It is probably a bad sign that my first blog entry for 2011 is two weeks into the new year and about last year. Oh well. Christmas anticipation was not usually a part of my life, and 2010 will always be special for me in that it was the first year that I meditated on Jesus’ birth, planned for Christmas and found ways to make it special for myself and Husband.

Our plan was always to have a special Christmas Day of our own even though for 2010 and 2011 at least we spent and will spend the 25th with our respective families. We wanted to start our own traditions now, so that our children will always have our family traditions to embrace and enjoy, not just the ones that their grandparents started.

It’s a short story in some ways – December 19 was one of the most special days of the year for me and easily one of my favourite ones of our married life. It was quiet, peaceful, tasty, fun, sacred and surprising. We began the day with a Christmas brunch of breakfast casserole (an ode to America) and pear and almond meal tarts.

Everything for the day was easy to prepare, and I think the sorts of food that our children could help us prepare as well. Husband took care of our afternoon spread of appetizers – our homage to Europe.

We finished off the night with a roast dinner (photo at the very top). This was the meal I put the most amount of thought into. I picked lamb because we want to connect Christmas and Easter for our kids from the very beginning. We want them to understand that these aren’t two separate occasions, one that has lots of fun things, the other just a weekend. The idea – for now, who really knows in the long run – is to have a roasted leg of lamb twice a year, on Christmas Day and on Easter.

With the lamb, which was amazing, we had mashed potatoes, roast sweet potatoes and roasted green beans.

  • Roast Leg of Lamb I did most of what was suggested in the comments section of this recipe – added balsamic vinegar to the marinade, roasted it at slightly lower temperatures, and if I had a rack on which to put the meat in the pan, I would have done that as well. I took the drippings and used it as a gravy.
  • Roasted Green Beans I followed the recipe pretty much to a T. Confections of a Foodie Bride is one of my all-time favourite food blogs.
  • Mashed potatoes I wish I had followed a recipe because I wasn’t thrilled by how these turned out, a bit too gluey in texture (I added butter, cream and salt), and it’s possible that I didn’t pay enough attention to what kind of potatoes they were as well.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes chop, coat in olive oil and salt and sprinkle chopped rosemary over the top. Bake until cooked at a medium high temperature.
  • Pear and Almond Meal Tarts my mother made these for Christmas brunch a few years ago, and it was out of a cook book by this New Zealand woman, and I can’t find it now. This recipe is kind of from memory and also a bit from this recipe online.  Preheat oven to a medium heat, roll out some puff pastry and cut into circles (I used an upside down saucer). Mix almond meal with apple juice – I apologize for the lack of specific quantities, I just estimated based on the puff pastry that I had. You want the mixture to be firm but also a bit damp. Spread on the puff pastry leaving a centimeter or a bit more of edge all the way around. Slice the pears finely and arrange in a fan on top of the almond meal. Melt honey on the stove and brush on the pears. Put in the oven to bake. It’s done when the puff pastry is cooked and the pears are golden. Melt a bit of apricot jam on the stove and brush on the pears to finish.

Peace makes me think of relaxation, calm, a wide open space and harmony. When I want to be “at peace,” typically that means an escape involving travel, alone time or a quiet nook in a cafe.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid, promises the Prince of Peace.  I do not give as the world gives. I am always searching for my completion, my peace, in what someone else offers – a soothing candle, exercise and diet, relationships, social media and entertainment.

My peace I give to you. If peace is something that he gives, if he is peace, then peace is wholeness and completion, something that only comes with the presence of the Prince of Peace in our lives. Peace is not the escape from our circumstances, but it is the embrace of someone, him.

He gives himself as our peace, and he asks me to surrender to his peace.

This week’s advent meal happened by accident, and turned out to be a dual effort by Husband and I. Lentils have been on my mind more and more as a good source of protein instead of relying constantly on red meat, and I love lentils in almost anything. There is something complete, hearty and nourishing about this humble…I don’t know what it is. Vegetable? Grain? Pulse? Last weekend I tried making Sri Lankan dahl for the first time in my life. It turned out well, so well that I wanted to eat it again on Monday as my advent food.

I made a big pot of it, and when I returned after eight in the evening, Husband already had a portion of it. But he re-invented it per German standards. It turns out that his grandmother used to make a lentil dish almost exactly like this particular pot of what I thought was Sri Lankan dahl, only the German version has sausage and – promise – red wine vinegar. Very strange to think of vinegar in dahl, yes? It soothed my taste buds and satisfied my hunger.

  • Gerlankan Dahl sautee in oil chopped onion, crushed garlic and finely chopped ginger. Add a few cinnamon sticks, some cumin powder and a bit of garam masala and keep sauteeing. After a minute or two add red lentils. Fry for another minute or so then add water. It is hard for me to know how much water to add – I started with double the amount, but  as it soaked up the liquid, I added more. After the lentils are cooked and it’s a good consistency, chop some sausage into it (the better quality the sausage, the better it will be; we had the cheapest kind of smoked sausage available and it was still good). Add red wine vinegar at the end – go easy, add bit by by and taste as you go.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

from the book of John, chapter 14

Squeezed between a man and a woman on a tight EasyJet flight back to Geneva, I opened my little blue Bible to Matthew 1. It was the first Sunday of Advent, and I was trying to find some way of connecting with The Story and think about hope.

Lineages don’t usually make me cry. I skip over those sections most of the time, but the tears flowed freely after a few verses.

The book of the geneology of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

David who killed a man so that he could have another wife. Abraham who gave his wife to the Egyptians because he was a coward, who slept with his wife’s servant and fathered an illegitimate son.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar…

Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, who was pretending to be a temple prostitute in order to seduce her father-in-law so that she could bear a child, continue the family line and have a legitimate place in society as a widow with children.

Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

Rahab the prostitute and from Jericho, a gentile. Ruth an outsider to the Jewish tradition, another gentile.

David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.

He will not let us forget that David stole another man’s wife.

There are so many more – Uzziah who began as a favoured king to end with leprosy because of his pride against God. Manasseh who sacrificed his sons in the fires of other gods. But it’s from these people that he chose to come. This is the son of God’s family tree with his broken and belligerent mothers and fathers.

The tall, balding man next to me tried to see if I was crying without openly staring. Could I help myself? Any of us given a free pass from our past would take it. The Baby offers something better. He came from brokenness and rebellion, and he comes to us in our brokenness and rebellion.

He gives himself. Redemption for the mistakes. His blood for our guilt. Hope for our sin.