Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013 And Looking Ahead

We've come to the end of another year.  And, of course, what would the end of the year be without my boring you with a list of my favorite books read this year?

But first, it seems only natural that I should discuss Christmas - not my favorite holiday, I admit.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I love the "true meaning" of the day.  What I have always dreaded is the stress.  But this year I found a way around all that.  It was quite simple really.  Who knew?

1.  What goes up, must come down.  Keep decorating simple.  For years I erected the 10+ foot behemoth that lurks for 11 months of the year in its two coffin-sized Tupperware cases - dangerous to drag down the stairs and difficult to pull back up.  It takes an evening to set up and requires one to concentrate on the alphabet (is this row "W" or "V"?  And although I know the alphabet and have for a very long time, I still have to recite it as I go from row to row to be certain which one comes next.  One year G was attached before F and the result was a very strange looking tree.) A pox on that jazz. This year I opted for a fresh Frasier Fir not too much taller than myself...and a nice sturdy stand and Voila!  I had tons of lights and ornaments left over, but I used the most important ones...the homemade ones.  It turned out grand.
 No outside lights, just a wreath on the door.  No elaborate crystal things hanging from the chandelier.  No life-sized Santas waving hello-ho-ho or reindeer nodding their heads in unison, red-noses twinkling.  Nope.  Just a few orbs that glowed, and flowers from my brother and sister-in-law, and a rosemary bush trimmed into the shape of a Christmas tree.

 (I had second thoughts about the red lights over the fireplace.  Definitely over-kill and a mistake; I took them down but not before I snapped a picture.  I put the glowing orbs on some candle-holders I've had and I think I'll keep them up all year long.  I just won't turn them on.  I figure if people stop suing each other and decide to get along, I'll be out of a job and I can always set up a tent using the glowing orbs to tell fortunes.  You know, to pay the mortgage.  I can blacken one of my front teeth, dress in gypsy attire, and become
"Madame Gradskaya - Seer and Teller of Fortunes".  Credit me with always thinking ahead.)

So, that was about it.

2.  Avoid the Mall.  I tried to do as much shopping as I could on the Island.  What I couldn't find here, I ordered on-line.  But if one pays attention and shows some creativity there are a lot of cool things to find right in one's own backyard.  The WI Farmers Market has a few vendors about whom I am wildly and madly mad. My favorite is a beekeeper - he prefers apiarist - who lives on the Island and sells lovely honey and honey-based soaps (pumpkin spice, frankincense and myrrh, rosemary mint; lavender and mint and on and on).  And then there is the artisan pasta maker who also sells a magnificent red pepper sauce in lovely distinctive jars. Who would not welcome a basket filled with any of that?  I haven't even mentioned the breads, and cakes, and artisan jams and jellies.  Speaking of which, I made my own Hot Pepper Jelly and Savannah Cheese Straws as gifts for some friends this year.

The peppers were purchased at a local farm stand.  And there is always ACE Saturday morning mecca..the great and bountiful land of EVERYTHING...of barbecue accoutrement, sun hats, garden gloves, kitchen gadgets, outdoor clothing - some of which are suitable for safari in the event you are going on one - fishing equipment, scented candles, camping gear, rifles, small appliances, chimineas, night shirts with cute pictures of dozing cats, cushy warm socks, necklaces made of small Christmas lights that actually twinkle, work shirts, jeans, boots, Crocs for men, women and children, dog beds, yard flags, plants, garden ornaments, fountains, long as I'm there I might as well pick up a few paint chip samples since I'm always painting something, right?  And how about a new caulk gun?  I can always use that.  Who needs the Mall?  Not I.

3.  Get invited to dinner.

So there you have prescription for a stress-free Christmas.  And it was!

So on to books...but I've run out of time I'm afraid.  I'll have to save that for another day soon.  In the meantime, But wait!  my my...what is that I see in your future? Come closer, my dear.  Don't be shy.  Look crystal ball is misty...misty...what's this?  The light is breaking through...the mist is becoming clear...and clearer.  I see...what?...I see...Yes!  I see a bright and happy New Year, filled with joy and happiness and many many books for you, my pretty (or handsome) one.  Madame Gradskaya is never wrong...the Orb Sees All!  (You may put a dollar in the jar...all tips are welcome.)

Happy, Joyful New Year, my friends.


  1. Happy new year to you Madame Gradskaya! Your blog has swallowed my first comment I'm afraid... i'm trying again

  2. Smithereens, you need not even cross my palm with a silver coin. For you the prediction is "on the house!" Be well.

  3. It all sounds perfect--well, maybe not the fortune telling, which I have always thought sounded like very hard work (although come to think of it so is being a lawyer), but the house and the tree (still larger than mine; I look for one shorter than I). And the gifts. I have only made cheese straws once, and they were not the greatest. Would you be willing to share your recipe?


  4. Tinky, I would be happy to share my recipe for the cheese straws. I'll send it to you via e-mail. I have a cute little ravioli wheel that I got somewhere years and years ago that cuts a nice zig-zagged edge and they look very pretty. Super easy to make since I pulse everything in the processor. I use White Lily Flour, which I believe makes a difference. You should be able to get it when you're in Virginia. And, like any flaky pastry, I chill before rolling out. Anyhoo, I'll send my foolproof recipe. Happy New Year, Tink!

  5. Ah, Madame Gradskaya, you are a genius! Your tree is beautiful and I love the glowing orbs and think you will do well with them. And how wonderful all your local and homemade gifts! You must have a really big ACE hardware. Mine is small but usually has what we need in terms or nails and screws and other parts. I like them better than Home Depot but sometimes we have to go to the big box store. A very happy New Year to you!

  6. Stefanie, Madame Gradskaya sees a very large ACE Hardware in her crystal orb with many pretty things...but she goes to Home Depot to save money if it will be worth the trip. The tip jar is a little puny in this economy.