it’s 2020! new year, new decade!

Found this photo above on a Google search when I put in “New Year’s Eve 1920. ” It just seemed like a fun image to kick off a new decade a century forward. So happy 2020 y’all!

The last decade which just concluded has been the largest decade of change in my entire life. I thought about it last night as we watched the ball drop in NYC.

As 2010 rolled around, I knew or I sensed, or I hoped changes were coming.

I was in the tail end of the wrong relationship and life partnership for me. I knew I wasn’t happy but I still thought it was just me, that I wasn’t working hard enough in the relationship.

I remember feeling guilty on New Year’s Eve 2009 into 2010 because I thought to myself as I looked at this person did I want to be looking at them when I was 70? What a horrible thought I thought to myself as in that moment if I was honest the answer was hell no. But it was somehow oddly and accurately prophetic because a few short weeks later in a February blizzard that was just all over.

I think people were waiting to see if I fell apart but I didn’t. I mean I had my emotional moments, it was a decade out of my life, the prior decade, but it wasn’t right so it didn’t last. When someone asks you to commit your life to theirs and they didn’t 100% commit to you and never shared a lot of their life, even their friends and relatives, it’s not going to last because it’s not the right person. I should have been smarter, but sometimes you have to go through something to actually understand it don’t you?

Mostly I felt guilty about feeling relieved it was over.

So that started the last decade with a bang. But things happen for a reason. I have great friends and family who were all waiting for me on the other side of that. It took a while to not me angry at those who actually called this person to ask them to return to me . They didn’t understand that on that February night in 2010 I closed a door without regret. I didn’t need to have the wrong person in my life to complete me. I completed me. I just didn’t know it until I closed that door.

That new decade was a new start for me. That phrase god closes a door and opens a window comes to mind.

That winter of that new decade, my friend Sherry and I and others received a Congressional Commendation from then Congressman Jim Gerlach. It was for something that Sherry and a wonderful doctor named Ken Marx thought of and I helped with called Operation Angel Wings. This will always be something that I was so proud to be a part of. It was a truly amazing thing to volunteer on.

Somewhere in this year of the last new decade, my husband and I began to talk more and more. We had known each other in high school. And the First Friday Main Line in October of 2010 was where it truly began. I think that is exactly when my heart also opened to a little boy standing with a cup of cocoa in the doorway of MilkBoy Coffee. That was also the evening I got to reconnect with my friend Eric who passed away a few months ago.

Also in the fall of 2010 I got a historical marker from the idea stage to actually raising the money to make it happen. The Wayne Natatorium sign. It was a cool piece of history worth preserving.

Then time went on for 2010 until it ground to a halt in December. That was the year I burned Christmas cookies for the first time ever. That was the Christmas that never really happened except for the motions.

This was the Christmas we lost my beloved brother in law and my sister’s amazing husband to a deadly form of mesothelioma. He was gone in a little over 3 weeks.

There was a blizzard in NYC right before his funeral- NYC was white and fairly silent for a couple of days. Keith is still one of the best people I have ever known. And I miss him, especially around the holidays. He was all about the holidays. He loved Christmas cookies.

But then on New Year’s Eve 2010 into 2011 when I was sitting in the still of my apartment after returning that day from my sister’s in NYC, the phone rang. It was my now husband. We talked through the night and into the New Year on the phone and I killed his Blackberry battery LOL.

I think my husband thought I was very quiet last night for a while. And part of it was because I was thinking of that New Year’s Eve 2010 into 2011. And all of the past decade.

2011 was a magical year and one of the hardest. I fell in love truly and deeply and was also diagnosed with breast cancer. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Quite literally.

But breast cancer freed me to be my better self, I think. More and more time was being spent in Chester County and by the spring of 2012 the transition was completed and I was out here. Best thing that ever happened to me. I am home, truly home in Chester County.

Life moved forward and I reconnected with many of my favorite people from growing up who also were Main Line ex-pats who moved to Chester County.

I learned how to be a stepparent in this last decade. I am still learning. I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned later in life in becoming a parent is that it is always a work in progress.

I also gained a stepfather and amazing stepsiblings in this decade . I am very blessed to have an amazing second father and stepbrothers and a stepsister and step nieces and nephews. It is fun to be part of their crew!

This last decade is also when on my parent’s anniversary one year I married the love of my life. Surrounded by friends and family in an amazing old house. We were married by one of our friends.

This last decade I have also let my inner gardener and treasure hunter out. I left myself open to new opportunities. Many of you have followed my journey here and other places I write. This has been the decade where I have truly begun to evolve as a writer. I have some amazing professional writers as mentors who have guided me along the way. Write what you know.

I have met all sorts of cool new people who often have been kind enough to share their experiences and lives with me.

I have made some friends the past decade that I will keep forever. I made some others friends that I let go of for various reasons, including that they left this earth. That sounds awful but it’s not. It’s the cycle of life. Another old saying comes to mind about people who are in your life for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime.

So much in my life has changed in 10 years. It really makes you pause and reflect and count your blessings. I start this decade in a wholly better place. The right place for me with my amazing husband whom I love to the moon and back. I am truly blessed.

So here we all are on the first day of a new year and a new decade. I wish you all the best and cheers to 2020!

What a long strange (and wonderful) trip it has been.

Happy New Year!

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards

~ Soren Kierkegaard

the last christmas eve of the decade

Christmas Eve is here! Only it feels more like March today. I thought I would go traditional for my readers. May your Christmas be magical and may the blessings of the season extend all year long.

The Night Before Christmas/ A Visit from St. Nicholas By Clement C. Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

passing down recipes

 

I have started baking. It’s a much slower process this year as I am hampered by my formerly “good” knee. Actually everything Christmas is hampered by it, so this morning to be honest, I was mopey.

What I was thinking about this morning is I never had children of my own. So I’m a stepparent of a son. When he was little I tried to get him interested in making Christmas cookies but he was into it for about 20 minutes and then would evaporate. He likes to eat them, but he’s not really into cooking . And there are no girls.

Well I do have a niece but she’s a big city girl. They order things like cookies, not bake them. Fashion, make-up, and selfies are where it’s at now. Maybe that will change as she grows up, but I don’t think so. And that’s ok, I am happy to bake them.

It’s just when you are growing up female, or at least for me, there was always this little day dream of when I was grown up and had my own kids I would bake Christmas cookies with them. Like my mother did with us. When we were little my mother did this. Gingerbread men, chocolate chip cookies, cut out cookies with bright sugar sprinkles, Russian tea cookies, and these amazing things called Florentines with bittersweet chocolate and candied orange peel. I still don’t know how to make the Florentines.

So this morning I was all down about this whole wondering who would eventually want the recipes I had collected and written over the years? They fill three 3-ring binders. And then there are my cookbooks.

Then I realized sometimes family extends to friends. And I do have friends with daughters. And one is already a baker at 13.

And I also realized I do share my recipes with my readers too. So hopefully down the road, as the years progress people will find my recipes and use them. Of course I could actually write a cookbook if I would just get down to the writing of it part. I have the recipes and I have the photos. I just haven’t done it. It’s on a “I will get to it list.”

 

Then I also remembered I had shared a collection of recipes last year with my readers, friends, and members of my cooking group.

So….sharing again: Fa la la la la. No cookie grinches here! Follow this link and see embedded below a curated collection of cookie recipes from ALL over the Internet

Also included?A few of my own personal cookie recipes. For web-based recipes at the bottom of each page is the link to the originating sites. Gathered here to make my life easier! Yes a lot of them are in landscape – I do that when I print – easier for me.

Happy Baking!

christmas memories and recollections

Christmas is unique because I think as humans it is when we are the most nostalgic. A lot of it occurs as we get out our decorations. We remember where most every ornament and decoration came from, and even who may have given it to us.

Yesterday I was speaking with one of my good friends I have made as an adult. The thing that is so funny about us knowing each other is we basically should have known each since we were teenagers. We have led parallel lives in the friends we had.

We knew so many of the same people yet never met until middle age. This friend she says to me last night that we probably met at parties or in bathroom lines at old Main Line haunts and never realized it. Which is so true – she was even a hostess once at the same restaurant as one of my oldest and best friends.

Six degrees of separation. Literally. Last night she asked me how I knew a couple more people she also knew so we got to talking about this guy we once knew. Not a boyfriend, a friend.

Now I know every time a woman or man speaks of a friend of the opposite sex, so many want to make something else out of it. But she, like me, has always had male friends. Some of my oldest friends in the world were boys I first met in grade school. I married a boy I was friends with in high school and fell in love with as an adult. But that’s the exception and not the rule.

This one person we knew in common was a friend we shared in different stages of his life. She knew him early on, I knew him in the succeeding years for a while. It’s like that phrase people say about people in our lives: reason, season, or lifetime. He was a season in both of our lives.

He is someone who experienced tragedy and unpleasantness early on, so I hope his life is happy now. He deserves that. My friend and I both agree. It was just so funny in the timeline of our lives. If we all had just actually met a little bit earlier, we would have been friends at the same time.

And it’s funny we both had the same impression of this person at the stages of life we knew him. He was what you would describe as an old soul. He was a total outdoorsman yet he wrote music, poetry. To some reading this that might sound weird, but it wasn’t. He was just deep, and he was deep at a time when we were at the age to be frivolous.

When I started to stop knowing him, he was preparing to move across the country to build a life elsewhere. I still have the letter he wrote me when he was moving. He was a really good person. Still is I am sure, just elsewhere.

That’s the thing about this season, as in the Christmas season, you remember those people sometimes. Just as we remember relatives who were dear (and not so dear) to us. It’s part of the human condition of sentimentality.

I actually have had something happen as a blogger that never happened before, and I am chalking it up to Christmas. Someone contacted me to ask me to pass contact information to a relative.

I would never divulge information EVER, but I did pass the information along. It’s Christmas so you never know. Maybe whatever made them lose touch is enough in the past that they could reconnect.

To some of my readers this post will be dull as dishwater. To others, it might strike a chord.

I hope you all continue to enjoy the magic of the season. A little Christmas magic and love is good for all of us.

Pax

more thanksgiving prep: laying it all out

Thanksgiving in our house is going to be smaller and much simpler than years past. I didn’t get to all the little ceramic turkeys to put on the table this year so the table just has the simple candlesticks and some greens in a vase. I still think it’ll look pretty.

My order arrived today from Harman’s Cheese in New Hampshire. I love my imported cheese, but for Thanksgiving especially it’s American made cheeses. Tomorrow for nibbles before our little feast, I will put out Harman’s cheddar with crackers with a Balsamic Onion Jam. The rest of the cheese will take us through the holiday season and well into the winter.

The table is mostly vintage. Pewter napkin rings I got years ago. No one likes pewter much anymore so I literally picked these up super inexpensively.

The napkins came from The Smithfield Barn. They are of a newer vintage from Ralph Lauren.

The plates are Steubenville Adam Antique from the 1930s. I bought them for our first Thanksgiving in this house. They came from Frazer Antiques. I remember they were on sale. I have looked for years since at these plates here and there, and never been able to even come close to the deal I got that day.

The placemats are vintage Pimpernal. They belonged to one of my dearest friend’s mothers.

We are having a simple menu. Yams, green salad with a simple vinaigrette, stuffing done outside the bird, homemade cranberry sauce, and the turkey. The turkey is from Loag’s Corner Turkey Farm in Elverson and was delivered by Doorstep Dairy. Doorstep Dairy is our milk delivery service and more. We have been a customer for a few years. They are terrific!

If you are local, Loag’s turkeys can also be purchased through local butcher shops like Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough. We also are big fans of Worrell’s!

I didn’t mention dessert. That I am actually not baking. Someone gave us a cheesecake. Not our normal Thanksgiving dessert, but my husband loves cheesecake!

My last piece of the puzzle is a vintage turkey platter. Also from the Smithfield Barn a few years ago. American made, true vintage, and I love it.

Holidays are about traditions. Thanksgiving is about the classics: turkey, friends, family.

Here is a poem from Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Thanksgiving

We walk on starry fields of white
   And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
   We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
   To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
   Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
   Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
   Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
   We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
   And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
   But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
   To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
   Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
   While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
   Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
   Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
   To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
   To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
   Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
   Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
   As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
   A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

I don’t know if I will write again between now and Thursday, so Happy Thanksgiving!

do you believe in santa claus?

The photo above isn’t some random act of Google photo. It is my cousin Suzy visiting Santa Claus at Christmastime, in 1954. A full decade before I was born. A Philadelphia area department store Santa Claus. I am not sure which store.

I have many memories of going to see Santa and to pose for photos. Usually with my sister. I don’t remember us ever having individual Santa photos, we were a three years apart matched set with Santa.

Christmas was magical in Philadelphia when I was little. The Christmas Village at Lit Brothers, the Dickens Village I think at Strawbridge & Clothier, Christmas displays at Gimbels, the organ and Christmas everything at John Wanamakers.

We would go and visit things with my great aunts and then we would also have lunch in the Crystal Tea Room in John Wanamaker’s.

There was of course the year when I was really little and we used to have to do the Crystal Tea Room lunch also with my father’s sister and possibly her daughters as well. My aunts’ daughters were self-perceived Christmas perfect. Never a hair out of place. Also about as warm and fuzzy to me as an ice cube. I have forgotten a lot of our enforced togetherness. It was tough being a kid and knowing to your core they didn’t like you.

What I do remember was the year I accidentally dropped my chocolate milk in my Aunt Teresa’s lap. And she was wearing a white wool Christmas suit. OOPS!

When we went to the Crystal Tea Room I always had scrambled eggs and toast for lunch and chocolate milk. This one year I must’ve been playing too much with the chocolate milk and my mother told me to “drop it”. She probably wanted me to eat my lunch, but literal child that I was I dropped the milk all right… in my aunt’s lap!

Christmas in Philadelphia back then in part was so magical because of all the displays that were about the holidays and celebrating the holidays. They weren’t necessarily attached to specific items or displays of items to buy. It was just about the Christmas season. And you could call it Christmas without everyone freaking out.

Other memories I have include going down to South Philadelphia to my great aunts’ house on Ritner Street. And when I was really little they did the seven fishes. That was when my Uncle Pat or PJ as we called him was alive. He lived with his sisters, and none of them ever married although I remember PJ having girlfriends. PJ had a gruff and gravelly voice and when I was little I remember he used to tease me by asking me if he could have some of my Christmas presents, especially the dolls. My great aunts used to buy us these awesome dolls and I loved them as a little girl.

South Philadelphia was alive with Christmas lights and decorations. They would literally string the lights across the street. It was really pretty I don’t know if they still do that anymore but it was very magical as a kid. And they went all out on Christmas decorations. I found the photo above on Google and that’s what it was like. Streets strong with stars, candy canes, Santas.

My mother’s brother Jack and his family lived up in the Northeast. My Uncle Jackie also loved Christmas. I remember lots of lights and I swear I remember Christmas music being piped outside from the roof a la Clark Griswold and Christmas Vacation. I also remember one year my Aunt Connie taking ceramics classes and making everyone those vintage ceramic Christmas trees. I don’t know if anybody still has any of her trees but I remember they were pretty!

Now did you believe in Santa Claus? We did. It was a truly magical time when we were little and I loved it.

I’m sure my parents didn’t love having to wait until we were all asleep to load up everything under the tree but it was so awesome to come down on Christmas morning and see the presents under the tree and see the crumbs that Santa left behind from the cookies and milk we had put out for him. Of course there was that thing my father used to do – he used to use his non-normal writing hand and leave a note to us from Santa thanking us for the cookies.

In truth, I do remember some of the department store Santa Clauses being more scary than jolly. and while I believed in Santa Claus I never believed that those Santa Claus folks were real. But as a child I did like to play along when it wasn’t scary Santa sitting there waiting for us. Or the occasional boozy Santa who smelled like he had gotten into the Christmas cheer on his lunch break.

As an adult do I still believe in Santa Claus? No, but I believe in the beloved tradition of it all. I also believe how Santa Claus is part of a very magical season. A season of giving and miracles. I do believe in Christmas miracles.

Santa Claus is steeped in history. And thanks to the History Channel you can read all about it on their website.

Christmas is a really special time of year and even though it is highly commercialized I’m really glad that some of the traditions still endure. There is one Christmas memory that I wish I had actual photos for and I was really little. And it is the memory I am going to leave you with today.

When I was a really little girl, my parents had a red VW bug. That was the car they had so that was the car that used to get a Christmas tree strapped to the top of it. Our house in Philadelphia had really tall ceilings so it was easily a 10 or an 11 foot tree that would get strapped to the top of the Bug.

I remember one snowy Christmas as a little girl and I’m thinking it was the Christmas of 1969. They bundled me up and I went with my father to pick up the Christmas tree. I remember going through the snowy dark streets of Philadelphia down to a railyard. I’m guessing around South Philadelphia but I’m not really sure. I remember people buying trees as they were pulled off the freight cars. It was snowing too.

This will always be one of my favorite Christmas memories and I’ve never forgotten it. As a matter of fact that is part of the reason why I bought a couple of Christmas ornaments that were mercury glass a couple of years ago that were VW Bugs with little Christmas trees on top. I also bought them because my husband loves VW Bugs.

Every family has Christmas traditions and Christmas memories. And part of the magic of the season is trying to keep these traditions alive as we go forward throughout our lives. Yet we have to adapt them to our living circumstances today. I will note that I still to an extent put ornaments on the tree the way my father did. From size, to shape, to really special ornaments last.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and then after that we are full court press into the Christmas season. Don’t just make it a race to the finish line, actually take a minute and enjoy the magic. And go see Santa Claus.

Thanks for stopping by.