Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lessons Learned.....

                                                       Christmas tree 2011

I tried... really I did!  It's just that, like I mentioned in a previous post,

the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has gotten shorter.  At

my age, time travels waaaayy too quickly and I don't like it one bit!

Most everything was completed.... creating the Christmas cards (ok..

some are still "in the mail" which actually means 10 are still sitting on 

my desk ready and waiting for personal messages to be written and

THEN they will be mailed), groceries shopped for, menus planned, and

the house decorated.  I am truly amazed that hauling the boxes out from 

under the crawl space and dragging the decorations out can be done in one day.

I'm dying... I'm sweaty.. but it can be done!  And the Christmas presents 

sent to my one son in California?  Well, he's still waiting on the box.  

Yeeeessss..... (said while staring you right in the eye, one hand on my 

hip, tapping my foot!) I DID send it out before Christmas.  Friday before 

Christmas but it is technically sent BEFORE Christmas.  Bad mom... 

bad mom!!  I do feel that I should get extra credit for wrapping them.  And 

pretty darn cute if I do say so myself (and at this point, I think I AM the only

 one saying it!)  Lots of brown craft paper, twine, sprigs of greenery, sheet

music, one of my fabric flowers (for the girlfriend) on a box, two-toned

paper bags with the flaps secured with creme twine and vintage Christmas

sticker.  Sounds cute, right?  And I'm sure my son will think the same thing

when the mailman finally gets around to delivering the package!  Which 

brings me around to thinking over the holiday and what changes need to be


                                   my desk downstairs

1. As Thanksgiving is usually spent away from home, I will put the Halloween
    decorations away (seriously, I don't pull them out every year but when I   
    do..) and start decorating at a more leisurely pace.

2. I will bake the sugar cookies ahead of time and freeze until ready to
   load on the sugary goodness.

3. No.2 brings me to No. 3.... as my boys are older, they all now express
    the desire to eat healthy.  Yes, they enjoy the goodies but more times
    than not the sweets just sat there looking at me (and me looking at them)
    and I now sport another inch on my waistline!  Christmas day will be our
    one day to feast!  I got applauded for that idea!

4.  If one of us is unable to make it home for the holiday, their presents 
     will be bought and sent EARLY.  

5.  Shopping?  I don't like it... it drives me crazy. I don't do malls... I don't 
     shop on a regular basis.  Enough said.  Need to work on the solution for 
     that one.

6.  And if I get things done ahead of time, that will leave me time to enjoy 
    the bazillion online Christmas classes I sign up for and never complete!

So there you have it!  One year older and a little bit wiser, I hope.  Now to

get online and check the tracking number for my son's Christmas box.  Gosh...

it had better get there today!  Keep your fingers crossed!


Friday, December 23, 2011

On This Christmas eve.....

                                             The Christmas Creche

Trust me... I still could be shopping.  I still could be wrapping. I still could be in

the kitchen creating another dish needed for the "Who" feast on Christmas day.

But I have to share something with you.  As the hours draw near to the 

dawn of Christmas day, I am feeling a stillness.. a calmness ... come over

me.  A peacefulness.  And don't you think that this is the reason?  That the

real reason for the season is all said right here in this photo?  I am feeling


This creche was bought years ago when we lived in Geneva, Switzerland.  

Actually, it was pieced together as the carved figures were purchased in

Grindenwald, a charming village nestled at the base of the mountain range.

There were so many variations to choose from but as simple is my style, these

hand carved figures rang true to my vision.  We couldn't afford to purchase the

whole set ... too pricey even then! So we left the store with Mary, Joseph, baby 

Jesus, the Wise Men and camel.

                                     Three Wise Men and Camel

                                          Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus

And the barn?  It  came from Migros.. a grocery store that offered a sundry of

items on the basement level.  It was perfect and very Swiss!  Plain, unpainted,

unstained... a beautiful barn complete with ladder leading up to a loft..

swinging barn doors enclosing one side while on the other was a sliding rail

fence to contain the animals.  A child's plaything but I saw so much more!  I

lifted it into the grocery cart and there it sat along with the bread, yogurt,

cheese, chocolate and fresh vegetables! 

                             the animals were also bought at the grocery store!

For years, I left it in the condition I purchased it in. But last year I knew it was

time for a change.  I painted it a creamy white, distressed it, and added an

antiquing glaze.  I embellished with moss, and glued sheets of grass/straw on

the roof.  Stepping back, I had now taken it to a whole new level and I was


Last year, while visiting a local antique mall at Christmastime, hoping to spy

some new bauble to add to holiday decorations or some vintage lace to add

to my stash, my eyes lighted on these .......

plaster of paris creche figures!  All chippy and so amazingly beautiful.. 

painted in vintage colors that no one could ever duplicate.  The mystery 

behind how all this came together is that I initially spotted the donkey.  Oh!

he was adorable.. and the grey color was perfect!  Next to him was the angel.

Ok... I clutched them in my hand but how would they make sense?  Ah-ha!

The next booth had two sheep... no other pieces, just the sheep.  Hmmmm..

As I clutched all three in my hand, never giving a second thought about 

putting them down, my mind got to thinking... no wishing... for baby Jesus.

Wouldn't that make the perfect story??!  I knew it would be like finding a 

needle in a haystack to be so fortunate to complete this scene.  But I kid you 

not ... there is no embellishing as I tell you this... in the NEXT booth there 

He was lying in a cardboard manger.  So explain this to me.  How is that last 

year I found these few pieces, that captured my heart, in such close proximity

to each other... requiring little effort to gather them together? And even more

mysterious, I can't find a single one this year!  I think I see you all reading 

this with a bit of a smile on your face.  I think you and I know when God can

touch us just when we need to feel His hand. 

So, with that, I wish you all a blessed and merry Christmas!  Enjoy this time

with family and friends and rejoice in the reason for the season!!! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All-time Favorite Christmas Movie


Hard to believe that ME, the person who still needs to send out Christmas

cards, shop for presents, create a Christmas day menu (also known as the

"Who" feast), had enough time and energy to sit down and watch a movie.

But there I am, the house quiet as everyone had already gone to bed...

snuggled up in the corner of our comfy couch... lights off except for the

tiny, white Christmas lights on the tree... laughing and crying to one of the

BEST Christmas movies!  My husband and I had for years made viewing 

this a Christmas tradition as we actually saw it when it first hit the theatres

in 1970... before we were married.  Somehow the years passed and so

did our tradition.  But last night, it all came back to me and the meaning

of Christmas was presented in the most remarkable way that touched my

heart better than most other Christmas movies.  Albert Finney does an

an amazing job with acting the part of Scrooge... his facial expressions

are priceless!  And he can draw out the deepest emotions at just the right

time in just the right way.  Hard to believe he was 34 at the time!


Side Note:  One year, we spent Thanksgiving holiday in London.. all the Brits thought we were a bit odd but you know us crazy Americans!  And is typical for me, I found a
class to take.  It was a floral design class with Judith 
Blacklock, a notable designer whose charming shop sat at
the end of a muse!  We were all busy, with our heads down,
when Judith casually mentions that Albert Finney will knock
on the window.. if he's in town.... as he passes by on his way
to his flat- which happens to be above the shop!  Seriously??
Needless to say, I tried my best to blase about the whole
thing but my head spent more time looking out the window
hoping to spy him.  No such luck, but what an experience!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just One Bite!

As I've said, I am always up for a new experience and this one took

me to the oldest Korean restaurant in Chicago.  Now.. I am not going

to let you think this was my idea or that I was going in complete 

agreement with this decision.  I'm not that adventurous with food!  

But I was going with my family... love!... and we were heading into

the city.. love!... and all I could see running through my head was that scene

in The Christmas Story where the Buppese's hounds had ransacked the

the kitchen leaving the turkey torn to shreds on the floor.  Remember the

next scene where the only restaurant the family found open was a Chinese

restaurant?  The duck and choruses of "Fra-ra-ra-ra-ra" leave everyone in 

hysterics!  That's just the BEST scene!  So.... I was open to a new adventure!

We open the door and one by one, head inside to a tiny (maybe holds 50

people at one time) world that held such promise.  I was delighted!  It 

almost felt like I had entered someone's home.. clean, intimate, and only

viewed by their closest of friends.  There were roughly ten tables, each 

with a large cast iron skillet in the center where you prepare your own food. 

Not knowing if we should seat ourselves, we patiently waited until someone 

points to an available table.  The waitress appears with four menus... Korean 

language first with english subtitles.  Perhaps I shouldn't have looked!  Cow's 

ankles?  Please don't tell me it would all be along this same line!  (I could see

that we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!)  My husband, who has Korean clients

and has traveled to their country several times, ordered for all of us.  Phew!

I was pretty sure cow's ankles would not one of his choices.. or so I hoped!

It was only a short time before our food arrived but enough time to allow

me to look about the room.  In my mind, this photo is priceless....

Gives you a perfect idea of our experience... handsome family, right?

                                         This child is so precious!

Our table that seemed quite comfortable for four soon was weighed down

with dish after dish of condiments and sides to accompany the massive 

amount of raw brisket... to be cooked by us in that cast iron skillet that was 

heated and ready!  Everyone dove right in, cooking the meat and then

swirling it in sesame oil and salt; wrapping greens in it; bathing it in soy sauce

that had chunks of onion marinating in it (to be eaten, also); adding kimchee; 

whole cloves of garlic; bean sprouts and others that were foreign to me.

And may I add, nary a fork in sight to eat all this with??  Ok... I can work

with chopsticks.  I'm going to go with the flow! Even though I was feeling 

silly using two hands prying them open to pick up each piece of meat. Ohhhhh..

you're supposed to break the chopsticks apart first?  Now you tell me!  I guess

everyone was so busy snarfing down their meal they forgot to see this poor

ol" girl needed some guidance!  Typical!

We are nearing the end of our meal with some sides still left in their saucers.

At this point our waitress appears and takes over.  Working

quickly, she picks up a piece of meat, wraps some paste inside with a clove

of garlic.  Looking at me, this lands on my plate.  Politely, I explain I'm full.

Just a little white lie.  After all, what the heck was in that paste??  It could be 

very nasty and then I'm left with that awkward situation of wondering where

and how to spit it out!  Well, I obviously didn't know who I was dealing with. 

No words... only a stern expression on her face.  Realizing that I was one heck

of a stubborn customer, a bit of english finally was uttered.... "Just one bite!".

I am now reduced to being six years old and told in no uncertain terms  I 

would not be allowed to leave the table until I had one bite.  Quickly, I pop it

in mouth to be greeted with the most amazing taste sensation!!  A smile

appears on her face.  She has won me over!

The meal is finished.... the check delivered with one stick of Wrigley's Double

Mint gum for each of us...... (how unique is that?!)

So... happy waitress for conquering another skeptic, happy family with full

bellies, and happy me!!  Fa.. la.. la.. la, la, la la!!!!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

That Downward Spiral

It happened yesterday... that downward spiral!  My day was totally devoted

to decorating the house for Christmas as the first son was due to arrive home

 at 7:00 pm that evening.  Yes, he's grown (all of 20 years of age) but

like all of us, he loves the spirit of Christmas with all its finery.  That meant a

home void of trees, greenery, silvery balls, reindeer and the woodsman,

would not be a home he's accustomed to.  And the truth of the matter

is, neither am I.  I set a goal to have my home dressed and glittered by

12:00 - no, make that 2:00.  Plenty of time!  Or so I thought.  I forgot about

the trips to the hardware store for extra lights.  I forgot about the trip

to the florist to make up two arrangements that would complete my one

tablescape.  AND I forgot to eat!!  I'm a tough ol' bird.. I can make it 

through the day without needing to eat.  After all, I had a time schedule

I needed to keep!  Well, by the time 3:00 rolled around (yes, I was now

an hour beyond my set completion time) I was woozy.  I needed food

NOW!  And that, of course, leads to bad ... very bad... choices.  For me,

it was an egg salad sandwich on very smooshy white bread, chips, and two

Christmas cookies.  And you can guess what happened to my blood sugar

level!  BAM!  I know better.  I really do.  After all, when the boys were 

little I made sure they started the day with a nourishing breakfast before

heading off to school.  I loved making them breakfast!  It was an event!

I actually had a rotating schedule of breakfast menus that I wrote down.

Found it the other day tucked in between some old papers.  It read as follows:

1. french toast
2. mini-muffins and eggs
3. fruit smoothies and toast
4. homemade waffles
5. boiled eggs and toast fingers
6. breakfast pizza
7. pancakes
8. cinnamon rolls and juice
9. yogurt and toast
10. cereal and toast
(All meals were plated with different garnishes)

Can we all say "OCD"?!  But I loved starting the day that way! It was one of 

my better moments of being a mom.  Therefore, I should know better and not

let my energy spiral downward due to lack of nourishment.  I will remember

that eating something for breakfast, even a little something, is just as 

important for a mom as it is for her kids.

                               poached eggs on toast, my fav!
                             I will "heart" this first meal of the day!

Next to be done?  Christmas shopping!  Now where did I put THAT list??

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmas Solution..

None of us have been exempt from it.  It has bombarded us from 

all directions.  The hype of Black Friday with its countdown making

headlines everywhere.  The Christmas tree lots packed with "fresh"

trees since before Thanksgiving.  The greenery and lights gracing 

every street corner in every small town.  And special Christmas programs

on television expounding on ways to create that wonderful holiday feeling

in your own home for a fraction of the cost.  After a week of observing and

absorbing all this I wondered- why is it when we were kids, the time

between Thanksgiving and Christmas day dragged on ... f o r e v e r!  But

as an adult, you are late in getting things done by two weeks ago?  Between

the hype and realizing "kid time" is not "adult time", I have been having

a full blown panic attack.  You see ... brace yourself! .....

I DO NOT have my Christmas cards done ...

I DO NOT have any shopping done ...

I DO NOT, yes, DO NOT have the house decorated ...

I DO NOT have one Christmas cookie baked ...

I hear all of you gasping!!!! I almost feel like packing it in and saying I will

celebrate Christmas next year!  Breathing.... breathing.......

There is a one solution for my "did not" list.  I know where I can get 

killer cookies, breads, and brownies!  And they ship!!

I had the pleasure of volunteering, with this lovely group of women, at 

Misericordia's, Hearts and Flour Bakery here in Chicago. What a great day

it was!  Misericordia is a residential home for some 600 people with mild to

profound disabilities.  On site, is a bakery operated by volunteers and 

residents, and their profits support the facility.  The pride in their work and

the quality of their product is amazing!  Shall I tempt you????

                             moist and flavorful irish soda bread

                                           candy coated Christmas tree shaped pretzels

                                           cinnamon apple bread

                                           brownies dusted with confectioner's sugar

                                           check out this tray of goodies!

The online store is open 24-7 and they ship the very day it is ordered.

Phew!  So my "baking" (also known as speed dial) is done!  And come

to think of it these will make a great present to send to my mother.

Ok!  So, some shopping is done, too!  Maybe things aren't as bad as it

seems.  Maybe I can do this!  Now to tackle the boxes of Christmas

decorations in the basement.... gotta go!!! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Presentation.. a make or break deal

                                                    Christmas stocking swap '11

I made the plunge and decided to join a Christmas stocking swap

with 20 amazingly talented women!  As I love to sew, it was the 

perfect reason to say "yes" to committing to this.  And also, there is

the fact that I have been collecting vintage linens for a while.  I love

each and every piece sourced from estate sales and resale shops.  

Having decided on the perfect one, which actually required piecing to 

make sure the lace was strategically placed, I then added the cuff.  It's

a luscious vintage grey silk velvet... I die!!

Next came the embellishing.  I recently learned how to make rosettes

so that was a great fit.  Of course, I had to use a pearl center!  And

surround them with rhinestones!  Backed with burlap, tulle and a crochet

doily. There you have it!  Bing.. bam... boom.... DONE! 

Ahhhh..... not done yet.  I needed to fill it before sending it out.  That was

Part II of this project.  My exchange partner's requests were for all things

vintage.... paper, linens, laces, epherma, and anything old, worn and 

blingy.  No problem there as those are my loves, too.  It took no time at

all to gather numerous items together.  Bing....bam... boom... DONE!

Uhhhhh...not done yet!  Presentation!  How to present her goodies!

It's a make or break deal.. seriously!  Let me give you an example.

One of my part- time jobs was working in a local, gourmet food

shop.  Not only did they have a retail side (talk about presentation...

packaging determined whether a person would be enticed to buy) but 

they also provided a cafeteria-style menu of warm and cold italian food.

At lunchtime, the place would be packed with people lined up to choose

their meal.  There I am... working the line.. "Lasagna, please!"

said a customer.  I picked up the cream colored plate, place a large

slice of lasagna on it and go "yuck".  NOT out loud.. only in my head!  The

noodles matched the color of the plate and talk about unappetizing! 

I scooped up a ladle of tomato sauce, swirled it around the lasagna and 

immediately felt satisfied to give it to my customer.  That is until the boss

saw it and said, "we don't do that".  I looked at her incredulously, glanced

at my customer, looked down at the plate.  She was already dishing up

more lasagna ... without sauce.... for the next person in line.  Oh, no!

This will no work for me.  The plate needs color!  The eye needs to be

delighted in what it sees!  Needless to say, I left within a few months and

I heard through the grapevine the store went defunct. 

Back to the stocking........ my pile of goodies are in front of me and initially 

I wanted to do what we have done in our family for generations- wrap them

in crumbled up newspaper.  Nooooooo.... I think you would have to be a 

member of our family to understand it. No, it needed pizazz.. it needed punch.

Here are the results....

1. Clear, cellophane bags (they look crisp) secured with a clothespin
2. Wrap a goodie in a vintage hankie secured with blingy pin
3. Love shred as filler! My friend, Carrie, used shredding shears and cut
    old book pages... love that idea... thanks, Carrie!
4. Old earrings make great embellishments ... clip ons on ribbons or even
    pierced if going through cardboard
5. Dye dolies
6. Tie with seam binding that you scrunch using fingers moistened with water
    and let dry
7. Loose items?  temporarily secure onto covers of discarded books

I hope that helps with giving you some ideas for the holiday season!  And by 

the way, just so you know, I'm only 99.5% of a perfectionist.... you should  

have seen the box I mailed it in.  Crazy horrible!!  I had to cut it down to size.  

Have you ever tried to do that?  Lopsided... Dr. Seuss kinda lopsided!  And a 

whole roll of masking tape to make sure it didn't come apart in shipping.  Not 

cute!!!!  Now it's your turn to say "YUCK!"  In your head, please!!!