Post Holiday Thoughts

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Whew......holidays are exhausting, aren't they?  But I'm not complaining.  My Christmas has been filled with endless joy, memories and more love than my heart can hold.  Our Indiana family is home for a delicious two weeks and while our home hasn't been it's usual tidy self for quite some time, I wouldn't trade the mess for anything.  Waking up each morning to the sweet sounds of our four-year old granddaughter's voice in the next room, or seeing the cheeky smile on our four month old granddaughter's face is all the thrill a grandma could ask for.   The giggles, the chaos, the unsolicited "I love you Grandmas"  that fill each day is enough to make my heart burst. 
These two little ones are filling my days with laughter and love.  This is what life is all about - not presents or money or fancy cars, just a houseful of the people who make our lives complete.  While Santa made good on all the things Elena asked  him for, there's been plenty of fun with some "antique" toys (as discussed in an earlier blog).  In addition to some old Barbies and Hess trucks, Elena has enjoyed her mom and Aunt Katie's old dollhouse...........
and her great-great grandmother's View Master...........

My grandmother bought View Master reels wherever she traveled, so there were an abundance of places for Elena to explore.  Amazingly, the 60 year old slides were in better condition than the ones Elena's mom and aunt had as kids.  Isn't that always the way?   Just like everything, inflation hit View Master reels hard....did you know that currently a pack of 3 reels now sells for over $28????????????   Insane.  Lucky for us, we have a lifetime supply.

Naturally the visit wouldn't be complete without a trip to Dakota Ridge Farm to visit our favorite llama friends.   That's always a good time and this was no exception.  Despite the cold wind and lack of sun, we all had fun with the llamas and Katrina's horse, Sakima!
I think Elena loves llamas as much as her Grandma does!   So.....that's how my holiday is going!  My blogs may be overdue, but I wouldn't trade this time for anything!  I promise that once the house is quiet again, I'll need plenty to keep my mind occupied and my eyes dry and I'll get back to posting some of my normal destination posts.  Till then, have a wonderful New Year's Eve.  I hope that your holidays have been filled with this much joy and fun!  Thanks for sticking around and letting me share my Life as I See It!!!

A Special Visit from Santa

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas may not be for a few days, but yesterday we had a special visit from the man himself - Santa Claus!  That's right......Santa Claus stopped by our home to pay a visit to our granddaughters, Elena and Braelyn.  As you can imagine it was pretty special (even for us adults)!

Around 4:00 in the afternoon a familiar vehicle pulled into our driveway.....
As the doorbell rang, the excitement built and Elena and Grandpa went to see who was at the door.
Notice in the far left of the photo - a white-gloved hand just peeking in!   It was Santa Claus!!!! Oh my, could it be???
At first we were a little shy, but within a quick minute, Elena was sitting on Santa's lap mesmerized by his fancy pocketwatch with the musical moving scene.

Santa spent an hour visiting with the family asking Elena what everyone wanted for Christmas.  He talked to her about school and her favorite things and told her since he knew she is in NY and not Indiana, he would be sure to deliver her presents here instead.  When asked what she wanted for Christmas, Elena replied, a dollhouse.  He asked, "Is that all"?  "Well, maybe a doll".   "Is that all"?  "Well.......maybe a magic clip doll".   It seemed Santa wasn't used to such a small list from a four year old.
Santa enjoyed some cookies from Dolce Biscotti and took a couple home for Mrs. Claus.   Soon it was time to hand out presents!

Elena being the well-rounded girl she is was thrilled to receive an Elsa doll and a Baymax robot from the Big Hero movie.  As you can see, she was more than a little pleased!

Naturally the paparazzi (Grandma) had to snap a few photos - it's not everyday that Santa visits! Before it was time to leave Santa asked us to play a cd.  He handed out special sheets with the lyrics  and we all sang a rollicking version of  "Must Be Santa".   Then it was time for Santa to say his goodbyes.  I must confess when I gave Santa a hug, I had a little tear in my eye.  Yea....I'm a softee and despite the fact that I'm an adult who knows the truth, the kid in me felt as though Santa really did just spend an hour in my house!  That's how awesome Santa is!  When I lay in bed on Christmas Eve feeling the anticipation that my four year old granddaughter will be feeling as she tries to sleep, I'll be thinking of our Saratoga Santa.  I'll be imagining him unloading presents under our tree.   And once again I'll be a kid on Christmas Eve!

Post Script:   As most of you know, I've blogged about the Saratoga Santa a few times already.  Fred Clark, Sr. has been "Santa" for 19 years now.  During those years, I'm pretty sure he's gradually "become" Santa.  If you meet Santa at anytime of the year around these parts, he looks and even acts like Santa as I found out when I first met him at DeVoe's Rainbow Orchard over the summer.  Fred makes public and private appearances - this year beginning in early November and by Christmas night, he is more than ready for a long winter's nap.  Although not a cheap gig, Santa's visit is worth every penny and the hour he spends is magical and memorable.  Although too late for this Christmas, keep Fred in mind for next Christmas.  Santa can be reached at 528-587-7224.  He has already begun booking for next Christmas! 

Good Deeds, Barbie Dolls and Things that Go!

Sunday, December 21, 2014
Happy Sunday!
We're heading into the home stretch and with Christmas only a few days away, things have a tendency to get a little chaotic.  While we all wish we could concentrate on the joys that come with holiday preparations, it is impossible to not be distracted and saddened by the senseless death of a child who has only seen five short years of life on this earth.  It is unthinkable, maddening and depressing to face some of the darkness that exists today in a world we like to consider "civilized" but unfortunately these things seem to be more and more commonplace.  All we can all ask is, "why"?  This seems to be the question for which there is no answer.  All we can do is pray for little Kennie and those who loved him, and pray that his siblings can find some peace and happiness in a home where people truly look out for their well being.
Fortunately there are happier things for me to talk about today.  One of those things is a really wonderful experience I had a few days ago at our local Walgreen's store.  Ever since Walgreens opened in this area, I've used their photo printing services because not only are they very close-by, but they have quality products and wonderful discounts.  I always have a great experience with the associates there and this week was no exception.

So, Thursday I ordered about 20+ prints for a set of note cards someone ordered.  I received notification within an hour that my prints were ready.   When I went to pick up my order the next morning, the gentlemen in the photo department couldn't find the photos.  No wonder....when I looked at my email confirmation I realized that after helping a friend make a photo Christmas card on Saturday, I neglected to change my store preference back to 'my store' and consequently my photos were processed and were waiting in the Guilderland store where my friend picked up her cards.  Ugh!  What a pain!  My $4.00 order was all the way in Guilderland.  What to do?  It just seemed nuts to drive all that way using time and gas for such a small order.  The photo department was buzzing with activity by now, people on both kiosks, people picking up photos - typical pre-holiday chaos.  In most scenarios, that might result in this response: "Well Lady, you made a dumb mistake, so it's your problem".  Not the case!!!! Doug and Paul (the awesome fellas working that day) jumped into action and began making phone calls to to see if they could cancel my order and process it in Clifton Park.  Like all good deeds usually go, one phone call wasn't enough.  These guys efficiently and pleasantly did what they had to do to rectify MY mistake, never once acting like it was anything but their pleasure to do so.   As it turned out, the website wouldn't cooperate and kept cancelling subsequent orders.  No good deed goes unpunished!  Now here is where story gets even more amazing...... It seems Paul lives close to the Guilderland store so...... he personally picked up my order in Guilderland and brought my order to Clifton Park the next morning!  I received a call at 8:20a.m.  from Doug that my photos were in!!   Now that is what I call superior service with a smile.   These young men are examples of quality customer service!  I hope their managers recognize and appreciate what great employees they have and pat them both on the back for a job well done!

In other holiday good cheer..... my Indiana family arrived safely on Friday!  That means we have our two granddaughters here to spoil and cuddle for the next several days!!!  Yippee!!  It's always fun when they're around, but yesterday was especially fun because we took a little trip down memory lane when Elena hit the Barbie jackpot when we gave her her mom and Aunt Katie's Barbie collection.  Yes.....I've been saving them all these years in hopes one day I'd have a granddaughter who might enjoy them.  All in all we had about a dozen dolls (Barbies, Ken and a few Skippers) and a boxful of assorted Barbie clothes from the 80's!  It provided endless hours of entertainment and a massive mess on Grandma & Grandpa's living room floor.
Once that fun was over it was time for another old time adventure when we brought out our collection of Hess trucks both of our Dad's had bought years ago.  It was a joy watching Elena light up each and every vehicle and its accessory.  She may love her Barbies, but she equally loves cars and trucks (thanks to her dad!)  My dad and my father-in-law would have been in their glory watching this little girl play with these collectibles for hours. It was almost like having them with us yesterday!  I felt their love smiling down on us knowing they would have both adored their great grand-daughters.


Grandpa helping "release" the change from the Hess Bank Truck
Sophie just manned her "supervisory" position from safe under the tree and kept an eye out for unapproved behavior and unwelcome attention.
 This morning it was time for making handprint ornaments and then back to Elena's other favorite past-time at Grandma and Grandpa's house - playing with her mom and aunt's antique Fisher Price village.  I guess that's what makes coming to NY fun  - our house if full of kid antiques like 30 year old Barbies! 

And meanwhile, baby sister Braelyn just gets to hang out and look on......but I have a feeling by next Christmas, she won't be sitting too still.  Oh, life is good and something very special is in store tomorrow.  So come back soon and see what special surprises we have in store!  And if you're in the Clifton Park Walgreens, give Paul and Doug a shout and thank them for their dedication and great attitude. 

A Glass of Wine & A Man in a Red Suit = A Good Time

Sunday, December 14, 2014
I think one of the best things about the holiday season is the fact that the holidays are normally, if we're lucky, a time of family, friends and memory making.  That is precisely what yesterday was....a great time with people I love and memories I'll never forget.  And as always, I have the photos to explain.
You might remember a few weeks ago when I wrote the series, "Getting a Jump on the Holidays", Part 5 was about the Saratoga Santa.   Well, Santa was so sweet taking the time for me to interview him during his busy season, I thought it would be nice if we went to one of his public appearances listed in that blog post.  Naturally most appearances were geared more for children, but there was one that had a more "adult" feel to it, and that was yesterday at the Saratoga Winery.

Now let me preface this by saying I am not a drinker.  I may enjoy an occasional 'sip' of beer on a hot day, or with a pizza, or maybe an annual margarita, but I've never been able to hold my liquor.  Instead of having any desired effect, it just puts me to sleep, so I normally just pass on the alcohol.  Yesterday though, I stepped away from my norm and just may have changed my attitude about wine.
Santa was expected to be at the winery from 11:30-2:30, so after a slight detour in our route, we arrived at the winery around 11:40a.m.   We immediately knew Santa's visit was no secret because the parking lot was packed and there was a line out the door - a line waiting to see the man himself.  Now normally I'm not one for waiting in lines - for anything - but today I was on a mission, a mission to see Santa, so we took our place in line, along with all the moms and dads with their sleeping babies and anxious kids. 
Let me back up a moment to say this adventure included my mom, my friend, Linda, and my hubby and chauffeur, John.  John never drinks either, but both my mom and Linda enjoy their wine so they had an added motivation for coming along.  Let me tell you now - visitors coming who were there to buy wine and not say hello to Santa didn't need to wait in line, but my mom and Linda (and John) are real sports who were just as excited about seeing Santa as any kid there (maybe more so), so we all waited in line.  Remember now....this line consisted of lots of moms and dads and children.  It snaked in an L-shape around the room, everyone waiting their turn to sit on Santa's lap and either have family take their photos or have photos taken by the winery's hired photographer.  Consequently, it was a slow process - getting to Santa.  My mom, who is always full of great ideas, decided a glass of wine might make the wait more fun, and I learned a long time ago that moms are usually wise and full of great advice, so after looking at the wine list, she and I decided on a glass of Blush Crush.  Linda chose the Saratoga Red.  So....we sipped and we moved slowly along and finally it was our turn to see Santa.  By the time we shared our greetings and took some photos, I was feeling pretty tipsy - and I hadn't even finished my wine.  My mom had struck up a conversation with a mom and was telling her about my blog and the story I'd done about "Santa" and suggested I give her one of my cards.  As I was fumbling through my purse for my cards, I realized I suddenly felt a little like the time I had bad vertigo.  I was thinking to myself, "Oh Lord, this lady is going to think I'm drunk by the way I'm swaying", LOL.  By the time we got back to the car - all three of us were confessing to feeling pretty wobbly and tipsy.  Thank God our driver, the tea toter, was sober.  Well, we laughed all afternoon about our 'wine adventure' and about how a little bit of wine made us all very tipsy.  Little confession.....this gal who doesn't drink and normally doesn't drink wine purchased a bottle of Blush Crush before leaving the winery.   It is delicious and I'm looking forward to enjoying a sip over the upcoming holidays!  I needn't tell you how much we enjoyed our visit with Santa - the photos speak for themselves!
Even without wine, my mom would have charmed Santa!

This photo became Linda's 2014 Christmas card by the end of the day!
As for Saratoga Winery - if you're a wine lover, or have family or friends who are, you must visit this beautiful venue.  I wish I could have gotten more photos, but the crowds yesterday made it difficult to get clean shots of the great atmosphere.  In addition to Santa's visit, there was also live musical entertainment by Seth & the Moody Melix and the Lunch Brake food truck
Saratoga Winery even has a special holiday edition wine featuring our own Saratoga Santa!  What a great gift for the wine lover in your life!  Check out a sneak peak of their other offerings:

Here's the wine that got my attention..Blush Crush.  Doesn't it sound yummy?  Trust me - it WAS!

Here's a "sampling"....

Located just four miles from the heart of Saratoga Springs on Route 29, Saratoga Winery is a cozy and fun place to visit for wine tastings and music.  Also a great place to find the perfect gift for the wine lover in your life!  Please check out the link at the end of this blog post to visit their website!  And while you're there, check out their upcoming events too! It's a great place to make your own fun memories, even if Santa Claus isn't in attendance.

Handmade and Heartfelt Holiday

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
It begins when we're little, making construction paper decorations for the tree.....the tradition of handmade decorations.  From paper chains to glitter covered cut-outs, we are taught that handmade gifts, however imperfect, mean something special to the recipient.  And so it begins the years of making and saving sentimental works of love.
For some of us this 'handmade gift' idea ends sometime during our youth but for others, it continues into adulthood.  I'm one of those who hung on to the handmade habit.   I find the idea of a handmade gift a labor of love and in the day of materialistic commercialism, it's kind of nice to be able to give a gift from the heart, not just the wallet.   For many years, I've given a homemade ornament to my neighbors and friends.  Here's a few of them:

Quite a few years ago I was a professional crafter.  It was during that time that I made and accumulated most of my holiday decorations.........many I gave as gifts.

 And long before I was a 'real crafter', way back when I had the vision that comes with youth, I made dozens of these counted cross-stitch ornaments.    Here's a sampling of those.......

                   Here's the stocking I made for my first daughter's very first Christmas..........

Eventually, with middle-age eyesight, the size of my projects grew to things not requiring a magnifying glass.............

My point, you see, is not to show off my handiwork.  It is to remind you that gift giving should come from the heart.   It is not about how much we spend, or how many packages we can fit under the tree.  It is about showing the people in our loves how much they are loved and sometimes that involves time, not just money.  I received a note this week from a longtime friend, a friend who I don't get to see as often as I'd like.   But we keep in touch....and this week she wrote to me,
 "I decorated my tree last week and thought of you about a bazillion times…..there’s a huge chunk of xmas decorations that have been made by you and saved and preserved over the years by me.  I’ve saved every single one….even a few that Kobe got at when he was a puppy.  Such fond memories of the years when our kids were small.  Made me smile the whole afternoon as I was decorating."  
 Let me tell you.....that made my day and reminded me of why I began my tradition of handmade gifts.    After spending our first 17 years of marriage living in an apartment so that I could be a stay-at-home mom with my girls, we finally decided it was time to be brave and invest in a home.  That first Christmas after we switched from a consistent monthly rent to the variable expenses of owning a home, I stressed over whether or not Christmas might be a disappointment for our girls.  I knew my fears were unfounded when on Christmas morning we received the following gift from our oldest daughter, Katie.  
This gift, a gift from the heart, words from the heart, means more than any gift money can buy.  This gift reminds me of that first Christmas in our first home and reminds me that even then, our girls knew what was important.  They knew then that Christmas wasn't about 'stuff'.
Years from now, we won't remember the electronics, the boxes of candy, the latest gadgets that we gave or received any particular Christmas.  What we will remember are the gifts we received that were given from the heart, those handmade things made by our children, and grandchildren and friends.  Each year as we bring out those sentimental keepsakes, we are reminded of how much we mean to the person who thought enough to make something.  We live in a hectic world where people often equate love with money.  This season, think about getting back to basics and back to how things were before big box stores and online shopping.  Think about giving a gift from the heart, one that takes time, not just cash or credit.  Show the people on your gift list how much they mean by spending some time this Christmas either on them, with them, or for them......maybe in a handmade gift, or perhaps in the promise of time spent with them.    I promise if you do, that is the gift they'll remember.  That will be the gift they hold dear.  That is the gift you'll feel best about giving.  Christmas doesn't come from a box, it comes from the heart.  This year, give gifts of the heart.

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