Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas in Hawaii)

Due to the fortuitous circumstance of Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the school’s holiday break included the week before Christmas.  This allowed us the rare opportunity to spend Christmas not in Washington, DC (Jim’s business being calendar year-end intensive).  To no one’s surprise, the family voted to spend Christmas in Honolulu.
There is rarely a time when Honolulu weather is inferior to DC weather (possibly the 2 weeks of fall is the only time).  While we had some difficulty getting out of DC due to an ice storm, then mechanical difficulties, then the need for a new crew), we did finally make it to Honolulu on a windy, overcast day.  No matter, Honolulu is still perfect.
The view from our hotel, the Halekulani, is a view of paradise, whether on an overcast day,


or a sunny day,


or at sunrise,


or during the afternoon,


or during sunset.

There are always big smiles when we are there


(with an occasional exception).

We even saw several mongoose (mongooses? mongoose?) on one of our walks.

And there are ALWAYS rainbows to greet us


and to say goodbye.

We will miss Honolulu—at least, until our next trip!

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

Thanksgiving 2016

We sat 26 people down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.  Some family but also friends.  Our menu was as follows:
Thai pumpkin soup
Smoked organic turkey
Roasted organic turkey with confit legs
Fried organic turkey
Roasted shrimp with rosemary
Roast duck
Stuffing
Chili-bathed sweet potatoes
Dinner rolls
Rice
Kimchi
Gravy
Orange cranberry sauce
Roasted carrots with creamy nuoc chom sauce
Mashed poatoes
Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon
Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake
Blackberry pie
Apple pie

The spread was quite impressive (since boiling water is a culinary highlight for me, I can say that).  🙂

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Thanksgiving spread

Thanksgiving spread

apple pie

apple pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

We also had the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast of homemade sticky buns.

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Most importantly for us on Thanksgiving, however, is to be grateful for life’s blessings.  And so we give thanks for our good health and the family and friends in our lives.  We hope your Thanksgiving was as full of gratitude as ours!

turkey massacre 2016

turkey massacre 2016

Halloween 2016

We have a Halloween family tradition of over 10 years of inviting ourselves over to a friend’s house who has considerably more trick-or-treaters than we do (given that have zero).  The kids decided (very reluctantly) that they were too old to go trick-or-treating by themselves and contented themselves with giving large amounts of candy to the kids who came by.  But, of course, costumes are a must.

Jim’s office offers prizes to the best costume and does a Halloween lunch in full costume every year.

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And we are a family consisting of a Loki, Willy Wonka, Steven Universe, and Nerds.

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Hope your Halloween was as much fun as ours!

4th of July in Nantucket

We were kindly invited by some good friends to join them in Nantucket for the 4th of July weekend.  Nantucket is one of the very few places on the East coast that reminds of us God’s country (otherwise known as the West coast).

There were magnificent sunsets:

sunset on Nantucket

sunset on Nantucket

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Fun 4th of July fireworks (lit off on the 3rd of July but why quibble?);

on the beach for fireworks

on the beach for fireworks

A town water gun fight on the actual 4th of July (let’s just say that no one escaped unscathed from the battle):

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A parfait-making contest:

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And fabulous food, with many home-cooked meals, and a wonderful dining experience at American Seasons (to be blogged about on a later blog post).

It was a wonderful four days of rest and relaxation and good times and friendship.  And, by the way, Happy Birthday, America!

Inn at Little Washington Over The Holidays

Jim and I have a tradition we’ve done for many years, which is to go spend a night at the Inn at Little Washington between Christmas and New Year’s, just the two of us. (This does not go over well with the kids, who also want to dine there and spend the night, but we ignore their protests.)

The menu has changed a bit since I last blogged about a meal there, so I thought I’d take you through what we had last night.

We started, of course, with one of my favorite dishes there—truffle popcorn. You will never want to have movie theatre popcorn again after having this. The popcorn is tossed with some herbs and spices, but the whole point of this popcorn is that it is topped with shaved black truffle. Yummmmmmm…..

truffle popcorn

truffle popcorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up were an assortment of amuse-bouches. These included miniature veal cheek sandwiches with homemade chips and miniature pickles;

miniature veal cheek sandwiches

miniature veal cheek sandwiches

the world’s smallest baked potato topped with caviar, “chips & dip,” cucumber rillettes topped with fish roe, and a red wine risotto ball.

assortment of amuse-bouches

assortment of amuse-bouches

Next up was a pheasant consommé accompanied by a chive gougère. The consommé was simply unbelievably fabulous and went onto my list of all-time favorite dishes (it’s a long list with a lot of Inn dishes on it).

pheasant consomme

pheasant consomme

The next course was an egg filled with a mousse of foie gras and port gelée. Not rich and decadent at all…

foie gras mousse in an egg

foie gras mousse in an egg

An old favorite of the Inn’s was resurrected and reformulated–fire and ice, which is now seared tuna served with watermelon radishes in a sesame-ginger sauce and topped with cucumber sorbet. It was like welcoming back an old friend.

fire & ice

fire & ice

I then had a raviolo of spinach topped with—you guessed it—white Alba truffles. Delectable (and so good for you, too!).

spinach raviolo (with truffles!)

spinach raviolo (with truffles!)

Jim had sweet-and-sour diver’s scallops accompanied by a shisito pepper. The sweet-and-sour was restrained and elegant, and the shisito pepper gave the dish a nice contrasting flavor (or so I’m told, I didn’t get a bite of that).

sweet and sour scallops

sweet and sour scallops

The final “entrée” was a short rib of bison that had been cooking for 14 hours, served with mustard greens and topped with homemade onion rings. The slight bitterness of the mustard greens went well with the richness of the bison and the slightly sweet onion rings.

short rib of bison

short rib of bison

The palate cleanser was the Inn’s version of a dreamsicle accompanied with crumbs of shortbread.

dreamsicle

dreamsicle

And finally (not pictured) was a Granny Smith apple tart (for me) and a visit by Faira the Cow and Cameron the cheese maestro (for Jim). And the beautiful cappuccino accompanied by a slice of biscotti.

oh, biscotti!

oh, biscotti!

The Inn was, of course, still decorated for the holidays, with festively decorated trees and garlands and holiday lights. It was a wonderful way to bring the year to an end!

Disneyworld & the Osborne Family Lights

We haven’t been to Disneyworld for the Christmas season in years, but when we learned that this would be the last year of the Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios, a visit was a must do and off to Orlando we went on the first weekend of December.

We landed on Friday evening and headed straight for the lights. They were even more spectacular than I had remembered.

Osborne lights

Osborne lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_1562Saturday morning was the Wild Animal Trek, something we had never done before. (Shock!) It takes place at Animal Kingdom, and half the trek is done with a harness so that you go over bridges and look at hippos and crocodiles up close and personal. The other half of the trek is essentially a VIP version of the Safari ride. The ride was particularly memorable for two reasons: first, there was a baby rhino out and about and feeling particularly frisky, chasing zebras and running around (so adorable!); and two, we had a (successful) proposal in the group when we broke for lunch (also adorable).

baby rhino!

baby rhino!

wild animal trek

wild animal trek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the trek, we resumed our normal Disney activities with multiple rides of various rollercoasters and other rides at the parks. We returned to Hollywood Studios, had dinner, and headed for the lights one last time on Saturday. <sad face>

It was a spectacular trip. We had forgotten how festive Disneyworld is for the holiday season, and it was a good reminder. As our daughter said, “I really wasn’t in the Christmas spirit until I saw the lights again.”

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

We have friends who host a gingerbread house decorating party every year.  Below is this year’s creation with the side decorated by the 14 year old son.  (The 17 year old daughter couldn’t make it this year.)

My favorite touches this year are the chimney (decorated by Jim) and the fish in the pond (made out of cut rock candy and jelly beans) and, on the right, the snowman putting up a (gummy bear) decoration.  Both of those were created by the son.

The thatched roof is generally my responsibility because it takes no creativity, but it does take consistency and persistence.  And, besides, by the time I finish with the roof, the rest of it is usually already decorated.  🙂

As usual, this year’s effort was a lot of fun!  Thank you, Joanne and Joe, for another delightful year of gingerbread houses!

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Thanksgiving 2015

We sat 31 people to dinner for Thanksgiving this year, which is rather a lot for us and a tremendous amount of fun (and a teeny weeny amount of stress). Thank goodness for Robert, Jim’s nephew, who came early and helped tremendously with the cooking. Together, we managed to feed everyone the following menu:

Thai pumpkin soup

Thai pumpkin soup

Thai pumpkin soup

Smoked organic turkey

smoked turkey

smoked turkey

Roasted organic turkey

roasted turkey

roasted turkey

Deep fried organic turkey

fried turkey

fried turkey

Honeybaked ham

Roasted shrimp with rosemary

Roast ducks (from Mark’s Duck House)

Stuffing (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

stuffing & mashed potatoes

stuffing & mashed potatoes

Chili-bathed sweet potatoes

Dinner rolls

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dinner rolls

Rice

Kimchi

Gravy

Orange cranberry sauce

Red wine cranberry sauce

red wine cranberry sauce

red wine cranberry sauce

Roasted carrots

Mashed potatoes

Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon

brussel sprouts

brussel sprouts

Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

Blackberry pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

Apple pie

apple pie

apple pie

the spread, part 1

the spread, part 1

the spread, part 2

the spread, part 2

And the obligatory day-after-Thanksgiving sticky buns, of course…

sticky buns

sticky buns

the lone remaining sticky bun

the lone remaining sticky bun

As we do every Thanksgiving, we each express what we are thankful for this year. And so this year, I am incredibly thankful for our family and friends and their continued good health. I am especially thankful for Jim and the kids for making me happier and more blessed than I could have possibly imagined.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween 2015

You might think we were a bit too old for Halloween and trick-or-treating, but it’s our favorite holiday (and you are never too old to beg for candy).

The family Halloween photo featuring The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Captain Cold:

The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, & Captain Cold

The Tardis, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, & Captain Cold

Another one of the kids:

The Tardis & Captain Cold

The Tardis & Captain Cold

And just as full disclosure, Chewbacca was The Grinch at his office Halloween party.  Much more appropriate in some ways…

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