ghosts of christmas past

I have been going to write this post for a few days. Every time I sat down to begin it, life got in the way, so I decided I just need to start it today.

Why the title of the post? I was going through old photos and it just sort of hit me is that was the title. The photos I was going through were of parties and black-tie fundraisers from many, many years ago.

One of the things I loved best about a lot of those parties were the dresses we had back then. So we’re talking the 80s through mid 90s. And especially in the late 80s, the dresses were pretty. That was one of my favorite era for black tie dresses and gowns. I am not talking the Dynasty-esque dresses, there were just a lot of pretty, well made dresses.

How fancy you dressed back then, was dictated by the event itself. And the events themselves were kind of special. You couldn’t just buy a ticket and subscribe necessarily, you need to receive an invitation to do that. ticket prices for the event but they weren’t exorbitant. Of course back then sometimes they felt exorbitant because a lot of us were just starting out working full-time after college, etc.

Back, then black tie was predominantly floor length as far as the dresses went. Sometimes tea length, it just depended on the dress. White tie was something else again. Perhaps one of my favorite gowns was this crazy beautiful iridescent silk taffeta Victor Costa gown. My mother bought it for me at Nan Duskin in Philadelphia.

There were a lot of stores as in department stores and boutiques to choose from. And they always had a selection of ladies black tie attire. And the dresses were pretty, the fabrics had body to them.

And most importantly, at least for me as compared to the majority of the dresses you see today in photos, Hoochie Mama wasn’t hollering for her dress back. Sure there was tons of strapless, but the dresses left a little to the imagination and they weren’t sliced all the way down the chest bone or all the way up to the pelvic bone, it seemed.

Also back then? Plastic surgery was reserved for something your mother’s friends did, sometimes badly. Today it feels like no one can age gracefully (or otherwise) and plastic surgery and procedures seem to be starting rather young.

The parties, especially at Christmas, were so much fun. The Charity Ball is in the Philadelphia Charity Ball, at that point was December 23. but before that starting in November, there were all sorts of events and Christmas parties. Around Thanksgiving was Pilgrimage on the Parkway.

I remember a few parties that were even held at 30th St., Station. One Christmas party I remember in particular because I had this dress back then that I loved and this party was not formal, it was semi formal. Semi-formal meant short dresses and men wore coat and tie. I had found this dress at John Wanamaker’s when it was still, John Wanamaker’s. The dress was a wonderful red with blue undertones as opposed to orange. It had a halter neck and a regular zip up back but it was the 80s, so the halter collar part was pearls. Not big, huge, Barbara Bush sized pearls, they were regular sized, but that was the entire color. The dress was to the knee.

Back then half of what we wore as far as evening shoes were simple, black peau de soie pumps. The heels were an average height, they weren’t sky high, and the heels weren’t chunky. And if you didn’t have those you had velvet pumps of a similar style. Essentially classic and elegant.

Sometimes we had our hair done in an updo, but not all the time. I have pretty thick hair and I remember one party that I went to in Alexandria Old Town, Virginia. I ended up taking out the up do before the party because the woman had teased my hair into a southern up do and it looked like I was related to Imelda Marcos. I still remember that moment because it was really funny.

And at that time, I had a lot of friends in the Washington DC area. People who had migrated there for work after college and more. And back then when you went to Washington for one of those black ties or Christmas parties, you had to bring your A game. those women in DC knew how to dress. And the dresses were gorgeous down there. So were the parties.

This one group of girls I remember used to do this great holiday fundraiser and it was black-tie edit benefited Toys for Tots. I want to say for a while it was held I think back then at the Ritz Carlton in Washington DC. I remember it was always held on a lower level of the hotel and wherever it was held there were these antique dioramas built into the wall on that level they were kind of fascinating to look at.

And at one of those Washington DC Christmas parties one year, we all met Walter Cronkite. He was in town for something , but retired at that point. I remember how tall he seemed. He had come into DC from Annapolis. He was so nice. He actually did stop to speak to all of us. And his voice in person was just as great as it was on TV. He had been at something at the hotel and literally just stuck his head into the party we were at to check it out. I remember he had such a nice face in person and his eyes sparkled.

This was of course before the age of social media. So there weren’t many photos. Just memories. Like memories of the parental units going to black tie Christmas parties. Or the Christmas parties we went to as a family. All dressed up, white tights, mary janes, and matching dresses until we revolted finally. Oh and don’t forget the matching Christmas nightgowns!

And all of these parties had great food and beverages served using actual china and glassware, and no plastic utensils.

I remember neighborhood parties. I remember one where every year one neighborhood man would wear his Christmas plaid pants. And sometimes a Christmas vest. The pants were what my one grandmother would have called “high water” pants, or they were a little too short. He would greet everyone at every party with a big grin and say “Howdy, neighbor!” (No it wasn’t Texas, it was the Main Line.)

Back then there were quite a few neighborhood parties. As a general society, we weren’t so transient. People moved into areas and stayed, they didn’t move into areas and then flip for the next bigger house. People actually sang Christmas carols, and knew their neighbors. Even if I didn’t want to be all dressed up and looking exactly like my sister, the parties were pretty fun and festive.

Then there were the caroling parties every year with my cousin Suzy. Suzy lived in Newtown, Bucks County. None of us could sing, but we would still gather at Suzy‘s house. There was a little Christmas party, then we would go around Christmas caroling for a while, laugh like hell, and go back to Suzy’s l house. Suzy was also one of the first people I went hunting vintage Christmas ornaments with. Often that meant getting up at o’dark early to hit the flea markets outside of New Hope.

Then there were the family Christmas parties with my mother’s German friends, Susi and Babette. Those parties were spectacular like out of a movie set, but they weren’t artificial. They were natural and gorgeous and very German. The ornaments on the trees, fresh greens, candle light. We always loved going to their houses. And the fun thing about their parties were the people were so interesting and fun. When I entertain today, I still like to channel them. No pigs in a blanket at their houses, which was always fine because that to this day is an hors d’oeuvre, I don’t understand nor like.

In the 90s I remember being invited to this spectacular Christmas party. It was on Fishers Road in Bryn Mawr. A beautiful little house on a shared driveway. I’m not even sure if the house still exists because so many places have been knocked down for bigger houses to be built.

Anyway, the guy that owned the house had something to do with IKEA and he and his partner lived in it. He did this totally glorious European/Scandinavian Christmas party. The decorations were beautiful. Unbelievable trees and greens and decorations. The house was just decked. Candlelight. There were also so many different kinds of fish. Beautiful oysters on the half shell and shrimp and crab and I don’t even know what else. A true smörgåsbord. Ham, beef, cheeses, fruit. The house was like a jewel box. I think the reason I liked that party so much it was like another version of what my mother’s friends Susi and Babette would do.

These parties I remember were all pretty. The houses festive and beautiful. The decorating done by the homeowners, not a Christmas decorating service. Everyone was a little Martha Stewart on the Christmas bus back then. And it wasn’t party trays from the grocery store, these were planned out menus that the hostess did, and for the most part prepared herself. Yes, these kinds of parties are a lot of work, but they are worth it and your guests appreciate it.

As I mentioned, there were the annual Christmas parties you attended with your family. One party we went to we attended for decades. We watched the changes from the first wife to the second wife. With the first wife, sometimes they would all be there to greet you at the door. The wife and daughters in quasi matching dresses of icy perfection. With the second wife, it was all warmer and more genuine. And every year the Christmas tree was different. The most amusing thing about this party is every year the core crowd was the same. It was a party where I knew every year like clockwork that I would see certain friends. It was never the most exciting party, but it was beautiful and nice.

Then you grow up and everything is different again. And what is so funny is how things change now that we are the age of our parents taking all of us to Christmas parties or fussing about our gowns for The Charity Ball.

Me personally? On one hand, I loved all the fun black tie holiday parties and the annual Christmas parties we went to. But then on the other hand, I love our own Christmas traditions in a completely different time.

Now it’s us. Pre-COVID, we did a few Christmas parties, including one at Loch Aerie before she opened as a wedding and event venue. She was restored but the kitchen was just a shell and the ballroom addition was not built. Duffy’s did the catering with a kitchen in a big truck.

But mostly, even before COVID hit, it is us, at home. Those are our traditions. Not as formal, never as dressy. These days it’s more about how will I display my vintage Christmas ornaments and where on my tree will my wool felted Christmas mice will go. But the Christmas dishes and real glasses and silverware still come out.

I remember years ago, before I was married, and I was with someone else, we would go to their relatives for Christmas sometimes. The brother and sister-in-law took the time to do a beautiful meal with real plates and silverware and glasses, and then there was the other sister, and it was a lot of plastic cups and cooking things in disposable tinfoil pans. Obviously, you know which house I liked better.

A friend of my mine and I were talking about all of this yesterday. She texted me a photo, all bundled up underneath an umbrella in the rain waiting for Santa to come by on a fire truck where she lived. She says to me “this is me, no more Charity balls.” And then we both laughed, because I knew where she was coming from exactly. My friend’s parents also threw these amazing holiday parties and her mother’s house was one of my favorites. And like my own parents, everything was decorated and beautiful at Christmas.

And then there are other things that you remember about the season as a little kid. The Sears Wishbook. That catalog was huge and I remember a year after year turning down the corners of pages where there were dolls and toys I wanted. No kid ever got their entire wish list but thumbing through that catalog was kind of a Christmas tradition in and of itself.

So now we are all decorating our own homes. Sometimes my friends and I wonder how our mothers did it all. But as we all decorate, we all remember our ghosts of Christmas past. There aren’t nearly enough photos but we remember the feelings, the sound, the smells. Every year some of the images in our memory fade a little bit, yet many still remain. The echoes of people talking in rooms that no longer exist, with festive music playing in the background. Even some memories of Christmas sleigh and carriage rides. I still hear the jingles of sleigh bells, which is probably why I have some hanging in my house all year round.

Continue to create your Christmas memories. They are so important. And for goodness sake, no paper plates and plastic glasses. The season comes but once a year. Make it special.

Thanks for stopping by!

for christmas, maybe it IS time to rethink the aqua of it all?

Well I was talking to a very dear friend today. She lives in the New Garden area. She is one of the most diligent and practical people I know. Literally have known her since I was like maybe 12 or 13. Our parents were friends. And she quietly says to me today something about have I seen what is going on in New Garden Township about their AQUA issues. I said yes, a bit and I thought gosh I didn’t even send her my post on the extra special interim manager, but anyway….

Then my jaw hit the floor. My friend said her water bill under AQUA ownership went from $250 each billing cycle to $900!

That news made me go watch the recent New Garden meeting recordings that my friend and friend to all communities Ginny Kerslake had posted on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/1221133465137182/

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/837250724147851/

https://www.facebook.com/Ginny4PA/videos/524162036279162/

So now I am wondering (aloud) if municipalities selling to AQUA is a mistake?

I don’t think we can un-ring the bell on inked deals, and things are still in court that would potentially stop the sales in East Whiteland and Willistown, although I find that unlikely, but who knows?

These municipalities can’t afford their sewer systems any longer, and I do believe that is true, BUT now I am wondering what part utility companies have in that?

And something else I am now wondering about might sound crazy BUT is there ANY way that AQUA could force those of us on septic and wells to hook up to them?

Oh and I think AQUA, or I should say I know AQUA watches this blog. But as a consumer and a resident where one of these sales is pending, I am actually allowed to have questions. Even now. And WHY do I have questions? Watching that whole crazy recent meeting that was held in New Garden. That and having a friend today tell me how much their bill increased (with kids in college and not there all of the time, no less.)

I also keep coming back to those lovely laws in Harrisburg that allow AQUA to increase their rates. So now I wonder aloud what so many others wonder: is AQUA just getting what they paid back via these increases so is that a good thing for consumers in the end?

https://www.pahouse.com/InTheNews/Opinion/?id=126232

Above is a link to a press release by State Rep Christina Sappey from this September. This is what jumped out:

Recently, rate increases for water and wastewater services provided by Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. (Aqua) went into effect for over 400,000 customers in 32 counties across the commonwealth. Many residents, including seniors on fixed incomes, have been surprised and frustrated to receive bills that have nearly doubled.

The current rules regarding rate regulations and water utility sales are not in the consumer’s best interest. It is imperative that reform is considered in Harrisburg to prevent future prioritization of corporate profits over residents’ access to a basic necessity, such as water.

I share the frustration of Aqua customers going through this current increase. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is the regulatory authority in Pennsylvania for utility rates. Utilities wishing to increase rates must submit a request to the commission for approval. The PUC is currently comprised of three commissioners, each appointed by the governor on a five-year term and confirmed by the State Senate.

When Aqua submitted this request in 2021, I urged the PUC to hold in-person hearings for residents to voice concerns. When that request was denied, State Rep. John Lawrence and I hosted a telephonic public hearing and I joined many of you in testifying against the then-proposed additional charges. Despite these efforts, the PUC commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rate increase in May of 2022.

Recently, I wrote to the PUC providing examples of the negative impact the approved rates have had and requesting a review of current charges to ensure they align with the commission-approved rates. I encourage anyone who feels their bill does not properly reflect their usage or the approved rate to file a complaint with the PUC.

Today’s state laws allow for inflated valuations of financially solvent public water and wastewater utilities by private companies, enticing local municipalities and authorities to sell for a large return in the short term, only for those costs to be recouped through the ratepayer’s wallet. These processes are done with little transparency or direct input from those that it impacts most, ratepayers.

~ STATE REP CHRISTINA SAPPEY 9/30/22

I want to be abundantly clear here: I still do NOT approve the way Willistown residents have been treating Bob Lange and Bill Shoemaker. There is a THIRD supervisor, and there was the THIRD supervisor who was all for the sale and then resigned before she had been a supervisor very long, correct? What was her name? Oh yes, Barbara Handelin, right?

My other issue with this in Willistown is the inability for some residents to realize this is NOT a Democrat vs. Republican issue, it is a COMMUNITY issue that affects EVERYONE, i.e. it is non-partisan. I have NOT been a fan of the shenanigans to date and every meeting it is essentially the SAME people repeating themselves. Surely there are OTHER residents affected, yes? Well people, be polite and either zoom a meeting and comment or go in person. But the same people speaking pretty much every time? Umm, people tune that out after a while, even if they believe in the issue. And where were all of you while Willistown was deciding to sell or not? Why is it in Willistown it feels like people wake up only AFTER the horse has left the proverbial barn?

So yes, I am indeed wondering aloud in the final month of 2022 about this. It doesn’t mean I have been “won over”, it means for the first time I am articulating concerns I have always had. It’s like now that the 3 ring circus in Willistown has quieted some I have had time to think.

And when one of your more long term friends tells you HOW MUCH their bill jumped, well, it HAS to make you think. And of course how it all went down in New Garden also has to make you think. All those supervisors singing the chorus of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil etc etc, right? Quid est veritas? What is truth?

I do know that Willistown and East Whiteland BOTH notified residents, held meetings, etc. COVID or not, meetings were zoomed if not in person and well, a lot of people did nothing. I even kept putting it out there. But New Garden? That place is rather odd, isn’t it?

And I also really want to know if those of us on wells and septic will be allowed to stay as we are? I have never heard that questioned answered. I also wonder aloud if AQUA could try to be more community minded? What if they supported measures in Harrisburg that might put the brakes on their rate jumping seemingly willy nilly?

It’s a recession. In my humble opinion we have been playing kick the can down the road with recession since circa 2008. Maybe it’s time to just stop and think on this a little longer?

Sign me, thinking out loud. Happy December, y’all.

Ratepayers hold Aqua, New Garden accountable for skyrocketing wastewater bills

11/22/2022 04:28PM ● By Richard Gaw

For more than four hours at the New Garden Elementary School auditorium on Nov. 21, three factions sorted through the smoldering mass of information that lay at the creation of an agreement of sale that has been on the front burner of controversy in the township for the past several years.

In one corner of the room, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors sat a table facing another table occupied by three executives from Aqua Pennsylvania (Aqua), including its president Marc Lucca. The most dominant presence at the meeting, however, were the more than 200 township residents who sat and stood in protest of the reason that drew them there: the massive increase they are seeing in their wastewater bills from Aqua – as much as a 140 percent increase over the past year – that are arriving in their mailboxes as part of the residue from the township’s sale of its wastewater system to the Big Water giant for $29.5 million in 2020….

Nearly from the start, the patience of those in the audience to sit through the complicated alphabet soup of agencies and legal and legislative delays was paper thin, particularly during an hour-long presentation by former township official and director of planning and projects Spence Andress, who painstakingly sifted through a two-inch high stack of documents that described the minutia of what led to the eventual sale of the township’s system.

He said that a major factor leading to the decision by the Board of Supervisors and the township’s Sewer Authority to sell off the system was influenced by the cost of mitigating the infrastructure problems of the township’s vastly outdated wastewater system, which would cost the township an estimated $1.5 million a year, as well as an additional $1.5 million for debt service.

‘Allow us to speak!’

Halfway through Andress’ presentation, Peter Mrosinski and Margo Woodacre, two of the most prominent voices of opposition, shared their argument that the nature of the meeting was designed to shut down the residents. Their argument reflected the contents of a flyer that was circulated by KWA before the meeting that said that a former agreement with board chairman Steve Allaband would allow the group to lead the discussion, but that the idea was rejected earlier that afternoon by the supervisors. “Unfortunately, our supervisors once again appear to be covering their tracks and doing the bidding of Aqua to silence any meaningful discussion,” the flyer read.

Pa. approves increase in Aqua water and sewer rates. How much, it won’t say.
The Pa. Public Utility Commission granted Aqua’s rate hike request, apparently overriding a judge’s recommendation for a lower increase. But the PUC will take several days to announce the details.

Inquirer/ by Andrew Maykuth
Published May 12, 2022

Aqua Pennsylvania’s rate hike: The price per flush will go up 50% as early as Thursday
Aqua’s water rates will increase about 10%, and wastewater rates will go up 51% this week. In towns whose sewer systems were recently acquired by Aqua, the impact will be more severe.

Inquirer/by Andrew Maykuth
Published May 17, 2022

It’s time to repeal the Pa. law that allows the sale of municipal water systems | Editorial
Officials in Bucks County were absolutely right not to sell their system to a private company. Now, lawmakers must reverse the measure known as Act 12.

Inquirer/ by The Editorial Board
Published Sep 18, 2022

As Pa. municipalities sell water systems to for-profit companies, consumers are left paying the price | Editorial
It is irresponsible for local governments to peddle these valuable public assets and leave customers at the mercy of businesses who are all but guaranteed to jack up their bills.

Inquiere/ by The Editorial Board
Updated Aug 18, 2022

fa la la la la…and just breathe…

I have to preface this post with this is just stuff I think about around the holidays. It’s not based on recent experiences, although some things may be based on past experiences. I am starting to get annoyed by the lack of reading comprehension with some of my posts. Take the one I wrote about the post office not delivering consistently. People are interpreting that as I am faulting the postal delivery workers themselves, I’m not and responsibility goes to the top of the post office here, but people aren’t reading enough into the post to figure that out.

So that’s the disclaimer. Either read on or scroll by.

Back to our regularly scheduled program….Let’s talk the holidays for a minute. It’s a chance for people to wind down OUTSIDE of work mode and spend time with their friends and families, right?

Well not everyone can manage this, sadly…Post COVID19 and living La Vida COVID, I have noticed boundary issues all across the board. The workplace is one of the worst examples.

We live in a world where technology allows us to work not only from everywhere, but all times of the day. So when you are working late at night or on weekends, you have to be mindful that while you feel you are being personally productive, you may be disturbing someone else.

How do I deal with this? If I am writing emails and responding at odd hours I may set an email up to actually send at a more appropriate time. Or I put things in draft form and set up a reminder to send them out at a more appropriate time. And I had to learn how to silence notifications, except for a select few on my phone, because I might be trying to be mindful of the time when I message people or email them, but others they don’t have the same compunction.

I work for myself and something that bugs me are people that think I should be available 24/7/365 even on holidays. Life doesn’t work that way, so I politely give them boundaries. “I am sorry that I couldn’t connect at that time dear client, I walk away from my email at X o’clock so I am present for my family.”

But then there are the people with whom you work with directly, or indirectly who never pick up on cues. Ever. You try to explain family time. Nope. You might have been sick. Nope. It doesn’t penetrate and it’s hard to deal with those with a lack of self awareness in this area. Those are the people whom I think you have to put on at least a temporary Amish shunning. Personally I am unapologetic about that after bosses from decades past who would literally call when I was home sick. I was never one who took recreational sick days, so if I was out sick, I was actually sick.

Being productive does not mean working 24/7/365. Don’t be a work martyr. The more life balance you have actually makes you MORE productive. It also shows your respect of others with whom you interact with and possibly work with as well.

I remember (and not fondly) the year-end and holiday frenzy when I was full on in the 5 days a week office trenches as in full time. People suddenly waking up to show how valuable (and neurotic) they were in hopes of getting that giant bonus. News flash: bonuses are the sum of the parts of the entire year. Be consistent all year round. Duh, it’s pretty simple.

And let’s talk bonuses. I remember being a sales assistant at Prudential Securities in the 80s. Brokers were getting big firm bonuses this one year at the holidays, yet the firm as in corporate, gave support staff a choice of a box of chocolates or a 5 pound canned Polish ham. Sales assistants and other support staff worked their asses off, so if you didn’t have a broker who paid you an actual bonus out of theirs, well that was not so fun. Back then I worked for a cheapskate who also wanted his assistants to cold call out of the social register.

I also remember what I called the “spawn tax.” Every year although who took what day off was supposed to be fair and equitable, it wasn’t. And if you were unmarried or without children you always got last pick of days off during the holidays. Try explaining that year after year to friends and family who wanted to do things with you. When I was single, I called it the “spawn tax” because if you didn’t have kids, there were plenty of co-workers who felt that you should just suck it up and let them take time off. Of course those were some of the same people shopping on QVC’s website during the work day.

This time of year, consideration matters. And in today’s world, boundaries should matter too. Unless of course one is pro-slavery.

Don’t be a Grinch and don’t be a Scrooge…and don’t be a suck up. Mutual respect also matters.

Happy Holidays from my desk to yours. I wish I could say I miss full on, full time Corporate America, but I do not.

And remember to tip and/or gift your service providers – USPS, refuse service folks, office cleaners. Even if you can’t afford money tips, a nice bag of Christmas cookies or something holiday festive is always appreciated. I tend NOT to give alcohol gifts because you don’t know who may have an issue.

And be thankful for what you have.

Carry on and Happy Holidays!

hey usps and louis dejoy, where’s the mail??

This was posted by a friend today:

I hate to sound nostalgic (AKA old!), but I fondly remember when the USPS managed to deliver mail REGULARLY. We — and our neighbors — have had no mail delivered since Tuesday, and that batch included only some of the mail that had been scheduled to land on Monday, when our carrier was also a no-show.

Because you can receive a daily email from USPS that shows images of what is scheduled to arrive in your box each day, it has been rather unsettling to see how many items qualify as missing. Well, the mystery has been solved.

This morning, my husband decided to pay a visit to the actual post office, after efforts to contact a human by phone went nowhere. A worker explained that the postal manager for the West Chester region issued an edict recently to deal with the agency’s short staffing: surreptitiously skipping delivery days. She said the office needs 80 carriers to handle the load: It has 40. As a result, she said we should expect to see a delivery every 2 or 3 days.

I guess the idea of notifying customers about the worker shortage wasn’t part of the plan. Would it really have been too difficult to put a notice in people’s boxes on their lucky delivery day? Perhaps some publicity about this problem would help solve it. Sigh. End of rant, but curious about whether this is happening in other areas.

~ Chester County Resident # 1

Now this is the second such tale in less than a week.

I have you on my mailing list but my mailman hasn’t been seen for five days. I was told that he had health problems but there were no replacements. Also, PO closed in town. So I will try for Christmas card instead.

~ Chester County Resident # 2

My second friend lives in the Borough of West Chester. She works from home and is self employed and well…mail is kind of essential.

So Louis De Joy you plastic arsehole, where’s the mail? Santa might want to deliver the Christmas cards himself I guess?

It’s time for Washington to deal with this. We need our mail. This is happening all over. It’s bullshit.

pondering christmas decorating…

So this turned out to be an un-Thanksgiving for me and I actually sent my people to my mother’s without me. I have had a 3 day mystery headache…NO I DO NOT HAVE COVID! (Already neurotically tested as we all still do these days.) But today, after 2 Advil, 2 Tylenol, and French Press coffee I am up for a little while with the headache doing a dull roar in the back of my head. I really love Thanksgiving, so I was bummed to pretty much sleep through it.

But headache or not, I am thinking about the Christmas decorations. I watched a Christmas movie last night that had way too much fake garland. It was everywhere. Enough to make you dizzy, and I love Christmas decorating.

But I have only one chunk of imitation Christmas garland. It goes outside on a bench. I do not use real garland any longer, inside or out. It gets dried out too fast. I also just don’t like imitation lit garland inside. Maybe in other people’s homes it works, but definitely not my own. It is just not my aesthetic. What I do use for garland, is a little more old-fashioned. Some say home spun. Wool felted garland. I happened on this quite by accident a few years ago. I just love the old fashioned look of it.

I also love giving wool felted and quilted ornaments as gifts. They are durable, festive, and kid friendly.

In addition to felt garland, I also like rag garland for Christmas. Bits of fabric and burlap. It’s fun! It’s also simple and evokes a happy Christmas simplicity.

Where have I sourced this garland, both wool felted and rag? Everywhere. Locally at different places over the years. And on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, and more. It’s gotten popular again and this year I have seen it on Food52’s website, Pottery Barn Kids, some on Amazon, but unless they say what country it’s made in, I don’t buy it. I try to stick to US made. I also like the UK made wool felted garlands, but they can be more expensive.

Why do I like these wool felted garlands? And the rag garlands? They are warm. They aren’t standoffish, untouchable Christmas decorations. They kind of draw you in. I also like the “flag” garlands. My friend’s mom and aunt used to make those. I like a pretty Christmas, not an untouchable ice queen Christmas. I like the nostalgia of Christmas, and love vintage ornaments, so these garlands accomplish that quite nicely.

As I said, I want to decorate each Christmas so that it is warm. I want you to remember a happy echo, not something just randomly and decorator inspired. I think you achieve that each Christmas by collecting what you love. My friend does this in part with all her Christmas putz houses and her very vintage Annalee Christmas decorations. She also shares a love of German kugels with me.

Now something else I love? Wool felted Christmas mice. I seem to have accumulated a bunch of them. Life’s Patina always has amazing ones for their Holiday Open House (which has sadly passed already) and the Smithfield Barn. As a matter of fact, the Smithfield Barn has them at Gas Works in Frazer, PA right now.

Wool felted mice are also all over eBay and Etsy. They are fun and have whimsey. I tuck them into my trees. I have also found them this year on Amazon. And a website called Craftspring which I have never tried, has some wonderful felted ornaments. Even Target has some squishy felted ornaments, although I am only finding a few worth buying. The German Christmas Shop USA has some terrific felted ornaments.

That’s it for me today. Just pondering Christmas.

are people actually thankful on thanksgiving?

In less than an hour, it will be Thanksgiving. 2022. What am I wondering this year? Something some may find odd: I am wondering if people are actually thankful on Thanksgiving anymore ?

Thankful. Grateful. Blessed. These words are exceedingly overused in our everyday vernacular. They are almost too casually tossed out here and there, like verbal popcorn. I question if people really are any of those things sometimes.

We live in a beautiful, yet often cruel and hateful world. Just look at social media. It is a modern way to keep us connected, yet it’s a bully pulpit for so many to be so hateful. I know my critics will scoff at that idea, since everything they project on me, they actually do.

Ironic, isn’t it? The pious perfectionists of social media are the ones who do the most damage. They have narrow comfort levels and in some cases, narrow knowledge bases, which of course leads to their narrow opinions, narrow world view.

These people have made a difficult couple of years for all of us, more difficult. Which brings me to why I am thankful. I am thankful I am not those people. I am thankful those people are not my people in all of their judgmental glory.

Life is not some perfectly staged silent tableaux. Life is messy and real and in technicolor. We need to give ourselves permission to live our lives out loud. Every day will not ever be perfect, nor should it be. It’s time for all of us to stop the apology tour for the skewed perspectives of others. Be thankful for who we are as human beings. Be thankful for those who see us.

That is not to say that we all couldn’t stand to be a little more kind at times. Sure we all could, but that doesn’t mean we are supposed to roll over and have doormat stamped on our foreheads.

I am thankful and grateful. For my life. For my friends and family.

Thanksgiving marks the start of a season where so many feel so alone. Even if they aren’t. In the season of giving, sometimes just a simple checking in can help some people.

2022 has been a crazy year I think. And very hard and full of loss for some, change for others, and maybe a bit of both for a lot of us. Sadness and gladness, bittersweet, hard, eventful, exhausting.

I think all of us can also say we are happy to have survived La Vida COVID. So many did not. And COVID has definitely taught us not to take a lot of the everyday for granted.

I will never pretend to have all of the answers in life, or even some answers because I always have questions.

Anyway, as it is after midnight, it is officially Thanksgiving.

Gobble, gobble.

Happy Thanksgiving.

kratom still kaboom. store still no go for wayne

So back in early 2022, I didn’t know what the kerfuffle was about. I thought this was just another CBD shop. Only it’s not.

So before we get to what the courts recently said, let’s talk about the fact that this build out apparently went on with NO permits being pulled? How is this possible? Well apparently Radnor is now pennywise and pound foolish and outsourced their inspector types? But still, no one noticed? RIGHT THERE IN THE ODDEST SHAPED BUILDING IN WAYNE WITH A BEER DISTRIBUTER AROUND BACK? The Director of Community Development is a guy named Kevin Kochanski. He seems to be an affable fellow but what I find interesting is if you watch the Radnor Planning Commission meetings he seems to be ummm…absent a lot? I mean really? He’s the building and planning guy and he’s not at meetings? WHY? Telekinetic? Other super powers of divine osmosis?

Anyway, anyway, in March this year Radnor did a lickety split ordinance against Kratom and THC-Delta 8

I still didn’t understand because I had quite simply never heard of Kratom. I just thought it was the name of the store chain or something. But Kratom is this plant from Southeast Asia. And Places like the Mayo Clinic do not like it. A little research indicates that use may lead to severe breathing issues, liver damage, kidney failure, seizures, coma and death. Between July 2016 and December 2017, it played a role in at least 91 overdose fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Supposedly it can also cause seizures. So once again, not all herbal things are good.

The NIH says:


“Kratom” commonly refers to an herbal substance that can produce opioid- and stimulant-like effects. Kratom and kratom-based products are currently legal and accessible in many areas, though U.S. and international agencies continue to review emerging evidence to inform kratom policy.1
While there are no uses for kratom approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, people report using kratom to manage drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings (especially related to opioid use), pain, fatigue and mental health problems.2,3,4 NIDA supports and conducts research to evaluate potential medicinal uses for kratom and related chemical compounds.
NIDA also supports research towards better understanding the health and safety effects of kratom use. Rare but serious effects have been reported in people who use kratom, including psychiatric, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.1,5 Compared to deaths from other drugs, a very small number of deaths have been linked to kratom products and nearly all cases involved other drugs or contaminants.1,6,7,8,9,10

~ NIH

So anyway I actually do not blame Radnor Township for saying no. I mean it IS within walking distance to the RSD middle school and I think isn’t there a Catholic grammar school not too far from there? Schools have a hard enough time with kids vaping.

Now the store chain is still saying never say die because a perusal of their website finds:

The reason for this post? The CBD Kratom folks lost a round in court:

Is it over? Nope. But it’s still a win. But I still do not get how they think they could just set up shop? Of course it also means that Radnor needs to peruse it’s commercial districts more diligently, yes?

This is interesting, and now I know what Kratom is, so I am concerned because in Chester County we have a bumper crop of smoke shops that sell Kratom:

Fumee The Smoke Shop – Malvern (Delta 8, Vape, CBD, Kratom, Glass, Hookah)

Smoke N Vape of West Chester

All In One Smoke Shop West Chester

Prince of Puff Smoke Shop West Chester

Exton Smoke Shop

Deep Six CBD West Chester

Smoke Depot Downingtown

Vape and Beyond West Chester

Frolic of Exton

Liberty Vapor West Chester

Rollies Tobacco and Vape Downingtown

I had a giggle checking out the websites and social media pages for these shops. Essentially they are head shops too. When I was growing up I remember Critters in Bryn Mawr. They would hide the bongs. Anyway, just a giggle with a memory.

But seriously? Kratom might be an issue. It’s a shame these townships didn’t check out the data on Kratom.

Thanks for stopping by.

my morning paper has a side of breasts

So I still subscribe to The Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s our regional paper and I’ve had so many friends who have worked for them and still have a couple who work for them, so I like to support their writing. I still support their writing even though I get the countless solicitation emails from the Inquirer/Lenfest Institute. And the subscription even if it’s just online, isn’t inexpensive these days. I only do online subscription because all of the newspapers have gotten so small in print that it feels like the ad circular for the grocery store.

But the Inquirer has these ads. They are pervasive and I guess click bait. I don’t know why they can’t adjust the coding so it’s not the first thing we see? I am not a prude but I am sick of my morning paper with a side of boobs. An ad before this was something geared towards men with erectile dysfunction. That was August. These ads appear every day in my email announcing my daily newspaper.

And I totally get that newspapers need ad revenue but I also digitally subscribe to the New York Times and Washington Post. Neither one of them give me ads like this.

So I find this kind of offensive, and again I’m not a prude. But this is the kind of ad revenue they generate? I think that’s a little bit in poor taste.

And that is my one complaint about the digital edition of the Inquirer: all of the ads and so many of them are less than if I’m being nice. If I’m not being nice I don’t need ads about erectile dysfunction and tits in my face when I’m reading the paper in the morning. I also think a lot of these ads objectify women and I am not a super women’s libber and never have been.

Every time I see one of these ads I wonder what is it I am paying for? I want to read the articles but I’m paying a fair amount for a digital subscription now and I can’t imagine how much more expensive ad free would be and I don’t know that they can offer ad free because they need advertising sales.

My final bit of wondering, is would they care if someone like me was no longer a subscriber? I can answer that question and the answer is probably not. But I can’t be the only one that wishes this isn’t what smacked you in the face with your morning digital newspaper and throughout whatever it is you read on their website in general. Of course it’s also quite possible that I’m just old-fashioned and this is the sad future of journalism.

Thanks for stopping by.

did someone say christmas?!

Christmas. Yes I love Christmas. And now that all my bulbs are in my garden, I’m starting to think about Christmas decorating. Right now I am thinking about what to do with Kugels.

I love old German Kugels.

In 1848, the first glass ornament, a kugel, appeared in Germany. The kugel was a large hollow ball ranging in size from 1 inch to 18 inches. Smaller ones were used for tree decorations. The blown, molded, figural glass ornaments that we are familiar with today evolved from the tradition of blowing kugels. These ornaments were not sold in America until 1880….Kugel is a German word that means “ball” and can be used to describe any type of ball-like object. Collectors used this term to describe any early thick glass ornament with a decorative cap. Early Kugels were too heavy to hang on tree branches; instead they were suspended from the ceiling. Soon after their invention, the Germans decided small Kugels should adorn tree boughs in shapes such as grapes, berry clusters, apples and pears. F. W. Woolworth is given credit for bringing Kugels to America in the 1880s.

~ Kugel History/KugelHouse

My first Kugel belonged to my maternal grandmother’s father, my great grandfather Peter Mathias Scheidhoff of Lancaster, PA. His Kugel came from Germany via other family, not F.W. Woolworth. My Mumma gave it to my mother, who then gave it to me. It kind of started an ornament obsession for me. So now I have a few. And I hang them from the dining room chandelier for Christmas. I use felt garland and suspend the Kugels underneath on heavy fishing line. I acquired a few more at a Christmas sale over the weekend. I was really lucky and they were reasonable in price because they can be really, ridiculously expensive.

I also really like the Lenox porcelain snowflakes. Not the new ones, the ones that were made when Lenox was still a standalone company. I have been collecting them for years and if I don’t hang them on the tree I hang them on a chandelier in the hall. I hang them with thin red or green Christmas ribbon.

I received my first Lenox snowflakes as a gift years ago. My neighbor Lea was moving west to get married and gave me hers. She had a friend at that time who worked at the Lenox outlet somewhere in Bucks County, PA. Since then, I have found a few more here and there and also this weekend I found three more.

I am not a big Lenox holiday ornament person I know some people really are but I do love these snowflakes because they’re just pretty.

My last find for the vintage ornaments of it all were three more Mercury glass birds. My main Christmas tree are birds and pinecones and woodland creatures. And icicles. Glass icicles. Some people like metal icicles, I do not.

Now my husband is adamant about no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I will admit that I have a couple little Annalee guys out. I found them in my vintage ornament travels too, recently.

So I guess the Christmas Chronicles have begun at least in ideas. Do you collect vintage Christmas? Tell me!

Ho Ho Ho 😝

do we want to preserve chester county… or not?

So this is Chester county. Do we want to preserve her or not? Because we’re running out of time if we do wish to preserve her. If we do wish to preserve her history, her great open spaces (what’s left of them), her farms (what’s left of them) , her architecture (what hasn’t been replaced by endless fields of McBoxes.)

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing, this is the people coming together and working to save Chester County kind of thing.

People drive me crazy when they say “Oh but if you only elect this Republican or this Democrat that change will happen.” No it won’t. When did all of you get so dumb about community activism?

All of these politicians bring YOU to them. That’s not the way you do it. The way you do it is every time you have an election, the politicians take on your issues as their issues. Because if you just continue out there to take their issues on as your issues, you will always end up the loser.

No, often it is not nice. It’s hard. It’s a slog. You have all sorts of people screaming and yelling at you and calling you names. You know, kind of like my average day being a blogger. But you have to work if you really want to save something. You can’t just say oh let’s put up a Facebook page and save something. You actually have to do the work behind it. Look at Crebilly. Those folks did not give up. And they did it.

There have been countless groups who have put up private groups and Facebook pages proclaiming their issue. But the thing is they never really get off the social media pages, do they? They don’t go to meetings. They don’t take meetings with elected officials of all levels. It’s like they expect the world to come to them. I have to bite my tongue and not say how’s that working out for all of you?

If they do have loosely held “groups“, often these days you find different members of sad aforementioned “groups” are going in different directions with slightly different objectives that are often counterproductive. It doesn’t work because you all need to come together.

It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to when you’re working for a common goal and a greater good, you leave that bickering at the door. You need to forget the whole thing about oh if we just do this one little thing for this politician then they’ll help us. No they won’t. The goal of them and their campaigns is to make all of you come around to see their perspective. As we learned years ago fighting eminent domain mean in Ardmore, you have to flip that perspective.

And if the politicians make hollow promises, then you vote them out and you start all over again. And you keep repeating the process till you have government that you can work with, that works for the people.

And I have to say after doing the whole thing in Ardmore, also gave me some of the most amazing friends as an adult. I remember the first event I attended that the Save Ardmore Coalition did years ago. I entered a room a stranger and left with new friends, Friends I still have almost 20 years later. I did not start at the very, very beginning. I heard what they had to say, and I knew I wanted to be part of it. Oh and one election cycle we flipped half of the Board of Commissioners in Lower Merion Township to politicians of BOTH political parties who made our issue theirs. And they kept their word and ended eminent domain for good a few months later. As opposed to that eminent domain circus in East Goshen recently , it didn’t take a year to unwind. That my friends was BS, just like the self-aggrandizing Libertarian “award” , “honor” or whatever was bestowed upon supervisors or one supervisor in general, like the day before their spouse became the head of the Chester County Libertarian Party. That was no better than a publicity stunt. And it made me very sad.

So now that the elections are over, it’s time for communities across Chester County to come together to save what’s left of their character. Yesterday because we were going to visit friends further out in the county from us, we had this gorgeous drive back and forth. It made me think. It made me appreciate all over again the beauty of where we call home.

This also means that we have to start getting busy with our state elected officials, the lame ducks and the ones poised to take office in January. They need to start helping us preserve where we call home. And that means changing certain laws so that is possible.

One big thing requiring change is the Municipalities Planning Code. It hasn’t been comprehensively updated seriously since like 1969. And the last time it was comprehensively updated, do you know what one of the developments was that happened as a result of changes? Chesterbrook. We need fewer developments and that means we have to lobby for these people to get off the rear ends and enact an act of the state constitution. We need to redefine suburb and exurb. We need more meaningful historic preservation and land preservation with built-in components to make it more attractive so that more people are interested in doing it.

This isn’t my job to do this. I am a curtain raiser, and I am once again drawing attention to this very important issue. We live in a beautiful place that is not that far off of being completely ruined forever. And those of us who come from the Main Line can tell you all about that because once upon a time the Main Line was truly beautiful and somewhat magical with amazing homes and properties. Now it’s just a suburb with too many people with misplaced senses of entitlement.

And that suburban sprawl continues to move west, or should I say march west because it’s not flowing, it’s attacking. Every time you turn around there’s another development planned. Or land getting gobbled up now by things like data centers and worse which we don’t know enough about here in this area, but in other areas of the country they’re fighting tooth and nail to get these things out of their communities.

We also don’t have to scream to be heard. When we scream we’re no better than those people that annoy the crap out of us at every school board meeting because they are undoubtedly uncomfortable with their own sexuality, so everything they perceive as different, is bad.

Anyway, it’s not just t-shirts and post cards and endless lawn signs that are going to bring us change. It’s involvement in our communities. And it’s consistent involvement, not involvement when the horses are out of the proverbial barn and nothing can be done.

Since the onset of Covid we have the ability in a lot of places for hybrid meetings. They are both virtual and in person. And most meetings are recorded now, and if you are in a municipality that does not record their meetings, start there. You have a right to have your meetings recorded, and/or you have the right to record the meetings in their entirety and broadcast them on YouTube or Facebook live or whatever.

I think the beauty and character and history of this county are worth preserving. That’s all I have to say. But people have to be willing to get involved and stay involved.

I am a realist. Not every old house can be saved, not every old farm can be saved. But I think as an extended group of communities, we can ask better of our elected officials all the way to Washington DC when it comes to this. But we all have to put the political BS aside and try.

Thanks for stopping by.