Written by Cathy Finnegan Sunday, January 12, 2014 01:00 am
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The Flanders Hotel was decorated for Christmas when guests arrived for the holiday English high tea held in the Crystal Ballroom. Karen Bergman and Denise Sammartino greeted guests and showed them to their tables when they arrived.
I stopped to chat with retired Ocean City Intermediate School teachers Pat Ogle and Harriet Reardon Bailey while they enjoyed their white chocolate cranberry scone, tomato basil quiche and English muffin toast points. I joked with Harriet about her picture appearing in Travels with The Gazette more than mine and she told me about her cruise on the Baltic and tour of Russia. Retired nurse Patty Santangelo, who moved to Ocean City last year, invited her friends Eleanor Giessner, who is in insurance, and retired nurses Sharon Muller, Pat Demarest and Marsha Lehr to the tea and all the ladies sported reindeer antlers on their heads.
Cheryl Seidel, a member of Rotary, brought her mother-in-law, Patricia Seidel from Smithville, to the tea. By the time I sat down at my table, Laurie Howey and her mom, Joan Haag, were enjoying the crab cake on a cracker with red and green pepper coulis, ham and blue cheese fig jam, turkey brie cranberry and asparagus roll ups. Joan was the manager of the Atlantic Book Stores for 25 years, often working at their popular shop on the Ocean City Boardwalk. White gloves were at each place setting, a must to wear for high tea, along with Christmas balls and candy canes to take home.
Trish and Bill Zackey are regulars at high teas held in their hometown of Cape May, but drove to Ocean City for this one. Paul Alvarez handles advertising in The Press for The Flanders and he and wife Jane drove over from Absecon for the tea. John and Rayna Schwenzfeier from St. Clair, Mich. attended the tea. John and Rayna met when he was serving here in the Coast Guard and now he is stationed in Michigan.
Billy Lombard and Tyler Molina took a break from setting up the ballroom for the married Couples Dinner, to take a couple of pictures. Christine Weiss has lived in Ocean City 20 years and invited friends Billie Jackson and Deborah Francis from Millville and Marion Beck from Toms River to join her for tea.
I enjoyed chatting with Stephanie Sussmeier, who is a local harpist and knows my son, Jimmy. Lainey O’Reilly was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but has lived in Ocean City for 20 years and works at the Ocean City Police Department. Christine Hess graduated Ocean City High School in ’98 and is a yoga instructor in San Diego. Her sister, Kelly Hess, graduated Ocean City High School in 2001 and lives in Runnemede.
When Debbie Golding told me she was Christine and Kelly’s mom, I was surprised as she looked young enough to be their sister. Lydia Economo, Karen Ottino, Cathy Marra, Laura Leyh, Aileen Widerman, Joyce Lee, Beth Carter and Gina Poserina, all members of a book club named “The Book Bags,” drove down from Cherry Hill to attend the tea. When I returned to my table, our waitress, Elizabeth Cummings, who was quite knowledgeable on the wide variety of teas she served, brought out the desserts featuring chocolate mousse with candy cane garnish, chocolate covered strawberries, gingerbread cookies and cheesecake petit fours, most of which Laurie, Joan and I boxed up to take home to enjoy.
The private dining room at the rear of The Crab Trap was the scene for the Exchangette Christmas dinner. Maribeth Neall and Peggy Doyle co-chaired this affair. While Peggy checked in guests, Maribeth organized the wrapped gifts for the popular gift exchange. Sue Jordan was in such a hurry to get to dinner she forgot her gift, but her husband, Ozzie, came to her rescue and brought the gift over to her.
Elaine Potter stopped to say “hello” when she arrived for Henry’s Christmas party. Karen Wokeck enjoyed catching up with old friends. For years, Karen was the buyer for women’s fashions at Stainton’s Department Store, then became store manager of B&B. Karen recently started a new business walking and caring for pets.
Dottie McClain didn’t let a broken ankle keep her from the party when she showed up in a cast and with a crutch. Joanne Budnick sported a black jersey top with red rhinestone “Santa Baby” on the front under her red blazer. Candy cane and Santa and snowmen in stockings were ornament favors at each guest’s place setting.
Kieran Murray came by to make sure everything was in order. Katie Timmons from Ocean City was our waitress. President Linda Gronert, looking festive in a red dress, announced the date, time and place for the installation dinner. Also sporting red was Sue Doll in a wool sheath dress with matching ruffle scarf.
Even before the first course was served, Maribeth called the first number belonging to Andrea Paul to come up and select her gift, a tall Santa dressed in gold. A Charity League snowflake pin was up for grabs between Suzan LaRosa and Peggy Doyle. Gift cards for merchants on Asbury Avenue were also popular items as these two gifts were traded around among Joyce Trofa, Suzan LaRosa, Jane Lugo, Rose Haas and Mary Ann Jones.
The gift exchange continued through the soup, salad and dinner courses with various size and shaped snowmen and Santas being popular gifts going to Barb Russell, Carol Heenan, Joyce Trofa, Brigette Walls and Eileen Adams.
Winnie Piriano took home a “Wish Upon A Star” wood bowl while Susan Miller traded her Christmas pillow for a Hallmark train set. This columnist ended up with a glitter Santa face brought by Vonnie Price.
We were still opening gifts when dessert was served. Laurie Howey stopped by after her party in the other private dining room. Denise Jessel was pleased when she unwrapped a Lenox nutcracker to add to her collection. Barb Adams and Judi Roseland were two of the last to have their numbers called. Anita Culp had her Lexus SUV warmed up and waiting at the door when this columnist walked out of The Crab Trap.
Friends gathered at Denise and Gary Jessel’s home for their annual New Year’s Eve party. Ron Denney reported the latest news to Jim and I when we arrived while his wife, Beverly, looked after her three grandchildren.
Billy Moffitt and Paul Nespoli kept their eyes on the Villanova vs. Butler basketball game that Villanova won in overtime. I enjoyed catching up with Carol Heenan and Gail Blevin around the dining room table while my husband, Bob Blevin and Eric Wakabayashi devoured over half of Joanne Budnick’s apple pie.
Denise and Ken Jones arrived shortly before midnight after working First Night at the Civic Center. Denise and Gary Jessel, Jon Werley and Jenny Sylvia led a large contingent up to the boardwalk to watch the fireworks while some of the less hearty soles welcomed 2014 by venturing out on the upstairs deck to check out the display on this clear, cold night.