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well toto, i don't think we're in raleigh anymore.

yes it's true. my time at home in north carolina came and went faster than glazed donuts from krispy kreme when the hot sign is on. it feels like just yesterday i was maneuvering my fifty-three pound suitcase around this little apartment trying to figure out what to wear on the plane ride. i know i've been absent from the blog for some time and i do apologize for my prolonged disappearance. although we had some internet issues at the house, the truth is that the last few days i was home, i hardly looked at my phone or computer. i wanted to soak up every little bit of my family. i wanted nothing more than to take one of our empty tupperware containers and fill it with the comfort and love that surrounded me while i was home.

and the food of course...

i had plate after plate of amazing homecooked food, but thanksgiving was truly my favorite meal that i shared with my family. we celebrated our thanksgiving on christmas day, and while everyone else was opening presents under a tree, i was in the kitchen watching my dad and sister clean asparagus--thus proving that being jewish on christmas really can be fun. while thanksgiving dinner in los angeles was a great night, to me, sitting around the table with the people i love--watching my sister go back for seconds before my mom has even finished adding extra avocado to her salad--is what that day is all about.

my dad did most of the cooking, but we all had a hand in this meal. sarah was so proud of her cranberry sauce i thought she was going to frame it. i was in charge of the baked stuffed potatoes and hearing my mom select them as "the item on the plate she couldn't bear to be without" absolutely made my day. i make plenty of delicious meals in hollywood, but i'm the only one who ever complements myself.

mango had one job: guard the turkey.

as for the twice baked potatoes (or baked stuffed potatoes as we also like to call them), they're one of my favorite dishes because they're so insanely simple to make, but they taste like something that should be eaten on a special occasion. first, you bake the potatoes. then you slice them in half, scoop out the inside, and mix them with butter, sour cream, milk, parmesean, grated garlic, fresh dill, salt, and pepper.

then you load the mixture back into the potatoes, top with a sprinkle of parmesean cheese and paprika, and into the oven they go!
they come out looking like this:

i know. i'm drooling too.
pictured below is MY "item on the plate i couldn't bear to be without." because stuffing is one of those things you only eat once or twice a year, to me, it's the one dish i'll keep going back to for seconds. or thirds. my dad's stuffing is a little non-traditional, but i absolutely love it and it was at the top of my request list. our stuffing has apricots, figs, pecans, and lots of fresh herbs. my plate was about 80% stuffing, 20% everything else.

you can't have turkey without a big old pot of gravy.
i would make a joke about bathing in this, but i have a feeling that you probably wouldn't think i was joking.

i'm equally as obsessed with my dad's cranberry sauce. sarah was the cranberry sauce maker this year and she certainly hit it right on the spot. fresh cranberries, fresh oranges and orange rind, orange juice, sugar, vanilla bean, and a touch of nutmeg. the new addition this year was sliced pears and it added a delicate and subtle, yet sugary flavor. the cranberry sauce is so deliciously tart and sweet, that if you eat a bite of your meal without getting any cranberry sauce on your fork, you feel a little sad.
the "secret" is the nutmeg. my dad likes to sneak nutmeg into all kinds of things because it's that ingredient that everyone always squints their eyebrows at and says "mmm that's delicious, what am i tasting?"
it wouldn't surprise me if my dad sprinked nutmeg on his toothbrush at night.

while we were all sitting around the table saying what we were thankful for--okay, okay, we were planning our dinners for the next six nights--we suddenly got a very lovely surprise outside.
nope...not santa.
i wish.
the snow wasn't necessarily a surprise, because the forecast called for a few inches, but right there at our dinner table while we were all enjoying our started to flurry! and then it REALLY started to flurry. and then it was full-on snowing.

who would have thought we would get a white thanksgiving!

for those of you who don't know this, my sister lives in hawaii and probably didn't even remember what snow looked like. you would think that her first reaction would have been to go upstairs and put on a few more layers...but nope.
she embraced it with open arms.
and open mouth.

even mango raced to the window to see what all of the commotion was about!
actually the truth behind this picture is that my mom asked me to clean the crumbs off of the table so i set mango up there to get the job done.

aside from being confused by the snow, there were a few hawaiian habits that my sister always brings back to the mainland with her. it's a custom in hawaii that when you enter someone's house, you immediately take your shoes off. before we knew what happened, sarah had started her own little collection.

this pile grew and grew until suddenly all of us had at least two pairs of shoes by the front door.

the amazing meals continued throughout the trip. one of our takeout meals was from bella monica, and that pizza was every bit as delicious as i remembered it. i worked there for close to a year and ate it almost every day. never ONCE did i get tired of it. california may be known for amazing food, but there's only one place you can get this pizza.

another awesome homecooked meal done by my dad--now you see where i get my cooking chops from--was grilled scallops. they were topped with a balsamic and red wine reduction and the salad was roasted butternut squash, beets, and goat cheese. could i whip up this meal myself the next time i'm craving it?
but nothing ever tastes as good as when it comes out of your parents' kitchen.

i wrote a letter to santa asking if he would get me a boondini's in los angeles, but instead he just stopped by to say hello.

i figured that if the letter to santa didn't go through--sending mail around the holidays is the WORST--i could always just drop my boondini's prayer into the teapot that sara got me.

a chicken salad sandwich wasn't my only wish this christmas. although i had gotten to see sara at the beginning of my visit, i was hoping that she would get a chance to come to raleigh and spend a few days at the slater house. just as my luck would have it, the morning she was supposed to come, i woke up to eight inches of snow on the ground and no power (no heat, no cable, no NOTHING) in our house.
needless to say, it was a grumpy morning.
all i had to do was text sara and ask if there was any possible way she would still be making it here in the snow, but i didn't want to jinx anything. while curled up in the fetal position trying to keep warm in the living room and watching my dad and sister wear scarves and play scrabble, a text from sara popped up on my phone:

"what's your address again?"

that's the thing about best friends. they always find some way to surprise you, especially when you least expect it. i had friends whose parents wouldn't even let them out of the house three days after the snowstorm, and this little blonde girl hopped in her VW bug and drove straight from south carolina to my driveway. she knew how much her visit meant to me, and didn't let anything stand in her way.

THAT is a best friend.

i know that you already know this, but you coming here and spending those few days with me meant everything to me. i want you to know how touched i was that even a blizzard didn't stop you from getting to me. i can't thank you enough.
and i will always come back for you <3

it's pretty rare for sara to come stay with us, and it's even more rare to have my sister sarah home. to have both of them there at the same time is my idea of life being perfect. as you grow up and friends and family begin to scatter their own separate ways, to have all the people you love in one room is truly a precious gift.

if you want to see me happy--really, truly, genuinely happy, then put me between my sara(h)s.

another special opportunity was having one of my closest friends and his fiance over for dinner. it wasn't just special because we had lobster macaroni and cheese, but having john (who has been like a brother to me since the age of ten) at our house in raleigh is just about as rare as having my sister there. with him living in boston and me in california, it's not easy to coordinate being on the same side of the country at the same time.

i was also so lucky that his fiance sam was there with us because i'm enjoying every opportunity where i get to spend more time with her and get to know her even better. she is marrying my brother after all. there was one point in the night where i tuned out everyone's conversations and took a second to myself to pause this special moment in time and really take it all in. just being with my parents would have filled my heart with joy, but having not only my sister, but two of my best friends in the world all right there in the same room with me was a moment that i never want to forget. i don't believe that family is based on who shares your blood or your genes, family is about who has always, ALWAYS been there giving you nothing but unconditional love and support. these people are my family, and that means more to me than anything in the world.

after one last trip to boondini's... was time to go back.
i'd like to tell you that i didn't cry the entire way to the airport, but i'd be lying. so with tears in my eyes, i slung my suitcase onto the big metal scale and when the RDU agent said "wow! 50.5 pounds, right on the money!" i sniffed, rubbed the mascara off of my big sunglasses and said:

"thanks. we weigh them at home."

this was the first time i had ever been home from being gone. i've never actually "been gone" before, so every step in this process has been a new experience for me. i got so used to seeing the familiar faces and sights, that when i realized it was time to pack, part of me just wasn't ready to leave. don't get my wrong, i'm enjoying california so far and at the core of everything, i know in my soul that this is where i'm meant to be right now. but at the end of the day, that doesn't make it any less hard. it can be pretty lonely out here, so when you are being hugged and kissed and loved and cooked for everyday, it's difficult to imagine coming back to a place where you're still very new and get lost in the crowds. what blew my mind is how fast those fourteen days flew by. two weeks seems like a very long time, but i feel like i blinked and suddenly i was back on a plane.

on the plus side, at least this plane had tvs.

six hours later, and i was back on the left side. after some issues with the shuttle service that was supposed to pick me up, i had no other option but to sit outside and wait for my ride.

finally after a windy thirty minutes, the super shuttle bus with the hollywood sign in the window slowly rolled towards where i was sitting.
...and then it kept driving.

this wouldn't have been a big deal, had i been on west coast time, or possibly had a seat cushion with me.
seriously, whose idea was it to made rounded benches?

so to wrap things up, i'm back here in my little apartment on beachwood trying to re-adjust to california time. i forgot how homey i had made this place so when i finally walked through the doors at 10:3o wednesday night, i felt a little more comfortable than i was expecting to. i also forgot how small it is here and i've bumped into more things in the past few days than i probably have in my entire life. although i had a difficult time coming back and leaving what i've always known as home once again, i'm slowly starting to settle back in here.

an in-n-out burger or some pinkberry might make me feel better.

i have lots more to update you on--other important events that took place while i was home, new year's eve dinner, and one more very important thing that's currently my main focus.
but i'm still semi on east coast time and it's after midnight here, so i'll save the rest of the rants for tomorrow.

speaking of RANTS, sara--or simple girl as a lot of you bloggers out there know her as--has just decided to begin a new blog entirely dedicated to local restauRANT reviews. she'll be traveling around her town and nearby areas in south carolina and dishing out her critique of different eateries. even if you don't live in the area, go check out pass the sweet tea, please and make sure to follow along! it's going to be a yummy and exciting adventure :)

as for now, i'll leave you with this picture i took yesterday while driving to arcadia, which is near pasadena. i know you're wondering: why in the hell did you drive to arcadia? but you'll just have to come back next time to find out more about that!
yes, those are snow covered mountains.


Kate said...

Oh wow -- you and I had the exact same experience, but I went HOME to CA from NC and you went HOME to NC from CA! So crazy how we're on the complete same, yet opposite journey. I love reading your blog because of it... Glad you had such an amazing time back home!

Jeffrey Slater said...

I can taste everything all over again through your vivid descriptions. I love the picture of Mango protecting our turkey! I can't wait to read the next chapter in your journey. Dad

Kelly said...

Another NC girl here. I'm a brand new follower. I still live close to home but you are right about food always testing better when it comes from momma's kitchen.