Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas – Ready or Not

My little Elf on a Shelf has been watching me with bemused delight as I navigated my way through the ups and downs of the last two weeks. 

Christmas is only days away and it looks like I’m going to make it.  For a while there I wasn’t too sure.  Nothing too dire, mind you, but a complication that could have thrown a large monkey wrench into the whole Christmas works.  Let me explain. 


Last Tuesday I was scheduled for jury duty at the Camden County Hall of Justice in the City of Camden.  Camden is not exactly the garden spot of the Garden State of New Jersey.  Situated across the Delaware River from the City of Philadelphia, Camden was once a beautiful place to live. 

It was the birthplace of the RCA Victor recording company that made the first recordings of the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso

and is home to the Campbell Soup Company, which changed our eating habits forever by condensing soup and putting it in a can.  Sadly, the City has fallen into decline over the decades despite periodic efforts to revitalize it.  In fact, its high crime rate has earned it the dubious honor as the murder capital of the country. 

So, with less than two weeks to go before Christmas and still so much to do, I found myself in the basement of the Camden County Hall of Justice along with several hundred other hapless souls waiting to see if I would end up on a jury.  At 9:00 a.m. my number was called and 50 of us made our way to Courtroom no. 52 for a malpractice case, which meant that it would be a long and complicated trial that could last until Christmas.  Yikes!!!  Juror after juror was called, most of whom were excused for one reason or another. 

My luck held out until about 3:30 when I was finally called.  Oh no!!  I still had Christmas shopping to do, decorations to put up, Christmas cards to write, etc., etc.  I was a wreck.  Luckily, after being questioned, I was excused and with a huge sigh of relief, I bolted back to the jury assembly room to wait out the rest of the day. 

The room was pretty full, but I spotted an empty seat next to a stylish lady with an artfully tied scarf.  There was something warm and inviting about her – maybe it was the scarf (You know my penchant for scarves!!). 

“Is someone sitting here?” I asked.  “Yes, you,” she replied with a smile.  What are the odds of walking into a crowded room of total strangers and sitting next to a woman who shares so many of your cultural interests, not to mention both of you having a French father? 

Ann Moser Trenka has spent her life as a classical dancer both here and abroad and is the Founder and Director of the Cooper River Ballet.  Needless to say, we hit it off instantly. 

Suddenly I was reminiscing about my early years at the barre as wonderful, long-forgotten memories came flooding back.  What a terrific way to end a long and stressful day.  We promised to get together after the holidays, and I promise that you will be hearing more about this incredibly interesting lady as she also promised to let me interview her for my Blog. 

Two days later I was sitting in the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia sipping tea with three lady friends in the Mary Cassatt Tea Room. 

I can’t think of a lovelier way to spend a wintry afternoon.  Everything was delicious, the service was impeccable and the atmosphere was warm and cozy – a far cry from that chilly Camden courtroom.

My house got decorated over the weekend (See “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things”) and the Christmas shopping was finished on Monday. 

The gift wrapping was done on Tuesday, with a little help from Miss Kiri Kat, who was clearly trying to redeem herself after knocking the Baby Jesus from the crèche on the floor and decking poor St. Joseph. 

On Wednesday, my cleaning lady, Nicole, arrived with homemade cookies wrapped up in a beautiful red and green box decorated with an adorable little sled made of painted popsicle sticks.  Nicole comes from a large Italian family and every holiday is special to them.  For Thanksgiving she dropped off two huge containers of Italian Holiday Soup (a/k/a Italian Wedding Soup), the famous escarole soup with tiny meatballs and rice.  Every Italian cook has his/her own version of this soup and Nicole’s was just delicious!!

Her Christmas cookies are to die for, too, but that little popsicle stick sled absolutely stole my heart. 

Every year, Nicole and her daughters bake cookies and make a special Christmas ornament, different every year, for family and friends.  It’s precious mother-and-daughter girl time that has become a loving family tradition. 

Not being especially “crafty,” I am always in awe of those who are.  This little sled absolutely, dare I say it, “sleighed” me. 

If you would like to make one, check out Jenn’s Clean & Scentsible web site that has step-by-step instructions on how to make your very own Christmas Ornament Popsicle Stick Sled.  It looks easy enough that if I were the crafty sort I might actually try it. 

But, since I’m not, I think I’ll just make myself a cup of Ginger Peach Tea and have one of Nicole’s yummy Christmas cookies. 

Yes, I think I’m ready for you, Christmas.  Bring it on!!


  1. Dear MT - Wishing you a very blessed Christmas and all the best for 2018. - I love Christmas - especially the calming lights, when one can reflect and be grateful for all the happy days we were able to spend wit our loved ones. - Glad the Jury selection worked out for you - Thank you so much for all your posts - I do love every single one of them! - Merry Christmas to you and your Family
    ~ Rose

  2. Happy to hear the weeks leading up to Christmas worked out as they needed to, M-T! The popcycle sledge is adorable as well as, Mary Cassatt Tea Room. What a gorgeous place to meet for tea.

    Merry Christmas,

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Wow, that was a close call with your Jury Duty call!
    Glad you got off the hook in time...
    Pieter sat next to me while reading your post together and we were kind of shocked about the decline of Camden. Sad story!
    What a wonderful meeting with that lady. At times you wonder if such encounters are for real. There must be an Angel up there that is kind of manipulating people for making it happen. So special and happy for you.
    Sure look forward to hearing more about her.
    I too over worked for Christmas.
    Pieter is stable with the use of his meds.
    Due to my diligent writing of the complete South Africa series, for Pieter mainly to distract him and for giving him the joy to relive our best years together. It worked and he enjoyed it thoroughly and even more so the comments.
    It made me feel happy to and while I was so distraught early November, it gave my a good distraction for my mind! Feeling happy for having pulled it off and I need to do more, while it still can!
    But I didn't do any laundry and such while writing but vowed to have my house spic span and laundry all put away by Christmas. YES, I did but my mid back did protest. As of today, it is my first pain-free day; so happy!
    We went for midnight Mass to the Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, FL where we went last year when the Philharmonic Orchestra played. This time just organ music with wonderful soloists. We also had 15 min. caroling before Mass. Walking only 700 m from the Hyatt Regency Riverfront through balmy 70s weather.
    Next day I drove 4.5 hours more south to Hyatt House Ft. Lauderdale where Chef Pieter cooked our filet mignon and prepared the rest of our Christmas dinner. He gave me some much needed relief as I have to do all the driving.
    Happy times and here we met with a dear friend from Miami, she did drive up so I had my first day without any driving.
    Tomorrow off to Sarasota and maybe meeting with other friends.
    Taking it day by day, no rush and relaxing as much as possible.
    Wishing you a Happy New Year and above all, a healthy one!


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