the holidays aren’t a hallmark movie, and that is o.k.

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The holidays are hard for people even when you aren’t a holidays-are-hard-person. You always want them to be perfect, yet they rarely are at all.  It’s human nature and accepting we don’t live in a Hallmark movie set.

Thanksgiving is the seasonal kick-off to weeks of we want familial perfection. Only have you met a perfect family? I haven’t.

The holidays are romanticized and commercialized to such an extent that we think we have to be perfect every year or the world might end as we know it. I am no exception.

Last Thanksgiving was the year of the turkey that would not cook.  My husband wanted to put it in the oven at one time, and me another. In the end he had his time choice and then it was like a comedy of errors courtesy of the turkey gods.  We ate late, and had turkey consternation.

Please note that according to Sunset Magazine:

For a 10-13 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 350° oven for 1 1/2-2 1/4 hr.

For a 14-23 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 2-3 hr.

For a 24-27 lb. turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3-3 3/4 hr.

For a 28-30 lb turkey (weight with giblets): Bake in a 325° oven for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hr.

Times are for unstuffed birds. A stuffed bird may cook at the same rate as an unstuffed one; however, be prepared to allow 30 to 50 minutes longer. While turkeys take about the same time to roast in regular and convection heat, a convection oven does a better job of browning the bird all over.

 

This year we are starting the turkey earlier and I think I am doing the dressing outside of the turkey.  This year, I also need help since I have managed to tear the meniscus in my other knee.  When I tore my meniscus in the other knee a couple of years ago, my meniscus waited until well after the holidays.

Translation?  I will also need more help at Christmas and I won’t be cooking dinner for around 14 people.  Maybe having that break is a good thing, but I actually like doing Christmas dinner. Cooking for people at Christmas is one of my favorite presents to give.

This also means I will be decorating differently. And more simply. It might kill me. No not really, but my inner Christmas elf might revolt. Sigh…and fewer kinds of Christmas cookies will be baked too.

Asking for help and knowing you need help is not the easiest realization.  Again, I am definitely no exception. But I guess when you need it, it’s a lesson in working together and trust. Admitting I will need some help this time around for the holidays is maddening. Trust me. There is so much to do.

The other thing about the holidays is giving back.  How do you give back? Do you volunteer at a shelter? Cook meals for the less fortunate? Donate to a toy drive? I don’t think it matters what or how much you do as long as you pay it forward in some small way. And it doesn’t have to be publicized for thousands of atta’ boys or atta’ girls, just do it to pay the magic in this season forward.

And back to the Hallmark movie versions of the holidays.  I love my Hallmark Christmas movies, don’t misunderstand me.  But it’s a little unrealistic. From the apartments and homes that 20-something characters  have (in places like New York City and Chicago no less!), to the always perfect hair, perfect coupling up and don’t forget Hallmark movie characters don’t have sex ever, or show too much boob in their Christmas party dresses…it’s like life in a snow globe.

A delightful time warp bubble that transports us for a while from everyday life. But hey now, everyday life is not so bad, flaws and all.  And we all have to acknowledge and accept as nice as those saccharine sweet made for TV holiday moments are, do we really want to trade that for our own realities? I mean sure it would be especially nice if the kitchen cleaned up itself magically after holiday meals, but as for the rest of it? Maybe let it inspire a tablescape or other decorations, but don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself.  I know because somehow I do it every year.  Holiday Perfectionists Anonymous come on down!

Image result for norman rockwell holiday angelThis year I aim to be a little different.  It might kill me, but I will try. Meanwhile, I will be sure to look for all the perfect holiday tableaux as seen on social media, knowing full well reality might be a lot different.

Don’t Botox your holiday social media.  It’s actually o.k. to be less than perfect, look less than perfect. And I have to laugh because any time I personally express a less than perfect social media persona it starts.

“Are you ok?”

“Did you see what she posted?”

Lord love a duck, it’s quite all right to be human.  Have a bad day occasionally. My plastic surgeon and professional stylists tribe are on vacay, ok? Sometimes I do not have a village, and it’s just me not wearing make-up…. (a cardinal sin in the eyes of my mother who told us never to go to the grocery store without lipstick years ago.)

And the holiday race for more social media “friends”? Oh resist. The real ones are so much better. Truth.  I have started turning people down and culling the herd. I don’t need neighbors of people I barely know as friends and if I did not like you in high school and you didn’t like me, well not to be mean but why do I need to be part of your people collection?

And that is what I always find fascinating about social media.   The fakeness of it. Especially when you know it’s so far removed from the truth.  And that fakeness factor increases around the holidays because so many people have a hard time for a multitude of reasons.

So I guess I am saying slow down and appreciate what we have in this world. You don’t have to fake it until you make it. You can admit you love the holidays knowing it might have a couple of flaws.

Love the holidays for what they are. Don’t resent them for what they aren’t.

And pay it forward.

Enjoy the magic of the season.  It’s totally there when you stop stressing over perfection. Have you seen my lipstick? I need to go to the grocery store…..

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seasonal books

Books. I love books. I love the touch, the feel, and the smell of books.

I am a bookworm. I always have been a bookworm. I married a bookworm.

I have some books that appear around now this year I have four new ones. Only one is an actual new book. And that is Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnarvon.  It is a beautiful book and it has some pretty good recipes too.

The three other books I picked up in my travels throughout the year.

One is a 1960s edition of Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier. (excerpt below)

“…Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends—the few
Who yet remain—shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Or lilies floating in some pond,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air….”

Another is called The Flight of The Snow Goose by Berniece Freschet.

The final book is a really cool one that’s A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore illuminated by his daughter Mary C. Ogden.

And yes,  I have my Dickens and a wonderful Nutcracker book by ETA Hoffman illustrated by Maurice Sendak. But these are my new additions to the seasonal books that will live on my coffee table.

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west whiteland: development and crumbling history?

Along S. Whitford Road. I have photographed this before. It continues to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, turn the corner onto Creamery Way I think it is and you see:

It’s like in West Whiteland there is a race to develop every square inch into homogeneous Tyvec wrapped insanity…while history rots.

Surely Chester County deserves better?

pickles and pine cones

I have a vintage ornament problem. As in I love them.  Among my favorites are pinecones.

I have in my ornaments that I have collected mercury glass pinecones that are Ukrainian, Russian, German, Czechoslovakian, and from the United States. I even have some mid century Japan-made pinecones.

I buy them for how they look to me and their color and often their size. I like to have a range of sizes because if you look in nature pinecones on a tree come in a range of sizes.

Above are three vintage ones I bought recently. Below are some others I acquired recently along with acorns and other shapes:

Pine cones are something my late father always put on the Christmas tree along with mercury glass birds. As I have written before, he always did silver and gold Christmas trees so his most hung mercury glass pinecones were in those colors.

After my father died when my mother gave me some of the ornaments she actually gave me a box of blue mercury glass pinecones both large and small. I love the bright aqua color, and they now go on my tree every year along with his other pine cones. And they look brand new because he never used them!

On my own I have collected mercury glass pine cones of every color except white. I have been on the hunt lately for the green mercury glass pine cones but I find them hard to come by. As a matter of fact, it seems like vintage pinecone ornaments have become quite collectible in general because when I do find them I often pass them over because I think they are just too expensive.

What else goes on my tree besides glass birds and pine cones? A couple of mercury glass pickles among other things!

Hanging the glass pickle ornament on a Christmas tree is a custom that some say stems from people hiding one one their tree on Christmas Eve and the child who found the pickle first got an extra present or getting to open the first present. Others attribute hanging a glass pickle on your Christmas tree as being a symbol of good luck. 

People attribute hanging the Christmas pickle on your tree as being a German tradition. Except article after article I have read says they’re actually isn’t such a tradition in Germany and a lot of people think it was an age old marketing ploy when glass German ornaments started being imported into this country!

And F.W. Woolworth was credited with being the American retailer who started importing German glass ornaments around 1880. And people continue to write about German-made pickle ornaments being created for the export market, not necessarily the Christmas trees of native Germans.

So sadly it seems the tales of Weihnachtsgurke is just a 19th century advertising ploy that took off. But I don’t care. I love my Christmas pickles anyway! I have German, American, and Ukrainian mercury glass Christmas pickle ornaments.

I recently purchased a new old mercury glass pickle. Made in the Ukraine. Mid-century is what I was told as far as the age goes. I also purchased two more for a friend of mine who liked my new old pickle.

What ornaments will you be hanging on your Christmas tree this year?

holiday rambling: harman’s cheese and country store in sugar hill, nh

Many, many, many, many years ago my family would go to Vermont some years for vacation. A friend of my late father’s had a house in Bondville, Vermont which was half-way up one of the access roads to Stratton Mountain.

We weren’t skiers, we would go in the “off-season” or summer. Bondville is a little spit of a town and the house was nestled in the middle of nowhere in the woods. You would see all sorts of nature go by, and not many people. It was a big ski house, so we would bring friends and my parents would bring friends.

One year, one of my then best friends came with us. It was long before anyone was married except for my sister, or had kids. My friend and I would wander and explore on our own. She had come with me also because there was a special side trip I agreed to take with her to New Hampshire. She wanted to pay her respects at the grave site of a friend of hers who had passed away. Her friend had died under sad circumstances and I am not sure why he was buried in Sugar Hill Cemetery (also known as Sunnyside Cemetery), but that’s where his family placed him.

This was the time of only old school maps and asking for directions. There was no Google maps or Waze. We got lost several times en route to the cemetery. This was the trip when I also went barn picking for the first time.

After we visited the cemetery and my friend left her letter for her departed friend, we went exploring.

One of the first things we discovered down a windy country road in New Hampshire was an old farmer with a couple of barns. One of these barns (and it was huge, one of the biggest barns I have ever been in) was chock full of antiques and collectibles. It was a dirty and dusty old barn and was like an episode of American Pickers, before there ever was American Pickers. I dickered with the owner for some pink porcelain tea cups for my friend.

We discovered many other places that day including a wonderfully beautiful old small hotel with a lovely golf course called Sunset Hill House. Not too far from Sunset Hill House we discovered Harman’s Cheese and Country Store for the first time.

I still remember the visit like it was yesterday. A real old school country general store. Wood floors that creaked underfoot and all. The people running the store couldn’t have been nicer. We bought amazing white cheddar cheese, maple sugar candy, and maple syrup. And I signed up for a mailing list I have now kept my name on for decades.

Harman’s still sells the best cheddar cheese ever. Their cheese is my absolute favorite and they also sell my second runner up favorite, Grafton Village a Cheese from Grafton, Vermont. Grafton’s cheese store at that time was accessed via a dirt country road. Grafton’s cheddar is my mother’s favorite, but I still like Harman’s best. And still today, Harman’s cheese can only be ordered from them versus Grafton’s cheese which shows up at specialty cheese sections even around here.

But one of the things that keeps me ordering from Harman’s is their old school tiny paper catalog that gets mailed in a little envelope with an annual letter from the owner. It’s a throwback to the letters most people used to send with Christmas cards. I love that!

Some day I hope to get back to visit Harman’s in person. They are part of my annual holiday traditions. You can find them in person in Sugar Hill, NH, on their website, and on Facebook.

I know we have many fine cheese makers here in Chester County, but Harman’s Cheese and Country Store is a delightful small business with wonderful products. We don’t have many of these businesses left, no matter where the location.

Thanks for stopping by.

a christmas moose

Isn’t he cool? A friend of mine’s aunt makes these imaginative Christmas creatures. I have some of her reindeer and I have a couple of her Santas and now I have a moose.

He’s just a stuffed little guy he’s about 12 inches tall and he’ll hang out at Christmas.

I blame Hallmark and the other channels running Christmas movies. But it’s a happy thing in the midst of a country that seems perpetually miserable at this point given the political climate.

More Christmas, less politics. Pass it on.