Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I began decorating for Christmas during the Thanksgiving holiday. I had three days of uninterrupted decorating bliss, and Matt helped by carrying the decoration filled tubs up from the basement. Matt and I began with the outside lights and our inflatable snowmen family. This year posed a problem for the lights since both of our awnings were removed when the new siding was placed on the house.  We just had to be more creative. Sadly, I don't have photos of our outside lights since the camera chokes every time I try to take pictures after dark. You'll have to use your imagination. 

I waited to put up the tree and place the ornaments on it until Michael came home from his first hunting trip with Grandpa Gary. We dropped him off the day after Thanksgiving, and we picked him up on Sunday. Michael had a great time hunting with grandpa, but he was ready to come home to his Pittsburgh Steeler family since he was Cleveland Browned to death for three days.

After Matt and I wrapped the tree in lights and then removed them and tried again, we began hanging the ornaments on the tree. The issue with the lights...each year we begin at the bottom of the tree, and I wrap the branches from the trunk to the outside edges while Matt feeds the lights to me. It never fails that by the time I get to the top of the tree, I've run out of lights. Matt kindly reminded me of this so it wouldn't happen this year. I thought it would be better to begin at the top of the tree and work my way down ensuring us that I would have enough lights since the top of the tree is skinnier than the bottom. Yea, that didn't work out so well. We unwrapped the lights and began again at the bottom. The second time I didn't wrap the branches as much and it worked out by the time I reached the top. Although Matt will tell you that there were more lights at the bottom of the tree than there were at the top. But we were not going for three. I just need more lights.

After the lights are placed on the tree, Matt typically "supervises" the rest of the decorating. Much to my surprise, Matt actually helped hang the ornaments. With each ornament he took out of the box, he reminded Michael and I who gave it to us and in what year it was given. One of our family traditions that began with my great grandmother Switzer was the giving of Christmas ornaments as part of the wrapping on the packages. That way each person in the family has their own collection of ornaments to get them started when they begin their adult life in their own home. I have every ornament I was ever given dating back to the year I was born, so does Michael. The tradition extends to spouses as well. 

Our tree was finally finished. Notice it takes up most of my tiny living room. This tree is special because it was given to us three Christmases ago. Well, actually it was sitting on the curb in its box when we turned the corner of our street heading towards home. Michael yelled to pull over so he could take a look. There was nothing wrong with it so we hauled it into the back seat and drove home with the doors open. The tree is special because the man who previously owned the tree was hoping it would find a good home. It was just to large for him to put together and decorate anymore. He lives in a large two story house on the corner of our street. Now he knows that we have his tree, and he scooters down the street to see it lit in our front window. Both Isabella, our Yorkie, and Sophie, our Chaweenie, got in on the action of decorating the tree. The cat, Sebastien, tormented both of the dogs by hiding under the tree skirt. 

We've always had a tradition of baking cookies. Usually my grandmother, MomMom, bakes the gingerbread cookies. Since she passed away four years ago, no one has attempted to bake the gingerbread. My mom thought it would be nice if I would give it a go. I found a great little recipe for gingerbread cookies and decided I would make them for Christmas day at the Switzer's. 

I made the dough the day before and kept it in the refrigerator over night. It made working with the dough so much easier. Michael helped cut out the cookies. We made stars, boys, girls, snowflakes, and trees. I also used parchment paper so the cookies wouldn't stick to the pan.

Our gingerbread boys and girls are cooling on the wrack waiting to be frosted. The recipe made six dozen cookies. I'll have to write up the recipe for you so you can give it a try.

I cheated on the icing. I was going to make a lemon icing for the trees and sprinkle them with sugar. I was also going to make white icing for the rest of the cookies. Being a professional procrastinator I ran out of time so I used frosting from a can. It was still yummy. Although by the time the cookies made the trip to Fostoria Christmas day all of the frosting was smooshed. Does anyone know how to frost cookies so the frosting doesn't get smooshed when traveling? Please let me know.

I'm not going to post all of the Christmas pictures. For the most part they're all of Michael opening his gifts. This gift was special because it was one he didn't ask us for. Matt and I got him his first stereo. He's really been getting into music lately and using an old "boom box" of mine. This stereo lets him hook up an iPod so he can listen to his music from iTunes. Stereos have certainly come along way. My first one was a Christmas present when I was Michael's age, sixth grade. However, my stereo had a turn table, AM and FM radio, and two speakers. It was black and white. I'm dating myself. 

Each Christmas after spending the morning at home we travel to Fostoria to spend Christmas day with the Switzer family. We arrive by noon so we can share Christmas dinner. This Christmas dinner was quite interesting to say the least. First, there were not enough seats so Dad and I sat on the couch. No biggie. Next poor Grady about choked on a deviled egg. I was in the kitchen carving more ham when this happened so I only saw the tail end when Grady puked his guts out all over the table. Poor little guy. That was just the beginning of the meal. Yum.

Moving on...this is Claire, my God daughter. Isn't she beautiful? I think so, and I can be quite a Claire hog. I can be a Grady hog too; I'm not picky. I just love kids! This is her first Christmas. PaPa gave her a baby doll that had belonged to MomMom. He wanted Claire to have something of her great grandma. PaPa also made her a cradle for the baby to sleep in.

This is PaPa, carpenter extraordinaire. He loves getting gift certificates to go out to eat. I have to be different so I made him a book on Snapfish of his travels over the course of this year. My parents took him to two different reunions for WWII veterans. One was specifically for the 99th Infantry Division and the other was for veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. PaPa also came to Vermilion to watch Michael play football. He hopes to still be around to watch Michael play high school football.

After Christmas in Fostoria we head to Burgoon to spend Christmas evening at home with my Mom and Dad. Matt and I love this arrangement because we can relax and enjoy being with family. Each year Boppa, my Dad, gets the boys, Michael and my nephew Christopher, something for Ohio State. This year they received O-H, I-O teeshirts. Cool. Micahel and I wear the same size, much to his dismay, so my wardrobe just got a little bigger. GO BUCKS! Matt and I received our new windows for the back porch as a Christmas present. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Each year my Mom receives a Pipka Santa from Dad. She collects Santas. They're all over the house. This year's Santa was wearing a white robe and walking with a polar bear and a wolf.

Dad is a third generation farmer. He LOVES John Deer! His office is filled with his collection that he has gathered over the years. Mom gets Dad his tractor for Christmas each year.

Dad had a surprise for Mom and a message for all of us. The card read, "for all you do for family, friends, and others." After Mom read the card Dad brought out the first of two large packages. The first package contained a Pipka Nativity. Mom couldn't believe her eyes as she carefully unwrapped each figure from their protective tissue paper. The nativity needed a stable, which Mom unwrapped in the second large package.

My mother is one of the most giving people I know. She gives to numerous charities and to people who are in need right in her own neighborhood. She helps family when anyone is in need. My gift to Baby Jesus this year is to try to be more like my Mom when it comes to giving to others. God did for others, his children, when he sent his son to us on Christmas day. In Sunday school we learned to ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" What a wonderful reminder of what this day is all about. 

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