Wednesday, December 21, 2011

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks, Dressed in Holiday Style

We bundled up and headed to the city to the see the twinkling lights.

And the beautiful windows.

And oohed and aahhhed at every shimmer.

And sang and danced in the streets.

And gave a little.

And huddled close.

And smiled big.

And wrote a letter.

And made a wish.

And crossed our fingers.

And cherished eachother.

And then Chance chucked a hot chocolate in mid-air and pissed on himself. But other than that, awesome night. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Around the World, A Six Course Review

Okay, so when I married Eugene I knew that he was smart, ambitious, funny and extremely hard working. But what I didn't know is how amazingly talented he would become in the kitchen. This dude can cook. I mean REALLY cook. And guess what? So can my older brother. The two of them are unstoppable in the kitchen.

As evidenced by our SIX course "Christmas Around the World" dinner this past weekend. My brother's family spent the weekend with us and we all celebrated Christmas a little early. It was such a memorable weekend. I mean, it really felt like Christmas. 

But the meal? OH MY GOD. Yes, the food was impeccable, but the kicker? We had a professional sommelier pair 2 wines with every course. Talk about fancy!

We watched our family's cheeks grow flusher by the course. And the laughs, oh the laughs!  

  So course by course, and drink by drink, here's the menu.


International cheese tray with mixed nuts, salami and fruit. Cheeses include Manchego (Spain), Queso de Cabra (Spain), Iberico (Spain), Wensleydale Aged Cheddar with Cranberries (England), Dorset Smoked Cheddar (England), Cheddar with Port (England), and Traditional Farmhouse Cheddar (England).

Paired with...

Mionetto Prosseco (Italy). The aroma is fruity, reminiscent of pear and citrus with a slightly floral bouquet. The wine is fresh and crisp with apparent apple and peach flavors.

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir (New Zealand). From Marlborough in New Zealand's South island. Fresh cherry flavors burst forth on the palate and on the nose augmented by subtle earthy notes. Duh.

And the winner on the cheese plate, was the Wensleydale Aged English Cheddar with Cranberries, by a unanimous vote. Creamy and delicious and bought from Costco, so get some!

Like the dry erase marker to label the cheeses? Isn't that genius? My brother gets all the cred!

It was the perfect start to our feast.


Shrimp Ceviche (Mexico). Traditional Mexican appetizer featuring shrimp, fresh tomatoes, avocado and citrus hints. Accompanied by a spicy avocado sauce.

Paired with...

Pewsey Vale Riesling (Australia) A pale straw with green hues, the wine shows intense fruit aromas of talcum, crushed stone and lemon lime fruit, with a hint of overlying dried herb, but of course.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). Deriving from the French word sauvage (wild) and blanc (white) ours is a crisp and powerful, well balanced wine with intense aromas of gooseberry, passion fruit and citrus flavors. 

Guys, this ceviche was SO delicious! And the Kim Crawford wine was awesome on its own but the riesling was a surprisingly great pairing with the ceviche.

At this point we were all feeling a lil' bit loosey-goosey, so 
my brother began to chug the table-top dump bucket.

Just kidding. That was staged. But this adorable picture of my sister-in-law was not.

I wish she was more in focus, but it adds to the artsy value. She is our resident wine expert and was responsible for getting our wine pairings professionally assessed. 
So, right about now you might be thinking, six course meal? Where the heck were the kids? Well for one, they were barracaded out of the dining room. Need proof?

Exhibit A:

We were able to ignore the whiny little voices coming from behind the fence for about 4 courses. I mean it was 10 adults drinking glass after glass of wine--did they think we were going to pick them up or actually listen to them? Hell no. The moment they walked up to the fence they'd get heckled so badly they had no choice but to turn back.

Okay, the truth? We may or may not have left an entire bag of Holiday Oreos just within reach. 



Lobster fra Diavolo with Bruschetta. New England lobster tail sauteed in a garlic white wine sauce, served on bruschetta bread. Accompanied with Linguine alla' Aragosta. Homemade marinara with fresh tomatoes, lobster and pepperoncini.

Paired with...

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay (California). Cement tank fermentation. Soft and round entry with an acid backbone, ripe fruits such as lemons, gooseberry and grapefruit. Finishes dry.

Clos du Bois Chardonnay (California). As fragrant as a stroll through a summertime farmers' market (this description had us all rolling) our bright and juicy Chardonnay beckons with aromas of apple blossom, ripe pear, peach and sweet lemon drop.

So good. So, so good.

And the unoaked Chardonnay was a hit. And their bottle is awesome. Here it is, a cement bottle just like the tanks it was created in. Talk about keeper.


Lemon Zest Sorbet (Italy).


(When you read the description, try to imagine it being said with a hilarious french accent. Which is exactly how Chris read it to us)

Bacon wrapped Roast of Filet Mignon (France). Trimmed, center-cut filet of beef tenderloin lightly seasoned and dressed with a winter coat of gently smoked bacon. Accompanied with reduced burgundy mushroom sauce, crispy hash browns and seasonal roasted crowns of broccoli and cauliflower with sweet baby cherry tomatoes.

Paired with....

Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon (California). Combines a complex mix of firm yet ripe and supple currant, spice, mint and cedary oak with good length, but also tannic muscle. Hubbawhat? Tannic muscle? Um, okay.

Bogle Petite Sirah (California). Voluptuous and full-bodied on the entry, the heady aromas of black currants and plums awaken the senses. Lusciously jammy and inky in appearance with tones of pipe tobacco, leather and cocoa, to mesmerize the palate.

Okay at this point I should not have operated machinery let alone a camera. Which is why I do not have a picture of our steak course. But...I do have a picture of the tenderloin before it was cooked. Check. This. Out!

It was delicious. My brother knocked it out of the park with this one. 


Inspired by a traditional yule log, this classic holiday cake with layers of rich chocolate. 

Paired with...

Fonseca Porto (Portugal). Blended from reserve wines selected for their superb fruit character and depth of color, it's well-knit structure, rich, velvety full body and luscious blackcurrant and cherry floavors, also dominant in the bouquet, finish on an intense, lingering note.

7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel (California). Sexy and endearing, it offers a deep ruby/purple color, full-bodied, corpulent flavors and abundant berry fruit, pepper and spice notes.


A night with all of my family is always something to remember. But this night and this meal was one we'll never forget. Thank you Rich and Eugene for a five star memory. 

"Life is so brief that we should not glance either too far backwards or forwards...therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate."
- Grimod de la Reyniere

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies to die for!

While browsing Pinterest, I noticed this recipe which the New York Times deemed their favorite chocolate chip cookie. And they were oh so right people. Maybe it's the combo of 2 different flours or maybe it's the sea salt. Yes, definitely the sea salt. Either way, AH-MAZING! 
Preheat your oven now. I'll wait.
They're that good. 

The recipe is below. Or you can get it here. C'mon, it's the Holidays, who doesn't want a warm, chewy, chocolatey cookie. You can bet these will be the ones we leave out for Santa! Enjoy!
The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds chocolate chips
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 24-36 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350.
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Elf Mania!

Personally I think that Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell, creators of The Elf on the Shelf deserve a Nobel prize. Seriously guys, the concept is genius and it seems like EVERY parent I know now has one. That's sayin' something. And why wouldn't they? The idea of a non-speaking, shelf sittin' disciplinarian is a parents dream. Or mine at least.

Did I mention he works for free?

We got our Elf as a gift and I was so excited to do it last year that I never even read the book that came with it. Oops. Which meant that we bypassed all the rules and regulations. But not this year. 

I had a grand entrance planned for our Elf's arrival complete with a packaged UPS box from the North Pole. But it ended up neither grand nor an entrance. Why? Because my daughters suck, that's why. I took the box out of storage and moved it under my bed as a temporary holding place before the big show. The box was out of storage for TEN MINUTES. TEN MINUTES PEOPLE. I HAD MY DAMN ELF HIDDEN UNDER THE BED FOR TEN MINUTES AND THEY STILL FOUND IT. 

They should be protecting our country yo. 

But I can't be too bitter because the way they found it was so cute. They were playing "Christmas" in which Bella (the mom) delivers boxes of presents (a remote control, a pony tail holder, pencil top eraser and a plastic tea plate) to Mia (the daughter). As Mia sat on the floor of my room opening presents that her "mom" had given her, she saw another box that she innocently opened. And oh my holy night I think she shit her tights. Not joking. She started screaming and then Bella started screaming then they came running to me barely able to breathe, their eyes bulging wide and mouth open and head shaking and finger pointing before Bella could actually get the words out.


stutter. stutter.


stutter. stutter.

"Is here.


Trying not to break a smile, I grabbed my phone and clicked record

They were SO excited!

So here's the rules:
1) no touching the Elf because it will lose it's magical power (oops)
2) Name your elf
3) Be good because the Elf is watching and he reports to Santa every night 

Easy, right? Wrongo. Naming the Elf was SO frustrating. Those girls can't agree for the life of 'em. After spitting out several made up names Bella says "Dobby."

I stopped what I was doing. Did I hear right? Did my daughter who has no knowledge of the Harry Potter world (yet) just name the GREATEST ELF WHO EVER LIVED? You go Bella. You're damn right we're going to name him Dobby. Dobby is a free elf. Dobby is a good elf. Dobby loves Harry Potter. 

But it wasn't done yet because Mia needed to add her two cents, rightfully so. They went to bed and at the breakfast table the next morning, Mia told us that his middle name is Abika. 

Dobby Abika. 

Snazzy and elfish, huh?

So every night we have to move Dobby into different locations and the kids get all kinds of excited to see where the elf will be each morning. 

This morning Dobby was found under the table. With a letter. And a gift.

And the kids unwrapped the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (their current FAVE movie ever since our Dr. Seuss halloween).

Christmas is so fun.

Why do we have to wait a whole year to feel such excitement? 

Can't we redefine the Fourth of July or something? Groundhog Day, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas crafts!

Someone really oughta tame my Yuletide fever, it's not even December yet.

Nah, scratch that, I'm gonna wave my festive freak flag and wave it high.

Grab your green pipe cleaners and red cotton poofballs people, it's Christmas Craft Time!

I'm the kind of mom that saves every piece of artwork, every scribbled-on napkin, anything that my kids have created you can bet makes its way into their art bin. I'm a sucker for crafts that can take a small snapshot of where the kids are at on this journey of theirs. Which is why, when I stumbled upon paperbag minibooks, I knew it would be awesome.

The end result is a super easy, totally adorable Christmas minibook made out of paper lunch bags and some Christmas crafts.

To make one minibook all you need is 2 paper lunch bags, Christmas embellishments (stickers, decals, stamps and festive ribbons) photos, paint, markers and some modge podge to seal all of it. In fact, I made a point to save all the Holiday cards we received last year and repurposed them for this craft. You can get so many cute labels and embellishments from leftover cards!

To make the book structure, I followed all the instructions from this website. Next I gathered some of our best Christmas photos, shrunk them to about 1-2 inches and printed them out. I didn't even need to print on glossy photo paper because you'll ultimately add a layer of glossy Mod Podge, so it didn't matter.

Then we proceeded to make a huge mess all over the table as we cut the pictures and stickers and began gluing all over the pages.

I ended up having to do this project in stages, mainly because I don't have that much patience. 
Did you see that mess?

 Sooooo, after a short sanity break, we painted around the pictures.

The final stage was having the girls write down what the pictures made them feel. 

I adore that Bella wrote comfy. See that above picture with the sweaters? In that moment they were singing the Old Navy jingle "I love my comfy sweaters" from 2 seasons ago :) 

Since there are two bags for each book, there are 2 little pockets that are perfect for a little surprise. Here I have a little string with the letters J-O-Y taped on the inside that can get tucked back in. Cute huh? You could put anything in there, a little note, another picture. So many possibilities. 

For added durability I painted glossy ModPodge all over the pages. They are perfect coffee table books for this season and for many more to come!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yo Gobble Gobble!!

Thanksgiving Jeopardy ya'll, here we go:

Turkey noodle soup, turkey adobo, turkey wraps, fried turkey and potato pancakes.


What is 'all the mother lovin leftover food that I have consumed in the past 72 hours' for 1000 please?


Thanksgiving was pretty great this year. My mom cooked another fantastic meal, as always. The prep work began early morning when she taught the kids how to "dress the bird."

They look forward to this part every year. 

Chance was having a ball. A butterball.

And of course it wouldn't be complete without a Thanksgiving Day serenade and a turkey smackdown. I swear watching the kids touch the turkey makes me want to twitch. 

I have vivid memories of "dressing the bird" with my Great Aunt Nor when I was as a wee one. These simple family traditions have such deep meanings for me. I am so grateful that we still carry them on.

Another Thanksgiving tradition was when me and my siblings would get out of my mom's way and hit up our local movie theatre for a two hour getaway. Last year we took the girls to see Tangled and this year we ALL saw The Muppets Movie. I say "all" because we were so excited to take Chance to his first movie. He had so much fun!

It's quite possible that the popcorn was all gone by the time the movie started. Previews in a PG movie are RIDICULOUS! There's like 9 of them. 

By the time the movie was over, the bird was on the table waiting for us. 

And as we went around the table sharing what it is that we were thankful for, I realized just how much I love my family. The one I grew up with, the one I joined and the one I've helped create. 

Life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Decking My Halls

Before Thanksgiving? You bet! Although when I pulled the Christmas tree out last weekend to get things organized Eugene made me promise to close all the blinds so that the neighbors can't see what kind of Christmas whack-job lives here. I can't help it. 


Cue the choir.

From the moment we wake up, the Christmas songs are playing. And they're playing seconds after we've walked through the door and they're playing for our pre-bedtime dance party. ALL DAY LONG. And I gotta admit Christmas Pandora is pretty good, although they don't play nearly enough Johnny Mathis. 
For me, Christmas isn't Christmas without A Yuletide Johnny. 

This album was my childhood and that's TOTALLY fake snow. But you sure do rock the ascot!

There's also a ton of Christmas crafts that I've browsed on Pinterest that I'm excited to do. From cookies to homemade ornaments, I'm all game this year! And I'll even take pictures to prove it.

But the best part? The very, very best part of our Chrismtas excitement? 
Our little Filipino Elf on the Shelf!

I have been waiting patiently these last 11 months to unpack my handy sidekick. This little guy works wonders! Bribery at its finest. I've haven't layed out the details of his entrance yet, but it will be grand. Oh yes, it will be grand. My kids are SUCH suckers. What a bummer it'll be when they figure it out one day.

 Happy Holidays!


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