Christmas 2011

Hello and Happy New Year, friends! I hope that 2012 is off to a great start for everyone and that you will be able to keep up with all of your resolutions for at least for the next week or so. I actually did pretty well with the goals I set for 2011 (get new job, start and stick with a new hobby, lose ten more pounds. The irony is that my new hobby is this blog, and I still managed to lose a bit of weight while eating pretty well.) so I have high hopes that I can do just as well in 2012.

Chester and I got back from Chicago late last night, where we had a great time hanging out with his family, catching up with friends, and eating at some pretty awesome places. I have quite a few recommendations for you to add to your list if you are planning a trip out there anytime soon. More on that in another post.

But, first, I’m going to back up a little bit and tell you about Christmas. I know, it seems like it was eons ago, right? As I type this, I’ve been glancing at my Christmas tree from time to time—it looks like it’s been through the war. I mean, it looked so bright and sparkly when I last saw it on December 24. Now, just a little over a week later, it’s all lopsided and seems to have all of these bald spots that I hadn’t noticed before. My grandfather was right—all of the decorations really do look sad after all of the celebrations are over.

Alright, that’s enough of the depressing stuff. Our Christmas was pretty great this year.

I did a pretty good job with my wrapping this year.

There was food, of course.

We started off the festivities at my BFF’s mom’s house on Christmas Eve afternoon. Bridget’s husband Bill made some yummy appetizers, and also, snickerdoodle cookies that I must get the recipe for.

Bill's stuffed dates and tuna crostini appetizers

Me and Bridget

After that, we headed over to my aunt’s house for Christmas Eve dinner. Scallops, risotto, arugula salad, and my aunt’s homemade bread were on the menu. My mom and I slaved over the stove as my brother “supervised.” This meant that mainly stood over our shoulders to tell us what we were doing wrong. In addition, he chopped one bulb of garlic, taste tested, and, when it looked like the scallops weren’t searing properly, stepped in and cooked about four of them to perfection.

Mom oversees the scallop station

I made risotto for the first time ever. I was nervous about it because a good risotto requires quite a bit of patience (which I always seem to be a bit short on) to achieve its trademark, creamy consistency. It took about 30 minutes, lots of stirring and two cartons of chicken stock, but it turned out pretty near perfect. Even my picky brother gave it the stamp of approval. A proud moment for me.

Risotto Preparations

We spent Christmas Day at my mom’s house, and had our traditional spread of Italian antipasti (meats, cheeses, bruschetta, olives, etc.) for lunch. Then, there was lasagna for dinner.

If there's one thing I know how to do after years of planning events, it's how to arrange an antipasti tray.

I made this, too. I was pretty handy in the kitchen this year!

For dessert, my aunt made a flourless chocolate cake (which we dug into way to quickly for me to get a photo of!) and I made eggnog ice cream. Last year, when I was fairly new to ice cream making, I took a shortcut and used store bought egg nog as the base and it was a little on the icy side. This year, I used this recipe and made the custard from scratch. It was a million times better—rich, creamy, and a bit spicy from steeping nutmeg and cinnamon in the cream for about thirty minutes.

Thanks, mom, for the new ice cream glasses!

One of the best parts of Christmas this year was reconnecting with some family members that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. Remember how I said that Christmas Eve always seems just a little bit magical? Well, this year was no exception.

My mom and I headed up to the Reading Terminal early on Christmas Eve to pick up scallops for that evening’s dinner. As soon as we walked in the door, I saw my dad’s father and stepmother, whom we have not seen or spoken to since my dad passed away more than a decade ago, at one of the stands. My mom and I debated about what to do. Finally, we went over, tapped them on the shoulders, and tears followed (my mom was the worst of all. She has the best ugly cry I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty awkward in a public setting.) as we caught up on everything we’d missed out on over the past ten plus years.

Of course, I’ve never stopped thinking about my dad or his family over the years. If anything, I’ve thought about them even more in the last few as the big stuff, like getting engaged and then getting married, has happened in my life. I’ve wanted to reconnect with them again, but after such a long time, I guess I didn’t really know what to do. I figured I would see them again if the time was right.

It might sound cheesy, but I believe that sometimes, something—or someone—else just steps in and makes it happen. I like to think that maybe my dad thought the time was right for us all to reconnect and he helped move things along and made sure that we were all in the right place at the right time. My mom and I had talked about going somewhere in our neighborhood to pick up the things we needed, but we took the trip up to the market instead. We found a great parking spot just across the street from it and ended up right at the entrance closest to the stand where my grandfather and Ronnie were shopping (Turns out that it was a “no stopping” zone, and we returned to find out that the Philadelphia Parking Authority wasn’t in the Christmas spirit and had left us a $76 ticket). I could feel my dad smiling down on all of us on Christmas Eve, and then the next day when we all got together again at my mom’s house.

So, yea, Christmas 2011 was pretty cool. I hope that your holiday was just as special.

My mom, me, grandfather, and brother on Christmas Day. Two photos were being taken at once, which is why not all of us are looking at the right camera. This is the best of the bunch.


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