Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

The Spirit of Christmas

December 25th, 2013

Well, we made it to Christmas day! We made it to the climax of our many Christmas programs, baking and parties to the heart of Christmas. And I wonder, do you have the Christmas spirit?

Better yet, what does the Christmas spirit mean to you? Is it the warm and familiar feeling of being with family and friends around a soothing fire and mug of hot chocolate? Is it anticipation in the eyes of a child unwrapping a special gift? Or is the spirit of Christmas something else?

The answer is found in Christ, who for our sake came to earth as a babe in human flesh that first Christmas morning.

It’s not the rush we experience when we get a gift, or a holiday bonus at work. These aren’t bad, however the real spirit of Christmas is found not in what we get, but in what we give. It’s becoming ever more like our Savior in the spirit of selflessness. And not just Christmas Day, but throughout our lives.

Perhaps you’re in a position to help put food in the mouths of the hungry. Maybe you work with the elderly and can dispense a much needed hug, healing their hurts. Ultimately, doing so is in the service of dispensing the Christmas spirit.

You see, the spirit of Christmas isn’t a once-a-year experience. It’s a spirit to be embraced year round. It’s the spirit I want reborn each Christmas as my family and I watch yet another rendition of A Christmas Carol across the miles.

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, the gladness of Christmas give you hope and the warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Santa’s Top 20 Christmas Jokes

December 23rd, 2013

Even Santa likes a good knee slapper. Enjoy Santa’s top 10 list of Christmas jokes that poke fun at the Elves, Reindeer and even himself…

20. What would a reindeer do if it lost its tail? Go to a “re-tail” shop for a new one.

19. Who is never hungry at Christmas? The turkey – he’s always stuffed.

18. What’s red & white and red & white and red & white? Santa rolling down a hill!

17. Why is Christmas just like another day at the office? You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit!

16. Why did the gingerbread man go to the doctor? Because he was feeling crummy.

15. What do snowmen eat for breakfast? Frosty snowflakes

14. Where does Santa stay when he’s on holidays? At a Ho-ho-tel.

13. What nationality is Santa Claus? North Polish.

12. What do you call someone who doesn’t believe in Father Christmas? A rebel without a Claus.

11. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite.

10. How much did Santa pay for his sleigh? Nothing, it was on the house.

9. What kind of music do elves like best? “Wrap” music!

8. What’s a good holiday tip? Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.

7. What happens if you accidentally eat a Christmas decoration?? You get “Tinsel”-itis!

6. Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Because every buck is dear to him.

5. What do you call Frosty the Snowman in May? A puddle

4. Why are elves so depressed? Because they have low elf esteem.

3. What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic

2. What do you call Santa’s helpers? Subordinate Clauses.

1. What does Rudolph want for Christmas? A pony sleigh station!

God Provides a Travel Guide

December 22nd, 2013

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. … After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. Matthew 2:2 & 9

This Christmas, like hundreds before, people will travel from far and wide to celebrate Jesus birth. Today most have a GPS on the dashboard to guide us where we want to go. Without this technology in Bible times, God used a star to lead the wise men to the exact location of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

Scripture states that the wise men rejoiced over the fact that God had provided them with a remarkably accurate travel guide. They knew they wouldn’t have asked for directions or found Christ without the star. The star was God’s gift of direction.

Look at the star differently this Christmas. Look at it as a symbol that God promises to provide a travel guide to those who diligently seek Him.

Most Christians can look back to a time, maybe in Sunday school or a pew beside our parents, when we were being introduced to religion. Remember how confused & overwhelmed you were? Remember what God did?

God provided a travel guide to lead us to Christ. It might have been your parents, a guy at work, neighbor, close friend, or a pastor. But all of us can say, “Without that person I wouldn’t be the Christian I am today.” God sent someone to cross our path. He sent someone whose light was bright and whose love was real. He sent someone whose faith was so compelling that we found ourselves trusting them as God’s travel guide to lead us to Christ.

What would our lives be if God hadn’t put a star in our lives? Why not take a minute this Christmas and thank God for the gift of the star (or stars) that God provided to lead you from confusion to Christ.

But perhaps you are still searching for your guide. Chances are, God’s put a travel guide in your life somewhere. Chances are, you probably know someone whose light burns bright, whose love is real, whose faith has caught your attention more than once. That person may very well be God’s gift to you, like a Christmas star.

Seekers, identify your travel guide and express some of your deep doubts. Ask the tough questions. Just get on the road, and look at the star God’s provided. Someday you’ll be awfully glad you did.



Tiding of Great Joy!

December 21st, 2013

This is a personal holiday message written by my sister Valerie. … Sometimes, we have experiences in life that continue to unfold their revelation and teach us through every ‘season.’ This year, as HAPI has focused on mothers and infants and envisioned a facility to help them ‘start right’ with good prenatal health and safe deliveries, I have reflected more frequently on a spiritual vision visited upon me one ‘silent night’ nearly 10 years past. I hope that it holds meaning for you!

Peace and joy,

Vision on a silent night

“Silent night.”  Those who have experienced a newborn babe can appreciate the flush of parental bliss when, finally, “all is calm!”

Our son, Joshua, afforded few of those moments. One evening, he drifted to sleep early and Jacson and I were grateful for the opportunity to have a quiet conversation. I was laying on my side, head propped up on my hand, fully awake.

Without premonition, I was awake but not ‘present.’ Instead, I was floating above a darkened room. A single woman was standing near the window, weeping. The small amount of light entering through the blinds showed a very pregnant profile. I was confused. This woman could not be me and yet I felt the anguish pouring out of her soul as if it came from my own.

I became aware of another presence. This presence was assuring the woman that all children were a gift from God and would be welcomed and celebrated by Heaven’s angels. The woman was in disbelief and she cried out, “If that is true, show me how the angels celebrate the birth of every child!”

Immediately, the darkened room was gone. I was enveloped in LIGHT! It was a brilliant, yet soft, white light. I couldn’t understand it because it was not like a beacon of light that I could walk toward. No, it was as if I was part of the light, or, I mused that it was if I were standing in the filament of a light bulb.

As amazing as the light was, it was the sound that filled me with such immeasurable joy! The song of the angels filled the light though not with words of any language I could decipher. They were celebrating, welcoming, affirming life!

I became aware of the presence of the Holy One in our midst.

My mind went in rapid succession through three Bible verses as I tried to make sense out of the experience:
Isaiah 6:3: And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Psalm 42:1: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Romans 8:26: …the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

I surrendered into those “wordless groans.” I could literally feel and hear my physical body producing a sound unfamiliar to me, coming from deep inside. I had every reason for wanting to return to my family, my newborn babe, but I could not even bring them to my mind. The only thing I wanted to do was to fall down and worship God with my whole being. I was in the presence of perfect LOVE.

That’s when Jacson started calling my name. I was torn from the embrace of the heavenly realm and present again in my room. I had no idea how long I had been gone. It seemed like at least 15 minutes but Jacson said that, no, it had only been a fleeting moment. My eyes had remained open, as if I had only paused, until the groaning started. I had mixed feelings about returning, wishing I could have glimpsed just a little bit more….

For days, weeks and months afterwards, I would close my eyes and try to recall the detail of the light and the sound of those angels’ voices. I never wanted to forget. A part of me yearned to “cross over” again—and a part of me was afraid to—because it scared me that while I was there I could not think of my family or anything from my earthly life to pull me back.

I was reluctant to share this experience, so intimate and precious and opposite of logic and science! I had no medical conditions before or after, so it wasn’t one of those ‘near death’ experiences now hitting the best sellers’ list. For nearly 10 years, I have pondered: what was it? What am I supposed to take away from that? What or who did the pregnant woman represent?

Two years after the occurrence, Joshua was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder: was this a message to encourage me?

More recently, I’ve wondered if it was a pre-cursor for the work we are doing together for moms in Haiti. Every time the staff sends me a photo of one more baby born, I remember that vision on a silent night and know angels are rejoicing. Race, economic status, nationality, gender, ability, political affiliation do not exist in that realm … Galations 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Today I woke and thought: “Maybe that message wasn’t for me alone. Maybe I have been a very slow messenger!” Maybe this message is for YOU!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

North Pole or The Manager?

December 20th, 2013

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

For centuries he’s been called by Sinterklaas, Papa Noel or Father Christmas. But to most reading this he is Santa Claus.

His original name was Nicholas, which means victorious. He was born in AD 280 in what is now Turkey. He was orphaned when his parents died of a plague. Many think he probably majored in toy making, however the original Nicholas studied Christian doctrine.

He was honored by the church by being named Bishop of Myra in the early fourth century. History recognized him as a saint, but in the third century he was a bit of a troublemaker and jailed twice for religious reasons. So much for being naughty or nice! LOL

Old Nick was best known for the kindness he showed to a poor neighbor. Old Saint Nicholas slipped up to the house by night and dropped a handful of gold coins through the window so the eldest daughter could afford to get married. He repeated this act on two other nights for the other two daughters. This story was the seed that grew to become the Santa legend.

The gift grew from a handful of coins to bags of coins. And rather than land on the floor, the bags of coins landed in the girls’ stockings, which were hanging on the hearth to dry.

Santa’s wardrobe and personality have undergone transformations as well. By 1300 he was wearing a white beard. By the 1800s he was depicted with a rotund belly. In 1866 he was small but by 1930 he was robust with rosy cheeks.

Santa reflects the desires of people all over the world. With the centuries he has become the culmination of what we need in a hero. He’s the personification of our passions, the expression of our yearnings, and the fulfillment of our desires: A friend who cares enough to travel a long way against all odds to bring gifts to good people. A friend of children, who never gets sick and never grows old. A father who lets you sit on his lap and share your deepest desires.

Santa is ultimately the betrayal of our meager expectations. What?? You see, Santa can’t provide what we really need. He’s only around once a year. Though he gives much, he doesn’t take away much. He doesn’t take away the burden of mistakes, or the anxiety of demands. He’s kind and cute, but when it comes to healing hurts, don’t go to Santa.

I’m not a Scrooge. I’m simply making the point that over the centuries we’ve created many heroes. From King Arthur to Kennedy; Lincoln to Lindbergh; Socrates to Santa to Superman. We give it the best we can, every benefit of every doubt, every supernatural strength, and for a brief shining moment we have the hero we need. But then the truth leaks and we realize that the heroes, as noble as they may have been, were conceived in the same society us.

Except One. There was One who, though He had the appearance of a man, had the origin of God. There was One who, while wearing the face of a Jew, had the image of the Creator. At His touch blind beggars saw. At His command crippled legs walked. At His embrace empty lives filled with vision.

He fed thousands with one basket. He stilled a storm with one command. He raised the dead with one proclamation. He changed lives with one request.

What man can’t do, God does. Hallelujah! So, when it comes to goodies, candy, and reindeer with red noses, go to the North Pole. But when it comes to eternity, forgiveness, purpose, and truth, go to the manger. Kneel with the shepherds. Worship the God who dared to do what man dared not dream.


The Wolf of Wall Street

December 19th, 2013

Last night I suffered through 3 hours of Wall Street corruption at it’s peak, which some consider pursuit of the hedonistic American Dream. Morals go out of the window as the story begins to unfold.

In The Wolf of Wall Street DiCaprio plays Belfort, a Long Island penny stockbroker who served 22 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scheme that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden.

The movie is rate R, however I think there should be a strong rating based on the following:

In the first five minutes I lost track of the number of curse words when I was shocked by a woman giving oral sex to Jordan while he was driving.

Belfort has sex with a hooker in a hotel room, then snorts cocaine and blows it into the women’s behind.

Two men have sex with women in a bathroom, one is shown getting a blow job, and the other is shown to be having anal sex.

Naomi walks in on a large orgy of gay men, all nude and in various different positions, later on she talks about how they were having sex on the couch and a man jumps off it.

A man is shown wildly having sex with a flight attendant on a plane while others cheer him on.

Several instances where women are shown fully nude.

A man is shown masturbating in the middle of a party to an attractive woman who has just walked in.

Belfort, while married to his first wife, has passionate sex with Naomi and she comments on how fast he finished.

As if that isn’t enough vulgarity, there are crude sexual jokes and nearly every swear word is used numerous times. The main characters are drunk and/or doing drugs in nearly EVERY scene.

Finally, with no condemnation of Belfort’s lifestyle, his choices and his crimes, the movie closes with a chilling snapshot of how the rich continue to rise above the system and take advantage of others. The audience will no doubt be left tired and appalled by Scorsese spending $100,000,000 on a three hour film which rages and seethes in the dark excesses of our time.

Emotional Singing

December 19th, 2013

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  Luke 2:13-14

French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte observed that you can tell a great deal about people by what went on in their life, and the world, when they were twenty years old. I thought that was interesting. Think about it, most adults enjoy listening to the music that was popular when they were fifteen to twenty years old. There’s a continuing connection between the music that moved us when we were at the emotional stage of adolescence and the music we still love. Music is emotional, but especially the music connected to important experiences, such as salvation.

That may account for why people love Christmas music. Part of the reason is the anticipation that builds up all year. (You mean some of you wait all year?) But a better reason is that our salvation is an emotionally compelling experience. It seems that musicians and lyricists have done some of their best work through when writing songs about the birth of Jesus Christ.

We sing with joy and tears at Christmas for good reason. Word became flesh and opened the door of eternal life for all who believe. Nothing could be more emotional and worth singing about!

Andy Williams: The First Noel http://youtu.be/xLP-yqlBSCs

New ’12 Days of Christmas’ Policy

December 18th, 2013

Effective immediately, the following economizing measures are being implemented in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” subsidiary:


  •    1) The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree, which never produced the cash crop forecasted, will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance;


  •     2) Two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are, therefore, eliminated;


  •     3) The three French hens will remain intact.  After all, everyone loves the French;


  •     4) The four calling birds will be replaced by an automated voicemail system, with a call waiting option.  An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often and how long they talked;


  •    5) The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could     have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals, as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks, appear to be in order;


  •    6) The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day was an example of the general decline in productivity.  Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that, from now on, every goose it gets will be a good one;


  •    7) The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes, thereby enhancing their outplacement;


  •    8) As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching;


  •    9) Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number.  This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps;


  •   10) Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill.  The high cost of Lords, plus the expense of international air travel, prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work congressmen.  While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant as we expect an oversupply of unemployed congressmen this year;


  •   11) Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big.  A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music, and no uniforms, will produce savings which will drop right to the bottom line;


Overall we can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and related expenses.  Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient.  If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved. Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney’s association seeking expansion to include the legal profession  (“thirteen lawyers-a-suing”), a decision is pending.


Deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to remain competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

December 18th, 2013

I attended the advance screening of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” last night. This movie is an epic tale about Walter, a daydreamer that escapes his unassuming life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. However, when his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, he takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.

Ben Stiller directs and stars in the movie. His beaten down demeanor and stone-faced expressions are spot on for the performance and a nice break from his usual slapstick roles. And Oscar winner Sean Penn perfectly captures the rugged fearlessness of a world weary photographer who recognizes the depth of Mitty.

The visuals in this film were particularly fantastic. From the New York offices of LIFE magazine all the way to Greenland, Iceland, the Himalayas. Each scene was perfectly captured and just beautiful. They even made some clever use of the landscapes to push the story along.

“Walter Mitty” works well as a decent ‘feel good film’ with plenty of sentimentality and charm along with a positive message about being present in your life to experience your best life.

I give it a 3/5 due to predictability, some crude comments, and action violence.

The First Christmas

December 16th, 2013

So the shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:16

On that first Christmas night God could have made a dramatic descent to see Jesus, but he didn’t. Instead, on that quiet night in Bethlehem, Mary lay her newborn Baby in a manger meant to feed cattle. The lowing cows, the sweet-smelling hay, and the dark sky illumined by a magnificent star provided the setting. Humble shepherds joined Joseph to witness the miracle and praise God.

Truly, God works in mysterious ways. The wheels of His mercy and justice move quietly, but they move. The birth of our Savior Jesus Christ went unnoticed by the vast majority of the world, but no event in human history was more significant. May His birth, and all it means, not go unnoticed in our lives!

Keep your eyes open for those seemingly insignificant, humble, “normal” holy moments to share the good news of our Savior’s birth.

Christmas With A Capital C

December 15th, 2013

I woke early and turned on the TV, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Christmas With A Capital C. (A Christmas movie first thing in the morning sets my December day right!) In the movie an attorney returns to his small home town in Alaska and quickly rocks the boat by getting an injunction against the nativity display tradition and attacking Christmas.

In a culture of ‘affluenza’ and entitlement issues, Christmas With A Capital C sends a message that is timely and important. The movie breaks down some misconceptions and focuses on the real reason for Christmas. There’s a lot to be learned, and with the help of a little girl we’re reminded we can respect the beliefs of others while not compromising our love of God.

Christmas With A Capital C is a lovely movie to watch at Christmas, or the Holiday Season if you prefer, with a very touching conclusion. Whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever, I encourage you to set aside your prejudices and enjoy this great rental movie with a cup of cocoa and a plate of cookies. Love can warm the hardest heart.

Winter’s Guilty Pleasure

December 14th, 2013

Today I indulged one of my guilty pleasures. Every year I get together with a girlfriend for lunch, followed by a performance of The Nutcracker at the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton.

Named after Harry and Ida Leiberman, the Harid Conservatory is a renowned ballet training school for high-school students. It’s a tough school for gifted young dancers who succeed in top ranking ballet companies around the world. Each year the school presents two seasonal performances, my favorite being the winter performance which includes The Nutcracker, Act II. This performance also includes classical and neoclassical ballets, modern dance and has become a favorite guilty pleasure of my Christmas season.

Harid Nutcracker Dancers

No Christmas?

December 13th, 2013

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

On Christmas Eve, some families follow the routine of decorating a tree and setting out a glass of milk and cookies for Santa Claus. Sleep is often hard to find as the children toss and turn in anticipation of the morning filled with presents, food, family, and friends. But as much fun and joy as these will surely bring, that isn’t the reason why Christmas Day is so special. It’s the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

If there hadn’t been a Christmas, the Bible would be incomplete and we wouldn’t be Christians because prophecies of the Old Testament would be unfulfilled. And our God would be unknown. If our God is unknown, our sins would be left on the table and our prayers would go unanswered.

But Jesus was born into this world to be our Savior. With His birth He brought the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Instead of fixating on the idea of Black Friday presents during Christmas, make sure you take time to realize what happened on that day when Jesus was born and what it means for your faith.

Unchanging God

December 11th, 2013

For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Psalm 117:2

Tis the season of family traditions. What Christmas traditions do you enjoy? Maybe you always bake cookies, decorate the tree at a specific time, or read the Christmas story before you open gifts. And maybe you’ve been doing these things for years, if not generations. But maybe some traditions have changed with time. The rich, buttery cookies Great-Grandma baked have been replaced by healthier versions, or the tree gets decorated whenever a large group of family members is under the roof at the same time.

Unlike some of our Christmas traditions, our God does not change from year to year, from generation to generation, or even from century to century. He who came as a baby to the manger in Bethlehem still comes to us as a King whatever our humble circumstances.

May we share His unchanging love and grace this year and for generations to come.

A Bit of Jewish Humor

December 10th, 2013

Living in South Florida you can’t help but hear a lot of Jewish humor. And it’s funny!! Remember Red Buttons, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman,Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles? You may be too young, but I miss their style. There’s not a single swear word in their comic routines:

* A car hit an elderly Jewish man. The paramedic says, “Are you comfortable?” The man says, “I make a good living.”

* I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my in-laws to the airport.

* Someone stole all my credit cards, but I won’t be reporting it. The thief spends less than my wife did.

* The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, “Mrs. Cohen, your check came back.” Mrs. Cohen replied, “So did my arthritis!”

Q: Why do Jewish mothers make great parole officers?
A: They never let anyone finish a sentence.

A Jewish mother gives her son a blue shirt and a brown shirt for his birthday. On the next visit, he wears the brown one. The mother says, “What’s the matter already? Didn’t you like the blue one?”


Gift of God’s Comfort

December 9th, 2013

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

Have you noticed that the best source of comfort is someone else who’s gone through something? Who has struggled with pain, sorrow, or loss? That’s one of the reasons why God offers us the gift of comfort, so that we can pass it to others. Yes, God sometimes allows tragedy to enter our lives. But He never intends for us to go through difficult times alone. Once we have, by God’s grace, gone through a dark time, God calls us to offer comfort to the hurting people He puts in our path. Often that comfort is our mere presence, not “right” words. (Thank goodness, because the “right” words don’t always come at the right time)

Our willingness to share the kind of comfort we have received reflects both our knowledge, trust and faith in God.

And whether we’re receiving, or offering comfort, we can ALWAYS rely on the greatest Comforter of all, the Holy Spirit. Given to us by God, the Spirit is continually with us, willing to guide and empower us as we reach out to hurting people. Yes, our God is at work when He uses the comforted to comfort others!

Blessed be the Father of mercies and God of all comfort!


St. Augustine Christmas Parade and British Night Watch

December 8th, 2013

For the past few years I’ve spent the first weekend of December in St. Augustine, Florida where I get to enjoy their annual Christmas parade and participate in the British Night Watch event. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, also holds the distinction of being one the most charming and my favorite place to visit in Florida. (www.oldcity.com)

I like their parade because it’s full of a variety of floats. I appreciate how all of St. Augustine is either in the parade or watching and waving to people in the parade. It’s very community oriented. There are more groups then I could list, but here are a few highlights:

■ A live tiger paced inside of a cage atop a float that rolled down San Marco Avenue.
■ The package peanut snowman and the bubble wrap princess got some laughs from the crowd. The princess wore a tiara and a bubble wrap cape.
■ Mayor Joe Boles wore a Santa hat as he waved to the crowd from a horse-drawn carriage, and another carriage pulled St. Augustine’s Royal Family.
■ A goose that was part of a bed-and-breakfast float later took a walk on a leash. Honestly!
■ A gingerbread man on horseback waved to the crowd along the route.
■ Santa

The Christmas parade coincides with the first December Saturday evening’s Grande Illumination and British Night Watch. The British Night Watch celebrates the British taking St. Augustine from Spain. Everyone is encouraged to join in and march behind the British Redcoats as they secure the town. The celebration is followed by muskets firing singing Christmas carols in Government Plaza.

■ A British re-enactor read a proclamation from the King from a balcony at Government House and another told the crowd to light their lights.
■ Candles and lanterns lit up the crowd. People followed a group of re-enactors who carried guns, torches and played fife and drum around the Plaza de la Constitution and down St. George Street. Then we sang Christmas Carols

I always stay at the Pirate Haus Inn where I typically climb the 19 steps (up and down) at least 7 times a day. Last year I met an Italian woman who stayed the month and a woman from Amsterdam that had just biked across the country from California for her first visit to the U.S.! We went to the Grand Illumination together which was interesting. They didn’t know the history, so it was fun for all of us. Of course, I stopped into Savannah Sweets for a fresh praline…so delicious!

Check out the photos of St. Augustine on the photo page. I hope you’ve been inspired by my little holiday adventure to take one for yourself.


Saving Mr. Banks

December 6th, 2013

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise. There’s no way he could have realized it would take 20 years to keep, but like any father, he refused to let them down. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt came up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising, bitter woman who had absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine.

But, as her books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agreed to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, we can thank Walt Disney and his crew for pulling out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launched an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author wouldn’t budge. He quickly realized her will was immovable and the rights began to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reached into his personal childhood that Walt discovered the way to unravel Mrs. Travers’ and bring her to forgiveness. Who would have thought that this was to be the start of such a great legacy?

As narrative flashbacks delve into Mrs. Travers’ childhood, we soon realize the true depth of her literary creation, Mary Poppins. “Saving Mr. Banks” explores the bond between a young Mrs. Travers (then Helen) and her drunkard father, Travers Goff (exceptionally played by Colin Farrell). Like a puzzle, the story is pieced together, bit by bit and the viewer comes to understand her complexities and learns that her deep-seated adoration for her father is what lies at the heart of her magical masterpiece.

Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks delivers extraordinary sense of character as an American icon that plays an American icon. He portrays Mr. Walt Disney with expert attention to detail. There’s a lot of voice work, the way he walks, the body positions, the way he holds his hands, the way he touches his moustache. How he phrases things and lets sentences roll off the end. Tom Hanks becomes Walt Disney and we get to learn of the man behind the mouse.

I’ve always appreciated Emma Thompson as a strong performer. Here, as Mrs. P.L. Travers, she gives another award winning performance as an author as protective as her life’s work as a mother is for a child while dealing with demons nearly forgotten. Her truth set Mary Poppins free.

Besides the dynamic connection between Hanks and Thompson, I looked forward to the miraculous soundtrack of Academy Award winning composer Thomas Newman. Everything about the music in Saving Mr. Banks resonates perfectly. It will be a strong contender for an Original Score Oscar this year.

“Saving Mr. Banks” ultimately gives testament to the might of the mouse house and conveys the magical idea that everybody has a story to tell. Banks is touching, funny and ultimately a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious drama that will stay in your heart for a long time. (Couldn’t resist!)





Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.