19 December 2007

Too bad about the spangly dresses

I am wondering why my header is all the sudden looking so squishedy. Any web design geniuses (*cough*my brother and brother-in-law the designers?*cough*) have any idea why this is happening?

Again I have totally failed in the blog-as-advent-calendar idea. What with the traveling and the no internet while traveling, and the crazy days and--one must not forget--my laziness, the blog has taken a back seat.

But because Christmas is in only six days, here I am to rectify the situation! And to tell you about various Christmas related activities of the past few days. (The nice thing about blogs is that if you get bored, there is a solution: STOP reading.)

Oh, but the first thing I have to tell you about wasn't really Christmas related at all. I promised I'd explain about the whole band-at-our-house event. You see, my cousin, who rocks (literally and figuratively), knows a guy who is on tour in Europe with his band for a couple of weeks. They arrived for a one-night stay in Brussels, after a gig in Antwerp and before another in Denmark, only to discover that their lodgings have fallen through. They went to a café, and via the magic of the web, in a few short minutes they had talked to Anna, she had written to me, and I had talked to the band, giving them directions to my house.

An hour later four scruffy guys with guitars and a keyboard shuffle through my door. They were super nice, and I took them to the best little beer pub in Brussels (which happens to be around the corner from us) as well as to the frites stand across the street, all of which were met with rave reviews. Back at home, I pulled out all of the sheets and blankets and mattresses we have and they spread out in the living room. It wasn't the Ritz, but I'm sure it beat sleeping on the street.

Anyhoo, that was last Wednesday, and even though none of the Christmas parties that have filled our time since then justified buying one of the 75 million sparkly dresses that fill the stores these days, all of them being more on the slacks-and-a-sweater side of dressy, we've had some nice and Christmasy celebrations.

Last week, the social event ladies in the choir (you can tell which ones they are; they have the perfectly coiffed hair and the perfectly tailored Euro-dame clothes) put on a wonderful party. I thought it would be a slightly upgraded version of our usual beer break in the multi-purpose room of the school where we practice. But they actually transformed the place; you would never have guessed where you were, had you not walked through a hallway lined with absurdly low coathooks and hand-print paintings to get there. There were silver candelabra and candles everywhere, fine linens, lots of greenery and Christmas lights, homemade Christmas treats (rather British in emphasis, with mince pies and Marmite-flavored crackers). There was lots of champagne, and a group of instrumentalists to regale us with Christmas music. And, as we are a choir, and as we had ingested lots of the aforementioned Champagne, there was a lot of loud singing along. And as you might know, Christmas carols always make me happy.

Monday, after our flight back from Barcelona, the Mister and I invited some friends over for Christmas cookie decoration. Several of them had NEVER decorated a Christmas cookie, and had NEVER seen the use of food coloring in a home kitchen, fascinated (and a little wary) of the brightly-colored drops I was mixing into the vats of sugar icing. In Spain, cookies tend to be bought, not made, and the whole idea of Christmas cookies is a rather less colorful and more traditional than that of the Americans, focused on two types of sweet that aren't really cookies, turrons and pulvorons. But they loved it, we had a great time, and I was thrilled to introduce them to this quintessential Christmas experience. I also made a pumpkin cheesecake, because I had a pumpkin (bought for the purpose of seeing if I could make my own puree) and a big vat of mascarpone cheese. It turned out...just OK. I have to admit I missed the Libby's, and the cheesecake turned out to be European-style, which is to say, much less sweet, and missing that delicious cream cheese taste.

Last night, we went to the annual Christmas dinner at the Mister's boss' house. This is always a nice evening, and full of tasty food, during which we also do the "amic invisible" (invisible friend, or in our lingo, secret santa) and the "caga tió" (hitting of the pooping log). I have to complain a little bit regarding this event. Every time we suggest including a price range for the gift, the idea is shot down. The reason we always suggest it is that every year, the boss' wife inevitably overspends, and everyone knows which presents are hers because of how nice they are (a tailored shirt, a brand-name pajama set, a silky set of lingerie, a sweater...). Just as inevitably, someone gets stuck with a lame gift, and this year, it was me.

I opened a crumpled brown bag to find inside one unwrapped, smallish, beeswax candle. I object not as much to the gift itself, but to the way it was presented. A crumpled brown bag? The Mister and I spent a long time deciding on the gifts that we bought with the recipients in mind, and made sure they looked nice in pretty wrapping paper. Initially as I opened the gift I thought it was one of the new guys who had never been to this event before, and was inclined to chalk it up to inexperience. But I found out later who they had, so by deduction know that my gift was from one of the guys who has been coming the longest to the gift exchange. Sigh. What could I do but to smile nicely and proclaim how much I love candles? Which I do. But not so much the brown bags. And in the end, I accidentally left the gift sitting in the foyer of their house, so perhaps there was some subconscious desire to publicly reject the gift, even if consciously (and ironically) I was terribly worried that the gift-giver would think I hadn't liked it.

That brings us to today, and tonight's not-technically Christmas event, a joint birthday party for two friends. I have to go and find some presents, and I want to go swimming because it's been FAR too long since I have done any exercise, especially given the increased calories involved in making cookies and cakes and attending parties. Tomorrow we fly back to Barcelona, this time for all of the holidays! It will be the first time since the summer that we'll have more than just a couple of days there, and I'm looking forward to staying put for a while. In a place where the sun is capable of warming you up. Internet will be spotty, but I'll try to post from time to time.

Cheers to you and yours!

No comments: