In Another State

See my feet on the dashboard? This is a wonderful sight because it means that I am not driving! After a year of road trips involving just me, the little guy, and Lucy, I am very excited to be only a passenger on our Christmas/New Year road trip. Also a wonderful sight? The gorgeous snow. I snapped the above picture during our drive from Wilmington, NC to Charlotte, NC.

We went to Charlotte to visit this beautiful little girl. And to visit Meredith and Harry. But mainly to see Alaina. We exchanged presents and ended up trying a couple of new games we gifted each other. We all have a love of board games and have spent many hours playing them well into the night. Wine and sarcasm are necessary to participate.

Qwirkle, a delightful game of strategy, was given to us by Meredith and Harry. Guess what? I stunk. The game is approved by Mensa so I am not quite sure what that says about my intelligence. Apparently not much. Regardless, it is a very fun game and I am glad Clay and I are now proud owners of the game. House guests? Prepared to be animated. Grade = A.

Meredith and Harry weren’t so lucky. Clay and I gave them Name 5. I picked it up solely based on the description. I now know not to give games as a gift without playing them first because Name 5 sucked. Too easy, dumb categories, and not fun. We laughed some but not nearly enough. Sorry guys! Grade = D.

This morning, it was time to say goodbye and make our way to my parents in GA.

We noticed that Santa Claus traded in his sleigh for a mid-90s Toyota Corolla (wouldn’t you?) and stopped at the same gas station as us in Anderson, SC. He must have been on the lookout for legal fireworks.

So we’re now in GA. We will ring in the new year as a family and then Clay and I will take a solo scouting trip to Oklahoma in hopes of finding a house to rent and enjoying a post-deployment (sans Weston) vacation.  Who needs an all-inclusive resort when you can stay at a Hampton Inn and look at crime statistics?

We Had Ourselves a Very Merry Christmas

The first leg of our 2010/2011 Christmas and New Year journey across the southeastern portion of the United States is complete. We graced the Wilmington, NC area with our presence and showed them that we don’t mess around when it comes to the holiday season. Matching pajamas? Check. Rum and cokes? Double check. Homemade sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles? Triple check. Despite my immense joy at being able to celebrate Christmas with Clay home safe and sound, I couldn’t help but think of those who are still deployed and their families back home. It is horrible being away from your loved ones during this time of year. Can you imagine no matching pajamas, rum and cokes, and sugar cookies with frosting? I still can’t believe that it was in the stars for Clay’s deployment to be slightly less than 12 months, just in time for him to be home for Christmas.

Our morning was filled with presents, coffee, and many many memories. And wouldn’t you know, Santa brought Weston a red cowboy hat. I can’t think of a more perfect gift for a soon-to-be Oklahoma boy, can you?

Neither can Weston.

Next stop? Charlotte, NC.

‘Tis the Season for Going Places

Since 2004 we have yet to celebrate Christmas in our own home. We also don’t go ‘home’ for the holidays because neither set of our parents live in the state we’re from anymore. And let’s not even talk about the random scattering of extended family throughout the continental United States. So for us, Christmas is about packing, new playlists on our iPods, and putting miles on our vehicle. Fa-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Right now, we’re in Wilmington, NC and we took Clay’s parents up on their offer to watch Weston this evening while we enjoyed a nice meal downtown. We decided to try Caffe Phoenix after reading a review in the paper. Who needs the Internet and Yelp when the Star News delivers right to the door?

Isn’t the outside charming? The inside is just as nice and the menu emphasizes healthy options and local ingredients. Furthermore, the walls act as a commission-free art gallery. This piece was right above our table…

Gorgeous, right?

Just as we were sitting down, Christmas carolers entered the restaurant and serenaded the patrons with Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Clay opted for the house red and I went for the Riesling. Apparently Thursday is half-price wine night so we couldn’t pass up the good deal. Sorry beer, you weren’t missed. This time.

We started with the bruschetta caprese. The marinated fresh mozzarella, grape tomatores, and fresh basil were all pleasing but I would have loved more balsamic gastrique drizzle. Then again, I can’t get enough of balsamic vinegar. Anyone else with me?

Our meals came with the option of a house salad or soup. Because the air was chilly (30′s) outside, we chose the sweet potato bisque. How was it, you ask? Oh my goodness, this soup was divine. It was my first time with sweet potato in bisque form and it didn’t hurt one bit. In fact, by the end, I was begging for more.

For my main dish, I had the Frenched Chicken Breast, which was stuffed with goat cheese over fingerling potatoes tossed with roasted brussels sprouts, garlic shallots, and sun-dried tomatoes drizzled with brown butter and balsamic gastrique. See, I told you I love balsamic! Again, the dish was great (especially the brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes) but more balsamic would have been much appreciated.

Clay had the Filet Mignon, which was served over a mushroom risotto cake, wilted spinach, roasted garlic bulb, and drizzled with a caramelized shallot demi-glace. I am not a huge fan of mushrooms (i.e. I despise them) so I chose not to sample his dish. But Clay reports that it was absolutely delicious.

The only disappointment of the night was the Tiramisu. I understand that we may have steep expectations when it comes to our favorite desert but this was dry and filled with muted flavor. Very sad. On a better note, the coffee and accompanying raisin and coconut biscotti were really good and almost made up for the tiramisu.

So our first date night upon Clay’s return was a success and a wonderful way to kick-off Christmas. Downtown Wilmington was cold, charmingly beautiful, and the lights shined bright. Tomorrow? Cookie-makin’ time!