The Christmas Missives

HOLIDAY TALES

Christmas 2014

Greetings and Salutations, one and all!

2014 started off just like a good Winter should – with lots of snow. And we do mean lots! Philadelphia and the ‘burbs broke several records this year for both cold and snow. Other than the freezing rain, downed trees, and loss of power for almost a week, we loved it!

Yes, winter wreaked havoc on us – but we survived and had fun doing it. Probably the worst was losing power for six days in early February. Frigid weather, ice, and then heavy wet snow brought down trees and branches everywhere. The neighborhood looked like an atomic blast zone. It was a mess.

Our saving grace was installing the new front window and adding  more insulation back in October 2013. We kept the fireplace blazing burning multiple Dura Flame logs and any other wood we could find and the living room maintained a comfortable low-60°s. It was like camping with a comfortable bed. Or a Holiday Inn.

We put a couple of bins outside and kept the food nice and cold. Frozen food stayed frozen solid and the refrigerated stuff was equally fine. While people were foolishly throwing away food by the ton, we were cooking by candlelight and enjoying some great meals.

There’s still no natural gas in our neighborhood but the propane line we installed when we bought the house has saved us a few times. We will always eat well.

Nonna would be looking for her sweater while standing in  front of a blast furnace, so 65° wasn’t going to make it for her. We shipped her up north to Joanna’s house and hunkered down.  That first hot shower was wonderful.

Spring tooks its time arriving, but when it finally did, we looked to the disaster zone that was our front yard. We lost 7 trees and the rickety old fence. One dogwood was split right down the middle. The weeping cherry we planted for Tim’s mom didn’t make it, either. Also a huge oak, a couple more dogwoods, and a couple of huge firs. The fence was shot – so it went. as well. The yard looked pretty bare – we decided to just let it be for the season – and we’ll see about some serious landscaping in 2015. Maybe.

Besides… we wanted to save our pennies for our little trip to Sicily!

We killed it, suckers. 15 days in a 4 bedroom 3 1/2 bathroom 4000 square foot Villa – with a pool—in Modica… the Chocolate Capital of Sicily. Sicily has been owned and conquered by just about everyone at some point in history, so the food and culture really is the best of all worlds. We ate like royalty at every meal—for mere pennies compared to Rome or Florence—and saw the oldest Greek ruins outside of Greece, and the craziest drivers anywhere on earth. It was heart-stopping fun!

We had three-hour-long meals with some of the freshest seafood imaginable and another based on fresh ricotta at a farm.  The food, the food, the food… We bought fresh produce from stands along the street—augmenting the organic garden at our villa.  We lounged along the Mediterranean Sea—a mere 15km from our villa.

We drove up to Caltagirone — the pottery capital of the island — and added to our collection of Italian plates, bowls, and the like. Many of the shops in Caltagirone are the actual studios of the artists and in one shop we were able to see the artist actually at work creating the pieces he was selling. He gave us a tour of his workspace, a look into the kiln… and we bought dessert plates—because one can never have too many dessert plates. It was pretty cool. We bought quite a few different pieces… more bowls, a cake platter, Christmas ornaments—because one can never have too many Christmas ornaments—lots of chocolate, and olive oil grown and pressed by our villa’s owner. Yes. Real olive oil where we even ate the olives from the trees. It doesn’t get much better.

Nonna and Cybil Shepherd handled our vacation quite well. Auntie Donna came to stay with them. I think they had poker parties every night while we were gone.

June, July, August, September, October. Nothing. Not a thing happened. Nada. We went to work, came home, and didn’t do a single exciting or newsworthy thing.

And then, in November, a new Family Member—great-niece Stella Marie—was born. She’s absolutely adorable. A keeper, indeed! It’s fun to have babies around—as long as they belong to someone else and no diapers are involved.

And then the really big fun… We celebrated our 20th Anniversary on November 23rd. Yeppers… 20 glorious, fun-filled years. It doesn’t seem possible that we’ve done so much in a mere 20 years.  The next twenty is going to be just as fun!

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Thanksgiving came and went, and we continued our tradition of decorating the house instead of mindless shopping on Black Friday. We have years– and years—of decorations stored in a score of bins in the basement. It takes most of one day just to get them all upstairs. It’s looking pretty good. Eclectic, one might say.

So… as 2014 comes to a close. we’re looking forward to more fun and more travel in 2015. No European trips are planned. Instead, we’re heading to San Francisco in late January for some quality family-time and to Portland in August for a fabulous wedding. We’re saving our Euros for a 2016 trip… destination, unknown… Of course, we will keep you posted on the details.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Have a great Holiday Season and an even better 2015!

Victor, Tim, Nonna, and Cybil