A Little Perspective

My father was born in 1917, during a time when the first World War was taking a toll on many people in our nation. He survived the Spanish Flu, the world’s most deadly global health pandemic. He lived his teenage years in the midst of the Great Depression. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II.

His father died of a sudden heart attack while my dad was in Basic Training. He was not granted a leave in order to attend his father’s funeral. He was shipped overseas, and straight into battle, as soon as his Basic Training was completed. He hiked endless miles in the bitter cold, and slept on the ground in the snow. He awoke, one morning, to find a large rattlesnake coiled up inside his sleeping bag.

He was in a foxhole, in Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, when he was hit by enemy fire. A piece of shrapnel, from an exploding bomb, entered his body at the top of his shoulder, and tore through most of his right arm. The medics were out of stretchers, so he was told he would have to walk a long distance, up a steep hill, in order to receive medical treatment. He made the attempt, but he was bleeding profusely, and lost consciousness after a few minutes.

He woke up in a medic tent, to a surgeon who told him they needed to operate in order to save his life, and he would probably lose his right arm. My dad begged the surgeon not to amputate. The surgeon promised my dad that he would do everything within his power to save his arm. The shrapnel was removed and, although he had limited use of his arm for the remainder of his life, the surgeon kept his word and did not amputate it.

As soon as my dad was stable enough to travel, he was placed on a naval ship to begin the long, slow journey back to the U.S. He spent 14 months in a military hospital, in a body cast, from his waist to his neck. He was unable to turn onto his side or stomach. He didn’t have a single visitor during the entire time. He told me, once, about a time when the Army held a Christmas dance for all of the patients in the hospital. They were loaded onto buses and transported to a dance hall, where they enjoyed live music, a meal that was much better than the hospital food, and the company of some nice women who had volunteered their time to cheer up the injured soldiers. This was toward the end of my dad’s hospital stay, and he was able to get up and move around by then, but he was the only one who remained behind. When I asked him why he didn’t attend the dance, he told me that he didn’t have any shoes to wear.

Upon release from the hospital, my dad made his way back to his hometown, only to find that his family home, along with all of his personal possessions, were gone. With nothing other than the Army-issued uniform he was wearing, and his arm still in a cast, he hitch-hiked his way from Union, KY, to Louisville. That’s where he met my mom.

This was the first 30 years of my dad’s life. I’ve been thinking about his experiences a great deal, over the past several weeks, as I sit in my home, frustrated over having to shelter in place, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The way I see it – if my dad could survive the world’s most deadly global health pandemic, the Great Depression, not being allowed to attend his father’s funeral, almost losing his life in the war, spending more than a year in a hospital with no visitors, losing his family home and all of his personal possessions, and having to start over, from scratch, on foot, to make a new life for himself – who am I to complain about the minor inconveniences occurring in my life today?

 

The Gift I Never Expected

As I sat in my comfy chair, late in the evening, pondering the events of this Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that I received the most amazing gift from my children today, and I’m pretty sure they don’t even realize that they gave it to me. Let me explain.

I love exploring history, especially American history. I love it because it makes me feel like I’m connected to the past, and I love seeing how the past connects to the present; how those who lived before us helped to inspire the lives we live today.

My children have often referred to me as a “history nerd.” They never seemed as excited as I was whenever I attempted to impress my love of history upon them. I recall them once rolling around on the floor, acting as if they were in pain, when I tried to read a biography of Abraham Lincoln to them. I’ve noticed the “look” on my daughter’s face, on many occasions, when she thought I was going to make her visit some historical site on one of our mother/daughter trips.

I realized that my children didn’t share my love of American history, but I secretly hoped that they would grow to appreciate it more as they got older.

They did seem to show an interest in learning about their great-great-great grandparents, when I made them books on our family’s ancestry a few years ago. That’s when I thought there might be hope for them, yet. But I still didn’t feel brave enough to ask, “Hey, who wants to drive 99 miles to go visit an old historic town with me?”

And, then, on Mother’s Day, 2019, I received “the gift!” One that wasn’t planned and that neither of my children will even realize they gave to me, until they read this blog post

It began when my daughter asked me to go with her to Locust Grove, the home of William and Lucy Clark Croghan. The beautiful mansion was built in 1792, and has a rich history of hosting such people as Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, Lewis and Clark, and many others. George Rogers Clark was Lucy Clark Croghan’s brother, and he stayed with Lucy and her husband at Locust Grove whenever he wasn’t out on one of his many pioneering adventures.

The reason why my daughter invited me to go there, however, was not for the history but, rather, to attend a Gardener’s Fair that was being held on the grounds.  It was drizzling rain when we arrived, and the Fair was not quite as impressive as we had expected. We were able to visit all of the booths in a short amount of time, purchased some fresh-cut Peonies, and that was it. My daughter noticed that the mansion was open for tours, and she suggested we take a look.

Much to my surprise, she actually got excited about remembering some things she learned when we had visited Locust Grove years ago, on a school field trip – the small models of furniture pieces the Croghan’s had ordered, that the children used for doll furniture once the full-scale furnishings had been completed; a balloon made from a pig’s bladder; the bed mattresses that were stuffed with hay; the room where George Rogers Clark died after suffering an infection from a leg injury. She marveled at the old glass window panes, and started taking photographs of some of the architecture.

We went for the Gardener’s Fair, but we had more fun learning about the history of Locust Grove, and my daughter seemed to enjoy it as much I did!

After dropping my daughter at her car so that she could meet her friend for dinner, I went to visit with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my grandbabies.

My son recently began a new ministry position at a church in a small nearby town, and he has become interested in learning more about the surrounding communities, in efforts to better know the people who live there. I was playing with my grandchildren when, low and behold, he came into the room with three historical books that someone had loaned to him.

I skimmed through the books as he shared some stories with me about the history of these small Kentucky towns. I loved seeing his enthusiasm and interest in wanting to know the history that helped shape those to whom he is ministering. The past connects us to the present!

My grandchildren had gathered around, looking at the photographs in the books with me, when we came upon some photos of steamboats cruising down the Ohio River. They seemed very interested in the boats, and this presented me with the perfect opportunity to share with them a little bit of history about their great-grandfather.

My dad grew up on the Kentucky river bank, in the early 1900’s. His parents owned a business that offered food, supplies, and even animal care for riverboat passengers. He had a tiny row boat when he was a child, and he often told me stories about how he would put his dog in the boat with him and row out onto the river, in the midst of all the steamboat traffic. Sounds dangerous to me, but he was fascinated by it all, and he never passed up an opportunity to look for steamboats on the river, even when he grew old.

I admit that I sometimes grew bored with my dad’s often-repeated steamboat stories when I was young, but I sure am glad that he told them to me, and that I got the opportunity to pass those stories down to his great-grandchildren.

So there you have it. After 31 years of motherhood, this “history nerd” spent Mother’s Day exploring a little bit of Kentucky’s history with her children and her grandchildren! No one planned for that to happen. It just happened. No one had to “endure” it, in an effort to please me; everyone seemed genuinely interested.

The fact that my grandchildren got in on the action was the “icing on the cake!” As a result, one of them is extremely excited about going for a ride down the river on a steamboat on our next adventure together!

I wouldn’t have been happier if they had given me a shiny, new car, instead. Okay. Let’s be honest. A new car would have been awesome, but the memories of discovering some of the past with them would still be cherished long after the car became a rusted-out clunker. 

Thank you, to my children, for giving me an amazing Mother’s Day gift – the one you didn’t even realize you had given me. Let’s explore more of the past, sometime soon!

 

 

 

 

Pete the Cat Birthday Party

My grandson loves Pete the Cat, and that was the theme he chose for his 4th birthday party.  Pete the Cat books are so much fun to read, and more and more people are finding that out. There will, no doubt, be endless options for buying Pete the Cat party supplies before too long, but they aren’t available yet, so we had to get very creative to plan the perfect party for this sweet Pete the Cat fan.

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We found some awesome decorations for the party by purchasing bulletin board graphics at a classroom supplies store for teachers. The large cut-out poster of Pete was adorable. He comes in separate pieces, which allows the choice of Pete with or without his yellow jacket, groovy shoes, and cool sunshades.  The poster set came with several  additional cut-outs of shoes and buttons, which allowed us to make the wall décor even more festive. We also used the shoes and buttons to embellish the dining and cake tables. Additional posters were purchased to decorate around the dining table, along with more cut-outs of shoes and buttons. A large bouquet of balloons in primary colors added the perfect touch for party fun!

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Various packages of stickers were also purchased through the classroom supplies store. This allowed us to take basic, solid-colored cups, party hats, etc., and decorate them with stickers to compliment the Pete the Cat theme. We placed stickers of Pete onto blue party hats, and we placed tiny buttons and shoe stickers onto yellow cups, to resemble Pete’s jacket.

Another treasure we found at the classroom supplies store was a Pete the Cat puppet. We place him on a Styrofoam cone, in a plastic bucket, and added some cut-outs on dowel rods that were purchased on Etsy. We added tissue paper around the base, to fancy it up a bit, and it made an adorable centerpiece for the cake table.

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This plush Pete was used for the dining table centerpiece. It was purchased at Kohl’s for only $5.00!

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The party favor bags for guests were made by purchasing solid yellow bags, and adding four sticker buttons and two shoes to each bag. The favor bags were filled with a small Pete the Cat phonics book and a pair of Pete the Cat socks, both purchased by the dozen on Amazon.  Solid-colored bottles of bubbles were purchased by the dozen at Walmart, and we added a Pete the Cat sticker onto each bottle. Shoe keychains were purchased by the dozen from Oriental Trading Company, and they were a big hit with the kids! One other item that we purchased from the teacher supply store was a set of library card pockets with colorful Pete the Cat pictures on them. We filled them with miniature-sized packs of M&M’s and Skittles, a fruit roll-up, and lollipops, to add to the favor bags.

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The overall party theme was adorable, so bright and colorful. It was actually more fun to create this party than it is to buy pre-printed party supplies. I know this little Pete the Cate fan had a wonderful time at his party, and he scored a lot of “groovy”  gifts to make him all ready to be “cool in school!”

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He even got a jump-start on his Halloween costume!

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Blue Ridge Mountain Adventures

The Virginia Creeper Trail

I’ve been “chomping at the bit” to experience the Creeper Trail ever since I learned about it several years ago.  I finally got the opportunity, recently, when my husband and I went on a little adventure in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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Our experience began in Damascus, Virginia, where we rented mountain bikes at Adventure Damascus and took a shuttle bus up nearly 2,000 feet, to the top of Whitetop Mountain. And, then, we were off!

I thought it would be an easy trek, considering it is mostly downhill, but it is a true mountain trail of dirt, rocks, and mud. We quickly picked up a lot of speed, and it soon became clear, as I peered over the edge of the trail, that I could easily fall a great distance if I lost control of my bike. We made it, however, without any mishaps, and it was an exhilarating experience!

The trail follows along the path of a large rambling creek, with stunning views. We stopped along the way and climbed down the large rocks to enjoy the creek and the water falls. The sky was a perfect blue, the water was crystal clear, and the mountain air was fresh and clean – good for the soul!

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We stopped at a small café about 10 miles down the mountain, to grab a sandwich before hopping back on our bikes to complete our journey down the trail. We made the 17 mile trip in just under three hours, ending up back in Damascus.

Those who are serious mountain bikers, wanting an even more challenging experience, can continue on the Creeper Trail to Abingdon, Virginia, for a total of 34 miles, but that would have been biting off a bit more than we could chew.

I left with some mud on my clothes, some bruises on my legs, and a scraped up ankle, but it was an amazing experience that I hope to do again one day!

White Water Rafting

Our next adventure was to go white water rafting in Elizabethton, TN, just over the Virginia state line. It was another picture-perfect day, and we were eager to engage the rapids. My enthusiasm was quickly deflated, however, when we encountered a large snake as soon as we got into the raft on the water. It’s head was reared up, poised and ready to strike, and it was coming straight toward me! I didn’t sign up for snakes! I panicked, and tried to make my way to the other side of the raft, which is a big no-no, as the unequal weight on one side of the raft could have easily caused us to flip over. The snake finally saw the back of the raft and veered off behind it, without incident, but my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I spent most of the trip worrying about encountering another snake. (Did I mention that I have a deep fear of snakes? Just looking at a picture of one causes me to have nightmares!) Once I was finally able to calm down, I was able to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery on the river with the mountains in the background. We didn’t encounter as many rapids as we had hoped, but it was a fun experience and we plan to go again one day soon.

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Kayaking on Mendota Lake

Our third day was a bit more relaxing, as we kayaked down Mendota Lake, in Abingdon, Virginia. The folks who own and operate The Mendota Adventure, where we rented kayaks, were super nice people.  They gave us a few tips for safety before helping us into the kayak and sending us on our way. Once again, we were blessed with beautiful weather and blue skies for a peaceful three-hour trip. The bed of the lake was all rock, which meant the water was clean and clear, which I loved. We came upon the edge of a farm, at one point, and several cows were resting in the shade along the bank. Some of the cows had decided to go for a swim, so we kayaked right along side of them, including one adorable little calf. We hadn’t planned on kayaking with cows; they were just an added bonus!

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Exploring Abingdon

We spent the last day of our trip exploring the historic town of Abingdon, Virginia. Abingdon is the oldest English-speaking settlement west of the Blue Ridge. It was originally named Wolf Hills, by Daniel Boone, after a pack of wolves attacked Boone’s dog while he was traveling through the area on foot in the 1760’s. The town was officially established as Abingdon in 1778, and played a crucial role in helping those who ventured westward from the shores of the east coast. They claim that 25% of all Americans have ancestors who traveled through and/or spent time in Abingdon.

American flags wave proudly along the brick-paved streets. Flower boxes are displayed on the windows of historic buildings as well as on some wooden fences. There are many historical sites to visit, including the Abingdon Muster Grounds, offering an historical overview of life during Colonial times, The Tavern, which is the oldest known building in Abingdon, and several historic homes and museums. A self-guided walking tour of the Historic District of Abingdon offers 35 sites to visit within a 20-block area.

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The town is also known for a richness in arts and culture. Art galleries and shops are plentiful, including the Holston Mountain Artisans Shop, the William King Art Museum, The Arts Depot, and Heartwood, offering juried arts and crafts, heritage music, and farm-to-table food.  Public art is on display throughout the town, as well. Perhaps the most popular work of art there is the beautiful Barter Fountain. It sits in the center of town, on the property belonging to The Barter Theatre, and depicts the magical art of story-telling.  It truly is a beautiful work of art!

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The Barter Theatre is known as “the most famous stage in Virginia.” The theatre first opened during the midst of the Great Depression, with the motto, “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” And that is exactly what patrons did, according to Abingdon’s tourism literature. They had no money to spare, but they bartered vegetables, milk, eggs, even chickens, in exchange for admission.  It was a welcome escape from the hardships of life for those people who suffered through the Depression. In keeping with its historical roots, The Barter offers two performances per year where patrons can barter for their admission tickets by donating canned goods to an area food bank. Pretty cool!

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Many famous actors got their starts at The Barter Theatre, including Gregory Peck, who performed in plays in exchange for food when he was first beginning his journey as an actor.

Another famous landmark in Abingdon is The Martha Washington Inn and Spa. This gorgeous historic mansion was originally built in 1832 as the home of General Francis Preston, who was a hero of the War of 1812, his wife, and their nine children. It was purchased from the Preston family in 1858 and turned into a private upscale college for young women. It was named The Martha Washington College, in honor of the First Lady of our nation, and was affectionately called, “The Martha.”  It temporarily served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. The college was forced to close its doors during the Great Depression. It later opened as the Martha Washington Inn and Spa, hosting many famous people, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Elizabeth Taylor.

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The Inn is a stunning piece of history, with beautiful porches and sitting areas all around the property. Many original pieces of the Preston’s furniture are on display in the lobby and parlors. There is a magnificent wood-paneled library for guests to enjoy, and the rooms are filled with numerous original historical paintings. There are also many original photographs and illustrations along the hallways, telling the stories of the mansion’s days as a women’s college and Civil War hospital. Walking into the Martha Washington Inn definitely gives one the feeling of stepping back in time!

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Exploring historical towns in our nation is one of my favorite things to do, and Abingdon, Virginia is certainly one to see if you love American history. And there is the added bonus of endless mountain and water adventures within a short driving distance in every direction! I look forward to returning, one day, with my daughter, because she is learning to appreciate American history as much as I do. But, if I’m being honest, there is another reason why I must take my daughter to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia; I discovered that there is a Dragonfly Inn Bed and Breakfast in Damascus, and a Luke’s Diner in Abingdon! (Any other Gilmore Girls fans out there?)

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Birthday Spa Party Fun for Little Ones

Of the many birthday parties I’ve planned for kids, I think this Spa Party was the one the little guests enjoyed most of all. We had a blast planning it, as well!

The Decorations

Rather than the traditional birthday balloons, we went with a flower and pink lemonade theme for the party. We used assorted sizes and colors of tissue paper flowers to decorate the walls and hang from the ceiling, using a color scheme of pinks, yellows, peaches, and greens.  We didn’t care much for the spa party tableware that was offered in stores, so we opted for napkins and plates in our color theme with cheveron and polka dot designs. We found some adorable cups with lids on Etsy for the pink lemonade.

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The Pampering

The birthday girl and her guests were treated to fizzy foot soaks, using kid-friendly Crayola brand bath bombs. They loved watching the water turn colors as the bath bombs fizzed.

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After the foot soaks, the guests were led inside, to an oasis of plush blankets and overstuffed pillows, where they could relax while being treated to cucumber eye masks and lotion arm massages.

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Each guest got to choose from pink or purple nail polish for manicures and pedicures. Once their nails were dry, they selected their choices of pretty necklaces and bracelets, and big, fluffy bows for their hair.

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The Food

Dinner was served, picnic-style, with chicken nuggets, fresh fruit, chips, and pink lemonade. Fresh veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, and fresh fruit were also available for the moms who accompanied their daughters to the party.

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The Party Favors

Each guest received a treat bag containing  personalized hand lotions and chap sticks, purchased on Etsy, as well as ice cream bubbles, personal packs of tissues, color-themed candies, fancy lollipops, and round bath sponges with Dum-Dum suckers inserted into the middle to make them look like flowers.

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The guests, ranging in age from 2 to 7, as well as their moms, all seemed to really enjoy the party, and the Birthday Girl said it was her favorite party of all! Can’t beat that!

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear Birthday Party

Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?

I see a birthday boy looking at me!

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We had so much fun turning one of our favorite books into a special party to celebrate this little guy’s first birthday!

White table coverings allowed us to present the decorations in a manner that coincides with the book. We were able to order some Brown Bear, Brown Bear party supplies from OrientalTrading.com, and we found some three-dimensional puzzles of the animals at Half Price Books, which complimented the decorations.

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We found iron-on transfers of the animals from the Brown Bear book on Etsy, which we ironed onto white shirts. The Birthday Boy got Brown Bear, and his siblings selected their favorites of the other animals for their shirts.

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The menu was especially fun for this party. We went with a brunch theme, offering a food item was each color and animal represented in the book:

Brown Bear bacon

Yellow Duck eggs

White Dog biscuits

Black Sheep sausage (close enough)

Purple Cat jelly

Red Bird strawberries

Blue Horse yogurt and blueberries

Gold Fish cheese cubes (Goldfish crackers would work, as well.)

Green Frog veggies

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Oriental Trading Company is also the place where we were able to order lots of Brown Bear themed items for the party favor bags – Brown bear masks, silly straws, bubbles, slap bracelets, crayons, and more – all in the party theme. There, of course, is also the option of purchasing small toy animals which fit closely with the book, making the task of finding party favors fairly easy for this party.

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It turned out to be an adorable First Birthday Party. I really love planning a party around a child’s favorite book!

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Shenanigans

My husband and I started a family tradition, 30 years ago, of hosting a Shenanigans Party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with our Murphy relatives. We served Irish stew along with a variety of green foods. We drew names to exchange gag gifts – I remember my sister-in-law giving me a copy of Cowsmopolitan Magazine (it’s a real thing!) because we had recently moved to a small town and the cows from the farm behind our yard often visited us.

My mother-in-law bought shirts with the Murphy crest on them for all who were born with the Murphy name and, for those of us who married into the family, she had shirts made that said “Murphy’s in-Law,” a play on “Murphy’s Law.”

Irish roots run deep in my father-in-law’s family, and he always got the biggest kick out of the Shenanigans Party each year. The grandchildren were taught how to dance an Irish Jig, and we always took family photographs, complete with silly hats, shamrock glasses, and green mustaches.

The tradition eventually died down, as loved ones passed on and the children grew up.

Now that we have four grandchildren of our own, it seemed like a good time to rekindle the tradition. So, last year, we introduced our grandchildren to their first Shenanigans party.  We all had so much fun, and got some awesome photographs to mark the event.

As St. Patrick’s Day was approaching this year, I was happy to hear my grandchildren ask me if we were going to have “that party where we wear funny hats and eat green things again.”

And, so, we did! We had a couple of family members who couldn’t participate this year, due to illness, but I’m happy to say that the Murphy Shenanigan’s Party tradition officially continues with the next generation.

I love family traditions.

Doing Florida, Old-Style

I have many wonderful memories of visiting the Daytona Beach area during my younger years. It saddens me to see that many of the old hotels have been torn down and replaced with condos. If you look close enough, however, you can still find many historic buildings and storefronts that reflect the flavor and style of vintage Florida. My daughter and I visited Daytona Beach as well as several other beaches in the vicinity during a recent mother/daughter adventure, and searching out the historic sites became the theme of our trip. We were on a quest to do Florida, old-style.

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DAYTONA BEACH

If we were going to do Florida, old-style, we had to stay in a hotel that reflected as such. We chose the Plaza Resort and Spa. It was originally built in 1888, by Charles Ballough, to serve as a large summer “cottage” for him and his family. Ballough was an architect and was the author of the book, “The Power That Heals and How to Use It.”  He, later, partnered with other businessmen to acquire surrounding properties and expanded the structure to offer an impressive hotel resort which quickly gained a reputation as a “chic winter playground for American and International travelers.” It became the first resort on the Atlantic Florida Coast to remain open year-round. Airplane pilots, including the Wright Brothers, were hired to entertain visitors who were sunning on the beach. It is a beautiful old hotel, with marble floors and stunning woodwork, but it did sustain a bit of damage from recent hurricanes and was under construction repair during our visit, which was why we were able to get a quite affordable room. We really loved the cold, fruit-infused water which was always available in the hotel lobby.

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The view from our room was beautiful!

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We found many reminders of “days gone by” as we explored Daytona Beach, including the rides on the Boardwalk, some vintage storefronts, and historic Beach Street, which is filled with shops, art galleries, antiques, and restaurants. But most of our time in Daytona Beach was spent on the beach!

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NEW SMYRNA BEACH

We headed to New Smyrna Beach to visit the historic Canal Street district. Beautiful tree-lined streets are filled with an assortment of shops, art galleries, antique shops, the old Bikini Company, and much more.

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Our favorite place on Canal Street was The Little Drug Company, an old-fashioned pharmacy and soda fountain diner which was originally established in 1922. Local residents still get prescriptions filled there. Tourists love looking at the vintage decor and sampling the homemade fudge, and everyone loves having lunch or a handmade milkshake while sitting on the spinning counter stools. The large assortment of candies displayed in baskets along the checkout counters are a sweet reminder of the old penny candy days.

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Some of our best discoveries were made on the way to and from Canal Street! We loved the Vintage Mermaid, a wonderful little antique shop with a mermaid theme. The store owners were very friendly as we browsed. We found many awesome treasures that we would have loved to purchase, but none of them would fit into our luggage for the flight back home.

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We stopped, along the way, to take photos of some vintage Shell Gas Station pumps, an old fish taco stand, and an old-fashioned Dairy Queen.  We also loved the Norwood Tree House Bar, which started out as an old Pan Am gas station and general store in 1929.

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We stopped for dinner at the Outrigger Tiki Bar. We enjoyed shrimp and fried fish on the patio, while chatting with the roosters roaming about and enjoying the views of eclectic, vintage items all around.

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ORMOND BEACH – OUR FAVORITE!

I have driven through Ormond Beach several times, while traveling between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. I always just assumed there was nothing much to see or do there, but we found out otherwise while searching for a unique place to eat dinner one night. My daughter and I both fell in love with this quaint little town. It became our favorite part of our trip!

We stopped into the Grind Gastropub, in Ormond,  for dinner, and the hostess asked if we’d like to sit on the deck. It was a beautiful, warm night, so we thought that was an excellent idea. We were blown away, however, when we walked out through the rear door to find a huge Kona Tiki Bar! The decor was fun and inviting, and the atmosphere was amazing. A live band was playing songs from the late 60’s and early 70’s – think Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and early Doobie Brothers hits. The menu was so interesting that we must have spent 30 minutes reading it. All of the entrees’ had theme names. My daughter ordered “A Fish Called Wanda” – grilled fish tacos, all dressed up, and I had “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” – meatloaf, wrapped in bacon and covered with cognac sauce. (I’m a bit embarrassed to confess that my 27-year-old daughter was a few seconds quicker than me to catch on about the meatloaf connection, considering that album was extremely popular when I was a teenager!) The food was delicious, and the entire evening was such a fun experience.

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We walked around after dinner, taking some photos of interesting buildings, when we came upon this adorable little gazebo and courtyard which was connected to another restaurant. It looked so amazing that we decided to try it the next day, for lunch.

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We returned to Ormond Beach the next day, for lunch at the RoseVilla – originally built in the late 1800’s as a bed and breakfast and private restaurant for the rich and famous.

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We started with fried green tomatoes topped with lobster – by far the most delicious thing we ate on this trip!

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RoseVilla’s southern-style fried shrimp and chicken were also amazing, served with the best fries we’ve ever tasted and grilled biscuits with honey butter.

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How can one pass a bakery with a sign that reads “Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars’ Winner” and not stop to see and taste the “Champion” of cakes? So we made one last stop in Ormond Beach, on the last day of our trip, to sample some award-winning sweet treats at the Cakery Creation. The owner wasn’t in the shop during our stop, but the young lady who was working was kind enough to let us take some photographs of the beautiful baked creations, which included a 50-layer “pancakes” cake, mermaid cake pops, and an assortment of mouth-watering cupcakes.

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We purchased some cupcakes, deciding on the chocolate ganache, coconut cream, pink vanilla, and cookies and cream. Worth every single calorie!

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We, then, popped into the Gold Leaf Coffee Shop next door for some iced tea. It was a fun shop with a little art gallery in the back, but I was a little bit creeped out by Clark Gable staring at me in the restroom. (My daughter asked who Clark Gable was, and I felt old.)

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FLAGLER BEACH

After spending a few days on Daytona Beach with a lot of college kids on Spring Break, Flagler Beach proved to be a wonderful, serene experience for a day of sunning and watching the surfers catch the waves.

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The weather was perfect and the waves were beautiful. We also found some fun retro places in Flagler Beach, including an old ice cream shop the had been converted into a juice cafe and a barbecue place with colorful picnic tables.

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It was time to say “goodbye” to the beaches, for now, but we sure had fun doing Florida, old-style. We even found a “vintage” house to buy, in the event we are able to convince my husband to move us there! Probably just needs a little paint.

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Streamlining That Bucket List

Bucket Lists are great, but they can also be a bit overwhelming.  It takes a great deal of planning, not to mention a mountain of cash, to go skydiving, take scuba diving lessons, climb the Eiffel Tower, and run with the bulls in Spain.

These are not the things on my Bucket List, by the way. I have absolutely no intention of ever running toward, away from, or alongside any bulls!

My point is that most people’s Bucket Lists do contain a variety of things that, in reality,  are extremely difficult to afford and/or achieve during a lifetime.  It seems to me that we are sort of setting ourselves up for failure.  It’s no fun having a Bucket List if you are seldom, if ever, able to officially mark many of the items off of the list before “kicking the bucket.”

Every time I look at my Bucket List and realize that I still haven’t traveled to Israel, that I still haven’t published a book, and that I still haven’t learned to play the piano, I get a bit discouraged. I can’t see any of these things happening on the near horizon, and I must come to terms with the fact that they may never occur in my lifetime. It doesn’t mean I’m going to scratch them off my list, but I have decided it would be a good idea to add some things that are more within reach, realistically speaking.

The result is my Bucket List of things I wish to achieve during this year:

  1. Go to the beach with my daughter.
  2. Travel with my husband on some of his business trips.
  3. Take my grandchildren to Disney on Ice.
  4. Have a “girls only” day with the females in my family.
  5. Take more walks alongside rambling creeks.
  6. Meet my son for lunch more often.
  7. Visit an old friend whom I haven’t seen in years.
  8. Improve my photography skills.
  9. Visit as many art fairs as possible.
  10. Take my husband on his first zip-line adventure.
  11. Travel to a state I’ve yet to visit.
  12. Do some writing.
  13. Read more books.
  14. Go on a solo adventure (where I can do more writing and read more books.)
  15. Spend more one-on-one time with each of my grandchildren.
  16. Sell my home and downsize to a smaller, more manageable home.
  17. Take a pottery class.
  18. Lead a new Bible study class.
  19. Visit some relatives.
  20. Convert all of my old home videos so that we can enjoy watching our children grow up again.
  21. Plan a couple of small surprises for some family members. (I’m already working on one for my daughter-in-law!)

I’m not giving up on my dream of traveling to Israel, and I’m still working on that book! In the meantime, however, I have a wonderful, new, streamlined Bucket List to concentrate on, as well. If I stay focused, I will be able to check most, or all, of them off the list by year’s end.  And that will be cause for celebration!

What are some things you might add to your Bucket List that can be accomplished in the near future? Share with me in the comments section, and we can compare notes at the end of the year, to see how we did!

The Delights of December

December; the most wonderful time of the year!

My list of things for which I am grateful during this month runs rich and deep, with many celebrations, traditions, and so much love.

My family started the month with our tradition of building Gingerbread Houses. My daughter, husband, and I helped the grandkids decorate their very own houses with every kind of gumdrop and goody we could find, while their Mommy and Daddy went on a dinner date together. All of the kids’ houses were their own unique designs, and they all looked beautiful. Even the youngest one joined in this year, but I think he may have done more eating than decorating.

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After we cleaned up our mess from the Gingerbread Houses, the grandkids decorated the table, all by themselves, to surprise their Daddy for his birthday when he and their Mommy returned from dinner.  I’m grateful for the 30 years of joy and love my son has brought to our family.

The following week was our grandson’s birthday, and we celebrated with an awesome police officer party, complete with flashing blue lights and donuts! I love watching this special little boy grow. I especially love hearing him talk about all the plans he has for his life. Every day spent with him is a special blessing.

In addition to all of the decorating, shopping, wrapping and baking that comes with December, it’s also a very busy time for me, work-wise. It can get a little stressful, but I travel to some small towns with my job, and it was fun to take in the magical Christmas lights in the town squares. It gave me a chance to pause between work stops and just enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. One of my favorites was Madison, Indiana. It felt like I was driving through Bedford Falls, from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I was looking for George Bailey!

I stopped into a small antique store, one day, in search of vintage Christmas ornaments.  I asked the owner of the shop if he had any, and he didn’t, but he and I got to talking about how old decorations bring back wonderful memories of the past. I mentioned to him that I had gotten rid of most of my “kiddie” decorations once my children grew up, and that I soon regretted doing so when I suddenly had four grandchildren. Without a second thought, he picked up this wonderful vintage Santa and said, “Here! Take this home as my gift to your grandkids. They’ll love it!” And they do! What a special, unexpected gift. I am grateful for random acts of kindness.

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I received another special surprise when I got home from an incredibly hectic day of work a few days before Christmas. My daughter sent me these beautiful flowers with a note, thanking me for the hard work I put into making our family’s Christmas celebration special. My heart melted. It feels good to be appreciated.

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The biggest celebration of the month was, of course, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We started with Christmas Eve worship service, in which three of our grandchildren participated, as the angel and the shepherds. They were adorable!

 

 

Later that evening, it was time for a good ol’, relaxing, wear-your-pajamas, feast on delicious foods, and rip open the Christmas presents! Lots of huge smiles, squeals and giggles.

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Once all of the gifts were opened, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and ate far too many sweet treats.

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December certainly is a busy month for our family, and I am grateful for every minute of it.

I’ve been blogging my Lists of Gratitude every month as a means of helping myself stay on track in remembering all of the things for which I’m grateful in my life.  As I look back over them, it fills my heart with such joy to be reminded of my many blessings. It’s fitting, however, that this last post concludes with my gratitude for the greatest blessing of all – Jesus Christ.

I am forever grateful for His saving grace.

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