David's parents arrived on Saturday, and we've been having a lovely time visiting with them. Saturday was a nice, calm day filled with leisurely visiting. Sunday, however, was better than nice. It was a spectacular day.
I flashed into action early. The late start to the school winter break and all the boys' illnesses conspired to postpone our holiday baking. Sunday morning was my first chance to really bake, and I made good use of the time. We don't have a large list of things that we MUST have for it to feel like Christmas, but we can't reach December 24th without three things - Bricks, Orange Slice Cookies, and some sort of cut-out cookie.
Bricks are peanut-butter & chocolate & butterscotch rice krispie treats, and are one of MY family traditions. I started it myself. My college friends called them Bricks because they are very dense and if you don't keep them in an airtight container they become a really hard to chew (but still wonderfully delicious.) They are awesomely unhealthy, and extremely easy to make, so we only let ourselves indulge at Christmas. We usually make two batches over the break because David will eat them by the plateful.
The Orange Slice Cookies are one of David's family traditions. His Grandma Epp used to make them, so we always make a pan too. They are a cinnamon cake/bar sort of thing filled with chunks of orange slice candies.
Finally, the boys like to play around with cookie cutters. We don't have a strong family tradition of using one particular dough, and we certainly can't be bothered with fussy icing or decorating (much to the boys' disappointment.) They enjoy the activity, so we do it. We discovered Smitten Kitchen's Maple-Nutmeg Butter Cookies last year, and we made them again this year. I suspect this dough will turn into our standard because they are so delicious without frosting. I do have a good cocoa-gingersnap recipe too, though, so we'll see.
The boys really enjoyed doing the cookies with Grandpa. He and I had to bite our tongues when Charlie started marching to the beat of his own drummer (as he always does.) It was nice for me to have a compatriot as I let him make free-form cookies instead of using the cookie cutters properly. We both mastered our do-it-right instincts...at least for a little while.
Once all the cookies were baked we had a quick lunch and went out on the town. Shocking, I know. We had matinee tickets to the BRT performance of the Nutcracker at the KiMo theater downtown. It was Charlie's first Nutcracker and Tommy's second, and they had a wonderful time. One of Tommy's teachers had a daughter in the performance, and her husband was the lively fellow under the giant Mother Ginger dress. Tommy's good friend Vivien was also one of the dancers, so this particular performance of the Nutcracker was a great choice for us.
After the ballet we drove over to Old Town to wander around. We walked up to the St. Clair Winery Bistro for dinner. We serendipitously ended up sitting right in front of a jazz trio and Charlie was in HEAVEN. He was happily absorbed in the music, drawing admirers from across the room. He even danced a little bit. The food was excellent, and we thank Grandma and Grandpa for the wonderful treat of a nice dinner out. We don't often go to nicer restaurants as a family, so this was very special.
(I know Charlie looks like he's sleepy, but he's really just completely and utterly enthralled.)
Finally, we walked back to the cars through Old Town. It was dark when we finished dinner, so we got to see the lights and the city Christmas tree. It was the perfect end to a spectacular day.