12.15.2014

The Holidays

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 wedding and 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?

12.10.2014

The Dinner Bell

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!

11.25.2014

Lately

It's been a little quiet over here as we embraced the cold weather, battled to get the heat working in our old house, got oven some sicknesses, and kept ourselves busy with work in between. I've been drinking so much tea lately, coping with a lingering cough from seasonal allergies. Normally, earl grey is my favorite. But lately, some simple yerba mate with honey and lemon hits the spot and soothes a tickled throat. Tea in the evenings has been such a routine around here. In the beginning, the teapot would start screaming and Mordechai would race me to the kitchen. Now, he barely picks his head up to see what the new cup of tea smells like. It's the little routines that help me feel grounded.

Speaking of Mordechai, the weather lately has been so cool and he's been such a cuddler. He could spend hours on our couch, in between me and S. Whenever he's on his back I rub his belly, and when I stop he paws the air begging me to continue. In this short time that we've had him (4 months now), he's stolen my heart.

I've been listening to The Splendid Table podcast these days. I attended a baby shower out of town, and during the long, misty drive I listened to hours of Lynne Rossetto Kasper's soothing voice talk about eating your way through travels, creating recipes with hard to find ingredients, and food culture across the globe. My favorite parts are when they have great guests like one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris discussing Sedaris family dinner time, as well as when listeners call in asking her advice on what to do with something unique like espresso balsamic vinegar. It's a really great food podcast that inspires new dishes that all seem attainable.

In addition to events at the museum, I've been working from home editing blog posts for different clients of a branding company. This is one of the reasons my blog posting here has gone a bit quiet and less frequent, and also explains my lack of reading some of my favorite blogs and commenting. This time of year, everyone is incredibly busy, and this year I really feel that myself. Normally I can juggle anything that is thrown at me and I'm motivated to accomplish things that are challenging. However, this year, with responsibilities of taking care of a dog throughout the day, working from home as a blog editor in addition to working at the museum, and numerous social engagements with event season, I've been feeling stretched thin. I'm the type of person to be fond of "me" time whether it's with tea, a book, or even just watching bad TV shows on the couch with my dog. But throw in responsibility not only at work, but responsibility when I get home with blog editing and taking care of Mordechai, and I find less and less "me" time. It's been a huge transition period where I'm learning to balance an abundance of work and personal life that includes seeing friends regularly, keeping up with hobbies I enjoy like blogging, as well as kicking it back with Mordechai on my couch and an entire season of Downton Abbey. Just typing this out makes me feel a lot better about accomplishing it all and it puts into perspective how feasible it really is. Vacations and holidays like Thanksgiving always seem to come at the most needed times. It's been raining all day today, I've got biscotti in the oven, an entire pot of tea, The Sopranos playing on loop, and Mordechai drooling next to me on my suede couch. It's just what I needed.
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