Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Christmas 2015

Posted: February 16, 2016 in Family, Holiday

Once again we were blessed with a crowd for the holidays!

Josh and Jake arrived home from school December 19 in Josh’s car packed to the gills! We were excited to have them home! The rest of the crowd began to roll in the next day including Shawn’s brother Scott, wife Susan, daughter Sarah and fiance Jordan, daughter Kim and boyfriend Kevin, son Pete, and, of course, Gramsie! Gluttony ensued…

Thor, Heather, Camden, and Madison even joined us for Christmas Day dinner!

We enjoyed warm weather and good company and can’t wait until next year to do it all again!

Christmas 2014

Posted: December 30, 2014 in Family, Holiday, Home

Weeks of planning resulted in a well-coordinated menu ready to go. Shawn decorated and John shopped. And as the guests started to arrive, we put the plan into action and the fun began!

Sarah, Shawn’s niece and our pastry chef, was first to arrive, flying in from South Dakota on Saturday. She immediately began cooking desserts. (Her boyfriend, Jordan, who was with us last year, had to stay behind this time and we missed him!) The trend continued through the week – we all gained at least a pound or two.

The next day, it was Shawn’s brother and his wife Susan arriving after a drive up from Greensboro, NC. Later the same day, their second daughter Kim arrived from Providence, RI with her boyfriend Kevin. While Shawn, John, and Kevin had to work Monday and Tuesday, the Duff’s headed north for a night to visit some of their old stomping grounds. On Monday evening, we picked up Ellie and Cleon from the Lake Shore Limited.

By Tuesday night, we were back at full strength for some nice pork roast with assuage & cranberry stuffing. And then on Wednesday, for Christmas eve, we enjoyed an early antipasto followed by seafood dishes including calamari, clams, baccalà, muscles, scallops, crab, and haddock – seven fishes in the Italian tradition. We even had fresh bread flown in from John’s cousin Larry’s Hearth and Stone Bakery!  John and Jake attended the 7:00 PM worship service at our church and later, Thor and Heather joined us for cookies, laughs, and limoncello. The holiday spirits were running high!

Shawn’s nephew, Pete, was expected in on Christmas Eve but, due to fog, couldn’t get out of North Carolina. He finally made it in late Christmas morning and joined in the Christmas day festivities including breakfast bread, opening presents, and a huge roast beast for dinner! It was a great relaxing day with all the family, even Marie, enjoying a good time.

The next several days were all about sloth and indulgence. We enjoyed movies, football, beer, chili, wine, old photos, family stories, and a general good time. We had visits from Heather and Thor and Camden and Madison. We installed a new stereo in Jake’s car and tried on new clothes. We all got in the new shower… It was a great time.

Come Sunday, Scott and family departed and things got quieter. We wrapped up things on Monday night with dinner at Ristorante Pavoratti in honor of Cleon’s 88th birthday!

We dropped Ellie and Cleon at South Station on Tuesday morning and Casa Intorcio began to settle back into its usual mildly chaotic state, preparing for New Year’s Day and Epiphany.

It was awesome to have all the family around on Christmas. We can’t wait to do it again next time!

Thanksgiving 2014

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Family, Holiday

Shawn did her usual  fine job of making sure Casa Intorcio was decorated for the season and we all enjoyed a bit of a break and a fun Thanksgiving!

Josh had the entire week off from school and made the drive home from Syracuse with several friends. It was great to have the whole family together again for a bit!

Thanksgiving Day itself started off with our first real snow of the season on the ground. But the sun was out and the North Reading 5k Turkey Trot didn’t feel cold at all. Though Jake remained sidelined with his collarbone injury, Josh, Shawn, and John all began the day with the race. Josh took family honors – firmly dusting his parents, while John out-leaned Shawn at the line.

Gramsie joined us after the race for a day of food and football. Our neighbor Dante and her daughter Miss Sarah joined us for the Thanksgiving meal. We all had much to be thankful for and enjoyed a relaxed and hearty dinner with good company.

Later in the evening, we walked over to the new home of our good friends Heather and Thor and joined their extended family for some post-dinner libations. It’s great having them right here in our own neighborhood now! Although, John did make Madison cry a bit…

Black Friday was a casual shopping day for the family. Jake and a buddy hit the mall when the Massachusetts stores opened at 1:00 AM, Shawn and Marie trolled for bargains, Josh got to the mall for some browsing, and John shopped online. We all did a little bit to help the economy!

Saturday, it was off to Boston College’s Alumni Stadium to see BC play Syracuse. The Orangemen didn’t play that well but we still got to celebrate Shawn’s alma mater’s win.

Sunday morning, Josh hit the road back to Syracuse and we finished up the weekend with some friends around the fire pit watching the Patriots get beaten.

Ain’t holidays grand? So much fun with friends and family.  Bring on Christmas!


Christmas 2013

Posted: December 28, 2013 in Family, Holiday

We wrapped, we planned, and we waited. We were blessed with a crowd of family at our place for Christmas this year and we had a LOT of fun.

Though folks started to roll in the Saturday before, it wasn’t until Christmas Eve when the last of our guests arrived and both our house and Marie’s were at full capacity. Our Christmas Eve dinner featured the Seven Fishes tradition in the form of fried calamari, baccalà, and ciopinio-style stew with scallops, shrimp, octopus, clams, and mussels. Yum!

A few of us made it to the 7:00 PM service at Union Congregational Church and enjoyed the music, the flowers, and the candlelight while celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Christmas morning dawned brightly and our tree was fully stuffed with gifts! We sat in a circle for hours opening gifts and trading stories. There were compliments and abuse, handmade gifts and giftcards, and a lot of laughs and love.

Cousin Pete, who flew in Christmas Eve, now runs a gym for a high tech company in Greensboro and seems to be really happy with his job!  He even took Shawn to our local gym for a few tips while here! She’s still sore! And man can this kid eat!

Scott and Susan made the long drove up (with Kim) from Greensboro. They got to stay with Marie and enjoyed bringing a little life to her little house! They got the chance to tour around a bit bringing back memories of when they lived in New Hampshire. Scott even made fresh ice cream on the back porch to complement our deserts! We traded bird feeders as gifts – they now have one that ejects squirrels with a spinning base and we one with a great off-deck suspension.

Ellie and Cleon flew out from Rochester to join the fun! Ellie and Shawn made several shopping excursions and excitedly “spaved” a lot of money! They’ve been joining us for Christmas the last ten years or so and it just wouldn’t have be right without them.

Cousin Kim, the Ole Miss Rebel, traveled up from Memphis to Greensboro and then helped her parents with the driving. She’s finding her niche in the sports video world working to record the season for the Rebel football team! Her friend from Rhode Island, Kevin, a.k.a. “FOK”, dropped in on Tuesday and Friday as well to help round out the family.

Gramsie helped host the family for the week and joined us for meals and celebrations. Here she displays a calendar that Josh made for her with pictures of the family and Syracuse University.

Shawn cooked and cleaned and did a great job being Chief Hostess for the week. She scored a great laundry basket cabinet that Jake had hand made for her and enjoyed seeing her family for the holiday!

Sarah and her boyfriend, Jordan, made the long drive from South Dakota to be with us. They even brought Sarah’s dog, Bentley, with them! Sarah’s finishing up her graduate studies at South Dakota State and looking for her next step in the academic residence counseling world. Jordan’s got his EMT certification now and hopes to begin firefighter training very soon.

Jake enjoyed having his cousins around, especially Pete. They had a lot of laughs together! He scored some additional watts for his car stereo system and he and John worked to pimp out his ride. He was also great about caring for his brother during his recovery!

The whole family pitched in to help decorate a tie blanket that Sarah made from Gramsie. She seemed very honored by it and absolutely thrilled to have all of her grand kids around!

John scored big with a new smoker for Christmas. He’d put it to use the next day smoking pork ribs and shoulder for the family.  Josh gave him this great sweatshirt with built-in beer pocket to keep warm while tending the food!

Later on Christmas day, our gathering was complete when Camden brought his mom and dad over for a visit.  It’s not clear if he or Heather was more excited about his present but he did seem to enjoy becoming the latest Syracuse fan in the family!  Let’s go Orange!

Josh, still recovering from surgery to mend the nose he broke wrestling last year, prepared to slay the roast beast for Christmas dinner! His girlfriend Delaney was able to visit us several times as well! It’s great to have him home but we’re also so proud of how well he’s doing at SU!

Camden seemed to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere, engaging us all in a game of peek-a-boo at the dinner table. He’s the cutest kid!

Sarah and Kim both made fantastic pumpkin cheesecakes to top us off – as if we really needed more to eat!

Later in the evening, the lemoncello came out and things got deep. Pete and Thor have clearly developed different muscles!

The next night, before everyone scattered back to their respective corners of the earth, we all headed to the local Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate Cleon’s 87th birthday and watch Syracuse in the Texas Bowl!

We were home in time for the final quarter and followed the sweet victory with cake and homemade ice cream to finish Cleon’s birthday right! Well…  Almost right. We didn’t have quite the right candles for his 87th so we celebrated the second anniversary of his 85th instead!

We don’t get to see Shawn’s family too often and it’s even rarer that we get to see them all together at once! There are many more pictures of us all here.

Though our dishwasher may be breathing a sigh of relief that they’re gone, we all had a great time and are thankful for the wonderful opportunity to have spent Christmas together!

Holidays 2012

Posted: January 1, 2013 in Camp, Family, Holiday
Tags: , ,

We started the holidays with a family controversy: put up the pre-lit artificial tree or go real. Dad gave in this year and we went with the genuine article. More work, but it does look and smell nice!

The house was in full nutcracker mode when Cleon (Shawn’s uncle) and Ellie arrived on the Wednesday before Christmas. They settled in and tolerated our daily routine until the weekend arrived and we too were enjoying the holiday break! Unfortunately, Cleon was plagued by a cough and cold during his visit and didn’t have his normal energy – so we put a few events on hold and had a bunch of fun at home. Along the way, thanks to Nancy, our neighbor down the street, we were Caned!

Things really kicked off on Christmas Eve when Marie joined us and seven fishes (Calamari, Bacala, and Cioppino with vongole, cozze, gamberetti, granchi, e eglefino) were served for dinner. It was a nice evening – though we were missing Grampa. A little later, Shawn and John even made it to the 11 PM worship service at our church!

Christmas morning arrived with just a frosting of fresh snow falling as we unwrapped our gifts.  All seemed pleased by the impressive selections New England-like weather!

A bit later in the day, we sat down to Christmas dinner joined by our pals Heather and Thor and their three-month old, Camden! We enjoyed great family fellowship, a nice ham dinner, and a bit of Limoncello – all under Camden’s watchful gaze.

On Wednesday evening, we treated Cleon to dinner at Pavarotti’s in honor of his 86th birthday! Then home for birthday cake! Later, it was back to our place for cake!

December 27th was a busy day as we delivered Cleon and Ellie to the airport for their trip home, watched at least some of the bouts as Josh took third place at the Pentucket Holiday Wrestling Tournament, watched Jake run in the MSTCA Holiday Qualifier at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, and then picked up Josh’s buddy Dan arriving from Florida at the airport!

Josh knows Dan from North Woods Camp where they’ve both attended as campers, along with Jake, and worked as councilors. Josh spent much of the rest of the break visiting with Dan and other friends from North Woods. Being from a warmer climate, Dan was pretty excited to help shovel snow – and we were excited to let him! He also got to attend one of Josh’s wrestling matches and cheer him on!

On New Year’s Eve day, John took Josh, Dan, and another North Woods buddy from down the street, Kevin, up to Pats Peak for some skiing and boarding!  Dan had boarded a bit as a youngster but, after a failed attempt to recall the skills, found a pair of skis much more to his liking and all three guys enjoyed the day on the snow!

On New Year’s Eve, we had all kinds of stuff going on!  Josh, Dan, Kevin and more friends went to a North Woods reunion New Year’s Eve party in Dorchester, Jake had a friend over to play video games and generally goof around, and Shawn and John had a few friends in for relaxed finger food and drinks.

As the festivities wind down and we make preparations to return to work and school, we treasure the recollections of times before and the new holiday memories made.  We hope your holidays were awesome and wish you a Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving 2012

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Family, Holiday

We were really excited about Thanksgiving this year as Shawn’s brother, Scott, would be with us!  So we excitedly planned and prepared. We kicked off the day with a little adventure in the driveway as we tried out a new turkey fryer. Not having cooked a bird this way before, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect!

While the fowl fried, we had to keep liquids (in convenient 12 ounce packages) nearby in case of fire. It was a gorgeous sunny day which made that easy. The kids kicked a soccer ball around and we were treated to a visit from our friends Thor and Heather and their one month old, Camden – the little turkey! Great to see them!

Our table was set with a new cloth from Cleon and Ellie and the preparations were complete!

The bird came out AWESOME! It wasn’t greasy as we had feared and it was the moistest meat ever! We might just do it this way again!

Our neighbor, Dante, and her daughter Sarah came with food to add to the feast and, of course, Grams was up for the event as well. Add Scott, his wife Susan, and two of their three kids, Kim and Pete, and we sat down to eat with eleven of us at two tables. The kids’ table was a bit more grown up than we remembered it – and we think there was an eating competition going on over there.

We all manged to do some serious consumption before we remembered to sit back and take a picture!

Pete, the personal trainer, demonstrated proper eating techniques for us.

With turkey, smashed potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, corn bread, rolls, homemade and store-bought cranberry sauces, balsamic glazed onions, and stuffing, nobody went hungry! Except maybe the dog.

It was great having Scott and his family with us. Our guys really enjoyed spending some time with their cousins. We missed having Sarah along!

On Friday, Shawn and Marie were off for some early morning door busting but made it home in time to help pack the Duffs up for their return trip to North Carolina. John and Josh took Kim to the airport for her flight back to Ole Miss.

It was a totally enjoyable holiday. So great to have family around!

Holidays 2011/12

Posted: January 7, 2012 in Family, Grampa, Holiday

We celebrated the holidays with food and family this year!

Shawn’s Uncle Cleon and his wife Aunt Ellie arrived at our place the Thursday night before Christmas and that kicked of a spree of holiday celebration what would last all the way to January 4 (even though some of us had to be back at work on January 2).

On Friday, we picked up the Grampa to join the fun and we all got to watch Joshua’s first varsity wrestling match. He’s behind a couple of seniors in his weight class so he gets infrequent shots at the varsity lineup but he’s always eager!  His varsity career began with a decisive first period pin that impressed the relatives and even earned him a photo in the local newspaper!

On Christmas eve, we added Gramsie to the mix to fill out our flock. After the afternoon service at our church, we settled in for some serious celebration with our traditional Feast of Seven Fishes which this year went to eight:  shrimp cocktail, fried calamari, bacallà, and a ciopinno with mussels, clams, crab, salmon, and polpo.

After dinner, our friends Heather and Thor joined us for desert and Limoncello. There’s was much fun and laughter and Marie even got a brand new Sponge Bob Flashlight!

Christmas day began with the traditional pajama-clad opening of presents. Our plan to “dial it back a bit” this year seemed to have gone off track someplace as the piles of presents seemed as big as always!  Jake and Josh performed notably well this year in choosing gifts that were extremely well targeted to their recipients – Santa hats off to them!

Grampa loved his new shoehorns…

Jake loved his new Beats

And Josh rocked Shawn Thornton!

After the presents and a brunch or two, we settled down to a John Madden-inspired Christmas Turducken feast! We’d never tried one before but thought it was time. Now we’ve done it – next year, maybe a goose!

We kept the holidays rolling with a house blessing at Grampa’s Place on Monday. Rev. Scottie from the Church of the Good Shepherd hosted and did a bang-up job. She led, the relatives, along with a few neighbors and friends, throughout the house, blessing each room as we went. A blessing of the gardens and a final blessing for the house as a whole took us to refreshments and socializing.  (Too bad the camera stayed out in the car!) Good stuff!

Later that evening we were off to Riccardo’s in the North End for a a birthday celebration for Cleon and Grampa (whose birthday isn’t really until the end of March). We enjoyed a nice dinner out and strolling through the historic North End!

On Wednesday, we took Grampa to watch Jake run in one more indoor track meet.  This is Jake’s first year running any sort of formal track but he’s getting the hang of it. He competes mostly in the 300m dash and it’s quite fun to cheer him on! Go Jake!

Thursday we were off to another wrestling match where we’d get to see Josh score another pin!

Thursday night we were off to The Shoe with a bunch of local friends: Lori, Ed, Maureen, Bob, Heather and Thor. We enjoyed more food and laughter.

On the morning of New year’s Eve we shipped Grampa back to Florida.  He’ll enjoy the warm winter down there and then make a more complete move to North Reading in the spring when he’ll bring his furniture and his own car up. We can’t wait ’til he gets back!

It was then off to yet another Wrestling meet. This time, we got to see Josh execute two decisive wins – one against a Peabody opponent ad the other against a wrestler from Wakefield. Josh sure looks strong out there!

John and Shawn would later head out for a nice seafood dinner at Finz in Salem. with their friends Heather and Thor. We had a great time celebrating the New Year a little early and were home and well settled in our respective couches long before the ball came down!

We’d spend the rest of the break taking down decorations and resting up for re-immersion. It was back to work on Monday for Shawn and John while the boys had until Wednesday before they’d return to school. All and all, it was a relaxing and fun-filled break and we’d due it again in a second!  Happy New Year!