Another Christmas

I’m stressed…the holidays do that to me. Every year I tell myself this is the year I will get excited. This is the year that will be magical. This is the year I will enjoy my friends and family. That we will get out and enjoy all the fun things going on.

This year I had to really push myself to even put out decorations, but I knew if I did not, then I would never get in the spirit.

Perhaps it is because no matter what relationship I’m in (or not in), the whole process falls on my shoulders. Would we even have Christmas if it wasn’t for women?

I finally got my better half to bring down the tree from the loft. Yes, a fake tree on a farm. But with everything going on it is just easier and I don’t have to worry as much about the cats knocking it down.

In addition to being in charge of decorating the house, I am the one who sends out Christmas cards, shops for gifts, wraps and bakes and who ensures that everyone gets the same amount.

There are so many things going on this year, and many that I typically attend. My better half is a bit of a home body and trying to get him out lately is a chore, so I’ve missed a lot of the fun.

Each year, the city of Concord hosts a Midnight Merriment where the stores on Main Street stay open until Midnight and there are lots of sales. It’s a lot of fun and even somewhat romantic with the lights and music and party atmosphere. But we didn’t make it this year.

I did get to have dinner and drinks with a couple of friends. That was nice and I would like to do more of that. Staying in touch with friends is hard under the best of circumstances.

The warm weather and lack of snow isn’t helping much either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; but, well, what’s a New Hampshire Christmas without a little of the white stuff?

We are still working out the details of Christmas, but it looks like we’ll be spending the better part of the day at home. We plan to cook a nice roast, which I’ve already ordered from the local beef farm down the road. It should be very romantic with Christmas music, good wine and the fun of cooking together.

Once the holidays are over, I’ll feel better. The New Year always brings with it a sense of reflection and renewal and that is what I need most of all.

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Local for the Holidays!

With the first snow received last week and another slushy dusting on Monday, those of us living in New Hampshire are reminded that even though the calendar says it is still fall, winter has arrived.

With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away and behind that Christmas, it’s time to start thinking about (what else?)  FOOD!  After all, this is the time of year for feasts and merriment.

Are you hosting a family dinner this year?  Why not buy your fresh turkey from a local farm?  You usually have to order ahead of time, but some farms have extra.  Make a few calls.  If you don’t get one this year, be sure to mark your calendar for next year.  You know it’s healthier for you and tastes fresher, plus you will be “keeping it local.”

The summer Farmer Markets are being replaced by the Winter Markets.  You can still get some great food including root vegetable, meats, eggs, dairy products and fresh made breads, jams and spreads among other things.  Stop by your local Winter Market and stock up for Thanksgiving and all those holiday parties you’ll be hosting.

While you are at it, pick up some locally produced items for gifts.  They may great office or hostess gifts and are perfect for that last minute neighborly gift.

Speaking of Christmas…

This year some places already have cut Christmas trees on their lots, something you usually don’t see until the day after Thanksgiving.  Let me give you a hint…If these trees have already arrived, they likely were cut a week or more ago, meaning they are not likely to keep their needles until the big day.  (Trust me on this…I worked on a Christmas tree farm for most of my childhood.) Do yourself a favor and look for a local Christmas tree farm, bundle up the family and go cut your own.  Picking and then cutting your own fresh Christmas tree is a time honored tradition that brings the whole family together.  Plus your tree will last longer and smell fresher. (And you will find the prices comparative.)

Not sure where to go or what to get?  Check out these links…and remember when you buy local, it stays local!

http://seacoasteatlocal.org/ – This is a great site that provides names of farms where you can pre-order you Thanksgiving Turkey and also where to find and buy local products.  And check out their blog for great ideas.

http://www.nhmade.com/ – New Hampshire Made Products you can order.

http://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/NHxmastrees.php – A list of New Hampshire farms that have pick-your-own Christmas Trees.

http://www.nhfma.net/ – A site that has a full directory of both summer and winter farmer’s markets.

http://newhampshirefarms.net/ – A great site that has a bio for many of the farms throughout New Hampshire.

http://www.nhfarmandforestexpo.org/ – Looking for something to do after the Holidays?  Check out this site for the New Hampshire Farm Expo to be held in February at the Radisson in Manchester, NH.

Here Comes Christmas!

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Thanksgiving is over and we have had a quiet period in which to prepare for the next big holiday.  Because Thanksgiving was so late this year, we now have only 3 weekends of shopping before the big day. 

Though I didn’t host Thanksgiving this year, I am hosting Christmas and I may have bitten off more than I can chew.  If everyone who is invited comes, I will have 17 people over for Christmas.  I can already feely my anxiety kicking in.

If you are like me, you envision Christmas to be perfect with great food, wine, family and friends.  I picture my house completely clean (ignoring the fact that we have a Newfoundland at home), decorated like Macy’s and filled to the brim with laughing people and the sound of Christmas music.  A perfect tree sits in the corner with all color coordinated ornaments (forgetting the fact that I have two cats, one of which is a deaf kitten with absolutely no fear of heights and a love of anything dangly or twinkly).  Under the tree are beautifully wrapped presents, color coordinated to match the tree (insert cats here, again and add curious hound dog).  Homemade decorations and table settings to rival anything Martha Stewart could dish out would round out the décor.  Sounds perfect, right?

Now reality sets in.  On top of everything else I usually have to do, you know work for living and all, I now have to shop for a tree (I have an artificial pre-lit tree in the attic, but have been out voted this year), buy, wrap and even ship presents, and cook for a potluck at work.  On top of Christmas, we also have my boyfriend’s birthday and our anniversary this month.  And all this must get done in 3 weeks!

So how, you may ask, am I going to accomplish all this?  Well, I will not lie to you and say it will be easy.  In fact, I foresee some yelling and arguing along the way.  My goal is to make it as painless as possible without taking on all the work myself. 

I am lucky in that my family doesn’t require a big formal meal for Christmas.  We always go potluck.  So this year, to try and make things fun, I am setting a challenge.  Each family can bring a dish they would normally bring for Christmas, you know, that one thing they are famous for and everyone looks forward to?  And then they have to make one item they have never tried before.  The rest of us get to be the Guiney pigs so-to-speak.   No one gives away what the “new” item will be, they just need to let me know what category it would fall under.  That way we make sure we have enough appetizers, main dishes and desserts to go around. 

We’re not big on presents, either, which is something I like about my family.  There’s no stress in trying to outdo the year before or making sure you spend the same amount on everyone.  We agreed that presents would be bought only for those under 18, which works just fine for me.  It saves time, money and a ton of stress.  It’s not like anyone goes without and our gift to each other is bringing a home cooked dish to share.

My house is still what I call “under construction.”  We have throw rugs on top of plywood floors in some rooms and our living room furniture should be burned.  But that’s okay.  I’d like to think that my family has captured the true meaning of Christmas, where everyone gets together to enjoy good food and good company.