I think our Christmas celebration was different this year, in two very marked ways. First, the very real absence of my mom. She would always be with us on Christmas Eve for dinner. Unknowingly, last year's Christmas Eve was her last, which weighed on me heavily over the past few days. As I thought about her being gone, I realized that even if she hadn't passed away a few months ago, she would not have been able to join us for Christmas Eve because of COVID. We would have passed the ten-month mark of not seeing her. It's unimaginable, really. So even if she hadn't passed, it would have been a sad day. But the fact that she is no longer with us, that there will be no more Christmas Eve dinners with her, is heartbreaking.
The second way in which this year was very different was the absence of being with our good friends, The Jacobs, for Christmas Day dinner. Spending Christmas Day evening with them has become a wonderful yearly tradition that we all look forward to. Sometimes we had dinner at their home, but more often we went to The Jonathon Club. We would start with drinks and appetizers at their home, marvel at their magnificent tree, and open gifts. Then we would caravan to the club together. There were usually about ten of us, or so, and it was such a fun evening. Everyone dressed up in their Christmas finest. We loved being with another family on Christmas, a family that we love very much. I also enjoyed getting dressed up and going out on Christmas. The kids too, always wore their special Christmas outfits for the evening. And I especially relished in the idea that I could sit, relax and have someone else cook besides me. No menu planning, no food shopping, no cooking, no dishes, no hassle. Just a wonderful evening of good food, Champagne, good friends and always so much laughter.
Don't get me wrong. We had a very blessed Christmas this year, with a warm and beautifully decorated home in which to celebrate. We had plenty of delicious food to enjoy (all made by yours truly). We had ample gorgeously wrapped presents under our tree, sent by loving friends, to open. We had our health, most importantly. That's more than many of our fellow American citizens had this holiday season, so we were very grateful. But we missed our traditions, as did everyone else, I imagine. Most of all however, we missed my mom so very much.
Preparing Christmas Eve dinner and starting to prep for Christmas dinner yesterday. There has been a lot of cooking going on in our house over the past two days.
My chopping helpers, whom I kept very busy. Catherine in our indispensable onion-chopping googles If you don't have a pair you need to get one ($19.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond)! No more tears around here (at least not when chopping onions).
Christmas Eve dinner: Shrimp Scampi (baked) with a delicious topping of panko bread crumbs, shallots, garlic, and fresh thyme, parsley, lemon zest (all from our garden). Served with linguine and steamed fresh broccoli.
The hungry crew ready for dinner! We set my mom's place for her, as has now become a tradition at all special occasions.
Christmas Eve by the tree. Even Fitzy got into the festive spirit.
We went on a holiday lights tour of Hidden Hills last night after dinner. These are a few of our "infamous" neighbors' homes, who shall remain unnamed. We played Christmas music in the car and had a wonderful time meandering the streets, enjoying the lights and trying to decide whose decorations were the most over-the-top. A very 2020, Covid-friendly, Christmas Eve activity for the whole family to enjoy.
Christmas morning with the kids in their new coordinating Christmas PJs. As of now, no one is protesting mom's fetish to have everyone matching. But rest assured, I know it's coming...
Opening gifts. These were the first ones. It got a lot messier soon thereafter. So don't feel bad about your messy house when you look at these photos.
Playing some of the new games they received as gifts from friends.
Christmas brunch: Caramelized Sheet Pan French Toast from the New York Times. Absolutely divine!
It's so good to have a daughter that gives you jewelry for Christmas! She picked it out, ordered it, paid for it, and wrapped it herself. She took all these photos too. I am one lucky mom!
Miles got this new snake from his Godparents, The Clutes, and aptly named, it "Green Snaky Snaky." In keeping with his long-standing tradition of using the species' name for his stuffed animals, punctuated with a catchy "y" at the end. Since he already had a python named "Snaky Snaky" he added a descriptive adjective at the beginning to differentiate the two slithery creatures. He has been "wearing" the snake all day.
My cookie helpers. When planning our Christmas menu the kids decided they wanted cookies and hot chocolate for dessert tonight. They promised they would make the cookies. I took all the ingredients out, they measured, and I did all the rest. Oh well. They were just too taken with their new Christmas acquisitions to assist. Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies from Food and Wine. Yummy!
Posing for the requisite holiday portraits. They are sweet to indulge me. But I know that behind those smiles are some metaphorical eyes rolling at my requests.
Christmas Day dinner: Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon served with Buttered Egg Noodles dotted with parsley from our garden. I made this in honor of my mom. It was one of her favorites. I served this last Christmas and she loved it. Both dishes are served on china that belonged to her.
The crew enjoying their dinner. Mom's empty (but set) place is next to Catherine where she always sat.
Dessert at last.
Now I need to get some sleep.....
Merry Christmas from us to you.