Merry Christmas!

Dec. 25th 2013


Belle Grove Plantation would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

We hope today you will enjoy a peaceful and relaxing time with friends and family!


Brett and Michelle Darnell
and Hurley the “Official Plantation Dog”

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | Comments Off on Merry Christmas!

Have a Happy Holiday at Home by Guest Blogger Kendra Thornton

Dec. 22nd 2013

Kendra Thornton Picture (1)

Today we have opened our blog to a guest blogger!

Kendra Thornton is a Travel advocate, TV Spokesperson, PR Buisness Woman, a proud wife and mother of 3.

Kendra is an expert on travel, having been the Director of Corporate Communications at Orbitz prior to founding Thornton Public Relations ( in 2005.

You can find Kendra on Twitter at or Pinterest at or Gogobot at

Kendra talks about her Christmas Family Tradition in Chicago.

It is Christmas time again! Everyone has pep in their step and the music is more magical than any other time of the year. People are scurrying to put presents under the tree before Christmas morning. It is always a winter wonderland here in Chicago! There is an endless amount of fun and excitement to be had. Since my family is Norwegian, there are certain traditions that are part of our heritage. Some of the best are the traditional foods and drinks we serve.

The family gathers every year on Christmas Eve. We work together and make lefse and kringla. Everyone must ‘shoot’ a raw oyster down his or her throat simultaneously, which is always a laugh. We follow that with a hearty bowl of oyster stew. Then we have a toast with a shot of Akvavit, which is a Scandinavian spirit that is very strong and warms the stomach. No toast would be complete if we did not shout ‘Skol,’ which is the Norwegian way of saying ‘Cheers!’

Kendra Xmas Kids

There are many traditions that my kids enjoy as well. They like to go ice-skating and help decorate the tree in our bay window. They always help me prepare the huge Norwegian feast and we always leave a plate of cookies for Santa. Their favorite tradition is to make reindeer dust, which we sprinkle outside their windows to help the reindeer find our house. Once everything is done, we cozy up to a mug of hot chocolate and then we head to bed.

In a former job, I traveled all over the world. I know now that there is nothing that compares to being home for the holidays. What would Christmas be without my wonderful family and the beautiful Chicago snow? On Gogobot, there was an article talking about warm holiday and cold holidays. Since I have been to a variety of warm places over the holidays, I know that it does not do Christmas justice. I could not give up the snow, evergreen trees and ice skates for sand, palm trees and roller-blades. What is your hometown like for the holidays?

We grew up with a cold Christmas and that is what works best for the Thornton family. This year we are blessed to be able to stay home and welcome our wonderful family to our dinner table. Everyone came over for Thanksgiving and it was an unforgettable holiday. Hopefully you enjoy lots of good food, great laughs and wonderful people this holiday season. Merry Christmas from the Thornton family!


Tell us about some of your Family Christmas Traditions!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Travel | Comments Off on Have a Happy Holiday at Home by Guest Blogger Kendra Thornton

Look Who Has Joined the Party!

Dec. 21st 2013

Santa Display

Over the past ten years, I have been collecting Santa Dolls at Christmas. Each year, we pull out our collection to display from the day after Thanksgiving to the day after New Years. The best part of this tradition is when we pull them out, it is almost like buying them new. You get to remember all the details that you purchased each for.

When I go out each year, I look for Santa’s with details in their face or in their clothing. And I am a sucker for glasses detail or a warm, kind face with true to life facial details. While I do try to buy one or two each year, there has been years that I didn’t purchase any. This was because I didn’t find one with the details that I want. For the past two years, we have not added any to the collection.

When we decided to decorate Belle Grove Plantation, I made a run back to Chesapeake to bring our Santa Dolls up to share with all our new friends! I knew exactly where to place them . . . in the Upstairs Grand Hall on the sideboard. They fit perfectly.

It was so much fun pulling them out, seeing those that have been with us for years. From our “Baker Santa” with his little helpers to our “Toy Maker Santa” with his little helpers, each has such meaning to me.

Santa Baker with helpers

Santa Baker with his elf helpers

Santa Toy maker with helpers

Santa Toy Maker with his elf helpers

Santa Bunny Slippers

Santa with a Fennel Shirt and Bunny Slippers

Santa Courtney

Mini Santa

Santa elf basket

Elf Santa with basket

Santa elf birdhouse

Elf Santa with birdhouse

Santa elf fur coat

Elf Santa in a fur coat

Santa elf on a shelf

Elf Santa on a shelf

Santa elf with holly coat

Elf Santa in a Holly Coat

Santa Father Christmas Tall

Father Christmas

Santa first

My First Santa

Santa Floor Fur Coat

Floor Santa in a Fur lined Coat

Santa floor lantern

Floor Santa with lantern

Santa Glass Tall

Santa with glasses

Santa plain face

Santa in a Fennel Shirt

When I made a run back to Chesapeake this last week, I made a stop to look for a Santa. I was well rewarded!

I found them at Michael’s Craft Store during one of their great sales. When I walked down the aisles, I noticed that the shelves were really bare. I got a little nervous that I might have waited too long.  After two or three aisles, I found the last of the Santa Dolls on one shelf with several Angels. As soon as I walked up, these two Santa Dolls caught my eye. Each of them had such wonderful faces. They both seemed to be “talking” to me; asking me to take them home.

Each of their clothing details was wonderful. One looked like it stepped out of the movie “The Hobbit” or “Harry Potter”. The other just looked like a joy Father Christmas. So I started debating which was the right one. These Santa Dolls general run about $4o for each, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take both home.

I picked up each and examined them. When I picked each up, they seemed to smile bigger knowing that they may be going home with me. I finally placed both back on the shelf and took a step back.

Then is when I realized that they were on sale!

Who needed to chose? I could have both! They were 70% off!

Santa joins the party

Father Christmas and Wizard Santa

Santa 2

Wizard Santa from the side

Santa Wizard face

Wizard Santa

Santa 1

New Father Christmas from the side

Santa New Fur Coat Face

New Father Christmas

So welcome to our newest Santa Dolls! We look forward to seeing them among our others for years to come!

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | Comments Off on Look Who Has Joined the Party!

Santa and Mrs. Claus Makes an Early Stop at Belle Grove Plantation!

Dec. 20th 2013

We were so excited to have a very special visit during our Christmas Candlelight Tours from


Santa and Mrs. Claus

Looking back in the history of Belle Grove Plantation, we know that Father Christmas has made past visits. In 1906, the Daily Star reported the following:

Daily Star


This visit was just as special!

Santa arrived at 5pm on Saturday, December 14th in style!

Santa gave his reindeer the night off and chose to arrive in a customized, red, Ford, F-100 Pick-Up.

Santa 1

Santa 2

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Brett and Michelle and all their guests received Santa and Mrs. Claus.

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They were ushered into the Grand Hall to be greeted by a very special young girl who had traveled one and half hours to see Santa and Mrs. Claus!

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Santa and Mrs. Claus took their place in the Upstairs Grand Hall and prepared to meet their special guests.

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Before Santa and Mrs. Claus left Belle Grove, they spent a few minutes visiting others in the Ladies Parlor.

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We would like to thank our very special guests

Gene and Diane Mullins

for donating their time and giving our young guests a very special time at the plantation.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | Comments Off on Santa and Mrs. Claus Makes an Early Stop at Belle Grove Plantation!

Where in the World was Michelle?

Dec. 20th 2013

I am sorry this has been delayed in getting out to everyone. I just took so many pictures and it took a long time to edit all of them!

I do have to say that I think I stumped most everyone this time! And believe me it was really hard to do that because where I was is very well known! So I had to find pictures to take that won’t give it away so fast!

So this trip is one that I look forward to each year. It is somewhere that I have talked about and love to go to.

On Tuesday, December 17th, I took a day trip to . . .


Colonial Williamsburg!

I love going to see how they decorated their colonial homes and the festive “spirit” really gets you in the mood for Christmas.

My first clue is one of the places I love to go to . . .


Wythe Candy Store.

Like Mary’s Cupcakery and Candy, they specialist in candies of all kinds. This is the first place that I discovered sugar free chocolates that really tasted good!

My second clue was someone that I found painting . . .


Mr. Green

My third clue was a sign located close to the James Geddy House.


My fourth and final clue was a dessert I love from the Trellis Restaurant . . .


Death by Chocolate!


As I was walking around taking pictures I also met some really nice people!

Here is Ranger, a Golden Retriever! He and his “dad” were sitting outside of the Governor’s Palace.

I also loved seeing everyone riding around in the horse carriages!


But the best part of my trip was the decorations!

While these are not “true” Colonial Style decorations, you have to admit they are very creative and beautiful!

Wreath 1

Wreath 2

Wreath 3

Wreath 4

Wreath 5

Wreath 6

Wreath 7

Wreath 8

Wreath 9

Wreath 10

Wreath 11


Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | Comments Off on Where in the World was Michelle?