Saturday, 31 December 2011


This is it, the last day of 2011.  There will never be another day like it.  I have been in a reflective sort of mood since yesterday.  So many things have changed in my life, in our lives as a family this year.  We ended last year with my Dad’s unexpected passing, took Aislin out of school and started homeschooling, started some new traditions as a family, etc. 

It has been a year of growth, of regression, of togetherness, of change – it has been a year.  Would I give up any one aspect of this past year?  Other than the ability to make my Dad’s death not happen – no. Even that, though, has unified my small family, so would I give up the new found confidence that I have in spouse and myself because of the trials of my Dad’s passing – nope.  Do I wish our unity had come at a lesser price?  You betcha. 

Would I give up our sudden departure from traditional schooling for Aislin to home schooling? No way.  It has been an adventure, a ride, a period of growth for myself as a Mom, as a teacher, and a wife.  Home schooling has brought us joy, it has allowed my children to grow closer, it has tested my limits of patience, it has tested Stephen’s limits of what is an acceptable level of chaos. It has allowed me to mold Aislin, to help her grow academically, and as a responsible person. It has given me an opportunity to help Aislin become more confident in herself, to challenge her with her thoughts, and her beliefs.  It has given us a closeness that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

I am so glad that we live on St. Croix, where I have a great group of friends that I can turn to when the going got rough. I am thankful that some of those same friends can turn to me when their going got rough.  I love that fact,that I can call up any of my friends and say, “Drinks? Tonight?” and know that I will get at east one or two  takers,  that we can show up in sweats, or dressed up and not one of us will think  any less of the others for it.  I love the fact, that I can call up people and say, hey, I know it’s 4, but come on over for dinner, or drinks, or whatever tonight and no one cares if the house is upside down, the little monster is naked, or the chicken is over cooked.  I love that some of my good friends are neighbors that we can count on to babysit when Stephen and I need to escape the chaos of our house.

So, as we close out the year today, I sit and think, did we have a good year? Yes we did.  Did I learn anything from this year? Yes.

  • Enjoy every moment and every person because you never know when you won’t have that anymore.
  • Your children are unique and you should not expect them to do the same things as other people's children. 
  • The laundry can wait – making memories with your kids or spouse is more important. 
  • Treat everyone, even the bums on the street, as you want to be treated. 
  • Tell your husband that you love him, even when you are mad at him and have visions of throttling him dancing before your eyes.
  • Say what you mean and own it. 
  • Don’t make excuses for yourself or other people.  
  • You have no control over what other people do, only how you react to other people. 
  • Remember the lessons that my Dad taught me, even if I didn’t want to hear them at the time. 
And I think the most important lesson that I learned this year was:

If God brought it to you, He will help you handle it.

Happy New Year!

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Day After

Here it is, Christmas Second Day.  This is the day we use to recover from all the festivities that happened yesterday. It is 3 days away from the first day of Village, the day to relax on the beach, eat leftovers, put away Christmas gifts, and tackle the mountains of dirty dishes in your kitchen.  Although we had family over for dinner yesterday and we didn't make everything for the meal, it feels like my kitchen didn't get that particular memo:

Somehow last night after going to bed, the dirty dishes multiplied - it must be like chicken math... there are never the same amount of chickens twice when you are counting them.  I swear dirty dishes are like that.  You go to bed and WHAM! they get crazy and multiply and divide on you.... there is a math lesson in there.  When you figure it out, let me know so I can explain it.

The kids gifts haven't followed that rule, there are still the same amount of gifts, but the old ones have joined forces and multiplied, so finding places to out them becomes impossible until the new toys throw up their hands in disgust and give in.  I swear I just cleaned out the kids rooms and made loads of space, now if only I can find where it went...... Oh, and if the heard of very large Elephants would move out while I am at it, I would be grateful, cause boy do those wreck havoc on the bedrooms when they get together to play.

Of course, the up side is that the fridge is stocked for the next few days.  Sadly, I think we will get tired of leftovers before they are done, but that is why we have freezers right?  If I can only figure out what do do with leftover pork to make it interesting by day 3 then I will be set. Maybe enchiladas or burritos, or maybe I can do something Chinese or Thai that would be different.  Although, pork enchiladas dripping with green salsa and swiss cheese sounds really yummy right about now.

Today, after I clean up the million and one dishes in my kitchen and evict the elephants we are going to go out to Cane Bay and party with some of A and C's friends - if it isn't raining.  Heck, even if it is raining here, we may just take the drive and see if it's sunny there - because you know, this is an island and things like that happen here.  So, however you spend your Christmas Second Day, enjoy your time  with your family, adopted elephants, and anyone else who may happen to cross your path!  Rest up, cause in just a few days you will need that energy in order to get through the New Year's rush.

Sit back, have a glass of Coquito, and enjoy the leftover Christmas energy from yesterday.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

New Traditions

Well, Christmas is tomorrow and boy has it snuck up on me! Stephen's Christmas gift has yet to arrive, some of the gifts are still unwrapped, the house is upside down, and I have started two new traditions today.  If I just started them, does that make them traditions?  Hmmm, I'll have to let you be the judge of that.

Christmas Tradition I: Homemade Overnight Cinnamon Rolls.

What better way to wake up than to the smell of cinnamony goodness permeating the house? They really weren't that hard to make and I was able to tweak the recipe to suit our cinnamon hounds sweet teeth.  I also got to use my stand mixer which I LOVE..... No pictures of these as they all got et as some of my Gillette relatives are wont to say. Here is the recipe though:


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoon ground cinnamon


  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and sugar and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, let sit for 5 mins.  Then add the milk mixture. 5 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  4. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and 3/4 cup brown sugar and sprinkle over the rectangles. Then sprinkle the raisins and chopped nuts over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log and seal the seam.
  5. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; place the pieces in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan, or 12 inch deep dish pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
  6. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  7. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. 

I did use my stand mixer, so you have to change this a bit for that piece of equipment.  Enjoy them - we did!

Christmas Tradition II: Sushi.

I know, I know..... Sushi does not sound very Christmasy, but the kids LOVE it, I love it, and it lets me do something creative in the kitchen.  I figure this is a nice light supper the day before you go hog wild at the Christmas dinner table, and it is a way to slow down and appreciate working with your hands.

Aislin and I are making loads of different types of sushi but my favorites are the spicy shrimp and the Unangi rolls that are made with smoked eel :) YUM!  I actually started this post earlier, but with rolling the sushi, playing with kids, and going to the Christmas Eve party this isn't getting posted until now.

Whatever your traditions might be, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!


Friday, 16 December 2011

Yummy stuff!

For the last few days we have been baking up a storm!  We have made Grandma Gillette's Christmas Toffee, Thumbprint cookies, made Sugar Cookies, and are now making Irish Whisky Coffee Crunchy Cookies.  Plus of course dinners, lunches, and breakfasts!

Every year I invite some good friends over and we have a women's only cookie party.  It is a lot of fun, and it lets me hang with friends who I haven't seen in a while or friends who I see all the time but can't actually say more than 2 words to since we are usually running after toddlers in different directions.  Every year the guest list changes slightly as to who is still on island, who feels up to baking the obscene amount of cookies (6 dozen) that I ask each participant to bring, and who doesn't already have another commitment.  One year I made Merengue and hazelnut cookies, those were super fast to make, and yummy.  Two years ago I tired to make windowpane cookies with mango filling. While they tasted divine they were a pain in the ______ to make.  I learned my lesson then, no more fancy time consuming fragile cookies.

This year I am making the aforementioned Irish Whisky Coffee Crunchy cookies.  If I didn't ask for so many darn cookies I could have gotten away with only doubling my recipe as I used a small cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, but since I ask for way to many cookies, then I need to quadruple my basic recipe.  The cookies cooked up fast, and look tasty, and a bit substantial.  They aren't sweet cookies either as the basic dough has oats, whisky, and coffee.  The filling is more of the same but is a cream base sans oats.  Aside from cutting the cookies out, the whole cookie part of the recipe only takes about 30 mins to make from start to finish.  The cream part only takes a little longer, so all told, the mixing, baking, and assembling only takes up 45 mins.  They aren't very festive looking, but they are easy to make, and they are a good way to offset the sweet flavors of other cookies.

I know these are adult only cookies, as Christopher grabbed one and said "MMMmmm".  Of course as soon as he ate the cookie, he put it down, and said "YECK, Agua plis Mami"  Pretty smart for a 2 year old.

Next up I want to try making Macaroons.  Not the coconut ones, but the sandwich style macaroons, sort of like this photo(which I stole from  Don't they just look scrumptious?  I have always wanted to make theses, and hope that they taste as good as they look.  I figure the kids will like these WAY better than the Irish Crunchy cookies.  :)

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ah piece a pork.

I love our Christmas carols here. They are completely original and you won't find them anywhere else North of here.  They are witty, sarcastic at times, and quite uplifting.  Once you have lived here and herd our Christmas songs, no Christmas celebration is complete without them :)  I have been playing our Christmas music nonstop here, and even the kids now know the refrain from "Ah wan a piece a pork"  by Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights!  Yes, you read right, there is a Christmas song about eating pork.

It was a great moment at the boat parade on Saturday when the C-Hunter passed by, all lighted up,  with this song playing and the whole crowd erupted into song and dance. Everyone form young to old started singing and swaying, and flowed form one Crucian Christmas carol into another.  I did appreciate the irony that what unified us was a song about wanting to eat pork, not the birth of Christ, not giving him glory, but eating pork!

Here is the song by another group, if I could find the Stanley song, I would link it, but it's not on here.  This one is pretty good too though :) Another fun Stanley song is this one: Mamacita.  For a more sedate calypso song try this one out: Christmas in St.Croix.

Enjoy, and don't forget to eat pork :)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Giving

picture borrowed from:

 On St. Croix, when the season starts, it STARTS!  From the first day of November you can spot those people who are over achievers and decorate their houses for Christmas, hear some people start to say "Season's Greetings", and get that feeling of - it's getting colder, it must be near Christmas!!!  I tend to hold out, it has to be December or I won't utter "Season's Greetings" to ANYONE!  We don't decorate our house or even put up the tree until after the first weekend in December and forget about putting on jeans until the Christmas winds hit!  

We do however, start thinking of Christmas in advance; with half of the family living overseas, we usually do some of our Christmas shopping in July, because face it, the postal service and shippers are just not our friends here.  Let me rephrase that… the SYSTEM is not our friend, the wonderful ladies in the Gallows Bay post office ARE our friends, and we LOVE them to death.  This year we decided to give hand made gifts to all our friends and those family member that would appreciate them.  Not everyone likes handmade gifts, I get it, so some people get them and others don't.  We have been busily making goodies for everyone on our list.

Mango Jam ready for gifting.
I made quilted kitchen towels and various jams with Aislin's help (can you say math lesson?).  Aislin is making hair things for her friends and girl cousins.  Christopher is getting in everyone's way and giving his 2 cents about it all - oops - sorry not a gift!  Stephen is paying for all the supplies.  So see, we are all doing our part.  

We did decide to do something a bit different that I really enjoyed putting together.  My cousin, who has a blog (I mean really, who doesn't these days?)  talked about blessing others rather than just your family.  Many of her ideas were great, adopting a classroom or subject taught in a classroom, adopting an object in a museum or place, donating to a women's shelter, etc.  What really got me was her suggestion to send everyday things that we take for granted deodorant, lip balm, snacks, etc to soldiers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.        

What is the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center? well,  when our active military duty are severely injured they are sent by medivac to this facility in Landstuhl, Germany.  In our family we do talk about soldiers and the sacrifices they make. Do we know any soldiers personally who are over there right now, well, no. DO we totally appreciate what they are doing for us - YES.    So in order to show a small bit of appreciation for the men and women over there, we are getting a package together. I made my Grandmother's Christmas Toffee, bought some deodorant, lotion, lip balm, and candy.  Aislin cranked out some Christmas cards, and helped me to package it all up.  Will it help tons of folk over there, probably not, but will it teach my kids to give selflessly to others - yup.  Will it give me a nice warm fuzzy feeling - double yes, and is this one of the few things that we can do that emulates what the session is all about - you bet your bottom dollar!

So, if you want to do the same here is their address:

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
Attn:  MCEUL-CH/Chaplain’s Office
CMR 402
APO, AE 09180

Season's Greeting All!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas is Spoken Here!

Stephen doing an A+ job of watching
the kids.

Today was Christmas is Spoken Here at the Botanical Gardens. I LOVE this event. You go, pay to get in, find parking - which if you have ever been to the Botanical Gardens during this event, is almost as fun as the event. It's like a big game of chicken and hide n seek all rolled into one!  Then as you walk around, you see everyone you know and only cover a few feet per minute if you are lucky.  The vendors are there with home made goodies, from soap, food, perfume, wooden bowls, pottery, Coquito (YUMMY), food, FRACOs, clothing, jewelry, and more food.  There are also decorated Christmas trees, and choirs singing.  For me, one of the best parts of this day was dragging Stephen along and being together as a family. We definely made memories today that will stay with us forever.   

Aislin has her own money for the eggs she sells from her hens, so she asked if she could bring some and buy something.  At 8, the power to spend your own money with little to no input from Mom and Dad is intoxicating! Of course we said yes.  Maybe then she will realize why we don't let her buy junk? Nah, probably not.  I will say, she was very specific about what she wanted to buy and doggedly looked around until she found it.  

Her big purchases were Christmas Tree earrings, and lip balm.  The first lady she saw, had some earring that caught her eye but they were $20 which would of used up all her available funds, so she tried to bargain, but the lady wouldn't budge from $15 to even $12.  Aislin sadly passed and then EUREKA! Found another lady who sold her a pair for $10. She was thrilled, I think the lady got a kick out of hearing all about Aislin's chickens who enabled her to drop some cash, and I totally enjoyed seeing Aislin bargain her way into what she wanted.  she also scored her organic lip balm at $3 a tube.  So proud of my daughter that she was able to figure out how much cash she had left from the earrings, and exactly how many lip balms she could buy with what was left.  

During most of this time, Stephen was watching Christopher and doing a GREAT job of keeping him from running off with merchandise, running amok, and staying near us. Of course at some point, my poor husband had to go heed the call of nature, and left me IN charge of the boy.  At this point it all went downhill… I heard a few gasps and ignored them until someone politely tapped me on the shoulder.  SIGH! This is what I saw:     

Mad Mom skills huh? 

About half the people who saw him said something to the effect of, "boys will be boys" and the other half reacted in horror.  I ended up taking the "it'll all come out in the wash" stance.  Finished my purchases and told him to bring a handful of lodo (mud) and walked back towards the food area. Everyone was happy and there wasn't a tantrum, which was great seeing as we hadn't had a nap yet.

It was fantastic day.  We walked around as family, Aislin explored consumerism, we spent some money on goodies, saw friends, and then went home, put up the tree, and decorated it.  Now to wrap gifts, and bake cookies!

Season's Greetings All!  
At least he knows how to share.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Friday Joys

The older kids always play some form of organized game.
Today is Friday.... what does that mean for us here? Well, since it is PE Day that means we get to go run around with a bunch of other homeschooled kids  and get sweaty - oh yes, sweaty! It is December after all, and the sun is shinning, there isn't a cloud in sight, and it's about 83 out - oh?! That isn't normal for December you say? Well, happily for us and sadly for you, it's our December. You see we live on a little slice of Paradise where it never gets below 62, and we don't have to worry about digging the car out of snow and putting on a gazillion layers like most of you do.  It also means that between June and November we are on high alert for hurricanes and it is awfully hot - run around naked type of hot.

Playing with sticks and cut grass.
Anyway.. back to what Friday means to us.  It means PE Day with the "guys" as C calls them, have a friend over to play with after PE, and bake, and craft, and just have fun day.  Every other week we start our weekend early and it's GREAT!  A gets to play with friends, C gets to play with friends, and Mommy gets to play with friends :)   Then we all go home and relax or do chores, or in our case today, bake a cake.

I did say sweaty right?
A has a friend over and C is busying doing 2 year old stuff while I am in the kitchen baking a baby shower cake.  It is a relaxing way to slide into the weekend. No pressures to get stuff done, no worries if we don't finish our work for the day. Well, except for getting the cake done, a triple layer dark and white chocolate masterpiece for a baby shower this weekend.  It's my first paid for by someone else cake and I am working my heart out on it.  If all goes as planned, this will be the first of many, if not - hey it was fun!

This weekend is spectacularly busy for us, horseback riding for A tomorrow morning, then a friend over, then later that night our church's Advent festival where the kids are going to craft, eat, and sing their hearts out, then Christmas is Spoken Here at the Botanical Gardens on Sunday.  So this Friday is truly needed, it is a perfect day for the start of a perfect weekend full of activities.

Gotta Love Fridays!