Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Simple Holiday Moments

Sometimes it's the simple moments surrounded by family or friends that make the holiday season most special.  Here are a few of the moments that I most enjoyed and cherished during the past week.

A Christmas cookie exchange hosted by a friend in Charlotte.  

Running the Atlanta Christmas 5K with Dad, Mom, and Bailey

Bailey took off straight to the front of the pack, and with a time of 21 minutes, 
earned 1st place in the dog division.

After finishing the race with me, she proudly brought Dad across the finish line.

 Breakfast at Highland Bakery following the race is becoming an annual tradition.

This year's breakfast choices were The Highland Light Breakfast, Cilantro Corn Pancakes, and The Rustic Italian.  A few of their famous sweet potato biscuits also managed to make a trip home to Charlotte.  No idea how that happened . . . 

No Christmas is complete without an evening at Grandpa and Grandma's for dinner, conversation, and a gift exchange.  Grandma has a delicately decorated tree with ornaments from multiple generations.

Mom appears happy with her new scarf and matching gloves.

Grandpa and Grandma also celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary just a few days later.  
Quite a fine looking couple!

We ventured to Turner Field to check out Downtown Winter Wonderland - promoted to be a festival of  elaborate displays of lanterns, cultural foods, and entertainment.   The lanterns were the highlight of the night, but couldn't surpass the pathetic Chinese acrobatic show, fried versions of most any unhealthy food imaginable, and a cheesy carnival-like atmosphere.  Nonetheless, we all left laughing about the experience and are sure we will talk about it for years to come!

The annual AJC "Mammoth Crossword" provided a wordy challenge for several days.  
With a team effort we nearly reached completion.

Rainy day entertainment included burning off the dog's energy with some time on the treadmill.

A caramel brûlée soy latte, a good novel, and a lazy day on the couch.  Blissful!

Several mornings and evenings spent basking in front of the fireplace.  
You just have to fight Bailey for the front row spot that she so adores.

A post-hike lunch of BLT sandwiches, butternut squash soup, apple slices, and grapes.

Another comforting meal of soup, goat cheese and fig bruschetta, salad, and oranges.

Arriving home to several Christmas cards in the mailbox from family and friends.  

And finally, as 2014 approaches, a meal to bring a year of good luck and fortune.
Black eyed peas, greens, corn bread, roasted okra, tomato slices, and avocado.

What simple moments did you most enjoy over the holidays?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Very Merry 2013 Christmas


The past week has been nothing short of wonderful!  In addition to being home to celebrate Christmas all together as a family, there was plenty of time for relaxing, cooking and eating, workouts, and just hanging out those that I love the most.  I'll share many of my favorite moments from the week in a separate post.  For now though, I welcome you into our home for a family Christmas celebration.

Christmas Eve started with a father-daughter trip to to the pool for a short workout.  Back at home, I made foccacia bread from scratch - my first adventure with a yeast-based bread.  The major credit for Christmas Eve dinner goes to Mom, who worked tirelessly to create many great meals throughout the week.

Christmas Eve dinner featured butternut squash soup and roasted vegetable sandwiches.  The sandwiches were insanely delicious, including an herb goat cheese spread, roasted portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, and tomato.

We had a wonderful evening as a family at home - Christmas tunes playing in the background, stockings and gifts nestled under the tree, and a platter of sweets to munch on.  This years sweets included snickerdoodles (Dad and Royce's favorite), raspberry and apricot strippers (Mom's favorite), peppermint chocolate truffles (my creation), and chocolate dipped peanut butter balls.

For some entertainment, we played Apples to Apples.  Dad kept things laughable with funny faces and attention to detail (or lack thereof!).  Mom, however, was the clear winner.

By far our family's most memorable Christmas Eve traditions is opening a single specific present.  With only a few exceptions (slippers, robes), we always receive a pair of Christmas pajamas.  This year, however, we were surprised with matching adorable owl pajamas.  We are going to be one fine looking family in Whitefish, Montana in February, decked out in matching pjs!

Christmas morning arrived just a bit different this year.  For the first time in 25 years, Mom and Dad woke up without both of their kids under one roof.  Fortunately, Royce and Erin live only a few miles away and joined us shortly after we awoke.   Evidently we were well behaved this year, as Santa brought us several Christmas surprises.

A Set of Coach Bags
I hope Royce and Erin love their new rocking adirondack chairs for their front patio. 
Bailey was quite impressed by the hand-painted portrait that Mom received from Dad.
Dad received many plane-related gifts.
Royce models the selection of ski-gear we all received in preparation for our upcoming vacation in Whitefish, Montana.
Bailey and Dad are set to go flying
Amidst all of the fun and excitement, Royce and Bailey clashed faces.  Bailey did her best to apologize for giving Royce a fat lip.
Midway through present-opening, we took a break to indulge in breakfast.  As Royce described to Erin, our Christmas breakfast "is the best thing ever" and one that we all look forward to enjoying.  The traditional meal includes grits casserole, cream-cheese stuffed cinnamon pecan biscuits, grapefruit, and oranges.

I loved having a relaxed and quite Christmas day.  There was time for a bike workout, lounging, sipping a mug of tea, a nap, and a few hands of cards.

We snacked on some munchies in the mid afternoon - veggies with hummus, a great bruchetta with goat cheese and balsamic fig reduction, and cookies.

Bailey and I spent a few hours curled up by the fire - me with a good book and Bailey sleeping soundly.

 Royce and Erin returned for dinner and brought along Kaluha to enjoy some playtime with Bailey.  Sadly, there was a raccoon murder that left the poor raccoon in multiple pieces.

Mom once again prepared a fantastic dinner - vegetable lasagna, garlic bread, and caesar salad.  Just looking at the picture makes me wish I had another plate of it in my refrigerator!  We all agreed that lasagna may just need to become our annual Christmas dinner, not just because it was that delicious, but also because the advanced prep makes Christmas day stress free.  A glass of champagne added to the festivities.  Dessert was a pumpkin triffle - creamy bourbon spiked pumpkin layered with whipped cream and topped with a ginger snap.

Throughout the day Bailey wore her Christmas finest and basked in having all of "her people" at home for the entire day.

2013 was a very Merry Christmas for the Perkins Family.  We hope it was for you and yours as well!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Learning in the Florida Sun

The orthopedic conference for our PGY-3 class this year was the International Pediatric Orthopaedic Symposium in Orlando, Florida.  Our class of five set forth to sunny Florida last week to enjoy a combination of learning and fun.

We stayed at the Disney Swan Hotel, which also served as the location of the conference.  As soon as we stepped out of the taxi, there was no doubt we had arrived in paradise.  Don't get me wrong, Orlando is by no means true paradise, but after leaving the cold and wet of Charlotte winter, you would have thought we landed in the Caribbean!

After some resident and fellow specific sessions, we set out to Downtown Disney for our first dinner.  It would seem that the 3.5 miles from hotel to restaurant would be a quick trip.  Little did we realize that it would eventually take us 75 minutes to finally reach our destination - Fulton's Crab House.  The boys enjoyed sharing a seafood tower - featuring oysters, crab legs, lump crab meat, and shrimp.   I  feasted on a crab cake and caramelized brussel sprouts.

The conference days were jam packed full of learning from 7:30am to 6pm.  I snuck away for a brief reprieve from the bitterly cold conference room temperatures and enjoyed a nap in the sun.

Dinner night two was at Kouzzina - a restaurant owned by Cat Cora.  The Mediterranean and Greek influenced food was well executed despite lackluster service.

I ordered the fisherman's stew, which included a very large serving of muscles, oysters, scallops, shrimp, and mussels in a tomato broth.  On the side for something green, I chose roasted garlic field greens.  And to compliment the meal, a glass of sangria.

The Disney Boardwalk had a carnival type atmosphere, so naturally we had to take part in some overpriced carnival games.  Our competitive efforts won us a stuffed frog and a princess mini basketball.

So nice to enjoy time with our whole class!

Despite the lure of pools and sunshine, I tried to maintain some discipline and actually chose learning over leisure.  Until, of course, our last full day, when I opted for a half-day of sunbathing and beach volleyball.  

Thursday evening's meal was at Kimono's, a sushi restaurant and last night karaoke bar.  I started with a bowl of seaweed salad, then followed it with a vegetarian roll and bonsai roll.  The bonsai roll was a delicious combination of salmon, eel, and avocado.

One morning, I ran past this beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  With temperatures in the mid 80s on a daily basis, I almost forgot it was even December.

I enjoyed many early morning runs around the hotel property, boardwalk, and hollywood studios.   There was also a gym and lap pool that allowed me to keep up with some workouts.  Considering the long hours of sitting in lecture, the exercise was much needed!  In the peace and quite of the morning, there were many picture-worthy scenes around the property.

Each evening that we walked along the boardwalk, we would pass Boardwalk Bakery.  I kept eyeing the cases of pastries and even did a bit of research to learn that their desserts were worth a visit.  Friday night I wandered into their shop to select a dessert.  I was torn between two great looking options, so naturally, I chose both.  On the left is a peanut butter tart in a chocolate cookie crust, topped with a banana cream, and sprinkles of candied bacon.  FANTASTIC!  On the right is a caramel pecan sticky bun that I saved and enjoyed as a midmorning snack the following day.

For our last dinner, we stayed close by and ate at Il Mulino, an Italian restaurant in the Swan Hotel.  After a starter of warm bread and eggplant dip, I had a caesar salad.  For my entree, I went with the seared grouper over broccolini.  The fish was a bit overcooked and portion quite small given the $32 price tag.

Saturday afternoon arrived, and in a blink of an eye, our conference trip to Orlando came to an end.  It was a terrific conference and helped to reaffirm my interest in pediatric orthopedics.  After a short flight, I arrived back in Charlotte, returning to the reality of a cold rainy December.