What makes for a heartwarming holiday?
Certainly, it's the gathering of friends and family. But there are many elements to a fine holiday season, and some of them we are glad to help with, through the many opportunities and events which dominate the area's December.
Decorating the tree
Do we love the whole tree decoration ritual? How many times have we wished we had more than one tree? If so, the Festival of Trees at the Schryer Center is a must-visit.
A friend and I stopped by to revel in the wonderful selection of contestants. This annual contest is held at the same time as the Franklin County Historical and Museum Society's annual Christmas Tea. The Schryer Center and the House of History are adjoining buildings, which allows us to walk between them and enjoy all of the associated festivities.
The library has been repurposed to hold long tables for each organization's tree entry. Upon entering the room, we each get slips of paper so we can vote on our favorites. That is difficult to manage, I can tell you. From delightfully lovely to fun and creative, there are plenty of festive trees for any taste.
In the end, I voted for the tree pictured below. Color scheme, style, and the goals of the organization all combined for me.
Then it was time for tea at the House of History. Tea, coffee, and homemade cookies, including meringue cookies, which are gluten free. Oh, joy! They were delicious.
This is one of the times guests can experience the beautiful collections of clothes, furniture, household items, and Victoriana in the House of History.
There's also an amazing group of Santas on display. It will put everyone in the spirit!
If we really want an old-fashioned Christmas, we should visit the holiday celebration at the Almanzo Wilder Homestead. Mulled cider, costumed children, and readings from "Farmer Boy," Almanzo's account of his boyhood on the family farm. There are holiday songs played on the organ with free wrapping at the gift store.
The downstairs of the farmhouse is open to visitors to explore historically accurate furnishings and household items. Each room is "dressed" in the fashion that would have been useful to the people living there at the time. Butter molds, a wood-burning cook stove, sheet music of the period on the organ, and a grooming set consisting of a mirror, comb, and brushes are all set out on the small dresser in the tiny bedroom.
It makes a wonderful teaching setting for children, who can make popcorn strings in the craft room, listen to the descriptions of Christmas of times past, and get a sense of how people lived not that very long ago.
The gift shop is a great place to find gifts and stocking stuffers, with their incredible selection of period children's items, along with books, CDs and DVD sets, and even music and photographic collections.
I had a special challenge. There are two children, a boy and a girl, I needed gifts for through a holiday children's program. It can be a bit of a challenge not knowing the actual child we are buying for, but the helpful gift shop staff were able to point me to things any child would enjoy.
And it's fairly certain they aren't getting these gifts from anyone else, either.
santa is our neighbor
Santa lives very close to us and often drops by for visits. Of course, he loves living in the North Country.
He always drops by Titus Mountain on Christmas Eve to hand out cookies and relax before the night's labors.
Earlier in the month, Santa stops by Arsenal Green Park, with elves to help hand out treats and toys. For kids in Chateaugay, there's a Town Hall Theater Santa event with a free movie and popcorn along with the visit from Santa.
Yes, Santa is a busy fellow. But he manages to visit all of those families Christmas night because he can control the space-time continuum, so don't worry about him.
Okay, we have the short days and the cold nights, but there really is massive compensation, isn't there? I'm talking goodies!
This time of year is all about the festive (and tasty) treats. I reached out to the local community, and two folks were willing to share their treasured holiday recipes. Authentic and local and delicious, these recipes have it all.
For a real upstate New York flavor, it's:
Apple Cheddar Pie
- 8 cups sliced, pared apples (preferably Macintosh)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 10-inch unbaked pie shell
- 6 oz. McCadam Adirondack Reserve Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, add lemon juice to the apples and stir to coat. In a separate bowl mix flour, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon, then add to the large bowl. Stir well to coat.
Turn ingredients into the pie shell. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. Next, spoon the crumb topping over the cheese, making sure to completely cover cheese (otherwise it will burn). Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve warm. For the crumb topping, mix flour and sugar, and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
This sounds so good and is just that little bit different in a way that will surprise the guests after a holiday dinner. Recipe and photo by Hugh Hill.
For those pre-holiday mixers or potlucks, here's a delightful recipe which showcases berries and dairy -- both North Country specialties. From Beverly Quenville.
- 2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1/2 cup red raspberry preserves
- 1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine flour, sugar, butter and salt in a large bowl. Blend ingredients with a pastry blender or two knives used scissor fashion until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and mix with hands until it forms a ball. Divide dough into thirds. On ungreased cookie sheet, shape each third into a 12-inch by 1-inch strip. Place about 4 inches apart.
With the back of a spoon make a depression about 1/2 inch deep down the center of each strip. Combine preserves, almonds, and vanilla. Spread 1/3 of the mixture into each depression. Refrigerate on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake strip from 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, then cut each strip diagonally into 1-inch-oval pieces. Allow pieces to cool completely on wire racks. Makes about three dozen, about 95 cal each. (But this is the time of year when no one counts, right?)
Enjoy the holidays!
This week in related ADK traditions: