Monday, January 9, 2012

And So That Was Christmas

At church on Christmas morning, the boys didn't even bug us about hurrying home to open presents. I was amazed.

After the mad rush of opening, the boys settled into peacefully playing with their new toys.

Nels is always happy to get a new Lego set, no matter how many thousands of Lego pieces he may already have.

We bought Willem a white board because we could no longer afford to keep him in paper.

New Calvin and Hobbes! Willem spends most of his waking hours either drawing or reading, and Christmas was no exception.

The runaway hit this year was the remote-control helicopter. Nels had asked for it for his birthday, and Auntie Kim and Uncle Cory bought it for him then, but he ended up getting so many things on his list that Shaun and I tucked it away for Christmas. I think it was Nels's and Shaun's favorite present. And Shaun's dad liked it so much that he's getting one for himself.

Watching Nels so absorbed with his helicopter and seeing Willem all cozy in his new skull-and-crossbones pajama pants snuggled up with a book on the couch gave me a nice warm feeling in my heart. I am surprised at how much joy I find in buying or suggesting gifts for them that I know they will use and like. True, one can get carried away with the presents. But I think enjoying giving good gifts to our children is one of the ways in which we reflect being made in the image of God.

Hillary picked out this book for Nels, but it ended up resonating most with Willem. This was a good Christmas for that; the boys were not jealous or territorial about their gifts. After reading through it once, Willem read it aloud to us. I got a little teary-eyed with pride when he read the words "Good gracious, Ignacious!" with verve and without stumbling a bit.

Somehow we are without pictures of the Christmas food. Of course I thought long and hard about the menu. I was really in the mood for lamb, but I didn't think that would be a very popular choice. Then I thought duck, but it would have been too hard to prepare multiples. Goose would have been fun, but one goose would have been a bit on the small side and they were charging an arm and a leg for them at our local market. Then I found rib roast for $4.99/lb and a well-reviewed recipe at epicurious, and we were in business. I very rarely cook a large hunk of beef (not because I don't like it, but because it intimidates me), so it seemed celebratory enough.

I had been hoarding this recipe for Chestnut Soup with Grappa Cream since last year, and I decided that Christmas was the perfect occasion to make it. The smell of butter, pancetta, shallots and celery root sauteing together was one of the best things I have ever smelled in my life. Then I added the mushrooms, Cognac, fresh bay, thyme, and sage, and that smelled pretty good too. The recipe warns (correctly) that the soup is very rich, so it made a perfect starter divided up among all of us. Best of all, not only did Nels and Willem clean their bowls, but Nels had seconds. It was a Christmas miracle.

Along with our roast we had some lumpy mashed potatoes (I am lazy and I don't mind the texture and I am the cook) and a salad with orange and fennel and pistachios in an attempt to brighten up all the heavy food. But my favorite dish of the night, and maybe my new favorite vegetable dish of all time, was the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies. Growing up, I only knew about anchovies as the bad punchline of pizza jokes on sitcoms. But at one point in my adult life Hillary made me a pasta with anchovies, which I loved, and I learned enough about cooking to understand how they could be a magical secret ingredient. Now I'm not sure how I've lived without the magic of anchovies melted into olive oil with minced garlic. If you do like brussels sprouts even the tiniest bit, don't be afraid. Try this recipe.

In a departure for me, I didn't even think about making a dessert. Shaun's mom brought a panoply of Christmas cookies and my mom brought my very favorite fudge (at my request) and we still had some of the amazing soft peanut brittle that I'd made earlier, so we were set for sugar.

I had lots of help cooking and cleaning and entertaining the boys. Still, by the time we turned in, I was not unlike my new Santa friend here:

somewhat bedraggled, but still of good cheer.


Josh said...

Thomas' favorite gift for Christmas was his remote-controlled helicopter. It was also my favorite gift! I went out and bought one for myself after Christmas. Wow. Such cool toys. Mine is now in use in my office.


Gypmar said...

Josh, they are totally amazing. Although I will reinforce a gender stereotype and confess that the appeal of remotely controlling even the coolest vehicle is completely lost on me:)