, although our weather this winter has been mild to date there are another 3 months to go before we can be SURE that winter is over. Whatever you cal it, enjoy it.

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