Mats’ First Pumpkin Patch

Fall has arrived in Jacksonville! For the past few days we’ve been sleeping with windows open, breaking out the long sleeves and enjoying the respite from a hot humid summer. The weather turned just in time for Halloween, which will be Mats’ first big holiday. We don’t have much planned this week for Halloween, except a lineup of themed outfits to dress Mats up in, but one thing I wanted to do was take him to a pumpkin patch.

The church attached to Mats’ new daycare is locally known for going all out for families around holidays, and the giant pumpkin patch they set up has been calling our name all week. This afternoon we loaded up Mats and his stroller for a quick visit. All of the pumpkins that were lined up Friday afternoon had disappeared, save a few that were better for photos than taking home. That probably worked out better for us, since carving pumpkins with an infant would have taken more arm-twisting of Garrett than is necessary. But we did snap a few photos of Mathias’ first pumpkin experiences to share…

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Happy Halloween (and Mathias’ 16-week birthday) from all of us!
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Mats’ First Pumpkin Patch

Winter Wonderland

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Woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland scene at the Ranch in Prineville, Oregon. If yesterday was all about the White Christmas, today will be a play day with the Beyer family…just as soon as we find snow pants for Garrett!

{postscript} This post didn’t publish earlier today, so I can now report that we used the new *backyard* as our sledding playground for several hours, and plan to do more tomorrow. Photos to come!

Merry Christmas (and Boxing Day!) from the Teagues.

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Christmas Card 2012 | Extended Version

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Clockwise from top left: 1) Cheered with Portland’s “Timbers Army” at FC Dallas in July; 2) Garrett on the field at a Jacksonville Jaguars’ game, shooting video for the City of Jacksonville; 3) Lauren gets blasted with blue in the Color Me Rad 5K in September; 4) Striking the “Thinker” pose in Harvard Yard. Possibly our favorite photo from 2012!

Our Christmas cards should be dropping in a mailbox near you this week, unless the postman was extra speedy this year, and some of you have already seen the 2012 edition. In that case, thanks for checking out the new web address (and look) of our family blog, TeagueFC. We hope you’ll visit often and subscribe to get new posts from me & Garrett. Enter your email address in the box in the top right corner of the homepage, and new posts will be emailed directly to you,

One item I couldn’t fit on this year’s card was the recap of our highlights from the year, but by putting them here, I can also share more photos and links to posts from our favorite moments.

2012 with the Teagues…

Star Watching on NYE

January: Rang in 2012 at the Dallas Stars NYE game with the Teague family. Back in Florida, we played tour guide for Adam & Kirstyn (brother & almost sis-in-law) in Jax and Orlando.

February: Lauren goes 13.1 miles in 28 degree temps with Elysia (Jax BFF) at the “26.2 with Donna,” while Garrett watches from warm places. Lauren also gets in two cross-country trips with visits to Molalla and the Northern Trust Open in L.A (and back to Molalla!), with annual Valentine’s Day pizza making in between.

March: Danced the night away at Brian & Janelle Zipse’s wedding. Crossed Alabama off the travel list by roadtripping across the Florida panhandle to spend a Spring Break weekend with the Teague family in Gulf Shores. Moved just in time to host our annual Corndog Day party in the new house, with roomie Eric.

Beyer Family at Easter

 April: Surprised Mary (Lauren’s mom) on her birthday in Oregon, then enjoyed Easter with the Beyer and Ferrarin families. Garrett leaves the JU Soccer team to focus on rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, then earns his first 4.0 in  college (or…ever?).

May: Garrett starts video production internship at City of Jacksonville Parks & Rec department, but we still make time to cheer for our faves at THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass and the US Mens National Soccer Team vs. Scotland (both in Jax).

June: Spent many weekends on friends Leif & Anne’s boat exploring the St. Johns River and Intracoastal. Lauren finishes the month in Washington D.C. for the AT&T National, and squeezes in an early morning tour at the Pentagon before flying home.

July: Mary, Roy and Garrett takes a turn surprising Lauren in Fort Worth during our annual summer vacation week with the Teague family. With our parents, we visited Possum Kingdom Lake, explored the Stockyards and Fort Worth. Then Garrett & Lauren cheered in the Timbers Army at FC Dallas to celebrate Garrett’s birthday.

August: Lauren hits the road for the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoffs, visiting Bethpage (NY), TPC Boston, Liberty National (NY) & East Lake GC (Atlanta) across five weeks. Garrett is asked to stay on with Parks & Rec as a real (paid!) employee, and starts producing JaxParks TV.

Our "Jax Family" celebrating in Hartford.
Our “Jax Family” celebrating in Hartford.

September: Celebrated the “Szeklefsen” wedding in Hartford, CT with our Jax friends, then explored Boston & Cambridge on Labor Day weekend. Also got a long weekend in Atlanta to visit our friends Russ, Alice, Brian, Marilyn & Elayna.

October: Lauren gets a taste of fall with a week in Oregon that includes crabbing at the coast, quality family & friend time, and helping with chores at the parents’ ranch!

November: Getaway on Thanksgiving weekend with Rick, Robbye, Cameron & Amy at Amelia Island, and witnessed the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first home win (and likely only) of 2012! Much to be thankful for as we approach the end of the year.

December: Christmas time is here again, and with it comes parties, family dinners, movie marathons and a week at each “home,” in Oregon & Fort Worth. We hope to see you on our travels!

Christmas Card 2012 | Extended Version

Christmas (Card) Time is Here Again

Enter December, and enter time to craft the annual Christmas card to our family and friends. Back in 2006, I graduated from Northern Arizona University in December, so I sent my graduation announcement photo as a holiday card, which started a tradition of cards reaching far and wide this time each year. Maybe its because I’ve been far away from those I consider dear friends, whether living in Arizona, Oregon or Florida, but I absolutely love sending out a Christmas card. Who doesn’t love getting mail? To that note, being on the receiving end of holiday cards has let me track my cousins as they grow up and provided a number of family photos I keep to display throughout the year.

As I wait for the 2012 version of the Teague (FC) card to arrive, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at how our cards have evolved since Garrett and I started sending them together. (Hint: click on one photo to see them all in a slideshow gallery.)

Expect the 2012 version to hit mailboxes in about a week (and I’ll share a version of it here too). It’s not too late to get on our list, so please send me an email or leave a comment if you want to be added! We moved earlier this year, so if our entry in your address book still has an apartment number in it, contact me to get the new one. We don’t want to miss your notes and photos as the year comes to a close.

Christmas (Card) Time is Here Again

Futile Fourth

First off, can we make a rule that our National holiday deserves two days off work when it falls mid-week? Having two “Fridays” in no way makes up for the two “Mondays” or the random thoughts I had about attending tomorrow’s mass on the day-off. So screwy!

I grew up in a small town that gets out of its own way for exactly one week a year, around the Fourth of July holiday. There isn’t a rodeo, but our own Buckeroo (and fireworks show!) [with the world’s worst website, or I’d link to it]. And not one Parade, but two…a Kiddie Parade held an evening before the 4th of July Main Street Parade. Add in some dancing, late night pancakes in the park by the VFW and BBQ chicken dinner from the local Catholic church…and it’s a pretty epic week whether you’re six, sixteen, twenty-one or… (well, I haven’t been there since I turned 22 so I’m assuming it continues to be fairly entertaining as one gets older).

As a child, I assumed all towns had parades to celebrate Independence Day, but alas I grew up and moved to Jacksonville, to discover the only parade here is a never-ending stream of bicycles, with passengers displaying various stages of public intoxication, up and down First Street at the Beaches. Not going to lie, it’s pretty entertaining whether you choose to participate on cycle, or by waving from a beach chair at someone’s house party. But now that we’re married and old, our Beach time yesterday was about 30 minutes of grabbing coffee, surveying the scene at the end of Atlanti(c) Blvd, and getting the heck out of there before it got crazy.

Instead, our Fourth “celebrations” consisted of cereal & shakes for breakfast & cleaning the house. A planned movie date nearly went astray when someone (ahem, me) forgot the cinema passes (waited out the next showtime with leftovers for lunch and an episode of Rescue Me)…and then realizing said passes were not accepted on opening weekend of a flick like “Moonlight Kingdom.” (three stars, for those of you keeping score).

Things nearly got crazy when a freak thunderstorm knocked out power while we were attempting to find an open restaurant for dinner, so we met our friends (the Lees) for a traditional third-of-July meal of Greek food. The only true “Fourth” moment of the day? Despite the earlier rain, downtown Jacksonville’s fireworks show went off as planned. Somewhere in the 12 minutes of oohs, ahhs and sparkly showers raining down on the city, it finally felt like the Fourth.

Our viewpoint was somewhere in the bottom left of this picture. Borrowed photo from Downtown Vision, Inc.

After the show, my ringing ears confirmed it…next year, we’re Moo-Town bound!

Futile Fourth

Christmas Cooking

Found my “Susie Homemaker” gear yesterday, as I decided I couldn’t ignore the basil forest that was emerging from my herb pot and threatening to take over Garrett’s desk. Making my own pesto has been on my mind, so I did some Google research on the best methods and ingredient equivalents, then formulated my own strategy.

The “How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother” link caught my eye…but as I read through the comments, I learned the mortar and pestle was the true way to go. Hey, I have one of those.

The food processor method wasn’t appealing, until I ground and pestled for about 30 minutes to come up with a small ball of pesto base. (2.5 cups basil, three garlic cloves, small handful pine nuts, two handfuls of Parmesan.) After mixing in about 2 tbsp of evoo (olive oil), I figured that would be plenty to pour over a block of brie at a party later on.

Note: this pesto had quite the kick, from the bruised basil an lots of garlic. Adding cheese helped make a more dense ball of pesto paste and helped the texture. Also, I used sea salt in the pestle to help break down the basil leaves.

Brie with home-ground Pesto

Knowing I had to double my pesto output to have enough for the Tortas I was planning to make, I pulled out the Cuisinart stick processor (one of those that has four attachments, the most notable being the stick blender…but I use the processor 95% of the time) and hoped my own Nonna wouldn’t shake her head in heaven.

I began to prune the basil forest, yielding about 3.5-4 cups of fresh leaves and a more healthy herb pot.  I loosely followed a basic Pesto recipe for equivalents, but took the “mix and add’ approach by throwing in bits of everything at a time, mixing for about 10 seconds, and adding more of all ingredients together and finally adding about half cup of evoo at the end (though it called for 1 cup). This produced about 1.25 cups of pesto, but I could’ve made more if I wanted it runnier, with more evoo.

My aunt Sue makes this awesome torta with cheese, pesto and sun dried tomato that I tried to emulate, but had to mash a handful of recipes together to do so. With these steps from Epicurious, Food.com and Green Eats Blog, I came up with this:

1 cup pesto (for homemade, see above)
1 cups sun dried tomato (all recipes called for tomatoes in oil, but I had the dried ones on hand)
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup EVOO (only if using dried tomatoes, not packed in oil)
splash Balsamic Vinegar
8 oz (one pack) low-fat cream cheese, divided in half (softened at room temp)
12 oz goat cheese (softened at room temp)
salt to taste

Make each layer (pesto, tomato & cheese) and set aside in individual bowls.

For tomato: Mix sun dried tomato and tomato paste (plus oil, if necessary) in food processor and blend until nearly smooth. Add a splash of balsamic and 4 oz of cream cheese, blend until mixed well.

For cheese: Mix softened goat cheese with remaining 4 oz of cream cheese in a small bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds first, if you forget to set out the cheese ahead of time, as this will help it blend. Salt to taste.

Layering: If you plan to serve on a plate very nice looking, follow instructions on lining a bowl/dish with parchment paper or plastic wrap, spray with cooking spray, layer, then invert on a platter when serving.  I cheated and used three ceramic mini-loaf pans instead. Cooking spray makes layering a bit harder to do, so you can probably skip it.

Start with the cheese. Halve the bowl, then divide each half in thirds, one for each pan. Spread across the bottom of the pan (thank you mini spatulas) in an even layer. Cheese is the only layer that is added twice.  Add a pesto layer (works best if the pesto is more solid than runny, so reduce the olive oil in the recipe if you can), followed by the tomato spread.

Each layer should set up fairly well. Top with the final layer of cheese. Wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving (can make 1-2 days in advance). Before serving, top with a bit of extra pesto, sundried tomatoes and/or pine nuts for flair. Crackers, crostinis, bread all taste great with this.

Christmas Cooking

Our First Thanksgiving, part 1

Our November plans changed last week when Garrett was hurt in a soccer game. The injury, a deep contusion & large hemotoma to his right thigh, resulted in two nights in the hospital and prevented us from taking our Costa Rica honeymoon as scheduled. The bright side of this (we were both terribly disappointed) is that we’ll be in Jacksonville for Thanksgiving, with our friends.

Thanksgiving is the only holiday that G&I have celebrated together every year since we started dating. The past two years, we’ve done a “family” Thanksgiving dinner with his Navy friends and their girlfriends/wives. This year the families have expanded to include two new babies, so we offered to host the turkey dinner. Secretly I was hoping that one of the guys, who has made turkey the past two years, would do so again this year so I could focus on all the fun stuff (appetizers, sides, etc) instead…but no such luck. He’ll likely help me out if I need, but the entire Thanksgiving dinner will come out of my kitchen for the first time ever. Yikes!

On Sunday I broke out the Food & Wine and Real Simple magazines to start looking for recipes. Tuesday (yesterday), G&I chose the menu and made the shopping list. Today we braved the grocery store to fill the list, on the afternoon before Thanksgiving…novice mistake? I should note that our main supermarket is closed tomorrow, so I wanted to get all/most of my list crossed off a couple days early.

I should have kept better track of the many websites I’ve used this week to research how big of a turkey I need, how to cook a turkey, how to defrost a turkey, how to maximize my kitchen output with one small oven, four gas burners and a crock pot, and easy decorating tips for the house. Lets just say, there were a lot! A couple worth checking out are Butterball.com”s “How To” section, FoodNetwork.com’s Thanksgiving, and Real Simple’s Thanksgiving Prep List (amazing!).

I’m hoping that I’ll remember to take pictures and post updates while cooking, shopping and putting together our first turkey dinner to share…and that the effort will launch me as a semi-regular food & cooking blogger, since I have plenty to write about. I’d love to hear your Thanksgiving & entertaining tips, especially since I have an extra day to put them into action.

Here’s our proposed menu for Friday’s dinner, for 9-10 guests.

APPS:
Dressed Goat Cheese, served with crackers (from Real Simple, Dec 2010)
Hot Ricotta Dip (RS Dec 2010 recipe calls for endive accompaniment, but my guests are mostly guys so I think crackers here too)
Spinach Dip Bread Bowl  (saw this in a Publix ad, lol)

DINNER:  (set as a buffet, since my table won’t seat 10 people)
Easy Roasted Turkey (12 lbs) with Basic Gravy (adapted from RS Nov 2010)
Sausage & Sage Stuffing (RS Nov 2010)
Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Shallot (Food & Wine, Nov 2009)
Spiced Veggies with Pomegranate Seeds (F&W Nov 2009)
Nonna’s Peas (top secret family recipe is also a G&L tradition, we’ve made it every year)
Pomegranate Cranberry Relish (from Ashlee at Veggie by Season)
Rolls (something has to be store bought!)

DESSERT:
to be determined (I’m hoping our guests bring this part!)
**I have vanilla-cider panna cotta in the fridge, via Food & Wine Nov 2009, that I couldn’t resist trying to make, even though it won’t make it to the Thanksgiving menu. G&I will try it ourselves, or I may take it to our T-Day dinner with our fellow foodie couple tomorrow.

Did I miss anything in the menu planning? Next up, prep work and deciding how I want to decorate. Black Friday shopping for me will likely include table linens & decorations for the Friday dinner!

Our First Thanksgiving, part 1

Happy Independence Day

I traded in cowboy boots for bikes and swimsuits for the fourth of July holiday last weekend. For someone used to spending the 4th around the Molalla Buckeroo, it was quite different here at Jax Beach. I spent the afternoon with my roommate Cate at a block party where her friends have a house. There were a ton of house parties down at the beaches and you can ride bikes everywhere going from one to another. There was no official parade, but all the people on bikes were waving and yelling and having good ol’ time.

Later, I met up with my trivia-playing friends Eric and Dale to celebrate with a few beers in Atlantic Beach. Fireworks were awesome to watch over the beach. Had I been paying attention, I would’ve also seen the fireworks from St. Augustine and downtown Jacksonville (but it had been a long day in the sun with many refreshing beverages, so I’ll look for those fireworks next year.) It was definitely a good holiday and I think I’ll be okay with the new traditions.

Did I mention it was 94 degrees and beautiful?

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

Happy Father’s Day Poppa

I’ve missed a few Father’s Days since “growing up” in the years after high school, but I don’t remember any of them being as sad for me as this one. For most of today, I’ve caught myself wishing I was home with the fam to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad and my grampa. I miss the big morning hugs from Dad, grabbing coffee after church, getting the family together, big dinners prepared by the Mom’s (more so than the girls, I think we’re only good for setting the table & cleaning up), and (of course) watching the U.S. Open with Grampa, Dad, and uncles Bob and Jim. Even though I tried, my Arbucks-stay after church, phone calls home and watching Tiger in the Open weren’t quite the same on my own.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. You’re my hero and a rock in my life. Every time I hear a sappy country song about dads and their little girls, I wonder if it reminds you of me, too. (I think they probably do). I love you Poppa!

Happy Father’s Day to my Grampa too. If it wasn’t for you, my dream job might have been being a stockbroker or marine biologist instead of working for the PGA TOUR. I love golf because you shared it with me and I wanted to love it like you do. When I met Fred Couples last month, I kept thinking “I used to watch you with my Grampa when I was little, and now I’m here. Wow!”

Also, a big Happy Father’s Day to all my uncles and the father-like figures I’ve had in my life growing up. Thanks for loving me and helping me to become who I am today.

Here are some photos I found of good times with my Dad & I. Think I’ll have to scan photos from the old albums next time I get home to get more!

Dad @ Edinburgh Castle, May 2005

Dad in front of Edinburgh Castle in May 2005 during the “Dad & Daughter backpack through Scotland” trip.

Parents and I at my farewell party

Me and the parents at my Vino Maria’s farewell party in April ’08

In Cabo

Cabo San Lucas, January 2008

Meeting Fred Couples in Ponte Vedra

meeting Fred Couples in St. Augustine before the PLAYERS

Happy Father’s Day Poppa