Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Six Days of Christmas

On Christmas Eve, we hosted Matt’s parents for dinner and a gift exchange.  I had had a hard time deciding what to cook for dinner until I saw that prime rib was on sale at Harris Teeter, and knowing that was a favorite of Matt’s, decided to go with that.  The day before, I emailed my Dad to ask for directions since it was my first time cooking prime rib.

Or so I thought, until a few days later when I looked back at a post from Christmas last year and saw that was my first time cooking prime rib.

Not only that, but the battery in my meat thermometer died again this year.

Or more likely, I haven’t used it since then.

I don’t know why but 2010 seems to have gone so fast.  Maybe because there weren’t as many hugely significant events this year as last year (2009: buying a house, getting a dog, graduating from med school.)  When I think back on 2010, things like California in March, or going to Utah in January, or running my half in September all seem to have transpired in just a few weeks time.  In fact, it seems like Christmas 2009 was just here, and yet somehow the calendar tells me it was a full 365 days ago.  When I was looking back on last year’s post (and discovering that my memory is not so sharp), I felt like I was reading something I had just written a few days ago. 

Anyways, I’ll save those musings for my year end review post.

I didn’t attempt to make homemade yeast rolls again this year, but otherwise the menu seemed to be quite similar from last year’s: roasted asparagus, roasted sweet potatoes, salad and rolls.  I guess I have a go-to Christmas menu now.  (No one seems to be complaining…)

I also added a new dessert to my repertoire: jam cake.  I had never heard of jam cake, but Matt’s Dad had asked me a few weeks before Christmas if I knew how to make it and said it was something his Mom always had at Christmas, so I set off on a mission to make it.  Matt enlisted the help of his Dad’s former next door neighbor, and she sent us a recipe via Facebook.  Using that recipe, and a few iterations from ones found online to make a brown sugar glaze (heaven), I made jam cake.

I was so excited for my big reveal…. until I learned that Matt’s Aunt Paige had also made jam cake the night before!  She had come across a recipe in a cookbook, so we’ll have to compare notes later.  Anyways, it wasn’t quite as exciting or nostalgic as I had hoped, but Matt’s Dad seemed pleased to have a second crack at it.  After dinner, we did a gift exchange with Matt’s parents and sent them home with hugs for Nanta and Pa, and of course, the remainder of the jam cake. 


Christmas Day turned out to be rather quiet and uneventful.  Matt and Buddy snoozed for most of the morning, so I did laundry and cleaned the house, just like a regular Saturday!

After Matt went to work, I was feeling sort of low that it was Christmas and I wasn’t really doing anything Christmas-y so after far too long reading about other people’s Christmas on Facebook, I shut down the computer and picked up one of my favorite books, Two From Galilee.

Matt had been given this book from Nanta a few years ago, and I stumbled upon it when we were packing him up to move in together.  It’s the story of Christmas, but it’s told from the perspective of Mary and Joseph.  I remember picking it up to read one night when I was looking for something to read before bed, and becoming totally transfixed.  I never had really given much consideration to what Mary and Joseph must have experienced.  I think about the stigma that’s attached to unwed, teen mothers today and imagine that it must have been a thousand-fold worse for Mary.  And for Joseph, to have believed that she hadn’t been unfaithful to him and to stand by her, was incredibly courageous, and then the way he falls in love with his infant son despite it not being “his” is so endearing.  The story moved me the first time I read it, so I decided that it was the perfect way for me to remember that while there’s Christmas (celebrating with family, opening gifts, eating sticky buns), there is also December 25th: the birthday of Jesus.  We celebrated Christmas with Matt’s family on the 24th, and were going to celebrate with mine on the 28th, so this ended up being a perfect reminder of what December 25th is really all about.


My parents and brother arrived Sunday evening, after a harrowing 12 hour drive through some major snowstorms.  We had a nice dinner together, and sadly, an early evening as I had to go to work the next day.  Katie and Dylan arrived on Tuesday, and when I got home from work, we kicked off our Claffey Christmas.  It was an odd mash-up of traditions: Dad wearing the Santa hat handing out gifts one by one (although we always claim he does this to save all of his for the end), opening our stockings, getting a new pair of PJs, laughing and making fun of each other.  But there was much that was untraditional: for starters, that we were celebrating at night time and took a break when dinner was ready.  (Prime Rib, round 2.)  Instead of our breakfast Bloody Mary’s, we had vino and beers that were kept cold in the snow drift on our back deck.  And of course, that we were at our house instead of home in New York in our living room.  But the most important pieces were there: we were all seven together, celebrating Christmas and Dad got a Dilbert calendar.




My favorite gift was to my parents from all us kids.  At home, there’s a picture of the 3 of us – Michael, Katie and I – on the mantel that was taken in 2003.  It’s a nice picture, although Katie doesn’t like it because it was during her Barbie-blonde hair and super thin eye brow stage.  Guess I wouldn’t have wanted a picture from my senior year of high school captured forever on our parent’s wall either: my Fiona Apple middle part hair and penchant for tube tops were no better.  Anyways, my mom has been saying for the last 2 years that she wanted an updated picture, now that Matt and Dylan were part of our family.  (Well, to be honest, Dylan still has 6 more months to decide if this is in his best interest.)  So I enlisted the help of Jamie over Thanksgiving, and us kids snuck off to do a little photo shoot.  Jamie was a trooper, because it was dark outside and there were five of us to round up.  But with a heavy dose of patience, a good use of flash and a little photoshop to lighten, we got a good shot and had it blown up on canvas and framed to give to my parents.  Here’s the pictures we used.  And my favorite, an outtake.

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On Wednesday, Mom made her traditional sticky buns and we tried to create some order out of the wrapping paper chaos.  Matt hit the slopes for some snowboarding on Wednesday, so the rest of the clan got ready to head down to Charlotte to spend the rest of the week since I was still working.  We hit the road at the same time, and I waved good-bye to them as I took the exit for 40-East and they went 40-West.  I got a little knot in my throat as I watched them drive away in the rearview mirror, because the holidays were officially over. 

Fast as they got here, the holidays seemed to go by even faster.  I’m thankful that both sets of parents, Matt and mine, were accommodating to our crazy work schedules (mine was the unforgiving one this year!) and were willing to make the trip to see us, or celebrate on non-traditional days.  It was nice to extend our celebrations out over almost a week, and sure helped delay the onset of post holiday blues for a couple extra days.  (Although it does make for one long blog post!)

Merry Christmas, ya’ll.  Hope that no matter what day(s) you celebrated, you were with loved ones!

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