Christmas 2014

This year was the first year I hosted all of Christmas (meaning both our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations), and it was fun!  We had my parents with us, which was very special, and we also hosted James and Laura Williams and Laura’s friend, Ella.

Traditionally, my side of the family have our main gift-giving on Christmas Eve, along with a finger food dinner. We start our celebration with Bible reading and carol singing and then proceed to open the presents. There’s the job of official ‘present hander-outer’, which this year was shared by Marica and Esther. We try to take the time to watch people open their gifts, to appreciate it with them, and for the recipient to thank the giver. We don’t want a mob swarming the gift pile! :-)

On Christmas Day, we started off with some coffee and monkey bread. We were keen to attend a church service, but the church we normally attend in Manhattan didn’t have a Christmas Day service, so we thought about it and decided to try out the local Catholic church, which was a new experience for most of us. There church is a block from our house and is very large and beautiful. The singing was pretty good and the hymns all familiar; the message was sound, but we all thought that he was onto something really good and when he finished what we thought was the intro, we were just settling into our seats waiting for him to dig deeper into what he had started. Unfortunately the intro was all of it!

After church, we came home and got ready for our Christmas Dinner. Rather delicious, even if I say so myself. :-)

Another Christmas over, another big year at an end.

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Joyous December

December is probably my favourite month of the year. I love the anticipation of Christmas, celebrating Advent, and all that it means: the King of the Universe becoming man to reconcile and restore us to Himself. Mind-blowing, yet so easy a story to become used to and complacent about.

December included many of the usual traditions like

decorating… This was the first year we had a real tree! The kids and I went and picked it out in the pouring rain, but it was worth it.

(A reminder about photos: if you want to view them larger, click on one of them below, and you’ll get a slideshow with bigger photos!)

a Christmas service at church which the the whole family had part in, except Laurelin! I played violin, Ben sang in the choir, and the kids were part of a presentation,

and baking… (though I cheated, and bought kits for the gingerbread houses). Here (and in the painting photos above) we are with our little mini co-op group (our family and my friend Damaris’ kids who get together once a week for piano lessons, Spanish, Social Studies and Art). For the houses we were helped by our Christmas guests, James and Laura and Laura’s friend Ella.

For Advent, I worked through an Advent devotional that I found to be a big blessing, called The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. I highly recommend it. I think I’ll be reading it every Advent from now on!

This year we had the added blessing of having my parents here for a visit over part of December and January. We spent most of the time with them relaxing at home, or doing activities that were close-by, but we did manage to fit in a 3-night stint up to the Adirondacks. It’s the same place we stayed when they visited us in 2011. This time there was snow everywhere and it was cold. Thankfully our cottage was nice and cozy!

We spent most of our time reading, playing games and eating yummy food inside; and sledding and playing in the snow outside. It was a really great relaxing few days right before the busyness of Christmas week.

I could carry on and tell you about Christmas, but I think that would make this post way too long, so I’ll save that for next week!

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Homemade nutella

I’ve always wanted to try making a version of Nutella at home, so recently I tried it. There are oodles of recipes online, and the one I tried is from here. It calls for coconut sugar, which I think is a bit of a fad food (not to mention its sustainability is questionable), so I used regular sugar and maple syrup. It is rather delicious, but quite different from regular Nutella. Ben reckons he likes it better because it has a slightly coarser texture. I’m sure you could mix it for ages and get it super smooth, but I tend to have a bad habit of trying to make things like this right at the same time as dinner, so I take short cuts.

Here’s how to do it if you want to try it yourself.

Roast 1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts in a 300F oven for 20 minutes or so. Pour them into a tea towel and rub off as much of the skins as you can, then place them in a food processor.

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Process the hazelnuts until you’ve made a hazelnut butter. Throw in a pinch of salt, 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 Tablespoons maple syrup and 6 or so Tablespoons of water.

The first time I made this, I thought I could just cut out the sugar and water and use maple syrup instead. It did not work! It really needs the water for it to become glossy.

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Whizz it all together until you have the glossiness and texture you want — play around with mixing it more or adding more water, cocoa or sugar to get the consistency and taste you want.

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And there you go. A really tasty yummy chocolate spread that took hardly any time to make.

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(And yes, a teaspoon might be making its way into that jar more often than a knife…)

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The Entrepreneurial Fair

The Co-op that we attend had an Entrepreneurial Fair early in December, and as much as I would have liked to just be a spectator, my kids were burning to sell stuff (surprise, surprise). So, we made Christmas ornaments, some chocolates and gingerbread men. The girls made a pretty good effort at helping, and at selling on the day too. I was so proud of them!

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The girls made $36 and sold all their cookies — good work, Marica and Esther!

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Autumn baby

For our November Frog Pond class, I went a little click-happy with Laurelin while the older girls were busy. She was in a particularly good mood and I was able to get quite a few happy shots of her outside, enjoying the leaves and dirt. I sure have my hands full with her — full of a good thing!

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Merry Christmas from the Hoyts

May your Christmas be blessed with much peace and joy.

Kind of like this:

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Just maybe a bit more peaceful. :-)

 

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Thanksgiving

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving on the day after Thanksgiving, which actually gave us a good opportunity to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York City. Our friend Peter lives right by where the parade went past (and right next to the Empire State Building!), so we got to see some of the parade from his building’s roof and out his window. (Thanks so much, Peter!) It’s was very cold with snow flurries on and off, so we were thankful not to have to stand out in the cold the whole time. Not to mention that we were glad to not be in the middle of the crowds!

On Thursday afternoon Jeremy, Lillian and Shanna arrived. I did a bunch of cooking, Lillian made a pie, and there was just a good amount of relaxing and hanging out, with some nice food and conversations thrown in for good measure.

On Friday there was some more cooking happening (which, in case anyone was wondering, I really enjoyed doing). We had bacon-wrapped turkey breast, corn casserole, fried potatoes, roasted butternut squash salad, sweet potatoes with maple syrup sauce, cranberry sauce, cranberry chutney that Lillian made, green beans, stuffing and gravy. Dessert was Lillian’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie and my pumpkin pie, served with lots of whipped cream.

What a lovely couple of days, and so much to give thanks for!

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