Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Lazy Life

I know, I know. Where are the Christmas blogs with the festive pictures, and videos of Finn saying "This is Soooo cute" to every gift he opened?

Well, let me tell you about something I call the snowball effect of laziness. I have been off of work since December 17th. Straight. All days without driving into work. Firing up the email chaos. Meeting Madness. etc. etc. etc. None of it.

Now at first, I was highly productive. Cleaning. Baking. Laundering. Wrapping. And then day by day, my motivation to get up and do 'stuff' slowly waned. And yesterday was the pinnacle of laziness. I think I took 2 naps. I ready my book. I watched a movie. I went for a walk with my neighbor.I ate food. I did make it to Spin class which was my major accomplishment of the day.

And so you can see how blogging, and uploading pictures (what.a.chore.) just doesn't fit into that lifestyle.

Never fear, I am back to work on the 3rd, and am hoping I have some muscle memory to doing a million things at once. Either way, my guess is I am in for a seriously rude awakening.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

4th Annual Festivus Cookie Decorating

It was one of my all-time favorite parts of the holiday season this week as we hosted some of our favorite Jewish friends over to our house to help us decorate Christmas cookies. There were grievances aired, but no festivus pole. We still feel that may be a little out of place for this particular event.

However, there WERE feats of strength this year. And that came in the form of all of the cookies that had to be decorated. This is not your average slop some frosting on a cookie and put some sprinkles on it and call it a day cookie decorating. No, there are angels that need braided hair, snowmen that need holly put in their hat, and toy soldiers that need to be made into Buckingham palace guard.
And this year, I added an epic-ly large Christmas ornament cookie that you literally had to summon your strength to attempt.

The boys have seriously stepped up their game in the decorating department too. (Need I remind anyone about Nate's first year, before he realized how serious this was?)

These weren't even their best work--but the most meaningful to them. They were quite sentimental.

The ultimate feat of strength came when Sam was facing 1 last cookie that needed to be decorated. We were all done, and sat there taunting/encouraging him. He had hit his limit. He didn't have his creative vision for this last snow-man, but he had reached his limit for "decorate and eat immediately".

And so, "The 30-second Snowman Challenge" was born. And it isn't much more complicated than that. 30 seconds. One snowman cookie. Sprinkles. Frosting. Go.
And here was the result:

A new tradition was born, and you can be sure there will be 30-second snowman challengers next year.

All in all, it was a very fun night with great friends, that resulted in some pretty kick-butt cookies if I do say so myself. **Note: no cheating utensils like a piping bag were used in the decoration of these cookies.**

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cooking Light: Episode 23

Growing up I can't say I always appreciated my Mom's delicious cooking. I was a picky eater. Plain and Simple. From a timer set on the microwave to warnings of no bed-time snack, every and all tricks were deployed to try to get me to eat normal food.

But, there were a few stand-bys that always brought me to the table ready to eat: scalloped potatoes and ham (mmm..I haven't had this FOREVER), Spaghetti, Taco's and my Mom's manicotti.

So I was really excited to try the Lasagna Rolls from Cooking Light this week because to me it seemed very similar to the manicotti recipe but without the tediousness of stuffing the shells. Comine that with a sauce you made from scratch with diced tomatoes, roasted red peppers and some spices and I thought it would be a home-run.

And it was  good. Nate learned that I really like to eat the broken, leftover lasagna noodles. And I learned that sometimes, you really can't substitute a classic. So, it will be back to stuffing shells for me the next time i am craving that down-home cooking of my childhood.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

White Chistmas

If you live in Minneapolis, there is no doubt that you will be enjoying a white Christmas after the 'festive' winter weather we had the past weekend. Admittedly, it did end up snowing a lot and the roads were really bad.

BUT, Nate and I continue to be amazed by Minnesotans ability to whine about the weather, and completely blow it out of proportion.

Exhibit A: We ran some errands on Friday night because our weekend was packed, and didn't put two and two together until we got to Rainbow Foods and the check-out lines were all the way into the dry good aisles. It was like people were preparing for the next world war. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Exhibit B: Facebook. Everyone's posts were all: "SNOW-nami 2010", "It's SNOW-mageddon", etc etc. Really? Doesn't that seem a bit dramatic? Even for you, Minnesotans?

So Nate and I were laughing about it all weekend (except for the 45 minutes we were driving in it..not so much laughter then...). Three shovelings later (of which I only helped with 1--you're the man Nate) and we were completely free and clear to go back to our normal lives.

Nate was quite the sight when he came in from his first shoveling:
It is funny looking out of our windows where the trees start to look like bushes because the snow is so high:

Or feeling the sense of being truly snowed in as the snow creeped up and up and up toward the door handles, and windows!
Either way it was a fun day of hibernation, and as "Father Christmas" continues to remind me -- it was a good thing this didn't happen on December 24th or Christmas would have been cancelled for the 2nd year in a row!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Ultimate Book Review

For the last four years, I have been keeping track of all of the books I have read in this nifty little "what I read" noteook I received as a gift. I am a self-proclaimed nerd in that there is nothing better than keeping a list, crossing off a list, and looking back on the list to remind you of everything you did. And books are one of the best things to track.

Some books are so knock-out that you never forget the characters, but others need a gentle reminder such as a character's name, a specific scene, etc to take you back into the story. So this morning, as the snow comes down inch by inch, I took out my little blue notebook, which was filled to capacity last night to look back on all of the stories I have devoured in the last 4 years, and here is my top must-read list! Listed in no particular order  (because to me they are all awesome!).....

1) Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres
2) The Good Good Pig: the Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood
3) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan  by Lisa See
4) Water For Elephants by Sara Gruer
5) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
6) What is the What by Dave Eggers
7) Molokai'i by Alan Brennert
8) 102  Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
9) The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
10) Still Alice by Lisa Genova
11) Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
12) The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
13) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Is it unlucky to have a list with 13 items on it? Perhaps, but I don't want to lead any of you astray with a pretty good, it was alright or it held my attention sort of book. I promise that although this list is long, those that did not make the list is MUCH longer--remember this is a 4 years-in-the-making-list here people.

So, time to start a new notebook to fill with all of the books that are waiting for me on my overflowing book-shelf. If anyone has any recommendations of books that I must start 2011 off with let me know!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas in The City

I have been severely lacking in the blog department but I have a really good excuse: the last 4 days I was in NYC immersing myself in extreme holiday merriment with girlfriends.

This was the 2nd in what I hope proves to be a long-standing tradition (although I think we all agree next year it's time for an upgrade to a room with a bed bigger than a double for 3 of us...).

Now this is not your typical girlfriend trip to NYC. 
No, this trip had one mission and one mission only: Get Filled with the Holly Jollies.
And we more than exceeded.

 The trip started with an unexpected, but welcome, stop at a pop-up shop that Real Simple was putting on for hot HOLIDAY gifts. And the marketing side of all 3 of us were going nuts at how well done it was (i mean we got oodles of free chocolate--hello!) and we all got a little Christmas shopping done too! Look at these smiles!

 We even picked our restaurants based on the Christmas decorations (well, for the most part--I mean we had to go to at least one hot spot). I am here to tell you that the Italians know what is up with the Christmas decor. 

 We started day 2 at one of our favorite spots: Grand Central. A little sad that the light show was discontinued this year, BUT we found a great little holiday fair that had all sorts of fun gift ideas. And this was when our plan to come back when we are 40 and brings gobs of cash from some mysterious source and spend it with wild abandon.

And speaking of that future trip of an older age and bigger wallet, when we passed The Palace (you know what I'm talking about Gossip Girl fans--XOXO) we just had to stop to snap a picture and the promise was made to ONE year stay at this beautiful hotel.
 The weather was glorious for some serious ice skating. Sure it's over-priced, packed and not probably the safest ice skating with an inch of snow on the ground, but can you really beat this view?

That is a rhetorical question, because I have the answer.
You can't.
 As a super double bonus holiday surprise, we found out the ELF (the movie) was playing on Broadway! SANTA--I know him! Sure, you can't quite beat Will's epic performance, but the show was cute and definitely fit the bill for holiday joy.
 After a special treat of sleeping in we headed over to check out the Public Library which was filled with beautiful trees last year, but THIS year there was just a major line to get in where we found out there is a HOliday Open House that we were not invited to. So we headed over to Bryant Park to enjoy some Sunshine and some holiday tunes.

After walking from 40th to 100th (not even joking right now), we were feeling the need to take a little break. So we took a few breaks that were centered on good sweets (hot chocolate, donuts and chocolate crossaints anyone) and then hit the jackpot with this cute little spot in the UPper West Side that was laid back, played good music, had good food. Mmm. And it was VERY festive as an added double bonus.

It was a good thing we fueled up as we headed to the grand finale of Christmas in NYC: the Park Avenue Christmas Tree lighting put on by the little red brick church.

Blocks of fur and chanel.
13 Christmas Carols.
A Children's Choir.
And a 'let there be light' moment.

It was such a great weekend. Now I am ready to bake, shop, wrap and continue that for the next 2 weeks!