Friday, December 30, 2011

The Big Day

I've done a plenty of thinking about gift giving and receiving this holiday season and I've come to the conclusion that I kind of pretty much suck at giving gifts. Brent has returned or exchanged almost every single present I have ever bought for him and even though I do get it right from time to time (how can you go wrong with beer?), the stress of trying to find his present puts me in a grinchy sort of mood.

So this year we decided not to give each other anything. And that was that. For a second I worried that the kids would interpret our lack of presents as confirmation of our naughtiness, but those greedy little guttersnipes didn't even notice anything but their own presents.

We did, of course, still want to give something to our families and since we were not organized enough to order photo books online in time for Christmas, we found ourselves going all old school and actually printing actual pictures to glue into an actual photo album. Quaint, no?

But the thing is, it was really fun to go through all of our pictures to select the highlights from the year and even more fun to see our digital images printed out on photo paper. And the arranging and gluing into the albums was time consuming but also a cool project that Jack could help with.

And I couldn't help noticing how many adventures these kids have had over the last year, how much they have grown and changed, and how genuinely happy they seem to be.

The week leading up to Christmas was a flurry of last minute playdate and dinner invitations from friends, late night gift making sessions fueled by peppermint bark, and lots and lots of time in the kitchen. At last I hollered 'nough and declared that even though there were still several sewing projects left unfinished on my sewing table, I was DONE.

And then suddenly it was Christmas.

It began with an evening of fondue, countless glasses of wine, veggie tart, crab cakes, Gelato, Christmas hats, an escape to the hot tub, and an impropmtu family jam session with Doug and Nick on guitar, Sawyer on the piano, and Jack playing the slinky.

Christmas morning came late (can you believe the kids slept in until 9?!) and we sat around sipping coffee as they dove into their bounty of gifts. Remember that balance I was talking about? I think we nailed it.

I owe you a picture of the finished play kitchen. Sawyer managed to break one of the doors off within 24 hours of play kitchen ownership. He also drained his weed whacker's batteries on Christmas day. Whatever.

After our cinnamon roll breakfast, we loaded up the car and drove to Tracie and Frank's house to have Christmas dinner with Brent's family.

Have you ever had homemade canneloni before? I am at a loss to explain this dinner... words cannot... I mean, I am DROOLING on the keyboard just thinking about this... and I simply won't be able to do this meal justice no matter how many culinary descriptors I employ, but I will tell you this: I will replicate this amazing dish or die trying. Or maybe just become morbidly obese trying. Either way, Imma make me some of these cannelonis ASAP!

(I learned the secret to red sauce. The secret! From a real Italian passed down from generations of other real Italians! And now I'm going to tell YOU the secret! (Frank, can I tell the secret?) The secret is... use a cast iron pot! Yup, that's it. The secret. And now you know. You're welcome.)

(There is some scientific explanation for why the cast iron pot is so important and it has something to do with the acidity of tomatoes and iron and blah blah blah. Who freaking cares? These cannelonis will make you squeal with delight!)

Our final festive destination was my aunt Jacie's house where we were greeted by a crowd of family and treated to Deinema family cocktails and dinner. While the kids ran amok and played with their new toys, we caught up with grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and stretched that Christmas merriment for one more evening. And then kids got sleepy and were sent home to bed and I sat by the fire with a glass of wine and some of my favorite people and got a personalized knitting lesson that resulted in a little blue hat that some poor baby will someday be forced to wear.

Some families pass down canneloni recipes. In my family you get knitting lessons, which is just as awesome if you ask me.

And I would love to tell you that these many gourmet meals and hours of leisure spent with family were the best Christmas present I could ever receive. But that wouldn't be entirely true. Getting a new laptop from Santa was pretty sweet, too.

And finally: Kids in the hot tub. Because screw bedtime! Let's milk this holiday thing for all it's worth.

Happy New Year!

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