Last December, as our Christmas present to each other, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We stayed at the Parkside Williamsburg Resort, which is just a few miles from downtown Williamsburg. We had visited in April 2009, and I had always wanted to see it again during the holidays. CW has many events, programs, and activities every day of the week, so you have to plan ahead and choose what you want to do. Their website www.colonialwilliamsburg.com has a detailed calendar and a printable PDF of the weekly events. After checking out the schedule, we decided that we could see what we wanted to on one very long Saturday. HOWEVER, if you go and have time, you could easily fill three or four days seeing and attending all that is available. I had to prioritize for this visit.
On Friday afternoon we drove down from Richmond and decided to hit the massive and amazing Yankee Candle store in Williamsburg. It was surprisingly not very crowded, which made it even better. This store is huge, with every Yankee candle scent they make available to sniff and purchase. They also have Christmas decorations galore. There are Christmas villages on display, a room with permanent Christmas trees where it snows every few minutes, gifts of all kinds, and in December kids can visit Santa! If you visit, give yourself lots of time to browse all the goodies. Our tip: if you find something there you think you want, don’t wait until Sunday morning before you are heading out of town to drop in and pick it up…that’s when the entire population of Williamsburg brings their kids to see Santa (and buy tons of candles). The lines get long, but the staff is super efficient and they keep it moving well.
A pleasant surprise was Rick’s Cheese Steak on Prince George Street. It isn’t fancy, but the cheesesteaks were way better than what we had in Philly. Sorry, Philly!
Next morning we were up bright and early to get breakfast at Colonial Pancake House. We enjoyed our meal then headed to Historic Colonial Williamsburg. You can walk from the Visitor’s Center over to the Historic Area, or you can take a shuttle bus. We opted to walk. Happily, the weather was fabulous for early December. It was cold but sunny, and there wasn’t much wind. Our plan was to walk around and look at some of the historic houses, catch a couple of programs, make absolutely sure we got lunch at the King’s Arms Tavern, pop in to a few more buildings and programs, take the decorations walking tour in the afternoon, tour the Governer’s Palace late in the day, watch the Illumination on the Palace Green, and finish up with another Christmas themed walking tour.
We attended the Rare Breeds program, where they explain about the heritage animals they keep and their breeding programs.
We did make it to lunch at the Kings’ Arms, which is a “refined chophouse” with authentic period decor but a menu that has been adapted to 21st-century tastes, and we knew exactly what to order. Norfolk Pottage Pye: “Tender Chicken and aromatic Vegetables made into a creamy Stew and baked beneath a flaky Pastry Shell”, which is a lovely way to describe the very best chicken pot pie ever. I had this when we visited in 2009 and had to get it again. It might sound like we came all the way back just for a chicken pot pie. Well, maybe. It is really good. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture!
The Christmas Decorations Walking Tour was fun and very informative. All the decorations are fabricated with natural elements or things that would have been available to the residents of Colonial Williamsburg. Of course, during that time period, no one in their right mind would stick a bunch of apples and pineapples out on the front of their house to look pretty, or indeed even spend time and effort decorating outdoors for Christmas, but times have changed and it sure does look good! The wreaths are intricate and cleverly designed to reflect the occupation of the building’s owner; for instance, a tavern might include pewter tankards in their decorations.
All the fruit is real and is frequently replaced as it starts to look bad. There is a dedicated little group of people who go around checking all the decorations and refreshing them so they always look picture perfect.
After this bracing and fun tour, we felt like warming up, as the wind had picked up a bit and it was pretty cold. We were able to attend the tasting at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse. This is a restored building that was once a social hub for all kinds of meetings. You have a choice between coffee and chocolate–prepared in a more or less historically accurate way. We opted for chocolate. This is not “hot cocoa” from a packet. It is very thick and not very sweet. They have cream and sugar on the tables and I added both to make it really yummy. It’s like drinking a candy bar from a tiny cup.
Our next stop was the Governor’s Palace, where we opted to go on our own instead of on a guided tour. The sun set while we were inside, and they have a few candles lit but it is REALLY dark in there. I was gawking up at the hundreds of muskets on the wall in the stairwell, missed a step, and pulled a muscle in my calf. Oh. My. Word. Had to sit down for a little bit, but there was more to see and we were leaving the next day. So I limped slowly through the rest of our visit, even though my sweet husband kept offering to go get the car and take me back to the condo.
The Illumination of the Palace Green was exciting. By then it was totally dark. Visitors assembled on and around the Green and the CW staff lit the cressets in front of the buildings, muskets were fired, and then the fife and drum corps played and marched down the center of the green as the crowd parted before them.
We had time to kill before our last walking tour so we went outside of the Historic District to Williamsburg proper, past the skating rink, visited a couple of cute gift shops, and had some great pizza for dinner. Then I hobbled back into the Historic District to join our last tour. It was interesting and a little sad. They took us through four time periods on Christmas Eve in Williamsburg and the struggles people went through.
All done (and done in!), we started limping back toward the Visitor’s Center where the car was parked. Fortunately, we were able to catch one of the shuttle buses halfway and ride the rest of the way back. It’s a lovely walk but less so in the dark when it’s 40 degrees.
I had borrowed my husband’s Fitbit for the day and logged 9 miles of walking–about one and a half after my little accident with the stairs. It was all worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would, however, be more careful on the stairs.
If you get the opportunity to visit the Williamsburg area, I highly recommend it. There are so many things to do and see that you could easily spend at least a week.
One of the things people love most about a fresh Christmas tree or wreath is the amazing scent. We don’t have a fresh tree or wreath so far this year, but I do happen to have a bottle of Rocky Mountain Oils Spruce oil so I just put about ten drops of the oil all along this little pine cone and nestled it among the branches of the tree. I don’t recommend placing essential oils directly ON your artificial tree branches, as they might melt your needles. Pine or fir oil would be wonderful, but I don’t have those on hand so spruce will have to do.
Right now I am diffusing 3 drops of the Spruce oil and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract– yes, just the regular real vanilla baking extract I get in a big bottle from Sam’s Club. (Disclaimer–don’t do this if you are worried about voiding your diffuser warranty.) Mine is long expired, so I walk on the wild side.
I figure I will need to refresh the pine cone every few days to keep it smelling amazing.
Do you have any tips on making your tree smell “real”?
Years ago, my brother-in-law and his wife gifted us a little ceramic Texaco station for Christmas. They gave us two more over the years, and since you can’t have a village composed solely of filling stations, I had to get more little houses. I added one or two little buildings each year until they outgrew my display space.
Here’s how I set up a very simple village display on a buffet in our living room. One tip for a nicer display is varying the heights on your houses. You can use anything underneath, but I use the foam packing boxes that the houses are stored in. They are white and sturdy. I have twelve buildings so I put six foam inserts on the back of the buffet.
Then I set all the houses in place on the buffet. They all have light bulbs that go inside so I have to get the bulbs and cords arranged. I put the houses on the floor in order, then lay out the cords on the buffet with bulbs in place. If you have at least five houses, I highly recommend a multi bulb string so you don’t have so many cords to plug in. I have two 5 bulb strings and use a 2 bulb string to get the last couple of houses. I fiddle around with this until it makes sense. Tip: check your bulbs to make sure they all work at this point. These generally take a 4 watt bulb. I use a power strip to light the village because I need at least three outlets and you can easily switch the whole village on and off. I store it with the village so there is no hunting it down every Christmas.
Christmas villages must sit on a blanket of snow (it helps hide the cords!), so I use a length of cotton batting. You can find these with the Christmas decorations or get some from the fabric or craft store. There are different thicknesses available. The one I have now is on the thin side but it works. I would love to create a Styrofoam village base at some point, but this is not the year for that project.
Once the cords and bulbs are in place, I drape the “snow” over them. At this point I used scissors to cut little slits so the bulbs will fit through them and carefully worked the bulbs through the “snow”.
Next I placed the houses in their spots, putting the light bulbs in the houses as I go. Some fit through the bottom and some go through the back.
Once they are in place, I add little goodies like figurines, trees, and firewood. I made a little pond from an old locker mirror with some cotton around the edges. The tiny “logs” are maple branches I cut up with pruners.
Tired of shopping at the standard retail establishments for your Christmas gifts? Consider supporting small business owners instead! I will feature some of these entrepreneurs from time to time here at HoI, and my first one is Julie Siess.
Julie is the mother of two adorable girls, married to a wonderful husband, with a very energetic dog named Danny. She lives in Missouri but can ship to you.
Julie runs two businesses aside from her day job. The first, Absolutely Brilliant Jewelry, has stunning bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Her gallery is on Facebook on the page Absolutely Brilliant Jewelry. Here’s the link to the page: https://www.facebook.com/Absolutely-Brilliant-Jewelry-224038260974664/ Right now she has a Christmas special on some of her pieces, silver plated earrings are $5 each or 2 for $10.
As you can see, these are intricately crafted and are made of high-quality materials.
Below are a few more examples of her work…my December favorites are the little crystal Christmas trees.
This is just a tiny sample of the things she makes, go take a look at her FB page to see more.
Julie’s other business is Mary Kay. She is running a personal Christmas special of fuzzy socks (black, gray, hot pink, purple, orange, turquoise and lime green socks available) and Mint Bliss lotion…gift wrapped for $15. She will ship for an additional $5, but if your purchase is over $100, shipping is free! Mary Kay orders over $100 will get a 15% discount.
Wow y’all. It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. In the past 8 days, I have cooked THREE turkeys for three different Thanksgiving events (one for church, two for family) and so to say I am turkey-ed out would be an understatement. This year I did finally pop for a shiny red electric roaster and was not disappointed. It was great, my oven was free, and it cleaned up easily. I also learned a valuable lesson: do not try to use an oven bag inside an electric roaster.
Today the temperature here is 72 degrees with a 22 mph south wind. I just stuffed all my fall decorations back in the basement and am trying to work up the energy to shove the Christmas boxes up the stairs.
I have found that no matter how reluctant I am to get the Christmas decor up, I ALWAYS feel much better/relaxed/festive/whathaveyou once they are in place. Psychoanalysts say people who put up that tree early are happier than those who do not (tap into that inner child!), and there is an actual study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology that shows people who put up outdoor decorations are perceived as more friendly and approachable.