Jan 29 2012

Depending upon the viewpoint of the recipient, a surprise
party can be a delight or a floodgate of suffocating attention.

Do you like surprise birthday parties? It does put the special person on the spot. I’m not sure that I like them thrown for me, but what fun it is to plan good times for someone else and have everyone in on the secret. I suppose the ends justify the means as only a group of people with the best of intentions would go to all of the trouble of creating such a festive get together.

Just look at the fun a group giving a surprise birthday party can have. Here is an early 1931 cartoon of Mickey and Minnie Mouse with all of their friends springing a surprise birthday party for Mickey and what a party it is. If you grew up in the 1950s like I did watching cartoons on Saturday morning, then you will recognize some of these early Disney characters from when these cartoons, originally played as previews for movies in movie theaters, were shown on TV. Share some old time memories by clicking on the play button below:

Mickey and Minnie thrilled Depression Era children at movie theaters.

Birthdays are such a momentous day of the year for children and when we are children, there are lots of relatives to celebrate each passing year. We know that such rewards and attention will surely be there our whole lives as we bask in the adoration of everyone we know. But, as the years speed by and the glorious attentions of our elders are replaced by photographs and memories, birthday celebrations can thin out quite a bit. Many of us must look forward to planning our own self celebrations, gathering happiness up around our shoulders like a wool shawl on a cool summer evening, thus marking our own yearly passages.

Looking into the sun gives this birthday girl an expression of
entitled impatience while being feted by her twenty two guests.

But, celebrating birthdays together is something we might choose to do for all of our adult friends as we parent each other through the rest of our lives. Making a fuss, sending cards and planning celebratory events increases fellowship and takes each birthday person back to the days when they were a child at birthday parties and there were less then ten candles on the cake. Now, there are even adult birthday party planning sites on the Internet with party supply packages to ease making arrangements.

So, with all the work done, sit up straight, make a wish and blow out all the candles at once!

Sue shows us how to get excited about Surprise Birthday Parties.

If you decide to plan a party, this book has rave reviews. Hover your mouse over the link to preview:

Real Simple: Celebrations



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Sep 24 2010

With all that Virginia has to offer, we always go to Dinosaur Land.

When you live in the suburban Washington, D.C. area, basically meaning Maryland and Virginia, and you start to look for dentists that have a mercury free practice, as you surely will someday if you have mercury fillings in your mouth, you’ll end up in Ft. Royal, Virginia at the Dental office of Dr. Craig A. Zunka, but that’s another story. At the same time, if you were driving to Front Royal in 2002 with children in the car, you’d end up at Dinosaur Land and eating ice cream at the Royal Dairy, and that’s this story.

When I go on “Back Road Auto Trips,” which are my favorite, I am always trying to subconsciously recreate the outings of my childhood in the 1950s before the Interstate highway system. I long for the trips with my grandmother and her friends who all had pocketbooks with colorful handkerchiefs and rolls of peppermint Life Savers and who doted on me as I tried not to roll around in the car’s big back seat before the days of seat belts. One way or another, no matter where we were headed, we’d be sure to stop for an ice cream cone so, every trip I go on to this day, I am always in search of old fashioned soda fountains with Formica counters and polished chrome.

The beauty of a 1950s road side restaurant menu.

Imagine my delight when a trip to the dentist, not usually something to which one looks forward, became my favorite place to go and that was the day we discovered that Front Royal, Virginia was home to the Royal Dairy. It was the kind of place you’d “just happen to stop by” when you were out for a ride with your grandparents. You know, the kind of place with the big menu encased in thick plastic with brown leather binding that had the center open inside for the changing of the “Daily Specials.” The burger and fries kind of place where the hamburgers were free formed by hand and the lettuce and tomato slice garnish sat next to a pickle spear.

Well, those of you born before McDonald’s will know what I mean and appreciate the trips to old ice cream parlors and malt shops such as the Royal Dairy.

The Royal Dairy could dish up ice cream in any flavor with any topping.

Alas! A deep sadness came over me when I looked up the Royal Dairy to get their link and encourage you to go. After sixty years in business, the Royal Dairy closed in 2006. No more malteds for the kids at Randolph Macon and no more ice cream for us when we travel to Front Royal. I suppose that’s progress and the customers of the new Korean Sushi restaurant are happy to have such an option, but somehow, it’s just not the same.  Do you have a traditional ice cream shop where you live that I could put in my sights? I’d love to know where it is! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

As you can see, I love to travel back in time and remember things as they were.  If you really want to time travel, as far back as the age of the dinosaurs, then our next stop, Dinosaur Land, is for you. What a great place for the little ones who love dinosaurs and will get excited about great, big dinosaur recreations located on a pleasant walk through a Virginia woods. Of course, you have to love tourist attractions and I do because they are another part of my longed-for past. I’m big on the culture of roadside America, that special time when cars became more dependable and families headed off to sight see in their station wagon.

Dinosaur Land is a big hit with kids discovering their “inner dino.”

If you want a pretty ride through the Virginia countryside with a great destination at the end, try Dinosaur Land out for size. Everyone is friendly and the gift shop has much of interest, including a section for Civil War buffs. If this seems like fun to you, here is a link for more information.

And here is a map of our part of the country in case you need to get your bearings:

The red star is Dinosaur Land, just outside of Front Royal, VA.

When we travel to Virginia, we use a guidebook that lists attractions that are “off the beaten path.” You’ll find Dinosaur Land on page 155, if this type of visit appeals to you. Here’s “our” book:

If this book seems like it would fit your interests, it can be previewed by hovering your mouse over this link:

Virginia Off the Beaten Path, 10th: A Guide to Unique Places (Off the Beaten Path Series)



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