Monday, January 14, 2019

Decorating With Vacation Memories

I can't believe that the vacation we waited so long for, our Mediterranean Cruise, is now just a memory.  But what a wonderful memory it is.  One we will never forget.  And just in case we do start to forget, we made sure we took plenty of pictures to jolt our memories.  Another memory jolter is the souvenirs we brought home with us.  

I brought home at least one souvenir from each country we visited.  A couple of the souvenirs were Christmas ornaments.  Some of my favorite souvenirs are the Christmas ornaments I've gotten over the years on special vacations.  We love reliving those vacations as we hang each ornament on our Christmas tree.

Sometimes I find other Christmas items that make me happy when I decorate my house at Christmastime.  This year, I found a santon that I knew would make me smile every time I decorated with it each Christmas.  

Before I left on vacation I researched the things I should seek out in each country to bring home.  In France, one of the items were a santon.  They are little figurines that are used to decorate a nativity.  We found a shepherd boy that we loved.  He didn't fit into our nativity, because our Jesus, Mary and Joseph are very big and look like giants next to him, but he looks right at home next to a house that decorates our shelf at Christmastime.

In Montenegro, I found a very beautiful and colorful Santa and he fits in perfectly with the two that I have already.  He's the Santa in the middle!

Four years ago we celebrated my mom's 94th birthday by going to Japan and brought 20 of our friends and family with us,  My friends, who live in Japan, were nice enough to arrange an overnight trip for us to the countryside where two of them live.  They rented a bus and planned a full day of activities. 

The restaurant they reserved for us to have lunch in was a wonderful experience for all of us.  We had a traditional lunch served in bento boxes and sat cross legged on a tatami floor while we ate it.

On our way out of the restaurant, my daughter Lisa noticed a collection of owls sitting in trees of different sizes and they were for sale!  Me and my friend, Heidi were right behind Lisa when she saw them and we stopped to buy one along with Lisa. 

I have my owls sitting on our kitchen counter.

Lisa has hers, the tallest of the three, on her fireplace mantle.

And I love the way Heidi has hers sitting on a shelf along with her other vacation memories.

My mom is Japanese and that is the reason we all wound up in Japan to celebrate her birthday.  Because we have lots of family and friends there, I have been visiting Japan regularly since my first trip when I was 12.  I have special memories of  spending the entire summer there visiting family and friends, seeing the sights and shopping! 

I love shopping in Japan.  Everything is so kawaii (cute).  One thing I loved to buy was the kokeshi dolls.  My collection decorates our guest room in Florida.

My newest collection, which is not much of a collection yet, are wood signs I find in souvenir stores on our travels.  I got a couple on two separate trips we made to Gatlinburg, TN.  I have plans to have a collage of them decorating my kitchen wall one day.

Lots of times when I enter someone's house, the thing that catches my eye happens to be something they picked up on vacation somewhere.  I love the way my sister, Sandie, decorated one of kitchen walls with a small shelf that holds the cutest little houses she found in Monterosso, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre in Italy.  The map of the area that she put above it works so nice 

I also like the way Sandie used the photos she took, while on her family vacations, to create two fun collages.  One wall of her living room is decorated with her pictures of Italy...

and she has her pictures of Japan on the other.

One of my favorite decorations in my home is in the laundry room. 

For almost twenty years we would go camping for a week during the summer with a group of friends.  Many of our trips were planned around beach towns.  I am not sure where I got these bright, colorful fish but all the memories of those fun times come rushing back to me every time I see them.

I also enjoy the two hanging coastal decorations that we have in our screen room.  One
we got on our vacation in Mexico and the other is a souvenir from our daughter and son-in-law's beach vacation.  I liked the way our souvenir from Lisa and Pete looked hanging in the room so much that when I saw something similar in Mexico, I had to buy it.  I do have room for a couple more so I  keep a lookout for one when I am near a beach. 

Sometimes the only souvenirs I come back with from a beach vacation are shells and sand.   It's amazing how many ways you could use shells and sand to decorate.  I've seen both in lamp bases and other things made out of clear glass containers.  My Aunt Joyce uses shells to decorate frames around mirrors. 

I turned our free souvenirs into beautiful decorations that we enjoy every day.  We collected sand from about 10 beach vacations and I turned it into sand art  (You can find out how I did it here!) and simply put our shells in a small glass bottle.   I display them together in my bathroom.

If you are going to decorate your home anyway, why not do it with souvenirs that will remind you of the wonderful time you had on vacation!

Do you decorate your home with your vacation memories?  We would love to hear about it!

Monday, December 17, 2018

It's Christmastime In The City - Week 2

It was time to head west after checking out Wilmington, NC, Charleston, SC and Myrtle Beach, SC. on our quest to find "Christmastime in the city."  The first week of our adventure was so much fun and we were excited about Week 2.

We were offered a free room at Harrah's Cherokee Hotel in Cherokee, NC.  We take these offers even though we know it will cost us something after we visit their casino.  It definitely costs us less than if we had to pay for the room though.  We were frequent guests for many years of the Harrah's chain when my mom was around and soon got these offers.  Now that Mom has passed we don't go that often but we will take advantage of the free room as long as they keep offering them to us.  This gorgeous hotel is in a perfect location to enable us to get to Tennessee which is someplace I knew we could find some of the best holiday displays.  It takes just a little more than one hour over the Great Smoky Mountains to get there from Cherokee.

Week 2

We have been to Cherokee, NC and know that it is a touristy area, similar to Gatlinburg, TN, but on a much smaller scale.  Both cities have many shops that sell beautiful Native American created goods, the ice cream parlors and the zip line adventures.  I wasn't sure what to expect in Cherokee but was hoping for the town tree.  The city did have a few nice light displays but I couldn't find the town tree.  To tell you the truth we were so impressed with and really enjoyed the hotel's holiday displays that I decided to highlight the hotel.  (Although Cherokee didn't have enough to highlight their city, they did have my favorite light display!)

Harrah's Cherokee, NC

Harrah's Cherokee Hotel is so huge that it is almost a small city in itself.  There is a bowling alley  along with the spa, hairdressers, game room for the kids, one indoor pool and one outdoor pool, many restaurants and lots of shops ranging from high-end to gift shops.  Almost every shop and restaurant decorated for the holidays and there were Christmas trees everywhere!

This huge, beautiful tree was the first one we saw when we first walked into the hotel.

We found this one on the second floor near the high-end stores.

This tree was smaller to fit into one of the many lounge areas throughout the hotel.

Many of the shops at the hotel made room to put a tree in their store.  This one decorated their tree with the ornaments they were selling.

This store had an upside-down tree.  I have seen a couple of these type of trees this year, but I really don't understand them at all!  Somebody please tell me why we want to turn our Christmas tree upside down.  Does it have anything to do with Stranger Things?

I have also been seeing lots of these, the snowman tree!  We found this one behind the hostess stand at one of the restaurants.  I love these trees...

and this display!

Which tree did these giant balls fall off of we wondered?

We really had a great time on our Christmas tree hunt at the hotel.  I think we probably counted at least 15.  Now it was time to venture out of the hotel and into the cities.

Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg was the city I was the most excited about seeing this second week.  We were just there in September and the fall displays around the city were some of the best I've ever seen.  I was sure that the scarecrows, haystacks and pumpkins would be replaced by snowmen, snow and poinsettias.  

We were not disappointed.  There were displays around every corner, decorations around every storefront  and "a feeling of Christmas" everywhere.

The entranceway into each small shopping area off the main street were so festive and inviting that we had to go into each and every one of them.

The downtown shops in this very touristy area are so charming and at Christmastime they are even more so.

I just had to sit for a picture at one of the many photo ops that were scattered all over the town.  I helped an adorable family of 7 take their picture here.  

We love Gatlinburg, TN because of this fun downtown area and the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.  We will definitely be back one day soon.  On our way out of this wonderful city, we saw their gorgeous, gigantic town tree.

Our next stop was the city of Pigeon Forge.  I had heard that their light show was not to be missed.  We had to see if all the hype was true.

Pigeon Forge, TN

The city was so lit up with more than 4 million lights that I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they could be seen by the passengers in the airplanes flying above.  This festival of lights was called Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights.  There were light displays on the sides of roads that you could enjoy as you drove by them and then there were clusters of themed light displays in outdoor malls and parks where you got out of your car to view the displays.  

We went to Patriot Park where there were light displays with an Americana theme.  We loved the armed forces displays.

Most of the buildings in the city were all decked out and covered with thousands of lights including the Smoky Mountain Opry and the Pigeon Forge Information Center.

There were many displays scattered around the city that celebrated Pigeon Forge.  This one was a tribute to their southern charm.

Something I read said to look for the critters who live in the Smoky Mountains to be wandering around the city.  We found the bear family.

And also to look out for the many pigeons around town.

Are these pigeons?  I'm not sure but they were the only birds I saw so I hope they were!

Murphy, NC

Murphy is a city we discovered in the western part of NC on one of our vacations in the area.  We were looking for a place to eat and it brought us here.  It is one of those small town, USA spots for sure.  The whole town spans about 6 blocks and you can walk from the post office to the court house, to city hall, the library and police station, church and to anywhere else you need to go in a matter of a few minutes.  We were curious to see how festive this area would be for the holidays.   

The first thing we noticed when we drove into the city of Murphy was their Christmas tree.  It was placed perfectly in the center of town.  This was a good place to park the car.  We weren't going to need it to get around this tiny, adorable city.

The church and other buildings were decorated simply but you knew they were celebrating Christmas in this city.

Every lamppost was decorated and most of the storefronts were too.


We love this small town.  Besides for being able to walk around the entire town in less than 30 minutes, there is a shop that sells the best olive oil in every flavor imaginable.  We grabbed a couple of last minute stocking stuffers there.  And the people here are so friendly.  Not only do you get a smile and nod, you also get a "How y'all doing today" as you pass them on the street!

We had lots of fun exploring all of the cities and we felt the joy of Christmas everywhere!  I mentioned that Cherokee, NC didn't have much but they did have my favorite.

The real reason for the season.

Wishing you the very merriest Christmas and a happy and healthy new year!


We had such a fun time finding Christmas in the city in a few amazing cities last year.  This year we had a chance to visit Savannah, Georgia and have made an update to this post by adding our visit to yet another amazing city!

Christmas 2018

We had so much fun joining our grandson on his first road trip last week.  It was a big trip for a 7 month old but he seemed to be having a great time.  His trip started with his first ride in an airplane.  That got him and his family to our home in NC.  From there me and Soko joined them on a road trip that included a stop in Savannah, Georgia.  We had been wanting to visit Savannah for a long time and we were excited that we would be there in time to enjoy their holiday decorations.

We checked into The Kimpton Brice Hotel and in the middle of the lobby we watched as someone was putting up a hanging Christmas tree.  I love those trees!  I couldn't wait to see what it would look like once it got hung and decorated.  When we came down to the lobby the next morning for coffee and tea, the tree was done.

After enjoying the coffee and tea, we headed out to have brunch on Savannah's Riverfront.  The Kimpton was in a great location and we were able to walk a couple of blocks from there to get to River Street.  This street is lined with shops and restaurants and plazas and plenty of benches to relax on.  There were many festive decorations to enjoy on this street.

We knew we would find a Christmas tree somewhere along the Riverfront and we did.

We also found a really cute Gingerbread House.

Nicole found a yummy drink at River House Seafood and...

Me and Shea found Santa Claus!

After our walk on the Riverfront, it was time to see Savannah's Historic District.  We walked along streets that were lined with beautifully decorated lampposts.  

On our must-see in Savannah list was City Market.  We were sure we would find holiday cheer here and we did!

The City Market's Christmas tree was gorgeous.

Our favorite Christmas decoration in this city, though, was the beautiful Christmas tree in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

We found so much holiday cheer here in Savannah, Georgia and we had fun finding it.  We really enjoyed our visit here.

Stay tuned for our blog post on the many other sights we found and enjoyed in this special city!