Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

My girls on Thanksgiving
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year!  This was my first year taking over the tradition of hosting Thanksgiving for my mom's side of the family (our New England relatives).  Thanksgiving has traditionally been the big family holiday on Mom's side -- when she was younger, my grandfather's side of the family would have huge celebrations often holding them at the church hall or in the lodge at the ski tow that my grandfather and his brothers ran.  Over the years, family members spread out across the country, some passed away, and the Thanksgiving group got smaller.  I believe the last church hall Thanksgiving was when I was a baby -- I've heard the story of my parents driving with me as a baby from NY to NH in a Volkswagen Beetle through such a terrible snow storm that the windshield wipers couldn't move all of the snow.  My dad, an engineer, got out and rigged string to the wipers and I believe he and Mom each held and string and pulled to move the wipers and clear the snow!  That's dedication to a holiday gathering -- or craziness...  ;)  They made it just in time for dessert!  My childhood memories are of Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house in NH.  Nana took over hosting for a number of years and many of my fondest childhood memories are of traveling Weds to Sun and spending the whole time playing with my cousins and surrounded by my family!  After my grandparents passed away in the '80's, my aunt took over and the celebration moved to her house in CT and then a number of years later she moved back to NH and so did Thanksgiving.  The location changed but the traditions remained the same, as well as my love for that particular holiday.

Last November, when we moved here to NH, Auntie Sandra told me that she was turning the reins over to me and that in 2014 I would get to take over hosting Thanksgiving (when she told me this my kitchen was a sea of moving boxes and I had no fridge for two weeks around Thanksgiving!!).  My family - cousins - teased me all year saying this would be a test run and they'd see how I did before we made it permanent!  We kept some of the same traditions -- we invited everyone to stay, even though almost everyone lives no more than 90 mins from us.  I was excited for my girls to get to experience Thanksgiving the way I remember it -- it's more than just a meal or a day in our family, it's a weekend-long sleepover!  Most everyone was planning to come on Weds and stay until Friday.  Then we got QUITE the storm, so most of the family decided to wait and come on Thursday.  My cousin Matt, who lives the closest at 35 minutes away, decided to leave early and come around noon on Weds.  It took him 2 hours, but he made it -- he walked in at 2:00pm and wouldn't you know, at 2:15pm we LOST POWER!  For FIVE HOURS!!  He is the best person to have around in a power outage though!  He kept the girls and I entertained for hours with stories, funny voices, and he and I even sang a few show tunes!  I absolutely LOVE candles -- some call it an obsession -- so I went around and lit tons of candles.  I had a house FULL of food, although most of it still needed to be cooked -- the power outage really put a kink into my prep plans!  We had ham sandwiches for dinner that night.  In spite of the lack of power, I did what I could to keep plugging along with my preparations, hoping that everyone would still be able to make it for Thanksgiving.  I mixed together a batch of my Nana's pumpkin bread -- realized before it was too late that I had mistakenly put 2/3 cup of sugar in instead of 2-2/3 cups!  I fixed that fortunately -- hey, it was dark!  When the power finally came on, I put a turkey in the oven (I made 2 -- had 15 people with a bunch staying over so I wanted leftovers!) and the pumpkin bread, which I again, in the dark (by candlelight) misread the recipe and put the whole batter into ONE loaf pan instead of TWO...  Matt and I entertained the girls by trying to clean out the horrible, smoking mess that occurred when the pumpkin bread batter spilled over onto the bottom of the oven!  We had a lot of laughs!  The pumpkin bread was a horrible mess but it was tasty!

Turkey Candy Nut Cups by Candlelight
Matt was impressed that I made all of these cute little turkey candy/nut cups (Nana and Auntie Sandra always put out cups with candy and nuts in them for everyone -- I just added my own twist with the beak and feathers!) by candlelight -- 15 of them!  Although he did tease me about turkey part -- said that's why I am hosting, because only I care about those little details!  Hey, they are adorable and festive, and my girls love them!  The rest of the holiday went without a hitch.  We had 15 altogether including my dad and stepmother who came out from NY.  A few family members stayed with us, a few stayed at a nearby inn, and a few headed home after dinner.  The kids had a wonderful time playing with their cousins and they all enjoyed playing out in all of the snow we got -- 13-1/2"!  On Friday, we kept up another tradition of a group of us (usually the women, although my dad joined in!) going shopping -- no "Black Friday" trips to the malls for us -- we stopped that years ago!  We always like to go to the adorable little country stores that are up in our area -- we've been doing that since Thanksgiving was hosted in CT.  This was the first time that some of the family got to go to the cute shops in my town and we also enjoyed lunch at a nice cafe in town.  My daughters stayed home and played with their cousins -- all four of the kids, my two and my cousin's two, were all so sad when it was time for the cousins to go home to CT!  My eldest daughter said she was so sad that Thanksgiving was over because she'd been looking forward to it all year!  Like mother, like daughter!  :)

I guess I did ok because my cousin Brett sent me a text later saying that I passed the preliminary test and can proceed with scheduling next year to further evaluate my capabilities!  ;)  Bunch of jokers in this family -- that's another longstanding tradition!  We only tease the ones we love!
Not too shabby for making them in the dark!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Our First Year in New Hampshire

Daniel Webster, a NH native, once wrote, "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."  Growing up visiting my grandparents in New Hampshire every year, I have always felt like a New Englander at heart, always wanted to live here -- it truly is my "happy place" -- and always loved the "Old Man of the Mountain" to which Daniel Webster referred.

We moved here a year ago on November 21, 2014.  My husband had been working and living up in New England with my relatives for three months while I stayed in New York trying to sell our house.  He worked the day before we moved and then drove to my dad's house in NY where the girls, the dog and I had been living for the last month.  He arrived sometime around 2:00am and slept until around 9:00am.  We got up, packed our things in our two cars -- our good Toyota Sienna and our little 2001 Dodge Stratus that we hoped and prayed would make the trip!  We all went to breakfast at the diner with my dad, something he and I had enjoyed at least once a week while we lived with him and my step-mother.  It was bittersweet -- we were excited but also sad to leave our family and knew that my dad was devastated.  Fortunately, he and Gramby had plans to come out to NH just the following week for Thanksgiving, so that helped!

We headed out -- me and my little girlie in the van, my husband and our eldest daughter in the Stratus.  I remember that the Stratus did not have a radio -- there had been a short in it years earlier that drained the battery.  The mechanic did not agree with me that that was the problem, but I finally got him to humor me and disconnect the radio, just to see -- hmm...  never had that problem again!  ;)  But, never replaced the radio, either!  Our eldest played music on my husband's iPhone and chatted away to keep him entertained on the 6 - 7 hour ride.  It was a fairly uneventful ride -- I was so thankful that the Stratus made it all the way!!  I remember that it was dark when we crossed the Vermont border into New Hampshire, and I remember seeing the big sign that welcomes you to New Hampshire -- in English and French!  And I'll never forget my husband calling me on my cell phone as we crossed, just so he could say, "Welcome home!"  It was very touching because it was a childhood dream coming true for me, a nearly 20 year dream for him coming true (he's wanted to move here since the first time he came with me to visit my family), and after 3 months of living apart and the stress of that and the stress of selling our house -- those two little words meant more than I can say!

We had our dog, Mabel, with us, and I had searched around to find a hotel/motel that would allow us to have Mabel for one night.  I found one but it was an hour past our new town.  On the way to the motel, even though it was getting late, I followed my husband and he quickly drove us past our new house and through our new town -- a drive he had taken many times in excitement of our arrival.  We made it to the motel and grabbed the kids, dog and the bare minimum for the night.  After a somewhat restless night between the excitement and nervousness of closing on the new house the next day, and the DOG jumping back and forth between the beds (!!) we woke early, got ready and raced an hour back to our new house for the final walk through.  It was so exciting to see an empty slate -- and a little overwhelming -- I knew right away that we had some work cut out for us to make it our own -- and a LOT of paint!!!!  After a quick trip through with the realtors, we went to their office for the closing.  The girls sat SO patiently as all of the paperwork was signed, and then we were handed a big check from the closing of our house in NY (long story -- that house sale was a nightmare...) and we went right across the street to our new bank and made a deposit.  Then off to our new home where Auntie Sandra and Uncle Bill were waiting to greet us!  They live 90 minutes North of us and my husband had lived with them for over 2 months while he was up here working.  Every time he took a trip to NY to visit us, he would head back up to their house with a van-load of our belongings.  Auntie & Uncle brought a truckload of our things with them and quickly helped us unload everything into the house.  Then my husband had to go back to work for the afternoon and Auntie & Uncle headed home.

The girls and I were on our own for the afternoon -- I think I started cleaning and they helped where they could and explored, etc.  It was Friday, and the 18-wheeler with all of the rest of our belongings would not arrive until Monday or Tuesday!  At that point, we had the kitchen island (which is a permanent fixture) and the 4 counter-height chairs that came with the house.  That and air mattresses -- that was it for furniture those first couple of nights!  No computer, no tv, no phone -- we were roughing it for sure!  We didn't even have a fridge -- it had died before we closed on the house and we needed to find a new one quick.  That took 2 weeks (!!) and a lot of headaches to get a fridge -- who knew we lived "over the mountain" from all of the big stores and deliveries are made once a week.  Thankfully we had coolers and it was November in New England -- the whole backyard was our "auxiliary fridge!"  I remember our first dinner in our new house was a little roasted chicken, salads, and a banana cream pie that my husband brought home from Market Basket -- our new grocery store.  On Saturday, my Aunt Pam, cousin Matt and his girlfriend Deb came over bright and early to help.  I had visions of painting bedrooms -- in particular, the girls' -- before all of the furniture came, but my husband was at work and no one else was too up for helping me with the painting, so instead my cousin took down an overhead light and replaced it with a new one we had purchased and he also took down the most unattractive, hard-plastic, accordian doors that covered the closet in the girls' bathroom -- we had all decided those needed to go quickly!!  Deb and I worked on lining all of the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen -- so helpful!  My husband came home and we all had pizza and visited.  I think on Sunday we ventured out to Lowes - 30 mins away - and started looking for a fridge.  This is when we discovered that you don't just buy and fridge and it shows up the next day or day after that when you live in our town...  Especially not late in fall -- apparently trucks only go "over the mountain" once a week and we'd missed out!  We moved on to other stores including Sears where after what seemed an eternity (our girls were SO patient!) we finally settled on a fridge that I didn't love but that would keep food cold...  And we were given a delivery date but told "although, if it snows, they won't come over the mountain!"  Oh my -- hadn't realized how "in the mountains" we lived until then!  Long story short, we never got the Sears fridge but eventually got the one I wanted -- French doors on top, freezer on bottom -- about 12 days into our NH adventure.  We got quite used to going outside to get the milk, and we ate a LOT of take out!!  I do remember going to the grocery store and buying just what I needed to make a home-cooked meal for my family and what a wonderful feeling that was!!

The 18-wheeler with all of our belongings came on one of the coldest days in November and my husband was working and my Aunt Sandra drove 90 minutes to show up early and help me set things up as the movers unloaded everything.  It was an exhausting day -- box after box after box, question after question -- that day is kind of a blur!  I remember feeling like I was on an episode of Hoarders at the end of the day -- there were SO many boxes!!  Could barely walk through the kitchen/dining room!  Some things fit perfectly -- the piano had been a big issue when we were planning to move and the spot I moved it into is absolutely perfect for it!  Some things, not so great -- I would never choose the layout my couches are in under normal circumstances, but that's how they fit in the room.  The movers were great -- they unloaded everything, they put the beds together, the dining room hutch, dining room table...  Auntie and I placed the area rugs and made decisions about where the big stuff would go.  Grandpa and Gramby came two days later and we had some things put away by then -- I think the guest room where they slept and my 8-year-old's room were both in pretty good shape!  Gramby spent Thanksgiving vacation unpacking boxes in the kitchen and setting the kitchen up for me.  They also helped us find our fridge and we went to Lowes again and I spent a small fortune on paint, lights, and a snowblower!!  We all drove up to Auntie Sandra's for Thanksgiving and my my husband had to work -- he was working around the clock this time last year!  He ate an early dinner with us, took a brief nap on the couch and drove 90 minutes back to work.  I remember he got home late that night and got a call from the alarm company and had to drive back to work at around 1:00am -- I was so worried about him!

After Thanksgiving, the girls started their new schools.  They were both nervous on the first day and when I picked them up at the end of the day, my eldest told me she wanted to go home -- my heart sank and I refrained from telling her we WERE home!  My little one seemed to have done better and the next day when my husband tried to walk her in she said, "I'm ok, bye Daddy!" and walked in by herself!  It took 3 days for my eldest to feel better about school -- that was due in large part to Lilly, a girl who came up to her on the 3rd day and said, "I could use some more friends, would you like to be my friend?"  I still tear up thinking about that -- I can't tell her how much that meant to my daughter and in turn, to me!  She started making friends, particularly with the kids in band -- they were pretty impressed with her when she was ready to be in the Christmas concert a week after starting school!  The girls were getting acclimated to school, we were all getting used to our new town, and I got the girls started in Sunday School and we began attending church every Sunday -- something we were not great about before moving!  Through church, the girls met some other kids and I began meeting people too -- now I help out with Youth Ministry, here and there, and I teach Sunday School (my 8-year-old's class) every Sunday. My little one is also in a Girl Scout troop this year, making friends, and I help out with the troop which has been nice!  I find when we go into town, we almost always see people we know which makes us feel like we are not the new kids, but are really becoming part of the community.

Things have not always gone smoothly -- the job we moved here for ended up being a disaster.  My husband worked incredibly hard to turn this failing store around -- we didn't find out until after we'd moved that he was the 6th store manager in the 3 years the store had been open! -- only to be let go the day after Easter.  And actually, over July 4th weekend, he got a text from the person who turned out to be the 7th store manager (his replacement) who wanted to talk to him because he could see that he too was going to be let go soon!  Thankfully, we made it through that incredibly difficult time -- no one had a job in our house! -- and within a month's time he had gone back to the same job he'd been doing for 7 years prior, only here in NH!  He's doing very well there and we are so thankful and look at the previous job only as the thing that got us here, and we truly believe that's all it was meant to be.  We see the value in his current job -- it's stable, the people are great, they are happy to have him, and when he leaves for the day he is done -- no being on call around the clock!  We are already looking forward to a much more relaxed holiday season than he had last year!!  And I have found a part time, flexible job working at home as a virtual assistant -- it works perfectly for our family right now!

It has not been smooth sailing, and at some points we've felt that our will was being tested to see if we were cut out to be here, but at this moment, things are going pretty well and we're happy where we are!