Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Christmas vacation has officially come and gone in record time and I'm still in denial.  There's nothing like a 4am alarm clock on a Sunday morning to abruptly force my return to work.  Aside from being too short, I had a fantastic holiday week.  Here's a brief glimpse at the friends, family, fun, and good eats that I enjoyed.

Just prior to making the trip to Atlanta, I hosted a group of triathlon friends for a Christmas light run followed by a cookie exchange.  After a 6+ mile run, we warmed up with a bowl of soup and then proceeded to eat our weight in cookies.  


The cookies included peanut butter, chocolate chip, snowflakes, espresso chocolate chip, ginger molasses, bacon chocolate chip, shortbread, and vegan chocolate cupcakes.  My freezer is now stocked with an assortment of goodies to grab when my sweet tooth strikes.  This has created a major battle that I am loosing between my willpower and cookies calling my name.


Our family has developed a tradition the Saturday prior to Christmas.  Each year we run the Atlanta Christmas 5k and then enjoy breakfast at Highland Bakery.  Despite a cold and rainy start to the race, the weather cleared just in time for the start.  Bailey took top honors as the 1st place dog - helping to pace me to a 22 minute finish.  Dad, Royce, Erin, and Mom were all shortly behind.  My Ironman pace has become quite comfortable and this was a reality check that it's time to find some speed again.


While I was excited for the 5k, the majority were in it for the breakfast alone.  We started with mini sweet potato biscuits and then moved on to various plates including a BLT, crab cake benedict, omelets, and cilantro corn pancakes.  Our stomachs left full and happy.


One of my favorite moments of vacation was curling up on the couch - fireplace roaring and tree lit - and watching classic Christmas movies.  Home Alone is equally as good now as it was when I was a kid!  I also watched the entire 4th season of Homeland over a few days.


We had an early "Christmas Eve" celebration with my grandparents on Sunday.  Our buffet style meal including beef tenderloin sandwiches ( SO GOOD!), quinoa pizza bites, coconut shrimp, kale salad, veggies and hummus, and an assortment of cookies.


Tuesday was family night and included a friendly golf competition at Top Golf  in Alpharetta.  Imagine golf meets bowling alley.  It's a great concept and tons of fun for beginners to professionals alike.  They currently have just 12 US locations, but several more are coming soon.  I wish they had a Charlotte location.


Our golfing abilities varied greatly, but paired with some drinks and snacks, we all hit some good shots, had a great time, and discussed planning our return visit.


Christmas Eve commenced with baking and cooking several Christmas dishes, included a 12 mile run, and concluded with a great home-cooked meal.


Creamy Vegetable Soup is a vegan recipe that uses pureed cauliflower for the creamy texture and pairs a variety of winter vegetables (brussel sprouts, turnips, sweet potato, rutabaga) with hints of dijon and fresh herbs in the broth.  This will definitely be a recipe that I make again.  Along side we had a pomegranate waldorf salad and pumpkin cornbread muffins.


Royce and Erin joined us after dinner for our traditional Christmas Eve gift - PAJAMAS!  We all curled up in our new cozy pjs and watched Home Alone 2 - some of us doing more watching the back of our eyelids rather than the movie.


I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad loved having both kids home for Christmas.  I think it's pretty incredible that both Royce and I have been home on Christmas Day to celebrate all together for every year of our lives.  31 years and counting!


Christmas morning has changed slightly over the years, mainly starting a little later than the 6am present opening time of our childhood.  Everyone opened stockings and then were drawn into the kitchen by the smells of breakfast.


Sweet rolls stuffed with cream cheese and rolled in cinnamon sugar and pecans, grits casserole, and grapefruit and orange segments paired to create our traditional Christmas breakfast.


Santa was quite generous for yet another year, with great gifts that included an Ironman Chattanooga memory frame, boots, home decor, cooking classes, pancake, mix, a purse, lotion, and many stocking stuffers.


This little gem has the potential to be one of the most exciting gifts.  Royce and Erin gave me an entry into the drawing for an Ironman World Championships drawing.  I'll have fingers crossed on New Year's Day that the name pulled is mine!


Last year we all enjoyed an Italian dinner so much that we requested the same for this year.  Vegetable lasagna, caesar salad, and homemade garlic wheat rolls made for a very satisfying dinner.  If there's one thing our family does really well, it's cooking and eating delicious meals.


Lastly, my contribution to our Christmas meal was a banana cake with praline filling and a white chocolate ganache icing.  We ate our cake while bundled up with blankets in front of the outdoor fire pit.  It was the perfect conclusion to a fantastic family holiday.


The remainder of the week seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and then I was on the road back to Charlotte to work on Sunday.  I'm so thankful that I was able to spend the week in Atlanta with my favorite people savoring the Christmas holiday.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS!  
2014 HAS BEEN A WONDERFUL YEAR FOR ALL OF US AND WE HAVE EQUALLY HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR 2015.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving

If Thanksgiving is all about being thankful and spending time with those that we love, then our family's holiday was perfect.  Thursday morning began with an early 6 miles of speedwork on the treadmill followed by a 4 mile run outside with Dad.  


We had a healthy breakfast of green smoothies and pumpkin swirl bread, and then proceeded to enjoy a lazy morning in front of the fireplace watching the Macy's parade and reading the newspaper.


As you can see, Bailey was quite content to spend the morning sleeping next to the fireplace.


My grandparents and uncle arrived in the early afternoon, and we grazed on smoked salmon rolls, beet crudit├ęs, rosemary roasted nuts, apple slices with brie cheese, wasabi crab bites, and cheese and crackers.  The wasabi crab bites and salmon rolls were the favorites, but I couldn't keep my hand out of the roasted nuts.


Bailey made sure to stay right by my side, reinforcing her love for my short visits.


Much of the meal was prepared in the couple of days prior to Thanksgiving Day, but Mom had a few last minute dishes to finish.  She always prepares a delicious feast, and this year was no exception.


Keeping with annual tradition, Dad was put in charge of the turkey.  The bird was stuffed with oranges and apples, rubbed in an herb mixture, and roasted on the Green Egg for 8 hours.  The result was a perfectly cooked turkey.


Our meal consisted of smoked turkey and gravy, cranberry walnut stuffing, oyster stuffing, mashed parsnips and rutabaga, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, celery salad, and homemade dinner rolls.


A little bit (or a lot) of everything rounded out my plate.  There's just something about that traditional Thanksgiving meal that keeps me craving the combination of flavors.  If only I had a plate of leftovers in the freezer . . .


We spent our meal playing a game of question and answer, reminiscing over family memories, accomplishments, favorite foods, dream vacations, and many other random topics.  


Family is most certainly at the top of my list of things that I am thankful for, and I couldn't be happier to call them my own and to be able to make the trip home to celebrate together.



The remainder of the holiday weekend included more mornings of sleeping in and lounging by the fire, watching the newest Hunger Games movie, hikes in the woods, and a brother and sister bike adventure.

Happy Thanksgiving!