Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tips On Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree RecyclingLooking to recycle your Christmas tree when the holidays are over? If you want to let the birds benefit from your tree for a bit – you might think about staking it in the ground and leaving it out in your backyard for a while – after you have replaced the ornaments with some yummy bird feeders of course (think pinecones covered in peanut butter and bird seed or suet cakes).

You can then set it aside once all the needles have dropped and it no longer provides good cover for the birds to chip and use as mulch in the spring. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Finding A Christmas Tree in the Southern Adirondacks

Christmastree_newI grew up getting a tree from a parking lot and yearned for a storybook experience of searching the woods for the ideal tree. Though getting any Christmas tree was exciting, I wanted to give my children a different family ritual.  I also wanted to stick to the legal version of obtaining a Christmas tree. A few of my friends may disagree (and shall remain nameless), but I believe that searching for a tree should not involve stealth, cloak of darkness and a get-away car.

How we obtain our Christmas tree varies year to year, but so far we have either been gifted a tree from a neighbor’s property or we’ve visited one a local Adirondack Christmas tree farm. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shopping Small in the Central Adirondacks

scan0001We try to find the time to make sure some of the items being sent to family and friends are “made in the Adirondacks.” That special moniker indicates a range of products from maple treats or rhubarb concentrate to elaborate bark-trimmed furniture. Since we live in the Adirondacks we are fortunate to be able to share some of the bounty with other family members not so fortunate.

The advertisements for Black Friday specials come at such a steady stream of daily flyers and commercials that my head starts to ache. Black Friday may be the day to brave the mall, but Small Business Saturday is the day that I support the backbone of the Adirondacks: the downtown shops, business owners and restaurants. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Christmas Turkey, Part Two

When I was a  teenager I had a small streak of juvenile delinquency.  This is not uncommon in young men of course and it comes in different flavors.  Some do a little drinking or drugs.  Some do a little stealing.  Some  might commit minor vandalism.  I didn’t do any of that stuff.  I liked to set things on fire.

One March in Cleveland when I was fifteen or so, after a particularly long  and snowy winter the weekend broke into the sixties, setting me and two of my like-minded friends, who were possessed with acute cabin fever, into a manic tizzy to play basketball.  Sadly the driveway was covered in slush from the thaw, splattering us with every aborted dribble.  We tried shoveling, sweeping, even hosing it down, but to no avail. Then we came to another solution. » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 24, 2012

Holidays to Remember: Christmas, 1945

Among the finest Christmas seasons in America’s long history is the year 1945. We’re constantly bombarded with how special the holidays are, so it’s tough for any one year to stand out as extra special, but 1945 makes the list. Events across the Adirondacks that year epitomized the nation’s attitude. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all about celebrating, even though the most destructive war in history had just ended a few months earlier. We often mumble mindlessly that we’re proud to be Americans. But the first post-World War II Christmas was the real deal, worthy of the word “pride.”

To set the scene, consider the events that had transpired at that time. After being mired for a decade in the worst financial collapse in our history (the Great Depression), Americans had begun preparing for what seemed inevitable: joining the war in Europe. And then, between the Pearl Harbor attack and the war’s end four years later, hundreds of North Country boys and men were killed in action. Thousands more were injured or missing. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Outside Story: Natural Christmas Tree Decorations

“What a horrifyingly garish sight,” I said to my friend as we surveyed my Christmas tree last year. We had just finished decorating it and my eyes were sending messages to my brain, like, “Hey, this is really tacky.”

Truth is, the décor I had accumulated after years of city dwelling in my sassy twenties looked awfully out of place in my humble Vermont cabin. What I once thought dazzling – glitter-coated icicles, a miniature disco ball, a purple-feathered bird with jeweled eyes, flocks of shiny gold and green balls – now looked as out of place as a pink flamingo at my bird feeder. Even the duck decoy my great uncle carved seemed to give the gaudy fiasco an alarmed stare. Such a tree no longer belonged in my world. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: The Nutcracker Ballet

One holiday tradition for our family is to see a production of the Nutcracker ballet. Throughout the Adirondacks and beyond, this is a tradition that many hold dear to their hearts as a family-friendly way to kick off the holiday season. With productions in Old Forge, Plattsburgh, Lake Placid and Glens Falls, this ballet gathers professional and community dancers on stage for a limited performance.

“Seeing a performance of the Nutcracker is part of the theatre tradition that is wholesome and something the whole family can see,” says Old Forge Ballet Company Director Sue Ann Lorenz-Wallace.” If children are performing in the production, it is something that will stay with them the rest of their lives. If they watch it, it will always bring back fond memories of the holidays.” » Continue Reading.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cabin Life: The Thanksgiving Bet

It’s Thanksgiving week, and there’s no snow on the ground.  There’ve been some heavy frosts, and I’ve had to scrape my windshield most days in the last week.  Right now there’s a heavy frost covering the apple trees and the sun is coming up over Whiteface.  I really wish my camera battery was charged.

When I was growing up, I had a running bet with my grandfather that there would be snow on the ground Thanksgiving morning.  We always hosted dinner, sometimes with more than twenty people, but Grandpa would always walk in and give me five bucks and not say anything to me.  I would grin and pocket the money, happy in my ability to predict the weather.  Of course, most years, there was already snow on the ground before Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I had a pretty good streak of winning that bet.
» Continue Reading.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

High Peaks Happy Hour: Thanksgiving Cocktail Recipes

After years of kitchen drudgery and dishpan hands, all of a sudden everyone wants us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner. Provided, of course, WE BRING THE DRINKS! Pammy’s no Julia Child but she can do a throwdown cocktail that’ll make Bobby Flay take notice! Creativity is all you need to shake up the traditional feast. Just keep the menu in mind. Compatibility with the flavors of the meal is important. Compatibility with family members or other guests is something we’re not qualified to help you with, but a few tasty beverages might not hurt.

We’re not sure how it goes at your house, but we always have a plethora of snacks and appetizers, serving no other purpose than to keep the hungry guests from whining and the kids out of the kitchen. The unfortunate result, once dinner is ready, is a roomful of gluttonous guests too stuffed to engage in the carnage that is Thanksgiving Dinner!
» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities:
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday

My children show more interest in the newspapers during the holiday season than any other time of year. They are the first two people in our household to get the newspaper and start drawing circles around toys and games that are suddenly on the “must have” list. They are driven by the constant marketing and inundated by advertising with items they truly feel they need. We also have many cousins to buy gifts for.

Though I am asked to get popular named brand clothing for some, I also make a point of giving something handmade or locally made. I don’t pick it out. I give each of my children the name of one cousin to shop for at a time. My kids are given a budget and walk through various stores to see what small item they can pick up that may complement the purchased sweater. » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 19, 2011

History: Dangerous Ideas from Christmas Past

Twenty years ago, Dana Carvey’s character, “Grumpy Old Man,” was a popular recurring feature of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.

He’d offer an assessment of current times compared to the so-called “good old days,” highlighting some barbaric practices of the past (exaggerated to great comedic effect) with the closing line, “And we liked it!” » Continue Reading.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Balsam Fir: Adirondack Christmas Tradition

As a rule, the severity of the winter becomes harsher with an increase in altitude. In the lowlands, around the periphery of the Park, conditions are more favorable for life, as these valley settings are capable of supporting a wide diversity of flora and fauna. However, closer to the summit of the peaks, the weather becomes as inhospitable as at much higher latitudes, such as near the Arctic Circle, where only a handful of extremely hardy forms of vegetation can flourish to grace the rugged, boulder strewn terrain. Among the woody plants that are successful in rooting in the shallow soil of these frigid, wind swept sites is the balsam fir (Abies balsamea), known as our most popular type of Christmas tree.

The bitter cold atmosphere that prevails at these locations is incapable of holding much moisture, resulting in extremely low humidity. As this ultra-dry air buffets the needles, twigs, and trunk of the balsam, along with the few other species of trees that grow in this zone, it attempts to draw out whatever water molecules are present in exposed tissues.

Similarly, under the crystal clear skies of the long days of early summer, the intensity of the sun at these higher elevations would quickly bake moisture out of surface cells if they were not somehow sealed. It is intense dryness, rather than exposure to low temperatures, that creates a challenge for the various plants that attempt to gain a foothold there.

The resin that gives balsam its characteristic fragrance is fundamental to the fir’s success, as this gooey sap is highly effective in sealing moisture in and preventing desiccation. Even though the soil may often be saturated with water from frequent periods of rain, and prolonged exposure to water laden clouds that may shroud the slopes for days, once the ground freezes in late autumn, the resulting ice crystals can not be taken in by the roots and transported throughout the tree.

Consequently, it is quite common for plants of this zone to be without access to outside water from mid November through April. Any water that is in a plant at the start of the winter must be held there for the next 5 months, or it could suffer debilitating dehydration, or death.

Because of balsam’s drought tolerance, its needles are far less likely to drop off its twigs after the tree has been cut. When placed in a stand containing water, a balsam fir will remain relatively fresh for several weeks. This is considerably longer than other conifers, as some react to the dry inside air by shedding their needles within a week after being propped-up in a living room corner.

Periodic snowfalls and bouts of rime icing that encapsulate the surfaces of everything at upper elevations not only create a picturesque appearance to the terrain, but also are effective at assisting the plants of this region to deal with the issue of dryness. Being encrusted in a layer of dense snow or ice, the needles and twigs are no longer exposed to the evaporating effect of the air, regardless of how strong the winds may become.

Even though the weight of the snow or ice on the branches occasionally becomes substantial, the limbs of fir are adapted to bend, rather than snap. Despite being entombed in ice for well over a month, the branches spring back to normal once the weight falls off, or melts. This ability of balsam branches to support a fair amount of weight allows people obsessed with hanging hundreds of ornaments to completely cover its boughs with all-types of seasonal decorations and not have the branches break.

Aside from making a great Christmas tree, balsam fir contributes greatly to the wildlife community of those areas in which it grows. The ecological role of balsam was best presented by Ellen Rathbone’s article on balsam fir which appeared in the Almanack almost exactly two years ago.

Please remember that while balsam makes a great Christmas tree, it is one of our most flammable trees, especially after it has been indoors for a few weeks. Caution should always be used to ensure that it is a safe distance from heaters, wood stoves and candles; and when its needles start to fall off, it is time to put it outside.

Have a great Christmas and enjoy your Christmas tree, even if it isn’t a balsam.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Local Food: An Inspired Adirondack Holiday

Holiday gift giving offers many opportunities to support locally owned and run businesses – maybe tickets to a show or an annual membership to your local arts organization, a contribution to your local library in someone’s name, public radio station, or even a subscription to a regional publication. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share works here, too, in that your local farmer benefits as well as the receiver. In addition, you might need some last minute ideas for the teacher, mail delivery person, or the relative on your gift list who seems to have everything. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Selected Holiday Art of Kathy Ford

Courtesy of the artist, here is a selection of Kathy Ford’s holiday glass paintings from the past twenty-five years (click below)

1987 Goose with Wreath

1994 Angel

1996 Kids Making Snowman

1998 Skaters on Pond

2000 Santa with Horn

2003 Little Girl with Snow Globe

2006 Carolers on Main Street

2008 Angel with Dove

2009 Little Boy Looking Up Chimney



Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Window on an Adirondack Holiday Tradition

Kathy and Lonnie Ford own a small hillside home in Saranac Lake. They’ve lived there for three decades, raising two sons along the way. The dominant feature of the 1931 Sears catalog bungalow is a large plate glass window installed by the original owner to support his wife’s cultivation of African violets. For the past 25 years Kathy, who is Production Supervisor and Senior Designer at Adworkshop in Lake Placid, has used the picture window for pictures: as a temporary canvas for her annual holiday greeting to neighbors and passersby.

The tradition was inspired by memories of smaller holiday window paintings made by Kathy’s mother. Since December 1987 Kathy has painted colorful images, from outdoor snowscapes to warm indoor scenes, across the eight-by-six-foot window. Lonnie, as chief window washer, is also in charge of setting up the floodlights that keep the mural visible after dark.

Over the course of 25 years, the composition of Kathy’s paintings has grown increasingly complex and detailed. What began as an image of a goose nested in a wreath had developed by year 20 into a three-point perspective Victorian streetscape, complete with carolers and a horse-drawn carriage.

As she swept this year’s mural sketches out of view, Kathy suggested that the 25th installment may be the most ambitious yet. For a project that most years takes up to 50 hours to complete, Kathy expects to spend over 60 hours this year.

The trick to this unique holiday offering is in the technique. As the windows are painted from the inside to be viewed from the outside, Kathy must apply the opaque acrylic paint in reverse sequence, moving from the finest detail to the most general shapes. It is an artistic discipline dating back to the Middle Ages and goes by the name “verre églomisé,” or in German, the appropriately tongue-twisting “hinterglasmalerei.” In any language it is an artistic challenge roughly similar to reproducing a Vermeer upside down and behind your back while gripping the paintbrush between your toes. The result—in Lonnie’s words—is “a Norman Rockwell from the outside and a Van Gogh from the inside.”

For all the effort, these ephemeral works of art remain only through the holiday season. Early each new year, Lonnie, as self-described art assassin, scrapes the paintings off the window in long acrylic ribbons.

To view the completed mural, drive or walk by the Ford’s at 194 (formerly 91) Lake Street (the hilltop section between Lake Street’s two intersections with Petrova Avenue) after the end of the week, but before the New Year.

To see some of Kathy’s paintings from previous years, see the following post.