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Tag Archives: holidays

Friday Favorites, Vol. 1

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  • My brother and his girlfriend gave me this blanket for my birthday, and I would like to remain shrouded in it for the entirety of winter, thankyouverymuch.
  • Basically every episode of Parenthood makes me cry (crying is one of my hobbies, didn’t you know?), but whew, this week’s really did me in.
  • Our annual holiday cocktail party was last weekend. I made several standbys, including Ina Garten’s gougeres (at this point, there would be a revolt if I didn’t include them in a gathering), and a few new recipes that were well-received, including spiced-chocolate cupcakes (with eggnog buttercream!) and these chocolate-peppermint crinkles.
  • I feel irrationally affectionate toward GP’s seasonal beard (hello, my husband is adorable. Look at him!), and Whoorl’s Beard Porn Pinterest board is exactly my cup of tea.
  • In case there was any doubt about this, the best Christmas album is by the Barenaked Ladies. I love single holiday songs by other artists more, but no other entire album really does it for me like this one.
  • I’m chipping away at my 30 Before 30 (about time, now that I’m officially in my 30th year), so I’ll be posting updates about that. Get excited! (DO IT.)

Christmas in review

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We’re not even done celebrating Christmas yet– have to go to my Mom and stepdad’s tonight, and celebrate with my Dad tomorrow night– but it would be nice to get through all the Christmas-ing before 2012 rolls around, right?

As is our biannual tradition (which the Cambridge online dictionary says is the right way to communicate “every other year,” but I’m still skeptical), we headed to New York to spend the holiday with the in-laws. The day after our cross-country flight, we continued the traditional boys-go-skiing, ladies-go-to-the-spa outings (I think the MIL and I got the better end of that), then packed up the Saab and headed to Rockland for Christmas Eve with my sister-in-law, her husband, their adorable baby, and about twenty other extended family members from both sides. We brought painstakingly-decorated cookies (see the below likenesses of my FIL and GP; please also note that these two men are basically identical) and a whopping eight bottles of wine in our (free!) checked baggage.

We returned home last night with a bottle of champagne, various books about Disney World (where we’re headed in just over a week), some awesome aquamarine earrings (see the below no-makeup-Christmas-morning shot), and assorted other gifts.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to demolish and a cat to molest pet an appropriate amount.

Subdued, if not silent

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Clearly I’ve fallen off the #reverb10 wagon, but I’m stashing those prompts away so that I’ll have something to unstick me when I feel like I have nothing to say. The last week and a half have been active, but mostly pleasantly so: a big work project completed, Christmas shopping and cards completed, settling into the holidays with relatively minimal stress. I watched White Christmas earlier today (I know, someone as obsessed with Christmas as I am should have seen it years ago), and am currently recording Miracle on 34th Street, another classic that somehow slipped from my grasp (must have been all those years watching Christmas Vacation umpteen times). I can’t really believe that, within a week, we’ll have exchanged our gifts, gorged ourselves on sugar cookies (which, fine, still need to be decorated– but are at least made!), and braved nearly a week of forecast rain. For now, we’re cozy.

All is calm…


All is bright…


And it’s the perfect sort of night for some eggplant parm (with some modifications, naturally) and foccacia.

Before the food coma sets in

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This year I am thankful for…

…a house that has no shared walls with neighbors, a garden that offers more fruit that we can ever hope to eat, and a kitchen big enough to contain all my cooking tools and ambitions.

…a family that, no matter how crazy they drive me, acts always out of love.

…a husband who has “had my number” for more than five years (only one-plus of them married, but you know what I mean). I’m glad he’s on my team.

…a cat who provides both entertainment and warmth.

…a group of friends who, no matter the time or distance, are always there.

…DVR. Tivo more so than the crummy DirecTV ones, but really anything that lets me watch the shows I love and skip the commercials.

…the internets– the source of much of my news, entertainment, communication, and procrastination.

…Amazon Prime, for allowing me to skip the worries of shipping costs and delays, particularly for my Christmas shopping.

…the fact that I have the time and money to cook and experiment to my heart’s content.

…butter. Sugar. Olive oil. Flour. Cheese. Garlic, tomatoes, beans, tortillas, avocados, maple syrup, and all the other ingredients that make the sticky fingers, accidentally Microplaned knuckles, and smoke alarms worth it.

…travel, and the fact that it is possible to wake up one morning and, by the next, find yourself on the other side of the planet.

 

Here’s to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving that is filled with love, laughter, and more food than anyone should reasonably eat in one sitting.

My grownup Christmas list

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I grew up in a sharply divided household when it came to gift-giving. On the one side, I had a brother that began compiling his list of demands wish list around July; on the other, I had a mother that took great glee in tracking down and neatly wrapping the perfect thing that the recipient didn’t even know she wanted. Personally, I was always uncomfortable making a list of items that I wanted for Christmas– I had survived my entire life without That Single Magical Item, so who was I to be demanding things? (Seriously, I don’t know how I had this much guilt about asking for presents as a child.) I was content to be vague (“I don’t know…books?”) and generally be pretty psyched on Christmas morning when I tore into a new set of belongings that had been selected with my tastes and preferences in mind. Gift-giving, to me, was more than fulfilling a wish: it was tapping into unstated wants and showing that the giver really knew the recipient.

Now that I’ve typed that out, I can see that it is at least partially crazy. How am I supposed to know what every single person on my list deeply desires? What if there really is One Big Thing that they really want? (I know that, if I had been a more normal child, I would probably understand this better. Alas.) I’m happy to report that a) I’ve found ways to work with those in my life who are list-makers and expect me to be, too, and b) I’m getting better at making lists myself.

When my parents divorced, I was in the position of having “two” Christmases; what this really amounted to was a semi-elaborate scheme in which my brother and I would spend Christmas eve and the early part of Christmas morning at one parent’s house, and the rest of Christmas day at the other parent’s house (now that I’m married, it’s a whole new…adventure, but that’s another post). Here is a completely unsurprising fact about my parents: they are completely different. In contrast to my mom’s aforementioned knack for picking the Exact Right Thing, my dad had spent most of his adult life working from a list (my mom is a “better happy than surprised” person), and he expected to be able to do the same now that he was shopping on his own. In an attempt to end up surprised when we opened gifts, I would suggest and try on so many things that I couldn’t possibly remember all the possibilities, and did manage to achieve a decent level of surprise when I pried open the Fed Ex boxes that he enjoyed covering with gift wrap. (He gets the packaging materials free from work, and gets a sick amount of joy from watching us struggle with the tricky openings. We earn our Christmas gifts.)

GP comes from a Christmas-list-making family– they even buy things for each other months in ahead of time, call it a Christmas gift, and are done with it. Now, for a “must be surprised!!!” person like me, this has taken some getting used to. MaGP is a great gift giver because she is well attuned to the things I like; she’s gotten me some lovely purses, great books, and one of my favorite kitchen tools. GP, however, requires a bit more guidance, so I’ve moved into the dad-method of gift-suggesting, creating a list so exhaustive that I can’t possibly know ahead of time what’s under the tree. And, so far? It’s working really well. He knows I’ll be happy with what he buys, doesn’t have to give in to what he sees as a crazy “this gift is an indication of how well I know you and how I feel about you” belief system, and I am thrilled and surprised when I get to unbox my new treasures.

Are you a Christmas list maker? How do you pick gifts for your friends, family, significant other…?

Whip It Up! Holiday Food

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When I initially started thinking “holiday food,” there were definitely thoughts of turkey-cranberry-stuffing sandwiches dancing in my head (yeah, I get the holiday itch every midsummer), but soon after realized that, hello! There is this whole holiday right here in front of me! I love the Fourth of July– the fireworks, the barbecues, the endless Sousa marches playing eeeeverywhere… We grilled with friends today, and here is what I made, via SparkRecipes.com (oh– and our awesome meal was deliciously completed by a certain raspberry tart. So. Good.):

Black Bean Veggie Burger

Ingredients

    1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
    1/2 onion, cut into wedges
    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1 tablespoon cumin
    1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
    1/2 cup bread crumbs

Directions

If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.

In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.

In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.

Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.

If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Notes: I used yellow bell peppers, because that’s what I had on hand– and I used the remainng half to top the burgers. Also, I ended up with seven patties, which seems a little crazy, given the stated yield in the recipe…but I am ok with the leftovers! Oh, and remember to spray whatever surface you’re cooking on, because there was definitely a good deal of “Aw, crap, it’s going to be destroyed!” going on.

Now, for the WIU questions…

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Certainly. I mean, you mush and mix and form things. There is a good deal of stickiness, but the instructions are clear and it is easy to prep.

Did the dish taste good?
Oh, yes! I am attempting to do this thing where I have only one “meat meal” per day, in an attempt to push myself into healthier food– different proteins and whatnot, more colorful veggies, so I thought that this would fit the bill. I was pleasantly surprised that the “burgers” had a good amount of spice and, while they certainly didn’t try to taste like meat, I think that makes me respect them more. Yeah, I respect the black-bean burgers. Shut up.

Would you make it again?
Sure would! We grill so rarely that I think it would probably be easy to bake or make these on the stovetop, so I imagine that future outings will only be more successful. (I ended up freezing four of the seven patties, so there are certainly more of these in my future– GP is not buying into the “less meat” diet idea.)

The most wonderful time…

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What with the election over (bittersweet, really, because Prop 8 looks like it’s going to pass in CA, and that just makes me sick to my stomach), it is officially time to start looking forward to the Holidays. Yes, Halloween is over, and judging from the displays just about everywhere, we’ll be skipping Thanksgiving this year and heading straight for holly and tinsel. No? Fine, then. We’ll talk about Thanksgiving, instead.

I love Thanksgiving. Because I am a ridiculous sap, and definitely do not take time to think about incorporating gratitude into my everyday life (in between episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8), I an thankful for Thanksgiving. Really, it’s like Valentine’s Day, but with less chocolate and more gravy. Probably slightly less sex, but that’s really up to you. I have been alternating Thanksgivings between my parents since they split up (I think that was…10 years ago?), and luckily that will likely continue post-marriage because GP’s parents live in New York, which is just far too far to travel for a holiday based on eating (presents, I will travel for). This year we will be celebrating with my dad’s side, at my aunt’s house in Modesto. Modesto is a slightly terrifying town in the Central Valley, which is about as red as California gets– very, very socially conservative and whatnot, and they have the distinction of being the former stomping grounds of both Gary Condit and Scott Peterson. Woo, Modesto. My aunt’s cooking, however, makes up for all that– she’s been doing Thanksgiving so long that she’s basically a pro, which means turkey and ham, as well as all the obligatory sides, but dessert is really the star. (When is it not?) Pie as far as the eye can see, cookies, and some pineapple/Jell-o/whipped cream concoction that I can never re-create. I’m salivating just thinking about it…

Two questions, y’all:
1) What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dinner food?
2) What are you thankful for?

P.S. Bonus! Because my boss at the library internship is Canadian, we got to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving there a few weeks ago. There were bacon-wrapped green beans, and I almost melted with pleasure.