One thing I love about Christmas Eve with my family is that the structure of the day really hasn’t changed much over the years. I love that we have so many little traditions that we’ve been able to keep. The day got started with another big breakfast at home (we’re big breakfast people) and then the guys went off for their second round of golf of the week. My brother first started playing golf while in high school, so ever since then it’s become a tradition that the guys go off and play a round in the morning and come home later in the afternoon; I’m not sure how they got away with originally suggesting this as a tradition but it has the benefit of keeping them out of our way in the kitchen!
I had brought two dessert recipes with me that I wanted us to try out for Christmas Eve – a chocolate chunk cheesecake and a banana foster cake. One of my biggest problems in the kitchen is that I don’t read a recipe from start to finish; I usually just read about halfway or three-quarters of the way through and assume I can do the rest… so while we were finishing breakfast I finished reading the cheesecake recipe and saw that one of the last steps was to let the cheesecake sit for eight hours… which meant we had to start baking now. Oops. Luckily the first half of the recipe was relatively easy, so we had the cheesecake in the oven pretty quickly. While it baked, my mom and I went and took the dogs for a good, long walk so they would have a little less energy while we would be busy in the kitchen. We got back just in time to take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it chill for the necessary amount of time.
Next up was the banana foster cake. The recipe for this one was relatively simple and we had the three layers ready to go in no time. What turned out to be a roadblock for us was the icing… After using up all of the icing we made, we weren’t satisfied with how the three layers were hidden, so we decided to make another half of a batch. That extra bit of icing made a big difference, but I’m pretty sure my mom and I could both use a lesson in cake decorating! We chose to garnish the cake with a bit of powdered cinnamon and cinnamon sticks. We then put it up on display high out of reach from Wrigley to make sure it wouldn’t be ruined or eaten before the meal.
The desserts took up a bit more time than we had anticipated and we were surprised it was already 2:00 in the afternoon and we still had to shower and get ready as well as cook our actual dinner meal. Luckily all of the items my mom had planned for dinner were pretty quick, so we got everything ready in pans on the stove top and as soon as the guys got home from golfing, we got everything cooked within an hour.
Dinner was delicious. Along with our ham, we had some homemade mashed potatoes with homemade gravy, a side of green beans, a side of carrots and a salad. I’m so glad several of these recipes were from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook so I can make them now, too!
My grandparents joined us for dessert later in the evening, which was so good. I’m definitely going to have to find an excuse to make these again. Big thanks to Chip for being the brave one to cut the desserts, he did a great job!
We spent some time all hanging out before going to midnight mass over at St. Pius. My family has been going to midnight mass for as long as I can remember. While I struggled to get through it when I was a kid and jealous that it was okay for Alex to sleep his way through mass but, as the older sibling, I had to stay awake, it’s now a tradition I love and enjoy. It just feels special getting there an hour early (need to make sure we get a good seat and don’t end up outside!) and sing Christmas carols as a congregation and then welcome in Christmas Day with the priest’s homily reminding us of the significance of Christ’s birth. The service was over around 1:00, so I was more than ready for bed by the time we got home!
I may be 25 years old, but I still get really excited about Christmas morning. I saw something on Pinterest this week that I think sums up Christmas morning well: “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day.” We definitely made a mess opening our gifts, especially with Wrigley around who loves to tear up paper.
My dad gets a shout out for some fun gifts he got us this year… first, one very important thing to know about my mom is that she is a mamma bear to her core; don’t ever threaten her cubbies. Now, when I was in high school, I had my heart set on going to Notre Dame. I did a summer program there, loved the campus, applied early action, etc. So when I was first wait listed and then later rejected, my devastation was nothing compared to my mother’s grudge. We joke about it now (I’m pretty happy with how my life has turned out since going to Trinity!), but my mom still will not mention Notre Dame by name and will simply refer to them as “the other school.” Since Notre Dame will be playing Alabama in the BCS game in January, my dad got us all Roll Tide shirts which we all sported for the rest of the day. Nicely done, dad. You know your wife so well! ;)
My dad is usually the one in charge of our big breakfast on Christmas morning, but Chip and I offered to help out this year. Chip took care of the bacon, sausage and eggs while I made some homemade blueberry pancakes. In case you haven’t noticed, food was definitely a big component of this trip home! After breakfast, we were able to skype with my cousin Denisse and her family in New York. It was so fun to see them and how excited her daughter Isabella was about Christmas!
We spent a good part of the afternoon in the backyard playing some badminton. We had played earlier in the weekend and after my parents beat the team of Chip, Alex and myself, we decided a rematch was in order (we’re just a smidge competitive). Sadly, the parents won again; I’m convinced it’s harder to play when you have three people on a team instead of two! The guys stayed outside and played some more while my mom and I went back into the kitchen to reheat some of Christmas Eve’s leftovers and add in some new dishes. As if we hadn’t had enough dessert yet, I also had a coffee cake from Pippa Middleton’s Celebrate book that I was determined to try out. While it didn’t turn out as pretty as the picture, it sure did taste good.
We spent the rest of the afternoon packing everything back up for our drive to San Antonio the next day, but we saved some time in the evening for a family game of Scrabble, which will be featured in its own separate post.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!