O is for Only in America – a-to-z blog challenge

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I may have expressed a fondness for the Mo Rocca show on the Cooking Channel “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”.  I love it – beyond love.  It is a look at the grandparents who came to this country from foreign lands, bringing with them the recipes from generations of Irish grandmoms, Italian grandmoms, Jewish and Russian grandmoms.

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I am always touched by this show.  I am smiling, thinking of my own grandmothers and their recipes.  Both of them were Irish, and while there weren’t elaborate meals, there was stick to your ribs soups and stews, Irish soda bread, pudding cakes – everything made with the love of generations.

This past weekend, the grandmom came from Thailand.  She grew up in poverty, but came to this country filled with hope, optimism, and a determination for a better life.

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And when Mo asked her, all these many years and American experiences later, what she thought when she came to this country, her face lightened and brightened.  A smile poured across her face like maple syrup over pancakes – slow and sweet.  And with the joy of a thousand Christmases, she exclaimed, “It was WONDERFUL here!”

And you know she still believes it; it IS wonderful here – you could read it in her happy eyes and joyous face.  Most of us will never know or never experience the things that some of our grandparents knew and lived through.  We will never know hunger so great or poverty so desperate or intolerance for beliefs so oppressive.  But we can know how much it meant for our grandparents to get here, find a better life, and hold onto the traditions and the foods that will help us remember where our lives – our histories – began.

I love this show – one that could only have been made here in America.

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath, Part 1

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Well, for those of you who have been dedicated blog readers – back in the day when I posted once a year – you know that I always post a Christmas party wrap up.  I do this for two reasons.  The first reason is to remind me next November when I start thinking about hosting the Christmas party that I said 17,000 times the year before “I am NEVER doing this again!”  The second reason is because I have Mommy brain, which, as you know, not only causes you to forget your own name sometimes, but also causes you to forget painful things like childbirth and planning a Christmas party.

Next year, when I’ve forgotten how grueling putting this party together has been, I’d like to be reminded what I did that worked and what I did that flopped.  So here is part one of my party recap.

Invitations – I sent almost all electronic invitations this year, and I loved them.  The feedback I got was almost entirely positive, so it’s not something I’d scratch off the list next year.  I did find out there were a few people who had trouble opening the invitations, so I apologize for that.  I may just post the invitation here on my blog.  You’re all invited next year.  Oh wait, I am NEVER doing this again 17,001.

Clean Up and Preparation – Bless my lazy arsed husband.  When I told him that between the kids, my classes, scouts, cheer leading, drama, dance, and him, there was no way I’d be able to clean the house to get ready for the party without his help.  His answer to that was to bring in a housekeeper the day before the party to help me get things ready.  She was a lifesaver.  While she was scrubbing toilets and wiping down windows, I was roasting a turkey and making deviled eggs.  Everything ran a bit more smoothly without the worry of a last minute, Flight of the Bumble Bee style clean up looming over my head.

Layout – The Florida room, which, ironically, is the coldest room in our house during the winter, is the “bar”.  We set up a table, put out beer, wine, sodas, and pitchers of iced tea, occasionally do a punch or an egg nog (not this year), and sometimes some stuff to mix drinks.  This year, it was brutally cold outside, but because of all the cooking, it was comfortable in the Florida room.  The drinks stayed cold, the ice didn’t melt as quickly, but I did notice not too many people gravitated out there this year.  Maybe because we had a smaller party (50 guests)?  I don’t know, but I’d probably leave the drinks out there next year.  If I was doing this again next year, which, as you know, I am not (17,002).

Downstairs was the table of snack type foods.  There were chips and dips and cheese and things.  I am truly surprised at how much of this I ended up getting rid of at the end of the night.  Not sure this is a good spot for this or not.

We always set up a table in the kitchen with desserts, and it seems to be a good – but not great – spot.  There’s always a gang of people in the kitchen – maybe people who don’t want a plate of dessert, but will stand and nibble on cookies.  I can’t think where else this table might go, but I’m not sure having it in the kitchen is the best place.

The dining room table is always real food, but over the years, it has become a mix of real foods, snacks, side dishes.  I think this needs to be reworked, also 🙁

Stay tuned for part 2, where I tell you how people criticized my cooking in the most polite way – by not eating it!