Friday, December 25, 2009

Goodness, I love our tree...


Merry Christmas

I hope that whether or not you're celebrating Christmas, you are enjoying your day!

Last night, my family had Christmas Eve dinner together since my sister is off visiting her in-laws today. My brother is here from Seattle and we were super excited to see him! I hadn't seen him since my sister's wedding although the rest of my family saw him more recently.

He came equipped with his new video camera to show us his very own two-bedroom apartment!



He also came back with several new piercings!

My sister made spiced pecans which were very delicious.


Check out her Christmas accessories! Her necklace lit up and her earrings were Christmas trees! Don't worry - we didn't let her out of the house like that.

And then it was time for presents!


Then dinner!


The menu featured Japanese hamburgers that are made with a mix of veal, pork, and beef and are flavored with onions, oats, soy sauce...etc.

I don't like to eat meat but I will never turn down one of my mom's hamburgers!


And now....

presenting...

our Christmas tree!!!!!


I'm not sure if you can really tell but the star on top of the tree is a wonderfully multi-colored blinking star. When we were younger, my siblings and I BEGGED for multi-colored lights on the tree but my mom refused since white lights looked classier and nicer, so she gave in and let us get this really gaudy star instead. It doesn't match the rest of the tree but now I won't let my mom get rid of it since it used to be my favorite thing on the tree. Oh, the things kids will get attached to...


It's super huge! Although it's hard to tell since there's no reference, really. I think it's the fattest tree we've ever gotten! Maybe not the tallest but certainly the biggest...

My parents and I decorated on Saturday before my siblings got home. It was quite an ordeal as there were ladders involved. My Dad and I were in charge of stringing the lights and boy, was that a whole production. I realized that there are two kinds of people in the world - people who are meticulous about stringing lights and people who are not and just literally toss the lights on the tree. I think you can guess which one I am. I have to say that my Dad was very particular about making sure every square foot of the tree had a certain amount of lights on it. Now we know where some of my anal-retentiveness comes from...

In any case, I think the three of us did a great job! A lot of our ornaments are from Europe since my parents both traveled extensively before the kiddies were born. Most of them are made from natural fabrics and materials instead of those round, glass ornaments that most American trees have. It's very unique!


And now... a showcase of some of my favorite ornaments!


When my family lived in San Francisco, my mom took plain red and white ornaments and decorated them with ribbon and beads to give them some more character. Here are two of them:



And then she let my four year old sister decorate one:


....right.



This is an ornament my brother made me a few years ago when we all exchanged Christmas ornaments. It has my nickname in Japanese on it and a drawing of me!!! I used to have a big, puffy white coat that made me look like a marshmallow.


This is one my mom bought because it reminded her of me with my crazy morning hair. I was cursed/blessed with really wavy hair and as a child, my mom would have to chase me around the house to brush my hair in the morning. Ever since I was a baby, I had hair that stood pretty much straight up. Think: Elvis hair as a fro.


And this crocheted princess is part of a group of eight. Every year, my sister and I would play with them and act out ball scenes. Of course, she got first pick and took all the pink and purple dresses and gave me all the non-girly ones. Perhaps this is why I love yellow and blue now...

I like this shot because I happen to have placed my disco ball ornament (given to me by my dad) next to it. It looks like she's having a dance party! :)

Alrighty, well I'm off to finally get out of my PJs and properly celebrate Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Time!!!

I'm sorry I've been so MIA with the blogging this past week. I have off from work this week and came home to Jersey to be with my family but for several reasons, I've been commuting into the city four times in the past four days!

But the times that I have been home have been filled with eating, sleeping, watching Christmas movies, and...sleeping ;)

I love when Santa sends over a white Christmas...





Snow in a backyard is so much prettier than snow in the city. Sludge = not Christmas-y.

Our Christmas tree this year is quite huge. Here is a sneak peek of the tree...


My Dad is 5'10" just as a point of reference. I'm going to post tree pictures tomorrow so you can pretend you're spending Christmas with me :)

My time home has been filled with sugar as well as tree decorating...

Actually, this is a sugarless pound cake that was sent to my mom from our dentist! How apropos.





It's made in Virginia and is oh-so-delicious considering it has no real sugar.

And here's something that has real sugar that my mom baked:


Her annual Christmas butter cookies! I learned from her that you can always reduce sugar in baking recipes and these cookies are just divine! She also makes them with sprinkles. I devoured them when she gave me a bunch after I had gotten my wisdom tooth taken out. Even though I was in pain and unable to use one side of my mouth, I still couldn't resist from eating them.

She also made me a special fish one with the leftover dough...


And this is just a SAMPLING of all of the delicious things I have been eating!

My sister and her husband are coming over for dinner tonight and then we're going to Christmas Eve service. We're going to exchange some gifts tonight since my sister will not be spending Christmas Day with us, but we have some special visitors from Japan coming over tomorrow for a Christmas meal! :)

I love Christmas time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

sugar, family, presents, snow, singing, christmas music...
it just doesn't get any better!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gina's Matilda Cake

Every year for the past 7 years, Gina has made Eli "Matilda Cake" (aka best cake in the whole wide world) which is a chocolate ganache cake. This recipe is from Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and the cake is from his book, Matilda, when the mean teacher makes a kid eat a whole cake. Let me tell you, if it's Gina's cake I'm eating, this is NOT considered a punishment.

I have to say, I know it's Eli's special treat, but I look forward to this cake every year!

Here's the birthday girl and the fabulous baker...



And here is the beautiful, beautiful cake:





Gina added fresh raspberries to the recipe and used 60% dark chocolate. I think it was one of her best yet.


I wish you could all have a slice because beyond saying it was delicious, it's very hard to describe this heavenly treat. It's rich, chocolate-y, and has a smooth texture. Once you have a bite, the chocolate invades your whole mouth and you can be seriously satisfied after a few bites. Of course, I certainly didn't stop at a few bites but I could have...


Thanks for the cake, Gina! You.are.amazing!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scott's Pizza Tour

This past weekend, Beth and I went on a Pizza Tour!!! (This sentence gets lots of exclamation points because it was so exciting) I think you know by now how passionate I am about pizza but I was put to shame after meeting Scott, who is a self-proclaimed "pizza enthusiast."

And an enthusiast, he was!

Now as we all know, a tour guide can make or break a tour but Scott was so personable, energetic and full of knowledge that he kept me fully entertained throughout the 3 hour tour. He told us he averages about 20-30 slices of pizza a week (which is really impressive since he doesn't eat pizza during his tours) and is currently in the thick of going to hundreds of pizza places throughout New Jersey for the Star Ledger.

Needless to say, he KNOWS his pizza :)

We started our tour at Gatsby's on Spring Street which is the site of the original Lombardi's. Lombardi's was THE first Pizzeria in New York and was officially born in 1905. Because their coal oven had broken due to the 6 train being built underneath the pizzeria, they had to move to their current location.

Here are way too many pictures of my mecca:




The flag post above was also used by Lombardi's.



We then walked over to the current site of Lombardi's on 32 Spring.



Scott showed us their coal-burning oven which has some of the original brick from their first location. It was very busy as they bake 6-7 pizzas at once!




The temperature in oven can go up to 1000 degrees! To demonstrate how hot it is, he showed us a failed pizza with the outline of a brick.


Once seated, we were presented with a goody-bag with palate cleaners and a little notebook to write pizza notes!



We had a slice of their marguerita pizza which was oh-so-yummy!


The tomato sauce was super fresh and the mozzarella was creamy and delicious. It wasn't oily at all which I appreciated, as it was 11:00 in the morning.


They sprinkle the basil leaves AFTER the pizza comes out of the oven so it doesn't lose any of the taste. The crust was thin but not soggy.


On our way to Lombardi's, Scott had taken us to Alleva, a cheese shop in Little Italy. This is where a lot of pizza places buy their cheese, including Lombardi's.



We watched them make mozzarella cheese and then sampled some unsalted ones. It was very creamy but light at the same time.


Look at how fluffy it looks!

Then Bob let Scott make bocconcini, mini-mozzarella balls. He had never done it before and was VERY excited!




We also went to a pizza supply store...



I was tempted to pick up a few pizza-making supplies but I don't think that would be the best thing for someone like me who would eat it every day if I could.

We also walked by the ACTUAL original Rays pizza.


Then headed over to Joe's Pizza on Carmine Street. Apparently Spiderman worked there!


There was limited seating inside so Scott hand delivered our slices!


You can see my pizza partner taking a picture for her blog, too!

Beth described it as a "street slice" which is pretty apropos. It was a comforting taste to me (whatever that means!) and wasn't greasy at all. The crust was nice and chewy and the bottom was nice and crisp.


Our last location was John's on Bleecker. Apparently John worked at Lombardi's - keeping it all in the family!



John's was definitely Beth's and my favorite slice of the day. The pizza had the sauce ON TOP of the cheese which gave it a whole different dimension! The cheese was smoked and was nice and salty (but not so much so) which made is all the more delicious. I think it was the best slice of pizza I've ever had!

Beth agrees...


Look at how beautiful it is!


One of the men that worked at John's went into the basement to get something and Scott took it as an opportunity to show us the coal they use for their brick oven.



You can see, he is very animated and THRILLED to talk about pizza! He certainly knows his stuff.

Beth and I both had so much fun and learned SO MUCH about pizza. I wish I could tell you everything but I really want you to go on the tour to find out for yourself.

As a pizza-lover myself, it was great to finally go to classic New York pizzerias. This tour was awesome because you get the history of pizza and New York, eat some delicious pizza and see some historic sites! Tickets are only $30 for three hours so it's really a good deal. The day Beth and I went was ridiculously freezing but still fun! However, we did spend most of the time outside so I definitely recommend a warm coat and walking shoes.

Scott also has pizza bus tours so you may see that on the blog eventually (I'm up for it, Beth!). For now, though, we have a long list of pizzerias to go to in New York, including Keste's where they make an original pizza with lard, cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sounds suspect but I have to try an actual "original" pizza.

I'm not sure where Beth found this tour but I am so glad she did! It was one of the most fun things I've done in the city. I definitely recommend this tour!