Archive for December, 2010

We had a very merry little Christmas this year. The living room is still in a delightful disarray, full of tissue paper, boxes and opened gifts. And the kitchen, oh my gosh…the kitchen counters are still over stocked with Panettone, red & green m&ms, nuts, chocolate Santas, cranberry bread, holiday cookies and one sorry looking oversized gingerbread man who is now lacking a leg and arm and most of his lower torso.

Christmas eve Francesca and I made our traditional clam chowder, quische and foccacia for our Christmas eve dinner. Grandpa and Francesca set off for the Children’s mass and when they returned we said our blessings, popped our crackers and dug into our evening meal. Later we read the Christmas story in the Bible and had a Quaker moment of silence to contemplate the season and reflect upon the joy of being all together. Santa came later that night and filled our stockings and magically placed gifts beneath our tree. In the morning we descended around 9am (a definite sign that the kids are getting older and not waking us up at the crack of dawn) to a warm kitchen, where carols were crooning over the radio, to open our overflowing stockings. The dog was doing back flips when he realized Santa had brought him new dog treats and a new Christmas duck (which sadly was demolished within the hour!) Into the living room we then adjourned to open all the gifts under the tree. In our family’s tradition we opened gifts one at a time. Usually we start with the youngest and proceed to the oldest, but this year Ryan decided we should start with the order of who got out of bed first! There were scarves and scooters and books galore. So many thoughtful presents, some purchased and some hand made. We voted Francesca’s gift to Pat as the best gift of all! She created and recorded a language learning CD for Pat to help him learn Italian with personalized and very useful phrases like, “Francesca is the best Italian daughter ever” and “My wife is an amazing woman”. After all the gifts had been opened, the Christmas turkey was safely in the oven and after we spoke with Francesa’s family in Puglia on Skype, we sprawled out in the living room to watch Casablanca and take well deserved naps. Later we dined on roast turkey and all the usual holiday fixings and toasted another wonderful Christmas day!



Read Full Post »

Four days until Christmas

Winter break is here and Christmas is but four days away! On Friday the kids were let out of school  and on Saturday the school play had its final curtain call. Francesca is free of the theater, Michael can throw his pre-cal book into a corner and Kyle can play video games again to his heart’s content (or so he thinks)! Ryan is home again for the holidays and Grandpa Jack has arrived from Chicago. Our house is full and bursting with good cheer and we are doing the jingle bell rock morning, noon and night.

Friday we took a ride on the Christmas train through the Niles canyon. The train, bedecked in lights and ornaments rambled through the California hills, while its festive riders donned holiday hats & reindeer antlers to sing traditional American Christmas carols as they merrily rolled along. This year, despite a drizzle of rain that turned into a heavy down pour, our spirits were not dampened. We drank rum toddies & hot chocolates, munched on holiday treats and visited with Santa & Mrs. Claus (who graced us with an early visit).

Sunday saw the house particularly full and bursting at the seems when we hosted our annual Muldoon holiday party. It was a collaborative familial effort to get the house ready and Michael spent an extra couple of hours creating an amazing light display in the back yard, complete with a blue river of lights that cascaded down the hill. Guests began arriving around 6pm and the last ones departed around 2:30 in the morning! We are truly blessed with amazing friends and as always had a fantastic time celebrating the season together with them. And, oh my goodness, what a spread of food we had! Can my friends can cook or what! All that is, except for one (and you know who you are) who brought a plate of Hostess Ho Ho’s and Ding Dongs. (If not for your very festive plaid holiday pants Tom, I would have sent you home!)

The kids had a great time as well. By the end of the evening Francesca and her girlfriends, Sarah and Emily, decided they didn’t want the party to end and requested a sleep over. When Kyle and his friend Anthony, got wind of that they also requested a sleep over. So, the party continued well into the evening for some, while the rest of us gladly turned to our bed’s for a long winter’s rest!

On the agenda for the rest of the week: movie dates, poker parties, an English tea, Italian lessons, more cookie baking & shopping for the Christmas turkey and fixings…and of course, last minute Christmas shopping! Lot’s of secrets are being kept & packages are arriving daily from Italy and other far flung parts of the United States. Spirits are high, as we count the days until Christmas eve.

Read Full Post »

It’s beginning to look more and more like Christmas around here! Holiday baking was initiated and we did a pretty good job of tackling this feat despite working with a bag of flour gone bad! Half the batches turned out great while the rest remained hard little bullets. After a few tears and threats to start new holiday traditions by running out to Safeway to buy store bought cookies, we came to the conclusion that the generic brand of flour was the culprit leading to the less than spectacular results expected. I have been doing this for 25 years, and I have to say every year depending on the temperature, humidity and my level of determination, I come up with varying results. But this was just plain weird! Pat heading up the reindeer rescue squad ran out and returned with new bags of Pillsbury flour saving Christmas and my nerves and so, yes Virginia! there will be homemade cookies galore again this year filling the pantry and the Muldoon freezer once again!

I have to say it was rather excellent to have Francesca in the kitchen with me to lend some solidarity and share in this exhausting holiday tradition. For a change it was nice to have someone actually rolling, mixing and measuring rather than just swinging through the kitchen and grabbing handfuls of freshly baked cookies on their way to out the door. Between the two of us we cranked out six, count’em six loaves of cranberry bread, a couple of batches of molasses cookies, sugar cookies and the ever popular Double Chocolate Delights…more or less our version of a homemade oreo cookie with mint icing.

We started out the week on a high note with the annual Irvington Holiday concert in Valla Halla. Francesca donned her elegant black choir dress and belted out Christmas carols with the rest of the choir students. Quite a nice little show! By midweek however, our spirits were a bit dampened when we received sad news of the death of a friend. Ryan came home to mourn his close buddy, classmate and swim comrade, then returned to Chico to prepare for finals.

We missed Kyle through out all this as he was off winter camping with the boyscouts. From all accounts he is becoming quite the little scout leader and most adept at ad-libbing skits around the campfire. We trudged on through the weekend trying to brighten spirits. Francesca performed two more “Christmas Carol” shows and Pat and I snuck off for an evening at the San Jose Rep Theater to see “Backwards in High Heels” the story of Ginger Rogers, which turned out to be one of the best things we have seen at the rep all year.

Saturday evening, Michael and Casey gussied themselves up for the Irvington Winter Ball, while Francesca opted to lay in for a long winter’s night, enjoying having the house all to herself, to eat bon bons and to watch movies on the tube. With her hectic play schedule, that girl deserved a break and some down time! Pat and I attended a holiday party at the Mitchell’s where we do an annual gag gift/steal/gift exchange. Luckily this year, I was able to regift the atrocious rubber chicken I came away with last year and snagged instead a pig that shoots foam rubber poppers out of its nose. Lovely! Sunday night saw us all dragging a bit, but we rallied, donning more festive attire and went next door where we celebrated the season with our neighbors and enjoyed the lovely spread of Indian food that Ritu cooked up for all her guests.

As you might have guessed we hit the sack Sunday night exhausted from our weekend, but thankfully woke up fresh and restored and ready to start another week. With only 5 days until the kids are out of school and only 12 shopping days left…these holiday elves need to stay up and at ’em!

Read Full Post »

We are crashing into December and the festivities, decorating and merry making have commenced. Thanksgiving is but a distant memory now. Seems that we had barely polished off the turkey and washed up all the dishes and the roasting pans, when it was time to start decking the halls and digging out our Christmas sweaters and all those classic holiday movies again.

Francesca has been intensely involved in play rehearsals and has rarely been seen around the house of late. All last week she lived at the theater as the troupe put the polishing touches on the Irvington Conservatory Theater’s production of Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol“. The show opened last Thursday night and Francesca is terrific! As it turns out, in her role as the strict and sometimes heartless school master, she was the one indeed to teach Master Scrooge how to say “Bah Humbug” and to plant the seeds and chart his course of miserly cynicism. But, despite her despotic and cruel ways (dare I say it, she is just a tad scary when she raises her voice & bangs her ruler on the floor to command attention) she does look divine in her costume! She has mastered her lines and delivers them with great aplomb and with her enganging European accent she carries off her character quite well. What a delight for her to finish her first performance and after the show be greeted by audience members seeking out the cast and crew for autographs! We are very proud of our girl! One show down only 18 more to go!

The house has definitely taken on the “chestnut roasting by the fireside” cozy kind of look with all our festive trappings in place. The banister now sports a garland with lights, the tree has been hoisted and loaded down with every single handmade & store bought ornament that we have collected over the last twenty-five years. If you squint you can actual see some green branches underneath the jumbled without-rhyme-or -reason decorating scheme we have got going on. Rather than an elegant themed tree, i.e., all silver, gossimer fairys and angels or shiny red bows, we instead opt out for the mishmash of “Thomas the Tank Engine-Snoopy-&-golf ball” ornament look and that seems to suit us just fine, thank you very much! We had a fun Sunday morning baking cinnamon rolls and humming along to holiday carols as the boys and Francesca, still tousled haired from sleeping in on a Sunday morning, helped to decorate the tree all together as a family.

Next week…stand back because the holiday baking commences. Stamp licking and holiday card stuffing will be completed, and hopefully Santa’s elf (aka, me Melissa) will be well into the wrapping and mailing of gifts and packages. Through all of this websites are still being built, Detour bars are being sold, Quest projects are being worked on, Eagle scout projects are hammered out, plays are being act in and blogs are being written! It may be Christmas, but the Muldoons continue to carry on as per usual! But, don’t be fooled, we are all definitely counting down the days until Santa’s big appearance on the 24th! Ho Ho ho…..

Read Full Post »