Christmas Then and Now, Holiday House Tour 2022

Saturday, December 24, 2022

 Christmas Eve.....the final chapter in a long text book of holiday preparation.  The last hoorah before the big day, the day we've all been waiting for.  Twenty four hours from now, it'll all be a blink of an eye, the tearing of paper, the indulgence of sweet treats and the fulfillment of every kids' dreams.

Isn't it amazing, and a little depressing, how a month of preparation, decorating, card writing, gift buying and menu planning can be over in the blink of an eye. This year we were decorated by Thanksgiving and the month following was pretty low key, stress free and relaxed. Years ago that may have bothered me, but nowadays I admit it was kind of nice to not be rushing around trying to be 'ready' on time. I used to wonder how the day could 'suddenly' be here, catching us by surprise when it's always the same date. Not anymore. I'm not sure if it's because I'm more organized or because I'm more sensible now, and I'm also not sure if I miss those old days of rushing and getting caught up in the holiday chaos. Part of me feels a little underwhelmed on this Christmas Eve, like I've missed something.

One thing I miss, and will miss tomorrow is half of my family - Katie and Mike have Covid so they will be absent from our Christmas Day.  Alex will have to wait to see what Grandma and Grandpa got him for Christmas.  I miss the holiday gatherings of the old days when our social calendar was packed with almost daily visits with friends between Christmas and New Year.  Those days are long gone, especially the years since Covid.  I miss our annual Open House when our home would be filled with family, friends and neighbors.  I miss the late nights, staying awake until the kids were fast asleep, to carry out Santa duties after which I'd barely be able to sleep, afraid the kids would wake before me and I might miss their first impression expressions when they spied what Santa had left.  I miss having my Dad with us.  Even though he's been gone since 2008, I still miss his childlike enthusiasm opening gifts, never able or willing to take turns even though he always professed to not like Christmas.  He loved buying gifts and many of those gifts were life's essentials like flashers for your car, flashlights (he was obsessed with flashlights), and any sort of equipment necessary in case of emergencies, breakdowns or accidents.  He believed in being prepared.  

It's been a quiet day in the Welter household today and despite watching Christmas Eve service from 3 different churches, it doesn't quite feel of the holiday spirit I've known in Christmases past.  I guess I'm getting a glimpse of what it feels like as families evolve and grow, and diminish too.  I know millions of people experience much less holiday activity that me, many who aren't as fortunate to have family like I do, so I'm not complaining.  Life changes though and we are forced to change with it.  Just like we have been forced to readjust in so many ways since 2020, this is just one more challenge I will learn to embrace.  

The holiday will not be without celebration.  Tomorrow the rest of the family and some new family will gather together to celebrate.  It won't be the same as years before, but it will be joyous and filled with conversation, grandchildren's excitement, good food and the start of a brand new family tradition.  For all that, I am extremely blessed and thankful.  I hope this Christmas finds you all surrounded by the people you love, warm memories of those who are no longer present, and reminders of the Christmases of your past.  

Decorating my home has always been one of my biggest joys of Christmas.  So much of my décor has a story, was a gift or family heirloom. Some I've crafted, some more recent acquisitions, but all of it curated to create an atmosphere of Christmas wonder.  I debated sharing a house tour on the blog this year.  My home is certainly not magazine worthy, but a story of our life together over 44 years and a collection of treasures from those years.  It's the constant that feels normal during times of change in years like these and brings back wonderful memories of holidays long ago.  So, if you're interested, scroll on and enjoy a little glimpse into our Christmas.

Shelley Broughton artwork on both walls above.
These authentic Dutch shoes were a gift to my mom many years ago and were stained by another good friend years later.  I borrowed them from my hearth and filled them with greenery and I love it!

The art on the wall above: 
 On the left is a Shelley Broughton painting  Her work can also be found at Bluebird Home Decor  I've been collecting her beautiful art for several years now and have about 7 or 8, including the huge tree painting in my foyer that was a gift from a dear friend.  The two new pieces of art over the entertainment center are by a photographer/artist we met about 11 years ago in Rockport.  This year I've collected 4 of her paintings including the snow globe below.  You can find her work on Etsy: 
The barn wood sea painting on top was done by me on a treasured remnant of my favorite barn in Easton that collapsed a few years ago.  

Another Shelley Broughton piece of art flanked by my photos and one below on the mantle.

Santa above was purchased at Hannaford a million years ago for $19.  The sewn Santa on the right was a gift from a very dear friend.  
Snowmen below all made by ME.

The snow scene prints above are two new digital art purchases from Etsy.  For under $5 bucks you can purchase a digital file and print it at your local Walgreens or CVS and have new art for every season.
So that's my Christmas wonderland, most of it.  Before I know it, we'll be packing it up and hauling it back up to the attic until next year, but until then I'm going to savor every flickering candle, every shiny ornament, every heirloom and remember the people who made those holidays I miss ones I'll never forget.  Thank you for being part of Life As I See It.  Your interest, your notes, your support mean so much and I hope you realize how much I enjoy sharing life with all of you.  Have yourself a wonderful holiday.  Hug your loved ones tight and make memories to last a lifetime.

Experiencing Joy in Unexpected Places on the Back Roads of Easton NY

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Easton, NY ......a picturesque agricultural community in Washington County, as humble yet welcoming as the people who live there, post card worthy in every season, in every direction.  If you know me, you know I can't get enough of it.   So when the season's first snowfall arrived last Sunday, I couldn't wait to get out and capture its unspoiled beauty!  Come along as I take you on a scenic drive through a small portion of the place I find solace in chaotic times.  Occasionally we even find unexpected joy beyond the photo ops.

Through the years I've met several of Easton's fine residents and this trip was no exception.  Our last task on this particular ride was to find a barn that we discovered for the first time last summer.  After three 'wrong roads', we finally found the 'right road'.  As we turned the car around to put me on the right side of the road to capture the back of the barn, we noticed a gentleman standing at his mailbox.  Embarrassed to be caught red-handed photographing his barn, we pulled up the hill and stopped alongside him to say hello and express how beautiful his barn is, something I wish we were able to do more often when out taking photos.  Well, despite the leftover snow and slush covering the road in the shade where the mailbox stood, Mr. Barn Owner, cane in hand, came across the road and with the warmest and friendliest demeanor leaned against our car as we humbly shared how much we loved his barn.  Not bothered by the winter chill or precarious conditions underfoot, this wonderful man, Mr. Dixson, chatted for about 15 minutes sharing history - his and his barn's.  It didn't matter that we were total strangers.  Maybe it was our mutual love for the majestic red structure that was at this moment cast in the most glorious golden sunlight, but the friendly conversation offered by this perfect stranger was a reminder that there is still so much good in this otherwise crazy world. 
 That hospitality is not uncommon from the folks of Easton, at least the ones we've been fortunate enough to meet.  Maybe it's the rural mindset, but I'm pretty sure people in developments (even my own) would be less hospitable if I were photographing their property.  There's a certain sense of pride, pride in the history, pride in properties that have been passed down from the generations that the people of Easton feel and share with visitors.  That is one of the many things I love about Easton.  I imagine that the Inn Keeper who let Mary and Joseph rest in his stable was not unlike the people of Easton, warm and welcoming.  I hope I'm never in a position to need help on the roads of Easton, but I'm betting help wouldn't be hard to find if I was.  
 I hope the upcoming holidays give you moments and experiences like these - experiences that remind you of the blessing of the small things in life, like meeting special people by happenstance.  I hope that these small things stick with you more than the decorations and presents and bring you back to the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  I know that this quiet, unexpected meeting will be on my list of blessings to give thanks for this holiday, along with all the other great Easton folks I'm privileged enough to know.  Wishing you a Christmas filled with quiet joys in unexpected places!

Enjoying a Snowy Adventure Aboard the Candy Cane Express on the Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway

Sunday, December 11, 2022

 On this snowy day, what could be more fun than taking a ride on the Candy Cane Express?  I can't think of one thing!  Today we took the grandkids to Corinth and hopped aboard the Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway on the Candy Cane Express.

The Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway is the brainchild of Hal Raven.  You may have heard his name here on the blog as I've featured his Adirondack Cruise & Charter cruises on Saratoga Lake many times.  Hal is a longtime railroad man and this railway idea has been a dream of his for many years.  Like most dreams, it took years of planning, renovations and resources to bring the broken down railway to where it is today and if you saw the beauty it is now, you'd never guess it didn't always look this pristine.  There's a lot of history behind this business, a lot of facts and figures which I'd normally share, but this story isn't about how the railway was born, it's about what I know will be a new holiday experience that is sure to be a family tradition for years to come.  I will tell you up front that this is a bit of a teaser post because the train is sold out till the end of the year.  Even if you can't make this year's Candy Cane Express, the Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway has so many options available for a variety of excursions, including private charters.  Information on all the great rides they offer will be included at the end of this post.

Passengers are encouraged to arrive at the station in Corinth about 45 minutes before boarding.  Of course as luck would have it, our first snowfall of the season came today and though it made the commute a bit challenging (and terrifying at times) it added the perfect ambiance to an already spirit-filled experience.  A big fire was burning in the firepit for guests to warm up by while waiting to board.  The ticket booth, staffed by the perfect 'official ticket master' is filled with a variety of gifts and swag for those wishing to bring home souvenirs.  

We purchased first-class tickets so we had a table with four chairs.  Our tickets included hot chocolate, (with souvenir mugs), the best cookies we'd ever eaten, and candy cane lollipops.

As soon as we got settled in our seats, the sweetest elves came by with coloring sheets for the kiddos, and as we left the station, they delivered delicious, hot (really hot, not lukewarm or cold like we got on the Polar Express many years ago) cocoa and our cookies neatly tucked in napkins.  Our Conductor, Hal, made the rounds punching our tickets. 
Before long a mighty tall elf, Buddy, made the rounds chatting it up with the kids and adults, explaining that his favorite color is candy cane because that's the color of Santa's suit.  Of course, his visit was followed up by our ever-smiling, so friendly elves delivering everyone candy cane lollipops. 

Now what Christmas train ride would be complete without a visit from the big guy himself?   Sure enough, Santa arrived and passed out large jingle bells to each kiddo.  As soon as he finished handing out bells, he came back through the car, stopping at each table to hear what everyone wanted for Christmas and posed for endless photos and selfies.  All the elves did the same and graciously offered to take photos for families throughout the ride.   All the while Christmas music played in the background with gorgeous, snow-covered scenery flanking both sides of the train as we made our way 7 miles south before heading back to Corinth.

Despite the inconvenient snowstorm and driving conditions, the Candy Cane Express was the perfect addition to our holiday.  Hal and team have thought of everything when putting together this train ride. From the organized and hospitable team to the pristine rail cars, the decorations, music and atmosphere, I couldn't think of one thing he missed.   I can't wait to ride again this summer or next fall to really enjoy the gorgeous scenery.  
For more information about the Saratoga Corinth & Hudson Railway, you can follow their Facebook page at: and their website at:  Thank you to Hal and his entire team for a wonderful adventure today!

I'm not sure but I think John was discussing whether I should be on the naughty or nice list. Judging from Santa's face, I'm thinking there might be coal in my stocking this year.  I think he may have mumbled, 'you've GOT to be kidding.'  

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