Favorite Quote

"Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for,the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11).

31 December 2009

A La Familia!

Family is an amazing thing...they can make you laugh, make you cry, drive you completely nuts, but for me, the best thing is they are there. I particularly love large family gatherings...as a kid, holidays were always more enjoyable when the house was filled with not just our family (4 kids), but my many cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. We're not such a large group these days; my siblings and their families and my Mom, but the four of us always have a great time together, laughing, teasing each other, telling the old stories over and over.

We spent New Year's in San Antonio and since Johnny is the oldest of 10, it's similar fun on a much grander scale. On our third night, Johnny announced he was cooking dinner. He loves to cook and especially loves to cook for a lot of people. He settled on chicken alfredo, a dish conducive to feeding large numbers. Normally, he has a rule that no one is permitted in the kitchen when he cooks. This time, not only was I allowed in the kitchen, I was allowed to help! I cut all the vegetables - in a specific order, mind you, and lay them in a bowl so he could cook them in reverse order. Mushrooms, green onions, celery, red pepper, green pepper, white onions, and broccoli...I think that was the order. Johnny takes care of the chicken and gets the sauces going. The kitchen is warm and cozy and wonderful food smells fill the room. Part of the family is already there...Mom, of course, and Larry, Patsy, Chelsea, and Larry Jr. Josie is there also since it is her day to help care for Mom.

While we cook, the doorbell is ringing as others arrive. The dogs, Cookie and Nala, tear around the house, get underfoot, barking madly and the house gets noisier. Josie's husband, Danny shows up, with sister-in-law Gloria and grandkids Boogie and Karen in tow. Dorothy arrives with daughter Sarah and Dorothy's husband Ray follows shortly after. We like to gather in the kitchen, even though it's hard to fit us all in there, and people pull up chairs and chat while we work. Dorothy brought salad and is busy in our corner, preparing it. Johnny sets me to preparing the garlic bread and while I work, I cast an eye over the family. A half dozen conversations at once - lighthearted and funny; slightly off-color and accompanied by raucous laughter; a family concern spoken of in quiet tones. The room is alive and vibrating - the hum of voices blends and swells. It's a real party!

Now it's time to eat. We serve the salad. Larry tells me he never used to eat salad but now he loves it and proves it by eating two platefuls. Toasted bread is placed on the table and we begin serving plates of chicken alfredo. Boogie, 11 years old, comes back for seconds. Dan feeds chicken to Cookie, who normally hates him but she was willing to call a truce in the face of chicken. Patsy yells - "no feeding chicken to the dogs"! Dorothy is babying Nala, a tiny chihuahua with a bark about 5 times bigger than her body. Larry, the ultimate critic, looks at me as he eats and says, "this is GOOOD"!

Gloria tells me, "this is the Johnny I remember...when he was a teenager he was always cooking for us and I would sit at the table and just be in awe of my big brother". She added, "it may sound corny, but it made me feel like a little girl again" (she's 60) but I understood. This family is full of characters, "a bunch of crazies", Mom says, but it's full of love and any time we get together, it's a real celebration.

Join me in a toast and echo the words of Danny Aiello at the end of Moonstruck...To Family!

25 December 2009

Christmas Day 2009

To begin with, we were supposed to be in San Antonio celebrating with Johnny's family. I was sorry the blizzard messed up those plans but we'll be there for New Year's and this way, my Mom wasn't alone on Christmas day.

Last night we visited our neighbors, Bill & Shirley who had all their kids and grandchildren with them. Mom and Bill & Shirley are good friends - Mom is always making soup or meat loaf and taking it over to them. We had a lovely time with them...first time we've met their family. Their two sons, Bill Jr. and John, both have newborns who were absolutely adorable. Mom bought presents for all the kids - she was like Santa, handing them out. The babies, of course, knew nothing, but I think their mothers appreciated the little baby outfits.

After that, Johnny and I went to Mass...we usually do the midnight service but I was just too tired so we went to the 9:00. We went early and they had a carol sing ahead of time that was a lot of fun. The service was beautiful and we were pleased to see Father Richardson there - he's been recovering from back surgery and is still in a wheelchair.

This morning we woke up early - had coffee at our desks until we heard the "pitter patter" of feet upstairs (Mom and the dog)! We ran up to get the holiday started - and I baked cinnamon buns...the cheat kind in the roll, but hey, they're still good. It's still snowy outside since there was so much of the stuff last week...so for the first time in years, it was a white Christmas and despite what some people may think, a white Christmas is NOT overrated! I'm loving it! The sky is gray and we are expecting ice (Booooooo) today but no precip so far. Mom placed calls to my sister and my brothers and step-brother. We ate cinnamon rolls. Then she opened her presents. It's funny how sometimes she seems like a kid to us...at some point in your life, you just seem to revert and instead of getting older, she often seems much like a child and so much more so at Christmas when everyone is a kid anyway. So she had lots of presents to open because we all like her to have presents to unwrap. It was quite a haul between the 5 of us kids giving her stuff.

When I baked the rolls, I realized the oven was dirty from the apple pie I made yesterday...so I decided to clean the oven, not realizing that you can't even use the burners when the oven is self cleaning....I shut it completely down when there was 2 hours remaining because I really wanted to eat dinner before 10:00 tonight. Now things are simmering and roasting as they should be. I'm cheating on the stuffing (Stovetop) but I saute onions and celery so the house smells like it does when I actually make the stuffing.

We watched The Nutcracker, which I had bought the last time we were at the Kennedy Center - it's the Mikail Baryshnikov version...can't believe I'm 53 years old and have never seen this ballet...or for that matter, any ballet. It was marvelous...the dancing is incredible! We'll have to make an effort to see one at the theater.

Johnny is shoveling off the deck - we never got around to that and Mom just went to take a nap. I'm going to go check the turkey.

Merry Christmas and God Bless us all!

23 December 2009

Things Our Driver Told Us

We were recently in London and on the ride back to the airport, we were lucky enough to get a car service who sent a JAGUAR to pick us up! Seriously, I've never ridden in a jaguar and I was very impressed. Okay, so I'm easily impressed...but a JAGUAR!

The car was cool...the driver was much cooler. Sati talked the whole way to the airport and even though we've been to London numerous times, told us things we'd never known before.

He showed us the gate to Kensington Palace, which I've never noticed despite having ridden past it to and from the airport plenty of times.

I mentioned that I loved history and he asked me to name three famous Kings in the world. I was on the spot...I picked William the Conqueror, Louis XV, and Tsar Nicholas. (This last because I just couldn't think of any other King outside of England or France.) Then he told us about a pub along the route called Famous 3 Kings. I had noticed this pub on numerous occasions but we've never gone there...and who are the three kings, you might ask? Sati said, Henry VIII (I should have known that would be one); King Charles (but he didn't know from where - definitely not England); and Elvis Presley. Really. He slowed down as he passed the pub and sure enough, on the sign, there is Elvis Presley in gold lame, standing in front of the other two "real" Kings. We'll have to get back there and take a picture of that sign.

Another interesting thing he mentioned was a restuarant called Dans le Noir. I looked this up online and it's not unique to London but I'd never heard of it. It's a restaurant where you eat entirely in the dark...for a real sensation of what it's like to be blind. Not for the faint of heart but it certainly sounded interesting. He said it was expensive and some of the comments I saw on line indicated the food wasn't a great value for the money. I just thought the concept was interesting. Not sure I have the guts for it.

That's all I can think of now...