We had some record-setting beautiful weather over the holidays this year. Crystal blue skies with temperatures warm enough to play outside yet cool enough to keep the snow fluffy and dry. Because good weather always comes with a price, I’m now wearing a blanket, have blinds covering all the windows and am confined to the house. (It’s actually not really that cold at the moment. -20s range. I’ve just been spoiled.) Which means it’s finally time to blog!
I had high hopes for Christmas this year.
I love Christmas. That childhood magic never dissipated for me and this year I was thrilled to both finally share it with a child of my own as well as actually have time to prepare and enjoy the season. As an adult, I’ve always been in some kind of low key permanent state of burn-out, first from school, then from work, causing December prep to be neglected. And when working, I usually only have Christmas Day and New Years Day off, so it actually feels more rushed since I don’t get the two days off in a row like a normal weekend.
This year, thanks to maternity leave, I actually managed to decorate my house a little, bake cookies, wrap presents, visit the display at the mall and put some effort into my gift shopping.
Last year, our young cat went nuts on my full sized tree. Broke most of the branches and chewed through the light wires. Even cat deterrent spray (some citrus scented stuff that cats don’t like) didn’t dampen his spirits. This is how cat deterrent works in our household:
Older cats: This tree smells bad, lets avoid it.
Young cat: Your tree smells bad, let me fix that for you.
Young cat was still feeling “helpful” this year, so we just put up the little tree. Surprisingly enough, we really enjoyed it. It was easy to put up and take down and we didn’t have to worry about the cats or the baby getting into the decorations. Even though it wasn’t standard festive living room attire, we still found that it brought a lot of joy to our home. Plus, as it turns out, 10 month olds aren’t as into Christmas lights as grandparents and TV specials would have you believe. I tried introducing our little guy to the colourful tree, but he was far more interested in the bottle of cat deterrent.
Gift-wise, I gave myself two things I really wanted for Christmas:
– A clean bathtub to soak and drink wine in
– Clean bedsheets
I swear I’m not gross and I often have one of the above. To have both at the same time, though, what a luxury!
*music* I don’t want a lot for Christmas, these are just two things I need…
The little one loves ripping paper, so I expected him to have a blast opening presents but it turns out that ripping paper is way less fun when you’re actually encouraged to do it. In the end, we “helped” him open the presents from his grandparents (a xylophone and a convertible wagon/sled, in case someone is reading this and is curious about what other people give their babies – I know I always am) and one of ours (a set of buckets with holes to play with in the bath). The rest of the presents were put away to be opened on his birthday in February. It’s for the best, I think. Now we don’t have to shop and wrap presents again.
What I was most looking forward to though, since this may be the only Christmas I’ll be able to do this for many years to come, was to cook some awesome food for my family.
For Christmas Eve, I really wanted to celebrate my Québec childhood and prepare a traditional tourtière. I’m not from the region known for its tourtières, but it doesn’t matter, I’ve still dreamed of making one ever since I first moved out to Alberta.
I wanted to stick to a fairly traditional style (although, like most cultural dishes, everyone’s mom and grandmother has their own recipe) and make the dough from scratch so I used the recipe from La Foodie Scientifique (and discovered a super interesting food writer at the same time).
As you can see, the crust on my pie looks nothing like the crust on her pie… Given that it was my first time making pie crust, I think it turned out okay. It took a long time, two full afternoons, but I imagine I would have been more efficient if I hadn’t been entertaining a needy baby as the same time.
If I were to make it again, I think I would quarter the recipe (I halved it), make more dough and less potatoes. I really had to stretch my dough and I had enough cut up potatoes left over for like 4 separate meals. I would also use some spices in the filling. I didn’t this time because I wanted to stay as close to the recipe as possible, but in the future I think adding some thyme and rosemary to the mix would be delicious. When we ate leftovers, we topped it with gravy from the Christmas turkey which was seasoned with thyme and it worked really well. Using higher quality cuts of meat than what I put in would probably also enhance the dish.
Speaking of turkey…
I used this recipe from Cafe Delites.
I didn’t have enough garlic on hand to use the heads to raise the turkey so I tried with onion quarters instead. I’ll spare you the trouble: it didn’t work. Too slippery. The end result was still fantastic, though.
I improvised the gravy with the turkey drippings and leftover butter mix. While it didn’t look the part, it definitely served the part, taste wise.
The salad is just a basic couscous salad with tomato, English cucumber, cilantro, sea salt and lemon-olive oil dressing.
After we ate, I peeled off the bigger chunks of leftover meat and boiled the carcass to make some turkey broth, which we used in our ramen (instead of water) for the next few days. 10/10 would recommend.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I don’t get the opportunity to make elaborate meals very often and I don’t know when it will happen again, so I’m really excited about and grateful for the experience.
When I wasn’t in the kitchen or wrangling my little monster, I spent the rest of Christmas “break” (I guess it’s kind of a break since all the activities I normally bring the little guy to were closed for two weeks) getting the house ready for when I go back to work, since I know that once I’m back on the clock, the rest of my life will come to a screeching halt. I spent a whole 5 days sorting through the bedroom closet. The first day or so was fun – little guy freaks out when I’m not in arm’s reach, so we had lot of fun playing in the closet together, but eventually having a baby tearing piles apart and screaming for attention gets old. I wonder how single parents (or oilfield widows, of which there are many around here) handle keeping their house afloat. Maybe their babies become less needy out of necessity? Or maybe they just tuned out the screaming? Anyway, everyone breathed a sigh of relief once I was satisfied with my closet.
With that, I hope that everyone else had a lovely holiday season and I’m eager to find out what the next year will bring.