Wednesday, December 26, 2012

it takes a village...

About a month ago, I was contacted by a friend of mine about writing something on our family's Christmas traditions for SB magazine. I was honored that she thought to ask me! As Tison and I continue to make our own little family traditions, I am completely fascinated with what other families do year after year. I would love to hear what your Christmas traditions entail.  Come on, spill it :)...

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
And as Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone!"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

make just one someone happy...

make just one (or two) someone(s) happy...and you will be happy, too!

As I have mentioned before here & here, Mom and Leslie share the same birthday. I don't know if you watched the latest Happy Endings (I adore this show), but it went into detail about having a birthday on or close to Christmas. You know, these two are such good sports about the whole thing. I don't think I have heard either of them complain about it's proximity to Jesus' b-day! Many birthday blessings beautiful ladies.

{They chose takie-outie from Imperial - general tso's chicken, moo shu, and crab rangoon.}
{Hudson LOVED it too! He kept saying "maoww-maoww"}
{aand, let's be honest- if you're getting a cookie cake, you have to go Great American. Yep, it's still open in the mall.}
Tison's mom's birthday is also the same day as Leslie and my mom's- Isn't that crazy!?

Happy Happy Birthday from all of us to you, HEY!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a cozy cookie exchange...

Every month when I show up for book club I am amazed at it's growth. It never looks exactly the same- the faces or the houses. Each month a new girl hosts the conversation, and practically each month someone invites a newbie to the club; it is an ever evolving group of entertaining ladies. I find myself talking about this little group of ours to other people in my life in between our once a month gathering, realizing just how much I look forward to our meet ups. I was telling Katie one day (who is also in the group) how book club always seems to come up randomly in conversation when people ask 'what are you up to' and how I feel like such a dork when it happens... her response, "well, you have to be a little bit of a dork to be in a book club in the first place!" So true, so true.

This month we read "Up for Renewal." This is the first time, in over a year that we have been meeting, that I haven't attempted the book. I don't know where the time went, but all of a sudden- we were meeting and the only thing I had time for was to make my 3 dozen cookies for our second annual cookie exchange!

{my cookies are the 'dipped in snow, smurf wafers' on the right. Nutter butter, white chocolate, with sprinkles- They were a no-baking-required hit!}
{a plate full of cookies and a tall glass of wine- could you ask for anything more?}
{sweet Kathryn is eating for 2 ;) }
{our gracious hostess, Beth Ann, led us in discussion about the influence of women's magazines, our relationships with our mothers, opinions on dating younger men, and other riveting topics.}
{before we left, we all filled a bag with an assortment of delicious holiday treats. As a side note: I reluctantly recommend this bottle of Sebastiani Merlot 2006, because I want to have it all for myself- it was perfection. When Rich got home from work, which cookie did he try? That's right- my smurf wafer. I don't need to describe how amazing it is- I mean, his face says it all.}

Monday, December 17, 2012

mistletoe and mustaches...

Our family's Annual Holiday Gathering was this weekend. I tend to forget from year to year just how much effort it takes to put this thing on. I mean, it is worth it, but prepping food for large numbers is certainly a gesture of love. Mom, Leslie and I turned the kitchen into an assembly line of cooks - stayed up to the wee hours of the morning prepping on Friday night and Mom spending most of Saturday getting everything oven ready.  Mom- I seriously don't know how you used to do this alone!!! You amaze me everyday.

I'd like to say thank you to Tison for helping out in the kitchen during the party on Saturday. When the doorbell started ringing with guests arriving, hardly anything was on the table! Thank God for Mom's double ovens- things were on every rack! To our surprise we opened the oven to smoke billowing out causing the kitchen to smell like burnt plastic, and in the process I got grease on my new holiday frock! I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed to say the least. And I look over at him, all calm and collected, (he used to work in the food industry and I assume is used to this time crunch frenzy.) I'm amazing at the yin and yang of our relationship. I am so thankful that when I am frenzied, he is calm and visa versa.

With all the commotion setting out the finger food and drink options for our guests, I forgot to snap photos of the table arrangements. Can you believe it!? ME- forgetting to take pictures. I swear... here are a few towards the end of the party :)
{Leslie, Mom, Lauren, Me, and Rosie!}

Tison and I left Mom and Dad's house for our next stop, the Mistletoe and Mustache Mixer! - Leaving Lauren and Mom with all the dishes - OOPS!
{Some people came with their mustaches attached (Russell), while others had to hold theirs on with a stick! The girls had the house looking so festive. There was even karaoke -haha!}
 I hope your weekend of Christmas parties was joy filled!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

painting with a Christmas twist...

{The Tuesday night special at Painting with a Twist is 50% off drinks, so Shannon and I enjoyed cheap champagne and attacking our canvases with the "big daddy" paintbrush.}
Our painting instructor Whitney rocked it. She was so entertaining and talented. I enjoyed her bubbly personality teaching us how to use chalk and cups to get our reindeer the right size on the canvas while fun music played loudly in the background. 
"Just connect the dots," like Whitney said.
I have been wanting to try Painting with a Twist since it opened and I'm happy I got to share the experience with friends. That curly reindeer is now filling wall space in my house for the holiday season.

a home brewed cup of cheer...

After steeping, boiling, cooling, fermenting and settling, our honey ale homebrew creation will be ready for sampling in 3 -4 weeks. Although this was Tison and my first experience making our own beer, to Philip, the brewmaster and my sensei, this is becoming old hat. 

Up until now Philip has been searching online sites to gather the ingredients he needs to produce his own beer, searching- that is, until Brewniverse opened in the Town Oaks Square on the corner of Line and Pierremont. 

To begin the process, we met up at Brewniverse to gather supplies. Philip picked the recipe for the White House Honey Ale, the first beer known to have been brewed in the White House! 
Brewniverse had all the ingredients we needed except for honey and bottled water!
And what's home brewing without enjoying a few beers along the way?! Tison selected the Samuel Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack. My favorite was the Old Fezziwig Ale - which we kept saying throughout the day with an old man accent "Oooooole FezziWIG!"
The owner of Brewniverse just purchased this grinder and we christened it with our grains!
I am not going to give you every step by step instruction on how to do this at home yourself because I am no expert - but I will say it was a lot of fun. It's like baking a cake- it's all about the timing- only a cake doesn't have the "warming-light hearted effect" that a good beer offers.
We added the honey and that's the yeast on the right. Did you know that without yeast- no alcohol would be made? 
After everything had steeped for proper time, the ingredients got an ice bath. We needed to drop the temperature quickly before putting the ingredients into the primary fermenting container.
Once the temperature reached 70 degrees, purified water and the yeast were added to the primary fermenter.
This is the airlock that goes in the lid of the bucket. It allows the gases to get out of the fermenter, but stops the outside air from getting in the fermenter. Philip sent us a video of the airlock on our beer and it looked like this:

When Philip "racked" the beer into the secondary fermenter last weekend he said it looks and smells great. "The aroma of the honey and the hops is perfect!" I can't wait to have my first glass of home brewed cheer at Merpy Christmears!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

hot or cold?

On Saturday Tison and I went to Rhino Coffee, a locally owned coffee shop, located right down the road for our morning cup of joe. If you are looking for something cold in this abnormally warm December weather, I recommend the Iced Lightning. It is sweet, creamy, refreshing, and most importantly caffeinated!
 Rhino Coffee has such a fun atmosphere with a great seating area indoors plus an outdoor patio. I'm looking forward to our next caffeine fix!

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