Not Goodbye, Just See You Later

Standard

Dear friends,

I know I’ve been miserable at posting in December, even after swearing to a posting schedule. I’ve just been busy at work, down with a cold, preoccupied with Christmas decorations and gifts and baking and cheer—you know how all the excuses go. And since failing to meet my NaNoWriMo deadline (or even come close, yet again), I’ve been feeling kind of lackluster about writing, blogging and otherwise.

So, after some deep thought, I’ve decided to take a semi-hiatus from this blog. I want to pen a novel, and to do that, I think I need to eliminate all other writing distractions. That goal will be one of only two resolutions for 2018, my 30th year. But it feels like a “big year,” the right time to hunker down and finally get this idea that’s in my head out onto the page. It might take a couple of months; it might take the entire year.

And my second resolution is also going to eat up a lot of time: running the New York City marathon in November 2018. It’s going to require a lot of training, much of which will be long runs to build up stamina and mental hardiness. I’ll also have to keep up with strength training and speed runs and do a few races to motivate myself. Eating and living healthily goes hand-in-hand with that, of course.

I’d like to still post every once in a while, to keep you in the loop on my progress/life, and to check in with all the dear friends I’ve made on this platform since I first started blogging. This isn’t full closure; it isn’t a goodbye. It’s more a see you later, see you soon—basically a “see you whenever I can spare a few minutes here or there to scratch out a quick update, recipe, or restaurant/book review.” I’ll also try to keep my Facebook page updated with short bursts, since that’s a bit easier than writing a full post.

In the meantime, thank you for your love, support, and willingness to read whatever I’ve written. Have a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of new years!!

xx
Chris

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Weekend in Photos

Standard

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did: it was a lot of work, but spending time with family made it all worth it. Plus, we’ve had leftovers for days—which made dinner much easier on Saturday and Sunday while we put up all our Christmas decorations. Here are some snapshots I’d like to share.

Our Thanksgiving Table
We tried to keep it classy with a white and gold theme, and a floral centerpiece that mom bought to use as part of a new Thanksgiving tradition.
0

Thanksgiving Dinner
A slideshow of some of the bountiful food we were blessed to have this holiday, including a 27-pound turkey, lasagna, corned beef, and at least a dozen sides.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Family Photo
I love everyone in this picture so much!
5

Dessert
I baked a pumpkin pie with maple whipped cream, a chocolate fudge pie, and a few mini pies. We also had sugar cookie cheesecake from my brother’s girlfriend and snowball cookies from my mom—both were delicious!

Christmas Time!
As is tradition in the Doka household, we spent the weekend after Thanksgiving changing our dining room decor from fall to winter:
10

And putting up our Christmas tree:
11

My Thanksgiving Plans

Standard

This year, Todd and I will be hosting Thanksgiving in our apartment for the first time. Well, my mom is going to be helping us a lot since we live in a two-family house and she’s right upstairs, but it’s the first time we’ll have both sets of our parents and a few family friends gathered around our table for the holiday. It’s really exciting to plan the menu and figure out the logistics of who’s going to sit where, but it’s also a lot of work trying to make sure there’s something for everyone and plan out my baking and cooking schedule. Luckily I’m off from work on Wednesday, so I’ll have an extra day to get things ready.

One great thing is that everyone is going to be contributing: Todd’s mom, Rachel, will make her famously delicious glazed corned beef; my mom will bring a ton of supremely yummy dishes, like Italian lasagna and meatballs, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, and a few other Thanksgiving classics; and Todd and I will make a few Thanksgiving-with-a-twist dishes, like coconut-sesame green beans, cranberry-fig chutney, and bruleed sweet potatoes. We’ll also be making an apple-cider turkey. And I’ll be baking too: a pecan fudge pie, a pumpkin pie, and a few mini fruit pies. My brother’s girlfriend, Megan, will be making a sugar-cookie cheesecake, which sounds so good!

I’m excited to see how the evening turns out, and to take plenty of pictures of family and food (if I don’t eat it all first).

Bryant Park Holiday Market Food Photos

Standard

Since I’m swamped at work and don’t have much time for philosophical literary musings (or NaNoWriMo—I know, I know, that was supposed to be my Wednesday blog topic), I’m going to share some food photos from the Bryant Park holiday village instead. Every year, the winter market features small shops and food stands, as well as an ice rink. Todd and I visited recently to browse for some early Christmas gifts and get dinner; we tried so many places, and there are still others on our list for next time (cookie dough hot chocolate, I’m looking at you). Here are some photos:

23318669_10106958989451159_1067979037_n.jpg

One section of the Bryant Park winter village, all lit up and glowy after work.

23360959_10106958986067939_890948594_n.jpg

Roberta’s small pizza, with sausage, onions, basil, and a drizzle of honey. Deliciously crisp yet chewy crust, only I wished there had been more cheese.

 

23414165_10106958986302469_1251722529_n.jpg

A “bing” from Mr. Bing; it was like a thin pancake stuffed with duck, egg, crispy wontons, scallions, a delicious mystery sauce, and probably other ingredients I’m forgetting.

23315994_10106958988697669_1272574752_n.jpg

Amazing fried chicken! With a chicken bun and a beef bun, both of which were good but not anything to write home about. 

23315911_10106958987569929_1514785367_n.jpg

One of my favorite meals ever: a crunchy baguette filled with ham and pickles and lots and lots of gooey raclette cheese.

 

Countdown to Disney: 45 Days

Standard

20953500_10106693311536829_1695517932177272958_n.jpgMy Disney obsession is no secret. I first visited with my parents and brother in 2001, and thought I don’t remember much of the trip—to those who know me well, it’s also no secret that I have the worst memory in the world—I know I had a good time. Todd and I visited together early in our relationship, then again in 2012 when he proposed. And on our recent trip to California with my parents, we visited Disneyland for the first time (right). But every time we’ve gone to that magical place, it’s been warm and sunny—until now. This year we’ll be in Disney World for New Year’s Eve, so that we get to experience all of the holiday decor plus a special celebration to welcome 2018.

There’s only 45 days left until our trip, and we’ve planned it down to the tiniest details. We know which day we’ll do which park, we’ve made restaurant reservations and plotted out which shows we’re going to see, and we’ve booked fastpasses for the rides we most want to experience. I know it’ll be crowded (read: completely and utterly mobbed), so I think all of our planning will serve us well. Of course, we’ll still be spontaneous here and there, and I’m sure we’ll have tons of impromptu photo sessions. I also can’t wait to see what kinds of holiday snacks we’ll find; I’m trying not to do much research in advance so that I can be surprised while we’re there.

So now I’m just counting down the days, and in the meantime, I’m looking back at photos from all of our previous trips. Here are a few gems from our trip last summer:

20953396_10106695831267269_1381204934011391190_n.jpg

Todd, Dad, Nick Wilde (from Zootopia), me, and momize-full wp-image-10066″/>

20915486_10106695852474769_4521987366162649292_n.jpg

The fam on Splash Mountain.

20953926_10106695831122559_3593208906800997726_n.jpg

Snapshots of some of the delicious food we had during our visit!

Restaurant Review: The Beehive

Standard

Some of my favorite Sundays are the ones when Todd and I meet up with my cousin Nikki for brunch. She planned my bachelorette party and was the maid of honor at my wedding, but we’ve been super close since childhood, when we used to make costumes out of our grandma’s excess sewing material. Because Nikki lives upstate from me and Todd, we usually try to pick a brunch spot that’s midway between our towns. Recently we tried out The Beehive in Armonk; it had gotten great reviews, and we wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.

22155143_10106837208491179_1784164517_n.jpg

A side of bacon, a chocolate-chip pancake (what’s with the sole orange slice?), and a side of ham.

The breakfast menu, served from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, was pretty expansive, and the dishes ranged from simple (oatmeal with brown sugar, homemade pound cake) to more complex (french toast stuffed with cream cheese and apricot jam, topped with a berry reduction). The prices varied, too. I thought that $11 would be a reasonable amount to pay for that french toast, but $5 for a fruit bowl seemed crazy. I could buy a whole tub of fruit for that price! I almost didn’t order the side of ham I wanted when I saw it was $4.50, but I bit the bullet and ended up being pretty happy with how generous of a portion they gave me. Todd’s side of bacon (also $4.50) was another story; you can see from the photo above that he only got three pieces, and they had a weirdly burnt taste to them.

21849344_10106802793648799_1455420430_n.jpg

Corned beef hash eggs Benedict.

Nikki ordered the corned beef hash Benedict (right) and Todd ordered an eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and avocado. The hollandaise sauce in both was light and airy, and the eggs were cooked right: slightly runny on the inside but firm on the outside. The hash was plentiful and delicious, salty and savory in all the best ways. The Benedict, while satisfactory, wasn’t anything special; it could have used more salmon and maybe a small salad on the side. Then again, it might just be a pet peeve of mine when egg dishes don’t come with a side salad.

So, this wasn’t a flawless brunch, and clearly there are improvements that Beehive can make. But one thing was kinda close to perfect: my brioche french toast baked with macadamia nuts and fruit, topped with fresh berries and raspberry sauce. True, the pineapple was likely from a can, there were only four strawberry slices, and the raspberry sauce was nearly nonexistent. But sometimes less is more, and what this dish lacked in fruit quality, it made up for in french toast goodness: golden, buttery, crispy but chewy, sweet yet yeasty. I’m not even a french toast girl, but this one was the stuff that dreams are made of.

22118938_10106837208730699_945704967_n.jpg

Brioche french toast.

 

List It or Skip It? My Recent Reads

Standard

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the books I’ve read from spring to fall, and a recommendation on whether you should add them to your must-read list or not even bother. (Goodreads Reading Challenge progress: I’ve completed 49 of the 55 books I pledged to read this year!)

List It…

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware: Ware has quickly become one of my favorite thriller writers, and this latest slow-burn thriller didn’t let me down; my only complaint is that it had a similar premise to In a Dark, Dark Wood (old friends get together and something terrible happens) but wasn’t as well executed as that earlier novel.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak: What happens when a British family is placed under quarantine for the Christmas holiday? You’ll have to read this engaging, funny, lyrical novel to find out. Spoiler: It involves two unexpected guests and innumerable shocks and surprises, most of them not so full of cheer.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy: A parent’s nightmare comes to life: two couples’ kids go missing during a cruise-ship excursion and are subsequently kidnapped. Though some details feel overly dramatic and frankly unbelievable, the book is a page-turner that will keep readers hungry for more.

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard: This literary novel combines storytelling with interviews and “news” articles, all centered around a tattoo machine that writes on a person’s arm the one thing about themselves they’re too scared to admit—or is it all one big hoax, a self-fulfilling prophecy? The suspense keeps us reading, but the downside is that we never find out for sure.

Skip It…

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Despite this book’s hype and the author’s clear grasp of the writing craft, I felt no connection to the characters: a rather lecherous aging wanna-be rockstar, plus all his high-school friends, and a kleptomaniac woman trying to figure out her life.

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer: In her first novel for adults, the Twilight creator seems to have hit a new low; when the narrator isn’t droning on about guns and tactical plans, she’s mooning over a totally predictable crush. And somehow Meyer’s writing manages to be even more atrocious than ever, with cliches and bad metaphors galore.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson: Having just reread Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in anticipation of the upcoming movie, I had high hopes for this fictionalized account of an unexplained period in Christie’s life when she went missing. Unfortunately, the book was hard to get through, with a stilted voice and dull scenes.