BlogExplosion

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Roxy's Blogolutions: Better Content in 2009

I've been serious about my blogging here at Roxiticus Desperate Housewives for almost a year now, and I've also spent the year trying to learn from my fellow bloggers. I've "done my time" with EntreCard and BlogExplosion, driving traffic to my own blog while discovering some amazingly talented writers and some friends who make me smile day after day. In the New Year 2009, Rex and I are committed to working harder and being more productive in our investment banking business, and that will likely reduce my time spent in and around the blogosphere. I will therefore be focused on making the most of my time, which means spending less time on indiscriminate traffic driving techniques and more time visiting and commenting on my favorite blogs.

Something I noticed when competing for Hottest Mommy Blogger in the Bloggers Choice Awards is that famous bloggers like Dooce don't rely on traffic exchanges to drive visitors to their sites (Dooce is apparently so popular that she's shut off comments from visitors...what would I do without hearing from all of you??!!). Most of my favorite bloggers seem to spend more time writing great content than they do visiting other people's blogs. I've certainly noticed that when I write a great post about something meaningful to me, I'm much more likely to win in BlogExplosion's Battle of the Blogs. So that's where I'm headed with Roxiticus Desperate Housewives in the New Year 2009... trying to make things more interesting for my readers, and over on Roxy's Best Of... I'll be working hard to build local content on the best kid stuff (toddler activities, kiddie birthday party venues, sports teams and clinics, ballet, gymnastics, tennis, singing and acting lessons), restaurants, food and wine, art and culture, and local community events in New Jersey and to recruit new local bloggers to blog about their faves in a town near you.

I'm interested in hearing from my loyal readers about how you spend your time in the blogosphere... I've noticed some friends dropping out of EntreCard, but I think I'll just stay in and cut back on my "dropping" habit. I find that seeing my friends' EntreCards in my inbox reminds me to stop by and see what's new around the world. What are your Blogolutions for the New Year 2009?

Roxy's Resolutions: Fitness not Fatness in 2009

As I began to plan out my New Year's Resolutions for 2009, I had a grand scheme for fitness not fatness that involved reducing my weight from 145 pounds to 130 pounds over the course of 25 weeks... one pound per week for 5 weeks, then one pound every other week for 10 weeks. Unfortunately, a bit of overindulgence in Rex's good cooking, and all of the holiday cookies that London, Maddie and I baked caused me to tip the scales at 150 pounds on New Year's Eve. Behind the eight ball already!

Do you remember those old Special K commercials that urged you to try to "pinch an inch" of belly fat? Of course, the recommendation for those who had an inch to pinch was to eat only Special K and grapefruit until the inch went away. The 2008 equivalent was the Baked Tostitos Scoops and fresh hot salsa diet. Well, loyal readers, I was feelin' pretty good after my workout the other day, almost ready to try on my size six jeans, but I can still pinch two inches...ON BOTH SIDES!! AAAAAArrrrgh!

I guess my weight fluctuation in the midnight hour is just a reminder that I need to be flexible, so Roxy's Resolution #1 is now: lose 20 pounds over 30 weeks, one pound per week for the first ten weeks, then one pound every other week for another 20 weeks.

I'd like to invite my loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives to share their advice for weight loss. My current approach will combine diet (less beer, fewer desserts) and exercise (3x per week on the elliptical trainer or bike), all while listening to workout mixes on my iPod. My best musical inspiration has been hip hop... Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," the Black Eyed Peas singin' "Let's Get It Started," Salt 'n' Pepa's "Shoop." Please let me know if you have any fave workout tunes that make you move it, move it...

Happy New Year 2009!

The countdown to the New Year 2009 begins. Here in the Roxiticus Valley, we have about 14 hours to finish making our resolutions, dress up in our finery, and pour the champagne. On the other side of the world, however, my blogosphere buddy Mariuca is all dressed up and out for dinner, with about an hour until her New Year begins. Same goes for the lovely, gracious and talented LadyJava, who is offering your choice of coffee or cocktails in LadyJava's Lounge, decorated for the celebration with balloons, streamers and party favors. By surfing the blogosphere, we can "watch the ball drop" every hour and celebrate all day and night. As the Black Eyed Peas might say, "Let's Get It Started!"

Even though there are so many fabulous restaurants to choose from for a New Year's Eve dinner in Morris County, NJ, as well as a kid-friendly celebration of First Night in Morristown, NJ, I found live Maine Lobsters on sale for $4.99/pound at Shop Rite in Chester, NJ, so our family is going to stay at home for our celebration this year. My loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives readers know that Rex is the master chef in our family, and he prepares a lobster as well as any restaurant. London and Maddie have been enjoying 300-piece jigsaw puzzles, we're working on a Time Capsule Project, and we may just start a marathon game of Scrabble or Monopoly to ring in the New Year.

If you've made any New Year's Resolutions, please share them with a comment here. I'm putting together a Blogosphere Buddies Resolution Support Group to help all of us stick together and stick to our resolutions for longer than we might have on our own.

Whatever your plans for the First Night and the New Year 2009, Rex, London, Maddie and I would like to share with you and your family our best wishes for a year of peace, joy, health and happiness.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Starting Your First Blog

I recently received an e-mail from a local Mendham, NJ mom who has become a regular Roxiticus Desperate Housewives reader. She was writing to let me know about a huge blunder I had made in a recent post, which I quickly corrected, and hope I haven't offended anyone in the meantime. She also wanted to participate in Roxy's Blogosphere Buddies New Year's Resolution Support Group, but wondered if a personal blog was a requirement. I'll be posting more details soon... in fact, I may start a whole new blog with multiple contributors to share our New Year's Resolutions in my Roxy's Best Of... WordPress MU (multi-user) Community.

However, the question got me thinking about how I would go about it if I were to start my very first blog today. Would I use Google's free Blogger/Blogspot service? Blogger has certainly been a great place for me to start, and remains the most user-friendly blogging service I've found. There's a link at the top of Roxiticus Desperate Housewives to "Create Blog" and it's easy to get started right away. While I now enjoy the freedom that my own URL and self-hosting offers Roxy's Best Of..., WordPress is not the easiest system to work with and I've relied heavily on my awesome web designer, Lisa Sabin-Wilson (be sure to tell her Roxy sent ya), and her classic blogging book, WordPress for Dummies. Lisa's new, updated version is coming out in early 2009... go ahead and pre-order it through my link.

In addition to Blogger or WordPress self-hosted options, I've recently discovered Today.com, a free blogging service that pays bloggers to write about their topic(s) of choice. Unlike sponsored post services that make some bloggers feel like cheap hookers, Today.com doesn't ask you to write about advertisers. Instead, Today.com seems to have the objective of driving traffic to their site so that they can sell advertising. They pay $1.00 per hundred word post (one per day) for your first 30 days, then pay for the traffic you drive to your Today.com site. Therefore, Today.com doesn't care what you write about, as long as it is interesting enough to get readers to visit and keep coming back for more. For example, I started a Today.com blog (http://desperatehousewives.today.com/) about "what women want," where I'm trying out a more personal writing style, a softer side of Roxy. My blogalific blogosphere buddy LadyJava started a new blog called Gossip Galore, and Jason Buckley added Bass Nation to his daily blogging responsibilities.

So if you think you might like to give Today.com a try, please click on my icon below and join. It's free to join, and I'll get five bucks for the referral. I'll be forever in your debt and we'll all hope to have some fun blogging and make a few bucks along the way.

Music Monday: Same Auld Lang Syne

Since I was a kid, I have always loved New Year's Eve... making resolutions and trying to keep them, staying up until midnight to watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV, the year-end pop music countdowns on the radio... I even had my first kiss with a boy named James (now a not so famous actor in Hollywood) on New Year's Eve when I was in sixth grade...so it is no surprise that I love songs about New Year's Eve, particularly "Same Auld Lang Syne" from Dan Fogelberg. Enjoy the video of a live performance and feel free to sing along with the lyrics below. Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2009... with best wishes for a year filled with joy, peace, health, love and happiness.

If, like me, you make a few New Year's Resolutions every year but have a hard time sticking to them past the first week of January, please join Roxy's Resolution Support Group by leaving a comment with your goals and objectives, wishes, hopes and dreams for the New Year 2009.



Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasnt sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne...

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain



Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted.




Sunday, December 28, 2008

Roxy Raves: A Perfect Christmas Eve at Due Terre Enoteca in Bernardsville, New Jersey

The weather outside was frightful, but our Christmas Eve dinner at Due Terre Enoteca in Bernardsville, NJ, was delightful.

All day long, the icy rain poured down. When Rex went out in the morning to bring in some provisions from Shop Rite in Chester, NJ, I called his Blackberry to suggest that he pick up some ingredients for dinner and just stay home. Rex was hoping for a Christmas Eve miracle that would get us to the 4pm children's pageant at Hilltop Presbyterian Church in Mendham, NJ, and out for an early festive dinner afterwards. He had read a recent rave review in the Star Ledger of Due Mari in New Brunswick, so he asked me to call for reservations at their sister restaurant... Due Terre Enoteca in Bernardsville, NJ.

When I spoke with Matthew Rotella, the restaurant manager, in the early afternoon, it was clear that Due Terre was pretty well booked for the evening, but he agreed to email the Christmas Eve prix fixe menu and to squeeze us in at 5:30pm, right after church.

Despite the weather, Rex did his best to cheer us into our holiday finery and off to Hilltop Church in time for the Christmas Eve pageant. As soon as the children began to sing "Jesus, Light of the World," my spirits lifted and the meaning of Christmas came back to me once more. "Long after the dawn of creation, God promised another light. This light would shine through the eyes of a child. This light would bring hope and love to a world darkened by sin." We sang along to the traditional Christmas carols: "Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," "We Three Kings of Orient Are," "Joy to the World" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." I stopped worrying about whether London would be disappointed if Santa didn't deliver a Teeny Puppini (he didn't, she wasn't), and let myself believe and remember. We all joined in for "Go Tell It On the Mountain" and headed out into the night holding the light of the world in our hearts.

Continue reading Christmas Eve at Due Terre Enoteca

Rex's Recipes: Roasted Fresh Ham for a Crowd... with a Little Help from Louie at the Chester Meat Market in Chester, New Jersey

As my loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives and Roxy's Best Of... readers know, our family always celebrates the holidays twice... one Christmas at my mom's house, and one Christmas Saturday with Rex's family gathered here with us in the Roxiticus Valley. Yesterday Rex's family joined us to celebrate Christmas with a "roasted fresh ham for a crowd" of fifteen guests. Rex found the recipe by Matt Lee and Ted Lee in the New York Times back in April 2006. If you're looking for a great holiday meal for New Year's Eve/Day, I've posted the recipe, along with before and after photos, and recommend that you call Louie at the Chester Meat Market right away to order your fresh ham for your upcoming feast.

Continue reading Roasted Fresh Ham for a Crowd

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fun Things To Do, with or without Kids, Over the Holiday Break

This morning Maddie happily pointed out that even though Christmas is past, we still have nine days left in our holiday break. While I've been impressed with some of the local activities my friends have come up with to fill the days (one family visited Liberty Science Center, and Maddie was invited out for a movie date this afternoon), I'm really looking for a project that we can do as a family without necessarily leaving the house. Here are three things we're likely to try in the coming week:

  • Melissa over on Your Fun Family shared a neat Time Capsule project that would make a great annual New Year's tradition for our family: Get your kids together and talk about the past year. Have them discuss what they will remember the most. Then they can decide what to add to the time capsule. I like the idea of having the kids write a kind of diary entry about the year. Then they can write their name on an envelope and seal it shut. When everything is in the time capsule you can decorate it and label it with the date. Put it away in a safe place until you are ready to open it. Your family can then decide how long to wait to open them. If you make a new one each year, you will also have one to open every year after the chosen amount of years has passed. When I was a kid, I participated in a town-wide bicentennial (1976) time capsule project where they waited 20 years to open the capsules. Even though my parents still lived in town in 1996, I never heard about a grand opening of the time capsules, so I suspect 20 years is way too long to wait... even if our family chose five years, London would be almost 13 and Maddie would be almost 12 by the time we opened them. Maybe three years? What do you think?
  • My blogosphere buddy Shelly, a.k.a. The Mom With Brownies, has made a list of 100 things she wants to do in her life before she dies. I think it's incredibly ambitious just to list them all out, never mind getting after them... but I may just be inspired to start my list, and if I do you'll find it here.
  • Third on my agenda is to make our family's New Year's Resolutions. We do it every year, and some years we remain more committed to our goals than others. This year, I'd like to start up a Blogosphere Buddies Resolution Support Group here at Roxiticus Desperate Housewives, where we all share our goals and objectives for the New Year, and help each other to stick to 'em. Whaddya think?

The Greatest Gift: Please Help Win a C'Elle Kit for Melissa and Her Baby Girl To Be

Today's the day that Rex's family joins us to celebrate Christmas with a fresh ham for fifteen guests. If you're looking for a great holiday meal for New Year's Eve/Day, I'll be posting photos and recipes tomorrow.

Having all of our family gathered around us for the holidays has me thinking about special gifts, the kind that have meaning that lasts for years, even a lifetime. The greatest gift I have ever received was the birth of my two daughters, so I guess you'd call London and Maddie the amazing gift I've been lucky enough to receive twice in one lifetime. As I was enjoying the children's pageant at Hilltop Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve, I started thinking back to a time a few weeks after London was born when I went to my parents' church on a Sunday morning and just sat there listening to the sermon, holding London in my arms, with tears of joy and gratitude running down my cheeks.

This Christmas, after London and Maddie unwrapped their drum set from Santa, we spent the day at my mom's house, then headed over to my friend Melissa's parents' house for another annual tradition: Christmas dessert. This year, there were so many reasons to celebrate. Melissa's almost three year old son has turned into a real little person, and London and Maddie enjoyed playing with him and his Hot Wheels from Santa. And Melissa had exciting news, too... after almost three years of challenging procedures and heartache, she's having another baby... and it's a girl! I was happy for Melissa when her son was born, but there's something about a girl that just tugs at my heart... I've got so many beautiful girly girl dresses to hand down from London and Maddie's baby and toddler collection.

When London and Maddie were born, Rex and I took advantage of medical technology that allowed us to "bank" the stem cells from their umbilical cord blood. Stem cells have demonstrated the ability to differentiate into other cell types such as heart muscle, cartilage, nerve and bone stem cells. This capability translates into the potential for future therapeutic developments that may treat major diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Today, you don't even have to have a baby to benefit from advances in medical science. C'Elle's exclusive and revolutionary stem cell technology empowers women to safely and easily collect non-controversial, potentially life-saving stem cells found in menstrual blood. These monthly stem cells are a 100% match for the female donor and may also match her first degree relatives. Invest in yourself and your family today for tomorrow's healthcare. It seems a small price to pay to be able to help yourself or a family member in the future. Right now, you can receive a free gift just for talking to a representative.

CONTEST ALERT!! Here's how you can help me with a special gift for my pregnant friend, Melissa (and it won't cost you anything or take more than a minute of your time):
C'Elle is running a contest that I have entered through this post. The blogger that generates the most comments (only two comments per reader are eligible towards my total) will receive a free C'elle collection kit worth $699. Now, you know I appreciate your comments on an ordinary day, and today your comments will help me to win a terrific gift for my friend, Melissa. So, don't be shy... let me hear your thoughts... Do you have children? Did you bank your cord blood when your babies were delivered? What was the greatest gift you ever received... or gave to someone else?

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Santa Brought a Big Red Drum Set for the Butter Bites Girl Band in Roxy's Basement

... and he also left some Aleve in Rex's stocking!

Looking back on one Christmas when I was a kid, I remember wanting a drum set. My parents were kind and loving, but Depression-era sensible. They told me that beginning drummers don't learn with a full set of drums like my favorite rock bands (and my schoolgirl crush), but with a little round drum pad and drumsticks to tap out a (quiet) beat. I didn't have any interest in a drum pad, so I probably changed my request to an Andy Gibb album or a softball glove. Now that I have this big beautiful red drum set in my basement for London and Maddie, I'm glad I decided not to be sensible about it... while the drums are the only gift Santa brought for my girls this Christmas, they are over the moon with delight and we're getting an awful lot of bang for the drum.

I'll be posting some photos soon... whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or getting ready for the New Year 2009, Happy Holidays from our gang to yours!

Christmas Crisis in Roxy's Kitchen Sink: Reissmann Plumbing to the Rescue

What is it about the holidays that always seems to bring plumbing problems to our home? Over the past five years since we've lived here in Mendham Township, New Jersey, we've had the following holiday plumbing incidents:
  • Thanksgiving 2003: Backed up toilet in the half bath off the kitchen
  • Thanksgiving 2004: Broken washing machine
  • Christmas 2005: Broken hot water heater spewing water all over the basement floor
  • Christmas 2008: Kitchen sink clog spewing water all over the kitchen floor

It's not every year that we have a plumbing problem, but whenever we do, it's Reissmann to the rescue! This morning, I found Rex standing at the kitchen sink with a plunger, and knew we were in trouble. I suspect that he dumped the excess fat from our Christmas prime rib down the drain, but whatever it was, we have one serious clog. After trying a "blast" of Liquid Plumber and one of us on each side of the double sink with a plunger, we ended up with water spewing out from the pipes down below. "Call Reissmann!" Rex cried, and I reached for the phone. Five hours later, Scott was here to repair the damage... which turned out to be a huge plug of solidified fat the size of a giant champagne cork.

Thanks, Reissmann Plumbing, for saving our holidays!

Reissmann Plumbing. Phone: (908) 879-5530 and don't forget to tell 'em Roxy sent you! Click here to get a money saving coupon... Reissmann Plumbing will MAIL you the coupon, so get one now before your holiday plumbing crisis. They also have a Frequent Plumber Card for people like me... after five validated visits, I'll have an hour of free labor on my next call.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

London and Maddie Are Watching the Miser Brothers Christmas Special and Tracking Santa... He's Not Here Yet!



Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house...

We're just back from the Christmas pageant at Hilltop Church in Mendham, NJ, and a perfect Christmas Eve dinner at Due Terre Enoteca in Bernardsville, NJ. London and Maddie have set out some Roxy's Nightmares and milk for Santa and some baby carrots for the reindeer. For the past few days, I've been asking my family why we've been watching reruns of Hannah Montana and Zack & Cody and we haven't seen any Christmas specials, particularly my favorite with the Heatmiser ("I'm Mister Heatmiser, I'm Mister Sun, I'm Mister Heatmiser, I'm Mister Hundred and One") and his brother the Snowmiser. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a recently invented Miser Brothers Christmas spectacular on ABC Family, to be followed by the Jim Carrey Grinch movie.

We're looking at the NORAD Santa tracker on the web, and as of 8:00pm EST, Santa has delivered lots of pressies over in Europe and has reached Tarrafal, Cape Verde, which looks to be in Africa.

Slipping Into My Little Black Dress for Christmas Eve Dinner and an Awards Ceremony

The weather outside is frightful (again? still?), but Roxy's got the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve, and Rambler at Lofty Matters has given me an incredible honor and a reason to don my gay apparel and celebrate with balloons, confetti, and champagne toasts all around. The Nobless Oblige Award is presented to bloggers who display consistency in any one or a combination of these conditions:

  1. The Blogger manifests exemplary attitude, respecting the nuances that pervades amongst different cultures and beliefs.
  2. The Blog contents inspire; strives to encourage and offers solutions.
  3. There is a clear purpose at the Blog; one that fosters a better understanding on Social, Political, Economic, the Arts, Culture and Sciences and Beliefs.
  4. The Blog is refreshing and creative.
  5. The Blogger promotes friendship and positive thinking.


==========================================
The Blogger who receives this award will need to perform the following steps:

  1. Create a Post with a mention and link to the person who presented the Noblesse Oblige Award.
  2. The Award Conditions must be displayed at the Post.
  3. Write a short article about what the Blog has thus far achieved – preferably citing one or more older Posts to support.
  4. The Blogger must present the Noblesse Oblige Award in concurrence with the Award conditions.
  5. The Blogger must display the Award at any location at the Blog
    ==========================================

I am passing this award on to:

Still Time to Grant a Wish This Christmas



Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house
London and Maddie were stirring
Picking out a Christmas Eve blouse
Their stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would appear
The Butter Bites wished for a new set of drums
Then they started to think about kids who had none
So we headed to a web site
Sears Heroes at Home
To grant one last wish for all that our soldiers have done

Sears established the Sears Heroes at Home registry to make it easy for people like you and me to contribute online and provide financial support for veterans, military service members and their families who have made requests for help during the holiday season. Visit the site and read some of the stories that will touch your heart: a family of six in Florida wishes to rebuild their home after almost losing it all in a hurricane the night before the father was called to active duty; a soldier writes about missing his girls on their first holiday apart... you'll see that the things these families have wished for are not extravagant, simple things like kids shoes and boys pajamas top the list. The donations made at this site are not tax-deductible, but they will be given as Sears gift cards to the registered families to show our heroes at home, the families of American soldiers, how much we appreciate the sacrifices they make and their year round efforts to keep our families safe and free.



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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick Holiday Shout Out to CRP Music Store in Rockaway, New Jersey: Thanks for Fixing London's Guitar

My loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives and Roxy's Best Of... readers know that my two girls, London and Maddie, have started a basement band (the garage is too cold this time of year) called the Butter Bites. The girl band has asked Santa to bring them a set of drums for Christmas to add to their collection of musical equipment: a really nice keyboard that Santa delivered last year, a karaoke machine and a portable amplifier, and a broken kids' guitar. Well, if CRP Music in Rockaway, NJ, has anything to do with it, the guitar won't be broken for long.

Yesterday, I dispatched our fabulous nanny to Rockaway with the mission of buying a cheap pair of beginner drumsticks (counting on Santa to deliver the drums) and having London's guitar restrung in time for our Saturday Christmas celebration. Unfortunately, as I brought the guitar out to the car, I noticed that it was not only missing a couple strings, but had a bit of a broken neck. It's a cheap ($80) kids' guitar, and I only wanted it fixed if we could do it for under $35. Our nanny was on her way to another music store which will not be named because my mother taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, well, don't say anything at all. She got a bit lost and stopped at CRP Music to ask directions to the other store. Turns out she should have just settled in at CRP Music, since the other store wouldn't touch the guitar and wanted double the price for drumsticks. Thankfully, our nanny has good sense and returned to CRP Music, where she brought home drumsticks for $4.27 and left the guitar for restringing and repair. Our story should have a happy ending... I spoke with the guy at CRP Music today and he'll be able to glue the guitar's neck back together and we'll hope to have it ready for Grammy to pick up on Saturday on her way here...just in time for the Butter Bites' performance at our Christmas celebration with Rex's entire family. If you come by on Saturday and the house is a rockin', don't bother knockin', come on in and jam with the Butter Bites!

CRP Music & Recording Arts Instruction, 350 Route 46, Rockaway, NJ 07866. Phone: (973) 246-1298. Don't forget to tell 'em Roxy sent you!

Roxy's Resolution Support Group

During the holiday break at the end of the year, I tend to get a bit introspective and get psyched about a fresh start in the New Year. Like many people, I make a list of New Year's Resolutions. Then I find that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and my list of plans falls by the wayside as I quickly return to my gluttonous ways by the end of January.

This year, I'm thinking of starting a Blogosphere Buddies Support Group for those of us who have trouble sticking to our New Year's Resolutions... if you're interested in joining me, please leave a comment here and I'll figure out the details of the program over the next week.

How Do You Celebrate Winter?

Whether I'm on the phone with a client in the mid-west or surfing the blogosphere, I've been hearing a lot about the first big snowstorms of the winter season here in the United States. We've certainly been hit with our share of snow, ice and cold weather in the Roxiticus Valley, and the winter wonderland outside got me thinking about how to celebrate winter instead of suffering through the cold months ahead. While London and Maddie love the beach as much as I do, they still look forward to snow days off from school when they can head outside to build a snowman, or pump up their snow tubes to slide down the hill in our back yard. Rex and I used to get out west to ski for a week or two every year, but we haven't ventured to Deer Valley or Vail since I was pregnant with London eight year ago. I have to admit that my current concept of a winter sport involves sitting by the fireplace and enjoying a family game of Monopoly or Scrabble.

One of my friends who always spent the holidays with her family in Missouri told me that there is no better place to relax than in Branson. Diane will be getting on a plane tonight and heading out with her new husband to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve with her mom, dad, and brother. Luckily, she no longer stays in the bedroom she slept in as a little girl. Instead, she'll be at either the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing or the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel, so when it comes time to take a break from family (and that time will come I know!), Diane can relax with a river walk or the spa, taking time to enjoy the shops, boutiques, restaurants, and other attractions of her home town. The Branson town square features a spectacular water fountain with a light and fire display choreographed to music, just right for the holidays.

While we're huddled indoors in New Jersey, Branson celebrates winter with ongoing events such as the Third Annual Ice Carving, the 2009 Polar Plunge and the 2nd Anniversary of the Hilton Promenade, live entertainment and theaters.

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I've heard so much from my friend about Celebration City, Table Rock Lake, Silver Dollar City...all the sights to see and the local events that celebrate the season make me want to head out to Branson, Missouri with Diane and take advantage of the Winter Escape Package at the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing and the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel. At a minimum, I'm going to get London and Maddie started on some down home ice sculptures right here in our back yard.

How do you and your family celebrate winter? Will you take the polar plunge or stay cozy indoors?

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New Year's Resolution for Bloggers: Back Up, Back Up, Back Up!

I can't say it often enough, to myself and to others. Back up your computer...everything precious to you... your photos of your kids, your writing, your work, your e-mail, your calendar. Back it up. Do it in several ways... with one of those programs like Norton or McAfee, and every now and then "by hand" -- go in to your documents and make sure there's a copy or two of the most important ones on a portable hard drive or another computer in your home or at the office or both.

I've had several computer crashes over the past ten years, every day I read about another blogger's computer having a fatal virus or other hard drive crash (last week was LadyJava's turn to lose her beloved Miss Fly) and I had a close call last night that caused me to re-check my backup situation. As I type this I am in the process of backing up 57,034 files (103 GB). It says I have another 12 hours and 18 minutes to go, but I will breathe a huge sigh of relief when it's done.

My close call: it was about 11:00pm, and I was just finishing up my bedtime tour of the blogosphere via EntreCard drops. Rex and my notebook were in bed with me, and I couldn't help but notice that my laptop was getting hotter and hotter and hotter. All of a sudden, it just shut down and would not restart. I was exhausted, so I decided to just go to sleep and hope things looked better in the morning. Thankfully, my notebook started up this morning in a mostly normal manner, but it still feels like it has a fever. Wish me luck, and back up your own stuff while I've got you thinking about it!

Update Tuesday at 9:15am: my "endangered" laptop and the portable hard drive are still chugging away upstairs (7 hours 14 minutes to go), and I've switched over to my old HP that crashed over the summer and was returned to me tabula rasa -- a blank slate. It looks like I will spend my day putting programs on this notebook and restoring files here, in the event that the endangered laptop needs to spend the holidays with the technical support team at HP. I don't think I mentioned the Bad Omen from HP when it occurred... about two weeks ago, I received an unsolicited e-mail from HP letting me know that they were sending me a box to return my broken laptop. Hmmm, at the time I didn't have a broken laptop, but the box has been waiting out in my garage for the other shoe to drop...

...which brings me to the origin of that odd expression. Its source would seem to be the following story: A man comes in late at night to a lodging house, rather the worse for wear. He sits on his bed, drags one shoe off and drops it on the floor. Guiltily remembering everyone around him trying to sleep, he takes the other one off much more carefully and quietly puts in on the floor. He then finishes undressing and gets into bed. Just as he is drifting off to sleep, a shout comes from the man in the room below: “Well, drop the other one then! I can’t sleep, waiting for you to drop the other shoe!”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's Keep Blogging Out Hunger: Stop and Shop Contributes $1.00 Per Comment at This Full House

As part of the Blogging Out Hunger campaign for the Community FoodBank of NJ, one of my fellow New Jersey Bloggers -- Liz, from This Full House -- has gotten Stop and Shop to pony up $1 for every comment left (up to $300) under the blog post linked below. It's a way all of you can help and it won't cost you anything. Please take a second to click the link below and comment. Let's see how quickly we can raise $300 more bucks for the FoodBank.

http://www.thisfullhouse.com/this_full_house/2008/12/blogging-out-hunger-we-cant-let-this-bank-fail-the-big-give.html

Music Monday: Shining Star

This week's Music Monday post is in recognition of a great honor bestowed upon me by Matt over at Meltwater. Torrents. Meanderings. Delta. Matt has given me the Pulsar Award: "A pulsar is a brilliant flashing star in the sky. The Pulsar Award honors those who add a bit of brightness to life. If bloggers everywhere can find pulsars, other beacons of hope and friendship and display them on their blogs, then we all can make this world a better place together."

Thanks, Matt... I will continue to do my best to live up to your great expectations! Please enjoy the video and lyrics of Shining Star... a classic by Earth, Wind and Fire.




Yeah, hey
When you wish upon a star
Dreams will take you very far, yeah
When you wish upon a dream
Life ain't always what it seems, oh yeah
Once you see your light so clear
In the sky so very dear

Youre a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you can truly be
That you can truly be

Shining star come into view
Shine is watchful light on you, yeah
Gives you strength to carry on
Make your body big and strong
Future roads for you to pass
Love to watch your mug past

The shining star, lucky you
The sinful redeeming shall be true
On an adventure of the sun, yeah
Yeah it's all awake and just begun
Yeah, thought I had to stir the mood
That's it now I got my own oh yeah

So if you find yourself in need
Why don't you listen to his words of heat
Be a child free of sin
Be some place, yes I can
Words of wisdom: yes I can

You're a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you can truly be
Youre a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you can truly be

Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be
Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be
Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be




Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted.




Friday, December 19, 2008

Sorry to Let You Down on the Snowman Front... It's Not "Packing Snow"

I've had several requests for London and Maddie to use the eight inches or more of snow in the Roxiticus Valley to deliver a snowman (or anatomically correct snow-woman). I had expected to post a photo of a classic snowman with carrot nose and raisin buttons, but it was not to be. While Rex and the girls and I got out for a few runs on the sled, we all tried to make a snowman but couldn't even pack a decent snowball.

Attention InterFaith Procrastinators: NJPAC Promotional Code Deadline Extended to December 30th

If you're like me, with less than a week until Christmas, you may have made a list and checked it twice, you may even have it divided into suitable gifts for naughty and nice, but you haven't purchased and wrapped your gifts for everyone on the list....particularly if you're still lacking the inspiration to surprise the most special people in your life. We got our tree at Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ last weekend, and as you can see from the photo on the right, it's a beauty. I really started to get into the holiday spirit as we hung each ornament on the tree with care, and reminisced about which little shop in New York City's West Village or Lambertville, NJ, each one came from, who picked it out (London and Maddie get to choose one special ornament each year) and when it came to be a part of our family's holiday ornament collection. We've been listening to Christmas songs on our iPod, pulling surprises out of the Advent Calendar every night, and London and Maddie have been wrapping up homemade gifts for everyone left and right. Their mom, on the other hand, is a bit behind on the shopping and wrapping and I'm counting on the United Parcel man to deliver a bunch of goodies just in time. The other members of Rex's family -- Grammy (Rex's mom) plus London and Maddie's three brothers, one sister, niece and two nephews -- aren't coming to celebrate with us until Saturday, December 27th, so Secret Santa has a little extra time to pull the extended family gifts together.

If, unlike me, you celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas, you're just kicking back in your easy chair and waiting for the post-Christmas sales to get serious about your holiday shopping. This year, Hanukkah starts at sunset on Sunday, December 21st and runs eight nights through Sunday night, December 28th.

For procrastinators of all faiths, I've got some terrific news: NJPAC has extended the deadline to use the TREAT promotional code to buy your tickets to Giselle, Cirque Eloize, and Golden Dragon Acrobats. Through Tuesday, December 30th, use coupon code TREAT to purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office and you'll get one free child's ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Giselle, Cirque Eloize or Golden Dragon Acrobats. Discount is valid for Sections A, B, C, and D (no G or P) and expires December 30, 2008. Subject to availability and not valid on prior purchase. This holiday promotion offers grandparents, aunts and uncles, godparents or parents an amazing local opportunity to treat the young person in your life to the magic of live performance with a sweet holiday discount from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).. a unique holiday gift that promises a child-friendly cultural experience at a great value.

While I don't mind explaining to London and Maddie that even Santa needs to cut back on the excessive amount of Barbies and plastic toys this holiday season, I have been searching for one or two meaningful, magical gifts that would keep Christmas special for my girls. As my most loyal readers know, Rex and I believe in encouraging our daughters' passions (music, dance, gymnastics and tennis) and exposing them to a wide range of child-friendly art and culture. Just in case we have the next Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana or Jonas Brothers musical talent hiding in our basement, London and Maddie have asked Santa for a drum set for their girl band, the Butter Bites. At first, I thought they were looking for the modern electronic kind, but I've become convinced they are seeking the old fashioned make-a-lotta-noise-till-mom-says-turn-it-down drums that I dreamed of as a third grader when I had a crush on the drummer in the Branchburg Central Middle School Band. I will sleep soundly on Christmas Eve believing that Santa will deliver. Add that to the keyboard Santa left under the tree last Christmas, a second-hand guitar that needs to be re-strung, two microphones and a karaoke machine, and the Butter Bites will be all set to explore their musical passions over the long cold winter.

I have also committed to celebrating London's 8th birthday with three of her closest girlfriends and their moms at the Cirque Eloize performance at NJPAC in January. We just received our tickets in the mail, and the girls are over the moon with excitement about it. Over the past year, London and Maddie have enjoyed three different performances at NJPAC: Rex and the girls took me out to see Alvin Ailey on Mother's Day and we were all so impressed that we're headed back for this season's Mother's Day performance; we introduced the girls to a bit of Mom and Dad's history through Twyla Tharp's interpretation of the music of Billy Joel in "Movin' Out"; and most recently experienced the magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats. So we'll be looking down from our own little box in the Grand Tier at the Saturday matinee performance of Cirque Eloize in Nebbia, and London and Maddie invite you to join us at a discount.


Cirque Eloize at NJPAC:

Experience the sights and sounds of a European circus in a vibrant, fully-staged production that brings together a company of acrobats, clowns, jugglers, trapeze artists and musicians to create a rich, fast-paced tango of emotions. Last seen at NJPAC with their eye-popping spectacle Rain, this world-renowned company returns with Nebbia, a brand new acrobatic extravaganza. Cirque Eloize passionately pursues artistic perfection – and achieves absolute magic. Our gang will be celebrating London's birthday at the Saturday matinee, but there are three magical Cirque Eloize performances of Nebbia scheduled: Saturday, January 31st at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, February 1st at 2:00pm. Use NJPAC discount code TREAT to purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office by December 24th through December 30th and get one free child's ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Cirque Eloize in Nebbia.

Giselle at NJPAC:

Using the choreography created by Marius Petipa in his definitive revivals, the State Ballet Theatre of Russia performs Adolphe Adam's beloved ballet – the timeless tale of a lovely yet fragile maiden, whose death from a broken heart dooms her to eternally roam the earth as a restless spirit. This sumptuous, traditional staging will be performed with full corps de ballet. The State Ballet Theatre of Russia brings Giselle to the stage at NJPAC on Sunday, January 18th at 4:00pm. Purchase tickets online, by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office by December 30th using NJPAC coupon code TREAT and get one free child's ticket for each adult ticket purchased for Giselle.

Golden Dragon Acrobats at NJPAC:

From bending into improbable shapes to forming human pyramids on moving bicycles, this internationally acclaimed troupe celebrates Chinese culture with time-honored traditions that date back 25 centuries. The Golden Dragon Acrobats come to NJPAC on Sunday, February 22nd at 3:00pm. Use NJPAC promotional code TREAT to Purchase tickets onlne by phone (1-888 GO-NJPAC) or at the NJPAC box office through December 30th and get one free child's ticket for each adult ticket purchased for the Golden Dragon Acrobats at NJPAC.

Here in the Roxiticus Valley (Mendham, NJ), we're operating on a winter storm warning tonight -- visions of a snow day school closing filled with sledding and snowball fights and snowmen with carrot noses dance in our heads. London, Maddie, Rex and I extend our warm wishes to all of you as you head out for another weekend of holiday shopping. Stay warm and safe and don't forget to Shop Local NJ!

Snowed In! Let's Build A Snowman and Snuggle in for Family Movie Night

"Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I'll hate going out in the storm
But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we're still good-bying,
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

As I mentioned in my earlier post, London and Maddie have no school today, and a winter storm warning is in effect for the Greater Roxiticus Valley. As soon as Rex returns home from the store with some provisions for the snowy weekend, we're going to head out into the yard to build a snowman and do our first sledding for the winter. It looks like the snow is just right for packing into snowballs and snowmen, but the forecast calls for the sleet and freezing rain to come down on top of it later in the afternoon.

That's when we'll come inside to warm up with a hot bath, hot apple cider, and get ready for an early family movie night. As the song says, we've got some corn for popping, so we'll have a nice big red bowl of popcorn to share and we'll settle in to "watch something" as Maddie is fond of saying. I think we'll have time for at least a double, maybe even triple, feature, so London and Maddie will have to pick out some choices from our family DVD collection or take a look at the new films available on pay-per-view. I'm going to check out the video trailer below for All Roads Lead Home The Movie and see if the girls would like to see it as part of our family movie night.




And since we've no place to go...Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

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Winter Storm Warning In Effect for the Roxiticus Valley

London and Maddie have no school today. The snow just started about an hour ago here in the Roxiticus Valley, and a winter storm warning remains in effect until Midnight tonight. According to the National Weather Service:

"Snow will be heavy at times and occsionally mixed with sleet across the northern parts of the Lehigh Valley and North Central New Jersey. However, in the Southern areas, the snow will mix with more sleet and freezing rain. By late afternoon, the wintry precipitation will slowly transition over to freezing rain, rain and sleet this evening, and then patchy freezing drizzle tonight. Snow and sleet accumulations are forecast to range from 4 to 8 inches as you get closer to the Poconos and in the Northern parts of Warren and Morris Counties in New Jersey. A coating of ice is expected on top of the snow. The ice could accumulate up to two tenths of an inch. The snow, sleet and freezing precipitation will make travel difficult into tonight. If you will be venturing out, use extra care. Roads and walkways will be very slippery."

Rex is out at the Shop Rite in Chester, NJ, picking up a few provisions for the weekend. Meanwhile, London and Maddie have donned their gay apparel and snow clothes to head out for some snowman making and sledding. Mariuca has been looking for a snowman since our first freak snowstorm before Halloween, and the girls are ready to deliver.

Kerchoonz! No, I Didn't Sneeze, It's a Cool New Music Social Network

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Kerchoonz! No, Roxy isn't coming down with a cold, Kerchoonz isn't a sneeze, it's a cool new music and social networking site. Now, my loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives readers know that my almost eight year old daughter, London, and her almost seven year old sister, Maddie, have started a basement (it's too cold in the garage) band called The Butter Bites. They started out with High School Musical and Hannah Montana covers, but the two of them have started to write their own song lyrics.... my favorite is about a sleepover and ends with the line, "Hold my hand, I'll take you home."

So, I've signed up for free with Kerchoonz... it's a social network music destination that gives listeners free music (streams and downloads) while ensuring the artists (like The Butter Bites) and labels are paid (through advertising revenue). Musicians and fans can all make money by referring other bands and artists to the site. It looks like the girls and I will have a lot of fun with Kerchoonz. For starters, we can listen to other people's music and watch indie artist videos. Then, when The Butter Bites are ready to take their act on the road, we can upload a video of their first hit single... "Hold My Hand, I'll Take You Home" may be number one on the Hot 100 with a bullet!



Check out the Kerchoonz video, and remember... if you're in the Roxiticus Valley during the holiday season, stop in and jam with The Butter Bites. If the house is a rockin', don't bother knockin'... come on in!

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Grandmom Is Home for the Holidays! Roxy Sends a Shout Out to Bridgeway Care Center in Bridgewater, NJ

My loyal Roxiticus Desperate Housewives readers may remember that just over a month ago, my 83-year-old mother fell in her driveway and broke her pelvis. There's not much anyone can do for a broken pelvis, other than bed rest and physical therapy to help the patient heal. So after a couple of days in the hospital, Grandmom headed out to The Pavilion at Bridgeway for Sub-Acute Care and Rehabilitation in Bridgewater, New Jersey, to begin her rehabilitation and recovery.

No question, getting old (particularly over 80) is tough. My mom has had several six-week visits to Bridgeway over the past eight years -- an automobile accident, double knee replacement surgery, a broken femur, and now the broken pelvis. She's a tough cookie, and does her time in rehab with few complaints. In fact, Grandmom has only had highly positive experiences with Bridgeway's rehab program, so I wanted to give them a brief shout out for taking such good care of my mom. She raves about the food (including a Thanksgiving feast), the physical therapy, the kindness of the nurses and aides. I'm thankful that I can't speak to the Long-Term Care (nursing home) side of Bridgeway, but I know that I'm going to consider their Avalon Assisted Living facility on my mother's behalf. I'm afraid that although her mind is still incredibly sharp, my mom has become too fragile to live on her own.

Thanks, Bridgeway, for getting Grandmom home in time to spend the holidays with London and Maddie!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ooh La La La, Let's Go Dancing

I know it's not Music Monday, but I've got this song running through my head makes me want to get up and dance... do you remember Kool and the Gang singin' "Let's Go Dancing (Ooh la la la)"? If you do, then you're old as dirt like me since it's from the early 80s.

"Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
I went down to the park
Everything was dark, oh yeah.
All of a sudden on came the lights
And everything was feelin' right.
The people started dancin'
They call me over to join in.
They said:"J.T.
Don't you feel good man?
Come on and join the reggae jam."
I heard them singin':
Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
I wanna get to know you.
Come on, let's reggae down, oh yeah.
Get better acquainted,
So that everything will be fine. Hey baby.
Hey baby, what's your name?
Is it a Missis or a Miss, eh?
If you're by yourself,
I'd like to take you for a ride.
We could check the scene
And we can reggae down,
And we'll be singing:
Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
Ooh la la la, let's go dancin',
Ooh la la la, reggae dancin'.
Ooh la la la, ooh, let's go dancin'.
Get your dancin' shoes,
Get your dancin' shoes,
Reggae dancin'.
Ooh la la la, ooh,
Let's go dancin'.
Go get your dancin' shoes,
Get your dancin' shoes,
Reggae dancin'.
It's a special occasion,
Such a happy occasion.
It's a special occasion,
Such a happy occasion.
You wanna come dancin'?
Let's go dancin';
Reggae dancin'.
Do you wanna come dancin'?
Let's go dancin';
Reggae dancin'. ...
It's special occasion,
Such a happy occasion. ... "


The good news is, even though Rex and the girls are fast asleep, there's someone who wants to dance with Roxy... the Evolution Of Dance starring YOU! Apparently, the Evolution of Dance is the Internet's most watched video of all time. Star Judson Laipply has created a second installment, due to launch early in the New Year 2009. In a trailer to the sequel, Evolution of Dance 2, PeopleJam.com (the number one self-improvement resource on the web) has partnered with Saveology.com (the number one home comparison shopping site on the web) to create an interactive application that allows users to upload photos and dance with Judson, while getting a sneak peak of songs and dance moves for Evolution of Dance 2. I uploaded my Roxy dancing head, and she danced across the screen with Judson.

The concept is simple... Dance like there's no tomorrow, but save so there is one!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Cookie Recipes for London’s Brownie Troop: Roxy’s Nightmares (Double Batch)

From time to time, I've worried that London will get thrown out of her Brownie troop due to her mother's missing Girl Scout gene... first the inability to sew or iron patches onto her vest (did someone say "stapler"??) and now...I'm the last mommy to submit two recipes for the Official Mendham Brownie Troop Cookbook (did someone say "take out"??)

So tomorrow is the big Brownie Gingerbread House Decorating Day at our fearless troop leader's house... causing visions of London's 4th birthday party to dance in my head... that was the year I decided it would be fun to have 30 pre-schoolers over to the house to decorate 30 gingerbread houses with 30 pounds of icing... but that's another story.

Today's story involves recipes, and, just in time for tomorrow's troop gathering, London asked me to type up the recipe for my favorite Christmas cookies, otherwise known as Roxy's Nightmares. I've been making these cookies for over 30 years, and they are good...so good that you should go straight to the double batch or there won't be enough to go around. Even if you live alone.

While I don't want to alert the wildlife protection agencies here, I'm about to kill two birds with one stone, as I'm going to share this Christmas Cookie recipe with my blogosphere buddy SpicyBug, who is a few ingredients short of a full batch in her quest to complete her holiday baking. When the girls and I get around to baking this weekend, I'll add photos to this post. In the meantime, whip up a double batch and come back to comment and let me know how they turned out.

Ingredients:
  • Two 12 oz. packages chocolate chips
  • One cup butter (two sticks)
  • Four (4) eggs
  • Two (2) cups sugar
  • Three (3) cups flour
  • One teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • One (1) teaspoon vanilla
  • Mini marshmallows
Steps:

  • Melt one cup chips and butter over low heat.
  • Pre-heat oven 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mix everything else, then add chocolate mixture.
  • Drop onto cookie sheets with marshmallows in centers.
  • Bake 8 minutes.
Enjoy!

Blogging Out Hunger: The Early Results Are In!

To everyone who made a contribution to the Community FoodBank of NJ and/or helped to raise awareness of hunger here at home in New Jersey, thank you so much for participating. According to our fearless leader, Deb of JerseyBites, yesterday's event was a great success. We got some nice online coverage... the FoodChannel has us on their home page, which was a nice surprise, and we also got coverage on NJ.com. The Ocean Star (down by our beach house in Bay Head, NJ) is running an article this Friday.

I really enjoyed reading the thoughtful posts by so many talented New Jersey bloggers. The great news is, our "Blogging Out Hunger" campaign raised almost $6,000 in online donations (more may come in through the mail). With 122 blogs participating, Njfoodbank.org enjoyed 920 unique site visits, which represents 20% of their total site traffic for December. The PR company says those are great results, especially for a first time strictly viral campaign right before the holidays.

Thanks to yesterday's effort, hunger in New Jersey may take a brief holiday, but the heightened demand for support from the Food Bank is a problem that's likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. I'm going to post the Blogging Out Hunger button in my sidebar to try to keep the donations coming in all year round, so please help out when you can.

Thanks to Deb from JerseyBites for coordinating the NJ Blogging Out Hunger effort, and thanks again to all of you....for reading and caring

Roxy

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blogging Out Hunger on Music Monday: Let Them Know It's Christmas Time. Please Don't Let This Bank Fail!

It was Christmas 1984, almost 25 years ago, when Bob Geldof led Band Aid in "Do They Know Its Christmas Time?" to raise awareness of hunger in Africa. Today, I'm posting this Music Monday video to raise awareness, not of hunger in Africa, but of hunger right here at home in New Jersey. Over 100 New Jersey bloggers have united to fight local NJ hunger in a coordinated "This Bank Can't Fail" blogging campaign for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey on Monday, December 15th. Our goal is to spread the word about the increased demand being put on the food pantries in New Jersey and how everyone can help.




No matter how you feel about the government bailout of the nation's largest banks, I think you'll agree that there's one bank that we can't allow to fail: the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. As you are probably well aware, the Food Bank is in desperate need of donations this holiday season. With bare shelves and demand for food among state residents far outpacing supply, the FoodBank is in danger of being unable to meet the needs of New Jersey’s hungry.


Our team of NJ bloggers will be in good company. Legendary music icon Bruce Springsteen will be lending his voice to the fight against hunger in New Jersey by headlining "We Can't Let This Bank Fail" -- a major advertising campaign and call to action for people to contribute in any way they can to help the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Although Bruce Springsteen has been a supporter of the FoodBank for 23 years, often donating proceeds from his concerts to the organization, this ad marks the first time Springsteen has publicly lent his image to the campaign, due to the urgency of the situation.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey is facing a dire shortage of food. Without the public’s support, it may, for the first time in its history, begin to ration food. This is a state-wide crisis, with the unstable economy resulting in a 30 percent increase in those needing food. In years past, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey has provided assistance to more than 500,000 New Jerseyans, but expects to see a major uptick in need this year, especially during the winter months when people often struggle between paying heating and food bills.

We're hoping our efforts will compel everyone to do something, anything, to help. Visit the Community FoodBank of New Jersey at www.njfoodbank.org or call 908-355-FOOD (3663) to learn more. What can you do?

  • Make a monetary contribution: Visit http://www.njfoodbank.org/.
  • Donate food: Drop off a bag of food at your local food pantry.
  • Organize a food drive: We can help explain the logistics of starting a food drive. Just call 908-355-FOOD.
  • Help "Check Out Hunger:" Look for the "Check Out Hunger" coupons at your local supermarket and donate. No donation is too small!

It's Christmas time
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring
there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again



Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted.



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Roxy's Best Of... Holiday Plans: How Can a Suburban Mommy Compete with the Santa Rampage in Austin, Texas??

Just a quick post here before Rex, London, Maddie, Grammy and I head out to New Canaan, Connecticut, to see Rex's eight year old granddaughter perform as a pixie in the Nutcracker. While catching a performance of the Nutcracker ballet is one of our family's holiday traditions, I'm feeling a bit like a suburban mommy today, not necessarily in a bad way, but different from Roxy's wild single days. Erik, who contributes to the Roxy's Best Of... community of local web sites with his picks from Austin, Texas, posted last night about the Santa Rampage, a holiday-themed bar crawl around downtown Austin. Do check out his post... it sounds like great fun, and I'm hoping he'll update us with pictures of last night's event.

While Erik and his band of merry Santas, Mrs. Clauses and Elves were on the Santa Rampage in Austin, Texas yesterday, our family continued a quieter holiday tradition here in the Roxiticus Valley, New Jersey.

London, Maddie, Rex and I headed over to Alstede Farms in Chester, New Jersey to pick out a fresh cut eight to nine foot Christmas tree. We chose a Concolor Fir, a soft green tree with medium needles and good retention. Alstede Farms describes the frangrance as that of citrus, and after a day in our home, it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas... a great aroma of pine needles and citrus. All we're missing are the Christmas cookies, and the girls and I may get to baking tonight. It always feels like our family is among the last to decorate our Christmas tree, but if you don't have one yet, Roxy highly recommends the Alstede Farms Christmas tree experience.

I'd love to hear more about holiday happenings in other towns, states, and parts of the world. Please share a comment here if you have a holiday tradition, wild or tame, that can contribute to Roxy's vicarious enjoyment of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wordless Weekend: Our Christmas Tree Is Up!


New Year's Eve Celebrations 2008-2009: Morris County NJ Continues the First Night Tradition

Twenty years ago, during my first holiday season after graduating from college, I went up to Boston to visit one of my best high school girlfriends, Grey Hound, and learned about Boston's tradition for celebrating New Year's Eve. Even though it is technically the last night of the old year, Bostonians call their celebration "First Night." First Night is an outdoor artistic and cultural celebration on New Year's Eve, taking place from afternoon until midnight. The event celebrates a community's local culture, often featuring music, dance, comedy, art, and always has plenty of food, fireworks, and ice sculptures. Most entertainment is freely available outside, but admission to indoor events requires the simple purchase of a First Night button, whose profits support the celebration as a whole. First Night celebrations are generally alcohol free. The First Night tradition was started in Boston in 1976 by a small group of artists, and its popularity quickly made it an annual event. Soon other surrounding communities started their own First Night celebrations. In 1993, First Night International (click here to find the First Night celebration closest to you) became a non-profit organization dedicated to helping other cities set up their own celebrations. It has since spread to cities all over the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand.

This year marks our family's sixth New Year's Eve celebration in New Jersey, and Rex and I have always taken the girls out for an early dinner -- Opah Grill in Peapack-Gladstone, Pierre's in Harding Township, Plucky's Tavern at the Pluckemin Inn in Pluckemin -- and end up back at home, playing board games, making popcorn, and watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV. For the first time, London and Maddie seem to be about the right age for us to consider the First Night Morris County event on the Green in Morristown, New Jersey. I'm going to outline some of the kid-friendly events and performers here as we make our plans, and I would love to hear from anyone who has attended Morristown's First Night celebration in past years.

Continue reading (Kid Friendly Events and Performers at First Night Morris County NJ 2008-2009)