Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking Back at 2015

Pulled over on a country Texas road to snap this photo after dropping off my teen for weekend camping

2015 was a year for rediscovering the USA. I barely used my passport. The one time I whipped it out returning to Florida from our Bahamas cruise, I didn't even technically need it as a driver's license would have sufficed. Still, with a nation as vast and varied as America, we learned that you don't necessarily have to go abroad to find adventure.

I didn't plan it on purpose, but we seemed to visit the typical places on a "Where to Take Your Kids in the USA Before They Grow Up" list. Perhaps it's because we've been focusing on other parts of the world for so long, and I'm beginning to feel a sense of urgency to squeeze it all in now that my eldest child turned 16 years old.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Totally Random Photos

My father-in-law has been asking for my business cards so that he can hand them out to his friends. I didn't actually have any cards and had to get some printed. Taking inspiration from my photographer cousin whose business cards are a mini portfolio of his work, I ordered cards from MOO with an assortment of 50 different images from my blog.  That got me "flipping" through my old photos and doing a lot of reminiscing over the fun worldwide travels and slow exploration of Penang, Malaysia that I've enjoyed over the last few years.

For this post, I must give credit for the idea to Nancy over at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Her post this week for her Travel Photo Thursday linkup is to randomly open four of her Flickr travel photo albums and share the seventh photo from each album. I'm being a total copycat and doing the same with my Malaysia albums so that I don't overwhelm you with all 50 of the photos from my stack of business cards.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Ornaments from Around the World

A star from Bethlehem

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house. When my kids were younger, they often had the school assignment of telling the class about a holiday tradition from their heritage. While I forget what their reports covered, I clearly remember one classmate's presentation on Tio Nadal, the pooping log or cagatió, from Catalan, Spain. At first, I thought the kid was completely making it up, but an internet search confirmed his info. The hollow log is decorated with a face, traditional Catalonian hat and a blanket. In the days leading up to Christmas, the kids give Tio Nadal food offerings like fruit and nuts which he mysteriously eats when no one is looking. According to Donquijote.org,

"On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, according to traditions of each family, the children will approach the cagatió while singing: 
'Poop log, poop turron, if you don't poop well, I'll hit you with a stick' 
There are many variations to the song depending on each family and their traditions. After each song, the kids hit the cagatió with a stick to make it poop. After their parents quickly distract the children, a small present, normally candies, turron (Spanish nougat) or wafers (called neules en Catalonia), appears underneath the blanket. Nowadays, more and more often, different presents are being incorporated into the cagatió pooping log tradition. 
The process is repeated until the log “poops” a head of garlic, an onion, an egg, or any other symbolic item that represents the end of the fun until next year."

It's so fascinating how different places celebrate the same holiday. For the record, Krampus can stay far, far away from me. My family doesn't have an Elf on a Shelf, but I kind of want Tio Nadal.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Saks Fifth Avenue's Enchanting Holiday Windows

So much of my Christmas shopping is done sitting at my computer and clicking away. What's the point in going to the store and fighting the crowds? As I strolled down New York City's Fifth Avenue during last year's holiday season, I was struck by how the store windows enchanted me, calling me to pause and take a look. Accustomed to suburban mall shops like The Gap displaying the standard photo of ridiculously photogenic people wearing the brand, these New York department stores seemed like an entirely different league to me. Clever tableaux, striking visuals and 3D projections extending up the entire height of the building transformed the windows into an artform, not just an advertisement for the store.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Snow White drawn to the apple carts and bright lights of Broadway.

Last year, Saks Fifth Avenue went back to its roots and paid homage to the Roaring Twenties, the decade the store got its start, and to the city where it all began. Fairy tales were given an Art Deco in the Big Apple twist. I'm not sure if anything in the windows were actually sold inside the store, but the images were enough to keep me from walking blithely past without a glance. That must certainly be the first step in attracting customers.
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