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on travelling and Christmas
Holiday greetings from North of the Border. May there be turkey on the table, love in the heart, presents for all and a rollicking horde of knee huggers underfoot. I wish for you that 1999 be a year of vision - a year of ideas - a year to create. In 1999 my hope is that you will achieve a chosen goal. General Stonewall Jackson said - "if you must succeed you must ride toward the sound of battle." Good riding!
Now for your questions:
Where do hubby and I vacation cheaply in the USA? As we live in central Canada, most of our vacationing in the U.S. is in the eastern and southeastern states. There comes a time in a busy life when a short vacation takes precedent. Living frugally on a budget means that vacations have to be well thought out before the car leaves the driveway. As soon as we cross the border every U.S. dollar we spend is really $1.50 - $1.55 Cdn. It can be expensive. There are exceptions. We travel during off and shoulder seasons. We try to choose locations that are not so well known that they are overpriced. We select restaurants and accommodation that are reasonably priced. We never visit built *tourist* traps. If you love meeting and eating with *the locals*, small town ambience and a laid-back vacation, try the following destinations . . .
Washington County, New York State - the home territory of painter Grandma Moses (and her great-grandson Will). This County, approx one hour north of Albany, is an undiscovered gem and a great destination at any time of the year. The area is a genealogist's dream as it is the *cradle* of early U.S. history. Its old cemeteries are worth the visit, even if one does not have ancestors from the area. The countryside is beautiful. Accommodation and meal prices are half the price of their Vermont neighbours a one half hour away. Go soon before the area is *found* - then exploited. Tour the area. Take your time. Enjoy! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone:#1-888-203-8622
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - May through December this is a very busy tourist destination. So we go in February/March when accommodation is cheap and traffic on Rte #30 is less "dramatic." At this time of the year most tourist traps are closed. We spend a week visiting farm markets (Roots and Green Dragon); small back country stores, mom and pop restaurants, farm gate operations, covered bridges, factory outlets. Believe me, this is a cheap shoulder season destination - even though it is well known. Phone: #1-800-PA DUTCH or www.800padutch.com
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania - Break rules about going off-season. I recommend a vacation in the Laurel Highlands in September/October. History buffs will revel in reconstructed forts, battle fields and heritage sites. The area has a score of autumn festivals with low admission rates, good food at reasonable prices, beautiful hiking trails, architectural gems i.e. Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a great bargain for money spent. Budget carefully. Make lots of telephone calls ahead of time November and April are considered shoulder season, so a little cheaper, but you'll miss the festivals. Do visit Johnstown, site of the Johnstown flood, the worst disaster in American history. Phone: #1-800-925-7669 or www.laurelhighlands.com
Boone/Blowing Rock area of the Carolinas. One has to choose carefully here as this is a popular summer/fall destination. A few phone calls will produce reasonably priced accommodation in November and April - not the best time for the Blue Ridge area but a nice break if one wants to "veg" in a mountainous setting with few distractions, for a little while.
Unlike many Canadians, we have never been to Florida or Arizona. Myrtle Beach is on our list, when "shore born" hubby must be "dipped in the sea" - or we wish to extend our summer. If one can avoid the hurricanes, Myrtle Beach is a reasonably priced destination in late September & October. People tell me that March and April are nice times to visit too. We do not play golf. We go, on occasion, for the privilege of being by the sea.
Enough for now about U.S. get-aways. For "excursions" over Christmas try visiting people in a senior's home (who never have family come), helping serve Christmas dinner at a soup kitchen, taking meals to shut-ins so regular deliverers can have Christmas with their families, visiting the local pound to take the dogs for a walk, dropping small gift envelopes in the mailboxes of people less fortunate than yourself. We have packed a bag of books and spent Christmas in the quietude and seclusion of the north woods too - at the cottage of a friend.
Cheap baking: I have a tip for those of you who have large families, a freezer and little time to bake. Check out your local bakery. Ask about availability of their day old product. We have several bakeries close by who put their day old baking on sale each day. One makes up a large basket of dated goodies which they sell for $6.00. Another gives patrons three plastic bags to fill from their day-old shelf for $7.00. Do you know how much you can stuff into a plastic bag? When the entire family is due and I do not have time to bake I head for a bakery - very early in the morning for best selection. The last time I picked up three bags of goodies and tallied them at regular price - I bought $47.00 worth of baked goods for only $7.00 - sticky buns, loaves of bread, croissants, whole wheat buns . . .
Odd house plants: This tip comes too late for this year. Try it in 1999. Visitors, admiring my house plants, suddenly realize the healthy greenery belongs to large pepper plants, several with peppers almost ready to pick. After the threat of frost each plant (in its pot) in planted in the garden, where produce peppers during the summer. Just before the first frost I lift the pots and place them in a sunny window. After final harvest, I pinch back the tops just a little, to promote new growth and keep the plants watered. Several weeks before they are put outside, the plants are given fertilizer to stimulate growth.
Great cheap Christmas gifts: Flower pot, soil and a packet of herb seeds - jars of homemade spaghetti sauce - (friends hold a sauce making party, followed by a spaghetti dinner. Each couple goes home with 6-8 jars of spicy sauce) - original, personalized story *books* for children. Each book is a very short story (150 words) written by yourself and illustrated with photos or pictures cut from magazines. My grandchildren love these. The latest is entitled Who's in my closet? Of course, the last page reveals the child himself, when a cut-out door is opened - Several dozen home made cookies for the busy household - a small homemade cotton drawstring bag full of cheap plastic dinosaurs or farm animals for children (these toys are cheap at flea markets and farm co-ops) - a book from your personal collection that you feel someone else would enjoy along with a box of bookplates.
Purchase a box of appropriate decorative or collectible note cards (art shops and galleries carry these products). Choose one or two then frame them nicely. Frames need not be expensive. Check out your local big box stores. One box of ten cards will give 5-10 reasonably priced gifts. Some people frame particularly nice post cards - or the cards that artists sometimes give as promotional material.
Seniors, especially those on a severe budget, appreciate receiving food product. Be sure to ask about dietary restrictions. Cheese and crackers, jars of jams and jellies, several pounds of butter, homemade bread and other goodies, homemade fudge, a casserole - any treat they cannot usually afford. If you can afford the luxury, consider a talking book for seniors with sight problems, or a cassette of their favourite old-time music i.e. Sons of the Pioneers. These tapes are often found in sale bins. I have read a favourite book onto tape for a special senior who couldn't make out the fine print. Make sure the senior has the equipment to listen to tapes! Taping loving messages from grandchildren to grandparents is also an appreciated gift. Do not forget to add your own message to that of your children.
By the way, Adumb, the old cat does not receive a Christmas gift. Giving gifts to pets is a waste of money. He does receive a ration of turkey and lots of attention from the grandchildren.
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