20 December 2007

Holiday, part 1: Preparations

Much of the time between our firewood/poker weekend and December 21st is kind of a blur. Aside from our company holiday party, the rest of the time was devoted to preparing for the holidays and our holiday guests.

This is the first year since we were kids when we weren't traveling anywhere for Christmas or New Years! Instead, this year a portion of Corinne's family is coming to visit us. (We won't see my immediate family until a trip to Florida in January.)

When we take vacations - even if just a long weekend - we generally try to arrange it so that we can just stay home on "the farm". Since there aren't many places to eat out near us, and we can generally make better, healthier, and cheaper food ourselves, we try to do enough menu planning in advance so that we can do all of our shopping on a day when we have to drive in to town to work anyway. So when we're hosting as many as 8 people for as long as 12 days, having enough food takes lots of advance planning.

We spent several hours searching for good recipes that are suitable for larger groups and would make good leftovers, then broke down the recipes into shopping lists and divvied out the lists to a few shoppers. 12 days worth of food (and drinks) for 8 people takes up quite a bit of space, so we would rely on the fact that the weather would stay cold and we could leave much of the food outside in coolers.

On top of that, the snow just didn't stop. Over a 2 week span we probably got 18" or so of new snow on top of the 24"+ we already had on the ground. Almost every day for at least a week, we spent significant time snow blowing and shoveling. We're getting pretty good at clearing the driveway, but the snowblower that we have doesn't clear down to the ground. The result is a flat surface of packed snow that all-wheel drive vehicles like our Honda CR-V can navigate, but most 2-wheel drive vehicles would have problems. Since we had at least 2 vehicles arriving that fell into the latter category, we decided to clear out an area next the bottom of the driveway for parking. We'd still have to dig and push the cars out at the end of the vacation, but at least they wouldn't have to deal with the rest of the driveway. Leif kindly offered his snow shoveling assistance, which we gladly accepted. He even brought some homemade stew to rejuvenate us when we finished.

And of course, there's the Christmas tree. Last year we cut down a tree at Thanksgiving, brought it in and decorated it, all with the help of our Thanksgiving guests. But this year we were in Seattle for Thanksgiving, so we needed a new plan. Ideally we wanted to cut down the tree, decorate with lights and put it up (in that order!) before our Christmas guests arrived. The guests could then help with ornaments and any other decorating.

So a week before our guests were to arrive, we headed out into our stands to find a good tree. Corinne wanted to find a tree that was more sparse and narrow than the typical Christmas tree, so that:
  1. There would be more free space for ornaments to hang;
  2. We would need fewer lights; and
  3. The tree would take up less space in our great room.
After some searching (most of the trees are much too large even for our 20' Great Room ceiling), we found a nice grand fir that met all of the requirements. We had the tree on the ground pretty quickly, then carried it through the deep snow toward the house, having to stop numerous times along the way. It was much easier last year when we had a dozen people helping! We knew there was no way we would be able to put the tree up on our own, so after laying the tree down for a few days under the eaves of the house, we brought it inside and waited for the xylem in the tree to thaw and for our guests to arrive.

Holidays, here we come!

- Mike (& Corinne)

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