I flew to Portland in the morning on Friday, December 21. My friend Lorry picked me up, and we drove to Molalla to visit Lorry's husband's aunts. Lorry makes a delicious cardamom bread at Christmas, so we delivered two of the loaves to the two aunts and chatted with each of them for a bit. The countryside around Portland is so beautiful. Lorry and I talked a blue streak, and continued our time together at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Selma's in Gresham.
My dad picked me up at Lorry's house, and we drove to a place to pick out new glasses for my dad. The employee who was helping choose glasses for my dad was quite unique. She was very petite and couldn't sit still, like she'd just consumed five cups of coffee. She'd sit on the rolling chair at the desk and two seconds later would pop up, long black skirt swinging, and dodge here and there, pulling glasses off the display cases. My dad must've tried on 15 pairs. If anyone's read the Mitford novels by Jan Karon, this woman reminded me of Fancy Skinner, the hairdresser; a carbon copy!
On Saturday, my sister, mom, and I spent most of the day at my grandpa's Christmas tree farm. It was fun to spend time with my sister, and we had the most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch with artisan bread made by Lorry.
Julie and I left the tree farm at 2:30, and I drove to Vancouver to spend time with Tyler and Lydia Thralls, good friends of mine from Whitworth. Tyler and Lydia have befriended a Chinese exchange student at WSU-Vancouver and so they had invited this student and three of his friends over for dinner. Tyler made a bean/rice/ground beef African meal that was delicious.
We went to church on Sunday morning and then prepared for the Christmas party at my aunt and uncle's house with my mom's extended family. We ate dinner together and had a gift exchange of homemade items, which worked out surprisingly well. People were quite creative with what they made, and we had a good amount of stealing. My grandpa's homemade gift was two paper airplanes! There were lots of cookies in the exchange, too. In case we hadn't consumed of my aunt's homemade egg nog. :)
On Christmas Eve, I spent the morning with my friend, Ruth, and her family, whom I've known since my sophomore year of high school. Her dad, in his hospitable way, tried very hard to get me to drink a cup of coffee, but I valiantly resisted. I did happily consume a mug of hot cocoa made by Ruth's ninth-grade brother, who had grown about three feet taller since the last time I saw him. :)
My family went to the Christmas Eve service at Greater Gresham Baptist at 3 PM. The theme of the service was Light in the Darkness, and they had a beautiful narrated play about the themes of light and darkness in Scripture. It was very moving.
This is the first Christmas Eve/Day that we haven't had an extended-family party. Instead, a good family friend, Claudia, came over for dinner Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. Claudia's husband and son were both away for the holiday for work, so it was a great pleasure to have her at our house; she's family.
On Christmas Eve night, we had individual homemade pizzas that were delicious (much to Julie's surprise), and then played Taboo together. On Christmas day, we woke up and opened our stockings and then had these:
They're called Pull-Aparts and it's our Thanksgiving and Christmas morning breakfast every year. They are SO good that I had to have one for breakfast again on Wednesday morning as my mom drove me to the airport. :) We always take a photo, too, of us getting ready to scarf down several pull-aparts apiece. I think this was the weirdest one yet, but I love it! Then, we opened presents. Here's one choice photo:
Contrary to the box above, this was actually a gift certificate from Julie to my dad. :)
After presents, I set my roll dough to rising and my mom, dad, and I took a walk around the lake in a drenching rain. My dad and I raced the last block, my dad narrating as though we were horses in the Kentucky Derby. Claudia came with a honey-baked ham for a mid-afternoon feast. We rounded out the meal with my Walnut Potato rolls, cooked broccoli, pineapple, and twice-baked potatoes with cheese. It was absolutely delicious!
Before and after dinner, we exchanged presents with Claudia. The four of us had each gotten her a gift, and she got us each a gift. It was so fun! We laughed so much, as some of the gifts were inside jokes, such as the ones above. I thought it was clever that Claudia had wrapped my and my mom's gifts in "nice" paper, Julie's in nice and naughty (because we're not sure which she is), and my dad's in naughty paper. I suppose in reality, though, we're all a mix of both. :)
We ended the day at Claudia's house with yummy frosted sugar cookies and hot cocoa. We watched the animated Grinch and Home Alone. It was a delightful, peaceful end to a fun-filled day. I am so blessed by the friends and family God has given me. May we faithfully thank God every day of the year in light of all the good gifts God bestows, especially the most precious gift of Emmanuel, God With Us.
Happy New Year!