our christmas

We had a lovely, if a bit melancholy on my part, Christmas. I’m so bad at being away from home around the holidays! It’s not as if I’m dying to be back in Ohio, but as it is I think I’m doing fine, I’m spending time with Jon and we’re opening presents and running around doing all the Christmassy things and then-bam!-I’m crying in Jon’s old bedroom at his parents’ house on Christmas eve because I miss my mom.

Expat life, dudes. Harrumph.

But really, our Christmas was nice. This was perhaps the first year ever that I ticked nearly every box in the imaginary checklist in my mind of what I want to do before the big day arrives-make and send good cards to people I love, buy and wrap (and ship) presents, make cookies, drink mulled wine, have various get togethers, wear fabulous sweaters, decorate and enjoy our tree, watch all my favorite Christmas movies…..all of it. It’s quite a list. And this year, without stressing, it all came together. And I’m thankful for that, and for a nice partner who indulges my childlike enjoyment of this season.

jonashleychristmas2012

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A Christmas Cookie Party

One of my favorite, warm-fuzzy Christmas memories from my childhood was our annual Christmas cookie making. My sister, my mom, my grandma and I, all piled in Grandma Monk’s tiny kitchen, the tiny old-fashioned radio blaring Grandma’s preferred tunes of the 50s and 60s, flour and powdered sugar and colored icing and cookie cutters everywhere. We made snowmen and trees, snowflakes and stars and santas, too. So many tuppperware boxes full of our productions, enough to last for weeks until there were only a few sad, stale little treats left.

christmas cookies

I’ve made Christmas cookies every year, in every place I’ve found myself when the holiday season rolls around. It’s my little way of going back to that time, when I was young, in my grandmother’s kitchen, with my favorite women. And some day I’ll do it with my own kids-but that’s still pretty far away, I think.

christmas cookies

This year Jon and I invited some of our friends over for some casual cookie making, accompanied by hot chocolate (with a bit of Bailey’s in it) and some mulled wine. We listened to some records, made high art (as seen above, some people are so artistic!) and watched some fun holiday movies and cooking shows on tv.

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My love affair with Harrods

harrods London christmas lights

It is a very naive and childish part of me that loves Harrods like I do. It is an amazing department store in London, similar to Macy’s from the old days in the US, and I think that vague connection is what makes it such a magical place at Christmas time-at least in my mind. Like “A Miracle on 34th Street”, but set in London! And much, much more expensive!

Harrods is a true luxury store, with every “important” label out there-Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Rolex and Peugut  and Cartier, all of that, displayed in its halls. But what I love the most, more than all of the rest, are the food halls. Amazing selections of delicacies and pastries, meats and fruits and dishes from all over the world, plus the best on offer from this gray, chilly land, England. It is decadent. There is a La Duree in there as well! Macarons!

harrods london christmas pastry

And this weekend I saw a ham on sale that cost….wait for it…..£1300. THIRTEEN HUNDRED POUNDS. For a ham. Believe me, a trip to Harrods is a a mouth watering wander through the best of all kinds of treats, both material and edible, and maybe most of us will not be able to afford oh….3/4 of that deliciousness.

It is a crazy place.

harrod's food hall london christmas

The only thing I have ever purchased at Harrods was loose leaf tea for my mom. And even that was not cheap. Some day I may buy something more, or maybe even sit down and have a meal at one of the counters/restaurants….but let’s not get our hopes up! They also sell a Christmas hamper (English word for gift basket) every year that costs upward of £1000, full of fancy champagne, caviar and other tasty/fancy goods. Yeesh. For now, I’m content with looking around and enjoying the sights and atmosphere-particularly during the holidays.

The Knightsbridge area of London, where Harrods can be found, is also home to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Harvey Nichols,  and any number of other luxury shops. So it’s to be expected that they step it up to impress the hoi-polloi come the holidays, and ohhhh they do! They really do. It is gorgeous down there, and the lights and window displays are just beyond lovely.

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London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Jon and I have been together for 4 Christmases. Out of those 4 Christmases, 2 have been in England. And during the Christmas season both of those years (including this year!) we’ve gone up to London to take part in the holiday joyousness that is Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.

hyde park winter wonderland london

This year we met up with my fellow Buckeye, Ariel (who can be found writing about her own oh-so-social London existence over here) and man oh man do I love having another Ohioan just an hour away. We need to hang out more! And it’s also always fun comparing our experiences with our English menfolk and just being Midwesterners in England, essentially. It’s a unique experience. We’ve always got a lot to talk about.

The Wonderland was chock full of people. Even on a Sunday evening, the place was bustling. We partook in several cups of mulled wine and a delicious bratwurst or two, and discussed the differences between Bavarian and German holiday markets (conclusion: uhhhh are there any differences?), all while doing some light dancing to the entertainment on hand at various stages and checking out some of the more-interesting-choices in attire by people in attendance. Okay, Jon and Rob didn’t dance. But that’s okay, Rel and I had it covered.

Mmmmm German Bratwurst.

bratwurst hyde park winter wonderland london

And stealth pictures of bratwurst eating, which make me laugh.

I refrained from getting on any carnival rides. Doesn’t go well with mulled wine, you see. Also, they are terrifying. We did watch some of the people ice skating for a few (very few) minutes. Jon Norris still refuses to ice skate. Harrumph.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay out too late, what with having to work this morning, but I’m glad we went down early in December, rather than later. And if you’re in or near London, you should go too! It’s good for all ages, and I’m still disappointed I didn’t buy a Christmas ornament, what with trying to make a quick exit to the closest tube station through the heaving throngs of people. Silly me. Oh, well…there’s always next year!