Tuesday, December 29, 2015

And Of Course, The Weather

This was Christmas Day. It was wild. Sliders opened. Kids with no jackets. Almost balmy. RARE. So rare, that it was record-breaking and the succession of such days has left ski hills barren and garages filled to the brim with equipment that shall not be used over Christmas break. This is a first. But unless one travels out west where ALL the snow is, such is the story. Interesting, a sub-tropical holiday.
This was yesterday, the 28th of December. We enjoyed Christmas lights through a windshield being pelted with freezing rain, as we left the Big Apple. A hair-raising ride home, but the glow was spectacular.
This is today. Freezing rain here in the lower Catskills turned to snow overnight. A dusting, by our standards. But now, we must take those lounges in. I guess winter is just gonna be late.

May the Best Bûche Win...

This is an update. You might recall my (link) excited post about my first bûche. Well, I went on to make another that was filled with simple vanilla REAL whipped cream. Both were served for Christmas dessert and guess what???? No one touched the all chocolate one, but the simpler one was devoured. It received absolute RAVE reviews. A keeper. We needed more.

Just add ¼ cup confectioners sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla to a pint of heavy cream. Beat, but don't over-beat. Fill and roll, as per original instructions. It doesn't get any more delicious… just ask my kids and grands!!

Now, please excuse me while I tend to that recipe.

Something Special from Gavin ♥

The kids all outdid themselves, this year. Meaningful presence, in addition to gorgeous presents with so much thought behind them. But I'd be remiss were I not to share this anecdote:

Prior to Christmas, Joe and I spent quite a bit of one-on-one time (two-on-one, actually) with Gavin. I've always maintained how important such time is in all relationships, especially with the kids. They act so differently when enjoying full attention. Such is truly the case herein…

Each time we were together, he excitedly told us about the points he'd earned in school, given for special grades or special acts of helpfulness and kindness. As the holidays approached, his teacher set up a table of store-bought gifts from which her students could make purchases using their points. Gav would tell us about this or that he'd chosen for his parents and sis. It never occurred to me that there would be a G'ma purchase and I was truly surprised when he presented it to me on Christmas Day…

Adorable! In a special bag! You can imagine…

Bri later told me that each day, he'd come home with his packages and race up to his room to hide them.

We enjoy the tradition of leaving newly received ornaments on display for the entire year. While Gav placed my special snowman on this year's tree, I shall find the perfect spot for Frosty to charm us till Christmas '16.

How sweet it is, this Christmas Story!
Thanks, Gav… Thanks Mrs. O 

'Twas Bedlam!

Christmas was fun. A blast, for sure! It flew by in a heartbeat and left its happy memories behind. How 'bout I'll let the pictures speak, with apologies to Joe 'cause he's not in one capture from Christmas Day. That's usually the case for moi, but not this year. Regardless, we're both left happy - glowing, actually - after our First Noël in the LakeHouse.
Mouths of Babes

Moi: "So, did the LakeHouse pass the Christmas test?"

The Fabulous Five: A resounding "YES!!"

Moi: "Well then, I think we'll stay!"

Posted with special thanks to our special family.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Be Back Soon with Tales of our LakeHouse Christmas!

So, of course it's about the presence of our loved ones, for which we are so grateful... but our Fabulous Five sure do look forward to their presents, too. They had a blast with the GrandLove Tower… full update with photos, soon.

It's Boxing Day!

Grandad, Andy and his pretty Mum, getting ready to open holiday hats and prizes
How great is this extended holiday celebrated in the UK on the day after Christmas??!! I'm a little jealous. But on the other hand, I'm thrilled to be a tiny part of it, albeit in thought. Thanks, Andy. And thanks, too, for allowing me to share these fabulous photos. Now, on to the real story intended here - the one that took place on Christmas Day...

Grandad, whom you've met before on CMI, recently had the misfortune of taking a nasty fall that landed him first in the hospital, then in rehab and ultimately in a nursing home. He was placed in the position of having to give up his beloved home, but adjusted very well with the support of his fabulous family. Enter Andy and his parents…

Andy had told me a while back that the holiday would be a bit different this year, as they were bringing the celebration to Grandad. Beautiful. You'll agree, I'm sure, that the pictures speak for themselves.
Grandad, Dad 'n' Mum - check out Dad's sweater jumper, as it's called in GB
Ah, my favorite theme of the season -
It's the presence of the ones we love that counts more than the presents.

Happy Boxing Day! Hugs all 'round to friends across the pond!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Morning Has Broken ♥ Merry Christmas!

We're very excited for our first LakeHouse Christmas! Bring on the kids!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright...

…and filled with the spirit of the season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's Christmas Eve-Eve!!

If only I could transmit the delicious aromas from my kitchen to y'all… oh, my Goodness. There is nothing like our wreath bread to permeate the air with deliciousness, as it bakes. It's tradition! Last year, (link) Gavin did the honors of assembling it; this year, I tried a braid. We shall see - or, shall I say, "Taste."

The above link brings you to last year's last Christmas in the Old Homestead, before we passed the reigns to BKAG. Ah, beautiful memories with excellent safe-keepers. Now, it's time to reflect on our first Christmas at the LakeHouse. We are delighted. And that's putting it mildly.

Just give me a kitchen and I shall cook. Enhancing my efforts here are the twinkling lights that reflect all over the place. And as for reflections, there are so many occupying my mind, all the way back to my childhood. This Santa has been around since then and it seems his sack is full yet again, bringing us to Christmas present.

As always, there are those unable to celebrate, this year. Cousin Gina is terribly ill. She never leaves my thoughts and prayers. Her momma, Evelyn, and siblings, Maria and Chris, suffer, too. We hold them in our hearts, wishing Gina could be back at Babbo, where she reigned supreme at one time in the coveted position of Pastry Chef. If you're inclined to Google her, be sure to get the right Gina, as it seems there's another of the same name in a less savory position, pun intended. Cousin laughs at this, forever keeping a semblance of what was once her great sense of humor.

Back to Christmas Eve-Eve. When Brian and Christian were growing up, we just loved the night. I recall one year when Joe and I hosted five - that's right, five - consecutive holiday dinners for friends and family, all leading up to Christmas Day. And for many, many years, Pal Danny came over to share the pre-holiday excitement with the boys. Ah, memories.

We are blessed and so treasure every moment we are able to celebrate. Reflecting here, with apologies for anecdotes I know have been told before. But hey, y'all know how that goes.

May you have a Merry Eve-Eve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kim - Make My Day! ♥

And so this is Christmas…

Kim loves the little things in life and has always held them close to her heart. I remember when Christian graduated undergrad school and she found the most amazing pic of the two of them holding hands and walking away from the photographer. She framed and gifted it to him. A precious memory. A perfect, loving gift. We share that page… the one about the little things in life...

I, too, just love the gazillion blasts from the past that become so incredibly enhanced, this time of year, even when they bring a tear or two. Besides, we know - Kim, Vicki and I - that we're connected. It's some glitch in the stars that seems to give us thoughts of each other on chosen days at specific times. It's uncanny. Bringing me to today…

Joe and I were out and about trying to bring the larder up to speed for our gang's Christmas dinner. While I waited for Joe during one errand, my phone beeped and there they were… pictures: toddler Kim and young moi and her baby cousin, many moons ago; captures of things I'd made for her when she was little, for her son, Keith, and more recently for her beautiful GrandLove, Chloe (our family's second Chloe!); and the manger I'd long forgotten having given her. Amazing. Decades covered. And generations, too.

Time flies way too quickly, wouldn't you agree? But memories… they are something else, especially when you have help holding onto them. What one forgets, the other remembers. And sure, by the time Joe got back to the car, I was in tears. But you know the type of tears. The ones reflecting warmth and appreciation and assurance that "YES!" every little thing means something to someone. 

All I know is that my life has been enriched beyond words by my Girls. We share love. We share trust. The rest is a given.

Love you, Baby… thanks for turning today into yet another special memory. And thanks to your Momma, too, for that special photo.
As for those bumpy cookies, we'll save THAT story for another day. Recipe intact.

Winter Solstice (We Think!)

And so this is winter??? Record-breaking high temps have everyone a-buzzin' and ski hill proprietors  agonizing. It has been incredible. Check out the Almanac highs 'n' lows for Decembers past and present. Regardless, today shall be the shortest day of the year and the official beginning of the season that is soon to bring us Christmas. The kids are counting the days till Santa's much anticipated arrival.

This post is for C 'n' G in Germany, with thanks. Can you find your thoughtful, beautiful card?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Posted With Permission - True Love ♥

This man is the best. Thank you, Honey… your special light is hilarious and your heartlight is ever bright!
A Christmas Pedicure - Turn On Your Heartlights

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Sunday Mornin'

Do you see what we see? Baldie in the tree is being stalked by a crow above him. Crows follow eagles in attempts to steal their food…
But look what's zooming in beyond! We hadn't noticed him till I uploaded photos!

Encore, Encore!! Holly Jolly With Antlers

The chorus had a blast delivering again, as promised. They kept the huge crowd at bay for the Rock Hill Fire Company, as children of all ages waited for Santa. When he and The Mrs. arrived, they had gifts for all.
Dana 'n' Aubs Posing
Gavin's "Nuts 'n' Bolts" became a project for him and Gramps, when we returned to the LakeHouse for pizza and wings. We hope it was the first of many visits from Dana, Aubrey's lovely gal pal.
Our day of musical fun and kids definitely put me in the mood for Christmas. Yep, the spirit has arrived. There's simply nothing like an encore-with-antlers…

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas...

It's a sure thing when Aubs and her pals entertain us, first at the High School, this past week, and today at the Nesin Center. Fabulous!
A few snowflakes fell, this morning, to help put everyone into the holiday spirit for the wonderful show.
Now, it's off to the Rock Hill firehouse, where the chorus will belt out an encore performance, to include Holly 'n' Jolly, accompanied by their very own choreography.

Thanks, Kids!!

A Date With Han Solo

Can't believe it's been thirty years since Harrison Ford has played Han Solo in "Star Wars," but have to say that in the chapter, "The Force Awakens," he was terrific… and still cute at a whopping 73 years old. Taken for what it is, we've really enjoyed the imaginative space thriller, over the years. It remains pure genius and still offers lots of chuckles throughout, especially from Han and Chewy, who are no slouches at one-liners.
Additionally, we're huge fans of FANdango's theater improvements, having enjoyed them while vacationing. We hadn't been to the Galleria complex in Middletown in ages, though, thinking them outdated. Surprise, surprise!! Completely renovated. I nearly fell asleep in the cushy recliner - yep, even WITH all the noise the Wars bring. (I swear there was someone snoring.) People next to us were upright, enjoying the meals they'd ordered from the in-house restaurant that were placed on trays in front of them. Now, if only screen fare would improve. Come on, Hollywood, there was not one coming attraction for months to come that tempted us.

A great date. Thanks, Honey.
May The Force be with you and you and you...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Our Best Bud is Nine!

First Birthday Portrait
Hot off the press - Mambo at 9 by our LakeHouse tree
Just can't believe how time flies. Mambo, nine??!! Way too fast. But he's happy and we're even happier for all the joy he brings into our lives. We can count on him to stay by us, no matter where we are and when off lead. But then, trust is a two-way street. For example…

Last night, I got up from bed. It was pitch dark and unbeknownst to me, Baby was lying right next to me, all comfy on the rug and leaning on the bed frame. I swung my feet around and they landed right on his head. Did he flinch? Nooooo… he just knew that I'd work it out and he'd be safe to continue his sweet dreams.

It seems like just yesterday…
First bath in our Old Homestead's kitchen sink
True Love. 140 pounds of pure Rock Star.
A Homestead Christmas Past

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My First Bûche de Noël and Update

Ends will be trimmed and log cut at a slight angle to
reveal filling, when ready to finish and serve
Okay, okay, I'm excited. As a result, you'll have to use your imaginations, 'cause I brought this roulade (if it's not the holiday) or bûche (if it is Christmastime) just to its ready-for-the-freezer stage. Decorating shall come later, at which time I hope to share another picture. Meanwhile, it's more important that I provide the blend of recipes that took me to this point. Honestly? I was afraid of this one. Don't know why, as my culinary expertise is up there in good places. Turns out it was SO easy and QUICK and surely I'll make another, in the hopes that one simply won't be enough. It is flour-less, thus gluten free; just be sure all of your ingredients are the same, if you're serving to celiac sufferers such as Dawn. I'll finish it by frosting with a thin layer of plain whipped cream to resemble snow and perhaps some dried cranberries to look like winterberries.
Here ya go:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat 5 egg whites until stiff and gradually add ¾-1 cup confectioners sugar sifted together with 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, continuing to beat

Separately beat 5 yolks till lemon-colored and gently fold into whites till blended

Spread on 13" x 18" cookie sheet or jelly roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper - butter parchment, too 

Spread batter evenly and into corners and bake for about 12-15 minutes… done when it springs back to a light touch - do not overbake

Lay out a thin, smooth towel or dinner napkin and sift cocoa onto it

Loosen edges of cake and flip onto napkin - carefully remove pan and then parchment paper and lightly sift cocoa over it

Roll with napkin lengthwise, starting at a narrow end and being careful to make a tight first curl

Rest like this, seam side down, till cooled or about ½ an hour

Unroll and spread with following whipped cream mixture:

Beat together 2 cups heavy cream, ⅓  cup confectioners sugar, ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (no need to sift sugar and cocoa for this step) and 1 teaspoon vanilla till stiff peaks form

Be careful to work filling into first curl and keep it about 1 inch from edges

TO NOTE: The size pan I used made a very skinny cake, which in turn was very pliable and easy to roll with filling. This part of the recipe is somewhat flexible; a smaller pan will make a thicker cake that requires adjusted baking time. Fillings and frostings are yours to choose, as well.

Cant wait to serve this one!!
Ho, Ho, Ho - Santa Claus is comin' to town

My second roulade with vanilla cream filling won the prize for Best Bûche de Noël, on Christmas Day. Please check out this post. For filling:

Beat together 2 cups heavy cream, ¼-⅓ cup confectioners (I used ¼) and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Easy-peasy.

Double Coincidence

This morning, I chose paper to wrap a very special gift needing to be mailed in time for Christmas. My choice was based on the fact that it matched my cards, one of which was being tucked into the package. Oooh-kay, pure coincidence, as this paper was sent to me by my favorite cause, the (link) M.D. Anderson Children's Art Project.

As I wrapped, I noticed the signature of the child responsible for the fab design - Kelly. Wowza! Just happens to be the last name of the recipient.

How's THAT for a double coincidence. And what a great reminder to mention these amazing kids. Go shop; you're guaranteed to be pleased. 

To Note: The recipient doesn't frequent my blog, but her Momma does… SHHHH!!

Fork-Tender Pork

Just so ya know, I'm not a gravy person, especially when it has this putrid color. But Joe loves the stuff and he also loves pork - he was like an oinker in proverbial you-know-what, when I plated this for him. We only eat it if HE buys it, 'cause I can't help but associate it to those mud-laden chubettes. Ugh. Having said all that, I must admit that these boneless chops were exceptionally lean and white and this gravy rendered them absolutely fork tender. And they can be served without extra gop all over them. Great with basmati rice, salad and applesauce. For four chops:

Mix about ⅓-½ cup flour with about 2 tablespoons of paprika and 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Rinse chops and dredge in flour. Brown in ¼ cup (½ stick) hot, melted butter and remove to an oven dish. Sauté a small, finely chopped sweet onion in butter till tender. Add remaining flour plus enough to make about ¼ cup to butter, stirring to make a roux. To this, slowly add about cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk at only 30 calories per cup) and simmer till thickened. Add salt, if necessary, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add juice of 1 medium-sized lemon. Stir and pour over chops. Bake uncovered in preheated 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes. Next time, I'll sprinkle with parsley or chives, just to perk up that color!

Be amazed. Buon Appetito.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Love Actually"

So, you don't think love exists, eh? Well, just go to the airport and watch. Great advice from this uplifting movie that will surely bring on laughter, sentimental tears and lots of foot-tapping to go along with its fantastic score. I'm heading to Amazon to order the CD.

Highly recommended and on Netflix now.

This Post is for Andy

My pal 'cross the pond and I have been playing for years. I think we're both "normal," but what else can I say… a rhetorical question. We don't cheat. We're fairly intelligent. We battle on the virtual board. And we come up with great words, occasionally testing a combo that works. We've "known" each other and our respective families for years. I love his (link) Grandad. He likes my blog, for which I thank him. Here's to us!! And here's to a great young guy who plays a mean guitar and sings a glorious tune. But then there are the crazies, always mixed into the playlist…

Late last night, I was playing a woman who was so obviously using an app to find words. She must have felt guilty, 'cause after she put an unheard-of concoction of letters on the board, she then suggested what I might do with it if I had a certain letter. Amusing. I resigned after she offered me a virtual toast of wine. Hmmm, maybe it's the combo of wine + app that I found my chuckle in.

Then, there's this new guy from the midwest who has to chat after every play. What is that? Where am I from? Where he's from. What kind of dog is Mambo (my profile pic)? What breeds he's had over his lifetime. Are we ready for Christmas? Haha, oh yes, but first we're doing Chanukah. Hey, you've gotta keep a tad of mystery about yourself, right??

But the normal types make it all worthwhile. There's the granny from down south who also has a Fabulous Five brood of GrandLoves - three girls and two boys, just like us - and almost the same ages. We commiserate over our insomnia, often finding each other online at absurd hours of the night.

Last but certainly not least is my gal pal with the name that rhymes with Andy's. She's young and beautiful and has a handsome husband and two gorgeous girls. For years now, we've been sharing boatloads about family values and just what's important in life - when we're not playing WORDS, that is. :-)

Please give Grandad a holiday hug from me, Andy!!

RealTime - A Balmy December 12th on Golden Pond

No, that's not ice fishing!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Cut-the-Calories Carbonara

Gavin is on a ham kick, thus the normally non-existent-in-our-fridge ingredient happened to be available. We still don't tempt ourselves with delicious, freshly-grated parmigiano-reggiano, so nada on that front. That was a tough habit to break, believe me. A culinary heartbreaker. But we can't afford the fat or salt, even in moderation, 'cause we simply eat too much pasta and there's no such thing as cheese-moderation. You know. :-) Soooo, right there we've cut a few calories, eh? I digress. This'll do a pound of short macaroni; but you might need a tad more liquid for linguine or spaghetti, as they tend to absorb more…

Get your water a-boilin' while you sauté chopped ham in a few tablespoons of your best EVOO. Remove ham when satisfied and add chopped scallions, chopped fresh tomato and minced garlic to oil to cook through…

Pop that pasta into the boiling water and when nearly cooked, save about 1 ½ cups of liquid and add to oil 'n' scallion mixture. Bring to a simmer and add drained al dente pasta. Remember, it's going to cook more and you don't want smush. Stir for a minute or two and remove from stove…

You will have already beaten together 2 egg yolks with 2 wedges of Laughing Cow Light. Add slowly to pasta, stirring constantly. Return to heat and cook while stirring for another few minutes, till everything is coated and creamy…

Stir in reserved ham. Add parsley and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a side salad… and remember to play with this recipe. Really, anything goes.