Tuesday, November 25, 2014

christmas memories

I think most people have a list of Christmas songs that just "start the season". It's that way for me, at least. Music is such a huge part of holidays to me. Partly because I'm a musician, and some of my fondest memories are of my family singing Christmas carols around my parents' piano, but also because hearing a certain song illicits different memories. As soon as I hear Johnny Mathis, I immediately think of my mom - she loves his voice! This morning I turned on my Christmas playlist and that song came on. I haven't seen my parents in a year and I am really missing them, especially after my dad's heart attack last week (and my mom hasn't even met Louisa yet! Sniff sniff). They return home from their mission to England in just a few weeks, and we weren't planning on going to Arizona for Christmas but now we are trying to make it happen. We hadn't anticipated this move to Seattle when we were planning out our yearly budget, and last minute plane tickets during the holidays are astronomical, if you hear of any good last minute deals - send it my way!

Anyway, I guess when I turned on Johnny Mathis this morning, I got a little misty eyed thinking about all the wonderful Christmas memories and traditions that I was blessed to grow up with. I am resigned to listening to lots of festive music and making the most of our first "on our own" Christmas together if it ends up being that way. Here is my list of songs that "feel" like Christmas to me.
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas - Johnny Mathis
This was/is my mom's favorite Christmas album for years. As soon as it came on for the first time of the year on my mom's kitchen stereo, it was time to get out the decorations!

The Christmas Song - Carpenters
This entire album reminds me of growing up because of Karen Carpenter's voice. Pure memories, right there!

Aspenglow - John Denver
I have tons of great memories of going to our cabin in the White Mountains and listening to John Denver, so when I hear this, I think of snowy winters and driving through the pine trees in our old Suburban.

Deck The Halls - Mannheim Steamroller
This song makes me laugh. My dad loves this album and I always thought it was so cheesy and used to roll my eyes at the 80's synthesizer but now I find it endearing cause it reminds me of him, sitting in his den in his creaky chair and tapping his pencil on his desk. I can even smell my dad's smell of spearmint gum and Ralph Lauren Polo Blue - ha!

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - James Taylor
This is my favorite version of this song. It just is sung so perfectly by one of my favorite musicians and every time I hear it, I am in the mood to cozy up next to David.

Christmas in Killarney - Bing Crosby
This is a Nielson family joke. I'm sure other people know this song, but my mom used to make my older sisters dance and sing to this song and perform it for our family, which they all hated (but especially my shyest sister, Charity.)

Little Drummer Boy - Josh Groban
I HATED this song until I heard this version - at least listen until 2:15. My sister-in-law, Leone, introduced to me to this song and after I heard it, I actually listened to the words and realized that the message is beautiful.

Christmas Dreaming - Harry Connick, Jr.
This one is a newer favorite but I love the I guess the harmonies reminds me of a Disney choir a little bit which makes me smile and I just love Harry!

White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Let's face it - this is the most quintessential Christmas song of all time. The second I hear this song, I am instantly in the mood for Christmas! It makes me want to pull out all the Christmas movies I love and bake and snuggle in front of a fire! All my favorite things!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Edward Herrmann
If you've never heard this version of the song with narration by Edward Herrmann, you are missing out. It is one of my favorite Christmas carols but the story behind it is so beautiful. My parents have this MoTab performance on DVD and it's one of my favorite things to watch every year (especially this song by Brian Stokes Mitchell).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

lizzy's weekly menu

Here's this week's menu! I am so excited for Thanksgiving. This is my first time hosting Thanksgiving and I'm equally excited and nervous. I've never cooked a whole turkey before! Hopefully it isn't a disaster! Anyway, with Thursday being such a big cooking day, I'm making the rest of the week pretty simple. I suggest you do the same... and that you have a great Thanksgiving!
Recipe Links:

Other weekly menus here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

iPhone lately

Even though my old iPhone 4s has been through the ringer, it's still my most used camera source so I definitely want to document some of the things happening lately. Fritz has given up his "formal" nap time. It's brutal for everyone involved. He usually takes a 30 minute cat nap on the way home from picking up William from school, but he's even stopped doing that some days. Some days, though, he is so tired that he falls asleep on the couch while I'm doing dishes and vacuuming. Ha!
Bambi visited our front yard the other day and enjoyed the fallen apples off our tree. The boys were freaking out! William saw him/her first and ran inside with the most adorably excited look on his face. We were pretty thrilled about it but probably won't be when they start eating our plants.
The park by our house is so beautiful. A couple of weeks ago I took the boys (+ their scooters) and we rode them down to the playground/boat dock. The trees were so bright and colorful and it was clear and sunny. A perfect autumn park day. We've had quite a few of those actually, so that's been a treat!
Sometimes I sneak into Louisa's bedroom while she naps and just coo over her. She is so beautiful and I love her so much!
She also is finally fitting into her winter coat so I decked her out in her warm clothes as we were getting ready to go to the park the other day. She looked so funny and cute so I decided to take a picture of her and the boys wanted to lay down by her too. They dote on her and it makes me really happy. This picture is so funny to me though, cause Fritz has one volume level - shouting. She doesn't love it.
In other news, I finally got a warm coat! And did my hair! What fun! Ha.

Monday, November 17, 2014

lizzy's weekly menu

My dad had a heart attack yesterday in England. Prayers and good thoughts are welcome! My mom assures me that he is doing well and is recovering from surgery but it bums me out that my mom is there alone in England, an hour away from the hospital where my dad is. She is staying positive and my dad is recovering, but I am wishing England wasn't so far away.

A lot of people expressed interest in my weekly menu post last week so I think I'm going to try to make this a weekly thing. I like to plan out our meals for the week on Mondays so I'll try to post them at the beginning of the week so you can follow along, if you want. If you have some favorites that you make, please share them in the comments. It's like a recipe exchange - minus the annoying chain e-mail!
recipe links:

A few notes:

- the meat sauce recipe makes a BIG batch. I like to portion it into about 4 different containers and freeze them for later meals (i.e. lasagna, over pasta, with bread sticks and a salad). 

- I always like to give myself one extra fast/semi-homemade meal a week for days when something comes up or I'm just too exhausted to make the meal that I planned for that night. This week, I planned to do the MorningStar black bean burgers from Costco (frozen) topped with a poached egg and some pre-shredded cabbage (I buy those bags at Trader Joe's but you can shred it yourself) sauteed in a little coconut oil and garlic. It's delicious.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

bacon vegetable pumpkin soup

When we went to Pike Place Market on Saturday, I picked up some produce while we were there, including the best grapes I've had in my life, and some beautiful green beans. Sunday was a very drizzly, cold day so I figured it was as good a time as any to bust out some perfect autumn soup! This has bacon AND pumpkin in it... so yeah. It's really good. It's also full of vegetables and "clean", so make it already!
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 red pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
4 small potatoes, peeled and diced small
6 cups chicken stock
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 pound fresh green beans
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium high heat. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Set aside (do not drain bacon fat). Add the onion, celery, carrots and red pepper and saute, scrapping the bacon drippings, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and potato and saute another 2 minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil, then stir in tomato paste and pumpkin puree. Return to a boil and stir in green beans, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until green beans are tender (with a slight bite) and potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Delicious served with shaved Parmesan on top, if you wish.