Saturday, December 31, 2011

What A Wonderful Year!

2011 has been one of the best. I have been able to do so many things with so many wonderful people.

I started this blog in March of this year, and I have to tell you that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It makes it so much easier to remember what good times I have had.

The early part of the year was spent mostly around my town. I went to several wine festivals, discovered a forgotten slave cemetery in the city, visited a few historical sites in the area, and spent a lot of time enjoying the company of my friends at great places.

When summer rolled around, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Greensboro's Summer Solstice, go scuba diving a few times, attend Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, and visit the Outer Banks.

Along came fall and we went to Castle McCulloch's Halloween bash, attended the Bright Leaf Brewfest, and I broke my elbow.

Well, maybe the elbow wasn't one of the better times, but anyway...

I have really had a marvelous year. I can only hope that 2012 brings half as many wonderful opportunities.

Y'all be safe tonight, have a great time, and please don't drink and drive.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Adrienne!

Today is my baby sister Adrienne's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is because she will likely make my life miserable. For a few minutes anyway. We wouldn't want MYFWBS to be miserable, would we? I thought not.

This is a photo of her in big sister's lap when she was 1 year old. I will just say that it was taken sometime in the 1970s.

This is a photo of her now. Isn't she beautiful?

Yes, Adrienne, I stole this from your Facebook :-P

I love you, sis! I hope this birthday is the best yet!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Greatest Christmas Ever

I want to take the opportunity today to tell you all about my most joyous and memorable Christmas that I ever had. I didn’t have to think about this. I didn’t have to weigh the good ones against the better ones. This Christmas was, is, and always will be the best I ever had.

On Christmas Eve, 1989, my ex-husband, Chris, and I were doing our every day Christmas running. I knew early that morning that something wonderful was going to happen. We picked up some last minute Christmas gifts, visited a few friends, and proceeded to his aunt’s house for Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange.

We had eaten and were unwrapping gifts when I told Chris that we REALLY needed to get home right away. We had a visitor coming.

His parents left the same time as we did, and we stopped by their house to tell them that tonight was the night. They could barely contain their excitement.

After leaving their house, we stopped by my parents place to tell them the news of our expected guest. They were thrilled as well.

Chris and I went home and got all of our packages together. We loaded up the car and made our way to the hospital.

At around 1:20 AM on Christmas morning, my most precious Christmas gift of my life was given to me.

He was 7lbs, 5oz

I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my son, Brandon.

I love you


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Now That I'm Off Work, When Can I Stop Working?

 Today is my last working day of 2011! I begin my vacation at 3:00 today and return to work on January 2, 2012.

Wait... Did I just tell you that I was to begin my vacation? I should probably say that I will be working at home rather than at my place of employment.

I am planning for a house full of family and friends on Saturday evening for dinner and gift exchange. When I say a full house, I am talking a bare minimum of 20 guests.

Twenty or more guests equals a TON of hours devours, a whole turkey plus a turkey breast, a ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, plus all the side veggies, breads, pies, cakes, cookies, and beverages (adult and otherwise).

Christmas Eve at my house is a huge production.

Before I can even begin my cooking, I need to get my house in tip-top shape. Just in case someone decides to look in medicine cabinets, the linen closet, or under the bed (you know you have done it).

Maybe I will be finished with all of the preparations before my guests start showing up on Saturday.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tomahawk Mill Winery - Earl of Chatham Mead

On Saturday my son Brandon and his girlfriend Susannah went to Tomahawk Mill Winery in Chatham, VA. The winery isn't far from our house; only about a twenty minute drive off of HWY 29 in Chatham. They did the wine tour and Brandon brought home a bottle of  Earl of Chatham mead.

His particular interest in the winery was to sample the mead. He is in the process of making his own first batch of mead and wanted to see what theirs tasted like to compare to his. His will be another 5-6 months before it is ready. I will be sure to post about that when the time comes.

On Sunday night, Brandon and I got to sample said mead along with a slice of cheesecake.

 Earl of Chatham mead

 A closer look at the label

 We had delicious cheesecake for dessert

Earl of Chatham mead

Mead is a sweet wine made from honey. You can distinctly taste the honey in this mead. When enjoyed with the cheesecake, the honey flavor is enhanced. It was really good. 
Brandon was told while on the tour, that this wine was served as a dessert wine or as an aperitif. He was also told that mead added to coffee was good as well. When I finished this post, we had not yet tried it in the coffee, but plan to later this evening.

Tomahawk Mill Winery is set in an old grist mill build by a Confederate veteran, James Anderson. It was sold and has become a vineyard and winery.  My husband and I visited them several years ago and had a wonderful time on their tour. If you are ever in the area, stop by the winery for a tour and tasting. 

It's really easy to find!

Oh, and give me a shout out and let me know you're here! I would love to accompany you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Night of Hanukkah

This week, I am trading in my pearls (without which I never leave the house) for my Star of David pendant.

 Excuse this horrid photo, I had to take it without the flash, because with the flash you couldn't see it at all!

This is a different Star of David than what many are used to seeing. This is the Star of David embracing the Christian cross.

As I said in an earlier post, at my house we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. There is a Christmas tree, several Nativity scenes, and two Menorahs in my living room.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Would you like to celebrate with me? It is really easy! The menorah is lit at sundown, preferably when all members of the house are present. A blessing is said each night as each of the candles are lit. The middle candle is the Shamash (helper or servant) and is used to light the other eight candles.

The first night, the lit menorah looks like this:

As the first candle is lit, the following words are spoken:

English translation:

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

The candles should burn at least 30 minutes each night.

What to serve on the first night of Hanukkah?  Food fried in olive oil. Potato cakes, potato latkes (pancakes), and fried breads.

Potato Latkes

2 lbs potatoes
2 large eggs
oil for frying

Peel and finely grate the potatoes. Put them straight into cold water, then drain and squeeze them as dry as you can by pressing them with your hands in a colander. This is to remove the starchy liquid, which could make the latkes soggy.

Beat the eggs lightly with salt, add to the potatoes, and stir well. Cover the bottom of a frying pan with oil and heat. Take serving-spoonfuls, or as much as 1/4 cup of the mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten a little, and lower the heat so that the cakes cook through evenly. When one side is brown, turn over and brown the other side.

Lift out and serve very hot

If you are interested in the other seven days of Hanukkah, see my other page HERE.

*Special thanks to my bestie, Sage, for helping me grate the potatoes. My arm was KILLING me :) I should really invest in a food processor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reader Question: Holiday Crackers

On Thursday, I posted a little blog, "Champagne and SpaghettiO's", which contained a photo of my kitchen table. One of my readers, Preppy Girl Meets World, posted a question in her comment:

"What was in the holiday cracker? I've always wanted one of those but never got one."

Traditionally, the Holiday Cracker contains a paper hat, a joke, and a small gift. The tradition of the Holiday cracker dates back to 1846, and was invented by Thomas Smith. This was during the time Christmas traditions in England were being established.

He had run across a sugar coated almond wrapped in tissue paper and twisted at each end on a trip to Paris. Thomas decided to start selling goodies himself. Later, he decided to insert a love poem into each one because the gifts were mostly being bought by men for their ladies. He then decided to put a small strip of paper with a chemical which would make the "POP" sound when it was broken apart. When he died, and his sons took over the business, the candy or treat was replaced by a small gift, the love poem was replaced by a joke, and the paper hat, which is representative of the Three Kings who brought gifts to Jesus at His birth, was added.

I have decided to crack open one of the crackers from my table and show its contents on today's post. I cracked open this cracker myself, but traditionally, the way to open a Holiday cracker is with two or more people.

Each gets their own cracker, which is held in the right hand. Everyone crosses their arms and the person next to you grabs the other end of the cracker with their left hand. The left hand is used to pull, while the right holds the cracker. Everyone pulls with their left hand at once, and all the crackers make that loud pop. The contents fall onto the floor.

 I think these are so pretty sitting on a table.

 Inside the tube, the contents are banded together.

 There is the joke!

 And the paper hat!

 The prize inside? One set of paper dominoes!

 Here is a shot of the chemical strip inside the tube. This is what makes the POP.

Traditional contents of a Holiday Cracker.

The quality of the gift inside each cracker is dependent on the cost of the cracker. I picked up this box of 8 Holiday crackers at Pier One Imports in Greensboro, NC for around $18.

This was a fun post! Thanks to Preppy Girl Meets World for the blog post idea!!!
"Pop" on over to her blog when you get the chance!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Champagne and SpaghettiO's

What does MYFWBS have for dinner when she's at home alone, there is no one to cook for, and a small event in her life is worthy of a celebratory glass of champagne?

As usual, she embraces the beverage.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scentsy Giveaway at Preppy Girl Meets World

There is a marvelous giveaway at Preppy Girl Meets World. I have been following this young lady for quite a while and absolutely love her blog. Go by and check her out. You can enter to win this:
Scentsy Red and White Snowflake Warmer

Read a few of her posts! I promise you won't be disappointed!

Great Giveaway at Falling Off a High-Heeled Life

I have been following Celia, who writes "Falling off a High-Heeled Life" for quite some time now. She is a very inspiring woman who almost lost her life in an accident. Her determination and strength are to be commended.

That is enough to make me follow her blog. The added bonus is the great giveaways that she hosts.

She is hosting a giveaway for this Royal Albert teacup and saucer.

Take a minute and browse around her blog. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Thanks, Celia, for this wonderful giveaway!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas, Haunukkah, and Strawberry Shortcake

Saturday night, I asked Sage over to assist with wrapping Christmas presents. I usually try to get my gifts wrapped as I bring them into the house. This year I have been too distracted to stay on top of this task and they had begun to pile up on my love seat.

One thing about my friends is that all of them are willing to pitch in and help whenever I need them. Sage came right over and got to work. He did a great job!

One of the many packages Sage helped me with.

I don't know if I'm considered tacky or "green" conscious, but I save any old kind of box for my gifts. This Ziploc box is really sturdy. It contained 4 regular sized boxes. I can't be the only one who does this.

The following gift bag is from my husband to my mother. Isn't the packaging just adorbs? We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah at my house. How many people do you know who actually have a Christmas tree AND a menorah?

The reason I am sharing this gift with you is because of its contents. Behold what is inside this beautiful Hanukkah bag:

Yes, those are canned strawberries.

This can of strawberries has been around since the 90's. 

My husband was always after for my mother to make strawberry short cake for him. Mom and I were cruising the aisles at a dollar store when mom spies these canned strawberries on the shelf. She picked up two cans and sent me home with both cans along with some cake and whipped cream. I went home and put the cake into a bowl, opened the can, and without even looking at the contents, dumped them onto the cake.

To my horror, the strawberries in the can were PURE WHITE. I have never seen anything so gross looking fresh out of a can before. I told Stump that mom had sent not one, but TWO of the canned berries to him. 

His response? "I'm wrapping up that other can and giving them to her for Christmas".

And he did.

Mom got the biggest laugh out of her present that year.

A year went by, and it was Christmas all over again. We had the family over to our house as we always do. When it was time to open presents, my mother gave Stump several packages to open. Among those packages,  guess what was inside one? Yes, the same damn can of strawberries.
It has sort of became a tradition. One will give the other the can of strawberries. It isn't always predictable either. One year my husband stole the can from mom's take home loot after Christmas festivities were done. She call me, panicked, the following November. She was afraid that she had lost the "special" can. I played dumb, of course, and she received the can two years in a row.

They started writing the date on the can after several years of it going back and forth. This is the best picture of the lid that I could get. Santa needs to bring me a better camera :)

That is some of the holiday preparations that go on at my house. Complete with a little craziness.
Do you have any crazy traditions?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Rewind - 1984

I am boarding my time machine for a look back at Christmas 1984. I was sixteen years old and in the tenth grade. I had big hair and big dreams. Ronald Regan was President and George Bush was Vice President.

The music was amazing and boasted hits such as Madonna's "Like a Virgin", Phil Collins' "Against All Odds", and Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It". There was one song, however, that brought many singers together for the ultimate song of 1984. This song was released on December 3, 1984 and immediately shot up to #1 where it remained for 5 weeks, became Christmas #1 and sold more than 3.5 million copies.

Live-Aid, who later became Band-Aid, recorded this song in the hopes of sending much needed relief to Ethiopia. They succeeded in raising the money for the food, but despite their good intention, the food never made it to Africa. Much of it was found spoiled on the shipping docks.

Have you guessed this song? 

Here is a group photo of the Band-Aid performers

Adam Clayton (U2), Phil Collins (Genesis, Solo), Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats), Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), Chris Cross (Ultravox), John Taylor (Duran Duran), Paul Young, Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Simon Crowe (Boomtown Rats), Marilyn, Keren Woodward (Bananarama), Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Jody Watley (Shalamar), Bono (U2), Paul Weller (The Style Council), James 'J.T.' Taylor (Kool & The Gang), George Michael (Wham!), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Martyn Ware (Heaven 17), John Keeble (Spandau Ballet), Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Roger Taylor (Duran Duran), Sarah Dallin (Bananarama), Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Pete Briquette (Boomtown Rats), Francis Rossi (Status Quo), Robert 'Kool' Bell (Kool & The Gang), Dennis J. T. Thomas (Kool & The Gang), Andy Taylor (Duran Duran), Jon Moss (Culture Club), Sting (The Police), Rick Parfitt (Status Quo), Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Johnny Fingers (Boomtown Rats), David Bowie, Boy George (Culture Club), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Paul Mccartney, Stuart Adamson (Big Country), Bruce Watson (Big Country), Tony Butler (Big Country), Mark Brzezicki (Big Country)

Photo and performer names from HERE

I can remember the one line in the song that, in my opinion, was the most powerful. "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you". Bono's line ripped through many people. Some became furious because of this lyric, others not so much. 

I don't believe that this line was meant as many took it. Or maybe it was. Maybe the reaction was exactly what the writer, Bob Geldof, was looking for. It was delivered right after, "But say a prayer, Pray for the other ones At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear".

My take on this line is that it was a sarcastic slap in the face to those who looked down on the starving Ethiopians. It was a "wake up and get a clue" to those in their penthouse apartments who think the world's problems aren't theirs. "If you are bold enough to do nothing, then be bold enough to thank God that it's them instead of you". It was a reminder that their situation was so horrible that no matter how deep your sympathy for them, that you still wouldn't be willing to take their place. "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you" made one take notice and think about the situation. Mission accomplished, IMO.

Whether you agreed with Bono's line or not, the fact is that "Do They Know It's Christmas" will always be one of the most memorable Christmas songs.

I hope you enjoyed this trip back to Christmas 1984 as much as I did.

"Do They Know It's Christmas?"

[Chris Martin:]
It's Christmastime, there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade

And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

[Robbie Williams:]
But say a prayer, Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun

There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear

[Fran Healy:]
Where the only water flowing

[Fran Healy & Sugarbabes:]
Is the bitter sting of tears

[Fran Healy & Justin Hawkins:]
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom

Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

[Will Young & Jamelia:]
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

[Ms Dynamite & Beverly Knight:]
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow

[Group of ten and Joss Stone:]
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

[Tom Chaplin (Keane):]
Here's to you

[Justin Hawkins (Darkness):]
Raise a glass for everyone

[Dizzee Rascal:]
Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived
If the table was turned would you survive

Here's to them

[Justin Hawkins (Darkness):]
Underneath that burning sun

[Dizzee Rascal:]
You ain't gotta feel guilt just selfless
Give a little help to the helpless

[Joss Stone & Justin Hawkins:]
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

[Tom Chaplin:]
Feed the world

[Tom Chaplin & Chris Martin:]
Feed the world

[Tom Chaplin & Chris Martin & Sugababes:]
Feed the world

[Tom Chaplin & Chris Martin & Sugababes:]
Feed the world

[Everyone in full chorus line.]
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again - [repeated]

[Group of ten:]
Feed the world

[Everyone in full chorus line.]
Feed the world - [repeated to end]

[Joss Stone ]
[Ad libs over outro]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embrace the Beverage

Most evenings, I am at home alone while Stump is either at work or out with the guys. I have become a homebody and honestly rather enjoy it. Once I come in from work and dinner is out of the way, Stump leaves the homestead, and I get settled into my pyjamas, the rest of the night is mine to relax.

My secret indulgence during this down time is something to drink. While most people wouldn’t think of a potation as a luxury, I embrace the beverage.

My beverage preferences change with the season. In spring I will likely be found on the back deck or sitting on the carport with a glass of chilled white wine. Chateau Morrissette’s Our Dog Blue is my favorite. The spring wine festivals in the area offer many wines from many different local wineries. No matter which wine festival I attend or how many wineries I visit, I always end up with several bottles from Chateau Morrissette.

During the summer, my choice moves to a fruity or citric flavor. A margarita in hand puts my mind at the beach Jimmy Buffet style. A strawberry screwdriver (made with strawberry vodka and orange juice with a little splash of grenadine) is always good to cool you down. I also love a good rum and Coke to unwind after a long day at work.

When fall rolls around, it is time for a hot, season appropriate drink. Think apple harvest, Halloween, and spicy pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving. I will put a pot of apple cider on the stove to heat and pour it into my coffee pot for my coffee maker to keep warm while I indulge in a movie or two on those chilly evenings. Apple cider in my house isn’t complete without a stick of cinnamon.

The day after Thanksgiving, my Christmas decorations go up; on this night, the choice of liquid refreshment changes. While putting up the tree and hanging the ornaments, a glass of Chateau Morrissette’s Christmas wine is on hand. This wine, I swear to you, tastes of snow and tinsel. Don’t ask me what tinsel flavor is… just trust me it tastes of snow and tinsel. Once the Tree is up, one of the Christmas classics are popped into the DVD player. While watching an animated classic, I enjoy hot chocolate complete with marshmallows.

As the winter days go on, I will continue to drink hot chocolate, though sometimes I spike it with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Crème. For something cold, a White Russian is my choice; the thick, creamy texture and chocolate-coffee taste is winter heaven. Some nights, however, all I want is a huge cup of coffee. Black, please.

Each of these wonderful drinks is carefully made with attention to detail. My glasses and mugs are chosen for what will go into them. I embrace the beverage. I celebrate the simplicity. I enjoy it as a luxury.

I can’t wait to get home this evening and curl up on the couch with something wonderful.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Are You Doing New Year's... New Year's Eve

Stump and I always wait until the last minute to figure out what to do for New Year’s Eve. This year it will be different (I hope). This year, Stump suggested to me that maybe we spend the monumental night at the beach; just something to get us out of town. He suggested that I look around and see what was out there.

I ran across very few things to do that fit out criteria; almost as few as there are out home. What we want is someplace that has a good turn out but not so packed that one can not move. I want a table because I don’t want to be standing for hours and hours in high heels. I want the crowd to be similar in age to us because I don’t want to have to deal with twenty-something drama. I want champagne at midnight and hours devours. Or dinner. Or both. All I know is if I’m drinking I need to have something to nibble.

I look at this list and really don’t see where I am asking entirely too much. Apparently I am. I would think that with all the clubs and restaurants that someone somewhere would have my perfect vision of New Years.

I would love to hear suggestions. They don’t have to be for a beach. That was just an idea. We are in the south central Virginia area and are willing to travel 4-6 hours one way. HELP!!!

What Are You Doing New Year's

When the bells all ring

And the horns all blow

And the couples we know

Are fondly kissing

Will I be with you

Or will I be among the missing

Maybe it's much too early in the game

Oh, but I thought I'd ask you just the same.

What are you doing New Year's... New Year's eve?

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight

When it's exactly twelve o'clock that night?

Welcoming in the New Year... New Year's eve

Maybe I'm crazy to suppose

I'd ever be the one you chose ...

Out of the thousand invitations you'll received ?

But in case I stand one little chance,

Here comes the jackpot question in advance...

What are you doing New Year's... New Year's Eve?

Out of the thousand invitations you'll received ?

Oh, but in case I stand one little chance,

Here comes the jackpot question in advance...

What are you doing New Year's... New Year's Eve?

What are you doing New Year's Eve

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MR Ducks

Sage and I were in Greensboro, North Carolina doing a little Christmas shopping when we ran across a flock of geese in a parking lot. As they came into view, Sage said with a giggle, "M R Ducks".
I replied, "M R not ducks. M R geese". I don't know if any of you have heard M R Ducks before, but you will at the end of this post. I apologize ahead of time :)

 These little guys were just chillaxing in the parking lot without a care in the world.

 I pulled the car around to get close to the feathery flock.

 I happened to have a loaf of sourdough bread in my car. It was stale because it was left in the back seat and I had forgotten to take it in the house a couple of days before. Don't judge me. I have a busy life.

 I got out of the comfort and safety of my car and began to feed the geese. It didn't take long before they were nipping and biting at each other. I began to wonder if I would be attacked as well.

 Sage manned the camera as I fed the little guys. As the loaf got smaller and smaller, I moved closer to the car to make a fast getaway.

They feasted but left me alone as I got into my car. I'm glad the bread wasn't a complete waste.



Were you able to read it?
Yeah. Corny, I know. But I DID apologize early on.