Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Relaxed Christmas

Thanks to Christmas falling on Thursday this year, coupled with a change in hours at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Elly had the week of Christmas (Monday through Thursday) off, a rare thing in retail. I took Monday and Tuesday off from work, and worked from home Wednesday morning, so we got to spend the week together.

Apart from some grocery shopping in midtown KC (where we live) on Monday, I didn't leave home. I can't recall the last time I was home for three days in a row without getting in a car once. It was such an enjoyable and relaxing holiday. The only way it could have been happier and more fun is if Samba, our dog who passed away in July, were still with us. We do have a new pup on the way, though, which helps.

We spent the time watching birds at our backyard feeders, cooking holiday recipes, listening to Christmas music, reading, watching Christmas movies, and enjoying each other's company. I wrote out nine Christmas cards to family and friends, Monday morning, a little late, I know, but most of them arrived on Christmas Eve so it worked out well.

These are three house finches and two goldfinches on our niger feeder, which we moved up to one of our hackberry trees. The goldfinches love the new location. We've seen as many as six at a time on the feeder. That is a lot for an urban backyard. At least for our urban backyard.

Years ago we scaled back on Christmas presents, which not only saves a lot of money but also reduces time spent wrapping. That leaves more time for everything else. It is better for the environment, too. If holiday shopping doesn't increase every year, the shopping season is supposed to have been a failure. Just calling it the "shopping" season is a symptom of what is wrong. How much of this stuff do we need? What is the cost to the environment? To future generations? Should we be measuring our success by how much more we consume each year? I heard on the radio today that shopping was down 8 percent in the United States this holiday season. I wish that were cause for celebration rather than lamentation.

Enough of that! Here is a Christmas ornament my grandmother made for me in 1974. Elly and I have been giving each other Christmas ornaments for years, but my grandmother's ornament is the oldest one we have on the tree by a long shot.

Elly is pretty much the master of the clever gift card. Here she is hinting about the library I need to build.

Naturally, the hint occurs on a gift that turns out to be a book. In fact, most of my Christmas gifts from Elly are books -- my idea of the perfect present. Dracula may seem a little out of place at Christmas time, but this is a lovely new edition annotated by Leslie S. Klinger, who I think I interviewed years ago.

Here is Elly with our new cat Brulee, who has decided it is high time she receive Christmas dinner. Brulee is sort of an unexpected Christmas gift. And, since she is pregnant, also the type of gift that keeps on giving. We will be calling on friends once the kittens have arrived...

And our own Christmas dinner. This included two types of croustini, both of which were delicious but the roasted tomato and goat cheese croustinis were out of this world and surprisingly simple to make.

The croustinis accompanied a fabu asparagus salad.

For dessert we had Christmas cookies, made by Moi. :-)

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