That certainly wasn’t the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken from blogging, but it kind of felt like it was. A lot has happened since early December!
For one thing, instead of working two or three part-time jobs, along with seven or eight volunteering gigs, I recently started working full-time at one place. A lot of people have asked me how the family has adjusted to this, and the short answer is that the kids haven’t really noticed a difference. I don’t think anyone – including myself – realized how much I was doing piecemeal. In addition to piano lessons, I was contracting myself out for different jobs during the day. Life is much simpler with one full-time job, and I really enjoy the job. I like my colleagues and the setting, and I feel like I’m using my education and experience in a way that I didn’t know was possible. The kids were already enrolled in their school’s extended-day program because of my piano teaching schedule, and so their lives have not changed much at all. Some days, I’m able to pick them up earlier in the day than I could when I was teaching. So far, so good! So, so good.
But backing up to December, before I started at this job, and then over the holiday break, we hosted some really wonderful people from church who keep everything afloat.
First, we had a holiday party for the Palmer staff. These people work tirelessly and patiently, and Neil and I are both so grateful for them. I didn’t make any new Ina recipes, although I did invent a salad recipe (arugula, clementines, steamed green beans, pomegranate arils, and a pomegranate vinaigrette) which got rave reviews. I made a ham, and our mantra for the party, and maybe for life in general, was and is: ham is enough.
I thought about buying poinsettias as gifts, but then I realized that most of our intended recipients have dogs, and poinsettias = dog poison. So, I made Ina’s dog biscuits instead! Apparently, they were a big hit with the parish pooches, and our girls got to serve as taste testers.
On Christmas Eve, clergy families kind of struggle with how to spend meaningful time together. Our solution this year was a picnic in Neil’s office. We all had a great time, and nobody went home (or to the next two church services) hungry. All of my boys look rather … Mormon … in this picture with their white shirts. The little guys had sweater vests and bow ties and navy blue blazers on for church, and Neil of course had the rest of a suit and vestments. But who can be bothered with all that when there’s food for digging in? (The food was delicious, but pro tip: going to Central Market on Christmas Eve is a suicide mission. I witnessed an honest-to-God fight in the parking lot. Christ was born for this!)
See? Here we all are.
Over Christmas Break, we were invited to a party, and I brought Ina’s flour de sel caramels from How Easy is That? People LOVED them. Like, lined up and chowed down and then told their friends to come back for more.
On Christmas morning, we had Alton Brown’s cinnamon rolls. This was the second year I made them, which I think means that they’re permanently cemented in “holiday tradition” mode at our house forever. Making the dough early in the evening on Christmas Eve gives me enough time to get everybody in bed, get the stockings ready for Santa, haul any extra gifts down the stairs, and then complete the rest of the procedure before passing out for a few hours until Christmas morning and baking them to look like this.
As if that isn’t enough to keep your family happy, I recommend making a double batch of the frosting. You know, just in case.
After Christmas, but right before we all went back to work and school, we hosted another group at the house for dinner. The menu was similar to the staff party lunch, but with a few notable additions: sausage-stuffed mushrooms (from How Easy is That?), fruitcake cookies (which were surprisingly popular, from Barefoot Contessa at Home), rum raisin tiramisu, (also surprisingly popular, from How Easy Is That?), smoked salmon spread (from Family Style), and orange pecan wild rice (from Back to Basics).
So … see? I haven’t been completely slacking. But seeing all of these photos, two months later, reminds me that I never wrote about Thanksgiving (did I make anything new? Probably not. But we had a lot of fun), and I never wrote about our holiday traditions, which, by definition, ought to still be around next year, right?