Thursday, December 5, 2013

We were very surprised to learn that Santa and Mrs. Claus visited us, as we thought they were writers/reporters from Texas Now Magazine.  Read about it yourself by clicking on this link.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I really wish I had more time to "blog," but we are really busy and enjoying every minute of sharing Christmas with those who come to see our Christmas House and shop at Santa's Texas Workshop.

At the end of The Christmas House tour, so many people thank us for making Christmas so special.  Well, we thank all who come here for making our Christmas special!  We truly appreciate it.  We know that by the very fact of our location in South Texas, people have to get up early and travel an hour or more to get here. Someone has to make the reservations, organize the group, get the transportation arranged, etc.  We really want those folks to know how much they are appreciated!

For those of you who have been wanting to come see The Christmas House, please call us at 361-325-2068 or 800-276-4339.  We do have openings for a couple of large groups before Christmas (cancellations happen!!).  We can also put some groups with less than 6 people in on days that already have smaller groups booked in.

Then we want you to remember that we will be open until the end of March, and perhaps even into April (2014) this season.  We are booking groups into January and February at this time.  SO CALL!!  

If you've been here before, you will enjoy it again, because EVERYTHING IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT from any other year.  You really don't want to miss this season!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Open Thanksgiving Afternoon

Well, life became so busy around here during the summer that I never got back to post the rest of our vacation.  I will try to do that sometime in the future!!

In the meantime, we have begun our 28th season of tours at The Christmas House.  We opened on September 29th and have had over 50 tours to date.  

If you have not made your reservations to tour THE CHRISTMAS HOUSE with shopping in SANTA'S TEXAS WORKSHOP afterwards, please call us at 1-361-325-2068 or 1-800-439-2776.  The information you need is all posted along the right side of this blog.

We will be open into April of 2014 for this season's tours.  Trust me when I tell you that it is just as much fun after Christmas as it is before!

our Christmas store
will be open
Thanksgiving afternoon
from 1:30 to 6:00.

Disregard all the dirty dishes, 
let the men watch football, 
and all the rest of you come see us and do some shopping!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vacation 2013 Part 1

Part 1
May 30 - June 8


How do I even begin to tell about our wonderful vacation?  Perhaps starting at the beginning would be best.  When we returned from our Midwest 2012 trip last year, we talked about plans for a 2013 vacation.  We decided that we wanted to return to the South—South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee…  So, I went to work and began making plans and reservations.  The entire trip was planned, and hotel reservations were made at Marriott properties where we could use our reward points.  All we had to do was wait for 10 months, pack the car, and take off!!
       Then in the latter part of September, we received a phone call from Wade Landrum who is our cousin Mickey’s husband.  He wanted to know if we would like to go with them on a Disney cruise to Alaska in June of 2013. With the phone on speaker, Dorothy, who had answered the phone, told him that we would love to, but due to some huge expenses (new a/c in our house, new car, etc.) she didn’t think we could afford a trip like that.  His response was, “I’m not asking you to pay for it!  I’m going to do that!”  We looked at each other in surprise and nodded yes!  Then we all said, “Yes!” very loudly!  We could hear Mickey doing a happy dance in the background.  Wade had not told her that he was inviting us, because he wanted to surprise her!

So, I canceled all of the other plans and reservations, and we began planning and anticipating this wonderful vacation.  In addition to the three of us, Wade and Mickey invited Matt and Christine Davis, and their two children Makayla (9) and Logan (7).  Matt is Mickey’s nephew—the son of her brother, Ed.  That makes him our first cousin, once removed.  Wade and Mickey’s daughter, Jennifer, her husband, Kevin, and their son, Austin (6) were also part of the group.  In fact, Wade paid the bills, but Jennifer, our resident family Disney expert and veteran of 10 Disney Cruises, did all the planning, reserving, etc.  She did a great job, too!  That was over ½ of enjoying this vacation!!  I’m the one who always does the planning for our vacations, and this time, Jennifer did it all.  I did make the reservations for our roundtrip flight to and from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA on Southwest Airlines, and we did pay for that ourselves.  I also made the reservations for our room at the Marriott Courtyard near Disneyland.  That didn’t cost anything, because we used Marriott Rewards points that we earn with our Platinum Marriott Rewards Visa card.  Other than that, Jennifer did everything else for the whole group.  It took a lot of planning and coordinating to get all those reservations made for the flights to and from Vancouver aboard Alaska Airlines, the hotel in Vancouver, the cruise, excursions in the ports, special dining aboard the ship, etc.

Kevin and Jennifer also invited his mother, Debbie, and his brother, Keith, to join the group on this great vacation.  So, we were part of a group of 15 people who were all “family” in one way or another.  I should say at this point, that “our” three children were the best kids on the ship.  What a joy to travel with well-behaved, courteous, sweet, fun to be with kids.  Did I mention smart?  You can’t believe how smart and clever they all three are!

  Cousins Logan Davis, Austin Robinson, Makayla Davis

It takes a lot of advance preparation for us to fly!  Esther suffers a great deal of ear pain as a plane begins its descent, so she has to have tubes put in her ears by an ear specialist several weeks in advance.

 It had been seven years since the last time we had flown (also to Vancouver for an Alaska cruise on Holland America), so we had to reacquaint ourselves with all the TSA rules for what we could and could not carry on to the plane and how we were to pack those items that are allowed as carry-ons, etc.

Our itinerary and activities looked like this:

            May  30th – We drove to San Antonio where we left our car at Cavender Cadillac to spend its vacation (As always we want to say thank you to them for keeping our car safe and sound while we traveled.)

            May 31st – We departed San Antonio and flew to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA, where we were met by Wade and Mickey.  My big surprise was finding that Southwest had more or less ruined both of my checked bags!

We checked into the Marriott Courtyard just a couple of blocks down the street from Disneyland and about 10 minutes from the Landrums’ home.  Then Wade and Mickey took us to eat at their favorite restaurant, The Black Angus, in Santa Ana (a short distance from our hotel in Anaheim and their home in Orange).  There we had what was to be one of several great meals at this super good steakhouse.

            Mickey made sure we had a great supply of “Wheat Belly” compliant foods so that we could eat breakfast in our room.  This hotel has a little refrigerator in each room and a microwave near the front desk.

            June 1st – We slept a little bit later than usual to rest up from all the traveling the day before!  We had a great breakfast with coffee from the complimentary coffee pot in the lobby supplemented with some made in our room’s coffeemaker.  Mickey came to pick us up, and we spent the afternoon at Downtown Disney shopping in the huge World of Disney store.  Later, the four of us went to Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company, one of our favorite restaurants that is right by DL. (I just learned that we now have two in Texas.  One is in Kemah, and the other is in Galveston.)

June 2nd -- Mickey drove us to Fallbrook (north of San Diego) where we all four spent an afternoon with our cousin, Carol Siemonsma Carpenter and her husband, Bud.  Carol prepared a delicious home-cooked meal that was totally “Wheat Belly” compliant—low carb and no wheat, grains, or sugar!  We love visiting with them in their beautiful home and seeing Carol’s yard with all of her growing “things.”  She really has a green thumb.  The highlight of each visit with them is seeing Carol’s quilt projects.  There are always new ones plus favorites that are displayed in their home.  She is a master quilter and a talented artist who creates fabric artwork as bed coverings and wall art. We also enjoy their family of kitties.
Janie, Carol, Bud, Esther, and Dorothy
This is a quilted wall hanging by Carol.  The woman
standing by the tree is Carol!  Each one of her creations has
a story to go with it.
 Two of Carol and Bud's children!!



June 3rd – We purchased Three Day Park Hopper Passes for Disneyland, so on this day, we took a taxi to Disneyland.  Mickey spent the day getting much needed things done in preparation for the cruise.  We spent the day at The Magic Kingdom, which is always a lot of fun.  We love to browse and shop at the Disney stores on Main Street!  Esther bought herself a new Mickey Mouse watch, because her old one had gone to Mickey Mouse Watch Heaven several months ago.  We had lunch on Main Street at the Carnation Café where we met and talked to Disneyland’s oldest and longest employed person, Oscar Martinez.  He was employed as a busboy at the Carnation Café where he became a chef.  Mr. Martinez is no longer a chef, but instead of retirement, is a goodwill ambassador who comes to work every day.  He makes his way around the restaurant, stopping to talk and be in pictures with lots of DL guests.  Disneyland opened in 1955, and he was hired in 1956.  By the way, lunch was delicious at The Carnation Café!

Esther, Oscar Martinez, and Dorothy at Disneyland's
Carnation Cafe

We spent the afternoon, “doing” some rides,, went to a live show, and then we watched the afternoon parade as it made its way down Main Street.  We never tire of seeing the Disney characters, especially Mickey Mouse!  We watched the parade on Main Street from a great vantage point.


When that was over, we moved across the street to a park bench and waited for the Disney Band to come to the town square for the retiring of the American flag.  This was very patriotic and moving as they played the song of each branch of the U.S. military.  When they played, members of the audience who had served in the military or are presently serving would come up and stand around the flagpole during their branch’s song.


            We stayed at the park until the fireworks display was over.  I took pictures and couldn't believe the perfect Mickey Mouse I captured!


June 4th : We enjoy visiting presidential libraries and museums, so we decided that we wanted to see the Richard Nixon Library which is located a very short distance from where we were staying.  We have visited Southern California many times in the years since Mother’s sister, Ruth Davis, and her family, moved out there in 1954.  In more recent years, we have visited Ronald Reagan’s library twice, but we had never been to the Nixon Library.  After breakfast with Wade and Mickey at Mimi’s in Yorba Linda, Mickey dropped us off at the library where we spent the rest of the day.  The Nixon Library was built next door to the little house in which he was born.  It is furnished with the same furniture that the family used when they lived there.  A retired helicopter that did duty as “Marine One” during Nixon’s White House years is also on the grounds where visitors are able to board it and walk through.

The following picture was taken from inside the library looking across the reflecting pool towards his birthplace.


Mickey picked us up at 5:00 when the library closed, and we drove to that favorite restaurant, The Black Angus, where we met Wade and his mother, Idell, for another delicious dinner.

June 5th : Mickey was out doing errands, so she picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the Disneyland Resort’s Grand Californian Hotel at Downtown Disney.  From there we made our way to a special side entrance into California Adventure.  We spent the day there, going on rides and seeing shows. 
California Adventure, the "other" park at Disneyland.
When we were ready to go, we called Mickey and told her we had decided to eat at the Storyteller Café at the Grand Californian and wondered if they would like to join us.  In no time at all, Mickey, Wade, and Idell were there, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner.  We intended to pay, but Wade wouldn’t let us, so we were treated again by the Landrums.

June 6th : We had a restful morning, and then Mickey came to pick us up  We went to The Black Angus where we met Wade for lunch. He eats lunch here several times a week, and has “his” table and even “his” own waiter.  Trust me when I say, we always had perfect service and absolutely delicious food.  I never took a picture of this restaurant, and I certainly had plenty of opportunity to do so!

After lunch, Mickey took us to Shinoda’s which is a huge wholesale floral and decorative accessories business.  The four of us love to browse through their Christmas department to see what we can find that our Santa’s Texas Workshop customers will like, and also things that will go with our themes.  We were successful on both counts!

            The band on Esther’s new Mickey Mouse watch was much too large for her wrist and arm, so Mickey took us to a jeweler who is a good friend of theirs.  When we parked, Mickey told me that the Low Carb Store that she had been telling me about was right next door.  Dorothy elected to sit in the car and wait, but I decided to go and see what was available in the store that specializes in low carb items.  There were some people sitting at tables eating ice cream, so being intrigued, I asked some questions.  The homemade soft serve ice was low carb.  The boy working behind the counter gave me a sample of the chocolate and the vanilla.  I took the little cups out to the car and let Dorothy, our ice cream lover, try them out.  “Mikey” liked both of them, so when Mickey and Esther finished at the jewelers, we all four went in and had ice cream without any of the guilt feelings normally associated with the cold treat!  The only regret was that we could not buy a bunch of it and ship it home!!

            Our last stop for the day was Costco so I could buy a new set of luggage.  I’m sorry to say that Southwest Airlines totally ruined my set of Delsey luggage on the flight from San Antonio.  The large one was totally unusable because they had ripped one of the zipper pulls off along with the slider, so I couldn’t keep the part closed that expands to make more room inside.  Without it, there was too much room, and all my stuff moved around inside.  The medium-sized suitcase was so dirty that it was embarrassing to be seen with it.  They managed to break a plastic bottle of hair spray that was inside, and it soaked through the lid and did the damage on the outside.  Yes, things on the inside were soaked, too, but that came out in the laundry!!  I bought a really nice two piece set of Samsonite luggage that I really like and enjoyed using for the rest of our trip

June 7th : We used the final day of our Park Hopper Pass by spending the day at Disneyland again.  Our dear cousin Mickey drove to our hotel, picked us up and took us to the ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney.  That put us close to the Monorail station where we could get transportation that would take us directly to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom.  That saved us a lot of steps from the front entrance at Main Street to the back of the park where “It’s A Small World” is located.  That’s where we went when we got off the monorail.  We love that ride and never tire of it, even though the song keeps going ’round and ’round in our heads for hours afterwards!  From there we went to the “Toontown” train station where we waited for the train to take us to to the other side of the park.  It was our intention to see the show at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland, which is next to New Orleans Square, but we had plenty of time, so we decided to eat lunch.  We love eating at the Blue Bayou, but would have to have waited for over an hour for a table.  The Café Orleans was faster (supposed to be!!), and has some of the same menu options.  We were seated immediately at a table indoors (which we requested), and our waiter came to begin the order process.  Several other groups were seated after us, and their waiters took their orders.  In fact, our waiter was waiting on some of them!  To make a long story short, they were all served and we were still sitting there waiting for our food.  We’d ask about our order, and were told it would be coming out soon. 

            In the meantime, a group at a table near us celebrated a birthday.  When they finished, a lady from their table got up and brought us about ¼ of the birthday cake they had left.  She told us to enjoy it.  We asked who was having a birthday, and she told us, so, we all three got up and went to their table and sang happy birthday to the birthday girl!  Everyone in the restaurant was quiet and clapped when we finished.  We went back to our table and asked once again about our food.  We were still waiting!  We were getting concerned because we didn’t want to miss the show.  We had ordered one bowl of French Onion Soup to share, and when it finally arrived, it was lukewarm!  We reported that fact to our waiter, but due to our time limitations, we said that we would eat it that way!

            Every other group that came in after us had left when we finally got our food!  It was really good, but no one could explain what had happened.  We think that the waiter didn’t turn the order in promptly or it got lost in the kitchen.  (After all, computers can make mistakes!!) The manager had been informed of the problem, and she came to our table to tell us that we were not going to be charged for our meal.  She said that she wanted to do this for us, because of the inconvenience and also because we had sung for the girl who was celebrating her birthday with her family.  She said that everyone in the restaurant enjoyed it, including the staff!  We told her that normally we wouldn’t have minded the wait, but we really wanted to see the show at The Diamond Horseshoe.  As it was, we were going to make it, but the good seats would be gone!  She said that was not a problem and she would take care of it.  She went to a phone and then came back to tell us that a table was reserved for the show.

            Since we didn’t have to rush, we were able to walk over at a leisurely pace.  When we got there, we were seated at a front row table!  Talk about a win-win situation—a free lunch and front row seats!

            We returned to the train station and caught the train back to the Toontown station.  We wanted to see a live show called Mickey and the Magical Map.  It is classic Disney music in a high-energy, high-tech stage show.  The entrance was right by the train station exit, so we just walked in and got excellent seats.  It was a good show!

On our first day at DL, we had gone to see a really cute live comedy presentation of Beauty and The Beast, but we were seated at the back of the theater and couldn’t really see too well.  So, we decided to see it again and get there early to get a good seat.  We did, and enjoyed it much more than the first time. 

From there we went back to Main Street and purchased some Disney collectibles that we wanted, and then we made our way back to the monorail station in Tomorrowland.  We rode it back to the station at Downtown Disney and called Mickey to tell her that we were ready to be picked up.  We looked around in some of the shops at DTD and then waited for her at the ESPN Zone.  (There is a parking lot there for people who are partaking of the dining, entertainment, and shopping venues there.)

            June 8th – This was a day to reconnoiter and get ready to fly out to Vancouver the next day.  Since we had been away from home over a week, we had laundry to do!  The Courtyard has a very nice guest laundry, so that made our task very easy.  Esther and I also needed to do our hair, and since I (Janie) am our traveling hairstylist, that job fell to me!  (Dorothy’s hair stays looking good a lot longer than Esther’s and mine!!)  I recomb everyone’s hair each morning while we are traveling.  Then it was time to start repacking all the things that we had taken out of our suitcases for a week.  Of course, I had to repack everything into my new suitcases.

            I needed to get rid of the large suitcase with the damaged zipper, so I asked the lady who cleaned our room if she would like to have it.  She was thrilled with it!  She had cleaned our room earlier in the afternoon, so I called the front desk and asked them to see if she was still at work.  If so, would they please ask her to come to our room.  She arrived a few minutes later and her supervisor was with her.  It dawned on us that they thought we were going to complain about something and she might need “back-up.”  When they found out what we wanted, they were both all smiles!

            We packed the old medium-sized suitcase with some things we had purchased at DL and some other things we didn’t plan to take on the cruise.  Mickey took that one home with her for safe-keeping until our return.  (After our return from Alaska, we packed more into that old suitcase, put it in the box of the new suitcases, and Mickey shipped it home for us!!)

            At 5:00 we were dressed and ready to have Mickey pick us up, and we again met Wade at The Black Angus for dinner.  Afterwards we went back to our hotel where we finished packing and then went to bed early.  Phase one of our super vacation was coming to an end.

             Come back to this blog later (tomorrow or the next day) and I'll have posted another segment of our vacation.