I Now Know What Sea Legs Mean . . .

Sunrise in Cozumel, Mexico, from the bow of the Breeze
Sunrise in Cozumel, Mexico, from the bow of the Breeze

You probably guessed: I just recently went on a week-long cruise which I can easily describe as a dream vacation. You know, where the skies were pretty much sunny, the air was warm and a calliope of chatter (in about a dozen languages) and laughter filled the air wherever we were… the sights were fantastic, the food was hmmmm very good, and there was plenty to see and do.

swans 2As memories go though, there were three or four standouts. First, there were the towels mimicking various sea creatures. Yes, I did say towels! You see, each evening, when we came back to our cabin after the sumptuous evening meal, we were greeted by a clean room and a towel sea creature sitting atop the bed. As I remember correctly, we had a frog, a penguin, a sea turtle, a stingray and I presume a pelican. There was also two swans kissing, representing a heart, to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.
sentinel
This simple gesture, provided by our daily housekeeper, who cleaned our room, not once, but twice a day, was actually something unexpected but eagerly anticipated after the first evening’s surprise. Although I am sure the overall cost of the cruise includes what some might think nonsensical; I on the other hand thought it to be a thoughtful and genuine state of hospitality, something often lacking in any vacation, be it on land or sea. By the way, the towel brigade was in full swing the morning of our final full day at sea when the pool deck had an array of towel-sea creatures sitting atop lounge chairs, much like I imagined soldiers would look, all bedecked in white uniforms, guarding their charges of blue.
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Holidays: The Name’s the Same!

It appears there are a number of cities and towns in the US with holiday type names, so how about a little trivia where the name is the same when it comes to holidays?

The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away
The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away

Probably the most recognized Christmas related town name is Bethlehem, and in the US there are (reportedly) eight to 12. I’ve discovered 9 of them: Bethlehem, CT; Bethlehem, GA; Bethlehem, IN; Bethlehem, KY, Bethlehem, MD; Bethlehem, MS; Bethlehem, NH; Bethlehem, PA; Bethlehem, WV, with Bethlehem, PA being the most prominently known.

It was on Christmas eve in 1741, when a group of Moravians founded the mission community of Bethlehem, which proved to be a town for the future when in 1762 it built the “first-water works in America to pump water for public use.”

After the Civil War Bethlehem became a city, and a center for heavy industry and trade during the industrial revolution, thus Bethlehem Steel Corporation was founded, becoming the 2nd largest steel producer in the US, and was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world. Unfortunately they ceased their operations in 1995, after about 140 years of being in business.

Could it be the result of a grand ceremony on December 7, 1937, during the Great Depression, when the wife of Bethlehem Steel Corporation President, Charles F. Brown, flipped on the switch to turn on the new Christmas street lights and a large wooden star [that the city of Bethlehem still beckons visitors]? It was also at this time the Chamber of Commerce adopted the nickname ‘Christmas City, USA’. Today, that wooden star when lit up can be seen as far as Wind Gap, 20 miles away.

Bethlehem is also home to three large universities, including Lehigh University, and Money Magazine listed it at number 88 out of 100 ‘best cities to live’ . . .
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O Christmas Tree – Oh Tannenbaum – Oh Árbol de Navidad – O Kerstboom – Oh arbre de Noël – Oh Pokok Krismas – Ol Jugran – O Coeden Nadolig and so on . . . .

1961 marks the first year for a  'themed' Christmas tree in the White House during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, which highlighted the Nutcracker ballet, a favorite of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy - Wikimedia photo
1961 marks the first year for a ‘themed’ Christmas tree in the White House during the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, which highlighted the Nutcracker ballet, a favorite of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy – Wikimedia photo

We can thank the people of Northern Europe (Latvia more particularly) during the 15th century for the origin of the Christmas tree, one of the most iconic images during the Christmas holidays.

1995 White House Christmas Tree
1995 White House Christmas Tree
I, for one, cannot imagine Christmas without a tree, although over the years, I, like a lot of others have gone from a traditional fresh cut tree to a Sears & Roebuck aluminum tree with silver branches, and ultimately to a variety of artificial trees. They all have had one thing in common though, tinsel, lights (from the traditional oval shaped bulb to bubble lights during the 50’s (my favorite of all time) to the tiny LED lights that light up today’s Christmas trees. Add a little tinsel, a special tree topper and the souvenir ornament of the current year to complete the overall look.
2002 White House Christmas Tree
2002 White House Christmas Tree

As I write this blog I thought how interesting it would be to feature a little history of some of the White House Christmas trees, along with other trivia, such as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

A typical Charlie Brown Christmas Tree
A typical Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Continue reading “O Christmas Tree – Oh Tannenbaum – Oh Árbol de Navidad – O Kerstboom – Oh arbre de Noël – Oh Pokok Krismas – Ol Jugran – O Coeden Nadolig and so on . . . .”

ZOOrific Holiday Family Outings

Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo
Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

When was the last time you visited a zoo? If I am the example it more than likely was when you were a youngster, or your children or grandchildren were youngsters.

Flickr image by therichardlife
Flickr image by therichardlife
What could be more magical than Christmas at the zoo – with twinkling lights strung up along the walkways leading everyone to playful chimps, long-necked giraffes, big and fuzzy bears, or a magnificent tiger or two, amongst other creatures, sure to delight the whole family. More and more zoos decorate with lights and dazzling displays to encourage families to include animals in their holiday activities, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any number of culturally traditional holidays during December and January.

Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)
Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)
It seems the Indianapolis Zoo was the “first zoo (since 1957) in the U.S. to hold a holiday lights event.” Since then, Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo “has become known for its spectacular holiday lights and Christmas displays,” making it a great place for holiday memories. Surely if there has been snow falling during this time, when evening comes and twinkling lights set the stage, it would indeed be magical!
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Tis’ The Season to be Shopping . . . Fa La La La La … La La La La

What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall - flickr image by e e paul
What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall – flickr image by e e paul

Although statistically speaking, it has been said that approximately 71% of Americans will do their shopping online this year, for many it’s just not the holidays without a mall visit. After all, the jingling of bells, the hustle and bustle of people mingling and jostling bags and boxes, the aromas of holiday treats wafting from various food vendors, decorative store fronts with tinsel and twinkling lights, Santa’s here and there, and just the happy chaos that is reminiscent of the past that many of us have not forgotten is reason enough to at least abandon our online shopping for one or two store bought gifts.

So where are the most popular shopping places anyhow? While Travel and Leisure listed 32 of the most popular shopping malls during the holidays, we’ll spare you all the details and list the top 5, although you can learn more about this phenomena here

Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season
Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season

No. 1 Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
Annual Visitors: 40 million
Year Opened: 1992

With more than 400 shops and a nice blend of retail and entertainment (a roller coaster inside no less) it is no wonder the Mall of America is at the top of the list.

Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?
Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?

No. 2 Aventura Mall, Aventura, FL
Annual Visitors: 28 million
Year Opened: 1983

Oh my, what isn’t good about Aventura Mall? Its located in sunny Miami, Florida and hosts special events like the Chocolate Festival and the Great American Bake Sale, plus has the added advantage of Gulfstream Park thoroughbred horse racing and championship golf courses among other features in its enclave.

By the way, if you’re in need of a good night’s sleep after you shop til’ you drop, check us out.

Continue reading “Tis’ The Season to be Shopping . . . Fa La La La La … La La La La”

Reflections of the Past – Stepping Stones for the Future . . .

Can we ever truly thank our veterans enough for their service to our country? Many have sacrificed their lives so we can continue to enjoy the freedom we Americans have come to know, and unfortunately often forget how fortunate we are. Let us not just celebrate November 11th as a day to honor America’s veterans, active or deceased, but let’s aspire to acknowledge them on … Continue reading Reflections of the Past – Stepping Stones for the Future . . .

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Ten Musical Reasons to Like Halloween Plus Some Travel Trivia

mask No. 10 Head to the sunshine state, more so to Miami, Florida to soak up the sun by day and then by night dress up like your favorite zombie and head over to the Massive Ideas Masquerade. For family fun, the Miami Zoo can’t be beat for its free range where animals are grouped together based on their geographic territory and exhibits are entirely cageless. Afterwards try a Cuban sandwich at La Carreta, the original Cuban kitchen.
Continue reading “Ten Musical Reasons to Like Halloween Plus Some Travel Trivia”