Dec 272013
 

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Happy Festivus! Merry Christmas!

It was a fun one this year! Michael and I woke up Christmas morning and Bella donned her gay apparel and we unwrapped presents! Bella first, of course. She didn’t seem to “get it” but she loved her new rope toy. She immediately ran off to destroy it while we opened our presents.

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It was a leisurely morning. Michael built a fire, we watched A Christmas Story and just chilled out until my parents arrived. They were on their way south–somewhere SUNNY AND WARM (jealous) and they stopped in Portland to take us to brunch before they went on vacation. We went to Gracie’s again this year. We used to go to The Heathman for Christmas brunch and then one year I was too late making a reservation and they were booked so I tried Gracie’s and we loved it much better. That is the new norm now.

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It was such a nice, sunny day out in Portland! We arrived at Gracie’s and had a nice table near the window. I was in desperate need of some coffee. I’ve been so tired lately. Not quite the “run down” tired but more like “I think I’m getting sick and I’m so sleepy” tired. The coffee took the edge off, slightly.

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Gracie’s is in the Hotel deLuxe–a very swanky old-world hotel downtown. It was built in 1912 and was remodeled back to it’s glory. There are old black and white photos from the 20′s–50′s movies all over the hotel. It adds to the 1940′s glamour of it all.

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I’d been craving French toast lately and the first year we went to Gracie’s I had theirs and it was a-mazing!! But when I got there and looked at the menu, I ended up getting something else. I ordered the eggs benedict on top of crab and shrimp cakes. Wow, it was a decadent dish! The hollandaise sauce was surprisingly light tasting and I loved the crab and shrimp cakes. It was cool that they put the poached eggs on that instead of biscuits.

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I think their ketchup was homemade. It was great. Michael got the huevos rancheros. I had a bite; it was pretty spicy. Yum!

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My parents love this restaurant, too, so it’s nice that we can do this. After brunch I asked the front desk if we could see a room. It’s a hotel that I’ve considered booking for our wedding night. The front desk clerk graciously gave us a tour of a few different rooms. The deluxe king suite was super nice! It was huge! With windows on two walls overlooking downtown Portland. There was a humongous walk-in-closet and a huge bathroom. It was a really nice room and I could see us staying there after the wedding. I was glad we got to take a peak.

After that we went back to the house for presents and visiting and then my parents took off for parts unknown in sunny California. Michael and I headed over to his mom’s house for the evening.

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We had lots of munchies there — a cheese and cracker plate, a “everything pickled” plate, a veggie and yogurt dip plate. Plenty of food! Michael’s mom did some kind of beef tenderloin for dinner. It was perfectly prepared. She wrapped it in the cooking twine and then used the Montreal seasoning to crust the outside of the beef.  It was so good. I’d love to try something like that but cooking meat is not my specialty.

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Michael made his mac n’ cheese and it was a big hit, as usual. I had a little but of everything. Honestly, I was still pretty full from brunch!

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(It’s been a lot of eating lately. Like a little too much honestly. I most definitely will not be stepping on the scale until I get back on track. Too many Christmas cookies (delicious ones made by Michael’s sister) and lots of carby-good things.)  It was a really nice holiday with everyone. I was glad we got to see everybody. I wish I’d been able to see my brother. It sucks he lives so far away.

One of the gifts we got from Michael’s mom was a headed mattress pad. I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I miss having flannel sheets in the winter time but Mr. Scrooge hates them and so we haven’t had flannel sheets. But the electric pad is dual controlled! His and hers temperature settings. Finally, one of the gifts Michael gave me was a Kindle. I’m also excited about this but honestly struggling with it. I’m usually pretty tech-savvy but for some reason it’s hard to figure it out! I KNOW there is a way to check out ebooks from my library for the Kindle but I can’t figure it out. Any tips??

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Dec 102013
 

While my weekend started off not so great, with Bella getting injured, some of the weekend was actually great! Saturday I got up early to go to this kettlebell gym I’ve been trying out (more on that later), then came home to make my potluck dish and we headed out for my family Christmas party. It was at my aunt’s house in Troutdale this year. It was also my grandmother’s 92nd birthday!

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As usual there was a TON of food there. Someone had made my grandpa’s awesome garlic dip, I made a brussels sprout salad, and Michael made his famous mac n’ cheese. There were so many things to snack on it was hard not to just graze all afternoon long.

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There was also plenty to drink too! Lots of wine to choose from. I stuck with water for most of the afternoon and then finally had some. My aunt also brought out a bottle of her AMAZING eggnog, affectionately named Gregnog after my cousin who had way too much of it a long long time ago. My aunt keeps her recipe secret and I would LOVE to have it! It’s the best eggnog I’ve ever had, and it is potent! One small glass is usually enough for most people.

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Yum yum yum! Gregnog! Lots of family came from all over –a bunch from Washington, Texas, Oregon and Wyoming. It was so good to see family I hadn’t seen since this summer (and a few since last Christmas). There was also a lot of shenanigans and photo-bombing this year.

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The group was a little smaller this year as many family members couldn’t make it. (One cousin is graduating from medical school next weekend, the other is in the Army and my brother and his wife are too far away to visit.) It would have been nice if we could all be together. After it got dark we had a visitor.

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A friend of the family that has always played Santa paid us a visit and especially came for Grandma! She got an extra special present for her birthday:

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I love that picture of grandma! Haha! And I also love that even though all the little kids are old enough now to know the truth, they all still play along. Everyone is a good sport. It’s kind of my favorite part of the Christmas party. The kids sang a Christmas song with Santa and then he was on his way. A little while later, mysteriously our friend Randy showed up just in time for dinner. ;)

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Dinner was GOOD. It’s always good, but my uncle Pete is the master of the BBQ. He grilled and cooked a prime rib and a pork for three hours out in the frigid air and created an amazing dinner. I had the pork and it was perfect; couldn’t have been better. There was the mac n’ cheese, my salad, a caesar salad, crusty french bread and two different kinds of potato casseroles. My aunt also brought some of her homemade pickled beans which were so spicy and delicious. She said the secret to pickling beans is to add grape leaves in the jar because it makes them crunchy instead of mushy. Good tip.

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My plate was packed with a little bit of everything:

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Melt in your mouth soft meat and full of flavor. Of course there was also dessert–my aunt made cupcakes from scratch. The mini cupcakes were vanilla with marshmallow in the center–kind of like a twinkie. She also made some larger once with caramel in the center but I was way too full to even try it. There was a German Chocolate cake and some Christmas cookies, too. As you can imagine, temptation was all around.

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After everyone ate and was in a proper food coma, we did the white elephant gift exchange. My uncle Mike is usually the one that coordinates it but he wasn’t here this year. My cousin Greg did the honors. I brought a super awesome gift–a handmade artsy flask with a cool looking octopus on it. It was very popular and stolen a few times.  My cousin Anna got it (then it was stolen a few times and ended up going home with my uncle).

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Pretty cool looking, huh? Well my cousin Adam outdid me. The gift Michael picked under the tree ended up being a flask as well. Check it out:

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Yes that flask is three times the size of a normal flask AND it’s furry. The outside is made of some kind of animal skin!! It was a pretty funny moment. I was first to pick and got a zombie survival kit–complete with a guide, a Swiss Army knife, a lighter, a mini bottle of whiskey and a box of twinkies. But since I was first I got to pick something else at the very end. I went home with a gift pack of gourmet hot cocoa mix, cookies, a bottle of nice Oregon wine and a jar of Nutella. I’ll be honest, it was the Nutella that made me pick that gift. :)

After the gift exchange Michael and I left. We had to get home to let Bella out of her crate and give her the puppy medicine for the night. While we were gone our dog walker came over and let her out, played with her a bit and fed her dinner. It was nice because we were gone so long and I worried about her since she wasn’t feeling well. I’m really grateful that our dog walker lives so close and really loves Bella! I wish we could have stayed longer at the party but, you know how it is! Got to get the kids to bed!  ;)

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