christmas traditions, baking, and even a miracle

As I have mentioned in previous years on this blog, in our neighborhood we have our own little tradition. We leave each other a little gift. I delivered mine yesterday and so did my one next-door neighbor, and bit by bit there are more little surprises appearing on our doorsteps in time for Christmas. We know these elves well, they are our neighbors. And this is one of my favorite Christmas traditions since moving to this neighborhood.

The neighborhood behind us does luminaries up and down their street on Christmas Eve. We see it through our woods from upstairs and it’s so lovely to look at!

I have done my baking including the Christmas stollen. This year I tried a new recipe using sourdough starter and oh and how it did rise! I did deviate slightly because I filled mine with marzipan.

I also made Lebkuchen for the first time. I could not find those German wafers you are supposed to use so I used a King Arthur recipe that makes them like bar cookies. This is the case with many king Arthur recipes I have discovered over the years I have had to tweak it. Their recipe was very dry and it omitted powdered anise which most other recipes contain. You don’t use a lot just a little smidgen. To combat the dryness of the dough, and I added about four or 5 tablespoons of buttermilk. The dough also completely crumbled apart once I was able to start to roll it the next day so I ended up pressing it into the pan. But it did turn out well and I added more liquid to the glaze because 2 tablespoons of brandy was not enough. I actually used about 4. I actually used a local Brandy that is apple brandy from Manatawny Still Works .

I will note I tried to tell King Arthur flour about the issues in their recipe and they were kind of ridiculous about it. Told me maybe I lived in a dry high altitude climate. (Umm no, live in Chester County, PA) and then they had to tell me how maybe I let some extra flower “slip into the bowl”. Umm no again so I will just tell you all my workarounds.

I didn’t get around to my anisette cookies or biscotti this year, but I baked a whole bunch of still traditional Christmas cookies. Big soft ginger cookies, sugar cookies, a couple different kind of chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and white chocolate oatmeal cookies. On one batch of the chocolate chip cookies I was in too much of a rush and I forgot to add the eggs. So they ended up like chocolate chip lace cookies. Still perfectly edible.

Now for my Christmas miracle. I just found out that one of my growing up friends who lives in upstate New York just emerged from a coma. She was in a coma for the past two months.

It was kind of freaky the way I found out I just had this weird feeling because I hadn’t heard from her and we usually speak every couple of months. I thought about her a few days ago because I heard the old Kansas song “dust in the wind”. She and one other person I know from high school loved that song. And then the other day she just popped into my head and I realized I hadn’t heard from her.

I went to call her cell phone and the call just dropped and went nowhere. So I went to social media and saw that her brother had posted she’s been in a coma and was awake. So thanks to Facebook I was able to message and then video chat with her yesterday. That makes her the official Christmas miracle. She literally could have never ever woken up.

It was one of those things where everyone who knew thought those of us who did not know knew, only we didn’t. She was even a story in a newspaper in Auburn, NY that contains a link to a Go Fund Me to help with expenses. Yes she has health insurance, but another thing happened to her while she was in a coma for two months: somebody who went to “visit her“ in the hospital made off with her cell phone and the bank card that was tucked inside the case that no one knew was there.

As she told me yesterday this person essentially cloned her identity, emptied her bank account, and sold her expensive phone to one of those we buy used phone places near her. That apparently was caught on some kind of security camera I guess it was in a mall. As I am told the police have not apprehended this person yet but Karma is a bitch and they should just turn themselves in. I mean how do you do that to somebody in a coma? I hope as an additional Christmas present somebody turns that person in, and I think that if the phone was sold at a place that buys used phones, obviously that store knows who they are and they should come forward because that cell phone contained photos of her son who passed away a couple years ago and also of her late mother.

But for the grace of God go any of us, and his Christmas day is now literally right around the corner, I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed Christmas. I also hope everyone is safe because Covid is on the rise again.

If I don’t post again, I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas.

holiday landmines…and other thoughts

Today was the day I had slated to address our Christmas Cards. It will have to wait until tomorrow. I hit a holiday landmine this afternoon.

I received a few Christmas cards, and ever the Christmas card addressing procrastinator, I thought I would open them. Well one was a note from a friend who lost their spouse. They said something along the lines is the problem with looking at photos is you can’t hold hands with it.

That just made me stop. So beautiful and yet so sad and heart-breaking and tragic a sentiment. It made me remember the breadth and depth of their love. And I know there are others out there in my friend group who is having the same emotional struggles right now.

So I thought to myself, tomorrow is another day and I will do the cards then.

It made me think of last week when I was getting out more of the Christmas ornaments. Every year I know these boxes containing some of my late father’s ornaments are in a certain ornament tub in the attic. Every year the boxes fall apart a little more, and the handwriting fades a little more. And every year, I am a puddle for a few minutes all over again when I see them. And I remember when the boxes were newer and sturdy. And the handwriting bold and definite.

Christmas is magical. And often bittersweet. And sometimes it can be sad within the beauty of the season. I know quite a few people this year who will be spending the holidays with one person down in their lives. Someone who completed their circle in some way.

We need to take a beat and pause during this time of year. These are the things that are actually important — those who remain and those who have left us. Christmas memories. Keeping old and good memories and making new ones while remembering those who are no longer here.

All of this occurred to me today as those twisted Stepford Wives in the local chapter of “Moms for Liberty” who released their book burning list I guess recently (or it surfaced again in time for Christmas?) The list includes The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Outlander by Diana Galbadon, Forever by Judy Blume (which they were flipping out about when I was a kid), Beloved by Toni Morrison.

The funniest bad book was 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James which literally made me laugh because the kids are probably stealing it from their mother’s bedside table – and yes that book is total trash. And of course all of the books that are geared towards kids who may be LGBTQIA are always bad, and well let’s sprinkle the world with extra racism at Christmas to show how Christian they all are. But let’s not forget as soon as you tell a kid something is BAD, they want to know all about it.

All I can think is how can these people have such sad, narrow-minded lives? And then my mind goes back to people I know who are struggling this Christmas season. As my friend Tom said:

“The most moronic group name I’ve seen in a while. They don’t know what they want to believe and others to follow. Liberty defined is, “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” So by asking authority to impose restrictions on freedoms is insane.”

I don’t know what it will take for people to wake up in our world and realize being different is what makes us unique. It makes us individuals. It makes us human. And these oddly empowered people who worship still at the altar of extremism in politics Just.Don’t.Get.It.

People in this country and in other countries have lost so much over the past couple of years, can’t they just take a beat, take a breath and remember what this season is supposed to be about? They are as bad as the Scrooge neighbors of Castlebar Lane in Willistown who were nothing short of miserable at the meeting the other night where the township announced the settlement agreement with Wildflower Farm.

I just don’t get people. I want to think some of these people may also find the holiday season difficult except they seem to be like this all of the time, right?

Christmas is in 10 days. Can we be kind and supportive of those who need it and stop all the extraneous B.S.? (And that includes the crazy rage-o-riffic impatient driving patterns everywhere.)

But oh yes! Before I forget: HUMOR. The Christmas star on this local tree has had too much Egg Nog, apparently:

That reminds me of the tree we had as a kid that my mother swore had spinal meningitis. It looked all perfect on the lot and we got it home and it leaned at such an angle that my father put it in a corner and kind of leaned it against the wall so people didn’t notice as much!

Personally, I miss my father and my great aunts and my brother in law and my maternal grandmother at Christmas. These are the people who loved Christmas even more than me I think. And they always made it fun…even if decorating a tree with my father could be maddening because he had a specific ORDER to adding ornaments to the tree. And I just realized now that I *think* I do the same thing. So that just made me smile.

Well that brings another rambling stream of consciousness to an end.

Try loving one and other for at least a short while? Life is short, it’s Christmas.

Bah humbug to all Christmas crabs and to all a good night.

christmas is ON at frazer antiques!

Frazer Antiques located at 351 Lancaster Ave in Frazer/Malvern is ready for your visit! They also have a 15% off sale until December 31, 2021!

Look at this gorgeous platter!

Frazer Antiques is one of my favorite haunts all times of the year, but there is something magical about an antique store at Christmas! There are so many great vintage ornaments and they are reasonably priced. There are also all sorts of little things to tempt you and catch your eye!

Here is something I found yesterday which is happy in my house now:

Isn’t that little crèche amazing? It’s vintage Oberammergau made in Germany! I was psyched to find it!

Frazer Antiques has friendly staff who are also among the many antiques dealers who fill the store with delightful treasures. As a matter fact I found out yesterday that one of the dealers is someone I went to high school with that I did not know had a stall there !

I hope all of you will take a minute to patronize another local business here in Chester County that’s really lovely.

Frazer Antiques is open pretty much every day 10 AM to 5 PM. 351 Lancaster Avenue Malvern/Frazer. Plenty of free parking in the front and then behind the shop! (610)-651-8299

They ask that the unvaccinated to please be considerate and wear a mask inside. And they have plenty of hand sanitizer right as you walk in the door.

Please note, I was not asked to create this post or take photos, nor was I compensated in any way, shape, or form. I love this local business and merely believe in #ShopSmall #ShopLocal #PayItForward

magnolia cottage shop in malvern is looking magical and holiday bright!

Last year none of us were out much because of COVID19. This year we are taking baby steps. It is sometimes disconcerting being out because face it, we are not used to it. I think that’s why I appreciate the small businesses in our area even more.

One of my favorites, Magnolia Cottage Shop is all decked out for Christmas and Kathy the owner has gone out of her way to make it so wonderful and welcoming. The shop is full of so many fun things right now, I could have stayed far longer than I did!

I found a few things I loved including this little vintage Annalee white elf. I don’t know much about these Christmas collectibles, I have a couple of friends that love them so I have gotten a few here and there over the years and I think this one is a Frosty! He looks really cute on my tree!

Magnolia Cottage Shop has something for everyone and one of my other favorite things were the vintage Pimpernel Santa placemats:

Magnolia Cottage Shop is located at 288 Lancaster Avenue Frazer/Malvern PA 19355. They are closed Mondays. See website and Facebook and Instagram for more!

festive and wonderful marshallton!!

This afternoon started at The Cottage Shop in Marshallton. It’s a lovely little spot which is only open a few times a year, and it is something I missed during COVID19. This little gem is on W. Strasburg Rd not too far down from The Four Dogs Tavern.

Then it was off to the front porch of The Marshalton Inn for a Holiday Artisan Market with Re-Imagined Style and others. (They are there until 3:30 PM then it’s all hands on deck as they get ready to light the tree and welcome Santa to one of my favorite and so historic villages! The tree lighting is at historic Martin’s Tavern at 4 PM and festivities run until 6 PM!

Our last stop was The Four Dogs Tavern for lunch and to get some more Four Dogs swag (T-shirts, they make great gifts!)

Four Dogs Tavern is one of my favorite places. The atmosphere is awesome, and the food is always very good. I was very amused today after lunch when I had stepped outside and was waiting for my husband and this small group of Trendy Wendys stepped out of the Four Dogs and one said to the other “Well it looks like an old building I guess.”

Wisely I said nothing. But in my head, I was definitely rolling my eyes because oh that building has history!

If you are interested in more of the history of this area or would like to support the history, please check out The Marshallton Conservation Trust website.

Although we didn’t make any other stops we ended up coming through the Borough of West Chester which is also getting all gussied up for the holidays and looks very festive.

I will note that I decided to go to Marshallton today on my own and I was not asked to write anything, nor am I being compensated for my opinions.

There’s lots to love in Chester County this Christmas! Go exploring!

the little christmas things

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
— W.T. Ellis

For years I have been hunting for a mistletoe ball like the one that hung from a chandelier in our house when I was really little. I have seen some from time to time, but they were never quite right.

Until today. And it was like a friend of mine reached decades into the past and pulled it forward. I have found the doppelgänger of the one from my childhood!

I hung my new old mistletoe ball on a chandelier that may have hosted the original one in my parents house in the 1960s.

It’s such a simple thing and really gave me some extra Christmas spirit today.

Thanks for stopping by.

december 1st musings

Well dear readers, it is December 1st. 2021 is in the home stretch.

And what a year it has been. More crazy politics and the COVID-19 of it all still lurks, now with a new variant just in time for Christmas: “Omnicron”. (Who names these things? The hurricane namers?)

In some regards it has been a good year, in some regards rather difficult.

For me it has been a year of personal loss. A friend I had since 7th grade left this earth literally right after we did the memorial service for another friend I had since the 10th grade and lost during 2020. They were tough losses for me. Then almost too close together two friends from adulthood, and I wouldn’t have ever met one, had I not known the other. Then a favorite cousin, and two of the ladies who were part and parcel of happy memories of childhood and Society Hill…and whom I had seen throughout adulthood. The older we get, every now and again the fabric of our lives snags and pulls at our heart and memories.

I will admit parts of this year just got to me. Sometimes for different reasons. Yet here we are, entering into the Christmas season, one of my favorite times of the year. It makes up for me missing all the months of mad gardening, which still make me look out of the window to wonder what everything will look like when it comes up next year.

2021 was a year I definitely marveled at people…like the woman who posted the photo of me on Facebook in a hospital gown during October (AKA “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”). The photo was from either right before my 2011 surgery or just after but before I started treatment. More recently, is this rather obsessive and wound guy who is running around social media calling me a “shill for CVS” because I had posted information I had learned because I had the initiative to go to CVS corporate and tell them how bad things were here and ask what they were going to do about it. Once again I have to say, I am not paid to do these things and am not a compensated blogger.

2021 was us getting back to trying to feel normal and see friends and family. But I have to ask, who else almost has a panicky feeling if they are somewhere where a lot of people are? Or even if it is not a lot of people it feels like a lot of people? Of course now we are getting into corporate Christmas party season. I do not miss those days and wouldn’t be going if I was still a teeny cog in a large corporate wheel.

2021 is a year where the hangover of 2020 politics haunted us all year long. I expect these politics will haunt us for a very long time. I miss some whom I consider friends, but who don’t seem to have time for me now that they consider me ” super liberal” which I am still truly not. But I can’t and won’t conform to Stepford Wife style politics or herd mentality and follow the sheeple. Simply not my jam, and those who truly know me have no problem with that no matter what their politics are. I wonder will we ever be able to have civil political conversations again some day?

2021 was feeling like I was under siege as a blogger at times. I have been blogging long before it was commonplace and I will never understand why I am so, shall we say, “fascinating” to some? I am not so unusual, I actually quite ordinary. Is having a point of view that doesn’t have to be crowdsourced first on Facebook so unusual?

2021 was a year I cherished my family and friends even more than ever. But there for the Grace of God, go I. When you look at what others are going through, you do quite literally count your blessings. Life is not a Hallmark Christmas movie with a hero at the end and a happy ending, but it’s not so bad, and I am blessed. A phrase I don’t use often like tossing bits of popcorn into the air. But this year marks my 10th year surviving breast cancer among other things.

For all of us, it has felt like an eternity since our world went upside down in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. And honestly, I don’t feel we are out of the woods yet. And please, save your conspiracy theories like the one I heard last weekend when someone said to me that the people spreading COVID-19 were all the people who got their shots. And that, friends is one of the more irritating as hell aspects of 2021: it has been the year of the anti-masker/anti-vaxxer. By all means, keep protesting in front of malls and such, just stay out of my way. And don’t tell me I am wrong if I wear a mask somewhere. I hate wearing masks, but sometimes you just have to.

Now I am going to turn my attention towards getting my decorations up for Christmas. I am excited to be able to share this holiday season with some of my family. Nothing huge, but it will be Christmas.

I am, however, amused by somewhat extended family whom I have not heard from since way before COVID -19 hit inquiring as to Christmas plans. I would be offended, but that would require more head space than it deserves. Yes, it’s Christmas but umm where have you been? Some people sadly have no sense of their own optics based on behavior. You can’t always ask, sometimes you have to give.

Today I marked December 1st by having a photo taken with Santa. Nope sorry, that is my photo for my Christmas memories, but he was a rather marvelous Santa as you can see in the photo.

Seeing a Santa today really made me believe in the magic of Christmas. Here’s hoping we all have a magical season sprinkled with happiness. (And if you use Spotify listen to their just released list of what we listened to in 2021 – I like my list so far!)

Ho ho ho and thanks for stopping by.

santa says all good elves should stop at brandywine view antiques…

Yes… today I could wait no longer, I had to go to Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford to see what Lisa has cooked up for holidays 2021!

It’s three floors of festive fun and Fa La La La.

I am writing this post because I am a happy customer and have been for years. I have not been asked to do this…I just want to pay forward the Christmas spirit and say #ShopSmall

Brandywine View Antiques is located at 1244 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. They are open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM.

vintage christmas, anyone?

Yes that looks like an old sleigh above because it is!! A 19th century sleigh!

Where? One of my favorite places on earth any time of the year, but especially at Christmas: The Smithfield Barn in Downingtown on Little Conestoga Road, just outside of Eagle.

This is their vintage Christmas weekend and it’s full of holiday magic. A fun assortment of Pennsylvania found pieces with vintage and antique finds and an amazing assortment of vintage Christmas ornaments and decorations. It is an every year stop at this point. I alway get amazing ornaments including vintage Polish and Ukrainian and German Mercury glass ornaments.

The Smithfield Barn is not a store, it’s a picking barn and doesn’t have “retail hours”. You will however, find the proprietress at antique shows and high end vintage and antique markets. But she is the ultimate Christmas elf this time of year and when you step inside those big barn doors you never know what you find!

Bring a jacket and wear shoes suitable for a barn, and check out this Saturday, November 13th from 12 pm to 4 pm and Sunday, November 14th from 12 pm to 4 pm. 425 Little Conestoga Road, Downingtown, PA.