On the first week of December when I saw Christmas lights hanging outside of a house in a neighborhood we drove through, the sight made me feel weepy. Oh no, I thought I was over this homesickness for Philippine Christmas. I fared better last year because I was busy preparing for a party at our place. But this year, after hosting Thanksgiving I was just too tired to have another one so close. I couldn’t bear stepping into the store after weeks of preparation for that Thanksgiving dinner.
But things did get better. The secret? Getting together with friends. I got lunch invitation from a college friend in Cebu and we met at Cheesecake Factory. I first dreaded going there because I rejoined Weight Watchers last week of October and have been doing really well with their new program (lost 8 pounds so far) but I was delighted when I saw that they have a new Skinnylicious menu and their veggie burger was surprisingly moist and yummy. I also got another lunch invitation from a hometown friend and this is what she cooked for me:
We had humba (pork belly cook in a sweeter adobo version), plaintain to dip with anchovies (guinamos), atsara (she makes the best atsara!), eggplant sauteed shrimp paste while having a profound discussion on Philippine showbiz.
That weekend we spent family time at the Lincoln Park Zoo to view the zoo lights.
Then we finally got around to getting our Christmas tree. Problem was the tree guy told us this was 8 feet tall but clearly it wasn’t:
I eventually go that remedied, courtesy of my heavy duty cutter. Since it was a much taller tree there were a lot of bare spots, I made mental note to buy bigger ornaments as soon as they go on sale.
There were also Christmas cards I needed to cut out and tape. I was waiting for the snow so I can take a photo of Evan as our card but when none came I decided to used our one good family photo for this year and incorporate with a ready made card sold in Target. I don’t know why I have to make life harder but something inside me always crave for originality and being unique.
I also volunteered to bring food for the Teacher’s Appreciation lunch in Evan’s school and there was also a holiday program and party for Evan. I turned out to be a lot busier than expected that I had to do away from my twice weekly volunteering at the library.
My friend Cielito invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them and her family and I was only too happy to accept. What gets me during the Christmas season here in the US is really how lonely it is compared to the Philippines because the big day here is on the 25th while for filipinos it is the hours that leads to midnight on Christmas Eve.
Cielito’s uncle was going to be there and I knew he was a good cook so I thought of a dish that he might not be bringing himself when I remembered sio-mai. So I made these.
It was the best Christmas Eve I had in the US. Food was really good. I could still taste the lamb chops and duck stew in my mouth, I didn’t know Cielito was a good cook! =) I never cooked duck in my life and would be intimidated to do so. Tom loves lamb and the wine was constantly flowing, so he was a happy guest. Cielito’s mother-in-law made a russian potato salad and I like how it was cut up into smaller pieces which made it tastes. Cielito’s uncle’s family brought strawberry shortcake and carrot cake which I indulged myself in.
We went home fully intending to go to the 9:00 mass and was treated to a magical sight of two young fawns just a block away from Cielito’s house. It was such a rare treat for us and we told Evan that the animals were on their way to meet with Santa’s reindeers to say hi to them.
Christmas day was going to the mass in the morning since the night before we ended up just helping Evan set up his Legos. Afterwards we drove down to Tom’s sister’s house where Tom’s siblings, nephews and nieces were also going to be. Evan had fun playing with his 8 year old cousin and opening his multitude of gifts.
The next morning he was just content to play with the toys that were already assembled and seem to have forgotten that he has more gifts left to open.
It has been a wonderful Christmas week and I am mostly enjoying it with Evan’s company while he is in school break. I am surprised that what started as a feeling of being slightly depressed and homesick for Philippine Christmas eventually disappeared without effort on my part. No tears for Christmas 2011, yay!
I end this post with my favorite Christmas scene of this year that I have immortalized with my camera: