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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


WHAT HAPPINESS IS TO ME!
          MAY YOU BE BLESSED WITH HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY IN 2015.



Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Season of Memories

We began the holiday season this year by  celebrating Thanksgiving at our home. My husband and I put up and decorated a tree in our living room and another in our kitchen. When it comes to decorating our Christmas trees we  are sentimental and nostalgic in how we do it. We have collected ornaments since we were married and though we cannot fit all of them on our trees, we put as many on as we can each year. It brings pleasure to us as we place each one on the tree, remembering how it was acquired, whether purchased, handmade and/or given to us by family or friends.

The very first ornaments we purchased are the red, blue and gold ones pictured in the photos below.  My husband was deployed overseas with the U.S.M.C. the first year of our marriage. These ornaments, along with some tinsel garland and some icicles were about the only thing we had for decorations on our first Christmas tree the following year after he came home from overseas. They are quite worn after all these years. I can still remember what a sweet Christmas we spent in that drafty little rented duplex in Jacksonville, North Carolina near the base where my husband was stationed. These days we place them farther back in the tree where they are less likely to be broken and where they reflect the light from the Christmas tree and are less likely to get broken.
Vintage Ornaments  Placed  Deep in the Tree to Reflect Light
One of our First Christmas Ornaments as a Married Couple
Our Vintage Ornaments from Christmas 1969
There had been four boxes of these ornaments but in the early years, when sweet little hands began to help decorate the tree, some of the ornaments were shattered and one of the container boxes has been, much to my regret, discarded. Can you believe I still store them in the original boxes that I have patched and taped together over and over again? The cardboard has become so brittle and the inserts have pretty much fallen apart. The cellophane which once covered the "windows" of the boxes has now been replaced with plastic wrap. The boxes indicate that the ornaments were made in the U.S.A., a rare thing in this day and time!  I still cannot bring myself to throw the boxes away after forty-five years!

Vintage Ornaments in Crumbling Boxes

Tattered Vintage Ball Ornaments from Christmas 1969
In the past, I have purchased kits to make gingerbread houses and had my grandchildren over to decorate them. This year we did something different. My two daughters, five grandchildren and I met  at my daughter's home to make gingerbread houses. Technically, however, we did not use gingerbread.  I raided my pantry to find some boxes to cut up and use as foundations for our houses, which we covered with graham crackers, icing and candy.  Following is a picture of some of them, after I cut, taped and stapled them together to form the foundations.
Foundations for Our Gingerbread Houses
The grandchildren used a lot of imagination and had fun sampling the icing "stucco" and candies. They all had so much fun. We used lots and lots of icing, many graham crackers and a vast array of candies.
Constructing Christmas Gingerbread Houses
They got really creative with their designs. Jewel's was loaded with decorations!
Getting Creative with our Gingerbread Houses
This little one was very proud of her creation!
Creativity in Progress
Our oldest, Glenn, got quite serious with his house. He built his own foundation. He wanted a bigger and taller house than the others. He covered the back of his house with ice cream sticks.
This is Serious Business for Our Grandson Glenn
Our Oldest Grandchild with his Gingerbread House Creation
My daughters had just as much fun as their children. As you can see from this picture, the children weren't the only "kids" eating the icing!
Having Fun Making Gingerbread Houses
What a fun time we had decorating those houses!

Those who follow my blog will know that one of the places our family enjoys visiting is Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina. We have been fans of the zoo and gardens since it first opened some forty years ago when the eldest of our daughters, Angela, was not much more than a toddler. It has grown over the years in both size and popularity, offering many more family-oriented activities and features. The love of this place has been passed down from us to our girls, who are now parents themselves. Our five grandchildren have developed a love of the zoo and beautiful gardens and the wonderful and diverse animals there.

Each year during the holiday season the folks at Riverbanks is host to an event known as "Lights Before Christmas." It starts just before Thanksgiving and ends a day or so before the New Year begins. During this time, the place is aglow with nearly one million twinkling lights which have now been transitioned into LEDs. It quite an awesome spectacle and one that our family endeavors to fit time into our schedule for every year. This year we attended the event with Darien Baptist Church, where my son-in-law, Jason, is the pastor.  If you would like, you can check out their Facebook page
here. There are a few photos of some of the folks who attended the event with us in the photo album of the church's page. I am including a few of the pictures I took of the lights and one of the animals. as well.
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
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Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
For those who love snow, such as our granddaughters, it snows every night of the event--courtesy of a snow machine!
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

The Koalas are some of my favorite animals at the zoo and the female recently gave birth to her baby! I was fortunate to get the following picture of this sweet Mother Koala while she has her new baby nestled between her hind legs. If you look closely, you can see its little head peeking out near the bottom of the picture! This was an unexpected surprise and delight to be able to see this mother and her new baby during our visit.
Mother Koala and Her New Baby at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens 2014
We went to see our grandson Stephen play in the holiday band concert at the school he attends.
He is the one on drums in the back row and wearing the red Santa Claus hat. He enjoys playing in the band. Okay, please humor me and allow me to boast a little. This school year, his last in middle school, he was asked to play in the High School band and so he has been playing at the football games at the high school too. I am just a tiny bit proud of him!
Stephen's School Holiday Bank Concert 2014
Another even that we attended was the children's Christmas program at the church where our daughter Angela and her family are members. There were several angels being "heard on high," complete with wings and our Jewel was one of them. She is the angel in the middle in this not very clear picture.
Church Christmas Program 2014
In addition, I had the pleasure of having lunch a couple of days before Christmas with my sweet sister-in-law, Janet and one of her best friends and my friend as well, Kelli Johnson. These are two of the sweetest gals I know, barring none! They are such treasures to me. This is a picture I posted of them when I gave them the "Darn It" dolls I made for them to have when they get stressed out at work!

We wrapped up 2014 holiday celebrations with dinner at my daughter Angela's home on Christmas day with family and friends. It was an especially precious time for us because we are blessed to have my son-in-law, Angela's husband Jimmy, with us for another Christmas! Some of you might remember that he is courageously battling stage IV renal cell cancer. I do not know anyone who has not been impacted by cancer in some way. One of my most ardent prayers is for a world that is free of all cancer.

As you can see, our family has been very busy with holiday festivities,events and activities. I have not had much spare time to visit your blogs or to post on my own. I have a lot of catching up to do on all your blogs!

What have you been doing to celebrate the holiday season? Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any of the special events that take place during this particular season, I hope your celebrations have been and will continue to be blessed with many sweet and precious moments, shared with the people in your lives that make the season so special and meaningful to each and every one of you. Hopefully, you will have some beautiful memories too.  I wish for you a new year in 2015 is that you will be blessed with a peace that passes understanding, boundless love and happiness beyond comprehension!


Friday, November 28, 2014

A Grand Gingerbread House

My husband and I were at Disney World last year around the time that all the Disney resorts had just been decked out with all the decor and finery of the season. One of our favorite things to do during the holidays is going from resort to resort to see how each has been uniquely decked out. We call it Holiday Resort Hopping. This post will focus on Disney's Grand Floridian Resort. A visit to the Grand Floridian at any time, but, most particularly during the holidays, reveals to the visitor why it is called the Grand Floridian. Everything done there is done on the grandest of scales. A visit there is like taking a stroll back in time to the Victorian era.

The spell of the resort is cast immediately upon stepping off the monorail system and walking up to the front portico. The resort hearkens back to the Victorian era and this period antique car is one of the first things to behold. Isn't it wonderful? It reminds me of the motorcars in Downton Abbey, one of my all-time favorite television series(can hardly wait for Season V, here in the U.S.)!
Antique Car at Entrance of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Wouldn't it be great to take a ride in this beauty? I think it is positively gorgeous! The poinsettias can be seen in the background and are in abundance all around the resort.
Carriage at Front Entrance of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
This picture is one of a beautiful topiary with poinsettias at the entrance of the resort.

Topiary at Entrance of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Once inside the resort's lobby one begins to realize just how magnificent it is.  The extraordinarily talented pastry, bakery, confectionery and decorative artists of Disney know how to create things in a most "magical" way. To the left of the following photo seen beyond the huge bird cage, is one the most fabulous gingerbread confectionery creations that I, personally, have ever seen. It is an enormous gingerbread house and it rises all the way up to and past the floor of the balcony at its rear. The immensity of the lobby, combined with the fact that the house is far on the other side of the lobby, makes the house seem smaller in this photo than it is in actuality.
Main Lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort at Christmas
To see how much/many ingredients went in to building this astounding gingerbread house go here. Following are several pictures of this awesome gingerbread house.
Disney's Grand Floridian Gingerbread House
Here is another photo taken at a different angle of the gingerbread house. There is a toy soldier standing guard on the porch. Look closely and notice there is at least one Santa Claus in each level. Maybe Santa has some Santa helpers, just like in "real" life!
Disney's Grand Floridian Gingerbread House 
Look at the people standing above on the balcony on the landing behind the house. They serve to illustrate the magnitude of the house. This pastry and confection creation even has a chimney that blows smoke out of its stack! I tried to get a good shot of the smoking chimney but I am afraid this one is a tad dark.
Gingerbread House at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Every detail of this Victorian beauty's construction is simply marvelous! I attempted to illustrate its wonderful details by zooming in on some of the things located on the front porch and on the balcony and roof above the porch area.of the house. Note that the house even has its own snow covered miniature village! A Christmas tree and other decorations and lights can be seen inside the windows. Even Old Saint Nick is standing on the porch!

Close up Picture of the Victorian Style Gingerbread House at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Close-up Photo of the Victorian Gingerbread House at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
I am afraid the following photo is not very clear but I am including it anyway. It is a view from one of the balconies looking down on the front of the house. Another Santa can be spotted on a balcony at the very top of the house in this photo. The people standing near the front of the photo again serve to emphasize the magnitude of the structure.

I have an affinity for staircases(among other things) in beautiful places and I always try to get a picture of each, so as to remember its uniqueness and beauty. Naturally, this can be difficult because people are constantly going up and down the stairs. Here is the staircase in the lobby at this resort. I think it is out of this world gorgeous!
Staircase in the Main Lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
The following picture is of the spectacular light fixture hanging in the main lobby. Isn't it amazing?
Magnificent Light Fixture Hanging in the Main Lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
An orchestra often plays at the resort and you can see it in the distant background of the above photo. They play beautifully. Here is another picture that I took from near the front of the resort. I am afraid it is a little out of focus because it was taken from such a great distance.
Orchestra Playing at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
One more photo, friends.  This one is of the exterior of the resort and was snapped as we were departing.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
It is so very much in the grand and elaborate Victorian style of yesteryear and breathtakingly beautiful. I hope you enjoyed my post about one of the resorts on our Disney resort hop from this past Christmas. I hope it gives some insight as to why this magnificent place has been named Disney's Grand Floridian. Should a trip to Walt Disney World be in your future, it is well worth taking the time to hitch a ride over on the monorail and experience it for yourself. Everything about this resort is truly grand!












Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day to Military Veterans and Happy 239th Birthday U.S.M.C.







As the wife of an American Veteran, I have a heart for all veterans. I wish to all military veterans who served in the past and to those who are now serving in the armed forces in America,  a very Happy Veteran's Day tomorrow! Thank you for serving our beloved country and for giving so much to protect the people who live here and for protecting the rights that we sometimes take for granted.
Happy Veteran's Day to All American Veterans
Today, I am sharing a photo of my daughter, Stephanie, who is wearing a sweatshirt that belonged to her daddy many years ago, long before she was born  when he was a "few" pounds lighter. I was a new bride.  My husband, her father, and I were living in Charleston, S.C. He was stationed at the Naval Weapons Station at Goose Creek, Charleston, South Carolina at the time.
Stephanie wore this shirt yesterday to church to honor her father, a Marine veteran, for Veteran's Day. Her father and I were both very surprised and touched by this sweet and meaningful gesture. Stephanie is so proud of her father and the time he spent in service to our country. We are proud of her and we feel so blessed that God chose us to be the parents of  two sweet and thoughtful daughters! Her husband, Jason, snapped a picture of her after the church service was over.

As it happens, this garment also serves the purpose of honoring all active and inactive United States Marine Corps veterans on the 239th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps! I adore this picture of her in the Marine Barracks sweatshirt.
Stephanie Wearing a Sweatshirt which Belonged to her Father,  a  Marine Vet

I hope my fellow Americans will take the time to honor all of our veterans. Freedom is not free. No matter what your thoughts on the subject of war and those who serve in the military, it is an undeniable fact that we would not enjoy the liberty to express our views had it not been for those who serve our country. I, for one, am eternally grateful for that freedom.

Happy Birthday U.S. Marine Corps and Happy Veteran's Day to all veterans!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Goblins

The street where my daughter lives is one of the most popular places in our town for Halloween. Being a one-way street with a circle at the end, there is not a lot of through traffic which seems to make a friendlier and, hopefully, safer environment for the hundreds (not kidding) of spooks who haunt there every Halloween. We used to have quite a few kids come by our house. However, we now take our candy and go over to her house for some light refreshments and fun spent with family and friends. We watch the costumed goblins, small and not so small, and pass out treats to those who show up there from way before dark until the candy or we, or both, give out.

I wish I could have taken some pictures of all the little ones and their costumes because they were pretty awesome. Instead, I will share with you some pictures of my grands, at least the ones who are still young enough to participate in trick-or-treat. My three granddaughters still enjoy Halloween as trick-or-treaters. 

Princesses Anna and Elsa from Disney's movie "Frozen" were the most popular costumes worn by the little ones last night, by a landslide. Even some of the bigger goblins who were chaperoning the smaller ones were wearing Anna and Elsa costumes. Seriously, I think I am not very far off base when I tell that some costume makers and toy manufacturers are making tons of money off those characters. The snowman, Olaf, from the movie was also very popular this Halloween. 

Our family helped with that process, as you can see from the following photos. The two youngest dressed up as Princess Anna (on the left) and Elsa!
Princesses Anna (left) and Elsa from  Disney's "Frozen" Movie
They had the braided wigs, but for one reason or another, neither chose to wear them.  Go figure! Here is another of Princess Anna. 
Princess Anna from Disney's "Frozen" Movie
Unfortunately, I got the pizza boxes and soda bottles in the background. I obviously could have done a better job with the background in these shots! Hopefully, Princess Anna is lovely enough to distract from my lack of prowess in the photography area in all my photos.
With a Disney show playing in the background television(evidence of our obsession with all things Disney), our youngest granddaughter is pictured in a typical Elsa pose!
Princess  Elsa from Disney's "Frozen" Movie
Pirates always liven up the mix! Did you ever see a more beautiful pirate than the one pictured here?!
Our Pirate at Halloween
They can get somewhat rowdy, those pirates, and ours got pretty boisterous! She was frightening one of our princesses.
A Frightening Experience for Princess Elsa
Another snapshot of our young pirate caught in a more contemplative mood.
Our Pirate in a More Subdued Mood
A candid shot here of one of the bigger spooks (our daughter), the black cat, who is assisting the pirate to get "made up" for the occasion.
A  Mama Black Cat Helping her Little Pirate to Put on Makeup
Another shot of  Mama Black Cat. I thought she did a great job with her makeup and the pirate's, as well. She looks quite sly here! Do you suppose she might be about to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse?
A Black Cat Ready to Pounce
I think she is one fabulous cat in her costume. But, then again, mother's always say stuff like that!
One Gorgeous Black Cat!
I love my family and the friends who share times with us, both good and trying times. Life on our planet should never be taken for granted. It is an ever fleeting thing, life and those moments that make up a life. Time spent with loved ones is a gift not to be squandered or wasted. I do, so very much, treasure those moments!  It is my hope and prayer that my family and friends will always do the same with one another, even after I can no longer share precious moments with them.

Speaking of time, if you took your time to visit my blog today and to read my little Halloween post about some of the people who make my life and times so much more joyful, I want to thank you for doing so. I am very grateful for the time you have spent here, both now and in the past!