I don't know if it's possible to truly explain what a wonderful Christmas we had! This year Christmas felt different to me. For the first time in YEARS I was counting down the days, anxiously waiting for December 25th. In many ways, it was like I was a kid again. There was this one present I REALLY wanted, but I wasn't sure if I would get it; and I had a gift that I couldn't WAIT to give! Those things along with the fact that it was a White Christmas and there's a baby on the way--my nephew, Finn (don't you love the name?--if you're friends with my sister-in-law, realize it's not FBO yet), will be here in about a month--made this year so special!
The days leading up to Christmas were jam-packed with holiday festivities. I spent most of the day of the 23rd baking cookies for the #2 men in my life. I had made Michael his peanut butter balls earlier this month, and now it was time to make cookies that my dad and brother would love. Awhile back, Randy mentioned that he missed Frango mint cookies.
For those of you who aren't from Chicago, or from the Hoyle household, you need to understand the importance of Frango mints. Frangos are the signature candy of what was Marshall Field's--now Macy's. (It took me YEARS to finally call the building on State St. in Chicago Macy's because it will FOREVER be Marshall Field's to me!) When we were kids, my parents would take the three of us downtown Chicago at Christmas time. We would look at the State Street windows, each decorated to depict a scene from a famous Christmas tale, and then go inside to eat under the massive Christmas tree in the Walnut Room. Looking back, this trip had to have been a headache for my parents, but to this day, some of my favorite holiday memories are from these times. (Isn't it amazing that even when I blog it takes me nine years to tell a story?!)
When Macy's took over the franchise, they kept Frango mints, but Marshall Field's famed Frango mint cookies were no where to be found. When Randy said he wished that he could have those again, a small voice, one not much different from NPH's, rang out, "Challenge accepted!" Thus the first part of the 23rd was spent making Frango mint cookies for my dear brother. The consensus was that my version of the cookies were even better than the original. They are much chewier and with my homemade label you'd think you bought them outside the Walnut Room itself!
Betty's Frango Mint Cookies--Baked especially for my brother, Randy!
Homemade dog treats for Bentley & Bruce's puppy cousins
My father's cookies were the true labor of love. I spent FIVE HOURS making these suckers! The famed recipe? Tasha Tudor's sugar cookies. (The only difference between the link recipe and the one my dad grew up with is that my grandma would not frost the cookies, instead she sprinkled a nutmeg and sugar combination over the cut outs before baking.) This recipe makes SO MUCH DOUGH! Those five hours went by in this way: knead, roll, cut, place, sprinkle, bake, cool, repeat. Kill, me, now! I didn't count how many cookies I got from that batch, but let's say that my dad could probably eat cookies for the next six months!
Tasha Tudor's Sugar Cookies--made for my Daddy
After my baking was done, Michael and I ordered pizza and watched A Christmas Story. It was fun to watch it from beginning to end (something that rarely happens because of TBS' 24 Hours of A Christmas Story every Christmas Eve--we usually just catch the same scenes over and over).
Christmas Eve was a whirlwind. I packaged the Frango mint cookies and dog treats I made, organized present piles to be taken to our parents' homes, and made dip to take to my mom's after church. The busyness of the day could have distracted me from the gorgeous snow, but I've been actively trying to pay attention to God's small gifts, and I was able to delight in the peaceful snowfall this Christmas Eve. It was gorgeous!
After church with my parents and sister, we went to my mom and dad's house for some appetizers then headed to my in-laws for a night cap. Since we started dating, Michael and I exchange gifts on Christmas Eve--why? Well, because we have to be up at 5:30 am in order to make it to his parents' house by 6:30 am! To my surprise and delight, my wonderful husband got me a new Nikon Coolpix P100! I couldn't have been more ecstatic! This camera has been the missing piece in my ability to start a crafty/domestic-y/DIY/Awesome blog...title suggestions welcome. Michael enjoyed opening his gifts too (3 Blu-Rays, a PS3 game, and two sets of Bulls tickets), but I knew he was a tad disappointed. He was hoping to get his new surround sound system for downstairs. It wasn't under the tree. :(
Christmas morning--6 am--Love the new camera!
The next morning, we headed to the Sampleses' at 6 am to open presents there. It was a great morning filled with coffee, laughter, and love.
Santa made his annual stop at the Sampleses'.
Nicole didn't cry this year, but unfortunately, Poppy missed his visit again! ;)
Michael got his much coveted White Sox Championship banner with some more Blu-Rays, while I got a new coffee maker, perfume, stuff for the house, and some cute slipper-boots.
Our sweet nephew & nieces--Jake, Nicole, & Ashley--before present opening
2005--Sox win the World Series!
Around 9 am we headed to the Hoyles' for Christmas there. Santa always visits us at my mom and dad's house, and this year was no different. We got three gifts each from Santa (because that's how many Baby Jesus got) along with our stockings. Some of my favorite gifts from that morning include a Coach coin purse, picture frames, and a stable to add to my Christmas village collection. I was most excited about going to my parents' to open presents because Michael's final gift from me--his sound system--was there. It took every ounce of self-control to not tell him about it before then, but it was all worth it when he opened his gift! (We had disguised it as a gift for Courtney and left it until the end. He couldn't have been more surprised!)
Michael realizing he got his sound system!!
My favorite picture from this Christmas--Thanks, Bex!
After some good conversation and a bit more coffee, we headed home to unload gifts and let the dogs out before turning around and heading back to the in-laws for drinks and games. We were home by 8 pm or so to give the dogs their gifts (HUGE Busy Bones) and play with our new toys. All in all, it was the best Christmas in my adult memory. I am so blessed to have family who loves me and knows me so well and a husband who takes care to choose just the right gift.
Bentley loves his Busy Bone!
Bruce loves him a bit more...half gone in 15 minutes!
I realize this is a crazy long post, but it was a Christmas I don't ever want to forget! Merry Christmas to you all!