Friday, December 31, 2021

Holiday Hotel Trees

Whenever we've traveled during the holiday season, and there's been a fair number of road trips at that time, we've always taken our photo by the decorated hotel ๐ŸŽ„
Most times, that's involved several photo opps and this recent holiday road trip was no exception as the tradition continued on our 2021 holiday travels.
We took selfies by ๐ŸŽ„trees in the hotel lobbies of four states — NY, PA, NJ and RI. (
We visited family in the last three states; NY was just an overnight stay.)

Without fail, whenever we take a selfie, someone will offer to help. We politely decline as we prefer a facial close-up not a body shot and are pleased with our results. Do you prefer to take a selfie or let someone else assist?

What are you doing New Year's Eve? 
OK, we'll go first. On this final day of 2021, we're at home and later today will share food and a game of dominoes with another couple. We've been regularly meeting up to do the same things last year and this year. All of us have been fully vaccinated (with boosters) and feel comfortable gathering in one another's home. And, long before midnight, everyone will be home and most likely asleep as we're not exactly party folks, and never have been.

How will you spend the first day of 2022?
Again, we'll go first and share our plans. We're staying home, wearing comfy clothes, snacking on appetizers and treats, watching not one, but three vintage films with the same theme: lovers meeting on top of a tall NYC building. The first and last film were made over 50 years apart. Braggin' rights to any of you who can ID them in a comment.

We wish you & yours a Happy New Year
See you in blogland in 2022

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Christmas Road Trip

Christmas was very grand because it was celebrated with the grandchildren and family.
Our first stop was before the actual holiday and we celebrated it early with the youngest granddaughter. We brought birthday and Christmas gifts to open during our visit. Birthday gifts were opened first, then it was time to open the Christmas gifts as in the above ↑ photos.
After, we drove to our home state of NJ, where we visited with niece and great niece, Julie and Autumn Rose who visited at our hotel.
We went out to dinner with my brother and SIL (no photos) and exchanged gifts found in our respective states. Our gift was Taylor pork roll, which we haven't been able to find in local NH supermarkets. 

If you're wondering what it is, nothing good. It's a processed pork product made with spices, salt, a sugar cure, and preservatives and smoked before being packaged. We enjoy it with eggs, but it's also popular as a breakfast sandwich. In North Jersey it's known as Taylor ham; those in South Jersey and Philly call it pork roll.
We had a white Christmas Eve morning in Warwick, RI, after waking up to views of a lightly falling snow as seen from our hotel window. It was enough to coat local roadways as we headed out for our next family visit.
Grandson was very happy with his gifts, a drone and gift card.
Among her gifts, oldest granddaughter was puzzled by a small box that when opened had a lot of ? marks. We told her that it was an I don't know gift since that's what she had said when asked her gift preference in December. There was also a gift card hidden beneath all the ?s. 
Grenville and daughter also enjoyed opening their gifts. 
It's been a long-standing practice in our family (maybe in yours as well?) to just let the gift wrapping accumulate in a pile and bag it all up after all gift opening is done.
Youngest granddaughter was also opening gifts on Christmas morning. She wanted to make sure Santa had treats so the day before, she mixed dough for a batch of cookies.
She and her dad worked on a gingerbread house. Grandpa and granddaughter did the same in RI. The frosting (top right) was more problematic than anticipated; front windows were very snow icing-covered.
While there were many penguins around in a snow globe, ornament, holiday card, and a pillow, the absence of frogs was noted this Christmas.
We dined out on Christmas Day for a traditional holiday meal. While the plan was to order a duck entree as in the film, A Christmas Story, it wasn't on the menu. Instead, our choices were a stir fry Pad Thai and Sashimi. Both were delicious. We dined early, a good plan as on exiting there was a waiting crowd; others had the same idea.

That's it for the holiday tour this year and, most likely, for a while to come. We're not expecting to see everyone again until mid-2022. There's been a flurry of posts (not snow) the past couple of weeks as these were time-sensitive. Thanks to all for your comments and well wishes.

We hope your Christmas holiday was a joyful and peaceful one. Even though we covered several states in a short time, we were happy to spend time visiting family in each. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A 5th of Birthday

As many fellow bloggers already know, we were on an extended pre-holiday road trip before to visit family in 3 different states. While the purpose of the trip was to visit family and friends for Christmas, it also included a special birthday celebration.

The youngest granddaughter celebrated her 5th birthday ( already) in December. We started our trip in PA bearing gifts. A family party was planned for the weekend; we opted to deliver gifts a day earlier before the birthday celebration.
She is an avid Play-Doh artist and was eager to show Grandpa her talents. Of course, as a retired firefighter, his favorite was the firetruck.
There was some game playing as well, and we quickly learned that a 5-year old has her unique ways as to how they are played. Coincidentally, she always came out as the winner.
A child can only be patient for so long before it's time to open gifts. We knew that the oversize unicorn toy gift would be taking an afternoon nap with her.
The next day brought more family members and more gifts were opened. Besides unicorns, this young miss is a fan of the Frozen film characters. 
No birthday is complete without a cake, candles and singing. And, the decoration on the cake included characters from Frozen.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Day 2021

From Dorothy & Patrick (aka Beatrice & Grenville) . . .
We hope that all who celebrate enjoy a peaceful and joyful holiday season with family and friends, for us, these are the best gifts of all.

P.S. Comments are off. We thank everyone for the holiday wishes and comments on previous posts. Blog posting will resume next week once we're back home.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is here. It's almost Christmas, and there’s magic in the air. Just ask Alabama’s Thistle Hair the Christmas Bear.

It’s been a while since I wrote a Christmas Eve post. Life and family and the pandemic seem to have taken the time. But, this year, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. No, it is not a train coming towards us. It’s the Christmas Star shining brighter than ever. Bill Murray in Scrooged saw it and said, It's a.. miracle. It's really a sort of a miracle. Because it happens every Christmas Eve. It’s a time for families and friends to gather. There's magic in the air.

Over the years, Beatrice and I have collected (too) many Christmas movies. Some are classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Others are more modern ones like The Holiday or Love Actually. And, some are little known ones like Mixed Nuts or Rupert The Great.  Every one has a basic message that Christmas is magic. All you have to do is BELIEVE. The kids on the Polar Express learned it, the main character in all of the many versions of A Christmas Carol learned it. And, even that most famous Christmas hater of all, The Grinch, learned it.
Have you learned it? Do you BELIEVE?

One of my favorite lines from The Grinch That Stole Christmas is (and I quote) It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more as his heart grew three sizes. 
Have you learned it?  Do you BELIEVE? It’s not too late.

Even old Ebenezer declares, I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.
Have you learned it? Do you BELIEVE? It’s not too late. 

The character of Frank Cross in the film, Scrooged reminds us It's Christmas Eve! It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be. And it can happen tonight for all of you! If you believe in this spirit thing, the miracle will happen and then you'll want it to happen again tomorrow. It's a miracle. Because it happens every Christmas Eve.
Have you learned it? Do you BELIEVE? It’s not too late.

But Lou Lou Who, Postmaster of Whoville, said it the best, I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here, My family.

I learned long ago. I still believe. Do you?

Gotta go now. I think I hear a clatter up on the roof. 
Merry Christmas to all. And, to all a good night.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

From Us to You

A few words from the man in the red suit . . .
Merry Christmas to all . . .
and to all, a Good Night
From Our Home to All of Yours

Thanks for your comments on our holiday decorations in the previous post. Yes, we enjoy Christmas; family and friends are the best part. This year we're thankful we can visit and hope the same holds true for many of you as well.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas All Around

Holiday decorations abound both outside and inside our apartment. knowing that we would be out-of-state for pre-Christmas family visits to three states meant getting things done before we left, including this post.
These decorations are outside our apartment entry. Many remain the same from last year with a couple of extras added in. Cards on the door and wall are representative of those received last year, so they've been enjoyed for 2 years. Cards received this year will follow the same tradition.
Inside the apartment, the tree bought last year was set up. In 2020, we had planned for a fresh-cut pine tree, but that was the year management issued a permanent ban on such greenery (bah humbug). Luckily, we were out shopping and bought this pre-lit on sale for under $40. While on the slender side, it works well in a small space. Someday, we'll need to cut back our ornaments collection or not buy new ones, as we ran out of space to hang some.
A Nativity setup is always included in our holiday displays. This one is extra special as the figures are from my late mother's set; the manger is from a previous set of mine. Oddly, neither set had any of the sheep shown, all of these, an oxen and camel (behind the Three Wise Men) were purchased many years ago at a Hallmark store in NJ. In years since, I've never found similar pieces sold in stores. (Unlike the figures, these added animals are made of plastic, but treasured just the same.)
Our carefully hung stockings are not hung by the chimney with care, mainly because we don't have a fireplace here. Instead, these are hung on the media cabinet, but with care just the same. The designs had to include penguins, snowman and a moose, but there's no frog.

Snowmen always hang around the apartment and these top ones are on available door handles. Assorted Santas hang on walls, doors, and even a living room lamp pole.

This year, Charlie Brown and his friends have river view seating on the window sill. They've been joined by some snowmen, one entertains with a saxophone (when the switch is on).

Assorted wooden figures, include a marching soldier band led by Santa and wooden toys. These are are set a distance from the Grinch who's already purloined a Christmas tree while Max stands guard.
Last year, when there was a lot of inside time, I made the cork and pine cone trees shown above. Materials used were very inexpensive: corks donated by friends, harvested pine cones and Dollar Tree add-ons. Not only were these fun projects, but I learned how much fun one can have with a glue gun.

The penguin family in the lower left was purchased so many years ago that we can't recall where, but they've traveled from NJ and VA to NH. The bear sled is a music box, a treasured gift from Ann, a NJ friend, who passed away. It's wound and played every year in her memory.
Do you have a holiday favorite?  Mine is this gaily garbed bear given as a holiday gift by my brother years ago. It has sat in my car, on the couch and under the tree in every home I've/we've lived since then. We've named it Thistle Hair, the Christmas Bear (from the song by country group Alabama). Its value is minimal, but the memory it evokes each holiday season is priceless
These decorations reside on our neighbor's shelf with help from myself and Dollar Tree. The young neighbors who live in the apt didn't have any holiday decos up, so in the spirit of the season, these few items were added. It's amazingly simple (and inexpensive) to add some holiday decor. (The neighbors did not seem to object to the additions, which remained in place  when we left home.)
There are holiday wreaths and also decorated trees in both lobbies of the mill apartment buildings where we reside. Alas, those gaily wrapped packages cover empty boxes.
Like youngsters, we visited with Santa at the mill arts recent holiday get together. 
We wanted to make sure we were on the nice list year — not taking any chances.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Friday Funnies

Looks like this cherub is feeling a bit downhearted . . .

Perhaps he or she is on the mischievous list this holiday season and is worrisome about that. The man in the red suit most likely grants exceptions to the naughty or nice list. (The photo was taken during our visit to the gardens in Pickity Place, which was posted about earlier.)

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
The big day is coming soon

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Once Upon a Time

Tis definitely the season for stories, and here's another one of a visit this fall.

In October, we enjoyed a lunch at grandmother's house, but it wasn't at the house of my grandmother or anyone else's. 

Instead, this lunch was at the cottage of the grandmother featured in the children's story, Little Red Riding Hood.

You might be thinking, but isn't that a fictional tale?
And, you would be right. 

But, if you happen to take a trip along winding back country lanes in the small southwestern NH town of Mason, you'll arrive at Pickity Place on Nutting Hill Rd. It's affectionately known as Grandmother’s House, but you won't find ever find her at home.

That's because, unlike grandmother's house, Pickity Place, isn't fictional. Not only can you visit, but you can enjoy a delicious five-course prix-fixe herbal menu which changes monthly and attracts folks from New England and beyond. 

Courses feature herbs and edible flowers (which were very good) from the surrounding gardens chosen to enhance the five courses, appetizer to dessert. (There's always a vegetarian entree too.) The 10-acre location includes a greenhouse, herb gardens, drying shop and gift shop. Lunch is served three times daily, 7 days a week, except on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Diners gather until a bell rings for lunch time in one of three dining rooms, which may seem crowded at first; however, part of the charm is that it feels more like dining in a home than at a restaurant.
If you're curious why the restaurant is referred to as Grandmother's House, here's the rest of the story. The little red cottage, which has been around since 1786, was the stand-in used to depict grandmother's house in a 1948 illustrated version of the children's tale, Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood is a European fairy tale about a young girl and a Big Bad Wolf. Its origins can be traced back to several pre-17th century European folk tales; however, the two most popular versions were written by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. The story has been changed in various versions and is subject to numerous adaptations. Other names for the story are Little Red Cap or simply Red Riding Hood. 

In 1945, Elizabeth Orton Jones, an illustrator and writer of children's books took a business trip to NH. An Illinois native, Jones was an accomplished artist, who studied in Paris after earning a PhD from the University of Chicago. She became fond of NH, relocated to Mason and bought a cottage there with the proceeds from the sale of her first book Twig. She called her home Misty Meadows

Jones worked constantly and when Misty Meadows overflowed with artwork, she bought another house in Mason. She named it Rock-A-Bye and it was where she entertained visitors. 

Her artwork for the a 1944 children's picture book, Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field, won the 1945 children’s Caldecott Medal. That's when, Lucille Olge, her editor at Golden Books asked her to illustrate another book of her own choosing.

Jones enjoyed the wooded paths and seeing the very large white ash tree behind a small red summer cottage close to her new home. Soon, both became an inspiration as she and Olge collaborated on retelling the centuries-old fairy tale with the cottage as the book's setting. 
Little Red Riding Hood, A Little Golden Book Simon & Schuster, NY, was published in 1948. The small hard cover book had 20 pages and was priced at 25 cents and now sells from $15 to $30 on auction sites.

The opening page of Little Red Riding Hood has a sign that reads, To Mason, NH. Jones was known by the nickname of Twig and remained a Mason resident until her death at the age of 94 in 2005. She penned a history of the town. The public library renamed its Junior Room the Twig Room in her honor. Her life was dedicated to writing for children. Jones never married and was childless.

The current Pickity Place opened for business in 1974 and the seemingly
 nonsensical name came from its owners, Judith and David Walter, referred to as The Picks (for whatever reason). The term pickity eventually evolved into the naming of the business they started. The Walters lived in the red house and used the outbuildings for an herb business before starting the restaurant. (The Walters sold the business to head chef Keith Grimes in 2000 and he and his wife retained the name and charm.)

In the early 1980s, The Walters converted rooms into the Little Red Riding Hood Museum, a room called Grandmother’s Room was decorated like a page from the storybook. 

A facsimile wolf with grandma's laced cap was tucked under the covers of a four-poster bed (the wolf would be removed at the Walters bedtime). This room located near the check-in reception desk had framed reproductions of the book and assorted souvenirs. There was also a table where a guest could dine in a room set up to capture the mood of the story.

During her lifetime, Jones frequently gave interviews at the restaurant as people came to dine and also see the large tree popularized in the 1948 Golden Book illustrations. 

It was considered the largest of its kind in NH and the second largest white ash in New England. Jones had featured the large tree by grandmother’s front door where Little Red Riding Hood was headed with a treat
But now, the tree lives on in photos and memories. During a severe 2020 winter storm, the top right of the aged tree crashed down. It also caused heavy damage to Grandmother's Room which has not been replaced. 
While most of the remaining tree parts had to be cut down for safety reasons, the trunk was left and has been turned into a seating area for photo opps.
In addition to the restaurant, Pickity Place includes a gift shop housed in
 a rustic barn with a well-worn creaky floor. There's no computers used for checkout here. Instead, an antique cash register maintains an old-fashioned vibe. The gift shop comprises about half the business with offerings of herbs and spices, dip and soup mixes, herbal blends, teas, kitchen goods, books and regional gifts.
In season, the gardens and greenhouse include plants and herbs available for purchase as well as garden items such as birdhouses, seed packets, and potted herbs. 
The drying shed features wild herbs and flowers hung from the rafters and old wagon wheels (not visible here) suspended from the ceiling. 
A word of advice, if you're want to dine at Pickity Place, be sure to book in advance. Although it's off the beaten path, advance reservations are recommended, but only by a phone call. There's no online or email reservations available. The out-of-the way eatery attracts not only new, but repeat diners, some of whom return monthly we learned. 
If not that we're leaving this week on a pre-Christmas road trip to visit family, we might well have been tempted for a return visit after read the December 2021 menu: French onion dip, creamy broccoli soup with smoked gouda, pear, apple and walnut salad with cape cod cranberry dressing, French baguette rolls, Cabernet braised beef over savory bread pudding or winter vegetable risotto entree, and a silk pie dessert with candy cane crush.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the previous blog about Dickens and A Christmas Carol. It was a remarkable and entertaining performance by his great-great grandson.

My blog reading and commenting will be sporadic for a while. We're leaving this week for family Christmas visits in 3 states, returning home after Christmas. This year, we're traveling in style (and safety) in Grenville's new(er) sleigh Jeep SUV featured in a previous post.