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Starting off the New Year

"Another fresh new year is here…
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear:
To love and laugh and give!"
By William Arthur Ward

Hubby and I started off the New Year with something we seldom do. We went to Gerard's and had a wonderful breakfast. (His French toast, which I had to sample to make sure "it wasn't poisoned," is to die for.) We were early so there were few people there. We had to return a present to the South Shore Plaza so we drove there after breakfast. We laughed as we drove in the parking lot. There were plenty of unoccupied parking spaces, so unlike the same lot before Christmas. One evening in December, we couldn't find an empty parking spot so we drove home.

On Christmas Eve, we drove to cousins Margie and Janet's home for their annual Christmas Eve Open House. Their brother Bob, his wife Paulette, their kids, and grandkids were already there. When we went into the TV room, we found out that cousin Kevin had set up a camera with the TV set so the family could see and speak with his brother, cousin David, who is stationed in Okinawa. David's wife Courtney, also a Captain in the Army, was in Okinawa visiting David. We all had a chance to speak to David and Courtney during the evening. Paulette and Bob were delighted to be able to see and speak with their son and daughter-in-law, so far away from home.

Margie and Janet also had a table filled with food. They also had wonderful ham. Sue had brought her potato salad. There was a tray of cold cuts and cheeses. Everyone was taking at least one deviled egg. There were meatballs and lasagna in the kitchen. There were chips and dip in two of the rooms, along with nuts and chocolates. After everyone ate, Janet put on the coffee and out came the desserts. Their friend Jean, who had arrived with her daughter Maura and grandson Jared, apologized all evening. In her haste to get to the Open House, she had forgotten to bring the cream puffs that she had stood in line so long for earlier that day at Lyndell's Bakery. (I think I saw a tear in Hubby's eye.) The evening went very quickly and off we drove about 10:30 p.m., with a bag filled with leftover food from the evening.

On Christmas Day, Hubby, daughter Sue, and I drove to Norwell to the home of cousins Carolyn and Rock. Both their kids, son "J.R" and daughter Katie, were already there. As we entered the home, Carolyn told us that two female wild turkeys were wandering around their back yard. We flew to the porch windows and watch as these two huge birds moved throughout the yard. The birds especially love it when tiny pieces of suet fall from the birdfeeder. Hubby tried to take a few photos but he couldn't get very close to them. Son Paul and daughter-in-law Alex came in right after us and joined us at the windows to watch the wild turkeys. Paul went outside to get some photos of the birds. Carolyn told us that the turkeys roam from yard to yard on their street each day.

Carolyn and Rock put out quite a spread for us. They had a lovely ham with lots of pineapple. There was a dish of scalloped potatoes, sitting next to the ham. Carolyn made another dish, which she learned how to prepare from the Food Channel. It was called Farmers' Pasta and it contained five different cheeses. There were cold cuts and rolls. There was a scrumptious banana bread. The desserts were awesome. Rock made cherries jubilee. Carolyn brought out the vanilla ice cream and we made hot fudge sundaes. (I tried to be good and made mine very small.) Carolyn had also made an apple pie. One of the neighbors had sent over two types of fudge, chocolate and penuche, and even some pizzelles. (I thought of my friend Mary when I saw the pizzelles.)

Just as we started eating, cousins Richard and Diane, with their daughter Julianna, came in to join us. Juli had just started Boston Latin School so we were asking her about school. She is doing very well so we were all pleased. After we had eaten, Carolyn and Rock's daughter Katie brought out their cat. (Katie is so small that I wondered how she could lift the cat.) Never have I seen such a fat cat as "Nelly," Nelly's coloring is such that she looks like a football when she is curled up. She is a very affectionate cat and will stay with anyone who will pat her.

Before we left, we had a phone call from Cousins Nancy and Bob, who were in Minneapolis, visiting their daughter Laura, son-in-law Jared, and their grandchildren Elliot and Calvin. She said that six inches of snow had already fallen since they arrived at the airport early Christmas morning. Before we left, we thanked Carolyn and Rock for having us. As we were ready to drive away, Cousin Grace drove up to spend some time with Carolyn, Rock, "J.R", and Katie.

How delighted I was to see that one of Neponset's own has been chosen by Cardinal O'Malley to be the superintendent of the Archdiocese of Boston's School System. Mary Grassa O'Neill is a member of a well-known and well-liked Neponset family and is the daughter of the late Joe and Nora "Nonie" Grassa. I followed her career in the Boston Schools, where she served as a senior administrator, including North Zone superintendent. She then served as superintendent of the Milton School System for 10 years. Working for the Archdiocese, she will be in charge of 150 Catholic schools and 47,000 students. Mary lives in Milton with her husband Tom and two children. I am sure that I express the feelings of all Mary's Neponset friends in wishing her much success in her new position.

Thanks to an e-mail from niece Terri, Hubby and I learned that Britain has issued a set of six James Bond stamps, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming. The stamps include the original cover artwork from such Bond thrillers as "Dr. No," "Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," and "From Russia With Love." By the way, a new Bond movie, as yet untitled, should be released near the end of the year. Hubby and I can hardly wait.

I just spotted this interesting news. Legal Sea Foods will open a new seafood restaurant on the site of the old Jimmy's Harborside Restaurant. The new restaurant should open in 2010. Not only will the restaurant serve its traditional seafood items, it will also feature an extensive meat selection. In addition to the two-floor restaurant, the new restaurant will feature a 3,000 square foot rooftop lounge. It sounds wonderful.

If you were a friend of Michael Leahy's, you probably would like to know that the Month's Mind Mass for him will be held at St. Ann's on Sunday, Feb. 17,at 11:30 a.m. A trust is being set up at Citizens Bank for his sons Dennis and Conor. When I receive more info, I will pass it along to you.

I send my sympathy to Marion Dalton on the death of her sister Catherine Clifford on Jan. 9.

When we had temperatures close to the zero-degree mark a few weeks ago here in Boston, it was cold all down the East Coast. In Florida, it was so cold that iguanas were falling from their perches in the trees. When the temperature falls into the 40s, the iguanas go into a deep sleep and lose their grip on the trees. There is a good chance that many iguanas will die if a cold spell is prolonged. The Florida fruit farmers sprayed water on their fruit, which quickly encased the fruit in ice. Ice protects fruits in case the temperature goes very low.

Today, Jan. 17, is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin in 1706. When he was the postmaster in Philadelphia, he invented an odometer to measure postal route distances and attacked the device to his carriage.

As I write this column, I am listening to the Patriots'-Jaguars' game on the radio. The Patriots did win the game after a few tense moments. Our team has certainly provided us with excitement and entertainment this season. I have no doubt that they will go on to win the game next Sunday and then on to the Super Bowl.

This Monday is the day on which the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. is observed. Here is a lovely thought by Dr. King: "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."