Family Ties (and Chocolate)

samples

When my father got married two years ago after thirty years of bachelorhood, I knew that the new woman he was welcoming into our little family was incredibly enthusiastic, supportive, strong and loving (she did capture his heart, after all). What was unclear to me, at the time, was how her children – two sons close to my age – and I would interact and blend. Mixing families is never a sure bet, and forcing a Brady Bunch-esque melding between adult children is not particularly realistic (or probable).

truffles

Turns out, I had no reason for concern. Like mother, like sons. From the moment we met at the wedding (where I was the best man and they were co-maids of honor, of course), I have been bombarded with affection, teasing and respect – much like these hilarious, talented guys had been in my life all along. When they announced around this time last year that they were each expecting a baby, that I would be a full-fledged aunt to two adorable munchkins, my choice to return to San Diego was practically made for me.

cheese and caramel plate

(Caramel and cheese platter: dried mango, apricots, cherries, almonds, chile burnt caramel sauce and four delicious cheeses – wensleydale with cranberries, goat cheese aged in balsamic vinegar, cheddar, petite basque)
 

Fast-forward one year to now. We are still getting to know each other, but after celebrating (surviving) family Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities together, I cannot imagine a life without them. I would not want to. In the days after Christmas, while I was still recovering from the great gift-explosion of 2012 (seriously, this family knows how to party), we all spent some time together – kids only (plus babies).

chocolate menu

On one of these afternoons, their main priority was to take me to Eclipse Chocolat, a local shop well known for their infused chocolates (both in the candied and drinking varieties) and chocolate-themed menus. We each ordered a drinking chocolate, they humored me as I took photos of everything and we sat, soaking in the afternoon sunshine streaming through the café windows and enjoying adult conversation while the babies slept. We laughed while recounting childhood stories, debated politics and shared a few hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. We sipped our chocolate, nibbled on cheese and fruit while bringing each other up to speed on where we are in life and where we want to go. We hatched ideas for how we were going to help each other achieve and grow, knowing that we would be there to support each other through it all – like family does.

hot cocoa

(Left and top, rosemary mint; right, lavender sea-salted caramel; bottom, chile burnt caramel)

 

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