Thursday, December 26, 2013

Making Christmas

Gideon excited to eat his Christmas breakfast
This was a special Christmas.  I had dreams to go to Scotland and find a cabin near a loche with a fire.  Lance wanted to stay in London.  We compromised and got a chiminea and put it on our roof terrace a few weeks ago.  It has already provided many memories in building it for our date night one night and having friends and loved ones over for s'mores and being soothed by the flames and heat.

While I was looking forward to enjoying the fire, I did not anticipate that this would be one of my favorite Christmases. 

It was the first Christmas spent in our own home as a family, and it meant I got to do everything--the decorating, the gift-buying and stocking-filling, the cooking, and creating whatever magic I could muster.  (All of this has made me grateful for all of the effort my parents made to create Christmas every year - so much effort for them, but so many wonderful memories.)

Something I did worked, because it was a truly lovely Christmas.  It didn't hurt to have an adorable babe to try to thrill and a husband who is satisfied with what he has and easily pleased by what he doesn't.

Here's a run down of our Christmas:

Christmas Eve - We had our first Christmas lunch at a local pub, The Princess of Wales.  Delicious. 

We (Gideon and I - Lance had to work, bless his boss' heart) tried and failed to get into St. Paul's for their Lessons and Carols.  I returned a bit exhausted and dejected only to have our movie-star neighbor downstairs tell me to always let her know what I want to go to, and she'll get me tickets.  Next year.

Before Baby G went to bed, we followed my own family tradition read the Nativity by candle light (I opted for real "fairy" lights as they call them here rather than buying a whole bunch of lights) and placed our stockings in age order around the "Christmas tree," or rosemary bush (no Trader Joe's here, but after fruitlessly searching for over a month to discover that no one in Europe does them - even checked with "Holland" at Covent Garden Markets in Vauxhall - a friend clued me into this site.  The "tree" came complete with organic decorations and care instructions, with no shipping fees!  Definitely using them next year.).   You'll notice upon close inspection that Lance married an older woman...

We started a new tradition this year--making our own wrapping paper.  Thanks to our amazing nanny's creativity, baby boy became adept at making reindeer and Christmas trees out of feet and hand prints.

We then each opened one gift, including these No Sugar Added (a brand) PJs for G.

In case it is too small to read, the PJs read "Enjoy Milk" in a mock-up of Coca-cola's Trademark.
After putting G to bed, we then tucked into the Toler family tradition of Christmas Eve clam chowder.  Usually, this is accompanied by cheese balls, crackers, and gingerale.  However, Lance would have a tough time eating any of that, so I substituted these foodstuffs with corn chips, gluten and sugar free (but still delicious) molasses bread and chilled mint tea. 

Christmas morning I prepared another Lance-friendly alternative to his family's sausage egg casserole with a truffle oil, kale, leek, and goat cheese crustless quiche along with the traditional oranges, smoked salmon, and more molasses bread. (pictured above)

We then waited for baby boy to wake up from his morning nap before beginning present-opening.  All the preparations were a success, as Lance seemed to like his gifts of Minerva Teichert's The Lost Sheep, a bonsai tree, Barbasol shaving cream from the States (simple pleasures),  woolen socks, and the gifts I helped my sister-in-law and his parents to arrange: adopting a snow leopard, and a safari overnight stay at the Whipsnade Zoo in North London.

Lance wants to call it "Daniel's son," as Lance's father's bonsai was named "Mr. Miyagi"

Minerva Tiechert's "Lost Sheep" to match our "Christ in Red Robe" I got Lance as his wedding present five years ago
Gideon loved the wrapping paper and the one toy we purchased for him, a wooden double-decker red London bus complete with multi-cultural passengers, a bus driver, and levels that can be moved around.  He also loved his stocking stuffer - wooden door stops, as he will crawl across the room to take our doorstops out and give them a good, hygienic chew.

Baby boy's door stops...

I am really proud of myself for this purchase.  These toys retail for 50 pounds, or about $80.  After much sleuthing, I found two second-hand buses online on eBay.  I lost the auction on the first (who wants to play 40 pounds plus shipping?), but won on the second (18 pounds, including shipping!).  I think the bits of wear give it character.  I also don't mind if this toy is left out, as I think it beautiful. He'll also grow with this toy and its puzzle-like characteristics, and, because it is wooden, it'll last and last for him, other children, and maybe even grandchildren.  Definitely something I want in my life for the duration.   
I *loved* my gifts--a cashmere scarf in my signature color I've drooled over since the week Gideon was born (mom, do you remember seeing it on that lovely girl over cream tea?) and a Daniel Wellington watch with a removable band so I can wear it with my watch ribbons and several scarfs.  I am not really a watch band person nor a brand person, so Lance went out of his way to find something with a removable band that wasn't an obnoxious brand but still classic and very good quality.

But not loving the frumpy 'fro - time for a haircut!
After present-opening, we all had some quiet time while G napped again and then, upon waking, went for our annual Christmas walk, this time in Primrose Hill. 

But the fun didn't stop there.  I purposefully allowed myself some down-time because that evening we had five guests from our congregation joining us for Christmas dinner--people who had no where to go.  These guests included two older English ladies, and three younger singles, a mid-single from India who deals in luxury goods and real estate, a recently returned missionary from Mexico, and a exchange student from Japan. 

I did a bit of research on traditional Christmas foodstuffs, never having made Christmas dinner myself, and I landed on lamb and salmon as slightly alternative yet still within mainstream Christmas dinner foods.  I broiled the whole salmon per usual from frozen with good-quality olive oil I had picked up at Borough Market two days prior and followed the recipe to the letter for a roasted garlic-coriander stuffed lamb with traditional vegetables.  To these, I added new potato English chips, roasted Asparagus, and a beetroot, goat cheese, walnut and mint salad.  I planned to serve baked pears with cinnamon and goat cheese for dessert, but people were a little full by then.  It seemed we served just the right amount of food and got more than one compliment, especially from the English ladies, whom I was most hoping to please as they would have been most familiar with what Christmas dinner was *suppose* to be. 

Once the ladies left, needing to get more fragile frames to bed, us younger folk headed upstairs to build our Christmas campfire, roast actual chest nuts on an open fire, and make s'mores.  Then we came down for fierce rounds of cards. 

I can't decide which part of the festivities I enjoyed best, but it left me smiling and grateful for Lance's desire to stay at home and on my insisting on a fire.  Made Christmas rather merry and bright this year.


  1. What a great Christmas! Baby G looks adorable in his jammies and I am seriously jealous of that bus. I'll have to see if someone will ship stateside!

  2. Well I am commenting on your blog for the first time and the first thing I want to say is that you have a wonderful family.
    I wish you all A Merry Christmas
    It seems like you all had fun!!
    Will definitely visit again to read more.