seasonal books

Books. I love books. I love the touch, the feel, and the smell of books.

I am a bookworm. I always have been a bookworm. I married a bookworm.

I have some books that appear around now this year I have four new ones. Only one is an actual new book. And that is Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon. it’s a beautiful book and it has some pretty good recipes too.

The three other books I picked up in my travels throughout the year.

One is a 1960s edition of Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier. Another is called The Flight of The Snow Goose by Berniece Freschet.

The final book is a really cool one that’s A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore illuminated by his daughter Mary C. Ogden.



mother wants fruitcake

I love my mother (the holy mothertude) but she is not so subtle sometimes when she does things like saying the other day:

Oh we took the last of your fruit cake out of the freezer from last year. We just love it so much.”

(She totally cracks me up with this so, bum knee and all, I knew I was indeed making fruitcake this year.)

And then my lovely stepfather said something similar in his very adorable, very British way.

So I called my mother back today and said “I decided I will be making fruitcake this year.”

The mothertude replies “I really wasn’t trying to get you to make it.

Now you know you can’t ignore mother requests at Christmas, right? So…I made two today and will make two tomorrow so I don’t have any of that candied fruit to store. Because face it, what else do you use it for except fruitcake?

I make white fruitcake. I saw somewhere once and then couldn’t find it again, where it was referred to as “grooms cake”. It’s made with good brandy or whiskey and it actually tastes good.

Normally I like to make my fruitcake more ahead of schedule than I am now, but it will still taste good.

The basis for my fruitcake recipe can be found in a 1959 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook. But I have adjusted the recipe over the years based on personal tastes and recipe research and tweaked it a little.

This year I changed it again and I went back to only using almonds. And I didn’t use figs, I used chopped dates and golden raisins. I might change the second batch up a little, I will decide tomorrow.

I actually wrote about this a few years ago. (Follow this LINK to yes really…fruitcake.)

I will tell you I had blocked out what a mess your kitchen becomes making fruitcake.

Below is a photo of them going into the oven. I just took them out and they smell GOOOD! Try a white fruitcake…I promise you will like it!

Fa la la la la

the grinch ate my mail and other holiday tales of the ridiculous.

I am frustrated right now. I realize the post office is super busy. I realize my post office is down a postal employee. But the supervisor who works in the office isn’t exactly helpful at times. This is one of those times.

I had something on redelivery that was a giant hassle yesterday. I missed the initial delivery because I had an appointment and the mail delivery was earlier than normal. I called to try to get it yesterday and the supervisor wouldn’t call the carrier who had our route. I was just trying to figure out if it was getting delivered yesterday. Not looking for special treatment….unless basic information is special treatment?

So yesterday I subsequently filed a redelivery request on the USPS website. Have you ever attempted to navigate the USPS at peak times of the year like the holidays? I must have entered the required information seven or eight times. Then I still wasn’t sure if it was in because at one point it told me my request could not be completed or handled or something I forget what the language was, so I called my post office. The USPS supervisor assured me it would be on a truck tomorrow (AKA today), after he tells me he never heard of that error before.

Just swell. Nothing like not being able to drive because you’re waiting for knee surgery and it’s your husband’s Christmas present. Only you aren’t quite sure where it is other than somewhere in the area.

Not helpful.

So the USPS truck shows up this afternoon. A different substitute driver. Very nice, but as I am calling to him to wait because the package I had on redelivery wasn’t there, he is not hearing me and starting to pull away. The reason he wasn’t hearing me is he had earbuds in. For some reason, I thought you couldn’t drive with stuff in your ears like headphones or earbuds that prohibited you from reacting to traffic and what not but I digress….

Anyway, the substitute carrier guy couldn’t have been nicer but he told me it wasn’t on the truck. So I went inside and I looked up the number and called my post office again.

I got the same supervisor on the phone as yesterday and it was a conversation for the record books.

Hi sorry to call again, but the package you said would be redelivered today wasn’t and the mail carrier just left.” I said

His reply was something along the lines of there were several trucks out. So I asked him if that meant my package would be delivered later. His response was a rather oblique “maybe, possibly.”

I asked him if he could define that answer a little more and he said again maybe possibly.

So I asked if there was anyway to check with carriers to see if my package was on a truck or if it had gotten left behind. I figured that was a possibility since in the frustrating conversation of oblique replies he told me the substitute mail carrier who had been out to the house yesterday was off today.

His response to me was along the lines of “Well, if you asked the carrier to check his truck and he didn’t find it there’s really no point in me calling him.” (I am paraphrasing slightly but that was the jist of the response.)

So I asked him if it would just come out later today and it was another non-answer answer. He’s the supervisor so what does he know? It’s very confusing.

So I called a neighboring post office to see if they had any suggestions. Or if I was doing something wrong. The supervisor in that office couldn’t have been nicer. 

A couple of hours later, the missing package appeared like magic. I think I must have a secret Santa in that other post office.

I know the post office is slammed. I am truly sorry. But when you call for customer service, you should get actual customer service. I know people don’t like being told no, and I am no exception, but I would prefer an honest answer to a non-answer answer.

So all’s well that ends well for me today, but this is the second problem lately. And it felt like the Grinch ate my Christmas mail, right or wrong.

Quite frankly I am dreading putting my Christmas cards into the mail. But Santa says I must. Can’t be a Grinch……

merry christmas anna maciejewska

Photo of Anna and her mother at Christmas, 2016.

Dear Anna,

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Anna Maciejewska. Merry Christmas wherever you are. Maybe I will just talk to you directly today?

The photo I posted was lent to me by the people at Finding Anna Maciejewska on Facebook.

We never met, but I still think of you often. The mainstream media seems to have forgotten you, but me, your friendly neighborhood blogger and many others have not. So I thought I would write you a letter.

I have three women as friends who were Polish by birth like you. Two I worked with once upon a time, and one is a very dear friend and married to one of my oldest friends in the world. Like you they emigrated here and became citizens to live their American dreams. They are among the most genuine and lovely people I know.

They all love Christmas. I am guessing you did too. One of these friends of mine for years has been sharing the beloved Polish Christmas tradition of the Oplatek, or the Christmas wafer. I don’t have to tell you about what the wafer is, as you know. But for everyone else reading this, please enjoy what the Polish Women’s Alliance of America has to say:

Christmas Wafer – Oplatek

Sharing of the oplatek (pronounced opwatek) is the most ancient and beloved of all Polish Christmas traditions. Oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water, similar in taste to the hosts that are used for communion during Mass. The Christmas wafer is shared before Wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper. The head of the household usually starts by breaking the wafer with his wife and then continues to share it with everyone at the Wigilia table. Wishes for peace and prosperity are exchanged and even the pets and farm animals are given a piece of oplatek on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that if animals eat oplatek on Christmas Eve, they will be able to speak in human voices at midnight, but only those who are pure of spirit will be able to hear them.

This tradition dates back many centuries when a thin, flat bread called podplomyk was baked over an open flame and then shared with the family gathered around the fire on Christmas Eve. Patterns would be cut onto the bread to make breaking easier. This is why oplatki today still have patterns on them, usually of Nativity scenes. You can order Oplatki from PWA. Learn how here.

Everyone who knows me Anna, knows how much I love Christmas. Some of my favorite mercury glass ornaments are Polish made. The ornaments made in Poland and Germany and once upon a time in the Ukraine are just truly magical.

This morning I stumbled across two things. One was a post written by a man who took part in searches for you in 2018. I never knew it existed. Here, let me share a little bit:

April 30, 2018 Finding Anna (and Ourselves) :The Frustrating Search for a Missing Mother, Wife, Daughter and Friend By Larry Goanos

I spent part of my wife’s birthday recently looking for a dead body in the woods of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Yes, really.

I joined a group of about 20 people who had gathered in Malvern, Pa. to search for the missing-and-presumed dead body of Anna Maciejewska, a wife and mother who went missing in April 2017…Anna’s elderly parents in Poland, both cancer survivors, are grief stricken, frustrated and angry. And to make things worse, Anna’s husband has reportedly prohibited them from seeing their now four-year-old grandson.

Anna was not a young, attractive model or a wealthy socialite, and she didn’t fit into most of the other categories of missing persons anointed by the media as being worthy of intense and prolonged coverage. She was just an average American, like you and me, and she has vanished from the face of the Earth, leaving her family and friends distraught and seeking answers.

Most likely, you’ve seen clips on the news of packs of volunteers searching fields, woods and riverbanks for the remains of crime victims. It’s a horrid task and, in a way, nobody wants to find the object of the search – a body – as they cling to a sliver of hope that the person is somehow alive. That is, unfortunately, almost never the case.

But I can tell you that the search for a missing person is also a heartwarming act; it’s people banding together to help one another in a time of unimaginable stress and grief, especially for the victim’s family. An act of despicable inhumanity, the killing of an innocent person, paradoxically gives birth to an outpouring of love and unity among many, including people who did not know the victim….As one of mankind’s greatest minds, Albert Einstein, said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Anyone with information about Anna’s disappearance is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at (610) 486-6280. 

And also this literally happened recently – a podcast I find intriguing The Ever Evolving Truth has picked up the mantle of talking about this. There is also a page on Facebook called Fresh Eyes on Anna Maciejewska. It gives me hope, even if I don’t agree with some of their take on your disappearance so far. BUT they are paying attention to what happened to you, and I pray their interest sparks other renewed interest from media, law enforcement, etc.  I also agree that even if you don’t agree with something, maybe see it through so every angle is covered, right? As an actuary you would look to all of the details to make sure you were correct, right?

Maybe the miracle of Christmas will help find you and bring you home? We all pray for that, Anna.

A Christmas wish and a wish for the New Year is for you to be found, Anna. You deserve to rest, your little boy deserves to know where his mama is, and your beloved parents deserve closure and answers along with your friends.

2 1/2 years missing is too long.

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Anna Maciejewska.

Very Truly Yours,

Me

december demolition

39 East Montgomery Avenue, 41 East Montgomery Avenue and 108 Glenn Road – all on the Montgomery Avenue side of the Suburban Square neighborhood in North Ardmore.

(Here is an interior tour of one of the homes demolished.)

I remember all of these houses. I used to walk my dogs past them when I lived on the Main Line. This is in Lower Merion Township (see page 29 if you click on hyperlink.) This plan has been around a few years as per a Main Line Media News article from November, 2018.

One of my readers from the Main Line sent me these photos.

Two of these homes were converted into apartments many, many years ago.

These three homes all were built between 1900-1920. These homes housed about 10 residents prior to this demolition from what I was told.

Once upon a time I knew some of the people who lived here. Hardwood floors, amazing woodwork, and architectural details that withstood the test of time. These homes, although rentals, still had gardens. Lovely, established gardens.

I still remember when I first saw inside one of the houses. I was in awe. AMAZING. The tenants were house proud.

But like other cool old houses I have been enamored of in the township I used to call home, they have been demolished.

When completed, There will be 21 three bedroom residences and 42 parking spaces. This is what will replace three once graceful and beautiful homes as per the developer’s website:

The developer describes his project thusly:

Inspired by the stately and legendary architectural heritage of the iconic Main Line, 39 MONTGOMERY offers 21 private residences suited to the way people live today. Gracefully proportioned, the combination of limestone and brick façade harmoniously blends with both residential neighbors and commercial Suburban Square.

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I just do not see any of that. I did see that description in the three places torn down. They were definitely gracefully proportioned. And well-maintained. Timeless. Elegant.

I have known quite a few people who lived on and around Glenn Road. I wonder what they think?

I remember hearing how the residents of these now torn down homes attended many meetings in Lower Merion Township. It made me so sad. Been there, done that.

Once upon a time when I lived not too far from where these homes stood, my then neighborhood also had a December demolition. I still haven’t forgotten those houses. They were in a “historic district”. December, 2008. Here is an image from that day:

I remember what it felt like that day in December long ago. It was so sad. Like watching a neighborhood get torn apart for someone else’s version / vision of “progress”.

This is what the Glenn Road house specifically looked like:

Maybe my thoughts on “progress” like this don’t matter. Riddle me this however: when does it matter what residents in municipalities facing all this infill development they really don’t want are feeling?

RIP to three really and truly lovely homes.

life’s little observations

s-l1600

Something occurred to me the other day.  And I am not a psychologist or expert in the field of how negativity affects people, especially where they live, so these are merely my opinions and observations.

Stress and it’s impacts on us is widely studied.  This article from 2018 was insightful-  Stress and our mental health – what is the impact & how can we tackle it?. So was this article- Psychological Stress, Physical Stress, and Emotional Stress, and this one – All the Ways Living in a City Messes With Your Mental Health.

We live in an area that was bucolic and peaceful. Agricultural and equine heritage and traditions.  It is now being overrun by development.  Every time you turn around, another community is threatened. That is stressful if you are directly affected/impacted, and it can raise your blood pressure just driving by a place where you used to see cows, or horses swishing their tails while they grazed to seeing how  it is now just a big pit of scraped earth or budding Tyvec-wrapped communities where everyone is or will be jammed in like lemmings.

And then there are all of the pipeline sites. They are ugly and raw and NOISY.  People’s property values are declining, their wells being poisoned by whatever the heck it all is they drill with (there are enough articles in local papers etc about this, right?) And we can’t forget the sinkholes. When I was first coming out to Chester County before I moved here, I used to love when I turned on 352 off of West Chester Pike if I came that way.  All of a sudden it was just green with rolling stretches of lawn and trees. Now it is a raped landscape that actually stresses me out just driving by it, so I can’t even imagine how directly affected residents feel.

Or other area stressers like contested sites within municipalities where state agencies like PennDOT are concerned.  Take the site of Route 352 (A/K/A N. Chester R or Sproul Rd) and King Road in Malvern.  This directly affects residents in East Whiteland and East Goshen.

And here we are at year end and no one knows what is happening for sure at that intersection, and that includes the directly affected residents.  Will they face any eminent domain? Will they face a complete loss of certain properties through eminent domain? It’s a big mystery. And I watch email after email by affected residents go by to municipal officials and PennDOT.  PennDOT never replies. It is like they are ignoring the residents utterly and completely, which adds to the feelings of stress, dismay and uncertainty.

Is it just me or have any of you noticed how people aren’t putting up their usual Christmas displays in some of these areas targeted by pipelines, development,  construction, and PennDOT? This is what I have noticed, and it bums me out to see houses usually bright and cheery at the holidays look dark and sad. But in all fairness, if you were facing any of these things, how cheerful and full of Christmas spirit would you feel?

Life can be hard, that is the reality of life.  But for a lot of these people, it shouldn’t be so hard. These folks moved here and bought their homes to raise their families.  Their piece of the American Dream.  You live right, pay your taxes, are part of your community.  And your home is indeed your castle, and for a lot of these people there are quite literally barbarians at the gate.

Elected officials NEED to think about how these scenarios are affecting their constituents. All they have to do is drive by and notice how the longer these negative issues persist, how they affect people. Real people. People who in a lot of cases voted for them. It shows in the little things like gardening and holiday decorations.  I think it is criminal to drive by homes where you know the owners were once so house proud and see these changes.

Just some of life’s little observations.  Wishing these people peace.

christmas magic

I never know who reads what I write when I talk about local businesses I patronize and special seasonal things and events I enjoy.

This morning I received a note I would like to share in part:

✒️🎄Hi ! You always have the best suggestions for events and shopping experiences! I wanted to say thank you!

Yesterday my husband and I went to Willowbrook Farms and enjoyed the beauty of Life’s Patina.

I met Jill at Huentalglas inside Gallery 222 and finally purchased a few of her glass ornaments!

We then traveled into Malvern for their Christmas event and had a great time navigating the wonderful stores and meeting their owners!

We went to Brick and Brew and after being told of a 45 min wait- we left and went to Christopher’s and were immediately seated with exceptional food and service (I recalled the blog you once wrote and I agree) .

Anyway thank you for your blog and for helping members of your community enjoy local events, stores and restaurants!🎄🖋

This means a lot to me. As I tell people everytime I write about a business or service or place, good bad or indifferent, I write from the perspective of a regular customer. I am not a compensated blogger.

If I enjoy an event, it’s because I attend it, and not just as a blogging assignment.

Earlier this year I was targeted by someone with a local business because my opinion, based upon my visit as a regular customer, was mixed. They took to the business’s Facebook page about me and then basically allowed anyone and everyone to trash me.

For a few weeks I literally also received obscene and even threatening and harassing messages. (Now those people are not the fault of whomever posted about me on social media from the business. People are just odd keyboard tigers on social media and any excuse will do.) I will also note that when it first happened, I reached out to the business as in telephoned them in an effort to discuss this. But sadly, they never contacted me back. They also amusingly removed comments to them that told them they were out of line or they had also had similar experiences.

When this happened, I also reached out to the appropriate local business association. Twice. Not even an acknowledgement that I contacted them. I also reached out to the group’s president individually because well, they know who I am and family members were customers years ago. No acknowledgement there, either.

I pay it forward by shopping local and dining local. But after my experience this summer, the whole episode made me feel unwelcome where I live.

But this one kind note today made me realize that paying it forward honestly is not a bad thing. These small businesses and events I so enjoy deserve our community support.

So thank you to the note writer for reminding me that nothing can take the place of shopping local.

Happy Sunday!

#ShopLocal