Christmas Trees

This post was written during our month in Portland and should post while we are crossing the Pacific. We will be “live” again when we get back to having internet in Japan.

Those of you who actually know me have seen some of our Christmas trees over the years. I have always liked Christmas trees with lots of air in them (so you can see the ornaments better). When I was a child these were known in South Carolina as Balsam Firs.

The family I found on the innerwebs below is standing beside the tree I always wanted but my Mother said just wouldn’t do. She liked scotch pines as they were “full and pretty”. And they stuck your fingers and you couldn’t hang anything except little round ornaments.

When I was out on my own, I always got a NC fir tree but “full” trees were what Martha Stewart (the Joanna Gaines of her day) said everyone really wanted so I was know to sometimes trim branches off the tree to make it more airy. Actually Ms. Stewart gave me permission in one of her many television appearances to do this thing-why didn’t she just tell the folks to find trees without too many branches.

When Mike and I returned to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2006, we discovered that I wasn’t the only one who liked these trees. At the State Farmer’s Market each December, some of the tree growers would have “naturalized” trees like I wanted. Turns out that to make a tree full, they had to clip the tree every year. This would cause the branch to split into two and after a bunch of years you ended up with a “full” tree. But to get what Mike always refers to as “a happy free range tree” the grower basically leaves it alone.

So the title picture of this blog post is the 12′ tree we had the first year we were back in Raleigh. I had to stand on the 2nd floor balcony walkway to put the Star on and don’t even ask how many nights we spent on the lights! But it has enough air and will always be what I think a Christmas tree should be.

Of course that tall tree was natural and not popular so the growers charged more for it than for a “full” tree. Makes no sense except for supply and Damian’s I guess. Anyway, when we got to the Rockies I was flabbergasted by all the “Christmas” trees growing everywhere!

If I lived out west, we would never have to pay a grower, we would just be sure and have a saw in the trunk everyday after thanksgiving!

Just one more of our tree, the picture below was taken in 2009 and is of Niece Madison (she just started her senior year of high school) and Nephew Jack (he will be 14 in a couple of weeks) helping Uncle Clay light the candles on the tree. That’s right when you have a fresh tree (and a fire extinguisher nearby) you can on special occasions light it up with candles…at least for a few minutes.

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Flowers

This post was written during our month in Portland but should be automatically posted while we are crossing the Pacific. Hopefully it will keep you entertained while we have no internet and can’t post.

I have been amazed by the flowers we have seen both natural and cultivated since we left. The most amazing have been the Queen Anne’s Lace along side of all the highways and the Hydrangeas which seem to be everywhere this side of the Rockies. Below are some snaps I took.

Hope everyone is well-will be back “live” when we get to land!

St. Louis

We had an uneventful trip to St. Louis and arrived about 3 pm CST and checked into the Hampton Inn about three blocks from the Gateway Arch, the reason we wanted to come to St. Louis.

The arch is built between the river and downtown. This part of town was the original settlement but during a fire that started on a river boat and spread to the riverside buildings, the area was destroyed-some of it as a fire block to the rest of town.

The arch was designed by Eero Saarinen as a monument to the western expansion of the United States and was completed in 1968. It is the world’s tallest arch. At 630 feet high (and wide) and made of shiny stainless steel it is visible from far away-we first saw it when we were 10 or 12 miles away.

The National Park around the arch is beautiful and appears to be well used by St. Louisians(?) even on a cold day like today. We enjoyed our walk through the new plaza that crosses over the now buried interstate to reach the below grade entrance to the arch. After checking out the sample cart that one rides to the top, we decided that they weren’t built for big boys. The idea of the two of us sharing it with three others did make us laugh though!

Mike who doesn’t like heights was happy with this decision and after being cooped up in the car the last two days, we enjoyed our walk around the beautiful park and along the mighty Mississippi. Of course the arch remained the focus.

The shapes of the arch make for some interesting abstract photos.

We left the park at the north and walked through the older part of St. Louis which was brick warehouses now lofts and an entertainment district. I had originally identified a Trip Advisor recommended BBQ restaurant but after our big lunch we decided we wouldn’t enjoy it. So instead we stopped in a brewery and had a beer apiece and split two appetizers-pretzels with incredible beer cheese and a delicious crab cake. We didn’t have high hopes for it but was really tasty. Best of all everything was half price for happy hour!

Tomorrow we are headed to Eureka Springs but as it’s only 5 hours away and we don’t have any plans there until Thursday morning we are looking forward to having s lazy day and being able to stop along the way as we want.

Indiana (and Illinois)!

While Abe hadn’t made it from Kentucky to greet us at the Indiana Welcome Station, we did have a fun time exploring Santa Claus, Indiana for a few minutes. Everything is Santa related (as it should be) including the volunteer fireman!

After lunch at an Amish place (in SC it would have been called country cooking) we quickly hid the Illinois border. I’m posting this as Mike chauffeurs me towards Missouri which we should hit in about 2 hours.

Our afternoon’s work.

Making Christmas cookies is much more fun than shoveling snow. 😂 Especially with a glass of wine!

Mike made these cookies several years ago after finding a handwritten card in our recipe folder.

It was titled “Grandma J’s” so he tried to surprise me by making my grandmother’s cookies. But it was him who was surprised when I reminded him that both my Grandmothers were named Margaret!

So while we don’t know who she is/was or how her recipe got in our stuff, we do know she makes/made a really good cookie. The cookie is basically a shortbread dough rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked in a slow oven. They only spread a little and are crumbly and delicious. They have become tradition for us and for several friends who also bake.

Next up some new cookies George introduced us to….Forgotten Cookies. You mix them, put in the oven and cut it off. The next morning they are done!

Anyone want to bet that they are so forgotten that we preheat the oven tomorrow morning and burn them?😂