Buy local. It’s much more than a feel-good slogan or here-today-gone-tomorrow topic currently trending on Facebook or Twitter. Let’s face it, the choice we have as consumers – this holiday season and throughout the year – is to either support small, family-run businesses, local artisans and craftspeople or help some fat-cat one-percenter.
We can help our friends and neighbors make ends meet or send a child to college, soccer camp, piano or dance lessons, or we can help a CEO buy another yacht, sports car, or vacation home. » Continue Reading.
We artists take great pride in producing new work for the holiday season, believing (perhaps naively) that people will want to give art to their loved ones! It’s actually not a bad idea. Works of art are genuinely unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that can bring enjoyment every day of the year – forever. A chance to give someone something they’ve never had and that no one else in the world will ever have. It can be a child’s tempera painting, something totally hand-made, or a professional piece of art.
Many communities in our region have small galleries and shops that feature locally produced art. Since I happen to live in Saranac Lake, I will describe what we have to offer, but my advice is to seek out what’s available in your own communities. Shop small. Shop local. Remember, the money spent at locally owned businesses mostly stays in the community, helping keep the regional economy alive. » Continue Reading.
I love greenery and lights this time of year and it doesn’t take much to make a difference. I’m in awe of the super creative folks but as long as I can see some deep green and lights, I’m content. If you feel daunted at the thought of making your own wreath, consider a simple swag for your door. Gather a handful of nice looking greens, wrap them together with green wire, add a ribbon and you’re done.
I recently discovered one of the easiest ways to decorate. I use the planters on our porch that were full of flowers all summer, and fill them with greenery. You can use a variety of greens to provide different textures and color. Cut the greens in varying lengths but mostly about twice as long as the pot is high and stuff them into the potting mix to hold them in place. » Continue Reading.
Personally I feel that all decorations have their time and place. Just because chain stores decided on Christmas merchandising before my kids had even pulled together Halloween costumes, does not mean I have to succumb. I need some distance between my holiday celebrations. Christmas won’t happen in our house until the turkey is considered a leftover.
Around the Adirondacks local stores and businesses aren’t feeling the pressure to celebrate early. They are saving their energy and pulling out all the stops for a Black Friday weekend that is uniquely Adirondack. » Continue Reading.
OK, so you have nature lovers in the family and don’t know what to give them for gifts over the holidays. Books? Yes, they still exist. In fact, some of the finest nature books ever published are rolling off the presses right now.
We 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.
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.
The coming weeks will provide lots of opportunities to shop for interesting handmade items, but one opportunity you won’t want to miss is the 2nd Holiday Gift Fair at the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne this Saturday, December 3rd, from 9AM to 3PM.
The quality of the folk arts products is the best you will find anywhere, produced by the students and faculty in the Adirondack tradition. The types of articles you can find for sale include handcrafted furniture and woodworking, basketry, caning, ceramics, photography, leathercrafting, fiber arts, paintings, and so much more. A special preview members-only event for the school’s supporters will be held on Friday, December 2nd from 7PM to 9PM showcasing the arts and crafts that will be later on sale. An individual membership starts at $25 annually. Contact the school to donate and register for this event. Donations go toward expansion and outreach efforts to make this school a success.
Opened for just over 18 months, the Adirondack Folk Art School is the first of its kind, designed to preserve an American tradition in Adirondack folk arts that is usually passed down from family to family, friend to friend. The school provides instruction in more than 20 types of crafts throughout the year at its beautiful Lake Luzerne setting with more 90 classes and workshops.
The holiday gift fair is a great opportunity to see where the traditions of Adirondack folk art live on—and to pick up a few Christmas gifts in the process. While there, you can pick up a course schedule and talk to the instructors to learn more.
Photos courtesy of Adirondack Folk School.
Linda J. Peckel explores the Adirondacks by following the arts wherever they take her. Her general art/writing/film/photography musings on can be found at her own blog Arts Enclave.
Children’s Christmas wishes and expectations years ago were much different. I was so struck by this—the simplicity and innocence—while researching a recent book that I included a chapter entitled “Letters to Santa” (in History of Churubusco). The sample letters below were published in local newspapers from 1920–1940. They offer historical significance, portraying the sharp contrast to the modern holiday, where disproportionately expensive gifts have become the norm.
Like hundreds of other small villages and towns in the early twentieth century, Churubusco was a farming community. Families were often self-sufficient, and everyone, including small children, had daily chores. This fostered teamwork and family unity, and it gave children a firsthand understanding of the values of goods, services, and hard work. Those lessons were conveyed in their missives to Santa. And, some of the comments in the letters are just plain cute. 1923 Dear Santa, This year, money being scarce, my wants are few. I want a doll, set of dishes, ribbon, candy, and nuts. Don’t forget my brothers and sisters. Your girl, Eva Lussier
Dear Santa Claus, I want you to bring me a little serving set, ball, candy, nuts, and bananas. Never mind the sled this year because I am expecting one from my aunt. My Xmas tree will be in the parlor near the stove, so take your time and get good and warm before you leave. Wishing you a merry Xmas, your little friend, Louis Patnode
1925 Dear Santa Claus, I would like you to bring me a little bedroom set, some candy, nuts, and bananas. Your little friend, Louise Recore
Dear Santa Claus, I would like a flashlight, sled, gold watch, some candy, nuts, oranges, bananas, and peanuts. Please don’t forget my little brothers, Walter and Francis. Walter would like a little drum, mouth organ, candy, nuts, gum, and oranges. Francis would like a little wagon full of toys, and some candy, nuts, and bananas. Your little friend, John Brady
1938 Dear Santa, For Christmas I want a bottle of perfume and a locket, a 59 cent box of paints that I saw in your sale catalogue, a pair of skates, a nice dress and candy and nuts. I am eleven years old and Santa I hope you have a very merry Xmas. Your friend, Anita Robare
Dear Santa, I am writing a few lines to tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a toothbrush and there is a set of 12 different games in your Christmas catalogue for 98 cents. Some of the names of the games are bingo, checkers, and jacksticks. Please bring me this set. I hope you don’t forget my little sister and brothers. Your friend, Henrietta Matthews
Dear Santa, Christmas is drawing near and I would like these things: a pair of ski shoes, pair of fur bedroom slippers, a dump truck, and banjo. I will leave some crackers and milk on the breakfast table. Your friend, Ann Elderbaum
Dear Santa, When you come around for Xmas, I would like to have you bring me a pair of skates and a woolen shirt. It’s all I want for Christmas for I thought that you are getting old and those chimneys will be hard to climb. You will have some bread and milk at Christmas Eve. Yours truly, Theodore Leclair
Dear Santa Claus, I wish you would bring me a sled and a ring. I don’t want very much for I know you are getting old and I don’t want you to carry too much. You will find my stocking near the stove and on the kitchen table you will find some bread and milk. I want you to leave me some candy, especially peanut brittle. I am 12 years old. Your friend, Cecelia Louise Miller
Dear Santa, I wish you would bring me a popgun, tractor, truck and an airplane. You will find a bowl of bread and milk near the Xmas tree. You will find my stocking near the stove. I am only seven years old. Your friend, Clayton Miller
My Dear Santa, I am eleven years old, and I wish you would bring me a cowboy suit and a sweater. You will find my stocking near the stairway, and on the kitchen table you will find some corn meal mush. Your little friend, Herman Leclair
Dear Santa, Christmas is drawing near and I thought I would drop you a line and let you know what I want for Christmas. I would like a red sweater, western book, and a fur hood. I will leave you some bread, cake, peanuts, and milk. I don’t want very much because you are growing old and your bag will be too heavy. So I will close and hope to have all I want for Christmas. Sincerely yours, Rita Theresa Leclair
Dear Santa, I would like a new pair of shoes for Christmas. Ruth Demarse
Dear Santa, I want a tractor and some colors for Christmas. Henry Lagree
1939 Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl this year. I thank you for the things that you brought me last year. For Christmas I would like a doll and a Chinese Checker game. I will leave a lunch for you on the table. I will clean our chimney so you can slide down it. I will hang our stockings near the Christmas tree. I would like to stay up and see you but I am afraid that I would not get any presents so I will go to bed. Well we will have to close. Your friend, Helen and Patty Smith
Dear Santa Claus, I have been a good boy this year. I would like a car that pedals. If you couldn’t bring that, I would like something smaller. And don’t forget Carol my baby sister. And I would like some candy, gum, oranges, and nuts. Your little friend, Robert K. Smith
Dear Santa, I have tried to be a good little girl this year. I am nine years old and in the fifth grade. I would like a pair of ice skates between my sister and I. And don’t forget my baby sister, because she wasn’t here last year and I through that maybe you would forget her. But I guess that you wouldn’t do that trick. And don’t forget the candy, nuts, oranges, and gum. Your friend, Helen L. Smith
Dear Santa, I would like for Christmas a pencil box and drawing paper, candy, and nuts. Your friend, Beulah Perry
1940 Dear Santa Claus, I want a train and candy. Norman Lafave
Dear Santa, I would like a box of colors, a teddy bear, candy and nuts. Agnes Lagree
Dear Santa Claus, I want a pair of shoes, dress, and Christmas candy and nuts. Ruth Demarse
From Jill and me at Bloated Toe Publishing, Happy Holidays to all.
Photo: 1916 Christmas advertisement for a Malone store.
Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
The work of several artisans and artists who live and work in Chestertown, Minerva, Newcomb, North Creek, Olmstedville, Pottersville, Schroon Lake and Warrensburg can be found at Betty’s Funny Farm. Check out the cute knitted Mary Janes for baby.
For those who have yet to finish their shopping this gift-giving season and are still struggling for ideas for the Adirondack backcountry enthusiast on their list help is now here. From backpacks to sleeping bags and hiking boots to tents, the choices available are enough to send even a seasoned backcountry expert running to their computer for hours of frustrating research. To shed some clarifying light on this situation here are some ideas for relatively inexpensive gifts that hopefully will make the whole process a little less daunting.
Every backcountry adventurer needs the basic navigation tools of map and compass. Although there are numerous different types of compasses to choose from the Silva Ranger 515 CL has been my go-to compass for over 10 years. This compass is one rugged piece of equipment that has always pointed me in the right direction. Other than some worn off print on the bottom and a slightly frayed lanyard, my Silva Ranger compass remains as reliable as it did when I first purchased it. The Ranger 515 CL has an adjustable declination so it can be set based on the area you are currently exploring. The split-sighting mirror gives superior accuracy when navigating to distant landmarks. And the clinometer provides for measuring angles of inclination too. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this outstanding compass is $55.
Backcountry light sources range from flashlights to headlamps. I prefer headlamps since it is often necssary to have your hands free while doing activities in the dark. With the many headlamps on the market it can be difficult to decide which would make a perfect gift for a backcountry explorer. Hopefully I will be able to shed a little light on this matter.
My current headlamp is a Petzel e+LITE Emergency Headlamp. Although this tiny light is marketed as an emergency headlamp I currently use it as my primary light anytime from mid-spring to mid-autumn. This light is super-lightweight weighing only 27 grams with batteries. It runs on two lithium watch batteries which last anywhere from 35 to 45 hours depending on the intensity of light.
The e+LITE provides 5 different modes including economy, maximum and pulse in white light, and economy and pulse in red light. Although the distance of light and the lack of a focus are disadvantages over traditional headlamps, the lightweight more than makes up for them. Plus there is a 10 year guarantee.
Integral Designs’ Silcoat Backpack is a perfect daypack to bring along on extended trips where reduced weight is paramount. This small daypack weighs a mere 4.5 oz. and can do double-duty as a stuff sack. The pack is made from lightweight silicone-impregnated nylon and features 2 webbing shoulder straps and a removable 1” polyester webbing belt. The manufacture’s suggested retail price is $50.
This pack can be used on those days where a short hike from a base camp is planned and a full pack is just too much to carry. But be careful, this pack is not recommended for loads exceeding 12 lbs, for carrying sharp objects or bushwhacking through dense spruce/fir forests. I often carry this pack for those occasions where I might take a short day hike and would rather not haul my main backpack.
Sleeping pads can be an important part of one’s arsenal of sleeping equipment. Finding a lightweight alternative can be difficult since it often requires giving up on comfort. One of my favorite sleeping pads is Texsport’s Pack-Lite Sleeping Pad.
This sky blue sleeping pad is extremely lightweight, weatherproof, water resistant, full length (20” x 72”) and made from closed cell foam (3/8” thick). If you find full-length pads to be an unnecessary luxury then it can easily be trimmed down to the appropriate size. The best feature of this pad is its incredible low price of only $10.99.
The only downside to the Pack-Lite Sleeping Pad is its really bad out-gassing. I would seriously suggest you set it out in a well ventilated space for a few days before using it.
In the years when I first started venturing into the Adirondack backcountry I carried a large hunting knife. After many trips where I typically used it only to cut food wrappers I could not rip apart with my teeth I finally realized the foolishness of carrying such a heavy knife.
Now I carry the lightest Swiss Army knife available in the Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife. This knife weighs only 1 oz. and includes a small knife, scissors (for those tough food wrappers), toothpick, tweezers (for first aid purposes), fine screwdriver and nail file. Although this knife comes in black, green or red, I would strongly suggest the red color as it stands out on a dark forest floor the best.
In my early days of backcountry exploration I not only carried a large hunting knife but multiple Nalgene bottles as well. Now I have replaced them with some lightweight alternatives.
One lightweight alternative to a bulky water bottle is a 1 liter Platypus collapsible bottle. These bottles are extremely lightweight (0.8 oz) and are fully collapsible. The collapsible feature is handy since as you empty the bottle it takes up a less room in your backpack.
I have noted some concern from skeptics about the water bottle being punctured but in the 10+ years I have had them leak only along the upper seams (and this was most likely due to wear of leaving them unattended while attached to my gravity filter multiple times). Plus they are BPA free and lined with taste free plastic.
Although it might be difficult to imagine around this time of year but spring will be here before you know it. And with spring in the Adirondacks comes the most dreaded of all biting flies: the black fly.
The best way to be prepared for bug season is with an OR Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet. This headnet contains a steel ring for holding the netting away from your face yet it only weighs 2.2 oz. This headnet is colored black to minimize interference with vision. And this headnet is no-see-um proof too. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this headnet is $18.
Every backcountry adventurer needs at least a single towel for those occasional bathings. The MSR Packtowl Ultralite is the lightest, most compact microfiber towel on the market. It weighs next to nothing and folds up to a very small space. These towels come in 4 different sizes from x-large to small to meet all your drying needs. This towel soaks 4 times its weight in water and then easily wrings out almost completely dry.
By rolling up your wet backcountry laundry in this towel and wringing both of them together the towel absorbs a vast amount of water. This can significantly reduce the amount of time necessary to dry out your favorite hiking clothing while out in the field.
Hopefully these ideas will help those still struggling with that hard to buy for backcountry explorer on their gift list. Or at the very least, you will know what NOT to buy me since I already have all of the products described above.
Photo: Inexpensive miscellaneous backcountry gear by Dan Crane.
I can’t be the only person that hasn’t completed her holiday shopping. Otherwise there would be no need for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Right? I did not venture into the Black Friday madness. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted enough to camp in a parking lot or be part of a stampede. My nieces and nephews are of an age when only a gift card will do while my in-laws appreciate something a bit more edible.
My children pick apart the daily influx of catalogs, circling a wish list that would put the greediest to shame. Through out the gimme-gimmes of the holiday season, I weave in as many opportunities to remind my kids that it is not the price of the gift that makes it special.
I do my best to give them chances to make gifts for their grandparents or earn a bit of money to be able to go pick up something unique. Luckily there are many bazaars, craft fairs and town celebrations that allow just that.
This weekend, events are happening all over the Adirondack Park as towns start stringing twinkle lights and bows in anticipation of the holiday season. There are tree lightings and caroling, craft shows and ranging from Northern Lights Winter Faire (where children can hand-dip a candle or make a gift) to the 23rd annual Sparkle Village weekend craft fair at Saranac Lake’s Harrietstown Town Hall. Wilmington and Keene Valley and AuSable Forks presents “Christmas at the Forks.”
On Saturday, December 4, Long Lake will have various workshops and artist open houses along with a free holiday movie, candy cane hunt and story time. North Creek will have a weekend of events for their annual “Lights One Holiday Celebration.” Eagle Bay (near Old Forge) will host an old-fashioned tree lighting, caroling and gifts for kids on Sunday followed by refreshments at the Eagle Bay Fire Hall.
Ticonderoga has its 5th annual Museum Christmas Store where all area museums gather a sampling of their goods at the Hancock House.
Warrensburg has a town-wide celebration on Saturday from tree lighting to church bazaars and plenty of children’s activities throughout. From 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at the Thurman Town Hall, help trim the community tree and catch a visiting Santa. If you are in Bolton Landing, Santa will be offering hay rides at Rogers’ Memorial Park at 2:00 p.m., though it will be up to you to explain the numerous Santa sightings around the park this weekend.
This hardly touches on the range of hand-crafted items or activities that will allow children of all ages to participate in a community kick-off to the holiday season.
All in all there are so many happenings that can continue to show all of us that the gift doesn’t have to be made in China or always be the “must have” toy of the year, it can be made by a neighbor or even by our own hands. Enjoy the start of the Adirondack Holiday Season.
If anyone wants to understand my friend Jim Close’s point of view on how long something should last, all they have to see is the inside of his car.
When he sold his old Honda and bought a Prism, he pulled the greasy leather cover off the old steering wheel to reuse. It took hours to de-thread the old cover, and hours more to fasten it, using the same thread, to the steering wheel of his new car. But the thread broke partway through, so he had to use other things to attach it.
“You know,” I told him. “A new cover only costs about $10.”
“Why should I get a new one? This one works fine.”
“But look at it. You’ve got thread, black electrical tape and what’s that white stuff?”
“Dental floss.” I shook my head. “If I was a girl going out with you, and I saw that steering wheel, there wouldn’t be a second date.”
“That’s not the worst of it,” Jim said.
“Why? What’s worse?”
“It’s used dental floss.”
The reason I bring this up is I was afraid Jim wouldn’t be skiing in the Adirondacks this year. His 30-year-old wooden L.L. Bean skis were just about too worn to be used, and a binding had broken last year. Jim lives in Saratoga County, and we usually go out on three or four backcountry ski adventures in the Adirondacks each winter – Siamese Ponds, Pharaoh Lake, the High Peaks, Hoffman Notch, the Jackrabbit Trail.
I kept encouraging him to buy new gear, but he wouldn’t have it. Usually the only time he buys new equipment is when he’s forced to.
Like the time he brought what he thought was a 20-degree sleeping bag for a late-winter backpacking trip in the Smokey Mountains. The borrowed bag, which he had never tried out before the trip, turned out to be only a nylon cover. He shivered for two nights before finding a store.
Or the time he went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with boots (a gift from a girlfriend) that he knew were a half-size too small. He suffered in those devices of torture for several days before reaching a supply store and surrendering his credit card.
But those skis have clearly seen their last snowplow. Even Jim admitted it. And he had a new idea.
“I can bring them back to L.L. Bean and exchange them,” he said.
It was true. L.L. Bean, like many outdoor stores, provided a lifetime warranty for all its products. Just bring it back at any time and say you’re not satisfied, and they’ll give you an even exchange or your money back.
“So what are you going to tell them?” I asked. “That after 30 years, you weren’t satisfied?”
“Well … yeah.”
“After skiing on them hundreds of times, applying pine tar and layers of wax with a blowtorch, bashing them against rocks, replacing the bindings several times, they weren’t good enough?
It’s not that I was amazed at his audacity. I just couldn’t believe he’d want to get rid of something he’d spent so much time on. And I said as much.
“What am I supposed to do with them?” he asked. “Put them over my fireplace?”
“Something like that.”
“I’ll think about it.”
A few days ago I got a call from Jim. Turns out he had decided not to return the skis after all.
“Oh,” I said. “You decided to buy new ones? Or used ones?”
“No,” he said. “A guy I ride the bus with to work says he owns about 30 pairs. He said he’d give me one.”
So it looks like we’ll be skiing together in the Adirondacks after all. Assuming his boots hold up – they’re not in very good shape either.
This holiday season we’ve decided to offer a list of books that every Adirondack fan should have – remember that if you buy through the Adirondack Almanack a small portion of the sale supports the blog.
David Haelvarg ($12.92) Local Politics: Provides the first full accounting of the extremist right wing “property rights” movement in the Adirondacks. Implicated in a rash of arson, physical attacks, death threats, and more, and connected to organizations like the John Birch Society, organizations like the Citizens Council of the Adirondacks (CCA) and the Adirondack Solidarity Alliance (ASA) waged a battle against environmentalist, locals who supported zoning, and the APA.
Philip Terrie ($14.56) Local Politics : We’re lucky to have Terrie as a regular reader of the Adirondack Almanack. This book on the politics of the park and the struggle over the land is a seminal piece of Adirondack scholarship and a great follow-up to Terrie’s Forever Wild: A Cultural History of Wilderness in the Adirondacks.
John Wagner ($10.61) How-To: Get out to the woodshed and produce some of< your own locally inspired furniture. Geared for beginners, this book include drawings, photos, and diagrams to help even the most amateur wood worker build classic Adirondack designs.
Barbara McMartin ($12.74) Local Guides: The late Adirondack historian’s perennial favorite – a great book for the Adirondack newbie, visitor, or that person who has been doing a lot of talking about finally doing some hiking.
Alan Bessette, William Chapman ($16.95) Local Guides: Over 200 species of birds are categorized into the eight basic groups. Also includes sections on feeding, attracting, and photographing along with a checklist and place for field notes.
Donald R. Williams ($15.59) History: Part of the Images of America series, this Adirondack picture book is a must have that provides amazing photographs taken from all kinds of sources. A nice, affordable photo history of the Adirondacks.
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