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Christmas is Coming!

As if I needed to tell you that. Around these parts things are coming together very nicely. I've even received an early Christmas present from Apple. They may have given me the run-around regarding the purchase of AppleCare+, however, when it comes to making up, they know what they are doing. Multiple emails came for tracking the gift and HERE it is, with photos to prove it.
Fed Ex delivered it Monday afternoon while I was making cookies which you'll be seeing soon enough. Pretty glamorous on the outside--the inside is as well:

I'm not a naturally bling type of girl but I'm making an exception in this case (no pun intended.) Love it! I've yet to use it because as you already know I've been getting ready for Christmas. Jonathan and Alissa are set to arrive on Thursday evening around midnight. He offered to get a cab but I told him we were tough; he'd have a ride. Maybe I should make that Bruce is tough because undoubtedly he'll be the chauffeur.
Thursday is a big flying day for not only Jonathan and Alissa, but Bruce will be flying, as will Matt and Angela. I'm set to take them to the airport around 4 for their flight to Seattle to see his parents. She's offered Jonathan her guest bedroom in case they aren't happy with the smaller room they've now been assigned to at our house. Over the weekend Bruce put up the folding bed, which from all accounts is pretty comfortable. We'll see if they want to sleep at the Hotel Stromberg.

The gingerbread. For over thirty years I've been using the same recipe from Bruce's mom. His mom made a wide variety of cookies at Christmas, some of which I've never mastered. It's funny that I can hardly recall Christmas cookies from my childhood with the exception of Russian Tea Cakes and Buckeyes. RTC are so scrumptious but with so few folks around the house these days, I rarely make them. BUT, I always make gingerbread. This year it rolled out like a charm. Instead of that silly snowflake cutter I made a bunch of hearts, because, after all, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Love, my friends.
Naturally, I made some gingerbread men or in this house I like to think of them as boys. Using the new frosting idea also worked like a charm.
They really aren't all that pretty because I'm not much of a cookie decorator, however, they taste great which is what's most important. Isn't it? Angela hosted a cookie party on Saturday for her friend Stephanie. The ladies all brought cookies with tasting and judging following. Apparently, the pecan tarts won. The plate of leftovers Angela brought over did not have any tarts because they were all gone so I can't say. I will say that most of the ones on the plate were pretty mediocre.  Herb and Corrine received this little treat box from me yesterday afternoon. Sugar cookies and gingerbread.
You may have guessed that it's a Martha Stewart product which I picked up at Marshalls. Speaking of Marshalls, Nancy has gone and got herself a job at a Marshalls in Memphis. I'm quickly learning how the place runs. She's getting along just fine despite being reprimanded for being a perfectionist!

After my cookie baking marathon I decided that you might like to see an Orlando tradition. Heading out into the dark (rarely do I go anywhere at night!), I drove downtown, parking on Rosalind under some large street lamps. This article explains in depth about how one man kept this 1950's tradition alive.
Yes, it is the famous, or at least to me, Christmas star, hung over the very center of Orlando, the corner of Orange Avenue and Central. Taking my tripod with me, I set up a long exposure which explains the red streaks from passing cars just above the street. I am really a complete moron when it comes to this type of photography. I just keep trying.  The lit building in the background is the SunTrust building, the bank which David works for. Actually, of all my children, he's held pretty much the same job for the longest period of time. While still a student at Valencia Community College, his then girlfriend suggested he get a job at SunTrust as what was then called a "peak time" teller. This must have been at least ten years ago. Working mostly on Mondays and Fridays he did just that. He's been there ever since, working his way up, after earning his degree in Economics, to be the youngest stock broker (for lack of a better term) they had ever hired. These days he works in Wealth Management; he is a complete whiz when it comes to all things financial.

So, another major Orlando icon is our fountain. Because, as mentioned above, I so rarely go out at night, I'd only seen the refurbished Lake Eola fountain once or twice before. Driving the few blocks to the lake, I set up once again, adjacent to the City Christmas tree.
The fountain glowed red and green which I assumed was set that way for Christmas. I assumed wrong. Getting closer to the lake, I was absolutely amazed when the fountain began going ballistic with color. I snapped away, or at least as quickly as a one minute exposure will allow one to do so.
Hot pink shooting way into the air, followed by a multi-colored effect which bounced around the bottom. Hard to describe.
Unfortunately, because of the long exposure and then some in-camera processing time, every time it would shoot up in the air, the camera would be processing. This, I must try again on maybe the Robinson side of the street because it was pretty fun. There were lots of folks out running, walking their dogs and enjoying the light show.

Yesterday was my wrapping marathon. As in about four straight hours. Although many of the gifts were purchased in mid-summer,  they were stored in my office closet waiting to be wrapped. Note to self--wrap when you purchase! Before I really got into it, the cardinals were driving me crazy with their chirping. To date, I've yet to get a really good cardinal picture. Because it is still so warm, I had the front door open with a clear shot looking at the Nuttery.  Mr. Cardinal is a fast one! Still not a great shot ,but one thing it shows is my new plan. Mixing sunflower and safflower seeds in hopes that the birds will be happy and the squirrels won't.
Mrs. Cardinal was hanging around the other feeder, taking refuge in the new oak tree. I shot her through the window but then decided to sneak outdoors and see if I could get something better.
I love that sparkle in her eye! As I kept standing there hoping she'd get out a bit from the leaves, she flew away.
It's really surprising how red she is underneath isn't it? Too bad I wasn't focused on her but I thought showing you the red was worthwhile. Are you bored yet? Actually, the funny thing is that this morning I've not heard any birds, whereas yesterday it was a bird fest around here. Gotta get them while you can.

Finally, speaking of oak leaves, the street sweeper came the other day making me a happy girl. Between our big oak and our neighbor's seven gigantic oak trees, things get very, very messy this time of the year.

Christmas is indeed coming; only four more days. Wonder what Santa will bring?

Off to the grocery store,
Gail
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