Posts filed under ‘Christmas’

Craft Week with the Neighborhood Kids – Christmas Parade Float #relayforlife

Saturday night, the Elizabeth City Jaycees hosted their annual Christmas Parade which includes a float competition. I believe there were roughly 90 floats participating, including one sponsored by our Pasquotank/Camden Relay for Life. The week proceeding the parade, our Event Chair organized a series of decorating sessions to get the float ready. The theme this year was “Supporting Our Troops”. So we made our float the “Let Freedom Ring” float. One of those freedoms ringing would be freedom from cancer.

The neighborhood kids proved to be very worthy helpers as Ryan and I prepared for the wedding. I checked and they were more than willing to help with the Relay for Life float as well.

Monday night, Ryan and I were accompanied by Vick and Risha. We had a hearty, but not exactly healthy, supper at Taco Bell then we met up with everyone and worked on the float!

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Vick, Debbie, Deanna Coat Front of Float
Vick, Event Chair Debbie, and Kids Walk Chair Deanna Cover the Front of the Float

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Risha Paints Magnolia Leaves
Risha Spray Paints Magnolia Leaves for the Float

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Float with Risha, Deanna and Vick
Float Coming Together on Monday Night

Thursday Ryan had a late conference call, but that didn’t mean I went alone. Khalif, Terrance, Jacal and young Malena all came to help. Our primary focus was lining the bottom of the float with little silver bells to compliment our “Let Freedom Ring” theme. The most difficult part of this operation seemed to be untangling the bells, though reloading the staple gun was a doozie as well.

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Khalif Untangles Bells
Khalif Untangles Bells

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Vicky and Terrance Hang Bells
Vicky and Terrance Hang Bells

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Vicky, Jacal, Malena Hang Bells
Vicky, Jacal and Malena Hang Bells

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Malena Sweeps
Malena Sweeps

There was plenty of time for play too. We posed for pictures and the kids had a chance to play some football.

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Khalif, Terrance, Jacal with Sign
Khalif, Terrance and Jacal with Santa’s List

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Terrance Football Catch
Terrance with the Football

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Jacal, Vicky, Malena
Jacal, Vicky and Malena Pose for Pictures

Afterwards I treated everyone to supper at their favorite Chinese restaurant.

Friday, my helpers were Vick and Risha. Only when we showed up, the float was already done! : ) So we decided to go out to eat and then took in Christmas lights before heading home.

The neighborhood kids, Ryan and I were far from the only helpers on the float. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, I thought we ended up with a great float. Despite some very chilly weather, a number of people showed up to ride the float. Two survivors were particularly determined to walk instead of ride, which was super cool because that is what I wanted to do! The people who rode on the float rang purple bells. The walkers (that’s me!) got to hand out candy to bystanders.

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Side of Float on Friday
Float Waiting for Dark

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Lit Float Tree (Far)
Our Tree and Santa’s Wish List

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Front of Float
Back of the Float – The Flags and Wreath Were Mounted By Ryan!

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Float on the Move - Truck and Front
Float on the Move

Relay for Life - Christmas Parade - Float Turns on Main Street
Float Turns on Main Street

The judges apparently liked our float as well. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, including the neighborhood kids, our float won 1st Place in the Civic category!!!

More pictures of our float and the Elizabeth City Christmas Parade are available on my Flickr site.

P.S. Touched by the efforts of neighborhood kids? With 2010 coming to a close, you still have time to make a tax-deductible donation to one of their Relay for Life donation pages:

Vick’s Donation Page
Risha’s Donation Page
Khalif’s Donation Page

December 7, 2010 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Introducing… Qubit

After our final Computer Literacy class, I went outside with two of the kids to walk the dogs and harvest pecans. Before we got off the porch, a little black whiny kitten approached. It was rather cold out, so we decided to let the kitten spend one night in the house. When I took him inside, some of the students started to celebrate the fact that Ryan and I had a new pet.

Computer Literacy - Final Test - Jacal and Kitten
Jacal with Kitten

Ryan and I both spent time trying to squelch that notion.

“He’s just spending the night and then we are taking him to the SPCA”

“Don’t get attached. He’s just spending the night.”

“No– he’s just here for one night.”

Meanwhile, the kitten quickly showed he was fond of dogs. As Jimmie sniffed the newcomer, the kitten started to purr and rub his face on Jimmie’s snout.

Elizabeth City - Kitten (by Vick)

A few days later, nine year old Tyrek stopped by to chat. In mid sentence he stopped.

“Vicky,” he said, “That kitten is still here.”

Robotically I recited our standard response, “We’re taking to him to the SPCA.” Tyrek got a big knowing grin on his face. Heck, by that time, I didn’t even sound convincing to myself!

Soon after that, we succumbed and gave the kitten a name. Since he showed up during the Computer Literacy class on The Future, we named him after a concept discussed in the lecture. We started to call him “Qubit”.

A few days later, it Christmas time. We packed the dogs and the kitten up in the car and started making family visits. The kitten further demonstrated his love of dogs by curling up into a tiny, black ball in between Jimmie and Henry in the back seat.

I believe it was in Slapstick and possibly also Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut talked about an African culture where when a new baby was born, the parents would spend months traveling around the country, so the baby could meet all of its extended family. The little kitten went on a similar tour. First we stopped by Ryan’s family’s house in Virginia Beach where Qubit was ogled over and pampered. Then we went to my parents’ house in Occoquan… where Qubit was ogled over and pampered. ūüôā

Christmas 2009 - Vic, Becky and Qubit, Clint and Lemonjello
Qubit Gets Pets and Attention

Christmas 2009 - Timmy, Qubit, Eggnog
Qubit Gets Eggnog

Qubit seemed to enjoy Christmas quite a bit. Still not intimidated in the least by dogs, he didn’t shy from my Mom’s giant yellow lab, Sunny, and he spent a lot of time playing with a miniature pincher named Willy. Willy and Qubit took turns chasing a laser pointer. Qubit and Willy also teamed up against the Christmas Tree. Qubit would climb up it and occasionally bat an ornament off. Waiting Willy would then snatch it up and run off with it. ūüôā

Christmas 2009 - Qubit Attacks Ornament
Qubit in a Christmas Tree

By the time the holiday was over, there was no denying it.

Ryan and I had a new kitten!

January 5, 2010 at 11:47 am 7 comments

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope 2010 brings you health and happiness and… that you have absolutely no need to make a trip to Walmart on Christmas Eve. ūüôā

Christmas 2009: Christmas Eve in Walmart
Vicky in Walmart on Christmas Eve 2009 (Photo courtesy of Brian Nenninger)

December 25, 2009 at 11:01 am 2 comments

Open Source Holiday Letter

For the 2008 Holiday Season, I sent out a custom-made Holiday Letter. I’m particularly pleased with the outcome, so I thought I would share.

I think a picture really does say a thousand words, so I knew I wanted to share a lot of my Flickr images. I decided to make a border around each page of the letter and fill it with some of my favorite 2008 pictures. Inside was content typical to the genre– paragraphs recapping the past year and wishing everyone well…only my content was in a font I made of my own handwriting. I also felt it was important to identify the pictures, so at the very bottom of each page, I made a footnote explaining each picture. Finally, I purposely left some white space at the bottom of the last page, so I could squeeze in personalized messages.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 1
Holiday Letter – Page 1

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 2
Holiday Letter – Page 2

And here’s what I did:


I made that font of my own handwriting at least five years ago. I don’t remember the name of the software I used, but it was free and intuitive. Pretty much I wrote out all my letters and punctuation marks on a piece of paper, I scanned it in, sliced it up into little bitmaps and imported it into the software. Now I have my own TrueType Font.

Vicky Font

If you want to make your own font, a good starting point may be So You Want to Create a Font, Part I.


All my layout work was done in good ole Microsoft Word (2003). On each page, I just made a 3 column, 3 row table. The center area was content. Each corner cell hosted one picture, everything else was filled with multiple pictures. I will admit it took a lot of patience and trial and error to get all the images sized right.

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Word Table


Once I was satisfied with my content, I wanted to prepare it for printing. Since I didn’t have my own color laser printer, I was going to have it printed for me. Both OfficeMax and FedEx Kinko’s allow you to upload documents to their website and then go pick up the printed work at a local store.

DO NOT USE OFFICEMAX. Their interface is horrid. You can’t get an online preview of your work, the order status page shows nothing of value (not even the estimated cost), and there is no convenient way to find contact information to inquire about your order. I waited five days for my promised PDF proof and it never arrived. At that point, I started calling all the numbers I could find until I was finally able to cancel my order.

OfficeMax Sucks
OfficeMax’s Online Printing Interface. Click on image to see the Flickr version with notes

DO USE FEDEX KINKO’S. I have now been extremely pleased by them two years in a row. They deliver impeccable work (last year they exceeded my expectations) and they have a great online interface. You get a full preview of your project with zoom in capabilities and every step of the way you can see the cost. And they are fast. As soon as I cancelled my OfficeMax order, I placed my FedEx Kinko’s order during a layover in Atlanta. By the time my flight landed in Roanoke, my order was ready. So I placed AND received my order on the same day.

And OfficeMax made me wait five days for nothing.

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s Printing Interface. Click on the image to see the Flickr version with notes

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s has an online preview tool so you don’t have to be emailed a proof

PDF Conversion

If you are using a typical font such as Arial, all you have to worry about is uploading Word document to the FedEx Kinko’s. In my situation, I was using that special font. It is so darn special that even a powerhouse like FedEx Kinko’s doesn’t have it. So I had to convert my document into PDF format first before sending it off. For that, I used the free PrimoPDF. No complaints.

And there you have it. My 2008 Holiday Letter. Let’s see if I can top it for 2009!

January 27, 2009 at 8:00 am 5 comments

Accuracy Through Shutter Speed

Last fall I ran into a hummingbird in Clay County, West Virginia.¬† Hummingbird’s wings can beat up to 80 times per second.¬† So to my naked eye the wings were just a blur.¬† They came out as a blur in my camera as well.

Tonight at the Garden of Lights, they included a hummingbird in the display.¬† The Christmas light version beat its wings significantly less than its real life counterpart. ¬† My naked eye could clearly see the wings flap back and forth.¬† But my camera saw things more accurately.¬† Thanks for the slow shutter speed it selected for the dark night— the hummingbird wings were also a blur!

Real Hummingbird from Clay County, WV; Fake Hummingbird from Garden of Lights

December 21, 2008 at 1:08 am 3 comments

The Garden of Lights and the Power of Subject Matter

Today Ryan Somma and I drove up to Norfolk, Virginia and had a day full of ideals and sentiment and Christmas spirit. We started off visiting the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Chrysler Musuem. Next we caught a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Naro Cinema (I had actually never seen that film before!). We had supper and then the grand finale– Driving through the “Garden of Lights” at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

I’m on a Christmas Light streak! In 2006, I toured lights in Wichita, Kansas. In 2007, I got to see Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights in Evansville, Indiana. There were some surprising similarities, particularly the Christmas Dragon.

So for 2008 in Norfolk, Virginia, I expected to see more of the same and it appeared that way as we inched by familiar looking lollipops, snowflakes and candycanes waiting to enter the park.

Candycanes, Lollypops and Gingerbread Men

But once we paid our entrance fee, there was a definite theme to the lights:


I had figured the “Garden” in “Garden of Lights” was simply a reference to the locale. But it truly was a Garden of Lights! They had trees, apples, spiderwebs, caterpillars, pumpkins, daisies, butterflies, tulips, roses, fall leaves, mushrooms. They even had a waterfall and a nice little lighted river.

A Netherlands section? Tulips and Windmills!

Nature: Flower, Caterpillar, Mushroom, Butterfly, Flower


Pumpkins and behind it– a very giant spiderweb

A Waterfall and a Creek Comprised of Lights (plus some corn)

The summer of 1988, my father and I played in a Regional Bridge Tournament up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While we competed, my mother and my two siblings went site-seeing. One day they went to this awesome wax musuem. Both my brother and my sister raved about how cool it was and all the historic characters depicted in the museum. They got to see that and I was stuck looking at the same set of 52 cards for 8 hours. I was soooooo jealous. (Note: During my bridge career I also found myself jealous of the caddies who got to sit around and shoot rubberbands at each other all day, so it really didn’t take all that much to spark my envy).

I probably pestered my partner (a.k.a Dad) relentlessly about poor me and how deprived I was because I missed out on the wax museum. I say this because at the very next bridge tournament, my father promptly found a wax museum and took me to it. So just like the Baby Cry and Dry incident in the early eighties when Santa forget what I wanted, my Daddy was the hero, right?

Well….this tournament was in Nashville, Tennessee and instead of familiar founding fathers, Dad and I got to look at likenesses of Country Music stars. Country Music, a genre I would not really be exposed to for 20 more years when I developed a fondness for Taylor Swift. So the only person I recognized in the entire museum was…Dolly Parton. Looking at wax strangers wasn’t all that fun.

I was thirteen years old at the time and my conclusion from that experience was:

Subject matter makes a difference in wax museums.

Tonight I am two decades wiser and I have a corollary. I believe subject matter makes a difference in Christmas lights as well. Don’t get me wrong– I definitely enjoyed the lights in Wichita and Evansville.

But I really, really, really, enjoyed the lights in Norfolk.

And more picture of those lights can be found on my Flickr site.

December 21, 2008 at 12:40 am 3 comments

Fun with Bubble Wrap

On Saturday, I went accompanied my friend Tony to his company Christmas party. This party was also open to employee children and they planned a few activities targeted for the younger attendees. Santa, of course, made an appearance and even without the aid of Zwarte Piet, he managed to hand out gifts.

But more uniquely…. they had a Bubble Wrap Stomp. They laid out giant sheets of bubble wrap to make a dance floor. All the kids gathered around and when the music began– they kids got to stomp!

I got a video of the very beginning.

And some pictures to boot!

Enjoying the Holiday Bubble Wrap

More fun with Bubble Wrap

Popping and Dancing

This kid was sort of doing an tilted version of the Running Man

The event was educational too. These children discovered when they roll, they had more surface area.

The children had an excellent time and I have to say– it was pretty entertaining for the adults as well. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant.

More pictures from Tony’s Company Christmas Party are available on my Flickr site.

December 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

More on Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights

So maybe the Christmas Dragon isn’t exactly unique.¬† There were still a lot of displays at¬†Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights which were new to me.¬† I was particularly impressed with some of the animated displays.¬† As I navigated the one-mile route through Garvin Park, I occassionally made the poor car behind me wait while I took pictures, so I might as well share some of my favorites.

A sampling of the displays, with a biker in the foreground.

An elf skateboards a half-pipe with moderately more success than Jake Brown

A cool flag, lion and lamb

A golfer swings and hits his ball

Christmas light cow

This one could be unique– a race car with the state of Indiana drawn on the door

My favorite animated one– Santa throws a hook shot over the road.

More pictures of Evansville, Indiana (including their Fantasy of Lights) can be found on my Flickr site.

December 10, 2007 at 12:00 pm 4 comments

Attack of the Christmas Dragons

Last year in late December, I was on a business trip in Wichita, Kansas.¬† Even if I can’t rollerblade or geocache, I do try to get outside and explore places when I’m on a trip.¬† So the week before Christmas, I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Wichita looking at Christmas lights.¬† For the most part, the light entities were expected– toy soldiers, wreaths, lollipops, trees.¬† Then I came across something I thought was pretty unique.¬† A Christmas… Dragon.¬† I snapped a picture of it:

Christmas Dragon in Wichita, Kansas 2006

Last week, I visited Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights in Evansville, Indiana.¬† It is a drive-thru display of lights in Garvin Park brought to you by numerous volunteer groups including Easter Seals, Kiwanis, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association and local Teamsters.¬† Alone it’s pretty impressive, and with my previous experience, it managed to expose Wichita as not being as unique as I had originally thought:

Christmas Dragon in Evansville, Indiana 2007

It turns out the concept of Christmas Dragons isn’t all that¬†outrageous either.¬† A quick Google search uncovers a healthy population.¬† There is a Christmas Dragon play.¬† You can get a Christmas Dragon cross-stitch pattern.¬† One artist uses dragons each year in her holiday cards.¬† And in case you want to lead a class in drawing your their own versions, there is an article on “How to Draw a Christmas Dragon

How about that?¬† Kansas and Indiana may not sound like¬†glorious destinations, but together they revealed one of mythology’s most fantastic creatures¬†is alive and well… and apparently Christian.

December 9, 2007 at 6:45 pm 4 comments


Tonight, my former employer had their annual Christmas Party.¬† I still have a great number of friends at that company and in some Christmas Parties past there had been DANCING.¬† So I really, really¬†wanted to go.¬† But alas, I’m not employed there… I needed some kind of plan.¬†¬† Luckily, in the computer industry, there are a lot of single guys.¬† So I solicited a few of my former colleagues to see if they needed¬†a date.¬† No one seemed to be particularly interested in my escort services until about 15 minutes before the festivities began!¬†¬†

Kevin and Eric called me and asked if I wanted to tag along with them.  Booyah!  I shed my cameo pants and my Virginia Tech hoodie and then I put on some contacts, makeup and a blue dress.  Our timing was perfectРKevin and Eric arrived just as I finished re-blowdrying my hair.

We made our way to the Inn at Virginia Tech and when¬†we first entered the ballroom, the surprise was evident.¬†¬†A number people gasped and someone uttered, “Oh… my… gawd!”

I expected people to be surprised, but I didn’t expect a reaction to that extent!¬† I immediately smiled and started waving to all my former co-workers.

It was when people rushed up and ran behind me that I realized….¬† No one was surprised by *ME*.¬† They were all surprised that Eric was there.¬† It turns out this was the first time he had been to a company Christmas Party in six years.¬†


Well, I may not have surprised people, but I did have a good time.¬† I got to visit with a lot of people I haven’t seen much of this past year.¬† I found two people who want to sign up for Virginia AT License plates¬†and I got to have a lengthy discussion about American Chestnuts with a man who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail in 1987.¬† I left the event quite pleased.

December 2, 2007 at 12:13 am 1 comment

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