Lately, it seems that things are so busy, it’s hard to even find a moment to stop and catch our breath. Maybe it’s the impending holiday season, or the vacationless stretch between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s the way technology seems to speed the pace of life and make it more demanding; email responses are expected upon minutes of receipt, and cell phones have become tools many of us feel we can’t live without. Perhaps the pop-country band, Rascal Flatts, says it best in their 2004 hit, ‘Mayberry’:
Sometimes it feels like this world is spinning faster
Than it did in the old days
So naturally, we have more natural disasters
From the strain of a fast pace
Sunday was a day of rest
Now, it’s one more day for progress
And we can’t slow down ‘cause more is best
It’s all an endless process
(well)I miss Mayberry
Sitting on the porch drinking ice-cold cherry Coke
Where everything is black and white
Picking on a six string
Where people pass by and you call them by their first name
Watching the clouds roll by
Last week, it seemed like I couldn’t catch my breath, and it would be awhile until that moment would come. However, I was lucky enough to have a family trip planned to Grafton, Vermont, to celebrate some happy occasions. So, when 6:30 pm rolled around on the evening before my early morning flight, my fingers unbelievably typed the words for my Out-of-Office message, and I checked the box to activate the auto-response until I would return three work days later.
A little about Grafton, Vermont. A member of our extended family invited us to stay in her vacation home at the end of a windy, but vibrantly-colored tree-trimmed road two hours outside of Hartford, Connecticut and three hours from Boston (thank you, Rosa!). I had never been to this part of the Northeast, but our family saw the best of it, during the peak of the Fall Foliage, when the leaves become hues of lemon yellow, marigold-orange, and rosy-red just before falling and leaving the trees bare for the winter.
Little did I know that my pause in the craziness of life would also bring me back to the simple days, or as Rascal Flatts sang, a place and time where “people pass by and you call them by their first name”. This town of approximately 600 inhabitants, had a post office, a library, a general store, an inn, and a chicken coop where eggs are purchased on the honor system by leaving money in a box, among a few other necessary staples. There were no shopping malls or Starbuck’s drive-thrus, and my Dad was about the only one in town with an iPhone. (Luckily, I was able to receive ATT service). But, the most significant observation was that people who live in Grafton have everything they need, and they all seemed so happy with their lives in this beautiful, remote town.
Where does entertainment fit in? My experience in Vermont exposed me to the classic Americana style– quilts, rocking chairs on porches, classic candy like gumballs, and fresh food/produce. So, I brought back a few classic American and holiday-inspired entertaining ideas:
1) If you’re hosting family for the holidays, why not try placing decorative trays in each guest room? They are simple, yet inviting, and you can find them at any craft or home store to fit your style. Guests can arrive, remove their shoes, unpack their suitcases, and place a watch, glasses, jewelry, cell phones, or keys on the tray in their room to feel right at home. Here are a few that were placed throughout the home we stayed in.
2) Have hot apple cider awaiting your guests as they arrive. Use a simple recipe by simmering apple juice in a pot on the stove and adding cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lemon juice, cloves and allspice. Then, serve in a unique glass to make this simple, colonial beverage that warms the soul look even snazzier.
3) Place flavorful and seasonal candles throughout your house and light them before your guests arrive. The scent of the holidays will welcome them and create a warm feel during cold days and nights. Try flavors such as Orange Cinnamon Clove, Gourmet Sugar Cookie, and Maple Syrup Pancakes that I found at a country store in Vermont. You can buy pumpkin and spice scented candles at Bed, Bath, & Beyond or local craft stores, such as Michael’s.
4) Add apples, leaves, cranberries, or pine cones to a vase, for a festive, fall feel. I found this glass lamp display at Simon Pearce (a hydroelectric glassblowing workshop and restaurant with a breathtaking view in Quechee, Vermont).
5) If you can get your hands on an old vinyl player and some classic records, start spinning ’em. There’s nothing like old tunes and reminiscing the simple life over a cup of hot apple cider. A party that we attended at an incredible house in the woods had a small wooden dance floor that we used to swing to blues and old-time tunes coming from the record player in the corner. They even added a few small pumpkins to the setting! Your guests will love it!
I hope these ideas help you go back to the good-old days for a classic Americana holiday season!