So much work goes into Christmas. It’s really the ultimate deadline. Being trained in design, I work best under deadline I’ll admit. And Christmas morning simply must be magical. At least it feels that way when you have a wee one (or even not so wee as she’s getting) who cannot wait to see what Santa brings.
Two days before Christmas, neighbors had a party. I’ve struggled with getting into the spirit this year, but the 23rd was my last day at work until the new year and I finally felt I could throw myself into the last of it. The party really did alot to buoy my spirits – we really do live in the greatest neighborhood, at least the greatest one for us. We have a core group of friends here that are more than friends, they are family. Year in and year out, we have various holiday traditions with them – not just Christmas, but birthdays, Halloween, the Fourth of July. We find reasons to celebrate every holiday.
A few of the neighborhood kiddos were across the street and threatened to crash the grown up party (All of our celebrations include the kids, with the exception of this party. We figure we are allowed ONE night to ourselves all year, yes?). They did wander over for some dessert, because Edie knew I had baked one of my fabulous chocolate cakes and she was hell bent on having some, but for the most part, they stayed out of our hair.
There was much joy and merriment and I am blaming that oyster shooter for sending me over the edge of being slightly overserved. Needless to say, I felt the effects of it a teensy little bit the next day, which may have slightly impeded my to-do list until later in the day.
Betty called and invited us down to bake cookies with her Christmas Eve. Baking cookies is something we try to do together every year and so I knew, this was it. So we went down and baked cookies, had some holiday cheer and while we were there, Virginia popped over and by the time it was all said and done, Edie had agreed to go to the 10 pm Christmas Eve service with her.
I did have every intention of going along as well, but when we came home to make our sugar cookies for Santa and dinner and start the cake for tomorrow’s dinner and the dough for the cinnamon rolls for breakfast, we got as far as popping the cookies in the oven when I realized, it wasn’t on. It was 6:30 Christmas eve and I didn’t have an oven.
I calmly tried to not freak out, as Pat ripped apart the entire range. As parts came off, I realized it had been a while since I had really cleaned my oven and stove and so my clean kitchen OCD kicked in and there I was, scrubbing away, mentally rethinking my entire Christmas Eve & Christmas Day menu based on not having an oven. Black Forest Torte became Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse, Oyster Dressing became Oyster Stew, the cinnamon rolls could become french toast or pancakes. Not as Christmas-y, but hey….I was in crisis mode. The sugar cookies got moved onto a smaller tray and went into the toaster oven while all this was happening.
Finally, inexplicably, the oven turned on. We think maybe the emergency shut off valve got knocked (possibly when Edie, by her own admittance, climbed on it to get the brown sugar out of the upper cabinet for Betty’s chocolate chip cookies earlier in the day). Whatever it was, the oven was now on and bonus, scrubbed clean.
We didn’t sit down for Christmas Eve dinner until after 9. I hadn’t even started my Black Forest Torte, so when Addison came to pick Edie up for church, I had to bow out.
Instead, I got that cake in the oven and then decided to finish scrubbing down the rest of my kitchen. At 10 pm Christmas Eve night.
In my defense, everything was wrapped. I couldn’t put it all out until she came home from church, because she is still a firm believer in Mr. Claus. No way was I going to ruin that simply because she had gone to church this year. I was so tired I really just wanted to crawl into bed, but I had to keep going….and so mopping the kitchen floor it was.
Thankfully, staying out until almost midnight 2 nights in a row made her sleep in Christmas morning until after 8. Delightful. She had a wonderful Christmas, the oven turned on Christmas morning for those cinnamon rolls to bake and all was right in the world.
It was just the 3 of us this year. Years past, we invite anyone we know who is going to spend Christmas away from their family. Edie was quite disappointed it was just the three of us this year, but Pat explained, it’s a good thing. It means we don’t know anyone who needs to spend the day with us, everyone is with loved ones.
Up until Christmas Eve, I couldn’t narrow it down to what I wanted to make for Christmas dinner. I couldn’t find a local ham, I don’t like beef all that much, and Pat suggested fish. Christmas Eve, I ran down to the local seafood shop and got some nice fish, some trout actually. That was our main course, with some of Smiley’s oysters in a nice oyster stew as our first course. Because of course I have to know where our food comes from at all times, well, with a few small exceptions here & there. And while Pat spent an hour Christmas Eve pulling my range apart, some of those mental menu reworkings stuck.
Last Christmas, I was recovering from stomach surgery. Not only was I limited on what I could eat, I had zero energy. I was forced to scale back. This year, I realized, that was not a bad way to be. We had mimosas, Betty came by for our traditional mid-day cheer and exchange of gifts, but otherwise, we didn’t bother to get dressed until dinner and we just lounged all day. I followed the lesson from last year and dinner was easy but good. I put all my effort into dessert, because quite frankly, I can bake some chocolate cake to knock your socks off and I love chocolate cake. This years may have been the best yet. I remembered to undercook it and avoided those crispy edges. (I still could have pulled it out sooner and will make the note on the recipe.)
So, our Christmas was cozy and really sort of perfect. I love spending our day with just us. It makes it so relaxing, and with the snow off and on all day, it was quite conducive to not getting dressed.
The magic really is in what Santa Claus brings. Everything else is the cherry on top for her. It didn’t matter the only present I made her was an photo album from a website. Santa ‘set up’ her Itunes under her profile on our main family computer and loaded it with music she requested. So what if some of that music makes us cringe. The fact that she has her own musical opinion and taste is what matters. And now she knows how to load her own music onto her mp3 player.
And her belief in Santa is strong, at least until next year.
And all that work? Worth it.