Just Your Cup of Tea

Do you have any tea drinkers in your life this holiday season? If you do, this DIY gift is just for you. Tea Trees, also called Christmas Tea Trees, are topiary pieces with arrangements of tea bags in place of tree limbs.

Step 4, Voila!

What You’ll Need:

  • Styrofoam cones (6-inch cones work best, but any size will do)
  • Your choice of individually wrapped tea bags (Remember: the bigger the cone, the more tea bags you’ll need to cover it!)
  • Hot glue gun, with glue sticks
  • Small, round cylinder boxes to use as the “stump”– you can also use a toilet paper roll for this part too, but be sure to use thicker cardboard to create a base to glue to the bottom of it.
  • Wooden stars or other tree top trinkets for embellishment
  • Rocks or rice to put in the “stump” to weigh down the tree

Step-By-Step:

    1. Glue the tea bags, starting at the base of the cone. Place a very fine line of hot glue along the upper edge on the backside of a tea bag. Attach to the cone, holding the tea bag in place until the glue sets.

      The layering in Step 2 should look something like this.
    2. Placing the next tea bag, slightly overlap it over the one that was just glued, covering the Styrofoam cone underneath. How much you overlap will depend on the size of the tree. The goal is to just cover the Styrofoam, so it does not show through. Finish the entire base section before moving up the tree. Repeat the gluing process until you reach the top.

Boho Garland Inspo

The 1960s brought forward a plethora of neat concepts: color television, 9-1-1 services and even Sharpie markers. In addition to these life-changing inventions are the conventional yet free concepts of Bohemian culture. The word “Bohemian” derives from a region in the Czech Republic named “Bohemia.” The French dubbed the nomadic Gypsies and Romany people “Bohemians.”

Notice the example bead pattern and how the beads sizes compare throughout the pattern.
Here is the end of the example strand– you can see the line is threaded through twice and tied in a knot.

Today, boho aesthetic is inspired by creativity and tradition. The core of boho aesthetic is that it is true to who you are and relaxed. What better way to show your personal style than to make a boho inspired Christmas garland? This style is all the rage right now, as most big-name stores are selling similar garlands for upwards to $15 for a 6-foot strand of beaded garland. At that rate, a person will need at least two. But for a fraction of that price, this kit will make you something better.

What you need:

What to do:

  1. Start by picking a pattern for your beads. Example pattern: 60 (6mm and 8mm), 12mm, 16mm, 12 mm.
  2. For your first bead, consider using a slightly bigger bead. For this first bead, thread the bead and string it to the end of the crystal wire making sure to leave 2.5-3 in. of wire.
  3. Take the extra wire and thread it back through the hole of the bead.
  4. Secure the wire with a knot.
  5. String your bead pattern, making sure to keep pushing the beads to the end of the wire strand.
  6. When you get to the end of the strand, repeat steps 2-4.
  7. Take a minute to admire your work!
  8. Hang on wall, staircase banister or Christmas tree.

Where Two Pandemic Puppies Are Today and How They’re Managing Anxiety

The holiday season for many is a time to give and receive gifts. For some this year, the gift may be in the form of a four-legged friend. Adopting and surprising family with a puppy this year may be on some people’s holiday agenda. But for others this season will be a time to reflect on the growing pains the COVID-19 pandemic gave their pups.

At the start of the pandemic, many individual routines shifted. Heather MacKay, who worked in insurance at the time, was doing a desk share pre-pandemic. “I was hoping to start working from home prior to the pandemic,” she says. “And then the pandemic happened, and everyone immediately went home.”  According to PEW Research Center, Heather’s transition was similar to the transition of 71 percent of employed Americans.

Months before COVID-19 sent Heather home to work remotely, she and

Phoenix on her paw-rents boat when she was a puppy.

her partner had begun having conversations about adopting a Great Dane puppy. “Our friends have Great Danes,” she explains. “The breeder they use down south had a co-breeder that was having puppies. It just happened to be at the perfect time.” Phoenix Storm, the Great Dane puppy, was born in February 2020. Eight weeks later, Heather’s breeder drove Phoenix from Alabama to her new home in Maine. Working from home, Heather was able to be with her puppy all the time. “I would take her out and make sure that she was eating,” she says. “There was a lot of education involved as well. I was juggling that.” Heather says she began to see Phoenix’ fondness of having her around. “I noticed she was very attached,” she says. “I believe regardless of the pandemic that would have happened, especially working from home.”

 

 

Phoenix at school, towering over her classmates now.

Aware that puppies need socialization, Heather began looking for outlets for Phoenix. At four months old and 65 pounds, Phoenix began attending school.  “We decided to start her in school/daycare,” she says, “so that she could play and be a dog during the day with natural surroundings and socialization.” Heather added that she brought Phoenix to visit with family members during the worse parts of the pandemic and socially distanced for Phoenix to still get socialization. “She was around chickens, too,” she laughs. “And other dogs and cats.”

Editor’s Letter

     Hello folks,

     I hope all is well! What a beautiful time of year this is, leaves falling and cooler temperatures. I have to say, I’m getting excited for the winter. While I spend most of my time cozy by the wood stove, I also hit the slopes any chance I get. I’ve snowboarded since sixth grade and have to say, I’m not too shabby. Though I avoid the terrain parks at all costs, I manage to stay up at least 75 percent of the time. This winter, I am looking forward to learning to ski. I figured it’s time to test my versatility. I’ll let you know how it goes!

     With holiday season right around the corner, I hope everyone is in good spirits. With the pressure of finals starting to arise, remember to take care of yourself and give yourself a breather every now and then. Get out and go for a walk, FaceTime with a friend or family member from home or watch a couple episodes of your go-to comfort show. 

     Well, that’s all I got for now! Until next time.

Abi Davis, editor.

     Yours truly,

     Abi Davis

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part II

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part I

   “Oh,” he said he remembers saying. “This really isn’t a good place to be.”

     The First Nights

     “We went to the reception center at Bien Hoa,” Rod said. “All they had was tents and they didn’t have sandbag walls on the outsides of these tents or anything. They were still working on that. But they had double-decker bunks.” He began to try to settle in for the night and make the best with what he had. “That night,” he said, “they had blown up the ammo dump down the road and that concussion had just about thrown me off the bunk onto the ground.”

Rod cleaning his weapon while on active duty in Vietnam.

      “We didn’t know what the hell to do,” Rod explained.  “We didn’t have bunkers, we didn’t have holes, we didn’t have any place to get into. So we just kind of stayed low because there was sort of a sand wall.” The concussion of the blast was startling enough, but the weary feelings regarding the unknown felt worse. “They weren’t right around us per se,” he said. “But we didn’t— it was the unknown. I had no weapon, no ammunition. All we had was, ‘Holy shit, where the hell are we?’”  

     “Anyways, I got through it,” he said, shrugging. “The next day, I was able to get a hold of the unit I was going to. I called them up and said listen here, they blew this place up the other night, I don’t have a gun, I got nothing. You guys got to come down here and get me or I’m going to grab a plane and go home.” Rod said he was not joking. “They came down that afternoon,” he said, “on the third day, with the chopper, and picked me and two other guys up and took us to the fire base.”

     His Darkest Day

     “Our base camp,” Rod said, “Blackhorse base camp was named Blackhorse base camp because of the 11th Armored Calvary Regiment. The 11th Armored Calve is known as the Blackhorse Regiment. My unit, the 27th Engineers, helped build that base camp. At some point in there, after I had been in there for a little bit, Colonel Patton, the regimental commander for the 11th Armored Calve…. Colonel Patton was also the son of General Patton, World War II history. But he was regimental commander and he decided that we were going to start pulling a lot more ambush patrols around base.” Rod shifted in his chair. “My unit was going to be one of the ones participating,” he said, dully. “I took out the first ambush patrol for the battalion and trained. Then we started pulling pretty regular ambush patrols.”

     Rod was 20 years old by the time he was moved from that company to another, continuing to lead ambush patrols. Ambush patrols were a disruption tactic used by American soldiers with the objective to find the enemy and prevent them from attacking first. “I was with a company that had a young guy that kept asking me about going on patrols,” he said. “He wanted to go on patrols. He was 17 years old. I kept denying, turning it down.”

Holiday Perspectives: 2021 Seasonal Stressors

     The holiday season looks different for every person. Generally, the holiday season is the busiest travel time of the year. According to a recent article in Travel and Leisure Magazine, travel data on Kayak.com predicts December 22 to be this year’s most popular travel day before Christmas.  Hayleigh Davis, 18, will be one of those travelers. Her road trip will begin at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Penn., and end in her cozy hometown of Raymond, Maine. Davis is in her first semester at the private university studying medical biology. Like any inexperienced distance driver, Davis is anxious about the solo trip.

Davis is in her first year studying biology.

     “I’m not (worried),” she said. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m just trying not to think about it.” Davis shared that she is weary thinking about imminent snow. In Erie, Penn., sporadic snowfall has already started. “I’ve only been on Maine roads in the winter,” she said. “I don’t know how four of the states I have to drive through treat their roads. I don’t know if they’re going to be good at it…. I don’t know if it’s going to be snowing. There’s just a lot of factors that worry me about it.” The drive takes roughly 11.5 hours.

     To make matters more complicated, Davis was unable to get her car’s snow tires put on her vehicle when she visited home in October. “Going to (Maine),” she said, “I won’t have snow tires. Coming back, I will have snow tires.” While home, her car has an appointment with a local mechanic. Hopeful that she will make it home safely, Davis said she is excited for the holidays. “A lot of travelling,” she said. “That’s rough, but.”  

     Davis’ mother, Bethany-Ann MacKay, is stressed about a different aspect of the holiday season. “I’m nervous about how this holiday season is going to work out,” she said. “What I’ve been doing, with what I’ve been hearing, is picked up and grabbed things that I know I’m going to want as far as food preparations for the holiday meals.” MacKay is referring to global supply chain issues creating scarcity of items and inflation of similar products still available. “The holidays to me are about spending time with our families,” she said. “And being together in that regard more so than everything else.” She said that with this in mind, she has been picking up the essentials for her Thanksgiving dinner whenever she is able to find them at the store. 

Wait! Before Tossing Excess or Leftover Halloween Candy, Consider This

     Growing up, a tradition my siblings and I shared was emptying our Halloween bags after a night of trick-or-treating to sort. We called this the great candy trade. We’d bargain with one another, making deals trading Whoppers for Reece’s and Tootsie-Pops for Hershey bars. At the end of the trade, we’d be left with the candies no one liked. Mom would take the extras and put it in a communal bowl for anyone welcomed into the house to take. Eventually though, that bowl would find its way to the garbage.

Consider calling about donations before tossing out your candy!

     But is there a better place for unwanted candy to go, rather than the trash? Here are some options to consider before throwing precious treats away. 

  1. The Ronald McDonald House: The Ronald McDonald House is a nonprofit family and children’s charity dedicated to supporting families with sick children in their time of need. The foundation has many locations and welcomes donations, especially Halloween candy to give to families who may miss out on regular festivities during trying times. Call your local Ronald McDonald House to ask if your local location is accepting donations of candy!
  2. Local Nursing Homes: No matter how old a person is, candy is candy, and we all have a sweet tooth from time to time. If you’re unsure of what to do with you excess candy, call your local nursing home to see if it’s accepting donations!
  3. Freeze It: Unopened candy will stay fresh and ready to pull out and munch on anytime. To avoid a disorganized mess, try a gallon-size zipper plastic bag!
  4. Operation Shoebox: Operation Shoebox is a great way to give back to and support our troops deployed overseas and returning home. The organization is always in need of candy and accepts any and all kinds of candy, as it can be sent at any time. It tries to include a bag of candy in every package it sends. To learn more or request a box, visit: https://www.operationshoebox.com/2020/11/03/halloween-candy/ 

Editor’s Letter

Dear folks,

Hello and welcome back! I hope everyone had a nice summer break and feels ready to take on all that this next semester has in store. Over the summer, I enjoyed my down time but could not have felt more ready for classes to start back up. If you do not know me personally, I am the type of person who likes the structure classes give me.

What a hot summer we had. The cold weather really snuck up on us. Down here in southern Maine, the leaves have just started to turn within the last few weeks. Alas, I am still sporting my Birkenstocks.

As always, I hope that everyone is doing well and I look forward to writing to you again soon!

Abi Davis, editor.

Bye for now,

 

Abi Davis

Getting to the Bottom of the Bottle of Drambuie, Part I

A photo snapped of Rod in the field somewhere in Vietnam.

On January 1, 1967, New York Times headlines buzzed with coverage of a deadly war raging thousands of miles away in Vietnam. By February, journalists hustled to be the first to break news of the quickly deepening tensions surrounding the Vietnam War: “2,000 in Capital Protest War: Clergy and Laymen March in Front of White House.”

Across the country, civilians everywhere were beginning to see the true effects the war was having. Rod MacKay was not oblivious to what was happening around him. “The Vietnam War was starting to become more noticeable, and a lot of stuff was going on,” he said. A young man from small-town life in Maine, Rod was a bright 18-year-old. His family had moved several years earlier to southern California. “Several friends and I had been talking about it one day,” he said. “We knew a lot of people had been drafted and we just had a few drinks one night and decided we were all going to enlist. So, that’s what we did.”

Rod knew the next step was going to be a tough one: telling his family. “First I had to decide to go home and tell my folks I had enlisted, because they had no clue. Which was…,” he laughed. “That was an experience. My mother was very upset. My father looked at me and he was a bit upset, too.” Both of Rod’s parents had served in World War II. “My mother, the lieutenant nurse, and my father the sergeant,” he said. “So, they knew what could possibly happen.”

Rod’s sister Shari, standing with framed photos of her brothers Rod (left) and Craig (right).

Rod’s parents were not the only ones horrified that he had enlisted. His younger sister, Shari, shared in their fear. “It broke my heart because I had heard dad’s stories,” she said. “And everything in the news that was going on at the time—the idea that he would be over there putting himself in such danger—and I know that because of the position that he had. He would be in frontlines and stuff like that, clearing areas in the jungle. Doing all these things that he did, it just terrified me.” Though scared for her brother, Shari knew there was no stopping him. “I knew my brother,” she said. “I knew he wasn’t just there to be some idiot. He was doing what he thought was right for his country.”

Fall Eats: Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

There is nothing more exciting than good soup and grilled cheese, except for maybe when it is homemade. This recipe is not only fast and easy, but also delicious and great for a cozy afternoon at home.

Finished look! What a tasty dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
  • 2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions:

Good soup!
  1. In a pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, until translucent (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add San Marzano peeled tomatoes (juice and all), stock and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered for 12 minutes or until it has thickened.
  3. Add in the heavy cream, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an immersion blender or regular blender equipped to handle soup, puree soup until there are no large chunks left.
  5. OPTIONAL: stir in parmesan cheese.