merry new year!...

It was a bummer that we didn't get to go to Florida this year, but our friends were very thoughtful and remembered us by sending a box of tangerines and oranges!!!

Bill receiving a "Crepe Facial"
I was really looking forward to the holidays this year because we were going to have a full house; my sisters, their families, my son and his family and then all of the activities that center around them.

Justin arrived on the 19th after being delayed a day out of Fayetteville, NC.  I was at my very first ever Cookie Exchange at my friend and co-worker Diana's place when his plane landed.  Sam was itching to pick him up on her own anyway, so it ended up working out for both of us.

Back to the Cookie was really cool to hang out for a while and then be able to take all these cookies home with you.  Several of the ladies put their cookies in really nice packaging and tins.  I used Ziplock bags...

I do have a suggestion for next year (are newbies allowed to give suggestions???), have a list of all the types of cookies there are and make the ladies choose one type; otherwise you end up with several of the same...sugar cookies, which are not my favorite.  Most of the cookies were the same color and from what I learned in High School cooking class, it is not esthetically pleasing to have all the same color on a plate.

Still had to work a couple of days, but they were pretty easy going.  One day we were taken out by our Chrysler co-worker to the Moose Preserve and the next day we had our Penske Holiday Dessert which featured Coldstone Creamery and a $50 gift card to Meijer!  All very nice.

We've gotten to see Miss Peyton a lot during this time.  She even spent the night a couple of nights, but then had a really bad evening where she cried horribly so I guess the consensus was that she was afraid and didn't know where she was, so she hasn't slept here since.  Makes me sad but it's not my call.  They still visit.

We spent some time visiting friends during the break.  We went to Sara & Shane's for dinner and an evening of looking at their Africa photos.  They had missed out on Thanksgiving because they were in Africa for their honeymoon.  Shane is a fantastic photographer and the pictures were amazing.  They did a lot of fun things and stayed in some very nice accommodations.  Justin and Sam came with us to their place and enjoyed dinner with us, but left before we got to see the photos.

Christmas Eve, my sister D and her partner Linda arrived at my parents house after driving from NYC/NJ.  We gathered there and visited with them, my oldest brother Marty and his family and my cousin Martine from Belgium.  Had a nice night with appetizers and gave our niece and nephew their gifts, which they promptly ripped open.
Which makes me ponder the question, How do you handle gift exchange, gift opening and what day do you get together with your family?  It used to be the tradition in our family to draw names on Thanksgiving and buy a $40 gift for the adult you picked and then buy for all the kids, until they turned 18.  Everyone would sit around the living room and individually open up their gifts, sometimes starting with the youngest or sometimes the opposite way.  It would take a long time, but it was felt that if you are spending that kind of money, you'd like to see the reaction when your gift is opened.  The only one that disapproved of this is my brother Marty.  A few years back, he and his wife put the kibosh on the drawing of names, since they figured that most people were just exchanging gift cards in the same dollar amount anyway.  Also they don't "do" Christmas with the rest of us.  They do it on Christmas Eve and then head up north to her families cottage, which means that is the only time you can give their kids their gifts AND the kids just rip open the present/envelope without any organization.  Plus the rest of the cousins haven't seen their kids in years.  Can you tell I'm not a fan of these "new" traditions? Anyway, I digress...
Miss Peyton on Christmas morn

Christmas day, D and Linda arrived at our house just in time to watch the gift exchange with Justin, Sam and Peyton.
I know you can't see him, but this is Justin showing off his Camouflage Snuggie

D with the Chinese Food

They stayed for a while and we ordered Chinese from the take-out in town.  We laughed that we were just like all my sisters Jewish friends back in NYC - and of course "A Christmas Story" :D

The next day my sister Terry and her family arrived.  I had organized the house a little so they would be comfortable.  My niece Erin picked "tails" and had to sleep on the air mattress in the basement along with the dogs.  At one point during the holiday, we had the following people staying at the house: Me and Jerome (of course), Terry & Bill, Nick, Erin, her boyfriend Chris, Justin, 2 dogs and 2 cats.
Almost all of the cars; missing Sam's and D & Linda's

A FULL house.  This required 2 air mattresses and the use of a couch, but it worked.  I'm trying to think if that was the most amount of people that we've housed...NOPE!  We had 10 people when Jerome's siblings came in 2008.  So, this was a piece of cake :D
Most of the cousins; missing Sammy Paducha and Jake & Jordan DeYonker
Monday the 27th was our Family Christmas at our parents house.  Talk about a full house!  We had 19 people (including the baby) + 3 dogs!  This was the year of appetizers and we all filled up on them!  Everyone had to hold the baby, we had a nice evening of opening presents and then playing games.  No big drama which was excellent!!!  There were chances that drama could happen, but they were squelched pretty quickly.
In front of The Bavarian Inn Restaurant
D and Linda headed back east the next day and my sister Terry and her family, Jerome and I headed to Frankenmuth for the day.  We ate at the Bavarian Inn...yes, chicken dinner :D  We had other German types of food as well.  We walked around Main Street and I made them stand there and watch the WHOLE ordeal of making fudge.  My niece and nephew who only lived in Michigan for a short while when they were small commented that Michigan seems like a place that is trying to recreate places that never naturally existed there.  Bring Germany to you, bring Greece to you (referring to Greektown).  A little German town in the middle of farmland.  After walking into too many gift shops, my BIL Bill remarked that Kitsch is a German word!

We visited with another set of friends the next day; Lou & Dee.  They live in St. Clair near the Canadian border.  We ate our weight in appetizers and dinner.  They opened us up to Chocolate Wine - YUM!  Exchanged stories of our very similar sons and just had a nice visit.  When they called to invite us Dee asked if there was anything that we couldn't/wouldn't eat - I told her that Jerome doesn't like cold/hard cheese, pickles or spongy white bread (Wonder Bread), so as a joke they made some hors d'oeuvres out of those three ingredients!  Jerome actually took a bite before we couldn't keep it a secret any more.  Good times.

The day after Christmas I had received a message from my niece Erin's boyfriend Chris.  They had plans on meeting in Chicago during this time but it seems as though that fell through.  As a surprise to Erin, Chris asked if he could come to our house and stay for a few days between Christmas and New Year.  Absolutely!  I was the only one to know that he was coming until my sister and fam arrived.  I promptly told my sister and learned that she's got about a 5 minute rule when it comes to secrets.  She told her husband Bill and her son Nick...which was all fine and dandy, but then told my mother.  The next day (the day Chris was to arrive), Terry and Erin went to my our mother's house and my mom asked Erin when her beau was coming.  And when she denied he was coming, my mother persisted.  So, the jig was up, but not completely, we were still going to try to keep the if, when and where a secret.
Greek Town - Monroe Street

So, we headed to Greektown and Mr. Chris met us at Pegasus!  Even though the cat was out of the bag, she was still very surprised and even made a lady in the restaurant cry from the touching scene.
Took a little tour riding the People Mover and then from there we drove to Rochester to view the light show and have some Sander's Ice Cream.  It's a good day when somewhere within it lies ice cream :)

New Year's Eve.  More family stuff at our house.  We made...appetizers!  We had wine and we all stayed up until 1:30am!  Brought in the New Year right!
Nick showing us a few things on his computerized drawing tool.
Most everyone left on Sunday morning, but my sister (and her goggies) remain until this weekend. Actually so does Justin, Sam and Peyton; who will be moving to NC at the end of the week.  However, I can almost wager a guess that they won't stay at our house during the remaining time.  Sad :(

My sister helped me with my Meals on Wheels route yesterday and today I'm back to work.  I am starting to work 4 days a week beginning this week - they believe they have enough work for me to constitute an additional day...we'll see.  I told my boss that if I find myself to be without much to do, I would rather stay home.  So, I'd say this is a trial.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone - I wish you all (and myself!) only the best for this year.


Sara said…
I don't think we'll be doing a cookie exchange again, it didn't go over so well with the hubby. Apparently, he only likes "my cookies" and he didn't touch many of the ones I brought home. Of course you got your usuals, but it was interesting to see what people came up with. For example, someone brought this "cookie" that was 2 ritz crackers with peanut butter in between and covered in chocolate--I wouldn't call it a cookie, but it was good.

I just didn't feel like what you got in return was worth all the effort you put in since you were stuck with a TON of cookies no one wanted.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed your holidays!
Sounds like you had a wonderful time with your family! Glad your son, DIL, and grandbaby could be with you!

We always pick names for J's family... it was okay, but everyone would always just buy each other gift cards -- and what's the point of that? I actually HATE giving gift cards because it doesn't feel as personal or thoughtful to me as a gift that you think someone might love. I also hate shopping off of wish lists b/c I like to buy something that the person might not expect (I always attach a gift receipt, though, in case they hate it). I guess I'm weird like that. This year we made a rule that no one could buy giftcards & it made things so much more fun! I hope we'll do the exchange like that every year! :)
baby sister said…
@Jen, Yeah, I heard a segment on NPR with Mrs. Manners. She said you shouldn't give gift cards because the whole point of giving is to listen and observe throughout the year what the person's interests are - then give an appropriate gift.
Deni said…
You know, some people like to give gifts, some people don't. I like to give them when I don't feel pressured or obligated to give them. To me the whole gift giving at Christmas should really be for the little kids anyway. Otherwise, it becomes the "Festival of Manditory Gift Giving" as far as I am concerned.
baby sister said…
@Deni, Nice to see you on here again :D

I can see and feel your point.
Deni said…
ps I hate that photo of myself and it shows up in a google search, why is that?

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