Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dinner For Two By Joe ♥

Grilled To Perfection... Thanks, Honey... and...
Awesome Photo Contribution to CMI... but...
We Need Larger Platters... or...
Smaller Crustaceans
Happy New Year I Love You

Friday, December 30, 2011

And Then There's The Grinch

Hunter and Chloe chose "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" as a diversion, when Hunter was not feeling well, the other morning. Leave it to Dr. Seuss to afford me fodder for winding down Twenty-Eleven. Jim Carrey did a fantastic job of giving life to the confused Grinch, as the ultimately-lovable character found his way into our hearts. Grab a couple of children and together be reminded of what we already know so very well: 

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 

When the popcorn was gone and the movie at its end, four-year-old Miss Chloe firmly announced,
"Now that's the Christmas spirit!"

With her sweet conclusion in mind, I note that it has been an incredible year. G-d willing, I'll see y'all in Twenty-Twelve. Thanks so much for your interest in CMI.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"My Piece Of The Pie"

Joe and I caught this offbeat film on Pay-Per. He rated it a midway-5; I gave it a 7... or maybe an 8. It was different. I liked it. Thing is, we're still talking about it, days later. This fact alone warrants my higher rating. Main characters Stéphane and France tell a story from different sides of an almost-literal coin. They bounce around Europe and when in France-the-country, the movie is subtitled. We recommend it. If you think that money talks, there will be lots here to contemplate. If you detest social class systems, there will be even more. If you're caught in the middle... well... whatever. Clearly, though, it leaves one contemplating his or her own priorities as to which piece of the proverbial pie really matters, in life.

Well, Maybe Just A Little More?

We tried for an end-of-the-year visit with Hunter and Chloe. Sadly, it was cut short by the sudden onset of strep. I'm here to tell my grandparent-friends to keep children's Motrin in the medicine cabinet for when those precious little ones sleep over. 104 degrees at 2:00 a.m. is scary. Poor Little Man... at that point, all he wanted was his Mommy. But just a day later, the antibiotics have kicked in and he'll be able to enjoy the rest of vacation week. Miss you, H and C. We'll make it up to you, for sure.

Who Could Ask For Anything More?

 So many thanks to Christian, Dawn, Hunter and Chloe for hosting a warm, delicious, fun and memorable First Christmas in their new home. We'll forever cherish the special feeling of a wonderful holiday spent together. Our four GrandMunchkins are precious, to say the very least!! If only we could capture and share their wide-eyed excitement and beautiful noise... surely the world would then harmonize in peace. I am so in love with my family and thank G-d for them, every single day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas The Night Before...

Always on Christmas Eve, I'm reminded of Christian at eight years old. Santa's bounty wasn't due till the next morning, and yet my Babe lamented at the end of a beautiful night that he was a little sad. He loved the anticipation, the preparations, the palpable warmth of our home during a month of thinking about others... and then, the Eve. I always thought that to be an astounding expression for such a young child. But it was in keeping with his never having a list of coveted things, as children do.  

I know I've told this before... my apologies... but the operative word here is "always".

Isn't it amazing that there it is... right in front of us... the true meaning for all to grasp, even our very young children. 
Especially our very young children. 

May yours and ours be blessed in the belief that the gifts of love and peace truly do reign supreme, as we capture the embrace...

...and prayerfully remember those who are suffering in any way, as we hold them in our hearts, too.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Friday, December 23, 2011

Awesome Eve*Eve

Thanks to Bri 'n' Kell for hosting yet another fun and noisy night to let Santa Shine. Love you all. 
Just Believe.

'Twas Eve*Eve*Eve

Proudly Made in the USA for MomDad 
Aubrey's and Gavin's maternal grandmother is a sweetheart. It's fun to co-grand with her. Yesterday, in a changing of the guard, she dropped off the kids, warning me that a certain little someone " wild." Well, that was clearly the understatement of the decadeAnd did I mention that we had a lot to accomplish? Already, it was Christmas Eve*Eve*Eve, and we needed to get creative. They got the job done; but I'm here to say that the excitement level is peaking. What's in the mystery packages...
'Tis after Christmas, and I reveal:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cheater Wreath ~ A Holiday Bread

It's down to the wire, now, and too late even for Jim Lahey's bread. So, cheat a little. With a few frozen loaves of dough, you can make a mighty pretty wreath and dress it to impress.

Just thaw dough and cut (use kitchen shears) lengthwise and then into chunks, to be lightly rolled and space-placed on a sprayed cookie sheet. Use a heat-proof bowl in the center to help hold shape during baking. Spray tops and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, but keep in mind that it will rise further when placed into a hot oven.

When ready, egg-wash tops and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Topper options are endless. EVOO and minced garlic work well for Italian fare, while cinnamon, raisins and nuts lend a sweetness for brunch. Use what you like. A half hour at 350 degrees is about all the baking time it needs.

Accept lavish praise, upon presentation. I won't tell!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Josh Krajcik ~ The Finals

Photo Montage by Moi, with the help of Nikon & Samsung
If I'm being honest, "X Factor" has revealed an unbelievable Voice in Melanie. And if I leap a truth-step further, the show has exposed an amazing Personality in Chris Rene. But if I'm loyal to my own genre preferences, it means standing by one astounding Rocker, Josh Krajcik... he's got it all. I can't call the results, as it's anybody's win. This said, I'm believin' that all three are headed for stardom.
Final Results Update 11/22:
Congratulations to Melanie Amaro
Yes, the Voice won, the Rocker placed second and the Personality came in third, according to the votes. Winners all... but "mine" can come anytime he'd like for Christmas:

Happy Chanukah Love

May the lights of our shared holiday season 
shine brightly with peace, hope and love.

A Winter Concert

With Music, Sets and Decorations by The Children
Thanks, Aubs and Gav... We had a great morning!
We love you so much.
Stills by Moi... Vids thanks to Bri

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Venison #6 - Crusty Meatloaf

Many moons ago, I learned to use my freezer to the nth degree, allowing me to cook on a whim and produce delicious fare that would be readily available, whenever. Just about everything can be frozen... well, except for meat that has been previously frozen, thawed and then cooked. But if you cook it fresh, you can then freeze.

Cookies, cakes and breads can be tossed in ready to serve or gift. Or, freeze doughs in amounts of your choosing. Don't forget tidbits of this 'n' that. For example...

During my pie-shell-baking fiasco over Thanksgiving, I was left with a tad of raw dough... not enough for another pan, but too much to toss... so, when I found it in the freezer...

The Meat and Method: Today's lean, mean ground venison was blended with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, Laughing Cow Light, carrots, parsley, garlic powder, pepper, potato-bread crumbs, a drop of EVOO and an egg. Then, I stretched that leftover dough around and over it, as much as possible, sprinkling paprika and pepper, to lend a savory touch. It went into a 350-degree oven for an hour and voilà.

You're correct if you think we're eating more "red" meat than ever. But guess what? Lean venison comes up on the charts with even better numbers than chicken. Go see here. But again, it is how the meat is butchered. Very often, fatty pork or beef is added to the ground meat. We did not allow that this year, resulting in an extremely fine end product. We are in awe of how delicious each meal has been, with no special preparation and gaminess non-existent. 

Buon Appetito.

Tropical Upstate NY

Think Warm!
Here in Upstate New York, we can only attempt to bring the tropics home. Sure, we try. The Norfolk Island Pine residing in our great room suggests close proximity to our beloved Outer Banks. But what else to do in a cold climate?

You might recall my previous mention of infrared heaters. Eden Pure was the brand we started out with; we've two of those. We added a third off-brand, half the amount of money, from Sam's... it works well but does not carry an equal guarantee. Brian has added more to his home, we bought one for Mom, and my brother has purchased a couple.

Now granted, it is true that we've had a relatively mild November and December, thus far. This said, it's not mild enough to exist comfortably without heat. We've been toasting two levels with the little infrareds, strategically placed. The exciting news is that we've cut our fuel-oil bill by half, as compared to the same time frame, last year.

If you wonder whether or not our electric bill has spiraled upwards, the answer is, "No!" Only pennies added on that utility has translated to hundreds saved on the other.

Ask me if we're happy campers....

I Love You, Corey... You Made Me Cry Happy Tears ♥

"I'm almost vintage!"

You've always been so thoughtful and sweet,
even as a very little girl. 

Somethin' Special

Miss Julia is almost ninety and tells us in our Christmas note that she is still full of creativity and will "...probably die with a paintbrush in my hand." I ask you, how inspiring is this lady? The artwork here is circa the seventies, reproduced for Julia's twenty-eleven cards; the handwritten letter is circa today. 
Clearly something special.
Following Up:
At about ten-thirty this morning, I called Julia to thank her for the lovely wishes. She'd been up since five and already had four gift loaves a-risin', as she smashed apricots for yet another gift from the heart(h). With great anticipation, she looks forward to twenty-twelve and a new-for-her project to be presented at an upcoming charity event. 
Now, that's the spirit!


So, today my Saab becomes a collector's item. I should have kept Funky Saab #1 of 3; that's the one that was too cool for words. Link to: 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Venison #5 - Simple Sizzlin' Steaks

The Meat:  Lean, perfect venison steaks, cut evenly to about 1/2" thick.
The Method:  Marinate for a couple of hours in EVOO, balsamic, paprika, garlic salt and pepper, allowing to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, sauté onion, carrot, fresh garlic and ginger, paprika and pepper, sprayed with oil. When ready to cook meat, **pat it dry with paper towels,** remove onion mix from pan and crank the heat. Add a drop of oil, if you need to, and quickly sear the steaks on both sides. Remove to board and put onions back in pan, lowering heat. Rest meat for about five minutes; slice on bias and return to pan that has been removed from stove. It will finish cooking, creating lots of juices with retained heat, as you serve.
The Menu: Huge baked potato for Joe; most of the veggies for moi; salad; and most importantly, a steak for Mambo... hold the onions. Woof.

Check It Out

iHerb is fast becoming my favorite new foodie website. You might recall the gluten-free crust I needed to make for our holiday cheesecake. Dawn suggested a certain brand of cookie, not easily found here in Monti. She offered to mail it (Thanks, Sweetie!), but I quickly found the brand at iHerb. Lots of healthy products, including legal lollipops that will surely earn extra lovin' from the Babes in your life.

They offer free shipping on a mere twenty-dollar order... a qualifying amount almost unheard of. A free sample of your choice is included with each order. And, this coupon code will earn you $5.00 off of your first order: KIC532 

Now, scusimi... I need to go place another order.

Bring 'Em On

Excitement is mounting and imaginary friends stand by, awaiting new homes where parents remind children just what they are celebrating. To capture the magic of Christmastime for ALL would be an amazing feat...
 PEACE is still a good idea.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cozy Up

We've been experiencing incredibly warm and sunny weather. Mambo's "Working Rock Star"  birthday picture... the one with the retrieved newspaper... was actually taken on his birthday. Did you notice the green, green grass. This morning's temps have dipped into the teens. Joe grabbed the opportunity to start a cozy fire. Tomorrow? Back to the forties. We'll take it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coming Together

It's so amazing to see this 'n' that come together in perfect harmony, in time for the holidays. Just have to let it happen, 'cause certainly MaryAnn didn't know that Bucky resides in my lavabo card display.

Pilfer A Little

One to frost and gift... one pilfered...
Baking For Gifting, are you? Well, be sure to make a mini to toss into your own freezer. Freeze frostings separately and add right before serving. Before you know it, you'll have an amazing array for a personalized Viennese Table... and you'll not have even tried! Don't forget to give your old stand-bys some holiday glitz. 
Dried cranberries add a 
festive touch...


Joe has dubbed our humble abode The House Of Mirrors. We are aglow. Windows, glass and real mirrors are reflecting lights, everywhere. Our understated, less-is-more approach to decorating rewards us abundantly. Consider our tree: real or otherwise? 
Amazing, isn't it? 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hawt Repeat

So, Gav loves the hawt, as you know; and you heard about the garland. Sure, G'ma 'n' G'pa could have gifted the ornament from our tree; however, we'd then be deprived of the sweet ritual. Supposin', though.... just supposin'.... Santa tracked one down. Maybe its scene is a tad different, with a little boy.... um.... hanging garland on a tree. What would y'all think of that? We aim to please. 
Shhhhh! The mystery box holds a secret.

Real-Deal Cheesecake

It pays to be careful in paring down fat, calories, salt, etc., all year long, just to make way for the holiday treat of Real-Deal Cheesecake. It seems like just yesterday that Joe and I went in pursuit of the best recipe. After a month of baking and taste-testing, we each gained about ten pounds. Not to worry. Back in the day, a few long-distance runs took care of that. Nonetheless, we were successful, in that our mission was accomplished. 
Serve solo or adorn with fruit and/or real whipped cream. For this year's version, I used gluten-free gingersnaps for the crust, instead of graham crackers. It is now "safe" for Dawn. If this is an issue for you, as well, it is imperative to check brands of all ingredients, as gluten can sneak in during production. If cake cracks, as did this one, blame it on the special lovin' ♥ you added. And, as Julia Child always said,

 "No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." 

3* 8-oz packages Philly cream cheese
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
cookie crust of your choice
Line springform pan with crust. 
With an electric mixer, THOROUGHLY cream the cheese... this takes time and patience. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, continuing to beat. 
Then, by hand, thoroughly blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into crust.
Bake for about 50 minutes in a preheated 325-degree oven. Without opening oven door, turn off heat and leave cake in for another 60 minutes. Open door and cool down for another 20 minutes, before removing to rack to cool completely. This freezes beautifully, so make it ahead of time.


Bringing You Today's News
"I'm FIVE, today! Is one of those for me?"
Clearly the best gift under our tree. 
Happy Birthday, Mambo. 
We sure do love you.
"I used to fit in the sink!"
8 weeks old
"My humans got me used to the sand
when I was just a toddling ball of hair."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


(Update 12/15... YAY! It's off to the finals for Josh, Chris and Melanie.)
And please note:
Jeff Buckley's will always remain the most astounding version ever, in my opinion (thanks, AndyMac)... but Josh's is beautiful, though way too short. Please keep in mind that lots of clarity is lost here. I highly recommend the download from iTunes.