Our Christmas

This year our Christmas celebration was spread out over two days.  Christmas Eve we celebrated with Walter, Felicity, and the kids at their house.  Presents were loaded and ready to go!

So much fun watching the kids open their presents!  Each time, Theo exclaimed, “It’s a box!”

And this one!  Ahhh…melts my heart!

In the evening, we met up again at church for candlelight service.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Then it was home for our Christmas Eve tradition of the kids opening their “Christmas Eve presents”, which are always new pajamas and a book.  Our tree, just before we headed to bed that night.

I took almost no photos Christmas morning.  Happy dogs with new toys though!

Colette, with some of her gifts (including the much-longed for llama sweater) and some of her stocking stuffers.

A chilly (19 degree) walk with Technohubby and Bailey just before fixing dinner.  It was cold, but I love getting some fresh air and exercise on a day filled with lounging and food.

Christmas dinner: brown-sugar coated ham, green beans with onions (both from our summer garden), Colette’s whole-grain sourdough bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, and salad with raspberries.

We hope all of you had a lovely Christmas too!

The Gift Kitchen

Our kitchen was a bustling place this week!  I absolutely love giving gifts of food!  I love the process of planning what I’m going to make.  I love the actual making of it.  And I really love the packaging and making everything look nicely presentable.  This year, we gave gifts of four different types of jams: Blueberry Spoon Fruit, Apple Thyme Butter, Pomegranate Raspberry Thyme Jam, and Winter Spice Jelly.  (Just click on any of those names to go to the recipes.  I used an online converter to convert metric measurements to English.  And I eliminated the star anise from the Winter Spice Jelly recipe.)  This year, I really wanted to give people a little taste of New Hampshire, so to the greatest extent possible, I used ingredients found locally…blueberries I picked myself, raspberries Max and I picked, apples from a local farm, maple syrup from our town’s award-winning syrup producer, and thyme we grew ourselves.  I also did a lot of experimenting with making jams without pectin this year, in order to achieve a fresher and more flavorful jam, and I was really pleased with most of the results.
The kitchen island was completely taken over by the packaging process.  Each jar was covered with a scrap of linen, tied round with twine, and a homemade tag was attached.

I love how the Winter Spice Jelly sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine.

Small Town Christmas Shopping

I absolutely love doing a little shopping at Christmastime in the small New England towns!  It truly is a Norman Rockwell experience!  Some of my favorite town centers to explore are: Portsmouth, Peterborough, or Hanover in New Hampshire, and Concord and Newburyport in Massachusetts.  With most of our Christmas preparations complete, we have a little time for fun and frolicking!  So, today, Colette and I headed off to Newburyport, while the guys went off on their own to complete their Christmas shopping.
The town center of Newburyport is graced by several old, steepled churches, this being the largest of the three.

The surrounding shops are in old brick buildings, with all the storefronts decorated for Christmas.  The brick sidewalks were heaped with snow, which was rapidly melting in the balmy (40-50 degree) weather.

Naturally, we explored every bakery!  This one smelled soooo good inside!

I thought this table setting, displayed in the Stonewall Kitchen store, was so beautiful…in a unconventional Christmas way.  I love the mix of taupes, browns, and steely blues to create a tranquil lodge-like table setting.

My favorite shop that we visited was this one!

It was stocked with: Hunter boots, teas, umbrellas, Aero bars (yum!), wool blankets of amazing quality, and Emma Bridgewater pottery.  One of our favorites of the Emma Bridgewater pieces was this fox mug in the front window display.

Mostly, we did window shopping.  But I did come home with an assortment of three chocolate sauces from Stonewall Kitchen, and plans for them on New Year’s Day.  Yum!

Christmas Party

Today was our annual Christmas party!  Normally, this is an evening event, but due to the approaching snow storm, we shifted the time of our party to the afternoon, so that all our guests could get home safely.
-Party Menu-
Meatballs in Pineapple-Pomegranate Habanero Sauce
Individual Veggies & Dip

Assorted Crackers and Breadsticks (Those are Colette’s hands arranging them and sporting her new plaid bow bracelet.)

Assorted Cheeses:
 Toscano with Black Pepper
Cranberry Wendsleydale
Warm Herb Brie Dip (for the breadsticks)
Cave-Aged Cheddar
Cranberry-Chipotle Cheddar

Assorted Cookies:
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars
Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Chocolate-Mint Parfait Bars
Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies
Coconut-Cherry Snowballs
Raspberry Bars
Gingerbread Men and Gingerbread Moose

Christmas Candy
Colette’s gingerbread house creation this year was a gingerbread church!

Melissa seemed to enjoy all the tasty edibles.

Note the stealth golden retriever.  Let’s just say that this did NOT end well.  Golden retriever = 1.  Theo = 0.  Gulp.  Gone.

And yet more adorable grandkid photos!

Decking the Halls

We’ve been slowly decking the halls since the day after Thanksgiving, and I think we are finally done.  The tree is up and decorated!  Greenery is everywhere!  Fresh greens are plentiful, easy to obtain, and inexpensive here in New England, so we love decorating with them.
Variegated holly doesn’t seem to grow here, so I was thrilled to find bunches of it for sale!  Sprigs of it were tucked here and there.

The stair banister has swags of fresh greenery.  I like to change things up with the Christmas decorating every couple of years, so this year we went with a tartan ribbon.  Colette thought the red, black, and chestnut-colored plaid ribbon paired well with some deep wine-colored ribbon, and so mixed them here and there.  I love the unexpected layering of color!

Today, I bundled up little sprays of greenery from some tree trimmings and some sprays of cedar from the stair garland, attached some metal stars (available at Target), and wired it all to the middle of the windows in the formal dining room and the family room.

The family room mantle has a classic colonial look with greens, pewter, primitive angels, a string of “cranberries”, and clove-studded oranges.

I don’t decorate much in our bedroom, but I do love this spray of greenery on our bedpost.

One of the aspects of Christmas decorating that I love the most, is taking simple and/or inexpensive items, mixing them with things I already own, and giving it a whole new look for the holidays!  We’re having our annual Christmas party this week, so I polished up this silver tray (a wedding gift 25 years ago), paired it with a mix of mercury glass votive candle holders (finds from Target), and added a couple small sprays of cedar.  I can’t wait to light these for the party!

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