Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Most Wonderful Night of the Year

christmas eve quote

It has arrived! My favorite day of the year! Christmas Eve. Everyone knows how important family is to me and tonight, 25 or so of us will be together at Grammy’s house celebrating.  We will eat our traditional Italian Fish dinner but only after we devour the mounds of Italian cold cuts and appetizers from Mia Familigia, our favorite Italian deli. Prosciutto, capicola, mortadella, spicy and sweet dried Italian sausages, olives, fresh chunks of sharp Parmesan cheese, mozzarella balls and Gram’s famous roasted red peppers. Blue cheese stuffed olives, garlic bread, shrimp cocktail, black wrinkly Greek olives, Clams Oreganata, Pearl Onions, Shrimp Ceviche, Calamari Salad…the food never seems to run out! We can’t forget the pickled herring in honor of the Jewish side of the family!

Then comes the fish dinner.  Lobster Sauce, Clam Sauce, lobster tails and mussels marinara all served with pasta of course!

After dinner, there is a quick clean up in anticipation of Santa’s arrival!  Once he gets there, the presents are handed out one by one to every guest.  Santa visits for about a half an hour.  Our grab bag, which includes all of the adults begins.  The kids are opening gifts continuously.  We have an unwritten rule, that everyone has to see what each person unwraps.  It makes it so much more fun that way and we can see the thought that was put into each present.  We usually have a theme with our grab bags and we try to change it each year to “spice things up.”  One year, you chose the name of a person and had to buy them a gift that had the same initials as their name, so Claire Sinclair could receive a Cashmere Sweater.

Another year, we picked a name and a magazine title and had to buy a gift that went along with the magazine….so my girly-girl cousin Jody was chosen along with the magazine, Popular Mechanics. My other cousin Lisa, who had chosen her, bought her a tool belt and filled it with make up and beauty supplies.  Our family gets pretty creative – another reason I love this day so much.

This year, we tried to keep it simple for everyone and get them something they needed.  Everyone created an Amazon Wish List and we just bought something off their lists.  A more practical year.  Maybe next year we will get creative again.

The festivities begin with us going to Mass, a quick drive over to Gram’s…then dinner will begin!

Cooking With Gram

cooking

Today is one of my favorite days of the year.  The day we get together and cook Christmas Eve dinner.  We get all of the sauces done; lobster sauce, clam sauce and mussels marinara.  This year, my cousin Lisa and I documented the whole process through photos.  We are going to put it together with all of the recipes into a cookbook.

Our family has been making the same recipes since before I was born, although throughout the years, some recipes have been tweaked and some deleted, (like the scuingilli – which is not a favorite of mine.)  We are still going to include all the recipes – especially the old ones.  We can’t find any that are written in our Gram’s handwriting but we are doing our best to authenticate them.

Even my grandma was helping out today, taste testing everything for us 🙂 I am not sure when she began making this feast.  She is celebrating her 100th Christmas this year! We can only hope to have her longevity.

Tomorrow, my aunt will go back to Gram’s house and start warming everything up while we go to Christmas Eve Mass.  Then the feast will commence!  Christmas Eve is my MOST favorite night of the year! I am like a little kid when it comes to waiting! 24 hours from now!! The count down begins!

A Heart Warming Gift

kindness grows the spirit

This afternoon, we had a small holiday party in my class.  We have been celebrating the holidays all month long and learning about all sorts of December traditions. Parents and grandparents have been coming into our class and sharing ways that their families celebrate the holidays.  It has been a great way to learn about each other.

Today’s party was just a winter celebration.  We had hot cocoa with marshmallows and candy canes.  My class gave me a beautiful gift.  Each one of them had written a page of a book called, “Acts of Kindness in Honor of Mrs. Sinclair.”  Over the last few weeks, each of them had done something kind for someone, illustrated it and put it together in this special book.

This is one of those gifts that I will treasure.  It will have a special place in my classroom but hold an even more special place in my heart. I am so grateful.

Turning a Loss Into a Win

saving money

Last year, the best present of Christmas was one that I gave to Dave and the boys. It was The 52 Week Money Challenge.  I had wrapped up a box filled with over $1300 that I had saved all year.  The plan was to use it for Spring Break and we did.  We went to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and had a great time. The plan was that we would do it again this year.

I tried. I really did, but with Dave still out of work and more money being taken out of each pay check for benefits/insurance, there wasn’t as much “extra” money to do it.  I did not have as much photo work as I had the earlier in the year, although that began to pick up later in the year. So this year, I just wasn’t able to do the challenge completely.  I got close, but was disappointed because all year I had looked forward to wrapping up that box again and saying, “Where should we go this year??!!”

I had kept it a secret again but told Dave about it last weekend. I just purchased a new camera.  A splurge on myself way beyond my means.  My old camera was amazing, but after five years, it was getting tired and old and it was time to upgrade.  In the end, I had saved $900 of the $1300 in the money challenge.  I put that money towards the new camera instead. It was a HUGE amount to spend on myself. Something I never do.  It will definitely get put to good use – but I still feel some guilt over spending it all on myself.

I will try to do the challenge again next year, but with college looming over our heads for DJ, we will just have to see what happens.

Pajamas!

pajama day

Yesterday was our school’s 5th annual pajama drive. It was another success! We were able to collect over 425 pairs of pajamas that were donated to the local Department of Children and Families.

Each year on pajama day, everyone comes to school dressed in their pajamas and we ask each family to bring a new pair of pajamas to donate. Since I organize it, the collection takes place in my classroom and the kindergarteners are amazed to watch the piles of pajamas grow and grow! We turn it into a math activity as we sort them into girl and boy piles and count how many we get.

I am so fortunate to be able to organize programs like this one at our school.  Our school community is so generous and I love being able to bring these ideas to fruition. None of them could be a success without the help of so many people.  I am grateful to everyone who helped to make this one another success!

Two Teenagers

teenager

Today is Drew’s birthday.  I am officially the mom of TWO teenagers now.  How is that possible?  I don’t feel old enough to have two teens in my house! We woke him with our traditional rendition of “Happy Birthday” the way my mom used to sing it to us.  Dave went and got him Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and he’s opened a few little presents.

He pulled out the advent calendar piece for the day….which was a yellow duck.  Drew doesn’t know it but Dave plans it that way so that when the duck appears, it is like a Happy Birthday message coming from my mom.

It is Friday, so he’s off to school in a few minutes, but tonight, he is bringing some friends to a New Jersey Devils game to celebrate turning 13.  He is so excited.  Last year, he went to a game with my dad the night before his birthday and wound up on The NHL Network! He finds himself on that jumbo tron all of the time…I wonder if it will happen again tonight?!?!

Happy Birthday Drew!! You give us so many reasons to smile 🙂

Cookie Swapping!

cookie swap

Today was our annual Cookie Swap at school.  Another reason why I love the holiday season.

I have written several times that despite how much I love to cook, I do not like to bake.  Not at all.  I always try to find a simple recipe to make.  This year, I chose to make White Chocolate Caramel Turtle Fudge – mostly because it required no baking.  Only melting.  They turned out great.  So delicious but soooo rich, that they had to be cut into tiny pieces.

With a cookie swap, I only have to “bake” once, but I wind up with dozens of cookies of all varieties.  Then, I share them with my family at all of our get togethers over the next few nights. Tonight we are decorating my dad’s tree so I will bring the cookies along to share.  Then, any left overs will get added to the Christmas Eve dessert platters.

So in the end, even though I don’t like to bake cookies…I do love to eat them…..so this is the way to do it!!