Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice Tradition

It's here, the last official day of Autumn. Tomorrow Winter officially starts. Eek! 

Winter scares us a little. And now that I'm the Mom of a toddler, it scares me a lot. Cold weather, rain/snow, wind, mud, early sunsets, etc. The Winter Solstice just seems to make it all a little more real. 

Which is why we've tried to implement a family tradition from Cameron's youth into our lives. A Winter Solstice Dinner. Finding things to celebrate, look forward to, and/or appreciate can help to lessen the dread or the emotional impact of winter for us. 

Each year on the Solstice, Cameron's family would have the traditional American Christmas dinner (as the food for Christmas was all the incredible traditional New Mexican Christmas food). They would get in their nice clothes (ties and all), practice and learn manners, and have a fabulous meal as a family. 

We started doing this about 5 years ago. Some years we make a meal for the two of us. Some years we invite people over. Some years we go out somewhere fun to eat. But it's become a fun tradition for us in our lives. It helps to turn the fear and dread of Winter aside, at least for a few days, and we get to start Winter off on a happy memory and fun note.

Looking back at our very first Winter Solstice meal, it wasn't incredibly fancy as far as what we made or what we spent, but it felt fancy at the time, and it is still a fabulous memory. Working together to make something special was really neat. Some years our celebration meals were meager and other years they were a touch on the more fancy side (at least we thought they were fancy).

One of my favorites is from a few years back.

When my brother was 14 or so, I told him that I'd do a full 7 course meal for him for a date if he ever wanted me to. Well, he finally called that one year and so we held our Solstice meal a little late to accommodate the date. He and my cousin asked out two girls from my church and brought them out to the house for dinner, then took them bowling. I had so much fun deciding on a theme, putting the menu together, and getting decorations up. I LOVE doing these dinner parties. 

Brigham (my brother) and I decided on a Snowman theme and tried to incorporate that into as many of the courses as we could. I had plans to make snowmen for the table centerpiece as well, but I ran out of time. I do like what did pull together though. I hit up the after Christmas 50% off sale and got me a pack of 20 mini trees, some glittered and scented pinecones, 4 silver snowman ornaments, and 4 gold plate chargers. I also picked up 2 small packs of gold and silver ornaments for our New Years Tree (since we didn't get the tree decorated in time for Christmas, we ended up with a New Years Tree instead), and Cameron Brig and I worked on making ornaments as well. 

The Decorations:

Thanks to Google Translate, we did the whole menu in French. I knew that no one coming to dinner knew French, but I figured it would help provide some good conversation (which it did) as they tried to figure out what each course was. 

And then we had the New Years Tree nearby for added awesomeness.  

The Menu:

Course 3: Salad
This was just a generic salad, with garlic cheese croutons and their choice of dressing (we have tons). Then I had the great idea to buy mozzarella cheese pearls and put three on a toothpick, topped with an olive to make a snowman. Only I found out when we opened the package of cheese that cheese pearls aren't necessarily the cheese snowmen looked more like modern art then snowmen. Oh well. 

Course 4: Mango Sorbet. 
I forgot to get a picture of this course. We bought mango sorbet at the store (I made my own once and that was more than I wanted to deal with this go around). We served the sorbet in small decorative canning jars with a gold ribbon tied around the top. 

Course 5: Mashed Potato Snowman with Chicken gravy, served with Parmesan Asparagus,

Course 6: Chicken Cordon Bleu with Sauteed Peppers
I didn't end up getting a picture of this course either. But it was yummy! Cameron cooked up the chicken and it was perfection. We were going to serve it face up with a piece of rye toast cut into the shape of a hat so it would be a snowman head, but I forgot to do that...I forgot to even pull out the toast. But it was still delicious. 

This was supposed to be cute...but it just ended up looking like a snowman massacre. 

Everyone had a water glass, but then we also gave them the option of Homemade Egg Nog or a Homemade Vanilla Cream Soda. We served the Egg Nog and Cream Soda in our fun "fancy" glasses, and drew on snowman faces with dry erase markers. 
For homemade vanilla cream sodas, fill a glass 3/4 of the way with shaved ice (like you get at sonic). Pour in your flavored Torrani syrup (found in the coffee aisle in your grocery store). In these glasses Cameron filled the cup about 1/4 of the way with the syrup. Pour Club Soda in the glass, filling about 3/4 of the remaining space. Finally pour in some heavy whipping cream or half and half (we used heavy whipping cream this go around). Stir and enjoy!

It was so much fun to serve the dishes and to carry out the dinner. I loved it. Cameron would periodically go out and provide some entertainment. He juggled osage oranges, he did a "magic show", he read the menu in his best and worst French accents, and was just a hit. All in all, I think it was a success. 

We've learned that it doesn't have to be huge and planned out to the extreme or even expensive to be memorable and a fun start to a hard season in the year. Each year we see what would be special and what would be fun and mold it to where we are and our circumstances. Tomorrow we'll go out for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and I'm excited!

Happy Last Day of Fall Y'all!

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