Archives

Birthday Bashes for Our Grown-up Kids

It was Hayley’s 20th birthday last weekend. So, we braved the avalanches threatening Snoqualmie Pass and headed over the mountains to visit Tyler and Lexi and Hayley and Spencer, to celebrate.  Hayley and Spencer drove over from Pullman and had a much nicer drive than we did.  Ours looked like this. In fact, we barely made it through; they closed the pass right after we crossed, for avalanche control.  Whew!

Ironically, just four short weeks ago we did the same thing for Tyler’s birthday: We braved the pass and met up with Tyler and Lexi and Lexi’s family in Roslyn, WA, which is half-way between their house and ours.  And I kid you not, there was at least four feet of snow. Heather, five and half months pregnant, was not anticipating the snow and was wearing a raincoat and suede boots with heels. 

Four out of our five kids, celebrating Ty’s 25th birthday at Village Pizza in Roslyn. Not much to choose from in Roslyn. Good thing they serve great pizza. 🙂

Back to Hayley’s birthday. First thing on the celebratory schedule was birthday breakfast.     Bacon, eggs, and BIG HUGE FLUFFY Belgian waffles.

As for birthday activities, Hayley has come a long way from princess parties. This is not particularly how I would like to spend my birthday. But it was what Hayley wanted to do: shoot her brother’s guns!  So she and her Dad and Tyler and Spencer went and did that, and Lexi and I stayed home and planned a baby shower.


Now I’m going to show you how to make Pesto Salmon Packets, which was Hayley’s request for her birthday dinner.  I had to send a Facebook message to Claire Hammond in England to ask her how to make them.  (Thanks, Claire!) It was Hayley’s favorite meal when she was in the U.K.:

1. Start with a pile of green beans on a square of aluminum foil. Salt and pepper them.


2. Place a piece of delicious fresh salmon on top of the green beans. (Portion size for one person)

3. Place a dollop of pesto on top of the salmon. Get Mom in the photo, just for the photo record. Mom is not in many family photos. She is usually on the other side of the camera.

4. To ensure quality control, bring in an inspector to approve the generosity of the pesto dollops.  Very important. Hayley makes sure I get enough on each one.

4. Fold in the corners of the foil to make a packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for around 30 minutes. (Some of the larger pieces of salmon needed an extra five minutes.)  Unwrap, slip onto a plate, and serve with white rice. Num! No wonder Hayley loved it. (Claire made it for me when I was in the U.K. in November and I loved it, too.) Super easy.

Finally, the birthday cake. Or, in this case, CAKES, plural.  Lexi made Molten Lava (chocolate) cakes in little ramekins, served hot with vanilla ice cream.  AMAZING.  We licked the platter(s) clean. Pretty much.

We stayed an extra night in Ephrata because the trip there was so arduous; who wanted to turn around and drive back over the pass in THOSE CONDITIONS the very  next day?! Heather said she was sure glad she wasn’t with us on this trip!  It was a little disconcerting. But no avalanche warnings on Monday, so home we went, jiggedy-jig, having accomplished our second snowy over-the-mountain-to-show-our-kids-how-much-we-love-them birthday expedition. (Which we do. Love them, I mean.)

Who said kids’ birthdays parties got easier the older they get?

NOT!!! 🙂

Perogies and the 12th Day of Christmas

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – DAY 12: January 6th

What is the 6th of January?

a.  Ukrainian Christmas Eve

b. Epiphany

c. the 12th day of Christmas

d. the perfect opportunity to pig out on perogies and cabbage rolls

Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE!

January 6th is the proverbial 12th day of Christmas, and it is also the FIRST day – Christmas Eve – of Ukrainian Christmas.  (If I was really orthodox about it, I could start all over with yet ANOTHER 12 days of Christmas if I wanted to. But I won’t. I think I’m finally Christmassed out.)

Why do I care? Mostly because I LOVE perogies and Ukrainian Christmas is the perfect opportunity to indulge in my favorite childhood Ukrainian food. Both of my paternal grandparents emigrated to Canada from the Ukraine. They were both culturally and linguistically German but part of the lingering Ukrainian legacy in our family was – you got it – perogies!  And cabbage rolls!

Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, where there is a large Ukrainian population, a number of my childhood friends celebrated Ukrainian Christmas. I was always a little jealous that we didn’t, because they always got two rounds of gifts! (Either that or their parents got great deals on buying presents because they could wait and shop the AFTER Christmas sales!)

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the perogies and cabbage rolls.

So guess what we had for dinner tonight at our house? Yep. Perogies. (They taste a lot better than they look.)  But maybe that’s just because I grew up on them.  I’ve linked the recipes if you want to try to make them from scratch. They’re kind of a lot of work, though. So I just stock up in bulk at Costco every time I go to Canada. 🙂

Do you have any favorite foods that connect you to your family history? What are they?  Do share!

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!)

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

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

Yay! for Christmas Cookies

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 2: FAMILY COOKIE RECIPES

“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.” ~Anonymous

I am Scottish on my mom’s side–which makes me predisposed to love things like Celtic music and dancing (love the bagpipes and the Highland Fling!), plaid, argyle, woolen scarves, and SHORTBREAD.  (The tightfisted-with-money part of being Scottish somehow escaped me, which I’m a little sad about because I think that might have been a helpful quality. Oh well, you can’t have everything.)

Today I am baking Christmas cookies with my girls. This shortbread recipe has been in my family since who knows when and is my earliest memory of a FAVORITE Christmas cookie. And the dough tastes great, too! Hayley made this batch.

Whipped Shortbread: 1 c soft butter, 1-3/4 c flour, 1/2 c icing sugar, maraschino cherries. Cream butter thoroughly. Combine and add dry ingredients at low speed on blender. Roll in small balls, press in a piece of maraschino to the top of each. Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

I believe it’s important to not just make DELICIOUS foods on holidays, but to make them with MEANINGFUL recipes. The kind that evoke memories of special people and special times–or that make you feel connected to whom and where you came from. For our family, that means the Lawrence family’s ubiquitous Chocolate Crinkles and Snickerdoodles. Muddy Buddy’s a la Auntie Deanna.  Grandma Magner’s Nuts ‘n Bolts. And for Christmas dinner, Aunt Ethel’s Cranberry Christmas pudding (simmered on the stove top in a coffee can to be especially authentic).  With caramel sauce.  Num.

Family traditions are important. Family is important, period. Whom and where you came from is an important part of who you are, whether you like it (or them) or not. It keeps you connected to the bigger picture in life.

I am grateful for a family who loves God, loves each other, loves me, and loves Christmas cookies.  🙂

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother … and your mother …  And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5