Tag Archives: Holidays

Onwards and Upwards

About a week late, but Happy New Year! I hope you are all enjoying a great start to 2014 so far…and for the Midwesterners and Northeasters out there, I hope you are staying warm and inside during this crazy polar vortex week! We do miss Chicago, but not in times like these!

I’m 30 weeks as of Monday! We are officially into the beginning of third trimester, and boy, am I feeling the change. So far, I have been very blessed with a smooth, nausea-free pregnancy. Now that we’re through the holidays, Nick and I both realized that March is a scant few weeks away, baby gifts and items are starting to come in, our birth classes are beginning this weekend and things are getting REAL! My stomach has grown exponentially in the past few weeks and I am feeling more ungainly as my bump gets heavier. Baby Girl is kicking like crazy, which I love. It’s comforting to feel her move, and she has started to respond to our voice and touch, which is both gratifying and surreal.

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but did recently come across something that I’d like to make my mantra for this year. 2013 was all about slowing down and being better at single-tasking, because I tend to rush and try to do multiple things at once.

2014 is going to be about focusing on the present and not fretting so much about the future or past. With everything this upcoming year has in store for us (training my replacement at work, the arrival of our daughter, Nick’s graduation from residency, a move to Utah), I’m really going to need to breathe deeply and not overthink ahead too much because a girl’s got to keep her sanity. My mother always said I tend to overworry and that I need to be more flexible. And it’s true. One takeaway learned from my 30th year: things will come as they come and it won’t do any good to overstress about it too much. Live in the moment today. As we have discovered, things eventually work themselves out anyway.

So here we go! Here’s to you, 2014! Happy New Year, dear readers!

Words to live by

Words to live by

 

Christmas Traditions pt. 2

Christmas Tree Card Wall: I love seeing these warm reminders of our loved ones

Christmas Tree Card Wall: I love seeing these warm reminders of our loved ones

I love that Missy did a post on Christmas traditions! With a little one on the way, our next Christmas will undoubtedly be very different experienced through a child’s eyes.

I’ve been thinking about fun holiday traditions we would incorporate into our family and to be honest, love the current ones Nick and I try to celebrate every year. It would be nice to keep them going. A few are Seattle-based, but I hope we’ll find something comparable wherever we end up!

Every Christmas has been different (sometimes we’re here if Nick’s working, or we’re in California or Omaha) but we try to do the following every year during the holiday season:

1) Drive around to see the Christmas lights in our West Seattle neighborhood. The trip always culminates at the Menashe Family Display, where they seem to outdo themselves every year. The family owns a local jewelry business and their house was featured on the TLC channel a couple years ago as one of the Top Ten House Light Displays in the country. Last year, we also visited Candy Cane Lane in our old Ravenna neighborhood as well and it was so fun to see an entire street of quaint little houses lit up!

2) Instead of the Nutcracker, we always check out Seattle’s OTHER Holiday Tradition- the Seattle Men’s Chorus Annual Holiday Show! It’s one of our favorite things to do this time of year. Each festive show every year mixes a wonderful blend of holiday classics and tongue-in-cheek skits and versions of nostalgic favorites. Founded in 1979, they’re the largest community chorus in America and are also the largest gay men’s chorus in the world. We’ve seen everything from a Big Bang Theory-themed show to a drag queen singing Santa Baby carried in on a litter by hunky elves. One of our favorite things they do is their lovely version of Silent Night. They are so talented and we love supporting them.

3) If we’re home Christmas Eve, we make pizzas and open gifts. Stockings are opened Christmas morning with eggnog french toast.

4) Hold an annual holiday open house to visit with friends and hold a White Elephant Gift exchange. I would like to start encouraging visitors to bring an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots as well to share in the spirit of the season.

5) And last but not least, every year, The Sheraton in downtown Seattle holds a Gingerbread Village contest benefiting a local charity. Each themed gingerbread display is a collaboration by a team from one of Seattle’s top architecture firms and the culinary staff at the hotel. Past displays were centered around Train Stations Around the World and Once Upon a Time (Castles). The theme for this year (the 21st Annual Event) was  “There’s a Rhyme and a Reason this Holiday Season” or Nursery Rhymes and each entry was spectacular. It’s so fun to go every year and see each innovative design, the incredible detail that goes into each display (Wheat-thin Roofs! Trident Gum Walls!), and to see how much people of all ages enjoy walking through the village. Here are some photos from this year’s visit! These are taken from my camera phone so please excuse the graininess!

This will likely be the last post before Christmas, but I hope you and your loved ones enjoy your own holiday traditions over the coming week! Merry Christmas! xoxo, Krystal

"Hey Diddle Diddle!"

“Hey Diddle Diddle!” the cow actually moves!

"Hey Diddle Diddle" detail- with the dish running away with the spoon!

“Hey Diddle Diddle” detail- with the dish running away with the spoon!

"I Saw A Ship A-Sailing"

“I Saw A Ship A-Sailing”- and the ship actually rocks back and forth

gingerbread 4

"There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"

“There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”

"Hickory Dickory Dock"

“Hickory Dickory Dock”

"London Bridge is Falling Down" section 1

“London Bridge is Falling Down” section 1

"London Bridge is Falling Down" section 2

“London Bridge is Falling Down” section 2

"Jack and the Bean Stalk"

“Jack and the Bean Stalk”

"Jack and the Bean Stalk"...and Seattle

“Jack and the Bean Stalk”…along with Seattle’s Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Seahawks Stadium

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas gets most of the attention around this time of the year, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I can’t imagine anything better than kicking off the season with a cozy celebration of family, food, traditions (both old and new) and giving thanks for all of our blessings. Having lived away from both our families these past 9 years, I cherish every holiday we get to travel home, Nick’s work schedule permitting, to be with our loved ones. This year, we get to spend Thanksgiving (or Thanksmas) in Omaha with Nick’s family and Christmas with mine in Southern California. Like last year, we also hope to be able to have a mini-Thanksgiving at some point with just the two of us, so I have an excuse to cook the traditional dinner!

So let’s get to the good stuff: the food! I love seeing people share their recipes and traditions during Thanksgiving. After all, food is love. What are your favorites? For some, Thanksgiving means turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. In the Wegner household, the traditional lime-green pear jello dessert from his mother’s side of the family makes an appearance at the table every Thanksgiving. During Nick’s first Thanksgiving with my family, I tried making it so he could feel like he had a little piece of home with him. Every person in my family was initially horrified at the sight of it- neon, creamy green in the clear glass bowl (there really isn’t much you can do to make this jello look pretty) but soon everyone, to their surprise, fell in love with its sweet refreshing taste after the first cautious bite. I even caught my late Grandma Sue covertly licking the last remnants off the serving spoon when we were clearing up at the end of the meal. To this day, if we are celebrating Thanksgiving in California, my relatives still request I make it and it’s now an official entry in our family cookbook as the “Greteman Lime Pear Jello.”

Nick’s favorite Thanksgiving food is his mother’s stuffing, which I try to replicate every year but can’t get quite right yet. My personal favorite dish at Thanksgiving is the oft-maligned green bean casserole. The Campbells Soup and French Onion kind, I totally admit without shame. Yes it’s not fancy and the cream of mushroom soup is kind of scary to pry out of the can but I know countless others (though they may not want to admit it), who like me, LOVE and look forward to its comforting deliciousness every year. Sometimes I’ll make a green bean casserole with fresh green beans and eat it for the week, that’s how much I love it.

If you’re looking for a homemade version, Deb Perelman of the wonderful Smitten Kitchen blog, wrote a post for green bean casserole this week that was adapted from an Alton Brown recipe. Ms. Perelman (and Alton Brown) rarely make a misstep, so I can’t wait to try it. And it can all be done in one skillet! Score.

I should also mention that Nick loooves canned cranberry sauce (it doesn’t take much to please these Wegners it seems!) I’ve included Alton Brown’s homemade cranberry sauce below. Maybe this is the year we finally fancify our favorite dishes!

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels this week, everyone!

Photo by the Smitten Kitchen

Photo by the Smitten Kitchen

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions
Adapted a little from Alton Brown and a little from trial-and-error

Serves 6, or more if you: a) have a lot of sides on the table, which I bet you will, or b) use the higher amount (1.5 pounds) of green beans

Crispy Onions
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko or plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola, safflower, peanut or other high-heat oil, for deep-frying

Mushroom Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced or coarsely chopped
Few gratings fresh nutmeg (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Assembly
1 to 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved (see note about volume)

Make the crispy onions: Toss onion with flour, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Heat a 1/2-inch or so of oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet until a drop of water flicked into it will hiss and sputter. Add onions, just a handful at a time in something close to a single layer, and fry until a light golden brown (they’ll get more color in the oven; I overcooked mine a bit, forgetting this). Remove with a spider or large slotted spoon, let oil drip off a little, back into the skillet, then spread onions out on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining onions. Set aside until needed; this makes a lot.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the beans: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil greens for 5 minutes (for standard green beans) or 2 to 3 minutes (for haricot vert, or skinny ones). Drain beans, then plunge them into ice water to full stop them from cooking. Drain again, and set aside. (If you are adamant about only using one pot, you can boil them in your 12-inch cast iron skillet that you use for the other steps. But a saucepan can be easier.)

Make the mushroom sauce: Over medium-high heat, melt butter in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute them until they start releasing their liquid, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how they were chopped. Add the garlic and saute one minute more. Add the flour and stir it until it fully coats the mushrooms. Add the broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring the whole time. Simmer mixture for 1 minute, then add cream and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens a bit, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

Assemble and bake: Add cooked greens beans to sauce and stir until they are coated. Sprinkle crispy onions over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and onions are a shade darker. Eat at once.

Do ahead, a few ways: Onions can be made long in advance (up to a day) and keep at room temperature, loosely wrapped (they’d get soggy in an airtight container). Green beans can be cooked and kept in fridge until needed, at least one day. Green beans can also be combined with mushroom sauce and kept refrigerated for up to a day. Add onions and bake shortly before serving. Finally, it’s less ideal, but the entire dish can be cooked, loosely wrapped (so the crispy top doesn’t get soggy) and then rewarmed in a low oven before serving. Just keep an eye on the topping so it doesn’t get too brown while reheating.

Cranberry Sauce
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007
Prep Time:
10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
6 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
20 minLevel:
EasyServes:
6 to 8 servingsIngredients1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honeyDirectionsWash the cranberries and discard any that are soft or wrinkled.Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.To unmold and serve, immerse bottom of mold in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds and turn upside down on plate or serving dish. If necessary, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of the mold.

Ditch the Valentine Chocolates

You know a holiday is coming up when Pinterest blows up with people feverishly pinning crafts for Halloween, Christmas, Easter…and Valentine’s Day.

I appreciate the effort that goes into DIY but am terrible at it, probably because I’m not very patient, I hate messes, and I’m maybe just a little too lazy. Missy is definitely the talented, crafty one on this blog! But there really is nothing better than receiving something made from the heart, especially on a day celebrating love and friendship. Miss, do you remember that year in Chicago we all went to the studio around the corner and made handcrafted Valentine cards? It was actually a lot of fun (especially with wine!) and I was so amazed at how creative people got with their cards.

I was in Target the other day and came across their Valentine section where I found some cute love voucher books. Yes they’re a bit of a cheesy throwback, but I think they’re such a fun idea. Who also doesn’t love new and different date ideas to shake things up?

Courtesy of Mommy By Day Crafter By Night

Courtesy of Mommy By Day Crafter By Night


I’ve been thinking of making one for Nick (using a template like this Printable Valentine Coupon Book) and with the following vouchers:

This coupon is good for a….

– Ice Cream Run
– Date to Watch a Sports Game at Home (instead of SATC repeats)
– Breakfast in Bed
– 30 minute massage
– Week of Your Favorite Meals
– Romantic Dinner
– Evening stroll
– Staring Contest
– Thumb war
– Board Game Night
– Night In- Your Choice
– Date Night- Your Choice
– Back Rub
– Daytime Date
– Car Wash/Detail
– Dance Party in our PJs
– Day when you can be right for the whole day (I can’t argue with you)
– Free pass on a function you don’t want to attend
– Surprise Trip On a Weekend of Your Choice

Fun, right? Let me know if you have any other ideas. This idea is probably a lot more interesting than the Itunes gift card I was going to give him. And maybe with these date ideas, we can be as fun and relaxed as this couple looks below.

Nick looks like this when he's not stressed.

Nick looks like this when he’s not stressed.