My life is filled with happy Christmas memories. I'm so lucky to have parents who love the holidays and always make them memorable and special. My Dad in particular is Christmas crazy and finds great joy and happiness in making others happy with gifts in abundance. My Mom is the same way, but decorates the house beautifully, fills the house with Christmas goodies, plays Christmas carols and makes delicious and special holiday meals for us. My sister, Mary, and I used to always do our Christmas shopping together and would pick out something we liked a lot and the other one would buy it for Christmas. We always liked looking forward to that one gift we really wanted and knew would be under the tree.
Our favorite Christmas movie that we love watching every year has got to be a Christmas Story about Ralphie and his red rider BB gun. Christmas Eve is a night full of a lot of family traditions. When we were kids we would all take a walk at night all bundled up with coats and scarves to see all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. Mom and I go to Christmas mass, and Mary and Brad make Christmas cookies while we're gone. Dad reads us Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory and if you want to read the sweetest Christmas story ever read this one with a tissue in hand. It gets me every time!
When we got older we started opening up our stocking gifts on Christmas Eve. My dad sends us on a "Stocking Quest" scavenger hunt. He makes up riddles that rhyme and gives us clues on where to go to get our present and get the next clue. The first clue is in our stocking, then from there he sends us anywhere in the house including the basement, shed, attic, out into the yard to look under garden pots, into neighbors yards with flashlights and snow boots or even into neighbors houses requiring us to ring the door bell on their Christmas Eve night! When we solve the riddle each spot has our gift - a gift card to a store, restaurant or spa, and the next clue. He gets really creative and sometimes the clues are so funny they make us laugh until our bellies ache or sometimes they are so hard it takes us a while to figure them out. Did I mention that he rhymes all the riddle poems? Yes, dad spends a lot of time on this for us! The last few years the Stocking Quest has ended at our wonderful elderly neighbors house where the neighbors get together to sip wine, eat snacks and chat together. Such an amazing time every year. And those gift cards mom and dad give me each year send my sister and I (and in recent years Brad too) on an all day shopping spree that includes a card for lunch at a restaurant and ends at the spa for pedicures to relax our aching, shopped out feet. Yes, my family is amazing and I am moved every year by their generosity and love.
Christmas morning we take turns opening the mountains of gifts under the tree and spread out all the paper in a giant pile in the living room. We take a picture every year sitting in it.
After opening presents we have our traditional breakfast of baked french toast. My mom makes this every year for us (upon request) and it's always a treat!
Mom's Christmas Baked French Toast:
In a saucepan over medium heat mix and melt:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp corn syrup
While mixture melts, spray/butter 9x13 pan. Slice a loaf of french bread 3/4" - 1" thick (estimating 2 per person).
Pour butter/sugar mixture into pan.
In blender mix:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
Pour over bread slices. Use all of the mixture. Top each bread slice with a canned peach half. Cover baking pan and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover and bake for about 40 min until lightly browned and set. Serve directly from dish. No syrup needed.
So, this year Brad and I will be making new memories in a new place. I'll be back soon and will tell you all about it! Merry Christmas from Sydney!