New Year’s Eve 2013

“The holidays are over. Boo! My birthday is approaching. Ugh. But I was still happy when I woke up this morning because it’s a new year and that means new beginnings. I thought I knew what kinds of things 2012 would bring, but I was so wrong. So as 2013 dawns I’m not even going to try and guess how it’s going to unfold. Hopefully it will be much better than I could ever imagine.”
01/01/13 webpage post

Christmas recap (part 2)

I intended to write about more than just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in yesterday’s recap, but it was already really long. So now you get two wordy posts about my holidays! Aren’t you lucky?

December 26th was fairly quiet. I slept in, my mom and I went to Walmart for a few things, and then she made us some English muffin egg sandwiches for lunch. Like McDonald’s, but much better. Yummy! In the afternoon I drove my parent’s new Subaru Forrester over to the Tallahassee Mall (although “mall” may not be accurate anymore because I don’t think there are more than a few stores left there) to see “Frozen” at the AMC theater. I’d been dying to see it, especially since I already have the soundtrack, so I met my good friends Meghan and Missy there, with five kids between them! Meghan’s girls are beautiful and Missy’s boys are so precious. I really enjoyed “Frozen.” Just about every Disney movie has a song that I love – one that I play over and over, especially while I’m driving. I just have to find that one song that gives me chills, and in “Frozen” it’s “Let it Go.” Idina Menzel is my new idol. Not only was she perfect in Wicked (I only heard her on the soundtrack, I guess), but her voice continues to amaze me in everything she does. But anyway, I liked “Frozen” so much that I might even go see it again before my holiday break is over. After the movie my parents and I went out for Mexican food for dinner, and then we watched “Christmas in Connecticut” that I recorded the night before. I love that movie.

December 27th and 28th were was my two days in Tallahassee and we definitely made the most of it. On Friday m y parents and I went to the mall for a while to see if there were any great sales. There weren’t so we left empty-handed. Then we headed over to Goodwood Museum and Gardens for lunch and a tour of the houses and grounds. Goodwood is a beautiful antebellum plantation house and estate in Tallahassee that I’d never visited before. I was really glad to be able to take a look inside while I was in town. I didn’t get any good pictures, but the mansion, built in the 1840s, was really spectacular. For dinner on Friday I made another lasagna, a meat one this time since my brother was back in San Francisco, with some salad and roasted carrots on the side. The carrots were the fourth and final new recipe I tried during my week in Tallahassee and they were absolutely amazing. I’ll post the recipe soon, but for now I’ll just say that I loved them even though I don’t really like carrots at all. So delicious, but more on that later. After dinner my parents and I took a final walk in the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and then had some hot chocolate made by my mom before going to bed. On Saturday I left Tallahassee, but not before helping my mom take down the Christmas tree and put all of the decorations away. She didn’t want to do it herself and I was glad to help. It was the least I could do after she made me another delicious egg sandwich for breakfast! I also spent quite a lot of time re-packing my suitcase, making sure I could fit everything in there. It wasn’t easy, especially not with the Doctor Who Christmas lights Kathe gave me (yeah, my tree will be decorated with little TARDISs next year!), but I managed it. In the afternoon my parents took me to the airport and I flew back to Los Angeles. It was a fairly uneventful trip with no flight delays, but I ran into problems as soon as I got to LAX. American had way too many flights arriving at the same time so getting my bag took forever, then getting back to my car was a pain because there were so many people waiting for shuttles, and then the 405 was closed just before Seal Beach. Ugh. I was so glad to finally get home. Just a few more days before I have to go back to work. This break has really flown by!

Christmas recap (part 1)

Written on 12/28

I’m on my flight from Dallas to Los Angeles (using an inflight wifi credit I purchased months ago and didn’t use until now) and I’m finally getting around to writing about the last few days. It’s been quite a whirlwind! When I’m at home I usually write my daily webpage post after I climb into bed for the night, but while I was in Tallahassee I was way too tired by the time I got there. I was staying up too late every night. Let me get started with the recap and maybe you’ll see why.

As soon as I got up on the morning of Christmas Eve I started cooking. I was making a vegetable lasagna for my family’s dinner that night and the sauce needed to cook for many hours before it would be ready. (I used the slow cooker marinara recipe I posted last month with some diced bell peppers, sliced baby carrots, and a can of drained diced tomatoes added to give it a little more bulk.) While I was practically still in my pajamas my mom helped me prepare the vegetables, I cooked them on the stove top a bit, and then everything went into the Crockpot so that it would be ready by 5 PM. It was raining that day so after the marinara sauce was simmering my parents and I went to the mall to walk around. Maybe not the best destination on Christmas Eve, but we did it anyway. We grabbed a quick lunch at Chick-Fil-A, I returned something to American Eagle, and I even got a couple of shirts on sale at The Limited. Nice! When we were back at home I picked up where I left off with dinner. Besides the veggie lasagna we were having green beans and salad as side dishes. I actually tried four new recipes while I was in Tallahassee, and the skillet green beans I made on Christmas Eve was the second. (Vegetable chili was the first on the 22nd – I’ll have to share that recipe sometime.) I had never simply stir fried green beans before and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were. Everything turned out really well for dinner that night and I sat down to eat with my whole family. Later that evening my mom and I bundled up and headed out on our annual Christmas Eve neighborhood walk to see the Christmas lights. Some of the houses nearby are decorated beautifully, and one of the cul-de-sacs even puts luminaries up and down the street on Christmas Eve. It was lovely, but it was very cold that night and my hands and feet were frozen after an hour outside! After a showered I finally sat down to wrap my family’s Christmas presents. Do you think I procrastinated long enough? Fortunately I got to watch “A Christmas Story” with my dad while I worked (I just told him not to look while I was wrapping his gifts). What a hilarious movie, and a great Christmas Eve tradition.

Christmas Day dawned less rainy, but cold! (I had originally thought it would be warm the whole time I was in Florida, but I’m glad I packed a warm jacket at the last minute!) My brother was still asleep when I got up so my mom and I started making breakfast preparations. I mixed up a batch of buttermilk pancakes using a Martha Stewart recipe (my dad almost always makes us pancakes on Christmas morning – we even gave him an electric griddle many years ago to facilitate the tradition!) and she got some eggs ready to scramble. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the pancake batter (my third new recipe of the week) on a whim and they turned out excellent. When the whole household was awake and presentable we opened presents. For the last two years we have only gotten each other small gifts, but my brother and I both got iPad Minis so we did quite well! I asked for one to replace my aging Kindle that will no longer hold a charge for very long. I know I am going to enjoy using it for reading. My brother was flying back to San Francisco that afternoon because he had to work on the 26th so we took him to the airport after brunch. To avoid sadness due to my brother’s departure my parents and I immediately went to see “Saving Mr. Banks” after we left the airport. What a wonderful movie. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s a fan of Disney, or Mary Poppins, or Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks! Since we had quite an elaborate brunch that morning our dinner just consisted of some leftover chili which was really good (yet another recipe I need to post – I have quite the backlog), if I can say so without sounding immodest since I made it! After that we took a walk around the neighborhood and got back just in time for me to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor,” at 9 PM. I can’t say it was the best episode I’ve ever seen, and I honestly think Matt Smith deserved a better send off as we said goodbye to the Eleventh Doctor, but I still enjoyed it. It was the perfect way to end Christmas Day.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Christmas recap tomorrow!

Belated Foodie Friday – Eggnog bundt cake

First of all, I didn’t realize it was Friday when I was posting that lame update last night, but I didn’t really have the energy to get this recipe ready for publishing anyway. Right now I’m on my flight from Dallas to Los Angeles and I’m very happy to be going home. I promise to write better posts during these next few days when I’m unwinding before I have to go back to work on January 2nd. But for now, here’s my belated recipe for the week!

I meant to take a picture of this eggnog bundt cake before posting the recipe (not that it was much to look at, but still), but I never got around to it. You’d think I would have since I’ve made two of them in the last couple of weeks! And the reason I made the second eggnog cake is because the first one on the 10th was so amazing. My co-workers gobbled it up, and one of them even asked for the recipe. I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of eggnog, but that cake was still absolutely delicious. Since bundt cakes always have some sort of dairy product in them, why not eggnog? Simple and seasonal. I had my mom buy some eggnog before I flew home for Christmas so I could whip up another cake for my friends and family on the 22nd. So yummy. There was just one slice left this morning so I know it was appreciated by all. So if you still have a holiday party to attend this season keep this eggnog bundt cake in mind. Everyone will thank you!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 c canola oil
1 1/2 c eggnog
1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 c all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla, eggs, canola oil, and eggnog and stir to combine. Add the pudding mix, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Finally, add the flour and stir to combine. Spread the batter into a bundt cake pan that has been well coated with nonstick cooking spray (make sure to get all of the nooks and crannies or your cake will stick!). Bake at 350 deg F for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto the wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Mother Thyme’s Eggnog Bundt Cake.

December 27th

I wanted to write a recap of the last few days, but as usual I find myself way too tired to stay awake long enough to do it tonight. Tomorrow I’m flying back home to LA so perhaps I’ll have time to do some writing while I travel. We’ll see. I’ve had a wonderful time here in Tallahassee, but I’ll be glad to be home and sleep in my own bed tomorrow night. Then I have four days off before I have to go back to work on January 2nd. You’d better believe I’m going to make the most of those few days! See you tomorrow, Los Angeles!

December 23rd

Checking in again! It was another crazy busy day involving errand running, last minute shopping, and movie going. I saw “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” with my parents tonight and really enjoyed it! It was much better than the first movie, which almost put me to sleep in places. As much as I love Peter Jackson’s Tolkien-derived movies, if he hadn’t delivered on this second Hobbit film I’m afraid his credibility would have been in jeopardy with the diehard fans. Not that there weren’t parts of the movie that I didn’t like. For example, I adore Evangeline Lily (because I was a huge Lost fan), but her female elf warrior character was completely unnecessary and really annoyed me. And there were a lot of things added to make scenes more dramatic. It was a still a really good movie, but I don’t count it as one of my favorites. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I have a lot to do before Santa makes his rounds. I need to get started on our family dinner as soon as I get up in the morning (I need to slow cook some marinara sauce for lasagna) and I haven’t wrapped anything yet (except my best friend Kathe’s gift which I already gave her). As usual Christmas is arriving way too soon!

December 22nd

It’s super late here on the East Coast, but I wanted to post a sentence or two about my day. It was a busy one, for sure! I spent most of the day cooking – making two batches of chili (meat and veggie) and baking an eggnog cake (I’ll post that recipe on Friday) – and then hanging out with some old friends all evening. It was fantastic. I ate one too many peanut butter bars (one of my family’s favorites, from this recipe I posted back in 2011), but I had a great time catching up with everyone. Now it’s time for me to go to sleep so I can be ready for another packed day of Christmas preparation tomorrow!