It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around Front Royal
December 23, 2017

‘Tis the season to be – decorated, December 23 …

Public School children painted seasonal themes on Town Hall windows.  Photos/Roger Bianchini





The Main Street Pawn window is even beautiful in the daytime.


The center of Historic Downtown Front Royal’s business district at night; below the town Christmas tree in the Gazebo.



Local News Seasonal
Front Royal Elks wrap up busy holiday season
December 22, 2017

FRPD officers gathered with Santa at the Front Royal Elks Lodge to offer a little Christmas cheer to the community’s kids. Courtesy Photos/Elks LodgeFront Royal Elks Lodge members are taking a breather at home for the holidays after another busy season entertaining kids and the elderly.

On Saturday, December 9, at the lodge on Guard Hill Road, 50 needy children met Santa Claus, who with the help of 10 Front Royal police officers, handed out almost 400 Christmas gifts – twenty-five-hundred dollars worth from the Elks National Foundation – to the children who ate 23 pizzas donated by The Melting Pot, Anthony’s Pizza and Fox’s Pizza.

In addition, Walmart donated, through the Elks, sufficient food on December 16 to provide 240 dinners for the elderly and infirm.

These are annual events for the Elks. The first is helped along by the police department and elementary school counselors who recommend the names of the children. Santa arrived, if not by reindeer, with a holiday-festive police escort.

Local churches, nursing homes, and the Senior Center are invited to participate in the annual event.

Early delivery – over 400 presents waiting to be opened by the 50-plus children who came to meet Santa at the Elks Lodge on Dec. 9.

Don’t stay home alone during the holidays
December 20, 2017

Make the holidays a special occasion this year by getting out to the local senior center, volunteering, or just enjoying activities in your area.

According to the AARP, the number of Americans who say they’re lonely has doubled since 1980 from 20 percent to 40. What’s more, about one-third of citizens over the age of 65 are living alone while half of those over 85 do so.

Social isolation has been linked to immune system issues, depression, disrupted sleep, higher levels of inflammation and stress hormones, and even increased risk of heart disease and stroke. All of these issues are serious on their own and some of them, such as depression, can lead to other problems like cognitive decline and dementia which contribute further to a cycle of poor health and isolation. All told, according to a recent study at Brigham Young University involving 3.4 million people, isolation and loneliness showed about a 30 percent increased likelihood of dying from any cause over the next seven years. This effect was most pronounced in middle-aged people and carried over into the aging population.

Health issues can affect whether a person gets out and about. So can changing friendships and social status.

Participating in activities is important. Even if you can’t participate for a long period, do what you can. Vow to take advantage of the activities offered at church and senior centers.

You’ll feel better for it!

New looks for Christmas trees
December 19, 2017

The centerpiece of many homes in December, the Christmas tree is often decorated with sentimental ornaments and a style beloved by each family.

If you want to mix it up a bit this year, try these tips from

New colors: Try black and white, especially with ribbons. Also: ice blue and silver, pink bows and gold ornaments, white bulbs with brown extras like pine cones, or bulbs that make a rainbow of color.

Ornaments: Among the possibilities are spray-painted birdhouses, toy soldiers or nutcrackers, large glittering letters, or small flag garlands.

Materials: How about burlap for garlands, scrapbook tags, triangular flags made of burlap, or feathers.

Tree stands: Why do you have to get a conventional stand with a skirt? Try colorful vintage buckets for smaller trees or re-purpose objects. Use baskets or tree pots.

New places: Have a kitchen tree? Want to make one? Try decorating with cooking items from cookie cutters to flatware.

See Country Living’s 67 tree suggestions at:

Holiday serenity is achievable
December 17, 2017

Soon the turkey will be roasting in the oven and the sound of holiday music is heard throughout the land.

This is a time often pictured as chocked full of conviviality, cheer, warm heartedness, and a reaching out in love to those around us.

But sometimes, when we are burdened with too much to do in too little time, the holidays can become a time of anger and frustration.

To help keep your feelings of good cheer, peace, and serenity, you might want to try some of these ideas.

* Realistic goals: Compile a list of what needs to be accomplished during the holidays. Eliminate what you can and formulate a game plan that allows you to do a little at a time so the holidays are not a burden but a blessing. Don’t be afraid to evaluate family traditions and change what needs to be changed.

* Restraint: Don’t become carried away with spending money on gifts and decorations, racking up huge bills that make reading the mail a dreaded experience. The guilt you will feel if you spend wildly will be enough to spoil any holiday. Stick to your budget.

* Share: Remember not everyone has the ability to have a pleasant holiday season. Pick one or two charities and give of both your time and treasure.

* Time for yourself: Sometimes we become so wrapped up in making sure everyone has a wonderful Christmas that we forget about ourselves. Take time each day to be alone and enjoy a quiet moment.

*Empathy: You might become agitated while stuck in traffic or feel impatient with an inexperienced salesclerk but remember the people around you may be dealing with frustration too. A smile can be contagious.

Nutcrackers have origins deep in human history
December 13, 2017

 Nuts have been a staple of the human diet for millennia and where there are nuts, so there are also nutcrackers.

Nutcrackers, today one of the symbols of Christmas, have a long evolution from simple stones to elaborate, and mostly decorative, figurines.

The oldest existing metal nutcrackers were made about 300 BC and were levers. By the 13th century, iron and brass nutcrackers began to take on shapes, and after the 15th century wood carvers began to make lovely, intricate figures.

The colorful wooden soldier figures were first seen in the Erzgebirge regions of Germany during the 1800s. In 1872, Wilhelm Fuchtner, known as the “father of the nutcracker,” initiated the first mass production of nutcrackers in the shape of human figures. Sometimes those figures were of real people such as queens and kings. That tradition continues today when you can buy nutcrackers wryly made into the likeness of politicians.

Nutcrackers became associated with Christmas during the Victorian era when children began to receive small nutcrackers in their Christmas stockings.

Today, their popularity has been enhanced by the traditional performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” ballet during the Christmas season.

While some decorative nutcrackers can still crack nuts, most are decorative pieces brought out as the tree goes up and the wreath goes on the door.

WATCH: Christmas Parade 2017
December 3, 2017

If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!

This year the Christmas Parade was Hosted by Beth Waller and Jen Avery. Video by Jared Hill and Mike McCool.

The top toys for Christmas, according to retailers
November 30, 2017

The hottest toy in 2016 is coming your way again.

A new Hatchimal, the toy egg that hatches a magical creature, is expected to be on the top of shoppers’ lists this year, according to Walmart. Order early if you want this item. The toy was gone from shelves in December 2016.

Most popular again this year are toys based on movies and television.

The Star Wars franchise keeps pumping out toys. This year, Littlebit company is introducing the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, featuring a very talented R2D2 robot. Shoppers will also find tons of Lego and other kits for Star Wars characters.

Barbie debuts for the holidays with the DreamHorse and Doll, a pricey toy pushing $90. For $298, two kids, up to age 7, can fit in the Disney Frozen 12-Volt Ride-On Sleigh with speeds up to 2.5 mph. Flashing lights and magical tune included.

If the family enjoyed the pie-in-the-face game last year, try Soggy Doggy board game. The game centers around a spongy toy dog that gets increasingly wet as players move around the game. The key is to avoid being the one to make him shake and, naturally, get everyone wet.

Disney Princess fans might like the Enchanted Cupcake Party game. Fans of the book Flight of the Jaquins can also buy the board game.

Fingerlings are supposedly hot items. These little characters hold onto fingers and other objects.

Toys for boys feature lots of the usual cars and blasters.
Among them:
* Adventure Force Light Command Light-up Motorized Blaster
* Disney/Pixar Cars 3 Ultimate Florida Speedway
* Nerf Rival Nemesis MXVII
* Monster Jam Grave Digger

Fisher-Price Zoom ‘n Crawl Monster leads crawlers on a merry chase, spitting balls and zig-zagging around.

FurReal takes stuffed animals a step further by making the toys interactive. The new Roarin’ Tyler, the Playful Tiger responds to sounds and motions. It even has its own play toy. The tiger retails for $117.

Recognizing the Plymouth Thanksgiving: How the Pilgrims became America’s forefathers
November 23, 2017

In American lore, Plymouth, Massachusetts, holds a singular place.

It’s known as the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, passengers on the iconic ship, the Mayflower, and host to the first Thanksgiving feast.

The town has not always been well known. The town and the Pilgrims who created it were largely forgotten for 200 years until December 22, 1820.

On that day, the great orator Daniel Webster traveled to Plymouth from Boston to take part in the bicentennial celebration of the Pilgrims’ landing. So great was his speech that it became known as the “Plymouth oration.”

Before 1,500 people seated on wooden benches in the meetinghouse, he said, in part:
“We have come to this Rock to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors, our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety, and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty…

“We listen to the chiefs in council … We are filled with reverence and admiration for the mild dignity of Carver and Bradford, the decisive military air of Standish, the devout Brewster, the enterprising Allerton…”

Webster’s oration started the elevation of the Pilgrims to the status of forefathers of the nation. At that time, the recently independent America needed an event and a place that rooted the country to its founding history.

They needed a founding location. Jamestown in Virginia was a candidate as was Plymouth in Massachusetts. Jamestown had an advantage because it was founded 13 years before the Pilgrims landed. But Plymouth offered a moral authority, thanks to the words of Daniel Webster.

Though the great Thanksgiving feast occurred 396 years ago, we still follow the Pilgrims’ lead in being thankful for our blessings on Thanksgiving Day.

Joyful and thankful Thanksgiving Day
November 22, 2017

One nice thing about this holiday is that it has no political theme and can actually be celebrated by everyone. In fact, almost all countries around the world observe a day of thanksgiving, which could be for a successful harvest or even a victory in war.

Though many people thank God for various parts of their lives, Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday as such. But it is still the one time that the many faiths we have in the United States can be united under one common theme: gratitude.

On Thanksgiving Day, be thankful for family, friends, work, food, and shelter, whether you have a religion or are content with not having one.

Gratitude is a quality in itself, even if it’s just being thankful that you can watch a football game after