Friday, December 16, 2011

A Holiday Tradition

Every family has their holiday traditions.  They could be big or small, but they are always treasured.

Yesterday, I enjoyed one of my all-time favorites: a trip to the Krohn Conservatory to see their holiday display.  The Krohn Conservatory is an exquisite glass hothouse that contains a vast collection of delicate and exotic plants.  I have been going to the Conservatory since I was very young.  My parents would take us every year and my brothers and I would get a new ornament we picked out for the Christmas tree.  I looked forward to it every year; more so than the trips to the zoo for the Festival of Lights and walks through downtown Cincinnati to see the window displays.

There's something so peaceful about the Conservatory.  Voices aren't raised and the whole place has a hushed, almost reverent feel to it as you walk through, looking at the displays.  When I step into the Conservatory, I can feel just a warmth in my soul.  It's beauty.  It's good memories.  It's home. 

As you walk in the door to the Conservatory, there's always a giant Christmas tree that is covered in hand-made ornaments.  Most of the ornaments are made from leaves, nuts, and bits of twigs.  I find myself standing before the tree for several minutes, trying to see each ornament on the tree, but my family is always anxious to move along to the main exhibit hall, where they have the giant poinsettia tree and trains. 

This year's exhibit was entitled: Trains, Trestles, and Traditions.  For several years, the Conservatory displayed a giant rotating music box that depicted places in Cincinnati.  It wasn't there this year, but the display they had was absolutely beautiful.  They had several trains running around the exhibit hall and little buildings made to resemble places that were well-known around the city.  The small incline trolley is a replica of the incline that use to run up Mt. Adams many years ago.

Also, here's another well-known building for Cincinnati.  The rounded building in the background of this picture is Union Terminal.  Long ago, it was one the main train station for the city.  Many people were shipped out to fight in World War II from this terminal many year ago, and some say it is now haunted.  The Union Terminal is still a train station, but it also houses the local history museum and Omnimax theater.  It's an exquisite building to visit if you're ever in town.

And a few places that aren't quite a part of Cincinnati, but beautiful all the same.  I'm not quite sure why they included this unless it's supposed to be a replica of the Tower at King's Island, which is a smaller replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.  Regardless, it is cool all the same.

From the exhibit hall, you find into the desert exhibit, which is filled with beautiful cacti and spiked plants.  This room is fun because I've seen the occasional little animal squirreled away during the summer.  The summer sees doors opened, allowing birds to flit in.  I've seen little lizards creeping along between the cactus and even a small family of what looked to be quails (Take this with a grain of salt, I don't know anything about birds.  They were at least small and quail-like.)  Throughout the desert room, they have little hand-made ornament hanging from some of the larger plants, adding a little color to the thick green room.

The desert room leads to an enclosed Orchid Exhibit.  This is the newest room of the Conservatory, being less than a decade old, I believe.  It is humid and warm, making you regret your winter coat, but it is worth the short jaunt through.  Filled with delicate orchids, this room is an explosion of color.  I love orchids, but I would never attempt to grow one.  I'm sure that if I killed the plant, I would be heartbroken, so I happily visit the Conservatory to get my fill of the lovely plants.

The Orchid Exhibit leads to the Bonsai Room, which is also relatively new.  The local Bonsai society allows the Conservatory to display their collection and it is amazing.  They have some plants there that are over fifty years old and have been in training for more years than I have been alive.  I have included the picture of the one bonsai that I look forward to seeing every time I visit Krohn.  I believe it is called The Grove.  My mind just explodes with fantastical ideas when I see it.  I can so easily imagine a little pixie or faerie living among the tiny trees.

From the Bonsai Room, you walk out and can then visit the two rainforest rooms.  Both have water displays containing enormous koi fish as well as a few turtles.  At the end of one room, there is a large waterfall that you can walk behind through this stone tunnel.  There's also a banana tree.  When the world is cold and gray, the Conservatory is a place within the city you can go and be enveloped in a world of warmth and green.  It's stepping into another world, like stepping into a safe jungle where you can explore without the worry of contracting malaria or getting eaten by a jaguar.

After you're done with the Conservatory tour, you can stop outside to see the nativity scene with real animals and life-sized wax figures.  This nativity scene first appeared in Cincinnati in the late 1930s and was moved to the Krohn Conservatory in 1967.  Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is a neat exhibit.  I just like to stand outside the exhibit and "baaa" at the sheep.    

 If you've enjoyed my tour of Krohn Conservatory and live relatively close to Cincinnati, Ohio, I suggest that you go check it out!  Make this a part of your family's holiday traditions.  If you don't live close, but would like to see more, here's a video I did a few years ago to show off the Conservatory, which was included in Pray for Dawn.


Tonight, my mother's side of the family is gathering for their Christmas celebration. There will be food, gifts, games, and lots of laughter.  My O.H. is cooking a cheesy potato casserole to take and I've been baking a little bit all week.  The presents are mostly wrapped and I'm getting ready to start the self-beautification process.

To close for the week, let me leave you with a few links.

First, pay a visit to Literary Escapism.  This post not only includes updates on many great authors, but it appears that Avon Books is running an awesome sale that you want to check out!  I'll be picking up a few books myself.

Speaking of book deals, I heard from my editor today.  She said that Voyager (my imprint publisher) is going to be running an e-book sale starting on Monday.  Nighwalker will be included, selling for $0.99 until early February.  I'll post more details soon!

Second, be sure to stop by Supernatural Underground everyday until Christmas as the authors there will be giving away lots of books!  You don't want to miss out!

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