28 December, 2008

Hanukkah Celebrations

Okay, now time for the Hanukkah post! We celebrated with family friends of my in-laws. (I really dislike the term in-law by the way....any suggestions for a better term, that doesn't sound ugly)?

The festival of lights is celebrated in our family once a year. We light the candles once, say the prayer once and eat the traditional latkes, pot roast and jelly doughnuts. If we are lucky, hubbie is off and we are able to enjoy a real family tradition. Grandad is the one who says the prayer, lights the candles with the boys on each of their menorahs and then we dig in, (literally, they dig in). No other prayers, no "let's wait until everyone is at the table", just feed yourself. (Another thing that really bothers me). However, this is how hubbie's family is, so I try to grin and let it go.

Not to be outdone, here are the photos of that evening, as my mother IN-LAW would have made sure that her side was not left out.


Mixing the grated potatoes, onions and seasonings......


Cooking the latkes in the miraculous oil for which this feast is based....


The finished product! There was much debating on how long to fry, when to put in the oven, how thick or thin and how much doneness was preferred.....



V, lighting his menorah with Grandad and the clan...



L and Grandad, lighting the menorah. L seems to be into this a bit more. He favors hubbies side in many ways and it is amazing to see the gene pool at work.

I really wanted to try my hand at making the Jelly Doughnuts, but hubbie didn't want to waste anytime that morning, so we bought. Next year though... I will try my hand possibly.

25 December, 2008

Christmas Day Festivities

Of all the traditions that I grew up with, there wasn't one for the Christmas Breakfast/Brunch. When I became a real Momma, I decided to take hold of that meal and create something with my little family to enjoy and look forward to. My mother-in-law actually inspired the meal with her recipe for a baked french toast. After, hubbie and I tweaked it a bit, we came up with our Santa Souffle. Not really a souffle, but it sounded good.

Breakfast is a nice warm dish of Panettone and soft bread soaked in a spices custard mixture topped with sliced pears. Then we top it off with "snow", our sweetened whipped cream and maple syrup. To accompany, we have a nice ham, sliced melon and if necessary, an egg or two.

The usual pattern is for us to wake up and see what Santa brought us! I wake up, pop the Santa Souffle in the oven alongside the Ham, push the button on the coffee maker and get the video camera ready. Then the boys are allowed to walk in and find their presents.



L, realized that the Disney Statues, were loaded up with 6 Disney Passes for 3 days each! He was very excited jumping up and down with a smile from ear to ear.

Then we go to our very large stockings... stuffed with the usual, toothpaste, chocolates, socks, underwear, books, music, bookmarks, glow in the dark dinos, under eye gel, face wash, deodorant..etc.

After all the excitement, time for breakfast. By this time the oven is pumping out some great smells that arose the tummies!


Notice the Christmas Plates??? Well I use these wonderful plates every Christmas Brunch. Hopefully, these will be recalled as fond memories that Momma would do...I am missing that fork, however....



Okay now with our bellies full, we move back into the living room and open all of our presents. At this time, we also open any presents that were sent to us by family and friends. This takes a while, as we do one at at time.

The holiday naps settle in for the grown ups and the toy exploration starts with the boys. I start making our Christmas Day Meal. Typical Italian Christmas Meals are a favorite homemade pasta. Our family always did Ravioli with meatballs and pepperoni, as this was the tradition from Orsara, Puglia. There is antipasti and Christmas Cookies to follow. Every thing is made by hand, even the tomatoes were canned from the garden.
The Well Method for making pasta dough.....I saw my grandma do this every Sunday of my life. Ravioli's were only for the holidays though. Long tagliatell was for common Sundays.








Now the Dough Rests for an hour, then is rolled out into nice large sheets. Didn't take any pics of that, as I was by myself with flour hands. The filling is dolleped on the dough in rows. The dough is rolled over itself and the filling row and then cut into little squares. Viola, a Ravioli!



Now the table is set and the meal laid out before us. We are very grateful for a wonderful holiday celebration and toast to a Christmas Miracle, the birth of the light...the sun... the hope of generations!


Christmas Eve Celebration with the Feast of Seven Fishes

Here is the first post of 4 for our Holiday Celebration

We start with Christmas Eve, Italian Style with the Feast of 7 Fishes.

Steaming Mussels in White Wine, Garlic Sauce


Stuffed Calamari/Squid Before and After



Baked Baccala Au Gratin - the Traditional Salted Cod



Mediterranean Style Grouper


Lake Erie Perch and Fried Oysters



Red Chili Basil Shrimp and Shrimp Cocktail



Orange and Fennel Salads











E Batala - A Sweet Fried Dough with Raisins and Honey Drizzles all over it!

19 December, 2008

Santa Came to Key Biscayne, FL!



Yes this past Wednesday night the milk and cookies along with carrots were laid out nicely for Santa Claus. The boys asked Santa in their letters, if he would come when hubbie had some time off of work. Santa thought it was a good idea and honored the boys request.

This Wednesday, we celebrated Christmas Eve, Italian Style. Then we got ready for bed in anticipation of Santa and Christmas Day. Many photos to come of each dish and sweet treat we enjoyed over both days.

Stay tuned...

15 December, 2008

What DRIVES you?

Ever notice that voice inside your head, pointing you in a certain direction? Is there a particular filter you apply before every decision? Do you have a focused path that you follow?

MystikMomma is the name I chose, because it sums up what my life has been based on. Born under the sign of Cancer, I have taken on the role of "momma" in many situations long before I actually became a momma. I have emerged as a leader, confidant, adviser and nurturer throughout my life. Even as a young child, maybe 4/5, I was the one directing my childhood friends, who were older, in our choice of play for the day. This trend of emerging to the top and taking the lead stayed with me. However, the role of momma has taken on the literal term, as I mother 2 beautiful creatures, L and V. Momma takes on an entire different meaning for me as I let them teach me and I sit back and cheer. (Which in terms of leadership, is a common role for those exemplary leaders).

Mystik
is a term I find myself drawn to for many reasons. Most Mystiks were misunderstood or recluse in nature. They were suffering in a way that was deeply personal and managed on their own. They didn't follow the pack, they took their own road if there was a road to take at all. If not they forged their own way and held fast to their beliefs and convictions. Of course there was the spiritual factor in that each Mystik emerged with a new spiritual understanding and purpose. They were in direct contact with the Universe.

This role has also been a part of me for as long as I can remember. So many times, I would dream of the dead spirits of family members, we would talk and share stories. Later when I would share with my family, they would just stare or in some cases cry, as the words I spoke were a direct connection to the deceased. I later started to have dreams of prophecy and at times could figure out the meaning. I still have these dreams but it has developed into something more beyond the sleep state.

Being introduced to the supernatural at a young age, there was an interest planted long ago. I would work on developing this further as time and space would allow. Still to this day, I am seeking my real purpose and know it has always been to find spiritual work of some sort. Too many incidents to retell now, have guided me, foretold to me and pushed me in this direction. Not that I pushed back, I have always been drawn to the spiritual realm. Maybe my birth sign has something to do with this... cosmic mother ruled by the moon????

Back to my original question, "What drives you?". I know what drives me it is this idea of MystikMomma. Every decision I make is based on this idea. Before I make a certain decision, I reflect on how it will impact each aspect of MystikMomma. Will it support this person or idea? If not, I rethink the decision and try to find another solution or choice.

For example, the products I buy are largely decided upon how it will aid the family and support Mother Earth. Will these products help our physical body stay clean and open to the spiritual one?

Working outside or inside the home, is also another one of these choices. The work I have been involved in thus far, has always been a job for me. It wasn't my life's purpose, as it didn't fall in the realm of spiritual work. The jobs were conventional, mainstream which many people do now. Maybe I was good at what I did, but that didn't make it my life's work. I was always searching for something else. I wanted to know I was doing more than counting labor hours, organizing a church meeting, writing a grant, selecting recipients of governmental dollars etc. I wanted to be working a job that didn't feel like a job. I didn't want the day to be ruled by meetings and hours that I need to make up or meet.

Working inside my home has allowed me this space and time to dwell on this idea of MystikMomma. With 2 boys, I am forced to focus on the momma part. Homeschooling them is an effort of focused attention, requiring me to think about how and what to teach them. Of course there are standards, but it goes beyond that. I have the opportunity to shape them. No one will be able to say "Oh he picked that up from school". They will learn from me. What a very important role I play and it is not lost on me. I take this work, most seriously. This is the most important work I have ever tackled. Nothing in my past job history challenged me in this manner, nothing... those were all mindless and EASY compared to what I am doing now.

The real trick is how to bring the Mystik to the Momma in this endeavor. How can I offer these boys the ideas behind Indigo Children, Star Children, Crystal Children, Human Evolution, Chakra Management, Universal Love etc etc etc. Well it is done by modeling I know, but there is more. I sense it inside.

So what drives you? I know my spirit is being led down this path for a reason and finally I have been given this blessed opportunity to explore this path without the distraction of a boss or an ignorant coworker... Just possibly the reason I never fell in love with any job was due to the fact, I was not supposed to. I was supposed to move on and find something that wasn't conventional. After all I hardly ever followed the pack, I always created my own way.

Just once in a while it would be nice to find others who are also on the same path... so we realize we are not alone, but could possibly strengthen our purpose if we were together?

What DRIVEs you? The woman below drives me...Mary Magdalene

13 December, 2008

Baking...and More Tomorrow!



We have been baking. The boys and I started last week. We started with the Toffee Squares, then moved onto the Orange Cranberry Crisps. Due to time, we only made the dough for the Peanut Butter Kisses and Cut Outs. Today, we continued with baking off the Peanut Butter Kisses, completed the Chocolate Crinkles, and snow balls. We have the dough for the Kifli's ready and will finish them tomorrow along with the cut outs. I used a spiced butter cookie recipe for the cut outs.

I have a desire to make fudge and Buckeyes... after all we are from Ohio. Monday we are going to clean the house and Tuesday make certain all the last minute gift wrapping is complete. Wednesday will be Christmas Eve at our House with Christmas Day to follow. Having a Daddy with no holidays off, we make due and create our own days on the Calendar. I admit, it will be strange to do nothing on the real Christmas Holidays... well we will go to church.

Here are some pics of the process so far...





12 December, 2008

Holiday Preparations

Still a little upset at the economic landscape, but need to focus on the holiday preparations for our little family.

A typical Christmas Celebration involves 2 full days, lots of extended family, scheduling around lots of food, driving - lots of driving in sometimes icky weather, lots of presents with multiple places of unwrapping and very little sleep. This year will be different as we have moved very far away from the large extended family. The in-laws are within an hour, but they are Jewish, making the Christmas Holiday all mine. So the base of operation will be our house, completely eliminating the driving and of course the bad weather conditions were eliminated when we moved to Florida.

The food, will be paired down, but I will still plan on the Christmas Eve meal of fish, the Christmas Day Brunch meal which is our new family tradition and then the Christmas Day meal of Homemade Ravioli. I will be making food for 6-8 instead of 25-50+ in some cases.

The gift giving will also be limited to one unwrap session on Christmas Morning. Usually it was Christmas Eve at the Extended Family, then again at my Grandparents house, then finally sleep around 3-4am, wake up and see what Santa brought and unwrap nuclear family and gifts sent in from friends, then go to my parents for more unwrapping after dinner. 4 times...

So different traditions will be started as we will make due with what we have. I am saddened a little, but happy to know there is no driving and we will get to bed before 3 am! Possibly the boys will appreciate their gifts a touch more, as there is no unwrapping overload???

The preparations have started, the menu, the gift planning and making and sending and selecting. I have been hearing on the morning Talk Show Circuit how the holidays are filled with stress and it makes people unhappy. I can honestly say that I have NEVER been stressed or unhappy to celebrate a holiday. I love them all and look forward to the celebration of family, food and tradition mostly created around a major Spiritual Event. I just love it all. But then again, most of my holidays as a child were built around this idea of comfort in togetherness and it was always made special by my family. Mom had a way to make it festive and important. This is one thing I have tried to recreate so the boys have a sense of anticipation and excitement around special days.

More as the planning progresses....

08 December, 2008

10M Bonus, Greed, Power, Destruction & Celebration of Light

Now I have heard of some strange compensation requests in my lifetime, being a Recruiter... but this morning it was reported a Merrill Lynch's CEO wants his 10M end of the year bonus. He's earned it right? His 750K salary is not enough to support his lifestyle/ego?

Okay, my hubbie works his ass off for the Ritz Carlton. They are a large profile company owned by Marriott Company and will he see a bonus? Absolutely not! In fact a raise is out of the question. If he is lucky the cost of living adjustment of 1.5% will be approved. This used to be 3.5%.

Seriously, reports like this kind of greed really upset me. Who do these people think they are? Not only were they part of a huge economic upset, driving thousands to unemployment, directly or indirectly, but then they whined and complained to Congress for a Bail Out, because they didn't dare take ownership for their mistakes, or better yet, have a heart and look at internal salaries to make adjustments that might help correct some of their financial woes. Now this CEO wants more?

I am tired of watching my hubbie go to work at 6am, come home at 9pm exhausted because he was on his feet all day long! Did I mention that he works all holidays, most all weekends and is not guaranteed 2 days off a week? Let me also point out, there is no overtime, no time and a half for holiday pay or double time.... All of the spoiled union workers, protected careers like teachers etc.... go work like my hubbie does and accept the mediocre salary he earns. NYC teachers make more than my hubbie does by far!

This system of economic greed and capitalism is built on power, ego and greed. I am so happy that it is crashing. As the tarot card "Tower" depicts a large structure falling in destruction, so does our economic system fall. The point of the destruction is to teach us a lesson. Don't build such high towers of power, but rebuild something closer to mother earth that will sustain our livelihoods. Out of the ashes the phoenix will rise, new life, new opportunities for all, not just the "chosen" few.

I have such a hard time understanding the behavior of those in power, the "haves" who are making the decisions. If they keep hoarding and denying equal pay, fair wages, sustainable job growth, etc... it will create a landscape much what we see now. Is this really good for any business, society?

How many people have lost their jobs to inefficient lending practices or mismanaged management strategies? These people who now are without a job, have no income to sustain their living. They will go to unemployment, which only lasts 6 months max, if granted unemployment. Of course this check is far less than what they were making. If it is not enough and gainful employment is not found, then they fall behind on their financial obligations. This puts added strain on those they owe. When these companies start to feel the strain they may hike up interest rates, ruin credit scores and they start to release their employees due to their inability to make payroll. (How about those who started this crisis? Why don't they take a 500 pt drop on their credit score?) Is there a place in heaven for those who cause strife to others....hmmm theirs is the kingdom of God?

Now with a nation of unemployed workers and no viable jobs available, all systems of economic strength fail. Don't these "haves" realize their companies will also fail? Their income will also diminish? It only takes one cancer cell to take effect; given the right set of circumstances. One bad apple starts to rot the whole bunch. We are all weakened, not just those at the "bottom". Granted there are those who don't want to work, who are not capable of maintaining a job, or who would rather wander here and there. But the majority has fallen to the bottom and it has created a sickened landscape for us to live in. How do we heal a nation that has a terrible disease of greed?

Does anyone remember Mother Teresa's response, when asked where she saw the most poverty? She said, Chicago... because she saw children stealing NIKE shoes from other children. GREED! MONEY CREATES SICKNESS WHEN MISHANDLED.

Spiritually, the message of Jesus rings out in my head... The reason he was disliked, disowned by the Pharisees, was due to his ability to bring God to each of us. God lives within our hearts, not some special temple only a select few have access to. All we have to do is love one another. We can reach God whenever we want. We don't need a clergy, religious leader to gain us access. We don't have to rely on an institution to find inner peace or God's love. Jesus made God accessible to the common person.

Those who have been opened up to Mary Magdalene's message of love and unity will know this all to well. Love, shared strength is available to us now. It was available 2008 years ago, but GREED, POWER, EGO drove it away into hiding. Those in power ran it to the shores of France, the Isles of England. "How dare the common man or woman have direct access to God's Love and Commitment! No, people must be lead and held like prisoners to a system so we can monitor it and control it. We will shape the future, not God...."

A dangerous road we have gone down!

I am not surprised when Mother Earth takes aim at humans and destroys lives through earthquakes, fires, water phenomena. I am not surprised when religious fanatics take aim at others because they see evil around them. Don't get me wrong, it saddens me to see this response to evil in our midst.

The human race is underdeveloped. YES UNDERDEVELOPED! We are acting like toddlers, this is mine, not yours. I am right, you are wrong. YES, NO.

If there is anything I hope you gain from reading this post, it is that we all have a responsibility to make choices that help propel our development into the 3rd or 4th level. Again, there are around 7+ levels pending a theorist or spiritual practice you research.

We all need to make changes. It is not okay to buy unsustainable products, it is not okay to feed our future, food laden with poisons, it is not okay to use shampoos or detergents that harm mother earth. And for those of you who have more money, there is no excuse for you to support those companies not making efforts to put some green back on mother earth.

I challenge myself every day to conserve, re wear clothing 3-5 times before washing, make the most of grocery purchases to get value and quality without slowing poisoning my family and friends. And for those of you who hoard the good and give the bad....shame on you! We are to share our best with those around us.

Yes at this very festive time of year, let's put into perspective the reason for this season... sharing hope and the coming of light! All cultures celebrate the coming of the son, sun, light and hope. Why aren't we grabbing this message of giving and sharing more and taking it to heart? Instead I wake to a spoiled, selfish man the CEO of Merrill Lynch wanting his 10M dollar bonus... Give me a break!

07 December, 2008

Starting to feel the crunch of time.

Well it is December, even though my brain isn't so sure. You see every time I look out my opened patio door, I see vibrant green palm trees and feel the warm air as I stand there in sandals and shorts. I think due to this "hard to accept it is really December when it feels like August" state of mind, I have let time pass without completing some of the things that need to be completed before Jan.

Jan, we are hoping that Santa brings us a family vacation to Disney. If that happens, an entire week will be taken up by that lovely gift. The following week, will be taken up by schooling and field trips and more packing for a trip to Ohio. Where finally it will feel like winter, but all the wonderful holiday decorations will be taken down. There are 3 major projects that need to be completed before the return to Ohio; my tax documents for 2008, the 2008 financial books for my client, and a video slide presentation which is for the purpose of the trip.

My grandma will turn 80 this year and I have been volunteered? to put together a video slide show with music. I have never completed said task before, but figure with my NERO software, I should be able to??? Okay HOPE to!

Then there are the things that I want to complete this month:

Baking Christmas Cookies
Complete 2 traditional Christmas Meals
Attend a Hanukkah Celebration and make donuts for the first time ever...
Wrap presents
Make presents
Send presents
Complete stocking stuffer shopping
Send out holiday cards
Clean house at least one more time, most likely before the 2 traditional meals...

So there is a lot to do and I have not been able to get in gear to do it.

For those of you who attended college or university, you will know this idea. Remember when you were given the syllabus at the beginning of the semester? I always had this overwhelming realization... I will do all of this by when? Of course I always did it, sometimes with great outcomes, others well I maybe didn't get the best grade, but point being, I accomplished the tasks, one by one.

I know I will get through it all, but I just feel overwhelmed right now and I don't want to get grouchy trying to get it all done. The boys tend to receive all the grouchiness and they don't deserve it.

Anyone else feeling like time has gotten away from them?

04 December, 2008

Alternative Thanksgiving Wrap Up

The guests arrived, the turkey was cooked, the roast was roasted and the pudding proofed! Everything went very well and all had a good time. Our bellies were full and our taste buds tantalized!

The menu ended up being:

Appetizers
- Cranberry Crush Cocktail
- Taramasalata Dip, Herbed Cheese Spread, Capanata on Crostini and Crackers.
- Selection of Cheese Slices
- Selection of Italian Olives (Some of my favorites are the black cured ones that look like shriveled up black balls - used to hate them as a child and my great grandma loved them. Now, they are among my favorites and every time I eat one, I think of my Bis Nonna Diseno)

Main Course
- Wine, Pinot Noir (one of my favorite reds)
- Roasted Citrus Turkey
- Rainbow Chard, Apple, Cranberry Stuffed Roast Pork Loin
- Chestnut Date Dressing
- Pumpkin Polpettone - this was really yummy and so easy!
- Cranberry Orange Spiced Relish
- Pan Gravy
- Fresh Baked Rolls with Honey Orange Butter

Desserts
Yes this is plural, meaning more than one...
- Pumpkin Coffee
- Caramel Pumpkin Pie tastes just like regular, so not worth the extra effort to make caramel...
- Indian Pudding with Nutmeg Cinnamon Ice Cream
- Roasted Chestnuts

All the recipes are new except the appetizers and rolls. The rolls were a recipe from my family, but this is the first time I made them. The appetizers were store bought. The rest of the menu was made by loving hands and warm hearts.

I am very thankful for a hubbie that enjoys food as much as I. Most people think being married to a chef is the best as I never have to cook and he is the only one in the family who knows how to cook. Reality is I hail from a long line of good cooks. I was raised with food as a source of inspiration, nourishment, family, togetherness and tradition. I have been cooking since a wee little one. The first time I cooked for my hubbie, then boyfriend was a risotto. He proceeded to look over my shoulder the entire time, until I turned with knife in hand and said "Do you want to cook, or will you trust I know what I am doing?"

The point being, I know how to cook many things and have no fear in the kitchen. Some of my favorite stores are William Sonoma, Sur La Table etc. I love grocery shopping and seeing all the fresh real foods at whole foods or other like minded grocers.

I am very thankful for hubbie that we found a common passion and have passed that onto our boys. They love to help out in the kitchen, plan the menu and stir the pot.
This is family togetherness that hopefully will prevail in our family for many generations to come.