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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.

Signs of the times…

Happy December Everyone!

I hope all my American friends and family had a nice Thanksgiving. On with the Holidays, right?

So I hoped to capture a glimpse of our home and kids over the extended weekend for family and friends; signs and illustrations of the shenanigans that took place here.

An overwhelming reader response was the question:


(OK it was just one person)

Well the Baked French Toast turned out well, although not what I expected.

Here is what the prep for the apple stuffed french toast looked like going in the oven…

CIMG0087Different, huh?

And, of course, a perk of being the chef is cleaning up the bowls…

Caramel tossed apples, YUM!

Caramel tossed apples, YUM!

I did the Butter Pecan Maple syrup too, but that did caramelize a bit more than I expected.

But in the end we had a special, new and unique breakfast for the whole family to sample…

CIMG0089As the picture alludes to the, baked french toast came out piping hott. The unexpected thing was the consistency of the french toast was more of a bread pudding than french toast. It caught me by surprise but not a bad thing in the end. The baked apples were great atop the french toast! And we enjoyed a variety of condiments, or a combination of them as we saw fit to garnish. Yum!

A bit of a sad note this Thanksgiving was the fact that the woods and the land behind our house were sold for development. Every year the leaves are actually changing their colors here over Thanksgiving, totally adding to the nature of the holiday.


We found out last week that 102 houses were now going to be built behind and around our house. So I had to stop and pause to realize this may be the last Thanksgiving we have here with the bold fall colors.

It was sad.

CIMG0086But we can’t stay in the past too long. On Cyber Monday we all went out to a favorite restaurant offering one of those Gift Card deals, buy so many, get some free. So we decided to scoop up some Christmas presents that way via dinner Monday night.

Unbeknownst to us was it was kids night at this restaurant, complete with the best balloon sculptor in the world!

~ OK, sometimes I DO exaggerate. But she was good.

Young Skyler got herself a Princess Ariel balloon


She liked it a little bit…

Then Dylan got a little crazy and ordered herself a Santa Clause hat…

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth

Kinda crazy, huh?

The girls loved it. We all got stuffed, again and so the evolution of the Holiday season continued!

On with the building of the Tree and the train village below…WP_20141203_001Ladies and gentleman, this is no easy feat!

The decking of the tree is only part of the battle. There is a lot of time and precision that goes into setting up and antique train, the train village buildings and figures, snow and so forth. It took most of my Monday (shhh I hooked off from work)

Monday night ended up with a hectic Holiday scene with busy shoppers and town’s folk around the Dickens village.

Busy night in front of VS's complete with a man and is five golden rings

Busy night in front of VS’s complete with a man and his Five Golden Rings (click and see)

Then I had to keep watching the crazy lady carrying her baby that kept on venturing out from the Christmas Carolers but got dangerously close to the train and its locomotive. What a Christmas disaster that might have been!

And try getting the Christmas carolers out on a cold night by the train with a lady holding her baby ..

And try getting the Christmas Carolers out on a cold night by the train with a lady holding her baby ..

All that time was time well spent however.. and our home is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And besides, you have to take your time or else you could end up with one of these natural disasters for the Holidays….

I'm calling TIMBER! Its falling down....

I’m calling TIMBER! Its falling down….

This Christmas Tree evidently fell victim to the Winter Warlock for trying to cross his mountain at a friend’s house. Can you imagine what kind of precious, irreplaceable ornaments may have been lost?

In the end, Thanksgiving weekend was a great time for great food, great abundance, introduction to the Christmas season, family, friends, bonding and closeness.

And shouldn’t that be what the weekend is all about?

the girls with their Great Aunt Sue

the girls with their Great Aunt Sue

Enjoy your Holidays everyone!

Thanks for being part of mine!


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