2005 The Skamarakas Family Year in Review

It is December 31, 2005 at approximately 7:45 PM.  We have done all of our Happy New Year snacking, and everyone is stuffed full.  Eilis is bouncing off the walls, waiting for it to be midnight so she can pop her confetti and streamers and make all the noise she wants.  I think we may tell her at 9 or 10 that it’s midnight and let her have her fun so the rest of us can go to sleep.  There is no midnight party for those of us that may be up at 1 or 2 AM with the baby.

Last year at this time, I was tired too.  Grace had not yet been born, and pregnancy was zapping my energy.  We had eaten our prime rib dinner (which we have switched to tomorrow for this year), we had snacked ourselves silly, and I wasn’t feeling all that great.  Pregnancy always takes a toll on me, and being 40 and pregnant wasn’t making it any easier.  We looked forward, of course, to a happy, healthy baby to be born in May, and we were planning our Christening and Jim’s infant care leave. 

I spent much of the first few months of last year wrapped up in myself.  I switched ob/gyn practices at about 29 weeks due to some concerns with the practice I was in.  My mother and I toured the hospital they expected me to deliver in, and it sent us running as quickly as we could out of there.  I found a wonderful, caring, and concerned practice at Garden State Obstetrics, and I was still being taken care of by the perinatology practice there and Dr. Librizzi.

Sometime in January or February, I stopped to see my dad and Ann.  During our visit, Ann got a phone call.  My dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me he didn’t want to be here anymore.  He told me he didn’t want to live like he was living.  It was all I could do to hold it together, and I started to remind him of all the things he would be able to do once he was walking again.  I talked about cruising and going to see the Grand Canyon.  Ann came in and she heard us talking and she brought up the dialysis cruises that they had talked about before.  I tried to make life seem worth living for my dad, and he quickly turned the subject to something else.  That was the last time he brought up wanting to die to me, and I wish I had paid closer attention to him.

In March, all hell broke loose in terms of my pregnancy.  My blood sugars, despite watching my diet and taking insulin shots 3 or 4 times a day, seemed to be going haywire, and my blood pressure was beginning to creep up.  In mid-March, I spent a day riding around with Megan and Brett, who were thinking of buying a house in NJ.  At one house, I climbed down the stairs to see the lower level, made it back to the main floor, and felt pretty sick.  I decided not to follow them upstairs and managed to catch my breath sitting on the sofa waiting for them.  The next day, Sunday, I went in to get a shower, and ended up having to yell for Jim to come and get me out.  I was completely out of breath, the room was spinning, and I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out.  He helped me to the bedroom, where I got a drink of cold water and lay still a few minutes.  The next day, I had an appointment with the doctor, and the rest is history.  They sent me right to the hospital, where I lay in bed for 3 weeks, and then Gracie was born on April 16th. 

As soon as I could, I took Grace to see my dad, who by that time had been admitted to a nursing home.  He was 65.  Our first visit, he seemed very out of it.  He could barely keep his eyes open, and he had an entirely uneaten lunch on the tray in front of him.  He wasn’t making much sense when he spoke to us, and I could barely keep myself from crying.  We stayed only briefly.

On May 22nd, Grace was baptized.  It was beautiful.  I loved the way Father Newton conducted the service and I will cherish the ceremony the rest of my life.  The last of my babies to be baptized. 

Just about a week later, my father decided he no longer wanted to be alive.  He consulted with his doctors, and he discontinued his dialysis treatments.  10 days later, on June 6th, he was gone.  A part of my heart has been removed and there is an ache there I don’t think will ever heal.  I thought I had gone through pain I would never feel again when my sister Bean died, but here it is, all over again.

Jim took off the month of August, and in June, Brighid graduated from 8th grade.  We had a dinner dance for parents and the graduates at her school that was really lovely, and the father daughter dance, just a week after my own father had died, brought tears to my eyes.  The Mass was nice the night of her graduation, and her grandparents from FL were able to be there to make her day that much more special.

We spent a week in August in Orlando.  That was so nice.  We did the parks, but not too much because of the heat.  We visited with the Andersens and had dinner with Danny and Angela and the kids, who had come down to Orlando as well.  They had a good time and so did we –  I wish we could have spent more time together, but I couldn’t keep the baby out in the heat as long as they could stay out there.

Brighid started high school in September, and after struggling a bit in the beginning, she seems to have gotten the hang of it.  She has a hip injury which has ended her dancing career, but she doesn’t seem to miss it too much.  There is a certain pressure involved with the dancing that she is now relieved of.

And Eilis is learning how to roller skate and do karate, and she is really enjoying drama class.  It’s fun that she looks forward so much to her activities.

That brings us to now.  We had our annual party the week before Christmas and a trip to Disney for me, the girls, and my mom a week before that.  I am glad for the end of the year, happy for the start of the new year, and grateful for the experiences and lessons I gained in the year that exits so that I am better equipped for the year that replaces it. 

To all of you who have taken the time to read this blog – just once or for the whole time I’ve kept it – Happy New Year.  And Thank You.

Christmas Eve 2005

Going into the whole holiday season in a really bad mood and feeling rather depressed, I was not optimistic going into Christmas Eve.  I still had presents to wrap, I still hadn’t gotten the house ready for our Christmas company, and I wasn’t sure how Jim and the family would get along – or even if Jim would decide to go or stay home. 

About 3:30, spinach dip in hand, we headed over to my mom’s.  As always, way too much food!!   I hadn’t eaten much during the day and was starving, so I started nibbling right away.  We had shrimp, chips and pretzels, snack mix, pepperoni and cheese, rolled salami (Eilis loves salami), ham, potato salad, and so much more.

We opened Christmas presents, and we had so much stuff.  The kids are all way too spoiled this Christmas – they got so much stuff it loaded up my whole car.  Eilis even got a bike with training wheels and a helmet.  Brighid got some great clothes, Eilis got a bunch of other toys, and Grace got some beautiful outfits and awesome toys.

We left my mom’s about 7:30, since Meg was getting ready to go to her friend’s house, and we came home in time to sprinkle our reindeer mix.  For those that don’t know, it’s easier for Santa and the reindeer to spot your house if you sprinkle the reindeer mix outside.  You mix plain oatmeal with glitter, and sprinkle it on your walk way or the front lawn.  The reindeer are attracted to the smell of their favorite snack – oatmeal – and the glitter helps them find it. 

Brighid and I went to work wrapping the last of the gifts, and Jim and Eilis and the baby were downstairs.  We finally had Eilis asleep about 10, and Jim and Brighid went to work laying out the gifts.  The tree, as you will see in the pictures in the photo album, was barely visible behind the mountain of gifts!!  

I got a fairly good night’s sleep and was wide awake by the time Gracie woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Party Review 2005

We host a Christmas party each year, and every year, I forget what was a hit food wise and what wasn’t.  This is  a run down of what we had to eat, what we should not have had to eat, and what we might want to add next year.

  • TABLE ONE – The Main Food Table
    • Sliced Roast Beef in Gravy (Misci Catering) in chafing dish
      • Definitely a hit.  We ordered two half pans of it, and went through the whole first pan.  I didn’t put the second pan out because it was late in the day.  We had 20 no-shows at the party, and if they had shown up, the second pan would definitely have been needed.  Unfortunately, I put the second pan in the oven to keep warm, and meant to put it in the freezer after the party.  I shut the oven off, but left the pan of roast beef in the oven overnight.  Now my mouth is watering for a hot roast beef sandwich.
    • Spiral Sliced Ham From Aunt Barbara
      • The ham was delicious, a wonderful surprise, and a beautiful addition to the buffet.  I could have done it much more justice had I displayed it better, but I ended up using the other half of the chafing dish to just sit the ham in.  It didn’t get as much attention as it deserved – although quite a bit of it got eaten.  I think putting it on the chafing dish expedited the drying out process.  Now my mouth is watering for a ham sandwich.  The glaze was SOOOO good.
    • Crockpot Meatballs (our crockpot) in Gravy
      • The meatballs are always a big hit.  This year, I seemed to have more leftover than usual, but less than half of the crockpot was full.  One thing I did differently this year was separate the meatballs and the sausage into two separate crockpots.  The sausage usually adds to the flavor of the meatballs, and I like the way that tastes together.  I separated them this year for two reasons.  The first reason was I didn’t want anyone who didn’t like sausage or didn’t eat sausage for religious reasons to have to worry about it, and the second reason was that I filled the crockpot with meatballs and didn’t have room for the sausage.  Next year, I think I’ll put the sausage and meatballs together, and keep a few meatballs aside to offer to guests that can’t or don’t eat sausage.  I also might make  a point to make sure there is no pork in the meatballs.  I don’t think there is in the ones I bought, but I didn’t check, either.
    • Crockpot (borrowed Mommy’s) Sausage in Gravy
      • I mixed hot and sweet Italian sausage, and it was oh so good.  We ended up with two soup containers of sausage leftover.  Not much to add to this, but again, I will mix them with the meatballs next year. 
    • Crockpot (our crockpot) Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
      • This was the biggest hit.  We had almost no kielbasa leftover.  We got the kielbasa from the Polish Deli in Runnemede, and it was delicious.  I didn’t get to save any from the crockpot, as we were at the bare bones.  Fortunately, I have a little left over in the fridge.  Had those extra 20 shown up, we might have run out of this.  It was smoked kielbasa with light garlic (they have a variety of flavors there, and this was the one my Polish stepfather recommended). 
        • Little note on the crockpots.  I could barely reach them on the table, and I don’t know what to do with the lids.  I have to figure out something better for the next party.
    • Potato Salad (Misci Catering)
      • Pat from Misci split this into two trays so we could put out one at a time – which she did with all the trays.  The tray on the table had only a spoonful of stuff left in it, the other tray was untouched.  Again, had those 20 people come, we would have used the extra tray.  The salad is not as good as the homemade with the bacon and egg in it, but it is a pretty good potato salad.  Next year, I’ll try to make it myself.  If time doesn’t allow, it’s definitely better than supermarket potato salad.
    • Pasta Salad (Misci Catering)
      • I threw away almost a whole tray that was on the table, and still have a whole pan in the fridge.  The salad is good, I just don’t think pasta salad is too popular with people.  It definitely did not add anything to the buffet, and the space it took up would have been better used on something else.
    • Tuna Tarragon Salad (I made from internet recipe)
      • In a word AWFUL.  I love this salad at Sweet Tomatoes in Florida, and tried to find the recipe on the internet.  What I found out was that they don’t give out their recipes.  Well, another woman who LOVES this salad, decided to try to make it on her own, and this was her recipe.  It was no where near the Sweet Tomatoes version and although a few spoonfuls were taken out of the salad, it was nasty.
    • Tossed Salad (Misci Catering)
      • A good salad, plenty of vegetables, good dressing – I had two big helpings of it.  Despite that, it was overshadowed on the buffet by the other foods.  We threw away almost a full tray of what was on the table, and I still have a whole tray in the fridge.  I think we’ll skip the tossed salad next year, or we’ll just do the half tray.
    • Pickle/Olive/Pepper Tray
      • This is what I had on that tray – dill spears; sweet midgets; stuffed green olives; jumbo black olives; pepper shooters; marinated peppers.  When the night was over, I had a whole section of marinated roasted peppers, a few of the black olives, three dill spears, no pepper shooters, a few midgets, and a few green olives.  I made the mistake of not buying pitted black olives, so that may have been why I had those left.  I don’t know if the multi-ethnic mix at the party appreciated the marinated roasted peppers – it’s more of an Italian thing, I think.  Everything else would be a must do on the next pickle tray I put together.  Pepper shooters – bigger jar for less money at Sam’s club.
    • Rolls (DelBuonos)
      • The round rolls all got used except one
      • The long rolls, I cut in half because they were too long.  Cut in half, they weren’t quite long enough.
      • Next year, Jim needs help with the rolls because he said it was hard for him to get 6 dozen rolls alone.
  • FINAL NOTES ON TABLE ONE
    • I forgot to put out the Provolone cheese for the sandwiches
    • We had a lot of Parmesan cheese left over, so the provolone cheese would have been better
    • I put out horseradish mustard and dijon mustard for the kielbasa – the dijon was gone.
    • I forgot to put salt and pepper on the table.  No one asked for it.
  • TABLE TWO – SNACK FOODS
    • Hoagie Dip from an internet recipe
      • Very popular with those who ate it, but not many people tried it.  It was a flavorful dip made from mayo, and hoagie meats (ham, capicola, salami, provolone cheese), and I served it with slices of a crusty Italian bread.  I tagged it with a small tag that said hoagie dip so people would be more encouraged to try it.
    • Spinach Dip from the Knorr’s box
      • Served in a round of pumpernickel bread, this was popular and was almost gone.  I served it with the Toasted varieties of crackers.
    • Onion Dip and Potato Chips
      • Had almost the whole bowl of dip left, no potato chips.  I filled the chips again towards the end of the night, and did throw those away.
    • Chips and Salsa
      • Threw the entire bowl of salsa away and a lot of the chips
    • Deviled Eggs
      • I made 36, we ate 4 before the party, and I had none left over, definitely do these again.
    • Pepperoni and Cheese (Misci Catering)
      • I could have done this myself.  I ordered it thinking I would save time, but really, it’s not that hard to do and I could have picked cheeses we liked better.  They used Swiss, a pepper type cheese, and a cheddar.
    • Mixed nuts from a can
      • We always do these, and there is no reason not to.
    • Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce
      • You just can’t skip these at a party.  Although, we did have some left from the 2 pound bag that  I put out
  • FINAL NOTES ON TABLE TWO
    • Need to move this table so it is more accessible.  Some people didn’t even know we had the table, although as everyone came in, I did direct them to the various buffet stations.  We tried something different by putting this table downstairs to try and break up the crowd a bit, but it was mostly kids downstairs.
  • TABLE THREE – DESSERTS
    • 5 pound cookie tray from Aunt Jo’s Cookies in Haddon Heights – we have about a pound and a half of cookies left, so they were definitely popular.
    • Miniature cheese cakes from Sam’s – we got rid of about half of these.  A whole cake might have been better, but this way, people got to sample different bites in case they weren’t hungry enough for all of them.
    • A delicious cheesecake from Aunt Barbara – Oh my goodness!   It was creamy and delicious and had cherries in it.  This was so good!!
    • A tray of cream cakes from the Acme – An assortment of carrot cake, a chocolate cake, some kind of cake with fruit in the center, and another variety.  This was popular and everyone said delicious.  Picked up at the last minute.
    • A tray of miniature pastries from the Acme – I had only three soggy cannoli left on this platter.  It was filled with chocolate and cheese filled cannoli, cream puffs, and eclairs.  Very popular, and picked up at the last minute.
    • Sliced Fruit from Misci catering – it’s a must have, and usually goes very well.  We had a lot of fruit left this time though, and another whole tray in the fridge.
    • Santa Cake with Reindeer Cupcakes – This got the most comments about how cute it was.  It was pre-made at the Acme, and it had a one layer Santa cake in the center, and was surrounded by both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, frosted with white icing, topped with chocolate Mousse reindeer with pretzel antlers.  Everyone loved it, thought it was an adorable idea, but we ended up with most of the Santa cake left and all but 5 cupcakes.  I don’t know if I would buy it again, although for $13, it was a great centerpiece.
    • Mushroom meringue cookies – made by Donna Masino – these were so adorable and so delicious.  I don’t know why she doesn’t go into business!   These were cinnamon sugar flavored meringue, formed into mushrooms, dipped in chocolate.  SOOO good, and they were really popular.
  • FINAL  NOTES ON TABLE THREE
    • Next year, we might be moving this table downstairs.  Everyone, I think, will seek out desserts.  Part of the problem with the snacks downstairs is no one came down, but for dessert and hot coffee, I think they’ll come.  It’s the Field of Dreams Theory.
  • STATION FOUR – DRINKS
    • First we can’t call it a table, because we scatter the stuff around.  Beer is in the FL room; sodas are in the FL room; alcoholic beverages are on the kitchen counter, and this year, we had a 30 pot coffee maker on the kitchen counter with the alcohol and a 12 pot coffee maker with hot water in it for tea on the dessert table.
    • Beer – Jim took WAY TOO LONG to find holiday beers.  He said it was fun to do, and he would do it again.  Not all of the beer was well received, and I think we should have had some normal beer, but we don’t have leftover beer as we would have if we had a case of Corona as we normally do.
    • Wine – we were gifted with several bottles, and a couple were opened.  We have half bottles of wine left, but I think just to make all of our guests happy, we need to have wine.
    • Sodas – we did Diet and regular Pepsi, and then cases of Acme brand sodas.  People drank the store brands more than the Pepsi, and we ran out of root beer.  We have less than half of the Acme sodas left.  But Jim also didn’t put the Pepsi in the ice bucket.  I think the flavors are popular.
    • Mixed drinks – Not too many people drank those, but my mom and Bob.  It’s still nice to have the liquor shelf, though, if anyone had wanted something.  I might go make myself an amaretto and 7-up right now 😉
  • FINAL NOTES ON STATION FOUR
    • Jim thinks we should get another table to put all of the beverages on out in the FL room.  I think it’s a good idea.  We kept having to fill the ice bucket (which we need a better one of) from ice in the FL room, and it would have been better to have everything in one place.  A separate table might have also encouraged that whole “male bonding” thing that takes place around the booze.  The tubs we bought a few years ago are great for keeping the soda in – easy for the kids to access, keeps things nice and cold.
    • The mixed nuts would go great on the “bar”.

Jim did a quick run to Kmart in the morning and jazzed up the place with new sets of Christmas towels for each bathroom and two large poinsettias for out front.  That looked very nice as people walked up to the front door.  I think everyone had a good time, though we’re not big on entertainment.  There was no Christmas music playing, and it might have been good to have a holiday Karaoke thing going for the kids to sing.  I did notice the movie “Elf” playing in the living room, but none of the kids really paying much attention.  Last year, the guys watched football, so the karaoke thing wouldn’t have worked, but it wasn’t the case this year. 

Get Frosty On The Phone NOW

So my kids are very used to the Christmas television classics – Rudolph, Drummer Boy, and Frosty.  They’ve seen different versions, but we stay pretty faithful to the ones everyone knows.  Frosty has his song – you all know it – and in the song somewhere, they sing “Thumpity Thump Thump, Thumpity Thump Thump”.  It’s Eilis’ favorite part, because she has her father’s knack for remembering song lyrics – meaning, she doesn’t know many, so when you get a line like Thumpity Thump Thump, it’s hard to screw it up. 

We were driving around the other day, listening to Christmas music on the radio (non-stop since early November), and The Ronettes version of Frosty came on.  Eilis was happily singing the words she knew in the back, waiting patiently for the Thumpity Thump Thump line, only to find out with absolute disappointment, that the Ronettes version does not have a Thumpity Thump Thump line.  Oh my.  Did they not know that at some point they would incur the wrath of Eilis?   Did they not realize that there would be born one day into this world a child who’s sole mission in life would be to spot grievous injustices in this world and track down the offenders?

So, from the back of the car, she starts, “They didn’t say Thumpity Thump Thump!!   Mommy, they didn’t say Thumpity Thump Thump.  Mom, I said, they didn’t say Thumpity Thump Thump.”

“No, Eilis,” I calmly reply, “they did not.”

“What’s their phone number?   Can you call them?”

“Who should I call?”

“You should call Frosty.  Or you could call that little girl that plays with him.  Let’s call her.”

“Well, Eilis, she’s not a little girl anymore.  She’s a grown woman, in her 40’s, married and with a different last name that I don’t know.”

“Then call Frosty.”

“I don’t think he has a phone.”

Then she makes that noise that sounds like she is channeling Satan.  Through gritted teeth she says, “Then just get somebody on the phone so I can tell them next time to sing Thumpity Thump Thump.”

“Okay, Eilis.”

So today, riding around in the car, we switch to the other channel that is playing all Christmas music.  Guess what?   They played the RIGHT version – Jimmy Durante with the Thumpity Thump Thump.

I hope she thinks I had something to do with it.  I hate to be on her bad side.