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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Christmas Preparations

As some of you may know, I traditionally spend my day after Thanksgiving doing a marathon baking and getting the boxes and boxes of decorations out of the attic--all done with the help of a LOT of friends and, in recent years, my mother!  Clearly, this year such a marathon was not in the cards--can you imagine me doing my Christmas baking with a 2' x 3' counter top and running back and forth down the hall to an oven about half the size of mine?!--but I wasn't going to let Christmas go without any acknowledgment!

In part, I was able to stick to that resolution because the weather cooperated.  The only snow we got at all this year was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 26, so the weather got me revved for the holidays.  As you can see, though, the only snow we've had so far this winter was a pretty woeful amount.  Yes, it doesn't take much to get me excited--or slipping and sliding on the sidewalks, for that matter!

Yes, that's looking out my window at the construction site out back (BTW, I was just told that the guys will be on half schedule starting on the 20th for 2 weeks and won't be working at all Dec. 24-26.  Yippee!  No jackhammers o' Christmas!).  I've always wondered how they'll be able to keep working once the snow hits; I guess I should find out soon, although we haven't had any snow or even ice since this one.

The 26th was also one of Finland's "flag days."  These seem to be national days of remembrance--holidays, days of big current events, days deemed worth commemorating--and at that time people everywhere hang the Finnish flag somewhere on the buildings.  What I find funny about it is that I didn't even notice all the flag poles until I experienced the first one in late August (I think).

In any case, the snow inspired my one and only foray into Christmas baking.  Yes, I couldn't let a year go by without any baking, but I figured that my "nieces and nephews" in Washington could happily live without international treats so that kept the volume down.  In fact, here was my entire Christmas bakefest.

That comes to about 10 dozen lemon cookies: 3 for the Collegium Christmas party, 2 for another Christmas party the week before, 2 for the staff here (who've been so nice), and 2 for ME!  (Hey, I LOVE the lemon ones.)  It turns out that ginger cookies are pretty old hat here, and while I've been told they have molasses, I haven't been able to find anything that I was certain was molasses in the grocery stores.  With that in mind, I went for one of my more "exotic" cookies, and I learned at the Mexican party that these were a big hit.  Not one to let a tried-and-true good thing go to waste, I settled myself down in the communal kitchen for my mini-bake fest and brought appropriate entertainment.

Extra cookies next year to anyone who guesses the movie!  Title and correct year, please. :-)  (If the movie got too grim, I  switched to Bruce Springsteen or Roxette for a little holiday boogie.  Poor Ted couldn't decide what his role was in this party, so he supervised the cooling cookies and even managed to get glaze on his forehead and hip and--I kid you not--right between his eyes.)

Unfortunately after that time got away from me--or should I say laziness and the short daylight caught up--so it took me most of the next week to get around to buying and putting up my final batch of Christmas decorations.  I'm quite happy with them, though.

Yep, those are little, tiny Christmas trees.  Unfortunately, they are artificial so no great smell, but can you seriously imagine me getting a real tree and trying to find a place for it, much less decorate it so that it could survive Ted, in this apartment!  As it is, I found these little guys in a store, and they came pre-lit and with a really solid and nicely decorative base.  Add little, blue, glass ornaments--this is Finland, after all, and the national colors must be respected--install them on the deep window ledges I have here, and, voliĆ , instant Christmas.  Not trusting my ability to figure out how a Finnish light timer works, I just plug and unplug them normally, but they really do make a nice atmosphere--and are very, very cool looking from the outside.  (Yes, I went and checked.)

It's really nice to have something homey in this somewhat stark room, especially since I know I'll spend a lot of time in here over the next several weeks; the university is closed until after the 1st, and while my keys can let me in and out, I find sitting alone in an office 100 times more creepy than sitting in my apartment--where I alternate actually between the apartment and the common room with its big picture window.

You can see, too, that the decorations keep evolving.  I've now put my fruit and a few packages up by the one on the right, and the one on the left still has the candles next to it.  Also, as a carryover from Independence Day, I put the little Finnish flags that came with my cakes in the base of the tree.  Don't know why, but they make me smile.

Now I'm off to see about online Christmas cards.  I know they do these things; I just have no idea how they work.  Hmmmmm.  Maybe more football's in order instead. :-)

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