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friday favourites 23.12.11

it's the penultimate friday of the year and, like a proverbial christmas miracle, we've just gotten a light dusting of snow in montreal. personally, i've never been preoccupied with the need for a white christmas, mostly because i realise that there will be plenty of opportunities to see snow over the next few months. like in april. but i know that you're supposed to have snow in time for the holidays and as long as there are big white fluffy flakes coming down, it generally means that it's not so cold that you can't breathe. and that's always a plus.

so for this week, i decided to dispense with my usual humbug and make myself confront the hidden truth: there are things that i actually really like about this time of year. i'm normally the kind of person who gets frustrated by this season- the endless exhortations to buy, the phony sentiment, the experience of traveling [something which i'm happy i haven't had to do in a few years] all set to a soundtrack of the corniest, cheesiest, most irritating music ever composed... it can all get a bit much. but that doesn't  mean it's all bad. so here goes...

christmas greens :: i really like the tradition of adorning the house with various sorts of evergreens. the tree, yes, but wreaths and boughs and such just immediately perk me up. of course, i was late off the mark this year and didn't get a wreath [i was being picky and then the next thing you know, everything was sold out...] so i have to live vicariously through those on my neighbours' doors, but that's ok. in fact, it's really not much different than having one myself, since i wouldn't get to appreciate mine once i was inside anyway.

i do love decorating the place with simple branches and boughs, which are something i can enjoy inside and which are so enjoyable not just because they look nice, but because of the heavenly scent that they impart. both dom and i are very scent-sitive types, always burning incense, having baths, trying fragrances and both of us agree that the fresh and deep perfume of evergreens- fir, spruce, pine, cedar- is always a winner.

lights :: although they can get overdone, when christmas lights are done well, there's little that's as pleasing to the eye. in fact, i've determined that if i didn't have to do things like read and see, i'd just light the place with arrangements of christmas lights all year. montreal generally does an extremely tasteful job of illuminating itself, which is just one more reason to go strolling through the streets of this exquisite city.

ghost stories :: this is actually a tradition i'd like to bring back from the grave [yukyuk], one that apparently stems from the victorians, who were so repressed that they liked to make everything gloomy. although our modern [american] culture dictates that the time of the year for ghost stories is a few weeks earlier, at halloween, the victorians enjoyed gathering around a great blazing fire [normally in a fireplace] and tell terrifying tales to children, in order to ensure that they proceeded to adulthood with the proper level of psychological scar tissue.

sadly, this is a tradition that has waned over the years, possibly due to the fact that fewer and fewer homes have real story-telling fireplaces and possibly due to the fact that if you want to frighten your children, you can just read them newspaper articles.the tradition has "died out" [stop with the puns or you'll get to be a ghost for xmas -ed.] so completely that few people even realise it was a tradition. although there is one glaring example of a yuletide ghost story that we have crammed down our throats with extra gravy each year.

but i think that the long hours of darkness, the barren trees and moaning winds could not be more appropriate for gothic tales of visits from beyond the grave and i encourage everyone to indulge their urges to celebrate family by ensuring they don't get a moment's sleep over the holiday season.

the feast :: under normal circumstances, i rarely cook or eat meat, but for some reason, i get really excited over the prospect of doing the big traditional holiday dinner. i've always enjoyed cooking and somehow this has morphed into a real preoccupation with some type of yuletide food-fest. i think that part of the preoccupation comes from the fact that, up until a few years ago, i was only rarely in my own home to prepare a dinner, so it was an unusual event that i got to do the cooking.

in recent years, it has become an annual tradition and last year, i even had a proper crowd- me, dom, my mother and dom's parents- so that there weren't two months of leftovers in the freezer afterward. this year, it'll just be the two of us [me and dom] and a scheduling glitch means that we won't be having our dinner until a couple of days after the "proper" date, but dammit, i'm still cooking dinner.

the cleaning right hundred dishes part that comes subsequently doesn't make it to my favourites list, but i can say that i do ultimately feel like it's worth it. i'll try to remember to post the menu and photos. [note: i've actually gone out on a limb this year and have made up a couple of the recipes i'm using. so when i post said menu and photos, you'll know that i didn't kill anyone.]

rarest of the rare :: normally, holiday themed ads annoy the piss out of me, but every now and again, there is one that gets a legitimate chuckle. this one, for local telecommunications provider videotron has been in such heavy rotation that it should make me want to throw things at the screen, but, perhaps because i've gone through a lot of holidays with the ooh-ing and ahh-ing on cue, i simply continue to giggle to myself. [this ad is infectious, too. we were at my almost-in-laws for a gift exchange last week and everyone was imitating this ad when each present was unwrapped.]



thanks, as always, for reading and i do hope you have a happy holiday. i was going to post a photo of the cats in santa costumes, but they let me know in their own subtle way that if i tried to dress them up, i would have to add "a new right eye" to my christmas wish list. so here's a more dignified photo... well, kinda...





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