Posts Tagged holidays

Family fun and Christmas memories

It’s been a busy, but relaxing visit here at home in Va. Beach.  For the first few nights, I had a hard time (as usual) falling asleep because of the lack of city noise.  Strange, but true.
I’m starting to miss our normal routine, but I sure am enjoying the extra babysitting help.  Catching up on sleep is bliss.

I know I’m way behind on posts, but I hope everyone had a lovely holiday!  We sure did; ours was filled with lots of family fun, but catered to Jack’s schedule.  Instead of midnight mass on Christmas Eve, we enjoyed the usual family time and big dinner at my parent’s house.  We opened presents before Jack went to bed on Christmas Eve, simply out of excitement.  Last year, Jack was “boring” with all that baby business–the eating and sleeping stuff.  So my parents and brothers were sooo excited about his non-stop busy bodiness.  As predicted, Jack was spoiled rotten and showered with too many toys, but of course, he loved the wrapping paper and boxes the most!  Go figure! 

Christmas day was spent playing with toys and heading off to church.  We enjoyed relaxing together all day and watching Jack destroy everything in sight.

Last Friday, we hJack and his multiple Elmosad round 2 of Christmas with Jeff’s family.  It was a nice, laid back day with even more family fun.  All the older kids seemed to have a good time playing together and timesharing carrying their little cousin.  It’s always fun to watch all of them interact with one another!  The day was capped off by watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  And funny enough, Jeff and his brother (who recite every line, along with my nephew) received awesome moose mugs from their mom.  Too funny.

From multiple talking Elmos to awesome moose mugs, Christmas, as usual, was plentiful in the present department.  But my favorite Christmas memories this year are marked by the kids’ tiny footsteps, belly laughs and copycat antics.  Good times!
Family photo '08

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Ice, Ice, Baby

We had a very nice weekend, hope everyone did as well.  We enjoyed the snow on Friday, but ended up staying indoors since it was so icy.  stomping inWe discovered that when it rains/sleets in between snow, it leaves a much harder snow on the ground that's almost as solid as ice.  Jack's little footprints stayed above the snow, that's how packed it was!  Still, it was fun to explore at the park for a few minutes.  It's just as cold today, if not colder, and the forecast is predicting the potential of a white Christmas here in the NYC area.  brrrrrr!</p> <p>Besides all the weekend fun, it's 2 days before Christmas, we leave tomorrow and I still have to pack, bake, wrap and clean...but Jack and I are braving the frigid temps to head into the city anyway.  <a href=

On Saturday, we took advantage of our Jack-alarm that goes off at 5am and bundled up to shop for last minute odds and ends before the rest of the crazies did the same thing.  The mall at 7am isn’t so bad when you’re one of 3 people walking around!  Saturday brought more sunshine, so we attempted to play in the snow. It was fun, but shortlived!

It’s 2 days before Christmas, we leave tomorrow, and I still have to pack, wrap, bake and clean, bI'm getting it!ut Jack and I are about to bundle up to head into the City, all in the name of my writing projects. Via Big City Moms, I was invited to attend a lunch to give input on Born Free 2009 product line.  Since we’re big fans of Born Free and I thought this info would generate helpful stories for this blog, my new blog and perhaps other stories, I couldn’t pass up the great opportunity—even if it means trekking through this cold with a kid.

I love the fact that I finally have the flexibility to take on projects that I’m passionate about; I can’t wait to take on even more inteesting projects in 2009.   Feedback and the full story later this week.

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WW: Even Santa takes time to reflect

Santa at church

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Big boy victories and fist pumps

Brrrr…it’s so cold here that I actually slept with my sweatshirt AND hood on last night. Besides the cold temps, our weekend was pretty much a bust. So, while everyone was out doing holiday-related stuff, we were not. In fact, our house won the bad luck lottery and seem to have what’s been lingering in the area for awhile–the dreaded stomach bug. We’d been hearing that it was going around town and seemed to escape it, but alas, we were not so lucky after all. Jeff said he felt hungover all weekend while I felt like I had morning sickness x10. (And I assure you, it is NOT morning sickness.)
I detoxed from the computer, got absolutely nothing done, but it was nice to nap all weekend. While Jack wasn’t full-on sick, his tummy has definitely been bothering him for quite sometime, not to mention, his first molars are coming in. blah…

On the upside, not only have I napped gratuitously lately, as of a week now, my child is no longer waking up at 2 and 3 a.m. just for the hell of it! I don’t want to jinx it because this teething crap can squash my sleeping through the night joy in a hot second, but let me celebrate this singular, Herculean big boy victory.

Yippee!

With all that sleep, we even found time to make up a secret handshake. Not really. We started pounding our fists and Jack found it hysterical for some reason. And please, don’t ask me WHY we were fist pumping in the first place. There are just some things words cannot explain.

Good times.

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Tis’ the season for Green trees

Christmas season is in full swing, and we’ve got Christmas Trees on the brain at our house.  Besides trying to figure out the logistics of where to PUT our tree this year, I’ve been reading up on green trees, as in eco-friendly.

Even though our economy is in shambles, one article said, while many shoppers are cutting back on their holiday spending, Christmas tree sales don’t appear to be getting the ax.  People might be cutting back in spending, but the actual trees are one cutback families aren’t going to make, another report said.
Trees in the church parking lot down the block

Many of you might be in the market for the real deal.  We always had a real tree at my parents’ house as a kid, so naturally, even despite our tight space, we always go the real tree route.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) we’re not alone:

  • There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.
  • There are close to half a billion Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers. Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent (80%) of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
  • Real Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • There are more than 4,000 Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
  • For every Real Christmas Tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • There are about 500,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
  • There are about 21,000 Christmas Tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 – 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.
  • The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine.

But on the flipside,

  • According to figures released by the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans purchased 17.4 million artificial trees last year — a significant jump from the 9.3 million of the previous year.
  • Most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China. Almost 10 Million fake trees were sold worldwide in 2003.
  • According to an article onAJC artificial trees are an alternative for those with allergies or asthma. Some people are allergic to terpene, the substance found in the oil or sap of Christmas trees, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
  • They are durable. They last about six years.
  • Artificial trees are affordable. They’re generally cheaper than cut trees because you can use them more than once. “Even though most consumers are still going to be putting up a Christmas tree for their holiday parties, they will be looking for discounts,” a spokesperson for ChristmasTreeMarket.com an online retailer of Artificial Christmas Trees said.

AJC.com has a really great article on the pros and cons of the real vs. artificial vs. eco-friendly.

But my personal favorite option (if we had a yard):  Buy a potted tree that can be planted in your yard after the holidays.

We had a live tree several times growing up, and I remember it being a hassle for my dad, but it was fun to see one of those trees grow into a HUGE tree 20 some years later in their backyard.  This year’s Rockefeller Christmas Tree is just that, a live tree that was nourished by a family in central Jersey that went on to become the gianormous celebrated tree and quite possibly the best example of a true green Christmas Tree.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the kid’s eyes light up in awe over our Christmas Tree!

Whatever you do for your tree, enjoy!

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Bittersweet Thanksgiving Eve

CNN is reporting that more than 41 million people will be traveling today to reach their destination for Thanksgiving. If you’re one of them, be safe! For the past 8 years, on the eve of any other holiday, we’d have many bags packed and filled with anxiety about another trek home.  But this year, we’re staying here in NJ.  It’s bittersweet to say the least.
jack's luggage
You see, we love going home, especially at Thanksgiving.  What’s so hard however, is the mounting expense of traveling, the exhaustion (especially for Jeff) for the almost 400 miles each way and of course the sadness of leaving again when it’s time to travel back.

We’ll always associate Thanksgiving with gathering with our loved ones, but this year, because staying local made most sense for our family, I can’t wait to make this holiday our own for the first time.  Since Jeff suggested that we stay local this year, I negotiated that we do a NYC tradition that I’ve always wanted to do.  So, this afternoon, we have plans to go to the Macy’s Day Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade inflation extravaganza on the Upper West Side.

I’m getting in the “zone” to bake and hopefully not destroy our feast.  But most importantly, I know I can speak for Jeff and say, we’re excited to not to have to drive those long hours down to Va.  While I cook our feast tomorrow, surely, my heart will be heavy, but the day will go on.  But after all is said and done, we’ll have another holiday to look forward to, and a new trip to plan for–an almost 2 week excursion back home for Christmas.  Lesson learned:  with family sacrifice, in the future other provisions can be made.

Hopefully many of you are enjoying short work days today.  Where ever you might be, enjoy your long weekend and time with family! I’ll be back tonight with photos of our parade fun :)   And for our extended family back home in Va., we’ll miss you guys but thanks to technology, hopefully we can video chat tomorrow! woot!

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Now is the time

Do you volunteer during the Holidays?

Unfortunately, I have not volunteered during the holidays–yet.  In years past, we’ve been so consumed with work, family and traveling, our schedules haven’t allowed for much else.  I know–typical excuse.  But as many people know, when life only allowed one hour to spend with your family on the weeknights, you try as much as possible to cram everything you can into those 48 hours of freedom.  Jeff and I have always wanted to volunteer through our church, and possibly do something with the local hospital or homeless shelter.  Now that my schedule is different,  now is the time!

As for teaching Jack the true meaning of the holidays?  My man is a little mocking bird, so we’re doing our best to maintain the weekly routine of going to church together on Sunday mornings.  Jack has his little buddies at church and our priest even “knows” our kid.  As of right now, every time the Radio City Christmas Spectacular commercial comes on, the kid stops in his tracks.  The Rockettes and dancing Santas are very much a cool part of Christmas, but not the only part.

Day Five Blog Party Question is sponsored by Baby Pop and Chic Covers.

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Table-less and disaster-less, well sort of

It’s day four over at the blog party, which is sponsored by Bottlewise and Glow Mama. Today’s question is,
What is your favorite Holiday recipe, describe your Holiday table, biggest holiday cooking disaster?

Because I’ve always been a guest, rather than the host, I don’t have any major holiday cooking disaster stories, or a Holiday Table…or a table at all for that matter.  We don’t have a dishwasher, washing machine or driveway, either.  We’re city folk (and not the uber rich kind), remember?  So, I have no centerpieces to share or  major disasters for you to laugh at, either.

Oh, wait!  I did have a recent cooking disaster!  I accidentally blew up dinner—oops!  I’ll have to post about that.  But first, let’s talk about some delicious treats.

I love to bake and actually try to bake as much as possible before Christmas.  I love giving baked goods to neighbors and good friends.  The holidays just aren’t the same without a variety of home-baked goods!

So, here is one of my favorite recipes ever.  And you know, because all baked goods should include booze :)
Lookingalotlikechristmas 010

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies
Yields: 24 servings

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon brandy

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1.     Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2.     In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and brandy. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
3.     Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


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‘Tis the season…for shopping

It’s day 3 of the blog party, which is sponsored by Appledonia, Hippos Toes and My Bag

Today’s questions are, When do you start Christmas shopping?  How do you budget for Christmas?  Do you stick to your budget?

Shopping is perhaps both my favorite and least favorite part of the whole holiday season.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of this season, especially when shopping is involved.

This year, we started our Christmas shopping over the summer–the earliest we’ve ever started!  I’m usually one of the poor schleps finishing up last minute shopping ON Christmas Eve, but not this year!  We made it a point to pick up various gifts when we saw them, so that we’d be well-prepared this year.  Actually, before I left my job to freelance full time, I made it a point to pick up a good portion of gifts since we knew freelancing income is very unpredictable.  And just my luck, on Columbus Day weekend last month, I happened to stumble upon the monster of all sales at my favorite outlet mall.  Talk about good timing–I scored bags and bags of awesome presents for 75% off the sale price!  That said, I’m so excited that almost all of my shopping is done for extended family!

As for budgeting, I always aim to spend a certain amount on each person.  They're not all mineLike many people, I make my list, scour the sale papers, sale racks and outlet malls and stick to it.  I never, ever buy anything unless it is on sale.  If it’s not on sale, clearly I don’t need it :)   In years past, my girlfriend and I always hit the Black Friday sales.  My perspective on enduring that craziness has always been, if I could withstand the sanity of Penn Station at rush hour, I can stomach the craziness of Black Friday.  If you have a plan and can deal with crowds, it’s totally worth the deals.

For the most part, we definitely stick to our budget.  Because Christmas is more of a religious and family celebration for us, we definitely aren’t one of the families that focuses too much on the material aspect of it all.  I can’t say we go overboard.  As much as I love giving gifts, I try very hard to focus on being practical and as minimalist as possible.  Gifts are nice, yes, but neither of us grew up receiving mounds of toys/gifts for the holidays.  So even as tempting as it is to buy all the fun stuff we see, that’s not what the holidays are about.

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Eating and Traveling: Our Holiday Traditions

It’s day two of the blog party over at MomDot.  Today is sponsored by : LaPlates and Lets Go Strolling and Natitys Design.

Today’s question is what are some of your favorite family traditions? What are some that you want to begin?

Traditions…let’s see, we eat A LOT over the holidays.  That’s always our recurring theme.  Good eats in good company.  But other than eating more than we should, as previously mentioned, the husband and I are both from VA, so a good portion of our holiday season is spent driving.  So unfortunately, our little family doesn’t have any traditions of our own…yet.  More on that in a bit.

For Thanksgiving, we often eat 2 turkey dinners or something similar since we try our best to balance both sides of our families.  After a traditional dinner with Jeff’s family, we usually watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. All the men in the house have every single word memorized.  EVERY.SINGLE.WORD.

Bethany: Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark: No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.

At some point of the evening, we head off to my family’s house where we do more eating.  On top of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, we infuse a bit of Filipino food.  Our holiday dinners wouldn’t be complete without rice, pancit, lumpia.  By the end of the evening, we’re all turkey-ed out.

Jen and Jeff's Christmas Card 2006

Christmas is similar to Thanksgiving–same hectic travel, but even more fun.  We spend Christmas Eve with my family.  We have dinner and then usually end the evening at Midnight Mass, which is always one of the highlights of the holidays for me.  After mass, we always do our presents.  So, if you do the math, we’re up unwrapping gifts and playing with new toys at 3 a.m.!

After sleeping in and a delicious brunch, we head off to the husband’s family’s house.  We do more of the same celebration–more eating and gifts!  It’s always a blast.  We’re so fortunate to have such a large family, but juggling the two has been our biggest tradition.

BUT, that’s all about to change (I think!)  Our little family—Jeff, Jack and me—are staying local for Thanksgiving.  So for the first time ever, it’ll be just the 3 of us.  Though plans aren’t concrete yet, instead of traveling almost 400 miles, we are planning on attending the Macy*s Day Parade float inflation on Thanksgiving Eve.  I haven’t even begun to think about making dinner, but I can’t stop thinking about the floats!  So far, that’s the only tradition we hope to start.   Since the holidays are all about family, we’re all about traveling to go see them, but in this dwindling economy, we’re making cutbacks, too.  So we’re traveling for one holiday instead of all of them.  It’s time to start our own traditions/


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