Mo-mo-more?

We’re in Rockford for the holiday, having moved the majority of our material possessions to Chicago three days ago. The last two days have been full of cookies and presents and traditions and relaxed family time. Max has been running around playing with trains and pointing at various delicious things and saying “mo-mo-more”, his voice lilting upward as he points at the object of his desire.

I mention this because as I look forward to 2012, what I want most is mo-mo-more. More time with friends and family. More travel. More flowers, more movies, and more amazing food. More miles. More love, more patience, and more connection in my relationships and with the world. So this post is me reaching my hands in the air and asking the universe for what I want in the next year:

  1. This year was about running further. 2012 will be about running faster in at least two half marathons plus the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.
  2. I want to take better photos of more than just food, though better food photos would also be progress. I want to take a class, read a book, participate in an online workshop – in general learn more about the fancy DSLR we bought almost three years ago. And then apply that knowledge for good, not for evil.
  3. I’m reasonably certain that the only movie I saw in the theater this year was the final Harry Potter installment. With two movie theaters within a mile of our new place, we should have no excuse – other than lousy offerings – to see fewer than 12 movies in the theater.
  4. I want to write more letters – at least one per week. Do you want to be my pen pal?
  5. I need to find a job in Chicago, as it will make many of these mores possible. More time with my family as they’ll be 75 minutes away instead of 5-7 hours. More time with many many Chicago friends (though less time with A2 friends). A new and exciting city life for the two of us. I’ve loved my MPub job, but I need to be in Chicago.
  6. I wanted to bake 24 unique loaves this year. We made significant changes in our diet over the summer, and I haven’t really baked since then. I think, however, that one pie per month is a reasonable goal.
  7. Bourbon and I got back together in 2012, but I need to have more in my cocktail repetoire than the trusty Manhattan. There will be many opportunities to drink fancy cocktails in our new ‘hood, but I want to master at least one new cocktail at home per month.
  8. We took a fun road trip vacation over the summer, and I took solo trips to Philly, DC, and New York for work, races, and fun. I would like more of the same this year, beginning with my birthday weekend in California and possibly including a trip to Europe after the semester wraps up.
  9. More books read: finish the 2/3 challenge, keep up with my book club, and hammer away at the To Read lists while reading at least two books per month.
  10. Step up my game and learn to do alterations so that I can finally finish all of the half projects in my closet.
  11. More feats of strength! More push-ups. More miles on Orange. And maybe, just maybe, a pull-up.
  12. And, most importantly, more time connecting with the important people in my life. I’m not sure how to quantify this other than to say that I want to fight my introvert nature and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ for lunches with friends, dates with my husband, or visits to my family.

What will you do in the new year?

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A Very Purim Bakefest

As I understand it, the holiday of Purim celebrates the Jews’ narrow avoidance of extermination at the hands of an evil man named Hamen. How the holiday came to involve also eating Hamen’s hat, I’m not sure, but it’s delicious and I’ll take it. I’ll also take any excuse to bake delicious pastries:

A Very Purim Bakefest

After a brunch of savory spinach kugel, fresh grapefruit juice, and a salad, we got to work. Olivia rolled out the dough for the rugelach, a flaky rolled pastry filled with dried fruit, nuts, jam, or other sweets.

Rolling

Susie spread the apricot jam (or apple butter when we ran out) and sprinkled on the raisins, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon sugar. Shannon rolled up the rugelach, tucking in the ends of keep the sweets from escaping:

Rolling

I took up the rolling pin for the hamentaschen, so there are only photos of the final product – so you’ll have to imagine me rolling out the deliciously lemon-scented dough and cutting it into small rounds. Susie painted an X of butter on each, then Shannon added a dollop of prune or apple butter. Olivia pinched up the corners of Hamen’s hats, and into the oven they went:

Hamentaschen

We each went home with a box full of treats and a vague understanding of the story of Purim, based entirely on what we remembered from the Book of Esther and what I could parse together from Wikipedia. Purim starts on the 19th, so we have some time to read up – and to enjoy deliciously buttery, flaky, rich and flavorful treats.

Recipes:
Rugelach from Gourmet
The Perfect Hamentaschen from the New York Times

The Holidays, y’all

I could attempt to recount the things we’ve eaten over the last week, but really, you can probably imagine it.  You’ve been reading about our meals for a year.  You know that before we go out of town for a few days, we try to eat down the fridge, which is what we did on Wednesday.  You know that on special occasions like our anniversary or a Thursday, we like to have snacks for dinner, which is what we did for Christmas Eve Eve as we watched Love Actually and opened our gifts for each other.  And you know about the holiday excess we’re trying to avoid.

Festive Shane

We spent Christmas in Rockford with my family, including this handsome fellow who dazzled us with his crawling and his good looks:

Christmas Max

There was the traditional Christmas Eve corn chowder, more bland than it should have been, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with the salt shaker and the most important spice. There were dozens of cookies stashed in the cold garage: gunk bars, brownies, chocolate coconut pinwheels, and sugars.

Mark and Evonne

We had German food for Christmas lunch – Mexican last year – sauerbraten and spaetzle, warm red cabbage, German potato salad, and an assortment of sausages. Somehow – perhaps thanks to the gym – we made room for Swedish pancakes at Stockholm Inn on Sunday, Beef-a-Roo, and cocktails and snacks at Garrett’s with Jenn.

Open wide!

And then on to Lakewood for a few non-holiday days with Shane’s family: tacos and Blizzards with his brothers, scones and excellent coffee at The Root after a visit to Trav’s funny gym:

Post-run olive scone at The Root

A visit to the Cleveland Art Museum, where we saw an incredible Damien Hirst piece made entirely of butterfly wings, followed by a tasty but cold and stressful lunch at Tommy’s in Coventry – I had tempeh salad, nom nom nom. Watching the Hawks win – or at least most of the game – over beers and food with the whole family at Buckeye Beer Engine. Time with kitties, cousins, and grandpa. And a couple of remarkable hot dogs at Happy Dog before heading home:

Happy Dog-14
Photo by edseloh

Among the toppings we tried were blue cheese coleslaw (me), marinated mushrooms (Orin), and habanero pickled red onions (Shane) – plus a really great chimichurri and a garlic-tomato jam for our tater tots.  I wish I had photos of any of this, but despite taking the camera everywhere with us, we only managed a couple of pictures of the cats.  I’ll try harder next time, promise.

1203 Kindlefest

Birmingham German Christmas Market
Photo by recursion_see_recursion

The photo above obviously isn’t Ann Arbor but I think it’s what Kerrytown was going for with Kindlefest tonight: a German holiday market, complete with carolers, lanterns, vendors, Glühwein, and weisswurst. All of these things seemed like good reasons to head downtown on a Friday night.

German Sausage Stall, Leicester
Photo by Djinn76

We arrived on the early end of the evening, so many of the vendors were still setting up, and the few stands with food were surrounded by an unyielding crush of people. We ended up grabbing our weisswursts and ducking into the Kerrytown shops, both for warmth and for safe eating. I don’t know that I’ve ever had weisswurst – a sausage made from veal, pork, and an assortment of spices – but I really enjoyed it, though I had terrible onion and sauerkraut breath for the rest of the evening. Shane seemed similarly pleased, though it was definitely not enough for dinner for him.

The rest of the evening involved sampling olive oils and vinegars at Fustinis, squealing over adorable things for this year’s cohort of babies, more samples (and a few presents) at Zingerman’s, and setting up our Christmas tree. All in all, a pretty festive – and definitely nice – night.

Cool Festive Cat, U Guys

1125 Five Years Running

2006: 14 friends, 1 guest dog, 1 cat, 1 arm in a cast, 1 dropped cutting board, 2 sneaky surprise guests.


Photo by Keem

2007: 2 friends from Massachusetts and 1 from Illinois brave horrible holiday traffic to travel to DC, visit the zoo, play trains, and talk about DRUNK BEES.

Friends

2008: Day after Thanksgiving dinner, pork shoulder, colcannon, spinach quiche, fondue, queso, crafternoon

DSC_0052
Photo by Soy

2009: Eating pie at Village Inn in Davenport even though we’re all stuffed from actual Thanksgiving

Just like last year
Photo by Soy

2010: To the farm! Featuring Baby 80

Thanksgiving Friendos

1124 Thanksgiving Prep

turkey

We’re leaving in the very wee hours of the morning to drive to Iowa to spend Thanksgiving with my family and also with the Wadsgreens – so tonight was very much about clearing the fridge, packing the bags, and doing a bit of meal prep since we’re likely to roll into Davenport just in time for dinner.

I would say that my grandparents are getting up there in years, but that would be an understatement. They’re old. My grandma was born in 1918, so her first Thanksgiving would’ve been just after Armistice Day. My grandpa was born two years later – his childhood on a farm in very rural Iowa might’ve looked like this:

1920' ish Iowa
Photo by drivebybiscuits1

This year we’ll have eleven at dinner: the two of us, my grandparents, my parents and my aunt Nancy, Eric, Jenn, Bill, and little Max. Mark will be celebrating with friends in California, but will be home for Christmas. Uncle Tom, Aunt Ann, and the little cousins will be with Ann’s family. Uncle Rich will be in Iowa City. There will be turkey and stuffing and Grandma’s mashed potatoes and butterhorn rolls. We will drink wine out of tiny glasses, and Grandma will fuss over the dishes if we don’t get the dishwasher started before she can get up from the table. It will be very warm in the house. These things never change, though this year I’ll be introducing two new dishes: sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese and carrot cake, both from Smitten Kitchen.

Part of the reason I love friend Thanksgivings so much is the lack of codified traditions. We each bring our own things to the table – literally and figuratively – and discard the things that don’t work. I love this. But I also love the traditions. I love the fact that our family recipes – boring and predictable as they can be – are ties to the past, to the years of shrimp cocktail before dinner, of being sandwiched at the dinner table between my aunt and my mom, of sneaking sips of wine after the meal. I argued against having a turkey this year, but I know I’d miss it if it wasn’t on the sideboard along with Mom’s cranberry sauce and the small cut glass salad bowls.

Going home for the holidays is expensive and time consuming – hours in the car, money for pet sitters and expensive tanks of gas and food on the road. Moods run thin, we eat too much, and sleep is compromised by unfamiliar beds. I dread the drive and the stress, and part of me will be relieved when we don’t have to make as long of a trip. At the same time, I treasure the years and years of memories, and look forward to the brief amount of time we’ll have with my family around the table. I feel tremendously blessed.

Holiday wrap up

It’s already the second week of January, and neither of us have posted about our holiday trip to California.  Embarassing.  Anyway.

Adventure Shane!

This year instead of flying back to the perma-freeze of northern Illinois, we met my family out in Carlsbad, California, where they have a time-share.  They usually visit in January, so we convinced them to just move the trip up a few weeks so that we could all enjoy some time together relaxing and in the sun.  This was an excellent idea, and I’m going to take a moment right now to pat myself on the back for thinking of it.  OK, done.

Ocean Beach

On Christmas Day, Shane and I flew to San Diego, tragically forgetting that, um, NOTHING is open on Christmas Day.  We drove around for nearly an hour trying to find something open so that we could have a (very for us) late lunch, ending up at the Pizza Hut Express next door to our hotel.  Greasy, slightly stale pizza has never, ever tasted so good, I tell you.  We spent two nights at the Sofia Hotel, enjoying the giant blanket cloud and the sun coming in from two directions and having someone else make the bed for us = magical, while spending the days driving around San Diego, exploring various neighborhoods and beaches, and having dinner and drinks at Hamilton’s, which I really, really wish were our neighborhood bar.  I’m getting a little hungry just thinking about it.

Shuffle-puck

My dad and brothers flew in on Saturday, so we had lunch with them in Seaport Village, then headed up the coast to get settled in at Aviara.  The remainder of our trip was full of sleeping in (remarkably, my parents let us share a room!), eating out, and drinking beer with my older younger brother.  We toured the brewery at Stone’s, almost missing the tour because we didn’t get there early enough – I suspect the only reason we were sneaked in was that I looked cute and sad.

Belgian IPA?

We bought a bunch of regional beer and local avocados to bring home, both of which made the return trip a bit more hazardous.  My parents treated me to a massage at the Four Seasons Hotel for my upcoming birthday – a really nice way to end a nice trip. On our last morning there, Mom and I took a walk by the beach and had breakfast just the two of us, which was a rare treat and something that we really should do more often, beaches or no.

Apart from the one hour of hungry desperation when we first arrived, I’d have to say that this was a pretty ideal family vacation – we had a good amount of time to do things on our own, and also a good amount of time with my family. We were tired and ready to go home when we left on the 30th, but also look forward to the next time we can go out to Aviara with the family.