O Christmas Tree

For two weeks,  Christmas music has made me weepy. Christmas is BY FAR my favorite time of the year. Why then is Jingle Bells reducing me to sniffles? One phone conversation with my brother detailing my family’s holiday activities clarified my weepy demeanor: Varun and I lack Christmas traditions. Because we have lived far away from family, we’ve always traveled on the holidays and not created our own Christmas traditions.  This, I’m realizing, is part of living in a multi-cultural family: the loss, creation, and continuation of traditions.(Actually, this happens in any marriage. I’d guess it’s protracted in a multi-cultural marriage with two vastly different religious backgrounds).

I was feeling sad and nostalgic because Varun wasn’t jumping on the Christmas bandwagon. DUH. The man didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas and enjoys goofing the words of Carols . He just doesn’t get emotional about Christmas. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and develop family traditions that I love and enjoy and that we can share as a family. The first order of business was the Christmas tree.

I had an elaborate plan that involved Bailey’s and hot chocolate, a Christmas tree farm and us. Unfortunately, Varun had a terrible cold and we are running out of free afternoons. While buying groceries this Saturday Vasudha and I found the solution: pre-wrapped Christmas trees in the Food Basics parking lot: $20. For a moment, all I could hear was the voices of my past shouting in indignation at this flagrant disregard for All That Is Right And Christmasy. And then I thought, “Ya know what? This is our Christmas tradition. This is a No Stress, No Guilt Zone”. So I bought it, we stuck it out the side window of the car, and drove home.

I forgot to mention. Last year we almost got a tree. Until we saw a posted notice in our (old) building that warned us that Christmas trees were forbidden because they are ( if you leave candles and lights and kerosene on them) a fire hazard. We considered smuggling, but the trail of needles leading to our door would have been a dead giveaway. Therefore, for our third Christmas as a married couple, we are proud to present, our First Christmas Tree.

Thankfully, our neighbor-friends-teammates lent us a Christmas tree stand.

Apparently, trees sold at Grocery stores are wrapped extremely tightly. Ours is still opening up…

This just might be Christmas card material…except for the Movember ‘Stache and the goofy grin. (This guy never ceases to crack me up.)

Keeping it simple. Lovely glass icicles were given to me by my Mom.

But you know what made it sink in that it’s actually Christmas? Hearing the first Advent reading at Church today, from the Gospel of Luke. More than the lights and cookies and tree and awesomeness that is Christmas, our most important, shared experience is celebrating the birth of Jesus.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God iwill give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38

What are you looking forward to? How do you prepare for and celebrate Christmas? And the answer to the age-old question, when do you start listening to Christmas music?

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American Thanksgiving

Can I just say that the number of texts and Facebook wishes from my Canadian friends wishing me a Happy (American) Thanksgiving was lovely?! It was! This blog is a NAFTA dream come true. Anyway. Our thanksgiving celebrations were fantastic.

Vasudha and I baked two pumpkin pies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a delicious/amazing apple pie (recipe to come). Also we made guacamole. And magic cookie bars (Not magic brownies, although there was some confusion about that). We went to an American friend’s house for a potluck dinner on Friday (ie, “American Thanksgiving in Canada Day”) and feasted on turkey and stuffing while discussing immigration woes and what brought us to the Cold White North.

We had so much fun that I forgot to take pictures. I heard more confusing and hilarious stories from Varun’s childhood and had a ton of fun having a sister (-in-law) around to do girly things like bake, shop and straighten hair. All told: it was a fantastic, tiring and still-happening-weekend. If you’ll excuse me, I have a few Indian Buddies to beat at Monopoly Deal.

The Lasagna Challenge

Having gone to a Catholic high school, nearly everyone I knew had Irish or Italian roots. To me, that’s normal. So I suppose in my blogging, my Southern Pennsylvania culture doesn’t come up much. This, of course, is why God gave us sisters: for correction inspiration. Enter the Lasagna Challenge. After a conversation that included the sentence, “What do you mean you don’t cook lasagna?” and “Please tell me you own a coffee pot…Okay, at least a tea kettle!?”, my sister has challenged me to venture into the realm of cheesy goodness that is my Italian side. So, once a month for the next three (at least) months, I will make a lasagna a month and tell you ALL about it.

Now, in my defense, I don’t regularly make lasagna (errr–Ever. Mom: How have you never made lasagna? What did I teach you, anyway?) because I find the cheese to be an expensive add-in. But let me tell you, I made Classic  Lasagna last night and it was delicious, and so worth it!

I forgot to mention the last part of the challenge: I have to follow the directions. All of them. Without skipping or improvising. This is SO. HARD. I had to stop myself yesterday from throwing in random veggies, cutting out cheese, etc. Actually, let’s be honest. I’m terrible at directions and ended up getting so distracted by them that I ended up with four extra noodles (Mom: That’s because you missed a layer. Me: No, it’s because they put too many noodles in the box)(Loved the running commentary of my Mom on the phone who told me her grandparents would be rolling in their graves to know I wasn’t using hard-boiled eggs in my lasagna. We agree that’s just too gross to consider).

In terms of cost, it’s fairly cost-effective:

ricotta: 5.58
no boil noodles: 1.99
pasta sauce: 3.99
mozzarella: 4.98
parmesan; 5.00
basil: 1.79 = 23.33

8 portions: $2.91/portion

Oh, and a word about ricotta cheese. In my world, this is a staple and is delicious and should be in every grocery store. However, I’m not sure whether it’s a Canada thing or a not-Italian-city thing or a living-inner-city thing, but ricotta was a two-grocery-store-item. I was not amused to have to hunt for ricotta cheese. But I’d say that’s a first world problem. I digress.

Bottom line? Lasagna is a great dish to make for company as it’s filling, makes the house smell amazing and bakes while you wash dishes and shove things in closets clean.

Have a favorite lasagna recipe you’d like me to try? Or, want to bribe me to make lasagna for you? I accept bribes in the form of pumpkin spice lattes, brownies and cash.

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