Off to the snow with some friends to celebrate the end of 2009 and the start of 2010. :]
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The last week has been comprised of a lot of running around, friend reunions, last minute preparations, baking, and all-around happiness.
Christmas Eve was mainly family-centric, but I saw a couple of friends and ate more than enough food for all of us. My family enjoyed a fondue dinner, which was amazing!
I saw E for about two seconds when I dropped off some baked goods for his family. Naturally, we needed at least one photo to keep up our tradition.
Remember my peppermint cheesecake squares? Here's the standard version, for Christmas Eve dessert.
A slice of perfection.
So, Christmas came int he morning. Amazing as always. Very blessed. I love my family so much.
It was Sonny's first Christmas, and he took a big liking to the tree. As beautiful as the tree with all of the presents under it looks in the photo above, my mom assures me it was prettier before Sonny attacked it. My mom placed a toy for Sonny in a small stocking we purchased for him and it took him all of thirty seconds to spot it and get out. Maggie's stocking is bone-shaped. ROCK ON.
I was overwhelmed.
My brother was enthused!
He bought me a calculator, and a giant one at that. :]
Parents went above and beyond and purchased us some reminders of our favorite things: a drumhead signed by the band No Doubt for Tucker; framed photos and a ball signed by Tim Lincecum, double Cy Young Award winner, for me. NO BIG DEAL.
The damage was severe.
My baby!!! Taken with my new macro lens - hallelujah!
We found Sonny sleeping under some tissue paper. :P
After relaxation and general merriment, Ethan visited for a little exchange of our own, highly reminiscent of last year's extravaganza except at my house this time. Naturally, Sonny and I had this set up for him. Please note the inclusion of our Christmas Bear and usual stockings in the celebration.
Allow me to explain: each of my packages for Ethan was labeled "something to keep you..." and an adjective. For instance, I labeled the cologne I purchased from him "something to keep you fresh." The sweatshirt, "something to keep you cozy." I thought it was a cute way to change up the standard gift tag. It looks like a lot, but honestly... I'm such a bargain shopper! You'd be surprised to know how much I saved!
Under this cute wrapping is the bane of Ethan's existence...
Peanut butter oatmeal cookies! Which he - and his family - just loved. I have to say, this recipe is amazing!
It's a sort of visual journal of our relationship - like a scrapbook but more art-focused and abstract. Most of the pages are private, so I can't really share them here (maybe one day). I started with about ten pages finished and add about four to five for each momentous occasion in our relationship - birthdays, Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and, of course, Christmas. It's something very fun for me and almost sacred to Ethan, who told me more than once that it was new pages in "The Book" to which he was most looking forward to this Christmas!
The whole shebang.
The best part was watching Ethan open his presents! :] So cute.
I think now is the time to remind people: Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth. Although it probably actually happened in August and three years sooner than scholars originally thought, December 25th is the day that the Christians choose to acknowledge God's gift to earth: the birth of His son, a direct link between we humans and God, who would go onto die to offer us salvation.
I find it funny that year after year, people critique the Christian symbols of certain holidays - Christmas, Easter, and so on - when it is out of the basis of those Christian symbols that the holidays developed. I saw a news story about a man suing the city for which he worked for using stars and angels on the Christmas trees. Another man commented that her thought the lawsuit was fair. I don't remember his exact words but they were something along the lines of "I understand because I don't think we should all be forced to believe what Americans want us to believe about Christmas." Hmmm.
If you're not celebrating the birth of Christ, what is Christmas? I can understand - heck, I even support - equal representation of beliefs other than the Christian standard... But to try to strip a holiday of its inherent purpose - or rather, cover up that inherent purpose - is silly. If you're not celebrating Christ's birth, you're not really celebrating Christmas. Thus, such complaints about the Christian "claims" on the holiday and the use of Christian symbolism of the holiday becomes irrelevant. Viola! Problem solved. Are we good?
Tomorrow, my dad, Ethan and I are embarking on a journey to the snow! It's a reprise of last year's trip. I'll be back on Tuesday but on Wednesday, Ethan and I are heading back up with four friends for a couple of days to have some fun and ring in the New Year. :]
Posted by Grace at 8:29 PM
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I may have just the thing for you! I plan on making Peppermint Cheesecake for my family's traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Strapped for last minute present ideas, I did a little recipe remix and turned them into individual squares perfect for gifting and snacking.
So cute, right? And delicious too. Cheesecakes can be tough, but the trick is timing: plant yourself in front of the oven for the last ten or fifteen minutes of cooking and you'll experience no problems. All the same, I'd like to think of these as my trial run for the big round one. Let's hope that one turns out as well as the little guys did!
Posted by Grace at 10:13 PM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Shortly after I returned home from San Francisco with E, Chris and Anna, I returned - this time, with my lovely little family! It's tradition that the junior class of my former high school cancels class to visit the City the day before Christmas Break begins. My brother Tucker is a junior there this year, so while he was with his class there, my parents and I enjoyed some SF time of our own.
You've heard me rave about the Blue Mermaid Chowder House in Fisherman's Wharf before. It gets better every time, people. Although I have no photos of the delicious chowders my parents and I devoured, I will say this: try the classic New England, but if you're feeling adventurous, go for the Dungeness Crab and Corn.
My parents both enjoyed some parmesan-crusted sea scallops (so good) and mashed potatoes with sautéed vegetables.
I enjoyed a delicious though fattening Caesar salad.
The day was beautiful. It's rarely so clear in San Francisco! Here's a shot of The Rock and the infamous Alcatraz that sits upon it.
So, we checked into our hotel - the JW Marriott - and relaxed a bit before going exploring.
Union Square had become a little Winter Wonderland, complete with tons of lights and a huge Christmas tree. Mind you, we are in California (hence that palm tree in the shots above) so real winter weather was substituted by the construction of a little skating rink dotted with families and tiny children and couples being cute.
The windows at Macy's are always decked out with wreaths this time of year!
Daddy and me.
Somewhere along the way, we had dinner and walked to a parking garage to meet my brother. We were sleepy. We slept.
The next day was spent doing more shopping and wandering and having a good time together.
This is a little crepe that the Melt Gelato and Crepe Café in the San Francisco Centre called the Strawberry Royale: bananas, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, annnd a little scoop of vanilla gelato requested by yours truly. Was this crepe as good as Sophie's? They both have their pros and cons: I liked the crispiness of Sophie's, but technically crepes are probably supposed to be a little floppier. I loved that Melt included so much delicious fresh fruit. It's all a matter of taste.
My beautiful parents, right before a little fancy family dinner.
My brother's face makes me giggle.
"Little" brother and me. People always think I'm younger than he is!
The next morning, we packed up and headed home - but we actually stopped at Blue Mermaid again to let Tucker - a clam chowder enthusiast - try it for himself. ;]
The weekend was a whirlwind but so fun. We enjoyed ourselves immensely! It's always nice to get away with the family - especially when you love them as much as I do!
And now... I want you to ask me any question you'd like to ask me. I will answer you in video form. :]
Posted by Grace at 9:43 AM
Monday, December 21, 2009
A photo of me. If you think I am sane, you would be wrong. I AM GOING CRAZY WITH BUSYNESS.
A photo of Sonny. In a box. As usual.
But I bet you've never seen a cat in one of these. That's right. Be amazed. My cat is a Persian prince.
Off to bake cheesecake squares, wrap and tag presents, play Santa, and make some art.
All in a day's work, people... All in day's work.
Posted by Grace at 1:29 PM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Question: Is the title politically incorrect? Answer: Perhaps. While I do hope for more responses to my last post, I decided to reward you sweet readers with a photo-filled entry nonetheless! Enjoy.
So we started the drive to San Francisco around noon. The drive to the city was pretty smooth, but once we arrived... Well, let's just say that after a couple of wrong turns we finally found Japantown around one fifteen in the afternoon. Guess what? Even on a Wednesday, there was absolutely no parking. NONE. So we drove around for forty-five minutes before giving up and going to the hotel. We secured the very last parking space in their teensy tiny garage. Luckily, we were able to check in early and we were golden!
We reserved two rooms at the Hotel Tomo in Japantown. It's a Best Western but it's been recently remodeled to employ some hallmarks of Japanese pop culture - like anime art, which lends a lot of visual appeal to the otherwise sleek lines of the hotel. Affordable and stylish? Count us in!
Here is the lobby - decorated for the holiday season!
So we rode up to the sixth floor, where we would be staying. We found this mural on the wall of the boys' room. We don't know what it means, really.
The rooms each had a balcony.
With a fun view: right into Japantown!
After we settled in, we are EXCITED! Let the photoshoot begin.
The only vaguely attractive photo taken of E and me on this trip. :PModels. Obviously.
The only vaguely attractive photo taken of E and me on this trip. :PModels. Obviously.
Don't they look absolutely adorable? Afterward, I looked at the photo and asked "Ethan, why the heck is my pink umbrella in the shot?" and he replied "Sorry, I thought it would be cute." Okay, E!
Another abstract mural. This one was in the girls' room. Please observe my messy bed.
We left the room and went out exploring Japantown for a couple of hours before we came back to get spruced up for dinner. I was actually super excited to get my hands on some Japanese food. Do you remember my first time trying non-sushi Japanese? Haven't I come a long way? So, we made dinner reservations at Osaka. Ethan called it in and put it under the name "The Fantastic Four." Seriously. The lady taking the reservation was pleased.
My DELICIOUS bento box dinner: salad with miso dressing, vegetables with miso sauce, shrimp and vegetable tempura (zucchini is my favorite), some pickled something or others, and teriyaki chicken.
We shared some avocado, cucumber and prawn sushi.
This, my friends, is tempura green tea ice cream: the ice cream is enclosed by slices of pound cake. The ball is dipped in tempura batter and flash fried. And then enjoyed by four curious kids.
As much as I'd like to tell you we had a rip-roaring crazy night after dinner... We didn't. We went back to the hotel and watched some shows on the internet. Ethan passed out for about an hour and then dismissed himself to go to his room for bed. I started snoozing and when I woke up Chris was leaving to go to bed as well. I thought the night had come to an end. AU CONTRAIRE. Anna and I girl-talked it up for a couple of hours, discussing life in the dark before falling asleep.
Fast forward eight hours. Anna and I are up and ready waiting for the boys. We reunite and lug our stuff to the car and go out exploring again.
We wanted to do crepes for breakfast before we left the city. Unfortunately, our venue of choice did not open until 11:00. I KNOW. So, we sat and waited.
Some of us more patiently than others.
My crepe: bananas, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and vanilla gelato. Why is that so wrong? Ethan actually asked me to crop his hands out of this photo, lest anyone think he actually devoured this behemoth snack. For breakfast... No really, why is that so wrong? :P
So then we made the drive home. It was so nice to spend time with friends - and to just get away for a day or two. Overall, we all had an awesome time together!
Posted by Grace at 5:27 PM