The search for the perfect tree is not as easy as you'd think...

Two days after Thanksgiving, and the turkey had barely been picked over, before it was time to move on to the next 'Holiday'...This time Christmas and a little trip to a Tree Farm.  'C'mon join us' said Kate failing to inform that we'd be leaving for this little adventure at 8am 'to beat the traffic and the crowds...'

So sleepily, but soon fortified with coffees, our three families hit the road (in this case the New Jersey Turnpike) and headed for Monroe, New Jersey to Lantier Tree Farm, which has been part of our friends' family tradition for a couple of generations.  Lantier did not disappoint, they have it all - the trees (4 different varieties, over 50,000 trees to choose from) the music (carols booming from outdoor speakers) the decorations (a shed full of homemade ornaments and other assorted goodies), hayrides, and of course, the food.  Their funnel cake and hot apple cider are divine and actually worth the 45 minute drive from where we live - not to mention all part of the overall experience.

Funnel Cake - a Jersey Delight
Funnel cake has its origins in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, though these days is most likely to be found in fairgrounds and amusement parks - and in this part of the world, at the Jersey Shore. I had only recently tasted this gourmet(?!) delight and that time it was cold so, at Lantiers, it was compulsory to try their freshly made, hot out of the fryer version.  Basically it is a type of unleavened batter poured directly into hot oil with a funnel shaped jug - hence the name.
Lantier's funnel cake was delicious - light crisp batter, not too oily, that had us all going back for seconds (and thirds and fourths!).

Now my husband actually comes from a family of Christmas Tree farmers, back home in New Zealand.  I'm told that prior to the 1940's, us Kiwis didn't really go in much for the whole Christmas Tree buying thing, probably doing it DIY style and chopping down trees from neighbours' paddocks.  It was in fact the American servicemen, stationed in NZ during World War II who, missing the traditions of home started asking their kiwi counterparts where they could buy Christmas Trees...and so the Christmas tree industry was created - in Auckland anyway.

Misa Trees has been in my husband's family for 3 generations now and is still going strong.  It has kept the children and now grandchildren in summer jobs for many years and is still one of the only true 'tree farms' in the central city (Auckland) where you can wander round and choose a live tree to be freshly chopped (none of those fast-wilting, side of the road specimens here!).  There truly is nothing like the smell of fresh cut pine to bring on a wave of nostalgia.  

Sadly this year, my husband's Uncle Ron, current head of the tree dynasty has had to take a back seat in the day to day operations due to illness.  My brother in law however, has ably stepped in to run things this year and like the true financial analyst he is, (his day job) has been looking at subtle improvements to the business; sales forecasting, upgrading the distribution network and marketing.  Basically taking a leaf out of it's American counterparts' books - kind of like us kiwis copying those US servicemen in the first place!
Now, if he can introduce funnel cake to the proceedings, he might just be on to something...