Adiron-Deck the Halls: An RLPS Holiday Village

My brother-in-law, John, works as a project architect and construction administrator for RLPS, an architectural firm based in Lancaster.  For many, many years his firm has created a unique Christmas-themed display which is then opened to the public.  After our family Christmas gathering on Saturday, John gave us a private viewing of this year’s village and of the gorgeous office space he gets to work in every day.


The theme this year is the Adirondack Mountains and all buildings are required to reflect this turn of the century (circa. 1900-1930) architectural style.  Several rules accompanied the design and creation of this year’s theme: all models are at a scale of 3/8″ – 1’0″ (making people about 2 inches tall), all visible material other than windows, roof structure and lights are edible, and 75% – 100% of the  exterior walls  are made of pretzels.  I was blown away by the precision of construction and the attention to detail – even the interiors had glowing fireplaces, Christmas trees and an occasional grand piano.  With moving parts, a multitude of twinkling lights and a heavy dose of whimsy and humor,  Adiron-Deck the Halls was an unexpected delight  for me.  I’m thankful for my connection to an insider so I could take my time investigating it.

Some statistics:

  • > 30 unique pretzel shapes used
  • 40 gallons of Royal icing
  • 120 12″ x 12″ sheets of gingerbread
  • 15 pounds of salt
  • 16 pounds of aluminum wire
  • 652 trees
  • > 50 pounds of candy
  • 20 pounds of rock candy
  • 17 houses
  • > 2400 lights

This is what happens when designers, draftsmen, and architects play with their food:

Adiron-Deck the Halls 




















So much fun…thanks, John!

UPDATE: John sent me the link to a time-lapse photography video on Youtube showing all the prep that was involved in putting this little display together.

Downton Abbey at Winterthur: Stoking Anticipation for the New Season


The season premier of Downton Abbey airs tonight on PBS, an event my kindred spirits, a.k.a Downton fans, have been anticipating with increasing impatience for months.  To briefly placate the yearning for more Downton and to “prime the pump” for the new episodes, my daughter and I, along with a few other addicted family members, headed to the Winterthur estate (pronounced winter-tour) in Delaware to experience the Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit.

The exhibit was lovely.  Curators skillfully designed each section to inspire reminiscence of pivotal moments in the storyline by providing excerpts of script, images, and snippets of video along with the costumes.  Comparisons of culture and manners between the wealthy in Great Britain and in America were added for interest.  The real-life experiences of the du Ponts, the inhabitants of Winterthur and American counterparts of the Crawleys, as well as their staff were also seamlessly incorporated into the exhibit.  All in all, it was a fun and fascinating time for all of us.

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you will recognize every costume in the exhibit.  I loved viewing the fashions first-hand: the luxurious fabrics and beading, the fine craftsmanship and the level of thought that went into the choice of color, fabric and design.  On numerous occasions, I had to fight the impulse to reach out and touch.  Although images can’t do the experience justice, I thought I’d share a few photos for those of you who love Downton and just need a little fix to get you to tonight.  (Please forgive the quality – I only had my phone with me and the lighting wasn’t great.)

Enjoy! And tell me, do you have any favorites?


{A favorite of mine – so luxurious}


{Another favorite – love the embroidered panel}


Now are you ready for some Downton Abbey?  I know I am!

A Celebration of the American West at the Denver Art Museum

A few Sundays ago, I found myself alone in Denver, Colorado with a few free hours on my hands.  Not wanting to waste such a perfect opportunity for adventure, I made my way downtown to the acclaimed Denver Art Museum for an afternoon of cultural edification.  I spent an entire afternoon wandering the galleries of the fortress-like North Building.  Security basically had to kick me out at closing time.  Cultural edification accomplished.

What a great museum!  I enjoyed all the exhibits I encountered – Asian, European and American, Pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, American Indian, and the Northwest Coast.  The pottery collections, in particular, are outstanding.  My favorite galleries by far, though, are the Western American exhibits.  Perhaps because I was in “The West” (Colorado is quintessential western America after all), I was in a frame of mind to be particularly drawn to the subjects and settings.  Or, maybe it was just the passion, creativity, and artistry displayed in the pieces.  Whatever the reason for my fascination, I spent a great deal of time in the Western galleries, admiring and photographing what I saw.

I thought I’d share a tiny sampling of the artwork from the Western American galleries with you.  Personally, I believe the artists represented here pay creative and beautiful homage to the unique history and culture of the American West.  What do you think?


{ The Open Range by William Herbert Dunton, 1911(?) }


{ Jack Knife by Ed Mell, 2009 }


{ Cowgirl and Bronco by Regina Winifred Mulroney, 1945 }


{ Wide Lands of the Navajo by Maynard Dixon, 1945 }


{ Two Champs by Harry Jackson, 1974 }


{ Orion by Deborah Butterfield, 1988 }


{ Flight by E. Martin Hennings }


{ Ranch Near Rocky Ridge by Howard Post??? – I’m not sure about the title or artist… }


{ Big Horn Sheep by Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius, n.d. }


{ Buffalo (Monarch of the Plains) by Henry M. Shrady, 1900 }


{ Buffalo Hunt by Charles Marion Russell, 1897 }


{ Chief of the Multnomah Tribe by Hermon Atkins MacNeil, 1905 }


{ Eagle Fan by Ernest L. Blumenschein, 1915 }


The Rendezvous by E. Martin Hennings, about 1930 }


{ The Stone Age in America by John J. Boyle, 1886 }


{ A gallery in the Hamilton Building – Andy Warhol’s The American Indian (Russell Means), 1976 is in the middle of the wall }


{ Young Plains Indian by James Bama, 1980 }

If you are ever in the Denver area and if museums are your thing, I highly recommend a visit to the Denver Art Museum.  You will not be disappointed.