The Celts of the British Isles believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held.
This May Day festival was thought to divide the year in half, between the light and the dark. Symbolic fire was one of the main rituals of the festival, helping to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world.
When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought with them their five-day celebration known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of the goddess of flowers, Flora. Taking place between April 20 and May 2, the rituals of this celebration were eventually combined with Beltane.
Another popular tradition of May Day involves the maypole. While the exact origins of the maypole remain unknown, the annual traditions surrounding it can be traced back to medieval times, and some are still celebrated today.
Villagers would enter the woods to find a maypole that was set up for the day in small towns (or sometimes permanently in larger cities). The day’s festivities involved merriment, as people would dance around the pole clad with colorful streamers and ribbons.
May is named for Maia, the ancient Roman Goddess who was the incarnation of the earth mother and goddess of spring.
Those of us who went to St. Peter’s School at 4th and Pine in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia will always remember May 1 fondly. Heck if you lived near the school on May 1st you will always have May Day memories. Which is why I was a little wistful this morning when I realized there would be no Maypole or dancing at St. Peter’s today.
May Day, early 1970’s St. Peter’s
May Day was so awesome. We donned our spring best and we did many traditional Celtic things including dancing around the Maypole. The multi-colored ribbons being woven in and out as we danced. (Here is a video from the School in Rose Valley so you can see.) There were also pipe dancers over clay pipes.
May Day was one of the best things about being a kid back then. Ribbons and balloons and music. All your friends and parents were there. It was so joyful. (St. Peter’s photos found here – not mine.)
So Happy May Day to my childhood friends! Happy May Day to all of you!
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.
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
I need to take the time to write down the stories I heard yesterday so I don’t forget. Given the anesthesia and everything that went on yesterday with my surgery I’ve probably forgotten some things already.
Yesterday was my second knee surgery. This time it was definitely gardener’s knee and it was my other leg￼￼. The surgery seemed to go well but I will admit today the pain is still somewhat not fun.
I had my husband just drop me off because there is such a lot of waiting before I actually go into surgery that I didn’t want him trapped at the hospital when he had a busy work day ahead.
I met a lovely couple in the waiting room who were in the bed and holding area immediately next to me as we both were given our marching orders before going up to the holding areas for surgery.
This couple had an amazing tale. A true love story that today in the morning after thinking about it really gets me a little choked up because it’s beautiful and so happy and it’s so the power of love over the ages.
They are in their 80s. They met when they were in college. Life took them in different directions and they were very happily married to other people for decades. Somehow they came together as widow and widower and the wife moved across the country where she had lived her life out west.￼￼￼￼￼￼ So now they are married and live in the area. The husband has lived in this area for decades.
I’m not sure what the husband did for a career, but the wife was a nurse her entire career, including an army nurse in years it must’ve been quite challenging. They were so happy and so in love and so positive. I think the wife sort of adopted me until I went to the pre-surgery line up and holding area because she knew I was not as much of a tough girl as I wanted to be waiting there by myself.￼ And that was my decision. My husband would have sat there all day for me. I did not want him to.
One thing that lady and I talked about was ancestry.com. She had started an account not too long ago and showed me some really cool pictures of family members – her ancestors – that she never knew existed.￼
In the holding area as I waited my turn to go into the OR I met a bunch of amazing nurses. I can’t stress enough how wonderful every nurse I’ve ever met at Chester County Hospital is￼.
I had a great conversation with a nurse whose name of course has flown right out of my head because we when were talking they had just begun the sedation process with me. This nurse noticed the limb alert bracelet on my left hand. Because I have had breast cancer and had the sentinel node removed I can’t ever have anything in my left side that was the side the cancer and lymph node was removed from.
She apparently has worked with a lot of breast cancer patients and excuse me she was interesting to talk to￼. Also talking to her made me realize how lucky I’ve been with breast cancer.
From that point on everything was a bit of a blur. When I woke up in the postop (which is now called something else in the land of new speak) there were some patients and nurses and it was sort of a lie there and drool for a while because I was so out of it coming out of anesthesia￼￼.
As I woke up a little more I overheard a nurse comforting a patient to the left of me. The patient wasn’t right next to me, she was a couple of beds down. And the nurse was distracting a patient by telling her about a box of special Christmas ornaments that they get out every year. They sounded like they were old Shiny Broght ornaments. But what got to me was her describing whatever was written on the box from whomever used to own them in her family￼￼.
And those are the kind of little heartwarming stories around the holidays that always get to me and make me smile because I know how special it is to me when I pull out the old ornament boxes and see my father’s hand writing on top of these boxes that are totally falling apart but I just keep taping them up so I have his hand writing there to greet me every Christmas￼.
My post op nurse was younger than I and from Lancaster. She was so calm and soothing. We talked about Lancaster County which was fun because that ￼is where my maternal grandmother was from who was Pennsylvania German.
Across the postop room for me was this awesome nurses aide who ended up taking me down to the first area I came into while my husband was on his way to pick me up. She is a lovely young woman who moved here from a big city elsewhere to give her kids a better life. And she was telling her coworkers about one of her children who apparently has been a straight “A” student their entire life and just got into their pick of colleges￼￼. Another happy life story.
I know not every day in the hospital you find happy and loving and just these really warm and wonderful vibes because of the nature of a hospital. But I always seem to have these experiences in Chester County Hospital.
The entire hospital had holiday trees everywhere which I thought was awesome because I love decorated trees.
For a day that was about surgery and kind of tough on me it was also a day I enjoyed because of the people I met. I guess my whole point to this meandering post is if you’re open to it you never know where you’re going to meet interesting people.
Here in Chester County we are lucky to have this hospital.
So now I rest and heal and then begin the process of rebuilding my leg at physical therapy.
I don’t know how much I will be writing between now and the new year, so I will take this time to wish everyone a happy healthy 2020.
I seem to have created something new. I had wanted to make my white chocolate cinnamon cookies with oatmeal, but then I decided I could improve on it. And I didn’t have any cinnamon chips. So I did improve my recipe and changed it up…and…taa daa! The 2019 White Chocolate Oatmeal Hazelnut Cookies were born.
1 cup of butter softened (2 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup quick cook oatmeal (plain no flavoring)
2 cups white chocolate baking chips
1 cup dried currants (I used Sunmaid Zante Currants)
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350°
Cream together until well mixed butter and both sugars in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla, beat until light and fluffy. Add 2 tablespoons buttermilk.
Add cinnamon, salt, baking soda.
Mix in 2 cups of all-purpose white flour until mixed well. Stir in oatmeal, followed by white chocolate baking chips, and finally the hazelnuts.
I chilled my dough about an hour.
Drop by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. (I line my cookie pans silicone baking sheets for the most part now.)
I actually like to roll might dough into about 1 inch balls instead of “drop”. I place them a couple inches apart on the sheet.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes depending on your oven.
Do not overbake and please cool these cookies at least five or six minutes before removing from baking sheet to cooling rack to cool completely.
This recipe makes a little over 4 1/2 dozen cookies. They seem to be an instant crowd pleaser in my house, so I hope you like them too!
We had an appointment down in Chadds Ford late this afternoon so I asked my husband if we could stop at Brandywine View Antiques.
Brandywine View Antiques is locates at 1244 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford, PA 19317, incidentally.
I adore the owner of Brandywine View, Lisa. She is just an awesome human being and I love to be around her. She’s a straight shooter and real. And she has an awesome eye.
When the holidays roll around, Lisa is always is on point. She has a carefully curated collection of old, new, and vintage. This year is even better than last year and I didn’t think she could top last year.
I went for some reproduction decorations including red mercury glass pinecones. I have been looking for red and green ones. I walked into Brandywine View and there they were!
Now because of the state of my knee I could not venture upstairs at Brandywine View Antiques. There are literally three floors of fun!
Anyway, there are still a few days of Christmas shopping left so don’t forget about places like Chadds Ford and Kennett Square too! Brandywine View Antiques is the perfect place to start!
I am not compensated in any way for this post. I am just a happy customer.
I love my mother (the holy mothertude) but she is not so subtle sometimes when she does things like saying the other day:
“Oh we took the last of your fruit cake out of the freezer from last year. We just love it so much.”
(She totally cracks me up with this so, bum knee and all, I knew I was indeed making fruitcake this year.)
And then my lovely stepfather said something similar in his very adorable, very British way.
So I called my mother back today and said “I decided I will be making fruitcake￼ this year.”
The mothertude replies “I really wasn’t trying to get you to make it￼.”
Now you know you can’t ignore mother requests at Christmas, right? So…I made two today and will make two tomorrow so I don’t have any of that candied fruit to store. Because face it, what else do you use it for except fruitcake?
￼I make white fruitcake. I saw somewhere once and then couldn’t find it again, where it was referred to as “grooms cake”. It’s made with good brandy or whiskey and it actually tastes good.
Normally I like to make my fruitcake more ahead of schedule than I￼ am now, but it will still taste good.
The basis for my fruitcake recipe can be found in a 1959 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook. But I have adjusted the recipe over the years based on personal tastes and recipe research and tweaked it a little.
This year I changed it again and I went back to only using almonds. And I didn’t use figs, I used chopped dates and golden raisins￼. I might change the second batch up a little, I will decide tomorrow￼.
I am frustrated right now. I realize the post office is super busy. I realize my post office is down a postal employee. But the supervisor who works in the office isn’t exactly helpful at times. This is one of those times.
I had something on redelivery that was a giant hassle yesterday. I missed the initial delivery because I had an appointment and the mail delivery was earlier than normal. I called to try to get it yesterday and the supervisor wouldn’t call the carrier who had our route. I was just trying to figure out if it was getting delivered yesterday. Not looking for special treatment….unless basic information is special treatment?
So yesterday I subsequently filed a redelivery request on the USPS website. Have you ever attempted to navigate the USPS at peak times of the year like the holidays? I must have entered the required information seven or eight times. Then I still wasn’t sure if it was in because at one point it told me my request could not be completed or handled or something I forget what the language was, so I called my post office. The USPS supervisor assured me it would be on a truck ￼tomorrow (AKA today), after he tells me he never heard of that error before.
Just swell. Nothing like not being able to drive because you’re waiting for knee surgery and it’s your husband’s Christmas present. Only you aren’t quite sure where it is other than somewhere in the area.
So the USPS truck shows up this afternoon.￼ A different substitute driver. Very nice, but as I am calling to him to wait because the package I had on redelivery wasn’t there, he is not hearing me and starting to pull away. The reason he wasn’t hearing me is he had earbuds in. For some reason, I thought you couldn’t drive with stuff in your ears like headphones or earbuds that prohibited you from reacting to traffic and what not but I digress….
Anyway, the substitute carrier guy couldn’t have been nicer but he told me it wasn’t on the truck. So I went inside and I looked up the number and called my post office again￼￼.
I got the same supervisor on the phone as yesterday and it was a conversation for the record books.￼
“Hi sorry to call again, but the package you said would be redelivered today wasn’t and the mail carrier just left.” I said
His reply was something along the lines of there were several trucks out. So I asked him if that meant my package would be delivered later. His response was a rather oblique “maybe, possibly￼￼￼.”
I asked him if he could define that answer a little more and he said again maybe possibly￼.
So I asked if there was anyway to check with carriers to see if my package was on a truck or if it had gotten left behind. I figured that was a possibility since in the frustrating conversation of oblique replies he told me the substitute mail carrier who had been out to the house yesterday was off today.
His response to me was along the lines of “Well, if you asked the carrier to check his truck and he didn’t find it there’s really no point in me calling him.￼￼” (I am paraphrasing slightly but that was the jist of the response￼.)
So I asked him if it would just come out later today and it was another non-answer answer. He’s the supervisor so what does he know? It’s very confusing.
So I called a neighboring post office to see if they had any suggestions. Or if I was doing something wrong. The supervisor in that office couldn’t have been nicer. ￼￼
A couple of hours later, the missing package appeared like magic. I think I must have a secret Santa in that other post office.
I know the post office is slammed. I am truly sorry. But when you call for customer service, you should get actual customer service. I know people don’t like being told no, and I am no exception, but I would prefer an honest answer to a non-answer answer.
So all’s well that ends well for me today, but this is the second problem lately. And it felt like the Grinch ate my Christmas mail, right or wrong.
Quite frankly I am dreading putting my Christmas cards into the mail. But Santa says I must. Can’t be a Grinch……
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.
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 ignoringthe 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.
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!