Week One In Florida!

We’re a little past our first week in Florida, and thought it was time to update you on our journey. There will be a lot of pictures this time around, because strangely, we remembered to take them…no guarantees going forward! So, here we go!

We arrived in Indian Rocks Beach late in the afternoon of Saturday ,February 1st. We have a new condo this year, that we’d only seen via the internet, so turning the key and walking in, there was a little mystery. Would it be as nice as what we saw on the internet, or would those pictures have been old, old, old! Well, our fears were unfounded, it’s very nice, but also HUGE! Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge kitchen, huge living/dining area, and huge balcony. Not the decor that we’d choose for a beach house (more dark Mediterranean than beachy), but probably bigger than our Ocean City house! Take a look and see for yourselves!

Of course, the sunsets in Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast of Florida are legendary, and our first night on the beach was exactly what you’d expect!

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Last week was a bit chilly and windy, so a beach day was in shorts and t-shirts, which was more than I’m sure we would have been doing on our home beach in Ocean City! The pool was warm, and sheltered from the wind, and we got to sit by the side and take a dip, so again, a win!

Did we eat out yet? Yes, we crossed the street and went to Keegan’s, one of our favs from last year. We also had breakfast at JD’s, and on Tuesday, instead of the Back Bar at Charlies with Sue, we walked down a couple of blocks, and enjoyed our night at Guppy’s!

Towards the end of the week, my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt joined us from the East Coast of Florida. They spent 4 nights with us, and joined us as we tried some new places to dine!

One afternoon, we traveled down to Madiera Beach (a place Susie used to go with her Grandma a long time ago) and had lunch at the Mad Beach Brewing Company. Lunch was good, the surroundings were great, but the waitress was a pip, and soured it a bit for us!

On Saturday, we traveled up the coast to Clearwater Beach, for a wonderful lunch at the Columbia Restaurant! A great place, with incredible food and drinks, and this day, Taylor a wonderful waitress just enhanced the experience! Such good things like a 1905 Martini (their original location in Tampa opened in 1905), a 1905 Salad made table side, an incredible Cuban Sandwich, Sangria (made table side), and desserts to die for! We will be back!!

Sunday night, we tried another new place..PJ’s Oyster Bar, just down the road in “downtown IRB”. A nutty setting, a great waitress, and wonderful food!! It checked off all the boxes!!!

When we got home, there was a great light show out on the balcony, as the Full Moon rose to the east! A great Sunset, followed by a great Moon Rise!

Today Jeanne and Walt headed home (we will be back with them in about a month at their home in Barefoot Bay, Florida), and once we made some beds and such, we headed to the beach and pool! 80 degrees on February 10th, is nothing to dismiss as unimportant! We spent a wonderful couple of hours on the beach, and then took a dip in the pool! Also met and talked to some folks from Ohio. Life DOESN’T suck!

Then tonite, we returned to where it all started! Three years ago, we stayed at the Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Inn. After getting settled, we ventured down to the “Hotel Bar”, Jimmy Guana’s, where we met our new friend Lindsey Sterry. We had such a great time with Lindsey, in Jimmy Guanna’s and in Indian Rocks Beach, we turned our 2 day stay into 4, and started our love affair with a little Florida Gulf Coast town! It was good to go home tonight with Tony, one of our favorite local performers on the bandstand, but we did miss Lindsey!

So that’s a wrap up on week one in the Sunshine State. We’re here in IRB till the end of February and in Florida till almost the end of March! Stay tuned…lots more of Sue and Frank’s Really Excellent Florida Adventure 2020 to come! We’ll save a seat for you in the back of the CRV!

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See you next time!

Living in a Hallmark Christmas Movie Town

 

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Ever since their “Christmas in July” presentation this year, the Hallmark channels have truly been the place to go for feel-good holiday movies.  While there are other places like Lifetime that are jumping on the bandwagon, Hallmark is far and away the biggest producer of Christmas movies, as they celebrate 10 years in the holiday fold this year with an incredible number of new movies, while filling the rest of the 24 hours with repeats of the hundreds of movies they’ve got from preceding years!  

If you’re a fan (and I freely admit that Susie and I love watching them, and there are now 5 or 6 of them on our DVR), you realize that 90% of them follow a very strict format.  #1 – They all take place in a darling little town, where the Christmas season is a throwback to what we remember (or wished we remembered) from our childhood.  #2 – One person is a resident and one a visitor from the “Big City”.    #3 – As the movie goes on, the two main characters get closer and closer, till there is a “dilemma” (as Susie calls it) between the two main characters, which is always worked out in the end.  #4 – They kiss, and the movie fades to black.  While the movies have a cast of typical Hallmark Characters, in many ways the town that is the background for the movie, is as much of a character as the actors.  

Well, I’m happy to say that we now live in a town, that in many ways, could be a cast member in any number of Hallmark Christmas movies!  Ocean City, New Jersey is a typical small town, that turns into a major summer destination from June through August when it takes on the personality of “Americas Greatest Family Resort”.  As the summer season ends, we revert to a small town, that takes on Christmas big time (just like a Hallmark movie).  

Ocean City was very lucky, that for more than 45 years, Mark Soifer was Ocean City’s Public Relations Director, head cheerleader and idea guru.  As a summer resort, part of his job was to expand the season, for the benefit of the city’s merchants.  Out of that desire was born the phrase, “Shoulder Season”, and ways to expand the summer one weekend at a time, throughout the year.  I’m sure that the way Ocean City celebrates Christmas is in no small measure a by-product of Mr. Soifer’s efforts.  See, just like the town cheerleader that most Hallmark Movies have, we in Ocean City had one too, till he retired a few years ago.

First of all, the town is decorated from public buildings like the Welcome Center to City Hall, right up to the boardwalk and the Music Pier.

There are also lots of private homes decorated, like our representatives on Pennlyn Place!

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Just look at the above flyer with just a small sampling on what Ocean City has to offer this Holiday Season.  From this coming weekend’s Earlier than the Bird (when you’re invited to shop dressed in your PJs…and many folks do), to “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue”, when among other things, Santa appears on the roof of City Hall and is “helped” down by the Ocean City Fire Department, our little town Christmas Parade, right through the City’s First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration!  

Don’t forget the all important Breakfast with Santa, at restaurants all over town, or the weekly carriage rides through town!  Yes, from the weekend before Thanksgiving, right up through the celebration of New Year’s Day, we live in a Hallmark Christmas town!  Throw in a little snow once in a while, and it’s perfect!

From our Hallmark Christmas Town to yours, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night…..

 

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Well, after a glorious five plus weeks away, we are back in the frozen north.  Although we had a great time down south, for the first couple of weeks, winter followed us!  Visiting Billy and Lori and our Grandkids in Raleigh, North Carolina, Susie and I woke one morning to a temperature of 17 degrees!!  A couple of days later in Charleston, South Carolina, we woke one morning to find the temperature at 37 degrees!  Even later that week, during our stay in Savannah, Georgia, the morning temperature was 47 degrees!  Then came Florida!

img_1150-1We had 3 weeks in a condo right on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Rocks Beach, a wonderful place we stumbled on last year, that’s located just south of Clearwater.  We looked out the sliding doors of the living room, and there was the Gulf and a beautiful beach!  Unfortunately, for almost the entire first week, we sat on the couch in the living room, looking out at the beach, with the heat on and blankets across our laps!  Oh boy…looks like we made the wrong choice coming the last Saturday in January!

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As I said, we literally stumbled on to Indian Rocks Beach last year during our swing through Florida, and the plan was hatched to return in the winter of 2019.  Unlike a lot of the towns up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida, IRB is made up mostly of homes and small condo buildings, feeling a lot more like a Florida beach town of old, rather than a modern interpretation.  Eventually, Mother Nature shined on us, and we had many lovely days with warm temperatures, and really got to enjoy the beach and pool!

For me, one of the real changes of staying on a Gulf Coast beach, was the fact that what looks like the “Ocean” was to the West, rather than the East!  Growing up on Long Island, and now living at the beach in Ocean City, the “Ocean” has always been generally to the east of us.  Now, here we are, still on the east coast, but on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the “ocean” is to the west!

One thing that I can not deny though, is that staying on the Gulf Coast, facing to the West, made for some great sunsets!  Be them via our iPhones or our Nikon digital SLR camera, the pictures are memorable!

Take a look at some of our favorites!

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We loved our time in Indian Rocks Beach…so much that we’ll be back next February for the whole month!  Let’s hope Mother Nature is nice to us!

Snowbirds

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Wikipedia defines Snowbirds as, “”a North American term for a person who migrates from the higher latitudes and colder climates of the northern United States and Canada in the southward direction in winter to warmer locales such as Florida, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt of the southern United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean. Many “snowbirds” are from either the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, or Canada.”

So, basically it’s somebody who runs away from winter and desires to have an early preview of Spring or Summer. Is that us????

Well, right after I retired in 2016, we headed to Florida to partake in some Spring Training Baseball, and to use my Disney Retiree benefits at Walt Disney World.  Were we Snowbirds???  Unknown.

Then in 2017 we were part of the Kenny and Chris journey to the West Coast.  We started in Atlantic City, had a stop off in Walt Disney World, and continued to New Orleans and Boser City, Louisiana.   Were we Snowbirds???  Not quite.

Then last year, in February of 2018, we traveled down the Gulf Coast of Florida, journeyed down to Key West, spent time with my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and then spent 5 days in Walt Disney World.  Snowbirds??  Who knows.

But, this year, we had a plan.  We started with our children and grandchildren in Raleigh, North Carolina, they journeyed south through Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, before we entered the Sunshine State, and what we hoped was a preview of Spring/Summer of 2019.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not on our side, and although we were heading south, we woke up to temps in the teens, 30s, and then the 40s.  It was not till we were in Florida that the thermometer hit the 50s, but it still wasn’t WARM!  

img_1150-1Our plan this year was 3 weeks in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, which we’d fallen in love with last year.  We rented a condo right on the Gulf of Mexico, and were expecting gorgeous weather and warm temps.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature was laughing her ass off at us! The first week we were here, it was cold and the foggy!  Come on now….we’re in Florida!!!  WTF!!!!  But not to be dismayed, we did other stuff.  We went to Walmart, Publix, and got the stuff we needed for the condo.  We visited Total Wines and More, so at least we could drown our sorrows!  

Then the sun came out and life was good!!  Temps in the 70s, sunny blue skies, and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico!!

So, as I write this, we have been in our condo for a week and a half, about halfway through our stay.  Susie’s cousin Debbie and her friend Janice have already visited us, and we had a great afternoon by the pool, and then a wonderful night at Crabby Bills!

Tomorrow, we’re expecting our cousins Jeanne and Walt.  We’ve got lots of plans for things to do with them, and we are looking forward to hours of talking and just having fun together!  

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We went in the pool last night after dinner.

Next week, our daughter Krissi and her fiancé Mike will join us.  Again, lots of fun things planned, as well as enjoying the beach, sun, and warm temperatures!  

So, are we Snowbirds??  Well, we’ve already rented a place a couple of blocks down the beach for ALL of February next year.  I’d say, yes, we are Snowbirds!!  What do you think???

Next year’s condo!!

Where are we?

 

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In case you’ve been wondering where we are, for the last week, we have been in Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State, in a condo on the beach we’ve rented for 3 weeks.  I know that many of you folks in the north are suffering through some incredible cold, but those of us who ran away from the cold north to Sunny Florida have been suffering too!  I know it’s 19 in Ocean City as I write this and 70 here in Florida, but it’s been a hard week…trust me!

So we arrived last Saturday afternoon at our condo, and even though the temps were not where we’d have liked them to be, it was sunny, and we liked what we saw.

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This is the complex at 1904 Gulf Blvd and we are in the front building on the left as you look at this picture from the street.  Here are some condo pics.

So, what exactly have we been doing here?  Too cold for the beach or pool, although there were some hearty souls trying to enjoy both this week wherever the sun was shining.  The sun was nice, the blue skies were nice, the view was nice, the temps in the 50s (as a high) and the 20 mph winds were anything but.  No, we stayed inside, and when we were out, we were in the car with the windows up and sometimes with the seat heaters on!  So, where did those car rides take us?

Well, one day they took us to Costco and we bought a couple of things, and we coupled that with a stop at a Total Wines and More!  Another day, the ride took us in search of martini glasses (none in the condo), and we finally found them in a local Bed Bath and Beyond.  We combined those 3 stops most effectively for one of our evening cocktail hours!

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Some of the rides have taken us nowhere…just exploring!

Another day the ride took us to a local movie theater, where we saw Mary Poppins Returns.  Seems like a lot of theaters here also make you pick your seat when you buy your tickets, and when we bought the tickets on line a couple of hours before we went to the movies, every seat in the place was open!  Easy to choose.  

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When we got to the theater, we discovered these very comfy chairs…in fact, they were motorized recliners that you activated by touching a button.  A little odd, and we wondered if we’d (all right…Susie wondered if I’d) stay awake during the movie.  Actually we found them very comfortable, and a nice way to watch a movie.  Oh by the way, we loved the movie and how it struck it’s own ground, but really paid homage to the original!  Good job.

So, what else have we been doing??  Well, we’ve seen some wonderful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico from our balcony windows.  See what you think…

Oh, and we’ve gone out and eaten several times too.  We had a great dinner at Keegan’s Seafood Grill, just a couple of blocks down Gulf Blvd last weekend.  We also had a great breakfast at JD’s Restaurant, along with two Bloody Marys!  

Then last night, we returned to the place we fell in love with last year, Jimmy Guana’s in the Indian Rocks Holiday Inn.  That’s where we stayed last year, and Jimmy’s had been our go-to place, probably because the first night we went there, we sat at one of it’s many bars, and met our friend Lindsey Sterry, who was bartending.  Have you ever met anyone, and minutes after your relationship starts, you feel like they’ve been your friend for years?  Well, that’s the way we were with Lindsey.  Would love to be able to say that we had a wonderful time last night with Lindsey, but the last night she worked was the night before we got into town.  Unfortunately, Lindsey is at home recovering from the first of two surgeries she’s got to have for Stage 4 Sinus Cancer.  She’s already survived brain cancer, and now this!  She’s a sweet, wonderful girl, and it really makes you wonder why something like this happens to people like this, and not the many true SOBs in this world!  The poor girl’s got a long road ahead of her, but she’s a fighter, with many folks who love her pulling for her…including the two of us!  If you want to read the whole story, follow this link!      https://www.gofundme.com/hope-for-lindsey-part-2

 

We had a fun night, with some great food, good drinks, and entertainment.  Our waiter Mark was a good guy, and we will see him again before we leave…just not Lindsey…unfortunately.

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                                                The bar we first met Lindsey at!

Then today, we got to the beach!!  Sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s, the Florida we’d been looking for!!

Oh by the way, this is our condo’s balcony.

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So the temps are up, and we are going to enjoy every minute of the Florida weather, and our preview of the Spring of 2019, till the end of February when we return to the winter of 2019!  Stay tuned!!!

Those People

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FYI…we’ve become “those people” who lunch at Costco (come on..two huge hot dogs with sauerkraut and all the toppings, plus 2 sodas for $3.20 including tax…why not?) and who run off to Florida in the winter!

Susie retired in 2013, and in just a couple of weeks, it will be three years since I left WABC on January 29, 2016.  In February of 2016, we headed down to Florida for a few days at Disney World, and to catch a couple of the Mets Spring training games.  It was a real treat to experience a bit of a preview of the Summer of 2016, and I guess we got bitten by the bug!  In February of 2017, Susie and I participated in the  southern swing of the “Kenny and Chris Relocating to LA Tour”, and spent some time in Disney World with the boys, and then New Orleans with the boys and Krissi and Mike, before they headed off to California and we headed back to winter.  Last year we toured a large part of Florida, heading down in February and starting at Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, traveling down the Gulf Coast, then across the state, down the Keys to Key West, up to Hollywood, then to my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and we ended up with 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in Disney World!  All told, a little over 3 weeks away from the winter!

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23d34fcc-bfe6-455b-98e7-d47076bcdfa0So, this year, we are being pigs!  We leave this Saturday with our first stop being Raleigh, North Carolina, the home of our oldest and his wife, and our 2 grandchildren!  It will be Christmas #3 for Susie and I, this time complete with Christmas Eve traditions of Shrimp Sauce over Linguine, and Lobsters stuffed with Baked Clam Stuffing!  After a couple of days there, we start slowly making our way to the Sunshine State, with stops in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Darien, Georgia and our favorite shrimp place, B&J’s Steak and Seafood!  

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Last year we fell in love with Indian Rocks Beach, Florida and we’ve decided to return to the scene of the crime.  We’ve rented a condo right on the Gulf Coast for 3 weeks, and we look forward to a lot of warmth, sun, surf, pool, and fun!  During the course of our time there, our cousins Jeanne and Walt will come to visit, as will Krissi and Mike for a long weekend!  We only hope our favorite Florida bartender Lindsey, who we met at our hotel bar last year, is back on her feet and we can spend some quality time with her!

After that, it’s off to the East Coast and a 3 day stay at the lovely Doubletree Resort we really didn’t take advantage of during our stay there last year in Hollywood, Florida.  More pool, sun, warmth, and Tiki Bar time we hope!  Then we are off for 5 nights with our cousins Jeanne and Walt at their place a little further up the coast in Barefoot Bay, Florida!

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Although a stay at Disney World has been a part of our last 3 escapes from winter, we decided to pass on it this year.  Even with my Disney  Retiree benefits and discounts, it’s still an expensive stay, and that 3 week condo rental is costing us enough.  Plus, we were so disillusioned by all the crowds there last year, and the attractions that broke down, that we think we’ll take a year off, and decide again next year.

So that’s it.  If you did the math, you’ll have come up with five plus weeks away this year.  We hope to be in warm weather for the better part of 5 weeks, only dipping out of shirts and flip flop weather on the way down and back up.  I told you we were being real pigs, but there is nothing like that Summer Preview you get from spending some time in warmer climates, when it’s snowing at home!

Ahhhh…RETIREMENT!!

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

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Christmas in Mineola

On this Christmas Eve, 2018, a little Christmas reflection…..

Christmas has always been a big deal in our household.  Early in our relationship, it became obvious that it’s Susie’s favorite holiday, and one that she waits all year for.  Indeed, because of her love of the holiday, it was on Christmas Day in 1978 that I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! Talk about giving…her saying yes was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!  So from our first Christmas in our apartment on Firwood Road in Port Washington, just months after we were married in 1979, we have always gone all out to decorate and celebrate the holiday!  

Every year, when the kids were small, sometime in early November, we’d journey to Lancaster, PA, for a weekend in Amish Country, and every year, that’s when the D’Elia Family started listening to Christmas music!  Indeed, our selection of Christmas music grew over the years to the point that when we cleaned out our 100 CD changer, close to half the CDs were of Christmas music.  Now we’re all digital, with music stored on the Amazon Cloud, but Christmas music still makes up a large percentage of it!

Our Ocean City house became ours at the end of January 2005, and when the next Christmas rolled around the decision was easy…we were going to decorate two houses!  That first year we got a table top tree and bought ornaments, and house decorations on the cheap from Big Lots.  It wasn’t as grand or beautiful as we did on Long Island, but we even had a small Manger we’d gotten at Big Lots, and lots of outdoor decorations.

Over the years, more and more items were added to both our Mineola house and to the Ocean City house.  A year ago, on November 9th, we sold the Mineola house, and made Ocean City our permanent residence.  That meant we now had to meld two Christmases into one.  Think that wasn’t a hard job?  Well, the fact that we had to make 3 trips with a fully loaded SUV to transport our Long Island Christmas decorations, to the shore, and the fact that our Christmas Decorations then took up fully half of our rented store room, may give you an idea about the scope of the job!  Last year, the consolidation started, and it’s continued this Christmas too!

First things first…the Christmas Tree! 

From our first 1979 Christmas, a live tree was the only way to go for the D’Elia Family.  We did the “cut your own” version, but the kids got kind of tired of that after a couple of years, and after one year of doing it ourselves, Susie and I tired of it too, so it was a yearly trip to Hicks to pick out a tree!  That lasted till we started going to Ocean City and realized when we got home the beginning of January, the tree was severely dead, and we’d missed a lot of it’s life.  The next year the first artificial tree made it’s debut in the D’Elia’s living room! 

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IMG_1556As I said,  for our first Christmas in Ocean City (2005), we bought a 4 foot tree at one of the craft stores, and put it by the front door, on top of our porch table, and we decorated it with ornaments we’d purchased at the Big Lots in Somers Point.   We continued for a number of Christmases in Ocean City with that table top tree and the our Big Lots ornaments.  In 2012 we bought a new artificial tree for Long Island.  It was our 2nd “fake” tree, was much more lifelike and sophisticated, prewired with lights, and all the set up we had to do was pop the three sections together and it was done and wired!  Of course, the next Christmas we decided to get a thinner version of that same tree for Ocean City.  When our last Christmas on Long Island was over in 2016, we decided to take our bigger tree to Ocean City, move some furniture in the living room for the holidays, put the big tree in a new location, and enjoy more room for presents under it!  It was worth it.

 

 

 

Mineola                                   Ocean City  

 

The Manger

Of course, the Mineola Manger won out over the Big Lots version.  The Manger scene that graces our Ocean City home now, has been with us since that first Christmas in Port Washington 39 years ago.  Bought from a long defunct Long Island department store, (A & S), with additional pieces purchased at a 5 & 10 on Plandome Road in Manhasset, it moved from a table near the front door in Mineola, to the top of a book shelf in our living room in Ocean City!

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The Big Lots Manger

 

 

 

Mineola                                                             Ocean City

 

Snowman Village

For a number of years, Susie put up a huge Department 56 Snow Village display in our Dining Room on Long Island, but furniture and styles changed, and the Snow Village went bye-bye.  Susie has always loved Snowmen (and women), and with a desire to go in a new direction, she did a Snowman display on the top of our entertainment center on Long Island, with a smaller version in Ocean City.  Of course, now her big production has moved to our corner cabinet in the living room, that transforms from a bar to a winter wonderland during the Christmas Season.

 

 

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And that’s but a small part of the Christmas Displays at our home during the holidays.  Over the past couple of years, we have weeded through lots and lots of ornaments, bows, house decorations, Hallmark animated displays, and hundreds of Christmas items, big and small, cheap and expensive.  It hasn’t been easy.  We know that when we unloaded our storage room into our garage this year (2 trips with the CRV fully loaded), we realized we still have too much Christmas “stuff,” and perhaps this year, we will be able to part with some items.  But there are regrets….like the two snow globes we had, one from Susie’s Mom and one from my Mom.  These globes graced our living room in Mineola for many years, but sadly when we decorated in Ocean City last year, they were nowhere to be found.  Did we make a conscious decision after Christmas 2016 to let them go, or did we put them in the wrong box, and it got left behind?  We’ll just never know, but every Christmas, we will think about them, and wonder what happened to them.

There you have the story of our Christmas dilemma and how we tried to solve it.  Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress! 

 

 

As we share our Christmas this year with Family and Friends, near and far, just one last thought.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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