We walked into the beautiful big old barn and it was truly magical at Life’s Patina today. Beautiful and Christmas festive in every nook and cranny. There are only a certain amount of people allowed in the barn at any one time and everyone must be wearing masks, and there is hand sanitizer everywhere you turn around. It’s a magical and safe experience in a COVID-19 world.
Meg and her merry band of elves outdid themselves! From little balsam wood houses that light up, to Christmas mice in velvet dresses and tree skirts for feather trees it was amazing! Sparkling ornaments everywhere and among my favorites? Very lovely mercury glass pinecones and marvelous modern reproductions of old German Kugel ornaments.
Mixed in with Christmas magic were all sorts of vintage and antique items. One of the things I liked best was downstairs in the barn on the big long farmhouse table was a vintage Grenadine bottle.
We loved every minute we were there, and preview guests were also given amazing gift bags to take home.
I love Christmas, everyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas and I loved today’s experience. You really should go if you can. Simply magical!
By appointment only. Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm, 1750 North Valley Road, Malvern, PA.
Soon little ceramic elves will be peeking from book shelves. Gnomes and Santas too. Maybe some nutcrackers. The tree will come to life with vintage and other ornaments. And Christmas baking season will begin.
But what will Christmas in the year of COVID19? Will we celebrate in tiny family pods? Will we celebrate. And what about that grinch holed up in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC? What about all the people who continue to be affected by COVID19 including now our former Chester County Sheriff?
So yes, finding my Christmas spirit has been a little challenging this year. There has been a little bah humbug in the air. Usually about now we are planning a Christmas party. But not this year. We won’t even see our entire family this Christmas. Too many people from too many places. That bums me out.
All of our Christmas celebrations will be quieter this year undoubtedly. But we do need to find our Christmas spirit!!!
Yes, even though I had recently discovered a couple of cool little Santas for a table, my Christmas spirit has been struggling.
Until yesterday. Yesterday my friend Kristin had her business’s open house. It was very different than previous years. We were timed, it was super small, we had to wear masks, and there was hand sanitizer. But there was still Christmas magic every which way I looked. She said sometimes we just have to believe and she’s so right!
Yesterday at the Smithfield Barn we were treated to a vintage Christmas. Totally magical so keep an eye out for more small, socially distanced pop-ups. Also check out what my other favorite elf Lisa has planned at Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford! And you can’t forget Life’s Patina starts spreading holiday cheer next week and Meg is another favorite elf who always seems to know what I am looking for!
Also things that you won’t see this Christmas would be the open house I usually have for my friends to promote another friend’s business. But as luck would have it my friend Alice has two fabulous websites to showcase her products:
Also to be considered is Past*Present*Future in Ardmore. Owned by my friend Sherry, you can shop safely with a mask in the store or buy things online! An artist by training, she has an amazing I and hers is a store that you go in and marvel at everything she has collected for her customers. It’s a beautiful place! And if you’re more comfortable shopping remotely right now you can do that too.
The last three places I am mentioning today are also special to me an run by friends as well. Clover Market has pivoted to online due to COVID19 and Janet has curated an amazing collection of things and they offer free shipping! Shopping Clover 🍀 has never been easier.
Second to last would be King’s Haven in Paoli which is not just an amazing interior design destination, but has a remarkably beautiful collection of art and gifts. All due to my talented friend Lauren.
Finally, there is Framers Market Gallery in Malvern, Newtown Square, and Haverford. Yes Jayne and Dave are friends, but I am a devoted customer and not just for the framing business. They rep some amazing local artists! And to me one of the best gifts you can give anyone for Christmas or the holidays is the gift of art!
Yesterday I realized part of finding our Christmas magic means #ShopLocal and #ShopSmall as well. So I hope you find lovely presents at some of these places and they are all places I am just a regular customer of. They won’t even know I have mentioned their business until I hit publish on this post. As a customer I like to pay it forward.
So I know this is going to be a holiday season like no other. But we do have to believe in the magic of the season.
Shop local, support small businesses wherever you live!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.