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Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Christmas in the Rearview Mirror 2014

Ding dong merrily on high in heaven the bells are ringing.

Ding dong verily the Sky(e) is riv’n with everyone singing…..

Ding dong, Gloria…..“….How was your Christmas?”

Our Christmas was a blast. With all the planning and preparing and anticipation that go into Christmas time, ours went off without a hitch. We had my parents and Aunt Sue in to stay at our lil’ B&B and I have to tell you everything just fell in place. We could not have asked for a warmer, more festive Christmas.

Oh, and the smiles? There were lots of smiles for my girls and family.

Wanna see?

Christmas actually began for us on Christmas Eve as our girls got a surprise box delivered that day from a very special grandmother and her daughter.

Christmas came early from a very special Grandma and daughter...

The girl’s tore into it and loved everything they received!

Thank you!!

Thank you!!

 Including some reindeer food.

No, no, they did not eat the reindeer food sent to feed Santa’s team. They sprinkled it in the lawn later, a now annual event at our house thanks to this very special family.

The annual Reindeer feeding, leaving Reindeer food on the lawn in hopes they stay longer.

The annual Reindeer feeding, leaving Reindeer food on the lawn in hopes they stay longer.

It is always fun to see our girls caught up in the Christmas excitement, and Dylan left a trail of reindeer food right to our front door in anticipation for our midnight visitor. 

All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth

All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth

Santa did not disappoint this year either! Here is a glimpse of the load Santa left before gobbling up the Christmas cookies, egg nog, chocolate and even more egg nog… CIMG0099

And so our girls went to town dismantling the Christmas packages and seeing if Santa met their ever changing Christmas wish list…. 

Her new computer watch camera microphone game thingy that also tells time

Her new computer watch camera microphone game thingy that also tells time

It was a holiday created for the movie Frozen and the girls were not spared ANY Frozen paraphernalia what so ever. More on this later….

And Christmas begins with a Frozen bath towel. Meav, of Celtic Woman looks impressed!

And Christmas included a Frozen bath towel. Meav, of Celtic Woman looks impressed!

Afterwards the living room looked something like this…..

Santa Clause residue all over the living room...

Santa Clause residue all over the living room…

But somebody still wasn’t happy….


So Grandma and Grandpa and the great Aunt Sue brought out their Christmas offerings for our girls…

 skye thank you

I don’t think they were very disappointed!

Family practically out did Santa! PLUS Frozen wrapping paper.

Family practically out did Santa! PLUS Frozen wrapping paper.

I have a new board game!

I have a new board game!

"Hello Kitty ear muffs and Olaf talking snowman, oh yea"

“Hello Kitty ear muffs and Olaf talking snowman, oh yea!”

The Frozen update?

When Mom put all the clothes away (and they got some clothes!) she counted 18 tops for Skylar that had a Frozen princess on them, or somehow otherwise Frozen related. I am guessing Dylan had a similar tally… 

Princess Elsa hat with braids

Princess Elsa hat with braids


A Christmas bomb went off

A Christmas bomb went off

After all the Christmas present unwrapping we settled down for the traditional egg nog French Toast breakfast.

Egg nog  French toast breakfast with warm butter pecan syrup and assorted fruit toppings

Family French Toast breakfast with warm butter pecan syrup and assorted fruit toppings

Even Chumley enjoyed some egg nog Christmas morning! CIMG0128

…although he too stayed in his pajamas all morning

We hope you and yours had an enjoyable Christmas too! There are still plenty of cookies and chocolate kisses here for you, whenever you get a chance to drop by.

What was your best Christmas memory this year?

How many Frozen clothes did you get?

Christmas Mood

Merry Christmas everyone!

Now if you are reading this right now you might just be taking a break from your own Christmas festivities. I hope yours was a memorable one! Maybe everyone is taking a nap, or making dinner, playing outside, or over to grandma’s house one horse wooden sleigh? If so, what a great day so far, huh?

Or maybe you are reading this Friday morning with all the Christmas festivities in the rear view mirror, but still filled with all the warmth of family and friends.

You got the Christmas mood!

This December I turn my car radio to the Christmas radio station to get and stay in the Christmas mood. It comes one time a year but I enjoy a month of it!

One song, or singer I should say, stood out this year on the Christmas music, Darius Rucker, the former lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish.

Is anyone old enough to remember them?

Now I really wasn’t a Hootie fan back in the day but the band is kinda local in my state, coming out of Columbia, SC. So they do get a lot of air play here. And I know they enjoyed some success.

This December the radio station played a few songs from Darius’s Christmas album (often) that I really liked. To me they are future classics. They are bluesy in nature but carry all the lyrics, Christmas traditions, and imagery of the popular Christmas classics.

I mentally tuned in every time they played his songs this month. So if you have a minute or two, grab some egg nog and see if you enjoy this new Christmas classic off Darius’ Christmas offering, Candy Cane Christmas

Isn’t that a nice, laid back Christmas tune that mimics other well-known Christmas carols? I think its real nice Christmas background, ‘mood‘ music.

And another Darius Christmas song the radio station played this December was the following.

And I have to fess up, I had thought twice about doing this post about subjecting readers to sitting through videos. But I saw this video last night and it was really special, shot at a local children’s hospital here in Charleston it appears. Its another great Christmas song, flowing smokey beat, and very touching for the Christmas season, What God Wants For Christmas

That’s not bad Christmas Mood Music, is it? Not a sing-along but very nice background music. Darius and his strong smooth voice do some cover tunes on his Christmas album as well. Here is a great version of a new Christmas classic, complete with a children’s choir for back up in contrast to high paid celebrities on the original….

And an upbeat version of Winter Wonderland country-ized…

And if you haven’t heard it enough yet, here is his jazzy version of a classic, coupling with Sheryl Crow that I am sure you heard all month

Sorry, there I go, I do drag on.

No, I am still not a big Darius Rucker fan.. but after these Christmas songs of his I heard this year for the first time I do really respect the man. And if you are still with me here, I hope you enjoyed some unique views of Christmas classics as well as his very special future classics. I mean it worked for Mariah Carey, right?

And I have so many other favorite Christmas songs I would love to torture offer you but you have probably heard them all month and I have kept you long enough here already.


If you have room for one more, here is my very very favorite, Silver Bells, done by a band I never heard of, the Roches, put to video of my first daughter as she enjoyed her very first birthday in 2009. Its a very special version of Silver Bells. And if you have been following this blog for awhile it is fun to see this very special girl 5 years smaller but still super sweet.

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for hanging out with me here in my Christmas mood!



Raise a Glass!

I just finished breaking an entire package of Christmas Oreos into teeny-tiny pieces……I say with a sneer. I’ll keep Christmas from coming this year!

Its true, I just wasted an entire package of Oreos. Well, not really ‘wasted’. We’ll get back to them. But it is one of my Holiday Traditions.

We are nearing that time of year when we prepare our  holiday Christmas  traditions; traditions we all cherish over the years. I know every one has their own traditions. I wanted to share some of our favorites.

First is our holiday Warm Spiced Wine. Hot spiced wine is an easy and festive way to celebrate the season. It can be made ahead of time and served by the glass to visiting family and friends. I actually got this recipe from the Flemming’s Steakhouse  a few years back.   The wine is great if it is cold outside. Plus, it fills your rooms with a very aromatic holiday scent for the evening. This recipe is Flemming’s Vin Brule.

You will need: 1 orange, sliced and seeded
½ cup of sugar
1 cup of tea or water
3-4 cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 bottle of red wine – they recommend a light fruity wine like a Pinot Noir

Simply combine the orange, sugar, water or tea, and spices in a stainless steel pot. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the wine and slowly reheat but do NOT boil. Strain and serve.  

In Italy they say wine enhances any meal or mood. Our tradition is to enjoy the spiced wine Christmas eve; after church, after the kids go to bed. Plus the warm cinnamon fills the house with a traditional smell. I pour a coupla glasses, make a fire, and watch “A Christmas Story”.

That’s one of ours traditions, whether for the two of us or a festive gathering with friends or family.

Another tradition we have enjoyed is a train under the tree. We still get a real tree. I love the smell of one! The train we use has been passed down from my father, a 1963 Lionel. It is one of the fond memories from my childhood, hoping to pass it on to our kids.

Although Dylan asks me tonight, “Why do you get the train out Daddy if you never run it”. OK, so I try to protect the train. It may run a total of 10 minutes the whole month of December.  I told her “Well I got the other pieces out (Dickens village) and how many got broke this year? (we always have some casualties with the youngungs roaming around) She thought that did make sense.

It has evolved into a nice Dept. 56 Dickens Village beneath the tree. We picked up a piece or two each year when we were first married, including the 12 Days Of Christmas pieces. My hope is the girls cherish this as much, when they get older, as I did when I was a kid. Take a look at our living room: transformation

After opening the gifts Christmas morning I always make a French Toast brunch. The thing that makes this breakfast special is the batter we use is actually egg nog (think about it). The egg nog makes a great, thick coating and we can drink the balance with our meal. Mmmmmm! Add in some bacon and some warm buttery blueberry syrup and you might just skip the opening of presents and head right to Brunch.

Christmas dinner has usually consisted of the baked ham. My family travels a great distance for the dessert though for my homemade Oreo Mint ice cream.  I make it from a Ben & Jerry’s recipe. The broken up Oreos and mint ice cream could be the most perfect after dinner dessert! This is the best stuff!

The mint has a soothing feeling after a big dinner. Plus the decadence of homemade ice cream satisfies any gluttonous urges. 

An alternate dessert, if you are simply too full after Christmas dinner, is my Raspberry Alexander. I actually made this favorite way back when I was a bartender in my 20’s. It’s a shot of Chambord, plus a shot of milk and 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream swirled together in a blender. Pour in an up glass and top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.  If you don’t want to wait that long, simply pour some Chambord over a heap of vanilla ice cream in a bowl.

I grew up with leaving our opened Christmas gifts beneath the tree for a few days. It still seems festive that way to me. My wife likes to put the gifts away right away, clearing the mess and making some room. We dispute who is correct each year.

So, I want to ask you,

which do you do on Christmas?

Do you put your gifts away that day or leave them out a few days longer?

Please settle this for us.

And I invite you to share some of your treasured Christmas traditions in the comments! Especially if they are vastly different from ours.  No one’s is right or wrong.

Because Christmas, perhaps, doesn’t come from a store. Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Christmas In Charleston

Weeks have all run together this fall and suddenly I myself past the build up and heading in to the grand crescendo of the Christmas season. If any of you have never been to Charleston, SC (a.k.a. the Holy City, US most polite city, Charm city, Chucktown) before I wanted to introduce you to our fair town, and bring you a little bit of Christmas In Charleston, with wrapping and bows bundling wishes for a very merry and memorable Holiday season to all of you.

Grab and egg nog, a hot chocolate, or Bailey’s, put your feet up and come join my family as we prepare for Christmas in Charleston.

Merry Christmas!


Now if you are not familiar with Charleston, SC, it sits on the coast in the state of South Carolina in the US. Rich in our country’s history, it is known for its place in history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, beaches and mannerly people.

Charleston was home for the wealthy plantation owners in America’s colonial time, where some 2000 mansions from that era still stand side by side on the waterfront. Battles have been fought on its shores in both the Revolutionary War and the War Between the States, where the first shot actually took place beginning our Civil War. Fort Wagner, made famous in the movie ‘Glory’, is on the banks of Charleston.

I have called Charleston home for the last 12 years and each Christmas season I look forward to many traditions  in our ‘Charm City‘. So I wanted to offer you a glimpse to what our town looks like during the colorful and festive Holiday season.

1) One of the first things that sets off the month-long Holiday for me is the Art Walk through the French Quarter of Charleston. There is a strong cultural and art history in Charleston and quarterly the many Art Galleries open their doors the first Friday for the popular Art Walk.

artwalkSome 30 galleries, all with in walking distance, participate in this ‘roaming party’ that my friends lovingly call the ‘Art Crawl’. Each gallery offers a fine selection of finger foods and free wine. It is a chance to visit some of the homes and businesses downtown that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit. DSCF0082Many locals mingle and migrate throughout the downtown, going from gallery to gallery, turning the event into a roaming party. People dress to see and be seen, with the Christmas holiday adding an even more stylish flair to the event. When you are done you find yourself on foot among the many great restaurants downtown like McCrady’s,  the Peninsula Grill,  or Carolina’s, seducing you to make an entire evening of it. I love it!

2) But I can’t make it too late of a night as the next morning is the annual Reindeer Run 5K in downtown Charleston. This is a fun, festive, pet friendly, yet still competitive 5K race with the proceeds benefiting a local children’s hospital in Charleston. Runners are asked to run in their favorite holiday gear as they tear around the streets of Charleston’s peninsula.


The race starts and stops at a local brewery and BBQ smokehouse. Afterwards a street party takes place complete with games, jump castles, a live band as well as some tasty beverages to replace some lost fluids.

It a great way to have a lot of fun, for any runner and a different kind of Christmas party taking place on a Saturday morning.100_1102

3. Another favorite event of mine, Holiday chore list permitting, is Holiday Parade of Boats. Local, and not so local boat owners dress there personal yachts into brightly lit Christmas showpieces as they parade around the Charleston harbor from one end to the other.

Parade-of-Boats-150x150Temperatures in Charleston are usually still inviting at this time of year to make this outdoor event do’able for the whole family. (Today it was a balmy 65F degrees)

4. Another favorite Holiday activity for me is the annual Charleston Strolls Holiday Walking Tour where guides take you around the stylishly  decorated antebellum mansions downtown.


Like I mentioned earlier, Charleston can play home to some of the South’s mega rich.  A downtown street, Broad Street, actually quasi divides the peninsula from the mega rich (actually called ‘SNOBS) to the disgustingly filthy rich on the tip of the Charleston peninsula.  … Sadly I don’t live either places. I actually live several miles inland in a far more middle class and affordable zip code.


As you might imagine these families have the resources and taste to do some wonderful traditional Christmas decorations and a guided trip around the peninsula helps to point out the lights as well as some of the history behind the families that live there.


A funny story floated around town a few years ago where a new family had moved to the Charleston peninsula earlier in the year. At Christmas time they kept getting notes on their door from some of their neighboring peers.

It seems the style of wreath hung on their door simply wasn’t acceptable downtown and the ‘old blood’ locals were kindly suggesting that the newcomers change the wreath to the accepted style or remove it. Snobs indeed!

5. Even before we lived in Charleston we would make the drive to its historic Dock Street Theater to catch the Holiday showing of The Christmas Carol.

christmas CAROL

The Dock Street Theater was the first building in America designed for use as a theater, built in circa 1809. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.The popular cocktail ‘Planters Punch‘ is thought to have been created there, back when the theater catered to many of the Plantation owners in the area, prior to America’s Civil War.

Photos of Dock Street Theater, Charleston
This photo of Dock Street Theater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The theater is smallish and quaint and yet well-preserved, to where there is simply not a bad seat in the house.The Dicken’s classic is always well done and can’t compare to similar versions on TV. It is an annual Christmas tradition here for all.

Photos of Dock Street Theater, Charleston
This photo of Dock Street Theater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

6. What is Christmas with out Christmas shopping? Downtown Charleston has one shopping district known as King Street. Among the many shops of King Street lay many of the local shops that carry practically anything.

Stores range from mom and pop convenience stores and eateries to large Macy’s, Banana Republic and many other high-end stores.

Three weeks prior to Christmas, King Street is closed off to traffic. A large Christmas tree and benches are placed in the middle of the district and free parking passes are distributed around the city.

king stretIf you want to do some Christmas shopping in the historic downtown King Street is the place to be, where you can find almost anything there…except…


7. One final destination our family does every year is the Holiday Festival Of Lights display found at the James Island County Park.

1This is a three-mile trip around the park at night where no area is spared of some huge and magical display of lights. Many displays are sponsored by area businesses. The three-mile rotation probably takes close to an hour to complete.

HFOLSLIDE20123When you are finished there are stores and shops in order to help you ‘stretch your legs’. And it wouldn’t be Christmas to our family if we didn’t get out and roast some marshmallows and bake some s’mores before we leave. It’s a great activity for the whole family!


So there are some my family’s favorite Christmas traditions here in Charleston. Certainly every one has their own set of favorites.

In trying to do my due-diligence for this post (steal some photos I did some local research on Christmas traditions here in Charleston and found some interesting ones that I can totally buy into!

So if I haven’t lost you yet here are just a few more local Holiday traditions that have been preserved in our historic town over the years.

she crab soup

1. Often called Charleston’s signature dish, She Crab soup is an evolution of Scottish seafood bisque. (OMG! .. oh wait). I’m on a diet) A rich-in-flavor recipe that melds succulent blue crab meat with a hearty cream soup that is finished with a dash of dry sherry. The dish dates to the early 1700s. Synonymous with special occasions, She Crab soup often appears on local’s Christmas Day dinner menus.

I personally think any trip to a downtown Charleston restaurant is not complete without trying their version of the She Crab soup. We actually went about town one summer trying to decide exactly who had the best She Crab soup. Such a chore! Certainly any chilly Christmasy sightseeing night is not complete without a tasty bowl to warm you up. shrimpgrits2. Shrimp and Grits is a quintessential Charleston recipe. Originally served as a hardy breakfast during the plantation era, contemporary interpretations of the dish are popular for both brunch and supper—and especially during festive holiday gatherings.There is not a single restaurant downtown in the popular Culinary area that does not offer their interpretation of Shrimp and Grits

Thanks to Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad (SNOBs), who shares his favorite shrimp and grits recipe here! (Serves two)  You can adopt this taste of Charleston as your own at your future holiday gatherings. punch3. Historic Street Cecilia Punch. Formal balls, a revered social ritual in the past of Charleston, traditionally took place at Christmastime, when the plantation aristocracy historically arrived in town for debutante season. The custom of presenting a signature punch dates back to the 1700s, and many of the recipes—Planter’s Punch, Tradd Alley Punch and St. Cecilia Punch—remain the toast of contemporary parties.

If vintage cocktails are in vogue where you live, why not offer a centuries-old libation to your guests this holiday season? Click here for this ritzy recipe.

poinsettia4. The Poinsettia, the flower affiliated with Christmas, is native to Mexico, but its geographical destiny came by a Charlestonian named Joel Roberts Poinsett.

In 1828, Poinsett was dispatched as the first ambassador to Mexico. The vibrant red flower of  Mexico fascinated the amateur botanist, and he carried clippings home to the Charleston. After successfully cultivating the plant in his greenhouse, Poinsett began sharing the exotic flower with friends and family.

Today the “painted leaf” flower is synonymous with the Christmas season across the country and is officially celebrated every December 12th, the Congressionally designated National Poinsettia Day that commemorates Poinsett’s work.

So that is some Christmas in Charleston my friends. I hope you have the brightest of Christmas’s this year.

I invite you to share some of your favorite Holiday traditions or recipes here in the Comments. Or make a travel date and come down and share some with us in Charm City (CHS).  Merry Christmas!


Thanks to ‘Christmas In Charleston’ web site for supplying many of the ideas, recipes and many of the pictures for this post.

What now?

 Pop Quiz:

What do all these three icons have in common?
(Pillsbury_Doughboy)the Pillsbury Doughboy and the StayPuff marshmallow man..

staPuff Manthe Michelin Tire guy

and that insatiable cat… Garfield?


Give up?


I have turned into a frickin’ porker! A pig. An oinker. A fat-belly-jelly-belly!

Folks, I put on ten pounds since that post this summer bragging about buckling my belt a hole further; from running and biking and StairClimbing? When I felt so good I celebrated by eating two breakfasts one breakfast? I can barely even buckle my belt anymore!

Well no more! This fall I have become sloth-like. Saturday was always my gym day but College Football and ESPN’s College Game Day seduced me from the gym. I hadn’t gone in over a month. I suck.

So I finally went to the gym last week when I was off. I had gained 10 frickin’ pounds! So I ran 30 minutes two days in a row (I am also woefully out of shape now). The third day I spent about 5 hours doing landscaping work around our yard. So the next Saturday, you know what?

I gained an extra pound!!

People! This is sad! I was never going to be this heavy and this out of shape. Right before the holidays? Are you kidding me?

So I made a pact with myself. No more! And ten pounds over weight calls for some drastic measures!

Like no more finishing the kid’s dinner plates!

And also, no more of this…


and this

no more

and especially

dbl brkI am such a Glutton!

And ALSO (sniff, sniff)

No more Happy-celebatory-goodnews-at-the-doctor-after-a-checkup rewards…

bye byeThis is going to be so hard, to lose that weight. The sacrifices. The will power (which I lost)

Did I tell you I am the official ‘taste tester‘ in our location of all new snack items that our company produces? As well as the official checker for freshness on all Chocolate covered Christmas pretzels, Christmas cookies, Chocolate drizzled popcorn and fancy tortilla chips there too? It’s a tough job sometimes! Who is going to take care of all these extras now?

Extras we got in at work this month like:

choco pretzelsand white chocolate covered pretzel cookies

cookiesas well as weekend chips and dips like..

late julyI don’t know how I will ever survive!

Even as I sit here and type this post I have 3 York Peppermint Patty wrappers in front of me.

Soon to join the 3 Reese’s Peanut butter cup wrappers that are in the trash can.

 So you see that last post / reblog of mine was no accident. Its time for me to start running and toning up and believing I’m a 12th grader again.

Every year about this time I sign up for a local half-marathon that takes place in February.

lighthouseThe reasoning is simple. The training it takes to compete in a half marathon should work off all the calories of junk holiday food that I inhale  enjoy over the holidays. Then I get an extra month of 45-60 minute runs to burn off the excess and slim down .

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Running for 60 minutes at 900 calorie workouts should do the trick, right? Right. …as soon as I knock off the late night beers and the rationalizing at the cookie jar , “Its ok, have another. You’ll run it off” mentality.

What do you think?

Do you have any great tips to help one slim down and drop 10 pounds real quick?

Did I mention I love eating? I am not so much a ‘foodie’ as I just enjoy tasting great tasting things from my restaurant days.

I guess I need to quit it.

Does anybody have any other suggestions? Anybody want to challenge this Biggest Gainer? Or run with me in the half marathon? (sign up Here)

Last year I did the race on a dare of a good friend as a way to reclaim my life after my cancer treatment. But it was February. It was cold; and it rained. The win blew. I finished the race but I swore I would never do the race again!

I didn’t know I was going to become such a porker!

I run like a Stalker don't I?

I run like a Stalker don’t I?

So, if you can, show me a little love, some encouragement, are a flat-out dare to help me get that belt notch back from this summer. Join me! Because the next three weeks this little Christmas song is going to pound in the back of my head.

Thanks for your time everyone!

Speaking of Christmas songs, what’s your favorite?

Care to share by Commenting on it or adding a link below?  … along with your words of encouragement? Yes?

Merry Christmas everyone. Prepare your hearts for the season.

I’ll try to do better the next time…

Stay hungry

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