The Family

The Family

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reading Into the New Year

This year I'm starting off with some words of inspiration. I've already begun two of these books.

Each day I read about one of the heroines of the faith in "50 Women Every Christian Should Know." I guess I'm using it as a devotional of sorts.

I've also begun "Paris to the Pyrenees." It's the story of the author's hike with his wife on the trail of Saint James. He calls himself a skeptic. I'm not far enough in to give a critique or opinion, but I'm interested to see if he ends a skeptic.

"Kisses from Katie" is one I've heard lots about, and I've pre-ordered Sally Clarkson's newest book. Sally is the best source of wisdom I know. Reading her point of view constantly refreshes and renews my tired and weary spirit.

And with the children, Santa brought one of our favorites in "Cranberry Thanksgiving." I found out from the book jacket there are several of the cranberry books: "Cranberry Christmas," "Cranberry Valentine" and "Cranberry Halloween." There's also one by the authors about a blueberry pancake witch. It doesn't appear our local library has any of these, so it looks like I'll be purchasing them. No complaints here though. Money is always well spent when it comes to a good book.

We're also still working our way through Harry Potter. We're on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth in the seven book series.

Happy reading into the New Year to you and yours!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

This is What Happens When...

1. Amazon doesn't get everything to you in time for Christmas morning:

2. You have a dog, so you must find higher shelter for Santa's cookies and milk:

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

To Naples

The title is misleading.

I'm not going to Naples. Nor have I ever been to Naples. In fact, after the series of books I've been reading the past few months, I have no desire to ever go to Naples.

Granted, Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels "My Brilliant Friend," "The Story of a New Name" and "Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay" cover a completely different time period, but they don't paint a glowing picture of Naples.

The novels are complicated. Not in the hard-to-read sense. More so the relationship of the protagonist and her so-called best friend. I say so-called because Lila doesn't seem to do much but hurt Elena during the span of their life-long friendship.

I'm not sure the word friend and Lila should be used in the same sentence. It's clear at times that she loves Elena, or Lenu, as she is affectionately called by those in her poor and violent Naples neighborhood. The character of Elena (this isn't supposed to be a biography, but who knows) is brutally honest about her life and choices. She adequately expresses her feelings in each novel. Feelings and emotions that every female has no doubt felt at different points in her life, but rarely has the courage to express or admit.

And even though it is Elena that has the redeeming qualities, it's precisely because of Lila that you keep reading the books. Just as Lila draws everyone in their Naples neighborhood in, so her character draws the reader. She is often so repulsive and vindictive that you want to reach through the pages to slap her. But when she is gone, when it is just Lenu, you can't want to get back to another portion about Lila.

The fourth book is set to be released in September 2015. Though I'd like to think I'll have moved on by that time, I know the desire to find out what happens to the women in later life will have too much of a pull.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Grove Park Inn

The Grove Park Inn is one of my favorite hotels.


There's a Waterfall at the Hotel!!!!

Calling it just a hotel doesn't seem to do it justice. It definitely has a cabin-in-the-woods/lodge type feel. Considering that there are thousands of other guests milling around, that description doesn't quite fit either.

A View of the Main, Original Building from the Back

The best I could do for a front shot was out the car window - too much congestion
The day we checked out, a man who entered the elevator with his family informed us that someone at the front desk had mentioned 900 people were checking out that day.


The best thing about The Grove Park Inn, in my opinion, is that once you arrive you don't have to leave the premises.

The kids pretend drove the sleigh half a dozen times

The spa, which I regret to say I didn't visit on either occassion

In the background is one of the two "newer" structures that house many additional rooms

Christmas Trees are everywhere, and each has its own theme

The massive lobby - sorry about the blur

You could, of course, go elsewhere.

The Grove Park Inn is located in Asheville, NC, and there is plenty to see and do, including a tour of the fabulous Biltmore. Matt and I went that route on our visit 10 years ago.

This time, we stayed entirely at the hotel. There are several restaurants, shops, bars and a golf course on the premises. My in-laws made reservations for us for the Saturday night prime-rib buffet. I filled three plates full of food. Then I went back for a plate of dessert! Yes, I mean an entire plate full!

We went to the same restaurant for breakfast the next morning because our package included a free breakfast buffet for each person.

Oh, and did I mention the two massive hearths flanking the grand lobby. One is a real, wood-burning fire. The other is gas. The rocking chairs by the "real" fire are hard to come by.

The downside is that the hotel is on the expensive side. Hence us staying for only one night this time.

I'd love to say this is going to be an annual trip. I remember thinking that after we left The Grove Park Inn years ago. And then it took us another nine to return.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In Search of Gingerbread Houses

The pictures posted aren't likely to remind you of the typical gingerbread house.

They're better!

Each year there is a National Gingerbread House Competition sponsored by The Grove Park Inn located in Asheville, NC. Entries come in from all over the country, and after the judging takes place the top entries are put on display throughout the hotel.

The displays include the top 10 adult entries, the top 10 youth entries and the top 10 children's entries.

I don't have pictures of all the houses that were on display, but wanted to share some from each category.

Children's Category:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears: It's hard to see because of the spotlight, but the three bears are outside approaching the house as Goldilocks naps in the blue bed in the top left.

Fairytale Land: Mattie Loved it because it was a castle!

This one is for all the Angry Bird Lovers out there, my son included. Check out the sling shot with the snowman in the front right.

 Youth Category:

I thought I took more pictures for this category, but ended up with only one shot to share. There was a Hobbit/Lord of the Rings related one that I swear I took a picture of, but when I went back through all my photos I couldn't find it.

This was my absolute favorite. Looking at the picture it's hard to tell the intricate detail of this swim meet gingerbread house. Those lines across the bottom meant to be ropes are all made out of smarties. In between each line is the image of a swimmer. The top is adorned with bell-shaped jelly beans. The picture doesn't do a good enough job showing how AWESOME this design is.

Adult Category:

Some serious detail and craftsmanship went into all of these.

The winning entry was on display behind a glass case. It was a rotating chess board with players on each side labeled as Pawn Stars. It was something else.

Your favorite Christmas Rhyme, "The Night Before Christmas" made into a gingerbread house! After seeing this one Jack wanted to know if "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was going to be a gingerbread house on display.

Meant to resemble a horse race, this reindeer race made the kids laugh.

On the left is St. Basil's Cathedral. To the right is the pound. Reindeer pound that is.

One very interesting rule is that except for the base of the structure, everything must be constructed of edible materials.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

When Your Morning Calls for Something Different

Before I became a mother I was a morning person.

I felt most productive in the morning, and I actually didn't mind getting up early to get the day started.

Now, there's often a feeling of dread when I open my eyes.

I know that sounds terrible, but as almost any other mother will tell you, mornings aren't what they used to be.

For one, it seems no matter how much sleep I get I'm still tired. Then there's the running through in your mind of all the things that must happen that day. And you know from the moment you arise you're day will likely not go as planned.

There's also the morning rush - and my children don't even go to school.

There's really no time to think in the morning. It's get up, get everyone to the bathroom, make breakfast, stop some arguing that's already begun, barely speak to a husband as he rushes out the door, make the bed, start a load of clothes, etc., etc., etc.

So this morning when Mattie had the bright idea of going to Panera Bread, I was all about change!

Actually, she demanded that we go to Panera for breakfast. My initial thought was there was no way I should give in to such a demand. The next immediate thought was oh yes, we are going to Panera for breakfast.

After a talk, for the umpteenth time, about asking politely and not demanding things, we quickly dressed and made our way to a quiet table in the back of the restaurant.

One pumpkin muffin, one chocolate chip muffie, two souffles, two juices and one coffee later, we had our morning reading at that back table.

Oh, what a glorious morning it was.