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.

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