A Fresh Look at Classic Holiday Traditions

This Christmas will be 10-month-old Meredith’s first.

Her parents, Tiffany Eddy and Danny Ryan, look forward to creating holiday memories for their daughter — ones of warmth and joy — in their Goffstown home.

I’m so excited about sharing Christmas with my daughter. Christmas, I think, is really about children. There are so many traditions I can’t wait to share them. I’m hoping there is snow this year and I know that Santa will be very good to her.

This Christmas we will have a fire roaring. I love to cook, so after dinner (probably turkey because my husband loves my turkey) we hope Mother Nature will cooperate and we can go snowshoeing with Meredith.

In my family we were all allowed to open one present from under the tree on Christmas Eve. Meredith (when she’s old enough) will be allowed the same privilege.

Another tradition I hope to share with my daughter: Every year just before Christmas, I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There is something so uplifting about that film. It always gets me in the holiday mood and reminds of what the true spirit of Christmas is all about.

Another beautiful tradition our family partakes in: sleigh rides. My husband is from Intervale. Every year the whole family gets bundled up, packs into a sleigh in Jackson and goes for a ride under the stars. We cuddle under blankets, sing Christmas carols and drink hot apple cider. It is truly a wonderful way to celebrate the season and I can’t wait to share this experience and tradition with my beautiful little daughter.”

Games People Make

Most people enjoy playing games. Some people prefer making them. Take the Blaine family of Mason who used their love of gamesmanship and an entrepreneurial flair to get two games on the market: the fast moving card game Perpetual Commotion and the fast-talking debate game Debate This! Both are available at www.gold brickgames.com.

Professional game designers Charles Phillips of Walpole and Sam Kjellman of Henniker met in 1980 but only recently pooled their substantial talents and credentials (creating games for Parker Brothers and Hasbro, among others) to produce Bux. Using only cards and chips, they say Bux transcends the old “board game” paradigm and offers hands-on action of a computer game, while also teaching free-market economic principles. It’s available from www.buxthegame.com.Fir the holidays

Cut You Own

There are lots of places to buy Christmas trees, but cutting your own provides you with much more than a tree — you get the beauty of a forest, the pink-cheeked chill of the air, a memorable time for the family and some exercise. For a list of cut-your-own Christmas tree growers (and lots of other harvest information), visit


Timeless Town

It doesn’t get much attention — nearby Portsmouth is always hogging the spotlight — but Greenland is definitely worthy of note.

It’s the quintessential New England town —gorgeous 18th-century homes with the iconic white Congregational church steeple soaring above the town green. There are three churches, one of them Korean.

Among the earliest settlements in the state, the town was once a parish of Portsmouth, originating in 1638. Sixty-six years later, it voted to separate from the Port City.

Today it’s a prosperous community, above the state average for median household income and median house value. Its population of 3,390 goes up somewhat in the summer when the houses built on the banks of Great Bay fill up. Residents must play a lot of golf because there are five golf courses in town, including Portsmouth Country Club, which somehow wound up in Greenland.

Speaking of golf courses, Greenland was the scene of the “great golf dis” by former governor Craig Benson. When he took ownership of the Golf Club of New England, a letter was sent to members who were critics of his administration saying they were no longer welcome at the club. Benson denies it was political payback.

The other situation that has roiled Greenland’s calm waters is the soon-to-be-built mall out on Route 33. Target and Lowe’s will join the few small retail enterprises in town now. Some NIMBYs fought the mall, but Pat Ferrelli, town clerk/tax collector, says most are excited about it, especially the much-needed grocery store that comes with it.

Greenland is one of the New Hampshire towns that still has the old-fashioned town meeting, where issues are brought up and voted on the same day. Ferrelli says Greenland takes you back in time in other ways as well: “It’s not exciting here. That’s why we like it. It’s just a nice, quiet town, where you can feel good about bringing up kids and walking your dog.”

Code Breaker

Ah, star power. The media giveth and the media taketh away.

Dan Brown of Exeter has been riding pretty high for the last couple of years as the official “best-selling fiction writer of our time.” (Did anyone check with Stephen King before prying that title off his mailbox?) One sign that the literary love-in is tapering off is when the tell-all, unofficial biography appears. Well, it’s here. And written by New Hampshire’s own Lisa Rogak, author of a recent tell-all bio on diet Dr. Robert Atkins and of the forthcoming tell-all bio of Playboy artist Shel Silverstein.

Rogak is famous for her down & dirty style as well as her attention to accuracy and detail, so naturally this book is full of juicy revelations and a few surprises. For example: Brown’s first successful book was “187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman,” written under the pseudonym Danielle Brown. His final suggestion in that book is to avoid: “Men who write self-help books for women.”

Brown’s rise as a bookish superstar is all the more astonishing when you learn that his first shot at fame came in the 1990s as a singer/songwriter. His first CD, “Dan Brown,” had hotshot Barry Fasman as a producer and featured an A-list of session men, including Madonna’s bass player and the drummer from the Doobie Brothers. Independently released it sank into obscurity. His second release, “Angels and Demons,” was also unsuccessful but seemed to signal many of the themes that would resonate in his writings like “The Da Vinci Code.” The cover art for the CD and tape (pictured below) was an “ambigram” by artist friend John Langdon, whose last name Brown later borrowed for the main character of his mega-best-selling opus.

Somehow this bit of musical history has been lost in the current hubbub. Perhaps a tune will turn up in the film version of “The Da Vinci Code,” coming in May. Can’t wait? Hear clips of his music on www.nhmagazine.com.


AND WE QUOTE: “Mowing is tedious and can be avoided by wetting down the yard with a fine spray of #2 heating oil. Or during the winter months you can sprinkle rock salt on the whole thing.” — New Hampshire’s PJ O’Rourke, from “The Bachelor Home Companion”

Nov. 2005 issue of Men’s Journal,

10 Coolest Mountain Towns …

North Conway one of two in the Northeast…coolest multi-sport town: skiing, riding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, one of oldest ski towns in the country … other: Lake Placid

10 years ago, poet Jane Kenyon died in her artistic prime at age 47. This year the country seems poised to rediscover Jane. Her poem “Let Evening Come” was set to music on Prairie Home Companion in October, and in the new Cameron Diaz movie, “In Her Shoes,” Diaz reads a Kenyon poem aloud.

In the wake of the floods in southwest New Hampshire, Jay Leno remarked that, since the Granite State is so white, we had FEMA here in 10 minutes.

BRAIN DRAIN Morgan Quitno reports that New Hampshire has dropped in its rankings as the #14 smartest state to #15. The Number One smartest state? Vermont. And this just as N.H. Poet Laureate Cynthia Huntington hangs up her local laurels to move to Thetford, Vt. Cause or effect?

Busts in the Hood

Controversial “installation artist” Fred Wilson has shocked the staid sensibilities of museum curators by displaying the skeletons (sometimes literal ones) he found languishing in their basements. When he was turned loose on the Hood at Dartmouth, what shocking raw material did he find? Dozens of likenesses of famous alum Daniel Webster. Now on display.

Treasure: n. (trezh’ ur) Something considered very valuable.

Rutherford B. Hayes was president when the theater was built in 1878; Alexander Graham Bell had just invented the telephone. That makes The Music Hall in Portsmouth the oldest theater in New Hampshire and the second-oldest in New England. Over the years, the theater (reportedly built large enough to accommodate horses and elephants) has provided a performance venue for everything from opera to film. There were struggles to be sure, remaining financially viable ever the challenge.

But the theater made it, and today it is an important cultural resource for both the community and the state. That fact was recognized by the organization Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It declared The Music Hall an “American Treasure.” A plaque was presented this fall by Sen. Judd Gregg, who has been a supporter of the theater ever since he took his wife there on their first date. Gregg was instrumental in getting seed money for a $4 million restoration project.

Other American Treasures in New Hampshire: the 1772 Old Meeting House, New Durham; the 1831 Canterbury Shaker Village Trustees’ Office and the Dwelling House, Canterbury; Belknap Mill, Laconia; Cheshire Mills Complex, Harrisville; Cornish Art Colony Project, Hanover; Groton Town House, Groton; Hooksett Village Bridge, Hooksett; Rialto Theatre, Lancaster; Robie’s Country Store, Hooksett; The Eagle Block, Newport; Warner House, Portsmouth; and White Island Light Station, Isles of Shoals, Rye.

Bedeck the Boughs

Reed & Barton ornaments from Barmakian Jewelers of Nashua will add an elegant and fun touch to your holiday. Snowman with globe and woodland santa, $60 ea. Call (603) 888-7800 for more information.

Pat Charlton of Wolfeboro has been hand-painting ornaments for more than eight years. Several designs are available and prices range from $15-$65. (603) 569-4648.

A small, hand-painted cloth doll created by Elaine Russell is the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Ornament for 2005. Available at the League’s retail galleries, each ornament will be signed and numbered. $24.50, includes a gift box with an artist statement enclosure card. (603) 224-3375, www.nhcrafts.org

Magical Music

Deeply moving. Transcendent. That’s what people have said about Dana Cunningham’s music. Listen to her “Silent Night,” and you’ll likely agree.

Cunningham, an instrumental pianist living in the White Mountains, combines traditional carols with other sacred music in this CD. Max Dyer accompanies her on cello, adding soaring accents. The spare but powerful music is perfect for quiet Christmas listening. Years of spiritual exploration — from seminary to Esalen to a Benedictine monastery — no doubt infuses Cunningham’s work.

“I see it as an invitation to be still in oneself, to be centered,” she says. “As much as our Christmas cards wish for peace and joy, oftentimes with the commercialization of Christmas it becomes more frenetic. And so much of the music doesn’t quiet us. I wanted to play it in a fresh way.”

Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records, says of

Cunningham’s contemplative music: “Whatever she plays is invested with emotion. Hers is music that communicates.” Ackerman, now an independent music producer, will produce Cunningham’s third album of piano, cello and voice.

The current CD’s cover artwork, “Winter Eve,” features the white church in Eaton, painted by Marjorie Kendrick. The church is Cunningham’s favorite place to play. She gives a Christmas concert there each December. You can order “Silent Night” for $15.95 at www.danacunningham.com, or call (800) 818-6247. You can also find it at the League of NH Craftsmen shop in North Conway.

Master of the Moguls

Freestyle skier Dan DiPiro competes around the world and teaches mogul skiing at Cannon Mountain in Franconia. He’s in such demand he recently wrote a book of advice for would-be mogul masters. We asked him for some advice for anyone who feels a little weak in the knees when confronting those inevitable bumps in the trail.

When experienced skiers struggle in the mogul field, it’s often because they’re using too much groomed-trail technique and not enough mogul technique. Make these four technical adjustments to take charge in the bumps this season:

1. Stand tall. Begin your mogul run with your torso upright and your legs relatively extended. This tall posture will help you to absorb bumps and maintain balance.

2. Absorb and extend with your legs. As you ski over the mogul or mogul side, bend at the ankles, knees and hips (not the back) to absorb the impact. As you pass the mogul and enter the trough, extend your legs and drive your skis down onto the snow. This will help you to maintain balance and control speed.

3. More steering. Pure carving doesn’t work well in moguls. To turn your skis in the bumps, use more steering (twisting/rotary motion) than you typically use on groomed terrain.

4. Eyes on the big picture. Always look three to five bumps down the hill. This will improve your balance and allow you to plan your turns ahead of time.

Dan DiPiro of Easton is the author of “Everything the Instructors Never Told You About Mogul Skiing” (888-280-7715 or www.LearnMoguls.com). Dan’s mogul-skiing blog is www.mogulskiing.blogspot.com.

Forecast: More Warm Wetherbee

Seems like New Hampshire can’t get enough of Fritz Wetherbee. His popular history segment on WMUR TV’s “New Hampshire Chronicle” is, for many Granite Staters, the equivalent of an old-time radio show where the family gathers around after supper to listen. Never mind that it’s on TV. What counts with great storytelling is the words and the voice. Now the words from the best of his segments have been collected and published in book form and the voice, well, that seems to have been magically included in this print edition. Read a few chapters and see if you can’t imagine Fritz, right in the room, declaring, “I’ll tell you the story.” Order a copy online from www.nhbooksellers.com.

Gift Ideas

Gift Ideas

Marcy Schepker of Pear Tree Studio in Harrisville (www.peartreestudio.com) creates a soft world of puppies, turtles, ethnic dolls and more from recycled sweaters and wools. The motto of her cottage industry shop is “Re-cycle, Re-think, Re-create.”

With the start of a new year just ahead, it’s a good time for “A Child’s Calendar” for 6- to 8-year-olds. It’s a collection of 12 poems by John Updike, one for each month, to celebrate the passing of seasons. The Caldecott Honor Book is beautifully illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, a New Hampshire artist. $16.95