Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas, North Carolina Style

by Caren Crane

Here at the Lair, we like to talk about our home states and share a bit about what makes them special. During this (unusually warm) holiday season, I thought I would share some things unique to North Carolina during the holidays:

1. Christmas Town, USA - Since 1956, the small town of McAdenville, NC the citizens and businesses have decorated their town in celebration of Christmas. Thousands come to see the 375 decorated live evergreen trees and streets lined with decorated homes. Nothing will get you in the mood for Christmas faster!

2. Biltmore House - Biltmore House is a fairytale, family-owned chateau and estate in the Blue Ridge mountains near Asheville, NC. Completed in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, Biltmore is decorated in lavish style for the holidays each year. Candlelight tours are especially popular and showcase the beauty of the home in a spectacular fashion that you will never forget.

3. Old Salem - In direct contrast to the lavishness of Biltmore House is Old Salem, NC. Located in Salem, NC, Old Salem is a restored 1766 Moravian settlement, boasting 4 museums, 11 period gardens and a population of settlers in period costume going about their daily work. At Christmas, traditional wreaths hang from the doors, lampposts and fence posts are wrapped in their winter greenery, the smell of fresh baked treats emanating from the bakery warm even the coldest nose, and the sound of music drifts through the air to draw you into the holiday spirit. The candlelight tours are wonderful!

4. NC Fraser Firs - The NC Fraser fir has been judged the nation's best Christmas tree by the National Christmas Tree Association. The NC Christmas Tree industry is ranked second in the nation (behind Oregon) in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree. We have tons of retail lots and over 150 choose and cut Christmas tree farms in NC. Cut Christmas trees sold in the eastern United States probably grew in NC!

5. Aluminum Tree and Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament Museum and Research Center - Yes, friends, in Asheville, NC, there is the ATACSOM. Creator and curator Stephen Paul Jackson displays his ever-growing collection of metal Christmas trees, each covered with tacky ornaments. Decoration themes range from Elvis to a tribute to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Our own Susan Seyfarth, self-professed tacky tinsel connoisseur, would love this museum. What more can be said, really?

Today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Being my contrary self, I offer you a totally non-chocolate-covered recipe that happens to be a favorite among my family and friends. At least, I assume it's a favorite, since they keep asking me to make it and begging for the recipe!

1 12-oz bag cranberries (sort out mushy ones and watch for stems)
1 c water
2 c sugar (or Splenda, which I use)
1 c orange juice
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 c chopped pecans (I toast them before chopping)
1 c chopped celery
1 c raisins
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (I use more, probably 2 or 3 tsp)
1 tsp grated orange rind (again, I use more, probably 2 tsp)

Bring berries, water and syrup to a boil. (If using Splenda, only boil berries and water.) Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. (If using Splenda, stir in now and make sure it dissolves completely.) Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl or container. Pour berries over mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Keeps in refrigerator for 2 weeks.

So tell us, what's cool about Christmas where you live? And what is your favorite chocolate covered something? Has anyone actually eaten chocolate covered insects? Inquiring minds want to know! The coolest story will win a $10 Borders gift card, so do tell!


Kirsten said...

Cockadoodle do?

Kirsten said...

Cool post, Caren. I couldn't help but notice that you mentioned NC was the number 2 state for growing Christmas trees--my own home state, Oregon, being NUMBER ONE, BABY!

Okay, random gloating aside, my favorite tradition from my adopted home state is that every year a bunch of folks dress up their boats with all sorts of crazy Christmas decorations and parade up and down the river. It's wonderful! There are Santa boats, snowboarder boats, a little church, a firetruck boat that has a siren that the kids love, and lots of others.

My favorite Christmas memory from where I grew up (Buffalo NY) was looking at the rooftop of the house next to ours on Christmas morning, hoping for a thick coating of snow. And about half the time, there was! :-)

Caren, here's hoping you get a little Christmas rain to fill those reservoirs back up.

Trish Milburn said...

Darn, I thought I might get the rooster. :(

The Opryland Hotel in Nashville is decorated to the nines at Christmas -- literally millions of Christmas lights. And the Rockettes are in town to do their annual Christmas shows.

Jane said...

There's plenty to see in NYC. You can go see the beautifully decorated trees at Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center. Then there's the Macy's Christmas Day Parade. The decorated store windows of the department stores are breathtaking. I love chocolate covered pretzels. Never had the guts to try any bugs covered in chocolate or any other kind of edible sauce.

p226 said...

I miss NC. I sort of grew up there. Being a beach bum kind of rocked.

Helen said...

Congrats Kirsten have fun with the GR

Sydney is always decorated for Christmas and we have a very big Christmas Tree in Martin Place I don't go into the city much at Christmas time too many people and it takes about an hour on the train or if you drive hard to find parking.
Lots op people around where I live decorate their houses with lights and we often go for a drive or walk to see them they are beautiful.
As for things covered in chocolate I love strawberries dipped in milk or white chocolate then dip them in sprinkles yum. Never tried chocolate coverd insects and probably never will I am not game enough for that.
I loved the post your town sounds wonderful lots of interesting facts thanks.
Have Fun

Deb Marlowe said...

I can vouch for the deliciousness of the famous cranberry chutney! Yum!

Do you know, I've lived in NC for 17 years and I've never been to Biltmore! Sounds like a New Year's resolution in the making...

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, congrats on the GR! He doesn't get to the Pacific northwest much these days. *g*

I love it that people decorate their boats for the holidays. I have never lived on the water, but it seems so cool! I remember Christie talking about watching fireworks from their boat. Man, both your story and Christie's made me want to watch "Sleepless in Seattle"!

I totally envy y'all having snow. I watch all the holiday movies and there are, invariably, huge snowdrifts and frollicking children. Except for that one freak 20-inch snowfall, my poor kids have hardly ever seen snow. Maybe they will marry people from snowy climes and get to jet to the snow for holidays?

Sadly, Kirsten, while Oregon produces more Christmas trees than NC, it doesn't generate as much revenue. Why? Oh, yes, because Fraser firs are prettier and they can charge more for them. Ha! (Sorry, just a bit of gloating from the east coast. *g*)

Caren Crane said...

Trish, I would love to see the Opryland Hotel at Christmas! You know I grew up in Nashville. Well, we lived in the neighborhood right across the river from the north end of the Opryland property. If we walked down to Riverside Dr, we could see the lights, fireworks, etc. Some years, that was all we got to see. I never saw the hotel done up for Christmas. I'm sure it's spectacular! Can't wait until the RWA conference is there in 2010!

Caren Crane said...

Jane, I adore NYC at Christmas! I took my daughter for a three-day weekend in early December two years ago. We saw 'Chicago', ogled Christmas displays, did too much shopping, had to buy extra luggage to get it home... *g*

It would be wonderful to hop on the train and go into the city for Christmas. Lucky duck! Hey, you'll have to snag the GR so he can do his Christmas shopping in style!

Caren Crane said...

P226, isn't growing up and having to pay the mortgage the worst? I know people who made being a beach bum their lives. It starts to look sad when they turn 40. *g* I'm sure you made the right decision to head inland!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, I'm sure Sydney is a crush at Christmas! There is something to be said for keeping things simple at this crazy time of year.

We love to drive around our town and see the decorated houses. Some people really go all Clark Griswald with the lights!

Aren't chocolate-covered strawberries heavenly? I also love choco-covered raspberries - yum! Can you believe, my bff does not like strawberries? What's up with that? And no, she isn't allergic! It's just wrong.

Caren Crane said...

Deb, thank you for pimping the chutney! It really is fabulous, though, and gets better with age. It's age, not mine. Though I do love it more than I would have when I was younger. Hm.

Biltmore is so spectacular any time of year. I've never been at Christmas, but am longing to go! Hm. I'm having an idea. Will have to follow up with you offline...

Gannon Carr said...

This will be our first Christmas in NC, since we just moved here this summer. We are expecting 1-4 inches of snow today--it's not much, but we're pretty excited! I doubt we'll have a white Christmas, but maybe someday.....

Caren, we probably won't make it to the Biltmore House this Christmas (too much in our schedule), but I would love to make it an annual tradition.

Today is National Chocolate Covered Anything? Woohoo! I love me some chocolate! My girlfriend always makes buckeyes (chocolate covered peanut butter balls)-yum! My MIL used to make them too, when she was living. She always said hers didn't look pretty enough. I told her it was not important what they looked like as long as they tasted good. And they did! I felt it was my duty to be the "official taste tester." Hey, someone had to do it, and it was a sacrifice I was willing to make! ;)

I don't make candy, but I make an excellent Reese's Mini Tart! You put chocolate chip cookie dough in a mini muffin tin, bake it, and when it comes out of the oven, press a mini peanut butter cup in the middle. Oh, yeah! My girlfriend's husband requests them every year if we go to their house. And he doesn't want to share with anyone!

brownone said...

We moved to Miami when I was eleven and most years we would be in the pool for Christmas. Many Christmases we were still using the air conditioning in the house.
Now I live up on central Florida, about 1 hour away from Orlando and it's still hot some Christmases. I think we'll be getting a cold front for the next two days (ooohhhh, highs in the 60's) and then it's gonna get hot again (they always say it will be mid-80's, but my car temperature gauge always shows 90's). So, we'll probably have ANOTHER air conditioned Christmas if not rain like last year.

jo robertson said...

Fun, post, Caren! I love hearing about traditions in other states and countries.

Kirsten, how'd you manage? Congrats on the rooster capture.

And who knew about #2? I thought ALL Christmas trees were grown to the north of me in Oregon VBG!

When all our children lived at home, we loved to visit our neighbors and friends, take a loaf of my home-made pumpkin bread and sing carols. With nine of us, ranging from fair to excellent singers, we made quite a sound! Sadly, the excellent singers moved out and now only the -- um, creaky-voiced ones remain in the Robertson home!

petite said...

There is a tradition here in town which is beautiful. Luminarias are lit on Christmas Eve. Throughout the city, on all the homes,on the edges of the flat roofs, in parks,and around the pathways these lovely farolitas give this town its unique charm and beauty. Chocolate dipped biscotti's are my favorite treat. Yum.

Kirsten said...

Caren, I love ya, so I will let you do your bit of east coast gloating. When you're #2, sometimes you get a bit desperate. I understand... ;-)

As for the GR, after a long day of entertaining a dozen little kids for our annual ornament decorating party, and getting the ones that stayed overnight down to sleep, my husband and I collapsed into our comfy chairs for a little TV and internet surfing. And we actually stayed awake past 10PM, which is a miracle around here. So I got lucky!

Petite, I love luminaries! Your town sounds beautiful.

anne said...

Where I grew up and lived for many years in the Great White north, a community that I lived near, that was exclusive and majestic, would decorate their large and opulent homes with the most tasteful and unique lights, and decorations. Each year people from different areas in the city would take a tour of this locale just for the opportunity of glimpsing this highlight of the season.
Shortbread dipped in chocolate would be fine right now.

Nancy said...

Kirsten--congrats on the rooster!

Caren, would you believe I don't live far from McAdenville and have never toured it? I got lost there once, trapped by the bumper-to-bumper holiday light-seer traffic, because I took the wrong exit, but I've never just driven through to look.

I love Biltmore--I mean, why wouldn't I want to live like a Robber Baron if I could afford it?--but I've never seen it at Christmas. I'd love to, someday. I did see a Carole King holiday special that was filmed there, but it's not the same. A day at Biltmore and a night at the historic Grove Park Inn with its giant Christmas tree would be so much fun! No time, though. Not to mention budget. Neither of those is cheap *sigh*.

What a great survey of NC's holiday attractions you've provided! I didn't even know about that aluminum tree museum. I've lived here all my life, and you, an import, detected it. *g*

Petite, I love luminaria, too. Unfortunately, they're banned here this year because of the drought. I've seen some, but they aren't supposed to be in use. We did have some rain yesterday and last night, but we're still getting dangerously low on water.

p226, a lot of the restaurants and other businesses on the Outer Banks import kids from overseas to work there during the summer. The area has become so tourist-dominated that they don't have enough local people to fill the jobs. We had a server from Russia, Nadia, who was, as she put it, "caring about [us] tonight," at Pizza Hut in Manteo. Talking to her was really interesting.

In general, I envy all you people who're going to have snow this month. I love snow, even when we don't need it to relieve a drought.

Great post, Caren!

Amy S. said...

My town does decorate some for Christmas. Not a lot but some. I like chocolate coconut balls. I made some a couple of years ago and mom usually makes them for Christmas. She also makes buckeyes.

Donna MacMeans said...

Kirsten - Congrats on the GR! Hope you're keeping him warm.

I just visited the Biltmore Estate this fall. Beautiful place. I'd love to see it at Christmas, though, as well as the Vanderbilt mansions in Rhode Island. Those massive homes were really designed with Christmas trees in mind, weren't they *g*

I envy those of you who live in a climate where you can tour the seasonal decorations by walking outside! Here, any outside sightseeing is accomplished through car windows *g*. Perhaps that's why the outdoor light exhibits tend to run to the tasteless-but-fun-exhorbitant displays.

Chocolate covered anything day? Sounds like we'll have to make some cookies to honor the occasion. I've never eaten a chocolate covered insect, but heck, if it's good chocolate it can't be all that bad *g*. I've had chocolate-covered popcorn. Sounds gross, but not that bad.

Cassondra said...

Caren, what a great post!

I've always wanted to tour Biltmore. I've toured the gardens of castles in the UK, and botanic gardens all over, but never been to Biltmore (heavy sigh). I even lived in North Carolina for a touring season when I was part of a music group, but that was right out of high school and then I didn't even know Biltmore existed.

Chocolate covered instects? My husband says they used to sell them at the grocery store here when he and his brothers were small children (like preschool age).

The bugs came in a little plastic box with sixteen foil-covered candies about the size of bouillon cubes. There were four types of insects in four different colored foils. Chocolate covered ants in silver foil, grasshoppers in yellow foil, baby bees in blue foil, and baby caterpillars in red foil.

My husband's' brother had saved enough pennies to buy a package. He would bite the cube in half and show off the insect in the center, but would never share. So my husband has witnessed the chocolate covered insect phenomenon, but he's never experienced it. He ate insects in the military, but there was no chocolate involved. ;0)

Okay, now I'm hankering for a trip somewhere wonderful. I'm only an hour from Opryland. Maybe we could make that happen...hmmmm.

Caren Crane said...

Gannon, lucky you living in the mountains! I am desperately trying to get my dh on board with buying property there while we have some hope of affording it. In a few years, it will be an impossible dream!

Enjoy the snow. We finally got some rain here last night and this morning, but it has blown through already. The Reese's Mini Tarts sound good! Suz said yesterday she was making her Peanut Butter Blossoms, which I had recommended using the mini tart pan for. You just use the tart shaper to squash the peanut butter cookie dough, then plunk the Hershey's kiss in the middle. You don't have to wait until it's finished cooking to add the kiss. Heaven! I'll have to try the Reese's ones. I love peanut butter cups in all forms!

Caren Crane said...

Brownone, it was hovering around 80 degrees here until yesterday and it made me wonder what Christmas is like in Florida and southern California. I spent one Christmas living in Houston and it didn't feel like Christmas at all!

Do you (or our Aussie friends) ever have trouble getting in the holiday spirit? I think it would be tough had you ever lived any place where it was cold at Christmas!

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I miss caroling! When I was a little girl, my parents would take the five of us and usually a few friends around the neighborhood caroling. We would collect money for the Fanny Battle Day Home, which was a daycare-type facility for the poor children of Nashville. My mother had volunteered there as a teenager and loved it that she had a way to keep helping when she was a young mom. I really miss caroling, but it is simply not done around here, sadly.

My children have gone to nursing facilities and retirement communities to carol and do puppet performances with our church. Too bad we have nothing like that for the grown-ups to do! If I had more children, I would get all Von Trapp and make them carol the neighborhood!

Caren Crane said...

Petite, I love the luminaria! Some of the Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops around here sell them, but it is not commonplace, unfortunately. I think it would be fantastic to see whole neighborhoods or a whole town lit up! I am envious of those with snow and those with luminaria. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, thank you for allowing my not-quite-good-enough ego boost for NC! *g*

I am sure the GH will enjoy the holiday-festooned boats on the water. I would watch the ornaments, though. Ever since Jennifer jazzed him up with tinsel, I hear the GH has had his eye on the shiny things. (Especially since P226 wouldn't let him wear anything festive while he had him. He said it wasn't macho enough!)

Caren Crane said...

Anne, the opulent neighborhood for some reason puts me in mind of "Tale Of Two Cities". *g* I'm sure it was lovely!

Oh, chocolate and shortbread. Have you ever had Walker's Ginger Royals? Chocolate-covered shortbread with preserved stem ginger. Heaven! They are only available as imports in the US and only at Christmas. I look for them every year. Of course, shortbread lends itself to all manner of deliciousness. I love shortbread! (And it loves my hips, unfortunately.) :-(

Susan Seyfarth said...

I had no idea -- NO IDEA -- a tacky Christmas museum existed!!

Road trip!!!

But until I can make a pilgrimmage to NC, let me put in a few words for my adopted home state of Minnesota: We have the Holidazzle parade. Giant light-up floats go parading down Nicollet Mall every night starting in early december playing Christmas carols. People stand outside in sub-zero weather just watching them go. It's very Minnesotan. We also have the Winter Carnival, in which people do much the same thing, only in January. We build an enormous ice castle (like, Disney big)& there's a competition to see who'll be the new year's Klondike Kate (generally a zaftig woman in a trashy saloon gown who can really belt out a song.) Ice carving contests, snow sculpture & a really, really huge sledding hill. It's great fun if you can stand the cold, which all we hearty Minnesotans can. :-)

Thanks for the heads up on the tacky museum, Caren. I'll lobby for NC on our next vacation.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Forgot to mention Macy's 8th floor. They turn the entire eighth floor of their down town Minneapolis store into a themed Christmas display. Last year was...I almost died...Mary Poppins!! This year was the Nutcracker. It's free & it's fun & it starts Thanksgiving weekend.

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I think you should take one for the team and do the McAdenville tour. I would love a Bandita-on-the-street report!

Biltmore at Christmas is insanely crowded, I know, but wouldn't it be magical? They do everything so nicely there. Yes, I would love to try the Grove Park Inn! I understand they have fabulous spa services, too. I really need to head to the mountains! Too bad my bank account does not agree.

Oh, and we are allowed to use luminaria in Cary, but we have not hit the level of water restriction y'all have in Charlotte yet. Plus, they put all these caveats on how you can use them. Ah, well. None for us! Especially not on a day like today, when the wind is whipping!

Caren Crane said...

Amy S., I think you need to post the recipe for those chocolate coconut balls. That sounds like something I need to take to my mother's for Christmas this year! I probably have all the ingredients too. Please?

Caren Crane said...

Donna, I would love - just for one winter - to have the type of weather you guys have. That would probably cure me of wishing for it! I mentioned before that my husband was stationed in Grand Forks, ND when he was in the Air Force. That cured him, all right!

Caren Crane said...

Donna, I also meant to say that the Boy Scouts around here sell the most sinfully delicious popcorn ever: chocolate-covered caramel corn. It is beyond wonderful! Which reminds me that those Cub Scouts never called me about my popcorn. I have to get on them!

Caren Crane said...

Cassondra, your husband got totally ripped off. I think I would still hold a grudge if a sibling had those chocolate-covered insects and didn't share! Of course, I would only haven't wanted to show them off. Like Helen, I don't think I would actually be brave enough (or insane enough) to eat one. I mean, we have loads of delicious foods in the world to choose from. Why eat insects unless you have to (like your poor husband!)?

If you go to the Opryland hotel, please take pictures. I want to see!

Caren Crane said...

Susan, I am completely jealous of your Minnesota winters. Of course, it was exactly that kind of winter that turned my husband off the north forever, sadly. He objected to having to have a heater for his car engine and plug it in every night.

He said he was familiar with the ice castle and the Winter Carnival. He says in thinking about it, "It might be fun for a little bit, but then I remember how damned cold it was." Oh, well. I'll never get him out of NC!

Caren Crane said...

Susan, also jealous of your ginormous Macy's! All we have are new-fangled Macy's with only two or three stores and nothing cool. I'm starting to feel a little bitter. I think I'll go make cookies!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Caren, don't be sad! You have the tacky museum! That totally trumps anything I've got up here. :-)

Helen said...

Here in Australia we are so used to it being hot that if we get a cool day especially on Christmas day or rain it doesn't feel like Chrissy. A lot of Aussies go to the beach on Christmas day and have big seafood lunches our family still have the traditional hot lunch and the house is always hot with all the cooking and people. We are going to my sisters this year and she lives on the Central Coast of NSW near the beach and she has a pool so we will be swimming I dare say. One wish I have always had since I was a young girl is to have a white Christmas one day.
Have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

Kirsten, your first?? :)

Caren, while I cannot claim to be the one to have tried them, Hubby can: chocolate-covered insects. "Tart and sweet" was his pronouncement. Those from Down Under will be proud to know that Hubby tried them on a field trip in the outback.

I have been to the Biltmore. Even in the summer, it was SPECTACULAR!!

Washington state's Christmas showcase is about two hours east of Seattle in a town called Leavenworth. It's a German town with houses, stores, food, and everything German. And they have figured out how to have a year-long party, not just as Christmas-time. Since they get a ton of snow, being up a steep mountain, we haven't been able to make it there every year for Christmas. (We don't have chains for our cars.) However, we do make it there every summer. Bratwurst--yum!!

flchen1 said...

Congrats on the GR, Kirsten!

Caren, that shortbread sounds incredible--must go find some! And Reeses mini-tarts sound yummy, too! I think one of my friends' moms made them every Christmas...mmm...

I have not tried chocolate covered insects yet--as someone else mentioned, if there was enough good chocolate in the coating, I'm sure they'd be delicious ;)

I do have a weakness for good chocolate covered graham crackers--Williams-Sonoma used to carry really good ones, and I would spend a good portion of my paycheck there...

Keira Soleore said...

Jane, last year I was in NYC for Christmas. It sure ROCKED!! No city does Christmas like NYC.

Seattle is far too PC to dress up the city for Christmas. We even have Holiday Trees. What's up with that?

Last year, at the airport, the Holiday Trees went up on schedule. Some vocal people objected, so the trees were taken down. Others protested louder, so the trees went up again. And so on and so forth, while the populace sniggered in bemusement.

Caren Crane said...

Helen, swimming in NSW sounds fabulous! I could make that a Christmas tradition, I supposed. *g* I think having lived where it is cold at Christmas, it would be a hard adjustment for me, though. But if seafood were involved, I could be swayed!

Caren Crane said...

Susan, the museum is cool and all, but I really don't think it holds a candle to the Winter Festival. Come on, what can compare to Klondike Kate?!

Plus, you can't tell me you would trade the Macy's Mary Poppins display for anything. I would never believe it! *g*

Trish Milburn said...

Helen, Christmas at the beach sounds great to me!

Christine Wells said...

Caren, that sounds magnificent! I always thought Carolina must be a great place after that Melanie song--In my mind I'm going to Carolina--do you know it? Must try your chutney, too. Hey, Kirsten, congrats on the rooster!

Foanna was supposed to do the Aussie Christmas special but she celebrated the amazing Jane instead and then I forgot. There tends to be very little that's 'cool' about Oz Christmases, but they have their own charm. Some have turkey but in my family we eat seafood, play pool volleyball, complain about the heat:) We'll be at the beach this year so no doubt we'll have a surf, too.

I keep trying to get my dh interested in Christmas in July, a phenomenon that seems to have sprung up here in recent years so that people can have a Christmas celebration in cold weather (it never snows where I live, so it wouldn't be white) However, as he says, it's just not the same. We're thinking of going to Europe for a white Christmas next year. Now that would be lovely!

Caren Crane said...

Keira, your husband is much braver than I am. Tart and sweet, eh? I still wouldn't try them! I'm more of a chocolate-covered peanut type person myself. For tart, I would go for, say, chocolate-covered dried cranberries - now there's a snack!

I'm not sure how I would feel about the town not having any holiday-decorated trees. I kind of thought the point of having freedom of religion was to enable people of all beliefs to express them. Then again, it's a separation of church and state thing, so I can see it. Here in the Bible belt, we don't have those sorts of issues. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Flchen, I don't know if you have World Market near you, but they have the imported Walker's Ginger Royals!

Ooh, and I love chocolate-covered graham crackers! There is a local chocolatier who makes them (milk and dark) and they are fabulous! But I can only get them at one coffee house near me - I almost got one after church today when I stopped in for coffee. Now I'm sorry I didn't!

Cassondra said...

Keira said:

Last year, at the airport, the Holiday Trees went up on schedule. Some vocal people objected, so the trees were taken down. Others protested louder, so the trees went up again. And so on and so forth, while the populace sniggered in bemusement.

Oh, isn't that just the funniest, stupidest thing ever? The only way to please the PC people is to have no personality and do absolutely nothing. Then I suppose they'd be offended at your lack of concern for _______(insert pet cause here). ;0)

Cassondra, the politically incorrect.....with more Christmas spirit than she's had in a while. ;0)

Cassondra said...

Christine said:

Caren, that sounds magnificent! I always thought Carolina must be a great place after that Melanie song--In my mind I'm going to Carolina--do you know it?

Christine, that's one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar! That's a great song. I think of it as a James Taylor song though.

Jennifer Y. said...

Loved the post! Christmas here where I live is not all that least not to me. There are different Christmas light events around the city and different attractions. Stone Mountain Park usually goes all out with Christmas festivities and they used to have a holiday-themed laser show on the side of the mountain...not sure if they still do it or not. Downtown Atlanta has ice skating and different lights/decorations in Centennial Olympic Park.

Joan said...

Sorry I'm late to the party but had my local chapter party today. Rum CAKE...ummm...good.

Congrats Kirsten on the GR! He'll enjoy the change of scenery. BTW, I first read your post as "everyone decorates their BOOTS!" LOL. Got a really cool visual.

Caren, confess. That first picture in your blog is your living room, right? The Biltmore just copied off you, huh?

Jane, I was in NYC a couple of years ago in mid November and some of the stores had their decorations up. SOOOOOOOO cool for this Kentucky girl who'd grown up seeing that magic on TV.

As to traditions, I could lie and say we decorate the thorobreds but not really. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we have "Light Up Louisville." I've never gone (don't want the crowd hassle) but it is festive. Although THIS year instead of a huge real tree they made an "electronic" one. Not the same in my opinion.

And chocolate covered chocolate is my favorite. :-)

Jennifer Y. said...

Oh, and the lake near here used to have a Christmas Parade on the water, but because of Georgia's drought and extremely low water levels, they had to cancel it this year.

Caren Crane said...

Cassondra, that's true for me as well. James Taylor is a native North Carolinian and wrote the song when he was far from home and homesick. Believe me, they love to trot out the James Taylor Christmas songs around here at this time of year! ;-)

It really is a beautiful state. The mountains, the ocean, the rolling hills of the Piedmont and the sandhills down east. Something for everyone. According to Gannon, they even have snow in those mountains! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Jennifer, don't you long for piles of snow and skating on frozen ponds? Those Currier and Ives-inspired images made my Southern heart go pitter-pat!

Cities like Atlanta, that have experienced rapid growth, tend to be sort of generic, it seems. Charlotte is like that. I always look around down there and think, "Now what is uniquely Charlottean about this?" They have a few cool things, but nothing special. Raleigh is the same way, but at least we have the state capitol. *g*

When cities are better-established, I think they have a more well-defined identity, if that makes any sense. I hope Raleigh does! I dug for something unique about Christmas in Raleigh but came up empty-handed.

So sorry to hear about the cancellation! Was that Lake Lanier?

Caren Crane said...

Joan, rum cake? You didn't take your rum balls to add to the holiday hiccups, did you?! Surely not or your guests would still be there, passed out on the floor. *g*

Sadly, that is actually the Biltmore House and not my house in the picture. I tried for classic and elegant, but people kept smearing peanut butter on the medieval tapestries and silk damask, so we had to go with more of a casual, washable look. *sigh* At least it takes less staff to maintain!

Chocolate-covered chocolate - a truffle! One of my favorites.

Caren Crane said...

Christine, sign me up for seafood and beach parties! But a white Christmas in Europe would be lovely. I would choose St. Moritz!

Caren Crane said...

Keira, the German town sounds so wonderful. My family would adore that. Hope you guys get up there this year. Take pictures and show them to me at conference. *g*

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, if we do make it up to Leavenworth, I'll be sure to take plenty of photos.

Cassondra, the visit to NYC completely converted me over to the Christmas spirit. Celebrate all different holidays, I say, instead of the ridiculous Holiday Trees.

ruth said...

The most enchanting place that I visited with the loveliest and most awe-inspiring Christmas lights and nativity scenes was an old mining town in the Sandias, Madrid. Every Christmas there is a walk through the town to witness these artistic endeavors. The feeling casts a spell upon everyone and it is an experience to remember.

Chocolate treats that I enjoy are dipped pita chips.

Jennifer Y. said... was Lake Lanier...the Festival of Lights parade was cancelled. The water levels were just too low to have it safely according to the news.

And yes, I long for the traditional holiday season I see in movies...would love to wake up to a white Christmas just once in my life. Christmases here are a bit generic and there is really nothing special about them. It is my family and spending time with them that make them special.

Oh, and I forgot to answer the chocolate-covered question...I once ate chocolate covered ants...only I didn't know that was the case until after I had tried them. I wondered why my friend kept staring at me as I tried some of their "favorite candy". Funny, I don't really remember the taste (maybe I blocked it out), but I remember being disgusted once I found out they tricked me and I remember passing on the chocolate covered grasshoppers. You know what I found scary friend told me that their were recipes on the web on how to make your own chocolate-coverd insects...that is one recipe I won't be trying this holiday season. Now the only chocolate-covered things I stick with are things like peanut M&Ms.

doglady said...

Kudos to Kirsten on the GR!!! Cockadoodle indeed!! Caren everything you described sounds so wonderful - including the Tacky Museum!! What's not to love? I have never seen the Biltmore, but it is on my list of things to see before I die. I had a Moravian music professor in undergrad school and she prepared many Moravian Christmas treats for us. MMMM GOOD! My favorite Christmases were the ones we spent in England because we actually had snow! Don't get that much in the South.

As to chocolate covered anything, I have pretty much eaten it all. Of course some of these treats you are all posting sound like real winners, especially the chocolate chip cookie dough in the muffin tin with the hershey's kiss! I have eaten chocolate covered ants. Just crunchy for the most part. Chocolate covered locust were a bit more than crunchy although I will be dashed if I can describe the taste. Same thing goes for fried locusts although they were kind of like potato chips. Definitely not Christmas fare! Unlike the chutney, which sounds delicious. I LOVE chutney!

Gannon Carr said...

It's official--there's snow on the ground! It's been snowing since early this afternoon. Very high winds for awhile, so it just blew around, but it was so lovely. It started to stick after awhile and now we have a few inches on the ground and it's still going. I love it!

We just got the phone call that school will be closed tomorrow. My kids are over the moon! Looks like a good day to make those Reese's Mini Tarts...and eat 'em, too!

Keira Soleore said...

Pam, you've given me permanent indigestion. Fried Locusts?????

Caren Crane said...

Ruth, chocolate-dipped pita chips? Hm. Never thought of those. Now, I enjoy chocolate on pound cake and biscotti and all manner of cookies, but pita chips? Where in the world did you find those - or did you make them?

Caren Crane said...

Jennifer, don't you think there should be some kind of special hell for people who trick others into eating particularly disgusting, not-intended-to-be-food food? It's one thing if you're on Survivor or Amazing Race and sign up for it. Quite another to have friends sabotage your taste buds. Ack!

Don't blame you a bit for passing on the grasshoppers. You may remember from Susan's random fears blog that I don't like crickets at ALL. While I don't loathe grasshoppers as much, I had to dissect one in Biology in high school. It was very spiny and spindly. I imagine, smothered in chocolate (or even double-smothered), they would still be extra crunchy. Ugh, gag reflex!

Caren Crane said...

Doglady, is there anything you haven't done? We may have to come up with a special challenge to find something not in your repertoire! *g* Not sure I would have eaten locusts - either fried or chocolate covered. I know they are supposedly a gift from Heaven (according to 'Hidalgo' anyway), but I won't be munching on locusts anytime soon. What a life you have had!

Definitely try the chutney recipe. If you are a fan of chutney, it's just the thing! My friend's husband said it was just like his English grandmother's chutney. Maybe it will evoke a bit of English winter - although you won't have any snow in Alabama!

Caren Crane said...

Gannon, I am officially pea green with envy! Or maybe that's the food coloring from the cookies I made tonight: Melting Moments. They are basically an almond butter cookie (tinted green) you make in very small balls and bake. Then, you make little sandwiches of them by slapping pink-tinted butter and sugar icing in the middle, with a hint of almond extract. Oh, my! My tongue may be green for days...

doglady said...

LOL Hey, Caren I'll try almost anything once!! Well, except . . . I do NOT swim. Never learned. Can't even float. I sink to the bottom every time in spite of years of swimming lessons. I also can't eat seafood. I am deathly allergic to all fish and seafood. The only exception? Crawdads! Bon nuit a mes aimees cajun! Allo, chers! I am actually not that adventurous, but I have always been surrounded by adventurous friends. And last, but not least. since my dh's untimely death I have adopted the attitude that I am living for both of us and he was the real adventurer. Anytime he decided to do something the rest of us thought was nuts he would say "Well folks, this ain't no dress rehearsal!"

And I already zipped the chutney recipe over to my mother with a HUGE hint for it to appear on the table Christmas Day.

Joan said...


I can swim all of 4-5 strokes before going down like a rock.

That talent will come in REAL handy if I'm on a ship that sinks 3 feet from shore!

KimW said...

State Street where I live is all decorated with lights and the stores decorate their windows with animated scenes. It's so beautiful!

I once tasted a pigeon egg but it wasn't covered with chocolate. Maybe if it had been, I wouldn't have spit it out. lol

doglady said...

ROFLMAO! Okay, Joan, when we go on our Bandita and Friends cruise you and I need to check out the location of the lifeboats first. And then? We need to locate the crewman who looks MOST like Demetrius! Can this man be used as a flotation device?

Keira Soleore said...

That Demetrius better be an incredibly strong swimmer and STRONG, because I'll be the third one hanging from his, well his, um, arm (neck, leg, hair, you-get-the-picture)...


Christine Wells said...

Cassondra, that shows what a Philistine I am! I didn't know that was a James Taylor song. He wrote so many of my favourites that other people sing.

Caren, hmm St Moritz... now there's somewhere I hadn't thought of!

Oh, and the best choc covered thing ever is scorched almonds. I know it's staid and unoriginal, but I love 'em!

Sonja Foust said...

I've never been to Christmastown, USA. I'll have to add that to my list. Love Biltmore and Old Salem though. We haven't done either this year. Maybe I'll make husband take me to Old Salem for some fresh bread and Moravian sugar cookies next weekend. Ooh and warm gingerbread with lemon ice cream. Mmmm.