This was the first Christmas season ever that we spent at home, just the two of us. It's true that that was hard for us to be away from family this year, and there were moments when we felt sad about it all, we did still manage to have a really nice, and indeed joyful, quiet Christmas.
I had to work Christmas Eve and the day before, so I made sure to get groceries and everything we would need on the Tuesday before Christmas. In the days prior to Christmas Eve, I knit on my Christmas socks, made clove & orange pomanders, meal planned, and baked a breakfast casserole and homemade lasagna (this recipe is the best ever). My shifts at work went well, and I actually got to leave work early on Christmas Eve and spend the evening with Nicholas. We ate simple buttered noodles and I knit furiously on my Christmas socks, in hopes of getting them nearly finished for Christmas Day. We watched Home Alone 2 as well, which we always considered "second rate" somehow, but I'm surprised at how many good lines it has. I stayed up late prepping these gluten-free cinnamon rolls (with butter and dairy milk instead), up to the point of them needing to rise, and then tucked them in the fridge overnight and went to sleep.
We woke up fairly early on Christmas Day, I made peppermint coffee, and he read aloud the Christmas story to us, while the cinnamon buns rose on the stove. We opened gifts (and received so many lovely things, thank you everyone—I'm sure specific gifts will come up on the blog as they show up in pictures ;). After gifts, we promptly put everything away, setting aside new clothing that needed to be washed, etc. took out the recycling and dusted and vacuumed the apartment, so that we could just relax and enjoy ourselves the rest of the day.
I baked a ham and roasted brussels sprouts for our midday meal, and we set the table for two. In the afternoon, I managed to finish the Christmas socks, just in time for me to wear them! And we watched The Family Stone and I cried at the end, like I always do. In the evening, we ate cereal for supper, I think, because that sounded good after such a large lunch. We FaceTimed or called both of our families and heard about their days. It's not a substitute for spending the day with family, but it was nice to catch up a bit and hear familiar loved ones' voices.
In the days since Christmas, we've been up to a lot of relaxing, to the tune of:
- finishing the short row shaping on my neglected Mae sweater
- diffusing Christmas Spirit
- drinking peppermint tea
- nibbling on meringues, bought for educational purposes after all our watching of the Great British Bake Off, to be more informed about all the meringue bakes on the show ;)
- wearing a blanket robe from my sister-in-law
- piecing together a 1000-piece Bob Ross puzzle
- reading a lighthearted Christmas-themed fiction book
- working out the specifics of how to thread a new serger(!) that Nicholas gave me (only a few tears involved in the process, as I don't do well with new things at first)
- wearing wool socks
- watching Christmas episodes of The Office, which led to me watching the whole series from the beginning, again
- taking naps, on the couch, with a quilt, nearly every day
- making my first ever Instant Pot meal (thanks, Matt!) it was so easy and I love how so many more meals can be "one pot dinners," now.
- cozying up in flannel sheets, I cannot begin to describe how much we love our flannel sheets
- turning on all the Christmas lights, first thing in the morning, and turning them all off before bed (except the tree, which I leave on for Nicholas to turn off when he comes to bed).
And today, we bundled up* and went on a date to a local tea shop where I ordered full tea service, including tea sandwiches, a scone, tea cake, and cookies. I drank English Breakfast and he drank an herbal Christmas tea blend, and we shared all the desserts, and we took some home too. He wore his new grey hat that I knit for him and I wore my red brioche scarf and my snöflinga hat, a favorite combo, as it were. And now we're home, resting, and I'm gonna do laundry, some sweater knitting, and wind yarn for a new hat!
This Christmas was unexpectedly joyful when I wasn't expecting it to be, in a way. Beginning a few months ago, when we decided not to travel for Christmas this year (for a few reasons, but mostly because I had to work and we couldn't see both families and didn't want to choose), I had to grieve not spending time with family. But a wise friend of mine said something insightful—I think my heart was prepared for more joy once December came, since we slowed down and I grieved not seeing family at Christmas in the latter weeks of November, and decided to choose rest and to abide in Him, anyway. This December was by far the most restful and slow-paced of any December in recent years, and I can't help but attribute my joy to that heart prep, the slowing down, and being less caught in the moment and more present, and able to truly feel something in response to the world celebrating the birth of Christ.
However you celebrated, with family or without, I'm praying for rest and safe travels and warm, cozy, days that stir up thankfulness in our hearts, for the coming of a truly special baby, and the beginning of the best story in all of history.
*(I'm using the term "bundled" very loosely, in consideration of our friends and family up north who are enduring single digit and sub-zero temps. On Christmas Day, my parents and brother saw -15 degrees F at night in Northern MN, and our Indiana family saw 0 degrees F, yikes!)
Fall feels like a number of transitions, one right after the other. We are now bridging into late fall, with lots of frost in the mornings, first sightings of bare trees, and darker, cozier evenings at home. Of course, there is talk of Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon too, along with early preparations for those. I do tend to be swept by the momentum of this season, if I'm not careful. I'll admit that Christmas music accompanies us throughout the day sometimes, and I've already done most of our shopping, but I do want to be intentional to savor the almost-but-not-yet. To not wish away November and it's baring of trees in favor of the glow of Thanksgiving and Christmastime. There is great beauty and contentment in this month, as well. I don't want to miss it.
We've taken to a regular "cozy hike," as we've termed it. A nearly wooded path, my favorite spot for fall color, a wagon, an eager toddler, a cozy blanket, and snacks. I look for the bright red leaves, since those are a favorite for both of us. And we also look for acorns and pinecones, treasures on the ground.
I'm typically in a rush to wish away the hot days of summer, to exchange them for cozy days, sweater season, cool mornings. I'm an optimist, and that optimism frequently couples itself with being future minded. Constantly looking forward with hope, but also sometimes looking forward with misplaced longing that can inhibit me from being present. But this past weekend, the events of both days were lovely, and being present felt easy and good.