Saturday, January 24, 2009

Christmas In Buffalo

I know why families were created with all their imperfections. They humanize you. They are made to make you forget yourself occasionally, so that the beautiful balance of life is not destroyed. -- Anais Nin

(Uncle Dan, Mom, Aunt Marcia, Ma, and Aunt Lois)

(Aunt Lois, Mike-cousin, Jack- cousin, Andrea- cousin, Ma, Erin- cousin)

Each year we head to Buffalo for Christmas because my Mom's family, the Baccari's, all live in a suburb of Buffalo. Growing up in close by, I spent most every holiday there and consider it to be one of my homes. After all, home is where your heart and family are located.

(cousins Andrea and Erin)

(cousin Sarah and Mom)

As silly as this may sound to others, we generally fly into Buffalo on Christmas. Because of our odd plans, we have spent Christmas day in the airport several times. The airports are less crowded and the airfare is more reasonable on December 25th. We go to church on the 24th because it seems to be less crowded than the 25th. (I am not actually sure if this is true because this year we had to stand in the foyer to the church gym where Christmas mass was being held.)

(Chris- cousin, Andrea- cousin, Erin- cousin, Mike- cousin, Sarah- cousin, Uncle Jeff, Peter- cousin, Steve- cousin, Shannon- Steve's girlfriend)

After catching up with my Grandma, who we call Ma, we head to my Aunt's house for Christmas dinner. This year we were treated to Ma putting on her Ms. Claus outfit for the family. Her hairdresser made the costume for her so that she could play the roll at a Holiday event. Ma was certainly a hit in her red and white outfit! She looked cute as a button!


(Uncle Dan, Mom, Aunt Marcia, Ma, and Aunt Lois)

Once dinner, dessert, and present opening was finished, the cousins retired to the family room to play "Rock Band" for several hours. We only stopped when my Aunt kicked us out because it was past 1 a.m. and my cousin Nate had to go to work the next day. That was my first time playing Rock Band and I was addicted before the first song over. For some reason, I was the only one who really wanted to sing and I sang 90% of the songs that evening. Since the age of 4, I have wanted to be a singer. Rock Band allows me to live my childhood dream.

(Me and Erin- cousin)

(Uncle Dan, Rosemarie- cousin, and Andrea- cousin)

The rest of the stay was fun because I got to spend time with my cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Ma. We show all of the normal characteristics of a loving Italian family. No one talks in my family, everyone yells all of the time-even when there is not a fight. No one ever goes hungry. When you walk in the door, the first question is "What do you want to eat?" or "Are you hungry?" Refusing can sometimes be an insult to Ma. One of the many ways my family shows love is through cooking and eating food. Someone is always eating and most everything occurs around the kitchen table. Homemade pizzelles and biscotti (also known as "slices") are served in between meals.

(John and Me)

In 1998 we moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and I have missed the interactions with my family. During my childhood and teenage years, we went to Buffalo frequently and I always felt a sense of closeness to my Mom's family. As I wrote earlier, they feel like home to me. I have eight first cousins from my Mom's siblings and they have been like brother's and sister's to me (I have many second cousins that are close as well). The absence of everyone since I have moved has sometimes been harder to deal with than I have admitted.

(Cousins Jack, Mike, and Erin)

(Jerry- family friend, Uncle Jeff, Tony- cousin, and Aunt Lois)

Because my visits are now so infrequent, I cherish each moment that I have with everyone and look for forward to the next visit. Buffalo is a cold and dreary place in the winter, but being with family makes it feel.....just lovely.

(Rosemarie-cousin and Dad)

(Picture of me from 1993 that Ma still has on her fridge. )

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Etsy Store

My whole reason for creating this blog was to promote my Etsy store and for my customers to get to know me. It has taken me while to get products online. I started putting items up in November of 2008 and then put my store on vacation while I traveled for the holidays.

My store is up and running again, but this is not a blog to reveal the grand opening of my store. I am still waiting on the design for my store banner and avatar before I have a grand opening announcement. This is just a note to let you know my store is now open.

My Etsy name is VeggieAmanda and the name of my store is "Newman Improved." My store features all recycled and re purposed products. All of my products are made from vegetarian materials. I will not use suede, leather, silk, or fur in my products. I will try not to use wool, but I do not always know the exact blend of the materials that I use because my materials are recycled.

Please stay tuned to see my grand opening announcement. In the meantime, please feel free to browse around my store and pass it on to others! Thank you for your support and encouragement!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Christmas In Charlotte

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.
~Joyce Brothers

(Sara, Paul, Michael, and Ryan)

John and I were blessed to be able to spend the holiday with his family and mine. In mid-December, we went to Charlotte to see his parents, siblings, and children. We had a wonderful time together (see my post about Monkey Joe's) during our stay. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with John's brother and family. It had been over two years since we had last seen them.
The week was lively with all of our nephews together. It was fun to see Michael, Ryan, and Alex interact and play. Alex affectiontely referred to his cousins as his "buddies." They mostly played with trains, airplanes, and ran around together having fun.

(Julie and Michael)

During our visit, we decided that we should exchange presents since we would not all be together on December 25th for Christmas. We all bought gifts for the nephews and we watched them open up their gifts in order of age. It was fun to see them open each gift and the excitment that followed.

(Michael, Ryan, and Grandad Paul)

Once the kids were finished, we did the adult gift exhange. We decided to draw names only buying one present for each couple, not spending more than $30. We played games and laughed a lot while opening presents. John and I recieved a rosemary bush along with cash. To be funny, John said that we wanted cash, Trader Joe's gift card, or an Oscar award as our gift.

(Warren, Mary Catherine, and Michael)

In addition to opening Christmas presents, we also gave John's parents a gift that encompassed their Birthdays, Mother's, and Father's Day. We bought them a computer and gave it to them by presenting a skit where we spelled out the letters and had them guess the present. I do not have the pictures from our skit, but we had a blast acting the letters out. We all worked as a wonderful team!

(Ma Ma Karon, Pa Pa Ernie, Grandmom Gerry, Andrew, and Julie)

In the Christmas spirit, we also purchased and donated items to needy families in Charlotte. We all agreed that in addidion to giving each other gifts, it was important for us to recognize those in need during the holidays and throughout the year.

(Grandmom Gerry- a.k.a. -"Didums")

The week was so much fun and we are already looking forward to next year! Entire family visits are rare with John's brother being in the military and it is nice when we can all spend time together as a family. They are memories that we will have for a lifetime!

(Ryan, John, Amanda, and Michael)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monkey Joe's In Charlotte

Before the Holidays, we visited John's family in Charlotte. It was a very special occasion as his brother (Paul), wife (Sara), and boys (Ryan and Michael) came back to the states after being stationed in Germany for three years. This was the first time we had all been together since John and I got married in 2005. During this visit, we did all sorts of fun stuff to spend time together. One place we went to had blow up slides called Monkey Joe's.

(Michael's Sweathawk)

(Ryan coming down the slide)

(John, Alex, and me go down a slide)

We had a blast playing on the slides and going through the mazes.
The signs say that adults are only allowed on the blow up slides/mazes with children under 4. We made sure to stick near the Ryan, who is 4, and Alex, who is 3. It was nice to have an excuse to go on the slides. I think the adults had just as much fun as the kids!

(Mary Catherine sliding down to get Alex and John)

(Sara and Alex sliding together)

(Micheal sliding as John, Sara, Alex, and Paul watch)

Who ever came up with this idea is a genius! Admission is charged for kids, but is free for adults. We had hours of fun at Monkey Joe's and worked off the big breakfast that we had at The Flying Biscuit.

(Michael and John Monkeying around)

(Mary Catherine sliding sideways)

(Alex in mid-slide)
I will post pictures from when we exchanged gifts soon. (John in mid-slide. Is he having fun?)

(Andrew and Paul, checking out the action. Only a couple of years until Andrew can slide!)

(Wee! Michael and me slide together)