It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

I wasn’t sure what to write about today. It’s Thanksgiving week, and I’m thankful for so many things indeed!

I was looking through some old posts and photos for inspiration. There have been so many wonderful experiences in the past year, I thought I’d share some with you.

This first photo is my fireplace, with the first fire of the year. I love my fireplace. I love being a homeowner, and being able to host friends and give my daughter a comfortable place to grow and be. I love that during a summer storm, we sat and made s’mores right here in our house. I love the warmth the fireplace offers, and the decor. When we lived in an apartment for over 10 years, we didn’t have a fireplace, and we had one door and only three windows. I love being a homeowner. And I love my fireplace.

This next photo is from the first snowfall last winter. We don’t typically get a lot of snow, and it was so beautiful to wake up to this. It lasted all day, and into the next before the sun came out and melted it all away. I love that it covered the entire yard, and wasn’t just patchy. There’s a calm and silence that comes with quiet snow. I don’t know what it is, but the world seems to slow or even stop to enjoy the beauty.

We weren’t sure we could renew our Disneyland Passes last spring, but on what we thought would be our last day at the Parks, we were able to. I didn’t tell Hannah about it. For the last two years, our friends the Wright Family has taken us to the Parks in March. On that day, Baylee was going to purchase her own annual pass and we had a plan all set up. She talked Hannah into walking up to the ticket kiosk with her, and as they waited in line, she would tell Hannah, “You should ask your mom if you can renew your pass. Just ask her! Just do it!” We knew Hannah wouldn’t ask for such a thing without nudging, so Baylee kept at it.

Meanwhile, us moms (me and Stacie) were off to the side chatting. Stacie asked me a question that I can no longer remember. I held up my hand and told her, “Wait. Something really great’s about to happen.”

Then Hannah said, with no hope and a shrug, “Mom. Baylee says to ask if we can renew our passes today.” I simply said, “Sure.” We all laughed except Hannah, who took about 20 minutes to really process it. Even after we got the renewals and walked into the Park, she kept saying, “Wait. I don’t understand. What just happened?” It turned into one of our best trips to the Parks in a long time.

In April, we took our first ever Three-Generation Vacation. I treated my mom and daughter to a weekend at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. It’s a beautiful historical Inn, and has been the temporary home for several authors.

It was terribly cold and windy and even raining after the sun went done, but we were determined to eat at the Bella Trattoria. The problem was, it only offered outdoor seating and the wind kept blowing out the heating lanterns.

Nonetheless, we stuck it out. And I ate veal for the very first time in my life. I discovered… I like veal. I had always inherently been opposed to eating baby cow, but this was delicious. It was their veal lasagna. And of course, whenever I go somewhere new, if there’s an Italian dish on the menu, I can’t not try it. So I did. And I loved it. I loved it like I breathe, like the sky is blue, like I was born for that particular moment…

Until the tiramisu arrived. And then I was beyond satisfied. Especially because Con Te Partiro was playing over the sidewalk speakers. This was not the end to dinner. This was an experience. This was more than a memory. I may never eat there again. But I will never forget those flavors and aroma and atmosphere. It was heaven.

This is a view of Sunday morning outside our mini-suite. I woke up early and was transformed by the tranquil beauty and heritage of the building around us. It was so quiet, so peaceful and renewing. I want to live there forever.

Summer came and I got my first-ever BBQ. The exact same one my brother bought for himself a few weeks earlier and a few hundred miles away. We had fun laughing about that. This is my first-ever grilling experience: I roasted vegetables and grilled chicken.

The flames made me really nervous, but it turns out I can totally handle a grill. And that made me feel pretty confident.

The Three Generations again took a trip; this time to visit my big brother and his family in Las Vegas. I love driving, and my brother is so good at giving directions, so I had no problem finding their new home. We drove around the Hoover Dam, walked through a few casinos. But the most memorable moment (and what Hannah had been waiting for all weekend) was the Cokes Around the World tasting at World of Coca-Cola. They give you two trays with eight drinks each: the different flavors of Coke from everywhere. They were unique, they were flavorful, and some literally made us gag. It was a blast to share and taste and figure out who would like which one. We each had our own favorites. Surprisingly, mine was not from Italy. I don’t remember which one I liked best, but I do remember this fun experience.

My daughter took this last photo when I decorated for Christmas last year. I love nutcrackers. I mean, I love nutcrackers. Each year, I get at least one new one to add to my collection. Hannah doesn’t care for them. She really doesn’t care for them.

But she still managed to take this great picture and photoshop it for me. She’s really talented when it comes to art and photography. Someday she’ll be famous for it. Until then, here’s a sample of her work.

Well, those are my most favorite photo-memories for 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a Good Turkey.

And Frankly, My Dear… That’s all she wrote!


Recipe: Pizza Stuffed Pretzels

It’s a new month, which means a new Thursday Theme for my recipes. Since November tends to bring with it an abundance of busy-ness and activities, I thought perhaps Party Foods would be nice. Simple recipes you can make for gatherings, potlucks, open houses, or just because!

Today’s recipe was inspired when I took my daughter to visit family in Las Vegas about five years ago. We stopped at a snack bar and I delighted in this wonderful blend of Italian flavors, seasonings and salty pretzel goodness.

Since we had no such snack vender back home, it was up to me to recreate the taste. I did the best I could and you know what? I think I did pretty well!

Taste for yourself:

1 pkg – active yeast
1-1/2 Cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
3 – 4 Cups flour (more or less)
Pepperoni slices
Shredded cheese
Pizza or marinara sauce
I egg
1 TBS water
1 TBS Kosher salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and salt. Add flour, mix well until you have a stiff dough, not sticky. Roll dough out onto a clean, dry floured surface, to approximately 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch strips. Down the middle of each strip, spoon 1 TBS sauce. Place pepperoni on sauce. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold over then twist into pretzel shape.

Beat egg and 1 TBS water. Glaze each pretzel. If preferred, sprinkle more shredded cheese and Kosher salt on top of pretzels.

Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place pretzels of foil. Bake at 425 for approximately 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.

This recipe has been submitted to the 2011 Holiday Recipe Exchange. “Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Red Star Yeast.