Christmas Arrives in Unexpected Settings

 Waterville Valley Vistas

When one has a difficult mother,  it can become essential to distance one’s self and  family, particularly at the time of significant holidays.  If one has a courageous husband, he may announce, as the parental car pulled out of our Princeton driveway after a particularly grueling visit, “That’s it.  We are not letting her ruin another Christmas.  We are going skiing at Waterville.”

My husband, Werner Oscar Joseph Edelmann (for full effect say with German accent) was 100% Swiss.  Although he had not grown up skiing, we took it up as a family, the year we moved to Princeton – 1968.  Shore friends, sitting on their dune-cushioned deck, insisted that our families learn together.  It was August and steamy.  Winter?  WHAT Winter.  We said yes.

I secretly hoped some disaster, like a broken leg, or death, would intervene before that crucial February challenge.  None did.  So we all began to learn to ski.  The girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  At Killington, they looked like bunnies in their fuzzy snowsuits and fat mittens, among a gaggle of other little beginners, huddled at the base of ‘the bunny slope.’

They, being half Swiss, did not remain beginners very long.  In the year of our deliverance from my mother, they were teens who preferred ‘bombing the black lines’   – the expert slopes.  Especially “Oblivion” in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  The White Mountains were Werner’s choice for our runaway Christmas, because their ski school and an authentic Swiss lodge were run by Paul Pfosi.  All Paul’s instructors were Swiss.  Extremely demanding.  “Ski marks on the inside of your ski boots” to prove you had your legs close enough together.  Off-slope, they all delighted to converse in their native (unwritten) language with this tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed very determined American skier.  Stein Eriksen in those years was our hero, our model.

stein_eriksen

No one would mistake us for Stein, but his example formed Pfosi’s Instructor Corps.

Anita Kathriner and Raphael Wyss make Alpkase, Mutschli and butter by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

Swiss Copper Cheese Kettle in situ

Pfosi’s Lodge held the huge copper kettles we’d first seen in Emmenthaler, in which magnificent Swiss cheeses were precisely concocted.  Only Pfosi’s kettles overflowed with silky evergreen boughs from nearby endless forests.  Swiss Christmas music, such as relatives had carefully sent to Diane and Catherine over the years, pealed from hidden speakers.  Conditions were ideal on the slopes, and for any number of days we almost forgot it was Christmas.  But not quite.

Our family, over the years, had no experience of that Holiday beyond our own formal tree and hand-made-ornament tree, one by the living room fireplace, one by the family room’s slate hearth.  Heaven to us was a fire in each room, the three of us in long plaid skirts and white lace blouses, playing our guitars and caroling for Werner in the family room.  There’d always been the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and caroling in the neighborhood near Princeton’s Snowden Lane.  Could Christmas find us in New Hampshire?

There was a tiny church in the village below the lodge.  It felt very odd to go to church in ski clothes and apres-ski boots.  Instead of a jungle of poinsettias in the Princeton church, but two tiny ones ‘decked’ this austere altar.  Instead of instruments sustaining voices back home, a motley choir with cracking voices sang in a small wooden balcony high overhead.  But it was Midnight Mass, and it did hold all the magic we needed.  And the quivering voices underscored a somehow more memaningful reality.

We drove back up the mountain, past the restaurant where we’d had Christmas Eve Supper.  We’d sat next to a live birch tree, somehow able to live and thrive indoors, reaching for the midnight sky.  Between dinner and church, we’d been astounded by stars beyond counting, which seemed nearly blinding.  But between church and the lodge, no stars.  Instead, white swirls, glistening to be sure, of new snowflakes — no more welcome blessing in ski country at Christmas.

Swiss Santa in Boat

Back in our rooms — it must have been near 2 a.m. by now — we found dark Swiss chocolates wrapped in bright gold foil upon our pillows,.  Pfosi’s had signed lacy old-fashioned Christmas cards with gilt arabesques, such as those which arrived every year from Tante Li, Onkel Joni, Cousin Vera and the rest of the family in and near St. Gallen.  I cannot spell their Christmas message, but we all knew how to say it in Swiss — it sounded like FRO-LIKKA-VIE-NOCKTEN.  One said this with certain notes in our voices which the girls had heard since babyhood..

Frohlichi Wiehnacht Swiss Christmas Card

Diane’s and Catherine’s room was right across the narrow hall from ours.  They burst in, laughing all over.  “Come Quick!  Come Quick!  Carolers!”

We “thrust open the windows, threw up the sash” onto a scene I will never forget.  Snow circled, enfolding us as though we had been transported into the Milky Way. itself, Horses snorted and their visible breath mingled with the flakes.  Yes, sleigh bells jingled.  Tucked into hay in an old fashioned sleigh were male and female carolers, dressed as we had been for Mass, in ski parkas and ski mitts and knit hats.  These voices sounded like tiny silver chimes, like bells, rising into the heavens in celebration.

And we’d thought Christmas was only in our family room…

It wasn’t every Christmas morning that opened on a trail named “Oblivion”!

The Mountain, Waterville Valley

May each of you find your special holiday exactly as you need it this year — and may its real message of Peace on Earth, Good Will, suffuse our entire planet.

Here is an ad from the 1970’s, when we were there:

ski watervi w va NEW HAMPSHIRE PFOSI S LODGE Willkommen! Paul Pfosi, Director of the Waterville Valley Ski School, invites you to enjoy the Swiss-American hospitality of Pfosi’s Lodge. Alodge unique in every way combining old world charm with the most modern American accommodations and conveniences; …

The future would bring Christmas in other realms:

Aspen skiing scene,jpg

In Aspen, we could ski through forests.

In Zermatt, the Materhorn always tantalized:

Zermatt Materhorn from Internet

 

But the slopes held the magic:

 

Swiss skier from Internet

BUT NOTHING EVER TOPPED CAROLERS IN THE HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH OUTSIDE THE OPEN WINDOWS OF PFOSI’S LODGE OF WATERVILLE.

Lumberville (PA) General Store — Unique, Even Outstanding Foods and Welcome

http://thelumbervillegeneralstore.com/ [sign up for notices of SPECIAL events…]

 

Feast by the Fire Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

One of Winter’s Welcoming Fireplaces, Lumberville General Store, PA

How can one be homesick for a place that is not home?  Or actively miss a place, when one is there every few weeks?  This has been my fate since I ‘met’ the renovated Lumberville General Store, on ‘The River Road’ above New Hope.  This emporium of excellence has been eincarnated by brilliant Laura Thompson, aesthetic genius behind the Black Bass Inn across the road.

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Black Bass Inn Lumberville PA Jan. 2017

Bass Inn, Venerable ‘Parent’ Establishment Across Route 32

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A Florida friend and I had set out for Bucks County with Christmas presents for one another in hand,  planning for breakfast at a traditional Lamberville morning restaurant.  Now that she lives in the South, time together needs to be timeless and quiet.  Our destination, that morning, turned out to be rambunctious and raucous, with a line out the door into December’s gelid air.  “We’re not doing this,” I announced.  “I’ve read about new chefs at the Lumberville General Store.  Let’s give it a try.”

Ice Floes on River Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Ice Floes Race Down the Delaware River, Out Lumberville General Store Windows

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Lantern Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Welcoming Lantern on the Mantel

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Pheasant Feather Array Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017Window Decor, Lumberville General Store Haven

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Fireplace Tile Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Fireplace Tile, Lumberville General Store

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Fireplace Gloves ready for Christmas Lumberville General Store Jan. 2017

Even the Fire-Tending Gloves are Decorative!

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Scotch Woodcock, Sage and Ginger Sausage, Hash Browns Lumberville General Store

Scotch Woodcock (home-smoked salmon), gossamer eggs, cloud-like roll, home-fashioned-and-smoked sausage with ginger and sage — and the most ethereal (so-called) hash-browned potatoes of our lives — [Chef Anton’s secret being pre-preparation inspired by The French Laundry] — an hour and a  half  sous-vide… and, o, yes, “We finish them in butter.  Everything’s better in butter.”

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One chooses a room, a table, a fireplace.  One picks up a handy compact clipboarded menu in the main room of the General Store.  One agonizes between their own bacon, quiche with crust that levitates, scrambled eggs in the form of the omelets of France, triple-berry or cheese scones, hearty breakfast biscuit, and the like.  I cannot count the number of friends I have taken there or met there.  All are astounded — even at lunch.  This attention to detail, to sources (“We’re between Manhattan and Philly — purveyors are glad to serve us.”) I seem to remember Anton’s delight in the storied Viking fisheries of LBI for salmon and other fish; and local eggs whose provenance resembles that of works of art.  Their legendary soups are also available frozen to take home, as are those remarkable quiches.  Tall sturdy glass bottles with metal and porcelain stoppers hold (free) refrigerated water for your table, by whatever fireside, or outside, setting you may choose.

While Amy and Charlie and Anton banter with you behind the counter, you can create mixed coffee concoctions to meet your morning needs.  Everyone’s pride in his and her work is palpable.  Their delight in one’s presence is as though you’re guests and they’re cherished hosts in the warmest of homes.

We’ve done any number of Christmas and birthday rituals, wrapped in timelessness that is not the norm in this dire century.  There have been celebration of having recovered visits and even sympathy returns.  Hale or not, merry or sad, by the fire, or with backyard breezes wafting in as guests feast at the sturdy outdoor tables — in this historic setting, one feels blessed.  As well as gastronomically enchanted.

Black Bass Inn Plaques Lumberville PA Jan. 2017

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And afterwards, in most weather (once, even in black ice — a short jaunt), one can walk the foot(e)bridge across my beloved Delaware and its Pennsylvania canal, to Bull’s Island in New Jersey.  There’s even a successful eagle nest visible when trees are less leafed out, one mile below the New Jersey entry to Bull’s Island.  This hefty structure crowns a massive sycamore, almost on the river.  And another eagle nest may be found on the power tower near the Lambertville toll bridge — whose three young fledged on the Fourth of July weekend!  For a long time, the Homestead Farm Market on the Lambertville hill had its scope trained on the nest where these hefty young were “branching” — testing their wings.

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Canal Towpath Delaware River Jan. 2017

Canal and Towpath, Pennsylvania Side

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January Delaware and Canal from Footbridge 2017

Canal and River Alongside/Below Black Bass Inn

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Pennsylvania Canal Towpath and Delaware River

Winter Canal, “Down By the Riverside…”

NJWILDBEAUTY readers well recognize that this haven, which extends far beyond a mere restaurant, constellates most of my passions:   beauty, history, authenticity, gastronomy, and Nature herself — especially my cherished Delaware River.

Places such as Riverton and Burlington NJ, and Perkasie and Sellersville, PA, remind us, along with Lumberville:  Without preservation, we would have little or none of the experiences and photographs on this ‘page.’

This canal was connected to our D&R Canal by an aqueduct at nearby Raven Rock.  Much of New Jersey was settled, in the canal era, beside canal towns.  Before that, the Delaware was the main artery.  Lumberville was named for the trees harvested there and floated down the river to build Pennsylvania and New Jersey in those centuries.  It is a miracle that not only beauty, but even artifacts of those time, let alone buildings, remain.

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I celebrate living in the Delaware Valley, because it is so easy to get to beauty and wildness, and HISTORY, within an hour’s drive or less!  It wasn’t like this in Michigan, which became a state in 1837…  Open your eyes and your tastebuds newly to our surroundings.  Give yourselves these memorable gifts.

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From their web-site — you see, yet another passion, art in general and Delaware Valley Impressionism in particular…

HISTORY

As you can see from the original date stone on the front of the store, our beautiful building has stood on River Road since 1770. Over the years – with ownership passing from local family to local family – the General Store has always honored the same fundamental tradition: providing a place for the community to congregate. While our visitors may not be relying on us for their weekly groceries these days, we’re proud to still maintain the cozy, communal feel that has defined our store’s history.

PAST

This once-sleepy area alongside the Delaware River steadily developed over the course of the late eighteenth century, and with it, the General Store. In 1775, Revolutionary War hero Colonel George Wall, Jr. acquired the land and began personally overseeing the store. He also (modestly) renamed the area “Walls Landing” and created two lumber mills, a grist mill, and a surveying school. By 1825, the store started to serve a dual purpose as the post office of the newly renamed “Lumberville” – a moniker chosen by Jonathan Heed and Samuel Hartley in response to the successful saw mill operations. As the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth, the General Store exchanged hands between the Livezey family and the Heed family.

Over time, Lumberville became a bucolic haven for artists, such as Martin Johnson Heade, who was originally a “Heed” before leaving for Europe to study painting. His romantic landscapes experienced a resurgence in popularity the 1940s, with pieces selling for up to $1,000,000. When the daughter of his nephew, Elsie Housely, became the owner of the General Store in 1939, she ensured Heade’s continued recognition after disassembling his sketchbook and selling the pages to eager dealers and collectors. The store remained in her capable hands until 1973, when the ownership changed again.