Oh what a fantastic Christmas, it was magical. Last year at Christmas my Grandpa was dying and the family was in high stress mode, plus it was the first Christmas after my parent's divorce, so it was a hard year. This year was completely the opposite. Everything was perfect, and my dad and mom (and their new respective loves) both joined me on Christmas Eve at my house, and everything was great.
Let me start at the beginning (sorry if this is a bit long):
On Saturday the 22nd, E and I met our good friend Ashley for lunch at our favorite Middle Eastern place, Mazza. We exchanged gifts (thank you Ashley) and had a grand old time. Plus, I love the food there, so it was sure to be great. We then went to Costco, the store, etc and ended up at home that evening just in time to get ready for my Dad's birthday party. We had my siblings and my dad over for a Italian pasta, salad, and pecan pie. Everyone seemed to have a good time.
On Sunday E and I were very lucky indeed, we were done with our Christmas shopping, so we decided to head up to Snowbird for our new favorite tradition, a day at the Cliff Spa followed by drinks at the Aerie Lounge. The spa was great, the day was cold with constant snow and cloudy skies, so the hot tub on the roof was fantastic. The steam room, sauna, Solarium, and heated outdoor pool all were wonderful, as always. After fully spa-a-fying we headed upstairs to the Aerie Lounge where we got wings and spiced cider with rum. Yummm!
Monday was Christmas Eve, and E and I had a busy day. After prepping our house for the large cocktail party we were going to host, E and I headed over to his families house for a doll's Christmas. Our dolls exchanged gifts (yes, I know I'm lame, but it is fun!) and Violet came home with lots of goodies, but the best of all was a wonderful Christmas photo album full of all my doll's Christmas photos. Thank you Chelsea.
Once we returned home we finished getting ready for our party, we set up the bar, made about 15 appetizers and waited and waited and waited! E and I joked that nobody was going to show up, the snow had moved in and the roads looked pretty bad. Finally everyone started to show up, and it was fantastic! First my brother and his new girlfriend Natasha, then my Mom, Chuck, Melissa, and Chandler. Soon after that Logan arrived, then E's family and then my Dad and Kimmie. We had a full house, but it was wonderful! My Mom and Dad were fine together and my Mom and Kimmie ended up chatting for awhile. E's family seemed to have a great time, and everyone got along perfectly. The snacks and drinks were a big hit too, we ate and ate and the spiced wassail was gone in no time. It was wonderful.
Natasha, Chandler, Brandon, me, Kimmie, Dad, and Melissa
David, Chelsea, Connie, Steve and E
Chuck, E and Logan hang out in the kitchen with the wassail My cute brothers and Natasha.
After the party was over I was so tired! E and I filled each other's stockings (another tradition) and headed to bed.
Tuesday was Christmas day! E and I woke fairly early to the most beautiful day. The sun wasn't yet up, and the whole world had a fine mist over the newly fallen snow. Our living room looked especially lovely, don't you agree? First we pulled out the new cat nip toys for the kitties and laughed and laughed as they flipped, ran, bounced and sucked on their new toys. Then we opened our stockings, and E had filled mine with the most wonderful treats! Mini German cookies, beautiful colored pencils in a wooded box, and pomegranate juice! Then we opened our "big" presents and I got Lei Mei, the beautiful Chinese doll I had been hoping for! E got a new wool coat that looks so sexy! He also go me purple Crocs and a coat for Lei Me. I am spoiled.
E's new coat
Once our presents were opened it was time to head up to E's family's house. I was hoping for breakfast at home, but that didn't happen. Once leaving the house I was awestruck by the beauty of the world. The sun was just peeking up, and the sleepy houses looked so pretty with their Christmas lights flickering from inside. On the way, I insisted that E pull over so I could snap a photo, I don't remember any other Christmas being so beautiful. Once at E's house our ripping of wrapping paper skills were put to the test! Man oh man are we spoiled! I got so many wonderful things! A Gap gift certificate, doll clothes, doll ski stuff, and more and more and more. Then came the final present, a huge box....
E's wonderful family got me Kit's trunk (another doll item) but it is such a great surprise, and something I had really really been wanting, but I didn't put on my Christmas list because of the price. I am thrilled because not only is it a beautiful piece, but now I have my first complete collection! Here I am when I realized what was in the box. ;)
E had been hoping for a new CD player, he is working on building a stereo system, and the CD player is the start.
After we finished opening tons and tons of presents and having a yummy breakfast we headed over to my dad's house. Now the sun was fully up, and it was truly glorious outside. The valley was crystal clear and everything was fresh and white. After hearing the very upsetting news that Brandon's house had been robbed the night before (they had stolen all his Christmas presents, a pile of sunglasses, watches, his Christmas bonus, and bracelet my Grandpa gave him, which was one of his most prized possessions and having it stolen was worse than all the other stuff put together) we moved onto presents. We all felt so bad for Brandon, but we all had things to give him, and hoped that he could still have a good holiday.
I gave all my siblings presents, and they all gave me great things too. My Dad and Kimmie went all out and got us some really special items, Ethan got shoes, a sweater, money, an antique radio (which is awesome) and water from the BMW shop (a joke of course!). I got shirts, a neat mirrored box, a sweater, and a new coat! It rocks. We also all got a box of oranges and we read the sweetest story about Christmas oranges and a little girl in an orphanage.
My new most awesome coat for snowshoeing.
Once we were done at my dad's we headed back to E's family's house for a bit. I had a chance to relax and then we packed up our gifts. I can't believe how many things we got! Holy cow, we are so spoiled! We dropped off the presents at home, grabbed a few things, and headed to my Mom's at 5:00. Here house looked wonderful, she lives in an old house in a very cute area, and her red door with a lighted wreath really set the mood for the night, I took this photo as my mom opened the door, I like it! Once inside the spoiling continued. We had snacks, drank wine and opened more presents! Chuck had been in charge of stockings this year, and he did such a great job! He got us the neatest things that were just fun! I got sea animal toys and dinosaurs, a potholder making kit (like the kind I had as a kid), candy, a toothbrush, a mini frame, and so much more, just in my stocking! The presents were just as thoughtful, E got some GPS accessories he has been wanting and I got snow pants to go with my new coat. Also I got a really cute dress, a sweet llama toy, a cool bag, and tons of other things. After the last of the presents were opened we ate a fantastic meal of stuffed shells (tradition in my family) and visited with the Laytons. We gave them our presents and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
E and I went home to a house that has presents stacked to the ceiling (seriously, we got so many wonderful things), three sweet kitties, and a warm bed calling our name.
I am done with work and I'm so excited for Christmas! There are still many Christmas-y related activities going on, last night we went up to E's house to make divinity (an old fashioned candy) and tomorrow we are hosting a party for my Dad's birthday. Of course Christmas and Christmas Eve are right around the corner.
Here are a few photos from the last few days:
Chelsea, David and E making divinity! These ones turned out perfectly!
Ben and Jo sent our Christmas gift, and of course we couldn't wait to open it (we are so bad). Thank you guys for the awesome Korean treats!
I took this photo last night on the way into the house. It was snowing like mad. I'm not sure why the photo is so yellow (none of the others looked like that) but I thought it was cool anyway.
1. My bed 2. Chapstick 3. Sun coming through the windows 4. Snow in winter 5. Fresh air 6. The smell of the ocean 7. Snuggling 8. Indoor pluming 9. Mexican food 10. My three cats 11. Hot baths 12. Thick blankets 13. Driving fast 14. Fresh flowers 15. Tin toys 16. French fries 17. Ibuprofen 18. Big fat snowflakes 19. Spring 20. The mountains 21. Shrimp 22. Warm shoes 23. The roof over my head 24. Air Conditioning 25. The internet 26. Mabel purring as I fall asleep 27. Beautiful painted walls 28. New York City 29. Flip flops 30. Fireworks 31. French fries 32. Easter decorations 33. Kisses 35. The way my husband hugs me 36. Shampoo 37. The desert 38. Harry Potter books 39. Travel websites 40. My little sister 41. Cool showers 42. Rainbows 43. Middle Eastern sweet tea 44. Falling leaves 45. The ability to see color 46. Indoor heating 47. Abandoned places 48. Mt. Pleasant 49. My Christmas tree 50. Thunderstorms 51. My two brothers 52. Rainforests 53. Planning my next trip 54. My husband's smile 55. My car 56. Dishwashers 57. Spending hours in a bookstore 58. Good coffee 59. Scarves 60. The toy shop on 9th and 9th 61. Back rubs 62. My favorite movies 63. Laundry machines 64. Freedom 65. My mom 66. Gardens 67. High tea 68. American Girl message boards 69. Reading a new book 70. My husband's wonderful family 71. Moose's grumpy attitude 72. Candles 73. Slippers 74. Indian food 75. Lifelong friends 76. Christmas presents 78. Alaska 79. Fresh fish 80. My memories of my Grandpa 81. Lazy Sundays 82. My dolls 83. The way Mabel licks my fingers 84. Old houses 85. My dad 86. Memories of when i was a kid 87. The reading nook 88. Secret rooms 89. My blog 90. Italy 91. T shirts 92. My job 93. The cabin 94. Baby animals 95. My pillow 96. Backpacking 97. Hand massages 98. Homemade ice cream 99. Peaches 100. Ethan
Now that I got that vent out of my system (see previous post) I can blog about something that I've been meaning to do all day, our fondue party E and I hosted last night!
So, as most of your know my Grandma is traveling to England for Christmas, so before she left I was excited to have a Christmas party. She left today, so we hosted a wonderful party last night! E and I decided to do a fondue party, who doesn't like things when they are dipped in a cheesy drunken goodness? Nobody, exactly.
The party started at 5:30 when my Grandma, aunt and uncle, cousins, Mom and Chuck, and three siblings showed up on my doorstep. We started chatting and hugging immediately, so happy Christmas is finally upon us. My Grandma was in charge of hor'dovers, and of course, she went all out. We had homemade crab cakes, shrimp, bruscetta, cheese and so much more. Soon we started exchanging gifts, Grandma had something for each of us, and we each had something for her.
E and I got something really special, a gift certificate to a night at the Homestead Resort! We are so excited! The Homestead in a great little getaway in rural Utah, and it is built on some natural hot springs, so it will be perfect on a winter weekend. Breakfast at the restaurant was included, so we are pretty excited.
Then we served the dinner, a huge pot of swiss cheese fondue (made with half a bottle of wine) and a fantastic Asian broth fondue. The items to dip included crunchy bread, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, sirloin steak, shrimp, snap peas, apples, and more. We ate and ate. Even when everyone said they were full, and we couldn't eat any more, we still ate.
The way we set up the fondue pots was fun too, there was a cheese fondue station and a broth fondue station, and people just migrated between them, so I ended up getting a chance to talk to everyone.
Soon most of the fondue was gone, and we were all tired and full. Now it was time for dessert, chocolate fondue! My mom brought a huge block of the most divine chocolate imaginable, cut it up into small chunks, mixed it with heavy cream and melted. We dipped berries, oranges, pound cake and bananas. As you can imagine, when we were done we were so full that we couldn't imagine ever eating again. The party wound down and soon the house was quiet, but before E and I could settle down for a long winter's nap we had a kitchen full of dirty dishes. I realized just how thankful I am for dishwashers.
Uggg, I hate mailing things this time of year, I needed to mail three books for office presents to out-of-state clients, so I went to a mailing center after work - BIG mistake. Not only was the line long, it didn't move the entire 50 minutes I was there. I finally got so mad I went to the front, demanded help, and left (with packages mailed) two minutes later. I hate incompetent people.
I made good use of a little sewn alien looking thing that my Mother in Law gave me when I got home, it is called a Dammit doll, here is the poem:
When you feel you want to throw something or shout, here's a little dammit doll you just can't live without. Just grab him by the legs and find a place to slam it! And... as you whack the stuffing out.. yell... Dammit, dammit dammit!
I don't really feel like typing an entire post right now, but I thought I'd share some photos of what I've been up to for the last few days.
The other night E and I went to the zoo at night for Zoo Lights, a new night time Christmas attraction the zoo is doing. It was quite fun because we got to see the animals and the lights. It was really cold though, so afterwards we went to dinner and I ordered a big bowl of French onion soup. I owls were awake when you visit the zoo at night! Yesterday E and I bought a gingerbread house kit at Costco. Before we started to decorate E said he needed to "sample" all the candy. House all done!
Google Reader is something I love, and I've used it for a long time, but I realize everyone doesn't know about this nifty online program. This program lets you enter a list of blogs you like to read, and it will alert you when there is a new entry. If you are anything like me, who loves to read blogs, this program is vital, because I can't check everyone's blog every day to see if there is an update, Google Reader tells me when there is an update.
So, go to reader.google.com and sign in like you are creating a blog entry. On the left there is a button that says "add subscription". Click that, then add the URL of the blog you want to add (you can add as many as you want). Once it is added, you can see when there are new entries. After you've read the entry, just click "Mark as Read" and it we remember you are up to date on that blog.
Try it! And add me to your subscription list, because everyone needs a little does of Hot Hot JJ every day!
Winter is in full swing here in Utah, everything is pure white and the air is very cold. I wanted to post a photo of this little girl I got in Austria when I was there in September 2006. She reminds me so much of a little winter fairy, dressed in a warm blue dress with tiny winter flowers. She also wears a little hat that keeps her warm and covers her soft green hair.
My favorite thing about the holidays is Christmas Eve. I've posted before about how I love my family's Christmas Eve party, it is so special to me. My grandparents always hosted in the past, and it was a large party where everyone dressed up, we had lots of music, drinks, and the most wonderful food ever imaginable. The best thing about the Christmas Eve party was that we were all together, my entire family, as long as I can remember.
I even remember being a little girl and being sent to bed in my grandparent's room before the party was over. There room was always freezing and I remember snuggling next to my brother in our new PJs before sleep finally came.
Last year we didn't have our traditional Christmas Eve party. My Grandpa's last wish was to host the party, he knew it would be his last. But the day of Christmas Eve he became too ill, so it was rescheduled at the last minute.
This year my Grandma is traveling for Christmas, being in her house alone one year after my Grandpa passed away is too hard, so she will travel to England to visit my aunt and uncle. That leaves the rest of the family to celebrate without her.
Today I spoke with my aunt and she informed me that they are not interested in celebrating Christmas Eve this year with the rest of the family. This was a huge surprise and greatly saddens me. I understand if they don't want to pretend my grandpa is still alive, or pretend that my grandma is home, but I still feel ditched on the most special day of the year. At least (I hope) to see them on Christmas...
I'm bummed that I'm feeling so sad right now because today I had the most wonderful day with Connie and Chelsea (and the dolls!). I woke up to a winter wonderland. I relaxed in front of the Christmas tree, got dressed and left the house with the ladies. We headed downtown first for tea and then to see the Nutcracker. What a wonderful time we had! The ballet was fantastic and the tea house was warm and comfortable like always.
Here are my two favorite photos from the tea house:
Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Although I'm not religious, I still like to call my Grandma and wish her a happy holiday, light the menorah, and make latkes once or twice.
So what are latkes? Only the tastiest fried potato pancakes imaginable! Here is the recipe we've used forever.
Latkes: Two large potatoes- peeled Medium onion 2 eggs 2 TB matzo meal (found on international aisle at supermarket) Pinch of salt
Chop potatoes and onion into chunks. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. In large frying pan heat enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of pan. Pour 1/2 cup of potato mixture into hot oil. Let fry for two minutes, or until golden. Flip, and fry other side and let fry. Drain fried latkes on paper towels. Serve HOT with applesauce and sour cream.
Hint- If you are making multiple batches for a party (like we always do), preheat oven to 250. Once latkes are fried and drained, place on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep hot while you make another batch. Enjoy!
Here is my favorite photo I took while snowshoeing today. If you want to see some more photos, check out Violet's blog, she joined us on our outing. Remember, you can click on the photo to see it a little larger.
Last summer in England when E and I were leaving a garden in the English countryside, I asked this question to E, does anybody ever die of beauty overload? One day you just find somebody that has blown up, and on the official reports it just says "beauty overload"? Of course I'm joking, but sometimes the world is just so beautiful I think that my chest will burst.
Today is one of those days.
Yesterday it snowed and snowed and snowed. By the time it got dark the roads were slick and the branches heavy with freshly fallen snow. It was magical. This morning I woke up to a clear blue sky. Each branch is wrapped in a pure white winter blanket. It is heavenly.
Later today E and I plan to go snowshoeing, so I will come back with more photos, I am sure. These photos I took at 8:30 this morning. I woke up and realized how splendid it was outside, so I put on my slippers, grabbed my camera, and slipped out back door in just my jammies in the 21 degree weather, but it was worth it, I hope you agree.
I wanted to post my Christmas list just for fun. I don't want any of you wonderful friends that read the blog to think this is a hint on what to buy me (because most of it has been purchased already!). I reason I am posting my Christmas list is for me, because it is fun to look back a few years from now and see what I was asking for. So, what do I want this year for Christmas? 2007 Christmas List 1. New ski coat 2. New ski pants (The last time I got a new ski coat and pants was when I was 14, I'm still wearing them, I think it is time for an upgrade!) 3. Lei Mei- BEAUTIFUL new doll from American Girl that E is getting me! 4. Purple Croc Mary Jane shoes 5. Gift certificate to favorite restaurants 6. B&N and Amazon.com gift certificates 7. American girl items including Emily's snow suit, Nicki's ski outfit and gear, and sleepover PJs. 8. Harry Potter mug and t-shirt
So, that is my Christmas list for this year. Lei Mei is already under the Christmas tree, however E says it is not her, because he's trying to trick me ;).
I am one of three principals at my advertising agency. I can't believe I am four years out of collage and already a key decision maker here. Also, when I graduated from college I had an income goal in mind for myself, that I wanted to reach in 10 years, and only four years later I'm only 20% below my goal. That's pretty awesome.
Then why would I complain? Because being a principal means a lot of stress too. We were rocking and rolling earlier this year, and bringing in quite a few large clients. We geared up to meet the demand by hiring new people, expanding our space, and increasing overhead two fold, but now the work has slowed a little, and suddenly our expensive overhead is hard to pay.
Needless to say, my long weekend was relaxing, but there was a worry in the back of my mind niggling the entire time, and I didn't ever feel like I truly got to relax.
I wanted to share a few more of my Thanksgiving photos, because I am lucky enough to not only have one fantastic family, I have two. I love both of them very much. Here are a few photos of the festivities:
E's family's house was where we went first, they always have the table set in beautiful blue and white china. And everyone got a chocolate turkey at their place setting!
How did I get lucky enough to have the honor of carving the turkey? Not quite sure...
Dinner number one
After dinner E's family wanted to pose for a family photo, after five serious ones, I wanted to do a silly photo. I told everyone to do a silly face, but nobody listened.
Next was my aunt's house. Here E and my Grandma were chatting. My Grandma loves E very much (who doesn't?)
Here are three of the people I love most in the world, my brothers Brandon and Chandler and my sister Melissa (and between Brandon's and Chandler's shoulders is my cousin Taylor, I love him too!)
Isn't this the most beautiful presentation you've ever seen? It is a huge bowl of roasted veggies that my Grandma made.
And the centerpiece at one of the three tables set up at my aunt's house.
Dinner number two. It is amazing that I actually felt hungry at all today.
I had a great Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope you did too. E and I always have two Thanksgiving feasts, first with his family, then with mine.
I love E's family's Thanksgiving, it is wonderful, really low key and very tasty. E's grandma came, which was fun, because she rarely gets out of the house. She loves Thanksgiving because it is one time of year where the food has some taste. Her regular Meals on Wheels is tasteless.
After we ate a full dinner at E's house, we went over to my aunts house. The house was hopping with nearly 20 people, three turkeys, and enough food to feed an army. We had a wonderful time there too, and ate way way too much.
E and I contributed pecan pies to both feasts. Making the pies is pretty easy. Here is a photo of E working on the pies while our sweet little girl "helps" in the kitchen. (This is a regular occurrence, Mabel is underfoot whenever E and I are cooking).
I don't use the word hate often, but there is a man that gets the honor, Fred Morris from Utah who "took part in a safari to South Africa last year to kill a southern white rhino whose skin is now being mounted for display at Brigham Young University's Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum". Here is the most disturbing story, that was on the front page of the local newspaper.
That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard. Not only for the Museum (who was well aware that Morris would commit murder for them), but for the man that thinks it is okay to go out into the wild and kill an endangered animal.
What the hell? Who, in their right mind would think this is okay?
So what can we do about it? The Brigham Young University's Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum has a contact page here. It will only take a moment, I promise! Tell them what you think!
I posted this list two years ago on my blog, and wanted to repost it. Looking over the list makes me realize how much has changed in two short years, but the list is still true. I'll make updates in blue.
10. Christmas Music- I am a total sucker for Christmas music. Once Thanksgiving comes and goes, I’m in Christmas music heaven. I love The Carpenters, Neil Diamond and many others. I can’t wait to start singing along once again! True true true! Still the same as today!
9. Fondue- Every year on New Years Eve we have a huge fondue dinner with my family. Crunchy bread, broccoli, and bell peppers all dipped into a cheesy goodness makes for a great night. This tradition stopped after my parents divorce. I'm not sure what we'll do this year for New Years, but it won't be a fondue party with my entire family.
8. Setting up the Christmas tree- the day after Thanksgiving I love to get out all my Christmas stuff, including the tree. I love to do the lights (I know, I’m crazy) and I love to look through all my ornaments looking for my favorites. My cats seem to think it’s a good way to spend an afternoon too. Yes! True! The day after Thanksgiving I love to set up our tree, but now we have a pre-lit tree, so no more fighting with the lights.
7. Christmas Breakfast- Each year on Christmas morning we have this hash brown casserole thing that I refer to at “Christmas breakfast.” It includes hash browns in a sour cream white sauce with ham and baked eggs on top. It always tastes wonderful. Last year was the first year E and I did Christmas morning on our own. We made Christmas breakfast at home, and it was just the two of us. I plan to do the same this year, but maybe make it not as rushed. Last year we were rushing to get to E's house, but it made our own Christmas feel too rushed, this year I might slow down just a bit (sorry Chelsea!)
6. Snow! I love the first snow fall of the season, and it always gets me in the mood for the holidays. I love being in the warm house when big fat flakes are falling outside, and I also love being outside. Sledding, skiing, snowshoeing or just romping around in fresh powder is magical. Yes! It is true! This year we haven't seen snow yet, but I hope it is coming soon.
5. Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce- I love Thanksgiving. I love that I can eat as much as I want, I love all the different types of food, I love being first with E’s family, then with mine (and the double dinner!) and I love that Thanksgiving kicks of the holiday season for me. Yes, I still love Thanksgiving. However, now I have another dinner with my dad. This year we will do something special on Sunday. I wish my family was all in one place for the holidays, but oh well.
4. Presents- I love that Christmas time is the time for giving. I have fun planning my gifts and making sure I have just the right thing for everyone I love. I also like being in the stores around Christmas time, there is such excitement in the air. And wrapping all the presents I’ve purchased and putting them under the tree can’t be missed. (And I love opening my presents on Christmas morning!) Yep! I've already begun my Christmas shopping. I can't wait to purchase more so that there is a heap of gifts under our tree!
3. Luminary Walk- my grandparents started a new tradition a few years ago where we walk to a local cemetery that lights thousands of luminaries right before Christmas. We bundle up, get our flashlights, and set off. The cemetery is so beautiful! When we return we eat a big bowl of chili. Last year we didn't do this. My Grandpa was too sick. This year we won't do it either. :(
2. Christmas Eve- My second favorite thing about the season has to be the Christmas Eve party my grandparents throw each year. All the excitement for the next day is building, the food is spectacular, and it’s so fun to dress up! Everyone is so happy to be together, and we all have a wonderful time. This is my absolute favorite Christmas tradition, but last year was the first in memory that our Christmas Eve party didn't happen. Grandpa was so sick. This year we won't do the party either. Last year's Christmas was so difficult for my Grandma, she is traveling this year for Christmas. Two years in a row without the Christmas Eve party. Maybe next year it will come back.
1. Family- The thing I love most about the holidays is that is about family. It means so much to me being with the people I love that all the other stuff is just an add on. Being with my fiancé, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles makes me truly thankful for the season. This is still true. My Grandpa is no longer with us, and my Grandma won't be around this year. Also, my parents are divorced so being all together is a thing of the past. However, that doesn't make my relationship with each person less special.
Thanks to Martha Stewart and Google Images for the very fine Christmasy photos!