Writing Prompt #38: My Favorite Christmas Music

the-diamondback

Image Credit: The Diamondback

Merry Christmas Eve!

Happy Hanukkah!

I woke up this morning feeling inspired to write a post about my favorite Christmas music! I love listening to music this time of year – It always gets me into a festive mood.

This list has a mix of secular songs, carols, and hymns. I hope you enjoy!


“All I Want For Christmas Is You”

Mariah Carey‘s version is my all-time favorite. I certainly can’t sing like her, but I try! It’s one that always makes me excited for the season.

If you haven’t seen the recent mash-up of the song courtesy of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, it’s awesome!

“Carol of the Bells”

I love this song. It gives me chills every single time! My parents play handbells at church. That’s my favorite way to hear it, but I love a good string quartet, too.

Here’s a few others that I’ve found:

“Christmas Canon”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is one of my favorite musical groups of all-time. I was lucky enough to see them perform in 2012 at our local Hampton Coliseum. Since then, I’ve desperately wanted to see them again!

Their spin on Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is impressive, titled Christmas Canon.

“Christmas Eve / Sarajevo 12/24”

Another classic from TSO. This is one of my top three Christmas songs of all-time, one that I listen to multiple times every single year. It’s stunning!

“Go Tell It on the Mountain”

This is one of those songs that I look forward to singing every year.

“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”

I remember learning to play this on my viola. I love singing it, but also listening to it.

“Mary, Did You Know?”

Let me tell you, I went crazy for Clay Aiken after he became runner-up on season two of American Idol.

That’s part of the reason I love this song now. His version was just beautiful. I remember receiving his Christmas CD and playing it on repeat.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

This music always gives me chills. It’s almost haunting.

I fell in love with this version the minute it started. I think it’s partly because I played piano, and then viola, so anything with piano and strings captures my heart:Β O come, O come, Emmanuel – (Piano/Cello) – The Piano Guys.

“Silent Night”

Hearing this song always makes me think of the end of Aldersgate’s Christmas Eve services. We all light candles, and the entire sanctuary is darkened as we sing. It’s just a gorgeous scene.

Lindsey Stirling is my girl. She’s amazing! Seeing her in concert at the NorVA a few years ago blew me away. Take a few minutes and listen to her version of Silent Night.

“You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Sung by Thurl Ravenscroft for the 1966 Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, I love this song!

Fun Fact: We watched this on TV last night!


However you celebrate the season, I wish all of you many blessings, safe travels, and cherished time with family and friends!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Getting Personal #47: Giving Thanks

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Image Credit: pinterest.com

Since today is Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about giving thanks and reflecting on so many blessings that I have.

I’ve been pretty busy these last few weeks, which is why you haven’t seen many posts from me recently. Since last year, November has become a whirlwind month. We just celebrated a year of marriage. We went on a super relaxing vacation. Since we got home, we’ve dived back into reality – Home improvement projects, making sure parts of our house don’t flood, getting excited for the holidays.

I’m in the home stretch with my Trial Prep class. I’ve been trying to finish my two big projects that make up 45 percent of my grade – They’re due next week. After that, all that’s left is my final exam.

I’m blessed to be a part of several wonderful families – By blood, by marriage, by church. I’m looking forward to creating our family-favorite, absolutely delicious Chocolate Mousse Cake tonight, to share with Al, my parents, family friends, and church family tomorrow afternoon.


Reflecting on 2016, overall, it’s been a pretty good year.

No doubt, I’ve dealt with challenges, nightmares, anxiety attacks, friendship difficulties, and information overload.

There are still people in shock over the election results. There are families dealing with insurmountable tragedies – House fires, hospitalizations, difficult pregnancies, refugees trying to migrate, the horror of war, losing children / family members in school bus crashes. It happens every single day.

But, I thank God for a wonderful marriage, loving families, amazing health, stable jobs, a beautiful house, food in the fridge, and the ability to help others.

As we enter the 2016 holiday season, I’m motivated to help others as much as possible. It’s about giving, not receiving. I hope to give a pint of blood in two weeks. I hope to help at least one child have an amazing Christmas morning. I hope to spend quality time with my family and friends.

I’m very blessed. Writing everything down here, in this amazing space and platform, has only increased my gratitude.

I’m also incredibly grateful for you, my readers. Thank you so much for helping this little blog blossom into something amazing, especially this past year. All of you are amazing!

Readers, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads, VA Edition (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Weekend)

Image Credit: mffanrodders.wordpress.com

Image Credit: mffanrodders.wordpress.com

The weekend before Christmas, Al and I hosted our group of friends for the first time! We had so much fun.

The main reason we got together: Star Wars: The Force Awakens!!

Everyone was so excited!


On Friday afternoon, I was able to leave work early, around 3:30 p.m. I was making spaghetti for everyone for dinner. Drew was waiting for me outside the house since he was able to work an earlier shift. He brought all of his stuff inside as I finished the last-minute cleaning and prepping.

Al arrived home from work as I started warming up the noodles and sauce, and baking the garlic bread. He brought home the ingredients for Sunday breakfast, along with a bunch of assorted sodas. He and Drew chattered away about Marvel and Star Wars. The house smelled amazing!

Justin kept me updated on their travels via text, since Heaven was driving. The two of them and Katie arrived almost simultaneously. Dinner was ready, and it turned out great!


After dinner, we relaxed and enjoyed our first true Secret Santa gift exchange. My maid of honor, Melissa, took our six names and assigned three sets of pairs via Facebook messages after Thanksgiving. We were all brimming with anticipation!

Our pile of gifts!

Our pile of gifts!

Justin gave Al a Funko Pop! Star Wars First Order Snowtrooper!

Justin gave Al a Funko Pop! Star Wars: First Order Snowtrooper!

Drew gave Justin a Jack Skellington stocking cap!

Drew gave Justin a Jack Skellington stocking cap!

Heaven gave Laura Beth two things: A book about blogging and writing, and a journal!

Heaven gave Laura Beth two things: A book about blogging and writing, and a journal!

Katie gave Heaven two things: An owl necklace and earrings set, and a owl wall hanger with hooks!

Katie gave Heaven two things: An owl necklace and earrings set, and a owl wall hanger with hooks!

Then, unfortunately, both sets of my camera batteries died! So, Al took over the photos with his phone.

Laura Beth had a special Wolverine commission done for Drew! Check out "SavyArt" on Facebook for more information! Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Laura Beth had a special Wolverine commission made for Drew! Check out SavyArtΒ for more information! Savy happens to be my future sister-in-law, and she is epic!!
Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Al bought Katie a Steelers stocking cap! Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Al bought Katie a Steelers stocking cap!
Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

To end the night, we played Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre! Drew was the newbie, and it was awesome!!


On Saturday morning, Al left early to get O’doodle Doo’s donuts! Yum!!

We watched so many Player Piano videos! Sonya is amazing!!

After breakfast, for the first time, we split into guys and girls. The girls were on a mission: Going to LUSH in MacArthur Mall in Norfolk. It was amazing!

Heaven brought half of her makeup to the house, so she gave Katie and myself amazing makeovers!

Heaven doing LB's makeup :) Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

Heaven doing LB’s makeup πŸ™‚
Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

The finished product at Gianna's! Katie went with an 80s look, and I went for a more natural look. Heaven, you're hired! Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

The finished product at Gianna’s! Katie went with an ’80s look, and I went for a more natural look. Heaven, you’re hired!
Photo Credit: Justin Clatterbuck

We visited Gianna’s for lunch. I tried their subs for the first time – Delicious!


Then … It was time for STAR WARS!!!!!!

I took the pledge online to keep my social media accounts free of any spoilers for at least one week after the movie premiered.

Since it’s been approximately 13 days now, I feel it’s now safe to divulge my thoughts.

HOLY SHIT, THIS MOVIE WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

I never saw any of the previous movies in theaters, not even the prequels. So this was my first time seeing a Star Wars movie on the big screen.

And holy moly, worth it, it was!

I love the direction they are going.

Rey is awesome.

Poe is kick-ass.

Finn is my favorite πŸ™‚

BB-8 captured my heart from the first trailer well over a year ago.

I squealed when Han Solo, Chewie, and now-General Leia appeared on-screen.

A few observations:

  • Jakku is indeed a graveyard in hell. Most deserts are!
  • The visual effects are absolutely fucking stunning. So much eye candy!
  • The scenery is top-notch. I want to go to every single place where they filmed. I hope TFA gets nominated at the Oscars for visual effects and cinematography!
  • The humor was fantastic! One of my favorite scenes in the whole movie was where Poe and Finn escaping in the TIE Fighter!
  • I totally did not see Han Solo’s terrible demise coming! I teared up!
  • I was so excited when R2-D2 came out of low power mode!
  • I forgot how annoying C-3PO can be! Especially his voice, it grates my nerves a bit.
  • Initially, I didn’t like how they waited to feature Luke Skywalker at the very end, for the last couple of minutes, without any lines! However, now having seen the movie three times (Thursday the 17th, Saturday the 19th, and Tuesday the 22nd), I understand why they did it. It makes me so ready for Episode VIII. Memorial Day Weekend 2017!
  • All the theories about Rey being Luke’s daughter: I can picture that, but I’m not a 100 percent believer, just yet.

For dinner, we headed toΒ JONES’ Restaurant in Portsmouth. Some of the best Southern food around! Justin and Heaven had never experienced it until now. The chicken is worth the 15-minute wait!!

Our waitress, Diane, was the best! She saw all of us in our varying Star Wars shirts and walking up to our table, she says, “Are y’all coming from or going to?”


Drew brought his awesome s’mores maker again! Al and I bought the ingredients, including special s’mores-style marshmallows that were square! How cool is that?!

To cap off the night, we played a nice round of Munchkin πŸ™‚


On Sunday morning, Al and I made breakfast. Okay … Al made most of it! Scrambled eggs, amazing Smithfield cherrywood bacon (!!), and we tested our new Keurig Carafe. I was in charge of the toast and overall distribution.

Lesson learned – Buy more bacon next time! Yummy!!

Before everyone headed home in the afternoon, we played a fantastic game of Cards Against Humanity! So much fun πŸ™‚


As I finish this post, it’s the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Wow, 2015 has been one of the fastest years yet!

I want to say thank you to all of you, my readers. I started blogging (again) almost two years ago. Because of you, readers, I have grown in so many ways with this writing adventure and endeavor. Thank you!

I never imagined that this little blog of mine would be read across the country, much less around the world. Wow. I look at my WordPress Stats page often, and I’m so tickled when I see a reader from another country. Thank you!

I look forward to writing a lot more in 2016!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season so far.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Adventure Time: Hampton Roads, VA Edition (Independence Day 2015)

I hope everyone had a Happy 4th of July!

Image Credit: 13NewsNow (WVEC)

Image Credit: 13NewsNow (WVEC)

I’m so proud to be an American.


This weekend, our close family friends Lucy and Emily stayed with us! They brought the fun red, white, and blue Aloha leis, and beautiful flowers πŸ™‚

Yesterday, my mom made two delicious meals for lunch and dinner!

The rest of the day was filled with stories, laughs, and memories.

Last night, we were able to go to NOAA again to watch the fireworks spectacular, like we did last month for Harborfest 2015. Originally it was supposed to start at 9:30 p.m., but there were huge storm clouds and lightning rolling in, so the decision was made to start them at 9:00. Great call, because right after the show ended, the rain began!

One of the local TV stations posted an awesome video of the whole show! Enjoy πŸ™‚


Today, Dad and I went to church early. We have a new senior pastor, and today was his first Sunday. I’m excited to get to know Pastor Randy and his family in the next weeks and months. Mom taught the children’s cooking class for Sunday School, and then we all went home to hang out with Lucy and Emily.

We hung around the house for most of the day. Al took his dad to see Jurassic World. Mom’s best friend Debbie D. came out to hang out, just like yesterday. We started discussing dinner, and before we knew it, I had called Al’s mom and invited them to Spaghetti Eddie’s, one of the best Italian restaurants in our area.

The eight of us enjoyed a variety of food, including salads, Fettuccine alfredo, subs, a white pizza, and two canolis. We swapped stories and laughed a lot.


Photo gallery!

Old Glory in front of the house.

Old Glory in front of the house.

Debbie D. brought Red, White, and Blue Pie.

Debbie D. brought Red, White, and Blue Pie.

The flag among the beautiful carnations Mom  got from Norfolk Florist.

The flag among the beautiful carnations Mom got from Norfolk Florist. Mom buys a voucher from our church Boy Scout troop, where she picks up fresh flowers every month for a whole year πŸ™‚


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Hot Topic #3: The Family that Cancelled Christmas

Here we are, less than a week until Christmas, 2014.

Earlier this month, a story on TODAY.com caught my eye – A mom and dad cancelled Christmas for their three sons.

Photo Credit: Lisa Henderson (Over The Big Moon)

Photo Credit: Lisa Henderson (Over The Big Moon)

… Cancelled Β … Christmas?!

Did your eyebrows go up like mine did?


As I read the story, I realized that mom Lisa and dad John were trying to teach their three boys about the reason for the season – Giving, rather than receiving.

It was intriguing to me. The story that TODAY featured was abbreviated, so I found the full essay on Over The Big Moon.

Lisa and John had noticed their boys were caught up in entitlement and were having some related behavioral issues, so they decided to turn the month of December into a giving season. There won’t be presents, Santa, or stockings in their house next week.

Rather, they have worked on multiple service projects and using money for gifts for others, together.

I think this is awesome!


About two weeks after the original post, Lisa Henderson published an update on Over The Big Moon, the site that she runs with her friend/neighbor Dana, out of Utah – Check it out here.

She was, understandably, overwhelmed by the viral response and the Internet “trolls”, along with the reaction to the Β multiple media appearances (Good Morning America, TODAY, etc). The main negative comment/opinion was that Lisa and John were doing this to punish their boys – and Lisa responded with a resounding Absolutely not.

Read more below:

” … Somehow the word consequence has become synonymous with punishment. I never used the word punishment. What we are doing is done out of love, not anger and we are making sure that it is a positive experience. Every choice we make has a consequence.Β  The definition of consequence is: an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome. Consequences by definition are neither good nor bad. I want my kids to understand that their behavior and choices matter, so we try (as much as possible) to have natural consequences rather than punishments. If our society teaches kids there are no consequences we do them a huge disservice for their future lives. My kids were expecting the world without giving much thought to others. The natural consequence is that we are giving them opportunities to give and not receive this Christmas season. We are making it fun and enjoyable …”


I can see the perception of punishment, but personally, I don’t see it that way.

Case in point – My own family.

My parents were out of town the week prior to Thanksgiving. The day before the holiday, my mom texted me, saying that she and Dad had discussed an idea – Instead of giving gifts this year, what did I think about adopting a local family of African refugees for Christmas?

Immediately, I wanted to say yes. I decided to wait to say yes in person, but there was no question in my mind when I saw that text.

A dear friend of ours, Emily, has been studying social work at a local university. We learned about this family of African refugees – A mom, dad, and three children, ages six, two-and-a-half, and a newborn – through Emily working with them this past semester.

After letting Emily know that we wanted to do this, my mom and I went shopping one cold Wednesday night. We set a budget, and wanted to get at least one piece of clothing for all five family members, a toy for each child, and then books.

Mom and I had so much fun that night, although the hardest part was finding just one toy for a 6-year-old boy that didn’t have a choking hazard. I had no idea! We definitely enjoyed it though.

Plus, we got everything we wanted, and we were under budget!

Mom put everything in gift bags and I met Emily at the university that Friday to deliver them. Emily was overwhelmed with our generosity and kept saying thank you. I was tickled pink that we decided to do this, and it was another reminder of the real reason for the season.


The end of Lisa’s update post struck me:

“I think one commenter summed it up perfectly. Her words in response to our Cancelling Christmas were, ‘Sounds to me like this will be their first true Christmas.'”

I couldn’t agree more. I feel that way, too.


With just six days left until Christmas Day, I wanted to share my thoughts. I think this is a wonderful story. As for my parents and I – I mentioned to my mom after we finished shopping that Wednesday night that I think we should make this a tradition for every year, and she agreed. I like giving back to others, and I feel like this is a great way to do it.

I’ll be posting a few more times before Christmas … But I also wanted to wish my readers a very safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Getting Personal #2: “Who You Gonna Call?” (Halloween 2014)

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I actually have an excuse to dress up!

Since Al and I started dating four years ago, we’ve had a lot of fun with Halloween. I missed our first Halloween as a couple since I was still in college, but we’ve tried to be creative with our costumes since 2011.

Plus, one of the best parts about Halloween is Al’s parents have brought out their fire pit and let the trick-or-treaters and neighbors makes s’mores! Yum!!

Photo Credit: Fox

Photo Credit: Fox


Here’s a photo montage!

2011 – Star Wars (Stormtrooper and Princess Leia)

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

2012 – Halloween Party (Stormtrooper and Sexy Sailor)

Photo Credit: Lane Bellar

Photo Credit: Lane Bellar

2013 – The Blues Brothers

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

Photo Credit: Debbie Vardaro

2014 – Ghostbusters

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

And this year was extra special – I had Jamberry wraps custom-made in honor of the Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary!

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

Photo Credit: Al Vardaro

It’s hard to see – But the thumbnail is a likeness of Slimer, and the rest of the nail are black with green lettering that reads “Who You Gonna Call?”

Speaking of which, I’ll end this post with a song. Enjoy!

Ghostbusters Theme


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚