Tag Archives: Christmas

It’s Already Here

It’s here, isn’t it?  “Getting ready for Christmas” is actually the biggest part of our Christmas (or any holiday) experience. So take a minute to breathe it in. Those moments sitting in ridiculous amounts of traffic -but with someone you love in the passenger seat, the splattering of batter across your kitchen as cookies are created and baked, the extra sparkle in your neighborhood as you drive in through your own personal light show…   Let’s recognize these for the gifts that they are. How I ever was organized enough in 2008 to do a pre-Christmas vacation eludes me now as I scramble through last minute shopping, audio recording and writing projects!  But, it’s good.  The moments, as chaotic as they may occasionally be, are  mine.  And I appreciate them all.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico Map

Santa might check his list twice, but I didn’t have to do a recheck on the option of a Mexico trip just before Christmas this year! My response was an immediate and emphatic “Yes!” (throw in a squeal or two if you want to be completely realistic). Panic followed shortly thereafter. I lack the elfin staff that enables Santa to readily pause for cookies and belly laughs; could I really bypass the final pre-Christmas shopping days, returning just in time for its Eve?

Umm… yeah. As it turned out, that’s not such a big problem for a non-recreational shopper like me. More strategic shopping shaved off much of the reallocated time, and we aimed for earlier enjoyment of our treasured traditions such as “The Nutcracker” ballet with my daughter, gingerbread house-grahamcracker house buildingmaking with kids and cousins, and caroling with Grandma Dugan. If traveling to Mexico had required debiting seasonal joys, it wouldn’t have been worth the “warm”, but all fell into place, and I boarded the plane with virtually all of my shopping/baking completed ~ready for “wonderful” because I already had that cozy sort of feeling on the inside.

Here are some photos from “downtown” Play del Carmen in the days before Christmas. I hope to locate some more photos from previous trips to the area, because I spent most of our long weekend this time running, swimming, snorkeling and walking miles along the shoreline of the Caribbean Sea.

Counting my blessings in Spanish…

Updated from December 28, 2008.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico Map

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Time Travel on a Tree

As we create travel memories, we add them to the branches of our Christmas tree. In the past couple of years we’ve added ornaments (or key chains: the non-shopper’s quickie souvenir ornament!) from Vieques, Puerto Rico, Grand Canyon NP, Mammoth Cave NP, Yosemite NP and Playa Del Carmen, MX. Wish I’d remembered to grab a key chain on one of my trips to Boston/Cape Cod but the warm memories will be enough.


I like to read the stories on our Christmas tree.


There are over-sized pine cones from a North Carolina roadside, hastily gathered during an accidental route departure (some would say we were “lost”), now “child-enhanced” with cheerful globs of green and gold glitter glue.

styrofoam ball

Other homemade creations include painted wood ornaments and glass globes, sequin-covered Styrofoam balls and assorted paper art. Everyone knows who made which one, and there’s a story behind most. I treasure a wooden star that my Grandma Dugan painted during one of the Christmases she stayed with us before moving to the care center.

A few ornaments date back to my childhood: a worn-looking angel, painted with the abandon of a child who has better things to do; a felt star festooned with sequins that I sewed on, one by one, at the dining room table of my childhood home; a trumpet given by my best friend in fifth grade; a mirrored nativity scene from my Grandma and Grandpa Prior…

treble clef

Musical notes and instruments are a recurring theme, many of them gifts from my late father (odd term; he was never late for anything and was actually a bit early in leaving us…).


Near the top of the tree, just beneath the Star, is a silly looking penguin whose wings and beak flap with a pull of a string. It joined us during our brief residence in Elida, Ohio and is the coveted find as we decorate each year.


Every year, the kids receive an ornament that reflects a current interest; these now include ballet slippers, a lizard, virtually every sports ball, and an electric guitar (ssh… a new arrival this year). We also make it a practice to find seasonal decorations when we travel. When I look at our tree I see islands such as Hawaii, Bermuda, St John and Virgin Gorda. Canada and Mexico dangle from branches as do a good number of states and cities of the US.

cable car and pinecone

A pair of flip flops and a ballerina cow from Hannah’s trips to Anna Maria Island and Chicago… A gecko and a cable car from Zach’s trips to Palm Springs and San Francisco… Leaping dolphins that Matt helped pick out in Hilton Head…

zion keychain

Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are new additions, three brightly colored key chains to remind of us this past summer’s adventures (we’ve found key chains make great, inexpensive ornaments when you’re too busy to shop for souvenirs).

star and music stand

It’s a well-covered tree this year, which helps hide the stripe of burned out lights near the bottom. As the kids settle into their homes and traditions, though, the branches will empty. Most of the ornaments will go with them as tangible reminders of their personal histories. Perhaps they’ll share the memories with their own children someday, just as I’ve recounted mine to them. And when they decorate their own trees, they’ll probably travel through a few memories… I hope so.

Because the familiar stories are usually the best…

Originally posted: December 21, 2008

Columbus Things To Do


Wild Times With Your Camera

Photo Thursday

More Photo Swaps coming up! In the meantime: More from Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo.

When capturing Christmas lights, don’t be afraid to mess around with your camera settings! They’re adjustable for just such an occasion. Shooting lights in the dark may require a little experimentation for you to land effective shots.  Remember that slower shutter speeds (lower numbers like 100 or 200) let in more light. And a low F-stop(F2, F/2.8, F/4) number gives you a wider aperture and more light as well. A slower shutter at night guarantees some blur unless you’re willing to haul in a tripod (stabilizing your camera on a bench or trashcan can steady the shot and give you a sharper image as well).  However, the blurred light can make for an interesting image as well!

The photos above are of the same view but with different camera settings. Click for full-sized views.

Wildlights runs through Jan 1, 2011 at the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio. Admission is $12.99. Children ages 2 – 9 and Adults 60+ receive a reduced price of $7.99. Parking is $5.00. Columbus Zoo members get free admission.
*Purchase and print your tickets on-line to avoid waiting. Walking through Wildlights is a lot warmer (and more fun) than standing (and shivering) in long admission lines.

Columbus Things To Do on raveable


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