Category Archives: Travel

Family Traditions in Wilmington, North Carolina

Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone!

My friends in Wilmington, North Carolina were kind enough to share their Christmas tradition of taking the family Christmas card picture at the beach! Wilmington is a port city known more locally for it’s festivals and movie studio. I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the things there are in Wilmington because it is a unique little “big” city.

In the spring it is home to the Azalea Festival which is a showcase for the community’s rich array of artwork, gardens, history, and culture through recreational, educational and family-oriented events. The Festival encourages volunteerism and civic participation as it contributes to the region’s economy and promotes the unique qualities of Wilmington’s river-to-the-sea community. The flowers are gorgeous and EVERYWHERE! Here is a link if you would like to learn more:

In the fall you will find Riverfest which is located in the same spot in downtown Wilmington as the Azalea Festival. This festival came about out of a desire of locals to bring people back to the downtown area. You can read more about the annual Riverfest here:

At both you will find amazing one of a kind, hand crafted items, a variety of foods, music, and activities for the kids that people come from miles around to experience.

Wilmington is also home to a movie studio! Hard to believe, but shows like One Tree Hill, Under the Dome, and Sleepy Hollow aren’t filmed in Hollywood, they are filmed right here on the Crystal Coast! I understand there is a tour… I will have to take that the next time I am in town! Here is a link if you would like to learn more:

There is also an aquarium right down the road in Fort Fisher and a rich history in the downtown area but yeah yeah yeah, who needs all that stuff when there is a beautiful beach?? When you live so close to such a beautiful coastline, there really is no other way to take your annual Christmas photos. Here are a few of them now:



expecting a baby sister…

She's here!

She’s here!

These pictures are from quite a while ago, here are some more recent shots:


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you are all with loved ones and enjoying some well deserved time off of work.


~Traveling Sam

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Hello Friends!

Tonight I come to you from Hamburg, Germany. My host family has a couple of items on display in celebration of the season that I had some questions about and I would like to share what I learned with you now.

First up is something I’ve seen before, however I didn’t know too much about them until tonight. In German it is called adventskalender and in English it is known as an Advent Calendar.

IMG_2654 (1)

I’m sure that you have seen them around here and there, but did you know the idea for the Advent Calendar has it’s origins in Germany? It is a very common way to celebrate the season here! Let me share how it works:

Advent is the four-week period of time leading up to Christmas. It begins each year on the first Sunday after November 26th, however the calendar generally begins on December 1st and goes until the 24th to help children count down the days until Christmas. As you see in the above picture, there are 24 little doors on a Santa designed adventskalender. There are many different designs, but the concept of opening doors is a part of all of them. Each day the next door is opened and inside you will find a little treat in the form of a small toy or chocolate candy. Behind the “prize” is usually a picture or sometimes a bible verse all leading up to Christmas Eve. The picture or Bible verse could also be found on the door once it’s opened, or they may be blank. There are many different kinds of Adventskalenders!

What started out in the 19th century as making a chalk line for every day in advent leading up to Christmas evolved into what you can find in stores at this time of year pre-made with a heavy paper and chocolates already inside. In Germany, however, where most homes have an Advent Calendar, you will find more permanent structures such as the adorable Santa above that are refilled each year with small chocolates or trinkets. Here is a couple of links if you would like to learn more:

If you would also like to learn more about Advent you can find some information here:

Onto the second item. This is Adventskranz:


Here I am with an Adventskranz or, in English, an Advent Wreath,  sometimes referred to as an Advent crown. It is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until all the candles are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas.

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century, however it was a Protestant pastor named Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 – 1881) who was the inventor of the modern Advent wreath. Children at Rauhes Haus, the school he founded in Hamburg, Germany, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. So in 1839, he built a large wooden ring with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The small candles were lit successively during Advent and on Sundays one of the large white candles were lit. It eventually evolved into the smaller wreath with the 4 candles known today. Some have five candles, the fifth being lit on Christmas Day.

I thought it was pretty amazing that both of these items that are now found around the world originated in Germany. One of them right here in Hamburg! I know it is a bit difficult to see because all of the candles are lit, but the wreath is made with Christmas tree branches. Here is a photo I found online so you can better see the branches:


Speaking of Christmas Trees… did you know that they ALSO origninated in Germany? Maybe I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, right now I should get some rest. Thanks for joining me!


Traveling Sam


I am still in Jacksonville, North Carolina enjoying some time relaxing and doing a bit of sight seeing. The United States Marine Corps has a heavy presence here and many of the residents are active duty, retired, or otherwise here because of the military. The city is surrounded by military bases including Camp Lejeune, Camp Geiger, Camp Johnson, and the New River Air Station. I did not have time to visit the bases on this trip, however I did visit a memorial area in town that stands to remember both civilians and military personnel who gave their lives. All of the memorials pictured here are in the same area and you can easily walk to them all from the parking lot. It is also free to come pay your respects so if you are in Eastern North Carolina for the beaches or here visiting because maybe you have a family member serving, it is a worthwhile stop.

I took more pictures than I got into today because I feel that it is not appropriate to take a selfie when you are in a place meant for reflection and paying respect to the dead. Please keep this in mind when you are on your travels as well!

The first stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I did take a picture at the entrance as it was an extravagant entrance a walkway to the actual memorial.

The close up...

The close up…

The full display

The full display

There is a long walking path before you come to a beautiful fountain that, from a distance, seems to be surrounded by glass.

The fountain

The fountain

As you get closer you can see that it is not just any glass…

The alphabetical listing of names of the soldiers who died in Vietnam.

The alphabetical listing of names of the soldiers who died in Vietnam.

It takes a moment to realize that even one pane of glass holds  at least 200 names. That’s when I had to step back and take in the enormity of it all.

This is less than a third of the wall. Each separate glass pane containing well over 100 names of the fallen.

This is less than a third of the wall. Each separate glass pane containing well over 200 names of the fallen.

Here is a website that has a lot of statistical information on those who died including where they were from, their religious preferences, their rank and branch of service. In all, 58,220 service members lost their lives.

To put this into a bit a perspective, Camp Lejeune is the largest amphibious Marine Corps base on the east coast and it is home to 47,000 Marines and Sailors.

After spending a bit of time reading the names we headed back the way we came and found a piece of history along the way.

10441016_738244716264627_8989043894507999752_nThis plaque is in front of a beam from the twin towers and the beam sits in this memorial park.


This was all very overwhelming and I needed a break to take in the autumn foliage. It really is in a beautiful little area right off of the highway.

Autumn is still happening here!

The last memorial we saw today was actually the first one built in this area. It was made in remembrance of the Marines who lost their lives while on a peace mission in Beirut, Lebanon. This memorial holds the names of those who died when their barracks was bombed.

The shadow of the Marine.

The shadow of the Marine.


People often leave things at his feet. You can often find a beer here around the Marine Corps Birthday (November 10, 1775)

One child left a plant and a picture thanking the Marines for their sacrifice.

A child left a plant and a picture thanking the Marines for their sacrifice.


A picture of the full memorial.

A picture of the full memorial.

A plaque with a lovely poem sits in front of the memorial. No worries if it is too small to read, I posted the words below the picture.


The Other Wall

By R.A. Gannon

It does not stand in Washington

By others of its kind

In prominence and dignity

With mission clear defined.

It does not list the men who died

That tyranny should cease

But speaks in silent eloquence

Of those who came in peace.

This Other Wall is solemn white

And cut in simple lines

And it nestles in the splendor

Of the Carolina pines.

And on this wall there are the names

Of men who once had gone

In friendship’s name to offer aid

To Beirut, Lebanon.

They did not go as conquerors

To bring a nation down

Or for honor or for glory

Or for praises or renown

When they landed on that foreign shore

Their only thought in mind

Was the safety of its people

And the good of all mankind.

Though they offered only friendship

And freedom’s holy breath

They were met with scorn and mockery

And violence and death.

So the story of their glory

Is not of battles fought

But of their love for freedom

Which was so dearly bought.

And their Wall shall stand forever

So long as freedom shines

On the splendor and the glory

Of the Carolina pines.

~Robert A. Gannon

Here is a link about the bombings if you would like to learn more:

I hope to visit the military bases and the museum dedicated to the Marines of Montford Point the next time I find myself in Jacksonville. Currently, Camp Johnson is for schooling. It is where Marines go after graduating boot camp to learn their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). However not so long ago, the Marine Corps was segregated not only by enlisted and officer ranks, but by color lines as well and Camp Johnson was known as Montford Point. It was a base for African American Marines only. Here is a little preview:


…but more on that another time.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to thank those who serve their country!

~Traveling Sam

Jacksonville, North Carolina

I decided to do some exploring today since I am very fragile and did not want to get trampled on in a store being that it is Black Friday and all here in the states. I thought the first logical place to visit would be the beach since I am in Eastern North Carolina.

The sun seemed to be rising as we drove so we were worried we would miss the main event! This is what it looked like when we arrived.

The sun seemed to be rising as we drove so we were worried we would miss the main event! This is what it looked like when we arrived.

It was a very chilly when we arrived but it was very much worth it once the sun started to rise over the water! Here’s another shot from when we were waiting…


And waiting…


Finally it began to peek over the clouds! Absolutely gorgeous!


We also took some time to look on the beach and found some creatures washed ashore:

very large horseshoe crab.

very large horseshoe crab.



One more of the beautiful sunrise before we move on…

The next stop was a local park that my host would frequent as a child that happens to be next to an inlet.

Here are a few shots from there:


I promise I didn't look directly into the sun, mom!

I promise I didn’t look directly into the sun, mom!

Autumn is still happening here!

Autumn is still happening here!

You know you're in the south when...

You know you’re in the south when…

We also visited another area, however that one requires a blog of it’s own that will post tomorrow. What sights did you get to see this week? I’d love to see them! Tweet me and I’ll RT!