Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Christmas with the Griswold's

Since Conor knows how much I love Christmas, he let me fly home to Spokane a week earlier than him to get in some good family time and holiday fun!  I have the best husband ever!  So on December 17th, I got on a plane to head home.  As always, my flight was delayed.....luckily I had a lengthy layover in Salt Lake City, so I still made my connecting flight.  First thing on the agenda: decorate the Simpson Family Christmas Tree!  I cannot remember the last time both my brothers showed up for this event, but this year was different.  The five of us had a blast, enjoying mimosas and christmas music.  Every year my Grandma gave us an ornament for Christmas so we each have our own collection which is fun to rediscover every year.  She has since passed, so my grandpa has taken over this duty and does an excellent job of selecting ornaments for us!

That night we all continued the fun at Tonicx (my brothers' bar).  They have a new martini menu that I quickly dove into, enjoying a strawberry basil drop!  A couple of friends stopped by which led to a late night out.  I love having everyone in town for the holidays.  The next morning, my parents and I headed to our lake cabin to enjoy a relaxing evening before all the Christmas mayhem began and to see all the new snow that had just started falling.  I helped my parents put up lights on their outdoor tree, assuming the standard Laura role of official holder-of-the-lights while Scott and Shari did the hanging and positioning.  I guess no one in my family trusts my light hanging skills!

The following week was full of shopping and lots of eating & drinking.  Downtown Spokane was beautiful with all the new snow.  I was so happy just walking around all bundled up, hearing the bells on shop doors ring as they were opened and closed, listening to Christmas music, and watching all the people out and about getting ready for Christmas.  My mom and I were quite prepared this year, so the week before Christmas we only had a few things to get done and therefore weren't too stressed out.  We popped into Clinkerdaggers one day while we were out shopping, to have lunch to see the restaurant beautifully decorated for Christmas as always.  We sat in the bar by the fireplace and enjoyed some incredible french onion soup and white wine.  Since then, I have been on a big french onion soup kick and plan on making a delicious homemade batch this week!

Every Christmas I help my dad with some of his shopping and wrapping.  Although this year he barely needed my assistance.  So after just two quick stops we decided to go out to dinner just the two of us!  A new restaurant had just opened on the South Hill, The West Wing, which is a sister restaurant to The White House in Post Falls.  Their food is known to be packed with garlic which is right up my Dad and my alley.  The place was quite busy, so we opted to sit at the bar where we had great service from the busy (but very capable) bartender.  We were very impressed, and I can't wait to go back. My dad and I don't have an oportunity to spend much time just the two of us, so this was quite a treat and we really had a wonderful evening.

Finally it was time for Conor to get into Spokane, and once again there were flight issues.  It was snowing hard in Spokane that night, so his plane had to circle the airport for an hour while they cleared the runways.  While my mom and I were waiting we snuck off to El Que, a great little taco & tequila bar.  This has become one of my new Spokane favorites.  We bellied up to the bar for some quick chicken tacos and interesting margaritas.  El Que infuses all of their tequilas in-house withksome standard and some very unique flavors...I have yet to be disppointed.  My mom sipped on a pineapple/vanilla marg while I had a ruby red one.  Both amazing!  Since Conor and I were successful with our infused vodka, I think tequila is going to be our next experiment.

That night the four of us watched Christmas Vacation, a Simpson Family tradition.  Even though I've seen it about 25 times it never gets old and always makes me laugh!  The whole family practically recites the entire movie, but no one complains, that's just how it goes.  Scott & Conor were making old fashions all night, which has become the drink of choice in the house.

Christmas Eve was a busy day, with last minute wrapping and lots of cooking to do for the extended family that was coming over that night.  This was Conor & my first Christmas together, and we wanted to incorporate some of his family traditions.  The Keenan's have oyster stew every Christmas Eve so Conor made some for all of us.  Almost everyone enjoyed it, but the real hit was the Chinese Tootsie Rolls he made.  An item off the menu of his family's restaurant that happens to be my personal favorite.  What isn't there to love about cream cheese, chives, and bay shrimp all put together in an egg roll wrapper dipped in sweet & sour sauce?  Every bite is to die for!  It was great having the entire family together.  Fun was had by all and then some I'm sure.  We played Catch Phrase late that night, with some family members doing much better than others...but we'll just leave it at that!

Eventually everyone hit the sheets so Santa could come!  Our Christmas Day is a little bit different since we have had to change our traditions over the years due to Jon's coffee shop being open (although he recently sold it) and now to coordinate plans with Ryan and his girlfriend Chelsea and her daughter Linnea.  So instead of waking up early and opening presents right away, we brave the chilly outdoor weather for the Simpson Family Christmas Walk.  I used to dread this, but now appreciate the slow pace on Christmas Day and seeing other families thru their windows and they sit by the tree and open presents.  Sometimes we even see a few neighbors in their underwear...you just never know what you're going to get.

We didn't know we were going to be walking with what looked to be "congressman" Simpson

Back at the house we all sat down to a delicious brunch.  Our tradition is to make a dish called breakfast sausage casserole which is wonderful concoction of bread, cheese, eggs, sausage, and cream of mushroom soup.  Next year I'll be making this for the Keenans!  With full bellies and mimosas in hand we patiently waited for Ryan, Chelsea, and Linnea to arrive to let the present opening begin.  In the meantime, the tree and stockings were taunting me.  The past few years, my mom has been buying wrapping paper that all matches and adding fancy ribbons, it makes everything look so pretty!  In our family, even your stocking presents are wrapped and we open gifts one at a time.  I love this as it makes Christmas last longer and you get to see the look on everyone's faces as they open their gifts!

Once everyone had arrived my Dad & Conor started a fire.  This is no easy task since our chimney has been having some issues over the years and needs a little extra help.  But it's nothing a hair dryer can't fix, helping to blow the air up the chimney instead of into our family room.  This time only a little smoke made its way into the house, and we all nestled into our usual spots for present opening.

We ended the evening with a Prime Rib dinner accompanied by fresh horseradish, another one of my new favorite things.  It was a wonderful Christmas and one I will always remember.  Numerous memories were made and laughs had.  That night Conor & I slept soundly as we prepared to drive to Montana the next day to do Christmas all over again.  Details on that in the next post!

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