Almost every year, we haul our heinies out to Cooperstown to the Candlelight Evening the Farmers’ Museum puts on (we skipped last year since the bambino was, like, crazy little…I use “little” loosely). The Farmers’ Museum is seriously one of my favorite places ON EARTH. It’s a living history site where houses and buildings from the mid-19th century have been transplanted to create a small village-like atmosphere.
There’s a building with an exhibit, but the rest is like a step back in time. The print shop creates mailers and flyers for events; the blacksmith makes shoes for the horses (it is the Farmers’ Museum, after all), old flat, square-headed nails, and products for the store; the “house” has a front AND back garden (GAH! LOVE IT!) and, depending on the time of year, shows how folks were putting things up or weaving and dying their own clothes or baking up a storm; the broom-maker (I’m sure that’s not the real name) shows how they were made; the “hotel” (which has an awesome balcony) is opened serving food and showing just how different it was to stay in an inn back then…and so on. I wish I could live there.
So, this year, we literally braved a brutal storm to have a family visit. There was only one goal for the day — to see Santa. The REAL Santa. We actually know the fellow who portrays him, so the fact that he says “hello!” to us by name is beyond cool. He dresses more like St. Nick, with short pants (freeeezing!), a real beard, a long hat, and a big sack flung over his shoulder.
But, thanks to the storm (we’re freaking crazy — we always plan for the coldest possible weather — I wore 2 pairs of pants, wool socks, 3+ shirts, a hat, two pairs of gloves…still cold), there were hardly any lines. So, that being said, we got to have our first ride on a horse-pulled wagon (where Hadley viewed Santa, or “Ho Ho”, from a mile away), chat up the printer on our own (I have a secret: This is the warmest spot in the place, thanks to their TWO stoves. I learned it on my 4th grade field trip, when I was assigned to the print shop and got to create my own “business cards” and “greeting cards”. You’re welcome.), and down some wassail.We caught up with Santa before he started his story time at the school building, and Hadley was enamored with him. Oh, he also handed over an old-fashioned (albeit red dye-laden) chunky peppermint stick which he sucked on for a half hour. (I grabbed chunks out of his mouth and ate them so he didn’t choke. He still doesn’t have enough top teeth to help in this respect.)
Then, we finally headed indoors to hear some more caroling and buy two HUGE turkey dinners (which came with cocoa and HUGE pieces of gingerbread, which Hadley enjoyed) before trekking back home at half the speed in low visibility. But, we don’t care. It. Was. So. Worth. It.
So, if you’d like to experience some of the old fashioned Christmas, try some mulled cider. Wassail. Whatever you call it, it’s a lovely way to cozy up on a chilly winter’s night. And what makes it even better? It’s super simple to make. You don’t even need cauldrons over huge bonfires (which is how they do it at the museum).
Here’s another one of my “wing it” recipes, but it’s only because you really can’t mess it up. Want to sweeten it? Use maple syrup or sugar or whatever you like to use to sweeten stuff. Or don’t; it’s still delicious!) Don’t have cloves? That’s okay, leave it out this time (although use it when you have it on hand again…I respectfully advise. ;-)).
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1/4 – 1/2 c. orange juice
1 -2 tbsp. maple syrup or sugar (or not)
1 tsp. (or less) cinnamon; or 2-3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. (or less) nutmeg
1/4 tsp. (or less) clove
Bring all the ingredients to a boil on the stove and stir; reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for as long as you can wait. (Five minutes…ten…or thirty. Whatever floats your boat.) If you don’t like “things” in your beverages, strain into mug and enjoy. Serve with a cinnamon stick if you’re a fancypants.
* Grown-ups who REALLY need a warm-up, throw a shot or two of rum in and say “good night.” Or, at least, that’s what would happen to me. I really can’t hold my booze anymore.