christmas past, present and…

Around this time last year, I was writing out our holiday cards. I've been designing custom ones since Isabella was born. Back in the one-kid days, I even created calendars with not only custom photos for each month, but a carefully chosen photo of Isabella with each family member to mark their birthdays and every holiday.

Back in 2008, when Virginia was born, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted something more personal that my mom, aunts, uncle and in-laws could cherish beyond the calendar year. I scanned Isabella's artwork from pre-K, and made a book interspersed with pictures of the girls.

Last year was different, though. For some reason I decided to make just one book. Something special for my mom. I put together photos of me, Mikey and the girls, and titled it simply "Perillo Family Memories". She was the only person I gave it too. I didn't order a copy for myself, figuring we had years decades to make books and create new memories.

Now I find myself clinging to everyone that occurred prior to August 7th, fearful that as time moves forward, my memory will get fuzzy. Thankfully Shutterfly saves old projects in your user profile, allowing me to go back in time this one instance. I ordered a copy for Mikey's parents, and one for myself. I hope my mom doesn't mind that her book isn't a one of a kind anymore.

What you see above are our holiday cards for this year—they're also thank you notes for everyone who has helped carry us through these last 125 days. I didn't want to do traditional, somber notes—you know the ones that funeral homes give you. Afterall, I threw one heck of a party to celebrate his life, and as hard on the heart this holiday season is proving to be, we still find rays of sunshine.

Rays like that one of the sun setting on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.

Mikey is with me every step of the way, I feel him, though I'm still not certain he's settled on wherever this next journey is taking him. I sense him lingering around us the last couple of weeks, perhaps not ready to let go of the life and greet the holidays feeling lost and lonely.

I've been wanting to share something special with all you. My first new recipe since posting about cherry slushies on August 4th.

I'm just not there yet. The recipes I've created since then are bittersweet because he never got to taste them. For now, I need to hold them close. You've all been so kind, that it makes me feel rather guilty being so selfish—it's not one of my strong suits, but I'm guessing you all understand.

It doesn't mean I don't want to share some homecooking with you, though. I figured we could take a stroll down memory lane, and revisit some of Mikey's favorite recipes during this time of year. I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix


Cocoa Candied Nuts


Mom's Gingerbread


Peanut Butter Bon Bons


Homemade Chestnut Spread


How to Make Royal Icing



  • Nicholle at Montalvo Country

    SO much love to you, Jennie… Thank YOU for sharing your journey with us, your devoted readers. You have every right and then some to want to hold your new recipes close to your heart. Mikey may not taste them, but he is there with you as you create them, inspiring you and guiding you. Thank you for reminding me each and every day to hold tight the ones I love. XO

  • Melissa

    Healing is not selfish. Hold those recipes close, you’ll know when the right time to share those with us will be. Only you hold the key to the timing.
    May you and your little rays of sunshine have a blessed holiday season creating new memories Mikey would be happy and proud to see you make.
    With Love,

  • Tracey

    Thinking and praying for you this holiday season. Look for Mikey in the ornaments of Xmas past. May you find a star that shines brightly, if only for a moment.

  • Allie

    I love the Thank You card idea–I am at day 123 post loss and I often come to your site to check in on you. Wishing your family a warm and loving 2012.

  • Linda

    Though we have never met, I hold you and your girls in my heart. What a lovely Cristmas/Thank You card! You are so generous to share it with us. I found you through making a pie for Mikey time. A sad reason, but a joyous find for me. I not only love the recipe, but also the stories about Mikey. I have been married twice, but am alone now and so envious of you for having found and cherished the love of your life. We don’t always have that luck. I had 15 years with each of mine, but it turned out that both were mistakes on my part. You don’t know how lucky you are.
    With Love, Linda

  • Nina

    Dear Jennie,
    Just wanted to wish you and your girls a very Merry Christmas and thankyou for sharing so much of yourself with us. Wishing you Joy and Peace for this holiday season. I’ll be thinking of you when I try your Peanut Butter Bonbons recipe 🙂
    As always, je vous embrasse.

  • Peggy

    Thank you for sharing… know that there are those who think of you often even if they remain silent because at this time their voice has fallen silent.

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction

    Jennie – I think of you and your girls every day… Hope to get to NYC soon to give you a hug in person. But, until then, know that I’m sending all of my love and warmest wishes for you over the holidays and always!

  • Maria

    Hi Jennie, the card looks nice…thank you for the recipes…I love castagnes and am so sorry to only get them around here aat CHRISTmas time…your spread looks wonderful and I am going to make it this year…
    I hope that you and the girls will try to have a wonderful CHRISTmas this year knowing that Mikey would want you to celebrate the joy of the season….
    you and the girls are in my thoughts…Buone Feste Natalizie

  • Sue

    Thank you for sharing so much of your journey with us these past few months. I am holding all the Perillo girls in my thoughts and heart this holiday season. Hugs!

  • Kim in MD

    “Mikey is with me every step of the way, I feel him, though I’m still not certain he’s settled on wherever this next journey is taking him. I sense him lingering around us the last couple of weeks, perhaps not ready to let go of the life and greet the holidays feeling lost and lonely.”- this gave me goosebumps. I, too, am sending loving thoughts you way, Jennie, and am keeping you in my prayers.

  • Robin Speck

    Be selfish. Do what you need to do to heal… we can wait. Just sharing your precious journey is a delight. Thank you for letting me into your life at this time.

  • Jeanie

    Dear Jennie, I am new to your blog. I stumbled in here one day while on a recipe search. Eureka! Peanut butter bons bons. Money being a bit tight, I think I can make a lovely little extra something for some gift bags by using the bon bon recipe. It sounds so easy, surely I can’t screw it up. Thank you for the post.
    I am very sorry for the loss of your husband. No doubt the holidays will be difficult for you, the children and family. I wish for you as much strength and peace as is humanly possible for all of you during the coming days.
    JP’s note: Jeanie thanks for the sweet comment. You will love the peanut butter bon bons. Also wanted to let you know homemade granola is an expensive, low-labor homemade gift, My recipe here. You can swap in raisins for any dried fruit (less expensive than cranberries or cherries) and use seeds, like sunflower or pumpkin, in place of more expensive nuts. Have a lovely holiday—Jennie
    Merry Christmas dear.

  • Ellie

    Jennie, You take all the time you need and we will always be here for you..You give so much of yourself to everyone including us, your loyal followers… giving you the time you need, however long and love sent from afar is my gift to you…..xo

  • Lyne

    I lost my Mom to cancer December 19th 2004 and this year is hard. I don’t know why but I do understand your pain. Your idea of a book is a good one and now with 2 Grandchildren and 2 more on the way, it will make a nice memory for them when they are older. Hugs Lyne

  • Michelle in NH

    You are in my thoughts today & most days as I review my blogs. My prayer is for you to have the strength and wisdom to fully experience this holiday with those you love & who love you.

  • laura

    The first time I came to this website, I cried and couldn’t come back for a few months, even though I love your recipes. It breaks my heart. I am back again because I can’t stop thinking about it. I have just shared your blog with all my friends on facebook – and encourage them to take some time to cook and bake for their loved ones. Thanks for this blog.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    Beautiful cards!! I’m still thinking of you & the girls from down here in South Florida. Sorry to be absent the past couple months. Hubby lost his job in October & though it’s been a bit chaotic and crazy…it’s also turned out to be the biggest blessing for our family! He’s started up his own business.
    Though silent, I’ve been reading and am glad you’re still here sharing. All your readers are!! You’ve been a help to many going through similar journeys and an inspiration to those of us that have yet to walk in your shoes. Today is the 17th anniversary of when my husband almost lost his life in a near fatal car accident. We weren’t married when it happened…but engaged.
    Had his life not been spared we’d never had our 3 beautiful girls. I shared on Facebook today how as horrible as that period in my life was, it was also a GIFT. I never take a moment or day for granted. It can all change on a dime so cherish those we have…friends and family.
    Merry Christmas Jennifer!! You all are never far from my thoughts and prayers.

  • Margie

    Jenny, I came to visit and almost fell off of my chair. I’ve been seeking a homemade hot chocolate recipe for two weeks. (I have one I created about ten years ago, but it uses all those ‘plastic’ type food sources, and while it’s tasty, it isn’t gourmet-style.) Not only did I find the perfect recipe to share amongst my friends, I also found the familiar peanut butter bon-bon. My friend shared her version of that the first year we met; it’s now one of my annual go-to’s at Christmas and an eternal reminder of what a dear and special friend she is. Although we live hundreds of miles apart these days (she’s in Chicago, I’m in the DFW area) nothing separates us. I hope your world is brightened by the warmth of the smile that crossed my face when I read your post.

  • Sabrina Modelle

    Was in the midst of writing a post about the holidays (past & present– funny), and just felt compelled to come & check up on you and the girls. I want to let you know that you’re in my thoughts right now.
    With so much warmth in my heart,
    Sabrina Modelle

  • Kenda

    You have some really great recipes and beautiful food shots. My heart goes out to you for your loss. Hope you and your girls have a peaceful holiday filled with sweet dreams of sugar plums and Mikey.