This is long overdue, but somehow fitting to post our Christmas Eve/Day highlights on the Feast of the Epiphany - and the 12th day of Christmas. While we are no longer in a festive mood - the kids have been really sick for a few days now - we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together. We spent lot of time indoors, playing games, drinking cocoa, cuddling, and just enjoying our time together as a family. Christmas was so fun with the kids this year - Matthew truly was able to grasp the meaning of the season (as well as a little bit of the greediness as well) and it was a blast watching both kids open gifts on Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve, Paul and I spent the majority of the day putting some final touches on our Christmas preparations and getting ready for our fancy dinner and nighttime Mass. As usual, we had a late lunch of sliced charcuterie, crackers, homemade ciabatta, and hot crab dip. I tried a new recipe this year because I have been in love with Worcestershire sauce lately and I don't think we're ever going back to our old one. It was so delicious - we couldn't stop eating it! I'm posting the recipe at the bottom of the page because it really is a keeper!
Anyway, after our snack and a quick nap, I made some cinnamon roll dough for Christmas morning and Paul began making the broth for Cioppino. We splurged a little bit on our seafood by ordering some high quality scallops, shrimp, and sea bass from an organic grocer. The freshness was out of this world. That sea bass was the most beautiful piece of raw fish I have ever seen. Paul and I almost felt bad about filleting and skinning it.
While Paul cooked the mussels in butter and wine, I set the table. I had to take a picture of our fancy dining room all ready for a disastrous, messy dinner with young children. Since we have white carpet, we have to line them with towels because both kids are prone to spillage. It does take a way from the "fancy" atmosphere we were trying to create.
Finally, we sat down to eat! Matthew was so adorable the entire day, but he really exceeded our expectations by eating his entire bowl of Cioppino! I don't consider him very adventurous with food, but he does seem to enjoy seafood - especially mussels! Emma, on the other hand, was an absolute beast. She ate most of her bass and preferred spending the rest of the meal slugging back sparkling cider.
After dinnertime, we immediately bathed the children and dressed them in fancy clothes to try to make them look presentable for Christmas! Matthew cleaned up nicely, but Emma kept pulling her hair ties out. She looked like a street urchin.
Christmas Mass was so beautiful. Instead of going to Midnight Mass as we have every other year, we opted for the 7:30pm Mass hoping that the kids would be a little more enjoyable. We were wrong. Emma was a beast. Seriously, she was the most terrible she has ever been in church. I spent the majority of Mass so tense about her behavior. It seemed that every other child was perfectly angelic and then there was our daughter, thrashing and crying in the back while one of her parents (we took turns) struggled to not drop her.
I shouldn't really lump Matthew in with her behavior. He was pretty good except for one point when he wouldn't stop kissing my arm (sweet but annoying) and then during the sign of peace when he preferred growling at everyone who wished him "Merry Christmas!"
We survived Mass and afterwards spent a bit of time gazing at the life-size nativity scene our parish sets out on Christmas Eve. It's absolutely beautiful and the kids just love looking at it. Then, we headed home and took some obligatory family photos before getting them ready for bed.
|In case you are wondering, they are clutching pieces of our Nativity Scene.|
I was so done with the children by that point - they were both whiny and in desperate need of sleep. We said our prayers in front of the Nativity, sang some carols, and then threw them in bed. They fell asleep really quickly. Paul and I watched the last bit of It's a Wonderful Life on NBC before piling all the gifts under the tree. I of course could not make it through the end of that movie without crying my eyes out. Darn these hormones.
We collapsed into bed, completely exhausted from the activities of the day. I had a hard time sleeping - I was so excited for Christmas morning with the little ones! I ended up staring at the ceiling while feeling the baby kick for a good hour before I was finally able to fall asleep.
Soon enough, the pitter-patter of little feet in the hallway woke both Paul and I up. That and Emma's timid little knock on the door: "Mommy? Daddy?" The kids were awake! We had instructed Matthew before bed to not go downstairs until we were all awake. So, he had woken Emma up and dragged her out of her crib before attempting to wake us up. He was so darn excited.
|Riley seemed to really like his catnip. He couldn't wait to tear open the package!|
|Showing off his new Gorilla slippers and train hat from Grandma and Grandpa!|
We headed downstairs. Emma began chanting that she wanted cereal before seeing the presents under the tree. Suddenly (and this is a shocker!), she forgot about her stomach and was fascinated with all the gifts! Matthew headed straight for the stockings. Since my kids are so weird about candy, they received relatively no sweets - just lots of Cuties and a few Fruit Roll-Ups. They also received a lot of bath accessories - bath bombs, bubble bath, bath toys, etc. Emma was very happy with her "Princess" bubble bath and wanted to take a bath right then and there. We had to convince her to hang around and open the rest of her gifts.
|She loves her stuffed animals. Her collection is getting a little out of hand.|
|Thanks Uncle Peter for the giraffe! She loves it!|
Matthew received a robotic dinosaur that he quickly named "Raptor Rex" that we have been enjoying siccing on the cat in addition to a couple new board games that are fun for both adults and kids. The highlight for him, however, was unwrapping a Michelangelo TMNT action figure. Emma received several new books and stuffed animals that she has been enjoying while snuggled under her blanket. I often find her reading to herself in the rocking chair with her blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She's an old lady in the making. Paul received a Little Giant ladder system (that was tons of fun to wrap AND carry down the stairs to its spot under the tree) and an addition to his growing collection of board games. Santa brought me Photoshop - so hopefully my pictures will be looking a heck of a lot nicer (let's hope!).
We spent the rest of the day playing, reading, sleeping (we needed naps!), and eating. It was pretty perfect and everyone was really happy. The greatest Christmas gift for me, however, was the beautiful weather we enjoyed in the days following Christmas morning. The temperatures were in the 60s and it was sunny. We were able to take some walks as a family and bask in the sunlight. Now, it's an arctic tundra and we're seeing windchills around 0 degrees, so I'm grateful for the time we were able to enjoy the outdoors.
|I'm telling you, after all the excitement of Christmas morning everyone needed a nap!|
We hope you had a very, merry Christmas with your family! Here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!
Now, here's the recipe for that crab dip. So darn good.
Hot Crab Dip
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces lump crab meat
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I love the Greek Cream Cheese)
1 cup mayonnaise (We use Hellman's Light)
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup shredded)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce (always Frank's!!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 1½-quart casserole dish; set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the red pepper and onion and cook until softened and all moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Remove the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool.
Add the rest of the dip ingredients to the bowl with the pepper mixture and gently stir together until combined, being careful not to smash the crab meat too much. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with baguette slices, chopped vegetables, and crackers. Leftovers make great "Crab Melt" sandwiches.