Easter lunch

roses from my mama bear

Last year, the man and I hosted Easter luncheon for the first time.  I used left-over tissue paper to line the plates and separate the soup bowls.  I had a crazy notion to make a chilled soup to start (I found an excellent recipe in Delia Smith’s cookbook for avocado gazpacho, and it was pretty successful, if I do say so myself!).

We sat outside with my parents for most of the afternoon, drank a lot of white wine and ate delicious snacks from Trader Joes.  My mother and I filled our entire apartment with smoke from the leg of lamb, and the man managed to break not one, but three wine glasses.

It was a good Easter.

tulips

This year we were supposed to journey up to the man’s parents, but plans changed at the last minute, so we invited my folks up (and wrangled them into getting lamb from their butcher, who is vastly superior to anyone in our area) and committed to having our first joint family holiday.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I have a deep passion for event planning.  I immediately whipped open my April issue of ‘Good Housekeeping’  (I remembered they had an Easter luncheon ‘make-ahead’ meal plan, and I was going to cherry pick that which I liked best).  I also went about envisioning my table settings.  (There is something supremely satisfying about beautifully setting a table to dine).

"Eastery Centerpiece"

On Thursday, my first scheduled day of prep, I was sidelined fairly effectively with one of the worst migraine headaches I’ve had in a long time.  Sidenote:  apparently, the pollen count is twice as high as past years due to the incredibly mild winter.  Store that knowledge away, because I think it’s pretty beneficial info.  I plan on using it to sound really informed at least three or four times this summer.

So after work on Friday, I braved Michaels, Kohls and the grocery store, to get prepped for the man’s parent’s visit and Easter Sunday luncheon.  I had such a strong sense of my flower arrangements, centerpiece and place settings (courtesy of Good Housekeeping) that I hemmed and hawed for awhile at Michaels, trying to find just the right supplies.  I also ran into Minda’s hubby, who was there to get crafting supplies to make her a surprise Easter gift (how adorable!).

When John’s parents arrived late Friday evening, we were dying Easter eggs.  I’d bought tiny galvanized bins and a little watering can, and I filled them with store-bought (aka fake) moss, and tulip buds.  For Easter lunch, I added the dyed eggs (housed in the refrigerator until then).

On Saturday (and on very little sleep, thanks to Miss Lucy) I prepped this year’s chilled soup ~ an asparagus bisque.  Having never bought (let alone cooked) with leeks, it was a long process – it’s length aided by my inability to focus due to extreme fatigue.  Someone (and I won’t name names LUCY) was up all night crying at the incredible injustice that she was in our room in her comfy bed rather than in the living room with her grandma, grandpa and their pups, Sera and Jack.  The recipe is here ~ and it’s delish.  The man made a great observation, too ~ the soup benefits from time in the fridge cooling down.

For dinner, I made buttermilk roast chicken (from Smitten Kitchen – and a huge success on WeHangsDay earlier in the week), pull-apart bread and a spinach, pear and almond salad.  (This was all at the request of the man ~ there’s nothing quite like getting a food request… it makes a girl feel very special!).  I’d wanted to prep the rest of Easter dinner, but after a shower and a long nap, it was all I could do to get dinner on the table.

Smitten Kitchen's Buttermilk Chicken

My invented Pear & Toasted Almond Spinach Salad

 

 

 

 

 

Today, Lucy and I took a three-mile jog and then set in for full-on Easter lunch prep.  The man and I set up two tables, draped them in clothes (which I bought in two contrasting sizes and shapes, because really, why make it easy on myself?), and I began decorating.

 

 

 

 

Our final menu ~

To start … Deviled eggs a la the man, Chilled Asparagus Bisque

For lunch … Boneless leg of lamb (prepared by my gracious mother, with grainy mustard, rosemary and breadcrumbs), scalloped potatoes (prepared by John’s gracious mother, with cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter, French’s Fried Onions and Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup), Apricot & Pistachio Salad (courtesy of Good Housekeeping) and Pillsbury biscuits.

And, something sweet … Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries, Peanut Butter Eggs, and Coconut Eggs.  The man has been waxing lyrical about his mama’s peanut butter eggs forever … and he was right.  They were delish!

It was an amazing afternoon ~ such a nice and gentle introduction of our families to each other (after nearly four years, it was about time!).  In my world, family is one of the most important things.  Family helps to mold you, is your safety net when you take leaps of faith into the unknown, lifts you up when you are dragging, and genuinely expresses pleasure when you succeed.  Family is priceless and should be treated as such.  I felt lucky to have the majority of my family with me (we were minus my little brother, because he marches to his own beat, is turning 30 tomorrow and probably celebrated today, and isn’t one for overly religious celebrations).  I feel lucky to be with a man who values the same things I value.

Life is good.  Happy Easter peeps.  😉 (Get it? … peeps!!!)

ashes

This morning, I shook up Lucy and my routine by bolting out of the house at 8am, panicking about being late to church.

I have realized over the past few years that the man and my year is split into halves.  The half of the year when we go to church almost every Sunday, and the half when we don’t (otherwise known as football season).

We always start off really motivated on Ash Wednesday, and try to make it to church for all the Sundays of Lent.  (In the general scheme of things, I think this is a good effort, mostly because Lent is arguably the most important time in the Catholic calendar).

As spring turns into summer we enjoy church, and brunch with J&J on Sundays.  Then 11.30a mass stops (during the height of heat and summer) and we start to miss occasionally.  When September rolls around, we try to make the effort to go to mass, but end up spending Sundays watching football instead.  I cannot say that I’m particularly proud of this trend, but in the spirit of honesty, it’s the truth.

The man and I debated for awhile what we would abstain from through Lent, and came up with a few things.  First, we gave up Facebook.  Having done it before, it won’t be terrible, but just to be safe, I let Facebook know last night. Next, we’re going to restrict drinking to the weekends (which isn’t exactly Lenten, but it’s close).  AND, we’re giving up Fast Food.  To some, this might not sound difficult, but I have a love for McDonalds and Munchkins from Dunkin Donuts that only gets stronger when I’m not allowed to them.

Speaking of the man, he is safely home from all foreign parts, and Lucy and I are very happy.  We are a whole family again (and I don’t have to always get up to take Lucy out at night, which rocks!).

Now, I’ve got to order sushi, because someone (oops!) forgot that you can’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday, and had planned to make Italian sausage for dinner.  Guess we’ll have that tomorrow.  🙂

 

a day late, $40 short

On Sunday, as I sunk into my sofa to enjoy two hours of Downton Abbey, I was feeling quite pleased with myself.  I’d blogged twice, I’d made dinner and cookies, Lucy was fed, bags were packed and ready for work, laundry was done … you get the jist.

Then Monday came.

And it was not what I expected.  Roofers arrived bright and early with a dumpster the size of China, which they thoughtfully placed across my garage and right next to my front door, in front of which they positioned their ladder, and power cords running to the roof.

The man’s truck, which has been inoperable for a few weeks (I was waiting for the man to come home, because who could have anticipated telepathically that my whole world and apartment would be turned upside down?) had to be moved, as did the Mini.  Lucy and I, after realizing what a huge inconvenience it all was, packed our bags and headed south to stay with my parents.

My anger has not get dissipated at what I consider to be a highly inconsiderate occurence.

Yesterday, after getting Lucy settled with my dad (it took all of zero seconds, because Dad loves Lucy and Lucy loves my Dad), I headed downtown.  I thought it odd that there was a line out the door of the tiny cupcake bakery I walk past every day on my way to work.  Normally, it looks empty, and the counter worker slightly forlorn and deflated.

What was causing this mad rush for cupcakes, I wondered?  Was someone trying to boost her spirits?

Upon arriving at work, I noticed that the office manager had flowers on her desk.  Was it her birthday?  I knew she had recently lost a family member.  But pink roses?  Odd.

Since I was running really behind, I threw my bag down, and started doing about nine things at once.  I felt a little flustered and just wanted to get things in order.

My office mate (he of the cookie requests) poked his head in the door and smiled a big smile.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Ah!  It all came together … cupcakes, pink roses … a lot of people wearing red and pink.

So I’m a day late today, but to those who celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day!

This morning, I arrived at work much less flustered (no line at the cupcake shop ~ all felt much more normal!) but anxious to register for my first ever race.  And after two hours and 45 minutes, multiple windows, several failed attempts, and one successful one (by Minda’s hubby, not by me), I am officially registered to run Broad Street 2012.  I’m excited and terrified. And as Josh pointed out, it took longer to register than they allow you to finish the 10 miler (you’re capped at 2 hours and 30 minutes by the police, emergency services, etc etc, so that roads can be re-opened in a timely fashion).  The pressure is on.

Wish me luck!

happy solstice, other mid-winter thoughts & a christmas movie countdown

December 21, 2011

This morning, as my alarm rang and I bemoaned the start of another day in the pitch black, I informed the man (in a monotonous tone) that today is the shortest day of the year.  In considering this, one can only look to the positive that slowly but surely, the sun will remain in the sky a little bit more each day until June 21st, when the cycle will begin it’s decline again to December.  Ah, the cycle of life.
December 23, 2011

As I hot-footed it around Center City earlier this morning on a mission to put together my boss’s Christmas (and Hanukkah) presents, I was a little depressed at the fact that I had to take my coat off because I was too hot.

In December.

Two days before Christmas.

Seriously, not to be crude, but WTF?

I struggled at Thanksgiving when the weather was spring-like; sunny, balmy breezes, chirping birds (well, that might be a small exaggeration).  But to have Christmas during a 60 degree warm stretch? Ugh.  If it were intentional, it would be different ~ say, Australia and Christmas on the beach.  But I live in Philadelphia, for pity’s sake.  It’s just wrong.

I really need some snow.  And it was looking so promising when we got a mini-blizzard at the end of October.  Now? Not so much.

So, to get in the holiday spirit, my top favorite holiday films.

Honorable Mentions:

Most Nostalgic Memories ~ Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (but I haven’t seen it in years) and Mickey’s Christmas Carol (the first video I remember my dad playing in our new VCR when I was about 5).

Best Christmas Chick Flick ~ While You Were Sleeping (I could watch this on repeat … I deeply love Sandra Bullock) and also worth mentioning: Four Christmases, The Family Stone and The Holiday

It wouldn’t be Christmas without watching ~ The Santa Claus, The Christmas Story

The Top Ten

1o. Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn makes this movie great, but the whole cast is pretty rockstar … Paul Giamatti, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey … the list goes on, it’s crazy!)

9. Scrooged (It’s just so bad, it’s good!)

8. Home Alone (The original is still, in my opinion, the best).

7. Christmas in Connecticut: 1945 ~ (I am a sucker for old black & white Christmas movies, and this one is a doozy.  I wish I had it on DVD, but I try to find it on TV every year).

6. Love, Actually (So heartwarming, and so British … love it).

5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (If you don’t love this movie, something is wrong. Seriously.)

4. George C. Scott’s “A Christmas Carol.”  (It’s hands down my favorite version, and I only watch it on Christmas Eve … everything else is fair game for watching ad nauseum, but there’s something special about curling up on Christmas Eve and settling in to watch Charles Dickens’ masterpiece).

3. Holiday Inn ~ (Bing Crosby is Christmas incarnate to me.  I love this whole, sweet story of a little country Inn and a couple performers falling in and out of love …. it’s also the origin of Irving Berlin’s  Christmas standard, “White Christmas”).

2. It’s a Wonderful Life ~ (Truth be told, it’s a toss up for spots #1 and #2 … this movie makes me cry every time, but I also love Clarence’s message … “No Man is a Failure Who has Friends.”  This isn’t just a great Christmas movie, it’s an all-out great film).

1. White Christmas (I love pretty much everything about this movie … Bing Crosby singing, Vera Ellen dancing, Rosemary Clooney sulking and Danny Kaye clowning … I love the songs and the dance numbers, and the Christmas-y spirit of everything.  But mostly I love that I remember first watching this movie with Jennie J … and every year, when I watch it, she’s with me, and I’m little again, in my pajamas and snuggled up next to her listening to Bing and Rosemary sing their worries away).

in the spirit

On the man and my first date, we discovered our mutual love for Christmas.  I spent many of my previous relationships with men who, in the mildest case, were disdainful of the holiday.  It was one of those (plentiful) moments at the beginning of things with John that made me feel as though we were right together in ways I had never felt before.  Less than a year into our relationship, he drove to my parents house on Christmas morning, and arrived on their front porch decked in a full Santa suit.  Maybe not romantic for some, but it made my heart burst with love for a man so secure in the things he loved.

For me, Christmas had always been a truly magical time.  We honored traditions from both sides of the family ~ seven fish on Christmas Eve with the Italian side … smelts, calamari, shrimp cocktail, baccala … aglio olio pasta with raisins and pine nuts, thin strips of fried eggplant, stuffed peppers … (my memory is slightly faded, as the large family Christmas Eve celebrations began to peter out when I was still young, but boy oh boy, the abundance was staggering), and turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas Day, with chipolata sausages, bread sauce, stuffing, brussel sprouts and gravy.

In our house, we hung stockings for Santa to fill, and left out an assortment of Italian Christmas cookies, milk and hot cocoa (in a Santa Claus mug, of course!).  When we got a little older, my brother and I also felt it was necessary to leave food for the reindeer, so there were carrots and apples as well. (These are the things young minds think of when their mother rides horses … which seemed, at the time, remarkably similar to reindeer).  As little tykes, we would bunk in the same room on Christmas Eve (Dave had twin beds).  I’m not sure if this was because we were so excited, or filled with nervous anticipation about a complete stranger sliding down our chimney in the middle of the night, or because it was a clever ploy by mum &  dad to try to keep us in our beds as long as possible in the morning.

Irregardless, morning inevitably came, and while our parents employed some fairly effective delaying tactics, we usually ended up downstairs and around the tree before the sun was up.  Dave and I would wait at the top of the stairs, and when my dad had had a chance to turn the tree lights on, and my mum had put a pot on to boil for coffee and tea, they would summon us, and we would shuffle into the living room with our eyes closed.  My dad would tell us when we could open them (possibly so that both he and my mum could see our joyous expressions at the sight of the booty under the tree).  As would be expected of most children, we dove right in, and ended with our stockings (the toe of which was always stuffed with a tangerine,  a tradition and huge treat in my mum’s stocking as a child).  Usually, there was a sooty boot print on the rug, and multiple footprints in the fireplace.  Sometimes, Santa would leave us messages, written in green calligraphy on crinkly, weathered paper.  He always ate the cookies and drank the milk and cocoa.

As grown people, we now arrive to view Santa’s delivery with the sun in the sky, and take turns opening presents (either Dave, my dad or the man serve as ‘Santa’ and hand out boxes to the family).  We still end with stockings, but we’re usually all sipping steaming mugs of hot chocolate and enjoying the tradition of it more than the magic, which can only really exist in it’s purest form when small people are present, and full of wonder.

Since setting up a home with the man, we have begun establishing our own traditions.  (It has necessitated some negotiation, as we both feel strongly about how we celebrate).  Tonight, we’re venturing into the city for the man’s work holiday party.  And tomorrow we start a new tradition … with our first Annual Holiday Party!  Let the magic of Christmas begin!