Remember those Hallmark commercials when we were kids? The family would tromp through a winter wonderland where they would find the perfect Christmas tree. They would cut it down, pull it back to their log cabin on a sleigh where they would decorate it with their million dollar collection of Keepsake Ornaments.
Yeah, right like that would ever happen!!
To say that my Mother was creative when it came to our family's Christmas trees when I was a child would be an understatement. We were three ladies, living on a hairdresser's salary in California. So the beautiful trees at the fancy Tree Farm were out of the questions. Sure we went there every year, we rode the hayride, drank the hot cider and ogled the decor in the gift shop. But we never purchased the spendy specimens found in their lots.
My Mom had other plans for our nod to this traditional Christmas decoration. There was the year that we headed to the lake where we cut down a Manzanita tree. Oh and who could forget the year that we decorated our silk ficus? Yes, my Mother had an amazing way of turning lemons into the most spectacular lemonade. The year did come when there was enough extra to purchase an artificial tree, which from then on did the honors in our home. We hated that tree. We mocked my Mom year after year, secretly wishing for her less conventional options.
Yesterday morning we loaded up our family and headed up to the mountains. Into the back of our all wheel drive rig (that is what we call any vehicle in these parts) we tossed in a saw, hot chocolate, blankets and snack. For 5 bucks they let you cut your own tree on public land. (Had this been available when I was a kid we would not have tempted fate and the law with that Manzanita. I do hope the statutes of limitations is up!)
Now, in years past this process has taken hours. It usually begins with us loading up the truck and heading up Fox Hill Road. About half way up this steep climb, our two wheel drive pick-up begins to slide backwards and I begin to panic. Thankfully my husband does not. He simply backs down the road and finds another location. We always end up somewhere up Spring Creek. By then I am in a bit of a foul mood (I know my family would call it more than a bit, but they are not writing this are they?) and will settle for nothing less than perfection. It takes hours for me to look over each tree in the forest. By the time the light begins to fade I make a quick pick. When we get it home my ever patient hubby trims and shapes my poor choice into something presentable.
Back to yesterday. We left the house at 8:45 am and made the brilliant move to stop at Starbucks on our way (everything is better when there is a latte in your hand). Instead of attempting Fox Hill in a two wheel drive we headed straight up Spring Creek in our AWD. The roads were icy, but the hottie behind the wheel got us up the mountain safely. I, of course decided to begin looking for a tree where the road dropped off on a sheer cliff (I have never claimed I was much of outdoors woman). We scrambled down and into a beautiful grove of trees. Now for those who have never hunted down a wild Christmas Tree, let me take a minute to explain. Trees growing in groves are extremely deceptive. They look all full and lush, but only because they are all smashed together. It is not one full well rounded tree, but three or four scrawny ones huddling together for warmth that you are seeing. So as the kids found an icy patch of snow to slide down on their bellies a la penguin style David and I searched for the elusive Christmas tree. With in 30 minutes we had two beautiful specimens loaded onto the top of the Santa Fe and were headed back down the road. They didn't even fall off on the freeway. Whew!
Now, this may not have been nearly as exciting as my Mothers law-breaking adventures, but we did have a pretty nice time as a family. Maybe Hallmark wasn't as wrong as I thought when I was a child. Maybe the Hallmark people just live in Oregon.
Tortilla Soup (a great way to warm up after the "hunt")
1 lg. ripe tomato
1 lg. onion chopped
1 clove garlic
6 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Put tomato in broiler 8-10 min. Peel skin, put into blender.
In a small amount of oil cook oil and garlic, cook until onion is transparent. Season and add to blender. Blend.
Transfer to stock pot and add broth. Cook until slightly thickened.
Cut tortillas into strips and fry in corn oil. Cut Avocado into chunks and put some into each bowl. Add soup and top with cheese and tortilla chips.