Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas recap, part 3

On Sat, Christmas eve, Spouse & I drove out to "the country" to visit my cousin Inez and her husband Steve.  They live in a 200+ year old stone house that is the quintessential cozy Christmas spot to spend an afternoon.  The wood stove kept the kitchen/sitting room warm and cozy, and a pot of water and cinnamon sticks on top of it gave the entire house a yummy, spicy scent.  Nez is a candle girl so there are always candles burning there, regardless of the season.  Two of Nez's adult kids stopped in during our visit so it was nice to see them as well.  We had lunch and continued talking until Spouse suggested we'd better think about heading back.  I couldn't believe 4 hours passed so quickly!  We had such a wonderful visit that it didn't even dawn on me to take any pictures.

When we got back to Spouse's sister's house they were at Christmas eve church service so we had a little time to feed and walk the dogs and enjoy a few minutes of quiet.  A little while later the family returned from church, Spouse's brother and sister-in-law arrived, Spouse's other brother and 2 of his adult kids arrived, and the birthday party began!  

Yes, Spouse's mom's birthday is also Christmas eve so we have a birthday party with a birthday cake to make sure she doesn't get cheated out of a proper birthday celebration.
Spouse and our nephew "baby David" icing the birthday cake while Spouse's brother supervises

Spouse's sister at the kitchen sink, our nephew Tommy at the table, and our niece April.

The dessert table was overflowing

Our niece Anna's daughter Gabby in her new recliner.
On Christmas morning I put on a pot of Dunkin Donuts White Chocolate Peppermint flavored coffee and Spouse's sister put the breakfast casseroles into the oven.  Once everyone was awake it was time to open presents!
"Baby David", Spouse, and "Baby Eric"
Since they were little boys we've referred to our nephews as "Baby David" and "Baby Eric".  Both are in college now and well over 6' tall, but they understand that regardless of their age and height, they will always be babies to us.
"Baby Eric, Gabby (an actual baby), and her mother Anna

Gabby eating a cracker in her recliner in front of the Christmas tree

Around mid afternoon I picked up my aunt Mary and brought her back to the house to exchange gifts and join us for Christmas dinner.  Poor Marvin & Walter were off of their sleep schedule and were nearly delirious from tiredness.  Eventually they each climbed onto a still lap and tried to catch a few winks.
Marvin on a pillow on Spouse's lap

Walter on my lap
They were very good boys and really tried hard to adapt to all the people, noise, smells, and other stimulation.  Typically they would sleep at Spouse's mom's house while we spent time at Spouse's sister's house, but since Spouse's mom sold her house this was their 1st Christmas being with everyone.  They got lots of head scratches, belly rubs, treats and verbal praise.

Mon morning after a leisurely breakfast of coffee and left-over breakfast casserole, we packed up and headed back to DE.  The boys slept silently the entire ride home, and then both curled up on our laps and napped while we relaxed and watched TV.

It was a wonderful, wonderful Christmas!  No arguments, fights or family drama this year.  Just lots of love, laughter, food, family, and joy.  Jeez... we almost sound like a 'normal' family.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas recap, part 2

On Fri Spouse & I met up with friends for our annual pizza and hippie roll luncheon.  Typically there are just 8 of us, but unbeknownst to each other, Kerry and Spouse both invited their families to join us so our group nearly doubled to 15.  Spouse's family is Catholic, Spouse & I and our friend Alex are gay, Alex is also Latino, my mother-in-law and Kim's mother-in-law are both in their 80s, Kim's mother-in-law is also Japanese, Lisa is an atheist, and our nephews are 19 & 21 year old college students.  We were quite the diverse group.

What's a hippie roll?  Its probably 1 of the most delicious items you can eat that doesn't contain chocolate!  Take Italian sausage and slice it length-wise.  Lay it on pizza dough and add sauteed peppers and onions.  Roll up and bake until golden brown.  Absolutely delcious!!

For our group of 15 we ordered 30 hippie rolls, 3 large pizzas, 1 salad, 1 pasta dish, and 15 drinks.  This info will be important in a minute.

We had lots of great conversations and laughs as we caught up with each other and really just enjoyed being together. 
My friend Lisa and me.  We've known each other for 40 years.
A woman we didn't know walked into the restaurant, saw us eating/talking/laughing and said "Oh good, I'm not too late for the party!"  We all laughed and someone said "Pull up a chair!"  Then Kelly said "You know the last 1 to arrive has to pay the bill!" and we all laughed even more.  The woman sat in a nearby booth and was joined by 2 men and a woman a few minutes later.  After finishing their meal, the 4 strangers said that it was so nice to see people who truly loved and cared for each other and got along so well.  They admitted to eavesdropping on some of our conversations.  Then they handed each of us a small religious pamphlet and invited us to join them at their church.  We politely thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas.  After they left we snickered a bit about the invitation and someone said something about hell freezing over before they'd be caught in a church, but it was all very light-hearted. 

Once we'd finished our meal and asked for the check, the waitress informed us that the folks who'd given us the pamphlets had paid our bill.  We were all in shock, and immediately regretted our snarky comments about the pamphlets.  We estimated the bill was over $200 without the tip.  So we left the waitress a generous tip and vowed to send a thank you note to the address on the pamphlet.

After saying our goodbyes we took Spouse's mom back to her place and relaxed at his sister's house for a few hours.  Then for dinner we met up with our friends Liz & Justine.  Spouse & Justine worked together 20+ years ago and were roommates for several years too.  Liz & Justine lived with us for 18 months while they saved to buy a house.  We met at Cantina Mexicana (also known as the Taco House) at 7:30 and left at 11:15.  The time just flew by!  It had been a few years since we'd we seen them so we had a lot of catching up to do.  We also got great hugs from Juan & Gloria, the owners of Cantina Mexicana, whom we've known for 20 years.

We had a fabulous day reconnecting with friends!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas recap, part 1

We had a really wonderful Christmas!  I've got too many photos and stories for 1 post so I'm going to break it up into a few posts.

I was off on Thurs and already had all the gifts wrapped so I decided to do some baking.  I bought aluminum pans with plastic lids to make the food easier to transport.
While this may LOOK like regular brownies, they're actually peppermint chocolate chip brownies.  I took a regular box brownie mix and added chocolate chips and pulverized candy canes to the batter.  They were delicious!

This is the classic corn casserole I've made a thousand times, but its a family favorite and I knew it would go well with the casual Christmas eve/Evelyn's birthday party dinner we have.  Click HERE for the recipe.

I made 5 dozen classic chocolate chip cookies (no nuts).  For the recipe look on the back of a bag of Nestle's chocolate chips.  These were yummy too.
I made 2 pans of breakfast casserole.  I sprayed the pan with cooking spray, then added shredded potatoes, cut up maple sausage, and cheddar cheese, then repeated these layers.  In a bowl I beat a dozen eggs, some milk and some sour cream, then poured it over the layers and seasoned with salt & pepper, then baked it.  The family really loved this and I thought it was really good too.  We stored it in the fridge and just warmed it up on Christmas morning.

Spouse & I arrived at his sister's house shortly after 9pm on Thurs night, but sat up talking (and snacking) until nearly 2am.  Our 2 nephews were both home from college so there were 6 of us plus Marvin & Walter, but it worked out.

More to come.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Seasons Greetings

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or nothing in particular, I hope you have a merry day!  And be nice to people today, even those who don't deserve it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Darlings

While I typically do not post on the weekends, its Christmas eve and I want to share with you my all-time favorite Christmas song, the lyrics of which insinuate its Christmas eve.

So tonight I wish you Merry Christmas, Darlings.  I hope your holiday, however you choose to celebrate it, is filled with happiness, joy, peace, and love.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas plans

Spouse & l packed up the car with gifts, food, and our dogs and left last night to spend the holidays in northern VA.  Since Spouse's mom sold her house earlier this year, we're staying at Spouse's sister's house nearby.

Today we will have our annual pizza and hippie roll luncheon with Kerry & Hugh, Kelly, Lisa, and Spouse's mom.  While this is a super fun time, we will miss George who passed away in Sept.  Tonight we have plans to meet up with our dear friends Justine & Liz, whom we haven't seen in several years.  They actually lived with us for a year and a 1/2 when Spouse & I 1st moved in together.  We're having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant Cantina Mexicana (aka: Taco House) so we'll also get to see the owners who've been our friends for 20 years, Juan & Gloria.  It will be a wonderful evening!

Sat (Christmas eve) Spouse & I will drive out to "the country" to visit and have lunch with my cousin Nez and her family, then back to Spouse's sister's house for his mom's 87th birthday party.  Sun (Christmas day) my aunt Mary will join us and we'll spend the day relaxing, eating, opening gifts, and enjoying some quality family time.  Christmas dinner will be something Italian; details to follow.  Mon we'll pack up and head back to DE.  I return to work on Tues but Spouse is off the entire week.

Wishing you all safe travels and much joy in your celebrations!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Beardy boy

This week's 'Beardy Boy' is Christmas-themed!  I think this is Jared Leto.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Final party

I mentioned last week that I was going to my company's Christmas party and the Blue Moon's employee/entertainers party on the same night.  Both parties were very nice.  I tried not to eat or drink too much at the 1st party so it wouldn't be obvious at the 2nd party that I'd already eaten/drank.  

Here's me in front of the tree at the 2nd party of the evening, at the Blue Moon:
I'm feeling a little fat in this photo, but at least everyone liked my shirt!  Seriously, I got a bunch of compliments at both parties on my shirt.  At this party we had a Chinese gift swap where you can 'steal' a gift already opened or open a wrapped one.  I opened a bottle of Hornitos tequila and was very happy no one 'stole' it!

Then this week my team had our team Christmas dinner and Secret Santa gift exchange in the party room of a local restaurant.  We post a list in advance with everyone's names so people can write gift suggestions for their Secret Santa.  Only, the person I was to buy for wrote that they wanted to be surprised, so I gave her a gift basket with bath/body products in it.  I received a nice variety pack of thank you notes (on my list) and this wonderful Chihuahua wall calendar:
Although my boys do not do this, I love that the dog in the cover photo is winking! 

This was the last of the Christmas parties for me, although we'll have a birthday party for Spouse's mom on her birthday, on Dec 24.  Tomorrow night we're leaving to spend the holidays with our family (staying at Spouse's sister's house) and will also meet up with several dear friends while we're in town.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pressure at Christmas

A work associate asked me this morning if I was ready for Christmas.  I paused for a quick assessment and then said "Yes, aside from 2 gift cards I need to pick up, I'm ready."

I'm not sharing this to brag about how organized I am, or how 'on schedule' I am.  Rather, I'm sharing it to affirm that I do not drive myself crazy or overspend to find the "perfect" gifts at Christmas.  Why not?  First, because perfection is a fantasy, and second, because I choose not to put that kind of pressure on myself.

When my nieces and nephews were younger it was easy and fun to buy them toys, games, and creative things at Christmas.  When they got older it became much harder to get them things because their personalities were developing and their tastes were changing.  We began asking their parents for suggestions of what they're "into" now, which helped to a degree, but also added some pressure when they wanted "the" popular gift of the season that was expensive or hard to find.

Fortunately Spouse & I are both of the same mentality in this regard.  We do not pressure ourselves to find the "perfect" gift that will change our loved ones' life.  In reality, lives aren't changed by material possessions.  Lives are made better by spending time with each other, loving one another, appreciating one another, and being present in the moment.  That's how you have a positive effect on someone's life.

So gifts from us are just that:  gifts.  Things that don't cost a lot, that may or may not be needed, but are most likely going to be liked and appreciated.  Cute costume jewelry.  A t-shirt with a funny saying.  A coffee mug with his favorite team on it.  Cool sunglasses.  Soft flannel sheets.  A novelty watch.  A monogrammed shaving kit.  A portable electronics charger.  A gift card to the movie theater.  Stuff that's less than $50. and most of it less than $25.

Not having the stress of finding "perfect" gifts allows us to enjoy the days leading up to the holiday so much more, and once we're all together, allows us to focus on being together and sharing ourselves, rather than on the gifts.  

Remember that gifts are just a part of how most people spend Christmas.  There's the yummy food, enjoying the beautiful tree and decorations, spending time with family and friends, hugging, laughing, kissing, and appreciating all that we have.  Of course if you're religious you can add all the Jesus stuff on top of that.  

You can reduce your holiday pressure if you choose to.  Then you'll be able to enjoy the holiday rather than just surviving it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Good day for it

Yesterday was Thurs, my regular day off, and only 10 days until Christmas, so I planned to stay home and start writing and addressing my Christmas cards.  I don't quite understand why I got started late this year, but I did.  And its not that I was putting off this activity because I dread it.  Quite the contrary, I really enjoy writing and hand-addressing cards and have a routine based around it.  But here we are, Dec 15 and not a single card ready to go.

Coincidentally we got a severe cold snap and the HIGH temperature yesterday was 27 degrees.  And it was very windy.  So I decided there was no reason to leave the house in such weather, and since I wasn't leaving the house there was no reason to get dressed. 

So I stayed in my flannel lounge pants and flannel shirt all day, drinking Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice flavored coffee and listening to Christmas music while I wrote, sealed, addressed, and stamped 124 cards.  It was a wonderful day!

So with all the cards completed yesterday and in the mail today, they'll all be delivered before Christmas.  While it may seem old-fashioned to send physical cards in this digital age, I enjoy sending and receiving them, and feel there's nothing like opening a beautiful, glittery Christmas card.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Tonight I'm going to 2 Christmas parties.

The 1st one is my company Christmas party, where they reserve the entire restaurant just for us, with great food and an open bar.  Spouse usually goes with me, but I'm not sure he's going tonight since he's been having trouble with his back/hips and the standing may be too much.

The 2nd one is the Blue Moon employees and entertainers party.  The owners will close the restaurant and bar to the public so the restaurant and bar employees, owners, and the entertainers like me can all enjoy a buffet dinner, open bar, and a Chinese gift exchange where you can pick a wrapped gift or 'steal' a gift already unwrapped by someone else.  

Of course I'll have to drink in moderation since I probably won't have Spouse to drive me home.  But that's fine; I don't like hang-overs.  

It will be a fun and festive night!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas joy

One of my blog friends Calvin reads and comments pretty often, and I typically respond to his blog comments via private email.  While we haven't met in person yet, I consider him a friend.

Recently Calvin saw my Christmas tree trimming post and asked if he could send me some ornaments for our tree.  I was surprised but delighted that anyone who hasn't met me would want to give me a gift!

A few days later these 2 lovely glass Christmas balls were delivered and immediately hung on our tree:

I love them!  And like the other ornaments that were gifts remind me of those friends, I will think of Calvin every year when I unwrap these and add them to our tree.  What a lovely way to spread Christmas joy!

Friday, December 09, 2016

NYC birthday

Well, my day trip to NYC on my birthday was great!

The bus left at 6:30am and I was greeted by birthday decorations on my seat.
We were dropped off near Radio City Music Hall, but we had plenty of time before the show so we began exploring.  Our 1st stop was St Patrick's Cathedral, which was not a place I wanted to go see necessarily, but it was pretty cool in the sense that its huge and old.  Next week walked to Madame Tussaud's was museum, but after finding out it was $32 to get in, we decided to skip it.  Then my friend Joey and his husband Glenn and I broke off from the pack of women who wanted to go shopping.  We decided to have lunch at a spot that looked interesting called Burger Heaven.  Great burgers! 

Then we went to Radio City Music Hall.  While waiting in line I decided to take a selfie.
Once inside the grand lobby I was struck by the amazing chandelier!
Joey had purchased the tickets online and paid for mine as a birthday gift so I didn't know ahead of time that our seats were going to be so good.  We were in the center orchestra in the 7th row.  We were close enough to see the expressions on the Rockettes' faces!  The show was really fun and the 3 of us really enjoyed it.

After the show we stopped into the MoMa store where Joey & I bought the exact same Christmas tree ornament and the exact same Tiffany glass coasters.  Then we walked over to Rockafeller Plaza and watched the people ice skating.
Then we stopped into a couple stores as we walked to Central Park.  It was getting to be dusk but we enjoyed the winter beauty of the 'park in the middle of the city'.  Here are Joey & Glenn watching more ice skaters with the skyline behind them.
Then we decided to stop for cocktails at the bar inside the legendary Plaza Hotel.  I'd never been inside before but it was just as elegant and fancy as I'd imagined.  Check out the absolutely gorgeous granite bar!
Our cocktails were so delicious we had to have a 2nd round.  Then we walked back toward Radio City Music Hall where the bus was to pick us up.  We stopped and bought cashmere scarves from a street vendor (3 for $25) and then got hot dogs and pretzels from another street vendor.  Joey & Glenn were a bit skeptical but I told them "real New Yorkers eat street vendor food all the time".  Near the food vendor there was this pretty grouping of trees lit with white lights.  I felt compelled to take a photo.
Then we walked back to Rockafeller Plaza again to get a picture of the giant lit tree before getting back on the bus.

The weather was mild and not at all windy so it was the perfect winter day to be in NYC.  It was a really fun way to spend my birthday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Today is my birthday.  I'm not going to say which birthday, so if you really, REALLY want to know, you'll have to email me.

I'm in NYC today.  My local Realtor's association charters a bus to NYC every year on the 1st Wed in Dec.  The bus leaves at 6:30am and returns at 10pm, so you've got an entire day to do whatever you want in the Big Apple.  I've haven't done this trip before but decided to go ahead and do it since it was my birthday.  

Some of my Realtor and mortgage friends and I have tickets to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  If you've never seen this show, you should add it to your bucket list.  I saw it 20+ years ago and was amazed by the sheer mechanics of all the set changes, stage changes, costume changes, animals, etc.  "Spectacular" is definitely not an over-statement.

I'm not sure what else I'll do but in NYC there's definitely no shortage of interesting things to see and places to go.  Even regular buildings and stores will be dressed for Christmas and will be even more beautiful than usual.  Maybe I'll wander through Central Park, see the Christmas tree and ice skaters at Rockafeller Center, and for sure I'll have some good food.  

More details to follow.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Busy weekend

Wow, what a full weekend!

It actually started on Fri evening, as I left work early and met up with 2 friends to sing Christmas carols (in costume) at a charity event.  I love Christmas music so it was fun, and I saw lots of friends.
Rick, Magnolia Applebottom, and me in our caroling costumes
Then I met up with Spouse & Steven for a late dinner.

Sat I worked until 3:30, then ran home to change clothes and get Big Ella lined up for the Christmas parade.
While this parade is always popular, this was probably the best-attended I can imagine.  I've never seen so many people crowded into our fair little hamlet.  No doubt the moderately cool temperature and the absence of rain were contributing factors.  I saw lots of friends and even several clients as I inched down the main street.  After the parade, Spouse, Steven & I had a quick dinner and then I headed to perform in the holiday Legends Show as Elton John.  I got home about 11:45pm and after talking to Spouse, we decided to begin making some of the food that night for our party the following day, so we didn't get to bed until shortly after 1am.

Sun morning we met Steven for breakfast, picked up a cake, and then returned home to prepare for our annual Christmas tree trimming party.  Spouse picked the menu this year:
  • Greek-style beef sliders with hummus and tzatziki
  • Pork sliders with hot mango chutney
  • Curried chicken salad sliders with cranberries, apple, and pecans
  • Homemade potato salad
  • Homemade bowtie pasta salad
  • Peppermint bark dip with cookies
  • Coconut layer cake
The holiday table, before the 2 salads were added

We made everything ourselves except the cake and it all turned out great.  We had 16 friends who joined us for food and hanging the ornaments on the tree.  Since it was only in the 40s out we were able to have a fire in the fireplace which, along with the Christmas music, added some nice ambience to the evening.  We had a great time and the tree looks gorgeous!

When the last guests left Spouse & I packed up the left-overs, emptied the trash and collapsed on the sofa with the dogs.  They did really well with the house full of people and activity!  Even Walter who usually teases people with his cuteness but doesn't let them touch him, allowed some people to pet him last evening... a Christmas miracle!  The boys were exhausted and both were asleep within minutes of settling in on our laps.  We watched the season finale of 'WestWorld' and went to bed.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanks for giving

Yesterday I participated in Giving Tuesday.  What's that?? you might ask.

"Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.  (I saw several posts on Facebook reminding me of this.)  Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving."  This is from the official website.

I always like to give locally so the help remains in my community, so on Giving Tuesday I gave donations to my local SPCA and to a local Veterans Service Dog Initiative.  Our precious Marvin came from the SPCA, which rescues, cares for and places abandoned and surrendered pets.  The Service Dog Initiative procures and trains dogs to be companion/service animals for veterans with PTSD.  I felt that both were worthy recipients of my help.

As I do every year, I also donated shelf-stable food and household items to local organizations.  I don't bring this up because I want recognition or praise, or because I'm rich.  Far from it.  I bring this up because much of this kind of giving/help can be done anonymously, and because I'm not rich.  But even a few dollars given by many people can change a person or animal's life.

Whether on Giving Tuesday or on any other day of the year, I challenge you to seek out ways to give a little so you can help make a big impact.  You'll be glad you do!  And when you do, please share your experience with others in order to inspire a domino effect of giving, making your community and the world better, 1 dollar or 1 can of food at a time.