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I’m on vacation this week and I forgot to scan pictures for Throwback Thursday before I left home! But I did have some old pictures that I had used for TT on my other blog (but never before used on this blog!), so rest assured, TT is still on. ;)

This first photo is circa 1983 – Dad, Audrey (in the middle) and me. We were hanging out in either my bedroom or Audrey’s bedroom. Doesn’t Dad look like a ’70s porn star!? (and yes, he was wearing shorts!)

This next one is from December 1997 – it’s (left to right) Dad, Mom, me and Audrey, posing as we were getting our Christmas tree at a tree farm. I was a senior in high school here and Audrey was a sophomore at Brown.

Pinks & Blues Girls Blog is your Throwback Thursday Headquarters!

Join in on the Throwback Thursday fun! Sign Mr. Linky so others know you’ve participated and can check out your Throwback Thursday photos on your site, and don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know you participated!

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I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I absolutely love wrapping Christmas presents. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

I love looking at each present before I wrap it, thinking about what the recipient of the gift means to me, and smiling as I anticipate the look on his or her face upon opening it.

This love of wrapping goes back to my childhood, when I would help my Mom wrap Christmas gifts.

She always, always gift wrapped right on her bed, spreading out the wrapping paper, the scissors, the tape, the ribbons and bows, the gift tags – and, of course, the presents – all across her bedspread.

I would help my Mom as much as I could… handing her the scissors, writing names on gift tags, keeping as many pieces of tape on my little hands as I could until she called for one.

Mom would tell me the stories behind the gifts… how she had remembered my Dad mentioning how much he loved something, and so she couldn’t wait to see his face when he opened the gift and saw she had found it. Or the traditions behind gifts for other relatives, and how those traditions began.

I remember marveling at how meticulously she creased the gift wrap when she folded the ends into a perfect “V”… and trying to memorize exactly how her hands worked their way around the gifts so that the finished product looked so neat , so even and so perfect.

Even now, as an adult, after years and years of trying to get my gift wrapping abilities to match those of my Mom, I am still in awe of just how quickly and perfectly she can wrap any gift.

With each gift purchase during the Christmas season, I think about how I will wrap it. There are some gifts that come in their own boxes, so wrapping is pretty easy to determine.

But then there are the gifts that you can play around with a little… try to keep the recipient guessing with the type of gift packaging you decide to use.

There is one gift that I am absolutely giddy about giving my husband, Steve, this year. In the off chance that he reads this post (admittedly, the odds are comparable to the odds of us winning the Powerball jackpot), I won’t say what the gift is right now, but I just know would never expect it – and he’s going to love it.

I wracked my brain to come up with the best way to wrap it without him having any clue as to what it is. Of course, Mom helped me come up with the perfect idea.

I rolled the gift up and put it in the kind of tube that holds pictures or posters. When Steve saw me put it under the tree (and I told him it absolutely was not a picture or a poster), he was completely confused. Which was precisely the reaction I was going for.

For me, it really is more fun to give than it is to receive.

I couldn’t wait to wrap all my gifts this year, which I do right on my family room floor, with the wrapping paper, the scissors, the tape, the ribbons and bows, the gift tags – and, of course, the presents – all spread out around me.

And now I can’t wait for tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, which is when my entire family gets together at Mom and Dad’s house for a big dinner and gift opening.

That’s when I get to enjoy one of my other favorite parts of the holiday – seeing my family (innocently and unknowingly) show complete disregard for my meticulously-performed gift wrapping effort and tear into their carefully and lovingly chosen gifts.

Cross-posted at New England Mamas

- Jane

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Cyrano de Bergerac.

One of my all-time favorite plays.

I remember in high school, during my senior year English class, we had to choose a play to dissect in front of our class.

My mother knew I was “obsessed” with love stories, so she recommended I read Cyrano de Bergerac.

It quite honestly changed my life.

I fell in love with the story. With its characters. With everything.

And there I was, this girl of 17, terrified to speak in front of my class about anything… and something changed within me when I read this play. I wanted to speak in front of class about it. I wanted to recite my favorite line:

“To sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are.”

And from that day on, I was never afraid to speak in public again. Crazy, huh?

Just to further prove the magic of this play, I even went on to get my degree in Theatre Arts/Public Speaking at Brown University 4 years later.

I had never understood falling in love with a character. Or lines. Or a make-me-believe place – until I read Cyrano.

So it was a TRUE dream come true when my father surprised my mom, Jane and I with Cyrano de Bergerac tickets for Sunday’s NYC Broadway production!!

And get this… starring Kevin Kline.

Yes, Kevin Kline.

Jennifer Garner (minus Ben and Violet – I scoured the audience).

And Chris Sarandon.

The production was flawless.

OK, except for the 30 minute technical difficulties mid-show. But, all the stars came out and answered questions with the audience because they felt so bad that we had to wait.

Kevin Kline was genius. Jennifer Garner was adorable.

Everything was just perfection.

To see this play on Broadway… it was unbelievable.

We spent a great evening in the City. And a delicious dinner at Angelo’s on 57th Street.

And left with that longing feeling of missing the City.

Aww… all from Cyrano de Bergerac!

Also, check out Jane’s run-down of the play at New England Mamas – today is New England Mamas’ official re-launch date, and we’re giving away lots and lots of prizes!

- Audrey
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Google Images meme

Drea tagged me for this fun meme. What you do is take the answer to each question, search it in GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH and post the first picture that pops up.

Age at my next birthday:
Not for another 11 months, though!

Place I’d like to travel:
Portugal – I’m 50% Portuguese.

Favorite place:
That would be home.

Favorite object:
My pillow!

Favorite food:
My favorite dish is Thai spaghetti from a Thai restaurant in Providence.

Favorite color:
I know this is random, but brown is my favorite color. I like it because it’s beautiful when paired with light pink or light blue.

Nickname:
My dad calls me Jet… he would scream, “Go Jet!” when I was on the starting blocks at swim meets.

Birthplace:
Good ol’ Providence, RI

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8 Things Meme

We’ve been tagged!

Thank you Dawn at Coming to a Nursery Near You!

Here are 8 facts/things/habits about myself:

1. Since my father was married before my mother, and had my 2 brothers from that marriage, my birth order is a bit different… I’m the oldest on my mother’s side of the family. First daughter. First grandchild. First-born for my mother and father together. But I’m the third child for my father. Don’t worry, no complex here.

2. I am obsessed with Danielle Steel books.

3. I have 3 TV shows that are my all-time favorites – Murder, She Wrote; The Golden Girls; and People’s Court. I still Tivo them everyday and watch them at night.

4. I pinch my knuckle. That’s my nervous habit. Been doing it since I was a toddler.

5. The first time I met Matt (my husband) we both were dating other people. But the second I laid eyes on him, I had this “feeling” rush through my body about him. Six months later, both (finally) unattached… we started dating. That was it.

6. I made Junior Nationals in swimming when I was a junior and senior in high school. And I held the all-time Rhode Island record in the 100 yd breaststroke for 14 years.

7. I had major dental and orthodontic work and had to have 10 teeth pulled by the time I was 8.

8. I prefer hot over cold weather.

- Audrey
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Christmas memories are oftentimes so clear. So powerful. So immense.

These memories quicken our senses.

And if it is true that to be able to enjoy one’s memories is to live twice, then my Christmas Angel has allowed me to live over and over again… and again.

Each Christmas, when I unwrap my Angel, swirls of colors and voices and heavenly vibrations enter my head and my home.

It is quite magical.

This is her story.

My Dad was a guy who loved to fix things. He was good at it. He had lots of tools… not too organized, but he knew where everything was. I especially remember the old, heavy metal cases that he had rescued from work at the Navy base, and sometimes even from the side of the road. These cases became storage for his wealth, his tools.

I did a lot of puttering around with my Dad. Interestingly enough, my two brothers didn’t. They loved my Dad as much as I did, but the rescuing and fixing gene was lost on them. Ah yes, they loved to HAVE things fixed for them… like my Mom (yes Mom, you know it’s true!).

So one Christmas season, a few days before Christmas, my Dad needed something or other from our local Benny’s, the place we went to get all kinds of fixing things back in the late 60′s. You know, before Home Depot and Lowe’s. I guess I should give a little shout out to Benny’s here, because we still have our good old Benny’s stores here in Rhode Island. Ah, Benny’s… the place where my precious Christmas Angel memory was born.

With me tagging along, my Dad found what he was looking for. And then he spotted, on one of those innocuous discount tables, a beautiful little angel. She was dressed in a lovely white tulle skirt that had brilliant gold sequins sewn across the bottom. Her wings were the same white tulle, with two sparkling gold sequins sewn high on each side. Her center was a small golden globe. And her arms were white pipe cleaners with lights on the ends that folded toward heaven. Her neck was wrapped with a golden tinsel-type wrap.

But I think it was her face that captured my Dad’s heart. She was so petite. So innocent. Her beautiful blue eyes were looking to the left. Her cheeks were bowls of cherries. And in her blonde hair was a golden bow.

And even though she was plastic… she was exquisite.

But her lights didn’t work. Neither the light in her center, nor the lights at her hands. Hence, her place at the discount table.

Well, my Dad picked her up and said, “I’m going to take her home and fix her lights.”

I was pretty much like, “OK, Dad.” Never knowing or imagining that the moment at hand would permanently be imprinted on my life. In my heart. In my soul.

Well, we bought her. I think she cost less than a dollar. We brought her home. My Dad rewired her. Fixed her. Lit her up like the angel she was destined to be. Then we placed her on top of our Christmas tree.

And she sat atop our tree for many years. Each year as we unpacked her, I thought about how my Dad fixed things. How careful he was. How caring and wonderful.

And then my Dad passed away suddenly in August of 1975.

That first Christmas brought lots of tears as I unpacked the Christmas Angel. The reminiscence was almost too much to bear. But as my Mom watched, I placed our Christmas Angel ever so carefully atop our tree that year.

By the next Christmas, I was married and living in a home of my own. I must note here that my Dad never met the man who would become my husband. But my dad had heard me talk of this man “Barry” during my visits to see him in the hospital after his major heart attack. In this sense, I know for sure that my Dad had given his seal of approval to this wonderful man in my life.

My Mom had also sold her home. And all I needed and wanted were the Christmas decorations.

And this is how I came to have the Christmas Angel.

And on each of the past 31 Christmases, since my Dad passed away, I have placed the Christmas Angel atop my tree. Each time, I see my Dad’s face… his strong and caring hands… his easy manner and beautiful smile.

And although her lights have not worked for some time now, my Christmas Angel still dazzles the room with the brilliant light that comes from that place where memories are born.

Was the memory born at Benny’s? Perhaps.

But I know that my cherub becomes brighter and brighter each time I tell the story of the Christmas Angel. And how my Dad rescuing her allows her to bring him home to us each and every Christmas.

Yes, it is magic. Heavenly magic.

- Sharon
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radio1.jpgOne of our holiday traditions used to be the family trek to the tree farm to pick out the Couto Family Christmas Tree.

We would usually go the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, pick out the perfect tree, take turns cutting it down with our saw, and spend that evening decorating our fragrant, freshly cut evergreen.

The tradition continued even as my siblings and I got older… and we’d bring along our boyfriends and girlfriends to take part in our little holiday ritual.

But then we started to go off and get married… and some of us began to have families of our own (the nerve!)… and some Thanksgiving long weekends began to take place in different states, where the in-laws lived…

And soon the Couto Family Christmas Tree became the kind that can be packed up and stored in the basement when the season is over, and re-assembled in twelve month’s time.

But Mom and Dad are big on tradition. And so they created a new one for us… one that would entertain their adult children and their young grandchildren alike.

And so in 2004, for the first time, we traveled – all 15 of us, at the time – to see the Rockettes perform at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

It was, indeed, so spectacular that we again made the trip in 2005 and 2006.

And now this weekend we will continue this new(ish) tradition for the fourth time in a row.

We’ve added two kids to the brood since 2003, so now all 17 of us will take Radio City by storm.

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Even though I have no human kids of my own (my doggies can’t come to the show), I look forward to this tradition every year.

To see the excitement in my nieces’ and nephews’ eyes.

To see my parents happy to have the whole family together.

To have a tradition that really means something to us all.

As for the men? I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that they get to see lots of Rockette cleavage.

- Jane
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Cross-posted at New England Mamas

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Veterans Day

grandpa.jpgI am thinking of my Dad today. It is the day Veterans Day is observed, and my Dad served in the United States Navy for a bit more than twenty years.

I actually got out our photo albums to find the ones that hold the photos of my Dad in his Navy uniform (the photo shown was taken in 1956).

My Dad was a tall, very handsome mid-westener who ran away from his life on his mother and step-father’s farm when he was sixteen years old. Of course sixteen was too young to join the service, and he returned home to Benton Harbor, Michigan until he was the ripe old age of seventeen. But my Dad had a passion. Actually, two passions. One to serve his country and the other to see the world. I guess he was like a lot of young men in the 40′s. But he was my Dad.

My Dad didn’t talk much about his youth, but when he did I listened with all of my heart. I am his only daughter, squished very closely in-between two brothers. (Yes, you can tell when my Dad was on-leave by when his children were born!) But anyway… my Dad talked about life of the farm. How hard it was. How he felt so badly for his Mom and the never-ending work. He told me how she wished he would join one of the armed services. Make something of his life. He was very gifted, but had no way of growing. Soaring. His Mom, my Grandma Martin, had come from Yugoslavia as a young girl. She had known persecution in this new world, but she loved her new country. She married and had two sons, Richard and William, and then suffered the loss of her husband (my Dad’s father) during World War I. She had re-married and had two daughters.

Yes, life was hard. And she wanted her youngest son, William, to have opportunities. Well, both she, and he, got their wish.

When my Dad finally enlisted in the Navy, he was in for the shock of his life. He had grown up with his name… William Klatt. But when his birth certificate was found, his name was listed as William Klaczynski. Seems that the family name was changed (like in many families) to “Americanize” the immigrants, but my Dad was born at that same time and his name was never legally changed.

So began his life as William Klaczynksi, a name he cherished.

My Dad was stationed at many bases throughout the country. He served in Korea. He was a medic on the USS Richard S. Edwards, DD950. And we followed him whenever we could.

I remember missing him so very much when he had “sea-duty”… for several months at a time. I remember him coming home from these duties like it was yesterday. My Mom got us kids all dressed up and we would go to the Navy Base and wait for the little boats to bring in our Dads and husbands and sons and brothers. Everyone cried with joy. And then we would have Daddy back. To fix our bikes. Cook hamburgers on the grill he made himself. Put butterfly bandages on our cuts and bruises. Mow the grass. Wear his favorite red plaid flannel shirt. Play with our dog. Help us with our science projects. Sing country songs completely out of tune. Tell me how much he wanted a granddaughter to spoil, and spoil some more. Plant marigolds. Ready his beloved boat for summer excursions. Make egg and pepper sandwiches for breakfast. Put on his Navy uniform and hat (especially the hat) with such celebration.

And the visits to the farm to see his Mom.

My Dad had the biggest hugs. But I will never forget the hugs to his Mom. Grandma Martin was a tiny woman with the strongest arms ever, and even she could not match my Dad’s hugs.

And my Dad was demanding. He insisted that we do well in school. Participate in sports. Have excellent manners. Probably do everything he did not have a chance to do. He provided a warm home. But most important, love. Love that cannot be measured.

Well, today is Veterans Day. And I miss my Dad. He died in 1975, too young. Too soon. He never saw any of his grandchildren. But we all know he is watching from heaven. Every moment of each day.

I am so proud of my Dad’s service to our country, and I hope the flags are flying today in heaven. Soar, Dad… just like your Mom wanted you to.

I love you, Dad. And I am so proud of you. I honor you today, and all of the Veterans who have devoted their lives unselfishly to our country.

Hopefully, today, all of you heroes will see a sea of red, white and blue.

- Sharon
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I was going to do a follow-up post of Celebrity Moms I wouldn’t want as a mother.

But as I got started, I began to feel badly about the whole thing.

(What’s this? A conscience!?)

There are some Mothers out there with a lot of problems and a lot of demons right now, and I’m sure the last thing they need is anybody writing about how just-plain-awful it would be to be her child. And kids love their Mamas, plain and simple.

So, I will write my Top 10 List of Celebrity Dads I wouldn’t mind having. Here goes, in no particular order:

1) Brad Pitt
Ahhh, yes. My dear Brad. I know he’s hotter than hot. And sexier than sexy. And socially conscious. But beyond ALL that, he seems to be a great father. I remember seeing him on Oprah when he was married to Jennifer Anistion, and he said he wanted 7 kids. This was all pre-Angelina and their brood. You just gotta love a man who yearns to be a Dad.

2) Hugh Jackman
I always see photos of Hugh playing with his kids. It’s adorable. Just adorable. On the beach. Out and about in Los Angeles. Or NYC. Did I say “adorable”?

3) John Stewart
OK… I just think this house would be flowing with HUMOR (and intelligent insight!) all day. All night. All the time.

4) Conan O’Brien
The mere fact is that I love this man. Really. I had a tremendous crush on Conan when I was in high school and college (can I say this?… I truly am not a stalker. Or a priest). Conan always mentions his kids. And he’s from a family of, like, 8. He to me would just be plain fun to be around. Yes, I even love his hair.

5) Matt Lauer
He is always seen with his kids in NYC. I just feel like Matt’s a down-to-earth Dad. It doesn’t get any better than seeing a Dad being a Dad. And he has a Rhode Island connection. He was a celebrity-of-sorts on a local show in the 70′s called PM Magazine. I like a Dad with drive!

6) Matt Damon
Gotta love a man who marries a woman not involved with Hollywood. Talks about his step-daughter as if she’s his own. And he is always with his whole family (including his mother). Well, I guess that would be ok.

7) Will Smith
When I have seen interviews with Will Smith he gushes about his children and his wife like they are GOLD. There’s something special about that. Plus, they all seem to be having FUN. And isn’t that what life is all about?

8 ) Seal
Besides being married to one of the world’s most gorgeous women… I love how he is always, always seen with his 2 cute little boys and his step-daughter. They just seem like such a perfect family. The latest photos I saw of them all at a Pumpkin Patch was edibly adorable.

9) David Letterman
The man loves his little guy. And boy, his little man is CUTE! I just think he’s hit his stride as a fantastic Daddy.

10) Benjamin Bratt
Benjamin (love his name!) is one of those men who just seems like he came alive when his kids were born. There’s something amazingly beautiful about that discovery into the world of Daddyhood.

So there’s my List of 10. I could go on and on… but I have to say, I’m pretty attached to these men.

Now again… if only Brad Pitt would adopt a 29-year-old woman. Married. With 3 boys. Didn’t I read that he was having a bed built for everyone?

- Audrey
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The other night my girlfriend and I were talking about Celebrity Moms.

With all the crap that goes on in Hollywood, and all the hit and misses with parenthood, my friend and I were playing the “Well, if I were a kid, I would want ______ to be my mother” game.

And, of course, we had the “Can you imagine if ______ was your mother” (ahem… Britney) conversation.

So… let’s see if you agree or not.

Here is my top 10 list of Celebrity Moms I wouldn’t mind having as my mother…

1) Reese Witherspoon
I just like the fact that she seems to be with her kids a lot. That’s kind of, you know, important when you’re a parent.

2) Courteney Cox
Not only is this woman gorgeous, but I love how she is out and about with Coco all over the place. And how cool would it be to have Jennifer Aniston as your Godmother?

3) Brooke Shields
I love this woman. She’s smart. She’s talented. She’s in love with her husband. And she absolutely loves her 2 little girls more than anything. I just commend her on her journey to recovery and just being honest about her Post-partum Depression.

4) Goldie Hawn
OK, have you seen where these people live? It’s GORGEOUS. And she’s crazy and zany and just looks like a whole lotta FUN! I mean, to let your grandson have hair that long and not say a thing… she’s a lady!

5) Jennifer Garner
She’s one of my top! She wears jeans. Sneakers. No make-up. And she’s always out and about in a non-celebrity way. And she’s married to one of my favorite Boston Red Sox fans.

6) Angie Harmon
Basically for her genes. And for her jeans. This woman always looks immaculate.

7) Kelly Ripa
Her energy. Her style. Her humor. I’ve seen her a few times out in NYC with her kids. She says “hi” to people. She is always with her kids. And she is just a “normal” mother. That’s pretty cool. (Not to mention her husband is gorgeous.)

8 ) Julia Roberts
She obviously puts her kids first. To give up her career (when it was hot) and stay at home, not even in Hollywood… to raise them? Very cool.

9) Tina Fey
I just would be laughing all day. All night. This woman ROCKS.

10) Angelina Jolie
Purely for my adopted Dad, Brad Pitt. If he wouldn’t mind adopting a 29 year old. With 3 kids. And a husband. I’d be there. Oh, I would be there. Not to mention, being able to travel the world.

I’m going to do a bonus one here…

Kimora Lee Simmons
I’m addicted to her show. I wouldn’t mind having my own “James”. My own estate. My own anything-and-everything-I-want. I can’t say that would be a bad thing. I promise I wouldn’t allow myself to get a spoiled attitude!

-Audrey
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