Posted January 31st, 2013 | Events, Media, What's On the Table
Share your Valentine’s Day stories, ideas and recipes with us!

It’s the first month of the year, and there is already a fifth week, so we would like to take the opportunity to share some news and events coming up! We would also like to prepare for a wonderful Valentine’s Day celebration by offering a chance to get a free gift bag with: 


– A signed copy of Spicing Up Married Life

Ingredients for one of the romantic meals from SUML

– A special recommendation for beverage pairings by Winemaker and Professor at Culinary Institute of America, John Buechsenstein. 


To enter the contest, simply use the Promo Code VDAY13 on our website to receive a 10% discount on any of our products. Those who use the code will be entered into a special drawing on February 9 in order to receive their gift bag by Valentine’s Day to give you the perfect romantic meal for you and your spouse. 

Additionally, if you send us your stories, recipes and favorite Valentine’s Day ideas to share with our GBM “fam” at and enter into the contest above using the VDAY13 promo code, then you will receive a Free Grace Before Meals wristband automatically!


Fr. Leo featured in MD Life Magazine
In November, Fr. Leo met with Jason Tinney, a writer for Maryland Life Magazine, to take him through a day in the life of the host of a family movement and cooking show, and Jason was not disappointed by Fr. Leo’s example of faith….and of cooking! Click here to read the fun article. Thanks Jason!
GBM and CRS team up for Operation: Rice Bowl
Fr. Leo filmed some video segments with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to help promote their Operation:Rice Bowl initiative which seeks to not only prepare our hearts in the season of Lent but help provide for the poor and hungry all over the world.Check out their site and keep an eye out on for news on Fr. Leo’s collaboration with them.
Fr. Leo will be on the news this Valentine’s Day season
With Valentine’s Day coming up, Fr. Leo’s new book Spicing Up Married Life is the PERFECT GIFT for couples, whether for a nice date night on February 14 or for when they are seeking more than just dinner and a movie. He will be appearing on the following stations as of now, and will look to have more appearances to come:
New York Nightly News on NBC 4 on February 8 at 7pm EST
“Coffee With” on WJZ in Baltimore on February 11 
– FOX 5 Morning Show appearance in DC on February 14

January 31- St. Isidore’s in Columbus NE
News: Due to inclement weather and a cancelled flight, Fr. Leo will not be able to give his morning presentation at Norfolk Catholic High. His second presentation, at Scotus Central Catholic High School, is now set for 3pm, and his evening presentation is still on at St. Isidore’s. Click here for details.
February 1- Marriage Celebration for Couples in Ellicott City, MD
Fr. Leo flies home to MD for a special presentation for couples that not only ties into World Marriage Day and Valentines Day, but will include Mass, the renewal of vows, and a cooking demo. It’s just like a wedding feast! Click here for details.
February 2- GBM Presentation at Stone Creek Event Center in McCool Junction, NE
Fr. Leo is then back in Nebraska for a Grace Before Meals demonstration and talk with the parish community of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in McCool. It’s bound to be a night of faith, food and fun. Click here for more details.
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Posted January 23rd, 2013 | From the Feedbag

Ten Tips for Peaceful Conversation

This “From the Feedbag” was sent to me by way of a tweet!  It’s amazing how this one tweet has helped me focus on one important aspect of our Grace Before Meals movement.

My cool cousin Bernadette and foodie friend, Michael Rosen, from Toronto – tweeting during dinner! I allowed it because we were looking for a good restaurant nearby.

Now, take a look at this quote below from Rick Warren, Pastor and author of A Purpose Driven Life.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

This little quote – so filled with truth – answers many of the questions I receive about family struggles. While people want to share family dinners and reconnect with friends over a meal, they worry about the arguments or heated discussions that will occur.  You’ve heard it before: don’t talk about politics, sports, or religion at the dinner table.

I say talk about IT ALL! But do it in a way that’s respectful, loving, and truly “through, with, and in Jesus Christ.”

Peacefulness can only happen when we are willing to love Jesus as Mary loves Him.

Remember, our movement encourages people to be “faithful” to the family dinner and to eat with good friends.  Nowhere do I promise that every family meal will be perfect or problem free!

Pastor Warren’s quote reminds us that while we will disagree, sometimes vehemently with a person’s decision of lifestyle, we need to thank God for the gift of the food and the opportunity to be together – even if we are struggling to be with each other. After all, if we don’t learn how to be together here on Earth, how can we spend all of eternity with each other in Heaven?

Grotto in Bohol, Philippines. My nephew Jared joined in prayer with the three children of Fatima.

 Over the years of helping to encourage our movement, I’ve eaten with so many people – the majority of whom agree with my Catholic Faith and my mission. However, there have been several dinners when I’ve eaten with people who completely disagree with me. For example, I sat at a table with a homosexual couple, an anti-Catholic, several self-proclaimed “liberal” politicians, and even an angry former priest.  These could have been bad times, but at the end of the day, there were a few principals that helped me to stay focused.

At an outdoor presentation in NYC 2010.


Below are some of these principals and observations that have helped me, following the spirit of Pastor Warren. While I’ve only listed 10, I’m sure there are many other wise tips to help keep the peace in our conversations – especially during heated dinner discussions!

(1) Focus on the mercy of Christ. Jesus broke bread with people from all walks of life and was able to show mercy and understanding to all he encountered.

(2) Separate the sin from the sinner. Do not judge people, but also don’t be afraid to observe and critically analyze their actions.  Unless someone is the incarnation of the devil, most people are good, made in the image and likeness of God, but also broken.  While their actions may be less helpful or even harmful, you can still love the person.

Image of Jesus extending a hand to the woman caught in adultery.
(3) Check your motivation before your speak.  If it’s anger – don’t say anything.  If it’s loving concern, say what you have to say lovingly.

(4) Understand the motivation of the person speaking to you.  Many times people say hateful things to me about the Church or priests, because they’ve been somehow hurt or offended by the actions of broken priests.  I have to be patient, listen to their pain, and only when they realize I’ve heard them and am listening to them (painful as it may be), they can (hopefully) listen to me, and maybe trust that what I’m saying isn’t said to hurt them.

(5) Be appropriate with language and setting.  Don’t make a scene anywhere. Try to keep the peace, and realize that communication is more than what you say – it’s also body language, timing, tone, facial expressions, etc., etc.

Paul Shaffer, from the “Late Show with David Letterman,” sharing a cup of coffee, a few songs, and great conversation on Sirius XM radio show.  Click here to listen to the song – even if it’s after the Christmas Season!

(6)  Apologize if necessary, and always be quick to forgive!

(7) Stay on topic. Establishing ground rules, like speaking about one or two topics, can help stop arguments from getting out of control. Also learn when to agree to disagree, or resume conversations at a different place and time.

(8)  Be confident and knowledgeable. I often find the most obnoxious and argumentative people are really just defending their own ignorance.  The more knowledgeable and skilled a person is on any contentious topic, the more calm and cool they are able to be.

Me being a dork but pretending to be confident – just for laughs!

(9) Know yourself!  Talk with someone you trust first to gauge your ability to talk about difficult subjects. It may be you need more communication skills and techniques.  The more you know about yourself, the less likely you’ll be caught off guard and forced to communicate poorly in challenging discussions.

(10) After every meal or discussion, thank God and each other for the opportunity to learn different perspectives and the opportunity to show the world we can still share a meal even if we disagree with each other.

  • What are some techniques you use to help get through a dinner or meal with difficult people discussing a difficult topic?  


Please share your wisdom, your questions, or your thoughts, and post your comments below.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.  Also please help us spread the movement by encouraging your pastor to put our link on your parish’s website or bulletin, and telling family, friends, and parishioners to sign up and be part of our growing family!

My parents and their grandchildren wearing the Christmas gift I gave them – individual animal hats!  Yes, we may act like animals sometimes, but God made us “rational” animals, called to be a “family.”

Let Us Pray:

Father in Heaven, in a world that is full of hate and contention, help us to be peacemakers.  Teach us how Jesus listened and talked with people.  Give us Grace to observe what it means to be in solidarity while respectfully disagreeing with others.  In other words God, help us to be Your voice, Your words, and Your love that invites all – sinners and saints – to Your merciful meal.  Amen.

Me with a former high school Classmate at a Baltimore book signing last year. While we may not see eye to eye, we remain friends through the gift of food!


Come to the spiritual event in DC tomorrow. Tickets are $15.31 at the door!


There’s plenty to look forward to this weekend in Austin!


Church Picnics are the perfect recipe for GBMers: Faith, Family and Food!


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Posted in From the Feedbag | 2 Comments »

Posted January 16th, 2013 | Faithful Foodie, Prayers

Food for People on a Difficult Adventure

My typical “Faithful Foodie Adventures” share great food finds from my travels.  However I want to write about a different kind of “adventure” this week – one that brings challenge and fear instead of excitement and joy.   Besides having no place to call your own, or a comforting place to lay down your head, one of the biggest fears for the population considered “homeless” is the uncertainty of their next meal. While their journey is a difficult one, we can offer them many different points of hope along the way.

One of the guests at Winter Relief was a “walking icon” with many Catholic images on his body. I told him he should be a living saint rather than a billboard for sanctity.  Thank God this “body art” was religious rather than dark, destructive or demonic.

This past week,  Our Lady of the Fields Catholic Church in Millersville and the House of Hope hosted over 60 homeless people in a program called Winter Relief.  For the past nine years, Our Lady of the Fields has provided guests a place to sleep, shower, clean up, eat home cooked (and quite delicious) meals, and most importantly, experience God’s love without a forced, preachy, or judgmental message.

Dave Luddy the current site coordinator, Deacon Ed Stoops the original site coordinator, and Dawne Shroeder-Elmiger the successor for site coordination.

Volunteers at Winter Relief get a sense of holiness talking with the guests that comes from the  Corporal Works of Mercy – especially feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.  There is an immediate understanding that homelessness has no quick fix or simple solution, but that helping them is as easy as opening your door and caring for them.  Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta gives a saintly example of the positive impact this kind act can have on the world.

Volunteers serve the food but – more importantly – eat with the temporary residents.

To partake in this Faithful Foodie Adventure, you need only help in some way – big or small.   The efforts at Our Lady of the Fields show the world its truly living the Gospel holiness by extending the sacramental life to a tangible act of love in a big way.   However, a famous quote from  Blessed Mother Theresa suggests even small acts make a difference as long as you “do small acts with great love.”

Volunteers at Our Lady of the Fields were from all walks of life, but there was great support from young people who helped shoulder the burdens of the homeless. 


Last week, I included from my trip to New York a photo of couple Mark and Jennifer, Jennifer as Mark’s girlfriend. Well, I got the following email from Mark himself:
Buon Anno Padre!

Ahem– that would be Mr. and Mrs. Mark Bello and you can bet we are Spicing Up Married Life everyday!!

So congratulations to the happy married couple, who will receive a copy of Spicing Up Married Life as a ‘wedding’ gift! Maybe they can teach about true love at their pizza school, using Spicing Up Married Life as their curriculum guide! Also, the proper link to their website is, so be sure to check them out!
  • Does your church or civic group do something to help the homeless and underprivileged?  
  • What do you do to teach your children or family members compassion?  
  • What can you do, or what have you done, to help the poor?  Don’t be afraid to share your humble service. 

Your questions, comments and postings, help inspire our readers with ideas and encouragement.  Join the conversation and post your comments below.


The meal served compliments of “Chef” Ruth Baldwin and family: shrimp creole, rice, broccoli mass, and chicken wings – unfortunately I was too late for the chicken wings!


Let Us Pray:

Father, in this winter season, we pray for all adversely affected by the weather – especially the homeless. While it’s easy to make judgments and assumptions about the people who find themselves in this situation, help us to see first the fact they are children of God.  And while we may decide not to give them money or to take them into our homes as a guest, may we have the strength and lived faith to at least greet them, look them in the eye, treat them with dignity, and offer them a sincere prayer.  Make us true instruments of the Corporal Works of Mercy, we ask through Christ our Lord.  Amen.



Ruth Baldwin (center dressed in grey) with some of her children and grandchildren, including two granddaughters who celebrated their birthday by providing food and service for the homeless.
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Top 10 Restaurant Meals & Recipe Highlights

As promised, my “Blast from the Recent Past” continues!   My objective in this week’s Eblast isn’t to relive the past, but be grateful for each and every experience I’ve had with my family, friends, and God’s great gift of food.  Starting with ten and ending with one – here are my top ten restaurant meals from 2012:


Pizza, Chinese & Foodie Friends 

Marc Bello and his girlfriend Jennifer are incredible foodies from Pizza-a-Casa in NYC.  They make amazing pizza at their shop where they also offer classes on how it’s made.


Marc and Jennifer joined me for a sampling of a new Yunnan Restaurant, Lotus Blue, managed by a good childhood friend of mine, Jeffrey Lim.  Lotus Blue is not your typical “asian” restaurant. It’s a true fusion of cultures and culinary style with deep, brothy, and bold flavors – including the use of the pungent durian fruit for a tasty dessert!


Home Town Food

Eating in the Philippines means encountering a lot of fresh seafood, pickled seaweed, whole roasted pig, fried chicken, and rice – all eaten “island style.”  One restaurant, Kai Lui Restaurant in Palawan, really impressed me. Not only did it have a great fusion of Filipino flavors but a relaxing, no-shoes policy. If you are ever in Palawan, dinner at Kai Lui is a must.


Auction Dinner with the Baldwin Family

As part of my service I try to provide dinners as prizes for charity auction.  One of the prize winners this year was the Baldwin Family, who also happen to be parishioners at the church where I now serve in Millersville, MD.  The Baldwins own a home construction company, so they know the importance of quality in the kitchen!  At their home I prepared three types of pasta, a sampling of flavor-packed bit-sized foods, chutney, and finally three big bites of the fusion fajitas featured on the Food Network – but it was the kitchen that was a gourmet chef’s dream!

Trio of pasta – pesto, norcina cream, and amatriciana – bacon and onion.


Trio of meats: garlic shrimp skewers, bacon wrapped pork tenderloin over white truffle potato puree topped with an apple onion. 



Asian Gyro in Oklahoma City?


Fr. Hamilton, a good priest friend of mine, was so excited about this hip new food place in Oklahoma City, and after tasting their fusion of flavors, I can understand why!  Delicious.


Foodie Express
Foodie Express


Eats of Italy in New York’s Eataly

I sometimes long for authentic Italian cuisine.  Many small towns have Italian immigrants with the skills and connections to source out authentic ingredients, but I’ve found that Eataly in NYC makes me feel like I’m back in Roma.  If you are able to check it out, make sure you go in the late morning or afternoon to avoid the mega crowds at lunch and dinner times.


 Ristorante Cecilia Metella

Most Italian / Roman restaurants have specialty pastas, but one in particular stands out for me. It’s the world famous Scrigno pasta from Cecelia Metella Restaurant just outside of Rome, near the sacred catacombs.  The meaning behind the pasta, its taste, and – of course – learning how to make it for my TV show Savoring our Faith made it all the more fantastic!



Talk and Eat in Talkeetna, Alaska

Finding food in the small villages across America’s largest state was quite an adventure. I was drawn to the hipster-earthy village of Talkeetna, a famous foodie hotspot, known for its love of food and nature. I had to agree with the masses on this one. It is another must if you have the opportunity.


Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat
Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat



 Florida Fiesta!

This past year my family went on a vacation to the beaches of Florida. Besides the sun and surf, I also enjoyed the spicy, bold – yet so simple and delicious – Latin influenced foods.  One place I discovered was Fuego Latina, a nondescript Latin food lover’s hot spot in a strip mall. Check out their “sampler” platter – a meal for literally 3 people!



 Mission Barbecue

As you know, food is only a means to an end for me.  The owners of Mission Barbecue have a similar philosophy. In addition to having friendly and super-fast service, providing some of the best local barbecue in the area – smoking beef, pork and chicken at least 2 times a day – they donate proceeds from their food sales to the Wounded Warrior Project.  For Mission Barbecue, good food is the means to a good end – to help our wounded warriors and first responders.


Culinary Confessions -Mission Barbecue
Culinary Confessions -Mission Barbecue


Dinner at Celebrity Chef John Besh’s home with his family!

Through my good food-priest-friend, Msgr. Nalty of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I had a crab salad gumbo dinner with world famous Chef John Besh and his family. It was a beautiful experience. I was able to witness the faith of their family both in their exchanges and in knowing their oldest son was coming late because he was serving as a peer minister for his high school retreat. Later, in another beautiful experience I found ironically amusing, I was able to surprise Chef Besh’s mother and father, who recognized me as the priest on TV who cooks.


To round out my Blast of the Recent Past for 2012, I also want to share my favorite recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breasts!

Click on the picture to access the recipe!


2012 was truly a year of great adventures and achievements, and yet, for many of you, there may have been loss or sadness. We offer all of these to our Lord, good and bad times, and give him praise for everything we have, for we are still here today and have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. May 2013 yield many more great times and accomplishments for each of us as we seek to build stronger families, have better meals, and be ever-pleasing to God.
Be sure to keep checking out the website for updates on upcoming events, recipes each week, new blog posts and articles. And now, registered members can leave comments on events and recipes, so we look forward to hearing from you. We would love for you to share your experiences with us, as you are all part of the GBM “fam”. 



 For all of you who have received Spicing Up Married Life and want to share it with others, please leave a review on Amazon for others to share in. Your review may help provide insight to those seeking ways to strengthen their relationships in or out of the kitchen. We would love to know what you think of it as well, so please post today!

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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Recipe, Recipe- Pork, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Turkey, Restaurants, Video | 2 Comments »

Posted January 2nd, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Dinner Discussion, New Year

Blast from “the Recent Past”

This week’s Blast takes a look at some of the Faithful Foodie highlights of 2012.  It’s a review of the past, which was truly “a blast!”

Please know I’ve had so many wonderful experiences this year that when I look back at the calendar and pictures, I realize God has truly blessed this Grace Before Meals apostolate and movement.  While many consider this work a “ministry,” I want to tell people they don’t have to be priests or nuns to bring families back around the dinner table.  I consider this work an “apostolate,” because it strengthens family life, and improves culture – one meal at a time! To be part of it, all you have to do is be hungry for good food and loving relationships.

Below for your enjoyment is a Top 10 Countdown for Grace Before Meals in 2012. I wish you all a happy New Year, with the hopes of an even more fruitful 2013!


Cooking with our Friends at the 700 Club with Gordon Roberts

Yes, the Christian communities and the Catholic Church have something in common – a love for the Lord Jesus.  While there are certain doctrinal differences, we can at least celebrate a “common meal” (even if it’s not the  Sacrament of Holy Communion – the ultimate sign of spiritual communion with each other).  These opportunities to share recipe ideas with other Christian leaders is a great blessing to me!



Maryland’s Black Ankle Winery and Cooking for Good Causes with Good People 


It’s a powerful sign when our Grace Before Meals movement is invited to present at non-religious events, especially when you meet local legends like long time radio and TV personality Ron Riley and his wife.  The invitation to speak to different audiences shows us our message is truly “universal.”  After all, the word “catholic” means “universal.”


Grace Before Meals on the “Big Screen” 


Talk about effective advertising!  There I am driving to an event in Delaware when I see a big picture of me advertising a health fair.  It was even funny and humbling to see such a big picture of my “mug.”  Thank God I didn’t swerve my car when I saw it!


Another “Blast from the Past”



At an event in Florida a mom showed me a picture of me baptizing her son 15 years ago! She came because she had seen an ad for the event and recognized me. I am always running into people who have some mutual friend, experience, or family tie.  These experiences at events across the country and around the world are very humbling opportunities to see just how big, and yet how closely knit the Catholic Church family is.



Grace Before Meals is Deepening the Message of Family Meals by Focusing on Married Couples 


I always knew our message of family meals would eventually take a closer look at where families begin – the love of a mom and dad.  My presentation for Spicing Up Married Life at an event sponsored by the Pro-Life Group for the Archdiocese of Baltimore brought an unexpectedly large crowd of couples.  (To order, CLICK HERE!) This turnout showed me our work truly responds to the parish communities’ need for better marriage preparation – not to mention more opportunities for couples to go on a date night!  One husband confessed he attended my event very unwillingly, but after tasting the prepared recipe and hearing the message, he really “ate it up!”


Celebrating with Friends and True “Spiritual Brothers” in the City of “Brotherly Love”



Along with my good friend Fr. Erik Pohlmeier from the Diocese of Little Rock Arkansas, I planned a dinner with our former spiritual director from Rome, Bishop Daniel Thomas, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  At dinner we shared our many joys, as well as the normal struggles of trying to be a faithful priest in the modern world – a world sometimes hostile to the Christian message.  Honestly, while I know the food was great I can’t remember exactly what I prepared.  Nevertheless, the message and meaningful meal shared with brothers will never be lost in my heart, mind, or soul.


America’s Largest State and Tackling Enormous Food!



During a trip to Alaska I had many, many incredible food experiences.  One stop took me to the town of Talkeetna – a village really – that had great food finds.  Their burger was even featured in the popular show Man v. Food!  Tasty?  Yes.  Leftovers? Definitely!

Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat
Alaska Trip Part 2 What To Eat



Taking the Grace Before Meals Message Back “Home” to the Philippines 


While on a family vacation in the Philippines at the beginning of 2012, I was asked to do hurricane relief support/promotional work with the metro Manila Philippines BergHoff cooking store. (BergHoff is actually a German based company with locations around the world.) There I had the chance to meet and cook with two recent graduates from the culinary school. They prepared an appetizer, while I cooked the famous fusion steak fajitas for a group of reporters and representatives who came to support the disaster relief efforts for the recent hurricane.


Filming the Series Savoring our Faith in Rome, Italy



We filmed four Savoring our Faith episodes in foodie hotspots in and around Rome, including Scarpone’s Restaurant – not only famous for its food but for cooking for Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict!  We also cooked with internationally known guests and revealed some “secret” recipes, including the famous Scrigno Pasta from Ristorante Cecelia Metella outside of Rome.  You can catch Savoring our Faith every Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. EST on EWTN.


Celebrating with My Family for My Parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary


The Epic Cooking Battle Between My Nieces and Nephews


Mom and Dad were totally in their element, dancing and even singing songs for the 300 plus guests who came to their 50th wedding anniversary extravaganza!  Baltimore Sheraton Hotel Chef, and former high school classmate, Sam Anderson prepared a great feast! But the greatest part of the evening was just watching my mom and dad enjoy the company of family and friends as they celebrated 50 years of committed love.  It was because of them I was inspired to write our newest book, Spicing Up Married Life.


And how can I forget when my nieces and nephews went spoon to spoon in our family’s second annual cooking battle.  The girls won last year’s battle, but the boys took home the prize this year. It was a nail-biter! A victory by one point in the creativity category!

Cooking Competition 2012
Cooking Competition 2012


I hope you enjoyed the review of 2012’s favorite faithful foodie experiences.

To help couples and families experience more inspired meals in 2013, be sure to pick up your copy of the books SUML and GBM!

Next week, we’ll be doing a rundown of my top 10 favorite restaurants and recipes!  So, stay tuned for another “Blast from the Recent Past,” full of tasty memories!

  •  What was your favorite food experience of 2012 and why?  

Your comments let us know that our message is reaching hearts and minds, and we hope they let you know you have a place at our table to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions. So, please post your comments below.

Let Us Pray:

Father in Heaven, you gave us 2012 with all of its joys, sorrows, challenges and Grace.  Help us to look forward with great faith, hope, and love in the year 2013.  Continue to bless our movement, the families who share in our message, and those who we will meet in the coming year.  Give us always a Grace to live each day to the fullest, through Christ our Lord. Amen.  

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Posted in Blast from the Past, Dinner Discussion, New Year | 1 Comment »