We had a fan-diddly-tastic time gathering with most of Shaun's extended family. There were over thirty for the big turkey dinner.
Here is the first photo (as far as I know) of just the four cousins. And, yes, it is essential to photos of this nature that each child be looking somewhere different.
They're just so sweet when they can't talk back.
It may not officially be winter yet, but it's sure been feeling like it around here. It was really, really cold for about a week. We picked one particularly frigid, windy night to go get our Christmas tree. At Walmart they were reluctant to let us untie any of the trees to see what they looked like. "We leave 'em tied up. It's easier to take them home that way." So it was off to Home Depot, where at least we could see what we were getting. All the trees were very dry. Next year we'll fork out the extra ten bucks and buy one from the Scout Troop lot right here in downtown Camas. And we'll pick a warmer night. I get cold just thinking about it.
Once we finally got a tree, the real work had only just begun. I'm not sure how many days it took me to decorate it, but I do know that I bought and returned two sets of lights before settling on our old ones, and I tried out several tinsel/bead combinations. Christmas is a very challenging holiday for a perfectionist with poor time management skills.
The wintry weather put me in a baking mood, so, in my usual all-or-nothing fashion I embarked on a baking jag. I did have an excuse; I was bringing bread to our church small group potluck.
First I tried out a new-to-me recipe for French braids from the Pillsbury Cookbook. It looked and smelled amazing. It tasted just like French bread from the can in the refrigerated section in the grocery store. Shaun tells me it made good toast, though.
Deeming my first attempt a failure, I decided to make my mom's country braids recipe. The extremely dry weather totally foiled me. I added all the "stir in" flour and couldn't even incorporate it all into the dough. Kneading was next to impossible, and I had to struggle to stretch the dough into ropes. It rose nicely, into two big puffy braids. And then Nels put his knee into one of them. Oh well. They still looked magnificent once they were baked.
Worried that my country braids would be tough (and maybe too plain for our dinner), I tried a surer thing: Cheddar-Chive Scones. Many of the reviews of the recipe complained about the dough being too sticky to handle, but in this case the freakishly dry weather worked to my advantage. Making the scones was a cinch, and I am not known for my light hand with pastry. If you have any holiday brunching to do, these are the savory scones for you.
At some point in this comfort food frenzy, I got a hankering for roast leg of lamb. I have never fixed it before, but I found a small boneless roast and went to town. Rubbed with fresh rosemary and garlic, it smelled and tasted delicious and elicited much piteous begging from our cat. (Of course she was also begging for some garbanzo beans today, so that's really neither here nor there.) It was a great success. Until the part after dinner where I accidentally upended the dirty roasting pan and sent it flying across the kitchen to land on the floor. The CARPETED kitchen floor. Such a great idea, carpet in the kitchen.
Of course, all of that culinary activity was followed by a week of frozen pizza and potstickers and hot dogs. All or nothing, people.
It's warmed up this week, back to the gray drizzle we all expect. But it was still cold enough on Sunday that we got a call telling us church was canceled. So we stayed cozy at home all day, and that evening we watched Rick Steves' Christmas (in Europe) special on OPB and drank Mirror Mirror Barleywine from Deschutes Brewery and ate Tillamook aged white cheddar, and we pronounced it a Pacific Northwest trifecta worthy of becoming an annual tradition.
And now, on to winter.