Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Adventure Day in DC

Part of MVP's Christmas gift was something I kept referring to as the "Christmas Adventure Day." Really, it was a pretty good gift for me too, since I got to accompany him on all the stops in addition to planning the dang thing. I mean, I live for that kind of stuff.

I spent a few weeks plotting and planning and making arrangements. I was super excited. MVP was...trepidatious. He really is not a fan of surprises, but was being a good sport about letting me plan out the day and keep it all a secret from him.

I decided to write down each of the clues/stops on a Christmas card so that I could give them to him one at a time. The night before, I let him open the first card, so that he knew where we would be going in the morning and could sleep a little easier. I was so excited for our special day, I could hardly sleep. I almost jumped out of bed the next morning, anxious to get the day started. We got ourselves showered and dressed and headed off to the Metro to get the day going.

Stop #1
I treated MVP to a super delicious brunch at Masa 14 in DC. I had never been and always wanted to go. They have a prix fixe brunch menu that included unlimited small plates and bottomless drinks; I thought it was a really good deal and this would be the ideal spot for a long leisurely brunch with girlfriends. Thank goodness I had made a reservation; even though we got there and were seated right when they opened, that place filled up FAST. We sampled tons of tasty treats, giving our own commentary about the flavors and the plating (we watch too much Food Network.) Our waitress was very attentive and I don't think my Lychee Bellini ever seemed to be even CLOSE to empty :)

Stop #2
After we ordered our first round of plates at brunch, I gave MVP the card for stop #2. I wanted him to be able to relax and enjoy the meal and not worry over where we were going next and when we had to be there. He opened the card and looked a little confused, not sure what I had meant. That is, until he flipped it over and saw the envelope taped to the back of the card. When he pulled out the tickets for that day's matinee performance of "Jersey Boys" he had such a smile, I was so happy. It was so great for me to see him so excited over it. Especially because I worried he might not be as excited as I was to see the show!

After brunch, we hopped in a cab and headed over to the theater. It was a sold out show and for good reason. It was AWESOME. Seriously, I would go and see it again, it was that good. There were lots of older folks in the audience who you could tell were really reliving some fond memories with each song that took them down their own memory lane.

Stop #3
At intermission, I gave MVP his next card, asking him to take a walk down to the National Tree. I haven't been in the past couple years but I always think it's a nice little DC thing to do. After the show ended, we walked over and strolled around the tree and the 50+smaller state trees, each decorated with ornaments donated by some school or arts program in that state. But as we were walking over to the tree, MVP was getting a little antsy wondering what we were in for AFTER the tree.

Stop #4
I let MVP open his fourth card on the walk over to the tree, asking him if he'd like to have dinner at Medium Rare. We had talked about going there for awhile, and I figured it would be a great place for an early-ish dinner. He was STOKED. Medium Rare is just a set menu of salad, bread, and steak frites. We hopped in a cab after the tree and got to the restaurant around 6 and were happy to be seated right away. Dinner was delicious. Even though there was little point to me giving MVP his 5th and final card (since he had pointed to Stop #5 from the cab, exclaiming smartly "I bet that's where you want to go after dinner!), I handed the card over anyway.

Stop #5

Each year, the National Zoo gets all gussied up and hosts visitors for Zoo Lights. It is free admission and you can walk around, take in the lights, enjoy some cocoa. On the weekends, they also often have carolers or singing groups. It was a nice way to end our Christmas Day in DC (and walk off some of that food we had eaten at brunch and dinner!)

We did not get home too late, but were both completely exhausted from the looooong day. I guess I was having so much fun that I totally forgot to take more pictures -- sorry about that! Hopefully it becomes an annual tradition and I can be sure to take more pics next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

First day back in the office....ouch. I am definitely not loving this back to the grind thing, but thankful that it is super quiet (almost totally DEAD) in the office today. Hopefully the rest of the week stays quiet so I can catch up a bit on my blog reading, and MORE importantly, my own posting.

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I'm loving....that I have had so much fun and good times to fill you all in on. I definitely have a fair share of blog material!

I'm loving....that this was the best Christmas I have had since I was little. From my Christmas Day of Adventure in DC with MVP, to going first to his parents' for Christmas, then travelling up to my Pop-Pop's in NJ, I feel like I have been celebrating Christmas for a week and a half straight.

I'm loving....that MVP and I survived so much travel together this past week. I firmly believe that sometimes situations like that can bring out the *worst* in people. But we managed to make it through all of it with flying colors. Including one cancelled flight and a 3.5 hour drive that ended up taking 7 hours, true story.

I'm loving....all the good food and tasty treats I have indulged in the past couple weeks (although it will be back on the healthy eating wagon after New Year's!!)

I'm loving....that starting January 8th, "Watch What Happens Live" is going to be on five, count 'em FIVE nights a week!

I'm loving....(and seriously missing) diners. We just don't have too many down here in the DC I definitely made two diner stops while visiting up in NJ.

I'm loving....(and seriously missing) Wawa. I think I managed to make at least 4 stops in the 2 days I was in NJ. Oh Wawa Shortie....I miss you already!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Annual Cookie Party Recap

As I blogged about last year, one of my friends hosts a group of us for a holiday cookie exchange party. A get together that has turned into a competition over the years. Whenever we get together, no matter what time of year, conversation always turns to the cookie party. Who had won last year, what people were planning for the next year. We take this thing SERIOUSLY.

I have not won this thing since (I think) I really wanted to try and up the ante a little bit. I've been thinking in years past about a ravioli cookie. This year felt like the year to finally give it a go.

I settled on a s'mores ravioli -- a sort of sugar cookie dough with a chocolate, graham, and cheesecake filling (I had researched that Fluff wouldn't turn out that well.

I got all my ingredients. I even got new kitchen gadgets.

The night before the party, I got to work. Things were going along quite well...I had the fillings prepped in the dough and was ready to ravioli the heck out of them.

Notice the glass of wine in the back...that would be one of a few glasses consumed after things took a turn for the worse...

Following the recipe...well, it just was not working. I became irritated, then frustrated, then stressed. Like, real stressed. I left the apartment at about 10:30 to go get more supplies from the grocery store. I ended up having to scrap a whole batch because I just could not get them to work. I gave up and went to sleep, hoping I could figure things out in the morning.

The next day, I woke up and decided to abandon the very pretty and precise ravioli shape and just try to free-form them. Basically, I was gonna wing it.

So more dough and filling was made...and I made things that sorta-kinda resembled raviolis and put them into the oven. And took much longer to bake than they should.

And came out looking nothing like ravioli. They looked like little Christmas sombreros.

I was distraught. Actually distraught was probably an understatement. I was supremely disappointed in myself. I was probably *this close* to a temper tantrum; it was NOT pretty.

After I let myself wallow for a bit, I chalked this year up to a wash, boxed up my cookies and headed to the party. After all, it's about the good food and the good company anyway, right? We had a lovely dinner (with the Trophy earning a spot in the middle of the dinner table) and then set out the cookies. There were only 5 of us this year....maybe I might have a shot?

The competition was still looking tough though. A chocolate coco-nutty cookie, two different chocolate chip cookies, and some seriously decadent looking peanut butter bars.

And my stupid Christmas sombreros.

But somehow....a Christmas miracle took place. Those little sombrero suckers won! Maybe people felt bad for me....maybe those chocolate chippers cancelled each other out. WHO CARES -- I WON!!!!

I was so stinking excited. I raced over to MVP's place afterwards and he didn't even bother to ask me about the party. He had seen how upset I had gotten earlier the day and had SEEN those sad ravioli wannabes. I pulled out the trophy and exclaimed I had won and he looked at me, and serious as a heart attack, asked,

"What happened, did no one else bring any cookies?"

Gee, thanks for the support! After confirming that yes, in fact, my cookies had BEAT OUT other options, I got to celebrate my sweet, sweet victory with a glass of bubbly.

I am so grateful to not only have a friend who puts this together for us every year (THANK YOU!!) but am lucky to have such a fun group of friends who make this event such a memorable evening each holiday season. It is one of the things I most look forward to each year and a tradition I hope we can keep going for years to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Rose for Christmas

My mom texted me this pic today, saying "Look what Grandmom sent for Christmas"

Temps are in the thirties at my mom's house, so nothing should be growing or blooming. But lo and behold, this rose bloomed on one of the rosebushes at her house. I don't tend to get all other-worldly or anything like that...but I do think it has something to do with my Gram, whose name was Rose, making an appearance for Christmas. I always miss her the most at this time of year, and had just been thinking about her this morning.

Merry Christmas to you too, Gram.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I really don't know where last week went! Things have been busy busy BUSY at work (mostly in a good way) although there is LOTS to do before folks start leaving for holiday time off. My continues busy-ness at work is really still to blame quietness on the blog lately....still hopeful that I can get back to regular postings but I love taking my "mental health" breaks throughout the day to read all of my regular blogs.

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I'm loving....the breathtaking image of all the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery on my drive in to work this morning. What an amazing service done last weekend by Wreaths Across America and all of their wonderful volunteers.

Photo from The Washington Post.

I'm loving....that it feels like my cold is almost all gone. Although I think MVP may be suffering through his time with that same cold now...

I'm loving....the email I got from MVP yesterday letting me know his Christmas pants were a hit at his office holiday party.

I'm friend's annual Cookie Party this past Sunday. Too much fun to list here, and a blog post dedicated to this fabulous annual event is on it's way, I promise! If you are unfamiliar of how deadly serious this annual bake-off is, you can read about last year here and here. Something has not changed since last year friends still have *the* cutest kids on the planet.

I'm loving....that I am *just* about finished with holiday shopping. Some final presents that were ordered online should be arriving this week. Some of them I was lucky enough to send straight up to my mom so that she could wrap them for me (what a HUGE help, right?)

I'm loving....the Christmas Day I have planned for this Saturday for me and MVP. I am literally giddy with excitement over this. While I LOVE surprises, MVP generally does not, so I really love that he is being such a good sport and letting me plan this out and leave him in the dark on the details.

I'm loving....all the good things I am finding on Pinterest lately. Are you all on there too?? Then please link up with me since I know you all are likely to have TONS of fabulous things pinned for me to drool over and lust after :)

I'm loving....that this is my last full week in the office until 2012. That is just about the best Christmas gift anyone could ask for!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday

This week seems to be chugging along at a pretty quick clip -- great for getting to Friday faster, not so great when I think about how MUCH needs to get checked off my work to-do list before the end of this week. Aiming for slow and steady and hoping I can clear all my hurdles before the weekend. Busyness at work probably has some bearing on the quietness on the blog lately....hopefully I can get back to regular postings but I am still sure to take sanity breaks throughout my day to read all of my regular blogs. Definite bright spots to the day!

Despite the absolutely dreary weather here in DC today, I feel like I'm in a pretty good mood and am thankful to have a bunch of things I'm loving on this gloomy Wednesday.

What I'm Loving Wednesday

I'm loving.... holiday cards! I got my very first one in the mail the other day and was absolutely giddy. I also was able to get a bunch of mine addressed the other night, so hoping I should get them all out in the mail by Friday -- hooray! Not as excited about my card as in year's past, but I am excited that I will be getting them out much earlier than I have in previous years.

I'm friends annual Cookie "Party" this Sunday. I say "Party" because this is just a clever disguise for a cut-throat cookie competition. Easily one of my fave holiday traditions, esp the fact that she feeds us a fabulous dinner and always has good wine. I am still on the fence about what recipe to use this year -- any good suggestions out there?? I haven't won in YEARS, so I am kind of itching for the title again...

I'm loving....that the new pantry at work now stocks Coke Zero. Although, I fear it may just enable my addiction.

I'm loving....chipping away at my gifts list. Slowly but'll all get done. Mostly online to save me from the stress of dealing with crazy holiday shoppers.

I'm loving....that this year, I get TWO Christmases. MVP and I are flying down to his parent's house for a few days, then on Christmas day flying back up here to head up to my Pop-Pop's house in NJ for a couple days with my family. This is another first for me, and I'm excited and nervous at the same time.

I'm loving....the new Bare Escentuals eye shadows. Have any of you tried these? I mean, I consider myself an absolute product junkie. I have a whole dresser drawer full of makeup alone (I know, I know) But I was so blown away by these. The consistency, the gorgeous shade selections, the staying power. These are my new go-to.

I'm loving....that Starbucks now has K-cups. Hallelujah -- mornings just got a little bit better!

I'm loving....a Christmas Adventure Day I am planning for MVP. I know he doesn't read this, but I don't want to give away any details here, just in case :) I am so super excited for it -- actually, it may be more of a present for ME than it is for him.

I'm loving....good things happening for good people. My friend winning an iPad (jealous!), another friend about to start a new and really exciting opportunity for work, friends having babies and announcing's all just so much more lovely when good things happen to good people.

I'm loving....all the fabulous things I find on Pinterest. I try to limit my time on there, because I think I could easily play around on that site for HOURS. Anyone else out there feel the same? Would love to follow some of your boards on Pinterest!

I'm loving....Words with Friends. You can find me on there at TerpGirl99. Seems Alec Baldwin is a Words with Friends fanatic too :)