Prelude to Christmas

We were lucky again this year — Brian’s parents and assorted (but not all) siblings came to stay with us for Christmas!

We kicked things off in grand style: Eleanor brought us milk and pastries first thing in the morning, dressed as St. Lucia.

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Note the cool Nordic slippers. We had found them at DI only days before.

Traditionally, St. Lucia Day is Dec. 13, but we decided to postpone it a week so the grandparents could be here. Mmm, chocolate babka!

(There would have been saffron rolls, but my big stand mixer broke the day before in the middle of making figgy pudding. which meant no cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, but to tell the truth it was kind of liberating to have my baking obligations come to a premature end. Fortunately I had already stashed a pair of Danish kringles from Larsen’s Bakery in my freezer, and we ate those on Christmas morning instead.) It was a perfect start to a day spent perusing the aisles at the local Scandinavian grocery store with Randy & Kathryn. (Mmmmm, yellow split pea soup with lamb!)

That afternoon, we had our traditional last-day-of-school Santa Claus Tea Party. Whew, so many treats to enjoy! The kids always look forward to the mini scones with lemon curd and creme fraiche. (And so do I.) I also found this cute little snowman cake at Trader Joe’s, but it wasn’t very tasty.

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The following day, Uncle Jake and Aunt Erica came to see us, and we all went skating together.

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Well . . . Randy and I went along as observers. (I had a fat stack of December magazines to flip through.) But everyone else gave it a try, and I was impressed! Those skating lessons have paid off . . . all of my kids feel confident whirling around the ice, which is something I desperately wanted to do as a child. I never lived close enough to a rink in my childhood to make that happen, so it’s cool to give that skill to my kids. Since I’ve lived in colder climes as an adult, I’ve been surprised how often group skating activities occur, whether with church, school, or Scouts.

We concluded our skating with a trip to the Cheesemonger’s Table, where I was also able to purchase some excellent cheese for Christmas Eve. (More on that below.)

The day after that heralded Aunt Caitlin’s arrival, and that called for a bowling outing. With pizza and nachos! Oh, glee! (It had been a very long time since I had eaten pizza.)

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I’d brag about my double strike, but then I remembered that I was playing on Katie’s team and had the bumpers up. I suppose I shouldn’t be so proud of that.

In the evening after bowling, Jake & Erica returned to my house and helped construct the annual Gingerbread Creation. We decided to let the children pick the theme for the gingerbread this year, and they chose Smaug the Dragon from The Hobbit.

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Brian made the interesting design choice of creating flat panels of gingerbread that slotted together into a dragon-shaped framework, which was then covered with candy.
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Here is the great and glorious Smaug, about to devour a chocolate Santa Bilbo

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The final lead-up to Christmas was our big dinner on Christmas Eve. I decided to scale the meats back a bit from last year, which had made everyone groan as they were leaving the table. You never want your dinner guests to groan.

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The woman in purple is my friend, Deborah. And it looks like Frederick has a place at the table!

This year’s menu:

Appetizers: Hot chocolate and toasted nuts (I’ve figured out how to make low-glycemic hot chocolate, and this is a very happy thing)


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Kathryn was nice enough to find a Christmas Eve candle to go in the center of the Advent wreath this year. I’ve never had the time to find one before.
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Eleanor and William played their “Deck the Halls” duet as part of the caroling service
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Katie is pictured playing “O Christmas Tree,” which she LOVES to play. My contribution was to find copies of “See Amid the Winter’s Snow,” which was my new favorite carol of the season.

First Course: Spinach soup with hard-boiled eggs and sourdough rye bread. My kids loved the rye bread. I mention this because I like to put a positive spin on things.

Second Course: Pickled herring, other veggie pickles, crackers, cheeses. (I also had smoked salmon, but forgot to put it out.) The cheeses were divine. My favorite was an English “truckle cheddar,” which came wrapped in blue tartan cloth.

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Third Course: Swedish meatballs, Jasson’s Temptation (contributed by Kristen and Sven), lingonberry jam, and salad (contributed by my friend Deborah)

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Everyone crammed into the library to play The Great Dalmouti.

Fourth Course: Rice Pudding with cream and sugar, glogg (this year everyone sang, “All You Need is Glogg”) cinnamon cookies, various candies

I think last year I also had baked ham and sausages. I think I was wise to leave them out this time.

We had a break between Third and Fourth Course to play games, such as The Great Dalmouti (as pictured above). I didn’t want to play at the time because I was exhausted, and having a difficult time summoning holiday cheer in general. I was still very, very upset with the upcoming Presidential administration and having a hard time not feeling cynical and angry at everything. So, I didn’t play games, but took a break and played carols on the piano instead. Which was probably the right thing to do at the time, although I now regret doing so.

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