Semester's Close

I love this time of year. Last night, when I realized that the weekend was over and I had to go back to work the next day, I didn't even mind. It's quiet at the office because all of the students are either buckled down finishing the last of their finals, or quietly packing up and slipping away home. I share that feeling of relief (finally done!) now that I'm a student again, too--my final paper is all but submitted (ABS), and I had my last class this evening, just watching some PowerPoints. One of the groups that presented last week gave out free toothbrushes to everyone in the class: early Christmas present! I actually do see it that way: I like toothbrushes, and dental hygiene in general. I floss every day, brush morning and night, and sometimes after lunch. And take a multivitamin every morning. These are like religious rituals, the things I do each day to ensure good health and long life and tooth retention.

We finally got our Christmas tree this weekend. Nay, our two trees. We got a real one from the garden center down the road, and a bright silver one from--of all places--Urban Outfitters. I've looked everywhere for just the tree I want, silver or white and kind of sparse, but there was nothing at Target, nothing at the hardware store, I even tried KMart and Macy's and Michael's and some other far-flung places. And then we wandered into UO yesterday and practically tripped over just what I was looking for. I'll try to get some pictures soon.

The real tree is looking a little bare right now as it awaits its gingerbread adornment. I always do gingerbread ornaments. My parents got an artificial tree when I was little, but when I was in high school they started augmenting the big fake tree with a little real one in the kitchen, because my mom missed the nice smell. Since all of our ornaments went on Big Fake, we needed something else to put on Little Real, and I volunteered to make cookie ornaments. I usually just pick one or two shapes for all the cookies. The first year I did Hippos and Hearts. Another time we did all gingerbread men. Last year, when Stephen and I had our own tree for the first time, we made moose-shaped cookies. I think I might go back to hearts this year, for simplicity's sake. Plus, I've been doodling a lot of hearts lately. I don't know what that means, but I have to be careful about it, because you can't just sit in a meeting or class and doodle hearts all over your notebook. People would talk.


Christmas Prep

Whoops. I didn't make pickles after all. Waited too long and the dill went bad. This is what they would have looked like, though. (The picture is from August, but the red and green is festive, no?)

Instead, I made oranges full of cloves. Not for eating, for looking at and smelling--and how! Those things smell fantastic. An orange-and-clove scented breakfast table is just the thing with one's morning bowl of Rice Krispies.

That's pretty much the only decorating we've done for Christmas so far--no tree yet. I really ought to get going on that, because I want two this year, a real one and a fake one. Here's my reasoning: The real one will smell good and look nice. But I like to keep the tree up through January, and that doesn't work so well with a real tree, because it dries out after a couple of weeks and starts shedding needles and posing a fire hazard. And if you miss the two-day window during which Public Works will truck it away, you must dispose of the thing in a sneaky fashion, as we did last year by cutting it up and hiding it in garbage bags. Lots of drama and intrigue.

So the plan this year is to enjoy the real one until the pick-up deadline, then bask in the glow of the fake one for the rest of the Christmas season (which, as far as I'm concerned, ends a month after the holiday--else how could I get through the long, dark chill of January?)

But not just any fake tree will do. Just as I dislike vegetarian food that pretends to be meat (faux grill-marked Boca Burgers, I'm looking at you), I don't like fake trees that try to look real. If I'm going fake, I'm going fake all the way. Right now, I'm thinking something silver or white. I haven't found just the right one yet, but I know it's out there. The hunt is on!


Cupcake Overload

It was Stephen's birthday last week, so we have a lot of leftover cupcakes sitting around the house now. Why doesn't Betty Crocker make half-batches of cake mix? You can't help but make two dozen. I've been eating them for breakfast and for dessert, but we've still got about 10 left in the fridge. It's funny how breakfast and dessert foods are so similar--not bacon and eggs, I know, but danishes and donuts would feel just as right after dinner as they do first thing in the morning. Moreso, even. Or they should, but people would probably think it wrong to serve muffins for dessert. But what is the Muffin, after all, if not Cupcake's unadorned cousin with pretensions of nutritiousness?

Sometimes I try to imagine what visitors who have never experienced American/Western cuisine find strange about our food. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches probably seem kind of gross. (Peanuts processed into a fatty spread? Combined with gelatinous berry goo? Sandwiched between slices of bread? Yum.) And cereal with milk. ("It's like a soup, served cold. With two ingredients--milk and bits of dry cooked grains.") And hot dogs. Even we don't like to think too much about hot dogs.

Anyway, so now Stephen's a year older, and we've got all these cupcakes in the fridge. Our Fair City received a blast of frigid arctic air this weekend, but the radiators are keeping drafts at bay, and the garden center down the street is selling Christmas trees. Midnight Madness is this Thursday. Oh, and I bought pickling supplies! So I'm planning to make some homemade pickles today. Those will go nicely with the cupcakes, I'm sure.