"For me, it was a magical experience to see twinkling stars, lighted houses of all sizes, barns, churches all arranged about the park," described Terry Reeves, one of the creators who helps bring Peterborough's annual Lantern celebration to life.
The festivities began as a parade in 2018 (which was beyond a hit!). But during the pandemic, the celebration of light has taken a new but equally magical shape. From December 3rd to 5th, beginning at 4pm, take a stroll through Putnam Park, and you'll see just what I mean.
This year's Lantern Installation will draw upon the same theme as last year, "Home Sweet Home." To create the stunning number of luminaries, local makers and artists come together ahead of time to make the magic happen.
"There are quite a number of volunteers making posters, organizing volunteers for the event, doing set up, monitoring the evening times, and taking down the installation," Reeves explained.
Organizers are taking every precaution to keep everyone safe and healthy and ask that folks socially distance and wear masks when others are nearby while visiting the installation.
Reeves also noted, "We are encouraging families to make their own lanterns, and it would be lovely if they walked around the park with their lanterns."
She recalled that last year's event took her breath away and said, "I know that anyone who chose to come felt uplifted by what they experienced. I hope people of all ages come out to see this installation of light, magic and hope."
Patti Powers, Owner of Cheshire Garden
Joy can be found just about anywhere. Some people find joy in painting (I’m looking at you, Bob Ross), in climbing the tallest peaks, or in that first sip of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. For Randy Miller, the joy of his life is creating music and watching the people dance. Randy began playing the fiddle at the age of 22, and he has played fiddle and piano at contra dances and Irish sessions for more than 40 years.
In the summer of 2006, Randy and his band Celticladda headed out for a nationwide tour. Pianist Eric Anderson decided to make live recordings of their isolated instrument tracks just for fun. After an exciting and successful tour, performing all over the United States, Eric shared the recordings with Randy and their guitarist Tom Hodgson. Feeling too close to the music, Randy never listened to the recordings and tucked them away. Fast forward 15 years to the summer of 2021, when Randy found the tapes once again and discovered something amazing. The sound and the energy of the live recordings were electric.
It brought him right back to those dance halls in cities across the country. He knew that he needed to find a way to share his joy with everyone. A wildly successful Kickstarter campaign later, Randy had the funding to produce his first album of these beautiful archival recordings, and it was released to the public in September of this year. Like the title suggests, within this music, Randy Miller is sharing the joy of his life. Each song, be it a modern piece or a 100-year old relic from Ireland, manifests the happiness and comradery of an old-fashioned contradance. Since it’s release, the album has earned a number of accolades, including the Folk Arts Award from the NH State Council on the Arts.
You can find The Joy of Music by Randy Miller and Celticladda on any of your favorite music streaming services. Looking for a perfect gift for the music lover in your family? Copies of the album can be purchased locally at the gift shop at the Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy NH or on Randy Miller’s website where you can also find his book collections of fiddle repertoire. Craving that live music experience? You can see Randy Miller performing fiddle and accordion live every Friday at the Hungry Diner in Walpole NH from 5:30-7pm.
Ivor Edmonds, CEO & Chief Wellness Officer at Sága
Nisu is becoming a bit of a craze these days. A sweet, soft bread people tend to have with coffee or serve on special occasions, it’s almost like a Danish but better. “The dough is sweeter, and I stuff it with whatever kind of jam people like,” described Esther Jalava of Nordshire Farm in Swanzey. She has taken traditional Finnish pastry to a whole new level, infusing it with pumpkin, cream cheese, preserves, or apples and cinnamon. Whatever tickles your fancy really. “They just fly off the table; people go crazy,” she said.
At Christmas time, she makes a menu of other Finnish holiday specialties, including Joulutortut, which are jam-filled cookies, Molasses Rye Bread, known for its smooth texture and mild flavor, and her showstopping Nisu Star, featuring four gorgeous layers of your choice of fillings.
Better yet, each of these delights is crafted with as many local ingredients as possible—milk from Manning Hill Farm in Winchester, Cabot butter and cream cheese and King Arthur Flour from Vermont, Cunning Jams from Fitzwilliam, and of course, Nordshire Farm’s very own duck and chicken eggs. “If I’m doing something and I want local support, then I want to support local,” said Jalava, who also tries to keep things as zero waste as possible. “Almost everything on the farm is turned into something else,” she described.
This lifestyle is really a sweet result of Jalava’s Finnish upbringing, particularly time spent with her grandmother. “We used to spend the summers with her, and she was a huge influence,” Jalava said. She is third generation Finn; her dad didn’t even learn English until starting school. “I guess growing up in America, I didn’t realize all of the Finnish things in our culture until now,” she said.
With nine brothers and sisters, she mostly hung out with family growing up and was immersed in the culture. The pandemic emphasized this connectedness even more. Her five sisters, who were looking for tasty nisu for their own tables, encouraged Jalava to start her baking business. “They’re some of my best customers, but they’re all critics because, you know, they’re all Finnish as well,” she laughed.
Something must be going right though, because Jalava already needs three ovens and multiple mixers for her weekly bakes. She hopes to build something bigger later. In the meantime, find her Nov 19 &20 at Stonewall Farm’s Thanksgiving Farm Fare and on December 11 at Monadnock Regional Middle High School’s 68 Days to End Hunger event.
You can also place a special order right up until Christmas by calling, texting, emailing, or using the chat feature right on Nordshire’s website. Jalava also ships all over, including places like California, Illinois, and Texas. She said “orders are already starting to pour in.” Get in touch and say hello, check out the website to see all their other farm fresh offerings, and don’t forget to bring your Christmas tree by the farm after the holiday. The goats will love it!
Anyone who resides in the Monadnock Region knows that The Toadstool Bookshop is a local favorite, and a perfect place to start your Christmas shopping. Having opened up back in 1972, the store’s owner, Willard Williams, has managed to grow this rare diamond of a bookstore into multiple shops, with its original location in Peterborough, as well as stores in Nashua and Keene. Each shop serves as a bookworm’s paradise, fully equipped with a plethora of new and used books, eclectic vinyls and CDs, locally sourced café sandwiches and beverages, and more.
Williams was the one who spearheaded “Cider Monday” as an antidote to the new age “Cyber Monday” back in 2013. On the Monday following Thanksgiving, Williams offered customers free hot cider and snacks at his stores while they perused his book selection instead of scrambling online to deal with clogged-up, big-business servers. The trend quickly caught on with local bookstores around New England and has since been a surprising success! Local bookstores in Maine, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont have all added their unique touch to Cider Monday each year, with some stores offering discounts for mentioning “Cider Monday,” cider donuts, mulled cider, and more. Trend-setting at its finest!
The Toadstool Bookshops are just a few of the many local stores also participating in “Plaid Friday” (or “Plaid November,” as it’s being referred to this year) – a refreshing take on “Black Friday.” Instead of buying all your goodies from box stores this holiday season, throw on your favorite flannel the day after Thanksgiving and take a walk around any of the Monadnock Region’s towns. Shop local and hang out with your fellow fleece-lined New England dwellers. Your participation will not go unnoticed by the folks who work day in and day out to keep our local economy thriving. Stop by a hub and you can even snap a picture of you in your Plaid Friday best! Happy shopping!
Nichole Bainer, Owner of Modern Saint Living
While there are lots of festivities at this time of year, it's also traditionally a time of introspection. At its darkest point, the year wanes and draws New Englanders in toward the fire, the cookstove, the quilts.
It's a time when you may feel unexpectedly pulled to take a walk and think on these especially challenging last couple years, as well as the hope of what lies ahead.
You may already have a favorite place in nature for just such an occasion, but if not, here are a few that are especially welcoming.
The Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, with its resonant bells and incredible view of Grand Monadnock, is perhaps one of the best places on Earth to take a breath and find peace. Its 236 acres of gardens, memorials, and trails bring people from all over the world, who come to take solace in the sanctuary.
Built in honor of Sandy Sloane, who lost his life serving in World War II, the Cathedral now provides as a public place of spiritual, cultural, and environmental appreciation.
(Photo by Doug Kerr)
In a quiet, historic neighborhood in Jaffrey, you'll find a hidden place of peace just behind The First Church. Built in 2005 with stones brought by members of the congregation and broader community, Jaffrey's Peace Labyrinth is a calming place to pause.
A traditional walking meditation through a labyrinth gives you time to reflect as you follow the pathway. And if you find you need more time to think, continue your stroll through the Memorial Garden there.
Saved from development decades ago, the 16-acre grove at Rhododendron State Park offers up a surreal woodland experience at any time of year, not just in summer when the park is in bloom.
A gentle loop through the forest beneath the tunneled boughs brings you back to nature. With light snow, you can spot evidence of animals and listen for winter birdsong.
It's a lovely and easy spot to tune into yourself and this beautiful place we call home.
In need of a fun, new place to check out on a Friday night? Look no further! The Keene Axe House recently arrived on Main Street, and it is a blast for families and friends of all ages. Owner Jaime Dyer opened up shop this past September, and it’s safe to say it’s been a success. The Axe House gives cozy, log-cabin feels right when you walk in. The fresh smell of pine makes any New Englander feel right at home.
With eight enclosed throwing lanes, it’s easy to have a big party join in on the fun together. Dyer’s pup, Dakota, makes for a lovely mascot. His calm and friendly demeanor is one of the first things you’ll notice when you head into the shop. With that being said, the Keene Axe House makes a note on the front window that it is pet-friendly, so bring your pup if you feel so inclined!
Axe throwing is simple, yet addicting. After Dyer goes over the simple rules with your party, he’ll set the timer for an hour and leave you and your friends to enjoy a little friendly competition. Welcoming and knowledgeable, he periodically pops in to give pointers to those who may not be getting the hang of it right away.
The rules are simple: only one player is allowed in the lane at any given time, and each player gets three throws per turn. The best shot of the three will be counted as your score for that round. Where your axe lands on the board determines how many points you get. The bullseye is worth six points, while the “kill shots” (the spray painted circles on the top right and left sides of the board) are worth eight. The last round is for kill shots only. If you don’t get one, you don’t get any points for that round. Loser has to buy the first round at the next bar. Speaking of booze – the Axe House is an alcohol-free zone for obvious reasons. So you and your party will have plenty of sober fun for the hour of time you paid for!
The Keene Axe House provides a safe, memorable experience for folks of all ages. Be sure to snag a gift certificate this holiday season for that adventure-seeking, adrenaline junkie friend of yours who is always up for trying something new! Call it an axe of kindness.
As a mom slowly coming down from my annual “I’ve eaten all of my daughter’s Halloween candy in secret” sugar high, I will be the first to say that mass-produced candy is fine in a pinch. But the chocolate I’m really dreaming about while I'm hiding in the kitchen cramming fun-sized Snickers into my face is the delectable and exquisite confections from L.A. Burdick Chocolate in Walpole NH. I first visited the chocolate shop and café several years ago during a Christmas shopping afternoon with bestie/boss lady extraordinaire, Caroline Tremblay and found it was like heaven on earth. The smell of cocoa powder and cinnamon combined with the beautiful holiday decorations and the warm atmosphere brought me right back to childhood and made me feel giddy and excited for Christmas morning once again.
After perusing the shop and selecting our bags full of “take-home” chocolate that we both knew wouldn’t make it back to our husbands, we settled in at the window table of the cozy little cafe and watched the town walk by. As we waited for our order to be ready, we snacked on the lovely and signature L.A. Burdick mice, originally purchased for our little ones (sorry kids). And received our drinking chocolate (exactly as decadent as it sounds), a traditional milk chocolate for me, while Caroline went for the single source dark.
These paired nicely with our pastries that were as beautiful as they were delicious. Caroline ordered a Harvard Square, a chocolate cake with walnuts, topped with dark chocolate ganache, while I ordered the prettiest thing in the case, which turned out to be The Burdick itself, with layers of almond meringue and dark chocolate ganache with a hint of rum. We had a sweet time in this lovely place, taking a break from our stressful pre-Christmas whirlwind and getting a chance to enjoy a little of the finer things.
This year is a bit different. L.A. Burdick chocolate is just as amazing as ever but now with even more options for customers. They have a full-service website where you can order special gifts for the holidays, and for local same day orders, they have a curbside pick up option as well. The cafe and store are still open for walk-in business every day of the week. Be sure to take a look at their seasonal releases this year. I have my eye on a box of chocolate snowmen (hint, hint to my Secret Santa).
UPDATE: Many local tree sellers, including Windswept and Homestead Farms, have already sold out for the year! Please contact sellers before visiting to see if they still have trees.
What is it about hauling home a festive fir that inspires us every year to brave the wind and cold to find that perfect Christmas tree? Maybe it’s the fresh pine smell that sends our senses straight into our childhood memories. Perhaps it’s the challenge of analyzing each branch, comparing and contrasting this tree to its neighbors, visualizing it all decked out in ornaments hung with care. Possibly it’s like bringing a friend home for a nostalgic homecoming. I believe it is all that and so much more.
Trekking out as a family kicks off the season of togetherness with camaraderie, laughter and joy. From wagon rides out to the proud tree stands, piping hot cider or cocoa waiting upon your return, or help securing your arboreal prize onto your reluctant Subaru Impreza, there is tons of fun awaiting you at local tree farms.
Windswept Mountain View Christmas Tree Farm in Richmond, NH is well known for its vast variety of practically perfect pines. Catch the tractor ride for a quick trip to the top of the mountain. After you have debated the attributes of each specimen, the tree farmers will cut, shake and bale the tree for easy loading. Stop by the shop for complimentary drinks and browse their selection of holiday ornaments and gorgeous wreaths. Starting November 20th, they are open Saturday/Sunday 10-4pm and will be open the day after Thanksgiving as well. Find them at 323 Fitzwilliam Rd, Richmond, NH 03470. (No pre-tagging this year. Last day Dec.18th.)
If you can’t make it to the North Pole this year, the spirit of Christmas can be found at Homestead Farms in Walpole, NH. Overlooking the magnificent Connecticut River, the 40-acre farm revels in self-sufficiency and treating visitors to a grand farm experience. On the weekends, they offer horse or tractor-drawn wagon rides out to the trees before treating you to homemade donuts upon your triumphant return. On Thursdays and Fridays, you can stroll through the tree stands at your leisure and still have a complimentary donut.
Feel free to leave your saw at home. They have plenty to share and the farmers will even help you load your chosen tree before you go. It’s full-service, so get ready to be impressed! Just don’t forget to peruse the farm stand for local treats, lovely fresh wreaths, homemade treasures and charming gifts. Check their website for days of operation.
Crescendo Acres Farm in Surry, NH grows Christmas trees for sale along with on the farm maple syrup and raising alpacas for fiber. Explore their farm shoppe for sweet treats like maple candy, pure honey, homemade maple syrup and handmade jams and jellies. Treat your toes to some toasty and cozy alpaca socks! Enjoy the adorable felted alpaca items, plush alpaca toys, country crafts and seasonal gift selection. Then, pick out your favorite tree to bring home and light up your home with holiday joy. The shoppe is open Monday thru Saturday 11-4pm throughout the year and 7 days a week in November and December.
Chula Mishra, owner of the new Keene International Market, wanted to open a store where other international residents could shop for cultural food that they grew up with to remind them of home.
“All bellies welcome,” is his motto, and he offers an impressive array of products from many different countries, such as Asia, Europe, Mexico, Italy and more.
Whether it's candy, rice, or spices you're after, be sure to stop in. You will definitely be surprised by what the Keene International Market has to offer. And if it's not already in stock, just ask Chula and he'll do his best to get it for you.
He also plans to have a special section based on a particular recipe with the intention of spotlighting interesting ingredients. Cooking demonstrations are another element he'd like to incorporate. His hope is to collaborate with a local chef to offer easy-to-use recipes and shopping lists in the near future. These demonstrations sound like a great future date night or get together with friends. You could also have a themed party with what your learned and purchased.
Want to savor a touch of nostalgia? Or take a fantastic foodie trip without leaving NH? Stop in to see the variety of products that are available. Exciting and enticing, this new shop at 162 Emerald Street in Keene is a big win for Monadnockers whose love language is food.
One of the places that makes our wonderful corner of this planet so special is a lovely shop on Main Street in Peterborough named Steele’s Stationers. Established in 1860, (since Abraham Lincoln!) they are one of the oldest continuously run businesses in the Monadnock Region. And with good reason!
Visiting Steele's Stationers is a local tradition! Families have been frequenting this gorgeous shop all their lives, making memories and finding friends. Children used to walk there after school, meet up with their parents and score a small toy or puzzle. Now adults visit from far and wide to share their love of Steele’s with their families. Locals especially enjoy the original quaint tin roof, so when you stop by, don’t forget to look up!
Steele’s Stationers is fully stocked with holiday goodies! The kid’s corner has tons of toys that would be so cozy in stockings. The prodigious variety of specialty cigars will keep the gentlemen well-stocked this holiday, not to mention beer soap, multi-tools, and yard games. Scrumptious candles, peaceful puzzles, old-fashioned board games, festive sleigh bells, and paper lanterns turn the long cold days at home into a winter wonderland.
And of course, there is completely unique stationary. One-of-a-kind 3D paper cards, quality note cards and journals inspire you to put down the phone and pick up a vibrant gel pen. Steele’s carries a full line of office supplies, including self-inking message stamps, signs and name badges. So much more than an office store, Steele’s Stationers is your local go-to party hub! Pinatas and parties go hand in hand, but can be hard to find. Steele’s has them in abundance.
Eclectic does not cover the unique variety and creativity this paradise for pen lovers presents. Having owned the shop for over 32 years, what Bill and Liz love most about their life’s work is the community of customers they know by name. Being able to anticipate helping a senior neighbor get her holiday greetings in the mail year after year offers the heartwarming reward of working within your local life.
Stop by Steele’s anytime Monday-Saturday 9-4, but if you wear plaid on November 26th, they’ll have something special in store for you! You can find them on Facebook or their website.