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So here’s something fun. Betcha had no idea, right? Today, is International Kiss A Ginger Day.

Go, grab your favorite ginger and give them a kiss! With their permission of course.

Evidently, this holiday has existed for about 7 years. It was started seven years ago as a counter on Facebook to the Kick a Ginger campaign. Kicking Gingers is not so nice and should not be condoned, what did the poor ginger folk ever do to you?

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Along these same lines, this guy called Tristan Rogers has set out to map all the redheads in the world. His project Mapping the World of Redheads can be found here.

To finish off today’s post about our ginger folk, here are some interesting ginger facts from USA Today:

  • The highest concentration of redheads is in Scotland (13%) followed by Ireland (10%). Worldwide, only 2% of people have red hair.
  • People with red hair are likely more sensitive to pain. This is because the gene mutation (MC1R) that causes red hair is on the same gene linked to pain receptors. It also means redheads usually need more anesthesia for dental and medical procedures.
  • Having red hair isn’t the only thing that makes some redheads unique. They are also more likely to be left handed. Both characteristics come from recessive genes, which like to come in pairs.
  • Redheads probably won’t go grey. That’s because the pigment just fades over time. So they will probably go blonde and even white, but not grey.
  • Rumor says Hitler banned marriage between redheads. Apparently he thought it would lead to “deviant offspring.”
  • Redheads most commonly have brown eyes. The least common eye color: blue.
  • Bees have been proven to be more attracted to redheads.
  • Being a redheaded man may have health benefits. A study published by the British Journal of Cancer suggested that men with red hair are 54% less likely to develop prostate cancer than their brown and blonde-haired counterparts.
  • Redheads actually have less hair than most other people. On average they only have 90,000 strands of hair while blonds, for example, have 140,000. However, red hair is typically thicker so it still looks just as full.
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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!

 

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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antipastoAntipasto. We used to have it at every holiday meal. A large (or maybe two) tray of a variety of meats, cheeses, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes that, as its name translates was served “before the meal”. Its origins are Italian but my dad, who enjoyed antipasto probably more than the meal itself, wasn’t. Irish as the inside of the Blarney Stone, although he had a smattering of mutt thrown in for good measure. I think he married into antipasto since my mom’s parents were both Italian and the holidays were clearly excuses to eat…a lot…especially of the things you only had but once or twice a year.

I can clearly remember the large glass trays that we used and the preparation. I bet every family has their own version. First, the layer of lettuce, then the layer of sliced tomato, then the layers of cheeses, provolone, some prosciutto, cappicola, some genoa salami, a sprinkling of pepperoncini, some cherry peppers, olives. There were additions but usually no deletions. The tray was piled high and hardly any of it was left over when the first course was through.We wouldn’t think of a holiday without it — I think my dad would have cried. I personally think it was his favorite part.

This afternoon, I was making up a shopping list for our Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing big — just our family and my sister and her family – as low stress and casual as Thanksgiving can get. I asked Tom who was sitting nearby if I was forgetting anything from the list and threw out an appetizer before dinner and then “antipasto?” It was like a blast from the past. I have not made an antipasto since my dad passed away. Why? I don’t really know, I’m sure that my boys would probably love it and enjoy it, but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same. Dad was the one that lived for the antipasto and I don’t know if it would be the same without him at the table to join us. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a subconscious sign of respect to recognize the fact that he no longer sits at the holiday table with us. I can’t seem to put my heart into it when he’s not here to enjoy it, considering it really was because of my dad that it was included with every holiday meal regardless of the occasion.

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Every year, I definitely think it; most years I also say it — at the very least to myself. Usually however I don’t get to do it. Enjoy the holidays coming up, keep it simple. I usually get caught up in the frenzy of the season and make myself crazy in the process. This year, so much of the last few months has been hectic and crazy and complicated — that I cherish the idea of keeping the holidays simple and enjoying them. It’s usually no joke that I’m sick for Christmas, I usually have a horrible cold or at the very least an annoying one. This is directly and most likely related to the schedule of insanity that precedes the day. I am hoping that by avoiding the insanity, I will also avoid the repercussions of it in the form of some type of illness which makes me miserable but still required to perform all of my wife, mother, daughter, hostess Christmas responsibilities.

As for gifts, it’s very simple. The boys aren’t asking for much or hardly anything, so less stress on what to get them for Christmas. If they don’t seem to want it, I don’t need to go crazy looking for it. Everyone is therefore happy. Me, especially.

I can therefore concentrate on doing some of the things that I would like to do, such as do more baking which also takes the stress off the cookie swaps I am attending (and looking forward to) later in the month and holiday entertaining. The more that I can do now, the less I will have to do later. I am not a good person when stressed, things do not go right. The bad energy extends from my brain through my arms and out my fingertips into whatever I am making/baking or doing. It never comes out well when I stress myself out.

I really want to decorate the house nicely. I want to get our tree up, I am anxious to see how it will look in its new location. I am happy to enjoy it for more than a few days before the holidays. I am really looking forward to this since with all the work we’ve been doing Halloween and Thanksgiving weren’t even decorating worthy holidays around here.

I am looking forward to spending time with family and friends. To enjoying the holiday, enjoying the peace afforded by this time of year and ….Mother Nature if you’re listening….some of the white stuff for atmosphere would just serve to bolster the holiday spirit.

This season I will strive to keep it simple, to enjoy it more and stress less…. and hopefully not be sick for Christmas.

Well, folks officially less than a week until Thanksgiving. We are headed toward the start of the “holiday season” fast and furiously. For me, let’s see – our house is torn apart, everything’s a disaster around here and I don’t think I have one single Thanksgiving dinner ingredient in my house yet. Full steam ahead! Bring it on. I’ve had a headache pretty much for the last week or so and nerves are frazzled. I can’t wait to have things back in order – or at least our normal sense of order.

Putting all that aside, we were reminiscing tonight about the holidays and memories. I asked our youngest son what he would like to have with turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, which sparked a conversation of holidays gone by. While some things endure through many generations, some traditions or foods slowly slip away from our table as the people with whom they are associated leave us. Why this happens I am not sure. I think that we sometimes take for granted certain aspects of our holidays because we take for granted the people behind them. We assume that the food, like the person will always be around.

For example, in my memories, my great Aunt Mary always showed up on holidays with literally a back seat full of pies – chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie, apple  pie and pumpkin pie. Pies that would make any baker shrink back in defeat. While we still make pie for dessert on certain holidays, none of our pies can hold a candle to Aunt Mary’s. The same thing with her stuffing – a mix of sausage, apple, onion  and seasonings – a combination that I, my sister and my brother have desperately attempted year after year to recreate and somehow always fall just short of Aunt Mary’s stuffing.

I realize that we have not had antipasto since my Dad passed away. We had antipasto for the appetizer for every major holiday for as far back as I can remember  and mostly since it was one of his favorites – huge platters piled high with Italian meats, cheese, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, hot cherry peppers, pepperocini and such. They are conspicuously absent from my holiday meals – intentionally or not – I couldn’t tell you, it just doesn’t seem right to have one of his favorite foods without him.

Tom reminisced about his grandmother’s dinners for holidays which always started with a homemade fruit salad. Pretty much the same thing – even if we tried to recreate it, it just wouldn’t be the same.

I know that the holidays are a natural time to remember. I hope that your reminiscing brings back as many good memories as ours did this evening.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day – a day set aside to inspire awareness of our planet and its environment. The holiday was founded 40 years ago by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in. It has blossomed into a world-wide celebration of Mother Earth and everything environmental – from global warming to gardening.

According to Yumsugar.com here are some fun Earth Day facts:

  • After Halloween and Christmas, Earth Day is the third largest holiday celebrated in elementary schools
  • It is the largest secular modern holiday in the entire world, celebrated in 175 countries every year.
  • The highlight of the annual Earth Day Ceremony at the United Nations is the ringing of the Peace Bell. It was made from coins given by school children in Japan to further peace on the planet.

Earthday.org is asking everyone to drop by their site and contribute an Act of Green. They are looking to acquire a Billion Acts of Green. Stop by and submit your act of green.

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There is something very bland about the day after Christmas. All of the excitement and anticipation is over and all that is left is the aftermath of all those gifts. Boxes and tissue paper, gift bags and plastic wrappers. This morning we piled the pickup truck high with all of the Christmas debris and headed off to the transfer station. There, we were joined by many others, also dumping the remains of Christmas Day into dumpster and cans.

Today is a day to re-gather. Make room for the new gifts and put away the new clothes. Pick up the remains of the packaging and re-assemble ourselves. We will have a big week ahead of us, filling with family and friends. My nephews are arriving by train this evening, we are picking them up at the train station. They are coming in early to snowboard with the boys, a treat that all of them are looking forward to enjoying. My inlaws are still here visiting with us and then my sister, brother, mother and a couple friends will be showing up, in drips and drabs until New Years, when we expect a full house.

It is interesting. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were quiet, even noticeably absent the ruckus that used to surround my Christmases growing up. These last few days were reminiscent of Tom’s growing up, as an only child, not much ruckus in his house on Christmas. New Years will be reminiscent of my holidays, lots of people (only a much bigger house to put them all in) and lots of laughter, noise and kids. That was my Christmas, chaotic. Christmas was always my father’s favorite holiday and his love of the season and the surprise and anticipation carried us through. Since he passed away, that holiday is definitely not the same, so it is kind of respectfully appropriate that we don’t celebrate it in the same way. But I do miss it sometimes, it is a part of me and while I can be very Cybil-like about liking the quiet, to a part of me, the chaos is the way I remember the holidays, the way I lived them through a substantial portion of my life and the way that it should be.

I enjoyed Christmas but I am looking forward to New Years, while over the next week, I may be grumbling on the outside at times, somewhere, inside, I will be smiling, thinking this is the way it used to be.

It’s the time of year when we give a lot of thought to what we have and what makes us lucky and happy. Basically, it is the time of the year to stop bitching and complaining about what we don’t have enough of – be it time, money, friends, work and to start recognizing what we do have. It is simply a time of the year to take stock of our lives and to enjoy the moment. All too often, especially in this country, we are bombarded with wanting more, needing more, demanding more and we rarely take the time to examine what we have, and how lucky we are for what we have in our lives at this moment in time.

For many, the next week starts a spiral of stress. The beginning of the holiday season all too often brings with it stress, social pressure to attend this event and that party, time management issues how to work and shop and do all those wonderful Martha Stewart-like things that we feel guilty that we don’t have the time or the money or the patience to deal with but we think that we should. Newspaper and magazine articles and blog postings are replete with tips for the “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner, turkey, pie, side dish, appetizer, table setting, house decorations – you name it, and someone, somewhere has the “perfect” tip to make you feel miserable, incompetent and less than perfect.

To quell your anxiety and mine and put life back into perspective, both for this Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays, take a breath and read this post. Realize that the background of this family is that one of their children has leukemia. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers as I am certain they would appreciate all that they can get. Realize that your life, however miserable you think it is, or how sorry you might feel for yourself with all you have to do in the upcoming weeks, really isn’t all that bad and you really have a lot to be thankful for. I know that I am thinking exactly that this holiday and realizing just how fortunate we are as a family and how lucky I am as wife.

Evilwife on the move

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