Monday, May 11, 2015

My Trip to Provence and Cote d'Azur, France

If it seems like it has been quiet here at The Grandma Chronicles recently it has been because I was on vacation in France – Paris (Just briefly), Provence and the French Riviera.  I traveled with a women’s travel group – Women Traveling Together – since my husband was not interested in this trip. I had a great time and enjoyed all of it.  Here are some pictures and highlights.

We visited a number of small towns with historical things to see span whole different periods of history.  The Romans came to Provence and Cote d’Azur (Riviera) in 121 BC and stayed for 500 years.  You can see a coliseum,  columns and ruins of Roman baths still standing.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from that period.

During that middle ages, Counts and Knights ruled and built fortified castles usually on hillsides and many small towns and villages still existing today grew up around them.  You can visit castles, monestaries, old churches and more from this timeframe throughout the region.

Avignon was the home of popes in the 1300s and was owned by the papacy until the French Revolution.  It is a walled city – from medieval times – and has the famous Popes’ Palace.  It was definitely something to walk through the building which is intact and marvel at the sophistication and size of the construction.  Today Avignon is a busy city with 12,000 people living inside the walls and 78,000 living outside.  The first floor of many buildings have become modern stores, banks, restaurants and cafes and the facades of the upper portions remain intact while modernized inside for modern inhabitation.  Avignon –and surrounding area – was owned by the Papacy and never part of the French kingdom.  They do think of themselves as a separate place that does not have the French kingdom in its history. For example there are no Fleur-de-lis as this was originally associated with the French kingdom and Provence does not all associate itself with that time in French history.  In Paris and parts of northern france wyou will still see a lot of Fleur-de-lis decoration.

There is the history associated with the French Revolution – this is when Provence became part of France.  The church was outlawed in this time and many churches became government buildings and today some of them are schools, hospitals and civic buildings.  This monestary was bought by one owner and given back to the monks many years later when the church was able to re-establish itself in France.

One of the most interesting facets of Provence is that is is so beautiful and inspired so many well known artists.  Arles was home to Van Gogh and they have pictures of his paintings at several of the scenes he painted that are still there – here are two of them.

Cezanne painted the beautiful landscape and we visited a church with three Reubens.  The sculpture everywhere is just gorgeous.  If you are interested in art, you will definitely appreciate a trip to Provence.

We ended our tour with a visit to Cannes and Nice on the Mediterranean sea.  In these bustling towns historical old towns and modern cities exist coherently side by side as if neither was out of place.  There is a continuum of time that seems to work just fine.

Outside the hall where the Cannes Film Festival is held

If you stay on your yacht you can just walk over the the Cannes Film Festival

Approaching Nice

Train Station in Nice

Sculpture in Nice Main Square

Sculpture in Nice Main Square

In all of these places the food is just indescribable.  The food is grown locally, the fish is caught locally and everything is farm fresh and prepared to be a visual delight.  One of the things I enjoyed most on this trip was the many times I just sat at an outdoor cafĂ© and enjoyed lunch or dinner on a picturesque small “rue” and watched life go by.  

Market Day in Grasse

The trips included a visit to an olive farm, winery, lavender factory and perfume factory.
Meet the winemaker

And this is the picture of my grandson that went with me everywhere on the trip.:

Will I return?  Oh yes – but I will choose one or two places to visit and just appreciate the local culture.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Raggedy Ann 100th Anniversary Winner and More Stories

Usually if I have a giveaway, I just have an update on top of the blog with the winner’s first name and notice that the giveaway is closed.  However, the responses to the 3 Raggedy Ann and Andy 100th Anniversary Doll giveaway garnered so many personal stories and stories of lifetime interest in Raggedy Ann that I just had to write another article about the winner and the blog comments about this giveaway. 

The winner of the dolls is Greta Eber. This was Greta’s comment on my blog: “I have been collecting Raggedy Ann since I was 2 years old and now as a stay at home mom of 4, I make Raggedy Anns for friends and fellow collectors. Love hearing from other collectors! Thanks!”

I asked Greta if she would tell us a little bit about her history with Raggedy Ann for this post.   Here is what Greta had to say:

I received my first Raggedy Ann for my 2nd birthday.  My mom had a little lady from church make her for me and I took "Aggie" everywhere I went.  When I wore the first doll out, the lady made me a second doll and eventually a 3rd.  I still have my original homemade girls.  I got my first "store bought" Ann when I was 6 and she has been to college with me and even went to the hospital when I had all 4 of my kids.  Over the years, I've picked up Raggedy Anns here and there and have had many dolls given to me.  Last year I made my first ever Raggedy Ann and took her to the Raggedy Rally in Arcola, IL.  Since then I've made around 20 Raggedy Anns and Andys and some Camels.  I love that Raggedy Ann is soft, durable, and perfect for cuddling.  My daughter is now starting to enjoy Raggedy Ann and she will be going to the Rally with me this year in June.”

Here is Greta with her first Raggedy Ann doll - Isn't she cute?

I wonder if Greta and her daughter will be bringing any new Raggedy Anns with them?  I had no idea - This is just remarkable.  I am so delighted that Greta won the dolls.  Greta blogs about her family at and she has lots to share as the mother of 4.

Kathy Ellis left a comment on my facebook page  announcing this year's Raggedy Ann Rally with a huge celebration for her 100th anniversary.  Learn more here.    And if you go, please post pictures here and on my facebook page for all to enjoy.

To tell the truth – I have never felt this way with ANY giveaway – but I wish I had a hundred to give away – I know that all would have found wonderful homes with everyone who left a comment.

This post brought back many happy memories described by commenters.  They also had handmade dolls, Raggedy Ann bedspreads, and Halloween costumes.  Some posters still have their dolls and would like to be able to give one to a daughter or granddaughter.
Here are some of the touching comments made on the original giveaway post:

Heather said, “Thank you for this beautiful background and the giveaway. My mom would love these. She is a military wife (my dad is now retired) and I am also now a proud military wife. Throughout all of our moves, somewhere my mom lost her beloved Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. The stars and stripe theme would be meaningful and my parents anniversary party is coming up in two weeks. I could not imagine adding this to the gift list! :)”

Aliza said, “I remember when I was little (in the 80's) everyone loved Raggedy Ann. My aunts made me a twin blanket that has Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy and a pillowcase to match. To this day I have them and use them on my bed still. It brings back such good memories of my loving family.”

Amy said, “Thank you for this wonderful giveaway! When I was younger my mum used to read us kids raggedy anne stories every night before bed. She made my childhood wonderful!”

Teresa said, “I took my daughter to see the Raggedy Ann & Andy Museum in Arcola, Illinois when we were visiting family. That was about 6 or 7 years ago. I think it is closed now. The granddaughter of the creator of the dolls, Joni signed a Raggedy Ann doll for my daughter. I remember my Raggedy Ann I had as a child.”

Ricci said, “OMG! Seeing this post brought back a lot of memories! I had a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll set that I loved to pieces! I would love to win this for my daughter!”

Thanks to everyone who commented on the Raggedy Ann giveaway post.  I hope it made you smile and remind you of your own experience.  Even if you didn’t win you can still buy an anniversary doll or treasury of stories book.  See the links below.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Baby Shower at Home Celebration

Last week we hosted the baby shower for my daughter-in-law at our house.  I thought I’d share a few highlights – and maybe give you some ideas – in case hosting a baby shower is in your future. I prefer to have events like showers at home rather than in a hall or restaurant. But I must be honest it is a lot of preparation work. Anyway this post is all about the celebration and fun parts. 

Before people arrived a bunch of us were cooking and decorating….. 


Although we were set up for an inside party, the weather was so beautiful that half of it spontaneously moved outside. One of my favorite activities for a baby shower is to have guests decorate onesies with fabric markers. And this was one creative crowd. The onesies were decorated at a table in the family room and then hung on a line in front of the garage. Moms and Grandmas also enjoyed filling out “Advice Cards” for the soon to be Mom. These activities all were started as soon as people arrived –right after getting a Mimosa or glass of punch and were well underway before the guest of honor arrived.

After a buffet lunch we gathered in our living room to watch Isabel open gifts. Here is one gift that didn’t get unwrapped it is a diaper cake (It has over 100 diapers!) that my niece made.  You can’t have a baby shower without getting at least one hand knitted blanket. Cousin Bea made this one – Isn’t it beautiful?


A Pack of Essentials
The Owl will be perfect in the forest themed nursery

Then Isabel read the advice cards. The very first one said – “Don’t listen to anyone’s advice.”  After huge laughter, she read the rest of the advice. There is serious advice, advice to enjoy every moment and young mother truth advice.

Next up - prizes for two of the onesies – the father and grandfather both got to choose their favorites. 

The theme for the nursery is forest and so the favors were owl themed.
The other thing we did is ask people if they wanted to bring a book for Baby's First Library to bring them unwrapped.  Sorry that I don't have a picture but we also had a table display of books - what a nice selection.

Well, that's it.  It was a great party and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  I hope you enjoyed my "Baby Shower Report."  Do you have ideas for a baby shower to share?  Please leave a comment and share them here.

Less that 3 months to go and I'll be a grandmother for a second time.  I am so looking forward to it.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Raggedy Ann Dolls - A Great Story and Giveaway

Update on 4/24/15 - This giveaway is now closed.  Read more about the winner and Raggedy Ann stories from people who read this post at my new post - Raggedy Ann 100th Anniversary Winner and More Stories

In February I featured the 100th Anniversary Raggedy Ann doll from Aurora  in my Toy Fair NY 15 favorites.  Now I am so excited to be offering this SET of three dolls as a giveaway. See the giveaway details at the end of this review.  To kickoff the review here are pictures of the dolls:

100th Anniversary Stars and Stripes Raggedy Ann by Aurora
This  100th Anniversary “Stars and Stripes” Raggedy Ann doll sports “100th anniversary Raggedy Ann 1915-2015” embroidered onto her apron, a heart label and a folder with the history of Raggedy Ann.  This 16 inch doll is soft and very hugable.

100th Anniversary Raggedy Andy and Classic Raggedy Ann dolls
Here are two other anniversary dolls – 
Stars and Stripes Raggedy Andy with the 100th anniversary label on his sailor hat and the classic Raggedy Ann doll in a light blue dress.  Both of these dolls also have the 100th anniversary heart hangtag and history folder.

Mary Louise with the 100 Anniversary Stars and Stripes Raggedy Ann
The toys I receive to review are usually given to a child. This set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls is a little different.  First I have to say they are WONDERFUL!  They capture a time gone past and and put you in a "timeless frame of mind." You smile and want to hug them.  I just love them.  

My husband and I were looking at them on our kitchen table and he said you know these should go to someone who will really appreciate them.  Yes, but I didn’t think I knew anyone who fit that bill.  Fast forward less than a week and I was taking corned beef and cabbage to a 88 year old woman from our church. 

I walked into her home for the first time and it was covered with Raggedy Anns and Andys and memorabilia.   And so, of course, Mary Louise is the proud owner of this 100th anniversary doll.  

Mary Louise was so excited to receive this 100th anniversary Raggedy Ann doll and she hugged and admired her new treasure.  It is now the newest member of her collection.

She did lift her dress and check to see if she had a heart and indeed she does.  This one is authentic.  Verified by an expert.

Mary Louise checking all the details
 Mary Louise was also interested in the details in the history folder.  John Gruelle received a patent for the doll in 1915 and in 1918 he published the “Raggedy Ann Stories.”   As the folder says, these are "heirloom treasures to be passed along for generations to come.

Here are two Raggedy Ann books in Mary Louise’s collection – one is the original published in 1918 and the other was published in 1928.  They have been well read and are worn with love.  The pictures below include the publisher’s page and a page of the color illustrations of the book. You can still get the Raggedy Ann Stories at Amazon.

Do you believe these color illustrations in a 1918 publication of the Raggedy Ann stories?

Mary Louise took out some of her other special edition Raggedy Anns kept in boxes and you can tell that she is a proud - and more important - joyful collector.

These dolls will also be loved by a young child and they certainly are the type of doll that becomes a life long best friend.  I am keeping the 100th anniversary Raggedy Andy for my grandson due this summer.

Reviewing these Raggedy Ann dolls became more of a wonderful experience that just a review for me.  I must say that I have become a Raggedy Ann fan!  And now you have an opportunity to win all three dolls and start your own collection or give one to your own favorite doll collector.  Before I go to the giveaway details I have to thank Aurora Gifts for making my friend and I so very happy with these dolls. I have seldom been so happy when gifting a review item.

Giveaway Details
It is easy to enter and there are two ways. Both ways count as an entry so you get two entries if you do both.  I need to be able to contact you if you win. If you enter -  email me with your email address at  I will not use your email address for anything except to notify you if you win.  Grandmother’s Honor.

1.      Leave a comment here on the blog 

You can have two entries by doing both.  Deadline to enter: April 22, 2015 at midnight. The winner will be selected using

 This item can be sent to US and Canadian addresses only.

Full Disclosure:  This review is completely my own opinion and I was not reimbursed for it.  I did receive review samples. 

You can also buy these items at Amazon: