Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Morning 2010

Christmas traditions. Some are good. Some are not so good.

The Good

1. Celebrating the Advent season with prayers around the Advent wreath.

2. Decorating the house and tree in joyful anticipation for the birth of Jesus!

3. Being cozy in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate while watching the snow fall.

Little Matthew (11 months) ready to open his presents!

4. Baking cookies and other homemade goodies to be given away as Christmas presents.

5. Making cioppino and crab dip for a fancy Christmas Eve dinner.

6. Attending the beautiful midnight Christmas Mass.

7. Singing Christmas songs all season long.

The Not So Good

For some reason, these all involve Paul.

1. Dying my Almond milk green or red because it is "in the spirit of Christmas."

2. Sticking a wire reindeer on top of our tree in place of a star or an angel. "We'll be the only ones with Rudolph as a tree topper!!" he gleefully says every year. There is a reason for that, Paul.

The infamous reindeer tree topper

3. Playing Mannheim Steamroller over and over and over again. Don't get me wrong...they are very good but sometimes I like to listen to Christmas songs with lyrics.

4. Decorating Christmas cookies. I personally love decorating sugar cookies, but not with Paul. Every year, he gripes about how much he hates it the whole time and really takes the joy out of it. Last year, I suggested that we try to decorate sugar cookies to look like melting snowmen. Paul did not take the concept seriously and decorated his snowmen as if they had been run over by a truck, complete with tire tracks running across the torsos and black X marks for eyes. We'll see what he comes up with this year.

Notice one of Paul's dead snowman on the lower right. As if I even need to point it out.

5. Messing up the Au Gratin potatoes. Every single year, Paul pines for this dish to serve with our ham on Christmas day. And every single year so far, we have messed up this dish. Either the sauce curdles or the potatoes remain hard. Or both. Last year, I ended up having an emotional breakdown when I discovered the sauce had broken for a 3rd year in a row. We always blamed our faulty oven (it had trouble maintaining a 350 degree temperature). We have a new oven this year, so maybe we'll finally succeed.

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Baking during Christmastime is deeply rooted in nostalgia. While we tend to test out new recipes every year, there are always a few childhood favorites that make it into the rotation. While making these old favorites, both Paul and I spend the time telling stories of Christmases gone by and old family traditions. I especially love hearing Paul tell some of his favorite memories - he just recently shared how much he enjoyed going to pick out the family Christmas tree as a little kid. Apparently, Dad would pull the kids by a sled attached to the suburban as they set out on their quest to find the perfect tree in rural Montana. Paul always thought those sled rides were so much fun. So much so that apparently, as an idiotic teenager, Paul and his intellectually-gifted buddies decided to enhance the thrill level by hooking up the sled to the back of one of their cars and then pulling it down a busy section of highway. Paul likes to give his guardian angel a run for his money.

Anyway...I finally baked my first batch of Christmas cookies yesterday. I chose a super simple recipe that pretty much involves dumping some pantry ingredients into a 13x9 pan and then putting it in the oven. Even though they were probably the easiest cookies to make, it felt good to check one of the items off my list of Christmas baking. My heart broke a little bit when Matthew refused to sample the finished product. He wanted to eat a pickle instead. He's been on a pickle kick lately and has nearly finished the 46-ounce jar of Kosher Dills I bought special for him.

While refusing to eat Mommy's cookies, Matthew LOVED the cookies sent in a package from Grandma Nistler! And I can't really blamed him because they are pretty darn delicious! He especially loves the Hershey Kiss/pretzel cookies. He has asked for one after getting up from his nap the past couple days. What a special treat it was to receive a little taste of Christmas from our Montana family!

Beginning on Saturday, I will start posting a series titled The 12 Days of Christmas Baking. This is not exactly an original blog idea (I have really not been all that creative lately) but I thought it would be a fun series to do and get me back into a blogging rhythm. Each day, I will post a different recipe from our family collection of Christmas recipes. This might be a bit ambitious considering I have only made one pan of BAR COOKIES so far...but I'm hoping the momentum continues.

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