Tag Archives: holiday

A Little Effort Goes A Long Way

Forgive me, I’m going to brag for a moment.

I had two mommy meetups on Sunday afternoon, a dinner party at my house on Monday, and a lunch potluck on Tuesday. I roasted a giant chunk of bone-in leg of pork and whipped up an olive tapenade, and had them for all 4 parties, plus dinner for my family on Sunday night. If I had realized along the way how well this would all work out, I would have taken more photos to document…

One of the mommy meetups was a cookie exchange, and I wanted to make the most amazing ginger cardamom bars, but crystalized ginger is having a bad moment (it’s not available in stores!), and I just couldn’t pull it off. I cut my losses (ie, gave up on my goal of DOING IT ALL) and texted the hostess asking if I could just bring wine. Check. Besides, I don’t need a bunch of cookies at my house, right?

While I was shopping at Whole Foods in search of said ginger, I stopped by the meat counter to see about a roast something for dinner. I was surprised to find a big bone-in pork leg for only $3.49/lb. My plan came together!

More on the pork in a minute.

Next stop, olive bar. I’ve pulled this trick before, and it’s delicious. I load up a container with about a half pound of olives of different types. Only the pitted ones! I whir it in the Cuisinart with a couple garlic cloves, a splash of olive oil to help hold it together, and salt & pepper. I bought 3 boxes of cracked pepper water crackers to go with the olives. One box for each party.

When I got home, I prepared the pork and put it in the oven at 200 degrees F and then prepared the olive tapenade and got dressed for Mommy Meetups.

Mommy Meetups: Olive Tapenade & crackers. It was a wine & chocolate party and then a cookie party, so I thought a little spicy savory nibble would be appreciated. Turns out I stayed so late at the first event that I missed all the guests at the second, but I had to be OK with that! {Let it go, you can’t do everything!}

I got home after both events and served my family some of the pork for Sunday dinner. I chose the thinner portion of the hunk o’ meat for dinner that first day, knowing that the rest would be reheated a few times.  Thicker meat = not as well done. And nobody wants tough, overcooked meat!

Monday dinner party: This was a potluck with 12 of my girlfriends, so I knew we wouldn’t need huge portions. There is usually so much food at these gatherings, so a little goes a long way. I heated the pork just enough to be room temperature. I would have heated it all the way to hot, but I didn’t want the meat to be tough. It was perfectly fine at room temp. The olive tapenade & water crackers went out with the other appetizers that some of the gals brought. Poached pears for dessert = super easy and light. I also made poached pears, so I had a starter, a protein and a light dessert – no matter what my friends brought, I knew I had the basics covered.

Tuesday lunch potluck: Once again, I heated the pork just enough to not be cold & coagulated. I intended to bring the last of the olive tapenade and last box of crackers, but I decided to save it for myself & Brian because I’m selfish like that!

It was so nice to do one bit of food prep, and have it carry me through so many events. And I still have some pork left! It will be lunch again tomorrow, I’m sure.

Here’s my recipe for the pork, which from all accounts is AMAZING. I agree, but of course I would think so because I made it exactly the way I would like it best! 

Spices! The shallot salt is notorious for getting clumpy, but it's totally fine if I grind it up with other whole spices.

7 lbs bone-in pork leg (Flintstone’s, anyone?)

In a mortar & pestle, grind up:

palm full, or about a Tablespoon, each of coriander seed, cumin seed, anise seed, black peppercorns, Penzey’s shallot salt, mustard powder, and sea salt.

Pat half of this ground-up mixture onto one side of the pork, then lay that side down on an oiled roasting pan. Pat the remainder on the naked (up) side of the pork.

Drizzle with soy sauce and olive oil, and another sprinkling of salt & pepper. Probably overkill, but that’s what I did.

After about an hour or so in the oven, drench the pork with a sauce of:

3 T tamarind paste blended with 1 cup of maple syrup and 1/4 c orange juice.

Roast the pork for a total of 5 hours, then check internal temperature for done-ness. Pork should be 145F. Let cool before slicing so the juices don’t all run out.

So there’s my recap of 3 days of stress-free parties: say no when you need to, and prepare once for multiple parties. It worked for me this time!

What are your secrets for getting through the holidays without killing someone?

Many cheers,

My Flinstones-esque hunk of pork. 7 pounds for 3 meals!

Pork leg at the potluck, day three. Rave reviews!

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Breakfast with my “Pedicure Girls”

A group of girlfriends used to gather monthly for pedicures, so I’ve always called our little group, “The Pedicure Girls.” It’s been a while since we’ve met regularly for pedicures, but we stay connected in each others lives, and I know they are always here for me if I need them. It’s such a sweet blessing to have long-term friends in my life!

One of our traditions is a gift exchange over breakfast. We debate every year over the “bring a gift for everyone” or “bring one gift for exchange.”

We finally agreed it makes the most sense to bring one gift to exchange, but inevitably one or two people bring something for everyone. It’s all good.

We had a lovely breakfast at Milo’s City Café. We all live in close-in Northeast, so we’re usually here or at Alameda Café.

I love Milo’s and since I’ve been on an Eggs Benedict kick since Easter, I’ve been working on perfecting their version with crab cakes. I ordered it once “as is,” and was disappointed to learn that it is served with Sauce Bearnaise.  Blech. Too heavy. So this time I ordered it with the traditional Hollandaise sauce, and it was DELIGHTFUL. Crab just needs lemon, right?

I love holiday traditions with my friends!


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Christmas Ships #inPDX

One of our Advent Calendar family activities was to watch to the “Christmas Ships” on the Willamette River. I have very few free evenings this time of year – between ZooLights and Brian’s pool night, and holiday parties and school meetings – so I was glad that my one free night last week coincided with the ships parading near us. Here’s what the website says:

Tuesday, Dec. 13th – OMSI to Fremont Bridge
At 7:00PM, the Willamette Fleet assembles in front of Riverplace Marina, (1750 SW Harbor Way, Portland). The parade will begin across the river in front of OMSI and travel downriver to area of the Fremont Bridge  The fleet will go under the bridge and then turns to return to Riverplace Marina. The fleet will be out for about two hours. Restaurant and hotel links, outdoor viewing location and further details

Eric loved that these boats were decorated as a fire truck and an airplane

We bundled up in coats, scarves, hats & mittens, with my favorite little cashmere hand warmers from Restoration Hardware. We raced to get near the start of the parade by 7 pm, not wanting to miss it. We parked ourselves on the beach under the Hawthorne Bridge, where Brian and I used to go to watch fireworks. It’s nice to be so close to the water, and not many people go down there. Anna was terribly worried that perhaps we weren’t supposed to be there, actually refusing to come with us at first. But Brian explained, “This is our city, and we are allowed to be here in our city.” That finally convinced her. I’m so glad she’s so concerned about doing the right thing!

The colorfully lit & decorated ships circled in front of us (okay, technically in front of Riverplace Marina) for a good 40 minutes. The kids enjoyed talking about the lights on each one. We were wondering why it took so long to get started with the actual “parade,” but once it finally started, it was kind of anticlimactic. The circling & assembling brought the boats fairly close to us on the east side of the river, but once they started their promenade, they were close to the west shore, and very small to us!

Santa's sleigh. Sorry so fuzzy from my phone!

Next time, we’ll just count on watching the assembling & circling. If we want to watch the parade part, we’ll find a spot at Waterfront Park on the west side of the river to hunker down. I think we’ll bring hot chocolate in a thermos, as well, along with the real camera! My phone takes some great photos, but it wasn’t quite up to this challenge.

Both the Willamette and Columbia River fleets parade together each night starting the weekend of the 17th, so it should be much more spectacular with more boats. Here’s the rest of the schedule, below, and details here:

Wednesday, Dec. 14th – Riverplace Marina to Milwaukie Boat Ramp • 7 pm

Thursday, Dec. 15th – OMSI to Fremont Bridge • 7 pm

Friday, Dec. 16th – Riverplace Marina to Milwaukie Boat Ramp • 7 pm (loops by Oaks Park)

Saturday, Dec. 17th – Riverplace Marina to Lake Oswego • 5 pm

Sunday, Dec. 18th –  Riverplace Marina to St John’s area, continuing on to Columbia River • 5 pm

Monday, Dec. 19th – James M Gleason Boat Ramp, WA Shores, Wintler Park, I-5 Bridge (Columbia) • 7 pm
Tuesday, Dec. 20th – I-5 Bridge/Hayden Bay (Columbia) • 7 pm
Happy holidays,

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Snowflake

Swarovski Snowflake Star, the 2005 version on my tree last year.

I splurged on a beautiful crystal star ornament the year Brian and I got married. It cost $50, which seemed like a fortune at the time, but it was so beautiful, and had a little silver tag that read, “2001.” I wanted it as a keepsake from the year we got married. The next year, the price had gone up to $55, but I decided to get the 2002 version anyway. Now of course, I have to get one every year! I’m stuck!

Dayl got in to the tradition as well, and together we would visit the Swarovski store in Downtown Portland and buy our annual ornaments. A couple years ago, though, Dayl discovered something: the very same ornaments are available on Amazon fro $10-30 less than in the store!

I protested at first, “But Dayl, it’s so much fun to go to the store together and buy our ornaments!”

Her wise response: “Yes, but is is $30 worth of fun?”

Yeah, not so much.

The 2011 snowflake looks GORGEOUS, and of course it’s my 10th Christmas being married to Brian. The kids love looking at each year of the Swarovski Snowflake, and we discuss significant things that happened each year. Anna got a little annoyed last year that I wouldn’t actually let her put them on the tree, maybe I’ll let her help with them this year.

On Amazon, it’s $60. In stores, it’s $75. I for one can spend that $15 on some other things!

What special splurges or traditions do you do for the holidays each year?

Happy holidays,


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The Advent of Anna’s Birthday, and also… Advent.

My poor little Anna has been obsessing about her birthday since September.

When will it be my birthday?
Why is my brother’s birthday before mine, but I’m older than him?
I can’t wait for it to be my birthday!

I was worried that she would spend so much energy worrying about this one day, that it would come and go and then she’d be disappointed.

I made a 3-month calendar for her to check off the days, and that kind of worked for a while, but I wanted something more special. Not that I want to indulge her every five-year-old whim, but I see value in helping her enjoy the anticipation of the whole experience, not just the day itself.

I’ve been looking at a lot of different Advent calendars, with the plan of making the first 11 days of December be all about Anna’s birthday. I saw a lot that were adorable and many that were complicated, and some that seem to take over a whole room. Since I’m trying to simplify, not complicate my life and living space, I rejected most of them.

My cousin Jackie, proprietress of Brow Betty – check it out, you’ll be glad you did! – posted this pic on Facebook, and I was hooked. How cute and simple!

Each one is a matchbook, filled with a message promising family activities or treats. Love it!

So we copied Jackie to a certain extent, and made Anna boxes to lead up to December 11:

December 1-11, ready to be lined up on the piano

And then made Christmas boxes for December 12-25:

We lined the Advent of Christmas boxes along the mirror on the mantel. I’ve filled some of them with activities or treats, but I need to get the others filled quickly! The advent of Anna’s birthday boxes were lined up on the piano, and the completed days went back in to the silver snowflake bowl.

It's easy to count down the days, because the kids can clearly see how many boxes are left!

I bought the matches at Winco in packs of 10 for only 50¢ each, and now we have a ton of matches…

That’s alright, I like to light candles.

Most of the papers we already had on hand. I bought a few sheets of number stickers at Michael’s for $3 each, and a few extra sheets of paper at 4/$1. I think we spent a grand total of $9.50 on this activity. Of course we already had tape, glue and fancy scissors.

What do you think? I’m kind of loving it!

Happy holidays,

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Holiday Budget: don’t blow it!

I don’t actually go shopping very often for anything other than groceries or things for the kids. I think about it quite a bit, but I rarely take time to do it. Mainly because I have other things to spend my money on than fun things for me. I get most of my clothes from naked lady parties and my fashionable friends’ castoffs.

So whenever I have an excuse a need to actually go buy things – like presents for other people – I inevitably find a lot of things I want to buy for me.

So how does one stay on budget with all of this temptation?

Easy: I don’t use credit cards.

I make a list of all the people for whom I am buying presents, and jot down ideas for each one {Actually, I have a running list going pretty much all year}. Then I figure out how much I have to spend based on – wait – this is radical – how much money I actually have. I know this seems crazy and weird. And maybe even un-American. But there you have it.

This year, I plan to use my Marqeta card to do as much of my shopping as possible. Marqeta is like a pre-paid debit card, where you commit to spend a certain amount of money at a merchant, and the merchant then gives you additional dollars to spend. For example, I load my card with $125 for Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts, and I get an additional $25 to spend there. Who doesn’t love free money? One of their merchants is a kitchenware/household goods store – and it looks pretty good, with everything from kitchen gadgets to toys.

All this won’t stop me from actually taking a day to go shopping downtown with Dayl, mind you. It’s too much fun and such a rare pleasure!

How about you? How do you stay on budget during the holidays?

Cheerfully and frugally,

Mamavation is a community dedicated to healthy living for women.

Disclosure: I am a Marqeta Mom Ambassador, but as always, all opinions are my own.


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No Pudge Holidays {Mamavation Monday}

What is your plan to avoid overindulging during holiday feasts?


I usually don’t really have too much a problem with gaining weight during the holidays because I’m not so much a sweet tooth. It’s typically not too hard for me to walk away from desserts and candy. However, there are a lot more opportunities for snacking and merriment — and it gets harder and harder to turn down Chex Mix when it’s lurking around every corner — so I’m employing the following tactics to make sure I stay on the right path of losing weight:

1. Snack often during the day – on healthy things – so I never get all the way hungry. When I’m ALLTHEWAYHUNGRY, I turn in to a crazy monster, willing to believe that even my own children just might taste like Doritos. If I can avoid a state of ALLTHEWAYHUNGRY, I think I can mostly make good food choices.

2. Embrace a little bit of hungry feeling. It’s OK to be just a little empty-feeling, you know? I think we get addicted to feeling full all the time, and it’s just not necessary. This requires a retraining of what I think is normal, and isn’t just a “getting through the holidays” tactic, but something I’m trying to adopt for my whole life.

3. Drink water. Drink more water. Drink even more water, dangit.  Why don’t I drink enough water? I know I need to. I know it’s not only good for my whole body, but especially for my skin. I also know that sometimes I think I’m hungry when I’m really just thirsty. So why on earth don’t I drink enough water??

4. Eat the things I really want, but only a little bit. A few bites of something wonderful is all I need, then I don’t feel deprived. But the key is not being so crazy hungry that I can’t stop at a few bites. See #1 above.

5. I’ve been running 2x a week. For the month of December I’m stepping it up to 3x a week. I plan to maintain three times a week from here on out, plus I need to start adding in longer runs as well – I’m not only doing the Hippie Chick Half Marathon, but I’m also on a Running Mamas Hood to Coast team next year! Might as well start training now while all the parties are happening, right?

What about you? What are your thoughts about maintaining your fitness and/or not gaining weight during the holidays?

In good health,

This post is written as part of Mamavation Monday. Mamavation is a community dedicated to obesity prevention & weight loss for women.

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