Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Eve, Part One

Perhaps you remember me mentioning that we are a Norwegian family?  Maybe once or twice?  Being of Norwegian heritage doesn't really mean that much on a day-to-day basis.  We don't celebrate Norwegian Independence Day (well, Elsie might, but she lives in a heavily-Norwegian-American-populated area and it might be required) or St. Olaf's Day.  I may know the names of the entire Norwegian Royal Family including my favorite, Crown Princess Mette-Merit, but I also know the names of most European royalty and I could probably pick most of them out of a line-up.  It's a strange hobby, but it's one of mine.  I always root for the Norwegian soccer team during the World Cup and my favorite place to visit at Epcot is Norway.  I know a few odd Norwegian words (butter, rocking (as in a chair), chubby girl) and I know a Norwegian dinner prayer, but other than that, the language is as mysterious to me as Russian or Chinese.  The only time Norway really enters my thoughts at all is at Christmas time.  Because, frankly, Norwegians do Christmas PERFECTLY.

Perfectly.

Norwegians celebrate Christmas Eve, so our family does too.  We get dressed for dinner and we eat wonderful cookies and desserts and we open presents.  When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was the first of three present-opening opportunities at Christmas time, but for our children who celebrate Home Christmas, it's their second. 

This year, we flew south to Southern Sister's House, arriving the night before Christmas Eve.  Everyone else was already there:  Southern Sister and Southern Brother in Law, the two Southern Cousins, my parents (Granny & Grandfather), Elsie and Elizabeth.  While others prepared meals and readied the table for dinner, Granny, Elizabeth and I took the girls to get manicures.


Avery got a beautiful red / gold sparkle combo.


Josie picked red with white polka dots and gold glitter on top.


Georgia did a traditional Christmas Blue and Green.  Wait - what?


Lily did not pose for a manicure photograph.  She has no interest being on this blog, thank you very much.  She did, however, allow Granny to take a photo of her finished nails.  They were very beautiful.  So was she, although you'll never know it.

After the manies, we went home to take showers and get ready for the big night.  Josie and Georgia were done first.  This year, Georgia picked the Christmas dresses that she and Josie wore.  Last year, Josie and I bought the dresses while Georgia was at school and while she LIKED the dress, she let it be known that she wanted a choice in all future Christmas dress decisions.  I think she chose a beautiful dress.  It was a red taffeta dress with a white organza overlay.  The girls will wear just the red dresses for the Father Daughter Dance in February.  They will, that is, if I remember to sign them up (note to self!).



Here are the girls, waiting patiently for the rest of us to get dressed already.


Here is a picture of our precious children, posing sweetly for the camera.  I deny ever threatening to take away their presents if they didn't smile and behave themselves. 


Sisters Elliot. 
(all my fellow Persuasion fans will have to wonder which is the sister who doesn't like to partake of a long walk)


The lone boy.


In three years, he will be taller than me.  Especially if I remove those three-inch heels I was wearing. 

Let us take a moment and think of one family member who did not join us this Christmas at Southern Sister's house.


Here is Elizabeth and sweet Tulip last year.

And here is Elizabeth and the memory of Tulip this year:


We were able to giggle, but it was sad nonetheless.  Tulip lived a long and dignified life as Queen Mum of New Hampshire and later of Philadelphia.  She was 17 when she died and that is testament to Elizabeth's love and care and Tulip's all-around stubbornness and refusal to join her cousin Nancy (our pug) for a game of Kong in Heaven. 


Josie really got into the whole dress-pull posing thing.


Here I am with the girls.  I am not pinching Josie in this picture, even though it looks like I am.


Avery was the first of Southern Sister's family to be ready and since she has never objected to appearing in this blog, I am including her photo as well. 


Christmas Auntie. 


At last it was time for group shots which means that dinner is almost here!



Granny & Grandfather by the tree.


The Sisters Grim.
Martha, Meredith & Elizabeth, in height rather than age order.  And for those of you who know how short I am, it's the heels again -- my sisters aren't actually shrinking.


Henry getting jazzy.


The Grandchildren.  (don't tell Lily!)
Josie (5), Georgia (8), Henry (10), Avery (12) and Lily (14)



Southern Sister and Southern Brother in Law


The Southerns


The entire clan (sadly, minus Elsie who was taking the picture).

It was finally time to eat, but you will have to wait another day to see those photos.  There are three children standing behind me whining about lunch.  sigh.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Christmas

Before we left to go to Southern Sister's house and our actual Christmas celebration, we opened presents from Gordy's relatives.  We had an early Home Christmas. 


Josie had the biggest present which was so large, it had to be "wrapped" in a blanket.


Because the suspense was killing her, Josie went first.


A new refrigerator for her play kitchen!  Thank you, Grandma & Grandpa!  (as a sidenote, we put the frig in her room with the matching oven and sink and now her room looks like a studio apartment.  Gordy says it reminds him of his first apartment on the Upper West Side in New York except Josie's studio is larger and there aren't any cockroaches.  We hope.)


Next, it was Georgia's turn to open a present.


And then Henry's turn.


Gordy and I didn't miss out on the fun, either.


Gordy and I exchanged our gifts this morning, as well.  Along with a perfectly wonderful pair of Ugg Slippers which he obviously hated, I gave Gordy something that he actually really loved:


A Mark Messier / New York Rangers Jersey!   Now Gordy will be appropriately attired if he finds himself in Madison Square Garden. 



For me?  Thank you, Henry! 


Josie started the fun and ended the fun.  She opened her last gift from the grandparents and found the pram she has been hoping for all year.  Once the snow melts (sometime in April, hopefully), you will be able to reach Josie and her dolls by mobile only.

Happy Home Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The First Snowfall

Henry has begrudgingly been wearing pants for the last few weeks, but even so, the first snowfall of the year was pretty exciting.  Personally, I was shocked at how much snow we actually got.  I had been listening to NPR all day and they were reporting that we would get scattered "snow showers."  That usually means a dusting, so no one was more surprised than I was when the final total reached two + inches.  Just enough snow to cover the ground nicely, but not enough for the landscape company to come plow my driveway. 

This is our eleventh year living in New England, and I'm proud to say that I've learned a lot about surviving in a snowy place.  The most important lesson is "Shovel or plow your driveway regardless of how much snow you get."  This is a crucial point because you never know when a pretty, snowy day will suddenly turn into a freezing cold night and all that soft, fluffy snow turns into a solid layer of ice that you can't scrape up until spring time.  Our new house has a long, curvy driveway and on those days when the landscaping company deems the snowfall to be insufficient for their effort, it's up to me to shovel and insure that the ice doesn't keep us slipping and sliding all winter long.  For this snowfall, I shovelled three times:  once when I got back from walking the kids to school, once at noon when the sun was shining brightly and the snow was getting slushy, and once at the end of the afternoon to get rid of the last pieces of slush.  Sadly, we had to drive a bunch of times over the snow fall yesterday and this morning, so there are two compacted tire tracks of snow down the middle of the driveway.   Unless it warms up soon, they will still be there come March or April.

Activities are winding down for the Christmas holidays, so the children had a free afternoon to play in the snow.  While I shovelled, they built snowmen, throw snowballs at the icicles on the roof (and each other) and sledded in a neighbor's yard.  It was a great afternoon.


Henry, throwing a snowball in an attempt to dislodge an icicle.










Josie, posing with her mini snowman.



The girls hold hands with the newest member of our family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Julekage

This is my second year making Julekage (Norwegian Christmas Bread) for teachers' holiday gifts.  My mother used to make the loaves of sweet, breakfast bread for my teachers growing up and I decided it was a perfect solution to the question of what to give to the many people who help us throughout the year.  Last year, I made one batch (four loaves) and although it was a long, slow process, I felt the bread came out well and I felt adventurous enough to try it again.  This time, however, I figured out that between the three elementary teachers, the nurse who gives Henry his weekly allergy shots, the kids' tutor, my pilates instructor (who is Norwegian, too!) and the two ladies I take pilates with, I needed eight loaves.  Was I up to the task of making two batches?  I wasn't so sure, but I figured it was worth a try.


I started out with all the ingredients (well, after I went to the grocery store TWICE since I kept forgetting something) and a clean kitchen.


I scalded the milk.  (which you are actually supposed to do!)


I mixed the sugar, flour, cardamom & salt.


I stirred in the milk/butter mixture and alternated with scoops of flour.


I switched to my bread hook when the directions told me to.


I mixed in the citron and the raisins.


Things were starting to look a little worse for wear in my kitchen.


I kneaded.  And kneaded.  And kneaded.  My first batch was not the best.  I didn't do a good job of mixing at the beginning and kneading the dough was like punching a rock with barnacles on the top.


I let the dough rise for three hours while watching it like crazy and repeatedly turning the heat on/off to keep the oven warm.  I punched down the dough and let it rise AGAIN for another two hours.  At last it was time to make into loaves and rise for the last time before baking.   During this entire time, I was also making batch number two (much better this time.  I was more careful about the mixing and the kneading went more smoothly.  I need to remember this next year.)



This is what my kitchen looked like when all eight loaves were cooking.  Not quite as pretty. 



And therefore, this is what dinner looked like.  Take-out. 


Voila!  Beautiful - though rather misshapen - loaves of Julekage.  Sadly, I wasn't able to make some for us so we will devour my mother's instead.



Before I gave the Julekage out, I wrapped them in cellophane bags and tied them with a green grosgrain ribbon.  I was happy with the results - they looked great.  There wasn't enough for me to taste them this year, so hopefully they tasted just as good.  I, however, am exhausted.  Two batches in one day was a little overly ambitious.  Next year, I am thinking about giving out gift certificates!
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