How Did You Spend Your Christmas Season

Bruce and Joy deciding which tree is the right choice

For our mountain Christmases we always cut our tree. When living in suburbia, I’ve gone to a Christmas tree lot and also had an artificial tree. Cutting our own tree my favorite! We don’t have a specific time to put the tree up, about a week or two before Christmas is usually when we do it. How about you?

How do you get your Christmas tree? When do you put your tree up?

Elsa and I have been together for 4 years; since she was a young 2-year-old. Officially I’m her nanny-teacher. She’s like my Lake City grandchild. Having been a teacher and being a mom and grandma makes me a perfect choice!

Joy is never far from Elsa – she’s really quite adorable the way she ‘watches’ over Elsa.

The lighting of the advent wreath

I grew up Catholic observing the season of advent; the 4 weeks before Christmas. A candle is lit for each week.

We spend a lot of time outside

Christmas Eve – what a sky!!!

More often than not our winter days are calm and sunny with this cobalt blue sky. We work to keep a path open to enjoy walking on our nature trail right outside our garden.

Church is always a part of our Christmas. Bruce and I were asked to read at the Presbyterian / Episcopal Church Christmas Eve service.  Bruce was working until late in the afternoon Christmas Eve. I also went to St. Rose Catholic Church afternoon service Christmas Eve.

Growing up I remember once or twice going to my father’s parents for Christmas.  They lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin which was a completely different environment from where we lived in the south. Christmas morning we walked to church through the snow, leaving our unopened Christmas presents under the tree. Between untouched snow yet to play in and unwrapped presents yet to open – it was hard to be a child in church!

This year it was ‘just’ the two of us with our canine kids, Joy and Hope

What are some of your Christmas memories? Traditions?

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

Winter Solstice

 

In our Northern Hemisphere winter solstice is usually the 21 or 22 of December. It is also known as the “shortest day” of the year. Continuously the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of the year and has been marked by celebrations and ceremonies with the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun.

 

This Lake City, Colorado Saturday morning was cold. It was close to 0. Central heat doesn’t exist up here. It takes ‘awhile’ for the fireplace to warm up our little 1981, built for seasonal use, home. While procrastinating getting up from under the electric blanket, my mind drifted back to 10 years ago when we visited our son and his wife while they were living in Ireland. During that visit we made a side trip to Newgrange. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

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Famous Newgrange

 

Newgrange is famous for the rays of sunlight moving through the passage and chamber created by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the winter solstice.

 

At dawn, from December 19 to 23, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the sunbeam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.


The intent of the Stone Age farmers who build Newgrange was surely to mark the beginning of the new year. Too, it may have served as a commanding symbol of the victory of life over death. It is an impressive place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, perhaps not too different from present day cathedrals.

 

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 Beautiful rocks outside the entrance of Newgrange

 

When my family and I visited Newgrange in November 2009, it was is an unexpected feeling to wait in the darkness, as people did 5,000 years ago, for the longest night of the year to end, while our guide shown a light representing the winter solstice sunrise. The accuracy of Newgrange is incredible; especially when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.


I like having all the seasons, as we do in Lake City. I have an understanding of the power of nature. We had an unprecedented amount of snowfall last winter which caused an unprecedented amount of avalanches. Those who don’t live here appear to be unable to comprehend why we would want to live here in the winter. Our house with its lack of a comfortable heat source is unusual and still we love it, it is our choice. Not only is our unique location incredibly amazing but there’s a specialness about this time of the year that I’ve never experienced anywhere else and I’ve lived in numerous different places and circumstances, including other settings in the countryside.

 

Perhaps it is exactly because I’ve lived in different environments, worshiped in different types of churches and have traveled more than most, though a lot less than some – that I know that there is more than ‘my way’ of living and finding joy and contentment.

 

To me, there is a uniquely beautiful and mysterious feeling to winter where we live in the mountains. I feel the bone formation of being one with the mountainside – the awesome loneliness of it, feeling winter’s breath. Something amazing sleeps underneath. There is a comfy retreat about winter which no other season gives you….only in the winter, in the midst of nature, can you have longer, settled down stretches when you can savor being in the right place with yourself.

Our sheltie girl Joy take pleasure in our fireplace

 

Our fireplace is hot now, filling our little living space with warm air. The scent of freshly baked bread calls out for delicious sandwiches to be enjoyed for lunch. My husband, wrapping Christmas presents, delights in the large rolls of gift paper I bought on a recent shopping trip to the nearby town of Gunnison. Live is good – little joys are the best. A wine spritzer or mug of hot chocolate, with or without a good book, in front of the fire – I’m happy.

  

Our nature trail

Today’s sunny blue, blue skies are to go from 2 to 40 – love it! With our dogs we walk the nature trail breathing clean air, no crowds or traffic noises but the soft freezing sounds of the river. We can go into town but we don’t have to live there. Happily we can retreat into our own little sanctuary – our nature trail or home. Idyllic. 

What to you love about where you live? Have you lived any place vastly different than where you live now? Have you always lived in the same place – tell me about it.

 

 

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

 

Food – New Experiences

Our Rick Steves group. We traveled together  to Venice, Florence, and Rome in late October 2019. What I generally enjoy about our group dinners together, is the combination of getting to know the different people we are traveling with, while being in the midst of a new food experience. It’s FUN!

Food

For the two of us, eating out has mostly been reserved for special occasions or a once in awhile treat. Last weekend we had dinner at an Italian restaurant that everyone was so enthusiastic about – I was looking forward to the experience – I was disappointed. Maybe, subconsciously, I was reminiscing about our October meals in Italy. At this Colorado Italian restaurant the hors d’ oeuvres were as follows: the stuffed mushrooms were tasty but they were doled out one apiece. My teeth are fine. The bruschetta was so hard I could not enjoy it. The meatballs looked simply uninspired. Phooey! if I’d only known ahead of time we were allowed one hors d’ oeuvre a piece, I could have worked out a plan to trade ‘my’ meatball for a second stuffed mushroom.

In Italy I ate, be it unknowingly, squid. I seriously thought calamari was a type of pasta. The other choice was veal and I was not knowingly going to eat the flesh of a baby cow.

It had been decades since I’d eaten bacon. But since having eaten squid, I was more cosmopolitan, more sophisticated – right! Well, at least more open to trying the asparagus wrapped in bacon. These were the hors d’ oeuvres my girlfriend Erin had prepared a few nights earlier. Very tasty! So, having recently eaten squid and bacon I was intrigued with the elk tortellini at this Colorado Italian restaurant. The elk, I was told, was ground with the spices and other tasty treats and stuffed into the pasta. Sounded good, not a slab of animal, but sadly for me, not a lover of red sauce, the food was saturated in red sauce. The sauce should compliment, not take over the other flavors.

Since the city of Venice is actually on the sea, fresh seafood is the specialty. This fact does not go unnoticed when you live in the mountains.

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Early morning Venice fish market

Bruce and I ate squid or as it is more delicately put – “calamari” – as stated, I thought calamari was a type of pasta dish. I do like how the Italians lightly fry foods rather than the American way of deep frying. Pretty much, though anything fried will taste like fried food. Laughing with my dinner companions I said that the calamari looked like onion rings. They had no idea I’d ordered squid inadvertently and thought I was an experienced calamari consumer making a joke. Not one to put on airs, between laughs; I let them in on my naïveté.

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Sea Food Pasta

Our first dinner in Venice – this food just calls out to be photographed. The colors, textures and shapes are beautiful, interesting and appetizing – AND everything is not drowned in a sauce. With my own limitations, so I continue to feel well, I find trying something different to eat when in another country, to be an important part of the cultural experience. And, new experiences after all, are what travel is all about.

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Calamari

At home Bruce and I tend to continuously, eat basically the same kinds of food: homemade: bread, pizza, vegetable soup, grilled salmon, healthy salads and my chicken crock-pot concoctions. Even in our basically, boring, rut eating we do notice the colors, flavorful combinations and presentation.

What’s the most exotic food you have eaten? How do you feel about food – is food something to fill your ready to eat stomach? Have you ever thought of eating as an experience – how so?

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains