christmas in july

Of course I've always known that every family is different, but marriage swings the doors wide open to see just how different. Take Christmas for example. My family does Christmas the normal way. Right? I mean don't we all assume that the way we have always experienced the holiday is THE way? (And after all the pictures from this post, I know everyone is confident in the normalcy of my family...)

For 24 years I've known Christmas Eve dinner at the Farm with cousins and aunts and uncles. Dozens of people. Too much food (because a Mueller girl has never and will never run out of food). Kids running amuck. Cousin Christopher knitting. Like always.

Stories told. And more food eaten. Then Christmas morning the out-of-towners wake up at the Farm to presents on the porch. We eat Joe Scovell's stollen. A recipe that he got from some nuns decades ago. A recipe that he wouldn't share with anyone until I bribed him last year and he gave it to me in a sealed envelope to protect with my life. But he's kind enough to make one for each family every Christmas. It's a to-die-for coffee cake-esque bread with swirls of cinnamon and nuts and icing on top. It's delish and I can't begin to explain it. Then we eat a sausage and egg casserole that the sisters make the night before. And right around lunch time we pile into the car and drive back to KC to see the other side of the family.

Annie looking like she had one too many cups of Egg Nog.

My father-in-law's family is different. It's smaller and packed with traditions. This year, after Christmas Eve dinner at the farm, John, Annie and I drove the three hours to make it to their house around midnight and wake up there for the big morning. If they're reading this, they'll probably rattle off ten things that I forgot or didn't notice about their traditions, so I apologize in advance! It's July, people! It's not exactly fresh in my mind. What I remember of it was sitting around the living room once they'd come home from playing the music at Midnight Mass. We listened to an old recording of a short story. Then off to bed. We woke up and lined the top of the stairs until John's parents rang a bell so we could go downstairs. (I think...maybe the bell is in my imagination). Music plays. The same album every year. All the presents are under the tree in the dining room, so someone gathers one per person and brings them to the living room. And on and on the present opening goes. And the present opening is a big deal. There are lots of packages. They would put your family to shame, and I don't even know your family. There are books and CDs and toys and clever little presents and gift cards galore. There is a lot of thought and heart put into each thing.  

Then between present opening and afternoon napping, there is eating. Lots of eating. 

And you leave overwhelmed by their generosity. And then in July, in the midst of this make-you-crazy heat wave you remember that you have a gift card to your favorite store that you were given on Christmas morning. And you get out of the heat and into the air conditioning to spend two hours wandering around Pryde's in Westport. And it's glorious. And you leave with a very nice loot. 

Somehow our salt grinder got wet in New Orleans and never worked again. So after three years of pinching salt with our fingers from a small bowl, I bought a new mill. And I love it.

And a kitchen towel in French that makes my heart flutter.

And another kitchen towel that makes me want to grow a garden full of food to cook in our slightly new kitchen.

Yes, Christmas is lovely in all families. But Christmas in July when you need a break from your teething toddler is very, very lovely.

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