This is a collection of posts that cover our Christmases since Laura and I have moved to Maine. They are in no particular order.
I must say, this was probably one of the best Christmases of my life. I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the past year that I’d like to share with you throughout this post. Nothing crazy or anything, just some life adjustments that really made a difference during this holiday season.
I think it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving that I decided that I better start becoming serious about the holidays. For as long as I can remember, I pretty much thought that things were going to miraculously come to me. I’d sit in my desk seat watching videos of Thanksgiving Day get-togethers and feasts and assume that if I waited long enough, I’d be eating a wonderful dinner surrounded by candles and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it’s taken me a very long time to learn that what you put into it, you get out of it. If Laura and I didn’t think about and prepare this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, we would have been sitting on the couch eating Pop Tarts. We did think about it though and we enjoyed every last minute of it. You can read all about that here.
It all started out by watching a video. You can see it below (if you’re reading this post via email, you’ll need to click through to the post):
A New England Christmas
After watching the video a few times, something dawned upon me. All the wonderful things that the folks look like they’re enjoying so much were painstakingly put there by someone. Nothing is by chance. There was a vision and that vision was realized by a group of people who truly wanted to enjoy, or have others enjoy, the season. I suppose I always knew this but it wasn’t until recently that I matured enough to realize that I’ve been being a bum about the whole thing. I’ve been lazy.
Throughout the season, Laura and I visited a number of towns and stores in an effort to purchase small gifts for one another. Our goal wasn’t to be anywhere near extravagant – all we wanted was a few items to put under our Christmas tree. As a matter of fact, you can read the posts I wrote about our adventures this past December here and here and here. Another goal we had was to enjoy a nice dinner on Christmas Eve as well as Christmas night. We did that too.
I think Laura thought I was joking when I mentioned that we should wrap our gifts. Even though we both picked everything out and knew what we had, I thought it would be fun to, sort of, wrap each item up in some used tissue paper she found in her closet as an event for the big morning. Yes, she most likely thought I was joking, but she didn’t think that for long as I began getting everything ready on the dining room table. And it only took a few seconds more before she was smiling and wrapping some herself. Moments later, we had a small pile under the tree.
Let’s see if I can remember what we got for each other. Beer, cookies, those old fashioned candies, some candied peanuts, a cookbook, coffee and a few other things. Oh yeah, we got some preserves as well. It looks like really good stuff. And even though we were both in on it, remarkably, we both had a really good time opening the gifts. It was so stupid it was fun, if that makes any sense. I felt like a kid again.
You’ll most likely see that same tissue paper again next year. We didn’t use tape and took good care of it.
I took those two pictures last night as I was messing around with my camera. Whenever we dim the lights to eat at the table, I always think the ambiance is so cool that I begin snapping away at the most random things. This time, it was the jelly and the candy. By the way, we got those 13 ounce jars of preserves for $2.99 each in Reny’s. I’ve seen them anywhere from $4 to $10.59 online. Beware. Also, Reny’s has a huge assortment, so I think we’ll have to grab some more.
As we were in Hannaford getting everything we would need for our dinners, I thought I’d give some dessert wines a try. I most likely have already tasted some of these types in the past, but I’ve forgotten all about them. Giving these another shot was in order.
The two we decided on were both made by Taylor in New York and are Tawny Port and Cream Sherry. After trying both of these very similar tasting wines, I’ve decided that I much prefer the Tawny Port. It doesn’t have any more alcohol content, but it sure tastes like it does. It has a bite and I like it.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, both Laura and I did a lot of cooking. As a matter of fact, I’ve already posted three of the six recipes we used on my other blog, so if you’re into food, you should really check them out. Each recipe came out really well and after last night’s dinner, we were both stuffed. Believe it or not, I actually had to wait a little while before I could drink any of that wine I just talked about.
So, what are the lessons I learned this year regarding the holidays? Well, I’ll try to remember them and list them below (not in any particular order).
– Nothing is going to come to you. You need to go get it.
– If you’re after a certain “feeling,” you need to decide what that feeling is and head towards others who think the same way.
– Don’t get caught up with how things “used to be.”
– You need to enjoy a nice quiet dinner with someone who means something to you.
– While preparing that dinner, you need to be listening to holiday music. Actually, just listen to Christmas music year round.
– Someone needs to make a big deal about things. As a couple, it’s far too easy to say, “Yeah, we’ll get to that.” Usually, it’s just one of you who takes the lead. Be that person and the other will gladly follow once they discover you’re serious.
– Relax and drink a dessert wine after dinner. You’ll be happy you did.
– Turn the lights down low.
– The Christmas music I mentioned above should be loud and played throughout the house.
– Make sure you get a Christmas tree early. A week after Thanksgiving is perfect.
– Give. Find a worthy local cause and share some of your profits. I never believed in this until recently. It makes life worth living.
– Shake hands and give hugs. We’re all on this earth together and even if you have to nominate your significant other (a-hem) to give someone a hug, you’ll likely make that someone’s day.
– Visit friends and neighbors. I need to get better at this. I swear Steve, we’ll come over soon.
– Watch as many Christmas shows and movies in December as you can. They’ll surely get you in the mood.
– Be sure to purchase a new ornament every single year until the end. It’ll give you a reason to get out to those “off the beaten path” stores.
– Get presents. They don’t need to be huge. Just enough to enjoy the morning and to brighten the day.
– Make a nice breakfast on Christmas morning.
– Develop friendships. There are so many people out there who are ready to be really great friends. Just say hello and invite them to do something with you during the holidays.
– Send Christmas cards to friends and people who mean something to you.
It’s weird, I didn’t know I’d write as much as I just did, but I still feel like I’m leaving something out.
There’s a cashier named Norma in the Hannaford we visit. She’s one of the sweetest women that we’ve ever met. The very first time she checked us out, which was years ago, we began talking and we haven’t stopped since. Well, as luck would have it, she was transferred to the Customer Service desk recently, so we don’t see her as nearly as much as we used to. Last week, after Laura and I paid for our groceries, we saw Norma as were passing her station. She came out from behind it and was very happy to see us. Upon witnessing her joy (and our’s too), I asked Norma if she wanted to give Laura a hug. She said, “Of course” and did. Then, I asked her if she wanted to give me a hug too. Before she could answer, I leaned down to hug her. Strange, but it felt great. It’s those little things in life that are special.
Next up is Laura’s birthday and New Year’s Eve. After that, we have a few months off. I think we already have the menu selected for New Year’s, but I still have to put one together for her birthday. I need to make it good too, because Laura’s a special person who always makes me the best birthday dinners. I need to pay her back.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Cutting Christmas Tree from Own Land
Funny thing about Christmas trees. Around Thanksgiving each year, Laura and I start talking about when we are going to go out back into the thick and cut down our Christmas tree. During the week that follows Thanksgiving, we go outside and walk around the woods for a while in an effort to find the perfect specimen. This year, we did this twice. Both times we were somewhat wishy-washy about which tree we wanted to cut because they were all sort of – blah. Nothing was as full as we would’ve liked.
Last week, I found the perfect tree. I was really excited to yank out my saw and start cutting, but I became preoccupied with other things. Today rolls around and I started wondering if we needed a tree at all. My motivation was fading. That’s when I asked Laura to grab her camera and follow me. I was going to go out and slay this year’s tree.
Scouting Out Our Christmas Tree
The tree I wanted was more perfect than perfect. In the picture above, you can sort of see it, but I think the view is being obscured by a few others. It was (is) full and nice and wide at would’ve been the base. One of two like this on the entire property, but that’s not a big deal. Grab this one this year and the other one next year. On year three, we’ll start worrying about where we’re going to get that year’s tree. Either that, or we’ll simply lower our standards and cut down any one of the zillion Charley Brown Christmas trees we have on the five acres.
I was all ready to cut this sucker down when I began getting nervous. While I knew the tree was on our property, it did (and does) sit rather close to the property line. I don’t want any problems up here in Maine, so I turned my head to the right and saw a somewhat so-so tree staring right at me. I called over to Laura and asked if she would mind if I took another tree down instead of the one we had planned on taking. She went along with me, even though she looked less than impressed at what I was pointing to.
Holding My Chainsaw Before Walking into Woods to Cut Down Christmas Tree
I walked in the woods, made my notch in the base of the tree and fell the timber smack where I wanted to. Perfect shot. I then cut about ten feet from the top of the tree and held it up for Laura to see.
Lifting Christmas Tree
Showing Off Our New Christmas Tree
She liked what she saw. The tree was nice and tall and even though it wasn’t as full as our first pick, it’d do for our purposes. We aren’t very choosy people.
I dragged the tree out and sat it in front of the shed. I measured about seven feet with my arms and cut the top off the full length of what I pulled out of the woods. Just about then, Laura emerged from behind the shed (she took a different way out of the woods), looked at me holding the tree upright and asked me what happened to it. “What do you mean?” “Where’d the tree go? That’s not what was in the woods.”
I tried to explain to her that I had to cut it down so it would fit inside and when I was finished explaining, she asked why I cut so much from the bottom. I could have cut more off the top to keep the fullness. She may be right but really, we can’t look back on those types of petty issues. What’s more important is that we get used to and learn to love our cute little petite Christmas tree (click the picture to see a better view of the tree). Merry Christmas!
Carrying Our Christmas Tree
Dunhill Fir Artificial Christmas Tree
For some strange reason, I am so into the holiday spirit this year. It’s most likely because I’ve been planning it since February. Last year, we had such a good time shopping up in Kingfield and doing all sorts of things, such as cutting down our own Christmas tree. I don’t think I wanted last season to end. Unfortunately, it did, just as it always does. To make up for that, I began thinking about this season early. I picked out some ornaments and little odds and ends online and I even bought an artificial Christmas tree from Home Depot in October. I know it was early, but I couldn’t wait. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be looking at this right now.
I had to take this photo this morning, just to make sure I got a decent shot. All of my previous ones weren’t that great because of the low lighting. You can see that it’s light out by looking at the curtains to the right. They’re glowing. It doesn’t matter. The tree is gorgeous and I smile when I look at it.
Get this, I bought this tree from Home Depot online and they delivered it for free. I think I paid $149 for it, but it’s now on sale for $119, which, I’ll admit, makes me a bit disappointed. Anyway, I didn’t know how an artificial tree would look, since I’ve yet to own one. This one is called the Dunhill Fir and I have to tell you that after I set this thing up and fluffed the branches (which took about four hours), I can’t even tell the difference between it and a real tree. A really good real tree. This Dunhill is a seven footer and it is as thick as they come.
I still need something to go on top of the tree, but for now, I’m happy. Laura’s mom gave us a whole bunch of ornaments and these ornaments are the ones you see in these photos. Also, I bought the lights a while ago from the hardware store in town. I think I got 450 bulbs for something like $12 and change. That was a deal. At least I think it was. These people keep changing their prices so it’s difficult to tell.
In other news, we’ve been getting a hint of snow out there over the past few days. We received a dusting yesterday and this is what I woke up to this morning.
I loved seeing the snow fall like this. It makes me think we’re going to have a good season. So far, I have a trip to Camden, Maine planned to do some Christmas shopping, a trip to Sugarloaf (which already has nine inches of snow) to visit a holiday bazaar and fireworks on New Year’s Eve as well as some other small places that I haven’t etched in stone yet. It’s going to be exciting.
As far as Thanksgiving went, we had a really great time. I cooked for two solid days and we had my friend Kevin come over to join us for dinner. That was really nice and it makes things so much better when someone comes over. I have to act like a human and we have to clean the house. Guests also inspire me to cook more than I normally would, which was fun. I pulled so many recipes from my food blog, so that was quite the handy thing to have. I’d say the whole thing was a success and it makes me look forward to Christmas even more.
Okay, off to do some work now. I just thought I’d share these few things with you. Thanks for reading!
First Maine Christmas
I woke up this morning around 7:30, which really isn’t all that early. I usually get up at 10:30 though – because I fall asleep so late at night – or morning. Laura and I began cooking dinner past midnight because we ended up getting into a heated conversation about something. I’m not sure what it was. I just kept rolling around in bed. I couldn’t sleep.
I tried to see through the dark curtain material we recently hung over the curtain rods to keep as much heat in as possible. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t make out if it was a sunny day or a cloudy one. I know the forecast called for sun, but I wasn’t sure of the weatherman’s accuracy this Christmas day.
As I kind of stumbled down the stairs in an effort to get over to the pellet stove for refilling, I noticed a bright light coming through the downstairs window. Sunny. Indeed it was. And actually, what I was looking at was the sunrise. Our very first Christmas day in Maine and my very first sunrise – in Maine (too).
As you can see, the ice is still hanging on mightily to those tree branches. I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon either. Unless, of course, it warms up. Then, it’ll seem like it’s raining in the woods. I’ve experienced that before and it’s really something else. Having the sun blast down on you, only to feel the freezing cold droplets of water falling on your head from the branches above. Ice like this changes things so much.
After I did a little work on some old websites I hope to revive in 2014, I went back to bed. It was probably 8:00. I slept in to my normal 10:30 when I heard all sorts of commotion downstairs. Laura was laughing and making such a racket! I pulled myself from bed. I slept deeply this time. Whenever I wake up and end up falling back to sleep in the morning, it’s the good sleep. Not sure why either. But it always works out that way.
I later found that Laura had been taking video of the cats. That’s what the noise was coming from. They were modeling, I’m sure, and she was recording video and snapping pictures. I wasn’t aware of the extent of things until I looked on her camera later on. Yeah, she took a lot. I decided to steal a few of the better pictures of Finnegan and Voleman and call them their Christmas portraits. So serious!
As you can see, I had to twist the photos ever so slightly so their eyes were lined up horizontally. Makes for such drama. Fierce!
This afternoon, we went for our annual Christmas walk. This is the time we use to reflect upon our choices and wonder why we do the things we do. Our Christmases are probably the most low key Christmases possible. The most we do is call a few loves ones. And I think that’s enough for us. I don’t know. That’s the way it’s been for a while and that’s the way it’ll probably be for the rest of our lives. If we changed it now, I think we’d probably freak out a little. Going for our mid-afternoon walks in the cold has become somewhat of a tradition for us. Get all bundled up and head out into whatever mother nature has decided to throw at us. This year it’s the ice. The road was covered with it. And like I said above, so is everything else.
When we got back to the house, and after we ate a quick late lunch, I suggested that Laura and I exchange gifts. My mother had two glass jars shipped to arrive here yesterday. Since we never got a chance to buy each other anything, I handed her both of the jars and she handed one back to me. We had presents for unwrapping. We did and were surprised to find items of such quality. My mother has very good taste.
What you are looking at above are two “Le Parfait French Glass Canning Jars.” Quite heavy and well made. When I told my mother that we’d love some canning jars, I’m not sure I knew what was available out there. I had no idea she’d go for the imported from France ones. Really nice to look at and will look splendid on the counter top.
I’d like to say Merry Christmas again, but by the time you read this, it’ll be the day after. Ah, what the heck – Merry Christmas again!
Making a Beautiful Christmas Wreath
I got this idea that other day that I’d give making a Christmas wreath a try. I made a few of these years and years ago, but I really don’t think I gave it my all back then. Since we live among so many types of pine trees and since the whole endeavor would only cost me a few dollars, I didn’t see the harm in testing my talents. At this point, since the project is finished, I have to say that I’m very proud of myself. Take a look at what I (we) made. I did the greenery and Laura did the bow an the pine cones.
Isn’t that nice? After I had things put together, I said it might be a good idea to trim off some of the more rogue pieces. Laura disagreed and encouraged me to throw all caution to the wind. I did and we now have one seriously big and boisterous wreath hanging right next to our front door. I love it.
I think we might live on one of the most lovely pieces of property around. One third of the five acres is lawn and house, another third is maple trees (for my syrup) and young pines and the final third is a huge pine forest. Now, when I say huge, I mean huge. Very tall white pines and a variety of spruces live back there. It’s like entering the Ewok village every time we set foot in the area. It’s wonderful and invigorating and each time we walk around in this forest I want to build a cabin and live in it. Good thing we’re in walking distance.
The photo above is the trail that runs through the beginning of it. Next time we’re back there, I’ll have to stand in front of one of the larger trees to show you just how grand they really are.
For this wreath, I bought a wire frame, some floral wire and a few bows. We only used one bow because, unbeknownst to me, Laura had plans for the other three. The only thing remaining that I needed was some pine. Since we recently set up our Christmas tree, I thought the lower branches that I trimmed off would be a good start. Our tree is Fraser Fir, so there’s one type right there.
Yesterday afternoon, we ventured back in the woods. Our top priority was to confirm that no one was hunting on our property. We saw a few hunters walking up and down the road and these folks take some liberties, if you know what I mean. Barring any wandering hunters, our second priority was to collect some pine branches.
If you want to see what it looks like to do something like this, here’s a picture for you. Boy, that orange certainly is blinding. I tried to tone it down as best I could, but it’s still bright.
We walked around for a while and didn’t come across any mischief. Back to the smaller pines it was. We couldn’t really gather any branches from the giant trees.
Here’s a tally of the final species I cut from. I got some Black Spruce, White Spruce, Balsam Fir and some Hemlock. All said and done, we used five different types of branches for our wreath.
If you look closely, you can see what different varieties of pines can do for the interest in a wreath. I like to think it makes it unique.
If we ever do this again, I’m going to change my tactics. I’ll head outside with a black garbage bag and collect much smaller pieces of the branches. I didn’t like the fact that I had to wrestle such large clippings on the dining room table. Also, I’m going to use a thicker gauge wire so I don’t have to wrap it around each cluster so many times to secure the pieces. Finally, I think a few extra pine cones and perhaps some red berries would add some extra flair. After all, the sky’s the limit when it comes to these types of things.