Spending the Holidays in a Winter Wonderland

Christmas Ornament

I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve. We’ve been up in Canada for well over a week, Christmas has come and gone, but it seems like we just arrived here. Our trip is coming to an end. When we left Indy we hadn’t set a hard “return” date, but we were thinking about leaving on January 2nd. We could relax and enjoy New Years Eve with my family, and spend New Years Day watching the Rose Bowl Parade, football, and hockey games before heading out the following day. It seemed like a great plan, but Mother Nature is messing it all up! It’s not unusual for snow / winter weather to ruin your plans when you’re in Canada, but the weather up here is actually looking pretty clear. Unfortunately, it’s looking like Chicago and Indianapolis are due to get hit with snow and ice on Saturday (Jan. 3rd – ie the day we were supposed to be driving through that area). In order to miss this storm, and prevent us from having to drive through an icy / snowy mess, we’re packing up today and leaving tomorrow morning. Don’t worry, we’ll still be enjoying New Years Eve by eating Chinese food and watching the Canada vs. USA hockey game. 

Christmas TreeWe arrived in Canada late in the afternoon of December 21st, in time to have dinner with my parents. My mom made pierogies with bacon and fried onions – a meal you can easily find in Winnipeg, but that I don’t get much in Indianapolis. Side note: I’ve actually managed to find some pierogies at Fresh Market in Indy so I do get them on occasion! After dinner I was anxious to get the Christmas tree up and decorated. Nothing beats the smell of a real tree in the house at Christmastime! I hadn’t been back in Canada to celebrate the previous two years, so my parents just stepped back and let me do all the decorating with my favorite ornaments that I hadn’t seen in years. We spent the next couple days finishing up the remainder of the Christmas preparations – shopping (we braved several malls, and I have a new appreciation for all the traffic circles in our hometown of Carmel after dealing with Winnipeg’s ridiculous number of stop lights!) and some last minute gift wrapping.

On Christmas Eve we were planning on attending church with my aunt and uncle, then we were going to be spending the evening at their house. Unfortunately, we got news earlier in the day that my uncle had been under the weather and my aunt was starting to feel ill as well. They wouldn’t be attending church that night, they certainly wouldn’t be up for hosting us all for Christmas Eve, and they decided to stay home on Christmas Day as well (which we appreciated, because we didn’t want to get sick!). We have a small family, so the loss of two people for Christmas dinner is kind of a big blow. That, and the fact that I don’t get to see my aunt and uncle very often, made it a bit of a depressing situation. Thankfully my mom’s cousin and her family were planning on attending a Christmas Eve service at their church, which isn’t far from my parent’s house at all, so we joined them instead! I got to see some of the kids in our extended family that I haven’t seen in a couple years. In that time they’ve gone from little babies to walking and talking human beings! After church we headed back to my parents’ house, and my cousin (Braden) and his girlfriend (Sabrina) came over. They didn’t want to get sick from my aunt and uncle either, but unfortunately it sounded like Braden came down with it a few days after Christmas. My mom heated up some frozen finger food in the oven, and Braden and Sabrina brought over Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix. After eating, we sat down and played Wits & Wagers, a game I gave to Dave last Christmas. We even got my dad to play, which was a Christmas miracle. 

Christmas was fantastic, but it’s always fantastic when you’re spending it in a Canadian winter wonderland! We woke up and ate fruit salad and my mom’s homemade cinnamon buns for breakfast. Then my dad and I grabbed our coffee mugs and we headed into the family room to open our stockings and our gifts. I could probably do an entire post just on all the great stuff we got for the house! My parents couldn’t get two of our “bigger” gifts shipped to Canada, so they had them shipped to my friend in Indiana and wrapped up pictures of the items for us to open on Christmas Day. So a big “thank you” to my friend Kim for storing our gifts! I can’t wait to see them when we get home. In the afternoon, Dave and my dad went to pick up my grandparents, and Braden and Sabrina came back over. We did another round of gift-opening with all of them before dinner. Unfortunately, our turkey didn’t turn out very well. My dad had seen a Jamie Oliver TV special where he prepared a Christmas goose and a Christmas turkey. My dad watched it a few times, and took notes, but ran into problems once the turkey was in the oven. It had a pork stuffing, and my dad thinks he packed it too densely, because the top of the turkey was over-done but the bottom of the turkey was under-cooked. On a more positive note, the pork stuffing was a big hit. It sounds like my mom will be taking back turkey-duty in the future! My mom made all the side dishes, including a fantastic spinach salad with strawberries, almonds, and a vinaigrette dressing, mashed potatoes, and roasted carrots and parsnips. Yum!

Boxing Day, and the entire week after Christmas, has been filled with watching Canada play in the World Junior Hockey Championships. On one evening my parents’ neighbors came over for a dinner of Chinese food, and another evening we went over to my mom’s cousin’s place for dinner. A couple years ago we went over to my mom’s cousin’s house for Boxing Day dinner, and she made a ham with delicious homemade mustard. I got the recipe from her and used it last Easter! This time she made the most moist port roast I’ve ever tasted. So much good food around the holidays

One of the best parts of spending the holidays with my family in Canada is getting all the dogs together. Of course we brought Katie-dog up with us, and my parents now have two dogs: Mischa and Abby. Mischa and Abby are sisters (literally….they’re from the same litter) and my mom’s cousin has Esmia, who has the same parents as Abby and Mischa but is from a different litter, and therefore is a couple years younger. We weren’t able to get all four dogs in one picture because it was a big struggle to just get the three sisters to sit still enough to get a half-decent picture! Look at these cuties…

Abby (left), Mischa (center) and Esmia (right)
Abby (left), Mischa (center) and Esmia (right)

Expect some more silence from me for the next few days…Happy 2015 to you all!

Until later, Ashlen