Family · Holiday · Home · Travel

Happy New Year!

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I love the period between Christmas and New Years.  Christmas is festive and full of family and friends, food, gifts, visits, and parties.  It is ending the year on a high note of fun and festivities and yes, endings.  When I think of the New Year, I think of new beginnings, everything clean and white and sparkling with the potential for wonderful new adventures and excitement.

In addition to seeing family and friends, I enjoy the time between Christmas and the New Year as a time to clean.  This past week, I cleaned out closets, organized and visited with friends.  We reflected on the year and made plans for the new one extending that sense of anticipation of Christmas to the potential for new things in a new year.

I’m not much for resolutions but I love to dream and plan.  The new year is like an open promise with only potential.  So for the new year, I’m working on new dreams and making plans to see those dreams become a reality.

  • Travel – Where to visit this year?  I’m thinking of the Mediterranean and Scotland.  Beaches and mountains sound balanced.  I love visiting new places and experiencing new cultures. There is nothing better than being jolted out of your comfort zone by learning something new and what better way to expand your view than travel?
  • Career – I’m looking forward to wrapping up existing projects and unleashing my creative juices on new ones.
  • Romance – I’m ready for my lost knight in shinning armor to tap into his internal GPS and find his way to me.  I’d be happy to meet him half way.  Maybe my GPS needs a tune up?
  • Friends and family – I’m looking forward to spending time with those close to me.  Sharing and creating new memories.
  • Fun – I am dreaming of a new year filled with fun.  New people, new projects, lunches, dinners, decorating, shopping, museums – well you get the picture.
  • Creativity – I have a creataive gene that needs to be exercised.  Photographs, drawing, this blog, cooking, decorating and fashion are all things that I dabble in.  I’m not certain what my new outlet for creative expression will be this year.  I’d love to take a drawing or art history class.  Hum, something to consider.
  • Exercise – Walking, hiking, Pilates, yoga, barre – okay this one sounds more like a resolution so perhaps one resolution for the new year?IMG_0044

If I have one resolution for the new year, it is to embrace your dreams!

Happy New Year!

 

 

entertaining · Family · Holiday

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas is a big deal for my family.  We celebrate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve begins with a dinner followed by church and then an evening snack.  We move from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day watching mass from the Vatican even though we’re not Catholic.  Dinner would vary based on who was there from pasta to turkey and all the trimmings.  The midnight snack was always the same, cheese straws, sausage balls and cookies.  A plate of cookies was always left for Santa with a glass of cold milk and carrots for the reindeer.

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Christmas morning was always an early celebration.  A fire in the fireplace, juice, and coffee while we opened presents  and stockings and then a huge breakfast.  Breakfast was always a breakfast casserole and sugar cake.  If you’ve never had sugar cake you are missing a treat.  I love to tell everyone it is mashed potatoes as it has a potato base.  It is truly a treat.

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Christmas day was always spent with family and friends dropping by the house for a cup of eggnog.  My Dad was the nog maker.  He would begin on Christmas Eve “cooking” the egg yolks in a bourbon and brandy bath overnight.  Cheese straws also made by Dad, fruitcake cookies, Chinese chews and sands (cookies) made by Mom would accompany the egg nog as we visited with our guests.

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The day would end with a delicious dinner of beef tenderloin, potatoes, asparagus and applesauce raisin cake for dessert.

 

I have my own version of holiday traditions now but I’ve kept many of those I grew up with. I make the cheese straws and eggnog now and we’re having beef Wellington on Christmas Eve rather than for Christmas dinner.  No cookies this year but the cake is made! The DVD of White Christmas is ready to watch and I’ll be up late for church.  Christmas Day will be filled with visits with friends and my box of sugar cake arrived, after all what would Christmas morning be without sugar cake.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

Decorating · entertaining · Holiday · Uncategorized

The Christmas Tree

My tree is a book of memories.  The ornaments are from multiple generations.  I’ve purchased some, some my mother made or bought, some are from my grandparents and a few from the great grands.  Each Christmas as I open the boxes of carefully packed ornaments I am reminded of the many Christmases past, those special family moments, trips I’ve taken, special friends, and anticipation of what this Christmas will bring.

 

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Acquiring the tree is the first step.  My family always has a live tree and acquiring the tree was always an adventure.  One of the first Christmas trees I remember involved a trip to the family farm to cut our own tree.  The following year the farm was gone so we were off to the tree lot.  Drama ensued when Snowball, my puppy, escaped from the station wagon only to be found curled up by the heater in the cashier’s hut after much drama and tears.  That year was somewhat cursed.  My Dad cut off too many branches from the bottom of the tree as he put the tree in the stand and had to wire them back on to please my Mother.  Once the tree was set up, lights added and fully decorated, my Dad climbed the ladder to carefully place the china angle on the top of the tree.  This angel was cherished and beautiful and a wedding gift.  Yes, you can guess, disaster ensued as the ladder collapsed resulting in Dad on the floor, tree on top of him, and broken glass ornaments scattered across the living room floor.  I still recall my Mother’s cries of my angel, my angle as my father was trapped on the floor under the tree.   Dad was rescued, the tree put back up, new ornaments purchased, and a new tree topper located.

 

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The one thing I never got was why my Mother refused tinsel on the tree.  Her Mother’s tree was a work of art with icicle tinsel perfectly draped.  Her trees were the most gorgeous one’s I’ve ever seen.  She would begin the weekend after Thanksgivingworking diligently up to Christmas Eve on her tree and emptying cases of icicles in the process.   My Mother hated icicles and they were banned from our house.  Then again she decorated three live trees., a small formal one for the living room, the large one in the family room and a white flocked tree in the foyer

I decorate a large tree for the living room and a small tree for the TV room.  They make my Christmas special.

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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.