Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Day

Monday, December 30, 2013
Christmas day was definitely different this year compared to last year. Last year we were on our road trip up north and stopped in Philly for a few days of relaxation and some city exploring too. This year, we went to my moms house like we used to but it was still different. 
My brother brought his new cat to visit, along with my cousin bringing his dog in addition to the other two dogs that were already at my moms house. It was packed to say the least. The dogs played with each other, and barked, and wrestled. The kitten found a quiet and cozy spot near the Christmas tree and kept to herself. 
My mom made challah french toast for Christmas morning, like always. In the beaten eggs, she always adds some cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract. Plus, with fluffy, eggy bread like challah, it's always delicious!
Although we all started our day with coffee and french toast, once it was time for gifts we really toasted, with mimosas. 
We all opened gifts, hugging and thanking each other. In between gifts and snacking on cheese, we Skyped with some of my cousins and my aunt up north. It was nice to see a little bit of each other - although of course it isn't the same.
For dinner my mom made all of our favorites including baked mac and cheese that I helped her with, spooned corn bread, spinach and rice torte, sweet potatoes, turkey, and even ham. It was a delicious feast and I was happy to take leftovers home to each it all over again. 
This past weekend was a nice weekend of relaxing at home, catching up on cleaning and grocery shopping and cooking. We have so many great ingredients in our home right now, including produce to juice, home made focaccia bread (which I have photos to share), leftover turkey and chicken for paninis, and sprouts which are super healthy and I've been putting them in our salads. Other than that - S introduced me to a new comic book, Fables, which I've started reading along with some F Scott Fitzgerald short stories. Over all, it's been nice to be back home. 
Some of you may have seen my small victory on Instagram - we finally submitted our Visa applications to the Brazilian consulate! It was hours of tedious paperwork, getting it together, making sure everything was signed to perfection - the consulate will deny and prolong the process for any little reason. Saturday morning, we waited in line at the post office and were lucky enough to be helped by a woman from the Bronx who used to work in Passports in Manhattan. Walking away from the post office with only my copies and without my Passport felt relieving, yet scary at the same time. Now begins the fun part where I can research old train stations, little towns around Buenos Aires for day trips, and art markets and restaurants galore! 
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Baking

Friday, December 27, 2013
A tradition with my mom is getting together before Christmas to bake hundreds of cookies for friends and family. I wish I had counted how many cookies came out of that oven, because two days of baking nearly makes a factory.
We started with simple recipes and changed them up to incorporate peppermint, pecans, walnuts, and even lemon! My favorite was the lemon cookies which I was inspired to make when I saw my moms lemon extract. One of my gifts this year from my boss was lavender sea salt which I think a little sprinkle would have been amazing on the top of a lemon cookie! The lavender sea salt is so delicious that it inspired me to buy grey sea salt in bulk online. I already have plans to make a thyme foccacia bread with lavender sea salt sprinkled on top - but I think I want to just try simple focaccia with grey sea salt on top first. Next, we want to buy pearl cous cous in bulk because we love the texture and versatility with meals. 
With two days of baking with my mom, we got to laugh together, enjoy each others company, and make a mess. Not to mention, we of course had to taste test everything. I have to say, spending this kind of quality time together has quickly become more fun than Christmas day itself. 
S and I are back into our routine, but it's nice to only have a two day work week and the weekend ahead. I plan on using so many of my gifts this weekend - and I've even already started with dinner last night! I'll definitely post more photos of that. Tomorrow I am looking forward to eating some saucisson sec with brie and thin crackers. Sounds strange, but I gave S three different varieties for Christmas: a classic one, a mushroom one, and an herbs de provence one. It was a nostalgic gift and I'm hoping the classic one tastes just like the ones we had in France - we lived off of it every day for lunch there! I also plan to make a vegetable roast in my new Le Creuset dish with some of the new spice blends my dad gave me. So many cooking endeavors ahead. Happy weekend! 
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This is our Christmas card that we sent to family and friends that S drew for us. Have a happy Christmas day to everyone! 
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Burled Black Walnut Wood

Monday, December 23, 2013
When I moved out of my first apartment into mine + S's own apartment, my mom was downsizing her home and we were lucky enough to receive my favorite set of couches. They are grey suede with even a huge one-person arm chair that I can get lost in with a good book, a blanket, and some tea. Years later, my mom is now updating some of her pieces in her new house.
One of the pieces my mom replaced is the burled black walnut wood and glass dining room table that we grew up with in New York. It seats six at it's smallest size which is an increase from our Ikea table which tightly fit four people. I love this table because I grew up with it and it is a bit art deco on the legs and it's timeless and beautifully made, but it also has leaves. There are two wood and glass leaves that are currently tucked away in one of my closets. They are perfect for when I plan my first 12-person dinner party with all of my place settings! 
Although I barely have the space in my dining room for this table, if I ever wanted to have my 12-person dinner party, I could easily move it into my living room's open space. I'm already dreaming of the appetizers, entree, and dessert spreads I could serve, and the day-after lunch like The Dinner Bell supper club too. 
This weekend we have been home for Christmas, enjoying home cooked meals with my dad and S's mom, as well as baking marathons with my mom. I spent the day yesterday, just me and my mom, baking gingerbread cookies, meringue cookies, chocolate crackle cookies, biscotti, and pecan cookies. There are so many other delicious recipes that we didn't even get to like nut balls, pignoli cookies, and some peppermint cookies. Today, I'm headed there to finish what we started.
I probably won't post again until after Christmas day so I'm wishing all of  you the most wonderful holiday! I know I'll be spending my Xmas morning with my mom and her challah bread french toast - paired with mimosas of course, our little tradition. Cheers!
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Harvest Festival

Thursday, December 19, 2013
A few weeks back, while it was still warm outside, we attended a Harvest Festival which was something I really looked forward to. The first year that we accidentally walked into it, there was a movie playing in the grass - one of those healthy eating documentaries that was probably one of the first influences of local and sustainable eating I've had. 
This year we attended and found many of the vendors were selling their local products, and there were also classes and demonstrations. One class that we missed out on was a mushroom growing class, but we did catch some of a vegan cooking class! 
Our bread lady was there, and we bought a delicious baguette (the fig and anise one of course) to enjoy later with cheese. And of course, we saw popsicles and had to have some. 
Yesterday I enjoyed wine and dinner with a friend at a local theater that plays movies every Wednesday night on their lawn. They call it their "Pitcher Show" and last night was a much loved showing of the 90's movie Spice World about the Spice Girls. Of course, my friend and I had to go see it. I forgot how silly the movie was, but there was so much love still in the humor and so many memories. All of the lyrics came back to us naturally. We even joked about the immense crowd of women in their 20's: that the Spice Girls must have bred fans that grew up to have impeccable fashion sense. Maybe it was just the group closest to us, but there were some blog-worthy outfits in that crowd. 
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter in the Park

Monday, December 16, 2013
The one holiday event that I look forward to every year is one Winter in the Park. The local museum takes their Tiffany glass windows and lights them up in our "Central Park" along our very own Park Ave. Not only do they have these beautiful windows up and glowing, but there is a choir that sings Christmas carols through the night on stage. 
Paths are lined with poinsettias, the shops are open late to enjoy the crowd, and the people arrive early to secure a seat and to set up their night picnics. The types of night picnics that people set up are first class. Little tables with candles, blankets, bottles of wine and hot cocoa for little ones. 
On this night, it was thankfully a little chilly in the air, which made it actually feel like winter. We opted for hot cocoa and walked around instead of finding an open spot to sit. The night picnics sound romantic and delicious, but arriving hours early to secure a good spot doesn't. 
Coupled with the choir in Central Park, one of the historic homes on Park Ave opens it's doors for a holiday open house. There's more hot cocoa, marshmallows, and cookies. We stumbled upon it years ago and enjoy it so much we continue to visit every year. Maybe we still go for the nostalgia, either way it's fun to explore the small house and look over the open lawn from the second floor balcony. Up there, it's quiet. Our little Park Ave  usually lines it's light poles with gorgeous yellow Christmas lights that hang down elegantly. This year, the city instead hung these colorful clusters of red, green, and blue lights, all down the street. I normally prefer the amber glow of yellow lights, but seeing the street full of people with colorful globes suspended above them had an unexpected air of fun and magic. 
This time we ended the night at a Thai restaurant a block away from the choir. We ate outside under market lights and could hear the faint singing while we ate. We were still there when the singing finished, and it was like living in a real city suddenly. All of the singers and all of the attendees packed up slowly and began to make their way among the streets of our little shops. Eating outside on the sidewalk while people walked past, it was like the hustle and bustle of real cities like New York that I've come to miss every holiday season. 
This past weekend we had a visitor and we also took care of some last minute gift shopping. We also attended S's work holiday party at a Brazilian restaurant where I got to practice the little Portuguese that I know with the gauchos. It was a delicious meal and we even got to enjoy one of my favorite drinks, the caipirinha, which is  the national drink of Brazil. Going there reminded me that we need to apply for our Visas, and soon. We're coming up on less than two months until our trip! How did that happen? Either way, I'm going to have to start tying up the last few details like transportation, cash, and of course, the Visas. 
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh Tannenbaum

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Hanukkah came and went so quickly. Being that we were out of town for most of Thanksgiving weekend, we weren't able to light that candles every night at home like we always do. When we got back we had three nights of lighting the candles together, S singing the prayers. On the last night I took some photos of it, not knowing then that it would later feel weird to not have the menorah out at the same time as our Christmas tree . 
For me, the menorah out at the same time as the tree has symbolized both of our families, histories, and traditions coming together side by side. Now that we have our tree up, it feels like the menorah is the only thing missing. 
After years of putting up a small, pre-lit, faux-fir as our Christmas tree every year, this year we both decided it was time to try a real tree. There are tents set up on the side of the road here, selling fir trees for families to take home. 
When we went shopping for our tree, it was slim pickings for us being that we have 8 foot ceilings in our home, so we had to stay around the 7 foot trees, which were few and far between. This late into December, everyone must have grabbed the shorter trees. We found a good looking balsam fir, and were able to stuff it into my little Honda Fit. We had a short drive home, but the car still lingers a faint tannenbaum scent. 
We bought brand new lights for the trees, ones that are constant or can be twinkling too - for whatever mood I'm in. We also used some intricate yarn for our garland since it has a bit of texture and a bit of sparkle too - nothing too frou-frou or else S wouldn't like it. 
One thing I am not so in love with just yet is our tree topper. This one will work for now, but I'm thinking I am going to have to keep an eye out for an art decor, glass and brass star like we used to have growing up. When we moved from NY to FL, it broke in the move. My brother and I both still think about that tree topper. 
I love our assortment of ornaments. Many come from my childhood like my ceramic ballerina who is losing her sparkles but still dances endlessly as she dangles. Others are new like our hot air balloon, that came from the after-holiday ornament sale at Anthropologie, which has turned into a bit of a tradition for us. 
S has dreams of decorating an entire tree with little felt mushrooms, various shapes and some brown, some red. I would love to see that too, but in order to have enough by next year, we'll have to start making them soon. For me, a string of hand-made mushrooms on a garland would be absolutely perfect. 
We decorated the tree with Christmas music playing by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, as well as The Family Stone faintly playing on the TV in the background. And a balsam fir candle, to intensify the atmosphere. Every time I pass the tree in our living room, I stop and realize that it really feels like Christmas now. The only thing that might make it complete for me is a little ceramic town, with lights in the windows, for under the tree until the gifts come out, just like my mom used to have. 
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Monday, December 09, 2013

Thanksgiving, Christmas Tree Decorating, + Hanukkah Film

Monday, December 09, 2013

Thanksgiving + Hanukkah from Yelle on Vimeo.
This year I made a little film during Thanksgiving day at my grandparents house, our Christmas tree decorating at my aunt and uncles, and Hanukkah dinner at S's grandparents house. I hope you enjoy this little film as much as I do. I love looking back at all of the sweet moments that happened throughout the evenings. 
Recently, S's car started over heating, blah blah, I'll spare you the boring details. It's an older model and now needs two expensive parts replaced so instead, we decided we'll sell it to a company that sells it for parts. Not sure what we'll do with the money (pay off S's student loan or put it toward a new car later?) but our main concern is not getting stuck in a lease and not buying a new car when my car is newer. We have similar work schedule and work less than 10 minutes from each other so we've started carpooling. I have to say, I am really enjoying this routine. Starting every morning with S and ending every workday recapping in person (sometimes in traffic) rather than on the phone is much more pleasant. So far, I've only seen the benefits in this unfortunate financial situation. 
Also, S lately has been working on our illustration for our holiday cards! He finally finished them this weekend and I was able to order them. I cannot wait to share them with you - they came out great! I thought about using one of our wedding photos but I feel like the whole family has seen them already via Facebook or our wedding album. So instead, I asked S if he would draw us as characters inspired by one of our favorite movies. I'm more excited to share a little piece of S's art with friends and family rather than a standard photo!
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Friday, December 06, 2013

Day After Thanksgiving + Hanukkah

Friday, December 06, 2013
The days after Thanksgiving kick off the Christmas season, not just for my family, but for the entire nation. Only, instead of us shopping those days that follow a day of eating and drinking, we spend time with each other relaxing, decorating for the holidays, and eating some more. 
In the morning while my aunt and uncle prepped their house for decorating, I kept my two little cousins busy by teaching them how to use their sewing machine. With a little guidance, the older of my two cousins was able to hem a dress into a shirt, and shorten  long sleeves into short sleeves. She did pretty well, and with the clear elastic thread instead of a colored thread, the shortened sleeves looked great! 
Later in the day, my grandparents brought over the leftover Thanksgiving feast, and we all started decorating my aunt and uncle's tree. We started with a Christmas album of the same songs I used to listen to growing up when decorating the tree. And then, because my uncle is a lover of music, we switched to some more contemporary music, what my little cousin calls rock 'n roll. 
My camera battery started to get low, so instead of my littlest cousin playing around on my camera, she took a try at my other cousins camera. She's pretty great; she captured some lovely portraits of her grandfather and our grandfather on Thanksgiving day with my camera. 
My camera battery was draining quickly because I was filming a lot of the evening and I forgot to pack my charger. S suggested that I should make a little film of Thanksgiving. We each have VHS tapes that our parents filmed of our family get-togethers and holidays from when we were young and sometimes not even born. I love capturing our families and friends in photos with great portraits, but I really love making little films, capturing small moments and personality quirks. 
At S's grandparents house, we had Hanukkah dinner on Saturday night since Hanukkah fell over Thanksgiving this year. S was ordered to make the latkes. We enjoyed brisket with his mom, grandparents, and brother, and all lit the candles together. I have to say it was quite nice to have Hanukkah overlap with Thanksgiving this year - I much prefer it than when it overlaps Christmas. Although, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I don't mind sharing it with Hanukkah. It's Christmas that's second-best to me and yet there's still something about it that I want all to myself and not to share the day with Hanukkah. That could be the little kid in me. 
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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The few days leading up to Thanksgiving are always full of potlucks and I wouldn't have it any other way. I made an easy meringue cookie recipe for S's office's potluck. I had almost an entire week off for Thanksgiving and most of it was spent in the kitchen cooking and baking, which feels like a perfect pre-holiday to me. 
Later, when we finally had an evening to get our things together before we left town, S finished a drawing of his grandfather that he started many visits ago. Trimmed and tucked in a frame, it made a thoughtful Hanukkah gift. 
And of course, every year I make biscotti for Thanksgiving. Baking biscotti for me is like kicking off the holiday season, kind of the way that certain smells do for others. For me, this sweet treat is the taste of the holiday season. I've been making a variation every year since I was in high school, and I have to say the recipes only get better and better. I think next year I might add a little baking soda to get my biscotti to rise a bit in the oven. This particular recipe calls for baking powder (to tenderize the dough) and I think combining it with baking soda (like many recipes do) will give it the perfect balance. 
Thanksgiving was spent at my grandparents house with my uncle, aunts, cousins, extended family, and of course my dad as well. I paired up with my cousin for most of the day, catching up, relaxing, and toting our cameras around. She shares a bug for photography with me. 
Even S said that although the food is always great at my grandparents house and during Thanksgiving with them, this year was particularly amazing. I have to agree; every dish was cooked to perfection (except my aunt's attempt at a new vegan recipe for pumpkin pie that she wouldn't let anyone try!). My grandfather said that even my biscotti came out the best batch I've ever made. With only one imperfect dish, I think everything else was spectacular. We had leftovers for three days and I never got sick of it. 
We enjoyed bottles of beaujolais nouveau, malbecs, and my dad's tomato juice and beer concoction. At the end of the night, guests trickled out during The Godfather on TV. 
The days off for Thanksgiving passed by so slowly, and I feel that it was mostly due to the fact that I didn't have my phone on me, sometimes it was out, and the rest of the time there was hardly an iPad or TV in sight. 
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