Maybe there is something to this jingle bells stuff. No sound evokes Christmas more than the rhythmic ringing of a horse's harness bells. Maine has plenty of places to hear such a thing — just about every community in the state with a holiday celebration has a team of horses to haul revelers around town, usually decked out in red and bells and clopping contentedly along before a hay wagon. But to actually go for an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods sort of sleigh ride, you have to look around. That search might take you to High View Farm in Harrison, where the Winslow family offers genuine sleigh rides through the meadows and woods of its 100-acre farm. Their Belgian draft horses pull a traditional sled — a three-seater that once brought guests from the Danville Junction train station to the Poland Spring Hotel — and you and yours can bundle up under blankets and enjoy a merry and magical whisk through the forest. Snug up beside Long Lake, the Greater Sebago town of Harrison is a picturesque land of hills and water, and High View Farm sits tall enough to take in a lot of it. "We can see into the western mountains from Pleasant Mountain" says Bill Winslow. "We take guests down over the top of a ridge, into a valley and the woods, and then take an old county road." The Belgians are happy to pose for pictures as well, and if Old Man Winter doesn't cooperate, there's always the hay-wagon. The trip is $50, plus $5 per person. Add the bonfire and cocoa package (with marshmallows), and you're looking at an additional $35. Parties numbering more than fifteen are $2.50 for each additional person. And yes, the horses do wear bells. "I have a string of antique jingle bells over one of the hanes, that's part of the harness," Winslow says. Sounds merry. Call the Winslows at 207-583-2204. www.high-view-farm.com Making Whoopie
Every son or daughter of Maine loves a good whoopie pie. The hamburger-shaped chocolate cakes are about as close to pastry perfection as one might find, all cocoa-y and filled with cream. And apparently Amy Bouchard of Isamax Snacks is good at baking them. Oprah thought so. She featured Bouchard's classic whoopie pies on her show in November 2003 and mentioned them again on her Web site last year. Boston's Phantom Gourmet likewise gave Bouchard's Wicked Whoopies the nod for the past two years, and the Food TV Network has come calling as well. Not bad for a small start-up business in Gardiner. Bouchard began making her pies professionally in the kitchen of her home more than a decade ago, after they became legendary among her friends and family. Now, with more than four million sold — in one week she burned out the motors of four mixers — she's ensconced in a bakeshop in Gardiner, turning out almost two dozen different varieties of whoopies (raspberry and cream, pumpkin, maple, and more) to the tune of 5,000 a day. (In September she opened a shop in Farmingdale as well.) Those not lucky enough to live within driving distance can still order up to a dozen online at www.wickedwhoopies.com
and have them shipped to your door. As Oprah noted, a box ($24) of these babies makes an excellent gift. Visit the Web or call 877-447-2629 for details.Trees and Trains
The McLaughlin Foundation in South Paris always seems to have something tasteful going on for the holidays. This year it's the Trees and Trains exhibit, scheduled for December 9 to 11 and built around an impressive model railroad display. Local schoolkids built the train stations, and the Maine Garden Railway Society constructed the railroad. Together they make a spectacle, in addition to the McLaughlin Barn bedecked with holiday fineries, which is always a must see. The gift store will be fully stocked and refreshments will be available. Call 207-743-8820 for details.Sugarloaf Snowshoeing
Is that kid of yours asking for snowshoes for Christmas? But you don't want to shell out the big bucks before she's even tried a pair of these winter walkers? You're in luck. Every Saturday, Sugarloaf USA, the resort best known for its superior skiing, offers a guided "Snowshoe Safari," a tour through the woods on and around Maine's second-highest mountain. Quick and easy, these jaunts are a fine introduction to snowshoeing, and they explore some stunning terrain on the resort's 100 kilometers of trails. The guided tours are a deal at $20 (about what you'd pay to rent the shoes alone). You get to stomp around with a Sugarloaf employee who'll show you the proper technique and talk about the woods you're traversing. Real bargain hunters will want to show up after 3 p.m. on any given day, when snowshoes can be rented for a measly $4. Call 800-THE-LOAF for details.One-Stop Shopping
Don't you wish that, among all those catalogs you receive in the months prior to the holidays, those forests of glossy pages that weigh down your mailbox, there was one devoted to all things made in Maine? Well there is such a catalog — online. At www.mainemade.com
you can find all manner of Pine Tree State products, from apparel to jewelry, art to boats, books to gifts, food to furnishings. Colorful and easy to navigate, the site is sponsored by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and it allows access to more than a thousand Maine enterprises, small and large. Each member gets a page for show and tell, with a blurb describing their products and contact information. The state has done a fine job putting together the list of vendors, so you know they'll be reputable and worthy of the Made-in-Maine label. Not quite as easy as a glossy catalog — but much more rewarding. Click over for more information.Make a Wreath
Ask a UMaine student to point you toward Page Farm, and you might well get a blank stare in return. Though it sits right on the Orono campus, the Page Farm and Home Museum is something of a secret, even to the college kids who pass by it everyday. The collection housed in the post and beam White Farm Barn, the centerpiece of the museum and the last original agricultural building at UMaine, built in 1835, is considered the state's most important assemblage of farm equipment and artifacts chronicling Maine's rural past. Largely exploring the heyday of farming Down East — 1865-1940 — the museum features a carriage house, a blacksmith's shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a period kitchen, parlor, and bedroom, and a quarter acre summer garden filled with heirloom herbs, flowers, and vegetables in addition to its photos and farm implements. It also sponsors workshops during the holidays. On December 1, the museum will hold a wreathmaking class from 5:30 to 8 p.m. during which you can wrap balsam tips around a ring and add ornaments to make the traditional decoration for your front door. Make your wreath yourself and it will mean all that much more. The $15 fee gets you in the door and pays for materials. Call 207-581-4100 for details.