White Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! Our holiday was wonderful, we are so blessed. The only thing we have to worry about now is where to keep all of the toys and play apparatus that Elena received as gifts, and possibly what to remove from her play area in order to make space. I don’t think I would be able to give a full list of her presents, but here are some that we played with or used today:

  • An art table from her grandparents: the table and benches are covered in chalkboard paint, and there’s a roll of butcher paper for crayons (and eventually painting). She usually wants me to color with her–Jenny says I can say no, but it’s so hard.
  • New clothes, including some Hello Kitty items and warm fleece hoodies: after opening them, she wanted to cuddle them like blankets; maybe wearing them helped her be extra comfortable on our drive home today.
  • The Toy Story movies: Elena received the first two as presents, but the third one was her present to me. We watched the first one yesterday, the second one today, and now Jenny’s prepared for the finale. Elena’s attention and devotion to the movies is impressive: it’s even helping her understand conditional statements, e.g. “if you want the movie to keep going, then you have to take a bite of this tuna casserole.”
  • A tambourine and maracas: we had a rousing music and dance session this evening with the help of her new musical instruments. She loves the maracas–Jenny says they’re her favorite at the Music Makers group, and she always wants more than just two. I did my best to show her how fun a tambourine could do, because it jingles and it’s a drum.
  • A play tent and tunnel: this one failed to meet expectiations, because it broke even as I was setting it up. The sleeves joining the poles are so weak that several of them cracked under the minimal strain of holding up the tent. Elena liked it so much that I want to fix it, but I also plan to complain to the manufacturer. At least the tunnel seems ready for playtime.
  • Books, including Goodnight Moon: Elena already loves them, although she thinks each new book increases our bedtime reading quota.
  • Trains: our little girl has a growing love for trains, and turning on the train around the Christmas tree was a highlight of every day for her. I was happy that I picked up some little wooden train cars as a last minute stocking stuffer.

Aside from presents and fun time with family, our trip featured experimentation with new recipes. Thanks to the recipe calendar Leisa and Sam gave as a present last year, we made German (or Popeye) pancakes for Christmas breakfast. They were very well received, and unlike the other culinary experiments, were ready on time.

For Christmas Eve dinner, everyone pitched in to make Chinese dinner. The main courses, Kung Pao Chicken and Mongolian Beef, are two of my favorites and were as good as any I’ve had. Our contribution was egg rolls. Not only did the rolls take longer than expected to make, but our technique needs improvement–although they looked nice before going in the fryer, somehow I kept poking holes in them leading to vegetables spilling into the hot oil. They were still tasty, mainly because they were deep fried.

For our big Christmas dinner, Kevin braved the snowstorm to grill Cornish game hens. Because of the cold temperatures, they took longer than expected to cook. They were delicious, and a clever variation on the standard turkey or ham holiday fare.

There’s much to write about. I’ll have to add a second post for the overflow. One final note–with the major snowstorm on the east coast this weekend, you might expect this post to have some description of our travel travails. However, in the spirit of The Amazing Race, which improved considerably when the producers decided to show more of challenges and scenery, and less of teams bickering inside of indistinguishable airports, I’m only going to say a little bit about our travel. We missed the snow so the driving were mostly uneventful: more traffic than desirable, but not as bad as it could have been. Elena was pretty good on the way down, and perfect on the way back. She’s happy to be sleeping in her own bed tonight, as are we.


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