Thirteen Is My Lucky Number

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I have not had Christmas week off in thirteen years.  Last week, I took off Monday through Friday.  It was wonderful.  I hosted my husbands family at my home and my family lives close by.  Everyone arrived on Christmas Eve and we went to the Spontaneous Christmas Pageant at my church.  The children can choose whether they want to be an angel, a shepherd or a king.  My nieces have always before chosen the angel part, but this year they switched it up and were shepherds.  Aren’t they adorable?

My father-in-law and I had a great time, too!

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After church we loaded up and went to my sister’s house a couple of miles away and had an amazing dinner prepared by my brother.  My dad read “The Night Before Christmas” to the children from my childhood book and we gave thanks for good health in the family this year.  I love tradition.

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Since I don’t have children of my own, it’s really special to see the children first thing in the morning checking out their loot that Santa left them.  This is my Isabelle:

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I had all of the leaves in my table in anticipation of our annual Christmas brunch at my house.  I don’t do anything fancy for Christmas brunch.  I serve eggs, sausage, quiches, grits, biscuits, and this year….My daddy brought back his waffle making tradition.  My dad was the best addition to the tradition.  Growing up daddy always made waffles on Christmas morning.  It was fun to have him beside me in the kitchen at his waffle station and honestly he helped out quite a bit with some emergency stirring on my side. 🙂  Thanks Dad!

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The coffee and cider station was a hit.  I think I made 6 pots of coffee on Christmas day!  We were all crazy caffeinated.  

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The champagne cocktail station:

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And of course, it’s really important to stay hydrated. 
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2013 was good to me. Thirteen is my lucky number. I am thankful.

Getting Hype for the Holidays!

Getting Hype for the Holidays!

One of the girls that I work with has been telling me for two years about the lights she and her fiance set up at their home for Christmas. Last year I had dreams of filling the Suburban with lots of family, friends and cocoa and taking a trip to see the lights. Time always gets away from me this time of year and I was unable to make it happen last year.
I talked to my sister about my wish to take the kiddos to see my co-workers lights and we decided to go last night. Kelly picked me up last night, with the kiddos in the backseat eating snacks, and ready for an adventure. It was a short drive to her home, about 10 minutes away. She had told me prior that the “show” starts every half hour. Amazing! We pulled up across the street and parked. We rolled down our windows and the kiddos crawled out of their car seats and into the windows for a better view and better sound. They have used a ton of Extron controllers to synchronize about 4 songs to the music with the lights. It’s awesome! Little J was so excited that he gleefully announced that he had peed a little bit. 🙂 I may have, too. Just kidding. My sister told DG that she will be able to decorate her home the way she wants to when she grows up and then asked her what she would want to do. Her answer, “I am going to draw lots of Christmas pictures and tape them up everywhere.” Her eyes gleamed bright as she told us. It’s nice to see so many people getting hype for the holidays! Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Book Club!

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Last night was the Christmas gathering for our book club.  Sadly we were missing one of the girls.  She was fighting something icky and needed to stay at home.  😦

My sister hosted last night at her home.  We were able to sit by the Christmas tree and exchange our presents.  This year we were supposed to pick one book to share.  I picked three books by three bloggers.  They were smaller, paperbacks, and I really wanted to share them so I technically broke the rules.  Who cares?  The following are links to reviews on them:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18514753-impenetrable-falsehoods

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13537972-parallel-jump

http://www.michaelcarnell.com/precipice-review/

Here’s the cutie pie recipient of my blogger books:

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I forgot to take a picture of the cheese plate.  Boo.  The cheese plate consisted of Boursin, olives, manchego wrapped in soppressata and a childhood favorite, cream cheese with pepper jelly on top.  Yummy!  I was introduced to “by-far” the best pepper jelly I have ever been privy too.  It’s made close by at Two Chicks Farm.  Here’s the link to their website.  It’s a sustainable farm.  🙂  Buy their Pepper jelly!

http://www.twochicksfarm.com/

My sister remembered to take a picture of the libations:

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I really liked the wine on the right.  Yummy.

Other great books from last night were:

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/21/239075604/more-is-more-in-donna-tartts-believable-behemoth-goldfinch

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6746018-the-distant-hours

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17286662-the-sisters-weiss

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38447.The_Handmaid_s_Tale

If you are an avid reader like myself, I hope you will check out some or all of these great books.  Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!

The Fearrington House Inn, “Deer” Friends, and a Fortieth Birthday

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Spoiled Rotten.  That’s how I feel today after spending a wonderful weekend with my husband and friends at the Fearrington House Inn.  One of my dearest friends has a December 25th birthday and you can imagine how often she is overlooked on her birthday. This year will be her fortieth birthday and her husband concocted one of the best plans to make sure that this milestone was properly celebrated.  He has been in cahoots with my sister for months planning the surprise.  

So I know you are wondering now what it could have been…well it started with a sneaky check-in to the Fearrington House Inn on Saturday, while our friend was enjoying the Fearrington House Spa.  The six of us quietly checked into our rooms and then gathered in mine to check on her status.  We each popped open a beer and whispered and giggled while our husbands took turns looking out the peepholes and windows.  When we knew she was safely back in her room we all quietly ran out to the car and went to the main Inn for the afternoon tea.  Our plan was to set up the cake and the presents and have the two of them casually walk in for the surprise.  The staff was incredibly smooth with helping bring this part together.  

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The selection of tea was overwhelming.  I have never seen a list so long of tea options.  It was a rainy day, so I chose the cinnamon spice.  My sister made a cake from scratch and then the staff brought the most amazing towers of goodness to our tables. 

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Each couple had their own tower to share.  I think I had more than my share.  My sweet husband knows that I have no self control when it comes to desserts.  Everything was a delight.  The lemon curd was to die for and the clotted cream was good enough to eat on its own.  (I know because I did by accident)  Our friend walked in and we actually pulled it off. We were wearing our special hats with deer on them.  Deer, Dear that’s just how we roll. 🙂  She had no clue that we were there.  Thank goodness!  The funny thing is that they had arrived earlier and were sitting unsuspectingly in the main room.  The staff cleverly moved them into our room without arousing suspicion.  I am telling you guys-the staff is the best!  Our birthday girl was even more excited when she realized that we were all there to share dinner later and staying at the same Inn.  We were just as excited.  The Fearrington is a part of the Relais & Chateaux family of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world.  

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Celebrating with my husband by my side made it even better.  We called it a mini honeymoon with the added bonus of our close friends being there to share meals. After tea, we all went back to our rooms to rest and get ready for dinner.   We met for dinner at seven and although we have all experienced wine pairing dinners before, none of us were expecting this level of service.  Hats off to the Fearrington.  Wow-the staff is amazing.  

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We started with a bottle of champagne that one of the couples purchased for the table.  Thanks guys!  It was lovely!

The Amuse Bouche:

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Tuna!

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Orange Mousse to clean our palettes. 🙂

First Course-my favorite!

Smoked Oyster Broth with Poached Lobster and Sherry.

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Second Course:

Quail with Persimmon Butter and Sea Salt Meringue

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Third Course:

Short Rib Pithivier with Seared Scallop and Truffled Cauliflower

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Main Course:

Heritage Farm Bacon Wrapped Venison with Cocoa Spaetzle and Port

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Cheese Course:

Hickory Grove Cheese with Medjool Date and Madeira Jelly

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I wish I had been better about taking pictures of the Sommelier as he introduced the wine pairings with each course.  Ooops.

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and with the desserts:

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Dessert:

Passionfruit and Lime Trifle with Chilled Vanilla Carolina White Rice.

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And:

Valrhona Coeur de Guanaja Chocolate Souffle….Oh My!

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The Birthday Girl-such a freaking cutie!!

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and then back at our rooms…the Port and Truffle Turn Down. (notice the ibuprofen bottle in the picture)

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and some handmade truffles.  

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And then there was breakfast!!

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and my sweet husband shopping with me after breakfast. I think I’ll keep him. 🙂

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Needless to say that I will never forget my friends fortieth birthday.  It was an incredible experience for each of us.  I highly recommend visiting the Fearrington House Inn.  It’s even better with friends!

http://www.fearrington.com/the-fearrington-house-inn/

 

 

 

Gift Giving

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I know. I know.  It’s not what Christmas is all about, but isn’t it fun to give gifts?  It’s certainly awesome to receive them.  Last night I met up with some of my close girlfriends and exchanged a few gifts.  As usual, I was overwhelmed with their generosity.  I look forward to having friend time so I can refill my cup.  It’s like the ending of the movie, “The Grinch”, when his heart beats wildly out of his chest and his smile grows larger and into his eyes.  That’s how I feel after having friend time.  So thank you friends.  You make my life even happier and even more wonderful.  I am blessed to have you in my life.

So as I was checking out my “loot” last night, I thought it would make a fun post.  What gifts have you purchased thus far or received that you just think are the bomb?  In review of last night’s gift giving, I received a fabulous Christmas cookbook by Nigella Lawson, a hilarious book by Amy Sedaris on holiday hosting, a unicorn sticker, a lovely “fireside scented” candle, a J Crew necklace, some Philosophy body wash, an individual cow printed frother and some Chai Latte tea. I am feeling spoiled today just typing this down.  My friends are really awesome.

I was really excited to see that my Amazon shipment had arrived yesterday when I got home from work.  It was filled with books by many of the bloggers I follow.  I am gifting many of those this year, too.  I keep meaning to write some reviews, but I don’t want to half ass them, which is what I have been doing on my blog this month.  I know, it’s terrible, but I work retail and the past three weeks have been a little difficult, so I would prefer to properly review them when I am not so flustered.

Other thoughts?  I have lots of fabulous candles that I am giving out this year.  Just remember to be careful with scents when you are giving them as gifts.  I try to pay attention to the candles my friends have in their homes and keep a mental note for future gift giving.  Most of my friends love to cook, men and women, so cookbooks are always welcome in my crowd.  Special salts and olive oils go over great for your foodie friends.  As many of you know, I love wine.  Yes I do, and most of my friends do, too.  I only purchase wine from the locally owned shops when it comes to gift giving.  It feels more personal and it supports someone in our community that I already feel connected with, so wine is the deal.  Of course, homemade is always the best.  I love when someone brings me something that they have cooked, baked or crafted.  I rarely do this myself during the holidays, but it’s so special when people do this.  Bravo to those of you that do.  Please put me on your list. 🙂  I like everything.

So the holidays are here and it’s Friday!  I actually have tomorrow off and I am going to use it wisely.  I am going to drink some wine with friends and maybe wrap some gifts.  How’s your gift giving going?

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Two Weeks To Go!

Two Weeks To Go!

So the countdown is really official today! Two weeks from today I will be celebrating Christmas day, with most of my family on both sides, and in my home. Since I am struggling some with keeping up this season, I am going to stop and take a breather this moment and just think about this.
First and foremost, I will remember the reason for this season. I will look forward to singing “Silent Night” at my church on Christmas Eve and once again be struck by the love I feel for my family, my friends and most importantly God.
Christmas morning I will rise before everyone else and run downstairs to start the coffee and a fire in the fireplace. I will quietly start pulling things out for brunch and during this time my precious nieces and nephews will start appearing on the stairs with hair all a mess and excitement on their faces. I will try my best to stop them from looking at everything until I get grandparents and parents down for the festivities. By the time everyone is sitting around my living room, I will be wide awake and most likely setting up a Mimosa and Bloody Mary station. (and probably mixing up one for myself) Dylan-my oldest nephew will most likely be in charge of passing out presents while I continue to run back and forth between the kitchen and living room. I will be grinning from ear to ear and wearing my mother’s kitchen apron from the seventies. My house will be open at 10am for friends and family to join us for coffee and drinks. My dad will show up around that time to start making waffles. My dad has made waffles for me every Christmas. I have wonderful memories from my childhood of my sister and I dancing with him in the kitchen listening to Christmas music, while he destroyed my mom’s kitchen making them. He’ll most likely be wearing his red tie with the reindeer on it that he’s always worn on Christmas.
Brunch starts at 11am and my sister’s family will join us. Mom hopefully will have made it over by then, too. (She moves a little slower than the rest of us these days). We will spend the next few hours eating until we can’t eat anymore, and hugging and thanking each other. So as I struggle with keeping my spirit strong and my smile sincere, I will think of what awaits…Two weeks to go!

Overcoming Fear

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Recently I was sitting on a friends patio drinking a lovely glass of wine and watching the children light sparklers.  I remember vividly the apprehension I had as a child when my sweet dad would pass me a sparkler. I was the oldest in my family and I needed to be the strong one…the courageous one.  On this particular evening, a family was at the get together that I had not met before.  Their daughter was clearly terrified of the sparklers, while in contrast,  the other little girls twirled around the patio spewing a dazzling rain of light all around them.  It killed my heart watching the little girl looking longingly at the other girls.  Her father tried to help her, but she just couldn’t.  She was paralyzed with fear.  We’ve all been there.  At this point I just ached, but then I witnessed a beautiful moment.  I tried not to eaves drop, but they were directly across the table from me and I couldn’t help it.  I was invested at this point.  The mother had her daughter quietly to herself and I could hear the little girl talking to her mom in a low whisper about how scared she was of the sparklers.  Then I heard a wise momma say to her little girl, “There’s nothing wrong with you being scared, but I don’t want for us to leave here tonight and have you wishing you had tried.  I don’t want you to feel regret.”  Huh?  Did this intelligent woman just have an adult conversation with her eight year old about fear?  I gulped more of my wine down and tried not to look at them.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the little girl was really taking in her mother’s words and mulling them over.  Moments later this little girl was apprehensively lighting her sparkler with her dad and then the magic happened.  She beamed!  She joined the girls with the twirling and the rain of light continued.  

Overcoming fear…perhaps the toughest, but wow it’s beautiful to witness.  

Is It Really Important?

I guess it was bound to happen…this is my first ever reblog. I was reminded of a beautiful story yesterday by Eric Tonningsen. I hope each of you is touched by the story in the same way. Happy Holidays dear friends!

Eric Tonningsen's Awakening to Awareness

“In 20 years you will be more disappointed by what you didn’t do than by what you did.” ~ Mark Twain

You may have heard this story…

A U.S. businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican fishing village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while, senor.” The American asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said that he had enough to supply his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Alaria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip…

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Sully-The Finale!!!!

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Cameron Garriepy is an exceptional writer and blogger.  On her blog, she has a story circle.  A writer will start a story on the first week, another writer will continue the story the next week and so on until the fourth week when another writer will write the conclusion.  It’s a fascinating process.  I was lucky to be allowed the first slot last month on the story circle.  I have read with delight each week the continuations of the story.  Today…drum roll please…the finale by none other than Cameron D Garriepy!  Enjoy!

 

Part 1  http://camerondgarriepy.com/2013/11/06/the-story-circle-november-2013-sully/

Part 2   http://camerondgarriepy.com/2013/11/13/the-story-circle-sully-part-two/

Part 3   http://camerondgarriepy.com/2013/11/20/the-story-circle-sully-part-three/

And the finale!!!  http://camerondgarriepy.com/2013/12/04/story-circle-sully-finale/

Here’s a teaser:

The Jaguar wasn’t built for the road it met at the end of the ramp. Sully bumped along a half a mile of broken asphalt and mud road through deep evergreen forest. She kept her eyes ahead. Behind lay madness, that much was clear.