Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Scenes

Time flies when you are having fun! No time is this more true than Christmas.  December is the fastest month of the year.  We had a lot of fun planned for this holiday season, too.  Because of our "suprise" trip, it was more important than ever for J&J to be on the "Nice" list...

The Christmas Card Picture - in just under 40 "takes"

Sunday, December 7 

The 5 Browns Concert
Monday, December 8 at Hodgson Hall

We've done piano recitals and done some more piano recitals, but no one compares to these 5 siblings, all born with three hands. Okay, I'm kidding about that, but click on the link below, hear my absolute, all time favorite version of my absolute, all time favorite Christmas song ( not Christmas Carol).  Amazing.

CPC Chili Cook Off Benefitting Extra Special People,
Sunday December 14

One of our favorite events at our church is the Annual Chili Cook Off benefitting ESP in Watkinsville.  I planned and schemed.  I tasted and tested... but still I lost... again. (This thing is fixed.) The picture above shows John serving a test serving.  I used the Chipotle Chicken Chili recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  It's really good.  Just not good enough...

Christmas Eve Service with friends...

The best book I've ever read has been made into one of the best movies I've ever seen.

The Wellington

Being together
It has been a great Christmas Season.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year... but cleaning up from that most wonderful time has to begin... ugh... to get ready for good luck in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I'll bring cheese straws...

I'm not sure if Cheese Straws are a Southern thing... I do know that Paula Deen, Trisha Yearwood, Deep South Dish and Mama all make them roughly the same way.  Martha Stewart's recipe is different...(just saying). Everyone loves Mama's, so I began trying to make them, too.  People gobble them up and they make fantastic gifts.  So.... if you need something tasty and easy for New Year's Eve, try these!

Miss Elsie's Cheese Straws

1 stick butter                                                                    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated                          1/2 tsp salt
2 cups plain flour                                                             

Bring butter and cheese to room temperature.  Using a large mixing bowl, mix them well then add dry ingredients.  Make in any shape desired - (we use the star tip on a cookie press to make long strips, then cut them to the desired length  with a sharp knife dipped in flour.)  Bake at 350 degrees on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until *golden.

*golden means crispy and slightly brown on the bottom.  Mama's original recipe said to bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  In my oven, which is pretty accurate, I bake them about 20 to 25 minutes.  If they aren't baked long enough, they aren't crispy and not as tasty.  So leave those suckers in there and you'll have the perfect appetizer for a New Year's Eve party, friend gift, or any other event that may require finger food.

Mary at Deep South Dish (y'all have been there by now, right?) adds a dash of garlic powder and black pepper to hers. She also specifies White Lily brand flour, but I'm sure y'all know that goes without saying.

I used them for neighbor and friend gifts this Christmas. I think I'll make one more batch before 2015 and the year of the fit bit!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

Our Christmas trip to NYC was fantastic partially because the city was electrically charged with Christmas, but also because of all we were able to do in our short trip.  We ice skated, went to Macy's at Herald Square, the 911 Museum and Memorial, Rockefeller Center, window shopped on 5th Avenue, saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center! Whew. Oh... and just for Mom, we went to mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral.  I was reminded several times that we aren't Catholic.  I went, not for mass, though it was a beautiful service, but to hear the organ there.  It was worth standing in line for 30 minutes to get in the door.  I think that it is a wonderful problem for any house of worship to have: not enough seats! The organ music was beautiful... for me hearing it was a highlight of the trip!

The five of us at Radio City Music Hall.  We had seen The Rockettes in Atlanta and loved them, but we were left spell bound by the show in New York!

We walked to Lincoln Center for the ballet.  We were very early, so we stopped at a craft festival that was held just outside Central Park at Columbus Circle.  We had a great time checking out all the potential Christmas gifts, but left with... nothing!  We hoofed it over to David Koch Theater for The Nutcracker.  Afterwards, we dashed down the stairs to get ahead of the crowd to eat at P.J. Clarke's - right across from the Lincoln Center.  This was the only night that we didn't have reservations for dinner and we waited just 5 minutes for what would end up being the guys' favorite meal of the trip.

Located across the street from Lincoln Center, New York City’s cultural mecca, P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Square is a hub for stage performers and theatergoers alike.

After all that, if we look tired and "punchy"... it's because we were!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Everyone who has ever visited NYC at Christmas comes back to tell you about the department store window displays.  Yesterday, I featured the Macy's at 34th Street. It was interactive and so, so over the top. These other windows are not to be out done, though.  On this - one of the biggest shopping days of the year - I want to share a few more windows a long 5th Avenue.  For me, this gives new meaning to the term, "window shopping".

Godiva's store on 5th Avenue had a great interactive window.  Guys were actually making chocolate candy while the masses walked by.  Inside, there was a "gift" for every customer: a small, wrapped piece of candy.

Harry Winston's lights were absolutely gorgeous.

This is a close up of the Bergdorf Goodman window above.  Theirs were absolutely fantastic!

Of course, the windows at Tiffany's were my favorites!

When we turned into Rockefeller Center to see the tree, I was delighted to find Buzz and Woody, two of John's old favorites.  I asked if I could have a picture with them and two of their old fans... in a truly authentic Bronx accent, Woody replied, "Sure lady, anything for a buck."  Totally cracked me up.

There were so many people at the Rockefeller Center tree.  Somehow, De was able to take this picture of the four of us together.  Interestingly, people were very respectful of each other's photo ops with most standing aside to give the others room and some even offering to take the pictures for others.  I thought the crowd was very considerate given its sheer size.

One of Julia's favorites... Harry Potter and Hogwarts Express.

John and Julia enjoyed the Ralph Lauren Polo store on 5th Avenue.  There was a fire in the fireplace inside the store... it was a welcoming spot for window shoppers who had been out in the 30 degree temps for hours! Julia spent most of the night wearing her Daddy's coat... it was that cold!

Our trip down 5th Avenue and at Rockefeller Center was so much fun.  We finished off the night with a cup of hot chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolate store inside Rockefeller Center.  The others will pass next time, but I gave it 5 out of 5 marshmallows.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Miracle on 34th Street

I've mentioned that I have waited a long time to see this - and what a sight it was! Macy's at Herald Square is  Their signs say that it is the largest store on Earth.  I felt like that was correct when we left. Hordes of people and 8 busy floors of the coolest decorations that were everywhere you turned.  The windows on the front of the store were the most amazing, though.

 Santaland is on the 8th floor.  Of course, I had to go.  The line was pretty long and it stretched into another area that was walled off.  Apparently, Santa has his own room there.  I was disappointed that I didn't get a peek.  (My fellow travelers were not sympathetic to my need to see the jolly old fellow.)
We left without checking him out, but once my attention was diverted to this wish machine, I was fully engrossed.  A wish machine!  I had no idea!

The Wish Machine

Noona and Nanny outside Macy's and in front of their "Christmas Planets" window
Behind them are people waiting to see the interactive windows pictured above.  The concept is really neat, but the longer we stood outside, the colder we got, so I'm not sure anyone checked out all there was to see in the windows.

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's Christmastime in the City...

Forever on my bucket list has been a trip to New York City at Christmas.  This year, it happened!
Christmas in the city that never sleeps is indescribably fun! We had gone before and had visited many of the major tourist attractions, so while we did go to the new 911 Memorial and Museum (which will be a post by itself), the rest of the trip was reserved for fun.  As a side note regarding the 911 Memorial: it is not fun, but it is so very well done, so educational and so necessary to see as an American. Because it is a gut wrenching subject for all Americans, I will do it the justice it deserves in dedicating its own post to the subject.  It simply is not fitting to include it with ice skating, life size Christmas lights and Santaland.

6th Avenue has businesses with the most amazing Christmas displays that scream, "photo op!"  We continued walking along 6th Avenue until we came to Bryant Park, which screamed, "ice skating!"
(Only I heard, "Broken leg!")

The moment of terror

John, Julia and Kenneth attempted to ice skate.  While John and Julia got the hang of it, I'm not sure De will ever be the same.  They had a great time, but I'm not sure any of them had any more fun than Mama and I did watching from the sidelines.  If you go, it is pretty crowded, but we were there fairly early in the morning.  Skating is free and skates can be rented on site.  There are people there of all skating abilities, so unless you hear, "broken leg", give it a whirl.

Tomorrow: Santaland and Miracle on 34th Street...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Tablescape

Tablescaping is a lot like playing dress up.  (Without worrying about a muffin top.) And... Christmas is the best time for both.  Julia and I both love these girly pursuits.  This started at a young age for both of us, I guess.  When she was small, I spent no small amount of time getting her dressed up for Christmas:

Julia has on  Children's Corner Pattern: Kathy - Kelly dress with a hand smocked detachable collar.
I made the Kathy Kelly several times in multiple fabrics and sleeve lengths.  This is my favorite, one though.
Aren't they precious?

While my sewing and smocking days are gone, we're still playing dress up.  Usually, clothes are our medium, but we like a good table setting, too.

They're both dressed up for the Second Sunday in Advent

This table is dressed for Christmas Eve.  The fun part is over, now the cooking has to begin. Ugh.

Old Britain Castles by Johnson Brothers
Emerald Green Stemware from an estate sale
Golden Ribbon Edge Flatware by Gorham
Chargers from Bed Bath and Beyond
I'm no longer smocking, but I did make the placemats and napkins with fabrics from Robert Kauffman