The 2016 White Elephant Menu

For the past several years I’ve been posting our menu for the annual White Elephant party that we host at Christmastime. I didn’t post a recipe list in 2016, but here is the 2016 blog post! This year most of the things we served we brand new, with only a few repeats.

Each year we do two kinds of meatballs. This year we made two Asian inspired recipes. We had an “orange chicken” meatball – meaning it had the flavors that orange chicken from a Chinese restaurant would have, but made with meatballs instead of chicken. We also had Spicy Korean-style Gochujang meatballs – which were a huge hit. That crockpot was empty by the end of the night. I had made those meatballs two … continue on, dear reader!

An Overdue, and Sad Post

Chilly the Dog
In October I didn’t get a chance to post about this, but we had to put down one of our dogs, Chilly. He was a sweet, senior Australian Shepherd that we adopted just three short years ago. I knew the minute I saw Chilly’s picture on the rescue group’s website that I had to have him. We had adopted him as an older dog in 2013 and gave him to the kids as a Christmas present. Initially told he was about five years old, within a year we knew he was very much older – probably 9-10 years old, maybe even older. In 2015 he began aging rapidly – eyes turning milky, difficulty taking the stairs. But he was just as sweet … continue on, dear reader!

It’s That Time of Year Again

It’s officially December, which means I have permission to go nuts on Christmas stuff. The outside of the house is already decorated – Denis and I spent most of Thanksgiving weekend putting everything up, including some new things that I made this year. We had a lot of issues of things being broken when we brought it out of storage. Most of our net lights were broken, one of my metal trees wouldn’t turn on, and we had a few strings of lights that were done for. Oh, and for some reason three of our pre-lit wreaths that we put in the windows didn’t light up. Very strange. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover they were not lighting up until AFTER we had installed them on the … continue on, dear reader!

Day 10. And 11. And 12, Really.

On Day 10 of our trip, which was a Thursday, we had another leisurely morning since there wasn’t anything left to visit or do. As such, AJ and I slept in until 7 a.m. again, went down to the beach again, walked along the boardwalk again, chilled out in the room for a while, and then had some lunch at an outdoor cafe. At 2:45 p.m. we arrived back in the hotel lobby where we met up with our bus, which was to take us to the airport in Eilat for a flight to Tel Aviv.

At the airport it took our entire group almost 2 hours to get through security and then another 30-45 minutes for our flight to be ready for boarding. Then … continue on, dear reader!

Day 9: Finally a Vacation Day!

Because of the over-active trip to Petra the day before, AJ and I opted to have a relaxing day on Day 9, rather than heading to Egypt to go to Mount Sinai.

Sleeping is was glorious. We both woke up on our own around 6 a.m., but then fell back asleep for another hour or so. We then got up for the day and eventually made our way down to get some breakfast. We discovered we were not the only ones who opted not to go to Mount Sinai, as we saw a few folks from our group in the dining room as well.

After breakfast we headed outside to go touch the Red Sea (upon doing this, I informed AJ that we had touched … continue on, dear reader!

Day 8: The Big Day – Our Visit to Petra

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but this trip was not for the weak. Every day we had to be down in the dining room by 6:30 a.m. in order to be on the bus no later than 7:30-7:45 a.m. to begin our day of touring. And then we’d be on the go all day and wouldn’t get back to the hotel until 4:30-5 p.m. It was non-stop every day.

So imagine our horror during dinner the evening before, when Ezer stood up and said, “For Petra we need to be on the bus by 7:10.”

Ugh. Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

The Jordanian border in Aqaba was only a few minutes from our hotel in Eilat, but we were told that the border crossing would take … continue on, dear reader!

Day 7: The Day Jaynee Finally Wore Shorts

Day 7 was a great day. I got to wear shorts! Woo!

No, but seriously, it was a great day, for real.

It was Monday, and we were a week into our trip. After packing our bags in preparation for changing hotels again, we had breakfast that morning with the very first people we met while at the airport in D.C. the week prior, before hopping on the bus to head to Masada and the Dead Sea. That sounds like a light itinerary – but let me assure you – it was not. Masada is NO JOKE. And we spent a lot of time on the bus as we drove from Jerusalem to our final destination in Eilat, on the far southern end of Israel.… continue on, dear reader!

Day 6: I Hate My White Pants Now

So the morning of Day 6 I woke up praying that my white pants were dry (I had washed them in the sink the night before – my second time washing them in the sink with shower gel during the first week of the trip). They were, so I put them on, along with a peasant blouse, thinking that I’d be appropriately dressed to go to the Temple Mount.

Lon had told us that we would go to Temple Mount, but that there was no guarantee the leaders in charge would open it up to visitors – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Fortunately, we were told they WERE opening it up to tourists, so we quickly began making our way through security. At some … continue on, dear reader!

Day 5: Really? Only Day 5? It Feels Like We’ve Been Here Forever

I think Day 5 ended up being AJ’s second favorite day of the whole trip. When going through the pictures that I took (which we did several times to remind her of places we had been throughout the trip), it was this day that she commented on with such happiness until we reached Petra on one of the last days (that was her favorite day).

On Day 5 we started by visiting the Garden of Gethsamane, where we got to see olive trees that date back to the time of Christ. AJ was fascinated by these trees and spent many minutes just staring at them in disbelief. They really were interesting trees:


Then it was off to the Israeli Museum and the Shrine of the continue on, dear reader!

Day 4: Arriving in Jerusalem

Friday we were up and hit the road early. We spent some time in the ruins of an old Kursi church that dated back the time of Empress Helen, the mother of Constantinople, and the one responsible for many of the churches built on holy sites around Israel and other parts of the middle east. Then we drove to the ruins at Bat She’an, where I took a great picture of AJ in the excavated amphitheater from the year 200 AD:


The city was destroyed by a massive earthquake in the mid-700s, and the ruins they have uncovered are extensive. AJ and I walked around quite a bit, admiring just how much has been uncovered.


From Bat She’an we began driving south through the … continue on, dear reader!

On Meeting New People

It is here in my talk of my trip to Israel that I will comment on some of the folks with whom we traveled.

20161031_134026As I said in a prior posts, during meals you could sit with whomever you wanted. But our bus rides were color coded. AJ and I were on the blue bus, with a tour guide named Dan. Dan was outstanding. His historical knowledge was on display during our entire 12-day trip and he knew a lot. When someone had a follow-up question to something he said, he always knew the answer. It was clear that he had been doing this tour for a long time (he said he was in his tenth year leading tours around Israel). He was warm, … continue on, dear reader!

Day 3: Just Getting Warmed Up

So I mentioned in my post a couple days ago that I packed light since I knew I could do laundry at our hotels. I wore jeans for my two travel days, two pairs of shorts and a pair of white pants. On Day 2, our tour guide mentioned we needed to wear long pants, so I wore my white pants. Upon arriving at the end of Day 2, our tour guide mentioned we needed to wear long pants the following day (it is because sites maintained by the Franciscan orders had dress codes). No big deal, I thought. I can get away with wearing these white pants two days in a row.

Day 3 started with breakfast at the hotel, where we continued meeting … continue on, dear reader!

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