Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thanks For the Memories

Wow, 2008 has come and gone, and so quickly, don't you think? This is the year I found blogland and all of you, so for that I am eternally grateful. If someone had told me a year ago that I'd be a hardcore blogger come 2009 I would have laughed in their face, but here I am, and completely addicted to blogging!

I've become friends with so many people in these past 7 months, and from different corners of the globe. England, Scotland, Trinidad, Canada, and from coast to coast in the United States. I've become friends with those who are younger than me, and some that are a lot older, but all of you bring something special to my life. Be it laughter, tears, lunacy, or sentimentality... you all have touched me greatly and I want to thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives. You've invited me into your homes, you've sat me down at your beautifully set tables. You've brought me shopping, taken me with you on vacations, and introduced me to your families. We've celebrated birthdays with abandon, and prayed hard for those in need.

There are no words to express how blessed I am to have all of you in my life. Happy New Year, and let this one be spectacular for all of us!

Fireworks near the Bridge of Lions in downtown St. Augustine.

One more thing before I go. I couldn't leave this post all mushy-gushy and not have a bit of comic relief. Could someone maybe mention to Jill that she might possibly need an antibiotic?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Be My Guest. Everyone Else Was.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my house, the liquor was flowing, the food was put out. The family was here, and friends one and all. Could someone remind me next year that my house is too small?

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the poetic crap, and just tell you about our Christmas Eve. Mikayla and Jimmy cooked for two straight days, and I used those last hours to finish my baking and get my cakes decorated. It seemed that each hour that went by our guest list kept climbing, and we wound up with 29 people for dinner. Thank goodness Jimmy listened to my advice and did it buffet style this year. But, looking back, I have to admit, it’s just not the same feeling of closeness and togetherness when people are scattered between three tables.

I thought everyone was here, but then my doorbell rang. Who the hell could that be? Well…

What to my wondering eyes did appear? Oh look! It was Larry with all his tiny gaydeer! On Cartier! On Chanel! On Dior and Prada! On Manolo and Choo, and Ferragamo too!

Well hello Larry, and Ho Ho Ho! But aren’t you missing a couple of fairy doe?

Oh please, Miss Thang, I left them at home. They chewed up a Gucci and from their mouths they did foam. But here I am with this nice veggie tray, so let me in the door, get out of my way! I see all those bottles arranged just so, now crack me one open and let the Cuervo flow!

Oops. I did it again, didn’t I? So sorry, but I’ve got that damn story in my head and it keeps taking over my fingers.

Here’s Larry hanging with our friend, Paula.

Since Jimmy worked so hard on the food, I thought I should take some pictures of it for posterity.

Fried cheese anyone?
After the animals had attacked.

The cook, himself.

I wish I had a bunch of funny stories to tell, but I got so burnt out on the whole holiday thing that it kind of fried my brain. The only funny thing I can remember is when Paula referred to a vajayjay as a frittata. I mean come on, where did that come from? I told her that we call it a hoo hoo in this family. And without thinking of what I was saying, said, “A frittata sounds like something you’d eat!” (Isn’t it an egg dish?) Yes, all of our minds instantly went there. How could they not? I thought my mother was going to wet her pants after that one.

Oh look, there's Jill and Poopy Pants!

After dinner it was time to open gifts. Because of the weird layout of this house, and the amount of people we were having, we couldn’t just spread the gifts out around the tree… we had to kind of let them leak into the foyer too. Now keep in mind that what you see here is just from Jill and my parents, plus a couple of friends, and the gifts I had for all of them. Santa hadn’t come yet! We did track the big guy on NORAD the whole night, which was really cool. First time I’ve done that and a few of the kids really really enjoyed it.

Gift opening was a sight to behold. It was so chaotic. There were kids screaming, kids laughing, kids crying. Shit, I think I shed a tear or two myself, just from the sheer confusion. But in the end, everyone was happy, even me. Jill got me some cool gifts this year, most of which revolve around my email and blogging obsession, and my need to sit out here on the back porch no matter how cold it is. Ya know, so I can pollute my lungs while typing. She got me a Slanket! I know, what the hell is that? Well, it’s this super soft blanket thingy, but it’s got sleeves. In retrospect I guess she could have just gotten me a robe, but “robe” doesn’t sound as cool as “slanket”, does it? And besides, when I put it on today, I felt like some kind of super-hero. I AM BatBitch! Okay, honestly? I look like the inbred result of Obi One and a flying squirrel.

Jill also found me gloves with removable fingertips, so I can still type when it’s chilly out, and my fingers won’t freeze to the keyboard.

I think my favorite gift from her though is the mug she had made for me at Café Press. Here, I’ll show ya. Look! It says, “My Poopy Pants”. Awwwwwwwwwww!

Remember all those desserts I slaved over for the better part of a week? Well, most of it went untouched! Uh huh, seems my guests were enjoying their after-dinner drinks a bit too much to stop and sit for some homemade yumminess. I was actually pretty pissed off and told Jill I was never doing it again. Yeah right. At least some people enjoyed them… mainly my family members.

Every year, some time in November, Jill warns me that if I don’t make my three layer fudge peppermint cake, she won’t come to my house. I don’t mind making it, but boy is this cake a bitch! Every year the layers get stuck to the pan, and look like this.

And then, because I’m too lazy to trim them down and make them all even, the finished product looks like this. The leaning tower of fudge.

Now that's just plain weird. The picture was not taken vertically, and it's not vertical in my file. So why is it sideways here???
But anyway, OMG, you’d think you’d died and gone to fudgy, whipped-peppermint creamy heaven with just one bite. Would you believe Jill asked me if I make this from a box? For shame!!!! As IF! She said she just couldn’t understand how I could bake something from scratch that comes out tasting so wonderful. O. K.

Her hubby, Mark, would kill me if I didn’t make my ultra rich cheesecake each year. I’ve never seen such a fattening recipe in all my life, but oh my, is it good! Seven eggs, 32 ounces of cream cheese, 24 ounces of sour cream, and a few other ingredients, and this is what you have. This year I made fresh whipped cream and piped it on with a pastry bag.

I made my usual rainbow petit fours (once again, Drop Dead Becky!), which are always a huge hit and look so pretty.

Over 200 butter nuts. What the hell was I thinking?

Cream puffs stuffed with eggnog pudding, then drizzled with chocolate.

I also made Bridget’s German Spritz cookies, but forgot to take pictures. I’m not even going to get into the trouble I had with these. We’re just lucky I didn’t stab myself with the cookie press by the end of the night. In all fairness, Gigi was right. These are simply the best butter cookies ever, even surpassing my late grandmother’s recipe that we’ve been making for more than 40 years.

Ooh, how 'bout a bit of video?

Once everyone was gone, it was time to play Santa! This is what it looked like under and around the tree once we were finished. Holy presents, Santa!

I got absolutely no sleep that night and was woken up at 7:15 by two bouncing children. A couple of pics of them opening their goodies.

Madison got just what she wanted. The Littlest Pet Shop Fitness Center.

And Mikayla adores her Twilight t-shirt.

This is my favorite gift. A heater for me to use outside while blogging! Way to go, Jimmy! I loved the perfume at first (Armani Code), but after wearing it for two days I’ve found it’s way too strong, so will bring it back.

This is what the family room looked like after the gift -opening. I know there's furniture under there somewhere. Oy!

I cleared a bit of it up later in the day, and put all of the girls' joint gifts, and all of Mikayla's gifts in one spot. Oh yeah, Santa really rocked it this year!

I wish Santa would have put some Immodium in my stocking, because about the time I was supposed to be getting ready to go to my brother's house, along came the trots. Yep, lucky me. A mix of IBS, stress and no sleep gave me the poops! So I had to send Jimmy and the girls along, and I stayed home by my lonesome, missing out on all the fun at my brother's house! Waaaaaaaaaa! And with that last delightful thought, I will finally shut the hell up and let you go on your way. Hope all of you had the most wonderful of Christmases!!!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Allow Me To Introduce You...

This is my cousin, Chessie.  Her real name is Francesca, but early on in her childhood everyone had shortened it to either Chessie, or Cheska. To me, she always has been and always will be, Chessie. She’s every inch the typical Ferrara; wide hips, short, pretty, but with an attitude that has no match. At any given moment she can give you a withering glare that will melt your nose hairs. This is part of the reason I love her so!

As a child she was a bratty little thing, no doubt because my aunt Barbara allowed her to be present no matter what the conversation around the table was about. Imagine discussing marital problems, deep, dark family secrets, and your menstrual cycle with a wide-eyed 6 year old listening in the whole time, sipping from her mother’s tea cup.

We all grew up fairly close to one another on that funny looking island of NY called Long Island. As a child I was often called upon to babysit for both Chessie, and her older brother, David. David is a whole ‘nother story of bratty childhood shenanigans, but this is not his story, so I’ll spare you of his tales. But when uncle David and aunt Barbara called me to babysit, I used to jump at the chance. Why? Because uncle David paid very well, and my job was easy. I’d sit and watch TV, and let the kids out to play in the neighborhood. Oftentimes I would even clean the house for my aunt, knowing that she worked full time as a nurse and was stretched pretty thin. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from spending time in their house.

Unfortunately, around 1990, everyone started picking up and moving. My family, including my brother, to Florida, uncle David and aunt Barbara to the beautiful state of Utah, where uncle David would be setting up headquarters for his business. It was fairly devastating to me, because I had such an attachment to my family.

It was usually every other year that the Utah clan (always minus little David though) would hop on a plane and join the rest of us for the Christmas and New Years festivities. Each time I saw my cousin Chessie again she was less the little girl and more the blossoming woman, growing those Ferrara hips to perfection and honing her attitude to a sharp point. But aside from that withering attitude, there was a heart of gold and a love of family and tradition that knew no bounds.

These days Chessie is a 26- year -old married woman with two pussies. Wait. That didn’t sound right, did it? She’s a married woman with two cute cats. One regular pussy. Her and her hubby, Michael, live in Ohio, where Chessie works as a registered nurse in a local hospital. Yep, she’s come a long way, baby. I haven’t actually seen her in about 4 years and I miss her desperately, as I know Jill does also. In recent years uncle David and aunt Barbara haven’t been flying down for Christmas, and it’s just not the same without that branch of the family here to celebrate with us.

But why this post about my beautiful cousin? Well, because I wanted to introduce you to her because… she’s just started her own blog! Yep, she sure has, and I’m so excited about it! She’s a bit timid about the whole blog thing, thinking no one is even going to read it. So I told her I’d grab some of my blogging buddies and lead them to her. I’m like the friggin’ shepherd of lonely blogs, ain’t I?

Her very first post is a good one, if I do say so myself. It’s about Ferrara Florida Christmases past, with lots of pictures included. You may even catch a glimpse of me the year I tried Weight Watchers and lost 52 pounds, resulting in a much more attractive Tiney. If I do say so myself. And I do. There are pictures of Jill with baby Alexa, pictures of baby Madison, and young pictures of Mikayla. What’s not to love in a post like that?

So please, stop by Café Chessie and give her some sweet comment love. She sure will appreciate being put on some blog rolls, and I just bet some of you will turn up on hers. Last night we joked that the whole blog wars thing between Jill and I might become a blog war triangle. Instead of just Jill and I doing our best to embarrass each other, we've now got a third blogger with unknown funky family stories to tell. God knows what Chessie has up her sleeve. I can’t wait to find out!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from the Hard Drive

Hello to all of Tiney's blogging friends! Because she is up to her eyeballs baking delicious confections for her friends and family to enjoy on Christmas Eve, she has asked me, her computer, to let you know she misses all of you, and wishes you the very Merriest of Christmases.

At this very moment she has a white chocolate/whipped cream/peppermint mousse chilling in the refrigerator, to later be layered between amazing fudge cake, and then topped with a semi-sweet ganache. I wish she would have told me what ganache was, because it sure does sound good.

Tiney also has cream puffs in the oven right now, and will later use a pastry bag to fill them with yummy, creamy eggnog pudding, then swirl drips of chocolate over their tops.

Her cheesecake needs to be taken out of the freezer, when she will then whip up some more fresh whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar, and use another pastry bag to decorate the top.

Her cookies are all made, including rainbow petit fours (she wants me to say, DROP DEAD, BECKY, although I have no idea why), over 200 butter nuts, homemade fudge, and Bridget's German Spritz butter cookies.

Tiney's hubby, Jimmy, does all the food preparation for Christmas eve, and while I'm here I'll list for you the things I know he usually makes:

For appetizers:

shrimp cocktail
chips and dips
homemade guacamole
hot white pizza dip
spinach dip in a bread bowl
7-layer Mexican dip
vegetable crudite
crab ball with crackers


Veggies for dinner are brought by guests. Tiney makes mashed potatoes flavored with garlic, sour cream, and cream cheese. Jimmy makes the following:

Shrimp scampi
snow crab legs
spiral ham
eggplant parmesan (although Tiney makes the sauce for this)

I just have to say that I'm glad my owner has me sitting out on the back porch, because it gets mighty scary in the kitchen, even for a lowly laptop. I've heard that my owner has skidded across the kitchen on splattered oil, has had to scrape up gobs of dried-up cookie dough off the floor, and has threatened bodily harm to several individuals using her cookie press.

Anyhoo, my Tiney just wanted me to shout out and say Merry Christmas! Ho Ho Ho!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Flour Up To My Pits!

Yep, I'm completely flour-whelmed, but just had to check in and say hi to all my blogging buddies, and tell you what I've been up to.

So far I've made the most creamy, artery-clogging New York cheesecake that I've been making for quite a few years now every Christmas. If I don't make it I'll never hear the end of it from certain people. This year, instead of a fruit topping, I'm going to make fresh whipped cream, and possibly lightly dust it with red and green sugar sprinkles. Before I baked it, I swirled red and green food coloring into the batter, so if all goes well, when I cut into it, it should look really pretty.

I made quite a large pan of fudge, which I thought I'd screwed up, but Mmm... it tastes fantastic. It's not quite as creamy and gooey as I'd like, but I think I may have gone a tad over the soft-ball stage, which would explain it.

I made the layers for my famous Peppermint Fudge triple layer cake, and as happens every year, only half of each layer actually comes out of the pan. Must remember to line the pans with wax paper next year. These deliciously spongy, moist fudgy layers will be topped by fresh whipped cream, flavored with crushed up peppermint candies and white chocolate. The final step is to make a semi-sweet chocolate ganache, and pour over the top. Oh, this cake is sublime. I just wish I could eat it! But once again, if I don't make it, my very life is threatened, this time from Jill.

At this moment, I have my petit fours coated in chocolate and flash-freezing before I cut them into pretty little squares. Its' the most simple, easy recipe, but a bit of a bugger to get all together.

In a few minutes I think I'll start a triple batch of butter nut cookies. Have you ever had these? They're little, very dry, but melt-in-your-mouth balls (heeheehee... I said balls), with chopped hazelnuts, and coated in powdered sugar. Oh my, they are so good!

Still on the list to make: Bridget's German Spritz butter cookies with a peppermint filling. Oh my, they look so good, but I hate making cookies with a press. Talk about a pain in the ass! I'm also going to make cream puffs, and fill them with an eggnog pudding. Sounds yummy, right?

Hopefully between now and Christmas Eve I'll find the time and the inclination to take pictures of all my confections. All I can say is, thank goodness for my big-ass Kitchen Aid mixer, or none of this crap would be getting done. Well, I must leave you now and return to my baking duties. Dust the flour off your hands before you leave, and hey, Shelia! Don't think I didn't see you walk off with a handful of fudge!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Get Comfy People, 'Cause The Sisters Take On St. Augustine!

You think my weekend adventures ended with putting up the Christmas tree Friday night? Oh no, Jill was staying the entire weekend and we had things to do, people to see, parties to attend, and cities to terrorize.

Early Saturday, Jill and I drove Alexa and Madison to a drop-off point... the girls were going to see The Nutcracker with Madison's brownie troop! How fun is that? Anyway, as we're driving, Jill starts talking to Mikayla:
Jill: Hey Mikayla, isn't this where your dad brought you to take pictures?
Mikayla: Silence
Jill: Mikayla! I asked you a question!
Me: Uh Jill? Mikayla is NOT in the car with us!
Yep, we started our day off on the right foot, as usual.

When the girls returned from their adventure, it was time to attend our community's annual Christmas party up at the amenities center. Santa was there, and looking mighty fake and dapper, and they even had teenagers doing face painting. Mikayla got a wreath (don't even ask me why she's wearing red lipstick... ask her aunt!) and Madison got the coolest panda!

Jill and the girls took a quick and crazy ride on a "train" around the parking lot, and Alexa and Madison had a great time playing in the huge bouncy house/slide thingamajig. Then it was time for the real trolley ride around the neighborhood to look at everyone's lights. Well, that's what we thought the ride was about. It turns out it was more like a taxi to drop off and pick people up at various stops throughout the neighborhood. The funniest thing is that the driver was going so fast (definitely over the 25 mph speed limit) that we couldn't even enjoy the lights, because they were flying by so quickly. It was like watching a light show on hallucinogens. Kinda like this.

And did I mention it was cold? Well, not freeze -your- nipples- off cold, but it was only 50 degrees and in Florida, 50 feels like 30 because of the humidity. Add in moving at the speed of light on an open trolley and you've got the makings for icicles up your nose. I think I may have lost one of my nipples on that ride but it grew back the next day.

As soon as we got home from that event, it was time for me to get ready for a Christmas party at our friends, John and Tracey's house. You may remember them from this post, although I had to remove the very best picture from it. Jill got to stay home with all the girls and do crafts. Heeheehee! Anyway, we got there near 8:30 and their house was packed to the gills with happy, jolly, festiveness. Nearly everyone brought a dish or alcohol, so needless to say, neither were in short supply. Although I do not partake of spirits, I can honestly say every food I tried was wonderful. Oh wait, I lied. I did try an itty bitty bit of homemade sangria. Yum!

I'd guesstimate that there were at least 40 people there, if not more, and I had a fabulous time with neighbor friends, and meeting new neighbors I've never clapped eyes on. We seem to have a lot of recluses (myself certainly included) around here. You see their dogs, but not the dogs' humans.

You may have noticed a set of burgeoning boobies in that collage, and I'll just have you know that I did not take that picture! For once I am totally innocent of wrong- and lude- doing! I went out in the screenroom to visit, and this strange chick was playing with my camera! When I asked her about it she handed it over with a giggle. I turned it on, and there were here BOOBS! She then introduced herself as Jami, and we became fast friends. Hell, anyone with the guts to photograph their own hooters is primo in my book. I did tell her to delete it or it might just accidentally purposely wind up on my blog. She said, "Go ahead! It won't bother me!" Ya think I should have gotten that in writing?

Alcohol was flowing, inhibitions were down, and some of the excessively drunk braver party-goers decided it was time to dance. Here's a short video clip of Grisel, Michelle, and a new guy I met, Steve. Unfortunately, the picture and sound quality sucks. You can't even hear the music, which was Styx singing Mr. Roboto. Oh yeah, takes ya back, doesn't it? Larry is in the background, just waiting around for John to get the i-pod up and running so he could do his Cher routine. Luckily, I left before this came to fruition. Scary!

Fast forward to Sunday. You didn't think I'd let you off this easy, did ya? Jill and I decided that we needed some retail therapy, so we planned a trip to the flea market, the outlet mall, and then downtown St. Augustine for some historic Christmas atmosphere.

I decided this day required really tacky and bright eye makeup to get me in a festive mood.

We left Alexa and Madison home with Jimmy (evil laugh), and loaded Gianna and Mikayla in the car with us. I don't drive out of my comfort zone, so Jill was behind the wheel of my very spiffy SUV. Problem is, she's used to the gear shift in her van, which is located near the steering wheel. My shift is in between the front seats. So every time she switched gears, she turned on the windshield wipers and the washers! We laughed on and off the entire day because of this. I mean, she literally did this at least 20-25 times throughout our 7 hours of shopping.

Our first mishap was while driving down i-95 at 70 MPH. Remember those cute antlers I had on my truck? Well, Jill, for reasons unknown to me, opened Poopy Pants' window and one of my antlers went flying off the car, never to be found again! But would you believe Jill actually offered to "turn around" and go find it? "Uh, hello! We're on a highway ya doofus! How are you going to turn around??? And don't ya think Rudolf's ear has been squashed by now?" So for the rest of the day we drove around with an SUV that resembled Vincent Van Gogh. Pisser.

Okay, it was the most shit-filled flea market I've ever seen, so we didn't stay too long.

The outlet mall was nice, but the only thing I bought was a tube of body lotion from Bath and Body Works. Mmmm... Vanilla Bean Noel. OMG, it smells sooooooo good!
Here's Jill and Mikayla swinging Gianna through the parking lot.

Now we've arrived in downtown St. Augustine, after going round and round in circles trying to find some free parking. Hey, here's a free place! But oops, if you park here you get yourself towed, 'cause it's only for city employees. But, they did have a great pile of just-cut bamboo and Madison loves anything panda related. So what does Jill do? She jumps out of the car, finds a huge piece of it and shoves it in my car. Great, now I've got bamboo leaves sitting on my head.

Did you know that St. Augustine is our country's very oldest city? And that it is known to be one of the most haunted? This next picture is St. George St. Most of these buildings are original and the country's oldest one-room wood schoolhouse still stands there. The Christmas shop, that just recently closed down was used as a mortuary way back in the day, and the picture window in the front was used to display the bodies so passersby could pay their respects.

This guy looks he might be original to St. George St. too, don't ya think?

Gianna thought this would be a nice time to lay down on the sidewalk and take a little rest. Usually this is accompanied by screams of "Hewp me! Hewp me!"

We had a yummy lunch at a little outdoor cafe.

Here's Jill on the phone with Mark, discussing the menu items. Hey, no husbands allowed today! Do you see the bitch face she is pulling on me?

We even walked up to the very old Spanish fort.

Here we are, sitting on a huge canon.

Okay, so I was going to try and do a sexy laying down pose, but have you ever tried balancing on a canon? I would have rolled right off!

It had been a long day, but we really wanted to stay until it got dark enough for the Christmas lights to come on. We walked down the main street near the water to see all the horses and carriages lined up waiting for fares to tour the city.

Ah, horsey love. And yes, I do realize I look stoned!

Remember I mentioned this being a very haunted city? Well, look at the mist in this picture.
Drop dead, Becky! LOL

But not in this one...

It was a very long, and very tiring day, and we must have walked at least 7 miles throughout. But I tell ya what. I was one happy camper, hanging with the bestest sister in the world and two of my favorite little girls. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend. Don't you agree?