Monday, November 30, 2009

Great Family Times!

I love this time of year as family near and far gather together.
We all had a wonderful time on Thursday at my sister-in-law Susie's for Thanksgiving, and then we were lucky enough to spend more time visiting with family over the weekend.

Last Saturday night my niece Erin hosted a get-together for my nephew Thomas (Thomas is her brother and they are my oldest brother Tom's children). Thomas is in the Navy and he was stationed in California for a few years, he lived there with his wife and two sons, and while there he was deployed on the USS Halsey to the Gulf region for a year.
We have seen Thomas' boys (Thomas and Eamon) over the summer when they were staying with my sister-in-law Ann for a few weeks, and Jayden had lots of fun visiting and playing with them (unfortunately Jayden had a fever so he had to stay home and missed this visit with the boys). But we haven't seen Thomas in a while.
He has now transferred to the east coast and is stationed in South Carolina. His wife's family lives in New Jersey so they drove up to share Thanksgiving dinner with them, and then they spent the rest of the weekend with my sister-in-law Ann at her home. Saturday was Thomas' birthday so it was a two-fold get-together!
It was so nice to see him after being away for so long, and I'm so happy that they are closer and plan on future trips to visit with the family.

Here's some family photos:

Left to right: Edward (my older sister Marybeth's son), Thomas (the guest of honor!), Brian (our oldest son), Erik (our second son), and in the back is William (my younger sister Diane's son).

Here I am with my older sister Marybeth in yellow, and my baby sister Diane in red. Marybeth was here from Pennsylvania to spend Thanksgiving with her kids.

My sister-in-law Ann with her son Thomas and daughter Erin.

My niece Rachel (Marybeth's oldest daughter) with little Jimmy (Marybeth's grandson).

This is Thomas' oldest son (also named Thomas) with little Jimmy. His younger son did not want his picture taken but...

...I did sneak a picture of him when he wasn't looking. Eamon is on his Mom's lap (Tracey), also in the picture on the left is my grandniece Sarah (one of Marybeth's granddaughters), and her Dad Jimmy is standing in the background, sitting to the right is my sister-in-law Ann.

I love Erin's apartment, I love how she decorates, and I love how she displays family photos (in the cabinet behind Tracey and Ann are old family photos, there is a picture of my Dad in the Coast Guard, and a picture of Ann when she graduated Nursing School).

Mia with our daughter-in-law Lori.

Mia had all her little people and ducks lined up on Erin's coffee table and she wanted Grandpa to take a picture of them, when he went to snap it Brian stuck his head in too! And...

...Mia was not amused!

My niece Erin, my niece Rebecca (Marybeth's second daughter), and my grandniece Katie (Marybeth's oldest granddaughter).

Here's just a few random crowd pictures:

We really had a good time and it was nice to see everyone again!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

With Grateful Thanks This First Sunday of Advent

Our parish Church is St. Luke Church. (I'll post pictures soon of the church but today I forgot to take my camera to Mass with me.)

The Pastor of our church wrote about how Advent is a time of joyful expectation and longing. But he also reminded us that Advent is more than just joyful anticipation of Christmas Day.
Of course Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas and joyfully remember the birth of Christ, but Advent is also an all-year event as it is a time to prepare for Christ's Second Coming, it is a time to prepare for the last days. S0 every day must be Advent for us as we prepare for Christ coming now.
He said our parish patron St. Luke gives us very good advice when he tells us to "Be vigilant at all times and pray."

I want to take this time to thank everyone who has helped me prepare for this time by sharing their wonderful recipes, and crafts, and most of all for their words of wisdom, inspiration, and for sharing their Faith and prayer life.
You have helped to make this special time of year even more special for me, and you help to remind me that this special time of year can and should actually be a way of life.

(Here's one of my Blessings showing off his duck hat that he made in school by quacking like a duck!)

(And here he is gobbling with his turkey headdress!)

I can't get over how mature looking he is now! He's really lost that 'baby' look. He's a big boy now!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Gathering/Christmas Mess/Christmas Favorites/Christmas Fun All Make For Many Blessings

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Ray's sister's home. Susie once again went way above and beyond the call of duty! We arrived at Susie's at noon and this is what greeted us!

This was Susie's APPETIZER table:

And while we were all enjoying eating the wide variety of appetizers that Susie and her daughters (Jackie, Jill, and Erika) had prepared for us...

(Left to right: Our daughter-in-law Lori, our son Erik, our granddaughter Mia, and our oldest son Brian, our niece Erin is in the background.)

...and then spending time playing and relaxing in between courses...

Left to right: Ann (my brother Tom's ex-wife), Ellie (our youngest daughter), Scott (Jackie's boyfriend), Jackie (Susie's oldest daughter), Donald (Ray's brother), and Mikael (Susie's youngest).

(I think you know these three!)

...Susie was busy in the kitchen cooking a turkey dinner with all the trimmings!

Here's Mia modeling her little brown Thanksgiving dress:

Mia and I inspecting some beach glass that Donald found:

Here's my guy:

This is Susie's youngest daughter Erika (our youngest daughter Ellie is behind her):

This is the family dog Jada:

Here's Susie's son-in-law Rudy yelling at the TV:

And here's Rudy being Rudy!
(You can barely see poor Jackie being squished underneath him!)

Left to right: Ellie, Scott, Jackie, Rudy, and Donald
(Donald was on his best behavior and so of course then Rudy had to take up his slack and start in! If it's not one acting up it's the other!)

Here's Erin (Ann's daughter), sitting and enjoying a peaceful moment, minding her own business...

...and here comes Rudy making the rounds!

Here Brian and Scott are trying to catch a nap...

...but there's no chance of that with Rudy around!

Here's Jill's new tattoo (it says "I love my FarFar" in Swedish, FarFar is what the kids all called Ray's Dad, inside the cloud are red hearts and blue teardrops):

We all got too busy having fun and eating lots more and no one thought to take pictures of the main course and the gigantic dessert table. Suffice it to say we were stuffed!
And we had a great time thanks to Susie! It was a very Happy Thanksgiving!

The next day we decorated our tree!

Down from the attic came the boxes and the mess!

Jayden helped for awhile until he grew bored:

These are some of my favorite decorations. I try to put them up near the top and right out front.
These decorations were my grandmother's on my Dad's side and she said that they were in her family since she was a little girl.

I love these tiny Santas:

But I'm wondering why these Santas all have such sad faces?!

Here's a little tiny yarn scarecrow:

And this bell is one of many decorations that were my grandmother's too, it looks silver in this picture but it's actually a very pale blue:

And this is a pin that my grandmother gave to me years ago, she got it from one of the many Catholic charities that she used to donate to.
Sometimes I take it off the tree to wear on my jacket:

Last year we bought a very skinny tree because our living room is so tiny and the big tree we had didn't leave much room for gifts (or furniture, or people!), it really makes decorating so much easier:

We're almost done, we just have a few bare spots up top to decorate:

And now I'm like Jayden, I've grown bored with decorating and here I sit blogging! I better get back to to the tree!


When we were at my sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving, my niece Jackie showed us this picture of her friend's kitten. It was taken after the kitten had just had a flea bath. I'll post more tomorrow about all the fun and all the food we had at Susie's, but for now enjoy this little gift from Jackie!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Once Upon A Time Recipes

I am linking to Cathy @ A Bit of the Blarney, she is hosting 'Once Upon A Time Recipes' where she shares a family recipe and a story to go with it.

After reading here please join Cathy for some more recipes!

Before my brother-in-law Eric passed away he and his wife Barbara used to have a big family reunion weekend at least once a year (sometimes twice a year) at their log cabin home in Connecticut. They had lots of property and we all used to pile in on them, some of us slept in the house and some of us would pitch tents on their property.
It was always lots of fun and we all looked forward to Barbara's breakfast of:



loaf of French or Italian Bread
8 eggs
3 Cups milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

Grease pan well and slice bread into 1 inch slices. Fit bread into one large or two small baking pans.
Beat together all ingredients except butter and pour evenly over bread.
Dot each slice with butter and cover with foil.

Refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours).
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour (rotate pans after 1/2 hour).

Serve immediately with syrup or powdered sugar.

(Of course Barbara used to double, triple, and sometimes quadruple her recipe depending on crowd size. Barbara liked to sleep in late, so she would prepare this the night before and then first one up would retrieve the pans from the refrigerator and pop them in the oven!)

This recipe holds many fond memories for me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tis The Season To Be Thankful!

I've heard people grumble about Thanksgiving, about how we shouldn't need a special day to thank God. I've also heard people grumble about how this day is just a 'money-maker', and I've also heard complaints from others about how it is a way to 'ram God down our throats'. To all that I say "NONSENSE!" Well, other than the first complaint, that one is true, I know that we should be thankful each and every day for our Blessings.
But for myself, I think there is something about us, as a nation, setting aside this time of year, and setting aside a special day, to honor and thank God for His Blessings to us, that just warms my heart.

And I have so much to be thankful for that if I listed each and every thing I was thankful for, and more importantly, if I listed each and every person I was thankful for, this post would be never-ending. But I would like to mention a few things:

I am thankful that my needs are few and my Blessings are many.

I am thankful for my Mom and my Dad and the wonderful life they provided for us.

I am thankful for the time period I grew up in.

I am thankful for my childhood memories. I am thankful for my siblings and for what we once had, and for what we once meant to each other. I'm thankful that they were my first friends, they were my security, and even though some of us are distanced due to the miles that come between us, and some of us are distanced due to the disagreements that come between us, I am grateful that they helped to shape my past.

I am especially thankful for my sisters. Diane who gets me roped into joining all kinds of crazy things and then leaves me hanging! Diane who calls to tell me to harvest my wheat before it dies, and who calls to tell me that my pumpkins have already withered in Farmville. Diane who took me out just last night for the best meal I've ever eaten in my life! To Diane, my baby sister, my childhood, my confidence, my confidant, and my safety net. And my sister Marybeth who keeps up with my life through phone calls and my blog. Marybeth who also knows all of my fellow bloggers and she calls to ask about all of you too (she reads us all, but she never comments on any of our blogs!). Marybeth, my big sister, my protection and my shield.

I am thankful for my soul mate. Ray, my happiness and my sanctuary. I am thankful for our children (the five we were Blessed to raise and those we were Blessed with through marriage, or hanging on the fringes with the hope in our hearts of a proposal soon!).

I am thankful for our grandchildren who have opened a whole new world of joy for me.

I am thankful for the love and support of extended family.

I am thankful for the encouragement of friends.

I am thankful for old friends, and I am thankful for the opportunity of reconnecting with long-lost friends, and I am also thankful for the opportunity to meet new friends.

I am thankful for my Faith and for the many unexpected Gifts and surprises God sends my way.
I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, my Safe Haven. Jesus, His steadfast love upholds me.

I am thankful for healthy days.

I am thankful for happy moments.

I am thankful for the change of seasons, and I am thankful for the seasons of my life. I am savoring them all.

I am thankful for leisure time to do as I please.

I am thankful for our Military.

I am thankful for freedom and for those who fought for that freedom, and for all those that continue to fight for freedom here at home and in distant lands.

I am thankful for dreams come true and for the opportunity to dream anew.

Thank You, God, for all this and so much more.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His Love endures forever. ~ Psalm 107:1

A very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Reunion

Recently a friend that I went to both Grammar School and High School with found me through Facebook and she very kindly invited me to a reunion. She said many of the 'girls' had been getting together twice a year for the past few years. She said that in the Summer she has everyone over to her house for a barbecue, and then in the Fall they all meet at a restaurant before the holiday rush begins.
She had emailed me with all the details of when and where, and she also said that they had a tradition of exchanging Christmas ornaments, she said she thought it was a nice idea to have something to trim the tree with that would remind us of old friends and good times. I thought that was so sweet.
So I went with my little ornament tucked under my arm and wondered if I would recognize anyone and if they would recognize me!
I hadn't seen most of these girls in thirty-seven years and some even longer than that!
But I did recognize the twins right away (I went to school with them from fourth grade through high school) and they recognized me too! Whew!
At first there were just a few of us waiting to be seated in the room that was reserved for us, and then everyone else began to arrive.
It was great getting together and catching up on everyone's lives, but the time was too short (only three hours) and we were seated at two different tables so I mostly got to visit with only the girls at my table but it was still wonderful to see them all.
It was amazing to hear about the basketball star now being a teacher in a Catholic Grade School, and the pretty cheerleader became a bartender and then went on to be a train engineer! There were a few nurses, a lawyer, a high school principal, a dental assistant, office managers, a few owned their own businesses, some stay-at-home Moms, a lot of them are sandwiched in between taking care of almost-grown children and elderly parents, a few of us are grandmothers, some have been divorced, some remarried, some are widows, and sadly, some have buried children.
We were saying how hard it was to condense thirty-seven years of our lives into a short conversation, along with recalling old times and old friends. Our 'hostess' Helen had made up name tags for us with our High School graduation pictures, and she brought along the Senior Yearbook, and she also brought our 8th Grade graduation picture (we were babies)!
We would page through the book and point out faces and shout out names asking what happened to this girl and that girl. A few of us would be able to answer that this one had moved to California and that one is in North Carolina now. And some would bring us the sad news of one lost to cancer, another died from complications of Multiple Sclerosis, another died in a car accident, and saddest of all one committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of her apartment building. That broke our hearts.
And I learned many things that I had never known back in high school. I learned that some girls were carrying such heavy burdens in their home lives back then (far beyond what teenagers should have to carry), and that going to school and being with their friends was the highlight of their days, school was a haven for them. They said that their friends became their family, and even though they never unburdened themselves back them, they still felt that just being with their friends was an outlet, and a feeling of security for them. So over the years many of them have kept in touch, they've held each other up through divorces, job losses, financial losses, addictions, sicknesses, and deaths, and even imprisonment. I thought about how these women too had created their own 'village' of love and support. I could easily see the positive impact they had on each other. In listening to their stories, I could see that they found strength and encouragement in each other, I could tell that they upheld each other, and I could see how well they served each other over the years. It was stirring, and moving, and heartening.

I emailed Helen right away that night after I got home to thank her for inviting me and for making all the arrangements, and I told her what a nice time I had (although it was bittersweet, there's a story about another school friend and I'll write about it in another post).
Helen wrote back to tell me that she was happy that I had attended the reunion, and she was happy that I had enjoyed myself, and she said that she is glad that I am back in her life. How sweet is that?!
God Blesses me at every turn!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blessed Sunday

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13


Saturday, November 14, 2009

East Side, West Side, All Around The Town!

On our last trip into New York City Jayden and I saw lots of sights, and that little guy really was a trooper, walking right by my side as we navigated through crowds, parades, and traffic, and he would even point out interesting things for me to snap pictures of!

We walked from the East side to the West side and back again, and we walked from midtown to downtown and back again!
We got off the bus near Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue (I'll post more about the Music Hall at another time as we'll be going there in early December for the Christmas Show) and we started making our way to 12th Avenue to see the Intrepid and the USS New York (previous post). We passed the controversial pedestrian mall area that is set up at Times Square now, and I actually like the idea of this area.

A few blocks later Jayden decided he was hungry, I spotted a diner with outdoor seating and Jayden said he wanted to eat outdoors, I thought that was a great idea and I figured we'd just pick him up a bagel, sit awhile and then he could walk and eat. Well, once we got inside he spotted someone eating pancakes and all of a sudden that is what he needed to eat most in the world. I told him he couldn't eat pancakes outside and he said, "That's okay, look they have lots of tables in here!" So we sat and waited for his pancakes to be served. He enjoyed both the pancakes and his chocolate milk very much (although he was a little skeptical of the powdered sugar on top of his hotcakes)!

We finally made our way down to the Pier and viewed both ships and then we started making our way back again. We were going to walk the parade route and head downtown to where Ray works, which is near Madison Square Park (where the parade starts). While walking I kept looking up and admiring the architecture of the old buildings and Jayden wanted to know what I was looking at and I told him pretty buildings. Then he started pointing to buildings asking if I liked this one and that one.
Well, I did like these buildings:

And I did like that one across the street:

(I love the old brownstones!)

So many of the brownstones have restaurants downstairs, and many have outdoor dining:

We passed many 'everything stores' as Jayden calls them, they have such unique things for sale.
This shop had some things that really caught Jayden's eye!

As we were making our way across town Jayden said he needed to rest. He spotted a bench in a bus stop shelter and planted himself! The only way I could get him to budge was to tell him that we were very close to Bryant Park, he asked if the park had a playground and I said no, the park with the playground was much further away, but this park had benches and chairs he could rest on and that enticed him.

(He looks like he's sleeping with his eyes open here! Poor kid! We did lots of walking!)

There was so much going on in Bryant Park! There were little make-shift shops set up and most were decorated for Christmas.

This shop with Star War Figures really got Jayden's attention!

And he was also very interested in the table-top games that were going on.

But mostly he was interested in sitting and resting awhile!
He loved these little single seats (I think they are a great idea and they come complete with cup holders!), I told him they reminded me of the old school desks that we used to have (does anyone else remember those desks with the old inkwells?).
Jayden decided he was going to 'play school' and here he sat looking very studious!

Then I made the mistake of asking him if that is how he posed in school and this is the face I got!
This kid is a character!

After he got a second wind we walked over to the ice skating pond and watched for awhile.

And then we were off again to find the parade. On our way out of the park we passed the Bryant Park Grill restaurant and I just thought it was so pretty, I loved the old building with all the ivy on the one side...

...and the other part of the restaurant looked like a bride to me with all the pretty white tulle!

We finally made it over to Fifth Avenue and the parade site, and as we walked the parade route toward Madison Square Park, Jayden spotted Lord & Taylor already decked out for Christmas:

And we got a quick little preview of the windows already decorated for Christmas too!
(Sorry for the quality of the pictures, there's glare, there's reflection, and they are blurry! I'll do better next time we go back!)

The smaller side windows were all decorated with birch branches and Swarovski Crystals.

The front windows were decorated in beautiful Victorian scenes.

Well, you know about the rest of our day from my previous posts. I hope you enjoyed walking along with us on the sidewalks of New York!

By the time we go downtown again the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center should be up!