Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary

Thane sets out the cookies for Santa
Thane sets out the cookies for Santa

It was midnight when my fellow-Santa and I laid the final touches around the tree. The cookies artistically partially eaten. The massive stuffed animal with the bow. The careful interspersing of presents – the ones from Santa outermost to indicate the jolly old elf had laid them there himself. We were weary from a lovely long day of cleaning, cooking, preparing, and caroling at our church. Our children had fallen asleep in record time. We’d had a lovely chat with some old friends in the neighborhood, and now we were ready for repose. We lingered, looking at the tree lights, looking forward to the morning’s joyous faces.

Ready for the morning!

The next morning at seven, I thought I heard some noise downstairs. “Aha!” I thought. “My children bestir themselves. Perhaps they’ve started to open their stockings! I don’t want to a miss a minute.!” I shook my beloved awake and headed down the stairs, muzzy-minded.

To my shock – my horror – a scene of wrapping mayhem lay below me. My sons were in the midst of a piranhic frenzy of quiet unwrapping. Well over half their gifts lay strewn around in the shards of wrapping paper littering the floor.

STOP! STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP! I sat on the stairs, weak-kneed, as they looked up at me with confused faces. “This,” I said to my similarly week-kneed husband, “May be funny later. Maybe.”

Perhaps this was the culprit of the Great Christmas Mayhem!
Perhaps this was the culprit of the Great Christmas Mayhem!

After a good number of deep breaths, a pot of coffee and a very long explanation to the children that we open presents TOGETHER like we have every Christmas for their entire LIVES, I satisfied myself that there was an excellent chance that Grey really believed he was being kind in letting us sleep in. We talked through the presents they had already opened, and slowly enjoyed the rest together. We did enjoy ourselves, once our hearts got back to a normal tempo.

I only wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture of the carnage, with the sweet, innocent confused faces wreaking it.

This is what most of this week has looked like around here


Twelve hours later, my brother, mother and father had all arrived in my house, bringing loot and Christmas cheer with them. As I worked on the roast lamb, I became increasingly uneasy with my menu. The lamb, with carrots, celery and parsnips, had seemed a quintessentially British dish, well served with Yorkshire Pudding and Christmas Pudding. But there was tomato sauce. The veggies were cubed small. And spice numbers 5 and 6 were turmeric and saffron. These are not British spices. On further review, the dish was downright Indian. So I scrapped the Yorkshire pudding and substituted rice, and I’m delighted to report it was absolutely the right call. (And a delicious recipe to boot!)

A beautifully set table with lovely people
A beautifully set table with lovely people

I likely warned my family 10 times that night that I would not be offended if the Christmas pudding turned out to be inedible. It seemed unlikely to be good. 4 cups of raisins and only one each of flour and sugar? Dates and citrons? Suet? This incredible double boiling maneuver – done twice? I’d be lucky if anyone ate two spoonsful. The hard sauce – equal parts butter and powdered sugar – might be eaten straight. But I doubted even it could rescue this unlikely looking concoction. I poured the brandy on with liberal hand and set the pudding to blue flame, lasting far longer than I thought it would and bathing the wide eyes of my son in eerie light.

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

Whoa

And so has this time with my sons and my husband, my mother and father and brother been. I hope you, too, have had a joyful and restful holiday!

I have pictures of our Christmas celebrations here.

Also, since all the Christmas Cards that will be sent have been sent, you can see pictures of the great photo shoot we had this autumn here!

Mrs. Flynn’s Christmas Pudding

There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.

At the last two Family Meetings, when the subject of Christmas planning came up, Grey has adamantly insisted that any Christmas plans must, MUST, include a Christmas pudding. I confess that this rather unexpected demand warmed the cockles of my heart. “Just what I need this Christmas!” I figured. “A ridiculously elaborate and archaic baked good that needs-must be served flaming!”

So I googled around a bit. I was somewhat dismayed by some of the ingredients. Suet? Citron? What are the odds my local Stop & Shop has those? Plus, all the recipes I read were in metric units. Although we have a scale for just this exigency, I prefer my teaspoons and ounces. Happily, I thought to check my never-used “Joy of Cooking”, and there it was:

Apparently by “plums” they mean “raisins”.

I dragged my eldest on a grocery store scavenger hunt with me. He found the dates. I found the citron. A helpful butcher’s assistant helped us find the suet. (Pro tip: it’s in with the steaks and beef – you’ll check the tiny “British” section fruitlessly.) I did use sultanas (golden raisins) instead of boring ol’ American Raisins. And we emerged victorious, with the fruits of our labors.

By the way, in case you’re as curious as I was, a citron is a completely new fruit to me. I’v never seen one before, but apparently it’s a nearly inedible fruit. I presume the Brits heard about that and took it as a personal challenge. I was truly shocked that they were available for purchase in my little Stop and Shop. I tasted one and they were, um, interesting.

Last night, I figured I’d make the pudding. I got the raisins and currants going, and discovered that step took two hours. Then this afternoon after church, I figured it was high time to make the pudding. I chopped the suet, mixed with my hands, and had several bowls of ingredients.

Some citrons and raisin and cinnamon too.

It was at that point that I discovered the steaming of the pudding takes at least three hours (and I have somewhere to be this afternoon) so I think that will be this evening’s activity.

My Christmas gift from my Mother-in-law was some of her wedding silverware. I’ve secretly always wanted real silver silverware, but it’s the sort of thing I could never justify actually purchasing, so I’m thrilled. I have plans for a fancy-shmancy Christmas dinner, totally from the Joy of Cooking, with my best dishes and linens. My intention is:

Roast lamb shoulder with roast vegetables
Yorkshire pudding
Gravy
Roast asparagus (a family favorite)

To which my son would like to add “Grey-joulais” which is rice with nuked veggies on top. Of course, I think this will be lovely.

And I’ll finish the whole thing off with a flaming (likely inedible – let’s be honest) Christmas pudding!

I mean, doesn’t it look great?