Christmas is Coming!

My favorite season is here, Christmas!!!!!  And as such we have started up our decorations.  It usually takes us a while to get everything up but that’s just because we have SO MUCH to decorate and with our schedule (school and Alan’s studying) we usually have a limited amount of time.

One of the things I love about living in the Northeast is that you can find many things that are community made and local, cheap and very fresh.  For example our door wreath was just $15.00!  and with fresh pine an benefiting a local community group.  You can’t beat that!

Christmas Wreath

And so it was time to look for our Christmas tree.  I’ve always had a knack for buying 5 footers that get pudgier every year, always sending me to the store to get more lights.  Funny think is that every year I tried to buy a skinnier or at lest less frondoso tree.  Alas, every year I ended up with a fatter tree.  When we moved north our first tree in Rhode Island we got from a cut your own tree farm.  It was a great experience; you pick out the tree you like, and the guy hands you a saw and you get your tree.  From 2005 on, we bought our trees at the same farmstand, paying about $50 bucks for my fat 5 footers.

This year I put my foot down.  I was determined to get the damn tree I had envisioned.  I new it was a Fir, I just didn’t know what kind.  About a mile from our house there is a Christmas Tree farm, so we went there on Tuesday.  And the first tree I see is the Fir I’ve always dreamed about.  Except that think is huge!  It’s 10 feet tall!  But its got such a beautiful color of green and such a nice shape!  But we keep looking.  Finally Alan asks if there was a tree I liked.  I said yes but that I thought it was too big, and showed him the tree.  He said, “It will fit”.  I said “It’s 10 feet tall!”.  He reassured me “It will fit”.  So we bought a 10 footer for $47 bucks!  Can you believe that?  And low and behold, IT DID FIT! Now on to decorating, at least this year, I won’t run out of lights. I think.

Adriana's 10 Foot Christmas Tree

A Lambie Christmas Summary

I truly thought I would have more time for blogging once I finished my degree, but getting used to our new schedule has been kind of well, hard.  So I apologize for my wayyyyyyyy late Christmas posting.

Last year, you might remember that my friend Marisol and her family came to our house….so this year it was our turn to visit them in Conshohocken, PA.  I love spending Christmas with my Goddaughter!

Through our Holiday time in Conshohocken, I was able to spend plenty of time with my beautiful ahijada Gabriela. See?

Gaby and Me preparing for an outing!

For example here we are in Merchantville, NJ a place with a lot of snow and beautiful Victorian homes, as well as, strangely, a Hispanic peluquería and a Latino Grocery where I was able to get all the fixings for our Cuban-Rican Nochebuena.

Gaby and Me in the snow!

After hanging out, it was time to get to the task at hand of preparing all the Nochebuena fixins’!  So I present to you the cooks of today – and the cook of tomorrow!

Marisol, Me & Gaby!

As I shared with all of you last year, our Nochebuena includes: lechon, arroz blanco, frijoles negros, arroz con gandules, morcillas, pasteles, tostones and yuca con mojo.  For dessert we always have a Flan de Queso.  This year’s Christmas celebration was particularly special since Marisol and Victor might be moving.  So it may have been our last one in Conshohocken!  Although I forgot to take a picture of what our plates looked like (I was too hungry!) I can show you what they looked like at the end.

Done!

So as you can see it was a success!!!!  Now tell me, how was your Christmas??

And you ask…What does a Cuban-Rican Nochebuena look like?

In all fairness, Cuban-Rican Christmas is sort of a misnomer – it only refers to the Nochebuena dinner.  Como nadie se puede quedar fuera, least of all Alan, we have a Chilean lunch: Empanadas.   That is the start of all our Nochebuenas since we’ve been married.  We are a diverse bunch so we have to be inclusive! 😉

Empanadas de Queso y Carne

Empanadas de Queso y Carne

Don’t they look yummy????  And it is a great way to hold off the hunger while the pork roasting in the oven aromatiza la casa entera.

Aside from the obvious religious and family reasons to love Christmas, there is one more reason why I love Christmas: I get to cook Cuban food.

*Sigh*, no I do not cook Cuban food year round.  I know, hard to believe right?  But, it is just not efficient.  First, I only know how to cook for four or more people.  Leftovers, you scream.  Not so fast.  Alan, as Papi (q.e.p.d.), will not eat leftovers.  New day, fresh meal…and I will not throw away food.  So, gasp! I cook mainly American – bistés and chicken with some rice, vegetables, or mashed potatoes.

So back to the joys of making Cuban food.  I make the frijoles negros in advance either the night before or that very morning (frijoles taste sooo much better after they sit for awhile!), and I have to admit this year I made my best frijoles yet (and man, I make kickass frijoles negros).

Although I know el puerco tastes great with just sal y pimienta, I’m sorry I like my lechon seasoned with mojonaranjas agrias, ajo, cebolla, comino, sal y pimienta.  It’s just not Nochebuena otherwise.

So while the puerco roasts, and the frijoles rest, Marisol gets to work on the arroz con gandules.  Hey, I was raised in Puerto Rico but my house was a vacuum sealed Cuban enclave.  I have never cooked with recao in all my life and have no clue where to start.  To each his own and since she is the original PuertoRican, she makes the arroz con gandules.  She is also in charge of supplying the pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales if you will).

Once the puerco hits those cherished 155 degrees, I turn the oven off and cook the Yuca.  I also make the mojo at this time – naranja agría, some limón, ajo, cebolla, aceite de oliva (very HOT), and some of the puerco juices.  Yum, I’m getting hungry just writing this.

Puerco, frijoles negros, yuca, pasteles and arroz con gandules…you put that all together and what do you get?

cubanrican0001

Cuban Rican Nochebuena!

Holiday Decorating

I LOVE Christmas time.  Ask anyone.  I literally live for the crismases; I get it from Abuela.  However, I will never understand why I never ever have the tree done before the 23rd.  I should be one of those people whose tree is up right after Thanksgiving, yet I’m not.  Buying and decorating the tree is a PROCESS in my house…although the house itself gets decorated right after Thanksgiving.  See?

Chimenea - Decorated and In Use!
Chimenea – Decorated and In Use!

Let me explain.

When I went away to college, and came back for my first Christmas (1990) I came home to a house with no Christmas tree.  WTF?  Mami had gone on strike.  Since we were now adults, she would not be putting up any more trees.  If I wanted a Christmas tree then I had to do it myself.  Fine, I said.

Next day I took Mami and Abuela to the Old San Juan docks and bought our first NATURAL Christmas tree and decorated it by myself.  I think that is when I figured out I worked best under pressure.  Ever since that day, it is rare if my tree is ever decorated before the 20.  Actually, I think hell would freeze over if that ever happened.

To top things off, I have very bad luck buying trees.  It turns out every year I buy a thicker, fuller tree than the year before.  And, since I am sooooo picky, that means buying extra lights and decorations every year.

Our first year in Rhode Island we even did the “cut your own tree” thing.  I have to admit, it was a lot of fun – yet again, it was a fat tree.

Last year, when I found myself stringing eight, yes you read right eight, 100+ lights strings I swore that it would never happen again.

It took some searching, but this year we did find a Fir that is not so thick and whose branches are not so close together.

Arbolito No Lights
Arbolito No Lights

Six strings this year.  Two of which are 150 lights.  Sigh.  Turns out the branches extend out farther…..so it still needs more lights.  It takes me one whole day just to put the lights on – why do I have to be so picky?

coquito0001

Lucky for me I always have coquito on hand.  There is no fun in decorating without coquito for the breaks!

Sunday we put up the lights – that’s another thing, it is a spousal endeavor so I have to wait until Alan is available. You see we have this tradition, every time I put up a string of lights, Alan takes a picture of the tree and me signing how many strings we have.  Corny yes, but it is a nice record to have.

Three Strings so Far
Three Strings so Far

Today (the 23rd) we finally decorated the tree, and I have to say it looks wonderful!

The Lambie Christmas Tree 2008
The Lambie Christmas Tree 2008

I hate the fact pictures never really show what the tree really looks like, but at least you can get an idea.