(If any picture doesn’t show up, just click on it)
I know you’re out there.
Downton Abbey fans, like me.
If I’m totally honest, words like “obsessed” (stalker??) seem more descriptive for my love of the show.
Seeing that this blog has readers in over 100 countries, it’s entirely possible that some of you…maaaabey…..haven’t heard of British show “Downton Abbey”. (And, if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you.)
As I type this, it’s December 2015. In my household, that could only mean a whole month of preparing for and celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday.
Every birthday needs decorations. So I think it’s fitting that instead of balloons and streamers to celebrate His Big Day, the world uses lit candles and twinkly lights, instead. After all, Jesus said, “I Am the Light of the world.” John 8:12
One of the reasons Downton Abbey is so extremely popular is because of the formal dinner parties they have (every night).
I (of course) became extremely inspired. The (squeaky) wheels in my noggin started to spin.
My family is also CRAZY about the Charles Dicken’s story, “A Christmas Carol”…mainly because of the time period it takes place in. 1840’s.
We have always been highly intrigued by the foods we hear about in the traditional Christmas songs from that era. Roast goose. Figgy pudding, sugar plums, and so on…(what are those things, anyway??)
So, back in September (2015) Steve and I decided it would be great fun to throw a “Dickens meets Downton” formal dinner, for Christmas. We’d cook the foods eaten in 1840/50 in Great Britain, during the time of Charles Dickens, but serve it all in Downton Abbey-style (1914) as best we could. (I wanna come!!!).
One dilemma: guest list.
We know and love a lot of people. But, obviously and unfortunately, it was impossible to invite them all. We could only fit so many at our dining table. So, we whittled down the guest list to Steve’s family (mine couldn’t come), and the friends who helped with the construction of our log home the very most. (Next year we hope to add another table to include more people.)
We spent 2 months researching recipes of historical foods, and finally planned a 6-course dinner menu. (If you need a telescope to read this, don’t worry, it’s written out further down)…
(This wasn’t gonna be CHEAP! Holy cow!)
We didn’t “have to” serve what we wanted and planned.
We could’ve taken things off. But, in my mind and heart, just like the Little Drummer Boy song says, we were “playing our best for Him.” (Par-rump-ump-ump-um)
You might remember from the post just before this one (“A THIRD log cabin..”) that we were in New Mexico for a whole month doing major renovations to our log cabin there. We brought home the old iron fireplace, and installed a new, gas one, instead…
I put that iron fireplace for sale on the Internet when we got back, November 1st. Here it was, December 3rd, and no bites. 4 whole weeks.
Call me crazy, but I sat in my car, before going to the store, asking God what I should do? Should I cut back on the food? Or just proceed as planned? After all, if His physical body (Jesus) was sitting at my table, those were the foods I would’ve wanted to prepare, to spoil Him with. (Matthew 25:35, 40)
I asked Him to please help me save some money where I could, or to just show me which recipes to not make.
I kid you not, seconds or minutes later, I received a text on my phone from a stranger in Houston…3 hours away…telling me he’d be coming the next morning to buy the fireplace! That fireplace money covered the whole grocery bill for the party. God’s timing was unbelievable, as usual. (“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8)
I then borrowed all of my mother’s silver, and my mother-in-law’s blue and white Spode china. All that was left was to start playing the role of Mrs Patmore (the cook from Downton Abbey).
Our friends, the Sutterfields, came to stay the weekend with us. Steve and Jeremy moved my living room furniture outside to the porches, and moved my dining table into the living room. (I would’ve taken pictures of all the chaos and moving, but I was far too busy cooking.)
Candace and my daughters spent hours decorating the tables while I cooked. After they were done, the girls came and helped me in the kitchen with any final recipes I wasn’t able to get to, yet. It was such a fun day.
Then….finally….after 2 whole months of planning, researching, and anticipating….tables were set, foods were cooked and waiting, candles were lit everywhere, and the tv was turned to a “classical Christmas music” station that played music from that 1850’s time period (it was sooo beautiful with violins, trumpets, etc). We were ready!!
The glass bowl was just about to be filled with hot “wassail” (apple and orange juice spiked with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc), and the silver tea and coffee service was ready for dessert beverages…
(My family with the Sutterfields, just before the other guests arrived. Notice Steve and Jeremy really got into the 1850’s with their “stache”and “mutton chops”.)….
We started the evening with the hot wassail as everyone arrived. Then I had them be seated in front of the fire. The music was playing, candles flickered, and fireplace burned the whole evening. I remained in the kitchen the whole night completing dishes and plating each course.
The girls were SO excited. They were able to sit down to eat, but quickly rushed to my side in between courses, clearing dishes, and helping me plate. (I had all the kitchen lights turned off so they wouldn’t be a distraction while they ate in candlelight.)
Reese (my 12 year old) also entertained everyone in between a couple of the courses by singing while playing Christmas carols on the piano. I was so incredibly proud of both of them.
All of us had wondered “what” Figgy Pudding (also called Christmas Pudding, and Plum Pudding) was. I made 3 desserts that night…in case figgy pudding was terrible. I made Sugar Plums and Sticky Toffee Pudding, too.
Here it is…warm, extremely moist spice cake called “Plum” or Figgy Pudding, DRENCHED (and I mean soaked) in a decadent and hot (fresh off the stove, not spicy) sauce….
Everyone ate every crumb of each course: 1) Brie covered in a warm honey mustard and topped with toasted walnuts, served with apple slices and crackers, 2) Princess Diana’s favorite salad that I learned how to make at a cooking class taught by her personal chef, 3) Curry and spiced, roasted butternut squash and potato soup, 4) the Salmon Mouselline with Cucumber recipe that was made for the First Class passengers on the Titanic the night it went down…and also served on Downton Abbey, 5) Chinese 5-spice and orange roast goose, herb and garlic rubbed prime rib roast with horseradish cream sauce, mashed potatoes, and cranberry/chestnut/oyster stuffing, 6) Sticky toffee pudding, Figgy pudding, and sugar plums.
Their favorite was the salmon mousseline from the Titanic and Downton Abbey.
It was a wonderful night. I’m ready to do it again.
Our family’s Christmas festivities have also included attending a beautiful concert performed by the San Antonio Symphony and the choir of First Baptist Church downtown. The lights and videos playing on the white walls in tandem with the music was awesome…
….the girls have made many batches of gingerbread cookies….
…..and they’ve been making pillows and ornaments on their sewing machines…
…..we’ve been watching Christmas movies…sometimes in front of the fire with fondu and candlelight….
We went to the Nutcracker, and will be hosting more friends for dinner, having my family here for Christmas Eve (equipped with “Swedish Smorgasbord”), and his family for Christmas Day.
As for me, I’ve been busy with my newest hobby…
…making jewelry. Drawing and etching my own designs, like Norwegian rosemaling, on copper, and cutting and dying leather to make bracelets and such.
After the holidays, it’ll be time to get back to finishing the house.
That about “wraps up” (get it?) this year’s Christmas posting. If you’re new to this blog, it’s like a book. It’s chronological and each post tells what happened next. So you’ll want to start from the beginning. I have a complete list of direct links for every post on “What is Cottonwood Creek?” The link is at the bottom.
As we end 2015 and look toward 2016, here are a few words I’ll leave you with from Downton Abbey and Charles Dickens:
“You have a talent that none of the rest of us have. Just find out what it is, and use it. It’s doing nothing that’s the enemy.” (From Sybil, on Downton Abbey)
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” (Dickens)
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”, which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:23
And, lastly, in the words of Tiny Tim (who Dickens almost named “Puny Pete” or “Little Larry”, instead…seriously)…
“God bless us, every one!”