"" Writer's Wanderings: December 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Cruising

Christmas Eve, aboard the Eurodam, we sailed away from St. Maarten about 5 p.m. headed north for the Bahamas. We dressed for dinner at the specialty restaurant, the Tamarind. It is an Asian themed restaurant—very elegant looking and absolutely tasty food. Dinner was followed by a wonderful show in the Main Stage Theater featuring the singers and dancers of the Eurodam and all the exciting technological shenanigans of their new stage.

But the best part of the evening came when the three Christmas choirs of the Eurodam staff sang. The first was made up of 30 different nationalities and they sang in English. The next was Filipino and they sang in their native tongue as well as Spanish when they sang Feliz Navidad! The last choir was the Indonesian group who sang a few lively songs and the beautiful O Holy Night in both English and their language.

At the end, it was almost like being home as they all joined in Silent Night, lit candles and walked up the aisles to form a line out the door and wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Christmas Day at sea began late with waffles in the Lido Deck buffet followed by caroling in the three story atrium mid-ship. People gathered on all three decks as the cruise director, Shane, along with the singers and dancers of the entertainment crew, led the singing and the string quartet played special Christmas songs. Interspersed throughout were announcements from the captain that a blip had been spotted on the radar. The blip grew to be a sleigh with animals pulling it—one with a red nose, that circled the ship and landed. Santa reportedly slid down the smoke stack and appeared at our gathering. He invited all the kids to follow him to the Main Stage where he handed out gifts.

It even snowed!! Only, aboard the ship, they clean it up with a vacuum.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Niagara On The Lake

On our way back from our trip to Burlington Ontario just before Christmas, we stopped off in Niagara On The Lake and Niagara Falls. Niagara On The Lake was quaint. Shops decorated for the season made it a Currier and Ives scene with a dusting of snow and folks in scarves and caps strolling arm in arm down the street. Occasionally a horse drawn carriage made its way along the main thoroughfare adding to feeling that we had just stepped into a watercolor painting.

We stopped for lunch at Shaw’s and had a wonderful bowl of potato soup and a sandwich. Afterwards, we joined the pedestrian traffic and window shopped, stopping only to buy a candied apple that was decorated like a snowman. Feeling the chill when the wind kicked up, we hustled back to our car before seeing all the shops. If there’s a next time, we’ll be more prepared with warmer clothing.

Down the road at Niagara Falls, we passed the floral clock now brown and still for the winter season. As we passed the Falls, we found the landscape shimmering with a thick coating of ice. The mist from the water pouring over the edge puts layer upon layer of freezing water on the surroundings and gives the trees and buildings a silvery sheen. We observed from the car not wanting to venture out in the cold again.

The rest of Niagara Falls, Canada, looks like a carnival—albeit a deserted carnival in the winter. The casinos and hotels seemed to be busy and were a “sedate” contrast to the garish colors and strange figures that advertise various odd museums, souvenir shops, and entertainment centers.

So, the answer to “Do they turn off the falls in winter?” is: NO.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

100 Huntley Street Full Circle

If you are looking for a program with the vibrant interaction of the popular program The View (ABC network) but are more interested in a Christian slant to the world's view, you should tune into the 100 Huntley Street's Full Circle program on Fridays. There are several ways to watch in Canada and the USA and you can find that information on their scheduled programming page at Crossroads.ca.

Last week I had the privilege of being a guest on the show to talk about A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. You can see my TV debut at the Crossroads archives page. The panel of ladies on the couch were wonderful as were the rest of the staff who work behind the cameras.

The Mainse family who began their ministry over 40 years ago has watched it grow to reach viewers across Canada and now into the US. Their state-of-the-art facility in Burlington, Ontario, is a beautiful complex that resembles an quaint English village inside and out. The atrium houses a cafe that offers lunch from 10 to 2 weekdays and a chapel that can be reserved for weddings.

The Crossroads ministry is extensive and includes many missions activities as well with projects in Cambodia, India, Africa, and the Ukraine among many others.

The most important thing I found in meeting the folks I did was that they had a heart for bringing the love of Christ into the lives of others. Check out the Full Circle program. You will find warmth, humor, and the comradery of good friends.

By the way, here's the recipe for the Tangy Tea Mix I also brought to the show:

In a quart sized zip-lock bag, mix 1 cup instant Tang breakfast drink, 1 cup unflavored instant tea, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Close top and mix together. Pour into clean dry jars and close tightly. Add instructions to jar: Put two heaping tsps. of mix in a cup. Add hot water, mix and enjoy. Can be sweetened to taste with a little sugar.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Books for the Road

Bob and I exchanged Christmas gifts early so that we could enjoy them as we travel this season. He has an MP3 player to play with and I have a Sony 505 Reader. He started off by buying me the 700 model with all the touch screen bells and whistles but the screen was not as easy on the eyes as the older models. We exchanged it for the 505 which has the technology that makes the page look like actual printed paper.

Why not go with the Kindle? With all the hoopla about the Kindle, it was tempting. The biggest difference I could discern besides the price was the way the books were downloaded. Kindle relies on a service that does not work out of the country. The Sony requires the use of a computer to download and I almost always travel with my computer. You could argue that books could be downloaded before your trip but then the price, at least for the 505, wins out.

So, I have downloaded 3 of my free 100 classics and two books, Your Heart Belongs to Me by Koontz and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. That's five books that will take up very little space in my computer case as we travel and will take a little weight off my shoulders as well.

I'm a slow learner so I'm still finding my way around the little device. Have to figure out how to play music as I read. Stay tuned. We'll see how I like my virtual books.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Gifts that Travel

I am getting ready to go to Burlington, Ontario, Canada to appear on the 100 Huntley Street Full Circle show Friday, 12/5. They asked that I bring along some crafts from A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is to put together mixes in a jar. You can find recipes all over the Internet for all sorts of muffins, cookies, beverages, and snacks.

The one we included in Scrapbook is a mix of green and red M&Ms, raisins, honey roasted peanuts, and cheerios. You layer them in a jar and then seal the top. I put Mason jar lids on--the kind that have a separate screw on rim. I cut a circle of Christmas material using pinking shears to make a nice edge. Then I set the lid on the jar, center the circle of material over the top and carefully screw on the rim.

These gifts travel well but to reduce the weight if you are taking them on a plane, look for plastic jars or some of the nice plastic containers that they sell in the plastic wrap aisle. You can still spruce them up with curling ribbon and a sprig of holiday decoration. Remember to include the instructions for the mix!

By the way, 100 Huntley Street Full Circle can be seen in the states on Direct TV on Channel 378 at 5 p.m.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

La Befana--Italian Christmas Figure

While searching for the different ways Santa Claus is represented around the world, I happened upon this story about a Christmas character in Italy, La Befana. She resembles a witch and is said to be able to do magical tricks but is not a witch. She leaves goodies for good little Italian boys and girls and coal for those who are bad.

As the story goes, she saw the Christmas star in the sky and when the magi passed through her town, she provided them with shelter. They asked if she knew about the Christ Child and where they might find him. She was invited to join them but she declined. Saddened by the loss of her own child, however, she suddenly had a change of heart and wished to see this baby the magi talked of. She filled a bag with bakery and gifts and left to follow after the magi.

Too late to catch up with them, she became lost. Legend says angels gave her a broom so she could fly around searching for the baby Christ Child. She searches to this day and on the eve of Epiphany, she drops in on the children she finds to see if it is the one she seeks. It never is but she still leaves a gift. It is said she realizes that her search is not in vain. That, in a way, the Christ Child can be found in all children.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Christmas in Duluth, MN

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with Ted Elm of the WWJC program Northland Notebook. It was a great time talking about Christmas, grandparenting, and even SCUBA diving. Here's a link if you'd like a listen:

Scroll down to the archives for my name. I found the MP3 download the easiest to use. Let me know what you think.
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