Our Christmas 2023

This year, we traveled over the holidays again for the first time in years. I took the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s off and we flew down to Southern California to spend the holidays with my mother-in-law.

We arrived on Friday evening, she had dinner ready (a delicious Zuppa Toscana) and later, I helped her finish the puzzle advent calendar that she received as a gift in December. What a great way to start the holiday weekend!

I did a little workout on Saturday morning and then Jon and I ran some last-minute errands in the early afternoon. I was honestly surprised (again) by how empty Trader Joe’s was, two days before Christmas. I expected a lot more people. Either people are much more organized this year, or the rush had already happened in the morning.

My mother-in-law and I went for a short walk in the afternoon. She’s trying to get some movement in but is often tired from her chemo treatment, so she went back home after 15 minutes and I extended my walk through the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights.

We ordered pizza for dinner (because there was going to be so much more cooking over the next few days) and then watched a British mystery on TV.

Christmas Eve

I started Christmas Eve morning off with a short run around the neighborhood. It’s always nice to get a little workout in. After a hot shower, I got working in the kitchen. I baked some fresh cheddar-chive scones and then at 11 am Jon’s brother and his family came over for a Christmas brunch. It was nice to see and spend time with our two nephews (13 and 8).

They left in the early afternoon, just in time for me to get in touch with my side of the family, who was gathered at my sister’s house for Christmas Eve. I spent a little over an hour with them via FaceTime. I am so thankful for the technology that makes it possible to virtually sit at my family’s dinner table.

In the afternoon, I started preparing our Christmas Eve dinner. We originally had planned a three-course meal, but we had already been eating so much during brunch that my mother-in-law suggested saving the appetizer for the next day. I prepared Züricher Geschnetzeltes (Zurich Ragout) with homemade bread dumplings (my mom’s recipe) and roasted green beans.

After dinner, we moved over to the couch and watched “A Christmas Carol” (an old version) while I worked on my new knitting project.

I also need to share, I received this mug from my mother-in-law for Christmas. Isn’t it hilarious? I first only noticed the carrot on the bunny’s head, but upon further inspection, the birds all have vegetables on their heads, too. It’s so whimsical :)

I also got a Cashmere sweater (in teal! It’s so soft and beautiful) and a bath gift set. My BIL and SIL got us some super-fancy chocolates from Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara.

Christmas Day

We slept in a little bit and then I got myself a cup of coffee and sat on the patio in the sun for a while. I called my uncle in Germany and in the early afternoon, Jon, his mom and I went down to the Ventura Pier to go for a little walk in the sunshine. It was beautiful outside.

In the afternoon, I knitted and watched “It’s a Beautiful Life” – one of my must-see movies every year. I love it so much.

For dinner, my mother-in-law prepared the Coquilles St. Jacques that we skipped the previous day. I remember that she had made the dish before – years ago – and I loved it. It’s so tasty. We also finally had a piece of German Cheesecake (Schmandkuchen) that I had prepared a dessert.

The 2nd day of Christmas

On the “2nd day of Christmas” (which is an official holiday in Germany and which we take very seriously around here), I got up early and went for a run at the beach. Can it get better than that?

It was a bit gloomy, but the temperatures were perfect for a run. There was a high surf advisory for Ventura this week and the waves were a little crazy. The tide was super high up on the beach and when I ran up to Marina Park, I saw waves crash over the path that leads out to Soter’s Point.

And on Thursday, as I found out a few days later, a rogue wave swept over the wall of the observation zone at Pierpoint Beach, right around where I had parked two days prior. I am glad I wasn’t down there at the time.

My mother-in-law and I went for a little drive up to Ojai in the late morning and had lunch at Agave Maria’s Restaurant & Cantina. Nothing wrong with sitting in the sun and having some chips and salsa, if you ask me.

We walked up and down Ojai Avenue and checked out the shops. I hadn’t been to Ojai in a few years and it’s been nice to see that many of the little shops survived the pandemic.

We got back home around 3:30 pm and while my mother-in-law rested upstairs, I turned on the TV and watched the end of National Lampoon’s Christmas and then Elf while I knitted. Can you believe that my mother-in-law had never seen Elf? The movie is 20 years old! It’s so funny how some movies are more popular with some people than others.

I prepared a Gnocchi Pan Sheet dinner for Jon and his mom in the evening and I finished the last leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner (three bread dumplings with mushroom sauce – I couldn’t let it go to waste). Later, we watched another British detective show and with that, we wrapped up the official Christmas holidays. It was low-key and cozy, just how I like it.

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As always, the cards that I received over the last few weeks were a highlight of the holiday season. Thanks so much to everyone who sent out cards this year. It’s been so nice to hear from all of you.

  1. Your Christmas sounded so lovely! I bet your MIL appreciated all the cooking and meal prep you did, especially with her being extra tired from her treatments. My MIL is always really appreciative when she doesn’t have to make a meal since she’s always cooking and cleaning up for herself. She doesn’t love cooking so I am happy to make our Christmas dinner and let her relax and hang with the boys.

    That mug is so whimsical and fun!!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. My MIL was very appreciative, she didn’t want us to leave ;)

  2. Love that you got the chance to enjoy the beach a bit during your stay!
    Sounds like a great little vaca week to me :)

    1. Thanks friend. Beach would have been even better with you :)

  3. Beach on Christmas! That is amazing! It sounds like you had a lovely time and I’m sure everyone enjoyed seeing you.

    1. I know! Beach on Christmas is always a bit surreal for me too :)

  4. What a beautiful Christmas, San! Happy New Year to you! I have so enjoyed all your posts this year and am looking forward to 2024!

    1. Thank you, Nicole. I can wholeheartedly say the same ;)

  5. I am craving a trip to CA so badly after reading this. That beach tho… I love the Advent puzzle and that mug!!!!

    Happy 2024!!!

    1. The beach for Christmas was a special treat. Let me know when you will visit :)

  6. San, I love absolutely everything about this post (aside from wishing your MIL did not have to go through the agony of chemo treatments; how I wish I could take that away from her and your family).

    But the food! The beach! The adorable mug! Christmas movies and shows! Knitting! Calling family! Chips and salsa! Your holiday card display! Just so much festive love and reading this post was like snuggling up under a cozy, festive blanket. <3

    Happy New Year, my friend!

    1. Thanks Elisabeth. I think we made a good time out of a shitty situation. I don’t want my MIL to go through chemo, but it also brought us together for the holidays this year and it was a treat, especially for her.

  7. Merry Christmas and happy new year! looks like a relaxing holidays for you! all the food looks so good!

    1. Thank you, Coco and a happy new year to you and your family :)

  8. What a wonderful Christmas. I am especially enamored with your place settings! I love it. Wonder what my family would think if I added the menu card to my normal place settings. I love the sound of your menus, it all looked pretty darn good too. Have a very Happy New Year!

    1. I’ve been making menu cards for our Christmas dinner for years (and I also make them for my family, even if I am not there to celebrate with them). I just love the special touch for Christmas dinner with a nice table setting. You should give it a try!

  9. Your Christmas sounds wonderful. Just the right mix of celebrating and relaxing. I’m so glad you get to feel part of your family’s Christmas, even if from afar. I love the beautiful table setting. It’s things like that, that really make it feel special. We have the day after Christmas as a public holiday too, but it’s called Boxing Day here. The shops are still open though, they have big sales and the other tradition in Melbourne is the Boxing Day Test (cricket), which I have never been to and have no inclination to go to.

    1. Thanks Melissa. It’s been a good time. Of course I’ve heard about Boxing Day but I’d also have no inclination for shopping the day after Christmas LOL

  10. Sounds like a wonderful cozy and relaxed Christmas with lovely people all around. I am happy for your to have spend it with family. And some beach time sure sounds nice too. Even though I can’t wrap my head around it being rather warm to compared to our Christmas weather here.

    1. Thanks friend. Beach time was a special treat for me this Christmas… but yeah, the warm(er) temps are still weird to me.

  11. Wait just a minute!!!!! “The Second Day of Christmas???” Why have I not heard of this before? i always get sad the day after Christmas, and now I find out I could still be celebrating! I’ll definitely embrace this holiday from now on.
    It sounds like you had a really nice time. I’m sure your MIL loved having you guys there. You had the perfect balance of festive and relaxing, which is how I think Christmas should be. And I love the new mug!

    1. You need to immediately implement the 2nd Day of Christmas. I was thinking about you and how you get sad when Christmas is over and it’s definitely an excuse to adopt the German 2nd day! :)

  12. Looks like you had a wonderful Christmas! Glad you could spend it with the people you love <3 Oh and beach?? Amazing (also that mug is so cute!)

    1. Thank you Daria. The beach was a special treat.

  13. This sounds delightful – cozy and low-key. I can only imagine being near a beach on Christmas. We didn’t watch Elf this year. Maybe it’ll make the rotation next year. The girls have seen Elf, so we watched Christmas Vacation, because they hadn’t seen it. Happy 2024. I’m so glad that I’ve discovered your blog.

    1. Thank you Ernie. I am also glad we connected this year.

  14. San, I am so glad you were able to spend Christmas with your mother-in-law and Jon’s brother and family. It sounds like you were able to help Jon’s mom out by doing a lot of the cooking, and taking that load off of her for a few days. Just like you, of course. <3
    I'm with all of the other northerners/midwesterners/Europeans who think that your beach-on-Christmas-day walk is astonishing! I do remember driving into northern CA in February, having left snow behind in the East and midwest, and having my jaw drop at how mild and GREEN it all was! It all turned brown by the time I left in May, though, of course. :)
    Hope you had a wonderful start to the new year, my friend, and that you settle into some self-sustaining and heart-filling habits. <3

    1. Thanks friend. It was a lovely time and my MIL didn’t want us to leave (I wonder why ;)).
      Honestly, the “beach part” of my Christmas still astonishes me too. I can’t get used to that.

  15. What a lovely Christmas, San! I’m glad you were able to spend time with family and be with your MIL. It looked like a good time!

    1. Thanks Stephany. It really was.

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