Decorating · Family · Gift Giving · Holiday

Christmas Traditions and my obsession with lists.

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I love Christmas.  I always have.  There is the sense of anticipation, the arrival of family, feasting on good food, and, of course, Santa!  This weekend I started decorating for the season and making lists.  List, plural, there as in a gift list, a stocking list, a card list, a grocery list for the makings of cookies and cheese straws.  LOL standing for lots of lists is how I make it through the season.  If it is not on a list, it’s not bought or done.  I confess, I don’t know how my Mom ever did it.

There are traditions that I love to repeat every year and one of them is sugar cake.  This is a delicacy from Old Salem or Dewey’s Bakery that is a bread only made with mashed potatoes, sugar and spices that was always part of Christmas morning.  Christmas morning was always delayed first until it reached 6 am and was appropriate to wake everyone in the house, then for the fire to be started in the fireplace, and, finally, for my Dad to make eggnog and coffee for the adults to enjoy while we opened presents and Santa.  This was a compromise for my Dad’s side of the family as Mom’s side celebrated Christmas (or the opening of presents) following midnight mass on Christmas Eve with wine, cheese and sausage balls.  My mother beautifully melded the two customs with the sausage balls and cheese straws following Christmas Eve services and the opening of presents with sugar cake and eggnog on Christmas morning. Mom was excellent at melding the favorite things of both sides of the family so everyone had what they wanted.  She would have been a wonderful diplomat!

The Christmas stocking is another list venture.  Each member of the household has their own sock to be hung by the fire.  This includes the quadrupeds.  If you saw my sock list you would laugh, sudoku and puzzle books, candy and fruit, dog treats and toys, gadgets to amuse, batteries for those receiving presents requiring batteries and anything amusing I might discover along the way.  I confess, socks are often my favorite part of Christmas.  One of my favorite childhood memories is my Grandfather pulling out the longest stocking I’d ever seen for “Santa” to fill.

So many wonderful memories and so many lists.

Food · Gift Giving · Holiday · Travel

Christmas Markets in Prague

 

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Christmas Markets, to me, are a distinctly European thing.  For the last few years, I’ve begun my Christmas festivities with a trip to a Christmas market.  Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Prague for their markets.  What an amazing city!

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I stayed in a hotel near the Astronomical clock.  The Prague clock dates to the early 1400’s and is one of the oldest in the world.  Every hour as it chimes there is a show of figures of the apostles and other figures including death move in rotation.  The clock is beautiful and sits on a square with a wonderful market.  The street food was excellent with kabobs of chicken and peppers, cinamon and sugar spirals of dough, and these wonderful sticks of spiral sliced potatoes like chips freshly fried for your delight.  It was easy to make a meal while wandering around.  The castle grounds also held their own market.  I discovered the most beautiful blown glass at one of the booths there along with fun toys and more excellent food.

I’d not see the live animals at a Christmas market before.  I loved the stables with sheep, donkey, and cows for petting.  What a wonderful nod to the Christmas Story plus the animals were fun to pet.

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On the dessert side of things, I must mention the gingerbread and hot chocolate.  The ginger cookies were to die for but the hot chocolate was simply out of this world.  Imagine walking around the city for a couple of hours in 30 degree weather and deciding you need to warm up with a cup of something hot.  I spied Amorino’s which presented as a coffee, dessert, chocolate shop.  My hot chocolate was delicious.  It was thick to the point that a spoon could stand up by itself.  I “cut” the dense chocolate with a side serving of vanilla macaroons, also fabulous.  My cup was on the small side which was perfect as the chocolate was rich, thick, and oh so chocolatey.  Whipped creme would have been an excellent addition.  By the time I left, I was warm and full.

I wondered the streets for hours checking out local crafts and artisans.  I discovered delightful bells in the shape of Santa and beautiful glass.  From the church of St. Nicholas, to the Castle, to the Charles Bridge, to the Old Town, the city is easily walkable with something different to see on every street.

If you are in to high fashion, all the designer shops are there as well from Cartier, to Hermes, to Dior.  My favorite souvenirs were the glass balls I purchased from a vendor at the Castle market made by using a medieval process and the wooden flying plane from the Old Town market.  A few Santa bells also came home with me for friends and family.

All in all it was the perfect start to the season.  Lights, trees, concerts, and crafts.  What’s not to like?  I had such fun that I’m off to Christmas markets again, this time not in Prague but what will I find in my new markets?

 

 

 

 

 

Gift Giving · Holiday

Finding that perfect gift for the season, a few of my favorite things!

With Thanksgiving  tomorrow and soon to be over, I am ready to dive into Christmas.  I absolutely love Christmas.  Decorating the house, the tree, the shopping, the giving.  I’m funny about gift giving.  I don’t just want to buy something and hand it over for the occasion.  I want to find something special for the individual, something that I think they will like, something that makes them feel like I put thought into purchasing just the thing for them.  This year I’m taking a cue from my Cuz who shared something of herself with me for my birthday.  So this year for my gift guide, I’m thinking of my favorite things and how they might be a special something for one of the dear people on my Christmas list.

A few of my favorite things:

1.  Personalized note pads – who doesn’t need a notepad to jot down a reminder list or a note or message?  Why not make it unique by adding a name or initials?  Paper Source and Horchow are my go to stores for stationary.

2.  Calendars – I still like a fun calendar.  Inslee by Design is a go to for me with three options now, the Calendar Girls (my fav), the animals, and food.  What isn’t to love and they come with their own easel.

3.  Scented candles – Jo Malone and Diptyque are two of my favorites.  What is better for Pamper Sunday than a bubble bath with candle and a glass of wine?

4.  Scented soaps – Jo Malone is my go to but I also look for lavender soaps from Provence.

5.  A monogrammed tote – My favorite is from LL Bean.  Their totes come in multiple sizes and colors and may be monogrammed.

6.  A duffel bag for the traveler – The options abound for a duffel from Longchamp to Louis find the one that will fit your traveler.

7.  Jewel case from Leontine Linens – This is one of my favorite things.  I love Leontine Linens.  Their linens are fabulous.  I have a set of lingerie bags and the matching jewel case.   They are constantly in use for travel and I’ve gifted friends with their own custom monogrammed set.  The best yet is they are made to order so you can design exactly what you want for that special person.  Note they have a lead time so think about this one early.

8.  A comfy sweater or pullover – What is better for a Christmas gift than a cashmere sweater or pullover.  The sweater pictured here is from J. McLaughlin and is soft and comfy.  I also love the Vineyard Vines three-quarter zip pullovers for lounging at night.  This is a go to for those cold winter nights.

9.  Gloves – Who doesn’t need a new pair of gloves for those cold winter mornings?  It is already chilly here.  Those pictured here have the seamed fingers so you can use your phone!

Other favorite things for my list include Moravian cookies or sugar cake from Dewey’s Bakery, poinsettia or amaryllis for those who have everything and will enjoy something pretty for the season, a warm throw for those times you just want to curl up with a good book (so many options are out there from an H blanket to a faux fur throw from Pottery Barn).  A donation to a the charity that your friend or family member supports is another  great option.  The goal is to be creative, to think outside the box, to find that gift that places a smile on your friend or family member’s face.

 

 

 

entertaining · Family · Gift Giving · Home

The Perfect Gift

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This post is credited to my sister from another mother also known as my cousin who is inspired as well as this amazing, cool, wonderful, person.

This past weekend I  enjoyed a long overdue girls weekend with my cousin.  We both have fall birthdays and decided it was time to catch up, lounge around, and play some tennis.  She arrived at my house with  a lovely birthday gift.  As she explained “her madness” behind the gift, I started smiling.  Per her usual brilliance, she hit this one out of the park.

My gift was a basket of her favorite things.  Absolutely brilliant!  She was sharing something of herself with me.  That alone brought this huge smile to my face.  She lives too far away and we keep up via text and phone and visits but this basket brought things into my everyday life that I will use after she’s gone home.  She is leaving something of herself behind and every time I pick up  something from the basket I’ll think of her and feel her with me.

I always struggle with gift giving.  I spend hours thinking of what that perfect gift is.  Cous knocked it out of the park making the answer to that question so simple.  Give something of yourself!  What a wonderful life lesson.

So the next time you need to find that special birthday, hostess, Christmas, house-warming or other gift, ask yourself – what are my favorite things?

So what was in the basket?  First, the basket itself is simply beautiful.  I’m filling it with reading material and it will sit beside my favorite chair.  Cousin’s favorite candle with the scent of dessert.  Books on Charleston!  Our common ancestors are from the Holy City and we’ve spent much time visiting there over the years.  The beach, the market, the food and fun.  What a wonderful addition and it will fit in with my reading basket.  Lotion and material for my pamper Sundays and last but not least, the purse light she knew I coveted!

P.S.  Everyone who has a tote or hobo bag should have one of the purse lights.  They are amazing and you can find stuff that otherwise hides from you in your bag.

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