Sunday, December 23, 2012

Getting into the holiday spirit

 December 15-23, Zephyrhills, Florida

This is the second Christmas in a row that we have spent in Zephyrhills, Florida. My mom used to live here before she died in May of 2011 and I have a brother, aunt, nieces, and their families here so we planned to be in this part of Florida for the holidays. Last year, my youngest son was also here and my youngest brother and his wife joined us from the Keys. This year, both my sons are in Oregon and my aunt who lives here is back in Chicago with her children as she just lost her husband at the end of November. The mood here has been a bit more subdued this year but we have managed to find ways to get in the holiday spirit.

One thing we decided to do was sign up to attend the Christmas Dance here at the park.  A funny story about it was that we were getting dressed up for a holiday party when I looked at the tickets and they noticed for the first time that they said Country Christmas Dance with pictures of cowboy boots and hats surrounding the ticket information. With about an hour before we were to go, we had to revise our clothing plans to fit the country theme. I was delighted to have an opportunity to wear my cowboy boots and just paired them with a black skirt and sequined white blouse.  Vic switched to jeans and a black shirt with a bit of longing for cowboy boots himself, but oh well—he has had plenty of opportunities to indulge in some and keeps resisting.

couples dancing

The entertainment for the night was a one man “band,” Karl Sapp, who did a great job of playing a variety of danceable songs. He played the guitar well but his best feature was his smooth sounding country voice.

xmas dance entertainer

Most of the songs were country two-steps, but we managed to do a few waltzes, some west coast swing, and even one country style cha cha. There is a group here at the park who practices line dances once a week, so those were popular too. Vic got up and joined in a couple and I did one cha cha line dance—but I prefer to dance with a partner.

line dancing

We sat with a lively group at one big table (there were about 100+ folks there) and had fun getting to know some new folks. They had a huge potluck of appetizers and everyone brought their own drinks, so the only cost for the night was $5 per ticket. Certainly one of our more budget friendly experiences. 

duck on bottle

During this past week, I have stayed busy with mailing presents, baking holiday goodies, taking a trip to drop off my aunt and pick up my brother at the Tampa airport, and going new camera shopping at Costco and Best Buy.  (I ruined my little point and shoot when I capsized in the kayak.)  With my aunt in Chicago, I have also taken on the daily duty of feeding her cat and giving it some attention while she is gone. I feel a special affinity to the cat as it was my mother’s before my aunt adopted her after my mother’s death.

And so this is Christmas in Florida. The weather has been a bit up and down with a pretty good rainstorm earlier in the week and then we have had what they call a cold spell here for the past three days (with nighttime temperatures dropping as low as 30 which is cold for these parts.)  I have actually enjoyed the crisp air which makes it feel a bit more like Christmas around here. Truthfully, my ideal Christmas is about a week somewhere in a cabin with snow then fly off to a tropical escape somewhere. But I am not complaining about the sunshine that is almost a daily event here, even with chilly temps. Probably the biggest difference for us spending Christmas in our motorhome is being away from our children, grandchildren, and closest friends. I also miss the decorating I did in our home as well as the entertaining.  What I don’t miss is how much exchanging presents seemed to be more out of control when we were in our home.  We definitely have cut back on the mass gift giving and seem to be less caught up in the commercialism of the season. For many years of my life, I spent Christmas Eve delivering homemade German stollen to friends’ doorsteps and wrapping presents till after midnight. My favorite part of Christmas in Oregon was drinking coffee or a cappuccino by a roaring fire on Christmas morning.  It has been cold enough here to have an outdoor fire but, alas, this park does not provide fire rings.  I would really like to have our own, but so far we have resisted adding another thing to store in our “basement.”

manhattanThe cold weather last night made it a perfect time to check out a Dade City Christmas event on historic Church Street featuring luminaries lining the street, festive decorations of turn of the century homes and churches, musical performances, living nativities, and choir performances. it was also fitting in terms of the chilly weather that they served hot chocolate and coffee at different stops along the way. We started the evening with a holiday drink at one of my favorite restaurants in the area, the Kafe Kokapelli, just a few blocks away, which was also festively decorated for Christmas.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the Christmas stroll of Church Street. It turned out to be amazing with at least eight blocks of historic homes and churches that were specially decorated for this event. The streets along the whole way were lined with luminaries, one of my favorite ways to light up a driveway or street for a special occasion.

The best part of the walk, aside from some incredible lighting and decorations, was the entertainment along the way.  Private homes had carolers, flutists, jazz bands, and even one with a conductor pretending to be directing a synchronized light show.  The churches had choir concerts inside, Christmas readings, and living nativities outside.

The houses themselves were beautifully decorated in a style that often complemented the vintage of the home. One home in particular really took my breath away, especially after discovering we were welcome to go on their front porch and peek inside.  There were screens on some of the windows, so the photos are blurry, but I tried to capture the incredible beauty of this home inside.

I have always loved beautiful light displays at Christmas. I think this lust for lights hearkens back to my youth and the tradition of walking along State Street in Chicago, then later spending Christmases in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my mom and her husband lit up their whole property in a winter wonderland display at their restaurant overlooking Lake Superior. Poor Vic has had to contend with this ideal of mine. In our full-time travel, I have settled for just a few strings of white lights inside the motorhome, a small tree on the dash, lots of led candles flickering each night, and a large string of twinkling snowflakes outside hanging from our awning. I also filled a basket with some wonderful pine cones I collected from our campground in Bend, Oregon. Gotta have a touch of "home."

I leave you with a little collage of the homes on the Dade City Church Street walk.  May you have a special holiday that lights up your spirit and warms your soul.

church street houses


  1. Glad you enjoyed the Dade Christmas. I wish we could have joined you, but we were just way too far behind! Looking forward to seeing you next week. Merry Christmas.

  2. I love enjoying the decorating efforts of others. I'll have to see where there might be some lights around JAX to go enjoy.

  3. Love Cowgirl boots, country line dancing and the two step! What fun!!
    Beautiful pictures of the lovely seasonal decorations. I really love that you can WALK to see these things. I always hate having to drive around to see the lights. Agree totally with your idea of the perfect Christmas. Snowy cabin and then tropical bliss. But only if Carrie will be there too.


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