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We had - as we most often do - my husband's extended family over for Christmas dinner.  Even though the two-days' work of it beforehand sometimes feels a bit prohibitive, once they all arrive - noisy, laughing masses of them - it all feels well worth it. 

The kids have all grown up to an age where they're almost entirely independent and so we adults are freed up to selfishly pursue our own less infantile (or so we tell ourselves) interests.  Long moments of huddling over toddler -sized plates, painstakingly cutting up bits of turkey so they  no longer pose choking hazards, characterize these times together no longer.  The youngest in the group is my very own Oliver, who is a great, big, self-sufficient seven and who runs around frantically, shirt-tail sweatily untucked, with the very best of them.

There were 22 of us gathered together and to say that we were loud is a ludicrous understatement.  We aggressively clamored for conversational preeminence.  Once achieved, that heady position was almost instantly again stolen by the next extrovert.

The kids played pool, ping-pong and fooseball.  They chased one another around and basked in the delicious warm of spending long chunks of unscheduled time with not-oft-seen cousins.  It made me feel a stab of happy watching them enjoy themselves so much.  They didn't even seem to need the atrocious culinary excess to fulfill all their Christmas dreams in the way we adults most markedly did.  We ate till we felt sick and asked one another in a turkey-induced daze, "why would I do that to myself?"  And then we had dessert.

We had a white elephant gift exchange, which was the brain-child of my very clever sister-in-law.  We were allowed three steals per gift and it was a lot of fun.  I also loved that it didn't contribute to yet more excess, and in fact, allowed us to do some intentional regifting to those whom we felt would be more suitable recipients of the 'goods' we had on hand.

In a fit of Christmas generosity, I want to share a new-to-me recipe that a friend passed along this year.  Though to call this a vegetable requires a great deal of eye squinting and even some intentional misleading., we ate and loved this trashy little number this year.  It is the o-so-lofty and elegant sounding:

Sweet Potato Souffle

2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon

Beat together.  Bake 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees Celcius until set in a shallow, buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle with topping and return to oven for 10-15 minutes longer before serving. 

Topping (mix together in a small bowl):

1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup rice krispies


 
 
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Let's start off by pretending that this little series of photos is a Christmas card, shall we?  Sent specially and very considerately from our family straight to yours! 

Somehow or other, I didn't manage to summon the gumption I needed to get the non-cyber version of that project off the ground this year.   Here, instead, we have some scenes from around the JoyFam's house showing how we readied ourselves with tremendous excitement for the Christmas season.   Sometimes, before I begin with it all, I wonder if it's worth it.  The thought occasionally strikes that the decorating process might well be an exercise in assigning myself a whole new slew of unnecessary and energy-sapping jobs.   But then I see the little eyes lighting up all around me.  I see the two younger JoyKids literally dancing in place as they try to contain their joy just a bit.  I see the four of them in passionate 'team mode' running back and forth to the garage with new boxes containing treasure after treasure they'd forgotten we had stored away.

God bless you as you hang with loved ones during this season commemorating His sacred birth. 
 
 
We leave for a little break tonight!  Since our plane leaves at about 6 in the morning, that means we'll be up well before the crack of dawn in order to make it to the airport on time.  Picture that and combine it with four sleepy kids (not to mention their parents).  I wish I could just snap my fingers and find myself lying on the beach!  Ah well; there's no question that it's well worth it.  I hope that each of you have an uncommonly beautiful Christmas.  I thank God for each of you in my life.  Thanks for all that you bring.  If you need to contact me, the phone is decidedly out.  Evidently, phone calls out of the country are off-the-charts expensive.  I will, however, be checking email regularly.  Bless you all.  Until we meet again, here are some snaps of the infinity pool and the view from our condo:
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One of my most precious possessions; my husband's bathtub from his infancy!
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Christmas scenes from around our home.