Monthly Archives: December 2011

Lovely, Relaxing Things

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we operate on a really broad schedule.  There’s always a gathering with all of the aunts, uncles and cousins, but it’s dependent on which day my uncle (who works as an anesthetist) has off.  We do a fondue with my immediate family (including the in-laws) on the other night.  On Christmas Day there is a family breakfast.

This year, our immediate-family gathering is on Christmas Eve.  Which leaves me with a broad swath of time to fill before we gather for drinks and dinner.

All of our weekends since Thanksgiving have been Go-Go-Go, so it would be really nice to be able to just enjoy a day surrounded by lovely, relaxing things.

I actioned some baking for tonight’s dinner.

Yes, I’m working out of the Best Bake Sale Cookbook again.  You should be working out of it too.

A few days ago, I thought I would have the energy to tackle the giant pile of magazines hiding beneath the coffee table.

And then I decided to narrow my focus to the December Issues.

Now, as the morning slips away, I’m thinking that it might be more realistic to narrow my focus to one December Issue.

In other circles, that’s known as Managing Expectations.

Last but not least, I need to find some time to address my mitts and paws.

They haven’t been a mess, but I feel like it’s hard to get into the celebratory spirit when you look down at your nails and you’re greeted with the sight of…nothing.

It’s unacceptable, really.

Tomorrow, a gift exchange in the most tried and true tradition of Edward & Bella.  Prepare Yourselves Emotionally.

Do you celebrate more on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Do you have any plans to relax during the holiday weekend?  Or will it be go-go-go for you?

Friday Food Round-Up!

It’s The Holidays.

What that actually means: Between this week and next week, I will be able to count the number of times we have to cook dinner for ourselves on one hand.

So here goes my best effort at starting the count-down.

Monday – Moroccan Grilled Salmon with Coriander Roasted Carrots and Curried Brown Rice Pilaf from Great, Easy Meals

Truth: Prior to this meal, I had never made a rice pilaf for Marcus.  Or served him carrots as a side dish instead of in something.

As it turns out, pilaf is insanely easy.  The book asked me to use a half-stick of butter and to throw in a massive amount of broken spaghetti noodles to add a contrasting-texture.  I’ve never really understood the need to have broken noodles in pilaf.  And a half-stick of butter seemed excessive.  So I abandoned the noodles and slashed the amount of butter in-half.  This was an acceptable move.

Next time I would bake the salmon rather than grilling it, if only because I feel like the grilling method on our stove doesn’t yield the most moist result.  I would be more inclined to go for a drier product if it was going into fish tacos or something of the like.

Thursday – Risotto with Sauteed Mushrooms and Roasted Asparagus

Hanukkah risotto.  It happened.

We haven’t had risotto in months and no, there’s not an actual recipe.  The original recipe came from some cookbook that Mom purported had come from IKEA.  I don’t know if that’s really true or not.  What I do know is that whatever it is that we throw in that pot is so far away from The Original Plan that it is completely and uniquely our own.

Our trick: As Marcus was slicing our mushrooms, we realized that we had picked a bad bunch.  So I cracked open a can of mushrooms, sauteed them with some butter, white wine, salt and pepper to kill off the canned flavor.  Once they were finished, I chopped them a bit finer and then stirred them into the dish.

What last-minute work arounds have you had to had to action?

Will you do most of your cooking/eating at home in the next week or will you be celebrating?

Miracles.

Kittens, we have been experiencing some True Hanukkah Miracles at La Maison M.

On Monday, I found out that my last Missoni for Target Cardigan would finally be shipping.

I know.  I KNOW.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Miracle.

Back in September when they announced the shipping delay on it, I tried to come to terms with the fact that even though the new ship-date was in November, I wouldn’t be seeing it until Christmas.

And last week, as I was going through my inbox, deleting order confirmations for yet-to-be-wrapped gifts, I almost gave up hope and deleted the back-in-September order confirmation for my sweater.

Because Target is based out of Minneapolis (and they employ some sort of Dark Art that I am not practiced in), the sweater arrived at The House on The Hill Yesterday.

It’s Hardcore Retro.  I love it 11/10.

At first I wanted to call it my favorite, but truth be told, the three I sourced are all so different that I don’t think I can.  Though I will say that the cleverest idea I had was to snag one of the cardigans with a pink-motif from the girls’ section so I could fashion it as a shrug.

On Tuesday, another miracle.

Marcus and I did not exchange our forever-rings during our wedding ceremony.  I accepted a ring that all of the women in his family have worn at their wedding ceremonies, and in Conservative Jewish ceremonies, it is not typical for men to accept rings.  So we decided that we would exchange them immediately after the ceremony during the yichud (our seclusion).

Since had agreed well-ahead of time that we weren’t going to exchange wedding gifts, I told him that I wanted one love letter from him and that I would do the same.

We could exchange them with our rings.

Romantic, right?

It was perfect.

Except for the part where at some point between the ride to the reception site and the end of the reception, the letters disappeared without a trace.

Yesterday I discovered them in a bag of mixed-goods that I was stashing away to foist on Lindsey when she made it back to the city.

Miracle.

Have you experienced any Hanukkah/Christmas miracles?

Channeling Prancer

The winter solstice.

The shortest day.

Surrounded by the longest night.

At some point in the past week, I decided that it would be fun to run into the sunset on December 21st.  Long story short, I think I was envisioning some kind of romantic, Northern Exposure situation.

What I actually experienced was A Day In The Life Of Prancer.  Truly, the only thing I felt was really missing from today’s run were the sleigh bells.  You know, because the flurries weren’t enough.

I know that I should be counting my blessings on the snow-front.  Last year we got 86.6 inches of snow.  For context, that’s 7.2 feet.  Of snow.

A not-so-insignificant amount of snow that drove me to buy a jacket for outdoor running and then another fleece-lined shell so that I would be able to fend-off The Elements.

As it turns out, the amount of snow we have on the ground right now is negligible.  I still haven’t touched that shell yet.  And at this point, I’m really hoping that Man-Caused Climate Change will just keep on doing what it does best so that I won’t have to.

I’m totally into this whole Mild Winter thing.

In other news, it’s time for my rant of the week.  No, this isn’t a new blog feature.  I’m just fussed.

On December 13th, Comcast dropped ExerciseTV from their OnDemand line-up and replaced it with another line of fitness-oriented videos.

I’m sure there’s something in it for them.  But for the rest of the group?  It’s absolutely horrible.

Instead of Maura and Chris and some chick from YogaWorks whose name I never really knew joining me for my morning practice, I now have John Vitarelli.

And let me tell you about John.

His poses are really not confined-space friendly.

He’s doesn’t give you modifications.  For anything.

Some of his moves?  Are extremely exotic.  As in, I have never seen anything even remotely like them in pictures or in other yoga videos.

And when I did his Yoga for Athletes (which sounded like a really good idea at the time), I ended up with shooting pains in my hips.

For clarification: Shooting pains in my hips.

In all of my basement yoga-practicing, I have NEVER walked back upstairs with shooting pains.

I just don’t think that is how it’s supposed to be.

So this is where we part ways.

I finally caved tonight and ordered the three yoga DVDs that I loved the most from the Old Regime.  Because we all know that if you don’t enjoy your workouts, you’re not going to make them happen.

And the last month has really driven home how much I actually need  yoga.  Not because it centers me (it leaves me more stressed-out), but because it helps me to tone.  It stretches me out.  It gives me some great core muscles.  It gives me the chance to focus on my arms without having to do prolific amounts of push-ups or working with weights.

So right now, even though there’s no Operation: Bikini Bod in sight (we do have winter vacation plans, they’re just not quite ready for their big reveal yet!),  I need to stick with it.

Have you ever ordered fitness DVDs online?  Which ones do you love?

p.s. If you’re still looking for Hanukkah/Christmas gifts for people who want to get active, give the gift of a 5k Running Clinic at the Uptown Running Room!

Switching into High Gear

Most important order of business.

Be a Good Cookie Week was an epic success.  Between the treats baked by Kirsten, her brother Mr. Stonebender, Jeanne, Allison, Megan, Mads and a few donations from Kirsten’s friends, we raised $529.40 for pediatric cancer research through CFKC.

When I started baking with these wonderful ladies, I thought that it would be a good time.  That it would force me to hone a domestic life-skill.  I had no idea that we would be able to raise that much money by the sole virtue of baking for our blogs, organizing cookie exchanges with friends and co-workers, and bringing other people along for the ride.

If you’re still looking for a way to get involved, register your cookie exchange/bake sale with Glad and they will donate $0.10 per cookie exchanged or sold through the end of December for up to a total of $100,000.  It’s just that easy.

Second most important order of business.

Our department cookie exchange was today and one co-worker brought in a snack called Tijuana Tidbits.

It’s a delicious sweet and spicy trail mix incorporating tortilla chips, popcorn, mixed nuts, Crispix (does anyone actually eat them as cereal anymore?) and some sort of glaze.

Definitely not even remotely related to Tijuana.  At all.

But this could become a year-round snacky-stalwart.

As in, I had to force myself to put the bag down so that I could enjoy them once more tomorrow night.

It’s going to be glorious.

Tijuana Tidbits aside, Hanukkah started tonight.

And I’ve been asked by a fair number of friends and co-workers what the holiday entails for us.

My conversion date was a few days before Hanukkah.  So at the party my parents threw for me in 2009, I got menorahs.  And LOTS of candles for said menorahs.  Because unlike Christmas Trees, you don’t just have to choose one menorah and stick with it.  Oh, no.  When you are a Hanukkah-observer, you have many, many menorahs.

One can never have too many ritual objects, you know?

Since Hanukkah and Christmas fall over the same period of time this year, what that means from a practical standpoint is that Marcus and I will be celebrating non-stop (and with other people) from the 23rd – 28th.

Sometimes it will be Hanukkah-themed, sometimes it will be Christmas-themed.  Since Hanukkah is actually a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar and Jesus wasn’t actually born three days after the Winter Solstice, I feel pretty comfortable surrounding myself with as many family members and friends as possible during this time and rolling with it.

Since Marcus and I agreed not to exchange gifts this year (we’ve been extremely blessed), it’s the little things that will make this first married Hanukkah of ours special.

We will light the menorah every night (my parents have a few as well, so we really do have all of our bases covered), which is something we haven’t managed to achieve before.  On Thursday night, I’m actioning a classic risotto for dinner.  Not because it has anything to do with Hanukkah OR Christmas, but because Marcus has been requesting it for awhile.  I thought it would be nice to enjoy it together on the one night of the holiday that we’ll actually be alone for.

Who knows – maybe 10 years from now a festive Hanukkah risotto will be a tradition of ours.

In the meantime, there simply has to be some peace amidst the chaos.

What does your holiday schedule look like?

What are the quirky holiday meals/dishes that appear on your family’s table?

Reverb 11 | Prompt 19 | Challenges

Some of my absolute favorite ladies Sarah and her partner-in-crime, Meredith are leading a December blog series called Reverb.  I can’t explain it nearly so well as she does except to say that it involves reflecting on the life you’ve lead over the past year.  The highs, the lows, the changes and your hopes for the year to come.  I told her I would love to join in for a post or two when the prompt felt right.

Prompt for December 19: Challenges.  What did you wrestle with in 2011?  What did you learn?  What challenges do you foresee in 2012?

2011.  The year of boundaries.

Setting them.

Finding them.

I spent more time than I ever could have anticipated, learning to acknowledge what it is that I Need To Function on a daily basis.

What you need to function.

Just let it marinate for a second.

It sounds deceptively easy.  Like knowing how to take care of a plant.  Like you can fit it into a specific formula. 

Oh, you know, you just give them water, some indirect sunlight, a bit of fresh air and they flourish. 

Though in the case of our now-defunct houseplants, they didn’t even really need the water.

Um.

I realized that saying yes is easy, it’s saying no that’s hard.  You’re not always saying no to a person, you’re saying no to a situation.  You’re saying no to an opportunity.

There are a lot of really great opportunities.  Incredible opportunities.  But that doesn’t always mean they are the right opportunities.  It’s not always so easy to distinguish between the three.

Sometimes saying no means saying yes to your time.  To working through things on your own terms.  To cultivating the space where you can be at your best.

But saying yes to your time?  Can feel really selfish.

I spent the entirety of our Honeymoon, hoping and praying that I would have some sort of epiphany as to what I’m really meant to be doing with this life I have been given.

Yes, that snap was meant to portray some level of introspection.

Beyond loving the ones I’m with, the light bulb moment never really  materialized.

Even after a few glasses of Prosecco.

Instead I came to terms with the fact that sometimes you have to love the one thing you’re stuck with.  Which isn’t to say that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  But that there are times where you have to be the active player in your own life.

I mean, not everything was so Big Picture.  I was challenged to confront mundane realities.

Like flying on an airplane by myself for the first time.

Yes, I realize how ridiculous it is that it took me 23 years to get to that point.  But there was a point when I was younger, where I very truly thought I would never set foot on an airplane again.  The anxiety was just too much to handle.

I started to learn what it actually looks like to maintain a 60 pound weight-loss on a daily basis.

It’s not glamorous.  You already know what works.  So there are no fireworks that go off when you experiment with a new way of eating.  No pats on the back for discovering a new way of moving your body.

Truth: Most of the time it’s extremely boring.  With a little bit of vigilance tossed in on the side for good measure.

Boring, as it turns out is not such a terrible starting point.

What were your challenges this year?

What do you see as being challenges in 2012?

In Search of a Restorative Effect

Oh man.

First order of business: Last night my sorority sisters wanted to know if the Oreo Truffles would be appearing on the blog.

Behold.

And yes, instead of actually editing my photos tonight, we’re just hitting the “Lomo” filter.

Today was a case study in how doing this…

Mission: Accomplished.

Turned into this…

Cocktails, anyone?

For the record, the two are totally unrelated.  My cookies did not strike me down.

Long story short, a quarter of the way into my run (it was 40 and sunny out on The Tundra today), I got smacked with the migraine of the century.  Which turned into…um…really not good.

Who knew that the 12 pack of Ginger Ale I got as a bonus at the gas station for buying a gift card for our Adopt-a-Family would actually come in handy?

Despite the fact that food wasn’t terrifically interesting to me today (that I ate toast for breakfast should have been a warning sign of its own), my mother’s mild chicken curry that sits in a slurry of vegetable sauce over rice did have something of a restorative effect.  I like to think of it as a modern twist on chicken noodle soup.

What do you turn to when you’re sick?  Soup?  Flat soda?  Toast?  Tums?

Bloggers: Do you regularly edit your photos for your blog before posting?