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Santa Claus Baby New Year

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I’ve purchased a few ornaments on my travels. Here are the ones I currently own.

I purchased this ornament when I went to Walt Disney World with my then-husband in 1992. This one commemorated the 10th anniversary of the opening of Epcot Center.

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I’ve purchased this faceted crystal Hershey Kiss-shaped ornament during one of my numerous trips to Hershey, Pennsylvania over the years. It really shines very brightly when the lights are on.

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Here is a dripping clock ornament, which is obviously inspired by Salvador Dali’s famous painting The Persistence of Memory, that I bought when I made my first (and, so far, only trip) to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida with my then-husband.

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I purchased this ornament when I took my then-husband to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. (I had been to that place several times growing up but it was the first time I took my husband during our marriage.) The outer circle says “Seasons Greetings” and “Fort Mc Henry.” There are two smaller gold banners above and below the image of Fort McHenry and they are embossed with this sentence: “Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner.” (It’s a reference to the fact that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that later became the lyrics to the national anthem while he saw Fort McHenry under siege during the War of 1812.)

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The last three pictures feature Moravian stars, which are type of stars that originated with the Moravian Church. I first became acquainted with these stars when my sister-in-law moved to the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, which includes two towns that were founded by members of the Moravian Church—Bethlehem and Nazareth. The smallest of the stars is one that I purchased at the Moravian Book Shop, which is located in Bethlehem and it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in town.

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The second photograph features a paper Moravian star, which was given to me by one of my sister-in-law’s friends. She lived in Nazareth at the time and she told me that the locals in both Nazareth and Bethlehem frequently just place the paper stars on the branches of the Christmas tree.

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The last one is the largest of the three. It’s made from stained glass and I think it may be one that I purchased at the annual Christkindlemarkt that’s held for several weekends in Bethlehem each year prior to Christmas but I don’t remember for sure. All I know that it looks really pretty in my tree, especially when the lights are turned on.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

I happened to be in Brentwood on a sunny yet cold day. I finally did something that I’ve long wanted to do—take a few pictures of the Gateway Community Development Corporation building.

The Gateway CDC building is located in a small yet cozy looking cottage.

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At first glance one would think that he/she is looking at some front windows until you get a close-up view of those “windows” and soon realize that they aren’t really windows. They are actually paintings.

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Both of these painted false “windows” are actually a style of art known as trompe l’oeil.

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One side of the building has real windows along with a sign explaining what the Gateway Community Development Corporation is and what it does (which you can read about online right here).

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The other side of the building also has real windows along with plenty of open ground with a picnic table. I can imagine that it would be the perfect spot for a picnic on a warm sunny day.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year
New Year's Parade Float

Santa Claus Baby New Year

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Among my Christmas decorations are a few imported ones that I purchased at a couple of places.

My sister-in-law lives in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Each year the town of Bethlehem has a multi-week arts and crafts festival known as Christkindlmarkt, which features handcrafted items from both local artisans and imported handmade items. I remember she took my then-husband and I to Christkindlmarkt a few times and I really enjoyed it very much. (The only reason why I haven’t come back is because of finances.) Among the items I purchased was this German-made nutcracker that’s shaped like a park ranger or a naturalist.

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There’s a pretty funny story behind this one. Throughout my now-kaput marriage, my husband insisted on controlling all of the finances including the checkbook for the main checking account. He didn’t always take his checkbook with him because he didn’t always want to stuff his pockets with the checkbook and he wouldn’t carry a bag or purse or anything like that. That weekend he took the main checkbook with him. When we were going over to the Christkindlmarkt he asked me to hold the checkbook in my purse. When I started perusing some of the vendors, I saw a man who sold German-made nutcrackers and this fellow caught my eye. It turned out that he cost only $50, which is cheap compared to similar nutcrackers I’ve seen on sale in my area. (I’ve seen German nutcrackers the same size start at $125.) I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet and he didn’t take a credit card so I pulled out the main checkbook and wrote a check. At that moment I was writing a check, my husband showed up and caught me in the act. While he was okay with using it to buy the nutcracker, he insisted on taking the checkbook and keeping it with him. Strangely (LOL!) he never asked me to hold the main checkbook again after that incident. (LOL!)

I also purchased this wooden German-imported ornament at Christkindlmarkt. This one is shaped like a cuckoo clock.

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Another place where I purchased imported ornaments was from SERRV, which has a store in New Windsor, Maryland but it also sells its items online. SERRV is run by the Church of the Brethren and it hires artisans from Third World countries to make items for its catalogue. SERRV makes an effort to pay these artisans a living wage and it also makes inspections of the places where these artisans work in order to ensure that they aren’t sweatshops. SERRV sells a variety of lovely products from all over the world. The next picture shows a wooden nativity ornament that was made in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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The next couple of ornaments were made in El Salvador. These artisans work in wood and they paint in bright primary colors. There is such a cheerfulness to their work, such as these ornaments shaped like a llama and Santa Claus.

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Most of the El Salvadoran ornaments are two-sided but are painted the same on both sides. The tree ornament in the next two photos was also made in El Salvador but the design is different on both sides.

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I also bought this pair of clay doves, which were made in Guatemala.

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The doves come packaged with this short paper explaining about the origins of these doves.

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A disastrous earthquake in 1976 forced many Guatemalans to be uprooted. The Chanautla area was severely damaged at this time causing a number of residents to move to the northern edge of Guatemala City, a location now known as Nueva Chanautla. When ceramics are handcrafted by these artisans the “white clay” must be brought from the original Chanautla area.

Each fragile dove begins as a lump of clay dug up in Chanautla, a region of Guatemala. Because of each artisan’s individual fantasy, head and wing positions differ. Primitive firing is accomplished by covering the delicately formed bird with grass and igniting it. This method causes colors that vary from burnt black to orange to grey and white. Doves are packaged in an attractive basket for a safe flight. Due to the use of unrefined clay, small blemishes and chips sometimes occurs in the firing process.

These doves come in a nice woven basket that I also have on display under the Christmas tree because it is so lovely looking.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

In the wake of the recent presidential elections that resulted in Donald Trump becoming the next President of the United States, there have been concerns about his antics, especially regarding his tweets on Twitter, where he has managed to piss off China and declared that the U.S. will be creating more nuclear missiles and possibly using them. There are concerns about how suitable he really is to occupy the Oval Office.

The Electoral College was scheduled to meet on December 19. Usually they tend to rubber stamp the results of the elections. This time a movement known as the Hamilton Electors sprang up and they were urging the Electoral College to reject Trump in favor of a more moderate Republican like Mitt Romney or John McCain. On December 19 these Hamilton Electors had called for rallies to be held in every state capital in the U.S. urging the Electoral College to reject Trump in favor of someone more moderate and with more experience than Trump. (Donald Trump is the first president-elect in history with no prior military or political experience.)

Since I live in Maryland the rally was being held in Annapolis. I had thought about going there to make a stand against Trump. But then I remembered that Hillary Clinton had swept Maryland in the elections so Maryland’s Electoral College delegates had already pledged to vote for her instead of Trump or another Republican. On top of it, it was a cold day and I was less enthusiastic about freezing to make a public stand against Trump when my state’s delegates had already committed to Clinton. So I decided to skip the rally altogether and do something fun instead.

My decision turned out to be a good one for two reasons: 1) the Electoral College decided to award the presidency to Trump anyway despite the Hamilton Electors movement and 2) I went to a place that I hadn’t been to in two years and it was nice to go there again.

I went to Valley View Farms in Cockeysville. It’s a long commute from the DC area but it’s so worth it because it has one of the most awesome Christmas shops anywhere in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. Here are some photos I took to show how awesome it is.

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And if you like these photos, check out photos I took of the same place in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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The past few days I’ve been writing about having a Tabletop Christmas and I’ve timed these writings so they would be uploaded during the traditional 12 days of Christmas. Today I’m going to write about handmade ornaments.

If you were to read enough back issues of this blog, you’d know that this blog’s main focus is on my arts, crafts, and photography. I’ve previously written about some of the ornaments I have that I made myself. Today I’m going to write about the ornaments I currently own that were handmade by other people.

Back in 2011 I purchased this hand-decorated ornament ball at a local arts and crafts show for my then-husband as a Christmas present. Even though, by that point, we had so many ornaments that we couldn’t put them all up because we didn’t have room on the tree, I purchased it anyway because my husband always told me that he loved Christmas balls and he had been miffed that we didn’t have too many ball-shaped ornaments. At the time I didn’t know that my husband had been secretly planning his exit from our marriage three days after Christmas (he didn’t even tell me that he was the least bit unhappy and he pretended that he “loved” me). So it turned out to be among the last Christmas presents I ever gave my husband. This ball survived the Christmas ornaments purge the following year because I really liked the delicate lace-like painted design on it.

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The next ornament is a lace fan that has been permanently stiffened so it would always be a bit wavy. I had a co-worker at one of my old jobs who was a recent newlywed. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law had escaped their native Cuba while her mother-in-law was pregnant with her future husband. (My co-worker said that her husband would frequently quip that he was made in Cuba but born in the U.S.A.) Her mother-in-law was a very crafty person and she made a bunch of these Christmas ornaments. My co-worker brought a few into the office to sell on behalf of her mother-in-law and I purchased this fan. I love its pretty delicate appearance.

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This folk art bird was among the many ornaments that my then-husband had brought with him when we were married. His late mother’s side of the family were Hungarian and this ornament definitely has Eastern European-style patterns on it. This was among the ornaments that he decided to leave behind. I kept the bird because I really like the folk art quality it has.

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As I wrote earlier, I’ve made a few fused glass ornaments by taking workshops that my friend Tina Van Pelt teaches through her business Profusions of Glass. The ornament in the next photo is one that Tina made herself.

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This next ornament is a handmade one that I’ve owned since childhood. It’s a diamond-shaped mirror with a gold cherub in the center surrounded by tiny gold trim. I remember purchasing it at an arts and crafts show but I don’t recall if the show was held at the Catholic church my family attended at the time or if it was held at the now-demolished Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie, Maryland. I remember once having two of these mirrored ornaments but I don’t remember if they were sold as a set or if I simply bought two of them. I remember they weren’t very expensive because I was able to buy them with my allowance money. I only have one of these mirrored ornaments because the other one broke years ago. I’m amazed that this ornament has lasted so many years.

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The small beaded ornaments in the next two photographs were made by my sister-in-law. One is shaped like a Christmas tree while the other is shaped like a bell. Here’s some background. At the time we were married, my future ex-husband had only one living grandparent left. She was the widow of Michael Somogyi, whose diabetes research had earned him his own Wikipedia page. (No, I never met him. He had been long dead by the time I met my future ex.) She wasn’t able to make it to our wedding because she lived in St. Louis and her health had grown too frail to make the long travel to our wedding in Maryland. She died about a year-and-a-half after our wedding. Members of the Somogyi family decided to use her death as an occasion to hold a family reunion in St. Louis. My sister-in-law made these tiny beaded ornaments to give to all of the attendees. (I recall at least 50 people showed up, which meant that my sister-in-law was very busy for several months before the reunion.) My ex-husband left those behind and I’ve kept them because the beaded ornaments make a really cool glittery effect when the lights are on.

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The last photograph shows a pair of miniature teacups. For many years there was a woman who made them and she had a booth at the annual Greenbelt Festival of Lights. These were made as a set. I purchased them five years ago (I remember buying them shortly before my husband left me)and I was glad I bought them when I had the chance because I didn’t see her booth at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights this year. I don’t know why she wasn’t there. These teacups look so dainty and delicate hanging from the tree.

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Santa Claus

Benjamin Franklin

In Rivers and bad Governments, the lightest things swim at top.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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I have a decoration on my tabletop that reminds me of someone whom I used to be friends with but he’s now deceased.

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This is a print that I have in a box frame that is currently sitting on my tabletop next to the Christmas tree. It was originally a wood printed Christmas card that was created by my friend based on his own original art.

The friend’s name was drex Andrex (he used a lowercase “d” in the first letter of his first name) and he was a very talented artist. My then-husband and I first met him through our Unitarian Universalist congregation and we served on a variety of committees together and frequently met with him and his wife, Ann, at a variety of social events. drex would’ve loved to have been able to make a living as an artist but, unfortunately, he never made enough money at his art to pay the bills. He had a day job as a federal employee plus there were the years when he and his wife raised three children so he had to limit doing his art to whenever he had some free time.

I remember when he and Ann would hold a series of weekly get-togethers at their home in the summer known as the Carport Studio where we would get together in the carport, socialize, drink beer and wine, eat whatever snacks they put out, and create some art. I had some pretty fond memories of those times.

drex was mainly into painting landscapes and cityscapes based on places where he and his family lived. (They lived in Europe for a few years—mainly Belgium and the United Kingdom—in the 1970’s and 1980’s.) He painted in an impressionist style and I’ve always loved his work. He tried selling his paintings to galleries and art dealers but he frequently got turned away. Having seen his work, I never understood why the galleries and art dealers rejected him. He was able to have a few art shows here and there but he really deserved better from the art world.

Fortunately he had his day job so he didn’t have to be the stereotypical starving artist.

At one point drex and Ann became involved with a group of people who were keen on starting a co-housing group. It took several years for this group to get off the ground because they had to find and buy the land then there were arguments and discussions over all kinds of issues ranging from what kind of houses would be built there to procedures to accepting new members into that group. By the time the co-housing development was finally built near Frederick, drex and Ann’s youngest daughter was midway through her senior year of high school. They waited until the daughter finished school, put their current house on the market, then moved to the co-housing development.

The Carport Studio get-togethers had ceased when they moved but my husband and I visited them in their new home a few months after they moved and they seemed happy. drex was selling his paintings that weekend and my husband and I purchased one of his oil paintings of a boat in a harbor and we hung it in our living room.

Sadly their happiness was short-lived. A year or two after the move drex was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. drex went through the treatments and did everything he could do to get well but the cancer got the best of him. I remember my husband and I going to Frederick to visit drex one last time. At the time his wife told us that he was so weak that he could only manage visits of no longer than an hour. However, when we arrived something inside of drex gave him enough energy that our originally scheduled one-hour visit was extended to three hours until he became so tired that we left. Even his Ann was amazed by how our visit had given him a new vitality.

Sadly that vitality was short-lived. One of his last pictures showed him with the family after his oldest daughter gave birth to his second grandchild. Six weeks after the birth, drex died. He was only in his mid-50’s.

When my marriage broke up and we were haggling over the separation, my husband wanted that painting that drex did. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was getting the house that we had shared together even though I would’ve loved to have kept that painting. I had foolishly told my husband that I was attending weekly Thursday night meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced because, at the time, I still hoped for a reconciliation and I hoped that he would be impressed by my efforts to improve myself. Unfortunately he took advantage of that knowledge to let himself into the home whenever I was out so he could take his things—including drex’s oil painting that hung in our living room. My husband was basically a coward throughout the whole separation and divorce in that he didn’t tell me he was unhappy until the night he left, he refused to see me in person or talk to me via the telephone, and he only communicated via email and text and that was when he demanded that I adhered to this separation schedule that existed in his head or else he would sue me. Naturally he only went to the house to get my stuff on the one night he knew I would not be home so he wouldn’t have to face me.

I was sad that I had nothing that drex had made until I was going through some clutter and I found the woodblock print he made for my husband and I as a greeting card. I found a block frame to put it in. This block frame is thick enough on the sides that it can stand up on its own. This print is now stored with the other Christmas ornaments and decorations in the attic and I take it down to display during the winter holiday season.

There are the occasional times when I still miss drex but I’m glad I have at least one thing to remember him by.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

Last year I planned on going to Baltimore to celebrate my birthday at Christmas Village in Baltimore. I had to scuttle those plans because my birthday fell on a Tuesday and it turns out that the place was closed on certain Tuesdays including my birthday. (I ended up going to Tyson’s Corner instead and I still had fun last year.)

This year my birthday fell on a Thursday so I decided to go to Baltimore, just like I planned last year. I was determined to go there despite the fact that the Polar Vortex had just arrived in my area so the temperatures plunged to below freezing. (I basically wore a heavy winter coat and a hat so I was able to brave the deep freeze.)

On the way to Baltimore I stopped off at a local Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts store to check out the recent sales. I found a bundled pair of slipper socks. The original price was $9.99, which would’ve been a decent price for two pairs of thick socks. But they were on sale for half-price, which meant that I paid $5 for the bundle (or $2.50 per pair).

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I took the light rail into the city. I initially went by Harborplace where I saw this ice skating rink.

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Since my last visit to Harborplace, I found that the store It’s Sugar had moved from one pavilion to another. (It is now located next to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium.)

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I purchased a few things for myself on my birthday. Here is this cute gingerbread man cookie I bought.

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I purchased this Pez dispenser featuring Badtz-Maru, one of Hello Kitty’s friends.

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I bought myself this Guinness Luxury Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar. It was very delicious.

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I took a few photos of other items in that store but I didn’t buy any of them.

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After my visit to Harborplace I took a couple of photos of the Inner Harbor area at sunset.

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I eventually made my way to the Christmas Village in Baltimore.

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I’ve been there other years (see the photos I took in 2013, 2014, and 2015). Some of the same vendors were there this year while there were others whom I had never seen before. I also saw some empty booths but I had no idea if fewer vendors signed up or if it was because I came on a Thursday night and some of the missing vendors only worked on the weekends. I had been looking forward to eating some bratwurst with sauerkraut for dinner followed by a Belgian waffle topped with hot fudge and whipped cream for dessert. Unfortunately the waffle place wasn’t there this year, which was a big disappointment. The German food booth was still there so at least I was still able to eat the bratwurst and sauerbraten platter.

I purchased only one item. It was a pack of incense that I got from the large Käthe Wohlfahrt booth that was located at one end of the main tent. I’ve been lighting the incense each night since then so my home can smell like Christmas. (LOL!)

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On my way back to the light rail stop, I saw this homeless person laying down under a thin blanket outside the Baltimore Convention Center. Usually I wouldn’t pay this person much notice other than the fact that the Polar Vortex had arrived and the temperatures were forecasted to dip under 20 degrees Fahrenheit over night. (The following morning my AccuWeather app on my smartphone registered 18 degrees Fahrenheit.) I felt that this person should really be indoors but I didn’t know where to turn since I live 30 miles south of Baltimore.

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I took the above picture and frantically did Google searches on my smartphone for homeless organizations in Baltimore. I texted the photo to a couple of organizations while indicating where the person was located. For added measure I texted the photo to the Baltimore Police Department. I even uploaded this photo on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts using people to forward this to anyone who could help bring this person in from the cold. I don’t know if my efforts helped or not other than the fact that for the next few days I did a Google search for any recent homeless deaths in Baltimore outside the Baltimore Convention Center only to turn up empty-handed. I guess this person somehow survived the Polar Vortex but I’ll never know for sure.

Once I reached the North Linthicum Light Rail Station (where my car was parked) I drove over to Glen Burnie. Last year I found out about this overdecorated house on Delmar Avenue and I saw it for the first time on Christmas Eve. This year I decided to check it out again and, yes, it is still just as heavily decorated as it was last year.

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The only difference I could tell between this year and last year is the next-door neighbor’s lighted sign that said “DITTO” with an arrow pointed to the other house. (That neighbor’s house didn’t have any outdoor lights at all other than that “DITTO” sign.)

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By the way the house on Delmar Avenue has its own Facebook page that you can view to get the latest news and photos about that house.

Last year I shot a bunch of still photos of that house. This year I decided to shoot a video so you can get a sense of the flashing lights (including an animated laser display that’s shown on the garage door) and the constant Christmas music.

I headed home after visiting that house so that was it for celebrating my birthday in Baltimore and Glen Burnie.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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Continuing with this series on having a tabletop Christmas, here are some more ornaments that I currently have on my small tabletop tree.

I’ve been into animation since I was a child so it’s quite logical that I would have a lot of Christmas ornaments to reflect my interest in animation. Some of these ornaments were ones that I purchased while others were given as gifts from various relatives over the years. I used to have a lot of animation-themed ornaments back when my husband and I used to put up a six-foot tree. Since my husband left I’ve done some serious downsizing. While I still have a few animation-themed ornaments left, my collection of Christmas animation ornaments is a far cry from what I had five years ago (when my husband left just three days after Christmas with no indication that he was the slightest bit unhappy).

The ornaments shaped like Disney characters tend to predominate my collection the most. Okay, so I like Disney animation, especially Mickey Mouse. Here’s a caroling Mickey Mouse next to a ceramic ornament featuring a pink mouse in a stocking that I was given as a child by my parents and I still have it.

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Here’s a wooden Mickey Mouse clock. (No, it’s not a real functioning clock.)

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This was an ornament that I purchased during one of my many trips to Walt Disney World over the years. My husband and I arrived shortly after the 1st Disneyana Convention was held so the resort was selling these ornaments at a clearance sale for half-price.

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I also have a Mickey Mouse stocking hanger. I still have the same stocking that my parents originally purchased for me when I was an infant. It hasn’t been filled with anything since my husband left. These days I just hang my stocking as a decoration since it’s really not worth the effort for me to fill my own stocking. (Filling one’s own stocking kills the element of surprise right there.)

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I have a small Santa Mickey snow globe decoration that I received when I attended the annual post-Christmas white elephant gift exchange that my support group for people who are separated or divorced puts on each year. The snow globe has the year 2013 written on it.

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I also have other Disney characters besides Mickey Mouse in my Christmas tree, such as Winnie the Pooh.

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Flit is a hummingbird from the animated Disney movie Pocahontas.

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The next photo has two Disney ornaments. The raccoon is Meeko from the Pocahontas movie. The other figure is Stitch from Lilo in Stitch and he’s dressed like Elvis Presley.

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I have another Stitch ornament. This one is a small plush ornament and he’s wearing ear muffs, mittens, and a red sweater that says “NAUGHTY” on it. Next to Stitch is Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and he’s sliding downhill on a sled.

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These next two photographs show a double-sided ornament. On one side is Belle and the Beast from the film Beauty and the Beast.

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The other side shows the Beast after he’s been transformed back into his original human self.

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Rounding out the Disney decorations are two dolls resembling the two princesses Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen. I originally bought the dolls thinking that I would display them at Christmas then put them away in the attic after the holidays. Except when it came time to take down everything, I couldn’t bear to put these dolls away. These days I keep them with my doll collection upstairs and I bring them downstairs to join the other Christmas decorations.

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I have other animated-themed ornaments that are based on non-Disney characters as well, such as this one featuring Sylvester and Tweety from the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoon shorts.

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My parents gave me this ornament based on Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which was later turned into a made-for-television animation special then it was remade into a live action theatrical feature film starring Jim Carrey). This one features the scene after the Grinch had finished making a Santa outfit for himself and placed reindeer antlers on his dog Max and they are both standing in front of a mirror (which is actually a real mirror).

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I know that technically the ornament in the next picture is really based on a video game but Sonic the Hedgehog was turned into a cartoon series in the 1990’s so I’m going to include it here on a technicality. I bought this ornament back in the days when I owned a Sega Game Gear and I was really into playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Basically the ornament is shaped like a Game Gear (including a Christmas scene featuring Sonic) while Sonic is running on top of the Game Gear bearing Christmas presents. I’ve long since sold my Game Gear but I still have the ornament nonetheless.

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