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Christmas – In Retrospect

I took a lot of pictures this holiday season.  These and the blogs to follow highlight some of my favorites!

CHRISTMAS AT HOME – This actually was 12/18, the day before we left to spend the holidays in Florida – plus one bonus photo of lazy Granuaile being met at the car by her dad with a wagon so she didn’t have to walk up the driveway!

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath Part 2

Food, glorious food!  Here’s what we served at the party – and a breakdown of what people didn’t eat.

Starting with the cheese course.  I’m not a fan of strong cheese – I prefer mild and softer cheese.  The tray included Havarti (my favorite), Stilton with cranberries (which looked pretty but must have tasted terrible, because I ended up tossing nearly the whole thing), Swiss, for Jim, who loves it (blech), and a sharp cheddar (blech again, but my family loves it).  The only thing I tossed off of this plate was the crackers and the Stilton.  That would have made a nice lunch!  Next year – well, it’s easy to do cheese, and it varies from year to year whether it’s a hit or miss.  Maybe I’ll change it up with some Fabulous Beekman Boys goat cheese!

Downstairs snack foods are always tricky.  It’s usually mostly kids playing down there, but this year, it was mostly grown ups.  For the first time EVER, in the 20 plus years we’ve had a holiday party, I threw away potato chips and onion dip.  I almost always have to refill the chips and dip.  The buffalo chicken cheese dip – FLOP.  Thank goodness I can’t take credit for creating this hot mess.  Even the grown ups deemed it too spicy and unpleasant.  Chips and salsa – no one ever eats chips and salsa.  Jim makes me put it there every year, because he prefers it to sour cream based dips.  Next year, he’ll have to sit and eat the whole thing.  If there was going to be a next year.  17,003.

We also had girl scout nuts (they were spicy), and a snack tray from Target with my favorite ever trail mix – the pumpkin one.  Fortunately, no one ate it, so it quickly became all mine.

The thing that looks like a pizza is the seafood surprise dip.  I love how this dip tastes, I really do, but no one ever eats this thing.  I make it for Jim, because he loves it, but even he didn’t find time to get downstairs to eat any of it.  I think, and rightfully so, food with the word “SURPRISE” in the name probably frightens people off.  A heart attack is a surprise – not good.  A car accident is a surprise – not good.  A tax audit from the IRS is a surprise – not good.  Next year, I’m still making this, but instead of calling it seafood surprise, I’m calling it Damn Good Dip.

This was also downstairs, and there is only one snackable item on the table – the dark chocolate covered, metallic almonds that Jim bought.  I don’t think people realized this was not just a decoration.  These were delicious, but I had to go downstairs, open up the candy jar, and pass them out.  The metallic thing also freaked people out.  Next year?  These will be called Damn Good Nuts.

Stay tuned for Damn Good Stuffing.

Almost Finished – Christmas Decorating 2010

As I get to the end of this year’s holiday decorating, with the promise to my husband that I will begin to weed through ornaments and decorations we no longer use and get rid of them, I am reminded of why we have so many holiday decorations.  Everything I have means something – whether it was a gift that someone gave to me, or an ornament purchased because it reminded me of one of my children.  I have things that were used in my Grandmother’s house when I was a little girl, and things my mom used in her house when I was young as well.  There are things that were my dad’s before he died, and things my grandmother handmade.

So here is what the house looks like with the bulk of the decorating done:

Each of these stockings, although never used to actually contain gifts, mean something.  The first one at the top of the stairs, my Grandmom Fee made.  The last one was a dollar store purchase when we were making stockings to be sent to the soldiers in Iraq.  It was leftover, but reminds me each year of how lucky we are to be together each Christmas.

The bell my mom used to hang outside of our house in South Philly

Not sure I should hang the girls’ stockings in age order, since their initials might be a turn-off for Santa

Tiny presents – a gift from my brother and sister-in-law one year – they’re so cute!

My Grandmom had a chapel very similar to this one that played Silent Night.  We found this one at Home Depot a few years ago, and it just reminded me so much of Grandmom, that we bought it!

These happy faces used to belong on my Mom’s stereo

The tree is mine – bought one year when we weren’t going to be home for the holidays, but I wanted a Christmas tree up anyway.  I ended up buying two of them – one for each bay window in the front of the house.  The kissing Angels and the angel musicians were Grandmom Fee’s.  I’m not sure where the Nativity came from, but this is a huge promotion for this Nativity – last year, and for the previous 8, they have been on a shelf in the downstairs bathroom.

The “kids” tree – filled with all the ornaments collected over the years for the kids – with their names, the year, and their favorite characters.  There are also baby’s first ornaments on the tree, and ornaments they’ve made in school through the years.

The top of the china cabinet is home to many of the holiday stuffies we’ve collected through the years – we try to add a new one each year.  That means we should only have about 22, but somewhere along the way, we must have added a few spares!

The basket was a wonderful gift my first year on the Moms Panel – the goodies are merely a distant memory, but the gorgeous sleigh will remain part of the holiday memories with which we decorate.

Our first Christmas together, Jim and I wanted to do a more elegant tree than the ones we grew up with, so we settled on one color ornament – gold.  Well, over the years, we came to realize how the trees we grew up with ended up with the mismatched ornaments – we came along!  Our family tree ended up having a bit of everything on it as the girls came along.  A couple of years ago, though, Jim bought the pre-lit tree with colored lights to appease the girls who hated the white lights on my tree.  I promptly moved all the “colorful” ornaments to the colorful tree, and reclaimed the gold one.  I love it all gold because it reminds me every year of my first Christmas with Jim – and the promise of many more to come.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Real or Fake? The Christmas Tree Debate

I entered a contest today to win a Green Valley Christmas tree.  You can find the contest and enter it yourself at the fabulous Mommy Musings blog http://www.mommymusings.com/green-valley-christmas-trees-giveaway/comment-page-1/#comment-22295.  But just entering the contest brought up a whole range of emotions for me.

My dad resisted an artificial tree until he really became very sick and he wasn’t able to go choose a tree on his own.  He loved going out and tree hunting, and he loved the smell.  But I think what he loved most of all is that it was something the whole family did together to kick off the Christmas season.  My sister and I would bundle up and head out with him, making the annual pilgrimage to find the perfect tree.  For my dad, perfect was not an appearance thing.  The first thing that made it perfect was that he only bought a tree from a charitable organization – boy scouts, a local fire company, the Moose Lodge, who was using the proceeds for a children’s hospital.  It didn’t matter how bad the tree was, if the money spent was going to help someone else have a Merry Christmas, we were buying it.  And the second thing that made it perfect was the amount of laughter it elicited from my sister and I.  We had Christmas trees that would make the Charlie Brown tree look lush and healthy, but if Bean and I laughed our heads off when my dad pulled them out among the hundreds on a tree lot, that tree was coming home with us.

Having a real tree in the house always brought such happy memories for me.  Memories of my dad and those Christmas tree treks from my childhood.  The smell and the sticky pine on my fingers is the real meaning of home and family during the holidays.

I have to admit, we’ve had a pre-lit artificial tree for about five years now.  This year, a whole string of the lights are dead.  I am finally seeing my darkened path back to a real tree.  And it can’t come quickly enough.

The Nutcracker – The Christmas Tradition Continues!

I gotta tell you, I thought this one was a lost cause.  I took my oldest daughter to see The Nutcracker, the beloved Christmas ballet, when she was about 6.  She and her father were so loud during the performance, I wanted to smack the two of them.  The only reason I didn’t is because I thought they were quieter asleep than they would be awake.  That’s right, they both fell asleep during the performance.

The Sugar Plum Fairy’s throne

Now, as if this wasn’t bad enough, this was not your local elementary school’s performance.  We were sitting in amazing seats at the Southern Ballet Company’s performance.  With a retired Sugar Plum Fairy, who had for many years performed with the Southern Ballet Company.  Can you say mortified?  I know I could.

I hesitated when Eilis’ girl scout troop leader came up with this particular trip, but it was a local ballet company, and each of the girls has a classmate in the ballet company.  If nothing else, I thought they’d enjoy seeing kids they knew perform.

Well, they LOVED it!  Granuaile sat mesmerized by every twirl and every costume.  Eilis laughed and clapped, and not only enjoyed seeing her friend Alexandra perform as Fritz, but loved every minute of it.

My faith in this holiday tradition has been restored!  The performance was fabulous, the girls had a wonderful time, and their dad, who was left home due to his prior unacceptable sleepy behavior, ended a wonderful day with good news of his own, and dinner out for everyone!

What a great day to help kick off the Christmas season!

Eilis and the Sugar Plum Fairy

Jordan signs their program from the afternoon

Granuaile meets the Sugar Plum Fairy

If you are in the South Jersey area, tickets can still be purchased to see the remaining performances of this wonderful production.  Visit http://www.balletnj.org/ to get your tickets!

Oh – on a side note – this was a special girl scout event, and it was incredible!  The Artistic Director, David Gallagher, took the girls backstage and told them the story of The Nutcracker.  He showed them some of the incredible costumes, explaining that some of the fabrics used cost $50 a yard!  After a demonstration by some of the ballerinas, he took the kids out to the theatre to see the dancers warm up, and he explained every step and every excercise.  When it was all over, the girl scouts got to line up and have their photos taken on stage with the Sugar Plum Fairy herself!  The kids LOVED it!