Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

There is nothing like a child to bring the magic back into Christmas! My Dad tried to bring the tricycle that was ER's big gift from the basement and hide it behind their love seat. He thought she was distracted and not looking. She saw it immediately, ran over, and took it for a ride. I think she was happiest with the "trunk", a basket in the back that she proceeded to fill with all her babies. It was hard to get her to open anything else! That was the kick off of our holiday festivities. We celebrated Christmas Eve with my extended family at my parents' house. I love a big family gathering with all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It might end up being that last time the elderly relatives are there, because it's no small feat to bring my grandparents and great aunts with their wheelchairs and walkers from their various retirement communities and nursing home. So that made it a little bittersweet, next year we may have to gather at one of their residences for awhile before the rest of us head to my mom's or aunt's. We weren't even all together, since my Aunt and Uncle along with my cousin, his fiance, and her kids aren't flying in until the beginning of January from NY.
But the meal was still delicious as always, we made veggie pizza again and brought my favorite splurge appetizer...creamy spinach, artichoke, and jalapeno dip with chips. It's very decadent and comes in a huge tub from Costco, so I don't get it unless it's for a big gathering like this. There was ham, chicken, the strawberry jello salad that it wouldn't be a family gathering without, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, salad...and tons of cookies for dessert too, we were stuffed! There is nothing like the traditional meal with the dishes we've come to love and expect. Sometimes we try new things like ordering pasta or making a beef dish but we always end up back with the familiar favorites.
This Christmas morning was very special because it's the first one where we opened presents at our own house. The first time ER has come down the stairs and seen the tree lit up with presents underneath it. She was so cute, "Santa come, I sleeping, and leave presents for me!" I was worried that she wasn't going to have very much to open this year, as our main present to her are the Music Together classes we take together and that she loves. I have been stashing things picked up through out the year, and I guess I had more than I thought because we had to take an intermission while opening gifts. She was so excited over the first few gifts she couldn't put them down long enough to finish opening the rest. This was the second time we hosted Christmas Day with Brad's family. Lucky for me, my mother-in-law helps a lot with the meal. She made the turkey, stuffing, and brought a huge platter of cookies this year. We made the appetizers, potatoes, salad, cookies, and banana cake. I get stressed out when planning "The Big Meal". I went back and forth a million times about the vegetable to make and settled on a salad I got from my friend Arlene in CA. It's baby spinach, Mandarin oranges, feta cheese, red onion, and brown sugar candied walnuts with champagne dressing. I wanted something light to go with all the heavy starches in the meal, but didn't want to have the same vegetables that were in the veggie and dip tray I put out for snacking on. I think it was well received, or at least I was told it was a good salad!
We didn't have as much luck with the desserts. I was never a cookie and cake kind of gal, I like my fried and salty foods! Baked goods were fine if someone else made them, but I don't have an arsenal of recipes to pull from. Now that I have a two year old, who really likes measuring and mixing up treats I am scrambling to find some good and easy ones to make. We tried raspberry steusel bars from Betty Crocker. They looked pretty yummy, but were just okay. They were too sweet with not enough buttery flavor. We also made a banana sour cream cake from Kraft Foods and I was disappointed in it because although the flavor was fine it wasn't what I expected. I wanted a cake that had some banana flavor, but it was more like a really big dense banana muffin. ER loves banana muffins, so that was fine with her!

Christmas time has been the only time during the year that we see Brad's brother Jeff and his wife Jody, who live in Philadelphia. So we try to see them as much as possible while they're in town. We visited with them again the day after too. Jody and I escaped to the mall for some girl time along with my friend Margaret, and the boys opened up ER's new playdoh kits and had fun playing. We also went on our annual family dinner out to Antonio's Italian Restaurant, it's where Jeff was a bartender for years. It's a fancier place than we normally take ER to, no crayons here! She had a bit of a hard time sitting the whole time, it's a good thing we went early so she could get out and walk about without disturbing other patrons. Oh how life changes with a toddler; I think Jeff and Jody aren't used to going out to dinner so early!
Yes our babycakes had a very good I have to find room for the bouncy horse, vanity, trike, Dora the Explorer Talking Backpack, doctor kit, cash register, computer i.e. the previously owned - okay used Leapfrog alphabet toy she's holding above, books, etc., etc., etc!

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