Thursday, December 30, 2010

December...parties, birthdays, Christmas, and Reunions!

December is a whirlwind of activity around our house... Here's a sampling:

1.  MacDaddy had a birthday...and the SEC Championship game (MacDaddy just peeked over my shoulder and insisted that this game was the HIGHLIGHT of his birthday...WAR EAGLE!). Alas, no photos (We watched the game and had the birthday meal at DB's new home. And I forgot my camera!!!) But we all had fun! And Marty was so excited about the BEST birthday present of all...Auburn plays for the National championship.  Talk about a birthday present.....

2.  Our annual Christmas party...This is the 16th year of this party. Sometimes we have dinner...most times we all bring appetizers and desserts. This year the food was exceptional! We had everything from Venison Chili to Steak Bites, Crab au Gratin to fabulous Wings. And for desserts, we were treated to Apple Cake with Treacle, Pumpkin Cake, Chocolate Cups with Bailey's Ice Cream, and Cheesecake. We also had lots of wine, Sangria, Hot Apple Cider, Coffee....
I think I gained 10 pounds!!!

(Our "hit" ornament was the very feminine black POODLE...complete with a sparkley crown and red bows. As you can see in the photo, Paul...Mr. Macho...loved the poodle. (He kept offering $$$ for someone to take it off his hands!)

(Hey Lisa, do you see your influence in my decor? Check the back wall...)

3.  The neighborhood annual Cookie and Gift Exchange and Progressive Dinner (so the guys could have fun, too!)
(12 -17-2110 post)

4.  Catherine's (our DIL) birthday was our next celebration. She maintains that her birthday lasts until Christmas day! Her special gift from us was a quilt, designed and made for her by my dear friend, Becky. 

The colors of this quilt will go in every single room of their new house... The photo doesn't do it justice! It's GORGEOUS!

5.  Christmas Eve was quiet...only one son was here. We had our traditional Chinese take-out meal in front of the TV...we watched White Christmas. (One of our traditions is taking a tray of goodies to the Chinese restaurant...they truly appreciate being remembered and their little daughters LOVE the goodies!)
(That's Beau in the green sweatshirt...and black head. He's one of my "granddogs.)

6.  Christmas Day...always FUN!!! All the guys, their ladies, and a "stray" (friend of WG's who couldn't get home for Christmas). The gang arrived in their pjs, jeans, and some were dressed up for their next event...
We always start with fresh-squeezed OJ from a nearby grove stand...and Mimosas...and coffee!!! (after all, it's EARLY). Then the craziness begins!(Here's my Future DIL and our "Stray", Eric. What a delightful young man...and such a good sport! We thoroughly enjoyed having them with us...even in their PJs!)

Music Guy gets a yellow bird to reside in his bushy beard ( one of those "brother" jokes!)

Wine Guy and his lady receive "Redneck Wine Glasses" (Mason jars on a fancy stem!) with Mogen David wine. Alas, Santa could not find any Ripple or Boonesfarm.

Sweet DIL received a very special book...The Men and Women of Marc Jacobs...hand delivered from the author's book signing in LA. She even received a pictorial of the book signing and after party...lots of big-named stars attended. Can you tell she was surprised...

Future DIL was really into the spirit of our gathering...ribbon and all!
(I was impressed...Julie, WG and their sweet friend got up at O-dark-30 to get over to our house to accommodate the others' schedules...hence the PJs., glasses and no makeup.)

Drummer Boy escaped the photos...When I remembered to point and shoot, he got up for another Cinnamon Roll! But his puppies posed...sort of. Hannah kept moving so I missed her whole head. But I loved their air of anticipation...(There were goodies for them on the table.)

We always stop in the middle of the gift-giving to feast on Sausage and Egg Strata and freshly baked Cinnamon Rolls. Mmmmmmmm.....I can still smell the rolls.

After all the craziness...and the cleanup...DB and DIL left to visit with her family, I hit the streets to deliver hot rolls to my special neighbors, and the rest of the gang turned on Top Gear (I think this is becoming a new tradition...YUK!) WG, his lady, and their friend left to rest up before their next Italian feast with Julie's family! At our house, we had a fabulous, yet simple meal later in the evening...Standing Rib roast, creamy mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, salad and rolls (Sister Schubert's this time) with those who were available...

 7.  On Sunday, we all gathered again for the 89th annual Christmas Reunion of the DelValle side of the family. The crowd was a bit smaller than usual...only 55 were in attendance.  For most of my life, my mother (the youngest of the DelValle siblings) hosted this celebration. It was held at our home on the lake. With our usual good Florida weather, we were able to eat outdoors (THANK GOODNESS!) In the "old days" we would have upwards of 90 people at this event. As my generation moved across the country, had families of their own, and the elders passed on, the number of attendees have dwindled a bit...
but we still gather...and will do so as long as possible.
Another branch of the family has taken on the challenge of hosting this event (and I am forever grateful for that!)
This is my Aunt Vic...she's 94! Behind her in the red is my eldest 70!

   Our FEAST included:
     Relish and Veggie trays
     Ham, Roasted Turkey, Smoked Turkey, Roasted Pork with Mojo (our Cuban heritage), Smoked Salmon, Grilled Italian Sausage
     Tons of veggies...southern style green beans, collard greens, squash casserole, etc.
     White Rice with Black Beans (Cuban Heritage, again)
     Traditional Stuffing and Stuffing with Venison Sausage
     Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Pecans
     Green Salads
     Cranberry Salad
     Fresh Citrus Ambrosia (My absolute favorite part of the meal!!!)
                                                   Fresh fruit trays
                                                   Cuban Bread
                                                   A myriad of desserts...cookies, pies, cakes, fudge, and more!

I have to admit...I sampled all the foods, but ate TONS of the Citrus absolute favorite!!! (You can see it in the above the color of oranges and grapefruit, plus maraschino cherries mixed together. My big brother and I even filled cups with the leftover juices and drank them. This is OUR dessert!)

It's time to bring 2010 to a close...TOMORROW night, we'll be watching football and celebrating with our friends...

Here's to a Wonderful NEW YEAR!!! May it bring joy, peace and prosperity to us all...


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Wishes...from our house, to yours....

MERRY CHRISTMAS to each and every one of you...

In honor of our beloved Auburn Tigers, we used "tiger" stripes in our decor...

The "joy" sign is actually a decorative piece, covered with aluminum foil...the letters are painted with metallic red over metallic copper...Mac Daddy's idea. (He has his moments!)

This Nativity set was carved by a good friend. It's truly a treasured item...

We found this little Nativity set at a craft fair in Kingsport, TN, many years ago...

This was one of our first "married" ornaments...Baby Jesus is made from wood shavings...found in Dillsboro, NC.
As you can see, we used leopard touches this year...I have to admit, I love it!

Just a corner of the mantle...This is only a small portion of my Santa collection... The Santa holding the goose was carved by MacDaddy. The mantle was decorated with our antique spools, these Santas, silver bells and "coastal" pine swags. It's very simple...
No Christmas tree is complete without Auburn tigers...and Aubie! (War Eagle!!!)
May the peace and joy that surrounds the birth of our Christ fill you and your families.

With love...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas from Julianne's Coastal Cottage

Merry Christmas...
      from Julianne's Coastal Cottage in Mount Dora, FL.

This unusual wreath greets you as you enter Julieanne's Coastal Cottage..... It's made from a swimmer's ring, dressed with ribbon. (You'll be seeing these around my pool next year!)

As you enter the store, you will see this white tree which is covered with beautiful glass sea creatures...sea stars, crabs, fish, jellyfish, sea horses, sea turtles...and of course, an octopus or two.
A "Florida" Christmas tree...palms with hand painted gourds. These are done by a lady near Webster, FL... All shapes and sizes. If you look closely, you will see a "Gator Gourd" honor of Univ. of Florida....just a short drive away..
And this is my favorite tree...there are some truly wonderful ornaments on this tree...the crabs, mermaids, seahorses, and snowmen are made by a lady in Atlanta... My favorite...and the one I a snow-lady in a blue and green bikini. I also love the green hand painted glass balls. They spell out the word... BEACH.

I am privileged to have a couple of paintings on display in this store. I say "privileged" because my simple paintings are in the company of some wonderful artists, including R.L. of the Highwaymen.(check out the Highwaymen painters and R.L. Lewis)

If you find yourself in Central FL...stop in Mount Dora for a visit. There are some wonderful shops, restaurants, and B&Bs...and the scenery around the lakes is GORGEOUS! This time of year, the town is dressed with incredible's truly a sight to see......

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010


The wonderful ladies in our neighborhood held their annual Cookie Exchange...and gift exchange!  This year, the cookies were absolutely incredible!!! Traditionally, we all vote on the best tasting cookie and the best presentation. It was really tough this year... 

To make this event even more challenging, we chose a theme...
"Sea-son's" Greetings. The theme was originally meant for the gift exchange, but many of us carried it into our cookie presentations...

Here are some peeks at the tables...
Margaret's treasure chest is filled with cranberry shortbread "coins"
Clam shell with Ginger "Sea Stars" and Pecan Sandie "Dollars"
(these were my contributions)
Cindy and Kim are sampling the cookies...and toasting the evening.
This was one of the winners...Sherrie's gorgeous sugar cookies were a labor of love!
My sweet daughter-in-law, Catherine, joined in the fun. She made the most wonderful German cookies...from her grandmother's recipe. And her display was lovely!!!

But the absolute HIT of the evening was actually just a part of the winner's display...
These Snowman Stirrers were presented in a cup filled with sugar. They accompanied a tray of Gingerbread people...girls, boys, and babies and Jam Thumbprints. They, too, were resting in a tray filled with sugar. Adorable!!!

And Melanie, the creator, shared the directions for her snowman stirrer...


For the head: Cut a slice off the top of one large marshmallow and squish to make smaller.
For the face:  The eyes are chocolate sprinkles and the nose is a slice of an orange gummy fish (any "gummy" will do). Poke holes with a wet toothpick before applying the face.

Fit snowman base (a large marshmallow) on a 6-inch skewer, pushing pointed end of skewer out of the top and place the head (skewered about a half inch of so) on top of the marshmallow base.

Place a Hershey Kiss or Junior Mint on the head for a hat. ( Use a dab of frosting or glaze to hold it in place.)
Can't you just picture this accompanying a mug of hot cocoa? is my gift for the exchange...
A Christmas wreath...with shells from my daughter-in-law's wedding.
Have a wonderful weekend...

ps...Be sure to check out Foodie Friday at There are sure to be some wonderful recipes this week.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Garbanzos (Chickpeas)...or Spanish Bean Soup

This is a repost from last winter...the temps have dropped here in FL and I am craving Garbanzos.  Guess what I will be cooking tomorrow....

In my home, winter chill means Garbanzos... otherwise known as Spanish Bean Soup. Every Cuban/Spanish restaurant in Tampa has a version of this soup. It's a flavor explosion of garbanzo beans, potatoes, chorizo (dried sausage), onions and garlic. It's best eaten with a loaf (can't stop at one piece) of Cuban bread dripping with butter. (Any crusty bread will work...if you cannot find real Cuban bread.)

My mother and grandmother had their own ways of making this soup...and no restaurant version I have ever tasted comes close to their "recipes". Mama's soup was so jam-packed with goodies that it was more like a stew... and she learned this from her mama. Often the soup had to be thinned a bit to stretch it. But it never lost it's flavor. Why thin the soup? Why add the cabbage? Well, my grandmother had 10 children to feed...and my mom had football players and their friends who were always hungry. And me...I had the high school soccer team, the garage band, and a houseful of "lost boys" least at dinner time!!! Now please understand...neither of these ladies wrote their recipes down. When I asked Mama to teach me how to make it, she had me stand with her...and showed me, using her hands to measure ingredients. (Now you know where I learned the "by guess and by gosh" method of cooking.) This soup recipe makes a lot... but it freezes well.

Garbanzos (Spanish Bean Soup)

3 LARGE cans of chick peas (Garbanzos)

1 medium onion, diced

Garlic to taste (I use 4-5 cloves), peeled and diced

Olive Oil

1 meaty ham bone or 2-3 ham hocks with lots of meat
(*or 1/2 lb. ham, cut into bite-sized chunks)

1 pound stew beef, cut into bite-sized pieces

Chorizo Sausage, sliced (I use 2 - 4, depending on their sizes)

2-3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes

Cabbage (I use 1/2 of a small, tightly packed head), sliced really thin!

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Sazon or Vigo seasoning, 2-3 pkgs. (This is a saffron-based tiny
package of seasoning... used for yellow rice and innumerable
Hispanic, Jamaican, Cuban, and Creole dishes.)


In a large soup po
t, saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil, until translucent. Remove from the oil and set aside. In the same oil, brown the beef, adding a little salt and pepper. Set aside. Add the ham bone/hock to the pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the ham falls off the bone. Remove the bones and ham from the water. Cut ham into bite-sized pieces. To the ham stock, add the ham, beef, onion, garlic, and beans, chorizo and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer. Add the Sazon...and simmer until the soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Add a little corn starch if needed, to thicken.) Add cabbage and cook until the cabbage is softened.

**This broth should be pretty thick and a golden color. This is one of those recipes that gets better, the longer it cooks.

Have a fun-filled weekend... Jane

Be sure to visit Michael Lee at for more Foodie Friday recipes. There's always something good...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tin Can Tourists...

Last week, I drove my mom up to Tavares (FL) so she could spend Thanksgiving with my sister.
Traveling with Mom (almost 92)  is an experience. She is full of stories and always has a song ready for any topic...or WORD...that is uttered. ("I have a song for that!" is her mantra.) This day, she told me a story I had never heard...We passed an RV park filled with travel trailers...evidence that the "snowbirds" were arriving for the winter.  The sight brought back memories of her childhood...

In the early 1900s, as cars became more prevalent and roads were built to accommodate them, travelers from all over the US took to the roadways and began exploring the wonders of our nation. They packed food, water, and extra gas...along with tents...and headed for the unknown. Many of those who lived in the frigid north came to Florida to bask in the sunshine. (That's where the "snowbird" name originated.) Many of these travelers camped in DeSoto Park, right on Tampa Bay...just across the street from my mother's home. While researching this story, I found a book through Amazon that shares the history of the Tin Can Tourists and a link (click below for more info) to the "new" club that has been reborn. It's interesting... )

As Mom grew up, the travelers came back, year after year. Mom remembers meeting some wonderful people...playing with the children and watching these people cook over open fires. How did these tourists get their name? Well, there are several theories about that...
 One says the name was derived from the mode of transportation...the "Tin Lizzie" (that's the name which was given to automobiles made during this period). The most popular vehicle was the Model T Ford.

Another theory states the "Tin Can" name was given to these tourists because of the large tin containers of gasoline and water which were carried on the cars...
(photo from

Mom, however, says these travelers got their name from the foods they ate...anything in a tin can. She went on to say that many of these cans were label-less, and meals were often a surprise!

She went on to tell the story of a family who was in great need of some money and asked her mother, my grandmother, to borrow some. Now understand that Mom was the youngest of 10 kids and my grandfather was a low paid cigar roller and reader (He read the Spanish news to the other rollers while they worked.)  My grandmother graciously gave this lady some of the family's meager funds. The family who borrowed the money left town, without a word...and without paying Grandma back. Many years later, a "handsome" young man knocked on Grandma's door...He said "remember me? My mother borrowed money from you a long time ago, and left town without repaying. I am here to pay our debt." He handed over money, thanked her again, and left. (Mom is still touched by that event!)

Another story is that during storms...and hurricanes...many of the Tin Can Tourists would seek shelter in Mom's house. (This is the newer house that replaced her original home...which had been washed away by the 1921 hurricane. ) The house would often be packed to the rafters with Tin Canners...and DelValles!

As a child, I did not like listening to the old folks share their memories. But today, I treasure them...and learn so much as I research the origins of their tales. Life and lifestyles were so different then...and when compared to today's world, they are totally fascinating! I challenge you, during this holiday season, to encourage the older members of your family to tell the stories of their record these stories so they can be shared with your children...your grandchildren and beyond. As we all know, life changes so quickly...grab those memories before they are gone!