My mom came from Bend and my sister Hillary drove up from LA, stopping in San Francisco to pick up her (French) friend Alain who was visiting from London. Shaun's folks came out and joined us all for Christmas Eve, and Shaun's grandma Laurel joined us on Christmas Day.
I'm hoping that someday I get proficient enough that I can do presents/stockings/shopping/meals, and still find time to go to church and reflect on the reason for the whole to-do. I was disappointed that I didn't manage to do that this year.
Cultural exchanges kept things lively. The first night that Hillary and Alain were here I hadn't planned a dinner, so we ended up having grilled cheese sandwiches (sharp cheddar on sourdough) with tomato soup. As someone who enjoys feeding people, it was thrilling to learn that I had just introduced Alain to the grilled cheese sandwich. He came into the kitchen to watch me make him a second one, so he could reproduce the culinary experience at home.
I figured it might be a novel experience for Alain when we said grace before dinner.
"Just like in the movies!" is what he said to Hillary later. The thought of us as an All-American family cracks me up. Unless...perhaps he was thinking of the Griswolds.
"Usually we hold hands," she told him. We actually don't, but we used to, growing up. What Hillary said is "Usually we hold hands," but what Alain heard is "Usually we dance." They figured out the misunderstanding, but I was still sorely tempted to get up and do a little jig after grace the following night.
The cultural exchange went both ways, of course. On the morning of Christmas Eve, Mom and I were sitting on the couch, chatting over cups of tea. We heard a commotion on the stairs, and then a parade of sorts passed right in front of us. First, the kitty went streaking by in a blur of black and white. Next came Willem, shrieking with delight, waving his arms and looking back over his shoulder. Nels followed hot on his heels, yelping and grinning. And finally; Alain. He was wearing brightly patterned silk underwear (NOT boxers) and a tight sleeveless v-neck undershirt, and he was being an evil robot; growling with menace and lurching after the boys with his arms extended. I think they did one more lap around the living room, but I was laughing too hard to notice.
Though I kept the meals simple, there were many gifts of food and drink. With contributions from my mom and Shaun's mom added to the cookies I'd made, we had a grand total of eight Christmas treats on hand. Hillary had visited a wine maker friend of hers in Napa on the drive up and arrived with much nicer bottles of wine than we are accustomed to having. Also some lovely homemade fig jam that I forgot to make sure to send home with her. (Sorry!)
The special grappa Hillary brought took us all right back to Italy and made for excellent late-night sipping and conversation.
We liked this soup so much last year that we had it again. It wasn't quite as good this time--too much cauliflower, I think--but it was still very tasty and about as easy as special food can be.
Christmas morning, blinding sun, and two wackadoos. At the point this picture was taken, they were starting to get antsy about opening their presents. I was surprised at how late everyone slept. Nels asked if he could sleep longer when he woke up. "I think on such a big day like Christmas it's important for me to get my rest."
Here's some loot from Shaun's stocking. The mysterious brown sticks are artisanal sausages from Hillary. The beer is a sour ale. Our friends Tim and Veronica who work at Deschutes Brewery introduced it to us. Sour beers are rather hard to come by. They are sour.
Opening a package from Auntie Nancy that included something from every stop on her European grand tour!
Aargh! Grandpa Scott and Grandma Juli sent an amazing pirate chest full of assorted booty.
Our little Lego man spent all day putting together his new Lego sets. I wish I could get him a new one every day.
Note the dish of peanut butter pretzels for keeping his strength up. He didn't want to stop for an actual meal.
Here's that dratted lasagna. It was actually really good, just a lot of work. It's a traditional Italian Christmas dish, a white lasagna with a vegetable ragout that includes celery root, fresh and dried mushrooms, shallot, leeks, prosciutto, and lots of fresh herbs. It also had fresh mozzarella and of course a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. It must have weighed twenty pounds.
Great Grandma Laurel checks out the strangest figure in our Nativity set, which is not in fact the giant elephant (!), but an ass that is totally out of proportion and in a completely different style than the rest of the set. I almost wonder if it ended up in there by mistake.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.