Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Merrier Christmas?

Thanksgiving was great--the folks came to my house, and were satisfied. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike got along, as all the sides were veg-friendly (the gravy was made with vegetarian bouillon, etc.), and everyone loved the green bean casserole, a recipe which was adapted from the Silk soymilk website. (My change was to fry some shallots separately, and mix half of them in the casserole, and put the other half on top.) To me, however, one of the best things about the whole week of Thanksgiving is having sweet potato pie for breakfast, the best breakfast in the world!

I should have known--they want me to host Christmas, too! Actually, that sounds wonderful, as Thanksgiving went without a hitch because I started planning in October, around Halloween, decorating, and all that good stuff.

I like to decorate au naturel, in part because of principle, but also because it's cheap. I mean, why pay for faux leaves when you can, literally, pick them up off the ground? That's what I do--I walk through the neighborhood, and look for dropped pine cones, and for the tree that's dropped small branches of needles, to use indoors as short garlands. Actually, as long as they're still green while on the ground, the pine branches will look fresh for weeks indoors and, of course, dry pine cones are usable forever. (So, again, why do people buy fake ones?)

However, the tricky plant, at least in terms of trying to keep it fresh when cut, is the holly. Fortunately, I have a decent sized holly right outside, with large, glossy leaves, and its brimming with berries, so I decided to test how to best keep them fresh when cut. Last week, I cut quite a few from this tree/bush, and kept half in a plastic bag; the other ones I applied oil to, in an effort to help them keep moisture, in order to keep them fresh longer. Well, last night I peeked in the plastic bag for the first time in almost a week, and those holly branches look fresher than the ones that I babied with all the oil! [Another year, I tried Future floor polish as a holly preservative, which worked for a couple of weeks, but made a mess in the house, as you can imagine, when it began to dry in the bowl in which I dipped the plants. ]

Let's not even discuss those lovely tiny stone pine and rosemary plants available at Whole Foods for the holidays, as they tempt me to take them home, and promptly kill them with my black thumb! (However, I have found that rosemary branches do quite well when kept submerged in water, whether on the table or in the refrigerator. Just change the water every few days...whether they retain enough flavor to use for potato dishes is another matter, though.)

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This may be the time of year to consider when, and how, to give gifts to colleagues and other business associates. Of course, sites offering gift ideas are a dollar a dozen, but there are also websites with guidelines on appropriate corporate gift-giving (and not just from American Express), knowledge which makes the holidays less stressful already!

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