Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As We Move Into The New Year...

2013 was a roller-coaster year for us, with the highs and lows that families often experience. It's funny, though, how the highest of highs can eradicate those lows with just one mighty swipe. That's how Joe and I feel about Christmas Day. It was clearly a high for us - one for which we are ever so grateful and thankful. In today's crazy world, just all being together is enough. But add sparkly lights, silver ribbons and delicious food and voilà! It becomes nourishment for the heart and soul, for sure.

I'd like to wish y'all good health, happiness and much love in 2014 and always…
lots of sweet, sweet soul food.
See ya next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Guest Photo Contribution! Hastings, UK

Thanks to my WORDS pal, Andy, for our long-lasting friendship and his challenging  gaming skills. Even more thanks for his thoughtfulness in sending this gorgeous shot of his spectacular view! It was taken during an eight-mile hike, the other morning.
Who wouldn't be inspired??!!
"I took it on my walk yesterday when the tide was out. It's looking along the coast towards Hastings where I live." A.T.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Downhill Racers!

Thanks for the Real-Time photo, Bri! Wish we could be in two places at one time.
Gorgeous x's Four!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Day with L♥ve

"Our Loves"
Giving Thanks for a Beautiful Day with the Best Gifts of All

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Orecchiette 'n' Coconut Milk Béchamel

We're really excited for tomorrow. The ranch looks and smells delicious. The "banquet" table turned out so nice. :-) All dishes and desserts are ready for completion. Soll Santas are rarin' to go. Thing is, we forgot to consider something special for this Eve's dinner. We tossed around a few ideas before I had a light-bulb moment. Something decadent. Hey, it IS Christmas. Béchamel. Yep, that was my call. Plain and simple. No parsley for color or veggies for nutrition. But… and this is a huge "but"… not even a smattering of cheese. Thing is...

We're ashamed to admit that we ate a pound... A POUND... of pasta smothered in white sauce. Don't even bother to assess the obscene number of calories consumed. Okay, okay, go easy on us. Remember, this is a cheese-less version.
Melt about 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter over low heat. Make a roux by slowly whisking in about ⅓ cup flour

Warm 2 cups of light, unsweetened coconut milk in microwave. Slowly add to roux, continuing to whisk, being careful to keep lumps from forming. Keep heat low; do not allow sauce to boil.

Add ¼ teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Ladle over hot pasta; or put pasta right into the sauce, stirring carefully.

Mamma Mia! What more can I say?? 

Merry Eve!

Excitement is peaking for the kids, especially as Stan The Elf makes his last appearance for this season. Have y'all met Stan? Well, it's impossible for Santa to watch all the boys 'n' girls to see that they are behaving… so… enter Stan. He moves from room to room each night. In the morning, the children search for him to see just where he's been observing from. Aubs and Gav have found him in some pretty strange places. The refrigerator. Upside-down on the chandelier. The advent calendar. You get the gist. But this morning…
this Eve morning…

Stan reminds us that he'll be traveling off to the sunset, till next year. With no thanks to sub-tropical temps that robbed him of a sleigh-ride on snow, Stan has chosen horseback. His job is done. Tomorrow morning, it's time to discover what the Big Guy himself has been up to, with all this free time Stan has afforded him. Yep, Santa's on his way.

Here's a big, fat "Thanks!" to Aubrey. She has chronicled Stan's visit quite well, via Instagram. Photo credit is due her as well, here on CMI.

Merry Eve!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly... and The Hope

Dustin Friedland and his Wife
Internet Photo

You know, it would be so nice if agony would take some time off during the holidays and allow for ecstasy alone to be afforded all. But it just doesn't work that way, does it? One of the worst cases in point has to be the murder at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. The car wasn't enough? Sure, there are scores and scores of crimes-per-day to feel for. But this one just seems to illustrate inhuman callousness beyond belief. So, I hold warm thoughts for Dustin Friedland's family, left to muster up what they can of lives utterly shattered by abominable cruelty. 


When the Friedland's story broke, I was instantly reminded of a close encounter of a somewhat similar nature that we once experienced, also at Christmastime. We were at Jersey's nearby Newark Airport, meeting Christian upon his arrival home from a college semester spent in London. C is forty now, so you can do the math. We were a group of six that included C's roommate and his parents, as together we happily headed to the parking lot. Moods quickly changed when we found our car's rear tires had been slashed. Throughout the ordeal, our friends stayed with us. I noticed an old car with two bad-looking dudes circling around the lot. It freaked me out… they were clearly the culprits, but the police had not yet arrived to take action. We'd been set up for theft… or worse. I shudder.


With one spare tire, what to do without waiting for a tow? A similar SUV was parked next to ours and its owner was kind enough to spare his spare. We borrowed it for the trip home, with the promise to ship it back to him the very next day. What an amazing person. Just suppose he needed it himself for replacing a flat, etc. Human nature at its best.


An incredible study in contrasts here, wouldn't you agree? I guess we can only hope and pray for good to prevail. 

This is dedicated to the Family of Dustin Friedland. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Something's Awry in the Sky - Are You Reading, Al Gore?

Yesterday'sPhonePhotoContribution by Joe

We were pretty well covered with snowy white, just yesterday. But then, the Winter Solstice Thaw began with rising 40-something temps. Last night's rain and fog, followed by today's record-breaking temps reaching 60, ultimately did Frosty in. An interesting concept, don't you think? SnowmanWearingMudOnGreenGrass

Meanwhile, the nutty decor on the portico speaks to a foggy background.
And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round and 'round...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wet, Warm 'n' Wintry(?) Solstice

It's official! Winter is here. Yep, the days are short. But the temps? Record-breakers!
61 degrees, tomorrow? Almost beach weather. I'll take it.
Give it a day or two, though, and this post shall be duly punished.
Happy Winter.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Modify Me - Table "Linens"

Each little job I can complete this week shall help towards my enjoying every minute of the blur that will be Christmas, G-d willing. I've had the table on my mind. Dinner is set in stone, with Prime Rib the recurring star of our holiday fare. But there's wiggle room in adornments… and…

Experience tells me that the GrandLoves will ask to be excused in the blink of an eye. So, when considering table linens, I recalled an Easter past, when in an attempt to keep the kids thinking "food" for a bit longer, I set using brown craft paper. I built up art stations at each of their places and it sorta worked. More importantly, it gave me an idea for this holiday…

That endless wrapping paper I ordered has served its purpose brilliantly. If you look hard, you can see its appearance in the foyer and then under the tree. There's more, if you walk into the living room! :-) And with yet a bit more to spare, I "wrapped" the board-extended dining room table. Sure, it'll need a dusting before plates and glassware are placed upon it. But who cares? I'm a happy camper. Furthermore…

Why not??!! Slightly tacky simplicity speaks, don't you think? And picture how pretty it will look with my precious little babes sitting around!
Ho, Ho, Ho!!

A Gorgeous Wintry Mix

Yesterday, I rode shotgun with Joe, as he delivered Christmas gifts over a large span of wintry territory. We waved a happy au revoir to Frosty who resides atop the custard stand, behind Danny's in Wurtsboro. This in case you want to see for yourself.
Just across the border in Montague, New Jersey, we found Mr. Ed et al. The resident trotters clearly provided a perfect change of pace - pun intended - from hectic holiday preparations. I just can't tell you how in love I am with horses. It would have been my choice to stay there for the remainder of the day, but duty called us back to the home state… through the gorgeous rolling hills of Goshen and as far as Washingtonville. Only locals can appreciate the distance covered. Oooh-kay…
Old Sol was already setting in eastern villages, when it was time to head home. Still, there was hope for more color to the west.
Washingtonville Yellows
Once again, good old Wurtsboro and the Bashakill provided just the through-the-windshield span I was hoping for. The earlier palette had magically turned to amazing pinks and blues. Sunrises and sets are simply gifts that keep on giving.
Bashakill Pinks
Except for the fact that Joe completely forgot our plans to stop for lunch in Port Jervis at the Erie Pub, it was a nice day. A little inside joke here, for which I apologize. Thanks, Honey.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Discrimination Is For The Birds

Generally speaking, I'm not of a discriminatory nature. Yep, it's true. After all, we're all terminal cases, right? So who could we possibly have been born superior to? Sure, nature and nurture define us. But in the very beginning and at the very end, we're pretty equal. Yes? But then there are the birds. Something changes in my make-up, allowing just a tad of disdain for mere feathery innocents…
blue jays.

Though regulars here at the ranch, it's doubtful that there is one single picture of this particular species on CMI. Other birds rate. Consider little chickadees, ever captivating and so danged sociable. Or the even smaller hummers, often blog stars when visiting during warm months. Then there are finches of varying colors. The list goes on. So, what is it about the bluest of 'em all?

They're invasive. They arrive at the feeders in flocks, flailing their big wings and ginormous heads, just about knocking the little guys unconscious. And they're bangers. If I hear what seems like a knock on the front portico, it's usually a big blue hammering at our well-established wreath in an attempt to gain even more sustenance. Ahem. Like there aren't enough berries in the woods? Nope, the blues need the ones Joe handpicked for me to decorate with. Enter kids.
Spotting movement by the picture window, Gav excitedly jumped up and exclaimed during a snow-day movie:
"G'ma, there are BLUE birds at the feeder."

The movie? Disney's "Bolt", highly recommended when you have a kid or two around.
The outlook about those blues? Forever changed. I guess they are kind of pretty.
The saying? Maybe we should say, "Discrimination is worthless," and leave the birds out of it!
The moral? 'Tis the season. Don't discriminate. Welcome the blues - but only of the avian variety.

Aubs in Concert

Fifth graders through seniors entertained the masses last night with their winter concert of the prism variety. No applauding is allowed during a show that goes from one chorus to the next and the next. After the last song, one may cheer and clap to his or her heart's desire.
Aubs and Bestie Abby were adorable, as usual! They've done a lot of (link) shows together. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keepin' Santa Warm - Hot Off the Circular Needles

As Cousin Nicole recently asked me, "Is that okay?" Ahem. "That" would be gifting one's self during the holiday hoopla. I responded in a positive manner, thus paving the way to keep this little confection. I'll be debuting my spanking new infinity cowl tonight at Aubrey's winter concert. Meanwhile, it's keeping the Big Guy warm.

This one is for (link) Zu, for whom I crocheted a flower to add to the knitted piece! Check out her gorgeous blog.

Do You Tootsie-Roll Wrap?

Kids really do say the darndest things.
Good Lord, it seems like another lifetime wherein we watched and listened to Art Linkletter's funny proof of that fact. If you remember, you're probably retired! But I digress…

Upon discovering a few of my oddly wrapped packages under last year's tree, Gavin dubbed them "Tootsie Rolls". How cute. So yesterday, when Aubs completed a surprise for Aunt Dawn and Uncle Christian, she wanted to know "…if I can wrap it like a Tootsie Roll, G'ma?"
No spoilers here, though. That package remains under… well, you know… under wraps!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Pals!

 ZEUS and MAMBO become FRIENDS, here at the Old Homestead!

SNOW DAY [again]

iPhone Photo by Nicki - "CMI's Guest Blogger"
Hi, this is Aubs… ANOTHER SNOW DAY!!! I hope there will be no school tomorrow… so everybody… put your pjs on inside-out and backwards and dance around your fridge! One thing I like about a snow day is NO work to do and NO homework. I also like to sleep in on snow days… WHO DOESNT? 
iPhone Photo by Aubs - "Another Snow Day!"       
 I am so happy I can blog again. Maybe one day I will have my own blog. It will be all about One Direction and how cute the boys are…. it will also be about how cute dogs are. Well, it will be about EVERYTHING.
iPhone Photo by Kelly - "Freedom Ride for Zeus"
 I HAVE BIG NEWS… I GOT A NEW DOG. He is so cute. He is 2 years old and bigger than my other dog Miley who is 4. We went to so many different places to find a dog that is nice and cute… we really liked this one dog named Homer, but he was way too big for Miley. So we got Zeus. I love dogs.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mambo's Day ♡

Our gorgeous best-bud is seven, today. It seems impossible that so many years have already gone by.
Here's to our amazing and beautiful Black Russian Terrier who wants no more out of life than to be by our sides.
He knows who loves him.
Snowy photo-shoot in yesterday's fresh fluff.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

RealTime - "Hey! Move over, Dude, 'cause it's my turn!"

They're back for some snowy feeder fun 'n' photo ops!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shaved Squash

A ginormous butternut squash has been residing on my countertop for about a month.
Time to use it. So, with thoughts of Cousin Evelyn and the delicious dish she used to bring on Thanksgiving, I knew just what to do. Thing is, Ev carefully wedged and arranged her ingredients with perfection. Not in the mood. Shaving seemed to fill the bill. Extra chunks were tossed into soup that's currently simmering on the range. Here ya go:

Toss shaved squash, apple slices, cinnamon to taste, maple syrup and a hit of PAM or such. Pile into sprayed baking dish; it will shrink way down. Drizzle on more syrup and dot with butter. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes; this gives it color. Stir and cover lightly with foil. Lower oven temp to 350 and cook for about 20 more minutes or till tender. Stir before serving.

Buon Appetito!

To Note After The Fact:
The dried cranberries just purchased from Trader Joe's would have gone exceptionally well in this dish.
Next time.

Why was Joe washing windows in 18-degree weather? Well, I'll tell ya...


The other morning, Joe was watching "his" birds… you know, the ones he so diligently fills three feeders for the minute they are low in seed. All of a sudden, he furiously exclaimed…

"I can't believe it! A **%%$$##** hawk just swooped down and ate one of our birds. I can't BELIEVE it!"

This is a child-friendly blog, so I can't tell you EXACTLY what else Joe said, after we'd just recently mentioned how we'd not seen the resident raptor in a long while. We thought it had moved onbringing me to yesterday...

Twice, I heard loud crashes on the back picture window. First time, I saw nothing. Second time, the window was full of guts and feathers. There on the ground was the culprit, enjoying his meal, with another small bird nearby - stunned, I assume, from his saving crash into glass bringing me to window-washing…

Joe was so upset upon returning from work. It was nearly dark and bitter cold outside, but he insisted on getting out the ladder and Windex. I apologize for the fuzzy phone photo, taken… well, you know… through glass and when it was nearly dark… bringing me to…

A serious disenchantment with a raptor's place in the food chain.

Buon Appetito??? 
(Sorry, but I just couldn't resist a little attempt at warped humor.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Just-A-Little-Decadent Chicken

Just one fat, whole, boneless, butterflied chicken breast tasted like dinner fit for a king. It's key not to overcook, so don't pound too thin. After sautéing in hot oil for about five minutes or so, turn and brown opposite side. Then cover loosely with foil, turn off heat and let it finish on hot burner for about ten more minutes. Slice for succulence redefined. 

Simple. Quick. Delicious. 

The Canadian Kid is Good, but Here's the Real Deal

Ever loyal to Elvis, I can only steer you towards the young Canadian boy's very nice rendition of Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas". For me, it can only be the real deal. But I hope you're not feelin' blue. :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raggedy Ann 'n' Andy ♡

Beaded by Moi… Hand-painted by Bri… Store-bought and always on display
If you follow along on CMI, thank you so much. You might recall that Aubs 'n' Gav decorated the tree for us, this year. Beaded versions of Raggedy Ann 'n' Andy were tucked away with extra ornaments. I exclaimed when I found them and Aubs wondered who "they" were…

"G'ma, who are Ann and Andy?"

"You really don't know, Honey?"


And so I told her about her Daddy's special relationship with his Original Andy, handmade and gifted by Mom's and my dear friend, Lynn, most sadly departed way too soon. 

When each of the boys was born, Lynn gifted them the dolls. Christian liked his enough but preferred his bear, Oliver, to cuddle. Brian, however, loved his Andy, with whom he slept. Sadly, my Dad took ill when the boys were six and three. Although we tried to protect them from as much grief as possible, Andy became key to comforting Brian who clearly sensed that something was awry. That doll eventually became so fragile with wear, I had to put socks on him to hold in his stuffing… sewing him together was no longer an option.

In conversation one day, I mentioned this to beautiful Lynn. She surprised us with a newly created Andy doll to replace Original Andy. That never happened. Bri continued to love his first Andy. He could never be replaced.

"So you see, Aubs, before there were American Girl/Boy dolls, there were wonderful rag-dolls to love and cherish!"

Memories are made of this.

Who Remembers The Late, Great Bobby Darin?

We were watching "Folk Rewind" on PBS, the other night. When Bobby Darin's "Simple Song Of Freedom" aired, we were spellbound. So talented. Done way, way too soon, to say the very least. And how appropriate to absorb once again during the week Nelson Mandela passed. But there's more…

It reoccurred to me that Ronnie and I had amazing childhoods with pretty progressive parents, considering the era we grew up in. Take Freedomland, for example…

My music-lovin' parents would choose Nat King Cole, Doris Day, Mario Lanza, Perry Como, Dino… the list goes on and on… for themselves. In fact, we danced in the living room every Saturday night to their beats. But up six steps to my bedroom and there resided Ricky Nelson, Elvis, Fabian, The Everly Brothers, Brenda Lee… yes, this list goes on and on, too! Yet there was never a musical generation gap. They encouraged the budding of different tastes and even took us to Freedomland to see Don and Phil. We stayed for two shows. (Need I say once again that I adore the Brothers?) And Bobby Darin. Wow! How lucky we were. 

BD performed in a tux, a carryover of his Vegas style. He was dressed as such for the PBS filming, with no guitar. But I really like the above version of the fabulous song he penned in crossing over to a different genre.

Music… ah, the memories it is responsible for. It never gets old, does it? And then

As though in confirmation of what I already knew, I came across Santa and moi amongst my parents' keepsakes. Joe and I wondered if it was taken at Macy's on 34th Street. Probably. It's true

'Tis the Season to bring forth all the buried and treasured memories that define us. Yeah, Gus 'n' Marge gave us a sound, loving beginnings. And the beat goes on...