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

dumbest credit card thief…ever

The above arrived today via UPS. My husband had to bring it in because I can’t lift anything heavy right now.  It was from Mieli.

We opened the packing box. It came shipped to me in my married name, and billed to me in my married name. A very expensive vacuum cleaner.

Only I did not order one.

I thought it was a present from one of my family members for some reason so I called Mieli to find out who it was from.

The customer service lady sounded confused. Told me that I ordered it. And I said “How would I have ordered it?”

“With a credit card.”

Ding ding ding. All of the alarm bells go off in my head. I said to the woman can you please tell me the credit card number. She gives me my Visa number.

I don’t use it very often. And the only time I had used it recently was for a meal (not grocery but take-out) delivery service and I had ordered fruit from a grower in Florida.

Oh and did I mention I’ve had this Visa card so long it was in my maiden name? Yet this vacuum cleaner came addressed to me in my married name. I do not know honestly how this ended up on my doorstep because I am not a customer of Mieli.

So I initiated a fraud investigation and claim with my credit card company. They suggested I call Mieli back and initiate a return of this gold plated vacuum cleaner. So I did that. And the customer service lady said she would email me some number and I got off the phone.

Then lightbulb went off. How could she email me? I’ve never purchased anything from this company nor received anything from this company as a gift or even seen a catalog from this company.

So I called Mieli back again. I told them I wanted a copy of the original receipt but I also wanted to know right now what was the email address used to fraudulently purchase this item? They gave me the email address.

If your email address is thunt031@comcast.net you had better run. A fraud department is hot on your trail. And quite possibly the police as that is my next call.

My bank theorizes that somebody was supposed to call the Mieli back and change the delivery address or call UPS to change the delivery address and screwed up and didn’t. Or maybe they were just going to show up and steal it from my porch.

I also went through all of my transactions on this card which aren’t very many because I don’t use it very often.

I am quite sure my Nancy Drew activities have exhausted my poor credit card bank. But I was also able to give them the little detail that the phone number used was close to but not my home phone number.

Oh and did I mention that I think this was purchased on Black Friday? I didn’t do any physical or virtual shopping on Black Friday. And a $500 vacuum cleaner is not something I’m going to buy. 

So chalk this up to a learning curve and it could’ve been worse. I am very grateful that my bank is so on the ball. But Fa La La it’s the holidays so be careful where you use your card.

time to start decking the halls!

This year I was going for a simpler, almost nostalgic look. Above is my dining room chandelier. Originally, it was given to me by my late father many years ago and it lived in storage units and attics until we bought the house we now live in. Here it was the perfect chandelier for our dining room. (The chandelier originally in the dining room was repurposed and now hangs in our front hall. It’s a small chandelier and it is the perfect scale for the front hall.)

This year my chandeliers were completely inspired by a childhood memory. When we were little and lived in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia one of the things we did at Christmas time was attend the St. Lucia Festival at Old Swedes in Philadelphia.

This is such a beautiful tradition and it is still hands-down one of my favorite things about Christmas in Philadelphia.

Lucia Fest is actually this coming weekend in Philadelphia at Old Swedes:

Friday, December 6th – 6:00 & 8:00

Saturday, December 7th – 2:00, 3:30 & 5:00

Sunday, December 8th – 2:00, 3:30 & 5:00

The Lucia Fest weaves together a number of Swedish holiday traditions into a colorful musical pageant. The heart of the celebration is the Lucia procession, in which a young woman is joined by other female members of the household in taking hot coffee and a warm Lucia bun to all the residents of the home. She comes crowned with candles, dressed in white, singing her traditional song, “Sankta Lucia.” In Sweden, her day is celebrated in homes before dawn on the 13th of December, which, at one stage of life with the Julian calendar, marked the winter solstice – the point at which the hours of darkness begin to diminish and the daylight hours begin to lengthen.

At Gloria Dei Church the celebration is held within the walls constructed by Swedish settlers in 1699-1700, in the beauty of candlelight, with a large entourage of young girls joining her in song and procession. For many people, participation in the Lucia Fest is a unique way of marking the beginning of the holiday season.

If you have never been, I actually encourage you to go. There are many Lucia festivals across the country. PLEASE NOTE that to attend at Old Swedes in Philadelphia you need tickets!  that is not the way it was when I was growing up, but even then it was a mad crush of people so I think it is smart of the church to do that, plus the tickets are moderately priced and proceeds go to the church. This church is one of the most historicly important in Philadelphia.

In the Lucia procession, young girls wear crowns of seasonal greens with candles. I doubt very much anymore in most places that the candles are live, but they were when I was a little girl. 

Anyway the Scandinavian simplicity and beauty of this festival was my inspiration for my chandeliers as silly as it sounds. And I’m very pleased with the results.

I did not use real garlands, because they would not last the Christmas season inside. On Wayfair and Etsy I found felt garland and that’s what I purchased to create my Lucia inspired chandeliers. The Company Store and places like Pottery Barn also sell the felt garland, but their prices are much higher than what I found between Wayfair (and the felt pine garland I found on Wayfair is already sold out) and Etsy. There are also some options on Amazon and elsewhere, but you have to hunt through the garlands.

The garland I purchased was both wired and not wired. You can also use other artificial garland for this purpose I just liked the almost childlike simplicity of the felt garland. It has whimsy.

The garland is placed simply enough on the chandelier and I had a half dozen white felt birds that I tucked in here and there. But the best part of the garland is it is the perfect foil for my great grandparents’ German kugel which my mother gave me a few years ago. It is my favorite Christmas ornament. It is not a giant kugel as I have seen displayed, but it is super lovely.

There are also three beaded tassels in a lovely cranberry color. I have absolutely no idea what store they were from originally, but I bought them on a whim from the Smithfield Barn and put them away until I had a use.

The table is dressed with a festive tartan cloth (also from the Smithfield Barn!) In the center of the table, keeping with the simplicity of the chandelier above, are my glass candlesticks with cheerfully festive candy cane striped candles. They are all sitting in a copper tray.

I am not anywhere near finished decorating and there will be a lot less of it this year and it will be slow going because of my knee. But I think it’s actually a good thing that I had to change my routine up this year because I am liking the results so far!

Fa la la la la!