Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas with My In-Laws and Then a Blizzard

Our family had a terrific Christmas Day at my sister-in-law Betsy and her husband Phil’s home; that’s Uncle Phil to all you folks in the know! We arrived mid-afternoon at their home in South Jersey; as we were the last family to arrive, gift opening commenced soon thereafter. Paper flew! Thanks were exchanged! Ohhhs and Ahhhs were exclaimed!

Poppop, with his usual generous nature, provided his grandchildren with their heart’s desires:

Max received a Kindle!

Pat received a rugby jacket; he's an awesome player himself and has his favorite teams.

Katie received some high-end designer boots that she loves!

Tory received a Nakona softball glove; oh yeah!!

Andrew and his Poppop gift somehow escaped my camera’s lens! Help! Some help here, family! What did Andrew receive?!

It’s fun spending time with my sisters-in-law and their families; they are funny, chatty and always ready to debate and discuss anything and everything. The back-and-forths can get lively and we always laugh, a lot. This year was the first time Betsy and Phil hosted Christmas and we had such a great time that I’ve already asked if we can return for Christmas 2011!

A home brew with a subtle but sincere kick!

As the afternoon wore on into the evening, I watched Uncle Phil sip the lemoncello I made for him and my brother-in-law Joe. I loved that when I asked his opinion of this year’s batch that Phil gave me his honest opinion; he’s dependable that way. I enjoyed watching the movie Elf with my nephew Andrew, son of Betsy and Uncle Phil. I’d never seen the movie before and Andrew made some wry observations that made it that much more enjoyable. Then all of us sat and watched a political comedienne. Wow! Opinions and catcalls and abuse flew thick and fast in our crowd.

All too soon we went to bed (except my son Max, who, according to his sister, finally turned off the TV at 3 a.m. and then proceeded to snore at a high decibel level until we woke them both at 9 a.m.) and woke up to bad weather news. Both my husband Mike and his sister Betsy are weather junkies. As we drank our first cups of coffee and tea, Mike and Betsy talked weather; Uncle Phil jumped in with his opinion. He has a huge right to his weather opinions, I think, since he works for a large Central NJ township and one of his many jobs, in addition to keeping his employees in line, is to plow the miles and miles of snow-covered roads in the event of a big storm. I’d bet Uncle Phil is still out plowing, making the roads safe for those who venture out tomorrow.

When we heard the forecast, we jumped in our car and headed North to home. The weather deteriorated and this morning we woke up to this:

The front porch drifts were 3 feet high! Sunny, Tory's beloved VW Bug, is freezing her butt off!!



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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Christmas, Family, Food, Lemoncello, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, weather

Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours

Our church always has a traditional carol-sing-style Christmas Eve service.

Everyone holds a lighted candle when we sing "Silent Night."

And our sanctuary and all the people in it look at peace.


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Christmas, Christmas Eve, Church Service, Family

Christmas Eve

Hanging with My Family

It’s what I enjoy most about Christmas now: Our teens, Max and Tory, in one spot, together, and my husband Mike and I with them.

<cue sound of sappy stringed instruments and a warm and fuzzy feeling>

Tory makes the treadmill hum when she actually makes it to our local Y.

Today Tory and I were supposed to head to our local YMCA where she was supposed to run and run and run, until she could run no more. When she was finished with her training run, she was supposed to be happy and laughing because that’s what running does for her. Update: Tory did not get out of bed in enough time to run and run and run. As of noon she and her brother Max were still tucked warmly in their respective beds. I can report, however, that she is a happy camper.

Repeat after me. . .

I, on the other hand, Om-ed my way through a Yoga class and exited with some semblance of peace in my soul. I’m glad I’ve returned to Yoga.

Max did sleep through my workout as he’d planned. It’s what he does, always, when he’s home from college. Sleep, I mean. He was a happy young man when he woke up and so it’s all to the good.

Never underestimate the warming power of earflaps.

Mike worked. He arrived home with his hat’s earflaps down; my children’s own personal father ship came in for a safe landing after a hard day’s work in Manhattan.

We are all convened, showered and dressed, each in our version of Christmas cheer, to attend church then go on to dinner.

As we exit the house and enter the car, headed to our long-time church home, we wish our Christmas-celebrating friends a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas Season.

It's a beautiful sanctuary.


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Christmas, Exercise, Family, Hats, Running, Yoga

Tales of Lemoncello: One Year Later

It’s been almost a year since I shared the story about the grain alcohol that tasted like water when I opened the bottle; and for those of you who read that tale ( you know that my son Max did replace the grain alcohol with water and I did have to begin at the beginning to make my Italian girlfriend Anna’s much-coveted, much-praised lemoncello.


This year I didn’t have any problem with the Everclear grain alcohol I purchased (and promptly hid in a deep, dark, obscure spot where neither the 19- nor 16-year-old could find it. I took it out of safe keeping today and finished the brewing process. The lemon skins had marinated in grain alcohol for two weeks (more than the recipe recommends, which I think Anna told me was the bare minimum of time).

The Real Deal, not a vodka-based imitation!

Today I cooked up a simple syrup, let it cool, fished the by-now-pickled lemon skins out of the now-yellow grain alcohol, added some more grain alcohol per the recipe Anna had given me and bottled the whole mixed-up shebang together.

I’m a little sticky from the bottling process since I can never keep the funnel balanced perfectly as I pour. It’s too early in the day for me to be licking my fingers clean either. . .unless I want to go to bed really early. . .and wake up late, possibly with a dire hangover. Moderation is key in so many things, especially drinking this lemoncello!

Double the recipe and share with family and friends. You hear that Joe and Phil?

And an Early Christmas Celebration

My extended family celebrates Christmas together the Sunday before Christmas. So yesterday, as usual, we travelled to Central Jersey to my sister Cindy’s home. I look forward to the gathering of adults (my generation), teens and young adults (my kids are still teens and their cousins are in their late 20s/early 30s) and little kids (two great-nephews, babe in arms and kindergartener).

It’s always fun. Football frequently takes center stage with lots of teasing back and forth between the True Blue Giants fans and the Gang Green Jets fans. It’s lively and, well, family. My sister put out a fine spread of food from appetizers to main course, side dishes and desserts. Most of us eat too much and have to rest our eyes for a little while after we eat! It’s part of the tradition, I guess!

The newest member of our clan, Baby Nathaniel, was fascinated with the hubbub and his friendly cousins. It was wonderful to watch his eyes widen in delight, his attempts to “talk,” and his wriggling to get a better view of his world.

Welcome, Nathaniel!

Baby Nathaniel with His Mom and Great Aunt



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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Baby Nathaniel, Christmas, Everclear Grain Alcohol, Family, Food, Football, Lemoncello, New Baby, recipes

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Sneak Peek: Comfort Food Kitchen Cooking Party at Gail’s

It’s been a busy weekend around here. We started decorating the house for Christmas. My daughter Tory and her boyfriend Kailan kicked off by decorating our tree. The two teens, music blasting, laughed, talked and, oh yeah, decorated our tree; my husband Mike just needs to put the angel on the top. And since it’s raining cats and dogs today, I’m sure he’ll do it pretty quickly. You see, the rain has dampened his exterior setup of his annual Christmas light spectacular. Mike is a man on a mission when it comes to exterior Christmas lights. Suffice to say, the front of our home is aglow every Christmas season. I’ll pull the tree skirt, stocking, santas, bells, and more out of storage boxes and bop to a Christmas beat as I finish decorating the inside of the house this afternoon.

The two cheerful teens did a great job decorating the tree!

The absolute best part of this weekend for me, though, was Friday night. My Magnificent Seven girlfriend Gail hosted a cooking party at her home, complete with professional chef! Suzanne Michaud of Comfort Food Kitchen showed five of the Magnificent Seven how to prepare a number of scrumptious savory hors d’oeuvres. She demonstrated the method, gave us helpful hints, then we tried it for ourselves, hands on. What fun! Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the cooking part of the party!

Suzanne Michaud is da bomb!

Billie Jean says she's hungry. Really, really hungry.

Gail’s two German Short-Haired Pointers, Cooper and Billie Jean attended the cooking party too. You know Cooper and Billie Jean already if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time; I’ve written about walking with Gail and her dogs a couple of times. Friday night Cooper and Billie Jean, tails wagging, joined us in the kitchen. In short, they are mooches.

Prior to our arrival I heard that Cooper snatched a mouthful of peppers (I think) right from under Gail’s watchful eye.

Cooper, attempting to charm me into giving him a piece of. . .anything!

The dogs were in food heaven as the scent of French ham, Gruyere cheese, roasted peppers and more wafted right past their noses, and the dogs did their level best to entice us, the human guests, to smuggle them bits of savory.

Problem was that we, the human guests, were pounding down the delicious food as soon as it came off the stovetop or out of the oven! We weren’t sharing. Taste Suzanne’s food and you’ll know what I mean; you won’t be handing it to a dog, no matter how nice the dog! The dogs tried everything to score a snippet of food, but to no avail.

After a while Cooper resorted to being a pointer.

German Short-Haired Pointers really do point!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Animal Tales, best friends, Christmas, Christmas Decor, Comfort Food Kitchen, Cooking, Dogs, Food, German Short-Haired Pointers, Magnificent Seven, Suzanne Michaud

Fajitas, a Restaurant, with a Side of Goodwill (and Some Upscale Retail)

Grass Doesn’t Grow Under Our Feet

80 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze.

Can you feel it?


I did today (bwahahaha to my friends in the frozen Northeast). Me in my shorts and t shirt and sandals.

A local institution with good food.

Fajitas were on the menu for Mom and me today. We had sizzling hot and yummy fajitas at a local restaurant called (simple, right?) Fajitas today to celebrate (albeit belatedly) Mom’s birthday. Fresh, warm, really thin and crunchy corn chips arrived at our table with two small bowls of spicy hot chunky salsa. One bite and I knew if my husband Mike was sitting at the table neither Mom nor I would have gotten another chip in our mouths. Mike would have scooted the basket of chips and bowl of salsa under his chin and scarfed the lot down. Without stopping.

Look at these thin, crunchy, warm chips. Not greasy either!

hot, hot hot. And really tasty. See the steam rising?!

We ordered chicken fajitas for two, 8 ounces of sizzling hot chicken served on a bed of sautéed onions. The skillet arrived smoking hot and, yes, really sizzling. A plate of cheddar cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo accompanied the skillet. And the flour tortillas, four of them, were snug and warm in their little covered container. Mom and I ate it all. Every single bite. She even suggested we take some extra chips home to eat later.

After lunch we headed to Home Depot to pick up a carpet runner for her front hallway that we had seen (and thought about) yesterday. It’s my Christmas gift to her and she’s excited about that! We also bought a carpet runner for her laundry room, potting soil and fertilizer to revive two large planters in her yard; she plans to plant herbs and veggies in them come January when I’m back in New Jersey freezing my butt off. She smiled when I mentioned that fact to her (the freezing-my-butt-off part).

After that we drove to Michael’s where we picked out fabulous silk flowers that I made into an arrangement in one of Mom’s many Longaberger baskets that will highlight her new hall runner, illuminate an empty corner of her living room and generally add some much-needed color.

Thrift AND consignment shopping rolled into one stop!

And then? Then we pulled into a strip mall that had. . .are you ready?. . .a Goodwill AND a New to You Resale Shop in it. We jumped out of the car and trotted to the door of Goodwill. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky there; no coffee table worthy of Mom’s newly arranged living room. We went into New to You; I saw a couple possible coffee tables, but Mom wasn’t thrilled with either. It’s a really cool shop though, one worth checking out in the future.

Back to her house we went and unloaded the car,. I dragged the bag of potting soil to the rear yard, unrolled the new carpet runner in the front hall, then made the silk floral arrangement. After that? I hung a lace swag in Mom’s bedroom under her supervision and made a big salad for dinner.

A new floral arrangement to brighten a dark corner.

And now? I’m going to finish this Blog post and bind the two edges of the runner Mom bought for the laundry room then maybe, just maybe hang about 8 framed prints on her walls. Or maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. We’ll see!

Whatcha doin’ at your house?


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Arizona, Birthday, Christmas, Family, Goodwill Rescue Mission, Phoenix Arizona, Shopping, used furniture

Christmas Eve at Our Home

Mike and I are ready to leave for church.

All ready and waiting

Max keeps us waiting just a bit as he pulls on his fancy shoes in the main hallway prior to blastoff. Okay, he’s ready. And joins us and Tory in the main hallway.

Ready for Church

Off we go to 5:30 church service. . .to see our old friends and folks — God bless each and every one! — who helped raised our kids to be who they are today.

All Are Welcome Through These Doors

With a new choirmaster we are waiting to see what ‘old’ and what’s ‘new’ for the traditional Chrismas Eve service of carols. It’s a huge sound in the sanctuary and many voices in the choir and many people in the pews. The service is majestic and interesting and welcoming. And best of all, we have candlelight.

Silent Night and Joy to the World

And dinner afterwards.

Merry Christmas to All.


Filed under Christmas