Just Video Games or A Social Network?

Good day, everyone!

Since we talked about Christmas on Tuesday, let’s finish this week’s blog-set with one related to the same holiday. Then, we’ll put Christmas to rest—until after Thanksgiving (or maybe July ;)).

My 13-year-old son must have revised his 2011 Christmas list six times (and not for editing purposes, I can assure you.) Can’t tell you how many times I told him this particular holiday isn’t “mail order.” Kids, however, will be kids and this one was true to form.

He waxed and waned between a new gaming system (PS-3) and several other pricey game-related items (for X-box 360, which he has). He finally settled on the former as he handed over the final draft of his list.

       https://gustavus.edu/gts/Xbox_360

When hubby and I got to the gaming store and looked over the list, I noticed at least one-third of the PS-3 items he wanted he’d recently acquired for X-box, at the tune of $150-200. Seriously? After I asked the young guy behind the counter some questions why one system would be favorable over another, a judgment call was definitely in order. We picked up games and acc  essories for his X-Box 360 that were on his list as back-up, plus some other goodies Mom thought he could use: a robe, NY Giants’ hoodie—you know, essentials. 😉

   http://us.playstation.com/ps3/

FYI: The big draw for PS-3 is said to be free online gaming, but Sony had been hacked earlier that year and was down for three months. X-box 360 requires X-box Points to play online and must be purchased separately, at the tune of roughly $8/month or $60/year, a significant savings if you’re willing to put the bigger cost up front. (BTW, video games are no longer an individual activity. Kids play online with each other, within the online framework of the gaming system they have. They invite each other to virtual “parties” or play football games against each other, work as teams on other games, etc.)

Most of my son’s friends have X-Box 360; the system, so far, seems to have the staying power of Windows XP. In other words, it’s been around and most likely will remain popular a while longer. (Dang! When did I learn all this stuff? I hated computers when they first arrived on the scene. Hubby bought me my first one, lol. )

Fast-forward to Christmas morning: To say I had a very disappointed child on my hands is an understatement. Folks, we had DRAMA, and all that talk about the real meaning of Christmas, expectations, mail order, etc wasn’t going anywhere. (Thank goodness our visit to church changed his mood, as did having Christmas at our house.)

Of course I questioned the choices hubby and I made as a different aspect of the potential problem hit me: Were we cutting our son off from the social network his games provide by not having gotten the new system? I decided to delve further by asking my son some questions. Turns out, only one friend got PS-3 and plays X-Box along with the other “core crowd” of gaming buddies. (Sounds like I’m not the only parent who thinks this way.)

I’m grateful to report things worked out. (Somehow they always do.) By evening, after the festivities wound down, my son came to me and said, “I feel like a fool about the way I acted this morning.” (And, he was glad he didn’t get the PS-3; the next day, he stood in line for at least thirty minutes and came home with an I-phone, which he bought with his Christmas money. He did need a new communication device). Even as I wrote this, he rethought his behavior and vocalized his feelings on having missed looking forward to opening gifts because of his attitude. I found it especially saddening on Christmas day to know how upset he was. Besides it being every kid’s favorite holiday, this same child pretty much decorated the house and did all the wrapping (save his and his brother’s presents; momma handled those). He brought the festive look to our home and saved me tons of work. But, if he learned something from the experience that will stick with him, then I suppose the rough start to the biggest day of the year was worth it.

One more notice: He recently played on a friend’s PS-3 and decided he didn’t like it after all. Then he started talking about what he wants for Christmas 2012. (That’s when the hand went up—I was, after all, watching the NY Giants’ Wild Card game and was in no position to consider the next holiday season, lol.)

So what are your takes on this subject? Have you ever had to make that call that you know would so disappoint someone? What did you do? How did the situation turn out?

Have a wonderful weekend–it’s an extended one for us–and ttys! Go Giants (and Packers)!

Joanna

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Wrapping Up the Christmas/Holiday Season 2011-12

As I put away the decorations and slowly return my home to it’s normal state of being, I ask you this:

Is there a gift you received from which you know you’ll get major mileage? Does it have special significance?

I did:

Hubby got me this incredible necklace–totally my taste.

The crazy part? Read this:

“A heart-shaped locket fell into her lap. Tiny, glittering silver-black marquasite encrusted it, surrounding an oval amethyst on an intricate silver chain.”

My hero gave this to his heroine in No Matter Why. Hubby never read the book yet I end up with this necklace that is so ridiculously close to the one I wrote about it’s scary. AND it’s an estate piece. My heroine’s was an antique–go figure.

Your turn–what was your favorite gift or memory this past holiday season?

See you later this week,

Joanna

Thoughts on a Recent Read–As Promised!

Good day, everyone, and welcome to my second post of 2012. Yep, I’m looking to hit the 200 mark very soon! Hope all is well as we resume normalcy after Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s. (Can you tell I dislike the generic ‘holidays’?)

Here is my most recent unsolicited and unpaid for ‘review’–something I do if a book strikes my fancy enough. Louise Shaffer’s little gem, Looking for a Love Storyis perfect if you’re looking for some good reading during the upcoming winter doldrums.

Those of you who read my last post on Ms. Shaffer’s books know I was very much looking forward to this one. I’m very happy to report I enjoyed it every bit as much as I’d hoped to based on the title. (Did you expect else from a lover of all things romantic?) As I mentioned in that earlier post, I’d already read The Three Miss Margarets and The Ladies of Garrison Gardens; I enjoyed the former, preferred the latter but both times, had some trouble following all the twists and turns of mysteries as each unfolded.

Looking, on the other hand, was a simple, straight-up character journey and sweet love story set against a Vaudevillian backdrop. (This story also helped me realize why I seem to be having so much trouble getting together a suspense; I like straightforward love stories that much better.) I found it very easy to relate to the protagonist—a blocked published author working at getting her life together after her hottie husband leaves her unexpectedly. Her efforts to find writing work lead her to Chicky, an eighty-something year-old woman who wants her parents’ love story written as a memoir. No mysteries; no murders; an ending that didn’t feel cut short and just a tiny twist that fit the account well. The characters are fun, fresh and real; the story easy to follow and hard to put down. A great book and one that lives up to its title. (For more, you’re on your own ;).)

Have a great day and will most likely catch up with you later this week,

Joanna

On the Second Day of Christmas–We Shared 2011’s Memorable Moments

Merry second day of Christmas, friends. Unless you’re out with the 12/26 shopping crowds, I’m thinking the commercial peace of Christmas starts about now. (Though I’m a tad tempted to hit Kohl’s–mom-in-law gave me her Kohl’s cash since she has no intention of using it. :D)

My house is in relative order after Christmas dinner here—only my mom, hubby’s mom and hubby’s friend joined us; some of my son’s friends later shared dessert. Everyone is asleep—shh!—and I’m now enjoying a very quiet moment alone with my laptop, looking around at the seasonal décor and loving it.

I also started thinking about that special gift that stood out from the others and why. Hubby gave me a gorgeous antique sterling silver necklace with an amethyst pendant—perfect for my taste. My younger son’s greatest gift started immediately after Thanksgiving and continued through Christmas Eve: that 13-year-old pretty much decorated the house and handled all the wrapping as awesomely as any Macy’s employee (and for no charge, either ;)). He also had a hard time with some of the choices hubby and I made regarding his gifts but seems to be taking some very mature steps toward the positive—another blessing that can’t be ensconced in paper and bows.

My older son couldn’t wait to give me his gift. (He made it in woodshop at school and seems to have a nice little knack for the craft.) He was sure I’d love it b/c (1) it’s handcrafted; (2) he altered the original design to put his spin on it; (3) I’d pick up on the theme and the ‘love’ that went into it. Not sure he realized it also symbolizes the most important intangible to me: peace in my world that comes from peace in my spirit.

   

As per memorable moments, my 8-year-old nephew gets the honors. We spent Christmas Eve at my brother’s along with twenty or so other guests. Long story short, we were among the last to leave, circa 10PM. My nephew started fretting about ‘missing Santa’ if the house didn’t clear so he and his siblings could get to bed. (In other words as he sort of said, to  my brother’s chagrin: “Take your coats, gloves, gifts and go–now.”)

So there it is. Your turn: what will you remember best about this year?

Here’s to a day of enjoying the peace (or at least a few dedicated moments). Expanding on the slowing-down theme a bit, I’ll be joining my very dear, freshly pubbed author-friend Calisa Rhose this Wednesday (12/28–debut day for her debut novel HOME) at her Chit Chat page for a virtual cup of coffee and discussing why no one seems to be able to just sit down and chat over one anymore.

TTYL,

Joanna

Recipe Recap–Just in Time for Christmas!

Hello friends!

We’re winding down to Christmas and getting close to cooking time. Because life does things its way–and today I’m blessed with the ability to take what it brings and make the best of it–I wasn’t able to post the recipe I wanted to share. Here, though, are two I’ve run before: my super-easy stuffed mushrooms and make-ahead rosemary-wine chicken. And fans of pumpkin, check out this page at my website: you’ll find recipes for creamy pumpkin pie, cheesecake and cookies, too. 🙂

Now here are the easiest stuffed mushrooms ever: simple, elegant and absolutely delicious! Makes a great appetizer or side dish. (Stuff a Portobello and you have an instant meal!)

Ingredients:
10-oz package white mushrooms (not sliced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½-2 cups seasoned bread crumbs (add more as needed)
grated cheese (I use Parmesan)
fresh or frozen parsley (optional)
canola and/or olive oil
¼-½ cup white wine (or to taste; optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Remove stems from mushrooms and set aside. Under gently running water* wash the stems, carefully rubbing off any dirt by hand or using a mushroom brush. (Those can be purchased anywhere cooking gadgets are sold, but more easily found in a store like Bed Bath and Beyond. The brushes look like surgical brushes—a great substitute for those who have access to them . I simply wash them by hand.)

*Some folks don’t wash mushrooms—they simply brush off the dirt so that the mushroom doesn’t get mushy. I can’t go for that. Moving the cap or stem in/out of gently running water wets the flesh enough to loosen the dirt. The underside of the cap is occluded by the stem and can only have so much dirt in it. Soaking that part will make your mushroom soggy; keeping the round part of the cap upright under the water will easily eliminate this problem. Air dry each piece on a wire rack while making the stuffing. BTW, you can stuff them slightly damp.

Okay, the stuffing:
In a mini-food processor (or by hand) mince all the mushroom stems; add the garlic and continue processing until finely chopped. (It will look like a lot. Don’t worry—mushrooms really shrink when you cook them.) Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in bread crumbs, cheese and parsley.

Coat a 10- or 12-inch frying pan (preferably non-stick) with cooking spray then with enough oil to coat the bottom. Heat the oil (and the wine) over medium heat. Add the contents of the bowl, stirring to coat everything and moisten it. Saute for a minute or two and remove from heat.

Using a regular teaspoon (not a measuring spoon) stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture. You can level off the stuffing or mound it—your choice; depends on how much stuffing you have.

Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place caps (stuffing side up), if necessary, layer them across the spaces formed by the bottom layer (or get another pan). Cover with foil** and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 375˚F, or until mushrooms are tender. Serve immediately.

**At this point, you can refrigerate and bake the next day. Leftovers can also be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave.

As always, I thank you all for stopping by. Please keep someone (or two) very near and dear to my heart in your prayers–have a great day!

Joanna

Sharing Unique and Special Holiday Traditions!

Twas the week before Christmas and all over my blog, we’re slowing down long enough to talk holiday traditions unique to us!

   I goofed with size (my brain fritzed out and had me convinced my ceilings were seven feet instead of eight. My kids and their friends swooped down on it–kind of like at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas–and did a great job making it a respectable representative of the season (or so I think). Thanks guys!

Back to traditions. Mine started out twenty-four years ago, Christmas 1987. One of my two brothers had passed away in May of that year. Leukemia won out after nine months of him being sick more off than on, beginning the August prior and kicking up its efforts the following March. My mom, being a rather old-school Italian immigrant, wouldn’t allow any type of Christmas decorations that year.

Guess I really wanted a tree. I bought a small real one, took it to the cemetery and decorated it. Every year since then I’ve brought my brother a tree; it’s my family’s gift to him. As time passed my mom became part of the decorating team—nothing spectacular: just dollar-store decorations that wind up spending the rest of the year in her car’s trunk. (Her Italian ways dictate that nothing from the cemetery ever enters one’s home.)

Once I got married, hubby and my stepsons became part of the tradition and today, my boys and I put up the perfect little Charlie-Browner yet. (Should have had my son, Ace-Joe-I-Phone Photographer–who gets credit for the above shot–snap a shot to post here.)

Your turn, friends: I’d love to read about the special thing you do that sets apart as yours one of the current holidays. And I’ll check in later this week with…whatever I can come up with that’s fun! (Maybe a simple but yummy recipe that would serve as nice but different appetizer at get-togethers? Hmm. That might just work! :))

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

Making Sure to Take a Minute to…

thank all of you who take the time to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ my blog. Makes me feel so good to know people are being touched by what I put out there. You all rock and I am truly grateful. May all of you be blessed.

Special thanks too, for all of you who follow me in the Twitterverse (@JoannaAislinn)–y’all make it fun there!

Have a great weekend! Hope you get all your holiday preparations in order. The big days are around the corner, folks! Don’t worry, it will all fall into place–it always seems to!

With much affection,

Joanna