Had a busy Christmas weekend, starting yesterday when we were expecting company: James' mom and sister were coming up for a Christmas dinner. I believe this is the first time they have been up since we had Thanksgiving dinner in 2006. James was up early to put our little turkey, all nine pounds of it, into the oven. He tried it Alton Brown's way: brown it for a half hour at 500°F, and then lower it to 325 and let it cook until it was done. In the meantime he made a gravy with the neck and giblets, and stuffing. (This gravy came out thick and rich and wonderful. Like Aunt Meg's gravy in Twister, it was a food group all its own, especially since James put pureed vegetables in it.) I finished cleaning up and made room for folks to sit down and primped the bathroom a little, and even went downstairs and put the new tags on our license plates and our new registrations on the sun visors. The turkey was done at noon and we had a chance to relax—and nibble on it a little, of course!—before Mom and Candy arrived.
We had an informal lunch around the coffee table, with Mom bagging a tray table. The turkey came out well except that one side was a bit underdone, another sign that the oven is not working properly. The stuffing was soft and flavorful. Mom and Candy had brought scalloped potatoes, green beans, corn casserole, and a grape salad. There was Christmas music on in the background and the tree lights were all on. After lunch we exchanged gifts. James got a nifty airplane clock and an airplane wine bottle holder and some sangria. I got a bunch of bird related things, including a rustic frame, a big stand-up sparrow in a Santa hat, and another little bird. We have been giving them a different type of food basket every year: once it was Italian, once it was soup, etc. This year it was a "garnish" basket, things to spice up meals: salad fixings, finishing sauce, Asian noodles, ice cream topping, garlic dip mix to go into butter to make garlic bread, sprinkles for ice cream and cake, etc. We also gave Candy an Eeyore mug and a Cowboys Beanie Baby for her birthday two weeks ago, and Mom a Robert Ludlum novel.
They headed out before it got dark. We gave them the rest of the white meat and kept the dark; James put the drumsticks in the freezer, but as the shadows lengthened, we had a light dinner of the rest of the leavings: I just put hunks of turkey meat and some gravy on two Kings Hawaiian rolls and ate those; James made a little plate with stuffing. Then we hurried out to go look at Christmas lights; we've been going so "late" (like 8 p.m.) that people already have turned them off! This is absolutely flabbergasting to me because we always keep our Christmas lights on all night: Mom said it would help the Holy Family find our house. (I also keep ours on New Year's Eve and at Twelfth Night.)
The light situation was a bit iffy. I didn't want to go far from home because James was feeling a bit off, so we just stayed around the neighborhood. Not a whole lot of festive folks around. Not sure if it's the political climate, the economy, or if people just aren't celebrating. I do notice, though, that a lot of the newer homes have their living rooms at the rear of the house, so you see fewer big Christmas trees in front windows. We did have some luck going up toward downtown Smyrna; while the Park development seemed to have several fewer decorations than last year, two new plats were well dressed. We saw swooping stars, large decorations that looked like giant illuminated bulbs, classic decorations (white candles, green wreaths, red bows), those new "star shower" things, lights outlining windows, lights along paths. Also checked out the Craftsman-style homes on King Springs Drive. I would love to have one of those. (Yeah, I know. House envy. But it's more because they tickle all the nostalgic bones in my body.) However, we didn't go to Dunleith to see if they did luminaria this year, or to see of the big house on Cunningham Drive had turned into what we call "the wedding cake house," it is so draped in lights.
Finally, back home, I took Tucker out, and then we settled down and watched The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. Once that finished, we put on the news and then watched Midnight Mass from the Vatican. This year NBC did not cut it off at 1 a.m., but showed the whole thing. And since we were up anyway, we opened presents. I had bought James a new Ott Light for his model work, and four books
(one about the Berlin airlift, another about World War II films, the new book about Pearl Harbor defending Admiral Kimmel, and a book
about the World War II Memorial). He bought me War of the Roosevelts, a nifty
metal barrette, a "thesaurus" t-shirt, a great Cumberbatch-as-Doctor
Strange poster, and a Steiff budgie. (Yes, a Steiff budgie, blue with a white face. I knew they made more than bears, but not birds!)
Needless to say, we slept in on Christmas morning, and then James was up before me, having walked Tucker and made himself some breakfast. I made myself an eggnog to have with my oatmeal and yogurt, and spelled James making his special dessert, caramel sauce over oranges. He also made corn to take to the Butlers, and we brought the green beans and mushrooms left over from Christmas Eve dinner. I'd had Christmas music on earlier, but while the oranges were soaking in their sauce, I watched The House Without A Christmas Tree and then A Christmas Memory with Geraldine Page.
I also gave Tucker the second half of his Christmas gift. Last night I gave him his new plush blanket. I meant to bring it out from the spare room and surprise him in the living room, but I forgot to close the gate and he followed me in. I held up the blanket—he had chewed holes in his old one—and his eyes widened and he reared up on his hind legs and grabbed at it with his forelegs. When I did give it to him, he shook it like a rat and proceeded to growl and roughhouse with it until he finally got it in a lumpy pile and laid on it. This morning I gave him the fox. This is a non-stuffed toy because he eviscerates stuffed ones. He had the squeakers that are sewn at either end killed within an hour.
We headed to the Butlers about 2:30 and were still one of the first to arrive. As always, it was a wonderful time. There seemed to be a running gag today: someone would walk in and see A Christmas Story running on the television (first Charles, then Juanita, then Alex) and say, "You know, I've never seen this movie." Wow! Anyway, we snacked on Lin's piecrust pastries and apple and cheese and a relish tray until it was time for dinner, which was turkey, steak, pot roast and ham, with mashed potatoes, biscuits and butter, carrots, and our beans and corn. Later there were two pies and our oranges for dessert (they were lovely; I had three helpings). Once again, we did not see Sylvester the new kitten (who is now an adolescent cat), but we understand he's already fond of climbing the Christmas tree. They get him down by turning on the Death Star tree topper that Phyllis gave them. Later on we exchanged gifts. James got a nice warm throw and movie tickets, and I had two Doctor Who adult coloring books with pencils and a mug. We headed home around eight, full of food and friendship, and snuggled by the tree (as we couldn't very well snuggle by the fire, as it was 70 bloody degrees out; I'd walked in the door earlier and called "Happy Easter!") until bedtime.