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Monday, December 27, 2010

The Rx: A 7-Day-Hug!

Seven days.  One week.  Away.  I've packed and repacked:  trying to be a smart packer.  Black is the only color necessary as I AM going to New York.  20" of snow due to hit there tomorrow...just as we fly into it.  Great.  Breathe Vava.  The "events" are not until the end of the week so we'll (eventually) make it. 

Our nephew is marrying the love of his life on January 1, 2011.  1/1/11 - isn't that clever??  My Guy and I and most of the fam are winging northeast over the next few days.  Fun times in the city. 

Believe it or not, I'm a bit hesitant to leave.  Over the years I usually felt relief when I was able to sneak off.  I so needed a break...back then.  These past six months have been an absolute life-changing season for the three of us - one we never DREAMED possible.  We enjoy one another.  A lot!

#2 and I were just in the kitchen all by ourselves.  I asked if I could have a "7-Day Hug."  He allowed it.  And there we stood in the middle of our kitchen, Christmas still around us, hugging each other like nobody's business.  I prayed too - for our safe travel, his safety at home, favor with a new job (tomorrow), wise choices while we are away.  Out LOUD.  He lets me do that.  After....he said with a smile:  "Now, that was a 7-Day-Hug."  I'd say so!

Some folks think miracles are mythical.  I'm here to tell you they are real.  We ARE one.  The rapport, bonding and respect that flows among us was missing for many years.  We always had the love; but love isn't enough. 

In hindsight I am thankful for every struggle.  I would not be appreciative of what's going on now.  If I told you some of those might say, "...why Vava, that's normal."  Not so in our case  We've never known normal. 

And so My Guy and I jet off tomorrow for New York for a get-away and an elegant wedding.  Who wouldn't be excited?  I am.  And I'm not.  I look at #2 Son and shake my head in awe.  I thank God for restoring our family.  (...and I pray all is well upon our return).

Maybe just one more "7-Day-Hug"?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Party Rules

It was down to the wire and I was unable to pull an "Eddie" after all.  Alas, the doorbell rang at 7:02 and our first guests arrived.  RULE:  You're first, you help.  And they did.  Chopping and pouring with a smile!

The egg nog was a vision- egg whites frothed to perfect peaks with a sprinkling of nutmeg.  As I've mentioned before our annual party is going on its 18th year.  RULE:  Stick to a menu you know and that you are known for.  Vava's would not be Vava's without:

Gala Pecan Spread
8 ounces cream cheese (soft)
2 Tablespoons milk
1 (2.5 oz) jar of dried beef (slice it up)
1/4 cup green pepper (finely chopped)
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup pecans (coarsely chopped)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Combine cheese and milk.  Stir in beef, green pepper, onion flakes and rest of seasonings.
Mix well.  Fold in sour cream.  Spoon into an 8" pie plate.
Saute pecans in melted butter, then salt lightly.  Sprinkle nuts over cheese mixture.
Heat in 350 oven for about 20 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or raw veggies.

This is a staple "hors d'oeuvres" of Vava's!
 (From my very first cookbook purchased in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia 33 years ago!!!)

THE Best Artichoke Dip EVER!

2 cans (14 ounces each) non-marinated artichoke hearts - drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons sherry
Dash of cayenne
Dash of paprika

Mix and mash the drained artichoke hearts, the mayo and the parmesan cheese with a fork.  The mixture should be thoroughly mixed but with a few lumps.  Do NOT puree.  Add garlic and sherry.  Mix thoroughly.  Put mixture in a small souffle or casserole dish and top with dash of cayenne and/or paprika. 
Bake uncovered 15 minutes at 300.
(Recipe states:  "It will be eaten before it cools.")  Pretty much.

Corn Dip

2 cans Mexicorn or Fiesta corn - drained
1 cup mayo
16 ounces sour cream
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 cups grated cheese
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon lime juice

Mix, let chill well and serve with Frito scoops or crackers.

None of these are gourmet material...but here's another RULE:  serve "plain/ordinary" stuff in your pretties. Crystal bowls, pretty serving pieces dress that corn dip up.  I'm just sayin'.

We couldn't possibly have squeezed another human into our kitchen.  Why is this always the case? We DO have other rooms in our home.  The noise level was VERY loud which translates FUN times. 
RULE:  Invite interesting people.  There won't be a lull in conversation.

Both our sons are home and were "working" guests last night!  #1 Son and My Guy made a second batch of nog in the middle of the party.  Cracked 12 eggs, separated whites from yellow.  They hovered over my huge mixer reading the recipe line by line.  It was adorable.
RULE:  put the fam to work!

We're casual especially at home and some have a bravado and sense of humor
that ummm, some may not "get."

#2 Son (restored, happy & content) with #1 Son (wearing his "Tacky Christmas Sweater Party" attire from a party in Austin last week.)  Needless to say he got a few laughs

RULE:  Shop vintage and make the most of it!  

The party started with a bang early on.  And all were gone fairly early...considering.  I looked at our kitchen and was overwhelmed with the remains of the day.  But My Guy rolled his shirt sleeves up and started the process.  Together we whipped our kitchen back into shape. 

RULE:  Have a spouse that loves hosting as much as you do and cleans BETTER than you do!

As we end 2010 I'd like to wish each of you blessings galore.  Two days left until His birthday.  I hope we all get a minute or two to slow down and honor HIM.

Kisses to you!


Vava and Her Guys

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A HEART-Felt Christmas!!!


With oh so much to do!  No stress heart is full.
 THIS Christmas is very different from the last several.
My Guy has heard me exclaim: "I want this one to be fabulous!!!"
My perfect Christmas today isn't about gifts...

(Christmas in Connecticut 1960)

Ahhhh, but looking back...
I see the doll I wanted.
The robot my little brothers wanted.
(Do you notice a trend here?)
In those days it WAS about the gifts!
As it was for my sons growing up...
Which is fine - that's the norm.

Five years ago the four of us spent Christmas in Connecticut.
It was the first one with my father since I was a little girl.
I imagined the picture perfect holiday.

It was an absolute beautiful setting. 
Gifts galore.
Dressing to the nines.
Oh, yes, we had to "dress" for dinner. 
You ask how that went over with our two boys?**
#1 was 22 and two weeks from going into the Army.
#2 Son was 15 and in a (very) rebellious phase of life.
**(like a lead balloon...)

A wish was granted.  I shared Christmas with my Dad and his family.
It was different than Texas holidays spent with My Guy's family.
Our gatherings are chock full of craziness, laughter and loudness!
And a whole lotta HEART!

And so I've got 10 days to make the Christmas magic.
I think this year it's going to happen...
Our sons are in a good place.

A few of our favorite things:

Egg Pie

Forgotten Cookies
Our 18th Annual Christmas Party
Amy Grant's "Tennessee Christmas"

And don't forgot the heart!

My prayer is that I have a warm, welcoming, open heart...and door.

That when I open my door, I offer the gift of hospitality.

I also pray my heart softens to those alone or just a bit different.

And most of all that my family remembers this Christmas with the fondest of memories.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mother Nature Calls

I like my alone time and always have.  Ever since I was a young girl.
I slipped away for hours entertained by my imagination and books.
In the quiet woods of Connecticut.

It's there where I transformed into whom I longed to be.  Confident, brave and happy.

Jumping from boulder to boulder, I was a heroine defending the poor.

Or meeting My Prince who would swoop me away.

The summers I spent with Mimi filled my soul with the love I craved.  And acceptance.

Yet - I'd still have to get away.  The dunes and ocean were my haven.

I walked for hours dreaming of my future.

In hindsight I know (without a doubt!) I was not alone.  I felt a presence...always.

Mother Nature in all her glory always soothes my soul.

This morning I had to get out there.  There is no ocean but a little lake nearby. 

Rather pretty....for H-town. 

Before I left the house, though, I purposed to have my eyes open.  I wanted to revel in His glory.

And there, for me, everything I love:

Deep fall colors
Pine needles
A breeze

Winding down....and I am praising God for such beauty.  Almost skipping (praying no one sees me!)

And His last gift was waiting there.  Just for me.

Swimming on the lake were drakes and mallards: green, brown...

This little guy - all alone - pure and white.

Ahhhhh.....Mother Nature how I love you.  And thank God for your beauty!!!