Tag Archives: holiday

O Christmas Tree…

We went on a trek to a place called Santa’s Forest in Lincolnton, NC to pick out a tree.  It was a blast.

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It was really kid friendly and had all kinds of animals for them to see.  Hank was crowing back at the rooster.

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They had free hot chocolate, popcorn, cookies, and the kids got to find ornaments among the trees and turn them in for a pencil or candy.

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Livi even made a new friend.

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We got to go on a hay ride pulled by a shiny tractor!  The guy drove us across rolling fields until we got to a spot where we hiked through some trees and down to a beautiful spot by the creek where the water flowed over flat slabs of rock.  He told us how as a kid he would go down there and play all day, and I could imagine it being the perfect spot to beat the heat and let your imagination run wild.

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And of course we paid to pick out and cut down our own Christmas tree.  I’m not really big on killing trees, or anything else for that matter, but on the flip side, we are supporting a local farm.  So, rock on.

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And it makes our Christmas extra special.

I can’t wait to go again next year.

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“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas”

Here is a post by a guest blogger: my sister, Emily Horton.  She recently took a course called “Master Recycler Program” from a local agency aiming to maximize sustainability in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon.  After having taken the course, she tells me that she feels her life has new direction and purpose as she seeks to implement some of the ideas and strategies she has learned.

As “pay back” for the class, students are required to fulfill a certain amount of volunteer work.  She wants to develop presentations to give in local classrooms and also to publish some of her ideas and experiences.  

She welcomes any comments and feedback you have on her article!

“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas”

With Christmas looming right around the corner and three young children to consider, I am beginning to brainstorm my holiday plan.  When I think back to Christmases past, I see visions of trashbags full of plastic packaging dancing in my head.  In the Lane County Waste Management Master Recycler Program, I learned it’s okay that I can’t afford all the gizmos and hoopla our consumer-based culture has come to expect from the holidays: Mother Earth can’t afford it either.  And so I sit in the November rain, pondering how to make this season go easy on the Earth and my pocketbook, but heavy on the festivities.

Such an outcome is possible if we use the Green Triangle.  Ernest Callenbach developed the Green Triangle as a way to visualize the connection between our personal well-being, the health of our planet and our economy.  Picture a triangle with each point representing one of the aforementioned factors.  Every decision we make, everything we buy affects all three points in a similar way.

So when we choose to clean our yard with a rake instead of a leafblower, we positively affect our personal health with exercise, our earth’s health with a zero-emissions human-powered tool, and our financial health with a one-time, low-cost investment and no additional fuel or tune-ups required.  When we make a decision that is responsible and positive for the earth, we positively affect our health, and definitely save money.

Now to take the Green Triangle theory and apply it to my holiday dilemma.  Our family’s main holiday priority is making happy memories for the kids and infusing the season with meaning.  In addition to the Eugene Register-Guard, I check the Eugene Weekly and Oregon Family Newsletter for free or low-cost family events in the area.  Our favorites become annual traditions, like the free live nativity at Herrick’s Farm and the open house at Heceta Head Lighthouse.

While we try not to focus on gifts, we do like to spoil the kids a little at Christmas.  In years past we spent $200 or more at major corporate retailers and really didn’t have much to show for it, and nothing cherished or special.  But last year we bought a few beautiful toys and puzzles from a local family-owned toy & hobby shop and then spent the rest of our budget at non-profit second-hand stores like Teen Challenge and St. Vincent de Paul’s.  It feels good to support local businesses (it’s great for the economy, too!), it’s good for the planet to buy non-plastic, minimally-packaged gifts (especially second-hand) and we spend less money while giving better gifts.

Why stress and work overtime to fund your Christmas this year?  I see everyone’s lives improving dramatically as we use the Green Triangle to guide our daily decisions and purchases.  There’s no better time than now to start, so go ahead, give it a try!

For more information on the Green Triangle, visit

 http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC26/Callnbch.htm and read his original article.

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The world is still spinning…

And I didn’t have anything to drink!  Just the whirlwind of vacation that leaves one needing a vacation…

Being around so much family made me want so much to bring it back with me somehow.  I am getting to know some people in my new area but my level of community is nothing like when we visit my husband’s family and I am surrounded by loving people that know me and accept me.

I always wanted that as a child.  My parents love me, I know that, but my family is a bit stand-off-ish, and there aren’t many of them (on my Dad’s side, that is, which is the only side I ever hung around with due to geographical proximity.)  As a child I didn’t even eat dinner with my parents, who preferred to pretend they were European and eat at 10 p.m., and I was an only child until I was 13.  So it was meal after meal alone.  You would think I didn’t know what I was missing, but I jonesed so hard for a big gathering.

Now I’ve got my own family of six to gather around the table, when schedules permit.  But Thanksgiving, with 30 plus people, is a dream come true.  Some part of my soul just gobbles it up like a starving wolf.

We need connections in this world.  I always come back to that.  I get inside my own head, I philosophize, I spend time with my nuclear family, I put out tendrils into cyberspace and into the folks who live in my area.  All this is satisfying.  But there is also a real need to be in a realtime space and see an extended group of faces where you belong, unconditionally.  A tribe, so to speak.

You can live without it.  I did for most of my life.  I feel so blessed that now the very intimate and personal connection that my husband and I have has led to so many other important relationships that feed my soul: a blossoming of our nuclear family, time and resources to develop cyber companions as well as maintain connections with my childhood nuclear family who are all far away now, a new group of friends in a new town, as well as the huge extended family I always wanted.

Thanksgiving is over but there is still so much to be grateful for…

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Have a Fabulous Holiday Full of Food and Love…

…and football, if you’re into such things!

I’m going to be off-line until next Tuesday at the earliest… Even more than a premature jonesing for my daily internet fix, which I have survived many times, this is the first time in my life that I feel like I am actually going to miss my internet community.  I’m going to miss reading all the amazing, funny, original and/or wacky things that the blogs I visit provide me on a regular basis, and I’m going to miss sharing my world with my regular readers, and also the thrill of seeing that a new face has dropped in.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful time.  I will be looking forward to when we meet again.

Love, 

Elena

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Repost: Thanksgiving Ingrate

Okay, since y’all didn’t disown me the last time I pulled a fast one like this, I’m going to do it ONE MORE TIME.  (All caps means it’s a promise!)

Thanksgiving Ingrate

Americans love to get presents and be the center of attention, which is probably why most of us claim our birthday as our favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is also near the top of the list because it brings together four of the greatest joys in life: feasting, family, a four day weekend and, of course, football. It is a day which allows us to cure momentarily our chronic case of the gimmees and just be grateful for what we already have.

Despite Thanksgiving’s huge popularity, there are a few Americans who, though their hearts may swell patriotic and their stomachs appreciate the traditional meal, nevertheless harbor a secret resentment toward the beloved Turkey Day – I speak of those late November birthday babies.

Oh, we are a sorry bunch. When next year’s calendar comes out we must look ahead to see how close the fateful day comes to impinging on our specialness. If Congress had just left the date of Thanksgiving in the early fall, as it was when the Pilgrims originally celebrated it with the Wampanoag Tribe in 1621, we of the November 22nd through 28th set could be guaranteed chocolate cake instead of pumpkin pie with candles. If they’d just left well enough alone when Colonial Governor John Belcher declared Thanksgiving be November 12th in 1730, or when President George Washington proclaimed in 1789 that Thanksgiving be observed on the 26th of November, more of us could consistently have pizza for our special birthday dinner instead of green beans and cranberry sauce. Admittedly, even with such arrangements there would still be some whiners among us. But there would be far fewer and most importantly, I, being born on the 24th, wouldn’t be in their midst.

Our annual “birthday roulette” began in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln established that Thanksgiving be celebrated annually on the last Thursday of November. This custom held until 1939, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in an effort to stimulate an American economy still reeling from the Great Depression, declared that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the next to last Thursday of November, thereby giving Christmas shoppers an extra week to spend money. Some states protested, refusing in 1940 to go along with FDR’s “Franksgiving” celebration. (It should be noted that Texas, not wanting to be rude, decided to make a holiday of both weeks.) In 1941, Congress compromised by declaring Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November, which is sometimes the last Thursday, sometimes the next to last. Either way, it always threatens to land on my special day.

Of course, in 1970, being newly born, I couldn’t care less, but I did manage to ruin my parents’ Thanksgiving. I was born on a Tuesday and, in adherence to the medical wisdom of that era, my mother and I were to be released two days later on Turkey Day. Right in the middle of a football game, my father got the call to come pick us up from the hospital. Originally from Detroit, my Dad is a loyal fan of the Lions, who have played football on Thanksgiving since 1934, a full 32 years before the Dallas Cowboys tried to steal the spotlight by starting their own Thanksgiving game tradition. My mother graciously permitted him to come get us during halftime.

The Lions were playing none other than the Oakland Raiders that year – I was born in Hayward, California, a mere ten miles down the Nimitz Freeway from the Oakland Coliseum (now called “McAfee”). The game was tied at halftime, so it must have been quite a dilemma for my Dad: bring home the new baby, or watch a nail-biter between our hometeams. I like to think he was rewarded for his familial loyalty since the Lions went on to win 28-21.

My mother didn’t fare so well, having missed the feast, though she did get some leftovers. But that’s just not the same as sitting around the table with all the fixings, the all-important centerpiece being a golden roasted turkey. North Carolina contributes greatly to the event, being second only to Minnesota in turkey production with 39 million annually. (There is even a town named Turkey about 70 miles south of Raleigh on Hwy 40.) Those who love sweet potatoes with their bird owe some gratitude to North Carolina for growing 702 million pounds of the tasty tubers, the most of any state and almost twice the amount of the runner-up, California.

Occasionally, people attempt to include some new-fangled culinary innovation in the holiday fare, such as the vegetarian’s “tofurky,” which is tofu sculpted then baked as though it might replace a juicy fowl, and “turducken,” the carnivore’s delight out of Louisiana consisting of a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. But no matter which new dish enters the scene, we still refuse to turn away from our traditional meal.

Biased as I am by the holiday’s total disregard for my basic civil right to be the Birthday Queen of the Universe, my favorite part of the traditional spread is the appetizers. This is not to disparage my family’s cooking talent; on the contrary, my mother and grandmother are the best cooks around. No, this is to say that when you skip breakfast to try to save your appetite for the big dinner, you’re going to need some serious appetizers. I mean really, when has a turkey ever been ready within three hours of when it was supposed to be done? Those always seem like the three longest hours of my life, as the aroma of slowly roasting bird teases my nostrils and the warm rolls waft waves of irresistible scent that follows me through the house. That appetizer plate with the various deli meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables is the only thing that keeps a person from going mad and eating the couch.

And during our Thanksgiving feast we must be surrounded by our loved ones, who will often travel long distances to celebrate with us. This is all fine and dandy, but try arranging a birthday sleepover under such conditions. As a kid I always knew that for every member of my family that arrived for the holiday, there was one less friend still in town to come over and bring me presents.

So you see, those of us who came into this world within a few days of Thanksgiving do not get a break from the gimmees, and in fact have our special birthday desires so thwarted that we aren’t very grateful for anything.

On the other hand, this uncivilized selfishness never prevents me from thoroughly enjoying the cornucopia of treats that Thanksgiving has to offer. And I’ve decided, this year, I’ll be a big girl about it and hope that the holiday is a truly special day for everyone.

Horton family appetizer plate:

Arrange on serving plate in artistic fashion:
Salami, Black Forest ham, pastrami (cut in triangles)
Sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, Danish fontina (cut in squares)
Black olives, green olives w/pimientos, dill pickle spears, pepperoncini
Contents of a jar of spicy pickled vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, pearl onions, etc.)
Garnish with fancy cut green onions and radishes
Crackers: Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Ritz

This article originally published in
The Lake Magazine November 2007

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Top Five: Thanksgiving fixin’s

Since we are fast approaching the biggest food day of the year (well, for some of us, anyway) I thought it would be fun to get the drool going by listing the top five things we are looking forward to…

Mine are:

  1. gravy
  2. pumpkin pie
  3. green beans with onions and bacon
  4. rolls
  5. appetizer plate eaten while watching football!

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In the True Spirit of Halloween…

I am about to commit an act of unspeakable evil. But since I admitted it ahead of time you have to forgive me!!!

A REPOST!

I am sure this is breaking the cardinal rule of blogging, but in my defense, when I first posted it a year ago, NO ONE and I mean not a single soul on this or the other side of the veil of tears read my blog.  Okay, maybe one person stumbled onto it by accident.  But now that I have some wonderful readers I cannot resist the temptation to entertain them with this holiday-appropriate article.  I do hope my sinful act is not in vain…

Halloween: Not Just for Kids

I’ve always loved Halloween – a pleasure that was condoned until I was 13. Now, at the ripe old age of 30-something, some people want to know, why do you still get into it? Well, I’m not alone. Sixty-three percent of Americans celebrate Halloween, with 30% of the adults joining the kids in costume, according to the National Retail Foundation’s Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. Americans spend more than $4 billion a year on candy, costumes, cards and decorations for Halloween, and the holiday’s popularity has been spreading internationally. Halloween became popular in Britain after “E.T.” arrived in theaters and demonstrated the unbeatable fun of trick-or-treating. Germans see fit to blow more than $100 million a year on the holiday. And in Romania, home of the Dracula myth, revelers brave the haunted night to attend parties with vampire themes.

But the question remains in some people’s minds: why would adults enjoy participating in Halloween?

 

I have to admit that, for me, candy has a lot to do with Halloween’s appeal. (And by “candy,” I mean “chocolate.” I’m one of those for whom any candy not involving chocolate is really more “trick” than “treat.”) ‘Tis better to give than to receive, as they say, and I do enjoy opening the door and depositing a sweet in each child’s bucket, so much so it might seem I had stock in a dentist’s practice. But I’ve always got a private stash of my favorite candies close at hand and, because it’s Halloween, I can indulge to my heart’s content, though often this involves my stomach’s discontent.

Since becoming a mother of trick-or-treaters, I never have to worry about running out of candy; I always know that very soon, my intrepid young treasure-hunters will return with bags of sweet plunder, replenishing my dwindling sugar supply. The key is to talk up the Tootsie Pops and Sweet Tarts – just to distract them as I snag some of their M&Ms. (I’ve also found it useful to encourage the belief that coconut is just this side of poisonous, thus ensuring that the Mounds will all be mine.)

To the untrained eye there is an apparent inconsistency in my delight in Halloween; I won’t go anywhere near a horror flick, and indeed will scream and hyperventilate if my son creeps up behind me and says, “Boo!” in broad daylight, so why do I enjoy the creepiest of holidays? The thing is, when Halloween first started a few thousand years ago in ancient Celtic communities, it was the night when dead folks or demons were said to wander among the living. The idea of a scary costume was to frighten them off, or at least to blend in among them and not appear to be a vulnerable living target. Being the scaredy-pants I am, I can get onboard with that.

Plus I love the attention. When I was seven I dressed as an alien in a homemade green fur costume with a tinted motorcycle visor mask and twisted copper wire antennae – I got applause at every house I went to. Often the door-opener would call to other people in the house to come and see the Martian that had landed on the front stoop. That kind of childhood glory can be seriously addictive.

The creativity of costuming is a good chance to turn my imagination loose. The National Retail Foundation reports that in 2006 the most popular children’s costumes were the princess and the pirate, but I like to get a lot funkier than that. (I find that sampling the candy I bought for handing out helps stimulate the creative process.) Our family disguises have included a bellydancer, Tigger and a sorcerer, all handmade by me. It’s one thing to have a child select a pre-made costume from a rack at the big box store, but it is even more fun to have them select a pattern, fabric and notions for a custom outfit.

Even better are the get-ups whipped together five minutes before the doorbell starts ringing, like the year I was a scarecrow wearing a plaid flannel shirt, my jeans and a straw hat. To complete the effect I blackened my whole nose with an eyeliner pencil, teased my hair until it looked like a bird’s nest and grabbed some long brown grass from a neighboring field so it could stick out the ends of my sleeves and collar. My neck itched all night but it was worth it; the neighborhood kids’ eyes bugged out to see a grown-up joining in their game with such abandon.

The artistic side to Halloween continues with the decorations, especially the Jack-O-Lantern, which is derived from the ancient Celtic custom of making a lantern out of a hollowed turnip. This tradition is based on the legend of “Stingy Jack,” a swindler and a drunk who got in trouble with the devil and had to wander about with a candle in a carved-out turnip. When the Irish brought their Halloween celebrations to the New World and found a plethora of pumpkins, they upgraded this particular practice and now we have the fabulous works of art that sit on front porches with faces that beckon or threaten, depending on whether you are a trick-or-treater or a mischievous spirit. This may be my favorite part of Halloween; after all, which other holiday’s decoration preparation involves wielding a sharp knife to gut a monstrous gourd that will end up as a one-of-a-kind candle holder? (And if I find myself getting discouraged, a quick dip into the candy stash provides just the right little pick-me-up!)

Though the US Census Bureau reports that there are 109.6 million occupied housing units in America, all potential trick-or-treat stops, I believe that Halloween means more than trying to get our share of the available loot. In today’s mobile society, a lot of us get the chance to interact socially with co-workers, church groups and at school functions, but because we tend to move a lot, we seldom get to know our neighbors. Americans have gotten further and further away from the basic human need to know the folks that inhabit the same territory as we do. Halloween gives us the opportunity to accompany our kids as they knock on everyone’s door for a brief, friendly exchange.

And what a better way to greet a neighbor than with a chocolate bar!

This article was first published in The Lake Magazine

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