Monday, November 18, 2013

A Child Again At Christmastime

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” ― Norman Vincent Peale

There are but 36 days until Christmas, the one day of the year that serves to remind us that we’re for something else besides ourselves.

Back in September, one of the gals at work who had transferred here from another state was abstractly talking about learning more about the city.  I suggested she visit the Southern Living Christmas Show.

Her eyes brightened with excitement.  She asked if I were joking.  I assured her I was not.  Right then and there we made plans to go to the show.

The Southern Living Christmas Show is one of the most popular holiday shows in the nation and signals the start of the Christmas season.  It runs for 10 days and thousands and thousands of people visit it.

There are over 500 merchants from all over the country who exhibit everything related to this most glorious holiday.

As you enter the show, you pass through Olde Town.  Exhibitors have decorated trees, doors and fireplace mantels in some of the most elegant and visually stunning ways.  Then you pass through Christmas Village.  This area is filled with over 50 shops brimming with Christmas ornaments, garland, night lights, gifts, home décor, wreaths, and centerpieces for your holiday table.  You name it, it’s there.

My first stop was The Christmas Mouse. They have stores located in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. There, I found a beautiful iridescent white snowflake lighted tree topper, two packages of gold glitter and white snowflake ornaments, an Advent calendar filled with milk chocolates (I buy one of these each year to carry on the tradition set by my mom and dad when I was a child) and a beautiful Christmas night light with a little teddy bear and presents underneath it. It measures 7”H by 5”W. The little star on top even twinkles.  I adore it.

My next stop was at A Touch of Country Magic.  These nice folks are located in Cleveland, GA.  I bought one bag each of mulberry, cinnamon orange, apple splendor, Christmas tree scent and holiday punch potpourri.  My bonus gift was a 24-inch cinnamon broom to hang by the fireplace.

I also visited with Santa Claus.  The Shriners are always there for the rug rats to have their pictures taken with the Jolly Old Elf.  It was delightful to watch young and old alike having a conversation about what they’d like him to bring them this year.

Having made our way through Liberty Hall we entered Independence Hall.  This is where all the goodies are.  As I approached the Salem Baking Company I decided to buy a Moravian Star to adorn my front porch.  It is a geometric wonder with 24 points.  Traditionally, it is to be hung on the first Sunday of Advent.  I’ve always wanted one.  This year I was determined to purchase it.

The Moravians settled in North Carolina in 1766 and brought with them their centuries-old recipe for cookies.

The cookies…oh my, the cookies.  I bought the cinnamon and brown sugar, chocolate enrobed peppermint, spiced apple cider, key lime, pumpkin spice, Meyer lemon and classic sugar cookies.

I decided to go to the check-in and deposit my purchases to be held there until I was ready to leave the show.  You can’t really shop if your hands are full, right?

We browsed the exhibits of stained glass panels, metal sculptures, collegiate items, jewelry, toys, books, DVDs, scarves and home décor.  All along the way, there were vendors selling food items.

I stopped by Emily G’s.  These folks call Dunwoody, GA home.  I bought three jars of roasted red pepper jam (this is wonderful dolloped on top of a schmear of cream cheese on a gourmet cracker) and a jar of strawberry chipotle.

Further down another aisle was the Brazos Legends Salsa Company.  Hailing from the College Station area of Texas, their booth was replete with nachos for sampling their selection of salsas.  Next to ice cream, chips and salsa is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I ended up with a jar of Rawhide Burning, Jalapeno Pepper Sauce, Chipotle Pepper Sauce and Cilantro Sauce de Julia.  Mmmm good!

Next to Brazos was a booth inhabited by an elderly woman seated in a rocking chair knitting a scarf.  She was selling Amish apple butter and pumpkin butter.  She was selling two sizes—large 32 oz. and small 16 oz. jars.  I bought one each of the large size.  This will be yummy on warm toast in the morning.

A little further down was Mama Lee’s Gourmet Hot Chocolate.  These nice people traveled from Farmington, TN to participate in the Christmas show.  With the weather turning colder a comfy cup of hot chocolate always hits the spot.  Their hot chocolate is rich.  They carry eight delectable flavors.  To help you decide, they have set up some Bunn® Thermofresh Coffee Servers with three of their most popular flavors:  Double Dutch, Raspberry Cream and White Chocolate.  They serve samples in teeny, tiny little cups.  The stuff is piping hot.  This hot chocolate is so good it’ll make ya wanna slap your mama.  Yeap, I walked away with one each of the flavors listed above.  

On Christmas Eve Santa is going to get a cup of White Chocolate and a plate full of Moravian sugar cookies. There will be carrots for his reindeer too.  He knows I like him best.

It was time to grab a bite to eat.  We settled on some killer hot dogs.  Hebrew National hot dogs served with all the fixin’s.  We bought a Susan G. Komen pink mug filled with our favorite soft drink and went to the picnic area to indulge in our culinary delights.

With our bellies full, I stopped once again at the check-in, gave the attendant my loot and off we went to Freedom Hall.  This is where the more luxurious items are for sale.  There were boots, women’s apparel, garden statuary, art galleries and things of that ilk.

I almost bought a flagpole with a solar beacon and flying eagle ornament.  I paused just long enough to come to my senses.  All I saw was dollar signs.  I’d already spent a boatload of dineros and still hadn’t finished shopping.  So I took their business card and promised to check back with them after Christmas.

My friend took an interest in the pet items at another booth.  She has a dachshund named Bo.  She saw a harness she liked and bought it.  Not far away was another booth with pet goodies.  I decided I would purchase a Christmas collar for my furkid, Sophie, and I also bought a teeny, tiny Santa hat to go with it.  I thought if I force her to wear the hat she should have some homemade doggie treats.  I walked away with cheese wafers and peanut butter “cookies”.  Maybe she won’t stay too mad at me.

Then I happened upon an exhibitor from Yardley, PA.  Dakota Prairie Designs was featuring their “lifetime” candles.  They come with a lifetime fiberglass wick.  I fell in love with the red and purple berry candle in the 10” X 12” three-wick style.  I purchased the stand to go with it and a bottle of clear, unscented paraffin oil.  The “candle” is filled with purple and red berries, orange slices and pine cones. 

Over on another shelf I found a waiter wine caddy.  I loved how whimsical it was.  These two items will adorn my kitchen after Christmas.

The last time I visited the Christmas show, about five years ago, my friend D. Morgan was not there.  Her gallery was there.  She just wasn’t.  When I saw her yesterday, she looked just as lovely as I remembered. 

Doris’ work is easy to recognize because it is peaceful.  She intertwines inspirational text with images and does some of the most beautiful matting and framing you’ve ever seen.  Her prints are all over my house.

The first print I ever purchased featured this text:  "When I get to heaven, and I'm all settled there, may I dine with Mr. Disney…and dance with Fred Astaire!"

The second print I got is entitled Dear Santa.  It depicts a snow-covered field with a farmhouse and fence and a little church in the background.  The night sky has a full moon hanging in it and the image of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are seen against its shape.  On the print are these words:  "Dear Santa...Are you still the same dear man I knew so long ago? Does Mrs. Claus still mend your suit and pack your bag to go? I knew the bells on reindeer hoof and felt the snow crunch on my roof. I ran to peek in at the tree (that breathless little child was me.) How marvelously jolly round, you stilled my heart without a sound. How quiet you were beside the tree, you drank the cocoa there from me. Now with values rearranged, please don't tell me you have changed. Does Mrs. Claus still mend your suit and pack your bag to go? Are you still the same dear man I knew so long ago?"

Hanging in my bedroom all year ‘round is my favorite.  It’s called Christmas Past with the accompanying sentiment:  "Long ago and far away the memories were cast. Today our hearts are full...Love remembers Christmas Past."  Father Christmas is standing in a snow-covered forest with a polar bear that is donning a collar adorned with bells, there's also a white wolf, a deer in the background and the dove of peace fluttering its wings above.  The original artwork was created in 1993.

It was wonderful to see Doris again.  I hugged her hard and wished her a wonderful holiday season and scurried off to my last stop.

The North Carolina wineries have a bar you can sidle up to and sample their fare.  I let my friend go to town sampling.  I already knew what I wanted—Christmas at Biltmore® White Wine.  This is a semi-sweet white wine with the infused flavors of apricot, spice and citrus. 

I dropped back by the check-in, grabbed my bounty and headed for the exits.  The valet brought my car around.  I loaded all my goodies into the trunk and headed home.

When I got home, I took everything out of the bags and decided I was proud of what I had purchased.  For a while, the visit had replaced my angst over what is to happen on Wednesday and then I remembered Doris’ artwork:  "When I get to heaven, and I'm all settled there, may I dine with Mr. Disney…and dance with Fred Astaire!"

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