Archive | December 2011

3 French Foods

Three French Foods

So, tonight, what is technically the “third day of Christmas” according to the traditional calendar, finds our family in the Great White North (Canada). This is my Home and Native Land and we are here for Christmas round two with the Canadian relatives.

I LOVE coming home to Canada. There are so many things that are great memories for me of growing up here, especially around the holidays.

I never did have “three French hens” (a la “The Twelve Days of Christmas”). But I DID learn to love some French (Canadian) foods, even though our family isn’t French Canadian.  (Kind of hard to get away from French in Canada, you know. It’s on everything from signs to shampoo bottles.)

But that just served to give me a love for the language, I think. That and sitting through French class every day from kindergarten through twelfth grade and two years of university!

But I digress. This is supposed to be about food, not language.

Here are three French-Canadian foods I love at Christmas (with links to recipes I use personally!):

1. Buche de Noel (pictured above) – Yule Log. Hillary made this one for her French class Christmas party at school. She made another one for our family on Christmas Day.  Yum!  And especially good because it’s a wheat-free cake; perfect for our gluten-free Tim.

2. Tourtiere – Meat Pie. Made with ground beef and sausage and seasonings in a traditional flaky pie crust. Ooh la la!

3. Split Pea and Ham Soup – we make it the day after Christmas using the Christmas ham bone and leftover meat. Super!

Check ’em out … try ’em out … let me know how you like ’em!

 

Joyeux Noel … et Bonne Année et Bonne Santé!

(Merry Christmas and Happy New Year/Good Health to You!)

Advertisements

A Candy House in Powdered Sugar Snow

     

A CANDY HOUSE IN POWDERED SUGAR SNOW

Today we finally finished the gingerbread houses … our friend Katrina is the hands-down winner; look how beautifully hers turned out.  Now we can nibble it away through the rest of the 12 days of the Christmas.

Dave and Katrina are our Australian friends from England who live in California and who spend a lot of the holidays with us. Katrina is so fun and creative; she inspires me.

We all need friends who do that, don’t we?  🙂

Merry Christmas 2011!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 10: CHRISTMAS MORNING, CINNAMON ROLLS, AND FAMILY ALL DAY LONG
“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!” ~Ray Stannard Baker

Everyone has their memories and expectations of what makes Christmas special, don’t they?  And more often than not, those memories are built around home and family and food. At least, for our family. Activities, too. But first and foremost I think food is the hands-down winner!

My daughter-in-law recently got me turned on to Pinterest, which is where she found a photo of a new twist (pun intended) on cinnamon rolls and asked me to make them. Another winner! Mom’s Homemade Cinnamon rolls are a family favorite, but this idea made them even more fun for Christmas. (Photo above; thought you might like to see how they turned out.)

I loved the quote I found for today’s blog. It’s true. We do tend to have too high of expectations of Christmas Day (and other family holidays) sometimes. The reality is that family ALL DAY LONG is an exercise in patience for even the most loving of families (which ours is, but still …). It’s a great opportunity, though, to learn to wait for each other, honor each other, be forbearing toward one another, to be consistently UNoffendable … and to laugh easily and not think to highly of ourselves.

We did THREE rounds of present exchanging, TWO rounds of full-on holiday meals, and ONE round of an over-the-top spread of Christmas desserts. Not to mention multiple games, walking the dogs in the park (whew, so great to get out of the house and get some fresh air!), and now cleaning up the aftermath … so crazy. So fun. So rewarding. So grateful and happy.

I can’t believe I blogged EVERY DAY for ten days at the busiest time of the year. Wow. I don’t have an excuse now for not doing it any other time, do I? 🙂

Joy and Christmas blessings to all … and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~Ephesians 4:2

Carolers on My Doorstep

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 9 – CHRISTMAS EVE: JESUS, GINGERBREAD, AND CAROLERS ON MY DOORSTEP

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.” ~ Eric Sevareid

Church this evening – the kids sang, there were cookies and carols, it was great to see friends, and we remembered together why we get to have such a tremendous celebration every year.  IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS. Even those who don’t really believe get to benefit! Christmas is for everyone. 

We came home to a pan of lasagna nearly the size of my dining room table, which we hardly made a dent in. (That’s okay, I think I’ve got one more good day left in me then I’m going to crash and say “Get me out of the kitchen!” So when that happens it will be nice to have leftovers.)

The checker at the grocery store today wanted to be sure to wish me a “Merry Christmas” today and not a “Happy Holidays.” In a day and age when so many communities are throwing the nativity and “Merry Christmas” out the back door as quickly as they can embrace the more neutral “Happy Holidays” and a panorama of ornaments and snowflakes as representative of the real meaning of Christmas, my community has retained the nativity in the public park downtown (see photo).  I love it! I also love that fact that a group of twenty-plus carolers in Santa hats showed up on our doorstep this evening singing everything from Joy to the World to Frosty the Snowman to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We gave them all cookies, joined in the singing, and went with them to carol at our neighbors across the street.

Fun to celebrate with family. Fun to celebrate with friends. And fun to celebrate with community.  Christmas is a celebration of God’s gift TO us, Jesus’ life FOR us, and the Spirit’s joy IN us.

Today, I got to experience all of those. Ended the day with gingerbread in the oven filling the house with a delicious smell as it baked and then cooled.  Decorating it will give the troops something to do tomorrow afternoon after presents are done and they’re waiting for ham and turkey. But that’s another blog post … now it’s time to go to bed, and dream of sugar plums and what we all might find under our tree in the morning … 🙂

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2

Chinese Food and Remarkable People

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 8: CHINESE FOOD AND REMARKABLE PEOPLE AT MY CHRISTMAS TABLE

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Problem: we wanted to eat good food tonight but no one wanted to cook.

Inevitably when that happens we head for Thai Hut, teriyaki, or Chinese food.  Tonight it was a combination of the latter two: YUM! I don’t think there’s been a Christmas yet when Chinese food wasn’t on the menu either Christmas Eve or the day before.  That’s just the way the (fortune) cookie crumbles around here!

That reminds me of the Christmas Doug and I spent in Hong Kong. It was the second year we were married and we were living in Japan at the time. Doug was in the Marine Corps and I was teaching English at a Christian school. We were long on dreams and short on money so we came up with a great plan to save enough money to take a fabulous Christmas vacation to Hong Kong.

For the month before Christmas (maybe longer, it’s kind of fuzzy now), we bought no groceries and pretty much ate “c-rats” (commuted rations). This was in 1984, back when military c-rats were the old-fashioned kind–in cans, like in the movies. (Who knows, some of them may have been left over from Vietnam.  After all, we were in Okinawa … you never know …)

Anyway, we pulled it off and managed to spend Christmas in a beautiful five-star hotel in Hong Kong. Christmas Eve we ate at a exotic restaurant called the Pink Giraffe, way up high (like thirty some-odd floors) overlooking Hong Kong harbor and the AMAZING Christmas lights bedecking the city. The way they decorate their buildings in Hong Kong at Christmas is extraordinary. (Totally commercial, mind you. Not a hint of the real Reason for the season that we could see. But beautiful nonetheless.)

We spent Christmas Day and had Christmas dinner with some friends of Doug’s parents … missionaries there who had gone to seminary years before with Mom and Dad and stayed in touch. There were other guests there, too … some remarkable people around that table … including other missionaries who had spent years of their lives serving in Hong Kong and mainland China. I will never forget one of them … her name was Agnes … she must have been ninety and had served with Gladys Aylward in China. I was fascinated, inspired, humbled.

(Gladys Aylward is one of my all-time heroines and her story was memorialized in the Ingrid Bergman movie, Inn of the Sixth Happiness, one of my most favorite movies EVER.)

Not sure how I got on that rabbit trail … I guess it was because I started talking about Chinese food.  Funny how the oddest things bring back the most random (but delightful) memories.

Twenty-eight Christmases later finds me eating Chinese food at Christmas in quite a different location than in 1984… but still with remarkable people around my table. 🙂

“Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”  ~2 Timothy 2:22

Never Too Old (or Too Busy) to Play

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 7: PLAY GAMES TOGETHER

We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”  ~Vince Lombardi

Here’s our new game for this season: Monopoly Deal. It’s a card game that’s an abbreviated version of the old favorite–which, in my opinion, takes WAY TOO LONG. (The card game version is only $5.49 at Target if you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer.)

We all have different favorite games so we take turns throughout the holidays, who gets to pick. Our favorite family games are (not in any order): Scrabble, Ticket to Ride (both U.S. and Europe versions), Stock Ticker, Rummikub, Phase 10, Apples to Apples, and Dominoes (Mexican Train). Sometimes certain family members will opt out of games that tend to render them homicidal (such as Ticket to Ride does to Tim). In such cases, a pass is allowed, for obvious reasons. 🙂

Why play games? I found this on a website and thought it was worth sharing, just as incentive to join in the fun (if incentive is needed!) :

Play connects us to others

Sharing joy, laughter and fun with others promotes bonding and strengthens a sense of community. We develop empathy, compassion, trust, and the capacity for intimacy through regular play.

Play fosters creativity, flexibility, and learning

Play is a doorway to learning. Play stimulates our imaginations, helping us adapt and solve problems. Play arouses curiosity, which leads to discovery and creativity. The components of play – curiosity, discovery, novelty, risk-taking, trial and error, pretense, games, social etiquette and other increasingly complex adaptive activities – are the same as the components of learning.

Play is an antidote to loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression

When we play vigorously, we trigger a mix of endorphins that lift our spirits and distractions that distance us from pain, fear and other burdens. And when we play with other people, with friends and strangers, we are reminded that we are not alone in this world. We can connect to others in delightful and meaningful ways that banish loneliness.

Play teaches us perseverance

The rewards of learning or mastering a new game teach us that perseverance is worthwhile. Perseverance is a trait necessary to healthy adulthood, and it is learned largely through play. Perseverance and violence are rarely found together.

Play makes us happy

Beyond all these excellent reasons for playing, there is simply the sheer joy of it. Play is a state of being that is happy and joyous. Jumping into and out of the world of play on a daily basis can preserve and nourish our own hearts, and the hearts of our communities.

http://helpguide.org/life/creative_play_fun_games.htm

Play definitely makes us ALL more happy.

What are YOUR  family’s favorite games?  Share them us and maybe we’ll check them out! 

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.” ~Ecclesiastes 8:15

Company’s Coming!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 6: OPEN THE FRONT DOOR … COMPANY’S COMING!

And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen.
– Ward Elliot Hour

Several years into our marriage Doug informed me we would NOT be entertaining house guests ever again. That is, until I learned not to be a PSYCHO when company was coming.

Ouch.

But he was right. Perfectionism reigned and no one–parent or child–was allowed to sit down until everything in the house was as picture-perfect as we could get it. “You’re no fun when company’s coming,” he complained. “And you make life hell for everyone else.”

That really got my attention. I love having company and I certainly didn’t want to make my family crazy.  So I had to learn to lower my standards, for myself and for my house.  And I’m so glad I did!

Years, maturity, and perspective have shown me that my house guests don’t generally care as much about what my house looks like as I do. In fact, it’s not about the house at all … hospitality is about loving people. When I think about the homes I’ve  enjoyed visiting the most, they’ve not been the ones that were the most perfect. They’ve been the ones that were the most welcoming.

This evening Dave and Katrina, our Australian/UK friends from California arrived.  They’ve spent the last several years’ worth of holidays with us and are just like family. Friday Tyler and Lexi will roll in. The rest of the kids and significant others will show up Christmas Day, along with both sets of parents and a single-dad friend with his son.  It’s going to be a houseful!

The house looks pretty good if you don’t look too closely.  And I’m not stressed out about it. It’s full of lights, good food, music, games, presents, family traditions, Christmasy-stuff (pretty but not too Better Homes and Gardens), and lots of love.

It’s full of crazy people, too, but I know I can safely say it’s not because I made them that way getting ready for company. They got that way quite handily all on their own. But that’s what makes it all twice the fun.  🙂

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  ~Hebrews 13:2