Monday, December 31, 2012

The magic of 6 million lights at Christmas Town in Williamsburg

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg ... a magical wonderland of more than six million lights, music, shows, rides, games, and the scent of hundreds of lighted evergreen trees throughout the grounds.

"O Tannenbaum" ... 50-foot Christmas tree in front of Das Festhaus that was programmed with music and lights to perform every 30-40 minutes. YouTube video here.

A variety of wreaths were everywhere. This rustic one was in New France aka French Canada.

The North Pole in Germany ... "snow" drifted down on everyone.

These natural window boxes were in Scotland. The decor was beautiful throughout the park.

The train crosses the Rhine River aka the James.

New France cabin.

Dinner at the Smoke House. Heated enclosed dining tents were set up near eating areas to offer respite from the cold December air.

SWAC Daughter found a friend....

These heat lamps were everywhere so there were plenty of chances to warm up.

Germany's North Pole area.

See the "snow" in the air around the North Pole?

"Deck the Halls" Christmas show in Das Festhaus.

Win the game, win a Frosty the Snowman.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
December 28, 2012

Back in the homeschool classroom ... New Year's Eve

Some people think of glamor and parties and toasts when planning their New Year's Eve celebration. For many homeschool families, it's a night to be with family and friends. To be quite honest, there was never anyone I wanted to be with more than those who were the most important in my life.

New Year's Eve for our family used to be a time for the kids to invite friends over and we would invite our own, or a time just for family. We would play board games, video games, maybe sled if there was snow on the ground, and enjoy a smorgasboard of buffet goodies. The TV was tuned to the celebration in New York so we could keep up and not miss the ball dropping in NYC.

Sometimes my husband and I would toast in the new year with a glass of champagne, sometimes with a glass of Diet Coke. It was not about what was in the glass ... it was about the family and being grateful for the past year and looking forward to the new one. It was simple ... and, yet, it was the world for us.

Best wishes for a safe and happy New Year's Eve ... and for a wonderful 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

December full moon over snow-covered ground

Shadows on the snow-covered deck made by the full December moon. Stepping outside to take the photo, I was immediately enveloped by the cold night air. Low temps are expected in the teens.

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
December 30, 2012

U.S. House schedule for Sunday, December 30, 2012

From Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office....

On Sunday, the House will meet at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.

One Minute Speeches 

Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 4057 - Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

2) S. 3202 - Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012, as amended (Sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

3) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6328 - Clothe a Homeless Hero Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kathy Hochul / Homeland Security Committee)
4) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 4212 - Drywall Safety Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Rigell / Energy and Commerce Committee)

5) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 5910 - Global Investment in American Jobs Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Rep. Robert Dold / Energy and Commerce Committee)

6) S. 3472 - Uninterrupted Scholars Act (Sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu / Education and the Workforce Committee)

7) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2076 - Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy / Judiciary Committee)

8) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6029 - Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)

9) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6621 - To correct and improve certain provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and title 35, United States Code (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)

10) S. 3331
- Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Sen. John Kerry / Foreign Affairs Committee)

11) S. 2318 - Department of State Rewards Program Update and Technical Corrections Act of 2012 (Sponsored by Sen. John Kerry / Foreign Affairs Committee)

12) S.J.Res. 44 - A joint resolution granting the consent of Congress to the State and Province Emergency Management Assistance Memorandum of Understanding (Sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl / Foreign Affairs Committee)

13) H.R. 3159 - Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Foreign Affairs Committee)

14) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6364 - Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
Printable PDF

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Former President George H.W. Bush reacts to Gen. Schwarzkopf's death

America has lost a warrior in the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, 78, who led U.S. Forces in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 under his commander-in-chief, President George H.W. Bush. Their leadership ousted Saddam Hussein after he had invaded neighboring Kuwait. Yellow ribbons popped up everywhere in the U.S. and American patriotism rebounded during that brief but triumphant war.

President Bush reacted to the passing of his friend:
"Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation. A distinguished member of that 'Long Gray Line' hailing from West Point, Gen. Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises. More than that, he was a good and decent man — and a dear friend. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife, Brenda, and his wonderful family."
Rest in peace, Gen. Schwarzkopf. A grateful nation thanks you for your service.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Family snow day ... sledding, chili, board games

 The day-after-Christmas snowstorm yesterday left 4-6 inches of snow and ice in the Shenandoah Valley and, while we got out and roamed during the storm, the wind-driven sleet stung bare skin and made being outdoors cold and challenging.

 Today the sun came out and, though the temperatures remained cold and the wind blew, it was perfect for sledding on the hill behind our house. Our new son-in-law, who grew up in Atlanta, had never been sledding before so today provided the perfect opportunity for him to take part in this fun wintertime activity. He donned the proper winter gear and chose one of the many sleds that our kids have used throughout the years, and hit the trail.

 The icy surface made fast snow, and sledding runs were exciting as we zipped across the frozen precipitation. Runs began at the top of the hill and continued as far as the sledder was willing to go before climbing back up the hill to take yet another run.

 He caught on quickly and was enjoying the experience as much as everyone else. 

 The longest trail began at the top of the hill at the road ...

 ... and continued to the bottom of the hill through the trees.

 Their sleds made a trail that went out of sight.

 Victory! He made it all the way to the bottom. The track to his left is where I went into some briary underbrush at the edge of the woods. There were a couple of bumps during the day, and he had brief encounters with several trees that left a bruise or two.

 It may be winter but the swing is still an attraction.

This was one of the tree encounters. He's not hurt ... he's lying on the ground laughing. 

It was a day filled with fun and laughter and good times, a reminder of the years our children were young and this was an everyday part of our lives whenever we had snow. They could hardly wait to get outdoors, and then did not want to go back inside even though they were about to freeze. We would take off cold, wet gloves and boots and jackets and hats, and lay them around the wood stove to dry.

Some things never change ... today the wood stove was once again surrounded by gloves and boots and jackets and hats as they dried out for the next adventure into the snow. We stopped for lunch, eating chili and drinking eggnog, and played a board game and took it easy before heading out later in the day for night sledding. It was keeper day, the kind that makes memories.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
December 27, 2012