•  This was going to be the best Christmas ever, Sally thought to herself as she admired her impressive tree. She surveyed her house, noting the care and precise placement of every ornament, stocking, napkin and candle. It was truly a holiday masterpiece. No one would ever accuse her of failing a family festivity. This Christmas celebration would be talked about for ages.

    She quickly changed, freshened her makeup and put on Uncle Matt’s “Favorite ‘50s Christmas Hits” playlist. She took a deep breath as she answered the door for her first guest.


    By Linda Arnold

    Just on the off chance your holidays are not totally Norman Rockwell-esque, take a look at the following checklist.

    Right now I’m feeling:

    ____ Jolly

    ____ Frenzied

    ____ Sad

    ____ Lonely

    ____ Overwhelmed

    ____ All of the above

    As a result, I’ve been

    ____ Kicking my system into overdrive

    ____ Giving up sleep for the month of December

    ____ Beating myself up for not getting everything done

  •  By John Nelson

  • You can’t get much better than free.

    That’s what Old Shally’s Diner at 5300 S. Main St. in Shallotte is offering kids as a Christmas present to the community on Saturday, Dec. 19.

    During restaurant hours from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., diner owner Nick Gavrilis said his eatery is offering free pancakes to all children — “as many as they want,” he said. “There is no limit.”

    He said that includes butter, syrup and drinks. The diner may throw in a few other holiday surprises as well.

  • Horseplay Farms, a nonprofit equine therapy and horse boarding stable in the Bolivia area, is having “Santa at the Farm” from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19.

    Highlights include a free hot dog lunch with Santa, who will arrive with goodies for children of all ages who are invited to the free event.

    Horseplay Farms, at 1757 Clemmons Road off N.C. 211, has only been existence for the past two years, program director Ellyn Burke said.

  • A lineup of llamas, horseback riders, county officials and other participants will highlight the annual Bolivia Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 19.

    Lineup starts at 10 a.m. at the Brunswick County Government Complex, with the parade launching at 11 a.m.

    The parade will proceed from the complex through Bolivia on Old Ocean Highway and will end at Bolivia Elementary School at 4036 U.S. 17 Business East in Bolivia.

    The road will be blocked off before parade start time.

  •  There are times in life you never want to forget — and there are times you can’t. This is the story of one of those. Mostly. 

  • By Linda Arnold

        We all grew up knowing about IQ. Then, several years ago, we started hearing a lot about EQ —Emotional Intelligence — with some researchers even claiming it’s as important in predicting an individual’s success as the Intelligence Quotient.


    By John Nelson

    “Wait a minute, I’m caught.” You hear this expression frequently when threading through a stickery thicket of this stuff on a winter hike in the woods. That gives us a logical common name for this group of plants: the “wait-a-minute vines.” (“Blaspheme-vine” is another name, usually saved for the species forming the baddest, meanest, most prickly patches.)

  • Experience the way American colonists celebrated the holidays as historic Brunswick Town in Winnabow celebrates its annual An 18th Century Christmas from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13.

    Costumed interpreters will offer guided on-the-hour tours of St. Philips Anglican Church and historic Brunswick Town.

    Visitors can also enjoy colonial refreshments in the Brunswick Town Visitor Center, participate in traditional games, and try their hand at making Moravian paper stars and other 18th-century crafts.

  • Three concerts will light up the season in coming days on the stage of Odell Williamson Auditorium at Brunswick Community College.

    Brunswick Big Band Dec. 13

    Brunswick Big Band will present a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Admission is free, but concert-goers are asked to bring a pair of socks to benefit the local Comfort Socks campaign.

    Marine Band Dec. 13

  • Renowned country singer Brandon Bailey and his band will be “Jammin’ for the Homeless” from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at the OIB Crab Shack & Seafood Grille at 125 Causeway Drive in Ocean Isle Beach.

    Organizers will be collecting items to put in backpacks, including socks, canned meat and blankets.

    Light appetizers will be served, with entertainment provided by Brandon and friends. Locals are just asked to bring an item for the collection.

  •   By Linda Arnold

    Does it seem everywhere you look there are images of happiness and glee — anticipation of close family gatherings and chestnuts roasting on an open fire?

    You’re not exactly feeling it, though, and you don’t know why. Holidays can do that to us. Internally, there are huge emotional triggers. And, externally, it’s hard to sustain that level of heartfelt awe in the Folgers coffee commercials and Hallmark movies.

  •  For many Americans, the days after major holidays should be called “leftovers.” For many American pets, it should be called “GI upset.” That's because too many pets will be fed too many leftover foods that will result in too many, er, potty problems. To help your pet avoid the “leftover runs” or worse, follow my holiday food rules for pets.


    Pace your pets

  •  By John Nelson


  • Pope Francis has long returned to the Vatican. Once an icon for media contemplation, he has all but disappeared from the scene, save for a few memories of poignant moments shared here and there, mostly among church folks. However, to refrain from remembering an invitation he continually proffered would be sad, if not disastrous. Pope Francis fairly begged us, all of us everywhere, to engage in a culture of encounter.

  •  It started with a goofy carol parody. My staff knew of my love affair with silly animal songs; it was time to unleash my unique melodic enthusiasm with Calabash.

    “On the first day of Christmas, my owner gave to me

    “A puppy for company.”

  •  By Linda Arnold


    I feel trapped.

    I’m bored.

    We’re growing in different directions.

    I hate my job.

    The kids are driving me crazy.

    I never have enough time for myself.

    What’s the point?  He’s never going to change.

    I don’t have enough money.

    I can’t start a new career at this age.


  •  By John Nelson

    And now, ladies and gentlemen, for your late autumn enjoyment, I am proud to present a plant that is common as dirt … and a member of the sedge family!

  • ‘Tis the season and week for Christmas parades, especially in Calabash and Shallotte.

    The 20th Anniversary Calabash Christmas Tree Lighting and Spirit of Calabash Parade are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4.

    The Spirit of Calabash Parade rolls out with a variety of participants including the Shriners’ Hillbilly Truck and Sudan Daredevils.