Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So Long 2013...

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Even though it was sort of stressful at times, 2013 was filled with loads of family fun!
We enjoyed a Florida vacation and taught Emma how to drive.
Finn selected a new soccer club and we fell in love with a girl named Elise.
We toured our own city like we'd never even visited before.
Leif and I had an unforgettable meal at Sixteen.
Emma danced her heart out with Hubbard Street.
And we learned we are related to royalty!
Emma and I spent a week-end roughing it in the woods among friends.
Leif cooked a dinner from start to finish.
And Finn made some pretty big decisions about high school.
Not a bad year all around.
We look forward to new adventures in 2014...including some exciting college visits!

Under Watchful Eyes...

Everyone in our family, including the typically manic Little Lu, has had a watchful eye on our old Java girl since Christmas.  Our best girl is in a pretty rapid health decline and has all but given up eating and drinking after experiencing a scary vestibular episode this week.  We are hopeful that some pretty strong medications, lots of rest and copious cuddles will help her feel a little more like herself in the next 48 hours, but only time will tell.  In the meantime we are offering her poached chicken and rice and taking shifts to make sure she is as comfortable as possible.  Watching her get older has sure been a bummer, but looking back on how long we've had our Java Love sure makes us feel all warm and fuzzy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vortex Day 2013...


 
Our annual Vortex Day had a decidedly Asian theme this year!  I churned out enough egg rolls, dumplings and noodles to keep our bellies full, but we still had room for some deadly Glazed and Infused doughuts and a first (and probably only) Twinkie for my favorite little man Kas.  Two of our vortex day companions got married this year so naturally the love in our group of lazy revelers expanded to include them!  Vortex day has always been one of my favorite days of the year; my kitchen is always trashed by the end night in the best way.  Welcoming a the start of the new year with these beautiful folks is an honor.










Friday, December 27, 2013

Family Portrait...

Since I spend all of my time behind the camera, Leif suggested we have a picture taken of the four of us in front of the Christmas tree at my parents' house.  I lamented that it has been a long time since we've had a useful picture of the four of us together and gratefully handed my camera to my sister-in-law.  
Here are the results...
For those of you who have ever wondered what my childhood was like...this shot pretty much explains everything that you might need to know. To be perfectly honest...I absolutely love this photo!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Dinner...

All Finn wanted for Christmas Dinner was a heaping portion of home-made macaroni and cheese.  I couldn't think of anything less suited to a holiday feast than a BBQ mainstay, but who am I to deny such pasta passion?  Rather than object or redirect, I justified that cheesy dish by wholeheartedly embracing  a brand new holiday theme!
 A Southern Comfort Christmas
Pimento Cheese and Crackers
Spiced Pecans
Classic Deviled Eggs
Old Bay Shrimp Cocktail
Mel's Honey Drizzled Fried Chicken
Amy Inspired Skillet Cornbread Stuffed Pork with Cinnamon BBQ Sauce
Finn's Baked Mac N' Cheese
Nan's Braised Collard Greens 
Green and Wax Beans with Garlic, Chilies and Lemon
Blackeyed Pea Salad
Amy's Cherry Pie a la Mode

 It turned out to be a feast to remember!  I am not sure if I could turn my back on a Southern inspired Christmas theme ever again.  Of course, I may not be the best person to ask because I would take a piece of fried chicken over a slab of prime rib any day.
 This was our third year sharing Christmas night with our dear friends Aim, Graham and their girls.  We were lucky to have Amy's parents join in this year as well; were learned that adding a clown-kissing, Harley loving lady to mix only makes a holiday better!


 Our annual gift exchange was a hit again this year and mustache-loving Sophie absolutely nailed her gift to Leif.  Leopard print glasses with a handlebar mustache attachment and an does of instant Irish accent...perfection in a present!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Christmas Morning...

Christmas morning has evolved into pretty sacred family time for the four of us.  Sure we exchanged a thoughtful array of presents, but seeing these two snuggled up like this is the best gift of all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve with the Frigs...

We were lucky enough to to spend Christmas Eve with the Frigs and a group of their extended friends and family. Penny and Chris put out quite an incredible spread of appetizers and their warm and inviting home is filled with the spirit of Christmas.


Their menu gave a nod to people who were not able to be there and Chris' childhood memories, but also featured some new dishes like potato crisps with smoked trout, vodka creme fraische, crispy onions and chives.  Everything was seriously good!



I brought the hokey holiday cheese ball Penny inspired me to create for my column and their French friends made a fine Buche de Noel!  We were so happy to be included in this festive family night.


Skipping a Generation...

...makes everyone smile.
What a good looking bunch of folks!

Family Christmas Brunch

 Our family Christmas brunch at my parents house is always a memorable occasion so it seemed only fitting that the very first hard bound copies of my Dad's next novel, Boots and Saddles arrived right at the start of our family gathering.  Seeing my dad this happy was sure an exciting way to kick off a holiday brunch!
 As per usual, my mom prepared an incredible meal filled with all our favorite dishes!  I have always been a sucker for her Swedish meatballs, but this year she made only of my favorite salads, too.  My mom used to make this artichoke salad as part of her fancy dinner party menus and somehow along the way the dish has become synonymous with special occasions in my mind.

 Hearts of Artichoke Salad
For the Dressing:
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dill and minced fresh garlic
1 Cup half-and-half
For the Salad:
1 large can artichoke hearts- drained, rinsed and quartered
1/3 Pound fresh snow peas- cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 Pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
Butter lettuce leaves
1/2 Cup toasted almond slices

Combine the dressing ingredients and refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving.  Combine all the vegetables and serve on a lettuce lines platter garnished with the toasted almonds.
 After enjoying a hearty meal we sat around the tree and opened gifts.  The gifts we gave and received were all lovely, but more than anything else this day is all about spending a little time making family memories.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cheer and Corn Bread...

 One of our best gifts of 2013 was developing friendships through the French exchange program our family participated in.  While meeting and living with Elise was the highlight of the summer hanging out with these two ladies was an undeniable treat!  Christine, the director of the Easy English for All Program, was visiting from France and Rachel, the program's American liaison, could resist hosting a little cozy dinner to celebrate the occasion and the season. I am not sure how I ended up invited to this one, but I sure did feel lucky to be there!
I made a little Creole Donut appetizer and our hosts served up a ridiculously good gumbo and Rick whipped up the best corn bread I've ever eaten in my life.  Seriously, it was that good!  They sent me home with some leftovers and I have been  lovingly drying them out for use in a stuffing for my Christmas dinner; not a crumb of that precious bread should go to waste.



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