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

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe Blog is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Family Traditions week!

Hello everyone!

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

I am here in Winchester, Virginia helping my host family and they have kindly let me participate in their family tradition of baking reindeer cookies for Santa. I hope to share more family traditions this week so please send in your pictures!

We found this special peanut butter cookie recipe to use for the base of our reindeer cookies. We were excited because they promised soft peanut butter cookies (and they delivered!) Here is a link to the website we found the recipe on. Be sure to check out her other treats!

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) of salted butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

chocolate chips


M&M’s (preferably the brown and red!)


In a large bowl with a handheld or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.



Mix in peanut butter, then the egg, and then the vanilla.


IMG_6162        IMG_6157

In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and flour.

Wait... WHAT? We remembered flour and baking soda but COMPLETELY missed the salt and baking powder but guess what? They were STILL yummy! (in my defense, I'm a bit under the weather!)

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix.


IMG_6158  Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into balls. Spread a thin layer of granulated sugar on a plate and roll each dough ball to evenly coat (if desired*). *we did not do this part because we were about to make reindeer.

Add chocolate chip eyes, an M&M for the nose, and pretzels for the antlers.


On an ungreased baking sheet, bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops begin to *slightly* crack. Do not bake longer than this.  Cookies will look undone, but will firm up as they cool.

Transfer to a cooling rack very VERY carefully! Those antlers take some practice to handle!


Those smell delicious! I hope we can manage to save one for Santa in a couple nights! What kind of cookies do you make for Christmas?

Until tomorrow,

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!

Happy Thanksgiving!


What is your Thanksgiving tradition? If you live outside the U.S., do you have a similar holiday? When do you celebrate it? What do you eat?

For my USA peeps…

Do you have a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings or something completely different? Do you have other traditions on this day?

Tweet me your Thanksgiving traditions with pictures and your location and I’ll RT you to share!

Here in Jacksonville, North Carolina, the non-food tradition is for the grandchildren to draw a Thanksgiving picture. We are still awaiting a couple but here is one from this year while we’re waiting. Fun fact, the artist of this picture also drew ME!

What Makes Your Town Special?

This is the first assignment for the rest of September! Remember, there is some music up for grabs for my one of the submissions! Your choices of artists for this month are: The Cardboard Kids, Edward Hartline (who has a new EP out on iTunes!) and Jonathan Blake Salazar. Good luck!

Assignment: What makes your town special?

What brings the tourists in or what are the things that only the locals know about? Is it a coastal town known for amazing seafood? A college town with a great football or basketball team? What about the landscape, does your town have great beaches or a beautiful mountainside? Traveling Sam wants to visit the places that make your town a great place to visit, time to start taking some pictures and send them to me at The deadline for this contest is September 30th, good luck!

To get you inspired I will be posting letters from Traveling Sam about what makes the town I live in special as an example along with some activities and recipes! Who knows, maybe your pictures will inspire some activities for you to try with your kids!

Here in Winchester, Virginia we take pride in our apples. We kick everything off in May when the apple trees are first starting to bloom. Winchester is home to the Apple Blossom Festival which is held the first weekend of May. There are parades, a carnival, live music, vendors, and so much more! You can learn more about the tradition here:

Here are a few pictures from my family’s very first Apple Blossom as new Virginians:

Abriana Apple Blossom

My daughter, Abriana, in front of the funnel cake stand before the Firemen’s Parade. The parade includes tons of unique fire trucks from cities in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Local middle and high school bands also march in the parade between the fire trucks. Below is my son marching with his middle school band in the firemen’s parade.

Tommy Apple Blossom

There is also a large carnival with rides and typical carnival games and food going on for the entire week of Apple Blossom. Here’s my oldest trying to shoot out the star for a prize:

Javier Apple Blossom

Of course, the festival is all about the beautiful apple blossoms that are all over town in May:

Apple Blossom

Traveling Sam has been visiting all of the large, decorative apples around Winchester. He’ll have some things to say tomorrow so keep an eye out for a post from him!

Until tomorrow,


Print Your Own Traveling Sam!

Hello Everyone!

Well, it’s been a crazy year and what I was hoping to accomplish the way I was hoping to accomplish it is not happening so I’m going back to the drawing board. Some of you already have a Traveling Sam to take pictures with, if you do not, feel free to right click and save him from this post. I print directly on card stock paper, but I also know that’s a teacher thing for me to have that kind of paper handy! To make him more durable you could glue him to something stronger like poster board and cut him out. While I love Sam Bradley’s hair, I have come to hate having to cut around his mini me’s curls but please do so he looks the same in all the pictures!

It doesn’t matter where you are, I want to see him in your city! At least once a month I will give an assignment so that we can see what a specific thing looks like in different areas of the world. I will do a blog with your pictures and there is a little prize in it for my favorite picture. I will be gifting an EP or full CD from a choice of three artists that you may or may not have heard of. My hope is the winners will take the time to look up all three artists to make their decision of which one they’d like to add to their collection. The choices will change monthly. In the event I cannot decide I will put the top contenders in a hat and choose!

I will give another music prize to one lucky Traveling Sam host once a month for those who take the time to take Traveling Sam to other places and share their experiences and pictures with me. Everyone who sends in pictures during any calendar month will be put into a drawing for that month for some music as a thank you!

Meanwhile I’ll be writing lesson plans for activities attached to each country that I’ll be using in my classroom and possibly as a volunteer for some local children’s programs. The ones that have been tried with actual children I will post here for other parents and/or educators to use. That reminds me, I encourage you all to include your own kids if you have them or for teachers to take him on field trips! Feel free to send him home with students and share this website with families as it will soon include activities about different countries. I did a lot of activities with my class a couple years ago so there are many things that have already been through the kid test that I’ll be posting in the coming weeks!

So here he is! Get printing and start taking pictures! I’ll be blogging about the first specific assignment before the end of the weekend, but remember, you can send pictures at any time from around your town, from anywhere you are vacationing, or if you take a day trip to a big city, send them my way please!



Patsy Cline


I hope everyone is having a great Christmas season. I’m here in Winchester, Virginia awaiting many adventures with many of you all over the world. Winchester seems like a quiet yet busy little town that is a great mix of modern chain stores and amazing family owned local businesses, and a rich history.

It is where legendary country music star Patsy Cline lived for many years. She moved no less than 10 times in the first 16 years of her life around the state of Virginia before settling down in her mother’s hometown of Winchester. She lived here until age 21 when she married her first husband. Back then this house was considered on “the wrong side of the tracks” and it was many years after her death before the city of Winchester to begin to recognize her as a local star because of this. Here I am in front of the house she always came back to:


This is the historical post that stands in front of the home:


The backyard:


We did tour the home, however photos were not allowed. We learned that Virginia Patterson Hensley (Patsy Cline) was born in Winchester in 1932 to her mother Hilda who was only 16 years old. They moved back to Winchester when Hilda separated from Sam Hensley, Patsy’s father.


There is also an exhibit currently at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley that is beautifully done. Pictures were not allowed in most of the exhibit, however you can see parts of it on the museum’s website. The exhibit runs through July 6th. Here are some photos we were able to take from around the exhibit:

My host’s daughter wrote a “Postcard to Patsy”



You could pretend to be her as well in this “Becoming Patsy Cline” booth:


You know I couldn’t resist taking a turn as well:




As a teenager she attended John Handley High School. We took a quick visit to the beautiful campus, here you see the football field which is open to the public for walking:


Here is the front of the school; there are a lot of stairs around the entire campus!


Check out the name of the theatre:


Patsy, who was known as “Ginny” at the time, quit school to help her mother care for her younger siblings. She worked at Gaunt’s Drug Store which still stands today. It was closed but we took a few pictures outside.



We also visited a venue that she would play at called Granny’s. My host remembers this from previous talks about Patsy with locals, but has yet to find the evidence that it is truly a place she played. Here I am in front of the venue’s sign as they were repairing the building when we stopped by:


We learned through our tour of Patsy Cline’s Winchester that she could not read music which made things very difficult for bands who wanted to know what key to play in. She learned to keep a notebook with the keys for each song for when she was asked. She played the piano and sang by ear.

Sadly, Patsy died at age 31 (March 5, 1963) in a private plane crash when returning to Nashville from a benefit concert in Kansas City, Missouri. We stopped by this cemetery to pay our respects:


Here is her grave stone:


You will notice it bares her legal name and that her husband at the time is still living in Nashville as well as her stage name, Patsy Cline. You can learn more about Patsy from this website:

I enjoyed learning about this musical legend, I hope you take the time to learn more by following the attached links.

Until next time,

Traveling Sam

Awaiting Travels…

Hello Everyone!

I’m here in Winchester, Virginia not so patiently waiting to go on some adventures! I want to show you around while I wait but the weather has kept me inside for the most part. I did take a trip this week to Fairfax, Virginia which is only 15 miles outside of Washington, DC. I was able to walk around the campus of George Mason University. Here I am hanging out in the brochures for graduate school. Looks like my host is about to be a very busy person!

photo (1)


The university is named after George Mason IV who lived from 1725 to 1797. He was a statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention. He is often referred to as the Father of the United States Bill of Rights along with James Madison and he is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States.

The campus is very spacious and beautiful. Here I am enjoying some of the recently fallen snow.

photo (2)


I’m sitting here today watching more snow fall and waiting to find out where I will travel in the new year, I hope I will get to see your city!


Traveling Sam