Sunday, January 2, 2022

December–2021 and Happy 2022 Hopefully

December 31, 2021                                                           Most Recent Posts:
Charlottesville Virginia                                   November 2021 -  Still in Virginia
Day 118                                                                               October 2021

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.

20211207_140557It 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.


20211207_140614The 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.  


20211209_132318I 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.

20211209_152639And 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.


20211225_094648I 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.


IMG_0165The 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.

From Carrie2

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.

From Carrie5

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.


  1. What a lovely time you must have had. I am so envious! ;->

    1. What a nice compliment Judilyn. Thank you. I hope your first holiday alone has been OK. I know it might not have been more than that.

  2. Sounds like a great Christmas! Happy New Year!

    1. Still waiting to have lunch with you - 4 months and counting. :->

  3. There is a lot to be said about the wonders of being home at Christmas. Your time with Carrie and her family and her extended family looked like the post card fantasy of what Christmas should be like, in my mind. I miss getting all the family together, and I miss the presents, although our extended family has given up the present thing except for the great grands. Somehow we each feel like everyone has most of what they need and want so buying more presents seems like a useless adventure....then looks like so much fun. Maybe we can do it again next year when I get family here for Christmas. Also, have to say, your haircut is adorable!! Here is hoping the new year will bring some sort of decent conclusion to the vandalism saga. So glad you found someone to help with the winterizing. This post was absolutely wonderful, Sherry, birthday, Christmas, family, presents, great food...all the stuff of a great life. I know under the surface, though, there is a sadness when you are alone, thinking of David, and frustration at not being out on the road. Hang in there....let's hope for a better year to come.

    1. If I were part of that huge family in terms of gift giving, I would probably want to throw in the towel too as you are right that we too are lucky enough to have what we need and want. But it was fun opening gifts and being surprised. I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I so enjoyed your comment. Thank you! As usual, You are perceptive about the sadness and frustration.

  4. I'm glad that you had a good birthday and a Merry Christmas with Carrie and Matthew and the kids. The food sounded amazing. I'm sure I would've gained 10 pounds! Let's hope that there is some solution to fix Winnona. I keep hoping! xxxooo

    1. Glad to have your hoping along with mine. Maybe if there is enough of it. . . Really sorry I didn't get pictures of the food.

  5. What a lovely December you had. Birthday, Christmas, all the celebrations! We're all about See's candy here. Hard to find in the East. Glad you found someone on Next-door to help you winterize Winnona.

    1. I think you can order almost anything on line. Perhaps I'll try See's and see if it can compare. LOL!

  6. You are so lucky to have such a good family. Their support and laughs are the best medicine for the soul. We wish you a Happy 2022. My nephew gave us three nights in a downtown Hotel St Augustine for the 2021-2022 event. The State Park beach there is awesome and Kathy overwalked me all four days. It seemed like a million people showed up there for the end of the year. The weather was perfect also. I now know why you like staying there also.

    1. My direct family is very small Tom. Carrie and her family. This is the first time I've done the giant Iwanowski Christmas event. It was nearly overwhelming. I love St Augustine and Anastasia and would have been there this December had things not fallen apart.

  7. Happy belated birthday. Though you'd prefer to be in sunny Florida, it sure looks like you had a fine December. Wishing you all the best for 2022!

    1. Thanks Brenda for both your wishes. Looks like a nice winter ahead for you. Enjoy that warm for me. It was 14 degrees here today and Winnona has snow on her roof. :-<

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks William. Your consistent comments are definitely a gift.

  9. This blog captures quite a lot! I'm so glad you had so many wonderful, deserved celebrations and that you were here for Christmas. It meant a lot to have you join us despite the loud, crazy that it can be. Love you and our friendship always.


    1. And I you sweetheart. It really was quite an event. SO sorry I didn't get pictures of the fabulous food and the fun scratch off.

  10. Looks like the broken R V has somewhat of a good outcome. Your share reminds me of what the season is supposed to be about. How fortunate to have a family to share with and create new memories.

    1. Thank you Susan. I only wish a plan to fix the RV driver's door had been under my tree.

  11. I'd say there's a reason you are "stuck" there. Birthday lunch with Carrie, time with Pam, your special candy (for us it was Fanny Mae). Real-time fun is better than taking photos, I do the same thing and forget. LOVE the table art. And then you get a third birthday celebration full of fun and goodies too. LOVE that! Maybe next year make your birthday a present wrapping party. The locals would probably love to help with that. I think you should come to my birthday bash on the desert somewhere the end of March. Christmas with family looks perfect, except for Colin's poor wet feet. Who'da thunk we'd be watching the fire on TV. I'm rather glad you got to enjoy all the celebrations. Sending the best vibesd for 2022.

    1. I really hope to be flying back for "next year". I know, fire on TV, right. Doesn't seem like an improvement to me.

  12. Looks like it was all fun, Sherry, despite that it was not what you planned. I love the stockings! Hope you are staying warm and dry in this crazy snow.

    1. Thankfully I didn't lose power Pam. Hope you are OK as well. But 14 degrees is not in my plan. Poor Winnona!

  13. What weather you are having now!! You might like a book called "Maiden's Trip"...or at least I think that's the name. I'm not sure. What is the name of that monthly subscription service??
    Sounds like a good gift.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation Judith. The service is called The Traveling Reader and is in England so with postage it is not inexpensive. But it's like having a birthday or Christmas each month and I was so blessed that she gave me the month of November to me.

    2. Thank you!
      I neglected to say Maiden's Trip is about the canal girls too.

  14. Wow, you know how to celebrate! I know it's not AT ALL what you had planned and that you would like very much to be in Florida right now, but what a gift that you were at home to enjoy three wonderful birthday celebrations, followed by such a joyous Christmas celebration with Carrie and Matthew and the grandkids. So glad you got so much of your absolute favorite Esther Price candy! And now you want a big Reese's cup, LOL. I remember long ago that you mentioned you have a big sweet tooth. Enjoy it all! Hugs and Happy New Year—may this year bring ease and the adventures that you enjoy.

    1. Thank you for the perfect wish for this new year Laurel and for your wonderful friendship.

  15. So glad you had a wonderful fun Christmas to enjoy after all the challenges you've faced this past year. I'm pleased that you were able to find a nice man to help winterize Winnona so you don't have to stress anymore as temps drop. Wishing you a great 2022 with good things to come your way. You're an inspiration!

    1. Thank you Paul for your kind words and wishes and email advice. You are a friend I cherish.

  16. It is far to cliche' to say that things happen for a reason. Certainly to someone whose "things happening" have been unfairly piled on in the last few years. Instead I believe that when you look back you may find being in Virginia this time of year gave you some lovely memories and opportunities for a new happiness. Wishing you a 2022 filled with simple pleasures wrapped in new perspectives that give you deep joy.

    1. I would be happy to have your wish for me come true Jodee. It's definitely been a rough few years and unless it was to experience just how cold I can feel, I have no idea what the reason could be for me to be stuck here. My lovely memories would have happened had I flown in from somewhere sunshiny and warm. LOL!!

  17. A little late responding. Looks like you had a good looooong birthday and a wonderful Christmas. Ours was totally disrupted by Covid... so it was very quiet. Can't believe how fast Colin and Celia are! Wishing I had that Reeses peanut butter cup you finished the post with... one of my very favorites. Hope you get to go South before it's times to return...

    1. Better late than never Roger. I so appreciate your comments. I wish I had the Reeses peanut butter cup too. Matthew got it for Carrie who hadn't opened it by the time I left. Freezing here and no end in sight. I've had to cancel nearly all my reservations at $25/per and it doesn't look like I will be able to leave any time soon to make a trip that far worth while. Thanks for hoping for me though.


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