Brookside Gardens - The Garden of Lights

One of our favorite things to do is driving to see Christmas Lights but nothing beats being able to walk through a Garden of Lights. If you are anywhere near Washington, DC during the winter holiday season you should make your way over to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD for their Winter Garden Walk. The entry fee to enjoy the Christmas lights is just $25 for a car full of your best friends. The lights start at 5:30pm but you can come early and enjoy the trains in the conservatory and then purchase your ticket inside. By arriving at 4:00pm we were able to stroll leisurely around the flowers until it got dark. You will get great parking this way and avoid the traffic as well.



The Maryland Garden Railway Society has a large “G” scale display in the conservatory. The trains weave in and out of different flowering plants. From the Brookside Gardens website:

“This year’s plantings will include a few edible plants like chard and hot peppers which offer colorful leaves and fruits. Flowering plants from warmer regions of the world will include red-flowered Cestrum, Bouganvillea, blue and white Browallia (bell flower), and several flowering Salvias (sages). These and familiar Poinsettias are accented by the chartreuse and soft lime foliage of Monterrey Cypress and ‘Limelight’ licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare).”

Oh, and a few exotics are blooming inside such as this Bird of Paradise.



Sipping on a cup of hot chocolate or cider and walking through all the displays is a great way to spend a couple of hours. The displays tend to be outdoor themed such as flowers, insects, or animals, but there are a few fantasy creatures such as a momma sea serpent and her baby. Animated birds flying, squirrels chasing each other up trees, and flying bees are just a few of the great displays scattered around the gardens. Take your time and be sure to look everywhere or you may miss something.


The park does a very good job spreading everything out so the crowds can move. You can even find a few quiet spots that are very romantic. Between all the the trains, the colors of all the lights, and the cute animations, we would have to say this is one of our favorite places in the DC area for Christmas.




Enjoying Christmas

“Do you know how silly you look?” was what some old dude said to me after I had my photo taken with the Dancin’ Ranson Cow early one morning at the Ranson Chick-fil-A. I just politely smiled because I knew he was just jealous that he no longer had the ability to ignore what others think and just enjoy life. As long as it doesn’t interfere with others enjoyment, I am quick to act silly and you should too. There are way too many serious things to weigh you down in life that you should seize every opportunity to counteract them with a great big dose of goofiness. Take timeout to jump out of your car and pose with the Christmas lights, or even Santa Cow if it makes you happy!



Zingerman’s Bacon of the Month Club

Travolta said it best, “Bacon tastes good!” There is no better gift than to get a subscription to Bacon of the Month club by Zingerman’s. We received our first installment and instantly commenced to frying it up in a pan. Once a month Zingerman’s will send you around a pound of a different artisan bacon. Your bacon is accompanied by  recipes, a history of the bacon, a great little binder, and even a pig magnet. We were more than happy after chowing down on a pan full of Applewood Smoked Bacon. It’s not cheap but Bubba’s Garage definitely endorses this product!


Gaylord National’s ICE! – Merry Madagascar

We are always looking for something to do around the Washington DC area and last Saturday we drove over to the National Harbor to experience ICE! at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center. National Harbor is easy to find right off of I-95 in Oxen Hill, MD. We purchased our tickets online as well as discounted parking ($10 online or $21 at the garage). The price of the tickets provided an “ouch” moment; not cheap at all. Tickets for adults are $35 each on the weekends. They are only $25 if you go during the week.

We decided to go to the National Harbor early to grab some lunch and do a little Christmas shopping. This was our first trip to the National Harbor and I have to say I was a little disappointed in the selection of shopping stores that were available. There were also some craft vendors selling but nothing interested us. Peg did manage to buy some Mike and Ikes at the Peeps store. At least there was a better selection of restaurants.



Since we had some time to kill, we went inside the Gaylord to check out the decorations. Everything was done up well and very festive looking. Poinsettias were everywhere and many Christmas trees were scattered about. If you wanted to, you could build a gingerbread house or visit with the characters of Dreamworks. Well, that is if you wanted to pony up more cash. The Gingerbread House kit package was $49.95 and you have to stay at the resort for the meet and greet at $150 per person!



Over in the actual ICE! area there are a few more things to do. You can ice skate in the small rink for $12, take 3 laps around the Christmas tree on the Potomac Express train for $2, or get your photo taken with some penguin characters from the Madagascar movies for even more money. Are you sensing a theme yet?



So after queuing up for a short time you are ushered in to a small theater room where you get to watch a short Merry Madagascar promo which also proclaims “Available for purchase on DVD” and then a more interesting bit of the behind the scenes making of the ice sculptures.  From the ICE! website:

ICE! is created by dozens of artisans who will migrate to the D.C. area from Harbin, China to craft this elaborate attraction out of nearly 2 million pounds of ice. It takes them nearly an entire month of 12-hour shifts to transform the refrigerated tent where the exhibit is held into a remarkable icy wonderland.

Then you queue up once again to get your blue parka before you enter the 9 degree freezer. It is truly amazing to see what these artists can do with a block of ice. All the bright colors and lights kept us smiling the whole time we were in the deep freeze.


Bonus time! About halfway through the ice sculptures is a giant ice slide. Peg decided to give it a try and exited all giggly after her ride. I watched a couple people get stuck which gave me more chuckles. They do warn you to sit on you parka so you don’t get stuck! The whole ICE! tour took us only about 20 minutes; it’s not that big. After exiting, there is one last push to sell you more stuff as you must exit through the gift store.



We did enjoy our time at the National Harbor and the Gaylord National. Was it worth the price? Probably not but at least we can say we are doing our part to stimulate the economy. The only real bad thing is now I can’t get Vanilla Ice out of my brain, “Ice, Ice, Baby!”

Video - Feeding the Fish at Broadway on the Beach

One of our favorite things to do at Broadway on the Beach in Myrtle Beach, SC is to feed the fish. This huge population of carp is fattened by all the tourists who plunk down a quarter in the vending machines to grab a handful of fish kibble. All these mouths making sucking sounds that must be saying, “Feed me Bubba. Feed me!”


Road Trip – Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Shop

Peg received a call from one of her PEZhead friends that Mr. Ed’s in Orrtanna, PA had just been stocked with the new Presidents set from PEZ. Since I don’t mind cruising Rt. 30, I grabbed my trusty iPhone for some snapshots and we were off. To illustrate how serious (crazy?) Peg is about her PEZ collecting, just remember that this is a 150 mile round trip for PEZ that will eventually be at our local Wal-Mart! But, Mr. Ed’s is a great place to pick up any current releases of PEZ and a fun little place to stop.




Both inside and out, Mr. Ed’s has all kinds of quirky elephant collectibles scattered about. It is a great place to act a little “nuts” and pose with the props. They have a great selection of candies including some hard to find varieties that were once popular in the past.



Since we were already on Rt. 30, you know we are going to swing by Desert Flower Wholesale. Just west of Gettysburg, PA, the shop has quite literary tons of concrete statues for sale and is open to the public. While the outside is remarkable with its variety of castings, you must wander inside for a colorful treat. This small building is just packed from floor to ceiling with all manner of trinkets. The place feels magical with all it glass orbs floating about the ceiling. Their selection of Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead art is second to none and I just wish I had more room in my house because I would have bought many of the items.




PEZ in the Sun 2011–Myrtle Beach, SC

The PEZ in the Sun Gathering, which is held each year in Myrtle Beach, SC, is one of our favorite stops each year. It is held late enough in the season that the beach isn’t crowded and early enough so that it is still warm enough to enjoy. The spectacular view from our room at the Springmaid Beach Resort forces us to get up every morning early enough to watch the sun rise.


We like to do different things each year while in Myrtle but there are a few things that are still a must for us. The first is a trip to Bubba’s Fish Shack for some seafood and hushpuppies.  Broadway at the Beach is also on our short list of must do things. Peg always hunts for quarters so she can feed the fish. All those slurping mouths are really gross! For this trip, she was feeling particularly silly and decided to make a monkey at the Build-a-Bear Workshop. She says his name is “Marvin the Love Monkey.” She actually squealed when she saw that the Ben and Jerry’s shop had “Schweddy Balls” ice cream since she has been looking for it for months. Movies, Shopping, Amusements, and great places to eat (try Amici’s Bistro) all can be found at BATB.



New at Myrtle Beach this year is the SkyWheel. Richie and Mary, the hosts of PEZ in the Sun, organized a trip to ride the huge Ferris wheel. Located at the start of the boardwalk, the SkyWheel is 200 feet high and has 42 climate controlled gondolas. Since we had well over 15 PEZheads making the trip we received a sizeable discount. Peg is extremely scared of heights (I hear Richie is as well) but she was a trooper and did it anyways. After the first couple times around she settled down and actually enjoyed the views. Well, as long as I didn’t move at all and rock the gondola. At night, bright color changing LEDs put on a great display that can be seen for miles. Hanging out at fun events like these is really what keeps us collecting PEZ.





We will probably keep going back to PEZ in the Sun every year that they have it because it is so much fun.