New York at Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2014

There is nothing like New York at Christmas. The word magical sounds very juvenile, but it's the only word I can think of that describes it perfectly! My dad was headed up to New York for work this week, and I happened to be at my parents' house when my mom was buying her ticket to join him. I still have a few extra vacation days for the year, and my mom really wanted me to join her - so I did! (Thanks for the ticket, mom and dad!)

I arrived Monday night and headed straight to the hotel to get a good night's sleep for the next day's activities.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and met Anna in the hotel lobby. I haven't seen her since her wedding (January 2013!), but it felt like we hadn't skipped a beat. I walked her to work and then we sadly had to say goodbye again. Good news - I'll see her next month!

Our hotel was right by the World Trade Center and the new Freedom Tower, so I had to stop for a quick pic.

While my dad worked, mom and I headed to the Christmas market in Bryant Park and spent some time looking at the little stands, drinking apple cider and watching the ice skaters. (The weather was about 50 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday - so nice!)

Up next, we had to stroll down 5th Avenue and see all the window displays!

The stores don't kid around with their Christmas decorations - so beautiful! Here's Saks...

And the World Famous Macy's Herald Square! (It's 9 floors, insane.)

No trip to New York is complete without a trip to the Rockefeller Tree!

We passed on ice skating, but it was fun to watch other people struggle. Ha!

After a quick lunch at Benjamin Steak House, our adventures continued! We spent more time walking around and stopping into fun shops, then headed back to relax before dinner. All that walking is exhausting.

The happy family on the way to dinner at Tribeca Grill! (Of course, the only picture I got of the three of us is blurry. Mom has the good ones!)

I was asleep by 9pm (really living it up in the city that never sleeps!) while my dad hung out with his worker bee friends in the bar until about 11:30pm. How embarrassing am I??

Wednesday morning, mom and I decided to figure out the fancy subway system to meet Candace for brunch. We had to switch trains and still survived (and on time, might I add).

We ate at a cute little restaurant called Jack's Wife Freda in SoHo. It's always fun to catch up with one of my old college friends! Plus, SoHo is my favorite area of NYC.

Here we are standing in front of live Christmas trees for sale!  They're only about $200...

Mom and I then braved the Subway again to head up to Times Square. It's probably my least favorite spot in New York, but always a must see. Plus, we had to pick up our Nutcracker tickets. Which leads me to....

I was like a kid on Christmas morning! It made me feel like a little girl, again. Speaking of which, there were so many little girls in fancy dresses with their hair all curled. They were the cutest, EVER!

Champagne for The Nutcracker. Aren't we fancy?!

Cheesin' from our seats!

We had such a great time! A childhood dream fulfilled!

Watching impossibly thin dancers for two hours sure makes you work up an appetite, so we headed to Levain Bakery. A must, according to the Baker gals. After standing in a quick line, we were the proud owners of 7 cookies! (Three of which came back to Atlanta for Debbie, Kelsey and Meagan.)

Chocolate Chip Walnut.... oh my heavens! This thing was not a cookie - it was a mini-pie! SO DELICIOUS!

After chowing down on our cookies, we walked through Central Park just as it was getting dark. Tavern on the Green was lit up so beautiful, but of course my stupid phone did it no justice.

We walked through the little markets outside Columbus Circle, then made our way past all the ritzy hotels and condos (Hello, Plaza!) to FAO Schwarz. I always have to stop in when I'm in town! When I was about six, on my first trip to NYC, Aunt Frances took me to FAO Schwarz and told me I could pick one thing out. I started crying because I was so overwhelmed! How is a six-year-old supposed to pick out one thing out of four floors of the most amazing toys!?

I do remember the Big Piano being....well, bigger.

We then headed up the other side of Central Park to meet Christine and dad for a drink at the Carlyle Hotel. The bar was packed, but we were able to score a table after a pretty short wait.

Then it was off to Betony for dinner! One of my old colleagues runs Taste of the Nation NYC and also works on the New York Wine & Food Festival, so I asked her for the recommendation. Thanks to her, they kept sending out more and more food! It was all very good and very fancy. (Of course, I forgot to take pictures.)

Before we fell asleep in our plates, it was back to the hotel to pass out. We turned on the TV, but I'm pretty sure we were all asleep before the first commercial!

On our last day, we spent the morning in the hotel before venturing out for lunch at Adrienne's in the Financial District. Christine works nearby and recommended it. SO GOOD and such a cute little restaurant! Highly recommend it. Check out this bad boy....

After walking around for about an hour, it was time to head to the airport. We ran into a little trouble with an angry police woman after our driver went the wrong way down a one way street - straight toward the World Trade Center. But we all made it out without a ticket and eventually made it back home to Atlanta last night.

It was such a fun trip and I am just so very lucky to have these kinds of opportunities! Thanks again, Mom and Dad!

Holiday Prep

Here's how my typical Christmas shopping goes... I buy a few gifts in November and I'm so proud of myself for getting a jump start! Next thing I know, it's December 22 and I haven't bought anything else since. I'm excited to say that I've been done Christmas shopping for weeks now! Of course, there are a few homemade items that need my attention, but I'm still proud of myself! Yippee!

Ok, last week...

I "won" a Girls Night at the new Kendra Scott at Avalon. They served us champagne and sweets and everyone got 15% off! Plus, since I was the host I was able to make something at the Color Bar... for free! It was a fun little mid-week girls night - topped off with dinner at The El Felix.

Adam and I had December 13th on our calendar for over a month - we were babysitting Jude! He was fussy in the beginning, but it was all worth it for the little smile fest we got from him!

In addition to our snuggle time with Jude, we spent the whole afternoon tracking down water for an event that evening. I was donating water and the delivery never arrived, so Adam and I grabbed all the water we could find at our house, my storage unit, Kroger and Publix. Ay yi yi! I ventured down to the party at JCT Kitchen & Bar about 11p on Saturday (post-babysitting) just to stop in. What a day! (The sparkling water went perfect with their "Sparkling Lights" party!)

Sunday, we celebrated Debbie's birthday with some yummy ribs and family time. Anddd that's it! Ok, I'm done for today.

date weekend

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last weekend, Adam and I had one of the rarest gems of all - a weekend with no work and no plans! Which means, we immediately decided we had to make plans!

We kicked off our "Date Weekend" with some post-work drinks on Friday, followed by dinner at the newest addition to the Marietta Square, Stockyard Burgers. We were super impressed with the food and the bar scene - finally a fun, yummy place nearby! (I had the Banh Mi Burger - so impressed, Marietta.) Of course, we felt the need to stop into Mulligan's for a late night drink (or two) before heading home.

On Saturday, we decided to be local tourists and check out one of Atlanta's newest attractions - Krog Street Market. I've heard awesome things about the "food stalls", but we were pretty disappointed. While I'm still excited about the restaurants that border the market - the market itself felt a lot like an airport terminal.

…And the lines were long. Everywhere.

We decided to head over to Atlantic Station and check out a movie - Interstellar. Long, but good!

Loved the gorgeous Christmas decorations at Atlantic Station!

We decided to finish the day with dinner at one of our favorites, La Parrilla! Sunday we did a whole lot of nothing, which was fabulous. We decided on take-out dinner at Nik's Place - one of our new favorites - and I made Adam drive down Maple Avenue so we could see the fun Christmas lights. A perfect ending to a weekend of just us!

Oh, I do have a recipe! I made this on Monday and it may be my new favorite. (I think I'm addicted to anything with cilantro and lime.)

Chicken Avocado Lime Soup
6 Servings

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (including whites, mince the whites)
  • 2 jalapeƱos, seeded and minced (leave seeds if you want soup spicy, omit if you don't like heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 medium avocados, peeled, cored and diced
  • Tortilla chips, monterrey jack cheese, sour cream for serving (optional)

  • In a large pot heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add green onions and jalapenos and saute until tender, about 2 minutes, adding garlic during last 30 seconds of sauteing. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, cumin, season with salt and pepper to taste and add chicken breasts. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium, cover with lid and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken has cooked through 10 - 15 minutes (cook time will vary based on thickness of chicken breasts). Reduce burner to warm heat, remove chicken from pan and let rest on a cutting board 5 minutes, then shred chicken and return to soup. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Add avocados to soup just before serving (if you don't plan on serving the soup right away, I would recommend adding the avocados to each bowl individually, about 1/2 an avocado per serving). Serve with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream if desired.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

We had a really great Thanksgiving this year! Every year is great, but this year felt really great! Maybe because we had a combined Thanksgiving, so I wasn't disgustingly full from eating two full meals? 

I kick-started my Thanksgiving break with another flat tire the day before Thanksgiving. Thanks to my dad for changing my tire and participating in a conference call at the same time! (That's his phone balancing on his leg.) Disclaimer: I do know how to change a flat - Adam made me learn in the dark, on a hill - but I was in work clothes and super close to their house. 

On Thanksgiving morning, Adam and I headed to my parents for a Thanksgiving Brunch with Mamabear. Since she's continually going downhill with her memory, we knew bringing her to the big celebration would be stressful for her and everyone else. But we all had a great morning!

Papabear did join us for all of the day's festivities - after relaxing in my mom's new Costa Rica chair.

We had three turkeys at the Bakers'! Dave smoked one, Debbie baked one and Adam fried one. They were all so delicious.

This turkey.

Check out this table! Yum, yum! So much to be thankful for! It was actually pretty hilarious, because there were 15 of us that had to keep passing all of the dishes all around the table. Buffet, next time. 

The day was really just a big game of "Pass the Baby". Precious Jude with his mama and aunts! (He's currently going through this fun phase where he doesn't really like me much. I get lots of pictures and hear stories of his big smiles, but lately all he does is cry around me. We'll fix this soon, I'm sure.)

Content! But no smile.

Adam had to work on Black Friday, because he works 2984792837 hours a week so why wouldn't he?  Saturday night we planned a get together with our friends. They hadn't been over for a bonfire this season, so we figured it was perfect timing! We had a great time, even if it wasn't even that cold out. I think the high was 60 during the day.

On Sunday, Adam and I volunteered in the nursery at church. Our room only had one kid - Jack - so he had our full attention. He was hilarious and so smart, even though he can't talk, yet.

After church we headed back to the Bakers' for Grandma's birthday lunch! It was so great to have her here to celebrate. Post-birthday lunch, Adam and I headed off to Pike to pick out our Christmas tree!

It was such a beautiful day, so we decided to take the pups to the dog park before we decorated. Hi, Ruth!

Ta da! Sticking with tradition, the top of this year's tree is one of our tacky hats from last Christmas. 

And check out our AMAZING outside decorations this year! I'm SO obsessed and want them to stay up FOREVER!!! Thanks to Adam for slaving on our roof to get those set up. I'll take credit for wrapping the handrails. :)

Seeing as last week was Thanksgiving, I have a recipe! I decided to make these Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes after a recipe I saw in Food Network Magazine. Mashed Potatoes are my mom's favorite part of Thanksgiving, so no pressure! I got rave reviews, and I actually liked them, too! (I made two dishes because we had 15 people at Thanksgiving - of course, we only went through one. Adam was happy - he ate the leftovers all week!) 

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Servings: 6-8
I made this two days prior, and then just threw it in the oven on Thanksgiving.

3 pounds large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch chunks
5 large garlic cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 to 8 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese, at room temperature, such as Montrachet
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the potatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until very tender.

Drain the potatoes and garlic and process them together through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade set on top of a bowl. (A FOOD MILL? Yeah, I don't have one. I just used my hand mixer, and it worked fine.)

While the potatoes are still hot, stir in the goat cheese, butter, sour cream, half-and-half, 4 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 9-by-12-by-2-inch oval baking dish, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot.