Friday, December 30, 2011

Ludachristmas 2011

Are you familiar with Ludachristmas? The long explanation is available here, but in my circle of friends, it's the most recent incarnation of our annual Christmas Eve Eve get-together. This year, we did it up good, meeting for dinner at the sole fancy restaurant in town, Tavern on Main.

Afterward, we retired to my friend's house for our signature cocktail of the year, Andre champagne with rosemary simple syrup.

We played a new favorite game — "Uncle Fritz Sits Happily In the Bathtub" — as explained in this episode of Side by Side with Susan Blackwell. We proceeded to our favorite game, which is crappy White Elephant, using only items purchased at the dollar store. I won a feather boa!

Our final tradition is to take a series of ridiculous photos that look like cast photos. This is us, fake laughing (or are we faking it?).

Fun was had by all!

Do you have big New Year's plans? Sean and I decided to go low-key this year, so I bought filet mignon steaks to make steak frites, two bottles of Asti (I prefer it to champagne) and we plan to get tipsy and maybe go to the movies. BIG FUN!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eating at Mike's American Grill

 My friend Mark has a love affair with Mike's American Grill, so much so that a stop there is a holiday tradition. The restaurant is located in a huuuuge building in Springfield, Va. I never had the chance to eat there with Mark until this year, when we carved out time to eat on Tuesday.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what exactly made the place so good, but I learned pretty quick. The menu is unpretentious, but everything you order is the best version you've ever had. Right down to the yeasty, donut-y rolls (shown above), every bite is totally a home run. Seriously, I'm already planning my next visit.

 After much deliberation, I had sirloin tips with penne in tequila lime cream sauce and it was SO GOOD. I was literally trying to scoop the remaining sauce with my fork, it was that good.

 Sean, Mark and Charlie all ordered the chicken tenders, which Mark promised were the best he's ever had. That sounded a little crazy, but I sampled one and I'm here to vouch: best ever. They're flash-fried in tempura batter, and served with a side of perfect skinny fries.

 We couldn't skip dessert, so Mark and Charlie split the flourless chocolate waffle...

 While Sean and I had deep dish apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream. So good!

Happy and stuffed!

I can't recommend the place enough; it's classy enough for dates, but easy enough for friends and family and though it's on the pricey side, it's definitely chill.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011: Five Days of Traveling (And Fun)

We survived! It was a pretty crazy holiday season, but it was wonderful. We got to see so many people we love, give gifts and receive quite a few awesome ones. I have a stack of new books to read AND a Kindle AND a sewing machine, so I think I'm set for hobbies for the next six months. You may remember, last year's Christmas was a little crazy, but this year more than made up for its chaos.

We kicked off the holidays with Ludi-Christmas (more on that later), our traditional holiday gathering with my hometown friends. Over the years, we've perfected the Melrose Place pose. Just pop us on a DVD cover and you've got the next CW sensation.

On Christmas Eve, we visited with my mom's family and I got to spend some quality time with my nephew Spencer. It won't be long before he won't be letting us hold him like that!

My mom and I started a project that will take years — sorting through her hope chest, which is FULL to the brim with every project, drawing, written piece or newspaper clipping that concerned me. We found so many treasures, including my kindergarten drawings of ballerinas (above).

This is the chest...we only skimmed the surface.

We had great fun opening presents, posing for pictures with the "Santa on a Stick" I put in Sean's stocking (that's my cute stepsister)...

And wearing fake mustaches while we played White Elephant.

On Christmas Day, we opened gifts with my dad's family, visited my grandma and then drove up to Silver Spring, Maryland, where we surprised his extended family just as they sat down to dinner! It was great fun...very rare that you get to surprise people anymore like that! We came home to open presents, which meant Monday was a very lazy day for us.

We hung out with Maeve and watched "Amelie" on TV, then had a big spaghetti dinner with Sean's extended family, including his cousin Emily and her Dutch boyfriend and his brother. We finished the night with a trip to see "Mission Impossible."

Our last little visit was for lunch on Tuesday with my dear friends Mark and Charlie, visiting from California. You know me, you'll hear more about the food later.

It was a wonderful Christmas, one of the best in recent memory. I only wish break was longer!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

These pictures are from my phone, of our Christmas tree and my favorite lit-up tree at Christmas Town. 

I had a true "holiday spirit" moment yesterday. I was grabbing some quick dinner for Sean and I, and when I approached the drive-through window, the cashier told me that the car in front of me had paid for our food. She said one woman started it five cars before me, and the driver of each car had decided to pass the generosity on. I decided to do the same.

The cashiers were so excited to share the news, and as I pulled away, I couldn't help but grin. I hope the people behind me decided to do the same! 

Today we're off to southwest Virginia to spend Christmas with my family, then swinging north to spend some time with my husband's family. I've loaded the car with so many presents you'd think I was coming from the North Pole...and I'm so excited to give them!

Have a very merry Christmas, or however you celebrate, and I'll be back next week! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Today I Like: Marbled

I remember, as a little history-obsessed girl, having marble balloons that I just loved, and a set of marbled paper purchased at Colonial Williamsburg. Marbled paper dates back to the 10th century in Asia, but was hugely popular in the 18th century and now, it's totally back. 

In olden times, it was used to line journals, for stationary or to make book covers. But now, the limits are endless. It can be interpreted as swirly, agate-like wallpaper or as a flowing silk scarf or as dining room napkins. One of the best resources online is Paper Mojo...I'm pondering how I can order a roll and make something fabulous.

Marbled paper makes for an amazing lampshade, as seen here in this photo by Jordan Ferney.

Bryn spruced her secretary with amazing marbled paper — a modern spin on a trend from the 18th century. Picture from her blog here.

Get the Look


Marbled by amberfiona featuring scarves

Left to right, clockwise: marbled paper from Etsy, a marbled pillow (LOVE) from ABC Home, a marbled balloon, marbled leather tote by Rennes Handmade, and two scarves by Ilana Kohn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bathroom Door: Closed or Open?

Photo from Overstock.

Alright, y'all, let's talk about intimacy. I'm not talking about that kind of intimacy...I'm talking about how intimate you have to be in your relationship before it's okay to use the bathroom in front of your mate/spouse/significant other.

I brought this up in conversation yesterday and everybody was like, "Oh yeah, of course I leave the door open." To which, I must ask: am I the only prude who is completely averse to this? 

I'm just wayyyyyyy too private to sit around talking to my husband while he's using the bathroom and vice versa. Besides, when would I get my reading done? (LOL). I will admit, we are blessed to have two bathrooms and that helps.

People have told me they grew up in the kind of households where you talk to your parents while they use the bathroom, and I've also heard that when you become a parent, the idea of closing the door vanishes with all your other inhibitions. 

So my question is this: Am I really the only one who believes firmly in a closed-door policy? Are all of you dropping deuces with an audience? Is this definitely the crudest thing I've ever brought up on the blog? I still say it counts as domestication. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Town 2011

 Less than a week until Christmas, can you believe it?! We got into the spirit on Saturday by going to Christmas Town, Busch Gardens' holiday attraction. Seriously, it's awesome and brings out the kid in everyone.

We took lots of pictures, admired the pretty lights and even rode the Mach Tower, which gave us a full view of the park's light display before sending us plummeting to the ground.

 Sean and I recreated a picture we took last tradition?

We ate at my favorite eating spot in the park — Trapper's Smokehouse. If you ever go to the park, I can't recommend it enough. Sean devoured some chicken and I had chili in a bread bowl. Delicious!

 Us girls with a penguin...a rather short penguin, I must say.

 We admired colored lights in Germany...

 and the singing Christmas tree — O Tannenbaum. It's amazing, seriously.

But nothing compares to my favorite: this tree in the "Italy" section. SWOON. So good.

The park is open every day this week if you're in the Hampton Roads area; it costs $25 for admission and $13 per car to park. I honestly hope it will evolve into a holiday tradition for us; maybe it can be one for you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Best v.83

I was so amused by Johnny Cash's to-do list, found here.

We're one week away from Christmas, y'all! I'm finishing up the last touches on wrapping gifts today and pondering making Christmasy cheesecake later this week. I've had a wonderful holiday season so far, though it feels like it's going by so fast! How about you?
  • NPR picks best music of 2011.
  • A hilariously accurate depiction of how girls talk.
  • And also, shit gays say (and Ambers!)
  • A great interview with my favorite comedian, Louis CK.
  • Friends create art to honor the 40th birthday of the New York Times design director.
  • Things my children will never understand.
  • Creative ways to gift money!
  • The funniest thing I've seen from SNL in a while, and it happened in the writers' room.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wine Club Christmas 2012

On Wednesday, wine club had its third annual Christmas party. This year we did another movie pajama party night and it was so much fun!

We watched "Little Women"...look at my true happiness in that picture! Asti + Christian Bale + Christmas lights = Happy Amber. I regret to say I forgot to take pics of our wines, but they included a holiday white blend from Biltmore, German white spiced wine that's served hot, Asti Spumante, eggnog with apple brandy and we sampled some homemade dessert wines, provided by Erica's co-worker. It was quite a mix, I gotta tell ya.

I did, however, get pics of Ashleigh's AWESOME spread...seriously, girl killed it. So many great appetizer ideas!
She served mozzarella and basil wrapped in salami, drizzled with balsamic was seriously delicious, and inspired.

"S'Mores" shooters: chocolate cups with graham crackers at the bottom and marshmallow inside. I made the peppermint chocolate cookies.

She carved out Hawaiian rolls to make bread bowls, toasted them and filled them with pre-made spinach dip -- easy peasy, and so delicious.

She made queso with sausage in her crock pot...

And finally, fried up some pierogies with onions. It was smorgasboard of goodness.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Little Women Movie Night

I'm so excited for tonight because wine club is having our second Christmas Movie Pajama Party, and the movie this year is the 1994 version of "Little Women." To say this movie was a huge impact on Little Me is a pretty big understatement; I still hate Kirsten Dunst to this day, purely for how spirited her portrayal of evil Amy was. 

If you've never seen it, invest the $5 Target will charge you, settle in and prepare yourself to fall in love with Christian Bale in a way you could never feel about Batman. You also might come away with a fierce desire to have four girls and make them call you "Marmy." Just sayin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baked Goods for Giving or Sharing

Now that I'm much closer to Christmas and starting to make the rounds to holiday get-togethers, I've been thinking about whipping together some baked goods for parties and to share. A couple years ago, I went CRAZY baking cookies for all my family members...unfortunately, they didn't stay super fresh quite long enough, but they were tasty. Here are some of my baking favorites, for your holiday get-togethers:

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, from Martha Stewart