2017 Recap in photos

Hey Everyone

🍾 Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve celebrating with all your loved ones and that you are all prosperous for a happy, healthy 2018! xoxox

For my first post of 2018, I thought to review 2017 with a year-end recap like I used to do, and because right now I am rushing to get my whole family dressed to go to my parents for our first dinner of 2018 together it is an easier option than typing out a recap  haha.

Eating the first dinner of the year together is a tradition. Lots of traditions in this family, but my favorite is eating lentils together on January 1. I am Italian, so of course, if you are also Italian, you know that this is a big tradition as we believe lentils bring luck.

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January 1, 2017- We had the first dinner at our house

That is the first photo of the recap, so let me keep going.  I chose the photos for this recap, but am having WordPress put them in random sizes and order because that is how I roll. Ok so here we gooooOOOOoooo!

Photo Recap of 2017

Came out super cute!!  Great job WordPress!

So I gotta go eat some lentils!

TTYL!

Enjoy!

xoxoxo

Christmas 2017

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white.”

Greetings from a winter wonderland up in Massachusetts!

This Monday we were given a ‘White Christmas’ like those from the movies. We had quite the snowy view out each window as we opened presents by our tree, but as soon as afternoon hit the snow fell softly and the sun immediately shined through the grey skies. It was beautiful. (For the children really, as we adults had to clean that mess up as soon as it ended. Well, my husband had to. Haha)

What a wonderful Christmas this year! We celebrated all weekend with those important to us; from Friday night hosting friends to Saturday night partying to Sunday night at my sister in law’s to Monday together with my family at my sister’s. I hope this is a glimmer of what 2018 will hold for us. Lots of good memories with beautiful people (and amazing gifts haha).

Speaking of gifts!! What an awesome Christmas of giving and sharing this year. I’m a big supporter/advocate of  St. Jude all year round, but those feelings of wanting to do more for those that need it hits me hardest this time of year, and hope you all gave some time or donations too. If not, please look inside yourself to give to a worthy cause; honestly, it doesn’t take much and there are so many who can use your help so the list is long. (And it is a good feeling to do something for someone who needs that help. Between donating time, toys, clothing/housewares or money, giving to a charity can be done in so many ways.)

Outside of philanthropy, I gave some pretty rad gifts this year if I do say so myself. It was so great to see the faces of all my family, especially of my nieces, nephews and godchildren, happy with the gifts their ‘awesome aunt’ gave (you bet your butt I am the awesome one!!). But of course, the best part of talking about all of this is because I can finally talk freely about the girls’ big gift of Christmas and our next planned getaway… A TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD!!! I think I am more excited that I can finally say the word Disney at home without feeling like I am giving clues away, cuz that word comes out of my mouth every day practically.

Ok so the big reveal was fun. After the kids opened their gifts I had them go on a small scavenger hunt to find our Elf on the Shelf. Who didn’t make an appearance all season. Under the tree the kids found a hidden tube of sunscreen with a card attached. The card was from our ‘elf’, which was a hello and a rhyme clue to find her.

Lots of Christmas cheer, but it’s getting hot in here.”

(I didn’t say I was a poet)

As the kids ran everywhere to find her, I quietly grabbed all the Disney themed presents then placed them under the tree.(didya figure out she was in the oven?) That clue led to our Elf holding a big envelope that directed them to the tree to read it (and to find more gifts). It was super fun and they were beyond surprised. Our oldest daughter cried for like an hour over it all. (I got video of them opening the letter, and it is so funny and sweet. I’ll post it later on IG.)

As for receiving gifts… well, I got so many nice gifts; my husband always spoils me from the gift-wrap (Snow White theme this year) to each gift.  Also got spoiled from my parents, sister and my girls, which was super nice. My kids are really thoughtful and in tune with their Mom.  God really did give me a special gift with these two girls in my life.  I am very lucky. 🙂

Here are a few pics of the weekend:

 

And now, we are here.

Our last official week of 2017. Crazy how fa… (No no, I’m not even going to say my catchphrase from the year). Ahem. So ok, where was I? Oh yeah. Ok …as we are celebrating our last week of 2017, I wish you all a peaceful Christmas week, wrapping up with lots of love, laughter and memories…. And hopefully a slower feeling of 2018 passing than usual. Haha.

Xoxo

2017- Christmastime in NYC

Hey Everyone!

Christmas and New Year’s are just days away!  Yay!!  Hey my page has snow again…I love when they do this on wordpress.  :))))))))))

You know what I am about to say, where has this year gone? This has been the fastest year of my life.  I swear we just celebrated Christmas a few months ago, not a year ago! Is this what people mean by “time flies when you are having fun” or is this how fast life really goes?  Because I can remember being a kid and life was so slooooow and boring at times that time never sped up.  <– where’d that go? haha

Ok, here I am on December 21, the house has been decorated since Thanksgiving weekend, which makes me happy, and I have to wrap a few more things before the weekend starts tomorrow.  This weekend is packed with parties and family dinners and gift exchanges, which is always a good time.  I love presents. Not just for myself, but seeing the gifts being opened is always fun.   My kids are going to literally die when they open their gifts Monday morning, I cannot WAIT!  (I’d share with you what they’re getting but my oldest reads my blog now..so..no.)

Also, Hi Ava, I will not spoil the surprises because I love you. 

Speaking of how awesome we are as parents, we surprised the kids this weekend with a weekend in Manhattan! We kept the secret!!   I have been going to NY since I was born, Manhattan since I was a teen and we have been going to NYC for my birthday since my husband graduated college, and started taking the kids with us a few years ago.  They, similar to me, love going on trips, so they were beyond excited (after the shock and sadness of no school set it-yes my oldest was sad to miss school..  not my kid hahah) !  We had such a great time, lucked out with the weather, and like our last trip, we hit some spots with them that we used to frequent before they were born. It was really great to share these experiences with them, and I hope to continue adding on to their adventures in NYC.  Though, maybe next time we can go not on my birthday weekend but in the Spring or early Fall, because I really hate the colder weather!!

Ok well, I have to jet because I’m technically working…   hahaha.

Enjoy!

Happy almost Christmas!

 

Thanksgiving 2017

Gobble gobble!

Hey guys!

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with family and friends.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving again, going on a handful of years now hosting this dinner; which the process is always a lot of fun for me. I look forward to the Wednesday before to prepare the dinner with my mother alone all day.  We have a real good time talking while putting everything together, and crafting new things to try…and she cleans the capon! I hope this is a tradition I can partake in until I am old and gray, well, I won’t ever be gray..maybe blue or purple, maybe pink? hah. Plus, I love to cook, and I love the challenges of putting together a large dinner on my own with all the prepping and different cook times getting it on the table at one time.

This year’s Menu:

Appetizers:

  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Scallops wrapped in bacon
  • Crostini of goat cheese and caramelized zucchini
  • Chilled shrimp cocktail*

Cocktails:

  • Valeria – Lillet white, elderberry syrup, St Germain and Prosecco floater
  • Poinsettia – Prosecco, cranberry vodka and splash of cranberry juice
  • Michael-  caramel apple martini w cider sugar rim

Dinner:

  • Lemon/thyme roasted capon filled with sausage stuffing
  • Roasted potato spears
  • Pumpkin spiced roasted butternut squash
  • Green beans w garlic
  • Roasted Asparagus w lemon
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon glazed with maple syrup
  • Braised fennel w clementine zest
  • Mashed potatoes*

Dessert:

  • Squash pie w homemade whipped cream
  • Chocolate chip brownies
  • Chocolate frosted vanilla cupcakes
  • Cream cheese raspberry puff pastry
  • Italian cookies*
  • Sfingi* (Sicilian type fritter)
  • Blueberry pie*

*=brought by family

—–

The best part of my Thanksgiving wasn’t that my kids behaved, or that my house stayed clean, or that the dinner turned out stellar…it’s that I got to sleep in till 8:30AM. Yes, everyone, my kids gave me a Thanksgiving gift by not running to my bedside early. We are on a roll over here!! Haha. I’m jk jk. Well, sorta, sleeping in is like my favoritest thing ever. Starting your day from bed without being poked at, yelled to, creepily stared at, cried to …is pretty fantastic in my Mommy book. Woohoo give it up to my girls.

FAVORITEST is now a word, yes.

Thanksgiving, all joking aside, turned out to be a real nice day with everyone. From appetizers and cocktails to dinner and desserts, it was smooth going and real delicious …if I can say that about my own food? I have so much to be thankful for this year..so here I am spelling it out.

I am thankful for my health and my families’ health. I am thankful and grateful to have clothes on my back, a nice home with food (and coffee) on the table every day and for our jobs that help us make that happen. I am thankful for my family, my loving and supportive husband, my two smart caring children; for my beautiful parents, wonderful big sisters, caring in-laws and all my friends. And even my cat-baby, Gordon! I am thankful to open my eyes everyday to experience life, and feel that life is good without being extravagant or extra, that the simple things are all I need. I am thankful that I can reflect to appreciate what I have..not what I don’t have and I hope my children see what I see, and how beautiful is this life. 

 

 

Here are pictures of our day!

Another holiday in the books, guys.  I can’t believe how fast 2017 is flying by and I hope 2018 goes a lot  …s l o w e r!  Let’s all hope!

Happy Thanksgiving and we will talk soon!

xoxoxox

Tokyo Day 5- Asakusa Sensoji Temple and Our Last Day

Hello World!

We are on our last day here!

Really loved reliving this trip this week, and drafting this last post is making me sad.  Tokyo is a fabulous place, so unique and we experienced so many things that I will hold in my heart forever.

Tokyo Day 5- Isetan and the Asakusa Sensoji Temple

On this day, our last day, we slept in a tiny bit, till like 8AMish.  We needed the rest after the night before, AND, we needed the rest to get us through traveling back home. We quickly packed up the room, got ourselves ready, said goodbye to our room with the incredible Mount Fuji view and checked out.  As I mentioned in the first post, we hired a car service to take us to and from the airport, today he was scheduled to pick us up at 3PM. So, we had a good chunk of the day to spend in Tokyo.  SCORE!!

We decided to go grab some breakfast at Isetan a few blocks away.  They’re the largest and best Tokyo department store, and their food bizarre level is crazy insane!  I saw things (and bought things for family) I never had seen anywhere else in my life.  I am still floored thinking about all the prestigious foods and knowledge I acquired from that area.  My husband surprised me with taking our breakfast up to their rooftop deck, open to eat and relax.  Wow, what a stunning place!  They had a large grassy park flanked by a small shrine and vending machines of course with an incredible view of the city. Definitely recommend this quiet sweet spot.

After chilling roof top, we walked around the city to find some souvenirs for the girls before hitting up one last attraction, the Asakusa Sensoji Temple.  Man, souvenir shopping was the hardest part of the trip.  Oddly, though the Sanrio stores there were big, the sections in toy stores back home were better than their specialty shops in Tokyo.  Surprised?  Me, too.  But I was not freaking out because we still had shopping in Asakusa and the airport.  The airport, by the way, is the best spot to shop for any type of souvenir you are looking for; I scored for the kids there big time!

Finally, we made our way by taxi to Asakusa; it’s about a thirty minute drive.  I am so glad we didn’t opt for a train like we did back in 2004.  We ended up seeing a totally different side to Tokyo driving from Shinjuku to Asakusa, like real life.  Working class people.  Their homes.  Their parks.  Their stores.  No flash.  No lights.  Not a thousand people hoarding around.  Real life.

The Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo, and was one of my most memorable stops thirteen years ago. A lot of people visit this place, from all over the world.  It looked the same, except there were about 50% more people in the area than I remembered.  But it could be because it was a weekend, I don’t know.  Tokyo seemed flooded with more people than I remembered before in general. The experience, with so many people, was different.  Not bad, just different.  The gates to the Temple are a colorful wonder, with a giant lantern in the middle flanked by two intimidating statues that open to the grounds market.  This place is so great, and the shopping was a lot of fun, grabbed a lot of Japanese souvenirs for the girls here.

The Temple itself is at the end of the market; it was so crowded we didn’t actually have that type of time to wait in the line to go in after walking through the market. I did go inside in 2004, so this time I walked up to the large incense burner right out front where a mass amount of people were there lighting large incense sticks they were buying along the building.  I gently wafted some of the incensed smokey air over to my body, from head to toe I pushed the air around me for a blessing.

Now my trip to Japan was complete.  🙂

We left the Temple to find a taxi, well, first we stopped for coffee then hailed a taxi back to the hotel.  I never mentioned this before, but my husband never drank coffee till last year, and I really love having a coffee drinking partner in crime everywhere I go now!  haha  It’s the little things people.

We got to the hotel just with two minutes to spare!  The driver was there waiting for us, so we grabbed our bags from the Bell Hop to hit the road.  The drive back to the airport was great.  Saw all the fun spots we visited in 2004, and those sights we couldn’t make this trip. Like the tower and of course the big one for me, Tokyo Disney. I saw it on the way in but didn’t want to mention it.  You guys have no idea how much I am still bummed I didn’t make it, because we were staying at an affiliated hotel that had direct bus service, so I literally had planned out a whole day to go for when I was alone while my husband was at work that day.  Up till three weeks before we left I had these plans,  then everyone made me realize how sad that would be for me, no one to share the day with, and riding rides alone…it sounded super lame without anyone else, so changed it to what I did. Which ended up being a lot nicer on my own and was invited out with everyone that night unexpectedly for dinner.  Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I went to Disney and something that ended up being LESS depressing!  haha

Anyways, I am not bashing it, but Tokyo Disney from the highway above looked real small, sort of like Disneyland shrunk down. The entrance was right near the highway and I saw Cinderella’s castle, which was small.  I think smaller than Disneyland’s!! They had a gorgeous hotel next to it, and it was more beautiful than the castle..so.  Also, by the ads on the hotel TV, not what I researched online, it looked more like an amusement park near my house, Canobie Lake, with Disney themes, than a Disney theme park.  I was reminded many times I made the right choice.

Ok, so back to this day…  We had an extremely nice, comfortable ride and got to the airport in 1.5 hours.  We checked in, grabbed some food for the ride and gift shopped some more, then boarded our flight at 6:10PM Sunday.  We landed in Boston at 4:54PM Sunday.  We grabbed a car home, and we arrived to a wonderful reception of family waiting at the house.  The girls went bat shit crazy seeing us, crying and laughing, and I swear held onto me for a half hour straight!  I wasn’t letting go so.  haha

 

This was an amazing trip!  Every day I learned or was experiencing something new, and that was exciting.  Tokyo is an exciting city, with so much history, tradition, yet so modern and forward, the art, the buzzing crowds, and so many wonderful things to see!  I really didn’t expect to go back to Japan, and I am so grateful I had this opportunity again to visit such a beautiful country.

Thanks for reading along!  Till next time!

xoxoxox

 

To read about the whole trip:

Day 1– Traveling to Tokyo

Day 2– Tsujiki Nippon Fish Market/Taito City

Day 3– Shibuya / Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Day 4– Harajuku / Meiji Jingu Shrine

 

 

 

Tokyo Day 4- Harajuku, the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

Hello friends!

We are steaming along now..onto day 4!  We had been in Tokyo for four days so far yet it felt like we just landed.  We stayed in Tokyo for 5 days total, and we basically ventured in just one ward.  There is so much to do and see that I don’t honestly know how much time is enough to see all of Tokyo.  In 2004, we stayed at two hotels in two districts of Tokyo, but we also ventured out of the city for a day Nikko and Fukushima for an overnight.

I guess we just need to keep going back!  🙂

 

Day 4- Harajuku, Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

We started first thing with a train ride from Shinjuku station to Harajuku.  We decided to grab breakfast, crepes, and walk around.  The district is so unusual, this is the most eclectic part of the city for certain.  We saw a whole bunch of fun things right off the bat leaving the train station like the cat, hedgehog and owl cafes, local shops, exaggerated foods, their famed toy stores, then hundreds of people lined up to enter stores that only allowed a few people inside at a time, some lolita and goth girls (which I would totally be a lolita girl if I lived in Harajuku), traditionally dressed women and children, businessmen, and just all the people walking around.

The first stops I was pressed to visit were for my children.  Our girls don’t ask for much, but they really wanted some Japanese character toys, so I wanted to make sure to find some for them.  We stopped first at Line Friends store, which was adorable as all heck.  I definitely was giddy like a child going through.  The first floor was all accessories and housewares, then downstairs it continued to the back where there was a huge space dedicated to Brown Bear’s room to take photos to post on InstaGram!  It was such a large space where people were loving it. We indulged too even though we had NO clue who the characters were from this show.  I didn’t find anything for the kids, so we moved on to Kiddieland.  Kiddieland is the coolest store ever.  EVER. It’s four floors of toys and toys, from Japanes brands like Sanrio to US brands like Marvel to obscure brands.  I had a blast going through the store, and found our youngest a Pusheen mermaid she was vying.

After all this toy hunting, we decided to hit up Takeshita Street.  The heart of Harajuku shopping and people watching; AND MY LORD THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE.  The street was flanked on each side with accessories/clothing shops, candy shops, and toy shops, but between it was wall-to-wall people walking up the street. It was so much fun.  But we have fun doing anything.  We spent about an hour or two here going through all the shops, then we needed a good break.  Off to coffee we went!  After a small rest, we headed to the Meiji Shrine a few blocks away.

The Meiji Shrine is absolutely beautiful.  The shrine’s gates were so large and impressive, that I felt like I was transported to a different time. It also helped that on the weekends people head to the shrines dressed in traditional kimonos or yukatas on their birthdays. Seeing the beautiful children all dressed up with their hair primped just to walk around and play in the paths.  So colorful and beautiful.  One little girl, who was dressed up, loved playing peekaboo with me.  I tried to get a photo of her because she had the most infectious laugh and sweet smile, I didn’t want to forget her.

Oh speaking of beautiful sights, we made our way up to the shrine complex where an elderly gentleman waved me over to say that we were just in time to see a traditional Japanese wedding!

Actually, we ended up seeing THREE in total during our stay in the complex!

What a sight of beauty, so perfect and majestic a backdrop.  The brides wore traditional white jaquard dresses with domed head pieces while the grooms wore a formal yukata.  The couple was walked down the path with their families and the whole wedding party following.  I was mesmerized by the formality and traditional processional.  Really something to see.

As the day started to turn to dusk, we left the Meiji Shrine to grab a snack before dinner, well actually ‘linner’ because we skipped lunch.  We had planned to check out this highly rated noodle shop that was fifteen minute walk from the shrine, but when we go there it had a line of like 20 people deep.  We got in the line, but it didn’t move for a long while, so we decided to jump from there to walk closer to our hotel’s area. The walk was long, but the sights we saw made it worth it.  Also, I got to show my husband some of the spots I found on my journey yesterday.

We found a noodle shop near the hotel!  This place was fun too.  It was the type of fast service restaurant where you pay/order your meal through a ticket machine at the front!  I have always wanted to eat at a place that did that type of ordering, IDK why! haha   I have such weird life experience desires.  After we ate a little, we headed to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the night.

We made a reservation for the New York Bar before we left home, the jazz bar from the movie Lost in Translation.  It is located on the 52nd floor of the Hyatt Tokyo, about a ten minute walk from our hotel. We were seated at a table smack dab in the middle of the dining area right in front of the jazz band. We were so high up, with 180 degree windows, we were surrounded with the most amazing views.  Gah, what a magical evening.  We ordered a few rounds of drinks, their cocktails list was extensive plus they could make any drink not listed for you. After a lot of conversation, getting tipsy and soaking up where we were, we decided to eat, and we both wanted to try the wagyu burger.  Which I am so glad we did.  Just awesome.  That burger was dream worthy.  haha