A Not-So-Cynical Look At The 2009 Holiday Season

Posted in holidays on December 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was thinking about our family’s 2009 holiday season, now come and almost gone already, and I was envisioning words to describe this wonderful season, despite the fact that this year ours was peppered with unpleasant familial dramatics.  But about a week ago, I made what was a conscious decision to pull myself up from the depths of despair I had fallen into after losing a beloved family member just one week before Christmas.  So, in my good humor, I chose 24 of the best words to describe my holiday season, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  Here goes…

Avatar – Saw it and actually liked it, despite my typical sci-fi reluctance.  But I liked Avatar so much that I’m really hoping the timing and budget work out so that I can see it again in 3D at a more technologically savvy theater.

Big Family Christmas – We traveled to Illinois on Christmas Day and got to take part in a huge gathering of my husband’s large extended family.  His 92-year-old grandmother, who speaks with a thick east-coast Connecticut accent (and who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day from age 16 until age 70!) told many of her infamous stories that had everyone in stitches!  After hearing one of Monie’s stories, I could have used the words Blue Boob for B, but I will spare you those details…  😉

Christ Was Born – We went to a beautiful church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate and reflect upon the entire purpose of the Christmas holiday.

De…  There are two words that come to mind for this letter based upon certain recent events in my life, but I’m not going to go there; this is to be “A Not-So-Cynical Look…” blog post.  So here, D will stand for Dumbledore, since I’m almost halfway through my first Harry Potter book and lovin’ it!

Elf – My favorite holiday movie, and we actually had time to watch it this year!  It, unlike a few other favorite Christmas experiences, did not lose any magic this year.  I still felt that warm and fuzzy “Christmas Magic” feeling after I watched this movie – I’d pull it out more often, but it’s not the same unless it’s Christmas! 
“I love smiling; smiling’s my favorite!!”  – Buddy The Elf

Friends – We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends, and I can’t thank them enough for the things they did and just for being there during this bittersweet time.

Grandparents –  We were able to visit 3 of our grandparents this holiday season!  Even being in our 30’s, we have 3 surviving grandparents among my husband and I –  we were blessed to be able to spend time with all of them this year!

Homemade spaghetti – Best.  Christmas.  Gift.  EVER!!  My mother-in-law sent us home 4 huge frozen batches of her out-of-this-world spaghetti sauce!  AND a large bag of grated Asiago cheese.  AND…  something I’ll save for another letter…

Ice – Drove through plenty of it to reach IL and get back to Ohio on Christmas day.  Luckily, traffic was light and travel for us was smooth and safe.  The kids were good as gold and slept for the majority of both drives.

Jill – Screwed us over again!  This little story begins with Walmart.  Since this is “A Not-So-Cynical Look…”, I won’t go off about Walmart, but I will simply state the facts:  the pump in our windshield wiper cleaner fluid dispenser stopped working after the last time we got an oil change at Walmart.  We didn’t really need it until Christmas night, when we were driving past the city of Chicago, and apparently smog + snow = some sort of disgusting pollution paste.  So visibility is limited, and we still don’t know exactly what happened since we’ve driven this route dozens of times, but basically the express lanes on I-90 seemed to suddenly dissolve into city streets.  So now it’s 10:30 on Christmas night, and we’re wandering around in the city.  We can’t see out the back of the car since there’s tons of Christmas presents, and we can’t see out of the front of the car because of the pollution paste.  This is where Jill comes in – and she directs us straight back to I-90.  Only problem is, our van can’t just jump guardrails; we needed an entrance ramp, and Jill was only directing us to streets that crossed over the expressway and didn’t actually intersect with it.  So we crossed bridge after bridge, and we criss-crossed I-90 until one of those streets had an entrance ramp.  Then Jill freaked out and tried to get us off of the expressway again, but she got her power button pressed – we knew our way from there.

Kalachkies – I have a fun memory of a Christmas years ago when my forgetful Polish grandmother was sitting in her wheelchair, instructing my equally Polish uncle and myself how to make kalachkies, a usually delicious Polish cookie.  The end results were inedible and referred to as “hockey pucks”.  This year at Christmas, my husband’s cousin made homemade kalachkies – real ones, no hockey pucks, and they were delicious!  Thanks Lilly!

Late night drive – One night, we took the kids out in the car in their pajamas with some snacks, and we drove through the snowy countryside to a town  about 30 minutes away for a drive-thru lighted display that’s just wonderful.  Late night drive could also refer to my husband’s and my peaceful drive home (after the unscheduled tour of the city) while the kids were asleep all the way from Illinois to Ohio – nice.

Mashed Potatoes – My mother-in-law is a great cook!  I guess it’s been  awhile since the last time I had her mashed potatoes, because I  didn’t remember how they tasted.  But I told her the truth after Christmas dinner – they were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had!

Noodles – My mother-in-law’s spaghetti sauce also came with EIGHT pounds of whole wheat gourmet organic pasta!  I love whole wheat pasta – it actually tastes better, and you don’t get the pasta-stomachache / horrible stuffed feeling that can accompany pasta over-indulgence.

Onions – One of my favorite holiday dishes is creamed onions, and it was a nice surprise to see this dish on the Christmas buffet.  Fortunately for me, my husband can replicate the taste of his mother’s creamed onions –  yum!

P.A.S. – Pompous Ass Syndrome – my poor brother-in-law is a victim.  Enough Said.

Quiet – With 4 kids and Christmas celebrations spread out over 2 weeks, there really wasn’t much of this.

Revenge – My brother and sister-in-law gifted our kids 3 little gumball machines.  Cute, but not when you realize how many gumballs needed to be pried out of our candy-obsessed toddler’s little hands, for one thing.  Who would give little kids gumball machine gifts?  Wait, isn’t that what we got her 3 kids last year?!?  I’m all for re-gifting; I really think it’s a smart thing to do.  But maybe next year I’ll choose our Christmas gifts more carefully…

Snow – It’s been snowing on and off for a week and a half here in Ohio.  The Chicago area was unexpectedly blanketed with about a foot of snow on Saturday – thank goodness we left for Ohio on Friday night!

Turkey – We ate it and it was good.

U-Turn – see “J” – Jill the GPS.  Besides the time we were lost in Chicago, Jill caused us to make at least one other U-turn on this trip.

Vile – Odor in Gary Indiana – I don’t care what the Music Man had to say – Gary Indiana STINKS!  Literally!!!

Weather  – I was worried about it all week, but thankfully, it didn’t impede our journey in the slightest.

X-changing gifts –  Ok, that’s too generic?  What else could X stand for, the rating of Monie’s Blue Boob story?  We x-changed gifts many gifts, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Yellow Puppy – When our friends heard about our family’s heartbreak, they gifted us a gigantic (stuffed) dog.  This cute puppy’s headband wouldn’t even fit on my head, and she wears a sweater that could probably fit me – or at least all 4 of my kids in it together…  so cute and so thoughtful, and the kids LOVE her!

Zoo lights – With everything that was going on during this December, I’m so thankful that we were able to make it to  one of our favorite Christmas destinations this year –   the Toledo Zoo for their Lights Before Christmas displays.  Beautiful lights in a peaceful atmosphere, and if you get there early enough, you can see some zoo animals, which is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole world!

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a great New Year!!!

Thanksgiving Favorites

Posted in food, holidays on November 27th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , ,

I forgot to poll our Thanksgiving guests, but I was wondering about everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dish.  Judging by what the kids had for breakfast this morning, I would say my kids’ favorite Thanksgiving dishes are as follows:

Taylor, age 9 – sweet potatoes (we put marshmallow creme in ours)

Sammie, age 5 – mashed potatoes and gravy

Disney, age 3 – oatmeal (ok, so oatmeal wasn’t at the Thanksgiving dinner, but Disney didn’t really eat Thanksgiving dinner, so I don’t think she has a favorite dish.  She LOVES oatmeal though!)

Christopher, age 16 mos. – turkey

And for lunch, Mom and Dad had their first delicious leftover sandwiches.  They were so good we think we’ll have the same for dinner.  We got a smoked turkey this year, and it was delicious!  It was great to not have to mess with cooking a turkey with great company and all these little ones underfoot.  There are so many ways to make a leftover sandwich; the best way is of course with creamed onions.  We didn’t have any creamed onions leftover this year, but my husband’s yummy mashed potatoes make a really good leftover sandwich condiment.  And not having leftover creamed onions is a good thing – I’m glad people enjoyed them!  Creamed onions are my favorite Thanksgiving dish AND my husband’s!  So what’s yours?  Feel free to add anything in the comments section I may have forgotten!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

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My Thanksgiving Curse :)

Posted in holidays on November 30th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I think I was somehow cursed last Thanksgiving.  I fell ill the day after Thanksgiving, and just as I was starting to feel better a few days later, I felt another virus coming on.  This cycle continued until just before Christmas, and because I was pregnant and exhausted, I tried to rest a lot and get well during that time, but it was stressful because I had a 1½-year-old to chase after.  And while I was sick, I was unable to eat any Thanksgiving leftovers.  So then all during the year, foods like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and even creamed onions (which I used to love) just haven’t seemed very appealing to me.  I think I subconsciously associate the Thanksgiving fare with being sick, but I thought I’d be over it by now – wrong.  Thanksgiving dinner was great and everything, but I’m just not as enthused about those leftovers as I want to be.  On Thanksgiving day, the turkey was delicious.  That leftover sandwich I had on Friday was pretty good.  The cold turkey snack on Friday night was ok.  I didn’t finish the turkey snack on Saturday night, and today for dinner, I will have anything but turkey or Thanksgiving leftovers.  And I am blue in the face from reassuring my husband that it was absolutely nothing he did wrong with the cooking or the fault of any of the guests who brought delicious side dishes.  It’s just my Thanksgiving curse, and I hope it’s gone by next year.  But even if it’s not, no biggie because my Thanksgiving will be made more special than food by the wonderful people in my life.  Maybe I should “train” my body to accept the Thanksgiving food by making turkey and creamed onions more often…

At any rate, the helpers in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day were adorable – check them out:

And below are my two oldest daughters waving to Santa at the Welcome Santa Parade from the day after Thanksgiving:

And if their names were numbers that ordered them by birth, below is a cute picture of #2 and #4:

More Recipes

Posted in Everyday Life on October 13th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

I sent some recipes to my sister and since I had to type them into the computer anyway, I will post them on my blog.  The first two are great for Thanksgiving, and the last one is a yummy version of lasagna that is great for moms to make because you can do the preparation while the kids are napping or eating lunch, and then it will cook all day in the crock pot.  Also, you make it with cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese which can be expensive.  Enjoy!

Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce
1 – 10 oz pkg red or white pearl onions, peeled according to package directions
3 TBL butter or margerine
3 TBL flour
1 1/2 cups milk, heated almost to boiling point
2 TBL cream sherry (optional)
1 drop tabasco sauce
dash ground nutmeg
white pepper and salt to taste
chopped parsley for garnish
To cook pearl onions, drop peeled onions intoboiling water.  Cook for 10 mins. and drain.  To make cream sauce, melt butter or margerine over medium-high heat.  When melted, add flour, stirring constantly with wire wisk, until all butter is absorbed.  Turn heat to low and add milk slowly (make sure to continue stirring with the wire wisk).  Add sherry, tabasco sauce, nutmeg, pepper and salt.  Fold-in cooked onions and mix well.  Before serving, garnish with parsley.  Variations:  When folding cooked pearl onions into cream sauce, add 3/4 cup cooked green peas.  Makes 4-6 side dish servings.

Sweet Potatoes With Blue Cheese and Pecans
4 lbs sweet potatoes
3 TBL olive oil
6 sprigs thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 cup pecans
1 cup blue cheese

Combine sweet potatoes and oil in a roasting pan, sprinkle with thyme.  Roast for 30-45 min at 425 or until tender.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving bowl.  Gently toss with pecans and cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with remaining thyme.  Serves 6.

Crock Pot Lasagna
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 – 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 – 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (approx.)
12 oz uncooked lasagna noodles
12 oz cottage cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese (approx.)
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

In a skillet, cook ground beef, onion and garlic until beef is browned.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano and salt.  When sauce is thoroughly warmed, spoon a layer of the meat sauce into the bottom of the crock pot.  Add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, breaking to fit if necessary.  Top with a layer of each of the cheeses.  Repeat process until sauce, noodles, and cheeses are gone.  Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hrs.  NOTE:  My lasagna began to overcook a little before 4 hrs in the crock pot!