Whole Wheat Olive Oil Honey Shortbread Cookies

Whole Wheat Olive Oil Honey Shortbread

While I don’t celebrate Christmas, I have, for many years now, spent Christmas eve with one of my best friends, her husband, kids, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband, niece, nephew, and her sister-in-law’s husband’s mother, whatever she may be called (not by name, but on the family tree).  Oh, and two dogs and two cats, except we usually don’t see the cats until the later — and quieter — part of the evening.  The dogs, one of which is large enough to be a small pony, either beg for food or use the convenient hardwood floors to slide onto your feet and demand a belly rub.  It’s a house filled with ridiculous amounts of love, as if any amount of love could be considered ridiculous.

Shortbread dry ingredients

Every year, my friends and their kids bake Christmas cookies.  Or cookies for Christmas.  Gingerbread.  Magic bars.  Cheesecake bars.  Shortbread.  Lemon poofy things with a lemony glaze.  Cream cheese cookies.  Decorated sugar cookies.  It’s as if some of the love manifests as piles of festive and delicious concoctions of flour, sugar and butter.

I had to taste everything, so I grabbed a knife and took a little sliver of each.  Someone joked that I have commitment issues.  I can’t deny it, at least when it comes to food.  Considering I was in the home of people with whom I’ve been friends since elementary school, he couldn’t have meant it in all respects.

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Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

I never get sick.  Check that.  I rarely get sick.  Usually I can attribute it to something specific — like the time I was carrying my friends’ sniffly little girl and she sneezed.  On my face.  There’s not much hand sanitizer can do about that, and all I could really do was share an incredulous laugh with my friends and the suddenly giggly little girl.  At least I knew from where the offending germs came.

But a few weekends ago, I felt something creeping up on me, from an unknown origin I might add.  (Ew.)  Despite gallons of preemptive hot tea, it still hit, although perhaps with less ferocity than I had expected.  Thank you, Earl Grey.  If I were a man, and it was still fashionable to do so, I’d tip my hat to you.

ChickenChicken and onion
I’m not a fan of the cold remedy aisle, at least not of anything there that’s actual medication.  I haven’t yet mustered the nerve to try a neti-pot.  Maybe one day.  The pills usually make me edgy or — worse — unable to sleep, which is all one really wants to do when a cold hits.

When I was in college, there was a joke that for everything that ailed you, the health center would give you a handful of packets of Sudafed.  There was, it appeared, nothing those two little red tablets couldn’t cure.  Cold?  Flu?  Sudafed.  Itchy rash?  Sudafed.  Broken leg?  Eh, take some packets anyway.

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Nectarines and Cream on a Walnut Cookie Base

Nectarines and cream on a walnut cookie base

When I began writing this post on an evening in July, I was wearing yoga pants.  That needs to be said again.  I was wearing yoga pants.  On an evening in July.  Which means that the humidity had broken and it was no longer a bazillion degrees out, even long after the sun had disappeared behind the trees starting to perk up outside my window.  The air conditioner was silenced, my window fan delivered layers of blissfully cool air, and I was part of the world again.  Being hermetically sealed may be fine for food in my pantry, but it is not good for me.

Walnuts toastingWalnuts and cookie pieces and butter

A friend recently said that there’s something to be said for hot, muggy weather.  That it can make for a dewy face.  Sexy messy hair up in a bun.  Sure.  I’ll achieve a dewy face the day I have a personal assistant walk with me, simultaneously misting me with water and pointing a giant fan in my direction.  The sexy messy hair?  There’s slightly more hope of that, but sexy is in the eye of the beholder, so I suppose I’ll need an assistant who, in between misting and fanning, will say things like, “Who cares if your hair has swelled to two times the size of your head, you look gorgeous!”

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I’m back!  Have I been trapped under something heavy?  Have I had paint-color remorse, forcing me to spend every free minute re-painting?  Did I paint myself into a corner and have I only now been rescued?

Not exactly.  Some unexpected hitches arose, which I suppose should have been expected in an 80+ year old apartment with what feels like thirty coats of paint on the walls.  Like when I started scraping a little spot just above the picture molding where the paint had pulled away.  If, with practically no resistance, one’s scraper continues to slide under ancient paint, it’s hard to stop.  It’s also hard to not look at the resulting uneven, uncovered swaths of wall without feeling like one is about to hold a festival in honor of Rorschach.

Guacamole ingredients

But otherwise, the painting went beautifully.  Fresh.  Unmottled.  Clean.  The clean up, however….  It was a long process (in part of my own making).  It wasn’t as bad as when the moths invaded, but man, does dust go everywhere.  The next time I have any work done, I’m selling everything I own so I don’t have to clean it.  Either that or I’m covering every surface with tape — sticky side up — so the dust cleans itself.  Self-cleaning dust!  Can you imagine?

Red onionChopped red onion

But new paint on the walls can lead to redecorating, which can lead to the massive reorganization of drawers and closets and cabinets, which can lead to bags and bags of donations, which can lead to an overall sense of peace knowing that I’m helping someone (or lots of people) — and reducing clutter.  The number of sweaters in one’s closet does not enhance happiness, after all.  Being able to store them easily?  That certainly helps.

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Yellow daffodils on the edge of the woods

I’m going to have to find another way to drive to and from work.  Not that there aren’t multiple routes, some of which I take on occasion to switch things up, but I finally landed on one that bypasses most traffic and delivers me in the least amount of time.  So why then would I consider giving it up?

Potholes.  On one eighth-mile stretch, I think I counted fifty.  Okay, I didn’t really count them while driving, because my focus was more on avoiding them, but there must have been fifty.  At least.  The road is narrow and curvy, without any sort of shoulder, and if another car is approaching from the other direction…   It’s almost, as they say in other parts of the world, single-track.

Some are little divots, most likely growing even as I type this.  Others are deceptive little buggers that don’t look all that terrible until you’re almost upon them, causing a sharp inhale as you turn the wheel toward the lesser of two evils.  Growing in popularity are the ones that you know if you hit, you won’t breathe for a few minutes as you take stock in how the car is riding.  Tire still inflated?  Rim still round?  Side view mirrors still attached?  Fillings still in your teeth?  My car’s got nice suspension and shocks, but I start to feel like I’m in a dune buggy in the outback.  Except that there’s little wildlife to observe, save a few birds and squirrels.  I don’t think I’d mind the potholes as much if there were a few elephants nearby.

A few weeks ago, on my walk through the parking lot after a long workday of bouncing from issue to issue, I was contemplating whether to take the pocked route when I noticed a shock of yellow in the woods surrounding the asphalt.  A plastic bag, I thought.  Or maybe a deflated balloon that had somehow snaked its way around bare branches to rest on the leaves leftover from the fall.  Perhaps a beer can — the secluded areas behind my office building often hold evidence of surreptitious gatherings.  I kept walking (with a pang of guilt for not choosing to clean up the litter).

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