The Tree Hunters

Finding a tree is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, and this is one of my favorite memories of our family’s tree tradition.
Repost from an old blog…

My family has built many traditions around our family Christmas Tree.  It is always decorated while listening to Mariah Carey‘s “Merry Christmas” album.  Dad always gets tangled in the lights and ends up breaking one strand before successfully lighting the tree.  We all have specific ornaments that we hang every year.  None of these things can happen without the tradition of going to get the tree. Every year Dad and I journey to McCurdy’s Tree Farm to find the perfect tree.  We arrive, pick out a saw, and hop onto the hayride that takes you to the various types of trees.  We get a cup of hot chocolate, then trek over to the Douglas Fir trees, walk around until I’ve found it.  It is perfectly proportioned, has no dead spots, an ample trunk, springy branches, the right width, and it’s (inevitably) too tall for our living room.  Dad cuts it down and drags it back to the hot chocolate stand where we warm ourselves up with another cup of cocoa and a hot dog.  (This process has been known to take hours in the past.)  Finally, we get back on the hay ride to go pay for the tree before I sucker Dad into buying yet another Christmas c.d.  This year, as we were getting ready to start our journey, Bug came around the corner already dressed in her snowsuit, looked at us with her big brown eyes, and asked, “Can I go tree hunting with you?”  We hadn’t thought of taking her with us because the poor little bug had been suffering from a cold, but it was like trying to say no to Cindy Loo Who dressed as a purple marshmallow.  We caved, and packed her up in the car.

We had to wait for the third hayride.  She didn’t want to ride on the blue or orange tractors.  She wanted to ride on the great big red tractor, because it was the best.   As Mrs. McCurdy waived us off and said to have a merry Christmas, Bug eagerly replied “Oh, we will!” This, of course, brought laughter from everyone, including Mrs. McCurdy (who looks a bit like how I always imagined Mrs. Claus to look).  We got hot chocolate, which was quickly stated to be the best hot chocolate in the entire world, (she doesn’t get much chocolate…) and then started walking towards the Douglas Firs.  While searching for the tree, she followed me to every one.  Finally, we had to choose between two: one I liked, and one Dad liked.  Bug looked between the two of us and stated, “Daddy, don’t you know Amber’s tree is the one we should take?!  She says it’s prettier, and I believe her.”  Well, that was that.  Dad cut down the tree, and we headed back towards the hot cocoa stand.

While eating our hot dogs and drinking our cocoa Bug saw the giant tube slide, a new addition to the tree farm this year.  She looked at me and asked, “Amber, is that slide for little boys and girls?”  When I told her it was, she batted her eyelashesat me.  I’m not talking about blinking a couple of times.  I’m talking about actually batting her eyelashes in the way that has gotten women exactly what the want for centuries.  Then she says, “Well, I’m a little girl.”  I proceeded to take her down the slide four times before we were ready to take the hayride back and pay for our tree.

We rode the hayride with the blue tractor back to the office and gift shop, since apparently “Red takes you places, but Blue always takes you home.”  This statement was accompanied by enthusiastic nodding, so it must be true.  Dad paid for the tree, tied it to the car, and we all headed home.  Coming from the backseat we heard a very faint, “This was the best Tree Hunt ever.”

I completely agree.

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Pumpkin Week Starts With A Good Ale

It’s Fall!  That glorious time of year filled with brilliant pops of color, luxe fabrics, and of course – pumpkins.  Pumpkins are everywhere at this time of year.  They’re in our yards, pies, soup, coffee, air fresheners, shampoos, etc.  And why shouldn’t they be?  The arrival of pumpkins means the approach of Halloween, the start of the holiday season, and the promise of celebrations with friends and family.  So let’s raise our glasses in celebration of this glorious gourd! It is officially Pumpkin Week here at Chicly Green.

Ever since I was a little girl my dad would bring me home a surprise whenever he had to take a business trip: a state magnet, a collection of postcards, and one notorious occasion a pair of pink cowgirl boots that didn’t fit.  This tradition continues today, although usually it’s something more useful or grown up.  On a recent trip to New England, for example, it was a six-pack of pumpkin ale from a local microbrewery called Shipyard Brewing Company.  I have to admit I was a little dubious at first.  Pumpkin in my beer?  I wasn’t so sure I was excited about that, but dad was so proud of himself for finding me something local and consumable to send me from his trip.  So I tried it.

It was surprisingly delicious.  The pumpkin, with touches of cinnamon and nutmeg, was a perfect compliment to a pale ale.  The tastes and aromas were subtly blended, without any one flavor overpowering another.

Also, I love an excuse to use my “Redneck Beer Glass.”

Do you have a favorite brew from your local microbrewery?

Gifts And The Rules

Over the past week I have gotten the same question over and over again.  Is accepting gifts within the realm of my rules?  The first time I was asked this it legitimately threw me off guard.  Given my lackluster enthusiasm for birthdays I have no expectations in the way of gifts, so this wasn’t something I initially considered.

First I thought about my reasons for doing this.  Lowering my impact on the environment, supporting local businesses, producing less waste, etc.  So on one hand accepting gifts has the potential to be counterproductive.  Then I thought about the nature of gifts.  I don’t mean the gifts that are given out of obligation.  I mean gifts from family and true friends.  These types of gifts are meant to be tokens of love and affection.  It would be rude to not accept gifts from these groups, right?  Someone suggested I ask people, during traditional gift-giving times, to keep my rules by giving me only 2nd hand items.  I thought about this for a while, but ultimately that also feels wrong.

So, I’ve determined that yes, I can accept gifts.  However the use of those gifts must fall within the rules.  If someone gives me something functional, I can use it right away.  If gift cards are received, their use must fit the rules.  IE – a gift card to Sephora, Ulta, Lush, etc can be used as long as the products I’m purchasing are cruelty free and it’s one of my quarterly-allotted shopping times.  Gift cards to clothing stores, book stores, etc. must wait to be used until the end of my challenge.  I feel like this was a fair way to resolve this; it stays true to my  goals without causing insult/injury to the people I love.

Of course some of those people have chosen to honor my challenge through their gifts, which is how I ended up with this amazing cupcake cookie jar, purchased from a local thrift store.

Of course, now I have to keep it filled…

Wine Makes Birthdays Better

There are many things that come to mind when you hear “Pennsylvania.”  Gettysburg, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin, steel workers, Amish.  All of these mental images are likely to come to mind.  But wine?  Probably not so much, and yet there are some lovely little vineyards tucked away in the more rural communities.  One local vineyard in particular, Nissley Vineyards, seems to be extremely prevalent in my hometown.  So in lieu of being admonished for not having a birthday celebration, I decided I would like to spend the afternoon celebrating one of my favorite things: wine.

The vineyard is a gorgeous property with charming little limestone buildings and red covered bridges, which give it that lovely “country” feeling.

Nissley’s vineyard tour is “self-guided.”  This means with the help of a map and a guidebook (of sorts) you’re free to explore the property at your leisure.  They start by giving a history of the property, which includes the fact that at one point it was a tobacco farm.  Apparently tobacco farming in the late 1800’s involved using a limestone kiln.

 

As you come out of the wooded area surrounding the kiln, you come out into the fields into the fields of grapes.  We didn’t get to see the white grapes, but the red grapes were everywhere and they looked so juicy and delicious.

 

Then you’re guided through the room with the hoppers, pressers, and fermenting vats which hold several hundred gallons of wine each, and then you come around the corner to a gorgeous wood and limestone walkway for the wine tasting.

 

It turns out I very much enjoy two of their reds and one of their whites.  I’m not usually a fan of white wines, but their “Rhapsody in Blue” is not only clean, crisp, and just the right amount of sweet, but it also has a name that appeals to my musical sensibilities.  I bought a bottle of that along with a bottle of their amusingly named “Naughty Marietta” and headed home to enjoy it, but not before seeing this wonderfully happy cloud.

“A” for Amber’s Birthday?!

Okay, maybe it wasn’t so bad celebrating my birthday this year.  After all, wine makes everything better.  Cheers friends!