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I am always interested in seeing people’s Christmas trees. The decorations on the tree, the color scheme all say something about the tree’s owners. The trees can be small ‘Charlie Brown’ trees or gigantic, towering trees decked out with Christmas balls, tinsel and garland. Our tree usually doesn’t have shiny christmas ball ornaments on it, although we have done that in years past. Rather, it is usually decorated with white twinkle lights (LED lights don’t give off the same effect in my opinion) and ornaments. No tinsel, no garland. Each ornament tells its own story. There is the Santa and Mrs. Claus bisque dolls ornaments that were given to us from Tom’s parents, passed down through the grands and the greats of that family. There is the single clear blue ball ornament with a single strand of tinsel inside of it that belongs to my husband, passed down also through his family. The boys each have a glass angel in the color of their birthstones. There are the first ornaments that Tom and I bought and received from others for our first Christmas together and the ornaments that commemorate the birth of each of the boys. Each ornament tells a story and the owner of the ornament is one that places it on the tree each year. We have the plethora of elementary school ornaments that each of the boys made growing up and the ornaments that we bought from various places we’ve visited during the years. Each year, I get the boys a personalized ornament to commemorate something special that occurred during the year for them  – something they will be able to take with them as they start their own families and traditions in the years to come.

Here are some of our ornaments and decorations.

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Merry Christmas. While I’ve yet to get my “Christmas” picture, these will have to do. Here are some pictures from our day today.

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TJ made good use of the ladder to the loft for stacking presents.

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The village under the tree….

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The view of the mountains this morning from the porch….. with it’s temperature of 2 degrees.

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Stockings hung by the woodstove…..

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Jinx opening her present……
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It appeared to be a Christmas of hats… this one I knitted for Tim …..

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Love this kid…..

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And this one…..

 

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And this one too…… so good to have them all under one roof again….

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Tom doing his elf gig…..

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We were given the gift of snow over the Christmas holiday. First with a white Christmas and then with about two feet of snow in total. It allowed for lots of playing in the snow by all and some beautiful scenery for those who prefer to view their snow from the warmth of the wood stove. We had the opportunity to visit with some family (my sister and her family were not feeling well so we didn’t get to see them). We had my dear friend from college and her family come to stay with us and we celebrated two birthdays — my mom’s birthday and my friend Ellen’s son Tom’s birthday.

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We had our annual New Year’s Eve party where lots of dear friends and family gathered to celebrate the beginning of another year. Lots of fun was had by all. I know that we had a good time hosting and enjoyed the time with everyone.

My brother made a couple trays of antipasto for the party. We haven’t had antipasto in the T’s house since my dad passed away. It was “his” thing and well it just didn’t seem right having it without him. After 11 years, I finally have come to terms with that and the “tradition” has returned. Bill put together one very nice looking antipasto — Daddy would have been proud! Here are the shots as it was being created.

Warmest wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May you and your families be blessed with good things.

I gave my hubby a straight razor set for Christmas. It was not until after he opened it and the boys were joking with him, that I realized that I had just given the man that I love, the ability to slice his jugular vein and die.  That was not my purpose. Really. I. Love. Him.

Rather, it was more of a classic, kind of sexy thing. He had mentioned several times using shave soap instead of commercial shaving cream and when I went online looking…well, I got caught up in the romance of the whole straight razor shaving thing. And I really wasn’t trying to kill him…or have him kill himself.

So, today, he made a first crack at it and was a good enough sport to allow me to sit on the bathroom counter and photograph the whole thing (including his potential injury) .

Here is the equipment.

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P1080610Lathering up…..

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Deep breath, deep breath……P1080612 First swipes…..P1080613 P1080616

Mind you, this whole time I am hanging over him with a camera…..talk about stress.

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Look Ma…. no blood……..

 

 

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Remember, as if this wasn’t stressful enough, I am here photo diarying his potential slip…..(which luckily didn’t happen – or this would be a very different post)

 

 

 

 

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I had a great time watching him and he was a sport for putting up with me and letting me post these pictures.

 

 

Here are some pictures from last night and this morning. All our best wishes you and your families for a very Merry Christmas!

May your Christmas day  be celebrated with peace, laughter, family, friends and love.

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After coming back from Mass this afternoon, we set about to make our little Christmas Eve feast. A little of this, a little of that. We can’t do all fish because of Tim’s allergies and Tom’s gout, but we always have our baccala salad that reminds me of Christmas with Grandma Caruso and crab cakes. To that we added a little shrimp cocktail, roasted hot peppers, stuffed mushrooms, pork dumplings and homemade bread. Probably the best part of the meal this year though was the fact that I had my men with me to celebrate. Thinking of those who weren’t as lucky. It’s really who you spend the time with that matters, not what you do with the time.

We had a good Christmas Eve and I hope that you all did as well. Merry Christmas!

 

Another Christmas tradition around here is the fact that I always seem to be sick on Christmas. For more times than not, I remember having a sore throat or some form of a cold on Christmas. I am sitting up, typing this at 4:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve to let you know that tradition continues. Yesterday we took a trip up to Burlington to let the boys finish up some Christmas shopping. By the time we got home, I had that “off” feeling in my throat and sure enough, popped awake at 3 a.m. with a sore throat. It’s not terrible, just annoying enough to put a cramp in my Christmas style….or maybe to keep up the Christmas tradition, I guess it depends on your perspective.

On another note, it seems that at least a part of my Christmas cactus actually remembers that it is a Christmas cactus and not a Thanksgiving cactus. While most of it bloomed right around Thanksgiving time, I noticed a small bud, that gradually grew and is opening just about now.

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First, congratulations since you and I are still here….no end of the world. A great relief to one of my children since he has been patiently counting down the days until Christmas and he gets his phone and the world ending would have just totally ruined his plans.

Second — white Christmas! Woke up this morning to snow and it is still snowing. Since there is no rain in the forecast between now and Christmas I think that it is safe to assume that our Christmas will be white– the way it is supposed to be here in Vermont.

Third — I get to spend the afternoon with some dear friends at a cookie swap, an annual tradition since before I even moved here. My friend was always kind enough to schedule it when we were up in Vermont so we could share in the festivities and I love her for it. Now, it’s a simple walk from my kitchen to hers.

Shortly I am off to the Farmer’s market with my favorite guy. Good stuff.

Hope your Saturday is wonderful!

 

P1010167December is a month of holidays, eating and traditions– I don’t think that anyone would disagree with me on that. The holiday season can turn even the most cynical of people into those that fawn over a family tradition — or food — or activity.

Over the past few weeks on Facebook, my cousins have been discussing my grandmother’s and their great-grandmother’s recipe for meatballs, homemade pasta and sauce. They have been going back and forth with one of my male cousins and my brother over the recipes, trying to pin down the taste that we all remember so well but don’t all know how to make.

Isn’t it funny how the holidays evoke a special food or a meal that you remember from your youth? For me, Christmas is and will always be associated with antipasto (my dad’s favorite) and baccala salad on Christmas Eve. For my husband, it is his grandmother’s cookies made from leftover pie dough and boiled onions. No holiday was complete unless my Aunt Mary brought the pies (chocolate cream, pumpkin, lemon meringue and apple) which always graced our holiday table. My siblings and I still are trying very unsuccessfully to replicate Aunt Mary’s stuffing — each year one of us tries and each year we agree that it is missing something.

When we are young, we often summarily dismiss our grandparents (or if we’re lucky) great-grandparents when they try to show us something or we just don’t get the recipe since it is “a pinch of this, a little of that” – empty of any concrete measurements and never, ever written down — only memorized in the mind of someone who we usually take for granted until they and their food are no longer with us and we yearn for both.

There are traditions that each of us have, particularly as they surround food, that bring back fond memories. Some of us cook the same foods for each holiday — well, because that is the way we grew up and that is what comes to mind when we think of Christmas.

For my family, Christmas has taken on my different transformations through the years — depending a lot on who was there, or more appropriately, no longer there, to share it with. When I was very young, my grandparents lived downstairs from us and Christmas was a big holiday. The whole family on my mom’s side came to my grandparents for Christmas. My Grandma Caruso made sauce, bracciole, meatballs, sausage and homemade pasta. I remember the pasta making because us kids were the ones tasked with transporting the freshly made pasta onto the clean sheets that were placed on the top of every bed in the house, in order to lay the pasta out to dry. There was homemade chicken soup and of course, antipasto. I remember all that clearly, but the main course, well — after we got done with the antipasto, the soup and the pasta, the main course didn’t get much notice until later for sandwiches or snacking, somewhere after everyone found it in their bellies to have room for the variety of nuts, oranges, grapes and italian pastries that found their way onto the dinner table for dessert.

Then, after my grandfather became sick and eventually passed on, Christmas was a little quieter, since the whole family didn’t gather together anymore and everyone celebrated with their own families and children. That is when I really remember the antipasto, it took center stage at my house and the meal downsized just a bit. Christmas Eve however was still full of fish — we had the eel, the smelts, the baccala salad as long as my grandmother was still alive.

As we got older and Santa took less of a center stage, Christmas Eve became the bigger of the celebrating — still with the fish dishes and with Christmas Eve Midnight mass and presents afterwards. There was still a lot of eating going on–after all opening all those presents makes you hungry and baccala salad is just as good at 2 a.m. as it was a 7 or 8 p.m.

Now, that my grandparents and my dad are all gone, and we all have families of our own, Christmas has been reinvented once again. I have to admit that I have not made an antipasto since my dad died. It just didn’t seem right — although I’m trying to get over that. We often say that Christmas is not the same since he passed, because he was probably the biggest kid and loved Christmas as much, if not more, than any of us actual kids.

Now in our reinvented Christmas, we have some traditions surrounding food and the holidays of our own here at the T’s house– a blend of both of us, with enough of our past to carry our heritage forward for our boys. We have baccala salad on Christmas Eve and I have to say that Tom’s dad is my biggest compadre in the eating of it. I make bread and cinnamon buns which our own own food twist. If I can find it, we have blue cheese spread inside celery that Tom’s grandmother used to make and boiled onions with our dinner on Christmas day, which is usually a rib roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. There is pie, but no longer the sky high pies that Aunt Mary was famous for — no Italian pastries that aunts and uncles brought with them.

I often try to explain to Tom — an only child who grew up with relatively quiet holidays consisting of his parents, grandparents (and some relatives who would stop in for a visit) that the holidays in my world have always been chaotic –lots of people, lots of noise, lots of food and lots of laughter and from the early days –PoKeNo.

pokenoQuiet just wasn’t a word that we associated with Christmas at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses — how could it be when Christmas Eve or Christmas Day could easily be upwards of 35 or 40 people, a good portion of which were children and all were related? Even if we just have “family” now (meaning my siblings, their families and our parents) that is almost 20 people!

As I get older, I realize just how important all that “stuff” that I couldn’t have cared about as a kid really is — it is the basis of tradition and family and is a very big part of who we are. To have one of those raucous, loud, cramped Christmases with all of my family and extended family, both my parents and my grandparents would be a dream come true. Alas, it will never happen again because a good many of those people are no longer with us. The way to keep the memories of those we love alive is through tradition–carrying forward those same things that we have always done. Be it the same foods, the same activities or the same type of celebrations.

During December I thought that it would be fun (and therapeutic)  to recreate some of those recipes and some of those memories and to memorialize for my own family some of our own traditions and recipes so that maybe, just maybe, someday when they really care, those things will be there for my boys to share with their families keeping the memories of Grandma Caruso, Nan Dotson, Nanny Smith, Aunt Mary and my dad alive for generations to come.

 

Today was a Christmas-y feeling day. Perhaps it is because it is the first day of December, the month of holidays, family and friends. Or maybe it’s because we woke to another snow covering and it was snowing lightly most of the day. We decorated the outside of the house since it is officially December and now I feel like we can actually start to decorate and not be part of the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas rush. I refuse to be hurried or told what to do this year. I am very proud to say that I bought nothing on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Not-a-blessed-thing, despite the enormous amount of annoying and repetitive emails urging me to “take advantage of the lowest prices” and “get started early on my holiday shopping” and whatever other nonsense they insisted to throw my way in order to make me believe that I had to buy something or I was un-American or some other horrific type of species. Look, I survived! I made it in one end of Black Friday and out Cyber Monday without buying anything.

I am going to try to enjoy the holidays — the spirit, the family, the friends, the whole thing without the stress of the commercialism — because it has no place here.

May your December be equally filled with all the love and good things you associate with the holidays.

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P1080391Just a little snow….a dusting of sorts is what we have been waking up to the past few mornings. Crisp, chilly air and a little snow. The sounds of the town plow truck as it makes its way up the hill to drop some sand. The symmetrical strips of sand that cover the roadway.

Tomorrow the calendar flips to December… the month of winter and holidays–and maybe snow?

Well I couldn’t take it anymore. Winter isn’t much of a winter here, sure there’s snow on the ground now, but according to my own personal meteorologist, we are supposed to be getting just rain for the next two days — I know, bummer, right? So, with the sad excuse of a winter around these parts, what’s a girl to do? Look forward to planting her garden.

I got out the bag of potting soil and repotted my Christmas cactus since it woefully needed more soil (don’t worry I used the cacti mix for the cacti) and then topped off the geraniums that came with the house. These geraniums are planted in milkboxes and came with the house. Talk about a guilt trip– the plants were like 15 years old when we bought the house and we have this deep seated obligation to keep them alive come hell or high water — so far neither of those have hit us here, so we’re lucky, we only need to fight snow, frost and the occasionally mean minded chipmunk.

Then, as long as we’re on the obligation route, there are the plants that came with Tyler. — Okay, so they didn’t really come with Tyler because that would just be weird, but we got them as a teeny tiny grouping of plants in a beautiful pot from one of our very dear friends Cathy and her parents when Tyler was born (for those of you who don’t know my middle son is now almost 16 years old) and I’ve been coddling those along through the years. I am sad — very sad — to report that one of the group has recently passed away but I still have it in dirt in the hopes of some type of plant resurrection. Somewhere in my deep sub conscious (once you push aside all the other scary stuff that lives there in the dark) is the fear that if something were to happen to all those plants that something bad would happen to Tyler (yes, I know I am weird and obviously psychologically damaged – but I just like to chalk it up to my Italian superstitious roots — makes me look less nutty that way).

This all probably stems back to the incredible loss of the ivy from my wedding bouquet, which my dear Dad rooted while we were on our honeymoon and proudly presented to me in a pot and then I killed a few months later. I don’t have the ivy and I don’t have my father (I know that those two are not related) I don’t know how the ivy died since I really tried hard to take care of it, but I also don’t think that I can ever get over it — hence my need to keep plants alive.

While I was at it, I planted some seeds — basil, snow peas and cilantro. We’ll see how that goes, some other green things growing around here would be nice.

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