Family · Holiday · Home · Travel

Happy New Year!

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I love the period between Christmas and New Years.  Christmas is festive and full of family and friends, food, gifts, visits, and parties.  It is ending the year on a high note of fun and festivities and yes, endings.  When I think of the New Year, I think of new beginnings, everything clean and white and sparkling with the potential for wonderful new adventures and excitement.

In addition to seeing family and friends, I enjoy the time between Christmas and the New Year as a time to clean.  This past week, I cleaned out closets, organized and visited with friends.  We reflected on the year and made plans for the new one extending that sense of anticipation of Christmas to the potential for new things in a new year.

I’m not much for resolutions but I love to dream and plan.  The new year is like an open promise with only potential.  So for the new year, I’m working on new dreams and making plans to see those dreams become a reality.

  • Travel – Where to visit this year?  I’m thinking of the Mediterranean and Scotland.  Beaches and mountains sound balanced.  I love visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. There is nothing better than being jolted out of your comfort zone by learning something new and what better way to expand your view than travel?
  • Career – I’m looking forward to wrapping up existing projects and unleashing my creative juices on new ones.
  • Romance – I’m ready for my lost knight in shinning armor to tap into his internal GPS and find his way to me.  I’d be happy to meet him half way.  Maybe my GPS needs a tune up?
  • Friends and family – I’m looking forward to spending time with those close to me.  Sharing and creating new memories.
  • Fun – I am dreaming of a new year filled with fun.  New people, new projects, lunches, dinners, decorating, shopping, museums – well you get the picture.
  • Creativity – I have a creataive gene that needs to be exercised.  Photographs, drawing, this blog, cooking, decorating and fashion are all things that I dabble in.  I’m not certain what my new outlet for creative expression will be this year.  I’d love to take a drawing or art history class.  Hum, something to consider.
  • Exercise – Walking, hiking, Pilates, yoga, barre – okay this one sounds more like a resolution so perhaps one resolution for the new year?IMG_0044

If I have one resolution for the new year, it is to embrace your dreams!

Happy New Year!

 

 

entertaining · Family · Holiday

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas is a big deal for my family.  We celebrate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve begins with a dinner followed by church and then an evening snack.  We move from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day watching mass from the Vatican even though we’re not Catholic.  Dinner would vary based on who was there from pasta to turkey and all the trimmings.  The midnight snack was always the same, cheese straws, sausage balls and cookies.  A plate of cookies was always left for Santa with a glass of cold milk and carrots for the reindeer.

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Christmas morning was always an early celebration.  A fire in the fireplace, juice, and coffee while we opened presents  and stockings and then a huge breakfast.  Breakfast was always a breakfast casserole and sugar cake.  If you’ve never had sugar cake you are missing a treat.  I love to tell everyone it is mashed potatoes as it has a potato base.  It is truly a treat.

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Christmas day was always spent with family and friends dropping by the house for a cup of eggnog.  My Dad was the nog maker.  He would begin on Christmas Eve “cooking” the egg yolks in a bourbon and brandy bath overnight.  Cheese straws also made by Dad, fruitcake cookies, Chinese chews and sands (cookies) made by Mom would accompany the egg nog as we visited with our guests.

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The day would end with a delicious dinner of beef tenderloin, potatoes, asparagus and applesauce raisin cake for dessert.

 

I have my own version of holiday traditions now but I’ve kept many of those I grew up with. I make the cheese straws and eggnog now and we’re having beef Wellington on Christmas Eve rather than for Christmas dinner.  No cookies this year but the cake is made! The DVD of White Christmas is ready to watch and I’ll be up late for church.  Christmas Day will be filled with visits with friends and my box of sugar cake arrived, after all what would Christmas morning be without sugar cake.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Decorating · Family · Gift Giving · Holiday

Christmas Traditions and my obsession with lists.

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I love Christmas.  I always have.  There is the sense of anticipation, the arrival of family, feasting on good food, and, of course, Santa!  This weekend I started decorating for the season and making lists.  List, plural, there as in a gift list, a stocking list, a card list, a grocery list for the makings of cookies and cheese straws.  LOL standing for lots of lists is how I make it through the season.  If it is not on a list, it’s not bought or done.  I confess, I don’t know how my Mom ever did it.

There are traditions that I love to repeat every year and one of them is sugar cake.  This is a delicacy from Old Salem or Dewey’s Bakery that is a bread only made with mashed potatoes, sugar and spices that was always part of Christmas morning.  Christmas morning was always delayed first until it reached 6 am and was appropriate to wake everyone in the house, then for the fire to be started in the fireplace, and, finally, for my Dad to make eggnog and coffee for the adults to enjoy while we opened presents and Santa.  This was a compromise for my Dad’s side of the family as Mom’s side celebrated Christmas (or the opening of presents) following midnight mass on Christmas Eve with wine, cheese and sausage balls.  My mother beautifully melded the two customs with the sausage balls and cheese straws following Christmas Eve services and the opening of presents with sugar cake and eggnog on Christmas morning. Mom was excellent at melding the favorite things of both sides of the family so everyone had what they wanted.  She would have been a wonderful diplomat!

The Christmas stocking is another list venture.  Each member of the household has their own sock to be hung by the fire.  This includes the quadrupeds.  If you saw my sock list you would laugh, sudoku and puzzle books, candy and fruit, dog treats and toys, gadgets to amuse, batteries for those receiving presents requiring batteries and anything amusing I might discover along the way.  I confess, socks are often my favorite part of Christmas.  One of my favorite childhood memories is my Grandfather pulling out the longest stocking I’d ever seen for “Santa” to fill.

So many wonderful memories and so many lists.

entertaining · Family · Holiday · Home

Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m southern and southern means large family dinners especially for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  Growing up we were either hosting the meal in North Carolina for my father’s side of the family or driving to Charleston to attend the family fete on my mother’s side of the family.

Regardless of the local, the table was expanded to maximum capacity with all available leaves inserted.  Silver was polished, the good linens ironed to perfection, and the good china and crystal placed on the table in anticipation of the meal. My grandmother would create a fresh arrangement of flowers and greens for the centerpiece.  Mr. Carson (the butler from Downton Abby) had nothing on my maternal grandmother who did not need a straight stick to spy an errant piece of silver not exactly lined up with the edge of the plate or a napkin incorrectly folded.

It was all work in anticipation of the big reveal when the turkey came out of the oven.  It was also much more.  It was family togetherness, working together, gathering in the kitchen to chop, dice, slice and catch up with everyone and what is going on in their lives. I also give an honorable mention to all the dishes that were hand washed before and after dinner.

The Thanksgiving menu for such a large group was long and varied.  Turkey, ham, oysters, jello salad, cranberry sauce, squash casserole, rice and gravy (Charleston was once a great rice producer and the tradition lingers on), dressing, green beans, homemade icebox rolls, and then dessert.  Somehow, I never remember dessert.  I think I was always so full of my other favorites that dessert never made much of an impression.  Coconut cake and apple pie I’m certain graced the table but the main event was the turkey and the sugar cured ham.  Served promptly at 2pm, we began with grace and then promptly moved to devour everything  lovingly prepared.

Over the years the family has shrunk and so has the menu.  I am now the host rather than my mom and I eagerly anticipate the arrival of family from out-of-town and the chance to visit and catch up over the chopping, slicing and dicing.  The table is a reminder of my heritage; set with silver from my grandmothers, china from my mother and my own crystal.  On Thursday my family will once again say grace and give thanks and remember fondly those who are no longer around the table.

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In anticipation of turkey day, I grocery shopped this weekend.  My menu is turkey, squash, green beans, cranberry sauce, dressing, squash, and rice and gravy will be on the table.  Dessert is an apple tart.  My to do list is long but I will be smiling and remembering those Thanksgivings past as I prepare our dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Family · Food · Home · Uncategorized

The cheese soufflé

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As Thanksgiving approaches I have food on the mind. Food, friends, family and memories all neatly come together for me recalling wonderful times in the kitchen and around the table.   The other night I was thinking about comfort food.  That favorite dish that you love no matter the calorie count.  I noticed that my comfort foods all seem to be cheese related.  Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and a side of chips were a classic Mother/Daughter lunch growing up.  I don’t think I will ever forget watching Perry Mason re-runs on the tv with Mom while eating a grilled cheese.  To this day I love Perry Mason and tend to flash back on those wonderful lunches with her.  Her vegetable soup and homemade chili are on the list and tended to have grilled cheese sandwiches served with the soup.  To my list I’d also add mac-N-cheese, deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches, the potato chip, Granddad’s cheese straws and, last but not least a cheese soufflé.

My grandmother made this wonderful cheddar cheese soufflé for “ladies lunch”.  Where my Mom related comfort food is soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, with Grandmom, it is a cheese soufflé.  At my request, she dutifully passed along the recipe.  As a novice cook in my first year of law school, I attempted to prepare my first  soufflé.  It was a disaster.  I needed to back up and learn some cooking basics, like making a white sauce.  My next attempt was slightly more successful thanks to coaching by Mom on some of the finer points of cooking.  Over the years I’ve mastered my soufflé recipe and even branched out to include variations on the original recipe.  I can now do a Roquefort cheese variation that is to die for.

Yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a cheese soufflé that was on the menu at Cognac in the City.  Wow, it was beautiful as well as delicious.  I think the bar has been set again.  Their soufflé was poofy and airy and delicious.  Taller than any I’ve ever coaxed out of the oven.  I’m not certain what the secret is but I’m going back to the kitchen and I may see if I can find a re-run of Perry to keep me company.  Grandmom has been gone since I graduated from law school but there are moments I feel her around and she may even decide to pop in to keep me company.  Back to that food, family, and friends theme!

 

 

Family · Holiday

Blessings

October ended in a blaze of color with trick or treaters, jack o lanterns, and small goblins of varying sizes.  November ushers in Thanksgiving and the prelude to Christmas.  As I put my terra cotta pumpkins away for next year and started pulling out my glass pumpkins for the Thanksgiving table, I kept thinking about blessings.  I usually count my blessings on Thanksgiving, but I’m doing it early this year.

I count among my blessings:  faith, family, friends, puppies, a home I love, health, happiness, travel, work, and a love of life.

What do you count among your blessings?IMG_9245