These are a Few of My Favorite Things

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Khartoum Camel. I made this dromedary while living in Khartoum, Sudan from a real-life model!

We love the holidays. In our home it’s time for special foods – both old and new – but all from our families.

On Christmas Eve we’ll enjoy the tradition of my Mom’s Mushroom Meatballs and Black Walnut Cake from James’ sister Brenda. Our Christmas ham will be baked to James’ brother John’s recipe, and in the evening we’ll graze on my sister Ellen’s Mozzarella Cheese Bread and Party Mix from my sister Nancy,  then try a new taste sensation of Curried Crab Rangoon from my sister Susan.

So while you’re waiting for Santa to arrive, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite things – our Christmas ornaments collected over time … and place. Just click on any image for a slide show and behind-the-scenes details. Sweet dreams.


Like many of you, Christmas traditions are a part of our life. However, our nomadic lifestyle sometimes requires adjustments, and frequently, fun new additions.

For instance, last year we spent Christmas in Athens in a small studio apartment. A big decorated tree wasn’t possible, so we improvised and it turned out great.

This year, because it’s our first Christmas on the Georgia coast, it only seemed natural to add the new tradition of the “recover from lunch” beach walk.

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And discovering this whimsical tree – the Totem of the Beach Clan – made our walk even better. It actually was quite well done, but at the same time showed that slightly wacky attitude that always exists at the beach.

Locals adorn the tree with ornaments, beads and garlands, while beachcomber’s add their treasures as well. It’s a motley collection, but oh so cool!

So on this special day, we hope that your holiday traditions, whatever they might be, bring peace and joy to you and your loved ones.

A Very Merry Christmas to All,


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

62 thoughts

  1. Queridos amigos, lo que escribieron fue muy dulce y tierno, lagrimas corrieron por mis mejillas……….como esxtrano a mi familia, tradicion y cultura. Gracias por compartir. Un abrazo. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano 2014.

    1. Sue, we have had sooo many different Christmas trees over the years – from Norfolk Island Pines and Frasier Firs to Palm Trees and bare branches. It just depends where we are at Christmas. Surprisingly, my ornaments all fit in a shoe box! When we decided to downsize, I pared down my massive collection to only the really special ornaments that had meaning. Now I treasure my little box of Christmas memories. Hope you have a wonderful holiday! ~Terri

  2. What a wonderful collection of Christmas tree ornaments, all with fond memories. I must admit I love the camel the most. (I so love camels!) Have a wonderful Christmas!

    1. Thank you Darlene. I’m rather fond of the camel, too. I guess things you make yourself stick with you. 🙂 I also made one for all my sisters so they have a little piece of Khartoum too! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. ~Terri

  3. This is wonderful! I have started collecting ornaments to create a “travel tree” but didn’t get it up this year. I created ornaments out of my Guatemalan worry dolls and want to create a garland with modes of transportation (planes, ships, cars). It will be topped with a lit globe. Definitely will have it up next year. I love the collecting of memories that especially can be enjoyed at my favorite time of year. Happy holidays and blessed new year to you both!

    1. Thank you so much Sheena! Now I just need to use your creative gift wrapping techniques to perk up what’s under the tree! 🙂 I love your idea of the “travel tree” – particularly the “transport garland.” Have you found little planes and ships to use? Wishing you holidays as fabulous as you are! ~Terri

      1. Thank so much! I haven’t yet found the little planes. I am thinking to use small toys (party favors or piñata fillers) to string together. There is a great company ” Oriental Trading” that sells all that stuff. All the best!

    1. Merry Christmas to you too, Laura. You’re up there in that beautiful part of the world that always looks so Christmassy to me. It’s funny how these traditions develop over the years – some old, some new, but always fun. All the best, Terri

  4. Lovely ornaments! I like the monkey with the globe since it reminds me of myself!!! I’m also impressed by the ones you’ve stitched. Thanks for a great year of blogs that have made me want to travel more. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Many thanks Rusha … and I love all your wonderful Christmas ideas on your new Pinterest board. It’s never too late to get inspired – and you sure did! We find your blog equally inspiring and look forward to what you two are up to in the new year. Wishing you and Bert a very Merry Christmas! ~Terri

  5. Terri, what an eclectic collection of ornaments to bring you wonderful memories of family, love and your travels and adventures. I love the suitcase, the camel (I can’t believe you made that!), Indian tiger, Egyptian Royalty and Good Glinda. All of those take me back to MY favorite memories, from Oman to India to Eygpt to the Wizard of Oz (I used to have a Dorothy doll I took EVERYWHERE with me!).

    Happy holidays to you and James. 🙂

    1. Cathy, thank you so much. It’s great to have a fellow Wizard of Oz lover – funny what you imprint on. My love of OZ started with my mother who regaled me with childhood tales of seeing the film in the theater when it first came out. According to her, everything was in black and white until Dorothy landed in OZ – then it switched to color. Her enthusiasm was infectious and made a big impression on me. Traveling with a Dorothy doll can only be a good thing. Wishing you Merry Christmas and a much happier New Year. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Merry Christmas Susan! Over the years you have given us so many wonderful ornaments that we love, and the suitcase always holds a special place in our hearts. You know us so well. And the photo of the Sisters is so fun – you probably have some very similar ones of your family. Wishing you and Harper a very Merry Christmas and a rockin’ New Year. 🙂 Much Love, T & J

    1. Thank you Monica. So many of my favorites came from when we lived in London … and you know how wonderful it is. Are you still in New York? Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year. All the best, Terri

  6. That’s us! We’ve been collecting Christmas ornaments since we began traveling. Each year when we haul them out they remind us of a the places we’ve been and all the adventures we’ve had. This year, because we’re vagabonds, we’ve had no opportunity to revisit them. Thanks for letting us live the experience through you.

    1. Merry Christmas Tom! After all the years of collecting ornaments, I previously had a boatload. Then we decided to seriously downsize. Now I only allow myself a shoe box full of ornaments – so they have to be tiny or flat. 🙂 I see that you made it to Portland – wonderful! Wishing you and Louise a very Merry Christmas. I can’t tell you how much James and I have enjoyed getting to know you two this year through your blog and adventures. Here’s to a 2014 full of more great experiences. All the best, Terri

  7. What a beautiful collection, and such a great idea for small trinkets to collect on your travels! One of the best things about Christmas is coming together to share memories, and yours a on display in the lovliest way. Best wishes for 2014, Merry Christmas.

  8. Lovely ornaments with so many memories attached to each, I’m certain. Merry Christmas to the two of you and a wish for a magical 2014. 🙂

    1. Merry Christmas LuAnn and Terry! Thanks so much for your lovely words. We have so enjoyed getting to know you this year and can’t wait to see what adventures you’ll embrace next year. Here’s to a fabulous 2014! All the best, Terri and James

  9. Belated Merry Christmas to you both! I fell way behind after banging up my leg on an island exploration, and I am just now catching up. Florence went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve with a couch surfing visitor. It was packed 5-deep outside the cathedral door, which I guess is to be expected in so Catholic a country as Croatia. I am not sorry I missed that.

    Your camel ornament made me think of an Ogden Nash poem (in case you had not heard it before):
    The camel has a single hump, the dromedary two.
    Or is it the other way around. I don’t recall. Do you?

    Cheers! 🙂 – Mike

    1. Hey Mike, so sorry to hear that you banged up your leg. Hope it’s healing quickly. I bet that Christmas Eve Midnight Mass was so special for Florence. Glad she got to go – was she one of the people standing outside?

      I love the Ogden Nash poem – too funny! 🙂

      Wishing you and Florence a very Happy New Year! All the best, Terri & James

  10. Hi Terri and James, that is the best decorated Christmas tree I’ve ever seen! I love it…. you’ve given me an idea for next Christmas and what to buy as souveniers when I go travelling =) Have a happy New Year! Keep writing amazing stuff!

    1. Thanks Tanny. And I love your wonderful Christmas tree – how creative! 🙂 We have a tiny memento from most of the countries we’ve visited, and it’s fun to reminisce when we hang them on the tree. Happy New Year to you and Jonas. ~Terri

  11. I was thinking about this post as I carefully took down and boxed up ornaments from my tree yesterday. I was wondering if you had posted it, and I’m so glad I found it. Thank you for sharing pictures of your treasures!

    I knew the armadillo had to be from TX. That’s my home state, and as a little girl, I often spotted them dead on the road. They say they’re pretty tasty. 😉

    1. Anita, when we lived in Texas (and Louisiana) they called armadillo “oyster on the half shell.” They MUST be tasty! 🙂 Did you have a wonderful Christmas? Hope you did. So what are you up to in 2014? ~Terri

      1. LOL! I’ll bet my family in Louisiana has heard that one before. That’s great!

        We had an amazing Christmas and New Year’s. And after nine years of writing together, we finally recorded one of our songs two days ago. We had the best time! I’ll have it up on the blog as soon as I can.

    1. That’s great Peggy – we do too! And ours are often flat because I only allow myself a shoebox to store our favorite ornaments. I have a couple of sentimental favorites that are breakable, but I agree with you – Indestructible is the way to go! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Kristina, isn’t it funny how we get attached to some things. We’ve downsized and live a pretty simple life, but my shoebox of special Christmas ornaments gives me so much joy. I bet you can relate. 🙂 ~Terri

  12. How wonderful to collect stories in the form of Christmas ornaments! It makes an already special time that much more magical. 🙂 Mr. M & I have a similar tradition… it makes for a more… eclectic… tree than is generally popular, but one that’s meaningful. Also- I love that armadillo. I might be a Southerner at heart.

    1. Thanks Miranda … and welcome back! We sure missed you! Collecting small Christmas ornaments has been going on for a long time – with all our moves we sell all our furniture but keep the ornaments! 🙂 And as for the armadillo, they’re just too sweet. We used to have a nest behind our house in Florida and the babies would come to our sliding glass door and snuffle around until we came out. My heart melted. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. Oh, how absolutely adorable! This is terrible for a wildlife vet to admit, but I had no idea armadillos were present in FL! Oops. Once again, you’ve taught me something new!

      2. Funny you should mention being a wildlife vet Miranda. Do you remember my mis-identification of a hawk as an osprey, which you so diplomatically corrected? Well, as promised, I have written a correction post (anything is grist for the gallivance post mill), which will be published on Thursday. In that post, I give you a plug, and a link to your blog. Keep an eye out for it. Another blogging friend took some dandy photos of ospreys, which will be in the post as well. Thanks again. ~James

      3. How sweet of you, James, thank you! A modicum of redemption in the midst of my absence of armadillo-range knowledge. 🙂 I look forward to Thursday’s post!

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