What a wonderful whirlwind of a week leading up to the Winter Solstice and before I travel to Maryland to share Christmas with my family. Last week, I enjoyed sharing great meals with good friends, catching up with family and friends via newsy Christmas cards and long phone calls, and last Thursday, a thoughtful friend treated me to dinner and a magical Holiday concert at the charming and cozy O’Hurley’s General Store (opened in 1899) in my favorite West Virginia town, historic Shepherdstown. The concert at O’Hurley’s (new to me) was the highlight of my month leading to Christmas. I felt a bit overwhelmed as I entered the back room with the vaulted ceiling. I was misty-eyed, actually, as most everything I love–history; charming architecture; an enormous, freshly-cut Christmas tree; holiday smells of cinnamon and apple; a warm atmosphere complete with a huge potbelly stove; lovely music; good company; and rustic elegance–were in one place. Simply magical. And since it’s still a working general store, all your holiday gifts are there, as well. You’ll find hand-knit sweaters to scarves to decorative items for the home, Christmas decorations, and local jams, honey, and jellies. O’Hurley’s is truly a one-stop shopping experience.
If you’ve never visited charming Shepherdstown, make your plans now for next year. Plan to stay at the gorgeous German-owned Bavarian Inn and Restaurant that overlooks the Potomac River, complete with an authentic Rasthskeller; enjoy a sumptuous dinner and a great wine list at The Press Room on West German Street, and then head to O’Hurley’s General Store for the 7:30-10:00/10:30 concert. Jay, the owner of O’Hurley’s, is a musician, who invites local musicians to play every Thursday, year-round. And the concerts are free. So make it a long weekend and include a Thursday in your plans.
Every year, I tell myself I will be super organized with all my gifts wrapped by December 18 and the Christmas Day grocery run will be done that week. Right. The truth is, every year like today, I have a gift or two arriving on 23 December and some Christmas cards will go out in January. Early this morning, I was at the supermarket picking up baking supplies and the ingredients for Coquito, our Puerto Rican version of eggnog. In my humble opinion, it tastes better than eggnog because I love coconut. My favorite recipe is at the end of the blog. You’re welcome, smile.
In 2020, I intend to stop trying to be (pretending to be?) super organized at home. It is what it is. Mind you, this is not a New Year’s resolution. Instead, I will embrace ME, all of me, to include my spontaneous, creative, messy, and fun-loving sides. I’m okay with my unruly, wavy hair, the stacks of books on each step of the staircase, and a few cobwebs here and there. My dining room table/writing desk is almost always covered with dozens of notebooks, reference books, candles, fountain pens, bowls of crystals, tarot cards (I’m a beginner), and my two laptops. My art supplies are close by in an antique Austrian chest and the Christmas tree might be up until March…or April. All that makes me happy and productive. Art is not for the timid and most artists I know enjoy a bit of organized clutter!
Despite waking up early every day this month with a determination to write, the impeachment hearings won out. What can I tell you? I was glued to my laptop and yes, I’m pleased. More than pleased. My writing muse had the same idea–it was historic and that was that. I’m happy it happened before Christmas.
Now, for those who find this time of year difficult, I send you a warm hug. During certain times of the year, I often feel nostalgic and sad as I long for my mother and dear relatives who’ve passed on. You are not alone.
As promised, here is my no-egg Coquito recipe, which is enjoyed from November to the end of January. There is nothing like a Puerto Rican Christmas, smile.
Puerto Rican Coquito
- 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
- 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 15 oz. can Coco Lopez cream of coconut or Goya cream of coconut
- 1 cup or 1 1/2 cups Bacardi or Don Q white rum (unless you prefer a virgin Coquito)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- Pour all ingredients into a blender and mix well. Chill for 2 or more hours before serving. Sprinkle cocktails with cinnamon and/or add a cinnamon stick to each highball glass.
I would love to hear your comments if you decide to try this beloved Puerto Rican holiday drink. Happy holidays!
Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her best-selling debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses.
Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1927 Old San Juan and Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico. Look for The Laments in 2020.
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