Taking Time to Remember the Veterans at the Gerald B. Solomon National Cemetery

Friday, December 27, 2019
The Christmas season is touted as a joyous time, a time marked with festivities and joy, family and togetherness, twinkly lights and brightly wrapped presents, but everyone knows it's also a time of sadness and grief for many.  It can be a time of loneliness and sorrow, loss and remembrance.  There's no place where that remembrance is more evident, more palpable than a cemetery, especially the Gerald B. Solomon National Cemetery in Schuylerville.  John and I made a visit there the Saturday before Christmas to take some time to remember those who gave so much for our country and to pay our respects, not just to my aunt and uncle who are buried there, but to remember the families of all those who lay beside them.  A ride through this cemetery is sobering at any time, but especially at the holidays when the graves are all adorned with wreaths.











This year over 12,000 wreaths were laid by volunteers on the graves and along the Columbarium.  It's hard to describe the feelings that come over you as you drive through the winding roads amidst the rows of identical stones, seeing a sea of granite lined up like the soldiers that once walked this earth.  What struck me most as I shot photos along the way was how the snow covered wreaths sometimes covered all but the first name of the veteran who was buried there.  Seeing the names......Peter, Dennis, Harold, Gary, Marjorie, Alexander, Frederick, Chester, etc.... sort of made these veterans more personal, like acquaintances.  It made them feel less like strangers and more like neighbors, old friends, old classmates - not just formal names of strangers laid to rest in a common plot.  It made the reality a little sadder.  These folks....Thomas, and Lawrence, Maurice and George......someone real, someone concrete, someone more than a gravestone and a name.  It's hard to describe, but the feeling was deep.














I suspect there's nothing that can ease the sorrow of spending Christmas without a loved one, but it must be comforting to see that that loved one is laid to rest in such a place of beauty and honor alongside so many who sacrificed for their country.  I think it's important as we spend time focusing on the joys of the holiday season to remember those gone before us.  Its' important to take a moment to remember while we are caught up in the celebrations, others are struggling just to get past them.  I urge you to take a ride through the Gerald B. Solomon National Cemetery and to pay your respects to the thousands buried there along with their spouses.  I promise you'll be glad you did.

Christmas House Tour 2019, A Welter Family Christmas

Saturday, December 21, 2019
For those of you who know me, you know I love back roads, old barns, open fields and taking photos.  You probably also know I love Christmas.  I love it for all the usual, sentimental reasons - family time, making memories, watching the grandchildren's wide-eyed with excitement, carols, church cantatas, Christmas lights and right up near the top of my list ....decorations.

My five year old granddaughter asked me last week why I have so many 'Christmas things" and the answer was simple...because Grandma loves Christmas and I've been collecting 'things' for a long, long time, almost 42 years.  You've heard of crazy cat ladies, well I'm the crazy Christmas lady.  I strip my house bare of it's everyday decor and replace almost all of it with Christmas decor.  After all that work, wouldn't it be a waste to not share it?  My home is certainly not blog worthy like the big-time bloggers' homes.  In fact, I just took a blog tour of one of my favorite bloggers, My Life on Kaydeross Creek and immediately felt a little unworthy of sharing; I just love her style and thrifty ideas.  I hope you'll take a peek at her holiday home.  It's positively drool-worthy!  Anyway, I love my little home and all the fun things I've collected over the years as well as a few new things this year, so come along on a little Christmas tour, Welter style.

On my front door this year, I reached into my crafty past and fashioned my own new door wreath.  Easy peasy, a metal ring, two sprigs of frosted pine from Michael's, a couple leftover sprigs of greenery from the Speckled Hen a few years ago, a homemade bow and voila.....a simple but pretty greeting for visitors.
In the foyer we and guests are greeted by a beautiful Shelly Broughton original painting, gifted to me a few years ago by a dear, dear friend.  Our Christmas tree, again this year, sits in John's old (over 60 years) Radio Flyer wagon.  I feel like somebody's watching me...do you feel it too?  Pippa kitty, ever present.

 I love my view outside almost as much as my view inside.


I am always a little challenged when it comes to decorating my mantle.  Making that task even more challenging is my interest in changing it up each year.  That required a few purchases this year (again, the reason Grandma has so many Christmas 'things').  I already had my beautiful Shelly Broughton gnome paintings from last Christmas, and my Magnolia Home wreath.  I knew those would be the focal points but I needed some trinkets to add more interest.  I also knew I wanted the color scheme in this room to be white and silver to match the tree.  I added a few pieces from Hobby Lobby, the beautiful glass vase and pine from the Speckled Hen, as well as the white glittery foliage on the right end.  I bought the gorgeous white and brown twig tree and ball at Bluebird Home Decor, a silver rectangular bowl from Marshall's for my fancy glass balls and finally I was satisfied with the result.  It's not as pretty as Maureen from Speckled Hen could have designed for me, but it's close.  Here's a close up of some of the details.
 Above a little tribute to my mom and the big guy himself, the Saratoga Santa, and me and  a Troy Santa, long, long ago, circa 1956.  We're big believers and still hold a special admiration for Santa.

 Above, my mother-in-law's antique sewing machine provides another display surface. Seems to always be a shortage of those.   My revolving photo gallery features some favorite winter scenes.
It seems someone is waiting for Santa.

On to the Family Room....below....beautiful bookcase was a treasure find a few years ago at Second Chance Barn in Granville, as was the window above the couch.  The little desk in front of the window where I can enjoy my morning coffee while birdwatching was this year's acquisition - also from Second Chance barn.




 We have our own nativity but this year I was the lucky recipient of my Aunt Helen's hand-painted set.  Aunt Helen (my mom's sister) was a ceramicist back in the day.  She's gone now, but my mom's cousin passed this down to me this year and I'm thrilled she did.
Below my beloved Hummel village from my Mother-in-law and a ceramic tree my mother painted.

 Above on my kitchen counter, an enamel platter painted by the talented Terri Littlefield.  Greens and jug from the Speckled Hen a few years ago.  Below in my dining room, an important reminder, not just at this busy and sometimes stressful time, but whenever life gets messy...."When in doubt, look up."
 Below my beautiful handmade snowman by Jennifer Searles of  Jena's One of a Kind Creations.   Sled is another piece of Terri Littlefield's.  Merry Christmas sign....Speckled Hen.  Sources listed at the end of the blog.
 A little elf counting mice on the tree.........

Again...some old and some new.  The red crackle glass jar -  a hand-me-down from my mom for many, many years ago, topped with a candle ring (Speckled Hen again).  In the line-up of Santa's, the red shiny Santa was my dad's when he was a kid....probably 80+ years old.   I love it all - the old and the new and the marriage of both to make the holidays colorful, memory-filled and hopefully memorable for the grandbabies.  It seems like a bigger chore with each passing year, but in the end, in all the exhaustion, it's worth it.  Someday I'll have to settle for less, much less probably, but for now I'll savor my Christmas extravaganza while my mind can still remember the history behind each piece.  One day when I can no longer do it, when I'm old and feeble, I hope I can once again savor each sparkling ball, each white mouse, each village accessory in the homes of my daughter and grandkids.  I hope their memories of my Christmas decor stay with them all their lives and inspire them to make their own Christmas magic.
Thanks for coming along for another Welter Family House Tour.

Sources:

Experiencing the Beauty of Christmas at the 2019 Festival of Trees

Saturday, December 14, 2019
One of the most popular Christmas traditions in America is the beloved Christmas tree.  Whether your family makes an annual pilgrimage to tag and cut a fresh tree or chooses a pre-lit artificial variety, the Christmas tree is almost always the centerpiece of the holiday home.  Aside from Santa coming, the Christmas tree is one of the most exciting and visually memorable aspects of Christmas for most children and many adults.  With its twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, and magical presence, is it any wonder people of all ages are wowed by the sight of a decorated tree.

That sense of wonderment is multiplied 70 times when you visit the Schenectady County Historical Society's Festival of Trees because that's how many trees are on display.  Forty two on display at the Historical Society and another 28 at the  YWCA Northeastern NY just down the street in the Schenectady Stockade.  We went to the Festival of Trees for the first time last season and again this past week.  It is quite a sight to behold.
Do you know how the tradition of the Christmas tree began?  According to the History Channel, 'Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier.The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.'   
Visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite tree, but I couldn't possibly pick just one.  One of my many favorites was the Erie Canal tree, decorated with photos of the Erie Canal and wooden barges.


One of the most touching was the tree dedicated to Sophie Zych.  Sophie's daughter, Phyllis, decorated her tree with handmade felt ornaments because Sophie loved Christmas, and everything about it.  One of her many annual traditions was making felt and sequin stockings, wall hangings, and ornaments.  It was also her tradition to visit the Festival of Trees.  As a fellow Christmas-a-holic, I hope when I'm gone, my Christmas passion will be remembered like Sophie's.  I think Sophie is smiling down from heaven at her beautifully decorated tree in her honor.  


 The tree below on the right is covered in what I remember being called, Angel Hair.  Here, referred to as cobwebs,  it is accompanied by a story of the Christ Child and the Spiders.

 I think you can agree, the Historical Society provides the perfect setting for such a distinguished and breathtaking display.
 Below another one of my favorites...Winter in Central Park, covered in old photos.


 Below a Scottish Christmas...........




Just down the street at the YWCA, 28 more beautiful trees are on display.   From the trees decorated by the Blue Star Mothers of America, the Gold Star Mothers of America, Rudolf and trees covered with cards and dice by Rivers Casino....all the trees on display are an exercise in imagination, dedication and even humor.  




Each and every one special and beautiful.  All of this is to benefit the Schenectady County Historical Society and the YWCA Northeastern NY.   I didn't include all the trees here, because I hope you'll go and see them for yourself.  Admission to the Festival of Trees is $8.00, children under 12 are free.  The exhibit is open through December 22 from 10:00-5:00.  The Historical Society is located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady NY.  For more information:
For more fun historical facts about Christmas trees:
I hope this not only inspires you to see the trees for yourself, but to use the spirit of the season to find some ways to give of yourself and spread a little charity, and joy, to those who could use it this holiday.  

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