We have had two days of nonstop rain and there may be a snow flurry heading our way. While this has not been my favorite forecast the chilly,wet weather is the perfect incentive to stay inside and prep for Thanksgiving. With 9 family members from California in town, we’ll be having Thanksgiving with 13 people. Thankfully my brother-in-law and his wife live just down the street and we are sharing kitchen duties. That means two turkeys — they are going the traditional route and we are deep frying ours — tons of sides, a few pies and a whole lot of wine (thankfully we don’t have to make that).
Along with the turkey we are making our usual stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans with shallots, cranberry relish, and dessert. This morning I took care of the pies — we’ve got an apple crumble and good ‘ol pumpkin ready to go. Next up, putting together the stuffing so tomorrow we can just slide it in the oven and be done with it, allowing us to focus on the truly important things like deep fried turkey. And family, of course.
Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!
Yes, it’s Thankful Thursday on Friday! I swear I started this post yesterday but things just got away from me, so without further ado:
I can’t believe it is only a week until Thanksgiving — where did 2013 go? As the year winds down and the holiday season swiftly approaches, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on some of the many things I am grateful this year.
• The opportunity to sing. On Sunday I will be able to share my voice with others during the Capitol Hill Group Ministries Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. This is just one of the unique chances I have had this year to get back to singing. During the summer I connected with a violinist and pianist to perform “To Love You More” at a house concert. It was so much fun to sing was the two of them, as well as a drummer and a cellist.
• Our big, crazy families. While my immediate family is pretty small on both sides, my husband’s family is quite large and this year we are getting an extra does of togetherness as his mom’s side is in the process of descending upon DC for Thanksgiving. We’ll have a week and a half of big (delicious) dinners, our favorite California wines, trips to museums and monuments, chilly winter walks and lots of time for talking (too bad we don’t have a fire place to gather around)! And in just a few weeks we will get to do it all over again (with my family included this time) in California.
• The many chances to travel near and far in 2013 — from Turkey to Tampa I have seen beautiful sunsets, had incredible meals, and spent time cultivating relationships new and old. I can’t imagine what life would be like without airplanes that can get me to California in 6 hours or to Istanbul in 10.
My hubby and I love to eat and due to his recent drought of anything decent for dinner (or breakfast or lunch) because of his stint in Afghanistan, we did our best to make up for it during our recent travels. Throughout our time in Turkey and Greece we found ourselves saying, “This will be our nice dinner,” (as if we that would only happen one time) more often than not. Of course, we hadn’t had any dinners together in 3 months, so we had reason to celebrate daily.
Our first night in Istanbul, we sat down to dinner after our long, sleep deprived day of (separate) travel and I proceeded to order 4 mezze before B chimed in, “Um, we are at a restaurant known for it’s grilled meats… Maybe we should order some meat?” Oops. So we added a meat dish to our order to share and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought we were a little bit crazy, but we ate everything. It was during that first dinner we discovered a mezze that became our favorite throughout the trip — Ezme. Ezme is a spicy tomato spread and it was delicious. For every meal afterward, if Ezme was on the menu we ordered it.
During our stay in Selcuk a few days later we enjoyed two wonderful dinners at Hotel Bella‘s roof top restaurant. The first night the weather was perfect for eating outside where we could enjoy the view of church ruins, a nearby castle and a few storks. The food we had — cacik (basically tzatziki), ezme, white bean salad, and green bean mezze dishes along with spicy kebabs for me and fish for B — was all delicious. A bottle of local Turkish Syrah rounded out the meal so nicely that we went back the next night. For our second dinner we dined inside due to a rain storm, but the meal was still delicious and we enjoyed the decor of the room and the company of our fellow travelers as we ate on long, low sofas.
We had a number of good dinners out in Greece as well, but our favorite spot (and a place we also went to twice), was Nireas in Rhodes. We headed there knowing we were in for a fancy dinner (the Lonely Planet mentioned lobster pasta…) and enjoyed our meal and the owners so much we had to go back the next night, despite the price tag. And the price tag was really only high since we had a starter, salad, two mains, dessert and a bottle of wine. A person could dine at Nireas without getting so much, but I don’t know why you would want to! We savored the evening’s special fava bean spread appetizer, a salad, calamari and shrimp stuffed with crab meat, and a delectable dark chocolate cake the first night and the second night had spicy cheese (warm feta with a spicy tomato concoction on top), pasta with shrimp and crab cakes as the main course, and cheesecake with strawberries for dessert. Each night we enjoyed a bottle of Greek wine (both were fabulous) as well as the complimentary limoncello the restaurant’s owner had made. What made this place so fun (apart from the fabulous food and very friendly owners) was that the second night almost everyone in the restaurant had been there the night before and liked it so much that — just like us — they came back!
Throughout the trip we tried to take pictures of our meals, but more often than not when the dishes arrived they looked so tempting we just dug right in. But even without images of everything, I’m so grateful that on top of all the gorgeous sites we saw during our two weeks together, we were able to share so many memorable nights out.
It’s been 53 days since B returned to work in Kabul and I have to admit that last week I was totally in a funk. I had a busy — but not crazy — workload (which is always a good mix) plus three dinner dates and a lunch date with wonderful friends and family to keep me distracted. Despite everyone’s best efforts, I was still feeling a bit glum.
Getting away to Tampa for a long weekend to visit my childhood best friend and her hubby was just what I needed to clear my head. I loved the sunshine, warm weather, wandering new cities with old friends, and the long talks we had accompanied by a nice glass of wine and delicious chocolates. Tomorrow it’s back to business as usual and I think I’m ready. It’s also back to wearing socks and shoes. I am definitely less excited about that part.
It’s Christmas Eve and celebrations have begun. Since my husband and I were born in the same city, each year we have not two, not three, but four family holiday dinners. I celebrated Hanukkah with my dad’s side of the family on December 16 and my hubby and I joined my mom’s family last night for Christmas Eve Eve. Today we will celebrate Christmas Eve with my husband’s mom’s family and tomorrow will be Christmas Day with his dad’s side. Phew! I’m getting tired just thinking about it!
Luckily there is plenty of sustenance to give me the energy to make it through—from the traditional trappings of ham and potatoes to local delicacies like DeVinci’s ravioli and Boudin sourdough. Of course there are also plenty of Christmas cookies and last night we had a luxuriously decadent chocolate cream pie. And all this has to be washed down with heady red wines from Amador and the San Joaquin Valley.
But even better than the delicious things we eat and drink, we enjoy the opportunity to be with everyone each Christmas and this year is especially special since Brandon was able to return from Afghanistan to join us.
So as we settle around the Christmas tree (yesterday, today, and tomorrow), I’m wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
All California adventures include a wine tasting (or three). Typically my husband and I venture to our favorite places in nearby Lodi or the Amador County Foothills with my in-laws, but on this visit I was on my own (my husband is in Afghanistan and my in-laws are in Colombia). Even without the usual suspects to join me, it didn’t mean that this visit was winery free.
On Saturday my aunt and uncle invited me to join them for a member party at Fieldstone Winery in Healdsburg and despite being a chilly day, the sun was shining on the hills and it was gorgeous. And a girl really can’t complain when lunch consists of meatball sliders, fresh green salad and lovely glass of deep red sangiovese! On Sunday I went with my husband’s uncle to a wine release party at the Boitano tasting room in Lockeford’s Vino Piazza. We sipped their delicious reds, lunched on pasta, salad and roasted garlic, then headed home with 3.5 cases of wine (to be fair 18 of those bottles were futures that we were picking up for my in-laws).
Whenever I am in California, I always make an effort to get to my favorite food places (more than once if I can help it!)
Here are some of my dining must-haves when I am in the Central Valley:
• Dynasty: For my must-have Dim Sum fix, I stop into Dynasty. It’s the only place I have a chance to get my beloved, but rarely eaten, steamed and baked pork buns. Hey, you have to have options! We haven’t found any remarkable Chinese food in DC and there is no Dim Sum in our neighborhood so I try my best to get my fix when in California.
• House of Shaw: I find myself here for a daily visit to grab a delicious iced mocha (except Sundays when they are closed, darn them) and frequently also make this a meeting spot to catch up with old friends. As soon as I walk in the door, the owner is getting my iced mocha ready and when I stay to eat I always enjoy my food too.
• In & Out: I’m not a big burger person, but when in California I have to indulge myself with a plain cheeseburger (just the meat, cheese, and bun) and an order of fries. If the visit is longer than a week I tend to find myself craving a second visit. I think what makes it special and oh so good is the freshness. Yum!
• Matsuyama: Just like Chinese food, our neighborhood in DC doesn’t have any sushi options, so I always like to grab a roll or two for lunch one day. This visit included a tempura shrimp roll and a spicy tuna roll — nothing too crazy, but it was tasty!
• Wine Wizards: I grew up eating here with my parents for special Friday night dinners or Saturday lunches. I also used to waitress at WW during the summers of college and part-time in graduate school. While I wholeheartedly believe I was a terrible waitress I love the food, which hasn’t changed too much since my earliest visits nearly 30 years ago, and typically know almost all of the other people there when I stop in. All of the rotating special soups and quiches are delicious and I know that you can never go wrong with the always available French Onion Soup and Potato Raclette with Ham—two of my winter favorites. I’m getting hungry now just thinking about it!