Saturday, December 26, 2009

TRADITIONS


No one has ever called me traditional. And at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas morning I decided the heck with the stockings and hung the presents on the mantel. Good enough. I even included the shoes and accessories.
I told myself that this year would be different. I would start shopping in August. Silly fool. I was scrambling away ordering items online at midnight because I ran out of daylight to get to all of the stores. I wanted to be the seasoned hostess, smiling and ready when my guests came, but I was carting home my ham 2 hours before they were scheduled to arrive. I wanted to bake, although I confess I don't like to. And bake I did. I also ate a lot of it and had to bake again. I wanted to spend a lot of time wrapping pretty packages with bows and ribbon. I had to face it, I'm not really good at wrapping at all and although I have lived almost half of my life, I can't tie a decent bow. And in an effort to have a color scheme going in a fashionable sense with my gifts, I chose shiny red and gold glittery wrapping paper. Glitter everywhere, my hair, my face and any place I touched. I gave up and went to the drugstore for the plain old paper stuff. No ribbons or bows. And I think gift bags are the greatest invention since microwave popcorn.
I've have spent the past 23 years having children pulling me out of bed to unwrap gifts on Christmas morning. This year my adult son (who does not live at home) said he would be over at 10:00 a.m. for the big event. I then had 2 adult children whining at 8:00 a.m. that tradition had been broken by this male lout, but they quickly forgot it and went back to bed. Having been up over an hour, sticking my hand in various cavities of a turkey, I now sat with my 3rd cup of coffee, drumming my fingers on the breakfast table and waited for the children. Tables turned.
I made out like a bandit in the gift receiving area. Somehow I feel it might be a celestial reward for all the things I attempt to do at Christmas to make it more magical, and then fail at. The Husband gave me a gorgeous pair of Coach boots with a matching scarf and gloves (the boots are too small but he did manage to hang on to the receipt for an exchange). Emily gave me a pair of flannel pajama's (which have been totally ditched since the M word took over my life) and warm snugly socks from Brookstone. She obviously thinks I am always cold... Abigail gave me a bottle of Chanel No. 5, and I'd like to have a little discussion with the saleslady who talked her into it. I apologize to any of you that like it...it smells like baby powder gone bad. And one of my sons gave me a new laptop (this is the same son who wouldn't give me $5.00 in the airport one time for a magazine). He might have taken pity on the fact that the laptop I share with The Husband gets stolen right out from under my nose because "I have it all day". And finally, there was one gift I didn't get, and that was having Kevin home for Christmas. He was shipped back down to Florida for the golf season, so it was our first year not together as a family. Worse for him, being alone while us together. But we talked to him today, and while we are in the middle of a blizzard, he was out on the course, hitting a few balls. I am sure that is a tradition he will grow to love.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PINK SATURDAY: MY PORCELAIN ANGEL

Good morning! I am joining Beverly at How Sweet The Sound for Pink Saturday. It has been a long tome since I have done this! I am finally starting to get to my Christmas decorations and yesterday I pulled out one of my favorites, my porcelain angel. And she is a bit pink...

She is also a tea light holder and looks stunning at night. Unfortunately, I'm not too hot at taking night pictures so I couldn't get a good one for you!

In sharing a Christmas tradition, mine is very short and sweet. As children, on Christmas Eve, all seven of us would rush up to the corner where the church was, just a half block from our home. There we attended Midnight Mass, sometimes in our pajamas under our coats! On our way home, we ran, the excitement was too much. We hopped into bed and prayed for sleep so morning would come quickly. I am sure all of us dreamed of the presents that awaited us under the tree!

With this post I want to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas. May you have peace, joy and love and all things blessed.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OUTDOOR WEDNESDAY: MEETING CI NDY (aka APPLESTONE COTTAGE) IN BEAUTIFUL GALENA, ILLINOIS!

This past weekend The Husband and I stayed at a B & B in beautiful Galena, Illinois in celebration of our 23rd wedding anniversary. We also celebrated meeting a fellow blogger and her husband, Cindy from Applestone Cottage, and Dan. Cindy and I had been in cahoots about meeting for some time since we are two of the few Midwestern bloggers in our little community. So we agreed to meet in historic Galena, Illinois, which is very close to the Illinois/Iowa border, situated on the Mississippi River with the Galena and Illinois rivers running through. It is about a three hour drive for each of us from different directions. Galena was home to our 18th president and 9 time General, Ulysses S. Grant. The town boasts 19th century architecture and 90% of it is on the National Historic Registry. Above is a beautiful B & B, not the one we stayed in, for I neglected to take a picture (see Cindy's post for that) and I thought this one would do. Pretty isn't it?
Here is the room we stayed in Friday night, the biggest in the home. I absolutely loved it for I have stayed in B & B's where I could lie in bed and touch all four walls. I love the big four poster bed. It was high enough to get a nosebleed.
And a gorgeous gas fireplace to keep us snugly all night long, well sort of, but I will explain that later.
Off we went for dinner and settled on a little pub called Benjamins. I had a scrumptious veggie sandwich made with fresh foccacia bread and The Husband had beef brisket.
I wish I could say we sat holding hands and staring into each other's eyes, but the reality is that The Husband watched a basketball game on one of the televisions and I doodled on the paper tablecloth with the crayons provided for bored adults that whine and squirm in their seats.
One glitch at the B & B. The above room became a bit chilly overnight, given that our temps slumped down to the single digits and the only heat in our room was from the fireplace. This particular room was used as a kitchen, separate from the main house and later connected. I actually felt fine the next morning and sat outside the room on a cute wicker filled porch watching the little birds flit from one flocked evergreen to the next. The sun was beginning to warm everything up and I admired the rose garden and all the pretty statuary. But alas, the husband whined and repeated several times, "Jane, it is 60 degrees in here!!" He was adamant about changing rooms so I had to give up the rose garden and little winter birds and move to another room which you can see in the pictures above and below. This room was quite nice and how much time do you spend in the room anyway? I did encounter a problem with the down pillows as I am allergic. My eyes puffed up a bit and I spent most of breakfast sneezing between bites of the gorgeous croissants stuffed with crab meat in a delicate white sauce. That in addition to a delicious apple tart and fresh fruit, all served on Spode china, the Christmas Tree pattern, of course.
We met Cindy and Dan at a restaurant named Vinny Vanucchi's, and if you guessed Italian, you are right. We were a little nervous to say the least about meeting virtual strangers and then being stuck with them all weekend, but they turned out to be the nicest couple and as would have it, we had an absolute blast all weekend. Never a dull moment. Cindy is exactly as she is on her blog, down to earth, funny and cute. Dan is one of the nicest guys I have ever met and he and The Husband hit it off really well. I know a lot of bloggers say that when they meet it is like they have been friends forever, and this was definitely the case here.
So off we went shopping after Cindy and Dan checked in to the B & B. The shopping area was so quaint and festive, done up in all it's holiday finery.

And there was a bit of play fullness in the air. This is one of several snowmen flanking the outside of the shops.
This was a very cool shop that we stopped in. In the store windows were children that at first looked like those mechanical mannequins you sometimes see, but they were real, busy decorating cookies, well, er...actually eating all the decorative candies instead! The Husband bought a large cloche here as he has been wanting me to make a floral arrangement in it for the conference room at his office. This is going to be a lot of fun.

The husbands were directed to go upstairs to a special 'Men Only' room, where they could watch sports on a big screen television and help themselves to cold beverages. Cindy and I, being quite like minded, let them enjoy the Man Cave for about 5 minutes before we disregarded the rules and entered the male domain. Here we are posing with our seat warmers, as of course all females who forcibly enter are required to sit on the hard bleachers.
Back at the ranch, Wendy, the owner of Annie Wiggins (our B & B) was preparing for a progressive dinner which was starting at her home with beverages. A gifted seamstress, she made this beautiful period costume and was quite proud of it.
She posed for a picture in the parlour for me. Look at that fancy bustle!
Later she showed me her sewing room, her favorite place in the house.

Isn't it wonderful? Look at the bolts of fabric! This really makes me want to sit down and start sewing on that new machine I have that is gathering dust.

After having cocktails in the parlour and joining in on some parlour games with the guests of the progressive dinner, who were quite a nice bunch of people, we headed out for dinner and settled on this restaurant.
Tasteful but casual, I was too busy tucking in to my Pasta Puttanesca to pay much attention to what anyone else was having.
After dinner we grabbed an innocent bystander to take a group photo of us.

When we got back to the Inn, Wendy pulled me aside and led me to the dining room where she had the table set for breakfast. I had been admiring her collection of Johnson Brother's Old Britain Castles and so she had set the table with it rather than the the holiday Spode. I was so touched. Cindy has more pictures of her collection. I loved her napkins rings which were fashioned out of silk flowers with the stems bent around the napkin. What a neat idea!
You can see her buffet with some of her pieces on it. The dining room was just beautiful! The following morning, breakfast was french toast stuffed with a cream cheese and orange marmalade filling. Oh, heaven. She is a wonderful cook.
After packing up the next morning, my eyes even more swollen from the down pillows, we headed off to a sports pub to watch the Green Bay packers beat the Chicago Bears. Now how ironic was that? Cindy and Dan from Wisconsin and The Husband and I from Chicago. There was some friendly rivalry but we all remained friends.
During the three hour game, Cindy and I talked non stop. We had so much in common and after 2 days of sharing time and meals, we were best friends. After a bite to eat, we parted ways with a promise to meet up again in the summer. When that happens, I am going to have the room that looks out at the rose garden and little birds and I am going to bring my own pillows!!
I am linking up with Susan who hosts Outdoor Wednesday and Susan from Between Naps On The Porch for Tablescape Thursday. You can go to their blogs by clicking the icons on my sidebar. Thank you all for visiting. I am off to make my rounds of all the events!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

O (NAKED) CHRISTMAS TREE & AN ELF STORY

Friday I went to my favorite garden center and bought our Christmas tree. This has always been one of the highlights of the season for me. Walking down all the paths surrounded on both sides by trees in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the Christmas music wafting through the air. I feel like I am in the proverbial winter wonderland. That day I stood examining a rather nice specimen when a tall young man in a red velvet cap trimmed with white fur came up to help. I gestured to the tree. "Oh," he said. "Fir Elton John?" I thought I hadn't heard him correctly. I looked around a bit helplessly. Santa's helper thought I was eyeing the tree across the path and darted over. "Spruce Springsteen!" he declared. I noticed we seemed to be the only ones in the tree section and it made me a bit uncomfortable. I took two steps back into..."Douglas Firbanks, Jr!" Santa's elf was beaming from his seven foot head to his toes. I quickly settled on Fir Elton John and while the elf made himself busy writing up the ticket and tying up my purchase, I walked toward the beckoning warmth of the shop, and stopped on my way to look at the wonderful array of wreaths, already decorated with ribbons and pine cones. "And that would be Wreatha Franklin!" a voice behind me said, pointing to the one I was holding. I didn't have to turn around to know who it was. He was standing with my tree, wrapped in cording, the stem covered in burlap. It was then that I noticed the ears. Poking out from under his cap...they were baby pink and pointed. I gasped, but he didn't seem to notice. I pointed out my car to him so that he could begin tying it to the roof while I went inside to pay. A few customers milled about and the employees, though wearing the red and white fur caps, looked decidedly normal. I did a quick check of their ears. Everything looked fine. When I got to the counter I said I had a ticket for Fir Elton John and Wreatha Franklin and the shop girl started laughing. I joined in. Then she repeated it to the girl at the next register and she started laughing along with the customers in line. I was feeling pretty merry by then, garnering all that attention and all. I handed my ticket over. "See," I said pointing to where my friendly little helper had written down my order. Well," she said. "You have a Douglas fir from aisle 16 and a decorated wreath from aisle 2." She then picked up a microphone sort of thing and requested an employee to go outside and ready my tree for pick up. "Oh, no!" I said. "There is a nice, er... man out there helping me." The girl continued ringing up my order and said "I'm sorry Miss, we have only one person working this afternoon, his name is Earl and,....oh! There he is now!" I walked outside in disbelief. Earl was a short balding man with a cigar clenched between his teeth. "So where is your tree ma'am?" he asked in a gravelly voice. I told him it was probably tied to my car by then, but looking through to the parking lot, I could see it wasn't. He snatched my ticket from my hand and growled for me to follow him. There was my tree in aisle 16. It didn't look like it had moved. I looked around in all directions. No sign of a seven foot elf. "Yes, this is it," I said weakly. "Fir Elton John." Earl gave me a sideways glance as he started tying up my tree. "Yeah, and I'm the Earl of Spencer!" he said hauling the tree over his shoulder. He followed me to my car and after a lot of heaving and grunting, managed to get it tied to the roof. I got in my car to drive away and looked back at all the trees, the overhead lights beaming and making it look like a lit up forest, an enchanted forest if you will. Then I caught sight of something bobbling in and amongst them. The tip of a red and white cap over the top of the trees. And then a pink face with pointed ears poked out and with a wave of his hand I heard, "Have a magical Christmas!"
Hello snow!! I woke up to this beautiful sight. Unfortunately, it is the slushy type that will probably be gone soon. But the first snow is always exciting. And that is my little car that didn't make it in to the garage last night (and I just had it washed last week). But it is the first snow and that is always special. As long as it stays on the ground for a little while... And as you can see, I have my tree. It is a little loppy on one side but this actually works for me because I have that part near the wall where the radiator is and it doesn't block it. We had a busy weekend, including an Open House for my brother in law and his wife who are visiting from Vancouver, so we did not get the lights on. I say we but I mean HE. I do not do lights and until HE comes home tonight from work, I can't trim the tree. But I am going to do my decorating. I have invited said brother in law, his wife and her parents over for dinner (oh, why do I make things hard on myself?) so I really must rush. And I have heard some bloggers say that they are scaling back on their decor because of time constraints and so they can relax this season and I am going to pay some heed to that. So I am off to carry my boxes upstairs and start to decorate. Now, if only I had a seven foot tall elf to help me...