NOLA is my homeboy...

After two days of family celebrations we were ready to head to NOLA for a day of celebrating the season. I didn't tell the kiddos until the morning of and they couldn't have been more excited! We made the hour drive from Baton Rouge, parked our car for the day and waited for our trolley.

As soon as Landry saw the trolley she was so excited:
"MOMMY! DANIEL TIGER has a twolly! I bet he whives here tew!"

Seriously, we could have just done this all day and they would have been happy.

And I'm not gonna lie, I could have watched them all day long.

But first, lunch. Seriously, if you've never been to Felix's then quit reading this post, grab your car keys, and a friend, and head to NOLA immediately. 

Sonya and I decided that this occasion needed toasting and I'll be honest, if it was socially acceptable to drink nothing but Bloody Mary's all day long, then I would. 

Especially when it's accompanied by this amazing spread. 

We made our way up and down the streets, stopping to take a peak into the hotels and surroundings but really just enjoying the company of our crew.

As we were heading down Bourbon Street, a duo of street performers caught our eye so we decided to sit and watch. 

They were highly talented and greatly entertaining. 

And the show got even better when they called Radley up to assist. 

"You - yeah, the one with the hair!" 

After gladly providing entertainment for the masses, Rad and his buddy left with crisp $20 bills and we were all smiling from ear to ear. 

I think we may need to make this a Christmas tradition - except figure out a way for Ryan to join us!

We ended up at Cade DuMonde to fill our tummies with some "Boon-yays" as Radley calls them and hot coffee before making our way back to the trolley for the City Park event.

And while I have no pictures to document most of the day, I know it was amazing. Because I stopped worrying about capturing every moment and just enjoyed every moment spent with the ones I love and watching the magic of the season come alive in each of them. 


My Big Fat Italian Family...

As soon as me and the big kids made it to Baton Rouge, we had just enough time to visit with MaMaw, hug her neck, change our clothes and then head out for our semi-annual Christmas dinner with my dad's siblings. When I was little, this dinner took place at Grandmother's house. Uncle Mark and Grandmother cooked tons of food that always managed to be eaten, the grown ups shared laughs while the kids made giant messes and we crammed our extra-large family into her house. 

It was a Christmas miracle that we fit in that house, but it remains one of my most precious memories. I can still hear the creaks in her floors, walk the floor plan of our house, and smell all of magic that was coming from her kitchen. 

Now we all cram ourselves into a restaurant and I almost feel sorry for the people that sit next to and around us but like my cousin, Merritt says, "they get dinner AND a show." 

Sonya and Jody being there made it extra special - Jody hadn't seen some of our family in 15 years - that's just crazy talk. Sonya and I couldn't decide what to order, so we ultimately decided to basically try one of everything. So glad she shares food!

The best part of this dinner is always catching up with everyone that we don't get to see as much as we'd like. My sweet cousin Ashley had a baby last November at 28 weeks pregnant - and we got to finally meet the little miracle babe! (I couldn't keep up with who was passing him around!) 

The girl cousins - we were missing Lindsay...

When I think of this family of mine - this is what I see. Breaking bread, sharing laughs, making memories. No matter where we are - at my godparents, Grandmother's or aunts and uncles homes... this is us. Lots of food, lots of loud, lots of love. 

And perhaps some beer, too. 

It's really weird for even me to see us all grown up - and I only got to visit every few months. But there really is just something about family that connects you - the pieces of those tiny memories create such a giant part of who we are. 

And I kind of like watching us morph into this crew... 

I'm already looking forward to the next time we are all together, making a scene, ordering too much food, drinking too much wine and laughing the entire time. 


Happy Birthday, MaMaw!

This pretty lady turned 90 years old this month and we had the sweetest party to celebrate the nine decades that she's witnessed!!

Party guests included everyone from people that call her "sister"
(like Aunt Joy and Aunt Beth)... 

to "Auntie" like my momma's cousin Patsy... 

to MaMaw... like these crazy grands... 

to "Mrs. Martino" like her sweet neighbors from when I was a kid, the Westmans. 

She spent the day doing what she loves... sitting in her favorite spot watching people eat food that she cooked and getting presents (MaMaw LOVES getting presents). 

Sonya is the world's greatest gift-giver and found this amazing NY Time Birthday Book that commemorates the date of birth with the NY Times headline from every year of their date of birth. Seriously so cool to flip through and see how much this world has changed.  Her generation has seen and witnessed so many incredible things - I can't even imagine what they must think of all the mess and fuss we create over insignificant worries. 

We ended the day with a special cousin Christmas...

and this was probably her favorite moment from the day - surrounded by all of her great grands.

We keep things informal around here - photos kneeling down are just as great as everyone perfectly posed. 

Jody and Sonya flew in which was a gift to all of us - two years in a row with them at Christmas!

Jeremy and Cristina...

and even one with me! (Ryan had to work all weekend, so he didn't get to come). 

Happiest of birthdays, MaMaw! We love you!


We {heart} Christmas...

Twas 5 o'clock Christmas morning when all through the house
Radley crept to our room as quiet as a mouse
"Buddy, what are you doing? Did Santa bring you some gifts?"
"Not sure momma, I closed my eyes and on my toes I did tip!"
Back to bed we all went with our eyes closed real tight
And when we rolled back from bed..oh what a SIGHT!

Santa had come and our wishes came true
Hot Wheels, Art Supplies and some puzzles, too
Some new sleeping buddies just like at the store
And Alfie, the elf, was off to the North Pole once more
Wait? Who's that in the bottom right pic?
Mom and Dad were there, too - now that is legit!

Gigi and Pops headed over with haste
For his famous bacon and rolls, not a moment to waste

We laughed and we played and then we got back to work
Sorting these gifts is a job you can't shirk 

Everyone was happy with smiles spread wide
But nothing compares to a sibling by your side
Big gifts are great but what's simply the best
Is a gift picked with love, you simply can't protest

My favorite gift wasn't a wrapped with a bow
It filled the room like a tree all a glow
Packaged in hugs and kisses galore
I'd never be able to ask for anything more

My second favorite part was the look of such glee
At opening a gift with a "Is this one for ME!?"
Whether crazy or silly, big or quite small
There was something to be had by one and by all

And then we were done opening all of the things
"What? There's one more? What do you mean?"
What could be inside - why's it so big?
It takes everyone's help, all 3 of the kids
They finally got it opened and peeked on inside
NEW YORK? They exclaimed (and then Landry cried).

Finally it was time for a just a tiny bit of rest
Then back to the stove, a place I like best
Cooking for family and our sweet friends, too
(Heck, come one over, I'll even cook for you!)

What a wonderful celebration of the Jesus' birth
When love is what defines our incredible worth
Sent from heaven to die and rise again
Thank you isn't enough but it's where I'll begin
A day filled with love, a day filled with fun
A day filled with something for each and everyone

Then finally it was time to turn out the light
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!