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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spending the holidays in Florida

Spending the holidays in a warmer climate still feels strange to me, having lived in Canada for most of my life. But that's exactly what I did for a few days when Rich and I went to Florida to visit his family and seeing them is always special.

My father-in-law still loves to go walking though he uses a cane, and his favorite place is Downtown Disney. There, thousands of poinsettia plants have been nestled into terra cotta urns and thrive under the 80 degree sunshine.
And while it did feel somewhat liberating to be open-toed, wearing flip-flops instead of fuzzy slippers decorating the Christmas tree after, or hanging ornaments around the porch without the threat of a nor'easter tearing them to shreds, I realized something that surprised me--I actually missed the cold.

As much as I shiver and complain about the winter chill in New England and those blustery winds--my own porch in New Hampshire is filled with buckets of greenery and artificial poinsettias weighed down by bricks--to me, the holidays mean evergreens, woolen mittens and... snow. And I suppose it's because what's underneath all that, are the memories I've gathered from Christmases bundled-up in sweaters. Of building snowforts, singing carols in front of a fireplace, making snow angels in the backyard with my sister in her fogged-up glasses, and trudging to Christmas service early, extra early, to help my father scrape the ice off the windshield.

It's almost as if the stark temperature forces me, somehow, to get down to the meaning of the holidays. There's also something about frozen-toes after an afternoon of ice skating that makes me feel part of the landscape.

In Orlando, they simulate the feel of skating with an artificial outdoor rink, and snow is sprayed nightly onto the streets of Celebration. It sounds silly, I know, but it actually feels magical because of the children. They squeal with delight upon seeing the first flakes shoot out of the snow-making machines perched high atop the street lamps, and their eyes glisten with adventure when they put on those skates.
Most of them struggle on the plastic pond, wiping out more than ever gliding over it, but they never stop smiling and love the experience no matter how many bruises they get. And Spending that night with my nieces and nephews, watching them skate was my favorite part of the trip.
In Fort Wilderness,Disney's campground, regulars enjoy their own holiday traditions.
And that means decorating their campsites with as many Disney snowglobes or wagons full of other storybook characters as they can fit into the space in front of their Rv's.
And I know they certainly wouldn't trade any of it for a chilly, New England Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quechee Library

Rich and I recently visited Quechee,Vermont where relatives have a home and enjoyed speaking at the Quechee library. It's a super cozy and an inviting space. They have a vibrant program and the books see plenty of readers. We had fun and welcomed the enthusiasm and engaging questions from the kids, who ranged in age from two to thirteen.
Librarian Marieke Sperry did a great job creating crafts after, which included lots of cut out animal shapes for anyone who wanted to construct a Fair poster in honor of my book, LITTLE JOE.
The Vermont area itself is steeped in New England tradition and charm, as well as having a beautiful landscape. But much of the terrain was dealt a harsh blow late summer, after receiving the brunt of a hurricane. Gushing water running higher than the town tore through Quechee's covered bridge and ravaged the ground of many communities scattered along the way. While Quechee's historic bridge may take more than a year to repair and the site of it seemingly crumbling in mid-air makes your heart sink, the town itself has banded together through all of this. Incredibly, it's glowing with holiday splendor,less than four months later.

The studio of beloved local glassblower Simon Pearce sustained major structural damage being alongside the bridge, but the business is open. It is the cornerstone enterprise for Quechee. Not far away the town of Woodstock, which was without water and power for what seemed like months, is showing its resiliency. We spent the afternoon there, where stores are open and looking beautiful. Shopkeepers are grateful what for what have and very nearly lost entirely and great newcomers with kindness and warmth. They've worked countless hours cleaning and repairing what was damaged. And it gave both Rich and I a clearer sense of why New England traditions continue from generation to generation, and just how much they cherish their landscape.