Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Adam and Christmas Cookie Insanity!

December 4th marked Adam's 27th birthday. We had a very low-key celebration this year which was and delicious goodies-themed. This means that for about a month, we are the same age and I can't use my "I'm a year older/wiser" line to win arguments. Anyway, a very Happy Birthday to Adam, who is pretty much the best husband a gal could ever ask for. I didn't snap any birthday pictures this year, so I reached into our archives and found this one - an oldie but a goodie. It was taken by a friend in an elevator back in 2005, and showcases one of his best features - his eyebrows.

We are getting ready for Christmas this year which I can hardly believe is next week. Adam's parents are visiting us from Oregon and are due to arrive on Christmas Eve. I will actually be working but am grateful we can share the holidays together. Of course I'm also grateful for my job, and working at the hospital is a constant reminder of how lucky I am for my health and that of my loved ones. I work some late nights and really enjoy the beautiful nighttime view from our parking garage when I leave. Unfortunately my camera can't capture the full 360-degree view of San Francisco, but here is a look towards the skyscrapers downtown:

Isn't it magical? I think it's one of the lesser-known romantic spots in the city. The red-colored dome building in the second picture is City Hall, festive and lit up for Christmas. Ever since visiting here as a young girl, I've always loved San Francisco. It's strange to think that now at this time in my life I actually work here. On good days, the city can be quite picturesque, exciting and seems full of possibility.

We finally set up our Christmas tree, which we chose at the FoodMaxx lot for the second year in a row. It's nothing like tromping through the woods in the snow for the perfect tree, but it can't be beat for quality and value. We chose a nice Noble Fir, and right after we decorated half of the tree lights went out. (Doesn't that always happen?!)

This is one of my favorite oranaments, a beautiful ceramic dove made by Adam's mom.

We are baking cookies as gifts this year and have made quite a few so far. Below are the classic Jif Peanut Butter Blossoms, a favorite of Adam's. He has a special place in his heart for peanut butter and milk chocolate.

Whether or not you're a fan of Rachael Ray's 30-minute cooking style, she's got a lot of great cookie recipes I've made over the years including these Peppermint Chocolate Cookies. You basically make a simple cocoa cookie dough, and shape into a large log like this:
After chilling, it's sliced in enough chocolate disks to make about 24 cookies, and after baking, topped with melted good-quality dark chocolate and peppermint candy cane pieces:

The cookies that I most enjoy baking are these Pecan Carmel Surprises. A cup of pecans is ground to a fine consistency in a food processor, then added to a light vanilla cookie dough and shaped around chewy carmel candies which end up baking in the center. The entire cookie is then rolled in powdered sugar. The pecans give them great flavor and the carmel in the center is the best part.
To round off the bunch, we couldn't resist making a batch of rice krispy treats.

Wishing you all a festive Christmas season and lots of love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giving thanks

We had a great trip up North for Thanksgiving. The highlights were mainly time with family and great food. (For the record, I gained three whole pounds in one week back home. I'm blaming the usual suspects: leftover stuffing, pie, copious amounts of carby, gravy-goodness, as well as a few casual meals out at our favorite Hawaiian cafe. Needless to say, the stuffing has stopped, literally.)

We encountered some actual winter weather, and I was grateful that my trusty Jetta carried us safely over two different mountain passes and another thousand or so miles overall. On our drive North, the interstate was actually closed going over the mountain pass due a bad accident and weather. This rarely happens and resulted in hours of extra traffic, sitting in the snow in freezing weather. We decided to stop for the night in Ashland, Oregon and stayed at a cheap, dog-friendly motel which was nicely situated next to an excellent pizza restaurant. When I woke in the morning, fresh, beautiful snow had fallen everywhere and Lily had a wonderful time frolicking around. Despite the stress of the trip, it was a fun detour. Last year, we unexpectedly spent a snowy Christmas Eve/Christmas morning at a dog-friendly motel in Redding, California en route to Oregon as well. We checked in at about 1 a.m. and I remember feeling as though we were in a ghost town. I'll never forget walking around in the snow on Christmas Eve, in a strange town where we knew no one, laughing, throwing snowballs and having fun together on our first Christmas as husband and wife. I'm thankful Adam has a good "sense of adventure" and can usually make the best of any situation. Of course Lily, being a dog, has her sense of adventure built-in. She's also a fantastic traveler and once we set up a little spot for her in the motel room, she curls right up in and settles in.

On Thanksgiving Day, Adam, Wes & I set out for Bend.

After wintering in New England last year, Wes has become a pro with the snow chains. I was pretty impressed.

View from the front:

And view from the back:

Here I am doing my part to be cheer on the snow chain efforts. Mostly I just admired the view and tried to seem useful, or at least ready to assist. Thankfully the boys handled the situation just fine and my skills were not needed.

These photos are a little blurry, but you can see our lovely Thanksgiving table and Dad pointing out that we somehow ended up with not one, but two kinds of stuffing and two kinds of sweet potatoes.
Dad's roast turkey was fantastic and everyone brought a little something special to the meal.

Adam, Wes & I at Smith Rock

Not surprisingly, this was our first stop once we crossed back into California. A nice ending to a great week.