Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend in a Nutshell

It's times like this that I miss my daughter.  My daughter the picture taker.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, but did I take any pictures?  Well, yes - at the last minute with my phone, and they're all fuzzy.  L took some, but he tends to not take pictures of people.  He's fond of shooting inanimate objects, like the table, the turkey, etc.  He snapped one of Grandma near the end, but it's fuzzy.  I really do mean to take pictures, but I get busy cooking and talking, and talking and eating...and then I forget.  So I apologize, but this post will be mostly just words.
It was a Thanksgiving of firsts: my first time making gravy.  My first time making real whipped cream.  A new sweet potato recipe (thank you Pioneer Woman!) and a new member of the family (Ashley) at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  The day before Thanksgiving, I worked a half day, rushed home and began to cook.  In one afternoon I made mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, two pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce.  I was just finishing up when L came home from work - just in time to take me out for a little Mexican food dinner.  I'm not used to standing on my feet for that many hours at a time and my dogs were barkin'.
Thanksgiving morning came a little bit early for me, but I put my game face on and trudged down to the kitchen to get the turkey in the oven.  One thing I love about L is his interest in cooking.  He beat me down to the kitchen and removed the turkey junk (the neck and "giblets") and proceeded to rub the turkey with a garlic butter mixture.  We'd never done that before either, and I'm here to testify that it was the most beautiful turkey we've ever had - due largely to the browning from the butter.  Gorgeous.  I've always stuffed my turkey's, but this year we didn't.  I prefer the taste of stuffing "in turkey" but all the cooking shows kind of freaked me out about the dangers of food poisoning from doing it that way, so we just baked it this year.  Meh... not as good, but it wasn't bad.
My grandma and aunt came right on time.  I wheeled my grandma's chair up close to the stove where I was making the gravy.  I told her I needed her expertise and she brightened right up.  She loves to get out and feel like she's doing things she's always done, and it was good to have her "help."  Ashley, Scott, and Ashley's friend Tara arrived soon after.  Tara brought good little rolls, and Ashley not only brought her assigned green bean casserole, but also a PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE.  This is exactly why Scott was such a genius to marry her.  She is a family treasure.  Plus, she has nice friends.  I was so happy that Tara came.
I'd made up my mind to only eat a little bit.  But, have you ever noticed that just a little bit of each and every side dish there is, plus turkey, adds up to a whole lot of food?  Well, it does.  I was foolish again this year and ate way too much.  I could barely eat pie, but I managed.  Took one for the team.  It would have been rude to not have a piece of cheesecake, right?  So we ate and laughed, and ate some more.  Grandma was pretty with it, and loved being in the middle of everything.  It seemed like the party had barely started when it was time for everyone to go, but that's the way it is with good times, isn't it?
Unsuspecting Grandma doesn't realize how naughty L is...

Grandma holding court at her end of the table

The rest of the weekend continued in the same way.  It was one continuous round of feasting.  L's birthday was celebrated on Friday.  I took him to dinner to a little place he'd been wanting to go to.  We had lobster fritters, grilled rib eye steak, warm spinach salads and ice cream sundaes for dessert (his was peanut butter ice cream with chocolate and marshmallow topping and mine was just pure chocolate but with toasted marshmallow topping. )  We left the restaurant in the same condition we'd been in the night before after Thanksgiving dinner.  But with big smiles on our faces.
Saturday: took L to see the movie we'd tried to see on Friday, but it had been sold out.  Unstoppable with Denzel Washington.  I recommend it.  Good couples movie - something for everyone.  Then off to the first holiday party of the season at the home of a coworker.  It was in Manhattan Beach, which should have been my first clue that it was going to be fabulous.  We drove up to the house and my jaw kind of dropped.  And it never shut the entire time we were there.  I've never been inside a more beautiful home.  It kind of made my teeth ache it was so gorgeous.  Kind of Italian with frescos painted on the walls and ceilings, beautiful heavy furniture, shiny hardwood floors, and the food... oh my, the food.  He'd hired a chef to cook for us and it was amazing.  I don't usually like prime rib, but this was amazing.  So full of flavor.  I loathe Brussels Sprouts (I've refused to eat them for over 45 years) but these were not only tolerable, I liked them.  There were little tastes in between to clear the palate, and the individual chocolate souffles at the end...well, I think I heard angels singing.
Most of the folks I work with are serious wine snobs, so I'm sure it offended a few senses to see all of that beautiful food washed down with Diet Coke and water.  *sigh*  Our host had a different wine to go with each course, but to his credit he didn't bat an eye when we declined.  I love that in a host.  He didn't even get upset when we declined to taste his sampling of micro brews after dinner.  (Our post dinner entertainment.)  We were good sports and swirled each sample and sniffed to catch whether it had a fruity bouquet or a citrus-y one.  But we didn't taste.  So funny what people get excited about.  Micro brews and wine are very exciting for this bunch so L and I were fish out of water.  You know, trying to look interested, but really wishing we could head for home, which we did soon enough.  But not before gathering the recipe for those Brussels Sprouts from Chef Jorge.
Sunday: another dinner at L's folks for his belated birthday.  This time lasagna.  More full tummies.
Monday: 90 minutes of yoga and then a brisk walk for another 30 minutes.  It feels good to go to bed feeling lighter than I have in days.
But it was a good weekend full of family, friends and lots of good food.  Did anyone get out shopping on Friday?  My daughter went out at 5:30 in the morning in Mesa, but scored some great deals.  I shopped a little bit today, on Cyber Monday.  Bring on the Christmas season!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pies and Nostalgia

L and I had a busy weekend.  It was a pie weekend.  On Saturday morning I was browsing through a Williams Sonoma catalog (those things are as good as a book for me - I love all the gadgets and equipment!), and I came across an appliance that made little personal pies.  Could be a fruit pie or a turkey pot pie - but it makes four little pies at once.

It's kind of like a waffle iron but with four little pie shaped cups in the base (about 4 inches in diameter).  On the lid is the complementary top half.  You cut four pastry rounds with the cutter that comes with the appliance, and the same tool also pushes the crust into the bottom of each opening.  Spoon in the filling of your choice, and don't be stingy - you want it to mound up a bit.  Lay the top crust over the top and close the lid.  The top half seals and crimps each little pie and bakes it in about 10 minutes.  Our first batch burned around the edges but didn't get browned on top.  Hmmmm... so we figured out that the filling needs to be mounded in so the top crust is rounded over it.  The second batch turned out pretty good.  We made apple cranberry pies - we found the filling ready made at Trader Joe's.  With the leftover pastry dough I was able to also make some pocket pies with the apple shaped pastry cutter I got last year at Williams Sonoma.  We were up until about 11:00 Saturday night baking little pies.  I'm kind of over pies now... which is too bad, because I have to make some big size pies for Thanksgiving and it's not sounding that good at the moment.  I don't know whether I'm hoping my appetite comes back or not.  I'd love to be able to look at pie and think "Meh - don't want any."  But it's hard to cook if you're not thinking it's going to be delicious.  You need to have your eye on the prize, as it were.
I did have fun cooking with L though.  He does most of the every day cooking, but when it comes to special occasions or the holidays, I do like to get in the kitchen and whip up this or that.  I usually get so ambitious that I get all worn out, and I don't want to cook anything else for a year.  Let's see if I can reign in the enthusiasm a bit this year and keep it real.
So it's a big week.  3 days of preparation (I'm trying to negotiate taking a half day off on Wednesday so I can come home and cook), then the feast day.  Scott and Ashley, Ashley's friend who is far from her family, and my aunt and Grandma are all coming.  I'm so excited that Grandma's coming - she loves Thanksgiving dinner, and she's a joy to cook for after all the years she's spent cooking for everyone else.
On Friday L and I are going to celebrate his birthday.  He wants to go to a particular restaurant and go to a movie.  His wants are simple.  He wants it to be just the two of us, and after Thanksgiving that will feel just right.
L is helping my dad put together a book of my dad's life.  My dad wrote his memoirs and L is art directing it and laying it out.  Dad has given him the goofiest assortment of photos to include in it.  Well, actually there are some really nice old photographs of grandparents and my dad when he was a boy.  And the ones of us kids when we were little are cute and darling.  But then it gets into the 70's and 80's and I just don't know what happened.  All of a sudden my hair is looking like I don't ever remember it looking (perhaps I've blocked the memory...).  It's embarrassing.  There are a few photos of me that I really am putting the kabosh on.  No go.  I do not want ANYONE remembering me that way, and out of all the pictures my parents have of me, I have to wonder what possessed my dad to pick those.  It makes no sense, and I must put my foot down.  Eighties hair should be outlawed - I looked like someone in a bad Farrah Fawcett wig.  L says it was what it was, but I say we should be remembered with a little dignity.
But L also came across this one.  My senior picture.  Class of '71.  Dig the green eyeshadow...

Funny - I remembered disliking this picture.  Didn't like the way I looked.  Can you imagine that?!?  It's odd looking at an image of the person you used to be, and in many ways (deeeep inside, under many many layers), still are.  I like that girl a lot better now than I did then.  I didn't appreciate her half enough when I was her, and it makes me a little sad remembering that.  I miss her in a way, but I hope she'd be pleased at what she's become.  And I hope one fine day, when all is said and done, to look like that again.  L said he would not be disappointed if that were the case.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Lest you all think, after my last post, that I'm curled up in a ball sucking my thumb (that was yesterday) I just wanted to report that my to-do list is getting shaped up.  First of all, I've made an actual list, as so many of you rightly suggested.  I've always been fond of lists, so that wasn't a stretch - I just needed to get it done.  One suggestion, however, really resonated, and that was from Cherie.  Her suggestion?  1 day = 1 task done.  No more of this feeling like I need to get 20 things done in a day.  As long as 1 thing gets ticked off the list per day, I'm doing my job.  I liked that concept.  Took a lot of pressure off.
Today was a good day.  Work was busy, but not insane.  I turned my phones off at lunch and treated myself to a quiet time with my salad away from my desk.  (I'm usually trying to do 3 other things at my desk AND eat lunch.)  It was sublime.  Everyone else had gone out so I had the place to myself.  After I ate, I gave myself the small gift of finishing one task: going online and making a list of possible gifts for the grandkids. Now all I have to do is talk to parents and narrow it down.  Easy.
L got home from work and we put on our walking shoes and hoofed it around our regular 2 mile loop.  So nice to get it done a bit early.  What next?  Flame Broiler for a chicken rice bowl.  Awesome for 2 reasons: it was good tonight, and, since I only eat half, I have lunch for tomorrow.  No decisions tomorrow about what to pack for lunch.
And now we're back home, waiting for 9:00 and the Food Channel's throwdown between Bobby Flay and the Pioneer Woman.  It's going to be Thanksgiving themed, and I'm hoping to pick up some good ideas for Thanksgiving's menu.  (Another thing crossed off the list - yay!)  I love the Pioneer Woman and Bobby Flay, and have been looking forward to this show all week.  So while I'm waiting I'll get this quick post in, and L is in his office doing his freelance work to the musical stylings of Jethro Tull and Aqualung.  (Does that bring memories back for any of you?)  I really like Jethro Tull.  It's good to have the old man home with me, listening to the music of our wasted youth, and in 10 minutes we'll cozy up to the Food Channel together.  Life is good.
Thanks for your suggestions, and friendly comments.  I appreciated every one of them, and it was great to feel support from you, my friends, when I was feeling like a hot mess.  Brought me right to my knees with thanksgiving to have such amazingly kind ladies in my corner, and lifted my mood.  So... thanks.
Hey - Pioneer Woman is on.  I'll return and report.



Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

Can it really be true that Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away?  It seems like I was just recently leisurely browsing recipes, idly considering new ideas for our Thanksgiving dinner.  And now, here it is almost on top of me, and I'd better get it together.  This year really snuck up on me.
I feel like my life is getting crazier by the day, and yet at the end of every week or even weekend, I can barely remember what I did.  Life is moving fast these days, and I'm not so sure I like it.  I've lost/am losing the luxury of free time.  Every minute away from work is jam-packed with things I need to do.  And I never get to half of them, so they become just good intentions.  And you know what the road to hell is paved with...
Here are the thoughts and worries that fly through my brain on most days (in no particular order):
1. My daughter all alone in Mesa with her two daughters while her husband is in Savannah on rotations.  At least the baby has gotten some relief for what turned out to be allergies, and is now sleeping most, if not all of the night.  But now Katie threw her back out and is in a lot of pain.  I want to help, but how??
2. What to get everyone for Christmas.  I've done almost no shopping, and the idea of going to a mall makes me want to cry.  I need to buckle down, make some decisions, and fire up the internet.
3. How to make Christmas an easier day.  I get so wound up trying to make everyone happy that I'm just about done in.  L and I have a blended family that isn't always so blended.  Its getting better with time, but I wish everyone could just relax, chill, and enjoy everyone for who they are.  I like all different kinds of people, and  I don't understand why this is so hard, but then - the holidays are nothing if not emotional.  *sigh*  I always want the picture perfect holiday, and so far its been elusive.  I like holidays with lots of family and talking and visiting, and L likes holidays with lots of alone time.  See? We're a match made in heaven.  But really - he understands me better than anyone, and I totally get him - we just have opposite socializing requirements.  We'll work it out.
4. How to get myself thinner.  Okay, this is trivial, but it has a lot to do with how I feel about myself.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't spend half what I do on clothes and skincare if I were more happy with my body.  For some reason I always think that a new pair of pants will make me look better.  And they do... for a day.  And then I'm stuck with me again.
5. How to fit in visiting my grandma, doing my VT, finishing my painting projects, and maybe sneaking a good book in, along with a regular exercise routine when I don't get home from work before 6pm and I need to be in bed by 10?  (So, consequently I don't usually get to bed before 11 so as the week progresses I become a hot mess because I'm sleep deprived.  AND I still don't get all of those things in.)

My friends, I could go on and on but then you'd know how nuts I really am, if you don't already.  I'm having a hard time not having enough time for things I really want and need to do.  Add in the holidays, and it's a recipe for emotional craziness.  We're all busy, I know, so how do most of you cope with too much to do?  I used to not be so busy at work, so I could do a little online shopping during the day, or balance my checkbook or plan a menu.  But lately it's been so annoying - my 8 hours are actually filled with work.  I hate when that happens.

I think what I'm experiencing is a little pre-holiday jitters.  Once I plunge in and start getting things done, plans start falling into place.  I just feel a little ambushed right now.  Not prepared.  But I'm looking forward to having Scott and Ashley over for Thanksgiving.  Ash and I had a great night last week shopping for makeup at Sephora.  (They were having a 20% off your purchase night!) We reality checked each other's spending.  We were good shopping buddies AND we discovered the best mascara anywhere.  (Givenchy - the wand is shaped like a little spiky ball and makes your eyelashes just stunning)  Afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat and she announced that she was going to bring green bean casserole to Thanksgiving dinner.  My favorite.  Suddenly I felt like I wasn't in this feast dinner all by myself.  Someone was going to bring the veggies.
So these have been the topics banging around in my head the last few days.  Nothing more entertaining than that. Just raw life in all it's randomness.  It's 10:10.  Past my bedtime.  The day went so quickly.  Again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...not

This week we are linking another post to Denton Sanatorium.  Subject: the story of how our families came to be.  I don't have a dramatic or heart wrenching story to tell.  I've always been a normal girl living a normal life doing normal things.  No big drama where I live.  I was married at 20 and we went along for 2 years without thinking too much about having a family.  Probably a good thing - I needed some time to grow up a bit, and I probably could have used still more.
I remember going to visit one of my old roommates from BYU one day.  She and her husband lived locally and she'd just had her first baby - a little girl.  I'd always admired Bronwyn - so funny and so solid.  It was from her and my other roommates that I first became serious about  my religious beliefs.  They were my mentors, and now she was a mother.  I started to think more about having a baby of my own.
I became pregnant in 1976.  I was convinced I was having a girl (why, I don't know - there was no ultrasound or anything like that) and I got out some beautiful little dresses that had been mine that my mother had saved.  I ironed them and hung them up (no such thing as permanent press back in my babyhood!)  I dreamed about what a wonderful mother I would be.  So loving.  So encouraging.  So perfect.
Somewhere along the way we began to pick names.  It's funny, but I can't even remember the girl's name we picked out. I do remember we agreed 100% on it though.  We couldn't come up with a boy's name to save our lives.  My husband kept going for names like Trajon (what??!?), while I went for dreamier names like Patrick or Timothy.  We got a little desperate towards the end because we just couldn't find a name we agreed on.  One night we were sitting watching the horse trials in the Olympics (1976?  1977?  I can't remember) and there was a beautiful horse named Rex something.  Rex...  Rex... We both looked at each other and knew that was it!  I looked in a baby name book and came up with Rexford, and that is how my oldest son got his name.  True story.
We meant to go to the LaMaze classes... we really did.  But my husband was in sales and worked a lot of nights, and I didn't have the wherewithall to go by myself.  I thought to myself, "How hard could it be?  A little breathing, a little concentrating.  Easy!"  Are you laughing yet?  We convinced ourselves we could wing it.
I went into labor at around 7am on February 10th, 1977.  We were living a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital - and that was with no traffic.  I was having some pretty good pains, and it was rush hour.  Sweet.  So there I was in the car, bundled into my pink fleecy robe (I still remember that) and we were stuck in traffic.  It took forever to get to the hospital.  I remember feeling sorry for my husband because he looked so stricken that there was nothing he could do to make it better.
Finally we were in a labor room where I moaned and cried, and a nurse came in and told me to be quiet. There was a Mexican lady down the hall yelling "Ai yi yi, Ai yi yi" and no one told her to be quiet.  It was finally decided (after several hours) that things weren't progressing and that a C-Section would be performed.  I wanted to dance.  Finally - an end to it.  I've never had a thing about natural childbirth, and I certainly wasn't seeing any charm in it at that moment.
So off we went to the OR - they put me completely out and when I woke up I was freezing.  In recovery they piled warm blankets on me.  I'll never forget how good that felt.  When I got back to my room, they finally brought my little Rex to me.  He was 8 lbs 6 1/2 oz - good thing he was a boy, because he wouldn't have been a very dainty little girl!  I remember looking at him and thinking I'd never seen such a beautiful baby.  I think everyone feels that way, but in my case it was true.  He was gorgeous.  A little jaundiced so he had to go under the lights, but it just made him look tan.
Rex was the best baby anyone could ever have.  Happy, even tempered, easy going.  Bald.  Soooo bald. But sweet chubby cheeks you could use for pillows.  I've never gotten over my love affair with that little boy, who grew into a sweet young man, and a sweet husband and father.  He has tender feelings he tries to cover up with toughness, but I will always see the sweetness in his heart.
Now, I know the other two are a little upset that I haven't talked about them.  As a mother, I could go on all day about each one.  Katie, the peacemaker and scrappy athlete who fought back from a broken neck and 3 knee surgeries (not all in the same day) to become a champion water polo player, college grad, and wife and mother.  She is not afraid to tell you how it is, but she'll cry about it later.  Scott, who is at once tough and sensitive, athletic and afraid of cockroaches.  He loves his wife and Project Runway.  He is not embarrassed to carry her purse on his shoulder in public.  All three of my kids like good smelling bath products.  We have read hundreds of stories, sung a million songs, and laughed about everything under the sun.  I taught them about "Jesus' plan" and they believed every word.  Their faith put mine to shame.  I tried my best to teach them to be good people and live a good life, but in the big picture I think it was me who learned the most from them.
A rare occasion all together: Scott's wedding

And... the cycle continues

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Hayden

Last weekend was a blur of a road trip to Mesa, AZ, and a couple of quick days to be with this little princess on her 1st birthday:

My traveling companions were Scott and Ashley.  (Remember them?  They got married this past June)

Scott drove, Ashley alternately slept and conversed in the back seat, and I rode shotgun.  I'd anticipated sleeping a lot (my usual behavior after 10 minutes in a moving car) but Scott likes to talk a lot more than L does, so I was entertained the entire way there.  He can recite quotes from just about every movie he's ever seen as well as Project Runway, of which he is quite a fan, apparently.  (I like what marriage has done for him!) He kept me laughing and the drive went quickly.  (For me, anyway...)  We arrived at Katie's house a little after 9pm and Mia had been waiting up for us.  She ran out and gave us all big hugs.  Then she told us that they'd been cleaning up their house all day long.   *oh really?  I thought it always looked spotless...*  But trust a 4 year old to air the dirty laundry.  Literally.

The next morning, the little girls were up bright and early.  Like 6am early.   No bueno.  But how do you resist this little face coming in to get you up when she says "Mema, get up!  It's a very sunshiny day!"

I'm always surprised at how long it takes to get everyone ready in the morning.  I probably take longer than anyone, but it's especially hard when you try to shower and Mia wants you to play.  We finally finally made it out of the house in time to all go to lunch together.  It was so much fun to have 2 of my 3 kids together, along with our newest family member, Ashley, and the two little girls.  We laughed and laughed and had a great time.
We made another trek Friday night to the Children's Museum in Phoenix and then Katie stayed up late sewing a cute outfit for Hayden to wear for her birthday party the next day.  Hayden isn't fond of sleeping through the night these days, so after 2-3 times up with her, Katie was exhausted.  Mema was in charge of breakfast in the morning.  Surprisingly, I managed to muddle through.  Katie got up, and we all trudged to Trader Joe's (me sans shower or makeup) and a regular grocery store for party ingredients.  We made pink princess cupcakes, chocolate dipped pretzels and marshmallows, and got the party organized.
The guests arrived, Hayden was adorable and picked away at her cupcake just like we hoped she would.  The only snafu was when she tried to take off her pink party hat and the elastic snapped back on her face.  I think it hurt her feelings and she cried.
After the guests left, Scott and Ashley ordered some Indian food and we sat around the dining table and laughed until we cried.  I think that's what I love most about being with my kids - we just laugh so much.  One old friend, now living in Mesa, came to the party and stayed after with all of us.  I haven't seen Sandy in a few years and it was great to catch up.  She remembers Scott from when he was tiny and he'd stand on the bottom of her refrigerator looking inside to see what there was to eat.  She always doted on Katie because she had no girls of her own.  And Rex was like one of her own.  I love Sandy and it was wonderful to sit and laugh with her over old times.
Too soon Sunday morning came, and it was time to leave.  Mia (predictably) cried, which made me feel like crying.  She had on her new pink shoes that she calls her "happy shoes."  We'd gotten them on Saturday when we were out.  She was wearing them to church, and through her tears she promised me she would be a happy girl and sing her Primary songs.
Why is it that you're barely back from being away, and all you can think about is the next time you can go back?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Doing Penance For Candy Gluttony

So too much chocolate and sugar has placed a massive zit right in the middle of my forehead between my eyebrows.  Like a bullseye.  I've tried alcohol, and I've put Bare Minerals blemish powder on it.  It's smaller, but still there, boiling under the surface.  I'm nervous that the thing will come to a disgusting head while I'm at work and away from mirrors, completely unaware that I've developed a noxious about-to-explode third eye.  Sweet.  I love zits in my middle age.  Wasn't clear skin supposed to be the trade-off for getting old?
So today was the cleansing, purifying day.  Lots of water.  LOTS. OF. WATER.  And  very little else besides lean protein to eat.  Breakfast?  Cold diced chicken.  Mmmmmm...  Nothing like a little cold meat in the morning.  A little chicken again for lunch.  And a Diet Coke.  And L came home tonight and made me a taco with the rest of the diced chicken.  Because we all know I'd just eat peanut butter with a spoon otherwise.  I'm lucky he takes dinner seriously enough to make it because I just hate cooking after work.
We went out and hiked around Yorba Linda for an hour or so tonight, and I feel a little better.  A little lighter.  Except for the angry red beacon between my eyes.  *sigh*  Thank goodness for Bare Minerals powder.  Covers it right up for the most part.
Did anyone else eat too much candy?  It's so hard to resist those little bite size candy bars.  It seems so harmless until you've pounded down 7 or 8 of them.  Then you not only get bulges, you get zits.
I'm going to Arizona over the weekend for Hayden's 1st birthday.  We have a big bag of candy bars left over - since we get next to no trick or treaters.  I need that bag to be gone when I come back.

PS: Halloween down and on to Thanksgiving!  I'm already starting to plan my menu, but I'm looking for some new ideas.  I've gotten a few ideas from some of you, but would love to hear about other special food items or traditions that everyone enjoys.  Bring on the holidays!

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