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 · Holiday · Home

Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m southern and southern means large family dinners especially for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  Growing up we were either hosting the meal in North Carolina for my father’s side of the family or driving to Charleston to attend the family fete on my mother’s side of the family.

Regardless of the local, the table was expanded to maximum capacity with all available leaves inserted.  Silver was polished, the good linens ironed to perfection, and the good china and crystal placed on the table in anticipation of the meal. My grandmother would create a fresh arrangement of flowers and greens for the centerpiece.  Mr. Carson (the butler from Downton Abby) had nothing on my maternal grandmother who did not need a straight stick to spy an errant piece of silver not exactly lined up with the edge of the plate or a napkin incorrectly folded.

It was all work in anticipation of the big reveal when the turkey came out of the oven.  It was also much more.  It was family togetherness, working together, gathering in the kitchen to chop, dice, slice and catch up with everyone and what is going on in their lives. I also give an honorable mention to all the dishes that were hand washed before and after dinner.

The Thanksgiving menu for such a large group was long and varied.  Turkey, ham, oysters, jello salad, cranberry sauce, squash casserole, rice and gravy (Charleston was once a great rice producer and the tradition lingers on), dressing, green beans, homemade icebox rolls, and then dessert.  Somehow, I never remember dessert.  I think I was always so full of my other favorites that dessert never made much of an impression.  Coconut cake and apple pie I’m certain graced the table but the main event was the turkey and the sugar cured ham.  Served promptly at 2pm, we began with grace and then promptly moved to devour everything  lovingly prepared.

Over the years the family has shrunk and so has the menu.  I am now the host rather than my mom and I eagerly anticipate the arrival of family from out-of-town and the chance to visit and catch up over the chopping, slicing and dicing.  The table is a reminder of my heritage; set with silver from my grandmothers, china from my mother and my own crystal.  On Thursday my family will once again say grace and give thanks and remember fondly those who are no longer around the table.

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In anticipation of turkey day, I grocery shopped this weekend.  My menu is turkey, squash, green beans, cranberry sauce, dressing, squash, and rice and gravy will be on the table.  Dessert is an apple tart.  My to do list is long but I will be smiling and remembering those Thanksgivings past as I prepare our dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Family · Holiday

Blessings

October ended in a blaze of color with trick or treaters, jack o lanterns, and small goblins of varying sizes.  November ushers in Thanksgiving and the prelude to Christmas.  As I put my terra cotta pumpkins away for next year and started pulling out my glass pumpkins for the Thanksgiving table, I kept thinking about blessings.  I usually count my blessings on Thanksgiving, but I’m doing it early this year.

I count among my blessings:  faith, family, friends, puppies, a home I love, health, happiness, travel, work, and a love of life.

What do you count among your blessings?IMG_9245

Decorating · entertaining · Holiday · Home

Jack O Lantern

 

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How do you celebrate Halloween?  The weekend before Halloween, I enjoy my horror movie marathon of Halloween, the original, followed by Halloween 2, and the Fog.  Then it is off to the pumpkin patch to score a pumpkin to carve for my jack o lantern.   On All Hallow’s ceEve it is candy time.  I love lighting the candles and waiting for the kids in costume, of course, to ring the bell for a treat.  Even better are the pups, also in costume, who accompany their little masters.  I’ve taken to stocking candy with nuts (so I will not eat it) and milk bones for the pups.  After all it is a celebration!

Carving the jack o lantern is a tradition that goes back to my childhood.  My father would always come home from work with a magnificent pumpkin perfect for carving.  Together we would select the perfect angle for the face, draw it on and create our pumpkin lantern.  Mom would always come through with a candle and together we would carefully place him on the front porch to signify to all the ghosts and ghouls that we were open for business.  My Dad loved answering the door and handing out treats.

Meet the latest jack o lantern!

 

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Trick or treat!  Have a happy Halloween.