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Prime Rib on Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
I love how certain foods always remind me of a holiday. My Nana's green chili rice will always remind me of Christmas in Hugoton. A mint green pistachio salad will always take me back to Christmas at my Grandma and Grandpa Roe's house. My mom's sweet potato casserole tastes amazing any time of the year, but best on Thanksgiving.

Prime Rib is quickly earning its place in my holiday food memories log. Since 2012, Mike and I have been serving Prime Rib for Christmas Eve dinner at our house.  When we first hosted my parents in our new home in December 2012, we wanted something really traditional, and Christmas-y for our Christmas Eve dinner. I had recently received Pioneer Woman's A Year of Holidays cookbook, and we thought that was a good place to go for inspiration. Her Christmas Eve dinner menu included Prime Rib, and we both instantly knew that's what we wanted to try.

Prime Rib is expensive, so it's definitely a treat for Christmas Eve. Mike reserved our aged beef Prime Rib this year at a local butcher shop. Look how excited he was to bring it home!

A key to a great Prime Rib (and my favorite part!) is a nice, seasoned crust. Mike does a great job seasoning it with lots of salt, peppercorns, and herbs. Makes my mouth water just looking at it. 

Even Missy couldn't resist the divine smell! 

Besides an amazing Prime Rib dinner, the best part of Christmas Eve this year was how low-key and relaxing it was. We loved having both sets of parents in town and hosting them at our home. My parents, Mike and I went to the 3:30 p.m. service at church to be home in time to enjoy appetizers, Champagne, and visiting with Ron and Judy before dinner was ready.

We took pictures by the tree, snacked on baked Brie and salmon from Seattle, and visited until the Prime Rib was done.

For dessert I made this amazing triple buttermilk chocolate pound cake. I saw this recipe in my Southern Living a few years ago, and had to try it. It's filled with buttermilk, instant espresso, dark chocolate and plenty of sugar, so you can imagine how rich and moist it is. It's a really wonderful dark chocolate cake to make for Valentine's Day, too. I skip the powder sugar based glaze because I think it's sweet enough, and I like the 'all chocolate' look. 

It was a very Merry Christmas indeed. Hope you all enjoyed good food and time with family as well. 

Christmas Week

Friday, December 23, 2016
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! Mike and I are preparing to host our parents for Christmas Eve tomorrow, and we've had a nice week leading up to Christmas taking in yearly traditions, listening to lots of Christmas music, watching holiday movies, and pre-ordering the Prime Rib.

 It's always fun to have both sets of parents here for Christmas. It's been such a busy year, I don't think my dad has been at our home since the Derby Day party, and Ron and Judy split their time between Seattle, Wichita, and somewhere warm for the winter (this year it's Phoenix) so it's great to all be together.

The only thing that doesn't quite feel like Christmas is the weather. Sixty degree weather and severe thunderstorms in the forecast feels more like spring rather than Christmas Day. #lifeinKansas

Sunday afternoon my mother and I went to our annual Nutcracker performance. Ballet Wichita always does a fantastic job, but this year the dancers seemed better than ever. I was mesmerized by the Snowflake Scene. If you haven't seen this scene from The Nutcracker, you really must. It's incredible. I always just want to step into the Snowy scene!

My favorite scene from the Nutcracker - pure magic!

Another favorite? The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, of course! 

The guest artists this year were from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and they were amazing! The Sugar Plum Fairy was so good- she seemed to effortlessly dart across the stage.

We've also enjoyed filling the cold, dark evenings with favorite Christmas movies and TV specials. The Pentatonix Christmas special was one of my favorites this year. Mike doesn't understand how I can watch movies over and over, but to me that's all part of the tradition and fun.  "Elf," "The Holiday," "Polar Express" and the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" are all staples for me.  I discovered a new favorite this year, too. "Christmas in Connecticut" was darling! If you like classic movies, give it a watch.

"The Holiday" is a Christmas classic for me. 

I can't believe I hadn't seen this one. It was so great!

Even Missy May is feeling festive. She's been sporting her Christmas sweater all week.

Merry Christmas all! May your holiday weekend be filled with love, friends and family, good food, and happy memories. 

What I'm Loving This Week

Monday, December 12, 2016
Happy Monday, friends! Hope everyone has a good week ahead of them. It's the time of year for happy celebrations but also a packed schedule. It's always good to remember to make time to enjoy, and take a "breather."

Here's what I'm loving this week. What's making your spirit bright these days? I'd love to hear!

Pantone's Color of the Year

Is anyone else loving Pantone's Color of the Year, "Greenery"? I always look forward to the announcement - it's kind of fun to see how they interpret the 'vibe' for the year through a color. I remember the year Mike and I got married the color was Tangerine Tango - which I wasn't crazy about, but I loved 2013's Emerald.

This year, though, is my color. I love it! I can't wait to see it on decor and clothing. Green has always been my favorite. My bridesmaid dresses were this kind of green, and senior year of high school I painted my room this same shade of green. It just makes me happy. I love what the said about this color:

"A life-affirming shade, Greenery is emblematic of the pursuit of personal passions and vitality."

Kacey Musgraves' Christmas Album

A lot of Christmas albums sound the same to me. Everyone does their rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and "The Christmas Song," and while they're always nice, they're always a bit repetitive. Kacey Musgraves is quickly becoming a favorite of mine with her old school, Patsy Cline-charm and witty lyrics. I love her album "Pageant Material" (Cup of Tea, Biscuits, Dime Store Cowgirl - they're all fantastic!) but her Christmas album, "A Very Kacey Christmas," is the best I've heard in years. I even ordered a copy for my grandpa who's a true cowboy and former two-step king. Her Christmas covers are refreshing and updated while staying true to her retro vibe, and her originals are heartfelt, witty and fun. Break out your party dress for "Ribbons and Bows, " and your Kleenex for "Christmas Makes Me Cry."  My favorite cover is totally "Mele Kalikimaka." I really can't stop listening. It's that good.

Christmas Lights
I love taking a walk in our neighborhood. I wrote about it last year, but it is always such a beautiful reminder of how wonderful this time of year can be despite the cold and the frantic holiday shopping. I just love being surrounded by so many sparkle lights. It is really magical.

We decided to do a little throwback to our childhood with colored lights for the tree.

Our fireplace area always makes me happy this time of year. 

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad

This beer is my absolute favorite. It's incredibly flavorful. I love that they describe it as 'boozy' because that's totally what it is. It's full of toffee, vanilla and bourbon flavors and it's truly a treat to sip. This definitely isn't the cheapest beer you can buy, but it's so worth it. Perfect for a cold December night.

Saying 'Yes'

You knew this was coming, right? My obligatory Gretchen Rubin mention, of course. Last week on her "A Little Happier" mini podcast on Monday she mentioned it was beneficial to "say yes" this time of year. This caught my attention because 1) my New Year's resolution last year was to "say no" and 2) I had recently surprised myself by saying yes, and being glad I did.

So, here's what she says. During this crazy time of the year, it's almost easier to just say yes to all the holiday parties or commitments. You won't stress over making a decision, you'll surround yourself with friends and family (socially good for you), and you'll look back on it with pleasure. Gretchen doesn't always recommend "saying yes" but during the holidays she's suggests it actually helps us enjoy more.

My New Year's resolution last year was to essentially "say no" so I could do more. I have been pretty good about this and have seen that I've had much more time to enjoy and invest in the things I really care about. However, I do think Gretchen's got a point during the holidays. I recently went to two holidays parties this year, that I think my old self would have said I was too busy for, or too stressed to go to. It was actually just easier to commit to going, and then not think about the decision any more. I went, I socialized, I connected, and I enjoyed myself. Sure, I didn't get much done those evenings, but Gretchen's right. I was better saying yes this time.

Less stress by saying yes? I'm sure glad I made it to this party.

Have a great week all. Say yes, listen to Kacey Musgraves, and wear some green. It is the holiday season after all.

Things I learned from Nana

Sunday, December 4, 2016
My Nana would have turned 90 years old on Friday. She's been gone for five years, and oh, how I miss her. The older I get the more I remind myself of her, and the more I admire her talent, poise, warmth and kindness.

Over the weekend I have enjoyed thinking about all I learned from her - here's just a few of my favorites.

Be kind.
One of the greatest things I remember about Nana besides her talent and her glamour was her kindness.  She'd tell us that we didn't get to choose our looks or our talents but everyone could be kind. And Nana was just that. Her door was always open, her words kind, and her home full of warmth. Nana had a special place in the hearts of everyone she met and I know it was because of the kindness she extended to everyone so generously.

Put your face on. 
Nana was glamorous and never left the house without her makeup on. She would say she "needed to put her face on." She exuded that classic Hollywood glamour of the 50s and 60s - using Max Factor makeup and always donning bright red lipstick. She believed in having a sense of decorum, and told us not to go out looking 'slovenly.' Even typing this word makes me smile and think of Nana (and my mother!). I've gone out to the grocery store a few times without any makeup, wearing yoga pants, and I always think, "Oh man, Nana would not approve. I need to step it up and 'put my face on.'

Keep learning. 
When our family set up a computer in Nana and Grangran's office in the late 90s I don't think anyone expected much. But Nana got in there, and learned all that she could. She emailed us regularly and much to Grangran's dismay, she learned to buy and sell on eBay. (Emphasis on buy)

Mexican food is the best.
Visiting Nana's house always meant I could count on delicious Mexican food. Her kitchen was always full of tortilla soup and tamales, and every Christmas we had King's Ranch enchiladas, green chili rice, Nana's famous margaritas, and Mexican wedding cookies. It wasn't until I was quite a bit older that I realized most of my friends were eating turkey and mashed potatoes on Christmas. I just thought everyone garnished their Christmas plate with green chiles and guacamole.

When we out to eat it was always Mexican as well. Nana introduced me to wonderful Mexican dishes at a young age, and taught me important lessons - always choose green chili over red and there's nothing better than a warm sopapilla. Nana's favorite dish was Chile Rellenos. I remember her clicking her red nails, and placing her order - overemphasizing the Spanish words. "I'll have the Chil-lay Rey-Ah-Nooos."

As everyone knows, I too, always have an appetite for Mexican food. I would eat it everyday if I could. I plan to make Nana's traditional Christmas meal this month complete with her margaritas (oh man, do those pack a punch). I can't wait to taste all those delicious memories again.

Help others less fortunate than you.
Nana had a huge heart. I remember when one of Nana's former housekeepers who had previously been in a abusive relationship was getting remarried. Nana was so happy for her, but knew that she couldn't afford to have a wedding photographer. Nana offered to take all the wedding photos. My mother and I tagged along as Nana loaded up a bag with her cameras. She took tons of photos and although it was a fairly simple wedding, she raved about how beautiful the dresses and flowers were. I remember thinking that Nana didn't have to do any of this, but she did.

Bloom where you're planted.
I think it can be easy to question if you're in the right place in life. The right town, the right job. When I've got caught up on this my mother will remind me of the phrase, "Bloom where you're planted." Nana loved this phrase, too. Hugoton, Kansas is a great place but it's no mecca for the arts, music or culture by any means. It's just a nice little Southwest Kansas community. But Nana didn't stop that from 'blooming.'  She traveled, she painted hundreds of gorgeous watercolors, she won art competitions, she went to watercolor workshops, and she wrote for the local newspapers. She reminds me that our talents don't need to be in a specific place to be used.

Give generously.
Nana loved giving gifts - loved it! No matter the occasion she always had a gift for you.  I've definitely inherited this from her. Mike says I always have to be gifting - and will jokingly say to me, "Gifts for everyone!" Christmas at Nana and Grangran's was always over-the-top. All the daughters and granddaughters had gifts upon gifts to open until the living room was overflowing with laughter and wrapping paper. Nana face always lit up with joy watching us all open our gifts.

Nana's gift giving wasn't just for holidays. I remember when I had chicken pox in Kindergarten and Nana arriving in her Cadillac to take care of me. As she came through the door her arms were bursting with gifts. Clothing and jewelry for my mom, stuffed animals and cute outfits for me. When someone came to Nana's to visit, she always made sure they left with a gift. I vividly remember when one of her friends was over, she whispered to me to help her put together a gift from her 'gift stash' in the closet. I was instructed to go find something and put in in a gift bag with tissue. Nana presented the gift as if it was meant for the friend the entire time. She had that way of making every single person feel special.

In only the dramatic fashion that Nana could pull off, one year she wrote us all an 'ethical will' which basically was a collection of her thoughts on life and family.  I found my copy the other day and smiled at a few of my favorite lines:

"Be kind. I have always most enjoyed people who are funny and smart and kind. It has occurred to me that kindness is the only of these traits that you can easily develop."

"Every experience, good or bad changes us, makes us wiser if we learn from it."

"Surround yourself with people who absolutely love you. If someone doesn't absolutely love you, you absolutely don't have time to continue the relationship."

"Be gentle with with other's hearts. You have to treat everybody with love and respect, but remember you don't have to like everybody. You don't have to have everybody over to your house for Sunday dinner!"

"Watch only good movies and read good books. There is so much trash available that it can ruin your life."

"Change what you must in life but love what you have."

Happy birthday, Nana. Your gifts truly just keep on giving.

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