Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

The same cast of characters will be attending this year’s Christmas dinner…Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and the other reindeer, as well as Cindy Lou Who, Buddy the Elf, the Nutcracker, and Frosty. After hearing complaints about who sat at which table for years I finally devised a plan to eliminate the need for a “kids’ table” a couple of years ago.


Names of characters from Christmas songs, movies, and poems replace guests names on place cards.
Names of characters from Christmas songs, movies, and poems replace guests names on place cards.

Place cards indicate the seating plan for guests, but instead of the names of the guests the cards are printed with the names of characters from Christmas songs, books, and movies. Guests draw names out of a bag to determine which seat they are assigned. We no longer sit with all of the “adults” (grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles) in the dining room and the “kids” (none of whom are under eighteen) in the kitchen or living room. Instead, we mix it up. It’s been a great plan even if couples are separated; they’ll survive for the course of a meal.

I bet Grandpa ends up at the dining room table again this year. I wonder what how he convinces others to swap seats with him?

Three candy canes tied with ribbon serve as decorative place card holders.
Three candy canes tied with ribbon serve as decorative place card holders.

Originally posted December 25, 2012.

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

We didn’t make it to one of the major boat parades this year, but an old-fashioned paddle boat lights the path at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.


Instead of driving through the neighborhoods of Ocala, we cruised up the highway to White Springs for the park’s 20th annual Festival of Lights. Over five million lights decorate the trees, museum, and Carillon Tower.

For a $3.00 fee per person, cars can drive the loop, but then at the Gingerbread Village visitors are treated to complimentary hot cocoa, popcorn, and marshmallows on sticks ready for roasting.


Musical performances, snow flurries, a craft village, one of the largest train displays in the state, as well as Christmas carols emanating from the bells of the Carillon Tower provide plenty of entertainment.

You can even catch a movie shown on an outdoor screen.

IMG_5377.JPGThe Festival of Lights continues to illuminate the park through December 31st so there’s time to join in the fun.


Storybook Tree

A morning spent working with students at Osceola Middle School resulted in an unexpected surprise. A book lovers’ Christmas tree.


Mini books used as decorations.

Dozens of ornaments with favorite book characters: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tigger, Madeline, Paddington, and Peter Rabbit.

IMG_5307.JPGClifford and one of the Wild Things.


Even a couple of nursery rhyme characters: the Three Men in a Tub and Humpty Dumpty.


Love the hat used as a tree topper!

IMG_5212.JPGAnd more characters, like Arthur and Curious George, as well as book themed gift bags surrounding the tree.IMG_5310.JPGWhat a trip down memory lane for all of the book lovers who pass through the media center. Thanks, Karen, for sharing this holiday treasure.

TBT Lesson #30

l grew up a Christmas tree snob. The tree needed to be a blue spruce approximately six feet tall with a straight trunk without any bare spots.

However, after I married, our tree selection habits made it impossible to locate the perfect tree. That’s because we bought permits from the forest service and drove John’s Toyota pickup truck to the Ocala National Forest on cold December mornings where we selected a Florida scrub pine, chopped it down, and brought it home to decorate.

The tree looked much worse than expected when placed in the tree stand. I think that’s because in the forest the treed background masks the sparseness of the branches. In fact on at least one occasion we purchased two permits so we could cut two trees and tie them together. Yes, it was fuller, but how do you put two trunks in the tree stand? Not easy.

When I came across this picture of John on Christmas morning at age two, I realized why he didn’t understand my desire for a “Rockefeller Center” tree. He grew up with a “Charlie Brown” tree.

IMG_4310TBT Lesson #30: Combining holiday traditions is no easy task, but it’s not the tree that makes the holiday.

Miracle Mile Windows

Window shopping takes on new meaning in the month of December. Displays of Christmas trees, snowflakes, and wreaths join or replace windows filled with merchandise.


On last year’s trip to NYC we fought the crowds to get a glimpse of the windows at Macy’s, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman.

Macy’s, NYC, 2013

This year we found ourselves in Coral Gables on Miracle Mile taking in the lights and Christmas decorations. Not the same as NYC but also more relaxed and less crowded. I loved the extravagant displays last year, but I’m just a sucker for decorations.



While most of the windows on Miracle Mile feature products for sale in the store instead of being storytelling devices like those in New York, it’s still fun strolling up and down the street rating the window dressings, and my choice for the best window: Edible Arrangements.

IMG_6236.JPGWhat a good way to get in the holiday spirit!

Have a Very Crafty Christmas!

It’s not too late to have a crafty Christmas. Ornaments, gift tags, or even handmade gifts with the perfect personal touch.

Start by making a Scrabble ornament.

Or a simple button gift tags – good ideas even though this isn’t  an English language site.


A little Chocolate Chex mix would make a nice gift. Get the recipe for and printable labels.

More gift tag ideas: Hand drawn Christmas tree gift tag.

Looking for an inexpensive gift idea? Maybe a mini magnetic cork planter is just the thing!

Just what I need! Hand warmers to microwave and then slip in coat pockets on a cold day.

It’s time to get crafty!

Remembering the Reason for the Season – Part 2

Reposted from December, 2012.

Yesterday, I outlined all of the things I dislike about Christmas; but I want to assure you there are plenty of things I love about this time of year. I do not dislike Christmas.

I love other people’s decorations. I love Christmas music – both religious and secular. Go Tell It On the Mountain, Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing are among my favorite Christmas carols, but I also love Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Felix Navidad, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I love Christmas Eve. Eating dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Opening gifts (yeah, I know, the same ones I hated shopping for) and seeing how much Grandma and Grandpa enjoy watching everyone open the garage sale items they’ve been carefully selecting  for months. Then going to Christmas Eve candlelight services at 11:00 with music, communion, and time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday.

I love Christmas morning…getting up and enjoying breakfast, a fire, and music as we open gifts. I love watching Dad on Christmas morning because he’s still childlike – enjoying every moment of the morning, especially watching everyone open the gifts he’s carefully selected.

I love Christmas dinner. Good food, smiles, laughter, games, relaxation. No more pressure, just enjoying one another. A day of love. Dr. Seuss summed up the reason for the season in his book How the Grinch Stole Christmas,

“And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

I think he got it right!

It seems that reading the Christmas story from the Bible should be required for a message reminding you to remember the reason for the season, but actually, I think you’re more likely to watch this You Tube clip from Charlie Brown’s Christmas in which Linus recites the Christmas story from Luke, but feel free to read Luke chapter 2 yourself if you prefer.

Yes, I may seem like Scrooge or the Grinch at times during the Christmas season, but I do love this time of year especially when I can avoid the hustle and bustle and remember the reason for the season.



Remembering the Reason for the Season – Part 1

Reposted from December, 2012.

A full week after Thanksgiving…I think it’s safe to say the Christmas season has officially begun.

I know that on more than one occasion you’ve heard me utter the words, “I hate Christmas.” I don’t really hate Christmas. I’m not a Scrooge or the Kranks or the Grinch. I’m not mean or selfish or against fun, but there are a lot of things I do dislike about Christmas.


I dislike Christmas decorations in stores in October. I enjoy Halloween, and I love Thanksgiving. Christmas music and displays set up in October or November detract from these special days.

I dislike shopping and shopping and shopping. I dislike shopping for many reasons and spending too much money is only a minor one. I dislike the crowds. I dislike trying to buy gifts that others will like. I dislike worrying about whether or not I treated everyone fairly. I know it shouldn’t matter how many gifts or how much was spent on each, but I still worry about these things. Does a gift look too cheap or too expensive? Too big or too small? Is it something the recipient wants? If not, will he be honest and take it back instead of keeping it just to make me happy? Gift giving is way too stressful.

I dislike decorating. I love others’ decorations, but I just am not interested in putting up lights, a big tree, and knick-knacks all over the house. I used to love this, so I’m not sure what happened, but I’m all for a small tree, stockings, poinsettias or Christmas cactus, and other simple decorations. Maybe I’ll enjoy decorating again, but not for now.


I dislike being asked what I want for Christmas. I mean it when I say I don’t want or need anything. That doesn’t mean that I won’t appreciate gifts I receive, but I’m really happy with anything…homemade gifts…cards or notes that you write…books…clothes…gift cards…donations made in my name…anything…or nothing. Yes, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Kindle and the TV you bought me (or us) for Christmas, but expensive gifts are not required or expected.

While I know you would never tolerate this response to the question, what do you want for Christmas, I think this quote by the author Oren Arnold, is nearly perfect,

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service, To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”

Of course Arnold says his inspiration for writing comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so I guess that explains his perspective.

Now that you know what I don’t like about Christmas, tomorrow I’ll try to convince you I really am not Scrooge. Until then, let me remind you to remember the reason for the season.



The 12 Movies of Christmas

Instead of singing about turtle doves, maids a milking, golden rings, and the other Christmas gifts from the song The 12 Days of Christmas, why not watch twelve movies in preparation for Christmas?

That’s only three movies per week for the next four weeks, and of course if you fall behind, you can schedule one or two movie marathons.

Watching one of these Christmas classics will make decorating or wrapping gifts or baking more enjoyable. My must see list:

12. Scrooged

11. The Santa Clause

10. White Christmas

9. Trading Places

8. Miracle on 34th Street

7. It’s a Wonderful Life

6. Home Alone

5. A Christmas Carol

4. Elf


3. Toy Story

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Happy Christmas movie watching!

R.A.C.K. Revisited

RACK banner[11]Late last December I posted a message about R.A.C.K., a plan to practice random acts of Christmas kindness. Unfortunately, it was only a couple of days before Christmas with little time remaining to put the plan into action so here it is again.

In middle school, your writing teacher assigned a project on random acts of kindness, an idea that started in a Sausalito, California, restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. From this simple start, bumper stickers spread the idea and a book was published filled with stories of random acts of kindness, which started a kind of chain reaction. You were asked to find an example of someone who participated in performing these acts of kindness not only as a writing assignment, but to encourage you to think about how you could be a part of this movement.

Without even thinking about it, you frequently do little things that add beauty to the lives of others. You may bring in the grocery cart for a fellow shopper, compliment someone, reach an item on a shelf, or hold the door…all simple acts, but acts that brighten the days of others. However, by thinking about acts of kindness and acting intentionally, we can bring smiles to the faces of those we meet.

So what’s R.A.C.K.? Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Recently, I’ve come across several websites with ideas to make the Christmas season a time to make these acts, not just random, but planned to spread good cheer. In fact, you may want to search random acts of Christmas kindness on Pinterest. The ideas are boundless.

Perhaps you can think of a couple of ways you can make an impact during the next month that focus on Christmas kindness. I’m making plans. This is a good tradition to add to the Christmas season. And who knows, once you get thinking and doing, you may decide to make intentional acts a kindness a year round project.