Despite the fact that I look highly unhappy, my old Santa photos seriously make me laugh. I think that if I were to be put in this Santa pic situation again, it would most likely illicit the same reaction--me screaming and crying like a baby. Well, maybe not, but I'm not going to give it a try. I didn't want to sit in some creepy guys lap then and I don't want to do it now! haha But I do want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Even though we chose not to do any decorating ourselves, I still really enjoy and appreciate when other people put forth the effort to do so. And just because I didn't spend the time to festively decorate our home for the holidays doesn't mean that I'm a scrooge. In fact, I love Christmas!
I fondly remember riding around as a kid through the neighborhoods that went all-out with the decorative holiday light displays. There was a street where all the houses donned lights, it was my favorite because no dwelling was left undecorated. As a kid, seeing those lights were magical.
I'd be lying if I said that it still didn't give me the same giddy feeling now that it did back then. It's the one holiday tradition - if you can call it that – that has stuck with me throughout the years. It's sort of a guilty pleasure of mine because, as an adult, I know that it's an impractical use of power and that it's a waste of electricity (depending on who you ask). But I can't help it; I blame the fact that I'm such a sucker for sparklies on my childhood.
There isn't one place that I return to annually for my Christmas light show fix because it loosely depends on where we are and when we'll have time. A couple of weekends ago we attempted to make plans with some of our friends to visit McAdenville (Christmastown USA) to tour their illuminated town. However, the weather conditions prevented us from actually doing so, which was a bummer - maybe next year.
Last year, Cody and I decided to go stay at Callaway Gardens after spending Christmas in Georgia with his family. We opted for a holiday package that included an overnight stay at the Mountain Creek Inn with admission to the gardens and two tickets for the Fantasy in Lights show they put on at night during the holiday season. Oh, yeah, and we can't forget the free buffet breakfast :D
We arrived in the evening with a little extra time to relax in our comfy room before heading over to see Callaway Gardens covered in lights. It was a good thing that we waited to go later, too, because the bumper-to-bumper traffic we saw clogging up the entrance earlier was gone by the time we got there. Parking, on the other hand, was an utter disaster but we found an open spot despite the confusion from parking attendants.
There were a couple of ways that you could work your way through the 5 mile long light and sound show. You could drive your own vehicle, which would be nowhere near as fun if you're the driver, or you could hitch a ride on one of the open-air trolleys with the other guests. Despite the cold temperature, the latter was a lot more appealing to me because I didn't want to get stuck driving. I planned on rubbernecking and I didn't want to be responsible for a collision! Needless to say, hopping on the trolley was a wise decision.
Fantasy in Lights debuted in 1992, and in its 18th year it still continues to mesmerize thousands of children (and adults) with more than 8 million twinkling lights illuminating Callaway Gardens' wooded landscape. An already idyllic setting is transformed into a holiday light and sound show extravaganza by nightfall for a visual experience that will infuse you with an extra dose of holiday spirit.
Popular Christmas carols were broadcasted over speakers that matched the theme of the larger-than-life lighted scenes displayed throughout. Although I was hesitant to do so at first, I found myself singing along with the other riders before I realized what happened. You know how infectious those holiday songs can be. Plus, I'm a dork for sing-a-longs with large groups of people :D
There were times, though, when the amazement could be heard over the music in the form of oohs and ahhs. The most spectacular displays were just simple tunnels of lights with sparkling strings hanging above head, like Snowflake Valley and the Enchanted Rainbow Forest.
I feel slightly fruity admitting that those were my favorites, but they were magnificent. However, not all the displays were the most well-designed or exciting. Some of them were kind of lame, actually, but they were still entertaining. If anything, it was a fun way to spend time with the people you love during the holidays that is out of the ordinary.
I'm really hoping that there is still time to experience another Fantasy in Lights display of some sort before the holidays are behind us. With all the festive light shows around us in NC, we shouldn't have any trouble accomplishing that. But there isn't much time left, though, so I better get on the ball!
What tradition will your family be continuing during the holiday season?
The carefully constructed layers we took 20 minutes to compile took mere seconds to remove. We were beginning to sweat underneath the heavy clothing from the tiring walk we had just completed. It ended in the nick of time, too, because as soon as we got inside the toasty house the wind picked up and blew even more furiously than it already was.
The snow, I love, but the wind, mmmmm not so much. Sometimes, I wish that I could pick the perfect snow day where the photo ops are plentiful and extreme weather isn't threatening to damage your photographic equipment.
On a perfect snow day, for me anyway, it would be bitter cold so that the snow was sticking to everything, and the flakes would be floating around like feathers as they made their way to the ground. It would blanket our valley and the surrounding hills; everything would be covered in a sheet of white.
There would be no massive gusts of wind knocking you every which way, and the snow wouldn't be coming in sideways pelting you in your frozen face. Yesterday was pretty unbearable in terms of going for a nice stroll in the snow like I did a few weekends ago. The wind was howling non-stop and forced us to walk with our heads down for most of our trek.
The rare moments where I did whip out my camera to capture some wintry images, I made sure my back was to the wind so that it wouldn't get too wet. A futile effort, for sure, but I still managed to get what I went out there for. At least I didn't get all bundled up and freeze my butt off to come home empty handed.
Snow days are exciting because you have no idea exactly what they will bring. The conditions can vary a great deal. I know that I'll get many more opportunities this winter to experience all that Boone weather decides to drop on us. Although I'm not sure how long my motivation to get out and shoot winter scenes will last, but I do know that I'd be more apt to sticking with it if this relentless wind would take a hike! Until then, I'll just stay indoors where it's nice and cozy :D
What are you doing to stay warm?!
With yet another forecast calling for copious amounts of snow, Boone weather is steadily doing its best to test our ability to endure a true winter. It has caught many of the blue ridge mountain residents completely off guard, too, because it doesn't typically start this early. People are scrambling to get preparations in order and we are no exception. This past weekend, we finally winterized our windows to help keep our precious heat from escaping -- it makes such a big difference. Just thought I'd share some additional images from the snowy stroll I took last weekend. I'm really looking forward to getting out and capturing some more of the winter scenes the the Boone weather brings. What's the weather looking like where you are?
In my research about places to visit on my trip to New Orleans, there was one road in particular that kept coming up. I searched for restaurants and unique shops along with many other places of interest before heading to the Crescent City. After adding the suggestions I found to my Google map, I realized that a trend was beginning to emerge. What I found was that the majority of businesses I was adding were all clustered together on the same stretch of road.
Little did I know at the time how serious this shopping district in New Orleans really was. While I had about 15-20 Magazine Street merchants on my New Orleans map, that was nothing compared to the collective of shops actually located on this strip, which totaled approximately 160+ retailers and restaurants. I mean, we're talking about a 6-mile stretch of “mom & pop” specialty shops filled with everything from home décor to clothing & jewelry. Magazine Street is truly a shoppers dream.
For some odd reason, I thought that my Sister and I would make our trip to Magazine St. a quick stop, but boy was I wrong! Typically, I'm not a big shopper when I've traveled such a long distance, or any time, really. Plus, my carry on was already overstuffed as it was; even my souvenirs had to be mailed back. However, despite the fact that I am not an avid shopper, I really enjoyed strolling around this beautiful neighborhood, peeking in at the places that piqued my interest.
We stopped in at many the Magazine St. shops in the Uptown area of New Orleans and oohed and ahhed over all the items that I would have loved to purchase. Cute dresses, neat jewelry & unique home decorating items were all things I could have easily went home with had I not exercised some restraint. But I fought the urge to splurge! It's wasn't easy, though, with all of the awesome stuff we kept spotting. To a seasoned shopper, the temptation would be impossible to overlook because you're bound to come in contact with many I-can't-live-without-items on display begging you to buy them. Even I don't know how I resisted & I'm not a big shopper to begin with!
Our first order of business was to get a bite to eat, although our original plan, which was to buy a bag of boiled crawfish from Big Fisherman Seafood, was thwarted because they were all out and wouldn't get any more in for 2 weeks. Forced to improvise, we kept walking until we stumbled upon another suitable option. What we found instead was Joey K's, a popular Magazine Street restaurant among locals who are in the mood for homecooked food at reasonable prices.
This hub in the heart of Magazine Street in New Orleans has a funky flair and has been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. While we could have sampled any number of delicious dishes named after neighborhood streets, such as the Shrimp Magazine & the Trout Tchoupitoulas, we opted for a seafood sampler of fried fare to fill our tummies. The platter had fried shrimp, oysters, catfish and hush puppies all of which were rather tasty, although next time I might try one of the signature dishes.
Even after stuffing ourselves we were still up for exploring. We popped into the Poet's Gallery to soak up the visually stirring “A Carnival of Saints & Souls” exhibit featuring fine art dolls and photography. The display of dolls showcased were created by an array of artists and they ranged from cool to creepy, although still darling. I wanted to adopt one myself.
FunRock'N was the next place we stopped in at. It was crowded with fashion and other quirky finds, there was something for everyone to be found in this modern day five-and-dime.
A fast forward from fashion to furniture lead us to take a quick look inside Nadeau (furniture with a soul). This store housed many hardwood pieces from India and Indonesia. I was somewhat surprised by the reasonable prices most of the items were listed at, although they were still out of my range. Not entirely, though, there were a few smaller (more affordable) decorative pieces that I would have totally walked away with had they been local.
Once our full bellies had time to digest, we decided to stop in at Sucre to satisfy our sweet tooth. I was seriously delighted to be stepping foot through their doors because I've actually ordered from their store online in the past. Walking into the brick & mortar store was like stepping inside of a sweet treat with the mint green coated walls. Glass cases were overflowing with confections of all kinds from cakes to chocolates to parisian macaroons.
The mini-desserts were all magnificently presented which made making up our minds rather painstaking, they all looked scrumptious. I didn't want to pick on looks alone. I also wanted to pick one that was big on taste, too. Although I'm sure you couldn't pick a bad one no matter how hard you tried. My Sister and I decided to share the Turtle dessert, a chocolate bread pudding, chocolate mousse, salted caramel mousse concoction that was pure bliss. I'm glad that we shared because it was really rich.
Afterward, we hobbled to the car so that we could hit up another section of Magazine Street further up the road before heading back home. The next stop was GoGo Jewelry, by far one of my favorite stops along the way. Their foundry was jam-packed with necklaces, cuffs, earring & rings, you name it, they had it. The designs were uncommon and unlike any other pieces I have seen before. Very cool stuff, indeed.
Next door to GoGo was a different kind of Magazine Street boutique called, UP/ Unique Products. What caught my eye when walking by was the life-sized alligator crafted entirely out of melted green Mardi Gras beads. Inside they had a lot of other items made from recycled materials that would otherwise be discarded as well. It was wonderful to see a store dedicated to environmentally friendly retail products where items are being handmade.
Across the way, we decided to swing into Spruce. From the outside one might get the impression that this is a gallery as opposed to a home décor/design studio, the showroom was clean and contemporary with eco-conscious style in mind. I wanted everything in that posh place, it was beautiful.
While Magazine Street is a mecca for shoppers and is considered the “Best Shopping Street in New Orleans”, it's more than a mere shopping destination. With its diverse array of restaurants, shops and other businesses to keep you coming back for more, I can see why it's such a popular place for locals and tourist alike. Just make sure you take an extra suitcase for all of the wonderful goodies you're bound to find!
- Magazine Street Merchants Association | Website
- Joey K's Restaurant | 3001 Magazine Street | (504) 891-0997 | Website
- Poet's Gallery | 3113 Magazine Street | (504) 899-4100 | FB Page
- FunRock'N | 3109 Magazine Street | (504) 895-4102 | FB Page
- Nadeau Furniture | 2728 Magazine Street | (504) 891-1356 | Website
- Sucre | 3025 Magazine Street | (504) 520-8311 | Website
- GoGo Jewelry | 2036 Magazine St | (504) 529-8868 | Website
- Up/Unique Products | 2038 Magazine Street | (504) 529-2441 | Website
- Spruce Eco-Studio | 2043 Magazine Street | (504) 265-0946 | Website
Yesterday, here in Boone NC, we had our first substantial snow of the winter season. When I say substantial, I mean a few inches, but it did snow all day long and throughout the evening. I managed to tear myself away from my movie marathon to take a walk along the Greenway Trail near my house.
The snow was steadily streaming from above as I attempted to capture the winter scenes. It wasn't the light and fluffy kind that gently floats down to the ground either. Instead, I had to endure being pelted by tiny balls of ice that were determined to drench me and my camera.
Since the conditions weren't favorable I had the entire trail to myself. I didn't pass a single soul during my walk through the winter wonderland. I could tell, though, that people had braved the snowy conditions at some point because I saw many sets of footprints during my trek.
It feels like it's been too long since I've set out to take any nature pictures. And it's been even longer since I've had the opportunity to get any pictures of snow. Hopefully, this season I'll have the chance to get out and shoot all sorts of winter photos.
While I am looking forward to copious amounts of snow and the changes that the season brings, I am also thinking about how I'll combat the inevitable blues that will ensue at some point. Taking snowy strolls with my camera in hand to capture winter pictures is definitely something I'll be encouraging myself to do more of, that's for sure.
What is your take on snow? Love it? Hate it? Have you had any snow show up in your neck of the woods yet?