It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

First snow of the season
 Snow! Snow!! Snow!!! Snow!!!! S-n-o-w!!!!! (Sung to the tune from "White Christmas."  You know that one, don't you?  When Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye meet up with the girls, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, in the train's dining car?  On their way to Vermont?  You know the one I mean, right?!)

Yes, it's the first snowfall of the season for us here in HPNC.  And, as always, I'm loving it!

Mr. T and I got up earlier than we usually do on a Saturday morning so we could take the Houndz to the Fluff 'n Fold...our pet phrase for the Grooming Center at PetsMart. Although they are never happy to make this journey, they all really needed to go to the salon; their nails were turning into talons! Duchess' dew-claws looked like the Wicked Witch of the West...and she certainly knows how to use 'em. Ouch.

After herding the Basset Brigade behind the swing-door in the store, we humans headed for Bruegger's Bagels in Friendly Center.  We don't have a bagel place in High Point, so we treat ourselves to Bruegger's whenever we can.  Usually we sit outside, but not today!  Brrrrr.  It was just too cold, so we opted for an inside two-top.

The conversation turned to our Christmas Tree, and I shared an idea with Mr. T.  On Thursday, I had gone shopping  in Winston (I like Hanes Mall there better than Four Seasons in Greensboro, and Thruway Shopping Center is still one of my fav places:  Dewey's Bakery = yum!); as I passed the Sandy Ridge exit off I-40 on my way home, I'd noticed the sign at the Piedmont Triad Farmer's Market, where they were advertising NC-grown sweet potatoes and Christmas Trees.

When we lived here before, we used to enjoy making a whole day out of driving 421 to Boone, having lunch at the Dan'l Boone Inn, shopping at Mast General Store, and then cutting our own tree at one of the many, many Choose 'n Cut Christmas Tree farms in that area.  We had hoped to revive the tradition on the Friday after Thanksgiving when Missy M was home, but the rainy weather interferred with our plans.

Then, we contemplated buying an artificial tree.  We already have a couple small trees that I have used for years to supplement our "real" tree; I usually decorate one of those with all my sheep ornaments, and N/M/E uses another one for all of her Santa ornaments.  But, with sustainability on the brain, we've discussed which is more environmentally-friendly for the "big" tree...live or artificial?

Live and local won!  When we finished our coffee and bagels, we headed out Market to the Market to see what they had.  OMG!  There must have been 10-12 growers from the mountain counties of Watauga (Boone), Ashe (West Jefferson), and Avery (Crossnore).  Fresh cut trees, straight from the NC mountains...and they came to us; we didn't have to drive to them!  Life is so good.

Choosing our NC Tree at the Market
We wandered around the retail area, thoroughly enjoying all the decorations and the wonderful fragrance of the firs.  When we lingered at the Sunnyside Trees stall (a Choose 'n Cut retailer from West Jefferson), we found one that measured out to be about 8 1/2 feet tall, which would fit perfectly under the 9' ceilings in the great room...once we lopped some off the bottom and got it nestled into the tree stand.  First things first:  take our picture!

Just as the tree guy snapped the shot (right), he said :  "Look!  It's snowing!"  Perfect, said I.  Just like a little kid.

By the time we got home with the tree, the flakes were coming down fast and furious.  Big, fat, fluffy flakes.  Wet and ploppy...you know that sound they make?  Plop...plop...plop.  Not a bit hard and pingy, like they are when they have ice inside.  I prefer ploppy myself.

Anyway...


Mr. T with Duchess, Gus, and Elmo in the snow
We headed back out to go pick up the pups, returning about 3:00ish (photo to left).  The more it snowed, the colder it got.  By the time we'd returned, we had an inch of snow in the rain gauge and the temp had dropped to below freezing.  With that, the need for warm, comforting food had risen substantially.  A day like this calls for Brunswick Stew!

I got out N/M/E's recipe (such that it is...:) and started a pot of stew, taking a short cut by using the other half of a Rotisserie chicken I'd gotten at Harris Teeter on Thursday.  Shred the meat...boil the bones for stock.  Chop the veggies...oh, drat:  no onions.  No problem...out to the garden (yes, in the snow...:) and get a couple.  I'm loving this whole Fall garden thing, you know.  It was too late to start baking a loaf of bread like I usually do on stew days, but no worries.  I'd gotten a loaf of freshly-made Sourdough on that little trip to Dewey's Bakery.  It would fit the bill.

Hot apple cider on a cold day

I've blogged about Brunswick Stew before, so I won't repeat the recipe here.  Hopefully, that link will take you to the post I wrote about stew for the crockpot, which is similar to what's cooking on the stove at the moment.  Similar.  Never quite the same.  What can I say?  I learned some of my cooking techniques from my mother...she who never follows a recipe

As I was saying...

Mr. T laced up his boots and headed outside again to fill the bird feeders, all of which were being well-visited throughout the afternoon.  Here I was in my nice warm kitchen...and there he was, freezing his tail-feathers off.  Gotta fix that!

While he was working, I heated up some apple cider, added some orange slices, cloves, and cinnamon sticks...and had a tasty hot beverage ready when he finished his chore.  Turned on the fireplace to make the morning room toasty.

Tasty and toasty.  Ahhh. Lovely.

Now,  let's see if we can find that DVD of White Christmas...snow, snow, snow, snow, s-n-o-w...!

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