This year, since my Mom was finally living only two hours away (instead of in Texas), we opted out of the extended Schnuth/Bura family Christmas in Cleveland, and decided to do our own thing at home. All the festivities were on Christmas Eve, and we let Christmas Day be a day for eating Chinese food and visiting friends.
So, the night before Christmas Eve, I set to work wrapping the rest of the presents, baking sausage cake, and generally making ready for Christmas.
Aaron’s big present got kind of spoiled by the Amazon Seller shipping it in the box that had Keurig names and model numbers all over it. But I at least had to dress it up, so I tied a nice bow on it.
I was damn proud of that bow. (It helps that the craft ribbon has those little wires in the edges, though, to keep it in place.)
Next up: Sausage Cake.
Actually, the wrapping and the sausage cake were done in parallel, but the tale is easier to tell if I just rearrange slightly. But I digress.
As I never tire of explaining, sausage cake is a long-standing tradition from my Mom’s side of the family. Family lore says that it’s of Welsh origin, and forbids us from sharing the recipe with anyone outside the family. The making of the sausage cake just feels like Christmas to me, mostly because of the memory of helping my Mom make it when I was little. It involves so many senses — smell, touch, taste, even sound and sight — that going through each of the steps takes me back.
It doesn’t look very appetizing, but this is partway through the batter-making process. Yep, there’s meat and raisins and flour and sugar in there. It’s not until I get my hands all gooey that it really starts to feel like Christmas. I suppose it could be done with a stand mixer (if I owned one), but it really wouldn’t be the same.
After the cakes have baked and cooled, it’s time to add the icing glaze. It’s mostly brown sugar, so it’s really kind of candy-making more than baking, and it always makes me nervous. Still, I only really messed it up one year, and it still tasted good, even though it didn’t set up right.
That’s my “Owned It” face, in case you couldn’t tell.
Before I went to bed, I figured out when I’d have to put the nine-pound ham in to cook in order to have it rested and ready by dinner at 1pm. Turned out that I’d be starting it just around the time my Mom would arrive, which kind of worked out.
So, I got up with Connor on Christmas Eve morning, and we hung out together for a while, then I got the ham all diamond-scored and in the roaster pan and popped it into the oven just before Mom arrived.
Aaron got up about an hour later, when the glazing process was about to begin. He’d found this great recipe online for a maple syrup and mustard glaze that turned out fantastic.
(Yes, our oven is so tiny that our 15″ broiler pan only fits diagonally.)
I do wish I’d have thought to take a picture of the finished product, but by that time, everyone was taking turns wrangling Connor and getting the table set and carving ham and getting food laid out.
But I’m skipping ahead. Before all that, we had some Grammy and Connor time while dinner finished cooking. Connor loves playing the piano app on Grammy’s Nook.
Christmas Dinner was delicious — I made the ham, my Mom brought scalloped potatoes, and my brother-in-law brought a shrimp ring and a cheese ball for appetizers, plus green bean casserole and croissants. Aaron bought some cranberry and walnut relish at the store that was really phenomenal, too.
We used the china that Aaron inherited from his parents — it had never been used before, and was still in its original boxes from the 1970s or 1980s. Alas, it has metal trim on it, and so can’t be safely run through the dishwasher, so I gave them their initial hand-washing as part of my prep the night before.
After Christmas Dinner, it was time for Connor’s nap, so I talked with my Mom and my brother-in-law while Aaron got Connor down for Quiet Time. We figured we’d do presents after he got up, since there’s no way he’d nap after opening a few presents.
So, we had some grown-up time (and some dessert — sausage cake, and Aaron’s fudge, and Mom’s wedding cookies) in the living room for a few hours, and played Santa just before we got Connor up.
Grammy brought Connor a snowman that mimics everything you say to it, but one octave higher. It’s pretty amusing when an adult talks to it, but it’s hilarious bordering on creepy when a toddler talks to it.
Connor could only handle the snowman for about five minutes at a time before he’d ask us to turn it off.
Presents were a surprisingly longish affair, since Connor wanted to play with every present as he opened it. His vacuum sweeper and his blocks weren’t wrapped — just topped with a bow — so he got to playing with those right away.
Next, he opened his uncle’s gift: a Batcave set and a Batmobile, good for ages 3 to 8. He’s gonna be loving this thing for a long time.
Grammy got him a puzzle rack and three new puzzles. He’s getting so good at his letters now — he knows them all, and is starting to know what sounds they make, so this puzzle in particular will be awesome for him to play with, since it has pictures under the letters (e.g. P is for pear).
His babysitter, Missy, got him a couple of books and some cars. He immediately sat down to “read,” which meant he pointed out all the letters and looked at the pictures.
I didn’t get a picture of them, but Harper and her parents gave Connor a set of Duplo blocks to add to his collection, which was super awesome.
After opening all the presents — which took a couple of hours in all — we played with toys and Grammy’s Nook and wound down for the day.
We put Connor down for the night at his normal time, around 7pm, and Connor’s uncle left shortly thereafter. A few more desserts later, Mom and I turned in for the night and left Aaron to go to bed on his normal schedule (since he works nights).
The next morning, I got Connor up and we went downstairs for breakfast and Grammy time. We tried to watch the Christmas Day parades, but Connor wasn’t into it, so we turned on Daniel Tiger instead.
I took some pictures of presents, both mine and Connor’s.
This Hobonichi Planner is going to be awesome to write in! Aaron got it for me, and I’ve decided to use it for gardening stuff and my 2014 goals (to be discussed in a later post).
I also got fancy and took a portrait of Daniel Tiger and his buddy, Prince Wednesday. They go with the other Neighborhood friends and the trolley we got for Connor.
Not pictured: the stuffed Daniel Tiger doll which is a HUUUUGE hit with Connor.
I always make it a point to take a self-portrait of me and my Mom every time I see her, especially now that she lives closer and I see her more often.
Have I mentioned how awesome it is to have my Mom living nearby?
Somehow, I managed not to get any pictures of our traditional Christmas Day dim sum lunch, but it was enjoyed by all. We got back from lunch, Aaron got Connor upstairs for Quiet Time, and then we saw Mom off for her drive back home.
After naps (which took a while to happen, due to overexcitedness), we packed ourselves into the car and drove the few minutes to Fake Aunt Sheryl’s house for her and her hubby’s open house. They just moved into their new place a couple months back, and we hadn’t gotten a chance to see it, so she invited us to their Christmas Day all-day family get-together. We snarfed their ham and deviled eggs and other delicious treats and ogled at their new house and tried our damnedest to keep our kid off their shit. Which we didn’t do the best job of doing, but at least Connor didn’t break anything. And he provided the soundtrack to a Jingle Bells dance party in the vestibule.
I’d count this as one of the chillest and most enjoyable Christmases we’ve had in quite some time. No long drive, no under-napped baby, and a much smaller crowd than usual. Connor obviously had fun, too, since he’s been asking for presents and for Grammy every day since.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!