Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas in England--Part 2, Shepherd's Pie and Christmas Pudding

Shepherd's Pie and Chocolate Faces

When Mike was a child, his family fasted all day on Christmas Eve until the first star appeared, and then ate Shepherd's Pie for dinner. No one fasted this Christmas Eve, but we had three varieties of Shepherd's Pie to choose from for dinner. I'm not generally a big Shepherd's Pie fan, but I enjoyed Ed's gourmet version this year. Then Mike's mum made a "Shepherdess Pie" (vegetarian) and Ed also made a kid-friendly version (although they all loved the gourmet one).

We had dinner at Mike's brother's rented flat, which was very conveniently located on the edge of downtown Cambridge. It gave us a wonderfully located spot to park, while Ed and Shemara and family were in the UK. It was also walking distance from the church, so after church we walked back to the flat for our Shepherd's Pie, with a yummy chocolate mousse for dessert. The after-effects of the chocolate mousse are in the following photos of Kieran and his 2-year-old cousin Jessie, already a chocoholic like her mum!

And here's our other little chocoholic (and his son!) (ha!)

Christmas Crackers and Pudding on Fire

On Christmas morning, the kids dove into their presents. This year, our family bought a Wii for Christmas as our family present, and we didn't buy anything else for each other. Even though we still seemed to receive more presents than we really needed, this "family present" approach did seem to make Christmas just a tiny bit simpler. Next year, perhaps we'll take it a step further. I want to start an approach of encouraging people to buy one present per person or "experiences" instead of actual both of our extended families. We tend to end up with vast quantities of items, and we all have so much already.

Me with Nicholas

Christmas lunch consisted of a massive feast of turkey surrounded by bacon and ham (apparently this is the English custom, although this one was new to me--I don't remember that from 1991, the last time we celebrated Christmas in England), parsnips and potatoes, brussel sprouts (also a Christmas English tradition and my least-favorite vegetable!), and other yummy items. Both of my brother-in-laws (Mike's brother and Mike's sister's husband) are amazing chefs, and Dave outdid himself.

The hats we are all wearing are from the Christmas crackers, another British Christmas tradition. Christmas crackers have a hat, a joke, and a toy or small token inside of them.

Mike and me

Mike's mum, Olga

The traditional Christmas meat and brussel sprouts

The beautiful parsnips and potatoes

Hostess of the house, Kath

Mike and Nicholas

Olga, niece Victoria, and Kath

With my sister-in-law Shemara

Dave warming the brandy for the Christmas pudding

Chris and cousin Mark preparing to make a break for it in case of fire!

Lighting the pudding (note the fumes!)

Kieran playing with his favorite present, a magnetic fairy tale theater

We ate extremely well and enjoyed the day. In the evening, I found myself feeling a bit depressed though...I had sent my parents and sister Mike's sister's phone number, but no one had called to say Merry Christmas. It turned out that I had neglected to send the country code and correct instructions for dialing England, and my parents had tried to call but kept getting a busy signal. But until I learned this, I felt forgotten and was feeling sorry for myself.

I have spent Christmas away from my extended family before--in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1991--but clearly it had been awhile, and I'm sure I spoke to them each of those Christmases. My sister Nadine was finally able to get through to me late that evening, but she had to go through the operator and it was very expensive, so we didn't talk for long. I felt better knowing that I had not been forgotten! I realize how lucky I have been to spend so many holidays with my family.

It was wonderful to see all of the cousins playing together and sharing their Christmas memories, and I was glad that Olga could have all her children and their families together for the holidays.

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