Merry and Bright

It seems that I have been planning food, buying food, and making food pretty much constantly for the last week or two. One reason is that baking is therapeutic and other forms of entertainment are few and far between (although I still have a couple of those to report on. But later...)

Another reason for the constant food-obsessing is that the finding and buying of food takes seven times longer than it does in the States. And I've never experienced trauma over cranberries that are not really cranberries like I did last week for Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgiving was really quite nice, however, because we had a group of young women who are participating in an international language program and go to our church come over. There were nineteen people for dinner and they were so happy to have familiar American food, and I was so happy to bake and prepare and enjoy.

Aside from the masterfully brined and roasted turkey (courtesy of my husband), I was most pleased with this last minute centerpiece and place settings that I created. We had to borrow plates from the neighbors downstairs and I was able to create napkins out of some inexpensive dishtowels from the market and the mandarins look like little pumpkins, don't you think?

The holidays are upon us. We have no Christmas tree and the artificial ones they sell here are quite Charlie-Brownish, so we're trying to figure something else out. (I was convinced that the prelit artificial tree we own would be an electrical nightmare here, and so it is in storage. In D.C... Yeah.)

The boys think Santa will not come if there is no tree. Of course, Cal is testing the Santa theory this year anyway - "I don't need to tell anyone what I want. Santa will just know."

To his credit, Calvin also just asked for surprises for his birthday and when he opened one of the shot-in-the-dark gifts, he exclaimed, "This is what I've wanted my whole life!!!" Oh, really? Can you imagine? Six years of desperate dreaming for a magnetic marble run culminated in that one moment. I'm good, aren't' I?

Last year, my mom gave our boys this book and the accompanying elf on a shelf for the holiday season. Our elf is named Nivlac Yrneh. ("Calvin" backwards, "Henry" backwards. Yrneh is pronounced Ernay, rather French-like.)

Nivlac Yrneh came to our Thanksgiving get-together on the head of one of the guests, and has been at our house every day since. The deal is that he sits someplace in our house each day to watch the children and at night he makes quick trips to Santa to let him know how the boys are behaving. Then he comes back and sits in a different spot (that's how you know he went somewhere) for the next day's observations.

The kids started asking where Nivlac was right around Halloween and I was surprised that they remembered him after a whole year. Calvin and Henry were delighted that Nivlac found us in Ukraine. He worked a little better last year for behavior modification, but this year is most entertaining just to find where he is sitting.

The one rule is that the boys can talk to Nivlac but they can't touch or carry him anywhere - this helps preserve his magical qualities. One nice thing is that the boys have started tattling to Nivlac instead of me. Hmmmm.

But the second day he was here, Charlie got a hold of him and Calvin completely lost it because Nivlac had been touched by a human. Drama, drama, drama.

At any rate, we are enjoying our mystical little holiday guest. (And isn't that spice rack wonderful? Little joys, little joys...)

I really love December. As soon as I figure out how to deck the halls a bit, we'll really be rocking. I'm just not sure if it will be around the Christmas tree or not. We do have a gaping, unusable fireplace that may work as a nice gift receptacle. Could a wreath over the fireplace count as a tree?


Amanda said...

There will be live trees to buy just a couple days before Christmas. That's what we did last year. What a cute idea with the elf. I'm going to log that one away... And I LOVE the spice rack.

Aimee said...

Love, love, love the elf idea! If my kids were younger I'd be starting that tradition, for sure. Sorry to hear about the missing Christmas tree. We did that in Japan and it was no fun. But I'm confident that you, who creatively made those gorgeous Thanksgiving centerpieces and fed 19 people, will come up with a clever solution. Pine bows in a base? Oh yeah, nevermind. That goes back to that Charlie Brown thing.

Helen said...

Elf is really cute. We had elfs come and put some treats in our slippers at night when we were good kids. We never saw them ... they have millions of kids to visit every night.
It is hard to get the home like Christmas feeling far from home. Palm trees don't really help :) I believe they will sell christmas trees a little later in December. In Russia and Ukraine New Year is a big holiday and Christmas is actually beginning of January, so therefore the delay.
I wish you a great holiday season!
Ps. thanx for kind comments on my blog.

Christine said...

I love your Elf idea. Now I just have to figure out how to make one of my own. I can envision your Calvin freaking out. Sounds like my oldest. I hope you find a solution for the Christmas tree. We've got a Charlie Brown one and the kids are delighted. I really did want a bigger one to put in front of my front room window to blast to my neighbors "Merry Christmas!!!!!!" but I'm too cheap. Maybe next year when my baby isn't so much of a baby anymore and I'm not cheap anymore. Whatever!

Anonymous said...

And I've never experienced trauma over cranberries that are not really cranberries like I did last week for Thanksgiving. -- I became curious what was the story with cranberries. Perhaps these were lingonberries, no ?