Last week, we walked around the lake downtown where all of the bushes and trees are decorated with lights. There was a Christmas movie playing in the arena on the lake and the huge Christmas tree that's up has a light display that changes to music every hour. My friend works for the city in their events department and she was the one inside the tree with the electrical box at the lighting ceremony to light it up. So this year, I'm a little more proud of that tree knowing my friend was a part of it!
This weekend we stumbled upon an art market at a restaurant in our neighborhood. The restaurant is inside of an old house, just like all of the other surrounding residences, with 40's style decor and apparently great cocktails which we have yet to try. While driving by, we saw signs for an art and vintage market, so we stopped in only to find that it is a monthly market. We found some treasures, like another old radio for S and a vintage art deco ring for me.
Afterwards, we went to our favorite movie theater with one screen, luxurious couches instead of chairs, and delicious truffle fries and pear proscuitto pizza. We went to see Rare Exports, one of our favorite holiday movies. It takes place in Finland during Christmas and while it's a little dark with it's interpretation of Santa and his elves, it still has holiday spirit, and ends with comedy. We've see it at this theater three times now during the holidays, so it's become a tradition.
We listened to Christmas vinyls on the record player as we did laundry, cleaned the house, and read books. I'm in the middle of four books right now and it's wonderful. I'm in the middle of a Chuck Palahniuk book that I've lost a little interest in, I've started a non-fiction book by Kelly Cutrone called Normal Gets You Nowhere which I think I'll save for after my vacation from work, I'm a few chapters into a historical fiction novel called The Paris Wife about Hemingway's first wife, and lastly, I'm reading my first murder mystery novel! It's by the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie and it's about a murder on France's Blue Train which I find fascinating in itself. We saw a few friends and we went out to dinner, but overall we hung around the house lighting the Hanukkah candles and burning some oils I got at a new age store.
After walking around the lake with Mordechai, the rest of the night he would not get up from the couch. He would normally follow me to the kitchen curiously to see what bottle of wine I was going to open, and he'd normally jump at the chance to go on one more walk, but he didn't. He stayed cuddled up by my feet, sharing a blanket and a Christmas movie.
The best cup of mulled wine I've ever had was on a skinny street in Paris, outside of a bookshop called The Abbey. The street was so thin that cars weren't able to drive on it but motorists buzzed past. There were lights hung around the perimeter of the windows outside and a table with piles of books welcoming you before you got to the door. The owner of the shop was from Canada, and his parents actually live in the small bay-area town where I went to high school. After talking, he invited us to a book reading by an American writer who was in Paris doing research for her historical fiction novel (very much like a writer I know, Erin).
The book reading took place outside of the shop because the inside was made of narrow aisles and passageways; perfectly cozy for reading and perusing. The shop owner was dressed up in what looked like Renaissance clothing, and the female writer wore a big dress from the time. It was a cold day in May, and my leather boots from Italy were worth packing after all. The table outside had a silver carafe of mulled wine to warm our hands and bodies while we listened to a period piece. It wasn't just the taste and spicy scent of the mulled wine that made it so great, but it was being surrounded by English-speakers, an American writer, a Canadian bookshop owner, and us tourists trying to feel grounded in Paris. Paris stole my heart that night, and she did it with a cup of warm and spiced wine.
This time of year, it smells like mulled wine. There's warmth inside houses and stores, there's spices in cookies and dinners, and there's joy from my heart to yours. S has been working on our holiday card (this is last years), I've been reading a million books and drinking Christmas coffee. My Christmas coffee from the Fresh Market has vanilla, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon and makes the house smell like Christmas morning every morning. Some mornings, instead of a croissant or yogurt for breakfast, I'll have a peppermint cookie from Trader Joe's with my coffee. This is the only time of year I feel like I can get away with sugar for breakfast.
We've been taking M to the dog park. At first, I wasn't all that comfortable with dog parks. We've spent a great deal of time training Mordechai to be well behaved and since he is still new to us (5 months) we still can't predict how he will handle each situation. What if he were to meet a fluffy white dog that reminded him of the lure at the tracks? Thankfully, he has met fluffy white dogs and this has not happened, but I didn't want to go seeking out trouble. We've found a new dog park close to our home that is so quiet on Sunday mornings that we've been twice and have seen the same beagle both times. The big dog area is normally quiet when we first arrive, then a husky or golden retriever will join the park and he'll have some time to socialize. So far, it's been really fun. I enjoy seeing him run for a short three laps (and then he's exhausted) and after he explores, he trots, he wags his tail at the little Italian greyhounds through the fence. He's truly a gem, this guy.
I've been in full holiday mode. We brought a Christmas tree home, we hung the stockings, and we put out the menorah. Our tree has twinkling lights, my favorite kind, that fade in and out slowly. So slow that if you're not looking directly at it, you would never know the lights are fading in and out, like Gatsby's green light across the bay. I could get lost gazing at our tree. Underneath it sits a little village with a bakery, a library, houses with porches, and a lighthouse with it's beacon flashing from the Christmas lights I draped around the town. The village is full of townspeople including carolers outside of the church, ladies with shopping bags, men cutting down trees, and children throwing snowballs. That is, there were townspeople until Mordechai chewed the innocent farmer who was churning butter. Now the villagers are safely tucked away in their tissue paper until I find a safer spot for them. The farmer is in critical condition, but nothing some super glue can't fix.
Last week we had our holiday potluck and gift exchange at work. We all brought in some delicious sides like mac and cheese, corn souffle (so yum!), and rosemary sweet potatoes. It was a delicious feast and we ended it with presents. There are eight of us, so as you can see, so many presents! As I type I have two candles burning in different rooms because I can't pick just one, both gifts from the girls at work. Everyone is so thoughtful, so sweet, and extremely fun. I love working with these girls. As much as I try to teach them things, they end up teaching me sometimes too.
There was also an event for the event industry (my favorite kind) which were the vendor's choice awards. Vendors get the chance to vote for their other favorite vendors in the area. It was an event I definitely wanted to attend because the sponsored photographer was my own weddingand family photographer, Live Happy Studios. I also love getting to chat and have fun with the vendors we work with on a regular basis. Normally we see each other during an event setup or email each other because of an upcoming event. These events are great opportunities for us to not only network, but to enjoy the company of the vendors we have gotten to know. The theme was winter and ice and there were silvery white rock candy hanging from trees at the candy bar and snowflake shaped gobos spotlighted on the attendees. The venue was the Orchid Garden at Church Street Station; with it's 1920's architecture and white wrought iron fixtures, it was a great backdrop for the theme. This gem has been hidden in downtown Orlando and recently went under renovations to bring it back to it's glory.
The weather in Florida has been cool lately, making it feel even more like the holidays. Being from up north, I try to wear boots on Christmas day but nothing makes it feel less like Christmas than sweating in boots. Our old house is like a copper pot, holding the heat like a greenhouse in summer and keeping in the cold air during winter. Warm socks, a cardigan, and a cup of tea are all it takes to make it feel cozy. Just add a holiday movie and a knitted blanket and it's perfect. Are you ready for the holidays?
Recently we invited friends over for our first dinner party in our new home. We've lived here since July and since unpacking, adopting a dog, and all of the weddings this season, it was finally time to host a little dinner get-together. It was an excuse to use our dining room table that always seems too big for just us two, an excuse to use wine glasses with stems instead of my trusty stemless ones, an excuse to buy flowers, open bottles of red wine, and light long candles, but mostly, an excuse to get together with friends.
Each course had a different drink to go with it, starting with an elderflower champagne in champagne coups as we stood around the kitchen smelling the meal on the stovetop. Then on to Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, France's new harvest red wine as we finished up the appetizer in the living room. We enjoyed another bottle of red wine that our friend brought, a Cotes Du Rhone, one of my favorite wine regions, with dinner in the soft glow of candlelight. And finally, during dessert, S mixed gin, tonic, rose, and cucumber cocktails to finish the meal. And because it was cool outside, S opened his new bottle of scotch to share.
The menu itself was a bit French and a bit Israeli. Our appetizer was an almond, honey, and brie baked in a puff pastry because I was in the mood for something savory and sweet. Spread on a baguette tradi from the corner French bakery, it was perfect. We sat in the living room around the coffee table spreading cheese on toasted bread. For the main course I made coq au vin with a classic French white wine sauce, Israeli/pearl cous cous, and our friend brought crusty bread to soak up the sauce. The pots were brought to the table, casually serving as the centerpiece for the meal. Lastly, for dessert I experimented with my meringue recipe that a Jewish client from the hair salon once gave me. Normally, I make them with vanilla extract and chocolate chips. This time, I made them with rose water and crushed pistachio dust on top. I tried piping the meringues out of a ziploc bag to get a pretty shape but the squeezing flattened my egg whites! I threw away half the batch and went with the spoon-scooping-spoon method for a more charming cookie shape. Even still, when bitten into, they gave off the most wonderful floral flavor that just melted in your mouth. Crisis averted.
The taper candles burned all the way down to the typewriter menus below them, and the music playlist started repeating itself. I really love having people over, feeding them, making them laugh, and seeing the piles of dishes afterward as proof of a night well spent. I love the planning as much as I love the shopping as much as I love the hosting.
Lastly, it looks a little different around here doesn't it? For the first time I purchased a template on Etsy from BlogDessert/LabinaStudio. I am so pleased! Within a half hour I installed the theme myself and customized it. It could not have been any easier. A little hint... she's having a holiday sale and with the new year it's the perfect time for a new look. Let me know what you think!