Through the Kitchen Window

Christmas is such a huge part of what we do as a family, the kids and myself always seem to put extra effort into making each year just a bit more memorable than the year before.

This year, my daughter is back in school full time, her business going into part time mode and her partner becoming basically the sole wage earner. My engineer son is finished with his sixteen month internship and is also back in school full time and his girlfriend is undergoing air steward training for a vacation destination airline. And my youngest is in school full time as well, holding down two part time jobs. Money and budget are tantamount in all their minds this year.

So, we convened a Family Christmas Meeting and thought about some ways to make Christmas a bit less harsh on the budget, without taking away any of the fun stuff.

Since we love Christmas and finding / buying gifts for each other, it’s something we tend to do all year long, seeing things that are perfect for someone and buying and setting them aside. When the day comes, it’s not uncommon for each of us to have several gifts under the tree from each family member, and to find that each of us has spent sometimes hundreds of dollars over time. There are four of them, two significant others, myself and my partner. So potentially seven gifts and they didn’t like the idea of picking names and therefore only having to buy a gift for one person, so that meant we needed to get creative. What we decided to do then, was to limit the dollar value of gifts to under $50. If something was found that was ABSOLUTELY perfect for someone but over $50, then you need to convince a sibling to throw their allotted $50 in with yours.

Since they felt that this new “tradition” would result in a smaller mound of gifts under the tree, they decided to add a few quirks to the mix. These we did draw names for. And the drawings were secret so that no one knows who the other person drew. The only stipulation that we put on it was that if you drew your partner’s name, you couldn’t keep it, you had to redraw. The drawings for each gift went very well actually.

Here’s what we’re doing:

  • Recycled Gift: Each of us has to find an item that we already own that would be appreciated by the person whose name we’ve drawn.
  • Homemade Gift: Just what it sounds like, we each have to make something ourselves for the person whose name we’ve drawn. We added a stipulation to this one and that was that if you already had a talent, for instance: my daughter sews beautifully and runs an online business selling her wares, then that was one thing you couldn’t do for your homemade gift, so Marina can’t sew something. This should be fun!!!
  • Thrift Shop Gift: For this one, we need to scour the thrift shops and come up with an absolutely perfect, impractical, funny, useful, useless gift for our drawee. I think this one will be the most fun because it allows us to be tongue in cheek. I’m really looking forward to this.

Over the years, I’ve talked ad infinitum about our many family Christmas traditions. One of the most “different” traditions that we have is our Christmas Eve table gift. Originally conceived of to keep anxious youngsters happy on the big night so that they could wait for their gifts the next morning, it’s morphed a bit now that the kids are all grown up and become its own occasion that we all look forward to. What we do is have a centerpiece which is made up of individually wrapped gifts, one for each person present for the meal, all piled on top of each other willy-nilly. There are no gift tags though; part of the centerpiece's decoration is a bunch of curling ribbon that literally cascades over the whole thing. One end of each ribbon is firmly attached to one of the gifts, and the other end is woven and wound around the rest of the table settings and ends up at the place of the person to whom it belongs. The idea is that once everyone is seated each member of the family follows his or her ribbon to their gift. It's always fun. The gifts themselves are small -- usually under fifteen dollars -- but chosen with care to reflect the person for whom they were bought. But, now that they’re older and know that Santa can put things under the tree any time, they still whine and beg and plead and clamor to be allowed to open “just one” gift after dinner. So that’s where Steal-a-Gift comes in. And no, we aren’t encouraging each other to go out there and break the law. ;) Actually, for this one, we each purchase a unisex gift within a price range, wrap it, and bring it to the celebrations. They will all be piled someplace central where their fancy wrappings will taunt everyone all through dinner. After dinner, the fun will start. We’ll draw numbers from a hat, and then in number order we’ll all be allowed to choose a gift from the pile. With a twist. After the first gift has been chosen and unwrapped, the next person will have TWO choices. To choose a wrapped gift, or, if the unwrapped gift has taken their fancy, “steal” that from the first person. When everyone has had a chance to choose once, anyone who’s had a gift stolen from them will have a second chance to choose. We’ll continue in this way until all the gifts have been chosen and each of us has a gift.

How have you put your own special brand on your family’s Christmas? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!!!

This past week, my partner and I have had a wonderful pre-Christmas gift arrive. Larry’s daughter, Karen, and her partner, Ryan, introduced to the world their son, Skylar Liam Austin. Born on the 9th of November and weighing in at 7lbs 9oz. The spitting image of his dad, with some of the best parts of his mom as well. An absolutely adorable baby!!! Congrats to the two of them on a job well done and welcome to the world, Sky!!!

So now Larry is Grampa and I’m Nonna. And a little boy is soon to be so very spoiled!!! It’s a nice feeling. We’ve already been honorary grandparents for almost a year and a half to a little girl named Madeline and while this won’t diminish our feelings for her in any way, it’s a different kind of feeling now.

And, in the words of my number two son: “now we can all relax and the pressure is off!”. *laughing* I wasn’t aware I was pressuring anyone, but who knows. There is a biological clock for women and childbirth; I wonder if there’s the equivalent for women and grand-childbirth???

I’m going to recycle an old, tried and true recipe here. It’s been in the annals of Seasoned several times over the years, and a search of the archive will likely serve up at least a couple of hits. But it’s a great addition to this time of year, so it bears reposting right here. Try it. I’ve made many a convert who baldly stated: I don’t do eggnog! There are people who line up weeks ahead of time in readiness for my first (and subsequent) batches of the season. And, in a pretty decanter, it makes a great last minute hostess gift.

Roxie's Eggnog

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream (35%)
  • ½ - 1 cup light or dark rum (don't use white, the flavour is too sharp!)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups milk

Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. I always like to tip the bowl they're in upside down. If you don't get a mess on the counter, they're ready! Set aside.

Beat egg yolks till light and gradually add sugar. Continue beating until all the sugar has been added and yolks are fluffy and light coloured. Stir in rum and vanilla. Set aside. You could set it aside without the addition of rum, and just add rum to individual servings, this was everyone can enjoy it the way they prefer it.

Whip cream till stiff.

In a large punch bowl or other container combine all three mixtures and stir till well amalgamated. Stir in milk. Refrigerate.

To serve, remove from refrigerator and stir again to recombine (because of the beaten egg whites and the whipped cream, the mixture will separate when left for any length of time). Pour into cups and sprinkle generously with grated nutmeg.

  • Yield Approximately 2.5 - 3 litres

I’d make a double batch of this when you do make it. It’s amazing how quickly it will disappear!!!

To all of you, from all of us (including baby Skylar), our very best hopes for a wonderful Christmas season and all the best that the new year has to offer!!!