The Christmas Table

With baby Benjamin just a week old on Christmas day, there was no question that we’d be at home these holidays. Much as it’s been a delight spending Christmas morning alternately with Tara’s parents and mine, it was fun this year to take the step of spending it with just each other and the kids.

Of course, this also meant that for the first time, we were also on our own with respect to Christmas food. Our families have set a high bar on festive meals, so we had a lot to live up to, but I think we did well.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, we did a little pull-ahead, making a pumpkin pie to put in the fridge, as well as a combined potato and sweet potato dish:

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Tara also prepared tomato aspic, which is curious vegetable jelly that has been a staple for her mum and grandmother:

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Finally, I put on some overnight cinnamon rolls to rise. My first attempt was a failure—the successful result ended up being a hybrid between two different recipes, one by Alton Brown and the other by Ree Drummond. I put them on to bake the next morning after presents, and they were completely decadent and delicious:

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Christmas afternoon, we steamed up the broccoli, and put the roast in. When the roast was done, Tara made Yorkshire pudding in the hot oven, and I threw together a gravy on top. We also made a creamy cheese sauce (Mornay) for the broccoli. This was the final spread:

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Completely delicious—a triumph. It was great to have such a complete meal and yet still have a reasonably relaxing Christmas day; definitely the effect of having done a bunch of stuff in advance.

I think I probably spent more time in the kitchen cleaning up on Christmas than I did preparing food. Here’s the right-after-dinner warzone picture:

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And yes, that is an electric carver there on the far right—I got it for $2 at a garage sale. I feel like such an old man with it, but I love it.

Singing to Clara

Clara enjoys music a lot. She hums her own melodies around the house, and requests music be played from our laptops. On the road, we can barely back out of the driveway before demands are issued forth from the backseat for music to be played in the car. At bedtime, she insists “Clara crib, Da-da ting!”

For the past several months, I’ve been singing to Clara at bedtime—the expectation is now fully established: milk, singing, hug, sleep.

I struggled at first with what to sing to her. Our church is contemporary, and the songs are singable, but they’re rhythmic and often quite upbeat—not always what I’m looking for for tired-me and to provide a calming environment for a two-year-old I would like to sleep. I have fond memories of being sung hymns as a child myself, and my parents still have a stack of the (now very well worn) red hymnals which they sang to us out of for many years.

I appreciate that our church takes a contemporary approach to music; the leadership does a fantastic job with it, and I think it retains its sacredness despite being more accessible and modern-sounding. At the same time, I’ve always appreciated the rich words and more contemplative feel of my favourite hymns, and bemoaned that I don’t have the weekly opportunity to sing them over and over and learn the words by heart the way I wish I could.

Of course, the only barrier to singing hymns to Clara was having the words, so I finally made up a double-sided songsheet, jammed with eight favourites, in three columns, 11pt type. Then, after months of using just the first page, I finished up selecting another eight and created a second double-sided sheet. Because the lyrics and music of hymns are of course in the public domain, I’m pleased to share this online:

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It’s probably not a group-suitable songsheet in this form, as there’s no numbering or really any organization at all—compactness and simplicity are the goals. But I hope that it may be useful, perhaps to others in a similar position.