A few years ago when we were living in Germany, we made the decision to stop traveling during the Christmas holiday, and have deeply enjoyed creating our own traditions and building memories together as a family.
About two weeks before Christmas, Greg always picks out the largest live tree he can find (usually with the children), and then we all spend and evening decorating it together. We have a box of misfit/handmade/unbreakable ornaments that the children hang, and then after they are in bed, Greg and I finish it up by putting up all of the glass ones.
In the nights leading up to Christmas, we often end our evening with all of the lights off but the tiny white ones covering the tree...a few moments of mellow light and conversation.
On Christmas Eve night, after the children have gone to bed, Greg and I put all of the gifts under the tree.
Traditionally I am working on gifts up until the very last moment, and this year was no different as I worked at finishing up the children's little individual scrap books.
Each year I prepare a breakfast casserole or cinnamon rolls or the dough for baked doughnuts (stamped out and lined up on the cookie sheets, covered in plastic wrap), and then bake it the next morning -- a small amount of effort for a very special breakfast. This year I made my favorite cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze, but subbed in 1/2 cup rolled oats (whirled in the blender for a moment to make it a semi-flour) for 1/2 cup of the flour, and ended up with an ultra tender and moist roll -- our favorite yet.
Raising the dough in a warm oven
The next morning I got up at 5am to set the rolls out to rise then went back to bed. When the children woke we let them play for a bit while we slept in...
Finally we gathered to open our gifts, starting with the ones the children had made for us and for each-other (nearly all this year were wrapped in brown paper lunch bags. So cute!)
Opening the little scrap books...they were so excited about them, which made me super happy.
Adding to the collection of monster truck DVD's...
Then we Skyped each of our families and opened their gifts on camera.
I love the way that technology allows us to be close across the miles....
We took a break for cinnamon rolls, and then played with new gifts for a while before going back for round two and opening the rest.
I don't usually eat candy, but if I had to pick just a few, this would be on the favorites list
Greg's parents gave Andrew and Elijah these "Davey Crockett" costumes and fake guns that used to belong to Greg and his brother Keith, and the boys spent the next few days doing some of this:
Once all of the gifts had been opened, I started on dinner, and at last we sat down to Canard a l'orange (Julia Child's recipe for roast duck with orange sauce), crisp roasted potatoes, quickly sauteed green beans, and a lightly dressed green salad.
For dessert at Greg's request, I made puff pastry (for the first time ever -- the dough was not fun to work, and I could not have been more surprised when it actually puffed!), and put together Raspberry Mille-Feuille (Napoleon) with fresh raspberries and vanilla pastry cream.
It was gorgeous until I sliced it up (no pictures of that -- some of the berries were crushed and the cream shifted out of the sides...) -- next time I will cut up the pieces of pastry into individual servings and then fill them with the cream and berries for a better final presentation.
A delicious ending to our day.
(If you have not tired of pictures yet, there are more in the flickr set here.)