Sept-Oct 2013: Rudi Rauschenbach
July-Aug 2013: Sarah Humphreys
May-June 2013: Danielle Ditzian
March-April 2013: Adrienne Rose Block
The sparkling lights, presents under the tree, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, it’s that time again: Christmas has arrived. I admit it; I’m one of those people who wait all year for black Friday and goes out into the night to find gifts or just to be among the hustle and bustle of the season. I decorate my house with multiple Christmas trees, hang stockings for my cats and pretend I’m Martha Stewart for December. Anything that is Christmas brings a smile to my face. When I heard about a Christmas Village in Finland I had know all the details.
The Christmas Village has anything and everything you could possibly hope for. It has Santa and his own office where you can visit him. Sit down with elves at the post office to write letters to your friends and family back home. You can send a letter to Santa or have him send a letter to that special someone. Take a tour into the Santa cavern where you’ll meet all kinds of fairytale creatures while they do their chores for the day.
While you’re here you can stay in one of the Christmas village cottages or cozy up in an igloo. If you enjoy being in the snow there is an Arctic ice bar and restaurant. There is also the rustic feel of the Christmas house to get you through those cold days. Shop in the gift stores for a unique gift made of reindeer or find the silversmith where they will be making jewelry.
Depending on when you go you can see the Northern lights light up the sky. Whether you see lights dancing with the stars or Christmas lights sparkling the trees against a blanket of snow, there will be no doubt you’re in Christmas town.
This year is busier than ever and as much as I’d like to whip up a delicious pumpkin pie and roasted turkey for thanksgiving I find myself wanting to take the tradition someplace else. You can find places all over the country that have buffets overloaded with your favorite thanksgiving food. If you want to put a little history into your holiday this year, plan a trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts to where it all began. The festivities happen a week before actual Thanksgiving Day, so if you still want to heat up the ovens or head to your friend’s or families house you still can.
In Plymouth, Massachusetts during the weekend before the holiday, thousands of people gather to celebrate. There is food, parades and concerts just to name a few of the things that will go on. The parade depicts actual events of each century from the 17th to the 21st. At the Wampanoag pavilion you will learn the real meaning behind the dinner. Why we celebrate every year and why with turkey. Visit Plymouth Rock and see the Mayflower ll. Local farmers will be at the harvest market serving up all kinds of delicious food. Crafters from all over will be selling their creative items. As you pass the day away shopping and sipping on hot apple cider bluegrass music will be in the background. An authentic village will be set up with actors depicting life as it used to be. Even President Lincoln will make an appearance. Just like the parade, the village will depict each period of life from soldiers fighting to gain freedom from England to women’s rights. Along the way will be blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and candle-makers just to name a few, bringing to life how our country was. Concerts will take place every day. Friday night’s concert will be a dedication to the military. The concert on Saturday is by admission but well worth it and will also be a dedication not only to the military but to our country.
Even if you decide to spend Thanksgiving Day cooking your favorite foods and spending it with the people you love, create a new tradition and head to Massachusetts to witness the way life was lived years ago and why we celebrate this delectable holiday.
Fall is under way and the upcoming festivities are almost among us. That’s right, time to get out all the decorations, favorite recipes for the holidays and shopping. Lots of shopping. If you’re like me, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. I love the holiday season. I finally get to see those people close to my heart again that I haven’t seen in months. I bake my favorite pies and cakes and have small get togethers. It seems once the season starts it goes by in a blink of an eye. A little rest before the storm is always needed, whether it’s a day away or a few days. This year visiting a Zen Buddhist garden might be on my list of things to do.
The Ryoan-ji Temple located in Japan is a peaceful garden made with gravel, sand and stones. It is simple yet elegant with rocks placed throughout the garden. Each day the monks come out to rake the gravel around the rocks in precise rippling patterns. The patterns are for the most part the same every day. The garden consists of these fifteen rocks and the keepers of the garden say the longer you gaze upon them more you’re apt to understand their meaning. The number fifteen also signifies for Buddhist “completeness.” One cannot see all fifteen rocks no matter where they are standing while viewing the garden. According to the Zen masters the only way to see all fifteen rocks is to obtain enlightenment. Of course enlightenment is different for each person. That is the beauty of a Zen garden. There is no known reason why the original creator of the Zen garden placed the rocks in the pattern they now occupy, but it is known to be a spiritual place where one can meditate. It is one of the most famous in the world.
After visiting the garden you can walk down to the Kyoyo-chi pond. The pond was here long before the garden and boats used to wade across its waters. Now you can walk along the path and over the stone bridge. There is a temple that sits along the path Daishu-in as you make your way around the pond. Lily-pad and irises float on the water’s surface. Tortoises can be seen sunbathing during the day.
While this isn’t a vacation where you’re going from one place to the next, taking in all the scenery as quickly as possible, it is a time of quiet inner peace. A time to reflect upon the year that is passing and the new year that brings surprises and the idea dreams are about to manifest.
Quite a few years ago, I helped create a writing group. While our group consisted of many writing prompts and the need to tell our stories the two staples that had to accompany our classes were chocolate and tea. Our name was actually spun from the word tea where we claimed the name “The Teacup Writers.” I admit it wasn’t exactly creative but it did fit and when we get together we still have our tea and chocolate before we venture into our own fairytale lands we are more than willing to share. When I heard about a place where I could be surrounded by tea plantations and enjoy a tour or two I wanted to know all the details.
In Sri Lanka there is a plethora of tea plantations and tea factories. All of which are easily accessible and depending on which factory you go to you can tour the facility. One of the more famous is the Ceylon Tea Plantation. You are able to stay in one of the four bungalows, each offering a slight variation of their rooms. You will have your own butler, chef and manager during your stay. There are master suites with their own private gardens, other suites with private verandahs. You have the option of staying in the same bungalow or choosing to spend a night in each.
Each morning the butler will awaken you with tea and a drawn bath. What can be more fabulous? This is only the beginning. When you’re fully awake and ready for breakfast, it is waiting. The staff will use locally grown fruits and vegetables and incorporate tea into the recipes they will be serving. After breakfast treat yourself to a walk on the trails through the tea plantation. There are guides if you want a more structured tour or you can travel from one bungalow to the next discovering the area for yourself. There is also crochet to play, white water rafting, tennis and after a long day refresh yourself at the spa. If you want to venture into the surrounding areas there are more than one excursion you can participate in. You can visit the capital, Kandy or take a walk to the Horton Plains National Park.
Of course you’re here for the tea and tea you will learn all about. From the moment they plant the seed to when they decide to pluck the leaves and bud. How it becomes your favorite taste. By the end of the introduction you are able to sample different flavors. During the latter part of each day, Afternoon Tea is served with clotted creams, jams, finger sandwiches, all those specialty foods that make your mouth water just thinking about them. If you want to continue with your tea excursion the spa offers “tea” treatments. You can pick from a wide variety of treatments and choose the type of tea bath you want to luxuriate in.
If you’re a lover of tea as much as I am, this is heaven waiting on a hillside to come bask in all its richness while you relax in the gardens sipping your favorite tea with that book you’ve been waiting to read.
Who loves corn? Or should I ask the real question, who loves a good corn maze? I remember the first time I saw the sign for a corn maze. It was years ago and I wasn’t sure if I was seeing what I was seeing. I came back that evening and couldn’t wait to get my flashlight and map. I had a blast. I also got lost for hours. The maze was huge! Afterwards I went home and thought about the next time I was going to go. It wasn’t until the next year. This time I went on a haunted maze. It was me and a friend and it felt like we were the only ones there. And the ghosts and ghouls. What a great time I had. Since then I’ve been to all kinds of corn mazes, whether during the day or night. Some lasting an entire afternoon. And this year is no different. I plan to find a phenomenal corn maze and maybe I’ll even try for a haunted one again.
It doesn’t matter where you live, corn mazes are popping up everywhere. They have become a main attraction. You will even find the mazes are part of fall festivals with rides, homemade food stands and animal attractions.
I have come across a lot of corn mazes but one of the most impressive is the maze at Richardson Farms in Spring Grove, IL. It boasts to be 33 acres of maze! Now that’s a lot of corn. A corn maze that has been turned into a tribute to The Beatles; this is a dedicated farm. As with most mazes now, there are so many things to do here you might get lost before you even make it to the corn. There are pig races, hayrides, pumpkin picking and orbiting. What is orbiting? A huge ball you get into and go for a ride! Who knew? An area for food including hamburgers, hot dogs and those yummy homemade apple-cider donuts. There is even a day designated to bring your horse to the maze. Want to come back for Christmas; they even have a Christmas tree field where you can cut down your own tree. This farm has it all. Well almost…
Corn mazes and Halloween in my book go hand in hand. Not every farm does Halloween so shop around and don’t just sample one farm. Each one has its own unique spin to the maze and what it offers. Scream Acres in Atkins, IA doesn’t just have a maze it has a curtain chaos and slaughterhouse. Or in Glendale, AZ the AZ Field of Screams is a romp-roaring corn maze at night made to frighten.
Whether you want to go with family, sit back and chow down on a donut while looking at your map or going with your best friends and screaming for an hour it’s out there. You can always do what I do and do both. Why choose when both are so much fun!