The Gryphon and I left for Central Pennsylvania on Saturday to spend Christmas with my family. The plan was that everyone would get together for dinner, so we left in the afternoon.
We made good time, despite the holiday traffic, and we arrived at 5 p.m., which was actually before my Dad expected us. We set about getting our things unpacked.
My Dad said we'd all go to a restaurant that first night. So when my sister and her husband arrived, we all went to the local Perkin's Restaurant.
I had a little trouble finding something to eat, because almost everything either had red meat in it or was prepared in an unhealthy way. I finally selected a baked cod dish with some breading, with a baked potato and side salad with oil and vinegar. The baked cod was bland and overcooked, so I was a little disappointed. But at least I hadn't done that badly, I figured.
As a whole, I can say that, over the holiday, I did really well at meal times as far as eating healthy food was concerned. At night, I participated in the group snacking sessions on holiday goodies, so I might have sabotaged myself a little.
Back at Dad's, we had some fun with the doggies, putting Christmas hats and reindeer antlers on them and taking pictures. They seemed to enjoy it, especially all the attention.
Emma licks me to see if I'm naughty or nice
Then my sister and I set about making decorations for my Dad's Christmas tree. We made several from patterns I'd brought, and we also looked on the Internet for ideas. My sister's husband had brought his wireless router, so we could access the Internet from her laptop and my sister and her husband's laptop, as well as from Dad's desktop. This would come in handy over the holidays.
I primarily stuck to the designs I'd brought with me, such as some gift paper fanwheels and yarn candy canes.
My sister, meanwhile, experimented with things like snowflakes and some really pretty birds.
We made ornaments until we tired of it, and then watched a little TV before turning in. I should mention that, for my sister and her husband, that meant sharing a room with their doggie, Emma, along with one of their kitties, Ludo. They'd had to bring him because he needed twice daily antibiotics for an ear infection. After the medicine kicked in, though, he was a cheerful little furry guy and didn't seem too upset about his enforced isolation. We had to keep him shut up in his own room, away from my dad's cats.
For our part, we had a little difficulty the first night convincing Una to sleep in the new dog bed Dad had bought for the guest room. She was fine for most of the night and then whined and whined in the morning until I let her on the bed. Fortunately, the rest of the vacation, she behaved and slept in her bed.
The next day, Sunday, my mom sent over some frozen chicken and asked if we could take charge of dinner. The Gryphon and I were up to the challenge, and we looked through Dad's meagerly-stocked cupboards for ideas. We decided on chicken with mustard and bread crumbs, asparagus with olive oil and lemon peel, and a butternut squash with parmesan recipe The Gryphon found on the Internet.
Once everybody was ready, The Gryphon, my sister, her husband and I drove to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. We also got some extra items, such as fruit, bread, cheese, luncheon meat, yogurt and some juice to serve on Christmas day for those who didn't want wine.
We had a little time before dinner, but it was too rainy for a dog walk, so I accompanied my sister and her husband to Mom's house. They'd promised, as a Christmas gift, to remove the old shower door from her bathtube and install a shower rod and shower curtain.
While her husband worked on the bathtub, my sister gave the bathroom an extra thorough cleaning. I hung out downstairs with Mom, who was making some multi-grain muffins. She called them breakfast muffins and said we could have them for breakfast the next day, but we ate almost all of them at dinner instead.
By the time the muffins were ready, I figured The Gryphon and I should be starting dinner. I suggested Mom drive me over and the rest join us in a little while. Of course, as soon as I arrived back at Dad's, I realized I'd forgotten the crucial baking pans we were borrowing from Mom, since Dad only had one and we needed three.
Shortly after I returned, The Gryphon and I got started. He did prep work for the side dishes while Mom helped me defrost the chicken in the microwave. Then, when it was ready, she helped paint them with mustard and sprinkle them with bread crumbs she'd made from toast.
Because the chicken was still pretty frozen, we lost about half an hour defrosting it, nearly as long as it took to cook it! So while we'd promised dinner for 5:30, we ended up serving it closer to 6.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the chicken. The squash was originally bland, because we'd forgotten to add the parmesan, but we passed it around and let them add it to taste. Ordinarily, butternutsquash is pretty yummy, even plain, but this was pureed frozen butternut squash, as called for by the recipe.
As we'd been cooking, Mom and my sister had worked on decorations for the tree. After dinner, we did more. By the end of the evening, with the white lights my Dad had picked up earlier in the day, hung by my sister's husband, the tree was fully decorated.
It was crowned by a really cute angel my mom made, with some engineering advice from the men. She'd used a glue stick to top a cone of silver paper with a hand-drawn face then used mounted gold wings on her back.
The men helped with some of the more ambitious ideas, such as two different 3D stars. One was made by making two separate stars and then combining them, while another was made by gluing together three gold stars the same size.
On the nearby china cupboard we hung a paper Santa my sister had done, based on a craft idea from one of her education classes.
Everyone agreed, it was one of the nicest trees we'd ever had, and they've already suggested we do it again next year.
Christmas Eve, since we all had our shopping done (as we were keeping Christmas simple), we focused on other activities. In the morning, The Gryphon and I went for a nice walk, with him walking Una and me walking Emma. Unfortunately, Emma was in a boisterous mood and pulled me around, making me stumble and reinjure my left big toe, which is recovering from an ingrown toenail.
Other than that, we had a nice time. And it certainly was good exercise!
My sister and her husband ran to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for the evening's dinner while I did my usual afternoon assignment. I had trouble with my Dad's computer, which was so busy updating virus software that it slowed down everything else for nearly an hour!
After I finished, I told everyone I was going out to find a new camera battery for my Canon Powershot S400. The one I have, which is already a replacement battery, is not keeping much of a charge lately. On my way out the door, I asked if anyone wanted anything else. My sister wanted a helper elf. My mom wanted a partridge, and my sister's husband requested "Freebird."
First, I stopped at the local Staples, but an employee there eyed the battery and said they didn't carry it. He suggested Radio Shack, four doors down. I walked to Radio Shack and handed the battery to the front desk clerk. He made a face as if I'd given him a punch card and tapped around on the keyboard for several minutes before telling me they didn't carry it either, but he could order it online.
"Thanks anyway," I said brightly, and retrieved my battery, muttering under my breath about planned obsolescence as I exited the store.
On the way back, I stopped in a CVS to see if I could find an elf and a partridge, but they were fresh out. The only thing with an elf on it was a plastic sled with elves who dance to "Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It," but I thought that would get a little old after the initial joke.
We had to eat fairly early, as my mom was singing in the choir for Christmas Eve services. My sister and her husband took the lead on cooking. With some ingredients provided by mom, he made a very nice homemade pizza dough and then the two of them made several different pizzas with different toppings. One was a modified white pizza with alfredo sauce and artichoke hearts. Another one had tomato sauce, cheese and roasted peppers. Another had mushrooms, turkey bacon and black olives, and then a fourth one had roasted peppers on one side and black olives on the other.
We each sampled a small piece of all of them.
Mom had to be off to church, but I couldn't go because I had to work. My sister and her husband couldn't either, as they were busy finishing Christmas gifts. While Mom was disappointed, we apologized and, after that night, she didn't bring it up again.
When he returned from church, Dad brought a tray of cookies baked by the choir director. We all demolished them quickly. I was already dreading stepping on the scale when I returned.
Happily, I experienced a little Christmas miracle. Despite all of my splurging, I didn't gain any weight over the holiday. Instead, I actually lost half a pound. Thank you, Santa!
I'll write about Christmas day, with pictures, in tomorrow's Musing.
Paper ornaments can make a tree beautiful.