Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas at our house

Many years ago, shortly after moving to Idaho, Don made an observation right after Thanksgiving: "It's a shame you spend so much time cooking, since you don't really get a break." The context of that remark was how much time "off" I would get at Christmas if I'm cooking so much.

Well based on that conversation, one thing led to another and before we knew it we had a new Christmas tradition: a junk food feast.

That's right, junk food. That category of nutritionally useless stuff seldom enters our house, and so the girls enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to indulge in all the forbidden goodies they seldom get. For three days -- Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day -- a feast of junk is spread on the table, there are no restrictions or limitations (Potato chips for breakfast? Go for it!), and no one has to ask Mom for permission. I think the kids look forward to the junk food feast more than they do their presents. (Maybe.)

At the end of three days everyone is sick and tired of Doritos and longs for a salad. But for a little while it's a lot of fun. Here are the goodies, waiting patiently for Christmas Eve.

This is the time of year I make homemade Irish cream as gifts for friends and neighbors. (Here's the instructions, if anyone's interested.)


Adding vodka.

Ready to bottle.

Washing bottles.

Filling the bottles.

End results. Plenty to share with friends.

Meanwhile, on our last trip to the city before Christmas, we had an obligation to fill: a ten-gallon fish tank for Younger Daughter. This wasn't a Christmas present, this was her reward for memorizing the Declaration of Independence. (We decided to wait until after Christmas on Older Daughter's reward, to see if the price comes down. She gets two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)

We got Younger Daughter a tank kit with pump, filter, etc.

Oh my is she thrilled with it! We'll get a few more accouterments (plants, fish, etc.) after Christmas.

Don and I wrapped presents for the girls, as well as for neighbors who would be joining us on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23), I spent the whole day making fried apple pies to give to non-drinking friends and neighbors.

(I also had to write, edit, and submit my WND column.)

Since I "six-tupled" the fried pie dough recipe, rolling out and cutting the pies took most of the day. I ended up borrowing a neighbor's marble rolling pin since I needed more weight than my wooden one.

I ended up with 75 or 80 pie shells.

In the evening while I was frying the pies...

...we were treated to some carolers!

Fried pies, done. Each cookie sheet has two layers of nine or ten pies each. These got divvied up and wrapped for various neighbors.

I reclaimed the extra oil in the pans by filtering it through a paper towel.

Meanwhile the girls were impatient for Christmas Eve morning to arrive so they could spread out the junk food feast. I woke up early, as usual, and found a container of cashews on the counter with this little note from Don: "It was after midnight." I thought it was hilarious.

In the wee hours before it got light outside, I folded all the laundry since I knew the table would be in use after that.

The girls got up early, put away the clothes, and spread out the tablecloth...

...then -- at last! -- they could put out the feast.

We had some brief -- I emphasize brief -- snow flurries during the day, so technically it could be classified as a white Christmas. In reality, though, it was more like a brown Christmas.

Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, is our day of celebration. Guests started arriving in the afternoon, but we had to pause and feed the beasties first. Don adopted festive garb. We always feed the animals extra well on Christmas Eve because legend has it livestock are granted the gift of speech on Christmas, and if you don't treat them well they'll spread the news.

The sun went down in a blaze of glory.

Ironically the livestock are eating from what could technically be called a manger.

We had two couples join us for opening gifts. Both couples have children grown and living far away, so they enjoy being with our kids.

Don always starts out by reading from Luke 2, from the Bible that used to belong to his father (now deceased).

After that, he distributes presents one by one.

No rushing this part!

There were presents for everyone.

It's so much fun having friends join us!

The party ended early enough that we could get to the candlelit service at our church. We're still gathering in the basement since the sanctuary is still unusable after the church fire.

And that was our celebration. Christmas Day is usually very quiet, and was even quieter this year since poor Older Daughter came down with the stomach flu, bad enough that she had to skip church and could enjoy none of the junk food feast. (We saved some goodies for her.) Ah well, overall we're blessed beyond compare with good health and with each other.


  1. Merry Christmas! I must say, your tradition of a 3-day junk food feast is actually rather awesome :-) (it's not quite the same, but when I was a kid, we were only allowed Nutella on Sundays, which made it rather special - and when I got my own apartment and was allowed to eat Nutella every day if I wanted to, it lost its "specialness")
    Thanks for the interesting blog - most of which cannot be "translated" into my everyday life in Denmark, but is inspiring nonetheless!!

  2. My mother-in-law always had only appetizers (nice ones she made) for Christmas Eve. In the same spirit as yours (save on Mom cooking) we now have appetizers Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve - only I go to BJ's and buy whatever appetizers have coupons and the kids are in charge of heating them all in the oven. Junk food twice a year is enough for us too!

  3. We live fairly close to you and also had a "brown" Christmas. The kids only noticed in a cursory manner since presents sort of eclipsed the fact that we had no snow. But I'm not sure about the next several weeks....we love the snow and will miss it dearly if we don't have any this winter.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours…
    And may Jesus fortify you in the coming days.


  4. When I first scrolled through the first couple of pics it almost looked like, along with the chips and cookies, you were offering chocolate syrup, sweetened condensed milk, raw eggs, whipping cream, instant coffee, and vodka for your family to pig out on. Then I realized those were for the Irish cream. LOL Could have been an interesting holiday at the Lewis household! :-)

    This Christmas as I was cooking for the multitude of dietary restrictions we have I so wished I could copy your brilliant idea. If I put out those kinds of goodies they'd either cost a pretty penny at a health food store (and probably not taste good enough to enjoy) or leave us all feeling quite ill. So I looked eagerly forward to seeing your junk food spread if only to live vicariously through you. Thanks for the pics.

  5. Patrice,
    Growing up in my parents household we honestly didn't know what junk food was!
    It wasn't until I left home, that I tasted my first
    CheeWees and a Barq's rootbeer.

    I think it's grand that the family has a once a year snack attack!

    Have a Blessed New Year, Lewis Family!

  6. What a wonderful Christmas!

    So sorry for Older Daughter. A couple of Christmases ago, our daughter opened gifts Christmas morning, started playing a game, and over the course of the game came down with the flu. Never finished the game, in fact. Poor thing spent the rest of Christmas miserable in bed. :(

    Are those olive oil and cracked pepper Triscuits on your table? I am such a sucker for those!

  7. NICE, and your pie crusts are beautiful, mine are always lopsided but still edible. Thank you for sharing with us, I know we all enjoy it.

  8. Patrice ya need a new lens for your camera. I think that black spot is growing!!

  9. The Irish Cream recipe says you are to cap and put in a dark place for a week for it to cure. I'm assuming that means IT DOES NOT HAVE TO GO IN THE FRIDGE TO CURE. Is that correct?

    I just returned from celebrating Christmas with aging family 600 miles away. Wish I'd been able to retrieve this recipe a week ago; my New Year's Eve would be very different! :-)

    Happy New Years, Patrice!

  10. BonnBlu, that is correct: Irish cream does NOT have to be refregerated while it's curing. Nor does it have to be stored in the fridge after it's opened, though it will last longer if it is (three months as opposed to one month).

    - Patrice