Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day

A few pictures from Christmas day are shown below. Clicking any of them will display a larger version in a new browser window.

Tails makes her presents known!

The kids playing xbox down in the family room
(l-r Lucy, Danielle, Christopher, and Scott)

My super heavy Christmas decorating

Wonder of Wonders, the weather was agreeable overnight and only a light coating of snow had fallen! (Upon journeying out to the trash can later to discard some trash I discovered this was actually making the ice underneath less slippery because the snow was of the 'crunchy' variety; it had started to snow after the temperature went below freezing). So! No snow removal as I had originally planned.

I arose around 7:15 AM, released Tails from her room, fed her, and began organizing the kitchen for the preparation of the turkey. That done I vacuumed the house and turned my focus on making the stuffing. First, I fried 2 pounds (one original recipe, one sage flavored) sausage and some seasonings including chili powder, which in then dumped into a bowl lined with paper towels. This was then put outside in the snow by the rear slider for a few minutes. Now cool enough to handle, I crumbled the sausage into smaller pieces. While the sausage was cooking I had added chicken stock, butter, chopped onion, and spices to a pot to heat up. Once it came to a boil I combined the sausage with the contents of the pot and some cornbread cubes and viola! Sausage and onion cornbread stuffing!

I removed the 16 pound Turkey from the refrigerator. This was the first year in many years of turkey preparation where the bird was pretty much thawed out! This year I turned the fridge down low, and turned the bird over every 24 hours,except for the day it got jammed in between the lasagna and the wall of the fridge. I was most pleased not to have to wrestle the giblet bag out of the chest cavity!

So, I stuffed the neck and body cavities, oiled the skin of the bird, and seasoned it with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, some poultry seasoning, and a small amount of chili powder. The bird was then delegated to the oven's care. Note that with my ancient stove you need to use a thermometer to get the right temperature. It took several tries before adding the bird, but for the oven to be at 325 degrees the oven control was set for 250. Some fine tuning after the bird went in was needed as well.

The next hour was spent in a fervor of running around the house taking care of last minute things, setting up my small fiber optic Christmas tree in the living room and my light up Christmas village. I figured since I was having company I would do some minor decorating. I setup a digital picture frame with pictures of Christmas going back to 1999, which was the year I had my first digital camera.

The first hour of turkey roasting was announced by the timer going off, I removed the bird, re-oiled the skin, and returned it to the oven. Time enough now for shave and a shower! That done, I was actually able to relax a bit with Tails on the couch, watching the Rocket Power Christmas episode. Noon arrived and the turkey was cared for and returned to the oven along with onions, cut in half, in the pan (something my mom used to do and they taste great cooked in the turkey drippings!). The lasagna was placed on the back of the stove to slowly absorb some of the heat coming from the oven. It would get baked for 30 minutes after the turkey was done.

The X and the kids arrived around 12:30 with Lucy (Kevin's Daughter) Kevin and Lucy had stayed with mom and dad overnight, and Lucy had stayed at the X's house. Presents were exchanged and opened, and I was pleased to see that my attempts of disguising easily identifiable items like xbox games and audio CDs worked very well! This also came back to haunt me as I was presented with a small metal box with Snoopy on the lid which appeared to have candy in it (perfect gift for a diabetic!). This turned out to have an Amazon gift certificate inside!

The one o'clock check of the turkey showed via a meat thermometer it was done way ahead of schedule. stated 3.5 to 4 hours for a stuffed bird of this size, and here three hours later it was ready to go. The frenzied preparation of side dishes ensued! This was complicated by the small size of my oven, and the fact that after the turkey came out the lasagna pan had to go it, plus there were tow trays of biscuits and corn bread to deal with, and only one free shelf in the oven to use because of the lasagna hogging the other one. Add the temperamental temperature control and the different temperatures needed by the biscuits, cornbread, and you start to get the idea! Mom, Dad, Kevin, and Lili arrived, the card table dad brought was setup at one end of the kitchen adjacent to the dining room, everyone (except the kids who had disappeared to play video games) pitched in to get everything else done and on the table,.and soon we were sitting down to:

Turkey & Stuffing
Cooked Onions
Corn Bread
Mashed Potatoes
Niblets corn with butter sauce
Early peas in butter sauce
Broccoli in cheese sauce
Cauliflower in cheese sauce

It was an awesome dinner! A delicious dinner! I was well pleased that the efforts of the past days had come together, and doubly pleased to have everyone at my house on Christmas. It was funny having a 'kids' table for this meal, though Christopher, in age anyway, is no kids!). They were boisterous, and laughing and it was most amusing. At one point they teased their Mom about where the meat came from for the dinner, which she put a top to when they got too descriptive. That's been a running thing with the kids and her for many years now.

At one point mom and I got into a bit of a discussion on 'A Christmas Carol' talking about the religious roots of it, and how this came about. I saw Kevin looking at me strangely and I said "Hey! I can be philosophical if I want to you know!'

I helped with some of the cleanup (though traditionally the chef is exempt from washing dishes) and then plunked myself down on the couch.

Presents to/from Mom/Dad/Kevin/Lili commended and after that the kids pretty much went back downstairs, the rest of us engaged in some TV (holiday themed of course!), some napping by assorted individuals, and some impromptu computer work (Kevin's laptop was having wireless network issues, which, later at the X's house, were fixed by his daughter! MOST impressive Lucy!!)

Dessert followed which consisted of chocolate cake, cookies, blueberry pie with vanilla ice about being too full! Everyone left around 6 PM, I did not finish the cleanup until 11 PM (The bottom of the turkey roaster and the pot for the potatoes had been soaking four hours before they could finally be completely cleaned.

All in all it was the best Christmas I have had since the divorce. The only downside was hearing from my brother, staying in New York where he was doing a job, stranded by bad weather. so, he was kind of blue, and I felt badly for him.

Of course, I'd love to hear about your holiday as well! My mailbox is always open.


David Louis Harter said...


The food sounds excellent! Your decorations are considerably more ornate than ours. We have none! The cats disallow such things.

It is 39 degrees at 5:04 AM! That is significantly warmer than yesterday at this time, and yesterday saw a high of 52, so there is great hope for today.

- David

Barry said...

Hi Chris!

Holiday meal - or any larger meal - preparation is always a challenge of the clock! Seems like nothing ever gets done at the same time - contrary to the cooking shows and restaurants!

As you do a lot of cooking you should upgrade your oven. What to do with your "ancient" one? Make a kitchenette in the basement! If electric may be "interesting" as requires 240v (two adjacent circuit breakers - top-to-bottom - for starters); if gas like here add-a-pipe (have done professionally!). Add a cheap refrigerator to hold extra refrigerated foods (and a place to thaw large turkeys!).

For counterspace and storage we used cabinets intended for a workshop -- cheaper than those intended for a kitchen.

Only thing lacking here is a sink. The water supply is not a problem; draining it is.

Anyway, happy to read your get-together turned out well.

Chris said...

David - I have decorated more in years past but the kids did not seem, until the day before Christmas, concerned about any decorating!

Tails has not troubled my little tree any. surprising as that may be!

Chris said...

Barry - You auxiliary cooking area sounds good in theory!

When I had the basement finished off upon purchase of the house that had a devilish time running enough power through the two conduits under the garage slab. I have a two car garage with a wall (and an opening) between each stall. The main feed into the house is on the far wall of the garage and the distribution panel is on the opposite wall of the first stall. There is no way to fish additional power without (costly!) drilling of a new conduit!

Note though the existing stove is gas, but the basement is not setup for a sink down there, and the current electrical in the open unfinished area is maxed out for the washer and dryer.

So, a nice idea in theory!