Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Candlelight Evening

When is a trip to Cooperstown not an uplifting, fun experience? I'm not sure how long ago it began, but Dave and I have made it a point to attend the Candlelight Evening at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum (bet you thought I was going to say "farmers' market", right?) as long as I can remember - that must make it an official tradition! I used to attend with my family, but I think it's pretty poignant and heart-warming that I've ended up with a man who looks forward to it as much as I do.

This year, Dave's brother, Dan, and his wife, Tara (and let's just take a quick moment to tell you how talented Dan is , from his design abilities to his musical talents - between Dave and Dan, there's lots of creativity in that there blood...not that Tara's not uber talented - she is, in my humble opinion!). They had never been to Candlelight Evening, so it's always fun to bring a different group of people every year, especially when they don't know what to expect.

Picture from The Farmers' Museum's FB page

So, for those of you who've never been, let me paint the picture. Firstly, I have probably already contacted you (or forced my husband to contact you) to warn you to bundle up. By "bundle up", I mean, "Get ugly warm." Wear embarrassingly unattractive, too warm for the car clothing. A hat that will actually keep your head warm (rarely are these ever cute). Wool socks. Boots (again...not the cute kind). The coat you use to shovel snow, or as I wore, the past-your-knees wool coat (gotta cover up that tush and as much of the legs as possible). Anything else that you can fathom in the realm of ugliness, throw it on.

Why all the ugliness? No, there's not an ugly sweater contest. A strange puzzlement occurs annually in which, regardless of the weather prior to or following the Candlelight Evening, it just so happens that THAT evening...is...freezing. There may be hardly any snow (as with this year - at least there was a dusting; we still have nothing locally), but be assured that there will be frozen tundra status. As sure as taxes and death.

After parking (we always seem to find a spot in front of the Fenimore Art Museum, across the street), we schlep in our ugliness to the main building to drop more cash than we'd prefer - in all honesty, most of the events at the Farmers Museum are pretty steep, but this is worth it to us.

The choices, at this point, are plentiful. Grab some warm, homemade food (also at a price) in the main building, listen to some incredible carolers (which are stationed at intervals throughout the property, along with the occasional brass band...how their instruments don't freeze to their lips, I have no clue), or meet the Fabulous Beekman Boys, who are signing their latest book (which I missed out on this year due to a limited schedule, *sigh*).

The main building also displays random exhibitions of how-is-that-related-to-farming products. A Jell-O display? Okay. Shredded wheat? Sure, I guess farms help produce that. It's all retro and neat and quirky, so ya can't really complain. When you're done walking through this structure, you're let loose upon the reconstructed historical village that never was. Buildings have been taken from various areas (but all dating from the early- to mid-1800s) to create a possible cross-section of American life in, say, 1840. Some buildings aren't open to the public, but the important ones - like the general store, school, tavern, church farm (along with a couple of barns), apothecary, and several other skill-drive foundries - are available to peruse and learn from living history reenactors dressed in the timely fashion.

The first place that we visited was probably one of my favorites - the school. This year, they had St. Nicholas (the real one...I swear to you) giving a lecture on, well, St. Nicholas and how he came to be known as Santa Claus, as well as what a Christmas celebration to an average American family would have looked like in the 1840s. We didn't expect him to speak at such length, so we ended up leaving before the end, but I always find it magical to listen to this actor. He looks like THE Santa Claus, only dressed in slightly more old-fashioned clothes (far less fancy than a modern day Santa), and simply makes me giddy.

We also enjoyed checking out the printing shop, wonderful singers in the church, the apothecary that showed us how ginger tablets (for an upset stomach) were made, and the blacksmith. There was plenty more to see, and we did, but those were definitely the highlights.

While we didn't partake, there were also sleigh rides, which are always exciting...but those lines were crazy bananas. Oh, and, of course, one thing we all DID partake in was the wassail. At strategic points throughout the "town", cauldrons of hot spiced cider were brewing over fires - the fire along with the sustenance helped to keep us toasty warm. Well, warmer than we would've been otherwise.

Before leaving, we stopped back at the main entrance to get some food (gingerbread!!!!!) and enjoy a barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols.

Watching the massive full moon set all the farmers' fields aglow on our drive home with the soundtrack of a classical Christmas radio station in the background definitely helped to set the mood for the rest of the holiday season. I'm ready for some magic; how about you?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Coal Collective

Not to intentionally be a downer (because, at this time of year, of ALL times of year, who wants that?!) but I just thought I'd share a few things that are on my "you seriously deserve a lump of coal...how do I ensure that this happens?" list. Feel free to add any of your own gripes to the comment section. Sometimes you just have to vent a lil' bit; we'll call it purging the negative to make room for the positive.

- Wet bus trips, you deserve some major coal. I accompanied a group of high schoolers to NYC on a class trip this week after checking the weather report, which said the rain should stop by 2pm. Major lack of "prepare for anything" on my part. Ended up soaking wet and cold (it rained the entire time), and most involved were miserable by the end of it. Christmastime in NYC is magical, but this year, I'm just glad that this trip's over.

- Rude salespeople. Granted, rude shoppers are way worse than rude salespeople, but let me divert the conversation and clarify for a moment. During our soggy shlep through the streets of NYC, we stopped to see the infamous Rockefeller Christmas tree. While there, we have a tradition of stopping at a tres expensive, tres delicious chocolatier (which shall remain nameless). Upon entering, I was fully planning on getting some orange cream chocolates for the love of my life. After browsing for about 10 seconds (yes, dripping wet and enjoying the first roof I'd had in two hours), a worker whom I remember purchasing items from in previous years shouted out to the crowded shoppe that this was a place to purchase, not "hang out" and to leave if we were only there to warm up. Wicked snooty. I loudly voiced that I had been planning on making a purchase, but didn't feel in a jolly mood to do so any longer. Sometimes ya just gotta speak up...most of the time I don't.

- Unexpected illnesses. These can hit anyone - you, your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues - but when they throw a scary bump in the road, they can be terrifying and always unwelcome. On the bright side, they definitely make you count your blessings.

- The cat that insists on dumping a very large, very full bowl of water all over the kitchen floor. Subsequently, due to the consistency of said cat, parts of our awesome B and W floor have yellowed. 'Nuff said. (WINSTON!!!!!)

- Faceless Facebook rudies. While I DO do my best to stay away from this toxic place, I have found myself stumbling upon some of the offensive, bigoted, close-minded comments on FB lately. I suppose it's my own fault. Coal to me - time to back away from the FB madness again!

- Similarly rude local yocals. I'm all for the general working class that helps our local society run - heck, I consider myself one of them (along with, oh, say, all of my relatives who have ever lived and worked in the Mohawk Valley). But, the ignorance that they spout when some major issues arise (such as a possible huge merger of 4 school districts), without educating themselves of all the facts, or the same ignorantly rude phone calls that my husband hears day in and day out...the general lack of class and human compassion is enough to shoot smoke from my ears, pack up the family, and head out. Unfortunately, there is no utopian area where everyone is at least open-minded (we don't want a homogenous place with absolutely no diversity or free thought; quite the opposite). We have often spoken about boarding a way-back machine, if the opportunity were ever to arise. *sigh* Let's just say that these are the people who are first to make complaints about our area (never do they offer a solution or to help), only to drive folks like us away who'd LIKE to help the area move in a good direction.

So, yeah. Those mainly uncontrollable pet peeves that can ruin an otherwise happy existence. Speaking of which, I suppose I should leave you with some "yay! I'm happy because..." moments...'cuz it is the "most wonderful time of the year", after all, and I can't be half empty without being half full.

- Our health. Sure, we creak and have strange aches and issues that we're trying to attack with eating right and all that fun stuff...but, for the most part, we're healthy. No terminal illnesses here. Whew...we're luckier than many. Far too many.

- We have a house. It's crooked. There are a plethora of other issues with it. But, it's ours, our payments are incredibly reasonable, and it's a great place to "start out". I'm reminded from time to time of how lucky I am to HAVE this house, mostly by dear friends who only wish they could afford such a luxury.

- The love in our lives. We have support - as a loving married couple, from our dear friends and family, from a few strange cats (who show their love in very weird ways). It's all good.

- The miracles of life that happen everyday. I received a new niece this year, and any time you look at a baby, you know that it's an amazing gift. This little animatronic creature, with little to zero knowledge in its head, none of the aforementioned rudeness or will to be naughty, EXISTS. Neat!

- Jobs. We're working. We're paying our bills. Our minds wander to other places to keep us sane, but for now, we're able to live life, put food on the table, and make a Christmas for ourselves...and isn't that enough?

There are probably a million more, but don't forget - if you'd like to vent, feel free to comment below. :-) Here's to karma and Santa putting some coal in the stockings of the annoyances of life...and here's to a little cheer to those who try to make life something wonderful and good!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Snow Envy

As much as folks might think I'm wacko that I enjoy a good Black Friday romp, y'all might consider me nuts for what I'm about to say...

...I miss snow.

Seriously. Like a girlfriend misses a boyfriend. I'm pretty empty when I look outside and see bright green grass. The occasional drizzle dampens my spirits. Even a cheery blast of sunshine gets me feeling low.

We've had one day of a little accumulation so far. Otherwise, the average temperature lately has been in the 50s (and hitting the 60s mark). I'm used to having some accumulation for Thanksgiving, not praying that we'll have some for Christmas. Even the hubs said that he was hoping we'd have some for Turkey Day, which I found...interesting...and a bit shocking.

We're not really skiers or snow bunnies at all. In fact, we kinda hate shoveling. But, the coziness of drinking hot chocolate and the briskness that makes you feel alive is a big reason that I still live in New York State. I was raised in it; I'm used to it; I miss it.

I know lots of people are thinking, "Just you wait." Or "Ask and ye shall receive." That's pretty much what I'm doing. Man, I've got snow days to use - let's see whatchya got, Mother Nature!

Honestly, it's as much about feeling in the Christmas spirit as anything else. It's hard to get as gung-ho as I'd like to when I'm wearing a light spring jacket. We finally have a forecast that says we'll be getting flurries tomorrow...but we'll be back to rain next week. Enemy, thine name is Rain. Not Rainn Wilson. We're Schrute fans in this house. 

So, how does one go about getting into the Christmas spirit without a bit of white on the ground? Seriously, I don't know how the Southerners and Californians do it. I finally placed lots of Amazon orders for husbandly Christmas gifts tonight, after putting on some classic Christmas tunes, but it took lots of motivation (and the idea that hit me - "Crap. It's officially December. Buy, buy, buy!" Man, they really hit me with all that commercialism, don't they? *ashamed*). I'd feel lots cheerier doling out the dough with some fluffy white brightening up my life.

As it is, I've done minimal wrapping and literally NO decorating yet. And I usually enjoy the decorating bit, but just can't get into it this year. It'll come, I know. I've gotta stop focusing on the snow. Again, I know. We are already doing our best to think about the season itself and why the heck we buy all these presents and stuff in the first place. Obviously. To go bankrupt. ;-)

...On a side note, I hate to mention that I can't wait to read some books like Snowflake Bentley and show the movie version of The Snowman. Kinda hard when it's...y'know...green. ;-)