Our First Christmas Together

This year Eric and I celebrated our first Christmas together, and it was the sweetest and most wonderful day. We talked a lot about our family traditions, and we added some new ones for ourselves. It was beautiful to see our families melding, and our new family being born. In my family, Christmas traditions begin on Christmas Eve, but we had a serendipitous experience on the 23rd that I hope will become a new tradition. Eric usually goes to lunch with his group on Friday at the Athenaeum, a gorgeous and delicious club built when Einstein came to Caltech, so he’d have a nice place to eat lunch and be his brilliant self in style. I’d been out doing last-minute grocery shopping all morning, and I was surprised when Eric called around noon to say that his group had already dispersed for the holidays, and asked me if I’d like to join him for lunch instead. My answer was something along the lines of “YES!!” (It was sort of miraculous already that I hadn’t eaten lunch, since I usually get hungry by 11 or so). The Ath is beautifully decked out for Christmas, and I was so glad I got to see it, since it was their last day open before vacation. They were handing out free eggnog in the lobby, which made it feel all the more festive! I hope this is something we’ll be able to do every year, at least as long as we are here in Pasadena.

The real Christmas festivities began on Christmas Eve, though. My family always goes out to breakfast on Christmas Eve, a tradition that began when my parents were on their honeymoon. I love this one and convinced Eric of its great merits, and he was happy to go to Europane with me for breakfast this year. I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but that scone is as big as my head, and even though I didn’t quite eat the whole thing, I was not anywhere near hungry until dinner time. Classic!

When we got back home, I spent much of the rest of the day in the kitchen, which was just fine by me. I think our oven was on all afternoon, getting quite the workout! Above is the aftermath, in part. I didn’t have a dishwasher for so many years (um…11 years) that I’ve gotten into the habit of not washing dishes right away. Even though we do have a dishwasher now, my brain has not quite made that critical jump, and I often leave my tea things on the counter, forlorn and cold until Eric gets home, and I realize I could have just put them in the dishwasher. On Christmas Eve, though, I washed everything right away because I needed to use it again immediately. I told Eric it was a Christmas miracle!

I baked a loaf of bread for our Christmas dinner (never mind that we had so much food that we haven’t even cut into it yet!), but I was also working on my contribution to another family tradition: Christmas morning breakfast. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had a special breakfast around the tree: pigs in blankets and cinnamon rolls, and plenty of coffee and orange juice, which we imbibe in between opening presents. I gave this tradition my own little twist by baking pumpkin currant walnut scones (the Great Scone Explosion of 2011 continues!) They made for the perfect festive breakfast, lightly sweet and spicy, and I will share the recipe soon:)

I was also making the dough for our annual Christmas cookies. This year we went with a slightly different recipe than our usual gingerbread–these cookies have a touch of ground walnuts, and it makes all the difference. The first year that Eric and I made gingerbread cookies, we didn’t have any cookie cutters, so we tried cutting out shapes with knives, which turned out just about as hilariously as you might imagine. The next year we fared better, and now our cookie cutters feel like old friends. There are our favorite gingerbread cookies ever, so I will also share that recipe soon.

Eric did a bit of wrapping while I was baking, and our tree was bedecked with beautiful presents! I am so happy with how our tree looked, mostly in that it didn’t look too bare of ornaments!

Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care…or at least by the gas fireplace with care;) We took a few family portraits with my husband’s spiffy new camera gear before heading off to Christmas Eve service. When we got home, it was time for dreaming of sugar plums and sleeping until almost 10am, a luxury we may not have in the years to come!

After breakfast we opened our presents, which was, of course, a ton of fun! Eric gave me lots of sweet and thoughtful gifts, and one of them was this adorable card, a gift certificate to buy some new apps for my phone:)

One of Eric’s presents was this little road bike ornament, which he put right right on the tree:)

Eric had wrapped the gifts so beautifully (it is a running joke in my family that scientists make the best wrappers, and I would say that there is definitely both correlation and causality) that I almost didn’t want to open them. He made these innovative little ribbon pigtails that I thought were too cute for words.

I liked this one too, given my penchant for red.:)

After we opened presents, we were able to talk to both of our families, which was a wonderful treat. Thank goodness for Skype and cell phones to make the distance seem lesser! Then it was time to cook our feast! I contributed the veggies, including these little marble potatoes, which we brought back from Berkeley (yes, I like them that much!) They are amazingly good just roasted in oil and salt and pepper, and I have been known to eat them for dessert. Yum!

We also caramelized some parsnips, a perennial favorite of mine, in balsamic vinegar.

Eric made the crowning center of our dinner, a delicious beef roast with rosemary. It was ridiculously tasty, and I am so grateful for a husband who does not mind dealing with bloody meat instead of his recovering vegetarian wife:) All in all, it was a perfect and beautiful day, one I know we’ll always look back on with joy, our very first Christmas together. I hope you all had a truly wondrous holiday as well!

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