On Christmas Eve morning the kids made Peanut Blossom cookies (with chocolate kisses on top) rolled in red and green sugar instead of white, while I made a last minute grocery store run and D. completed his Christmas shopping. J. and I. were participating in the Christmas Eve children's mass and had to report to the church at 3pm. We had been warned that that was when you needed to arrive to be assured a seat for the 4:30pm mass, so D. took them there, he and L. stayed to save us seats. I tried to take a short nap, since I had gotten a cold and not slept well the previous night and knew I'd be up late that night. Then I got the little ones dressed and the rest of us headed out the door. We got there at 4pm and it was already standing room only, but luckily D. and L. had been able to save us seats. (All Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses at the Catholic churches I've been a member of are this packed. I can't imagine how some churches have cancelled Christmas Day services due to low attendance!) J. read the first reading and did a beautiful job. I. was one angel amongst the throng of angels in the Christmas pageant. After a little more than an hour, A. started to shriek. I had brought some books and small toys but she had had it by then, so I took her to the nursery in the church basement. There was no childcare but it's a safe place for her to play.
We arrived home around 6pm. I had planned to start making dinner immediately, but earlier in the week I had bought some new decorations and hadn't had a chance to hang them, so we worked on that first. We have large cedar beams spanning our ceiling and I had gotten the idea (from a magazine) to hang ornaments from ribbons from the beams. I had been in Lowe's and was thrilled to discover that all of their decorations were already 50% off, so I bought 28 red and gold glass ornaments. They weren't all the same, but I bought 3 or 4 of each style. I also found some fancy ornament hooks that were curlicues with red and gold beads on them. First D. went around the room and screwed small gold hooks into the beams. We hung the red ornaments from gold ribbon and vice versa. It looked really nice and I was very pleased. I had wanted to do something to make our decorations look a little classier, since half of them are items handmade by the kids over the years, which are precious, but don't always give the room that special sparkle.
We had one of our favorite pastas for dinner, Salsa Cremosa di Mascarpone e Pancetta Affumicata (or Creamy Sauce with Bacon to us native English speakers)!
Saute 1 small onion and several cloves crushed garlic in 3T extra virgin olive oil until tender, 10-12 minutes. Add 1 pound pancetta or thick sliced bacon, cut into thin strips, and cook until it colors but does not crisp. Add 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes and simmer until liquid is reduced and sauce is thick. Cook 1.5 pounds fettucine until al dente. Drain and toss with 16 oz. mascarpone cheese and the tomato bacon sauce. Either add 20 chopped fresh basil leaves to toss at the end or an equivalent amount dried basil to the sauce while simmering. Mmmm!
Unfortunately, by the time we finally had all of the kids in bed, I really wasn't feeling very well. D. told me if I sorted the gifts, he'd wrap so I could go to bed, but that didn't seem right (and besides I really am a control freak and couldn't allow him the chance to mess it up!) We never wrap ahead of time, and this year it took us until 1am. It didn't help when we ran out of tape shortly before we were finished!
Our rule is that it must be light out before anyone can get up. The kids actually slept until about 8am! Our tradition is that Dad must have a cup of coffee in his hand before any gift opening can occur, and he attempts to prolong this in any way he can to increase the anticipation. This year the kids got up, made the coffee, and brought us coffee, orange juice and toast on a tray in bed! We had been awake for a little while, so we thanked them and brought it into the kitchen so they could begin opening presents. Everyone loved what they got.
D's mother came over in the afternoon, had dinner with us, and spent the night. We played games, ate steak and caesar salad with bread and olive oil and apple crisp for dessert. We broke oplatek together, which is a Polish tradition where everyone receives a piece of bread that is just like Communion wafer, only unblessed. You walk around and break a piece off of each other's bread and wish one another Merry Christmas. It really was a lovely day, only slightly marred for me by the stupid cold, which continued to bother me. Thanks to Cold Eeze lozenges, it only lasted 4 days, and only 2 were really bad, but of course they had to be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
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