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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
Last weekend was to have been my weekend in Chicago to see all the Christmas lights and shop the beautifully decorated stores Downtown and on Michigan Avenue. My friend and I have planned the weekend throughout the summer and were quite looking forward to it but unfortunately her Hubby needed a minor surgery so we decided to cancel. Not to be deprived of seeing my favorite store, Marshall Fields, now a Macy’s, I decided to check on You tube for historic pictures of past Christmas Seasons  in Chicago but to my delight I discovered a British “vlog” (video blog) focusing on Harrods department store in downtown London.: (

Hanna Ricketts, a native of the UK, and in retail fashion has started “Vlogmas” where she tours the city taking the viewer through all the stores and outside vendors to view Christmas in London. She has a very pleasing British accent which adds to the excitement of touring London. The store windows are beautiful, especially the bakery window displays of Christmas sweets, puddings and mince pies. Her tour of Harrods Department Store was quite informative; I was disappointed to see that the main floor has been remodeled, just as many of the historic stores in the USA, and it is all modern white. Luckily some of the upper floors retain the old fashioned décor of dark wood, beautiful wainscot and ornate chandeliers. The tour of Harrods was quite posh and I could not imagine a prettier store.

A second “Vlogmas” video introduced me to a London store of which I had never heard of, “Fortnum and Mason”.  To my delight this historic four story building has retained most of its architectural splendor and I actually liked Fortnum’s better than Harrods. The Fortnum website states: “Our legacy began in 1705 by Hugh Mason, from a small store in St James Market and a spare room in his house, and the Fortnum family who had arrived in London as high class builders reinvigorating Mayfair in the wake of the Great Fire. William Fortnum, who was quite the entrepreneur, also took a post as Footman in Queen Anne’s household and in Mr Mason’s spare room, where Fortnum met Mason”.  Can you imagine a 316 year old store? (https://www.fortnuman) The spiral staircase is beautiful and the Christmas decoration and Chocolate Departments are to die for.

Another of Hanna’s “Vlogmas” videos is a night tour of Chriatmas lights on Regents Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and the Mayfair areas. The sparkling lights are magnificent and the camera work was done very well for a cell phone. The historic buildings of London’s fashion district did not disappoint either. The Ralph Lauren clothing store building was resplendent with sparkling white lights and lighted wreaths in every window. Hanna called it a “posh” store. The Cartier building was understated but beautiful. The window decorations are extraordinary and “Selfridge and Company” was beautiful although they painted all the old wood white, it was decorated with gold and silver and quite sparkling. If you are looking for something a little different in your Christmas computer surfing, I highly recommend Hanna’s  Vlogs; it was a nice change of pace and a great virtual Christmas trip to London.

Here is a  bit of Christmas trivia from ( Did you know that Hallmark actually invented Christmas wrap? I did not know this but the Hallmark website ( “Hallmark can be credited with founding the modern-day gift wrap industry when, during the Christmas season in 1917, the Hall Brothers’ store in Kansas City ran out of the red, green, white and holly tissue sheets that people used to wrap gifts. Some decorative envelope lining papers from France were brought in from Hallmark’s manufacturing plant and put on top of a showcase for 10 cents a sheet. They sold quickly.”.

A New York woodsman named Mark Carr is credited with opening the first U.S. Christmas tree lot in 1851.

According to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, sweaters became a party trend in Vancouver, Canada in 2001.

Wreaths have been around since the ancient Greek and Roman times, but the evergreen Christmas wreath, often adorned with boughs of holly, eventually took on Christian meaning, with the circular shape representing eternal life and the holly leaves and berries symbolic of Christ’s crown of thorns and blood, according to the New York Times. 

Thomas Edison may be famous for the light bulb, but it was his partner and friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, who had the bright idea of stringing bulbs around a Christmas tree in New York in 1882.

Of course, research for a new Christmas recipe is high on my list of reduced computer time. Pistachio recipes seem to be the nut of choice this year but my family does not care for them. As usual the first thing I look for is an unusual Victorian Christmas recipe but most of them use mince in the puddings and pies and, here again; my family does not like mince meat. The coffee girls were chatting about honey this morning so I researched Christmas honey recipes and found a Christmas honey cake. Sounds yummy and I will make it this year.

Enjoy the season.

Christmas Honey Cake


* 1/2 cup butter

* 3/4 cup sugar

* 2 eggs

* 1/2 cup buttermilk

* 2 tsp baking powder

* 1/4 tsp baking soda

* 1/2 tsp cinnamon

* 1/4 tsp cloves

* 1 cup flour

*  1/2 cup nuts(almonds, 

pistachios, walnuts in 

any combination,  


Honey Syrup

* 1/2 cup honey

* 1/2 cup water

* 1 T lemon juice

* zest of 1/2 lemon


Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Combine dry dry ingredients and 1/4 cup of the nuts. Add butter and sugar mixture alternating with buttermilk. Pour into a 10” springform pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup nuts. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.Cool cake in the pan. Bring syrup ingredients to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Slowly spoon honey syrup over the cake. Cover and let sit for at least several hours to absorb all the syrup. 

To Serve:

Remove springform sides. Cut into wedges.Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

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