Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Social Christmasing

 

When all this social distancing started way back in the spring, I never thought it would extend to Christmas, but it did and we worked really hard to make the best of a weird time and place.  We flew to Michigan (empty airports, especially Detroit) and flying feels as safe as going to the grocery store if you take the proper steps.  No issues, beyond a delayed flight and seven straight hours with a mask on lol.

In Michigan, we rented a house, so it was just our family.  We cooked a lot of good food, enjoyed many bottles of good wine and festive cocktails and stayed up late either talking or playing cards.  My daughter Melissa, hosted us on Christmas Day with a lovely table of appetizers as well.  Extended family were visited with via Zoom.

Our one outing included dinner in a private outdoor dining structure that luckily was heated and then we enjoyed some intense family competition at Top Golf, also heated and a private bay.  I think everyone in the Detroit area had the same idea, but I had made reservations in advance and all was smooth and covid friendly at check in.

We had a wonderful time and I have no regrets about going.  Time with our daughters is precious to me, especially on Christmas.  And, to top things off, we even woke up to snow on Christmas morning.

Happy Wednesday!














Monday, December 21, 2020

All Is Merry and Bright

 

There is an area in Sarasota that does Christmas lights in a big way and I had heard it was a bit extra this year.  It is one of the main shopping areas with a mall (University Town Center), but there are also many outdoor stores and restaurants with outdoor seating.  I booked a reservation at a favorite Italian restaurant and we had a lovely time sitting on the patio surrounded by beautiful lights.  An added bonus was the live Christmas music performed just across the traffic circle.  We are having a few chilly nights in a row here, but a heater right next to our table, kept us comfortable.

After dinner we drove around the area a bit and enjoyed the lights changing color.  I still love palm trees with Christmas lights and am not sure I will become blasé about living in a place where that happens.  We also made a stop in downtown Venice and walked through a park filled with lights by community groups, including a visit to the city tree that I helped decorate.

We are definitely in the Christmas spirit and ready to celebrate this week.  It will look a little different, but we will be with our daughters and there will still be the magic of Christmas shining away, no matter what.

Happy Christmas week!











Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Life Lately in Photos

 

We have been trying to squeeze every little bit of holiday cheer out of this weird season and so far, we are finding things to do.  We really enjoyed the Christmas Boat Parade in Venice and while not official and city sponsored this year, it was still really good with lots of creative boats, including one with a live band playing.  It’s along the Intercoastal Waterway, so plenty of room to take your chair, a cooler and socially distance.

With my volunteer group, we worked hard one morning decorating a city park and my job was to decorate the big tree the city usually uses for a tree lighting ceremony.  Not this year of course, but there are still lights galore in the park to stroll around and enjoy on your own.

My house has lots of twinkle lights, including a tree on top of the pool waterfall and while I don’t go all out like I used too, I have added a few touches that definitely say Coastal Christmas.

We did a pre Christmas happy hour on the beach, with a sunset that was incredibly beautiful and many toasts to the holiday season.  I am also still having fun with the Aldi Wine Advent Calendar and posting a photo of the wine most nights on Instagram stories.

We have a dinner reservation on Friday in an area filled with Christmas lights, so more fun to come.

Happy Wednesday!













Thursday, December 10, 2020

Oatmeal with Cranberry, Apple and Ginger Chutney

 

It is no secret in my posting history that I am a big fan of Gina at Skinnytaste.com.  After Thanksgiving, she posted that a great use for leftover cranberry sauce was to swirl in through your morning oatmeal.  That sounded delicious to me and I had quite a bit leftover, so I couldn’t wait to give it a try.




My homemade cranberry sauce is actually a step up from the norm and a recipe I have been making for years.  This Cranberry, Apple and Ginger Chutney is tart, chunky and the ginger gives it an unexpected flavor. Too good to go to waste and taking Gina’s word for it, I have been enjoying it with my oatmeal for the past week.  It’s so good, I may have to make another batch while fresh cranberries are still to be found at the grocery store.

Cranberry, Apple and Ginger Chutney

1 10 ounce bag fresh cranberries

2 red apples, peeled and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger

3 T apple cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup orange juice

Combine ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook until softened, reduced and thickened, about 40-45 minutes.  Stir often during cooking.  Cool and store in fridge. 

Happy Thursday!


Friday, December 4, 2020

Aldi Wine Advent Calendar (Year 2)





Again, this is so much fun.  After trying it last year, there was no doubt that I would be going to Aldi on the release day, even if it meant standing in line.  But, with social distancing in mind, my Florida Aldi, didnot allow any lining up this year and opened early and handed out vouchers when you walked up.  Very efficient and very much appreciated.

I was looking forward to starting the opening on December 1st and now look forward to opening the cardboard circle each day to see what kind of wine I will get to enjoy.  So far, for the first three nights, all three wines have been pretty great.  Especially the first night with a bubbly rose, one of my favorites.  

For those who don’t know how it works, there is a precut circle to open each night leading up to Christmas. Inside each circle is a different variety of wine in a small single serving bottle. The majority are very good and a great way to try some new wines.  Last year my daughter in Pittsburgh did it with me from long distance and we enjoyed rating the wines together.

It’s too late this year, because it always sells out the same day it is released, but take my word for it, go to Aldi on the wine advent calendar release day in 2021 (usually first Wednesday in November) and celebrate the season in this unique way.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Thanksgiving Week

 

It’s back to normal and on to Christmas mode here, but we had a very fun and busy Thanksgiving week.  My daughter Melissa and her boyfriend were able to schedule a last minute trip from Michigan and worked remotely for a couple days before the holiday.  It was fun to see them place their lap tops on the edge of the pool and happily soak up the sun, while working.

Wednesday afternoon, we rented the boat and captain we have used a few times before and did a little tiki bar hopping.  Melissa and I prepped and cooked when we returned home and in spite of all the cocktails, we got everything done on the list, including baking a pumpkin pie that was perfection.

Thanksgiving was a beautiful, sunny day and like everyone else we ate too much, but how can you not when it’s so delicious.  After serving dessert and finishing the clean up, I was so exhausted, I left everyone else to watch a Christmas movie and happily went to bed, thankful for a good day.  

Friday, after they flew home, a day of rest was much needed after all the shopping and cooking and Saturday was all about Michigan State Football (we upset Northwestern) and Basketball (we beat Notre Dame), so a good day for the Spartans.  

It was lovely week and it wasn’t even that hard to say goodbye knowing that a Christmas visit is right around the corner.

Happy Monday!








Saturday, November 21, 2020

Thanksgiving Thoughts and 3 Recipes

 

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  The dinner is one of the easiest to host and cook, with the menu pretty much set. You can do a lot in advance, so that makes my organized mind happy.  It’s an adaptable meal for a small group or a big crowd and I tend to cook large amounts anyway, because we love leftovers.

I do get a little annoyed when a holiday that is all about the simple pleasure of being at home with your family and that has very little commercialization involved, gets skipped over in the rush to get to Christmas.  If I had a wish in this unsettling time that we are in, I would hope that this scaled down holiday for some will give families a chance to make some new memories. I always say to my girls that different does not have to be bad.  Relax and enjoy a quiet holiday before the hustle and bustle that is Christmas begins.



I made this tray to take to a dinner party and I wanted to share the three recipes I included.  Not quite a charcuterie board, but a pretty presentation with a variety of easy delicious finger food.

1. Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

2.  Mini Italian Skewers 

3.  Bruschetta with Garlic Herb Spread

 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Windy Visit

 

My daughter and son in law flew in for a weekend visit on the heels of Eta swirling around our stretch  of the Florida gulf coast. We managed a couple of days of pool time, before the wind gusts arrived, but still made the best of it with a windy walk on the beach one morning and dinner at one of our favorite spots Sunday night.  We took them to St. Armands Circle where it is possible to dodge the raindrops if necessary and watched football at an outdoor bar (they are Steelers fans) with Oyster Shooters and Pineapple Upside Down Cake shots.  Then a bit of shopping and dinner at a Cuban/Spanish restaurant with the most delicious pitcher of Sangria.  Monday was a washout with swirling wind and rain, but it was airport day, so that’s ok too.  

I always feel bad when the weather doesn’t cooperate when company comes to visit, but it’s really about being together and luckily, we can be outside here at home on the covered part of our lanai or at the many outdoor dining spaces in the area, so it’s not so bad.  And yes, after they left Eta circled back and while not too bad, we had a crazy windy, rainy day on Thursday, but all is now fine after a bit of cleanup and sunny again.

Have a great weekend!













Friday, November 6, 2020

Life Lately


 Round two of family will be here today when my daughter (Megan) and son in law arrive.  They have not visited since last November, so it will be so fun to have them here.  It will also be their first time actually swimming in our pool, because it was not ready to use the last time they were here.  I am hoping for good weather and so far, it looks like the tropical depression south of Cuba will not really amount to much, besides some wind later in the weekend.  

I went to Aldi first thing in the morning on Wednesday and had no problem getting the 2020 Wine Advent Calendar.  If you don’t know what that is, follow along on my Instagram (lifeinmyemptynest) and starting December 1st, I will be posting a story of the single serving bottle of wine for each day leading up to Christmas.  It was really fun last year and most of the wine was surprisingly good too.




Last night was my book club and the first one I have been back to since Covid cut things short in the spring.  We discussed The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.  As with all her novels, you learn a lot about Asian life, this time Korea.  There is much hardship in her novels, but also focus on women’s relationships.  It was not my favorite of this author, but still an interesting read, with a plot twist at the end.

Happy Friday!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Red Wine Float (Halloween Cocktail)

 

There is a gelato store in my cute Florida downtown that serves wine floats and it is something I have been meaning to try.  I always like to come up with a fun adult cocktail for Halloween and drawing on one of the flavors they serve, I decided to give it a try at home.  The red wine makes it sufficiently spooky and the chocolate ice cream is a good substitute for Halloween candy.

Here is how I made it.

In a stemless wine glass, place 2 small scoops of chocolate ice cream.  Fill about 3/4 full with red wine.  I used a Cabernet Sauvignon, but a Pinot Noir would be delicious as well.  Top with club soda for a bit of fizz.  As the ice cream melts, like with any good ice cream float, the flavors compliment each other and become creamy and rich.  Treat yourself tomorrow to a grown up halloween treat with this deliciousness.

Happy Halloween!




Monday, October 26, 2020

What’s New (Coastal Decor)

 

I realized that it had been quite some time since I did a house update.  We passed our third anniversary in our new Florida home at the beginning of June and it has been a process of finding just the right pieces.  Also, we have made a few changes after living with things for a bit. Anyone who has built a home knows what a whirlwind process it can be when you are picking things out and it’s really hard to get everything exactly right. Of course the biggest change was putting in a pool, but this post is about that coastal decor with pops of color that I so love.

We hated the carpet in the bedrooms, even though we upgraded from builders grade, so recently we put tile in the master bedroom and the bedroom we use as a den/guest room.  The master has the same tile as the main areas of the house (large neutral squares and on the diagonal) and the guest bedroom/den has tile that looks like wood flooring.  We love both choices and added fun, colorful rugs as well.

The pendant lights we had in the kitchen were never a favorite, because they were too small for the space.  This was an easy change and I love the shape and the coastal look they bring.

Finally, we replaced a piece of furniture that was from our Michigan home and never looked quite right here in Florida.  Dark wood in the north fits, but not so much in a coastal home.  There is a furniture store we love in Sarasota that has custom painted pieces like sideboards and cabinets and we chose an eclectic painted cabinet for a nook area in our hallway.  I had a lot of fun filling the shelves with both purchased and found seashells.

Next up is redoing the other guest room and switching from twin beds to a queen.  

Happy Monday!







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Michigan ➡️ Florida
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