It was indeed a Merry Christmas this year thoroughly surrounded by family. The song "Tradition!" from Fiddler on the Roof pops in my head whenever some one asks me what I'm doing for Christmas because, well, it's been the same my whole life. And I like it that way. It's funny... I've been in foreign countries for 4 out of my last 8 birthdays, but I'm reluctant to leave during the holidays.
Christmas Eve we always go to a great aunt's house for a Norwegian-influenced party. There is a delicious food spread with some traditional Norwegian dishes such as lefse, krumkake and rullepolse. Then we sing carols around the Christmas tree while holding hands in two circles. Every year I vow to review song lyrics so that we can sing intelligibly on more than just the choruses, but I suppose part of the charm of our family choral endeavor is its slightly haphazard quality. Just when our throats are getting hoarse, Santa comes! He brings all the kids one gift, which is sort of the gateway for every one else to exchange presents.
Christmas morning is at my mom's with the immediate family, the highlight being of course the little kids, my one-year-old niece and eight-year-old niece. Later we head to another aunt's house for brunch, always waffles, strawberries, whipped cream, bacon, frittata, coffee, and mimosas. There is a freshness and serenity at my aunt's that I can't quite describe, and I like the mellowness of getting together early in the day instead of for dinner. Apart from the waffles, activities are always a little different- maybe a jenga tournament, a basketball game, watching old home-videos, or playing in the snow. This year we drew each other's names from a bowl and took turns saying one nice thing about that person. It was really sweet and brought more intention to the gathering. We head home in the afternoon to finish the mellow day, such a welcome change from the frenetic pace that usually leads up to the holiday.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Last weekend I caught a ride with my mom, Larry, and bro Joe over to Spokane to visit some family. My brother Isaac lives there but just joined the Marines and is in boot camp, so we stayed with his wife and two kids. The little ones are two and five years old and super sweet. We had fun playing dolls, building lego towers, baking cupcakes, and watching movies. We even braved the 20 degree air and went on a carousel ride.
I also finally had the chance to visit my cousin Ally who just had a baby! She and her husband Chris live in Idaho, just outside Coeur D'Alene. Baby Beckett is already 3 months old, and I'm so happy I got to meet the little guy before he got any bigger. Their family seems to be doing great- Ally is as beautiful and well-adjusted as ever, Beckett is smiley and adorable, and Chris is stoked to be a hands-on dad and still whip up an amazing dinner- chicken breast baked in goat cheese with a basil-balsamic reduction. While the new parents put baby to bed, I enjoyed the lack of such responsibility by soaking in their hot tub, sipping wine as snow was falling around me. There was already a dusted layer on the ground, their first snow of the year.
In the morning I awoke to fresh coffee and pumpkin pancakes. Then Ally and Chris gave me a tour of Coeur D'Alene, including the beautiful but cold view of the lake from the boardwalk, and more coffee at a bustling coffee shop. I had to try the "bowl of soul", a mocha made with Mexican chocolate, copious amounts of cinnamon, and homemade whipped cream, making a convert of even this strict americano drinker.