Auld Lang Syne

Should Old Acquaintance's be forgot?  I love this song, but never have the lyrics become more tangible than yesterday for me.

This is a painting that a local made of our actual Starbucks in our town.  I have been going to it for soon to be twelve years.  I know everyone who works there by name and have seen many come and go.  It is a charming place and a beautiful location.  There are locals who inhabit the Starbucks daily.  I being one of them.  (What can I say, I'm addicted to my Grande Vanilla Latte with whip) On a clear and crisp day the locals sit on that very bench you see above.  There is a group of six friends that have been sitting there with their dogs for years.  One of the group, an older man sits with his very intriguing parrot on his shoulders when the weather is warm.  There are three men and two women sometimes three on a daily basis, twice a day.  Early in the morning and then after 5 in the afternoon.  How do I know this?   Because I go often twice a day at those times.  We smile, a casual hello but that's been the extent of our relationship over the years. They seem to be all around 50-somethings.  Anyway, anyone who is local can see how special there friendship is.  They are always laughing out loud or talking and smiling and it's apparent that they share something very dear with one another.
The other day I even remarked to someone (don't know if it was my son or my husband) how I would love that, to be near my friends and meet every day for coffee like that.  How blessed were they to have that.  Although I have been blessed with friends our visits with one another are unfortunately few and far between.
On Tuesday's Wednesdays and Thursdays, we have music lessons in the early evening and I always go to get coffee there since it is on the same street as the music school.  Last Thursday, we had to cancel because Matthew was very sick with a head cold.
Well yesterday morning, I went for my usual morning cup of coffee.  There was a lovely bouquet of white roses on the coffee bar with a card that read "In Memory of our dear friend Sheri."  All of a sudden it hit me.  I began to scroll through my mind repeating the name over and over and then I got it.  When I asked Rebecca, one of the baristas who it was, she confirmed it.  One of the friends, the group that I have gotten to see on a daily basis, a woman by the name of Sheri, died on Thursday morning.  The day before Christmas eve, after being hit head on by another car.  She died quickly at the hospital.  Sheri was 55 and had two daughters.  Her smile will live in my mind forever.  She was always laughing and smiling and after reading a quote from her daughter who said that her mother was constantly happy and never had an ill word to say about anyone, it brought tears to my eyes.
I saw her every day for all these years.  A life was taken abruptly, the morning before Christmas Eve.
Had she gone out to buy more presents?   Was she running to the market to get her last minute ingredients for Christmas Eve dinner?  Who knows?  All I know is I walked into Starbucks last night and the bench was empty.  Her one friend drank his coffee alone and then walked outside and continued walking.  He had a lost look in his eyes.  All the baristas had gone to the funeral to pay tribute to a great woman.
Life is fleeting and brief.  When I'm gone will people remember me smiling and laughing?  Will my sons say good things about me?  Did I leave a mark in this huge and vast planet?  Did You?
Sheree Maillie


"A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever" John Keats

I've always loved this quote.  There are so many beautiful things that truly bring me joy just by looking at them.

For instance, my favorite little florist in our town.  I think it is too sweet.  I love how the window sparkles for Christmas.  It is so lovely and full of Christmas lights.  Every Tuesday night and Thursday night when we have music lessons, or anytime I go to Starbucks to get my coffee, I have to look at it across the street.  It is charming.
I know I said things but these two little places for me are just too precious not to blog about them.  We have this small, quaint little used book and record shop that has been here longer than I can imagine.  It is 
one of those sweet little shops that when you walk in you are instantly transferred to another time.  I always feel like I am twelve years old walking through the store.  It is lovely.  The window is sparkling with lights and it reminds me of the little bookstore in the movie, You've Got Mail.  
This is what the face looks like.
This clock dates back to the 1800's.  It plays Christmas music throughout the night during Christmas.  I love it so.  It is right across the street from our Starbucks.
I'm so mad this photo came out so blurry.  There are rows and rows of beautiful historic stone homes and they are all glowing from within with candles in the window and trees lit that you can see.  It is simply magical.  


Christmas Stollen

Every year I make Martha Stewart's mom's Christmas Stollen.  Today I decided to make it again.  I am a baker.  I love baking more than cooking.  It brings me joy.  But I am going to be honest.  I am not happy with my result.  This is a long process, rewarding but long.  You spend a lot of time on your feet over a kitchen counter to work on this Stollen.  My result was a bit darker than I wanted it and a tad undercooked.  Every once in a while that has happened but the last two years the Stollen has come out close to Marthas.  Tonight's end result was a bit undercooked.  I had to put it back in the oven but it didn't come out the way I wanted it to.  I had promised two to a friend and now I'm a bit embarrassed.
I'm including the recipe anyway, because it is a good recipe but it is a lot of work.  Here is my photo of mine.  Not at all like I had hoped.

Makes 4 large loaves
  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
  • 11 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups milk, warmed
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups currants
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 2 1/2 cups golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Peel of 4 oranges, diced
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 pound citron, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups blanched almonds, chopped
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water, and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir in milk and 1 1/4 cups melted butter. Add dissolved yeast and eggs. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until fairly smooth.
  2. In two separate bowls, soak currants in cognac, and raisins in orange juice. Let each stand for 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, mix together currants and raisins with their soaking liquids, the orange peel, lemon zest, citron, apricots, and almonds. Work mixture into dough. Continue kneading for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, knead in more flour, but be careful not to overwork.
  4. Place dough in a large buttered bowl. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel, and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Punch down the dough, and cut in quarters. Roll each piece into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter, then fold one long side to the center. Fold other long side over first side, overlapping it by 1 inch. Turn dough over, taper the ends, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat for remaining 3 loaves, using a second parchment-lined baking sheet for the third and fourth loaves. Cover loaves with plastic wrap; let rise again in a warm place, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees, with two racks centered. Bake stollen until golden brown, about 35 minutes, rotating the sheets between the racks halfway through baking. Cool on wire rack; dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Stollen - Martha Stewart Recipes 


Our Home's Story

Growing up in the Bronx as a young girl I loved to watch Christmas movies, especially Miracle on 34th street.  I always related to Natalie Wood's character.  She wanted Santa to get them a house.  A house like she saw so many times in Magazines and on Television.  When we moved to Pennsylvania, I never thought I'd find my home.  The Home that was in my head for so many years would one day become tangible.
First mistake was watching Gone with the Wind when I was about twelve or thirteen.  A big don't!  Because that was where my love for everything southern came from and my obsession with a house like Tara.

Even the name was amazing.  Crazy huh?  
Since Tara would probably never happen, I found my next love in Nashville, but mainly in Franklin, TNN and Amy Grant.

When I first saw her home was in a photo from a magazine.  Later I got to go and see her house in person, or atleast from the road.  She had 250 acres and horses and a winding road.  1409 Moran Rd in Franklin TNN.  I even took a stone from her front gate as a keepsake.  (Okay so I stole it!  Call the cops)
It sits in my rose garden today.  I went to TNN about ten times, and still counting.  My favorite place in the world to visit.  
So this house made me wish for a country life in a white and black shutter home with a spread of land in front and behind.  Alot to ask for from a city girl huh?  Dreams can happen!

Visiting Cape May, after my first year of marriage I saw this house.  This one still stands, it's off of beach avenue.  This one with it's wrap around porches reminded me of Tara.  It goes for around 4 million.  Hmmm, guess I should cross this one out!

After around two years of marriage we bought a white house in Pennsylvania.  This is a photo before it was finished.  Not painted white yet with black shutters.  We were there for 5 years.
During the fouth year there, one Sunday afternoon Rob and I were taking a drive looking at all the lovely homes up in New Hope area.  We saw this house that my husband was curious about and wrote down the number for the house.  We were just curious.  Well we left a message.
The next day this lady named Jane called and told me how much the house was.  1 million.  Okay thanks.  I said about to hang up or choke.  Which ever came first.  And then something strange happened.
She kept me on the phone for about a half an hour to 45 minutes asking me these random questions about what my dream house consisted of.  Don't ask me why but I humored her and continued with the conversation.  We hung up and that was that.
Rob met someone through work that was printing a photo of their parents home in New England somewhere.  He copied this photo for me and I kept it ever since.  I actually put it in a scrapbook.  If you look at it and know my house now, it is a bit funny to think that I kept this thinking of this as something I could never have but loved and when I look at it, it reminds me of my house.  A smaller version of it.

Now this is where it gets good.  The following year.  It was October.  I was cleaning out my closet when the phone rang.   Honest to  Gosh!  This is what I heard.  "Hi Lisa, do you remember me?  My name is Jane and I was a realtor you spoke to about a year ago.  Well I found your house."
She said that.  Verbatim.  I was in shock.  We were not looking to move.  We never even talked about moving.  I had not pursued the issue.  I had only told her what I thought was my dream house which was basically a combination of all my favorite homes in my mind.
She said, "Look, I know your not interested, but I tell you I have a feeling about this.  I am going to fax you a photo."
Well the fax was bad, dark and smudged.  As all faxes are!  But there was a tiny spec of something, something that made my heart jump.  I called her back and told her I could barely see it.  She then said, okay well I am so sure this is something that your going to love that I'm going to give you the address.  Tell your husband to drive by and then you call me.
Click.  After hanging up all I could think of were those words.  "TEll your husband?"  Tell him what?  Oh my stars.  What was I going to say?  What was he going to say?  Rob, a realtor lady that I talked to a year ago for 45 minutes called and found a house for us lets go?
Well I managed to tell him something.  Don't ask me what I said cause I can't remember.
We took a drive the following morning, it was a Saturday, and as we drove by the road, a road covered in pine trees, (that's why I named my house Pinerowe) we only caught a glimpse, but OMG what a glimpse.  We called and went to see it that afternoon.
This is what my house first looked like.  No front porch, flat front with a humongous pine tree smack in the middle of the front.  Rob had told me, "Okay so when we go in you don't react.  You act calm okay. The worst thing you can do is react and then the owners will know that we are easy.  (I have butterflies just thinking about that day.)  We went and drove down the long driveway.  I could hardly breathe.  I could just imagine Amy Grant, Scarlett and all the homes that I had ever dreamed of at that moment.  
When we got out of the house, we met Jane.  A lovely woman with a kind face and a sweet voice.  I can't remember her last name.  How awful of me.  
Everything was fine, I was calm and cool and walked around the back.  I walked around the back.  That's when I lost it!  This is what I saw around the back.
Crazy huh?  4Acres of land.  This house had 4 acres.  I had never even used that word before.  It wasn't in my vocabulary.  All I remember was I let out a high pitched squeek and then covered my mouth immediately.  Like the little rascals or something.  What the heck was wrong with me?  I remember this part in slow motion.  Rob turning to give me a dirty look as I stood there with my mouth covered in total awe.  Then as if on cue, my neighbor's horses began to gallop around waving there manes in the sun.  As if someone said "cue the horses".
We walked in and I fell in love.  Although Rob named it Graceland because all the rooms were dark paneled and shag white and orange rug.  (hideous! but hey, I had vision)
Two days and we made an offer.  In three weeks we were packing.  Packing without having our house sold.  Our house immediately went on the market.  And it sold in two weeks.  Crazy again.
The million dollar house we saw, calling Jane, the conversation, all fate.
We moved in a few days before thanksgiving.  November 19.  
First noticeable change I made was to paint the door red.  Had to.  Always pictured it in my head.  This photo is not accurate.  It is a year later since you can see we had a front overhang built and steps and took out that pine that blocked the entire front.  (It probably would have been the size of Rockefeller Center's now, and we could have gotten our picture in the paper, oh well.)
A few years later we added the front porch.  I felt like it was meant to have one.
We are about to begin building our den and I decided to play around with Photoshop to see what it might look like.  
This is the idea we have of how it might look.  I can't wait.  

I know my photoshop skills need work.  But you get the idea.  The study/den will hopefully be a stone addition.  Unless the township says NO, not again, not you guys again.  No way!!!.  God Willing the Amish company will be doing it for us.  


My Favorite picks for the Holiday Season

If I could recommend anything to give a good friend or a wife or a sister I would recommend two of my favorite things.  One is a design book and the other is a Christmas CD.
My favorite book that I love to nestle with and look at and read and get inspired on a cold night with a cup of tea and a throw or afghan over my lap (and probably Rudy or Wally sleeping at my feet or lap as well) is Winter House by Charlotte Moss.  Her words are inspiring and the photos of her home are uplifting and sweet and elegant and comforting.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book.
                     "To express the things of the spirit in visible form" It's my belief that our spirits are most
honestly expressed not by sofas, curtains, and carpets, but by the stack of favorite mysteries and gardening books on a side table, flowers on the windowsill, or porcelains displayed in the dining room.  These "telling details" - our objects, bibelots, whatnots, and knickknacks- say the most about who we
are.  They are as honest as a diary."  Charlotte Moss

The second is the James Taylor Christmas CD.  My ultimate favorite.  It is not only beautiful but spiritual as well.  Perfect for a cold Christmas Eve.  

To Market, To Market, To buy a fresh pig, home again, home again, jiggidy jigg.

 That was the day I had yesterday.  I was running around.  Do you ever feel like your trying to jam a million things in one day.  That's what I did yesterday, although it was quite rewarding when I finally went to bed.
Schedule:  6 am woke up and got took Matt to bus.
                  9 am went to market for more unsalted butter
                  9:30am attempt to take Wally and Rudy's photo with cute hats for blog
                  9:45 am finished my doughs from the day before
                10:30 am Took my mom to the Mall
                 1:00 Started baking the rest of my cookies and dinner
                1:40 Start working with the Cookie boxes getting them ready for delivery
                 2:00 OD on cranberry gingerale (The greatest drink ever.  You hear that Susan and Denise,
it's festive and not nasty tasting like coke zero.)
                3:00 Still Baking
                3:30 Start icing my christmas trees
                4:00 Dinner (shove a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry gingerale)
                 4:45 Take Matt to Guitar Lesson
                 5:30 Quicky stop at Starbucks for an evening Latte
                 5:45 Return home for a few more cookies to ice.
                 6:00 Get ready for Christmas design Class at BES with KC
                 8:30 Return home/ Walk the dogs/ put them to bed and work on cookies and cookie boxes
               11:30 pm clean up the kitchen
               11:58 put laundry away that has been sitting in the basket for a day.
               12:30 Nitey Nite.
Wally being bad.
Some of my cookie boxes.

My pretty Christmas Tree all Iced and ready to go.

KC standing next to one of Susan's Magnificent Urns with fresh greens.

Lovely mirror used as a tray.  They all were magical.

I bought this little fellow.  I loved that he was a vintage looking Santa.  And the tree too.  It is simply precious.

Instead of putting him on a silver tray I placed him in my little bathroom.  I put some greens and I think he looks lovely.

I also bought him.  This little topiary that I got with this lovely blue and white (Carolyne would be proud) planter that matches my blue and white theme.  I loved it.  It felt like a crazy day but I enjoyed everything about it.  Look how pretty the blue and white stands out with the cups in the cupboard.


Where Are You Christmas?

This photo was taken two years ago during the snow.
Although my house was decorated since last week, in reality it's not really Christmas until my family finds our Christmas Tree.  Every year we go across the road to our local Christmas Tree Farm.  In my opinion the most beautiful one ever!
It's just so magical here.  I love coming and it's right across the road from my home.  The owner offered Matt a job for next Winter.  KC's son's have worked here for many years and hopefully Matt will too.
Here is Matt once again selecting the best tree in the lot.

Here I am with Matt.  I just realized that every Christmas I wear my same favorite coat.
After getting a fresh cut on the bottom, loading the tree on the top of our car and bringing it inside, I began decorating it.  I am very pleased with the end result.  I decided to pull it away from my fireplace and my devil TV that drains the room of all air and placed the tree in front of my opening.  So we have to walk around.  They'll get used to it.

Although our Christmas this year is a sad one, I am comforted by the signs of Christmas in every room to help me to heal and feel the Spirit of the new born Jesus throughout my home.


Meet Huxley

This is Huxley.  He is the "mouse writer".  I bought him at Starbucks for myself.  This year's theme is story time and apparently Huxley is a little mouse that writes stories.  I bought him for myself for inspiration and to be my little writing guardian angel as I work on editing my novel with my dear editor Victoria.  I figured I can use all the help I can get right?  Besides, who can resist a mouse with a winter scarf.


The Battle Of The Trees. . . And the winner is? Lisa with 8!

So remember how I blogged about Me and My friend Lisa and our obsession with Christmas and decorating for Christmas.  Well we finally finished.  After endless trips to Black Eyed Susan's, Feeneys, Michaels and Joannes, we are finished.  Lisa came over last night to see my decorations and tonight I went to see hers.  I asked her if it were okay to blog about it and she said yes.
This is Lisa's formal tree.  It is filled with Magnolias and golden ornaments and ribbon.  Lovely.

Her dinning room trees are lovely mirror images covered in burgundy poinsettias and  ornaments.  

Her formal Living room sparkles with the lights from the Magnolia Tree.

I just love him.  He is her little pig in the kitchen.  He was already for the holidays dressed in his matching burgundy kerchief and holding his greens.

Lisa's Family room was warm and inviting with kugels and greens displayed on the mantle and hearth.

My friend is very talented.  Inspired by this lovely Ethan Allen Vase she created this lovely flower arrangement, perfect for the formal living room.

My favorite spot was her front entrance stairway.  Adorned with three miniature trees all decked out in their burgundy and gold ornaments and generous greens cascading down her staircase.  The hues were warm and elegantly done.  Thanks Lisa for letting me blog about it.  Jeff, I guess I owe you . . . 8 photos times 50 bucks a piece equals. . . NOT!!!
This is my family room mantle.  How much do I love this fireplace.  It is our favorite room where we nest, relax, unwind.  But it's Christmas and at night when all the other lights are out, I want it to look magical and sparkle.  It think I achieved that.  I love my glittery reindeer.
My Dinning Room tree is a Frontgate pencil tree that is covered in crystal drops resembling my chandelier.  I love it's look.  It doesn't need anything else.
The sunroom is divided by french doors on the other side of the dinning room.  I placed a simple tree with just white lights.

My white tree in the formal living room reminds me of snow.
On Saturday we go out in search of our real family tree.  I adorn that one with all our favorite ornaments and place it in our family room.  Although I love all my trees.  That one is always our Christmas Tree.
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