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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Welcoming in the New Year!

I regret that a sticky winter bug has kept me from compiling a decent list of things to do in the Valley for the New Year's celebration.  Nevertheless, I have taken a few minutes to compile a shortlist:

One obvious option is Northampton's First Night Celebration.  I have not yet taken to the cold frosty streets to enjoy First Night festivities, but this poster by Brooke Dyer is so charming and reminiscent of childhood imaginations that I nearly feel inclined to try it out this year.

Many restaurants are featuring special New Year's Eve dinners, and many of the local stores are sponsoring New Year's Eve celebrations for families, kids, and/or adults.  (See The Blue Heron in Sunderland and Chandlers in South Deerfield.)

If staying out late on New Year's Eve isn't your thing, try for something on New Year's Day.  At my parents' house, New Year's Day is a day of football and taking down Christmas decorations and finishing off the Christmas cookies, but there are so many other options.  One of these is Duke Ellington's Nutcracker at the Cultural Center at Eagle Hill (this may be a bit of a trek, but the venue is worth it -- and what could be more fun than Ellington to welcome in the new year?).

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Recipe for a Happy Holiday

For me, the holiday begins today, with a vacation that stretches into the New Year.  I am very thankful for a little downtime during this season. 
I have a standard recipe for happy holiday vacations.  As the years pass it gets refined, and I don't always have access to all the ingredients every year.  Nevertheless, here it is:

My Recipe for a Happy Holiday

1 Gingerbread with Hot Orange Sauce
4 dozen Grandma's Norwegian Krumkaker
1 Box G&G's Homemade Flatbread
1 Fireplace for Multiple Fires
1 Collection of Classic Movies
1 Large Pot Clam Chowder (sometimes replaced with Beef Stew)

1 Large Stack of Books; holiday reading must include one or more of the following:
1 Frosting of Snow to cover the ground
Blankets & slippers & wool socks (as needed)
1 or more Dear Ones (these may include but are not limited to spouse, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cats, dogs)
3-7 Days Away from Work
Birds at Outdoor Bird Feeders

There are, of course, other little things that help make the holidays special and relaxing -- all those little decorations and traditions.  What is your happy holiday recipe?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trees from Zaskeys

Time for picking out a Christmas tree is drawing to a close, but there still may be a few of you out there lacking that particular bit of cheer in the corner of your living room.  If such happens to be the case, you may want to make a trip to the Zaskey Christmas Tree Farm on Mt Warner Road.

Mr Madley and I visited the Christmas Tree Farm last Saturday -- our first outing to a tree farm for our first Christmas tree in our new home in Hadley.   I had picked out a number of trees from the road, after walking past the farm several times, but there were plenty of trees available.  We spent a little while roaming through the pines (it smelled so good!) and finally settled on a Fraser Fir of 5.5 feet or so.  One of the employees/cousins (it's a family farm) had it down in about 30 seconds; then he trimmed the bottom flat and snipped off a few stray branches.  We got the whole thing for under $30 -- a fantastic price for a fantastic fresh tree and impeccable service.  Friendly folks, festive trees (and wreathes). (Prices are posted on their website.)

What I learned from this experience -- Christmas trees grow about a foot a year -- and Zaskeys have acres and acres of new baby trees getting their growth in for future Christmases.  I also learned that I love picking out a fresh-cut tree from just down the road and bringing it home. (My cat loves it, too.....)

Our tree now sits in the corner of our living room, all decorated with white lights and a variety of ornaments.  It makes me happy.

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Aldi's is Almost Here

The other day while running errands, I noticed that the Aldi store in the Home Depot lot is almost complete.  And then upon returning home that very afternoon I received a postcard with coupons in the mail announcing that the store would open December 13.  That's next week.  Wow.  I remember when they were just breaking ground -- it wasn't that long ago.

I've never been to an Aldi store, though my parents have.  They use Aldi products to stock the shelves their food storage.  They love the canned chicken, and one year for Christmas they gave me a case of Aldi's canned cherry pie filling.  (Yes, it was a good gift -- I truly love cherry pie filling.)  And so, in light of the cherry pie filling, I admit I'm the slightest bit excited. 
But a little disappointed, too -- another big chain store in our lovely little Hadley town.  Another mass of of lights on Rt 9.  Another draw for traffic.  Another big chain store.