Lionville Station Road is just fields and 2 empty farmhouses butting up against Milky Way Farm. I’m sure they aren’t happy about this with all the water and air pollution this will cause them and their animals. Can’t imagine my back road to home having 300+ tractor trailers coming and going on it.
~ LOCAL RESIDENT
I think I should state that I have NOT heard about this before today. AND Milky Way Farm is staying put and not going anywhere from what I am told, but they might turn into a farm island as a result of this right? Also Gardner’s Landscape is NOT going anywhere, so can’t imagine what they think of this, other than abject horror like residents, right?
Another BIG HUGE QUESTION is ARE THEY SURE AMAZON IS COMING? Read today’s article about Amazon slowing it’s roll in the Washington Post. Article is gifted so follow
The residents are up in arms. I would be. And when I zoomed in on the plan thing above? I saw my friend’s house! I mean can you even imagine waking up for years to loveliness and now be threatened with the ass end of a warehouse as your view???
It has been a week of cooking. Right now I have a chicken roasting in the oven, Julia Child style. Along with the roast chicken, I am making a salad with poppyseed dressing. I’m making at the way friend. I had many years ago named Liza used to make it. It was one of her favorite salads to serve. I am also serving a mash of potatoes, celeriac root, and parsnips with sautéed baby Bella mushrooms.
Earlier this week I made pierogis for the first time. I have mad respect for old Polish grandmothers everywhere. Those suckers are work! I used a New York Times recipe, and adjusted the potato filling to my taste – I added sautéed mushrooms.
A couple of days ago I found some fabulous old Coalport plates. You don’t see them all the time in the US they are a British china. Coalport china ceased operations and production in 1926. Coalport was eventually absorbed into Wedgewood in the 1960s. I love old plates, so I will use them. I pretty much use old plates every day no matter what, I’m not really a modern china person. And my mother always said if you have the plates use them, you can’t take them with you.
Today for dessert I am making something I made up. I am calling it pineapple upside down trifle. it’s a semi homemade kind of thing, and never underestimate the power of a simple dessert.
Here’s the recipe:
1 box Jell-O instant pudding mix. Today I’m using banana, but you can also use vanilla. Make according to directions with whole milk and put to the side.
1 package of ladyfingers or one store-bought poundcake. I just got a Sara Lee that’s always still in the freezer section and let it thaw on the refrigerator.package of ladyfingers or one store-bought poundcake. I just got a Saralee that’s always still in the freezer section and let it thaw on the refrigerator.
1 cleaned, cored, sliced into small pieces fresh pineapple. I found a smaller one at the store, not huge one.
A couple tablespoons of brown sugar and butter.
I am making my trifle in a vintage Copco Enamelware Bowl. I’m not putting this into the oven. I’m just putting it into the refrigerator. I really like this bowl. I found that a few months ago. It’s stamped Michael Lax for Copco of Switzerland. It was a total deal and I purchased it well below what you would see these bowls going for on EBay or Etsy.
I sautéed the pineapple in a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter with brown sugar until they were caramelized. When they were cool enough to handle, I started to put my trifle together.
Trifle is really simple. It’s layered pudding and cake with fruit. Never underestimate the appeal of this desert. If you want to you can top it with a little whipped cream but you don’t have to.
I started a gifting group after complete and utter nastiness exploded within a local Buy Nothing group. Buy Nothing Malvern if you are curious.
The nutshell version is a couple of years ago there were women who were like power-hungry or social media glory hungry, I’m not exactly sure what the case was, but they offered to “help” an admin who has started this particular chapter of a Buy Nothing group I had belonged to and then they did a hostile takeover for lack of a better description. I kind of sat there and went “HUH” when it happened, and thought well isn’t that nasty?
I decided after what happened with our local Buy Nothing group that we could build our own group and carry on what the woman who originally founded the Malvern Buy Nothing Group intended.
Our group is called Gift and Gratitude. We are predominantly hyper-local, but depending how close to our home area a person is, we will consider people outside of our immediate ZIP Code. And that is not a flexibility that the named Buy Nothing Groups offer. We also got rid of silliness like leaving posts up forever. And we are more cognizant of people who try to work the system of gifting to get things they can sell for their own profit and there are things that we don’t allow that we don’t feel other gifting groups are clear enough on. It’s responsible gifting.
And right or wrong, we also keep an eye on people who always seem to have a hand out versus ever offering a hand up. We will work with local nonprofits and food banks, and things like that if asked if they are in short supply of something, we will put it out there in our group to help. We take the spirit of community seriously. We know we can’t help everyone, but we do what we can.
Over the past couple of years, I have heard tales from friends of mine in other areas about their local Buy Nothing named groups imploding. Then I heard about the original Buy Nothing founders launching an app with pay walls, etc. so I kind of think that for whatever reason, and I’m not judging them, these original founders, who inspired us sold out for lack of a better description.
OK that’s kind of a bummer, but people have to make a living, right? And the thing about Buy Nothing is it inspired us to try to be better, to help. I don’t know if any of you read this article from 2022, but it was a good thing to read when you’re talking about these groups:
Well, most people I’ve spoken to don’t like the app as in the Buy Nothing app. Mostly they don’t like it because they can’t connect to their local group via the app and the pay walls.
So what else has happened? Well, it’s getting like the Hatfields versus the McCoys and the Sharks versus the Jets. Now people are starting and / or rebranding their Buy Nothing group into Gifting With Gratitude. Now this has all started since I created our group with my friends, called Gift AND Gratitude. We are not them and they are not us.
Someone said to me recently that I should trademark my group’s name, etc. but I think that defeats the purpose of a gifting group in the first place. Just like I think the people who literally shop gifting groups, so they can resell items or take advantage of people deserve a special place in hell.
So I’m going to chalk up Gifting With Gratitude groups as simply not us. We are a one off, not playing follow the leader whomever that is.
Gifting groups are supposed to be a good thing, not a reason to be competitive with women you don’t like on social media on a hyper local level. Not that I’m not unfamiliar with that, because people have tried to do that with gardening groups who didn’t like my gardening group, also on Facebook.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose. Mostly, it just amuses me. I didn’t start a gifting group to sit at the popular girls lunch table, after all. I started a gifting group because I thought it was the right thing to do. And that’s why you should start a gifting group, to pay it forward in your community as opposed to making it pay.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Instead of just talking about Valentine’s Day I thought I would talk about things that I love, which include vintage Valentine’s cards.
I also love old pewter porringer bowls. Nobody seems to want them anymore, and I use them all over the house. The bigger ones make great coasters as long as their bottoms are flat inside. I use them to put hair ties in and loose change. They even act as coasters for wine bottles, I use one for the bottle of Madeira I keep for cooking. They are also a great dish for candles. If you like this idea, you can pick them up for a minimum amount of money at garage sales and flea markets and church sales.
Other things I love (and use)? Old gardening books and cookbooks.
I also love the story of my friend Lynn’s engagement years ago as written by John Grogan for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The funny thing was, I read this article before I even knew who she was, and then we met over time in Ardmore and became friends.
I also love old German tea strainers….
And then there are things I love like old crocks which I use for all sorts of things. As planter cache pots in the garden, toilet paper holder in the powder room, to hold my spoons and things in the kitchen.
I also love to clip things occasionally from my magazines. Recipes, ideas, things I like. In recipes:
In the not physically clipped but sharing- other things I like (and some I use): Transferware, egg cups, old trunks, hat stands, books. I also clip ideas like dressing your porch like another room, or hanging trays or plates like art:
It was weird in a way going back now as a veritable stranger to a place I spent so much time in for so many years. So much has changed and I don’t necessarily feel it has changed for the better.
Ardmore needs more….love. And positive municipal attention.
In my prior post, I wrote about the condition of the sidewalks and streets in Ardmore, and the roads in general throughout Lower Merion Township. The roads are in deplorable condition. It’s like they are growing orange highway cones as a cash crop in places, and in other places, holes and what not are just waiting to trip people up. And when I asked a couple of people about it, they all say the same thing that they report these things to the township but nothing happens. It makes you wonder what former West Chester Borough Manager and current Lower Merion Township Manager Ernie McNeely does besides fall asleep at meetings, where they are talking about the police, right?
And when it comes to managers, I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of the manager who proceeded Ernie McNeely, but somehow Lower Merion seems worse than when I moved? I remember when my friends from West Chester heard that McNeely was going to Lower Merion and they just laughed and laughed and laughed and said “good luck to them!”
I guess now I know why, because Lower Merion looks like crap in their business districts. There might be tons of new places to eat, but nobody leaves their lights on much anymore except for stores that have been there long enough to know it makes a difference, the streets are dirty and broken up. There’s a lot of trash. Especially in Ardmore.
Ardmore used to be different and you could feel an energy. And most importantly, people knew one another. You would hear people saying hello to each other going past each other on the street. last night for the first time on a Saturday night, I didn’t hear that. And I also noticed that in spite of all the dining choices it’s like people go early to eat, and they just leave. By like 9 o’clock-ish when we left the restaurant, it was a ghost town.
We met at my friend Sherry’s store, Past*Present*Future. As well as being one of my most favorite and cherished friends, her store is always one of my favorite places to visit. And more people should discover the wonderful treasures inside. (hint to my lovely Savvy lady- have you ever interviewed her and visited?)
Past*Present*Future was one of the few non-food establishments with good lighting. The other was the Junior League Thrift Shop, which had some wonderful window displays as well. There was a salon that had some lights on with one guy sitting there inside. But these places being lit made an enormous difference, especially since the township has broken sidewalks and stuff in front of some of these places and bricks all up out of where the street trees are….and as much as anything else, keeping the stores lit, reduces the chance of somebody tripping and possibly falling.
The other thing about these two stores with lights is when we first got to Ardmore, these were the stores where people were actually looking in the windows of. And that’s the thing, people used to look in the windows more. You don’t have the people that stroll. Now it was cold last night, but it wasn’t unpleasant walking.
SEPTA also has moved a train platform to behind Past*Present*Future and Merion Art and Repro since I lived there. I guess it’s part of the station makeover? You can see a little SEPTA sign in my photos. So what I wonder is why haven’t they (SEPTA) paid to light that alley and parking lot people have to cross to get to platform better when it’s dark? And the configuration they created in the back for the platform affects the limited parking that a lot of Ardmore merchants desperately need on that side of Lancaster. It’s kind of surprising that SEPTA can’t do a better job around there, right? And after all Leslie Richards head of SEPTA is very familiar with Ardmore because she spent enough time campaigning during events when she wanted to be county commissioner, didn’t she?
And the trash. Can I talk about the trash on the sidewalks again? Or the trash cans that needed to be emptied that are Township trash cans? Does no one get that people notice these things? And I think one of the things about the trash is people in general have gotten worse since COVID. It started with all the disposable masks and even disposable gloves just chucked on the ground. I think people in general are just littering more and it doesn’t help when trashcans aren’t emptied enough in business districts and shopping centers. Gateway Shopping Center has trash issues too in Tredyffrin. (but I digress.)
Which brings me to the Ardmore Initiative. It’s a marvel they were renewed. They are supposed to be all about the business district and even their own front stoop looks like crap. If their job is to make Ardmore look good and help the business district why isn’t there attention paid to the little things that help businesses? I was thinking of Borough, and even West Chester Borough when I was in Ardmore last night. All of these main street oriented municipalities are struggling through the same economic uncertainties, yet Malvern and West Chester just seem so much more alive and Malvern doesn’t even have the number of stores or restaurants that Ardmore does!
Quite literally the Ardmore which the Ardmore Initiative features on their website doesn’t look like what I saw last night and it makes me sad.
It was like the lights under the bridge tunnel entering Ardmore? The tunnel was dark last night, so what happened to those expensive lights?
So if there’s this business district authority, and it costs people to belong to it whether they want to or not because it’s kind of like a tax /assessment thing, what are they doing for the businesses and people in Ardmore? The last Executive Director who took over when the one which preceded her who got sick, literally worked her ass off and no matter what you thought of the Ardmore Initiative, it showed. Not the same now at all.
I just looked up the Ardmore Initiative website today and they have MORE people working and what do they do? Ardmore has enough in the dining arena that it should have more vibrancy at night and it does not. And there also aren’t as many stores where you can look in the windows, which is pretty basic for a main street business district to make people want to stay and poke around.
But then again, people always said Ardmore’s biggest problem was that Lower Merion Township was headquartered in it. Also what ails Ardmore will not be solved by more infill development. You can’t artificially manufacture energy. Elbow grease and a certain mindset goes into that. Ardmore still deserves better.
Now where we went and where we ate, which was terrific, and why I think Ardmore deserves better once again. We started out at Matatawny Still Works Ardmore tasting room. We buy their whiskeys sometimes now, but I had never been to one of their tasting rooms. It is a really cool space and a fun vibe and they had great music on so a couple of people did a whiskey tasting and I had this amazing spiked apple cider, which was just the thing to warm you up on a chilly night. And the fun thing about this place is you can bring takeout dinners into there and eat while you do a whiskey tasting.
From there, since we already had a parking spot, we headed to Cricket Avenue for dinner. We passed Buena Vista which we go to in Lincoln Court Shopping Center which was packed in Ardmore and Maido the Japanese grocery store which is so cool.
Crossing Lancaster Ave there at Anderson Avenue in Ardmore has not improved since people still don’t pay attention to pedestrians crossing correctly at the lights. Oh, and people still blow that light headed east on Lancaster which begs the question of the police station is right there, so you would think traffic would be better, right? Especially if Lower Merion wants to persist in their pedestrian walkability fantasy?
So on Cricket Avenue I still miss MilkBoy Coffee on the corner. Sorry but pucciManuli doesn’t do it for me and I had a friend tell me recently that they wanted to go in there for a gift and had to be buzzed in, the door wasn’t just open during business hours. I tried to patronize them a bunch of years ago, even before they were at that location and I just found them overpriced. And I love handmade and better quality things, but their prices? Meh.
I will admit that I still think that 1 Ardmore Place is super ugly. For those of you who grew up around Ardmore, these apartments are on the parking lot that used to exist for the old movie theater, which also does not exist anymore . I still hate the design aesthetic of this building, and it totally doesn’t fit in with the area.
We had dinner at Nam Phuong Bistro on Cricket Avenue. They have really wonderful Vietnamese cuisine. It was a terrific meal and I would go back again. I will caution people they don’t have much staff so you have to be prepared to be patient but the people who work there couldn’t be nicer. Their spring rolls were awesome and they also do softshell crabs which is one of my favorite things and they were fabulous. The prices were good and it’s one of those places that I had such a good meal. I forgot to take pictures of the food!
That was the end of my Ardmore re-entry adventure and we headed our way back home to Chester County. Walking back up Cricket. I was glad to see McCloskey’s had a good crowd, and looked as cheerful as ever. One thing that bummed me out, though is there is no more Marjorie Schneider Antiquary. I loved that store and used to love looking in the windows from the time I was young. She had wonderful antiques!
Before we went home, we drove around Ardmore a little bit, and I hadn’t been down some of the streets I used to walk on regularly for years. I came to the conclusion, however, that as much as I miss a lot of my friends down there, I do not miss Lower Merion at all. I think it is probably because the area I grew up in still exists because a lot of the buildings and people are still there, but it has lost so much of what made it very special. It has lost a feeling.
And seeing Ardmore with finally new restaurant destinations but no foot traffic and vibrancy on a Saturday night made me just shake my head. As I said earlier, Ardmore was one of those places where people would say hello to each other on the street as they passed by. Now there is this more transient nature, and a lot of that I think has to do with the infill development. The rental price points, like many other places, are off the charts, so people come, but they don’t stay.
I know this is kind of a mixed review of a visit to a place that I just loved so much once upon a time, but it just really disappoints me that Lower Merion Township just doesn’t really seem to give a crap about the Ardmore Historic Business District, even worse than before. What did we save Ardmore from when we stopped eminent domain for private gain years ago?
Small businesses need a lot of local love. If you are from outside Lower Merion, show Ardmore some love.
If we don’t support small businesses, they cease to exist and we are stuck with homogeneous box stores and chains. And if you live in Lower Merion Township still, I encourage people to stand up and not only demand a better police department but better township management and elected officials. What I saw last night wasn’t “first class” it was “We don’t care, just shut up and pay your taxes.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts with baby steps and standing up and caring. Use social media to show why Lower Merion needs to do better on so many fronts. It’s also time to question why the Ardmore Initiative exists. They obviously aren’t living up to their mission statement which of course also begs the question of do they deserve their non-profit status?
Discover something new in Main Street towns like Ardmore, and even West Chester and Malvern Borough. Discover what makes them tick. And if you don’t like something a municipality would be responsible for, hold local government accountable, don’t take it out on the small businesses.
They don’t publicize this the way they should and this is a great show this year!
This show benefits their outreach at Malvern Retreat House.
10 AM – 7 PM Saturday, February 4, 2023 10 AM – 4 PM Sunday, February 5, 2023
315 S. Warren Ave Malvern, PA and there is ample free parking onsite. #art #freeevent
Seriously, this show is so terrific! And the price points are better than Yellow Springs Art Show which I love as well. And some of the same and comparable artists. Some of my favorites include New Hope Stained Glass and the fused stained glass artist whose name escapes me.
The Malvern Retreat House Annual Art Show has more than 2,000 fine art pieces including paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, and so much more.
Yes, I have a list for you all. For Main Liners, it means going past Wayne and exploring. This is my in-person open regularly list. These are all businesses that I go to. I am a regular customer. I am not a monetized blogger, so these are just my fun spots.
Also more of a gallery space BUT it’s old and new and I love it and am a customer is located in one of the best places in Chester County, it’s The Merchant of Menace in Historic Marshallton located at 1351 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester. And one of my favorite vintage/antique sellers and jewelry designer/artist is in there, Reimagined Style. Reimagined Style also has occasional studio hours at 1440 Telegraph Road, West Chester BUT you need to contact them first, not just drop by- (484)- 319- 7806.
And last but never least, Life’s Patina in Malvern, which has select events throughout the year and is not a store, although they have a merchantile which will be opening in Yellow Springs Village soon!
At Christmas I had a Christmas calamity. I had this beautiful number 3 crock that I use as a planter. I had bought it from the Smithfield Barn a few years ago. It always lived inside the garage against the wall in the winter.
Right before Christmas, when my stepson was pulling one of the cars into the garage, he accidentally smashed it with his tire. I was pretty upset. I love my old crocks.
So I contacted my friends who are in the business of old things that I buy things from and said to let me know if you see an old number 3 crock I’ve had a calamity.
Today I got a text message from one of the folks at Sales by Helen. They were telling me my package was going to be dropped off soon. So I texted back because I hadn’t bought anything. And they said no you’re being gifted something. So then I wondered who was still spreading Christmas cheer right up to the end of Christmas season – well it is not Epiphany quite yet.
Well, it’s John Romani, who owns Sales by Helen.
A perfect old number 3 crock with a note:
I am totally in awe of the gesture of kindness. This is a small business owner in a very uncertain economy and this is why I support local small businesses. No, not for free stuff because they will tell you I am not a free stuff blogger.
This is quintessential of local small businesses. They know their customers, and they remember what their customers are looking for. They are our neighbors and friends as well.
Sales By Helen is a business I have supported since I first went to a Helen sale and met John’s mom Helen, years ago. I have all the things that I bought over the years still today. Not only do they do house sales and estate sales, but they also have online shopping available. And there is complementary delivery within a certain area and shipping.
A random act of kindness on a cloudy day. Thanks John and Company ❤️
About two years ago my friend David randomly (and finally) gave me his grandmother’s poundcake recipe. I hadn’t made it yet until today, and finally did so as I was thinking about him this morning.
We lost David this year to a tragic, and senseless accident caused by a stranger. He was literally hit by a car as a pedestrian. It was a particularly hard lost process, because this was one of my oldest friends. He was also just a tremendous human being, and one of those genuinely good people you feel very fortunate to have known.
I always think of David around Christmas, because we used to go for decades with our parents to the same Christmas party on Christmas Eve. We would congregate in the host’s library away from all the adults and hang out.
We also went to JDA and SDA together, AKA Junior and Senior Dancing Assemblies for those of you Who did not grow up in the Main Line area. I always wondered if they ever found the remains of old stale pretzels we shoved down the heating grates at Merion Tribute House in the lobby. We shared many laughs there as Mrs. Farber in her gold lamé evening gowns, and her aqua net shellacked hair tried to civilize all of us. Mostly for all of us, it was like a bloodsport, trying to make her blow her stack at every dance we went to.
We always stayed friends, losing a connection for a year or two here or there as we grew up and lives took us to different states and locations per-Internet/social media. But as friends, we always found our way back to each other. When social media came around, it made it much easier to stay connected and we would talk or message more often. And then there was the one time he finally sent me his grandmother’s pound cake recipe. She made it with currants and walnuts, which makes it in my mind a perfect Christmas cake.
I did not have any currants left after baking, so I substituted this raisin mix I get from Nuts.com. I also did add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It’s a straightforward recipe and it is not super sweet which I kind of like because Christmas cookies are so sugary.
I will admit, I was laughing when I was making the pound cake because it is a little bit labor-intensive given the nature of the batter. And I was laughing, because as I am creaming the butter, I’m getting stuff everywhere as I’m adding the sugar, then the eggs, and so on, and so forth. And my friend David was one of the neatest people I ever met, so I really was laughing.
I think in the end, it did not take quite two hours to bake this cake at 325°, but it did take probably an hour and a half and a few minutes.
It’s a wonderfully old-school buttery pound cake. For me, the 2 cups of eggs amounted to 9 raw eggs. Yes, you break them into a measuring cup.
Anyway, I don’t know if I will be posting more before Christmas or not. It’s been a weird year, and I hope you all enjoy your Christmas holiday with your loved ones and friends and family.
We also have our first fire in the woodstove tonight, and it is the perfect evening for it!
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.