A Very New York Christmas

IMG_0589This holiday season I had the privilege of doing the New York Christmas Scene to the max. With the PATH train shut down from the storm, I was forced to take the bus, which drops me off around Times Square–my least favorite area of Manhattan. The blessing in disguise was that I got to pass some great holiday decorations every morning and night. Some highlights were the window displays at Lord & Taylor and the Christmas market/ice skating rink in Bryant Park.  I was instantly put into the Christmas spirit as I strolled to work listening to Pandora Holiday stations!  As per tradition, I also made sure to pit stop at the Rockefeller tree one night before crossing over to Jersey.  New York never fails during this time of the year and I was happy to experience so much of it on a daily basis. I even got to do some very touristy things with friends after the actual holiday itself.  We went to see The Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall and sipped tons of mulled wine at Rolf’s German Restaurant. The decorations there are always over the top. I cannot wait to return for Valentines Day, Halloween and all of the holidays in between (of course I was told that nothing beats the intricate Christmas display).   What did you do over the holidays? Did you make it into the city?

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Memorial Day weekend

I hope that everyone enjoyed a great memorial day weekend. I was happy to leave the city grind and head to the beach.  Long Beach Island New Jersey has always been my home away from home.  It’s my number one escape destination.  A relaxing place to be and a place that holds so many cherished memories for my family and me.

Seafood, sand, long walks and lots of laughing.  We had a great weekend and AMAZINGLY sunny weather. I was even able to take a dip (65* waters).

 

1. clams for happy hour

2. surf and turf. Salmon and Moroccan chicken.

3. drinks!! PLus an impromptu wine tasting with my dernière bouteille of David Duband wine (back to France in a month for more).

4. Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all of our troops, past and present.

 

Celebrating my Mom

I am always a little sad as I travel back into the city on a Monday morning.  Especially after spending such a nice weekend with friends, family and sunshine.  So with gray skies and rain again on the radar, I am planning on reliving my weekend by sharing it all here with you this week!

Visiting me in Franceland!

In France Mother’s Day will be the last Sunday in May but for us Americans it was this past Sunday.  I feel the need to tribute my mom with a post 🙂

My mom is the best!  Simply put.  I have found that during the past few years I have developed a new relationship with many members of my family.  Part of growing up I guess.  My mom is no exception, as our relationship has grown into a very give and take sort of thing; advice and support dished and received from both parties.  I also feel that I might appreciate my mom more than ever after living in a foreign country where I saw many different versions of moms (and where I “played mom” some days myself).

My mom is a very tough lady (the only girl in between four boys might have been the cause)!  She has three daughters who still lean on her almost every day even though we all live under separate roofs.  She has an extremely challenging job working with autistic high schoolers.  She just went back to get her masters and earned a 4.0 while doing it.  She makes time to meet friends for coffee and stays actively involved in church and community activities.   And these are things in the present.  When we were all living at home and swimming 24/7, she was waking up early to get us to this or that practice, making sure a hot meal was ready to be eaten right when we walked in, taking us shopping before the big dances (and spending money on it too)…. I could go on forever.  She does it all and always has.

She and my dad raised my two sisters and me in a way where there were rules and structure.  When we reached a certain age, however, we were let go to make our own mistakes, decisions and create our identity.  We really weren’t given a limit to how high we were allowed to dream; for me, especially within the past few years, this is the biggest blessing!

As you get older you notice more of the nitty-gritty of your family.  Mine is far from perfect.  But even so, I am sure if I sat and compared it to others, I would quickly be able to justify the facts that my mom, the supporter of the whole crazy flock, is the best!  She is the glue, she is the enforcer and she has shown me exactly how I want to raise my family one day.*

Even this morning she got up early to make me monkey bread.  Last night I realized that I had forgotten to make it during the weekend.  Totally unnecessary and totally my mom’s love shining through deliciously buttery and sugary goodness.  She is the bomb.

Mother bird is a 4.0 student,  4.0 daughter, 4.0 wife (I’ll speak for you dad) and most of all a 4.0 mom.  I just can’t believe how much my mom does!

She is the best and I love her so much.

I am weird and my mom loves me for it 🙂

 

*My dad AND mom do a phenomenal job together.  It takes two as they say.  But this past weekend wasn’t Fathers Day, so dad will just have to wait for his praise  🙂

 

my tradition continues: crêpes and groundhogs

Today last year I was eating crêpes and reading about a groundhog.  This year, back on the other side I am going to do the same 🙂

Today, February 2nd is Groundhogs Day in The States and La Chadeleur in France.  Both have superstitions involved.  The first being an animal seeing a shadow to predict the seasonal changes.  The second being flipping a crêpe in a pan while holding a coin in your hand.  If it is a successful flip you have luck for the year!

Where do these silly traditions come from anyway?

Last year I said that I would combine the two traditions from now on, so I guess my dinner is set for tonight 🙂  Cant complain, I LOVE me some crêpes with cheese, ham and egg!!

Unfortunately little Mr. Phil did in fact see his shadow, predicting winter weather for another 6 weeks.  But if the weather we have recently been experiencing is winter then bring it on!  Yesterday I went for a run in shorts.  It was so beautiful out I couldn’t help thinking it was May.

Today however, coincidently the day of Phil’s prediction, the sun is hidden yet again and the temperatures have dropped…so maybe Phil is right.  But those few days of blissful spring temperatures did lift the spirits pretty high!

Are you superstitious?  What do you think of Phil’s annual predictions?

NYE

It’s New Years Eve day….guess that means a heart-felt reflective post is a must, n’est pas?!

What a year it has been. This time last year I was ringing in the new year with friends at a pub in Scotland.  We had probably already had a few drinks as my friends are Australian and we were celebrating at the correct time for them (noon in Scotland, midnight in Aussieland..something like that). This year I am about to go into work and cocktail people’s drinks all night–a bit different.  So I won’t be able to rock a cute sparkly dress or dance til the sun comes up but I will have a little extra spending money in my pocket to be used tomorrow for a day in PHILADELPHIA for the Mummers parade (stay tuned).

I spent my last year in France, and I guess there is no need to go into too much detail because this blog has put together a well written account of the year in full.  I am thankful for that in itself.  Having this account of my year is so awesome.  I just cannot believe that I have been home from France for almost 3 months already.  Time has been flying by.

I have been blessed with so much in my life so far. I cannot wait for a new year and new adventures.  Keep posted to hear all about them because I’m not going anywhere 🙂

BONNE ANNÉE À TOUT LE MONDE!!!! 2012 here we come…

A Very Merry

I love this time of the year.  Just driving home from work late at night puts a smile on my face–not only because work is over but because of all the houses lit up magnificently.  Christmas music is played in shopping malls, grocery stores and my car (duh).  Starbucks features those high calorie flavored specialty drinks that I just can’t deny–mostly because of the cute festive cups (I’m a sucker for packaging).  There is egg nog, Christmas tree farms, nativity scenes, snow (I hope), candy canes, classic movies on AMC, ugly sweaters, presents, sparkles and excitement.  Everyone is excited and giddy for the weeks leading up to Christmas even those not celebrating the religious reason for the season.  It’s just The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Hands down.

AND NOW ITS OVER!

It came early (I wrote the above paragraph at the beginning of the month) and it ends all too soon.  Literally midnight on Christmas Day hits and carols end playing on the radio, Christmas specials finish on TV and everyone goes back to work.  It’s a whirlwind that whips us around for a few weeks and then leaves us feeling dizzy.

I was lucky to have a lot of fun parties, get togethers and family time this year. Last year being in France meant none of that so I enjoyed every second of the madness. Here are some photos from the past month (they serve as reason for not posting here).

so many cookies

Ugly Sweater Party!

Minty Treat

Missed crazy lights in France last year

Getting the tree

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

Christmas morning

THE AFTERMATH

Even got some Hanukkah celebrating in this year.

Hope you all had a very Merry day celebrating Christ’s birth.  Can’t wait for a new year of new adventures and surprises (for you AND me).

I might just stick to eating the cookies

I have my first cookie exchange party tomorrow night and I am so excited.  Mostly because I cannot wait to see all of the yummy cookies and EAT THEM!  When I RSVPd that is about all I could think of: eating the cookies.  Now here I am, the eve of, and I am realizing that I must also bake some cookies myself.  Might not seem like a big deal to some but for me it’s a bit daunting for two reasons.

1) Baking and I don’t always get along.  The whole exact measurements and step-by-step instructions which include waiting for things to cool completely…  I’m much better at throwing this or that in a pan, taste testing it, adding some more or something else and eating it for dinner; winging it is the term I use, others call it cooking.  This method doesn’t work so much for baking.

2) My friend is vegan and I have agreed to make my cookies vegan so that she has someone to trade with at the event.  Now I’m realizing that vegan means no butter or egg, two very important ingredients for a quality cookie that doesn’t fall apart on the baking sheet.  (I already have this issue when I do use butter and egg…) So the ante has been upped.

No problem finding the recipes or the special substitute ingredients like flax-seed, non-dairy butter and cashews.  Off to a great start.  After a quick search on the internet for what makes a good flax-seed egg, I survived that challenge too 🙂 Go me!

I mix the dough, pre heat the ovens; things are going smoothly.  Then it arrives: the first mishap.  My cookies are most definitely not cooked after 20 minutes.  Maybe I made them too big?  Measurements of 2 inches are like a golf ball right? (I know I’m wrong)  I guess I didn’t flatten them?  So I leave them in a while longer.

Bigger cookie=more time needed.  Right?  Notice how I assume so much while baking. This is what gets me into trouble.

Pre-oven phase

I wait a bit longer.  The problem becomes that they are not holding together very well.  I do a test run of picking one up and it begins to break.  I quickly smush it back together and close the oven door.  Another 25 minutes later (double the original time) I pull the suckers out and call it a valiant effort.  They aren’t pretty and I am not even sure they will come up in full cookie form after the cooling process–which I am determined to wait out in the full–but they are done.

Finished product

So now the second batch is in the oven.  Different cookie.  Looking better already.  Problem with this group is that I am using the “broken” oven.  So far it preheated with only one mishap so as long as I keep an eye on it maybe it won’t turn off mid-bake…

And it was a success.  Even the first batch that I was scared about are good (yes I taste tested…how could I not).  Now I think I’ll squeeze in a run so I am not tempted to disturb the cooling process. 

Are you a good baker? Any good recipes?  Have you ever tried vegan recipes?

I’ll let you all know how the exchange goes tomorrow night. 

Santacon

This past weekend I traveled up to New York City!  It’s always a good time of the year to make the trip because of all the fun holiday things that go on there.  EVery store is decorated to the nines, the huge tree is up at Rockefeller center and people brave the cold weather just to bask in the lights of the city that doesn’t sleep.

This year I was excited to be put in the Christmas spirit in a new way: a bar crawl.  I participated in the santacon, a bar crawl type event all over the city.  The idea is to dress up and spend the entire day moving from place to place throughout the city.  Twitter posts mapped out the destinations throughout the day starting in both the upper and lower ends of the city.  I stayed with a friend on the Lower East side and dressed up like a reindeer.  This type of madness would NEVER fly in France. Just saying…

Before leaving PA I was deciding between a candy cane or a reindeer but when I forgot to pack my white jeans the decision was made for me.  And I have to say, I was happy with the choice!  My friends were Christmas trees, elves, Mrs Clause, Santa (of course), and there were even a few presents in the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We began the party with a 9am brunch.  As the sea of red accumulated in the apartment we finally hit the road to go to the first bar.

It was hilarious walking around the city and hailing cabs dressed in the crazy costumes.  Even more hilarious was that the streets, bars and cabs were packed with festive young adults.  From up town to downtown participants were showing a lot of Christmas spirit!  I can even recall Christmas carols being sung in the streets.

Took this on the second floor of one of the bars during Santacon

Me and my friends ended up finishing the afternoon at Rockefeller center’s famous Christmas tree.  Perfection in my eyes  🙂

Although the hype was about dressing up and having fun, the whole idea was based on a more meaningful reason for the season: helping others.  Many of the bars donated a portion of their proceeds to Toys For Tots and at the starting points non-perishable food items were collected for the Food Bank for NYC.

All in all the weekend, although unconventional, was a very fun way to get in the holiday spirit.  I now have the carols playing 24/7, I am watching all the fun Christmas movies on TV and am going to be baking lots of cookies this week for the many parties I have coming up!

Hope you all had a fun weekend preparing for the holidays.  Just 13 short days away!

Midnight at Target…not as bad as I had thought

So after a few beers and a lot of turkey I headed out with a few friends to Target (we had a DD no worries).  I was nervous for the mobs that awaited me but in all honesty we were in and out in an hour with great deals in hand and no fights seen or had 🙂

Live on Black Friday, live on!

Success!!!

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving love to all my cyber buddies!

Turkey Tom always making an appearance

Just finished my second piece of pie 🙂

This year I made an apple blueberry pie.  Usually my specialty is the apple pie but I decided to step it up a notch.  And what a delicious treat it was!  I got the recipe from Southern Living and it had a cheddar pie crust. It was the first time I made my crust.  So proud of myself because although I am the apple pie maker for this holiday, baking is not my thing.

So how did this become my job?  Good question. Basically I was suckered into it as the apprentice to my cousin Jackie.  And when she is not around….I am on my own.  And I must say I have done a good job….the pie is already gone 🙂

My pie

Southern Living's pie. I did pretty well huh?!

I hope everyone enjoyed a very delicious fun-filled day.  I must get back to the family, beer and football in the other room!  I leave you with this post (especially for my French friends).  Last year in France I had a hard time explaining everything about this holiday and I think that Garance does a great job of pulling it all together.