Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas recap

Since Thurs is my regular day off, I planned nothing else but wrapping and baking.  I mean, we were leaving the next day so I really couldn't put it off anymore.

This was 1 of the few gifts I actually wrapped with paper and ribbon. I think its beautiful but it was really time-consuming.
Most of the gifts this year where wrapped in tissue paper and went into reusable shopping bags.  Without really planning it, we ended up with this shopping bag concept which worked well and saved a lot of time.

I made 4 pans of magic cookie bars.  The 2 in the foreground are the original recipe with coconut flakes on top.  The other 2 were variations; 1 with crushed candy canes and the other with peanut butter chips.

I made them in these aluminum pans with lids so they would stack easily for transport to VA.  We had them both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and they were a big hit!  I made so many that I wound up bringing some home, which is definitely NOT a bad thing.  I also made 2 pans of breakfast casserole (not pictured) to take with us too.

On Fri our former neighbors dropped off a gift and card while I we were at work.  They have 2 young boys whom we love and who were so sweet to our dogs.  The envelope of the card touched me!
Their card was added to our growing collection which I staple to wide ribbons hung from the top of the molding with push pins.  I love displaying cards this way and incorporating them into our holiday decorations.

Spouse & I both came home from work early (unexpectedly) so we decided to have a very early dinner out, then packed our bags, loaded the car, and hit the road.  We arrived at Spouse's sister's house at 9:30.

Sat we hung out with Spouse's sister and her family all day.  But that evening I drove back to DE to perform in the last holiday LEGENDS show, then drove back to VA afterward.

Sun Spouse & I drove out to my cousin Nez & Steve's house.  
They live in a 250 year old stone house that's really cool.  Its been our tradition to spend some time together on Christmas eve.  We had lunch and a lovely visit together.

When we returned to Spouse's sister's house they were leaving for Christmas Eve mass, so we helped set up while they were gone.  Shortly after they returned, the rest of the family began showing up.
Our niece Anna's daughter Gabby with her dad Randy

My handsome husband

Our nephews Tommy and Eric

To be honest I was a more than a little concerned with how Christmas Eve would turn out.  As long as I've been a part of this family (20+ years) we have always celebrated Spouse's mom's birthday on Christmas Eve.  With her passing last April, this was our 1st Christmas Eve without her and I hoped it wouldn't be a sad time.  But her 4 living children were all there, with their spouses and their children, and everyone ate and drank and visited just like before.  I really think Spouse's mom would have been supremely happy about this.

Christmas day was very relaxed and fun.  The boys & I enjoyed coffee in the quiet before the rest of the family was up.
We had breakfast casserole and then opened our gifts.
It was a nice day spent hanging out and enjoying each other's company.
Our brother-in-law and 2 nephews chilling
That afternoon I picked up my aunt Mary and brought her over to join us.  
Mary with Marvin
We exchanged gifts and then had dinner.  Spouse's sister made rigatoni, gnocchi, sausage and meatballs, eggplant parmesan, chicken parmesan, and salad.  Aunt Mary brought sweet potato shuffle (a family favorite) and a hummingbird cake (my favorite).  It was a peaceful, wonderful Christmas day.

On Tues Spouse's sister and her husband joined Spouse & me as we met up with our dear friends Kerry & Hugh, Kelly, Lisa, Carl, Kim & Danny, Pat, and Alex for our annual hippie roll and pizza luncheon.
The infamous hippie rolls

Alex and Kerry

Spouse's sister, Kim, Pat, Danny, Spouse's brother-in-law

Me and Lisa
We returned to Spouse's sister's house, packed up our stuff, loaded the dogs into the car, and headed home.  It was a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

However you choose to spend the holiday, I hope your day is warm and peaceful.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Eve

While I don't typically post on weekends, I'm making an exception today because it is my tradition to share this song/video on Christmas eve.  I love the lyrics which are especially appropriate on Christmas eve, and of course the amazing voice of Karen Carpenter has a slightly haunting undertone in this song as she describes being away from someone you love on Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas, Darlings.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday travel

Spouse & I (and Marvin & Walter) are leaving tonight after work and dinner to join our family in the DC area for Christmas.  We're staying until Tues afternoon.

As we typically do, we have a few meet-ups planned with friends and extended family while we're there so we can maximize our visit and enjoy as much time as possible with those we love.  

If you're traveling over the holidays too, please drive safely and be aware of others. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season's Greetings!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Its busy around our house as we work to finish the gift wrapping, baking, and packing.  

We're leaving Fri after work so everything needs to be done by Thurs night.  Fortunately I'm off work tomorrow so I should be able to bake the breakfast casseroles and magic cookie bars then.  Nearly all the gifts this year are being wrapped in tissue paper and placed into gift bags which greatly simplifies the wrapping.

The older I get the more I try to make the holidays a fun and enjoyable time, so I don't stress over little things like wrapping gifts versus using gift bags.

Its the most wonderful time of the year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

On display

I finally got the rest of our holiday cards done.  I hand-wrote and hand-addressed 60 cards on Sat and 26 on Sun to complete the total of 126 cards.  While I do enjoy this activity, I felt a little stressed about it this year since I got a late start on them.

Meanwhile, I've really been enjoying the cards we've received so far.  In a previous home we draped 2 lengths of twine (1 a little longer than the other) from both sides of the fireplace mantel and hung the cards on the twine to display them.  This worked well until people started sending the photo cards which aren't folded.  In hindsight I now know I could have used clothes pins to pin the photo cards onto the twine.  

But a few years ago I decided to hang wide ribbons from the top of the entryway into the dining room and staple the cards to it.  This eliminated the need for clothes pins for the photo cards, and I love that we can hang as many or as few ribbons as we need.  Here's how it looks so far this year:

This can also be adapted to windows or doors if you don't have a wide entryway.  Here are a few other creative ways to display Christmas cards:
on a door

on a stairway

on a tree created from branches

on twine across a window
So don't put those beautiful Christmas cards in a pile on a table.  Display them so you and your guests can enjoy their beauty.

Friday, December 15, 2017


No, not THAT behind...

I am behind on my Christmas cards!

Its not because I hadn't purchased the cards or didn't have stamps.  I've had the cards since a few days after Christmas last year when I bought them for 70% off, and I've had the Christmas stamps and the Christmas return address labels for weeks.  The trouble has been time.

I like to start the cards the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I worked both Sat & Sun after Thanksgiving.  So I thought I'd start on my next day off, Thurs the 30th.  But I spent that day getting ready for our tree trimming party on Sun the 3rd.  Then I thought I'd start them on my next day off, Thurs the 7th, which was my birthday.  But that day was spent with a plumber and an appliance repairman getting our kitchen sink and oven fixed.

I finally started the cards on Mon the 11th, which is dreadfully late for someone who hand writes and hand addresses about 125 cards.  I managed to get 40 cards in the mail, which sounds like a lot, but is actually only 1/4 of them.  But I'll have several hours of quiet time to work on cards tomorrow when I'm sitting at our little kiosk office which never gets any walk-ins.  Hopefully I'll get another 40 or so done, and then can complete the remainder this Sun.

I really do enjoy writing/sending the cards, otherwise I wouldn't do it, but this year I've had several unexpected delays.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I happened to be off work yesterday and after running multiple errands I was on my way to the grocery store at 3:00 when I got this text from Spouse:

"Can  you make magic cookie bars for my office cookie exchange tomorrow?  I need 4 dozen."

I've never made magic cookie bars before, but we've both eaten them many times at our friend Kerry & Hugh's house, so I Googled the recipe.  It was easier than I thought it would be so I purchased the 5 ingredients while in the grocery store.

That evening after dinner I made them and they turned out beautifully!  

I doubled the recipe in order to make them on this large, non-stick baking sheet.  I wasn't able to taste them because the doubled recipe made 48 bars and he needed exactly 48 bars for the exchange.  Fortunately someone was allergic to coconut so Spouse brought their bars back home and we got to eat them.  Delicious!

What's a magic cookie bar, you ask?  Here's the recipe.  Here's a tip: while still warm, run a knife around the pan's edge to loosen from the sides.  But wait until thoroughly cooled before cutting into bars.  If not, the soft chocolate will gunk up your knife and make your bars look messy.

I challenge you to find a simpler recipe than this.  And if you don't like coconut you can swap it out for something else (see recipe).

The magic cookie bars were a big hit with the folks in his office, and I think I'll make them for Christmas since they're so doggone easy to make and will travel well.  If you make them, let me know your experience.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mystery nuts

Not the actual tins
When I came home from work today there was a box on the door step.  Not surprising, as we've ordered more gifts online this year than before.

However, when I opened the box it contained 3 tins (over a pound each) of pecans.  I looked inside thoroughly and there was no card, so I assumed Spouse ordered the nuts online.  I questioned him when he got home from work but he did not order them either.

It wasn't a mistaken delivery either, as the box clearly has my name and address on it.  So I guess it was a gift, but I'm befuddled how to thank the sender.

I decided to put it on Facebook with the hopes that the sender is a Facebook subscriber and will identify himself or herself.  But perhaps I'll never know who sent the mystery nuts.

What a pleasant surprise!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Look out NYC!

Today Spouse & I are in NYC!

My real estate association organizes an annual bus trip to NYC for the day, and Spouse & I are with our friends Joey & Glenn.  We're going to see the Christmas Spectacular (featuring the Rockettes) as well as do some shopping, look at the department store windows, sight-see, walk through Central Park, and generally enjoy a fun day in the Big Apple. 

Spouse wasn't able to go last year when Joey, Glenn and I went so I'm really happy he's with me today.  

Look for photos later on.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Tree trimming party

So yesterday we had our annual tree trimming party.  It went very well, but it certainly was NOT without challenges.

Our plan was to bake the 3 pans of lasagna, a cake, and a large tray of brownies on Sat morning, so it could all be cleaned up and Sun could be spent reheating the lasagna and setting up the food and drinks.  But Sat morning the oven was taking an unusually long time to heat up.  In fact, after more than an hour it still hadn't come to temperature.  After a quick Google search, it appeared that 1 of the 2 elements wasn't working.

I tried calling someone to fix it, but we live in an area where repair people rarely work on weekends, so we had to come up with some alternatives.  We ended up baking everything in our 18 quart Nesco roaster (counter top oven).

Then I discovered water on the bottom of the base cabinet underneath our kitchen sinks.  I felt the drain pipes and disposal but they were dry.  I guessed it might be the supply line but it was too far into the cabinet and I'd have to unload everything to get to it, so I told Spouse "Let's get through this party and call a plumber on Monday".

Then on Sun as we were setting up the food and drinks Spouse was transferring the frozen punch ring from its plastic bucket into our beverage dispenser (with a nozzle).  When the punch ring dropped into the dispenser, the glass stand broke into several pieces!  After cleaning up the broken glass, we pulled out a vintage punch bowl and transferred the punch ring to it.

It would almost be funny if it weren't so stressful.  But fortunately we came up with work-arounds and the tree trimming party went very smoothly.  The food was delicious and everyone had a great time.

Here are some photo highlights:
The white Nesco Roaster is on top of the stove, underneath the microwave.
Quinn enjoyed petting Marvin almost as much as Marvin enjoyed being petted.

Quinn told Walter "No, no, no".
Spouse's homemade lasagna was a big hit with our friends.  We used warming trays to keep them warm.

I made a Christmas tree shaped cake dusted with coconut and decorated with edible ornaments.

I made brownies with white chocolate chips.
I loved Michael's Christmas sweatshirt with Santa in a vintage Cadillac convertible!

The finished tree looks beautiful, thanks to the help of our friends.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Christmas decorating

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Yesterday was my scheduled day off (since I work most Saturdays) and Spouse decided to use a day of 'use-it-or-lose-it' leave so we could decorate for Christmas.

I started by putting on some Christmas music then unpacked the Christmas tree.  We've been using an artificial one for the last 12 or so years.  It has a 'realistic' look to it and I like that we can put it up whenever we want, without regard to whether its raining or cold, and not have to worry that it will dry out from under-watering, and will be able to withstand the weight of all kinds of ornaments.  Yeah, we don't have that Christmas tree smell, but the convenience is worth it to me.  And we can get that Christmas tree smell from fresh cut greenery on the mantel or a 'live' wreath.  It only took about an hour to assemble the light the 6' tree.

Then we moved onto the outside lights.  We ran several strings of green and red lights along the front porch, and switched out the regular exterior light bulbs with green and red light bulbs.  Next we put multi-colored lights on the rose bushes, and set up the red and green light projector to display on the garage wall.

With the outside done, I began unpacking the inside decorations and placing them around the living room, powder room, and foyer.  In a day's time we went from no holiday decor to fully decorated inside and out.  I was tired by the afternoon and ready to sit down.

But all the effort was worth it, as the house is now ready for our tree trimming party this Sun.  Spouse is making dinner and I'm baking desserts, after which our friends will help us hang the ornaments until the tree is shimmering.  I like a Christmas tree with so many ornaments that you can barely see the green.  Photos to follow.