Converging holidays make for great last-minute shopper-tunities

It's a perfect storm of holidays this year, with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa happening pretty much at the same time. I hope everyone who is celebrating has a wonderful holiday season. And, it isn't too late to do some holiday shopping.

Last week the handyman who came to clean our gutters reported that he didn't do his Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. I'd think that would be cutting it a little close, but he has turned it into a holiday tradition. My friend Vickie Goeller told me that she and Howard County Tourism's Ed Lilley spent an entire day shopping on Main Street — 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with only a short break for lunch at Portalli's. I'm sure they left some merchandise for you to buy, so get down here. And don't forget that the meters are still free.

If you are planning on visiting the Holiday Festival of Trains at the B&O Railroad Museum, Ellicott City Station, keep in mind that the exhibit is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Day. And if you still need a few stocking stuffers, check out the handmade candy treats at Ellicott's Country Store. Tell Enalee that Janet sent you.

We'll be having a quiet family Christmas, with everyone pitching in to make the meal. My husband Tom will start us off with 'Virgin Mary's' while we open gifts (unless we decide to imbibe the drink I make from my Lithuanian heritage called virytos — in which case it will be naps all around.) My son Dave will work his magic with the centerpiece duck, while vegetarian Rob will create a delicious eggplant parmesan.

Our traditions are pretty eclectic. We'll eat cookies out of our socks for dessert, along with Pfefferkorn coffee from Yates Market. One year, I tried to be fancy and bought a flavored coffee to try and met with resistance. As Dave says, coffee already has a flavor: it tastes like coffee.

Window contest winner

While you are shopping in the historic district you should be checking out the shop windows, decorated for the holiday, and vote on your favorite in the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation's annual window decorating contest.

This year, the official judges included Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, Patuxent Publishing's Yvonne Lienhard and Ed Lilley, president of the Restoration Foundation. Their choice for first place is Sweet Elizabeth Jane, at 81125 Main St. Second place tied winners are Vintage Bliss and A Journey From Junk. Third place went to Original Souls. Why not see if you agree and pick up your ballot at Tourism, and return it there by Jan. 2.

Chinese citizen

Congratulations are in order. My Gray Rock Farm neighbor Fontaine Bell is just back from a trip to Xiamen, Baltimore's sister city in China, where he was made an honorary citizen — the only American and the only person not living or working in the area.

Fontaine went with then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer on the original visit in 1985 to set up the sister city relationship with Xiamen. The award recognizes the work he has done over many years with the sister city committee, organizing business, education, and cultural exchanges.

There was a banquet in Xiamen Dec. 15, followed by the recognition ceremony on the 16th. Fontaine spent the rest of the time meeting with representatives of businesses, hospitals and schools for the exchange program.

I'm impressed with Fontaine's accomplishment and almost equally impressed with the fact that he flew directly from Dulles Airport to Beijing. That's a long time to spend in an airplane.

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