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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Reflections on snow days, holidays, and food

It's always busy around here and even more so at the holidays. It's hard to find a minute to breathe, much less blog...but once in a rare while, we are forced to stop running, stop the hustle and bustle, and just be. With a winter storm bearing down on us and nowhere to go that's even remotely appealing in the snow, tonight is one of those times. We're tucked into the house, the cars have all been removed from the street, the snow blowers and shovels are at the ready. The storm is supposed to dump 1-2 feet on us before morning, we've already gotten 3-5 inches that the wind is blowing into impressive drifts. I've fed the troops homemade soup and a pretty awesome frittata for dinner, both new recipes I've been wanting to try. I have a pot of Berry Compote simmering on the stove and later, we'll have a warm cup of the fruit drink all of my kids from Kazakhstan remember fondly. For now, the house is quiet and the kids are all occupied with screens of one type or another. Nothing to do at this point but to reflect on the holidays just past and bask in their warmth.

Aniyar on Christmas morning...he found the pickle!
Christmas was low key and relaxed. Teenagers don't tend to pop out of bed at 5:00AM like little kids so we managed to sleep until 8:00. We probably wouldn't have gotten up then if not for our youngest...even at almost 16, our Aniyar is an early riser and the lure of gifts under the tree was more than he could stand. He rousted us out and the festivities began. We were sad that Craig's nephew David couldn't be with his own family in Georgia but were delighted to have him join our family Christmas, a rare treat for us. (In fact, Dave was up first and was probably the only reason Aniyar was able to control his impulse to wake the rest of us in the wee hours...thanks for the help, Dave!) After the frenzy of gifts being exchanged, the day unfolded into one long feast of goodies. If there's one thing we do well here, it's food, both homemade and imported traditions from a variety of cultures just like our family. The kids love the Russian candies and Lindt chocolates that fill their stockings; the grownups enjoy things like triple cream brie and multigrain bread. Lunch was our traditional pot of borscht along with smoked salmon, cream cheese and crackers. Tons of mixed nuts were cracked and consumed along with oranges and pomegranates galore. It's a wonder we were able to eat at all come dinner time but we managed. There were 11 of us around our holiday table, 8 of us and our three friends from next door. We served prime rib and brussel sprouts in a balsamic glaze. Rick and Deb brought 10 pounds of mashed potatoes and some yummy green beans to round out a perfect meal.So nice to share the cooking as well as the company!

Craig's birthday is just a few days after Christmas so our fun doesn't really stop. The kids did a great job choosing gifts their Dad would enjoy and helping to make the evening special. I managed to pull together another special meal geared to Dad's tastes, scallops wrapped in bacon, a Thai soup, a salad, and salmon burgers with a spicy garlic aioli. Kate helped me bake a carrot cake and coat it with cream cheese frosting, a favorite of her Dad's. Not exactly kid-friendly but it was a hit with my DH and the kids were good sports about trying new foods.

New Year's Eve was really quiet since we barely made it to midnight. David came by to hang with us for a while and do his laundry; he joined us for some homemade soup (Mixed peas, beans, and lentils cooked with a ham bone) and bread before he headed back to his apartment. We stayed home all evening, watched movies and played videogames.  There were a few naps...OK, those were taken by the adults...but we were all together to watch the ball drop and to toast in 2014 with sparkling apple cider. The best part of the whole event was sleeping late on New Year's Day!

We made Hoppin' John and rice for our New Year's day dinner, another new recipe from my Christmas gift to myself, the newest Pioneer Woman cookbook. It was delicious and will undoubtedly bring us all good luck in the year to come!

Hmm..I just realized how much time I've spent writing about food in this post. Comfort food, for sure, shared with the people I love. Material gifts? Yes, we had them and they were nice. Gifts of the heart and home, shared with the people dearest to me...the best gifts of all. Time to close this post and check on the snow...10 inches at least according to my DH, more to come overnight. It's currently 3 degrees...brrr! Time to go pour some warm Berry Compote for my children.

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