Camp Wonderland, Wisconsin

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a few days at The Salvation Army's Camp Wonderland in Camp Lake, Wisconsin, this past week.

We were there to share with about forty men and women of God who comprise the SA's Central Territory TEC (Territorial Executive Council) in a series of wonderfully sensitive sessions. We made so many new friends, whose paths we hope to cross again soon...and often!

It was a great time with amazing people in first rate facilities in a beautiful setting.

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Icefest and Bookfest 2015

I had a great time Saturday at Hamilton, Ohio's biennial IceFest and Ryan Tavern's BookFest. IceFest's theme this year was "Hamilton Goes Hollywood," and the sculptures displayed throughout the downtown area were fun, beautiful, and impressive.
Alas, I saw only a few of the sculptures, as I was occupied by BookFest, the biennial event, BookFest, at Ryan's Tavern. The event allows the chance to meet numerous authors and browse their work, talk books and writing, etc. I was honored and excited to be a part of it. I got to visit with so many friends and even sold some books!
I also enjoyed speaking at the Mad Anthony Writers seminars presented at the Miami University Hamilton-Downtown meeting room that morning (while the lovely Robin babysat my book table next door).

It was a great day, very productive and enjoyable. Thanks to Hamilton for hosting IceFest again, to Victoria Ryan for putting BookFest together,  and to all those who stopped by to say hi!

Boarshead Festival 2015

For many years now, I have wanted to experience the Boar's Head Festival at Christ Church in downtown Cincinnati. One thing or another has prevented me (last year it was a snowstorm the day of the ticket distribution). But this year, the lovely Robin and I attended, in the company of our friends Doug and Julie, and I'm so glad we did. 
The Boar's Head is probably the oldest continuing festival of the Christmas season. On its six-hundredth anniversary in 1940, it was first celebrated at Christ Church, Cincinnati. This year's performances mark the seventy-fifth year. 

The pageant is rooted in ancient times when boars were hunted as a public enemy. At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Roasted boar was a staple of medieval banquets, much like our Thanksgiving turkey. As Christian beliefs overtook pagan customs in Europe, the presentation of a boar's head at Christmas came to symbolize the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.

The festival began with the entrance of the yule sprite bearing the tiny light of a burning taper. From it, the Dean of the church lit the great Festival candle and held it high before placing it on the altar.
From that moment on, the music and costumes and beauty of the celebration entranced us. At the midpoint of the program, cast members strode and climbed through the audience, singing the Wassail Song and wishing everyone a happy new year (below). 
From that point in the program, the mood turned worshipful as the nativity of Jesus was beautifully depicted, in one procession after another, including shepherds, magi, and more, filling the church with music both ancient and familiar. 
We attended the final performance of the weekend (I had it on good authority that this would be the best in many ways) starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday. 
It was a delightful experience, especially enlivened by the participation of numerous children in bright array. I'm so grateful to Christ Church for offering this massive event every year, and to Robin, Doug, and Julie for enjoying it with me. 

Christmas in the City

From 1987-1991, the lovely Robin and I (and our children, Aubrey and Aaron) lived in northern New Jersey. Several times during that period we trekked into Manhattan for a day of the Big Apple's unique Christmas sights, sounds, and experiences--such as Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Macy's, and more. This photo is one of my "Favorite Travel Photos," not because it shows pretty scenery (you can barely tell that it was taken at Rockefeller Center) but because the lovely Robin took it...and because I miss those kids. And those glasses I'm wearing. And moments like these.

A Ride on the North Pole Express

Last Saturday the lovely Robin and I had the joy of taking three of our grandchildren (and their parents) on a ride on the North Pole Express, operated by the Lebanon Mason and Monroe Railroad.
These train rides travel a half hour to the "LM&M Junction" to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus! They sell out well in advance, so we booked our tickets back in October, I think.
A snack bar on the train sells hot dogs, chips, cookies, popcorn, and drinks, which was good since we were on the 12:15 train--right at lunch time!
At our destination, we enjoyed the hot (warm) cocoa and Christmas cookies, and Calleigh and Ryder colored pictures (above).
Calleigh was too shy to approach Santa and Mrs. Claus, but Ryder didn't hesitate. After about forty-five minutes there, we boarded the train for the ride back to the station.
Ryder's daddy snapped this photo of him looking out the window from the train.

It was a fun excursion, and a memory to treasure. I only wish our other grandchildren could have joined us, but we were informed that the train doesn't make any stops in California.

A Messiah to Remember

What a beautiful performance by Collegium Cincinnati and Cincinnati Boychoir of Handel's Messiah the lovely Robin and I enjoyed this afternoon at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati (the program forbade photos during the performance so I had to content myself with the above picture, taken about fifteen minutes before it started).

It was truly wonderful. The musicians and soloists were outstanding, and it was delightful watching the young men of the Collegium and Boychoir sing their parts enthusiastically and flawlessly. It was also entertaining to watch the boys stifle yawns and overcome restlessness while standing for the whole performance. And I must have forgotten how high fifth- and sixth-grade boys could sing!

Many thanks to those who planned, executed, and hosted this performance. It was a Messiah to remember.

Awaited 2014

For the third year in a row, the lovely Robin and I were blessed to attend "Awaited," the spectacular Christmas presentation of Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati (see my posts from previous years here and here). Crossroads distributed 100,000 tickets to this event within twenty-four hours of making them available. Cuh-razy!

In many ways, this year was my favorite, as the original songs and creative carol arrangements have become more familiar, and I anticipate some of my favorite moments.

If you missed out on ordering tickets, don't despair. They make room for walk-ins at every show, and encourage people who can't use their tickets to return them for re-distribution.

It's become a Christmas tradition for us to return, and to share the experience with those who haven't yet attended. Performances continue through December 23. Check the church website for information.