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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New Hampshire Weather…

Ah weather. You either love it or you hate it. “Don’t like the weather right now? Wait a minute.” This quote was attributed to Mark Twain, but depending on where you live depends on where he was talking about.

Still, anyone from New Hampshire will tell you the weather that happens today does not determine the weather of tomorrow. (That’s my quote.) If you don’t believe me just look outside.

On Monday, November 24, it was almost 70 degrees in the sunshine here in the Granite State. The weather was so nice I went for a walk without a coat. Just a few weeks ago we had frigid temperatures and snow.

So what’s happening in the next few days? That’s right! After this beautiful spring-like day, we are expecting 5-8 inches of snow on Wednesday, the day before the big travel day, affectionately known as Thanksgiving.

I suppose we could get frustrated and complain (and we do), but for the most part we just take it as it comes. The calendar may say fall, but for us New Englanders, this is winter, like it or not.

There are lots of predictions of what this winter will be like and really, no one will be wrong. That’s because on top of lots of snow and frigid temperatures we are also likely to get our share of warm days, too. Though I will predict that our cold days will out number those.

The only thing predictable about New Hampshire weather is that it is unpredictable. Even the meteorologists are often wrong. It keeps us on our toes and keeps things lively.

Where ever you are this holiday, please be careful and watch out for that crazy weather. If you are traveling towards the northeast, give yourself extra time and be careful of the roads.

Enjoy you holiday and remember to eat local!

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.

The Big Dinner…

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Trying to create the perfect day can end up making it a disaster.

Thanksgiving is coming and, for those of us who thrive under stress in the kitchen, the day can’t come fast enough.  While this year I will not be hosting Thanksgiving, I love being in the kitchen creating a huge meal that everyone will enjoy.  I am up by 7am sautéing onions and peppers in mounds of butter to add to my seasoned breadcrumbs to create a sumptuous stuffing.  By 9am, the bird is stuffed and in the oven.  I use red bliss potatoes so I don’t have to peel them and I wash and put them in the pan the night before.  Brown and serve rolls are the easiest way to get warmed rolls without all the fuss.  Assortments of frozen vegetables are placed in microwave safe dishes and topped with butter and seasoning, lined up and ready to be nuked.

By 10am the table is set, the wine is chilling, the desserts (prepared a few days in advance) are safely tucked away and I am in the shower.  I am nothing if not efficient, coordinated…and well, a control freak.

I have come to realize a couple of things about Thanksgiving.  One is this holiday can cause such tremendous stress that it could potentially cause divorce.  Point in fact, many years ago my ex-brother-in-law and his wife were hosting Thanksgiving.  For some reason I cannot recall now, we were not there, but we did hear about it the next day.  Long story short, rolls were burned, words were said and separations occurred.  This is an extreme example, but it goes to show how personally we take hosting this once a year event.

The second thing I have come to realize is that this holiday is about being thankful for what you have.  It shouldn’t be stressful.  As I have aged, I hope I have also gained some wisdom in these things.  My ex’s family was always in competition with each other; one always trying to outdo the others.  Growing up as an only child, I am always at a loss as to why siblings do this to each other.

My advice, to anyone who wishes to take it, is to relax.  If you are hosting the big meal and you are not the organized control freak that I am, don’t try to do it yourself.  Give away some of the work and look for shortcuts on the chores you choose to keep.  There is nothing written that says the in-laws can’t bring a large bowl of mashed potatoes instead of dessert.  Depending on how many people you have coming, delegate as many of the pieces of the meal you can.

Make it fun.  Challenge family and friends to come up with a recipe that no one has tried before.  See if guests can come up with a creative side dish or dessert.  If your kitchen is big enough, invite everyone over early and get cooking.  Make it clear that the kitchen is a judgment free zone and that no matter how the meal comes out, you are thankful just to be in each other’s company.

Plan ahead.  Make a list of all the tasks you need to get done including shopping.  Break the list down into doable chunks by day.  Having one or two things to do each day is better than trying to cram it all into one.

Delegate!  Give kids age appropriate tasks and if you have a significant other in your life, make sure they are putting in equal time.  Don’t refuse help.  If a family member offers to come over early and help set the table, accept.  Make it a family event where everyone pitches in.

If you are not hosting the event this year, then offer help early on.  If the person hosting is a control freak (yes, like me) then offer to bring the wine or other beverages or perhaps an appetizer.  Don’t take no for an answer.   Suggest ideas to make the event fun.  Be a co-host.  Show up a little early and help set up, or help clean up after the meal.

Most of all…Breath!  Stop, take a moment, and remember that through it all, you are lucky to have friends and family to surround yourself with, even if some of those people drive you a little crazy.  If being with these people causes you too much stress, don’t go.  We eventually stopped going to my ex’s family’s house for holidays all together and went to a friend’s instead.  It was much more fun and relaxing and we found other ways to spend time with the in-laws that were much less stressful.

There are no hard and fast rules here people. Trying to take this one day and make it perfect is pointless.  Keep the perspective where it belongs.  Smile, have fun and enjoy!  Life is too short to be upset over a bunch of burned dinner rolls.

Upcoming Holiday Events!

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In New Hampshire, November is in between peak tourist seasons.  The summer events and leaf peeping have ended and it’s not quite ski season.  So you might think there isn’t anything to do in New Hampshire this time of year…and you’d be wrong.

Nothing says traditional holiday like quaint New England towns and New Hampshire has quite a few.  Add to that the tax free shopping and what better way to spend a weekend then strolling down a small town and shopping at some of the local shops.

On December 6th, Main St. in Concord will celebrate its annual Midnight Merriment from 5:30 to Midnight.  Stroll down Main Street and shop at local shops who will keep doors open late that night.  Many shops provide entertainment and refreshments plus there are many places to dine.  A strolling caroling group, an art’s market and a visit with Santa are all part of the festivities.  Visit http://intownconcord.org/ for more information.

Do you like the seacoast?  Portsmouth is a great town with cobble streets, old churches and wonderfully quaint shops.  It is loaded with history and is home to Strawberry Bank Museum.  Starting December 7th, the museum will host their Candlelight Stroll.  See what life was like 350 years ago and how the holidays were celebrated back then.  Check out their website for this and other upcoming events at http://www.strawberybanke.org/.  Also check http://vintagechristmasnh.org/ for more Portsmouth holiday events.

Jackson, New Hampshire is a quaint northern town with a covered bridge, beautiful mountains and the best cross country skiing around.  On November 30th, the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation will be hosting a Public Potluck and Bonfire.  If you are in the area, this is a must attend event.  Bring along your favorite potluck dish and enjoy!  Find out more at http://www.jacksonxc.org/.

Both the Santa Express and the Polar Express leave on the Hobo RR out of Lincoln, NH.  Whether you have young ones or are just young at heart, this is a magical train ride that will have you humming holiday tunes.  Check out both http://www.polarexpress.org/ and http://www.hoborr.com/ for more information.

There are tree lighting festivities in several towns, arts and crafts fairs, antique shows and more.  For a more comprehensive list, visit http://www.visitnh.gov/what-to-do/event-calendar.aspx.  Make your list, check it twice, then take a drive to one or more of your favorite holiday events.

Hope to see you there!