Tag Archives: holidays

The Homestead’s winter holiday season

By Lynn R. Mitchell

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The inviting, comfortable front porch at The Homestead in Hot Springs is probably one of my favorite places at this oasis in the western mountains of Virginia where winter brings lights and holiday decor….

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Holiday air travel leaves flyers high and dry

By Lynn R. Mitchell

A childhood friend’s daughter was trying to return to Chicago from Richmond after the Christmas holiday. This was not the way it should be and, unfortunately, it’s like this for far too many people. Here was the nightmare scenario with a humorous spin that was posted on Facebook Tuesday afternoon:

Can you beat this airline adventure? Because of past experiences at the RIA airport, we left for the airport at 5:15 AM  Monday so Kate would have plenty of time to navigate lines for her 7:30 AM flight. She texted 10 minutes later and requested that I come pick her up. Flight had been canceled and she had been reissued a new 5PM ticket to Chicago via Charlotte.
She did fly out at 5PM to be told in Charlotte that the 2nd leg was canceled and the earliest she could get out of Charlotte was Wednesday morning with no provision of any sleeping arrangement for 2 nights. After speaking with several supervisors, she was sent back to Richmond Monday night with a ticket in hand for an 8 AM flight this morning (Tuesday).
Due to no pilot, the 8 AM flight was delayed until 1 PM which is now delayed to possibly 2:30 PM but they are in need of a stewardess. Kate has offered to change careers.
Please pray they find someone they consider qualified for that job! And please also pray that she can reconnect with her suitcase which DID GET TO CHICAGO LAST NIGHT FROM CHARLOTTE!
I love every minute she is home but know she meant to be back at her job yesterday morning.  So appreciate her spending Christmas with us!!!!!! I think right now she is wishing she was a suitcase!
This tale makes me grateful to be within driving distance of those I wish to visit.
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‘I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day’ … remembering our U.S. troops around the world

By Lynn R. Mitchell

My dad, who passed away in 1975, was a U.S. Navy veteran who served on the USS Wisconsin during World War II. He was 19 years old when he went to war. Later in his life, while I was growing up, he was a Sunday School teacher for 12-year-old boys in our church.

Dad’s favorite Christmas hymn was, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” because his service during the war had made the words even more meaningful to him. I think of him every year when this song is played.

For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the words of the song came from personal tragedy, as heard in the narrative by actor Ed Herman with music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This year, in the wake of the loss of six American military members in Afghanistan in recent days, the words are even more poignant to a mourning nation.

Our military men and women are working this Christmas, many far from home and away from their families. Let us remember those currently deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the world as well as here on the homeland who protect our freedoms and keep us safe.

This is in memory of my Dad, and for all our military members, past and present.

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1863)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Originally posted in 2006

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Christmas offers a time to show appreciation for those in our lives

Christmas giftsBy Lynn R. Mitchell

When I was a little kid, Christmas was a magical time to pick out a special something for my sisters and parents to show how much they meant to me. Today the same applies for family and friends who are the reason my life feels complete.

While growing up in Bon Air across the James River from Richmond, shopping opportunities were few for two young sisters with limited financial resources. There was the Buford Road Pharmacy and the Bon Air Hardware, both a short one- or two-block ride on our bicycles, so that’s where we did our shopping.

Two very patient older gentlemen worked in the Bon Air Hardware and I’m sure they smiled to themselves as my sister and I walked among the rows of familiar plumbing supplies, carpenter needs, and other materials necessary for the upkeep of a house. Our young eyes wandered up and down the shelves as we searched their contents, hoping to find just the right gift for our parents that was within our price range, as the gentlemen offered kind suggestions for us neighborhood kids carrying only a couple of bucks in our pockets.

I say the gift was for our “parents” but it was usually more suited for our mother, and our good-natured Dad just got his name on the tag.

One year I decided on a paring knife for them. A paring knife. The cost was within my paltry budget so I proudly took it home to wrap but it was so small that I decided to find the biggest cardboard box I could to wrap this prized gift to make it seem more impressive. I rolled the knife in tissue paper, placed it at the bottom, and then proceeded to stuff the box with wadded-up newspapers. It must have taken an entire roll of wrapping paper to cover the thing and, of course, it had to be topped with a bow.

If my mother was disappointed on Christmas morning, she never showed it. Looking back all these years later as a mother myself, I know the corny saying is true … it is not the gift that counts but truly the thought. I had wanted to be able to give more so the box seemed to represent my desire and the lonely little paring knife was the reality.

There was the year one of my younger sisters wanted the Magic 8 Ball that was all the rage. I scraped together enough money to get Christmas cookies 1that one special gift for her and stored it in the closet of our shared bedroom. Unable to contain my excitement, we ended up playing with it before it was wrapped and put under the tree. Ah, the impatience of youth.

My sister and I made a coupon book one year for our parents with each page representing something we would do when presented with said piece of paper, i.e., washing dishes, babysitting our younger sister, and other chores that we were actually already assigned to us. I don’t remember ever having a coupon redeemed, perhaps because we were already expected to fulfill those obligations around the house.

I find gift-giving to be easier with those we know well. A friend may have expressed a like for a particular quote so it gives pleasure to print and frame the quote and gift-wrap it as a surprise. I truly enjoy finding something that fits the person, sometimes falling flat on my face with my selection, and sometimes over the years I’ve had to resort to the ready-made one-size-fits-all category.

When funds are short, ingenuity goes a long way. During the years when our children were growing up and we were a one-income family and very pinched financially, homemade gifts were necessary. If you don’t think you can be creative, try coming up with something made by your own hands for someone you love, respect, or appreciate. After all, it is meant to be a reflection of how you feel about the person and gratitude for their place in your life. Homemade, or maybe handmade sounds better, for me has included everything from hand-dipped candy and festive decorated cookies to evergreen wreaths that I fashioned from greenery on our property to hand sewn items to arts and crafts.

One year with two young children and more time than money, I sewed two Christmas aprons for my mom — one red and one green — complete with holiday appliqués. Those aprons hang on a hook in Mom’s kitchen to this day.

Christmas gifts 4On the farm where we lived in North Carolina when our kids were born, we had a huge old sweet gum tree beside the front porch that dropped hundreds of gumballs in the yard every fall. One year I eyeballed those pesky little things — they are prickly — and then smiled. That was the Christmas I made dozens of miniature gumball wreaths complete with tiny bows and gave them to friends and family. Another year I husked and cracked open black walnuts from our trees and gave the shelled nuts as gifts.

I remember years ago when one of my sisters found herself financially strapped when Christmas rolled around. She was living in Colorado and working her way through graduate school with limited resources. Mom bought her an airplane ticket to fly home for Christmas in Richmond so we could all be together and, when she arrived, she came bearing gifts. On Christmas morning, I opened my gift from her and it was a rattan lamp from her Denver apartment that I had admired. She didn’t have the money to buy items for us so she had shared her own possessions. That lamp still sits in my house.

Maybe I learned over the years that to receive a gift — any gift — is a kindness of the giver who took the time, whether a few minutes toChristmas 3 purchase something or hours to handcraft it, because they cared enough to show a gratitude for the people in their lives not only throughout the year but especially during the holiday season (see Gigi Engle’s Why the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best time of the year).

Now I have to get back to work because there are some gingerbread men in the kitchen waiting to be decorated as gifts for a friend who absolutely loves the holiday spirit that comes through in that personalized holiday treat.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Alaskan spruce felled, begins journey to D.C. as Capitol Christmas tree

Capitol Christmas treeBy Lynn R. Mitchell

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, at least preparations for “The People’s Tree” are underway as Alaskans donate a 74-foot Lutz spruce — a cross between a Sitka and white spruce — that was cut down Tuesday (see 2015 US Capitol Christmas tree cut down near Seward):

The 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was felled Tuesday afternoon on the outskirts of this Southcentral Alaska harbor community, the first step of a 6,000-mile journey that will eventually take it to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.

The 74-foot Lutz spruce cut Tuesday, a hybrid between a Sitka and white spruce, hails from the Chugach National Forest, the country’s most northern and western national forest. On Tuesday morning the 90-year-old tree stood about 300 feet off the Seward Highway. The surrounding area was cleared and filled in with dirt in order to support two cranes that secured the spruce estimated to weigh about 7,500 pounds.

The spruce was found by Amanda Villwock, Natural Resources Specialist with the Chugach National Forest, who said she began searching for the “perfect” tree last October.

“The tree symbolizes more than just the tree itself, you know, especially coming from Alaska,” Villwock said. “We’re taking pride in our state and sharing that with the entire country,” she said.

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Christmas programming announced for cable, television

Christmas tree our house

                                   Christmas at our house. (Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Some holiday programming has been released for the 2015 Thanksgiving-Christmas season. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

ABC has announced its holiday programming for 2015. The fun begins November 27.

For Hallmark’s Christmas programming, check their schedule here. The fun begins October 31.

Here’s TV Guide’s holiday listings.

ABC Family’s scheduling of holiday shows begins November 1.

Watch for more as other networks and cable channels release their holiday listings. Happy holidays!

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Memories of a family-filled Christmas

??????????By Lynn R. Mitchell

We’ve come full circle. Exactly one week after our first guests arrived for the Christmas holiday, the last ones left this morning to return home. Their Glympse maps are on my laptop and iPhone as I follow their travels back to Tennessee and Richmond. The weather is just as it was that day a week ago … drizzly, foggy, and cool. This time last week I was hurrying around finishing last minute details as we prepared for Christmas and family and gifts and dinners.

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The 12 Days of Christmas … Day 10: Busch Gardens Christmas Town, Williamsburg

By Lynn R. Mitchell

If you love Christmas … if you love lights … if you love the music, then Christmas Town is your destination where every inch of real estate is a nod to the season. From the millions of twinkling white and multi-colored holiday lights to the choreographed gigantic “O Tannenbaum” Christmas tree that flashes to the music of the season, to Santa and elves and floor shows reminiscent of the days of Andy Williams, Christmas Town is absolutely breath-taking.
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A Christmas classic: ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’

By Lynn R. Mitchell

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father if there was really a Santa Claus. He suggested she write to The Sun, a prominent New York newspaper, because, as he said, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”

And so Virginia wrote her letter:

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The 12 Days of Christmas: Day 5 … Afton’s Bethlehem Village and the greatest story ever told

Bethlehem starBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Imagine a little village that existed long before colorful Christmas lights, reindeer, or Santa Claus. Roman Soldiers walk the streets, Wise Men appear with their camels, shop keepers are going about their everyday lives yet this village is on the brink of something immense, the birth of one who would forever change the course of human history. Experience this village as it really was. Come to Bethlehem and see for yourself the magic and wonder of the first Christmas.

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Toffee Bars for Christmas

By Lynn R. Mitchell

 Toffee Cookie Bars

This morning another tray of Christmas yumminess went into the oven, a new recipe that came from the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s resident baker Clare Osdene Schapiro (whose husband happens to be the RTD’s political writer Jeff Schapiro).

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Forgotten Cookies … a Christmas favorite

By Lynn R. Mitchell

A new batch of Forgotten Cookies is in the oven for their overnight sleep which reminded me of this post originally published in December 2008. In the morning we will open the oven and find another Christmas favorite. Shhh … cookies sleeping.

Special memories of the children I worked with at Richmond Children’s Hospital come to mind when baking Forgotten Cookies, a recipe that was passed along by a nurse who worked with me at that hospital years ago. At Christmas, all the staff members brought goodies to share as we went about our work, and one year she brought these yummy meringue cookies that had an almond flavor with pecans and chocolate chips inside. They melted in your mouth.

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Toffee Butter Crunch Candy for the holidays

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Another holiday favorite at our house is toffee (pictured setting up). When set, we will break it into pieces and store for entertaining.

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Shenandoah Valley night brightened with neighborhood Christmas lights

By Lynn R. Mitchell

??????????It was a brisk and blustery evening to meander the neighborhood as the sun sank tonight behind the Appalachians.  Magical twinkly lights lit up the darkness … white and colorful and brilliant … the illuminations brought holiday cheer to the cold December night. Lighting was tricky so there’s some blurriness but it was fun to see my neighbors’ houses all dressed up for Christmas.

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Christmas is a time to show appreciation and gratitude for those in our lives

Christmas giftsBy Lynn R. Mitchell

When I was a little kid, Christmas was a magical time to pick out a special something for my sisters and parents to show how much they meant to me. Today the same applies for family and friends who are the reason my life feels complete.

While growing up in Bon Air across the James River from Richmond, shopping opportunities were few for two young sisters with limited financial resources. There was the Buford Road Pharmacy and the Bon Air Hardware, both a short one- or two-block ride on our bicycles, so that’s where we did our shopping.

Two very patient older gentlemen worked in the Bon Air Hardware and I’m sure they smiled to themselves as my sister and I walked among the rows of familiar plumbing supplies, carpenter needs, and other materials necessary for the upkeep of a house. Our young eyes wandered up and down the shelves as we searched their contents, hoping to find just the right gift for our parents that was within our price range as the gentlemen offered kind suggestions for the neighborhood kids carrying only a couple of bucks in their pockets.

I say the gift was for our “parents” but it was usually more suited for our mother, and our good-natured Dad just got his name on the tag.

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