“Ding! Dong! Ding!”


Prague had been on my radar from quite some time. I know, I know, a stark Eastern European city in the short days of late Autumn isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but then again, I’m known for quirky travel choices. Case in point- Iceland over Spring break- but I digress…

Last year I convinced my niece Noelle and my “adopted niece” Jess to hop across the pond and visit Prague and experience the Christmas markets in Vienna. When we found out there were approximately twelve markets in the city, Noelle asked how many I’d like to visit. My answer was immediate and incredulous…


After spending a little time in Amsterdam, we arrived in Vienna running solely on coffee and adrenaline. We had been up for 30+ hours, but I would not/could not go to sleep before visiting at least one market. While Noelle and Jess had visions of a warm toasty bed, they could NOT allow someone 20+ years their senior, to stroll the Spittelberg Christkindlmarkt without them. Once we arrived, I believe they got their second wind, because we dropped our bags and were off!


We had the most beautiful raclette, rosemary spiraled potatoes, and warm fruit cider and made our way back to the hotel to drift into slumberland -three very happy world travelers!


The next couple of days we crisscrossed the city visiting a total of seven Christmas Markets and collecting souvenir mugs from each one. Somehow my number of mugs far surpassed the number of markets, but then I’ve never been great at math. It was everything a hard-core Christmas lover could ever dream of!

I was truly mesmerized!


After stuffing ourselves with sacre torte, amazing Viennese coffee and still sloshing from the gallons of mulled cider we had ingested, we were off to the Czech Republic!

Our first night in Prague, we had a leisurely stroll through the streets of the city. We visited St. Wenceslas Square and soaked up the history. While taking in the sights, my niece Noelle, with her trained musician’s ear, heard the faint sound of bells pealing in the distance. Her pace quickened until she was running toward it. Soon Jess and I were on her heels. We followed the beautiful ringing until the narrow street spilled out onto one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen!


It was truly like a scene from a storybook. A dramatic neo-Gothic church with soaring spires served as the backdrop for a quaint and heartwarmingly festive Christmas market.

As I write, I can still feel my heart swell with the emotions evoked by this picture-perfect setting.

I have loved Christmas my entire life. When my Grandparents passed away several years ago, I feared I had lost some of the joy and anticipation. They had been so closely tied to nearly every warm holiday memory, but when the Christmas season neared that year, I felt the familiar stirring- the same stirring I now felt standing in one of the most be beautiful places I’d even seen, with some of my favorite people!

Until next time, Veselé Vánoce (Merry Christmas) today and everyday!

Aunt Zip



“Patty Heaton Is My BFF”


“Where has the year gone?”

How many times have you heard that said? Well, if you hang with the over 40 set, that number could be staggering.

Let me bump it up by one, by asking… where HAS the year gone?

I’m a huge fan of Patricia Heaton. My sister Wendy thinks that she and… oh whatever that Duggar woman’s name is… would be best friends if they ever met.

Can you keep a secret?

I think the same thing about me and Patty Heaton.

If you watched “Everybody Loves Raymond” and now watch “The Middle”, you understand the genius that is Patricia Heaton.

Two of my favorite episodes in both “Raymond” and “Middle” deal with a Christmas letter.

Debra (Raymond) AND Frankie (Middle) try, without success to write the perfect Christmas letter. A letter which conveys to the extended family and friends what an amazing year the family has had.

They both end is utter failure, but because it’s Patty Heaton…humorously so!

My new bff and I both understand the need to look back this time of year.

We want to take stock. We want to know that our lives have moved in a positive direction. We want to believe we have gained something other than extra pounds and a stronger addiction to fair trade coffee.

One thing I hope I have gained this year, is a greater understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

I love having my house smell of pine and twinkle with lights. I love listening to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and The Carpenter’s “Home for Christmas”.

I love crying through sappy Hallmark movies and curling up for the umpteenth reading of “A Christmas Carol”.

I love sitting in the family room at my Dad’s house singing Christmas songs with my sisters, nieces and nephews. I love watching the little ones tear into packages and hear the crackling fire in my Mom’s bonus room.

But, it all means nothing if I don’t take a little time to kneel before the King of Kings and offer Him a gift. The gift of me…

Until next time… Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip










“Why DID Santa Come to Pike Street at 7:30?”



It’s a beautifully sunny 52 degrees in Middle Tennessee this morning. I’m drinking coffee from my favorite Pottery Barn Christmas mug and listening to “The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas”- on vinyl.

Christmas is the only time in the “long calendar of the year” when I will willingly listen to the likes of Dolly Parton, Elvis and The Beach Boys- as long as they are crooning their favorite Christmas songs.

Dickens seems to be my go-to author this time of year. This morning as I sit on my comfy sofa, the “A Christmas Carol” scene in which Scrooge squeals “I’m as giddy as a school girl” seems apropos. As non-traditional as it may seem, my mental picture includes the Jim Carrey animated version of our favorite curmudgeon.

I AM giddy this time of year!

I love the crisp feel in the air. I love the turning leaves. I love the scent of wood-burning fires.

I may even bake a pumpkin pie today…no, really, I might!

I don’t know about you, but I’m already planning my Christmas decor. I was thrilled one day this week to walk out of my office and into a conversation among co-workers concerning real vs fake trees. One co-worker said that at my urging she bought a real tree last year and LOVED it!  She will likely never go back. And furthermore, she was encouraging someone else to do the same.

There is just something so traditional and familiar about walking into your home and being greeted by the scent of a fresh Douglas Fir. I’ll never forget the year we had a tree so large we had to finish decorating it from the second floor landing. It was, in a word, glorious!

This morning as I explained to my 5 year old Shih Tzu what a “record” was and why we have to flip it over (what? you don’t talk to your dog this way??) I remembered where I used to buy my records as a kid. We had a mall in our area, but as a young kid, we didn’t go there often. Most of our shopping time was spent in K-Mart or GC Murphy. Both had restaurants, but GC Murphy had a lunch counter. One of my most enjoyable childhood Christmas memories is of sitting at that lunch counter after the Christmas parade, drinking hot chocolate.

We lost our Grandparents ten years ago. My Grandfather passed in May and Grandma in September. We grieved. We grieved deeply. My grandparents were more like parents to me and most of my sisters. I didn’t know how we could celebrate Christmas that year. I was fairly certain I wouldn’t feel the joy of the holiday as I always had. They were such a big part of our celebrations.

As I try to type this, my eyes have begun to well with tears. I remember a Fall day much like this one, ten years ago, when through the grief I felt that old familiar stirring. My grief had not taken my child-like love of the season.

I was incredibly relieved. My grandparents were such a huge part of why I loved Christmas. Like riding around in the station wagon singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve and running up the front walk to peer into the huge picture window to find that Santa had come. Funny, but I don’t ever remember questioning why Santa came to Pike Street at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve.

I can’t fully explain how happy I was to find that my memories of my wonderful (there isn’t really a descriptor “grand” enough) grandparents had broken through the grief and enabled us to enjoy the holidays just a few short months after their passing.

Memories are powerful.

That may be a masterpiece of understatement.

Memories are what make Christmas so special to us crazy Christmas people!

Sure, I’m looking forward to all the fun times I will have this year. I am looking forward to our annual Christmas Eve dinner at Dad’s and Christmas morning eating McHappy’s donuts and opening mounds of gifts at Mom’s house. I can’t wait to take Alex, Zach and Jen to New York the day after Christmas. I’m excited about the holiday plans I have with my friends in Nashville before I head home for Christmas. And I’m looking even further into the future to Christmas NEXT year with my newest little niece or nephew (due in April).

But, Christmas isn’t Christmas without our memories.

As Scrooge said:

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.”


Until next time…

Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip


“No More Sleeps!”

Christmas 012

Leona Lewis has a new Christmas record this year. If you haven’t heard it, it’s fantastic. There is a song on it called “One More Sleep”. I think we can nearly all relate to counting down the “sleeps” til Christmas!

I know I’ve been counting them down. As of this morning… NO more sleeps til I’m snug as a bug in my childhood home surrounded by, as Clark Griswold would say, “kith and kin”.

This morning I packed up my car and my furry little boy and headed…

HOME for Christmas!

I’m looking forward to seeing my nearly manic nieces and nephews dive head-long into the mounds of gifts and food tonight at our Christmas Eve celebration at Dad’s house. And then a very similar scene at my Mom’s house Christmas morning. I can’t wait to see my thirteen nieces and nephews open their gifts and against all odds, I may have even bought something my Dad will actually like this year! (Cue the fireworks and heavenly choir!)

In all the ear-splitting, mega-decibel craziness, it is truly heartwarming to know that my family will not forget the true meaning of this most beloved holiday. After we’ve cleared out the knee-high piles of torn wrapping paper and ribbon, we will once again join our voices and sing the traditional songs of the season.

In three (occasionally four) part family harmony, we will sing “Silent Night” and remember the birth of the God who robed himself in flesh.

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip

“Happy Holidays!” Oops!


“What is your favorite Christmas song?”

Now there’s a question for which I never seem to have a good answer…

I love the sacred beauty of “O Holy Night” and “Gloria!” and the sentimentality of Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.

No song can put a smile on my face quite so quickly as Burl Ives “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

But I also feel (if I may paraphrase Scrooge) giddy as a school girl when I hear the opening strains of Bing Crosby’s “Happy Holiday”.

Happy holidays, happy holidays
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your every wish come true

“Wait, that song doesn’t say anything about Christmas!”

I can feel the entire Tea Party (who’s views I often reflect) and many like-minded friends and family preparing to furl their collective brow…

Yes, I admit it! I actually like when people take a moment out of their busy lives to wish me “Happy Holidays!”

I love this time of year!  I love Hanukkah, Advent and Christmas! If you celebrate Kwanza I’ll be happy to wish you greetings on that occasion too!

I’m one of those elusive (some will read crazy) conservative Christians who doesn’t mind at all when people wish me “Happy Holidays”.

Why should it bother me?

I know “holiday” is simply short-hand for “holy day”. There is no more holy day to celebrate than the day God robed himself in flesh and gave us the world’s greatest gift.

So…wish me Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays…it’s all the same to me.

All I hear is…

And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Everyday!

Aunt Zip

“Christmas Magic, Vidalia Onions and… Spanx?” A Guest Post by Valerie Kemp Dreier

Today I’m excited to share a guest post by my always funny and very southern friend Valerie Kemp Dreier.

She writes the über popular blog “Me, Jesus and a Set of Scales”



Christmas is a magical time. A time when people walk around in overcoats and scarves looking like they just fell out of a Norman Rockwell painting. A time to gaze upon plastic light up front yard nativity scenes like you’re looking into the eyes of the Christ child himself. A time to sip hot chocolate with loved ones reminiscing of wonderful Christmases spent together forgetting all about how they drove you completely nuts the vast majority of the last year. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of year, but before you go and get all starry-eyed thinking about the magic of the season, don’t forget, it’s also a time to grit your teeth, squeeze into your Spanx, put on a happy face and head off to that one social obligation you dread year after year. 

For some, it’s that office Christmas party. For others, that neighborhood kids ear-piercing holiday themed band concert. Whatever it is, everybody has one. Ours was Eleanor. No one in our family is quite sure how we became acquainted with Miss Eleanor (an elderly spinster who never learned how to drive and lived with her parents until their death) and apparently it never really mattered. We were stuck with her. My Momma, God love her, picked up Eleanor’s prescriptions, brought her groceries on occasions, helped with her banking, and called her every morning to make sure she was still breathing -if Eleanor didn’t beat her to it.

Every year about a week before Christmas, Eleanor would invite us all to her home for dinner. This was the eighties and pre-Cooking Network, not that even it would have helped her cooking skills. To say she cooked us dinner was, well, debatable. One year, Eleanor brought out what she considered the pièce de résistance; a Vidalia onion. My father had mentioned back in the summer during one of our obligatory visits, that he loved Vidalia onions, so Eleanor got one from the last batch the grocery store had…..in August.

This onion smelled like rotten garbage and death and I watched my Daddy choke down as much as he could stand, Momma praying the whole time he wouldn’t die of food poisoning.  The family as a whole started developing spontaneous food allergies that were miraculously healed seconds after leaving Eleanor’s. My sisters and I became ingenious at hiding food. Do you know how much food you can cram into the inside of a store-bought dinner roll? We do!

After dinner or whatever you want to call it, we’d load up the car and ride around town looking at Christmas lights. Miss Eleanor would ooh and aaah in a voice more akin to a dying cow in a hail storm- a whiny high pitch sort of piercing siren. My sisters and I would sit in the back of the mini van mocking her under our breath while our mother squinted her eyes at us,  half wanting to beat our hind ends and half wanting to bust out laughing, too. None of us wanted to be there stuck with one of the most annoying people God put on the planet but my mother knew that it made this old lady’s holiday season. So each year, despite our collective whining and moaning, we’d suck it up, pray we didn’t get food poisoning and go hang out with Eleanor making Christmas just a little merrier for her.

Tonight, sitting in front of the mirror finishing my face for the umpteenth social event this season, I giggled remembering Miss Eleanor’s and Christmases begrudgingly spent with her years ago.

So, Merry Christmas y’all. Time for me to squeeze into these Spanx and slap a smile on my face.


“An Empty Chair and the Target Check-out Line”



In the midst of all of our Christmas shopping, cooking, planning and let’s just say it…generally festive chaos… several of my friends took a little time out last evening for a celebration of a different sort.

A dear friend, who after years of raising a family, working and going to school part-time, just graduated from College. We felt this merited a special evening out. We planned, checked her schedule and ours and made reservations at a very nice restaurant overlooking the Nashville skyline and State Capitol.

I love Germantown Cafe. The ambiance is warm, the food is fantastic and the view is spectacular!

As my friends and I gathered (a bit early) we were shown to our table and began to soak in the atmosphere, chat and peruse the menu. We were all driving separately from different areas of town, so we didn’t think much about the fact that one seat remained yet unfilled. This group is never short on conversation, so we were catching up on our week, telling funny stories and laughing.

But, when 6:00 came and passed, I began to wonder about our missing friend. In this group, she is the least likely to be tardy to an event. I expressed concern and the person who had been in contact with her (who shall remain nameless) said “I hope I didn’t tell her the wrong restaurant.”.

She began to frantically scroll through her text messages and there it was…the last message she sent.

“I’ll confirm time and place with you later.”

We were sitting at an elegantly appointed restaurant ready to celebrate a huge milestone in our friend’s life and she hadn’t even been invited!!!

Thankfully she is a VERY good sport and after a barrage of texts and calls from a horrified group of friends, she made her way through the check-out line at Target and joined us!

Here’s hoping your Christmas Season doesn’t get so busy that you forget the most important element!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip