Create*Bloom*Grow

Growing through life creatively…


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Christmas in Cologne (Köln), Germany

Continuing up the Rhine, we get to Cologne, Germany or Köln as it is known locally. This was the largest city we visited on our cruise and a fantastic day long adventure. The centerpiece of Cologne is the Kölner Dom or the Cologne Cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. If you play your cards right, you can see the spectacular Dom in at least 3 different lights (morning sun, sunset and after dark). I highly recommend planning to spend a long day on Cologne. There is much to see and do. Another interesting note is that it is filled with Roman influence and artifacts.

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Loved the simple, but elegant decorations on this building near the Dom.

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It was always so funny to see the markets boarded up and quiet before they opened in the morning. Definitely, the calm before the storm.

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Something you would be unlikely to see available for sale in the US 🙂

The Christmas Markets are truly a treat for all of your senses. So many amazing things to see, hear, touch, taste and smell!

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As seen outside an Irish pub. Leave it to the Irish to be over it all…

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With so many markets in Cologne, we really enjoyed the different themes. This gnome market was cute.

I highly recommend taking the little tourist train around if you are trying to cover a lot of ground. Cologne is definitely the biggest city we visited and the sights are spread out.

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What happens when Santa has spent too much time at the biergarten.

Christmas Market Cruise

Speaking of biergartens, we had a fantastic German lunch at Früh and enjoyed some Kölsch which is the specialty beer of Cologne. Similar to  champagne, it can only be called Kölsch if brewed in Cologne. We have been lucky to find some Kölsch-style microbrews since returning home.

The Lindt Chocolate Museum was really cool. This lovely angel is made out of white chocolate and very large. In contrast to these cute & too cool Santas.

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I love nutcrackers! This guy was awesome!

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The theme of the Christmas Market near the chocolate museum was nautical. Fun and different!

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More fun things to see back at the market near the Dom.

And in case we are hungry….

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It is always good to know that your hot dogs are #blessed.

As the sun sets, it casts a lovely golden glow over the cathedral.

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The lights begin to come on.

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And more magic is sprinkled over a lovely day.

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Christmas in Strasbourg, France

Continuing up the Rhine on our amazing Viking River Cruise along to visit the Christmas Markets. Here are my photos from the day we visited Strasbourg, France. Some were taken during the included walking tour. We stayed in town for lunch and until the last shuttle went back to the ship. Probably my favorite city that we visited.

I just loved how there were decorations over many shop & restaurant doors. Sometimes the whole front of the building was covered in decoration!Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

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The storks are a huge deal in the Alsace (area of France that has gone back and forth between France and Germany and retains characteristics of both beautifully blended into their own culture).

Christmas Market Cruise

Christmas Market Cruise

Not Christmassy, but who doesn’t need one of these? My kids would say that I don’t.Christmas Market Cruise

Another attempt to annoy my kids…. I think I might need one of these dresses.

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Who can pass up a beautiful display of macaroons. Not I!Christmas Market Cruise

There are a number of Christmas Markets in Strasbourg (7 if I remember correctly). One of the markets hosts a guest country each year. This year it is Portugal. There are all sorts of cool Portuguese treats and crafts. I picked up some port wine jelly. Hmmmm…

Christmas Market Cruise

Christmas Market Cruise

The cathedral in Strasbourg is stunning! This was our first glimpse of it. The red sandstone is really something.Christmas Market Cruise

A cute little side of one of the booths in front of the cathedral.Christmas Market Cruise

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Christmas Market CruiseSaw different versions of these funny little guys at a few of the markets.Christmas Market Cruise

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Christmas Market Cruise

This was the little bistro where we had am amazing lunch. Straight down one of the side streets on the opposite side of the square in front of the cathedral.Christmas Market Cruise

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Strasbourg is the French Capital of Christmas and I can see how it got that name & reputation. So fun!Christmas Market Cruise

These charming little trains were at many of the markets selling warm nuts, etc.Christmas Market Cruise

We didn’t bother to go into many/any chain stores we have at home, but we did enjoy some of the window displays. We thought it was funny to see a few signs advertising “Black Friday” sales.Christmas Market Cruise

One of the other theme markets in Strasbourg each year is the charity market. Different booths selling different items to benefit a variety of worthy organizations. This big tree is the centerpiece of that market.Christmas Market Cruise

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Inside the cathedral was magical. They had the most extensive nativity display I had seen covering events from the Annunciation all the way to the Presentation. I also like that they had en elephant visiting with the Three Magi.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

These tapestries are only on display during Advent. They are massive and beautiful and I felt so lucky to see them.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I saw a number of places that had really nice selections of Advent wreaths like this. SO much harder to find in the States.Christmas Market Cruise

Hope you enjoyed my tour of Strasbourg at Christmas. It was my favorite stop along the Rhine.


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Christmas in Basel, Switzerland

Just got back from an amazing Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River to visit the Christmas Markets. Our cruise took off from Basel, Switzerland. We had just a quick afternoon trip into Basel, but it was well worth it.

A quick helpful note about money in Basel. We were not sure if we would have any time to go into Basel and Switzerland does not use the Euro. I pondered getting some Swizz Francs, but didn’t want to be stuck with them if we didn’t have any time to explore. People online recommended that they had some cash machines in the area that exchanged Euros. As it ends up, you can pay at most of the markets in Euros. They will ony give you change in Swiss Francs, so you need to be strategic, but at least you can shop :-).

After doing a year’s research preparing for this trip, seeing one of these giant pyramids was high on my “Christmas Market Bucket List”. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little excited when this in was my very first glimpse of a Christmas Market.

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They had adorable boot shaped mugs for the gluhwein & hot chocolate which we enjoyed!Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

These guys were animated and singing. I felt like I was back at Disneyland back when they had the Country Bear Jamboree.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

This was a decoration on top of one of the booths. They also had these in mini sizes you could buy. The prices were far better than anywhere else we saw later in the tip. This is a little odd because Switzerland is known for being super expensive.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

The Christmas Markets in Basel wound up, down and around the streets with a main one in front of the church.Christmas Market Cruise

I really enjoyed some of the different spice booths at the various Christmas Markets. Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I never made it to an official Kathe Wohlfahrt shop, but this mini one in the main Christmas Market was handy. I also saw one like this in Strasbourg.

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The pretzel we got here was larger than our heads! Super yumChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I was intrigued at how often they decorated with stuffed animals. Not sure how well these would withstand the weather, but we were early in the season so they all looked good.Christmas Market Cruise


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I am a Fontaholic…

I cannot lie.  I am a fontaholic.  Happily addicted to letters in their many forms.  I am also a huge Disney fan.  I was actually introduced to my husband only because my step-sister knew we were both single and both liked Disney.

I’m just dropping by quickly this morning to share some of my favorite “Disney Park Inspired” free fonts.

Disney Fonts

Enjoy!  Feel free to share any other ideas for fonts that remind you of being at the Happiest Place on Earth…


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Our California Mission Mission

Today’s creative inspiration is not so much a craft project or something I made as how we are creatively teaching our children about their roots.  I think I’ve mentioned that my children are 6th generation Californian on 3 sides.  There are not a lot of people whose California roots stretch so deep.  California school children study California history in 4th grade.  A big part of how modern California was founded was through the construction of the Mission system (unarguably at the detriment of the Native Americans who were the first inhabitants). Studying the Mission system often involves the inevitable “Mission Project” where children are required to construct one of the 21 California Missions.

My husband and I decided that as Native Californians our kids needed to have a good understanding of that part of our history so we set out on a family Mission Mission.  Yes – we were crazy enough to visit ALL 21 of the California Missions stretching from San Diego north to Sonoma.  This endeavor was started the summer before our daughter entered 4th grade and ended this past weekend just days before our son was to build his Mission.  32 months of creatively working Mission visits into our other travels throughout the state.

As a scrapbooker I took just a few (that is an understatement) pictures on our adventure which of course will be made into a fabulous album (eventually).  One common site at the Missions is a statue of the founder of the Mission system, Father Junipero Serra.  We made a point to get a shot of this statue at each site.  Here they are compiled into a single snapshot:

Junipero Serra

The astute mathematician will notice that there are only 20 images in the above combined image.  Sadly, one of the Missions had significant earthquake retrofitting and construction going on (this is California after all).  #irony is that this is the Mission my son is constructing for his project and therefore one that is near and dear to our hearts – San Luis Rey.  Here is the best we could do at that location:

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So close and yet so far away…

I thought it might be fun to throw in photos of the Mission projects my children did in school. It has almost become a joke among school parents that you can always tell who really did the kid’s Mission when they brought it into class. At some schools, it has become a contest among the parents. To combat that idea and actually give the kids the opportunity to build the project themselves, at our school, the Missions are created in class. Parents send supplies and may volunteer to help, but are not allowed to do all the work.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

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Mission San Luis Rey

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At any rate, we love teaching our children through travel.  Other travel bucket/checklists we are working on:

  • Taking our children to all 50 states (they are 9 and 11 and have 10 and 11 states under their belts respectively)
  • Visiting all the California State Parks
  • Visiting all the National Parks
  • Visiting all the Presidential Libraries (we’ve only done Reagan so far)

We were lucky enough to find a “National Park Passport” at the first National Park we visited and have been having it stamped ever since.  Same thing goes for the California State Park system and the Presidential Libraries.  A fun way to keep track of your progress.

We haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on our list.  Happy travels!