Saturday, December 26, 2009

A memorable Christmas

Can you recall a Christmas holiday when things went awry?

Well, it happened to me this year. My family and I had just returned from a cruise in late December and ate way too much, so the last thing on our mind was to have another big feast. However, two days before Christmas, my sister and I decided on an impromptu get-together. We planned our menu (the usual suspects were ham, turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, pumpkin pie and something refreshing - Jello cheesecake. For hors d'ouvres, we decided on deviled eggs and black-eyed pea salsa) for 13 and went shopping. Oh my, what a zoo!

On Christmas eve, we started to make butter cookies and gingerbread cookies, only to realize that we did not have cookie cutters. I went hunting for them in my neighborhood stores with a mere two hours before they shut down for the holidays. Of course I couldn't find any. So we improvised. Needless to say, the cookies were not photogenic.

The next day was Christmas Day. We got up bright and early to start cooking. Our 15-lb turkey was in the oven for almost 3 hours (with 45 mins more to go) when lo and behold, the power went out. This cannot be happening. It had rained during the night, and we could see dark clouds from the back of the house, but nothing ominous to warrant a blackout. Was every household cooking up a storm, draining the power grid? Hard to believe. So, we waited, and waited. And waited some more. Thirty minutes later, still no power. With guests arriving in two hours, we were starting to be concerned. We have a half-cooked turkey and a ham that has yet to be heated through. Many thoughts crossed our minds. We initiated plan B, which was to move the turkey outside and cook it on the BBQ grill. It was a tad windy, but warm, in the high 60s. Merely fifteen minutes on the grill and the power came back on. We turned around and moved everything back to the oven and the stovetop.

Meantime, I had started to peel the hard-boiled eggs. Apparently, I had either boiled it too long or did not soak them in cold-enough water because the shells would not peel off without ripping the egg white. The solution? I saved the eggs for another meal. Thank goodness the black-eyed pea salsa was a winner!

In spite of the panic, everything turned out delicious. We hope your Christmas holiday was memorable (in a good way) and exciting as well. To joy and peace!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas lights at Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee

Christmas lights inside the Gaylord Opryland Hotel
Whenever people visit us in Tennessee, we almost always take them to Nashville, and one of our favorite stops is the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The nine-acres of jaw-dropping indoor gardens with 50,000 tropical plants and trees, along with waterfalls and cascades, restaurants and retail stores, never fail to impress us or our visitors. If walking the nine-acre complex is too much, you can opt for a Mississippi-style flatboat ride on the river that meanders around the resort.

Having spent eight winters in sunny Florida, I was so ready for a magical Christmas experience, something akin to a Winter Wonderland, perhaps with some ice-skating, along with sensational Christmas lights. So when I heard about the Christmas lighting ceremony at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville on Nov 19, I persuaded my husband to stay in Chattanooga until then (we usually leave after Halloween), so we can drive over to Nashville to see the Christmas lights.

My expectations were raised even higher when I learned that Travel Channel's Extreme Christmas show had touted the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to be "the most Christmassy hotel in the U.S." So, here I was, thinking Christmas in New York City or Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, my two favorite Christmas destinations.

Well, I was disappointed. The ambience at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel was not as festive as I had envisioned it. I did not see carolers, Santa, or even a whiff of snow. The only Christmas music I heard was in the restrooms! We saw one beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the Delta atrium, with throngs of tourists all over it trying to capture its beauty on camera. There were some spectacular lights in the Cascades atrium (see above picture.)

The fountain show was disappointing too. For some unknown reason, the show was delayed some 45 minutes. This small section got very crowded with families. No one knew what was going on. You would think that a hotel in Nashville, the capital of country music, would have thought of hiring a musician to entertain its guests with Christmas songs or music. I hope it was because they were swamped by all the shows and events happening the first weekend of the holiday season. Anyway, enjoy the video, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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