This year Christmas Eve was a throwback to a few years ago,where my whole family all gathered together - only this time it was at our house. Our house is small, to put it mildly, and that's why, in recent years, we've split off from everyone else, as we had children and their young families here for the holidays and that was a big enough crowd to deal with. Plus, we wanted to concentrate on the children and grandchildren we don't get to see very often. This year was different because we had no out of town family here, so we felt we could handle the remaining bunch. Again, my house doesn't have the space for a sit down dinner for 20, so it was open house style. Everyone arrived when they were able to within a loose time frame, and everyone brought a holiday sweet or snack to share with everyone. L and I cooked up a big pot of beef chili (no beans!), and had cheese and sour cream to garnish. A crock pot brewing spiced pear cider and a couple of large trays of cookies completed our offering. I was so surprised - the chili just DISAPPEARED! For some reason, I never thought that everyone would go for it, and I never imagined that people would go back for more! So yay - it was a hit! The cookies were also popular - except for the peanut butter ones dipped in chocolate and crushed peanuts. Hmmmm... I'll have to rethink those, I guess. The surprise hit was the plate of key lime coconut bars. And they were absolutely delicious, but they didn't come out of the pan very neat and pretty, so I had my doubts. Even my diet conscious brother Chris couldn't stay away from them - now THAT is a compliment!
About an hour into it almost everyone had arrived, and the party got going. I think one of the things I enjoyed most was seeing Scott and Ashley and my nieces and nephews visiting and having fun. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get photos of everyone, but I managed to snap these few:
Nephew John and Scott deep in conversation
Nephew John, Scott (who can never resist making a face),
Ashley and nephew Tom (texting on his phone)
My niece Margot (so happy to be home from BYU for the holidays!)
Niece Margot (center) Sister in law Jill (right) and Jill's mother Shirley (left)
So typical, I never got one shot of my other brother Brent and his family, my Aunt Margie, or one of my parents, or any of L - although he's usually hiding in the kitchen behind the scenes. I get so busy making sure everyone is comfortable, or just visiting that I forget to get the camera out. This is where I wish Katie could come to every family gathering to document them with her photography. She does it so well, and so naturally. *sigh* Massachusetts is so far away...
When the party finally broke up about 9:30, I suddenly realized that I'd never made any hot chocolate the way I'd planned to. GAH - I guess I'm going to have to start writing the menus down so I remember. I'd gotten a gallon of milk and Williams Sonoma Salted Caramel Chocolate and was really looking forward to it. L and I have had a couple of cups since, but the two of us will never plow through a gallon of milk. (We don't really drink milk otherwise...) But L and I were able to sit down together in the cozy living room, enjoying the low lights, and reflecting on the meaning of Christmas and the desire to be more present in the lives of our nieces of nephews. They are a special bunch of young adults - some with little ones of their own - and I know from experience that sometimes good parents are just not enough. Good aunts and uncles can be a powerful positive influence in the lives of family members. So maybe that is one of my New Year's resolutions. Oh yes - and L opened up his surprise gift: a little Christmas house to go along with his newly purchased train set. Here is a little snippet of the fun:
Christmas Day dawned as a beautiful morning and resulting day. We headed to church for an hour, met Scott and Ashley there, and then came back for a light lunch of panini sandwiches, salad, and leftover treats. I don't know about you, but by the time Christmas Day comes, I'm tired of cooking so we always make the meal that day very simple. Plus, we always have drop in company, so it's nice to have something quick and easy to fix for whoever comes by. Luckily, we had enough cookies to serve an army, plus cheese and crackers, and a myriad of other treats to choose from.
Before Scott and Ashley left to have some of the remaining day to themselves, I was able to snap these two pictures of them:
*dabbing away tears* Such a beautiful couple! It was so fun to have them here to share the holiday and fun times with. They are both a real joy to us.
Katie sent us some pictures of their family's first Christmas in New England. Mia got the little doggy she was hoping for:
Apparently, you can take it for a walk (with a remote control leash!) as well as fix it's hair, tail and ears with various barrettes and clips. Oh what fun for a little girl!
Mia also enjoyed a new scooter, and Hayden a new little bike that is (almost) her size:
And Katie was able to snap this stunning one of Hayden just playing in her room:
Now, the Denver camp is still undocumented, but I understand that Ronna received a new camera for Christmas, so I'm sure those pictures will start coming in any day now. I did talk to Lexi and Matthew on Christmas morning and Lexi chattered happily about everything that Santa had brought her. Matthew is only three, and he was having trouble finding the words to describe his riches, but Mema understood. Maybe next year we will be able to spend Christmas with one of these precious families, as it was very hard to be so far away this year. Something to start dreaming about...
L and I made history and saw 2 movies in the same week. On Monday we went to see War Horse. It's a gorgeous movie, with a beautiful score. And if you love horses like I do, it also had some magnificent horses in it. You have to let your imagination flow, as it's less realistic than it is sort of Black Beauty-ish - you know, where the horse takes on almost human characteristics. But I don't mind things like that and I enjoyed it very much. The war scenes are horrific - maybe not for teeny tiny kids, but certainly fine for anyone a little older. But war IS horrific, and it portrayed it accurately.
The second movie was the Sherlock Holmes one. 4 THUMBS UP!! (Both L's and mine) This was a treat from start to finish. It moves fast and small children may not understand the story line but it's a movie the whole family can go to. You'll love it.
And that wraps up the Christmas report from our camp. It was busy, complete with good food and many laughs. Oh - AND my nephew Arron got engaged to sweet Ashley! So we had our bit of special family congratulations as well. I hope you are all well and happy, and that your celebrations were similarly joyous. It was good to have that hour of church in the middle of the festivities to remind us of the reason we give gifts, love our fellow man a little more than usual, and strive to keep our families close. I hope you were all able to find that same silent night and holy moment within your own family celebrations.
2011 has been a roller coaster ride for me and my family. A year of stress and angst, as well as a year of triumphs, two beautiful new family members (adult and infant), and dedications to greater joy and better living. I could not love my family more than I do. They are my life and my greatest joy. And I'm doubly blessed to have my greatest friend and partner at my side to weather each storm and celebrate each joyful event with me. Side by side, hand in hand. Here's wishing us all a beautiful 2012, full of many joys, few sorrows, and the strength to live well with love, grace, humility, and charity. Here's to us all, and our limitless possibilities.