'Over the river and through the woods'

Well, I'm off.  It's the best trip of the year for me. It's Christmas and I am grateful to earn time to head home for the holidays. It's fabulous for many reasons, so in poor taste, here I go: "Over the river and through the woods" bragging all the way. Toot toot, beep beep.

WHERE DO I BEGIN? Since I last wrote to you all, my holiday stress level has somewhat leveled out. Keyword: "somewhat." For the most part, I think I'm ready for Christmas (umpteen-million to-do lists later). A good friend asked recently, "Anna, what is your favorite thing about going home for Christmas?" I smiled and said, "Hands down, sitting around my parent's house (preferably in pajamas), just enjoying my family." It's like I go into hiding when I walk through my front door. I don't want to leave. Well, usually. Haha, just kidding, mom and dad!  

(Pictured above: Bulszewicz Christmas tree, 2012)

Everything always looks beautiful. Everything smells wonderful. My mom and dad always look great. My sister and two brothers are always there to greet me with a genuine "I miss you" embrace. There are big smiles, some tears, a little laughter. Then like clockwork, I more than likely have to jump right in and chop and onion or empty the dishwasher. Okay, I may even have to clean a toilet or two. My mom is always so proud to tell people that she works to keep her big TV star humble.

My mom is a huge perfectionist. She truly creates our very own Bing Crosby Christmas at the house. We as kids are so fortunate. My mom and dad have always worked in good times and bad to create the most magical Christmas.

(Pictured above: Bulszewicz family room and potentially my dad sleeping on the couch)

It's something I can only dream of doing for my kids one day. Disclaimer: No, I currently do not have any kids. Speaking of kids, the four of us are all grown up- well, for the most part. But you better believe Santa still comes down our chimney. YOU BETTER BELIEVE HE DOES. In fact, this year, just to ensure we were all behaving, my mom took the time to introduce us to our family's first "Elf on the Shelf." Just when I thought I was in the clear about a month ago, I received a photo with a warning that I was being watched by a tiny figurine all the way from Detroit. Haha! Mom you're killin' me!

(Pictured above: Bulszewicz "Elf on the Shelf")

So, I generally drive home. Just to add a little kick to the 800-mile journey, my too fabulous of a cousin, Corrina,  flies in from New York City and makes the drive with me. (If only my Honda could talk.) You want to talk about a good time? Our family calls it the "Thelma and Louise" trip.

(Pictured above: Cousin Corrina, me, sister Alex (Ahh! I can't wait to see you.)

First, we will spend time with friends in Raleigh (a shout-out to Liz Bowles), then make our trek north. Our second stop is Cleveland. I just love Cleveland. Some of my best friends in the whole wide world are from there. I always spend a night in Cleveland with my good friends Nancy and Casey, Mandy and Turkey. We indulge in some holidays spirits, if you will.  Simply put, we spend the evening truly eating, drinking and being merry. For me, making memories with the group is one of the best Christmas presents a gal could ask for. Nancy, Casey, Mandy and Turkey- y'all are a mess!

After our cross-country meet-and-greet, it's home for the holidays! Things get a little crazy now. I told you I have a big family and I told you my family is all about the food, ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. From seafood to spaghetti to prime ribs and beyond, we all eat like kings and queens for days.

(Pictured above: Traditional holiday dish, "Feast of Seven Fishes")

It is most definitely a privilege. But more than anything, it's tradition. Some recipes are prepared for good luck. Other recipes are new, and we have desserts and dishes that have been passed on for generations.

(Pictured above: Traditional Italian cassata cake.)

My family takes pride in our meals. Which in turn, I need to take a look at my waist by the trip's end to make sure I still fit in my clothes. Don't judge me when I return to the mornings with a "healthier" looking figure. It happens every year. What? It's an accident!

(Pictured above: Christmas 2011, cousins/twins Roman & Reese)

We have Christmas Eve and day at my house. Usually, 30 to 50 people trickle in each day. On Christmas Eve, we tend to dress fancy. I still get so excited for Santa. Okay, maybe I should stop saying that. How old am I? It's great to see everyone.  It's especially amazing for me to catch up with my aunts and uncles, my cousins and their babies. Wow, isn't it wild to see how everyone evolves and grows? I must admit, I'm incredibly blessed with a beautiful family and a home filled with love and and unconditional support. It's good to get back to your roots. It reminds you of who you are and what you stand for.

(Pictured above: Snowed in for annual sibling Monopoly marathon)

To my entire extended family, I love you. Merry Christmas. I'm sure I'll tell you in person. Who doesn't like to hear it more than once though, right? A group of cousins usually heads to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. So just sending out a reminder if our parents won't be with us- no giggling in church!

So, after Santa comes and we've opened presents and eaten an elaborate breakfast, including leftovers plus my dad's homemade waffles (AMEN) on Christmas day, it's pajamas and poker. Oh, wait- eating, eating and more eating. I'm pretty sure that sums it up. The Gusmano side comes over. For those of you who don't know- my grandma, Ann "Pepi" Serra, was a Gusmano before she married my grandfather, Salvatore Serra. (Wow, I sound like my mom and my aunts piecing together the family tree. Ahh, it's happening to me.) Moving forward, all my extended cousins come over and we just casually take in the day. Yes, we wear pajamas.

(Pictured above: Family Christmas 2011. Sorry everyone, I had to.)

The older I get, the more I look forward to it. I love to hear about little Joe's plays and productions. I get to catch up with Melissa and Ryan. I anticipate I'll ask Kelly all about the first deer she shot and I always love to talk about the royals with my great aunt Kathy.

Speaking of greats, there are some things missing from my holiday. Deep in my heart holds memories of Christmases past with my grandpa and grandma. I miss my Sam and Pepi and of course, my great aunt Mary.  There's nothing like that generation. My mom and I talked about it this week. We do what we do now because of them. Through the years, they taught their kids the meaning of Christmas and togetherness through countless times of love, cheer and ages-old recipes. I know they'll be with us through everything again this year. They always are.

With all that said, whoa! Look at the time! I have to hit the road! I cannot tell you what a wonderful year you all have shown me. I truly thank everyone for watching our a.m. broadcast. I wish you a warm and peaceful holiday filled with laughter and a full belly.

Don't you worry. I'll see you all in the new year. Until then, "Merry Christmas to all, and to tall a good night!"

Ho ho ho,

Anna B!

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