Sunday, December 27, 2015

Our China Christmas: The Party

We had it! Our first Christmas in China. Well, second for Ryan actually, but the first for us as a family. And while it was hard being away from extended family, it wasn't as hard as I thought... Being with them for two months probably helped! But God was really good. We filled the days Ryan had off from work with friends and good food and fun times as a family, and it was truly a wonderful Christmas. Isn't God so good?

Day one was Wednesday, the 23rd. Ryan had it off from work, so we threw a drop-by Christmas party! I knew better than to try to do a party on a day Ryan was working, because it seems to be Murphy's Law that on days we have a lot of people over, little ones don't nap well and/or wake up cranky. Ryan took Hadassah out for a few hours to play in the morning so I could get things ready, which helped tremendously. Then he helped hold the baby, sweep floors, and distract the toddler (who did wake up early and cranky from her nap - she seems to know when Mama's busy!) so that we had everything ready on time. And yes, we let her watch youtube videos in order to keep her occupied while we did last minute things. There is a time and a place for that! :)

I'd done my fair share of Pinterest research for food ideas, and it actually all turned out well! The only major catastrophe was the cocoa boiling over and creating a burning smell right before the party started. Yes, on a gas stove, it can go from not boiling at all to boiling over VERY quickly (especially when you're taking the toddler to the bathroom!). Thankfully I just took the cover off the cider and soon the wonderful spicy scent covered over the burnt smell. ;) And the cocoa, which I made with dark chocolate cocoa powder, still tasted wow-so-good!

 I paid a bit more for pre-made "puff pastry" dough, but these apple pie roll-ups were amazing. Probably one of the favorite things I made!

 For a Christmas party I love any food that is red and green, and these cherry tomato - fresh mozzarella - fresh basil bites both looked and tasted amazing!

 Many ideas were to do food in a Christmas tree shape. Believe it or not, strawberries are hugely in season (I've had the best strawberries I have EVER had recently!) and they plus grapes made it fun and red and green!

This pull-apart bread (pizza dough filled with mozzarella and cream cheese) was hugely popular and disappeared quickly! The original idea had it in the shape of a Christmas tree, but I made a "wreath" instead... easier to form, especially when my small oven means I had to cook two batches!

 Though it wasted a bell pepper, it was a fun serving idea to put the dip inside one!

Though we weren't intending to serve supper, the party was from 4-7 PM, so I wanted to have something with some protein. Tuna salad with pickles and celery gave something green, but I wanted a red garnish... The ends of the cherry tomatoes I had to cut off of the cherry tomato bites to make them stand up worked perfectly! :)

 Fun treats... the softest, chewiest, delicious-ness molasses cookies, the apple pie roll-ups, and brownies made into "Christmas trees." I also had some oreo-cream cheese balls (dipped in white chocolate). They didn't get coated white, though (probably didn't melt the chocolate right) so while I was going to call them snowballs, I decided they were Alabama snowballs, since those always have dirt mixed with snow. ;) They tasted so so good though!

My trusty oven. It took 5 rounds to cook the molasses cookies, and two to make the rolls, apple pie rolls, and brownies (since only one 9" pie tin comfortably fits). I intentionally didn't bake much more because of this, and spent the days before the party baking in the morning with Hadassah helping with what she could as well as nap times or after kids were in bed to get it all done! But, this oven actually works!! So I'm not complaining about its size. It actually bakes things well and gets them crispy if desired!

 My friend and her daughter showed up right at 4 PM, and we enjoyed catching up after 2 months apart. Hadassah loves her little girl (who is just 3 weeks younger) and was excited to see them! But almost an hour passed with them the only guests, so we started to wonder if this would be a very slow party...

 We needn't have worried! Around 5 PM around 4-5 families showed up, and more kept arriving! We never did get a full count, but many of Ryan's co-workers came with their families, as well as a few other friends from the community, made through the baking classes I did or mutual friends. It was such fun to have our home full of people!

 Everyone was happy and it was great to have a chance to meet many of Ryan's coworkers. The children all loved the toys - never have I seen our toys so scrambled and everywhere. ;) But for good reason - shows everyone had fun!

Despite me putting on the invitation that gifts weren't expected, that this party was just to meet and greet old friends, everyone brought gifts. Chinese people are so good at that! From a fish tank with a sustainable fish environment to toys to bunches of fruit, to this cute Christmas tutu one of them made... We were beyond blessed.

As I did the dishes at the end and we put the house back to semi-rights, Ryan and I were so happy. Yes, it was a lot of work. But I love the excuse to cook goodies, and just love cooking for people. And to have our home full of friends and acquaintances made an otherwise gloomy and high-AQI day so bright, and just felt so festive. It felt like it was the holiday season, and kept us busy so we weren't lonely. We're so glad we decided to have a party!

And that was just the first day of our Christmas celebrations in China... It may be our only one (since it's usually the time we'll go home to visit family) so we took plenty of pictures to document it well. More pictures coming later! :)

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