Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Christmas in New England - Christmas Day in Maine, New Hampshire...and Massachusetts!

December 25

Sue's beautiful home.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas... There were a few snowflakes spitting out of the clouds this morning, but there was no additional accumulation. That's good, because we're going to New Hampshire later. But first: Christmas in Maine!

We went to Sue's for breakfast, which was Mel's favorite Christmas morning food – homemade, giant, gooey, fantabulous cinnamon rolls. Oh, man! That just cannot be good for you. But, you know, it's only just this once...
Punch-stitching by Sue.
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.

Following breakfast, we exchanged gifts. And, may I say, Sue is the Crafts Queen. No one else need apply, because there's just no point. She made a beautiful, intricate quilt for Melissa, all stitched in swirls and things. Really, it is marvelous, and I'm sure it looks amazing on the bed. And then there were quilted dresser-top runners for Zack and Harry, also too lovely to actually use. What if a pen leaks on there or something? It would be a travesty. For me, Sue made a bag ala Vera Bradley, with six pockets on the outside and ten pockets on the inside, a magnetic closure, and a matching zippered clutch. And also a punch-stitched sachet bag full of Maine spruce needles that can hang from a doorknob to make the entire room smell like a walk in the woods. My gifts to her and Jim paled in comparison, which is, shall we say, an understatement. I am such a slacker! Note to self: You can do it! [Thank you so much, Sue. I love the bag and use it and the clutch all the time, and the sachet smells amazing! My local friends are amazed at your skill.]

Jim's kids and grandchildren arrived just as the four of us travelers were leaving to go to New Hampshire, but we had an opportunity to meet them, which I had hoped to do.

Couldn't help myself.
Photo by Chris.
The weather was gray but got progressively warmer as we neared our destination...all the way up into the 30'sF!

It was a lovely drive, though, about 2 ½ hours, down to New Hampshire on the interstate and then over to Nashua. The scenery and topography were about the same as in Maine, with rolling countryside and lots of trees. There was no snow on the ground here, so, no white Christmas for those in this part of New Hampshire.

The home of Melissa's Aunt Stacy and Uncle Dano is a very cute, renovated, and tastefully decorated Cape Cod. Where the side porch used to be, there's a cozy, cathedral-ceilinged family room that leads out to the garage (where the drinks were being kept cold). The kitchen is all Sub-zero and Bosch, with beautiful cabinetry. They've been working on the house gradually, and it's worth the effort. Between Sue's gorgeous home and this one, I'm going to have a hard time cooking in my kitchen when I get home!

On with the tour. The living room has built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace (which I've been dreaming of having at my house), and the downstairs bedroom/den is a television room. It's all set up with fabulous surround sound, of course. The family photos on the wall drew my attention, as many of them are of past generations. I love to look at old photos.

Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
The large group that was assembled packed tightly around the dining room table for a fabulous feast of traditional Christmas fare – turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans with bacon, peas with pearl onions, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing. I ate too much. So did everyone else. And don't even get me started with the cheesecakes and chocolate and Whoopie Pies and cookies. It's a wonder nobody had to be taken to the hospital.

Christmas packages waiting to be opened!
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
The gift exchange was lighthearted and enjoyable, with some gag gifts preceding the “real” ones. Again, everyone was so generous to us! Pat and Heather gave me a monogrammed Bean bag, and Harry unpacked a bag filled with honey and maple syrup from Maine and special Maine blueberry soda and sarsaparilla. Uncle John and Aunt Pat found Hampton Company popcorn to give to Harry (How did they know he likes popcorn?). Uncle Dano and Aunt Stacy gave us New Hampshire maple syrup to take home. And speaking of home, how are we going to manage to bring all of these wonderful gifts with us without our luggage being overweight? Well, it'll be worth it if we are. So there. What a happy problem!

Zack & Mel
Photo by Chris.
All rights reserved.
We had a very good time and were so glad for the opportunity to meet Melissa's father's side of the family. They made us feel completely at home and included us in all the banter, and we felt very welcome.

Melissa is well loved by all of her family. I may have neglected to mention something about the other night, when we went to see her Uncle Barry's band. Traditionally, when Melissa walks into the room, Barry makes it a point to play “Sweet Melissa.” We weren't disappointed at Fastbreaks. The affection that is shown to Mel is genuine and heartwarming.

Have I mentioned that homes here have basements and attics? You can stash all your “stuff” away, out of sight, and the rooms you live in can be tidy and uncrowded. Wouldn't that be great? Those of you with basements and attics, I hope you appreciate them!

The drive back to Maine started off on the wrong foot as we turned right instead of left or something. We ended up in Massachusetts. So...Christmas in Massachusetts! Melissa, who was driving, was a little upset about this turn of events, since the long-enough ride home already would now be made even longer.

As we neared the coast and, therefore, the freeway north into New Hampshire, it started to sprinkle and sleet lightly. In New Hampshire, it started to sleet more heavily and to snow. By the time we crossed the river into Maine, there was packed snow on the road. Just ask the guy who spun his vehicle around on the bridge. We nervously watched the temperature drop...32F...31F...30...29...down to 20F. That would mean ice on the roads, which hadn't been cleared, sanded (for traction), or salted (to melt the ice). 

Melissa drives excellently in this weather. She did an admirable job, and we never slipped or slid or skidded. We drove along at a steady 40 – 45 MPH, following a single-file system down the center “lane” of the freeway (nobody could see the lines in the road, so single-file seemed like a good idea). Occasionally, a [language alert] complete jackass would decide to pass on the left or right, showering road sludge all over the windshield and momentarily obliterating our already-limited field of vision. Happily, there were no tragic circumstances for anyone, and we got back safe and sound (obviously). We were only about an hour later than we had expected, which was quite an achievement, but it's after 2 a.m., all the same.

Tomorrow: Christmas at Grandma's!

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