I have now been back in Virginia for 118 days which is an 11 year record. Prior to my vandalism troubles, which have no end in sight, 60 days was our longest stop over here. I would have been in Fort Clinch state park for the first two weeks of November and Anastasia State Park for the last two. Gamble Rogers for the first two in December and Alafia State Park beginning on the 21st and into January but instead not only do I not get to be in sunny Florida, I have paid $200+ and counting in cancellation fees through January. I guess my bad luck is good luck for other folks though.
On the bright side, as you will see, I was treated fantastically this month by those I love and who love me.
It all started when my wonderful daughter suggested we meet half way, about an hour and half drive for each of us, to celebrate my birthday on December 7th.
She found the darling Hidden Julles Cafe in Haymarket Virginia.
Though it is a small spot, they were generous enough to let us spend nearly 3 hours having lunch and talking.
PLUS when they found out how far we’d come for this lunch and that it was my birthday, they gave me a giant pastry which I split with Carrie. Check out those swirls.
The food was all excellent, local and organic. They have vegetarian and vegan selections. I don’t think Carrie could have picked a better spot. If you are traveling west on Rt 66 29 from Washington DC, make sure you stop there. It’s very close to the major routes.
I took no pictures until we were about to walk out the door so many of the pastries had been taken and no shots of the delicious and lovely food on our plates. Next time!
Thank you so much Carrie for making my birthday special this year. This is the first time we’ve been together for it in 11 years.
I had an abundance of birthdays this year. How lucky am I.
My friend Pam who is a cracker jack knitter, made me a great winter hat which I’m seriously in need of since I haven’t worn any winter clothes for those same 11 years. You can probably see that she has knitted herself one as well. You can probably guess what our favorite color is.
And as if that wasn’t enough, she ordered my absolutely totally favorite chocolate candy in all the world directly from Esther Price’s candy store in my hometown of Dayton Ohio. AND she special ordered an entire box of milk chocolate coconut creams. WOW! Thank you thank you thank you Pam.
I had Mrs. Price’s candy for my birthday as did my mother for most of my life but not lately so this was really a treat. The story of Mrs. Price and her family, still making fabulous chocolates after 90 years, is a great one. Check it out on their web site and maybe treat yourself. Although, once you try it, I’m not sure any other candy will ever live up to it.
And then to top it off, we also went out to lunch at my favorite place on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, Revolutionary Soup. They have great soups and wraps and sandwiches. We planned our lunch for around 3 so we’d miss the crowds that fill this place to the brim at normal lunch time. Once AGAIN no pictures until we started to leave and had cleaned up our table. None of the food. SIGH! This becomes a theme as you will see. BUT here are some close ups of some of the really great table art they have.
All the tables have great art work but the rooster is my favorite.
AND THEN, I had a THIRD birthday lunch (do not ask about the weight gain). The pictures are terrible but they are all I have from my stupid phone which could not deal with the light in the background. My BIG mistake but I’m posting them anyway for the memories. I had no idea they were so terrible until I looked at them to do this post.
Here is my friend of nearly 30 years Laurie. She gave me a fun gift box from a subscription service she has which sends her an interesting book every month along with maps of the area in England where the book took place and other tidbits from the area such as, in this case, a tin of tea, a bag of chocolates, a book mark, a set of postcards of the area and in this case of canal boats on the actual water. Plus a wonderful tote bag.
Here is the included brochure that shows all the things in the box. It was SO much fun to open. And the book is also such fun that we are reading it for our Weekly Wednesday Book discussion. In it, two women who did not know each other meet on the canal towpath trying to save a howling dog. One has just lost her high powered job of many years and the other has just left her husband. They join up to help a 3rd woman who needs to get her canal boat to the mechanic up stream but also has to go into the hospital. Laurie and I have both decided we would love to spend a slow, lazy summer on a canal boat. Just in case you might want to read this too, the book was first printed in Britain titled Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson and the next year was printed in the US as The Narrowboat Summer. It was available in our local library. If you’ve ever wanted to just run away from home, this is the book for you.
Here are “most” of the actual things that came in the box. Laurie has some of the postcards and the tea which I do not drink and I have, of course, already consumed the chocolates.
I am just so lucky to have 3 such wonderful friends and I do consider my daughter Carrie as one of my very best friends.
After all that fun I had to get down to what I consider unfortunate business. I had to winterize Winnona since it is clear I will be here long into the Virginia freezing temperatures.
We had never done this so I did not have a clue. I put out a plea for help on Next Door and a wonderful local class A RV former owner named Stewart Whitehurst came over and showed me exactly what to do. I took pictures of every step since if I ever have to do it again I won’t possibly remember. I created a computer document with the pictures and details. Sadly I don’t have a picture of Stewart, only his hands. But I sure am grateful to him for his generosity. I offered to pay him for his time but he refused. Next Door has been a real help to me in this and other ways.
Another back lighting problem when I tried to take a picture of the annual wrapping of the Christmas gifts. Really sad to be doing this alone.
And then it was time to drive to Maryland to spend Christmas with Carrie and her family, another thing I haven’t done in 11 years. We’ve always flown.
On the morning before Christmas it was always our family tradition to buy pastries for Christmas morning. We arrived at the new to Carrie bakery at 9am and found many of the shelves empty. But we were still able to find enough delicious treats of which of course I took no pictures.
You can see some of them in this case and also the empty spots above below and around them. This place must have been packed from 7 to 9.
Then it was off to the park where 3 year old Colin had a stand off with his mother. He wouldn’t tell her what was wrong but just kept whining and complaining. Turns out his feet were wet. His shoes hadn’t completely dried. Who knows why he wanted her to guess what was wrong rather than telling her. So wonderful being the grandmother and not the mother.
All I had to do was push happy Celia in the swing.
Carrie left Colin to pout and took a restorative turn on the swing as well.
The playground is just down the road from their new to them home in Reisterstown Maryland. It has great equipment including two slides.
And then twas’ the night before Christmas and the presents were under the tree.
The stockings had been hung by the chimney with care but proved too heavy for their holders which were not anchored in so Santa filled them and set them in the chair next to the fireplace.
These are handmade patchwork stockings. You can tell I made them by their irregular sizes. So sad not to have David’s there too.
On Christmas Eve, Matthew made an absolutely delicious trifle which we sampled after the presents were under the tree and the kids went to bed. It tasted even better than it looks if that’s possible.
And then it was Christmas morning complete with crackling fire on the TV. That was a first for me coming from a two woodstove farmhouse.
Nana got Colin a fire truck complete with 4 auxiliary vehicles two with ladders. The other two were a helicopter and a plane. Not sure most fire departments have their own helicopter or plane but his does. Carrie is showing off the Pentatonix holiday CD she found in her stocking.
One of Celia’s presents from Nana had some fancy wrapping which she decided to wear. Carrie gave me the book by Jane Goodall. She knows her mother well. It was a great and unexpected gift.
Clearly Celia would like to help Colin but she’s being a very good big sister and letting him do it himself. The Raggedy Anne and Andy dolls and their original books from the 1920’s were a gift to Celia from me. I had played, as a girl, with an Anne and Andy hand made for me by my Aunt Carrie who also gave me the books. All of which I still have. I hope Celia will enjoy reenacting the stories as much as I did.
I couldn’t help taking a picture of these Woodwick candles. Not sure how they got so many of them. I bought one for Matthew so they each must have gotten two for each other. The candles crackle when they flame and are a hands down favorite with them both. They are scented and layered. I guess they will call Christmas 2021 the Woodwick Christmas.
I may have to get one to see why they like them so well. I wonder what do you do with the glass container and the lovely wooden top when the candles are burned down? Anybody have any suggestions for repurposing?
It’s almost over when Colin gives Celia a hug and Matthew has them hold it for a picture.
Then it’s off to Matthew’s sister Diana’s new house for the extended family Christmas. I have never attended this gathering before because David and I always flew back to Florida on Christmas Day and were dropped off at BWI on their way to it.
A small sampling of the 20+ people who were there. All the adults had been vaccinated and boosted so I crossed my fingers and it turned out fine obviously.
Matthew has two brothers and one sister. His oldest brother and 5 children were unable to come because his son tested positive for covid though he had no symptoms. That’s Matthew’s mother in blue on the left and his father in the overalls.
They do the children’s gift exchange first.
The food was glorious. And of course I was too busy eating it to take any pictures. This was the appetizer buffet which included a cheese bread bowl, a shrimp bowl and fantastic crab stuffed mushrooms. Only 3 left in this picture. These people seriously know how to cook. Matthew’s cousin Jen is a culinary school graduate professional baker and made their wedding cake. The deserts were to die for.
Matthew sadly was the only one who wore his Christmas Sweater. There’s a better picture later. Had I known he was going to, I’d have brought and worn mine.;
The Iwanowski/Vacca family have developed a system of gift exchange as you would imagine with such a big group. While the gifts under the tree are being passed out to the children, any for the adults are taken to this area and grouped according to person. Matthew’s brother Mark in the blue shirt and James, wife of his cousin baker Jen are putting them in their appropriate piles.
Then each person or couple takes turns opening while others watch and comment. This box turned out to be a hot air fryer from Matthew’s aunt Nancy.
Now it’s their turn to watch while others open. It was great fun to see all the gifts, some of which were hilarious.
When making up this post I was shocked to find that I had taken NO pictures of the kids playing outside on the zip line or in the play house. Luckily Carrie had taken this one of the great playhouse outside that entertained the children.
Also as is becoming my pattern, have no pictures of the delicious food on the buffet or of the desserts other than this one Carrie sent. You can sort of see the cake, the apple/carmel pie and the chocolate mousse but none of the wonderful bars of which I ate far too many. It’s also noticeable that the old folks are all at the end of the table with the desserts.
Really sorry I have no pictures of Mark’s gifts to everyone. He buys 2 or 3 scratch off lottery tickets for every man, woman and child in his family and they all take turns scratching between the main meal and the fantastic desserts. Colin won $100 and Carrie $40. Others also won but I forget how much.
As my closing for this December post I want to put up a picture of the GIANT Reese’s peanut butter cup that Carrie got from Santa this year. Half of it is under my hand. ** Note to Santa. I’d like one in my stocking next year please. Look how huge it is! Although even Reese’s doesn’t out do Esther Price!
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year with my deepest thanks for your comments and support during what was a very very trying 2021 for me.