Ohhhh Tannenbaum

I had just knelt down around the tree to demonstrate to my still new-ish husband the approved "Pam Way" procedure of stringing the lights. Brand new boxes of sparkly lights were stacked and ready to go, and I was eager to pawn off this nasty job and tackle other Christmas preparations. My Dear Sweet Helpful Husband was asking all the right questions which were showing me he was keen to the assignment. My confidence in the outcome was building when things went sideways. Not the fun Pinot Noir kind of Sideways: The dishwasher gurgled, sloshed, and gushed gunky water, flooding the kitchen floor.
Another reason to love Le Bete!
The sharp one I am, I figured that the fates had just given me the choice between plumbing and lighting our tree, and since my plumbing skills are zilch, I settled in amongst the strands while The Man of The House made himself comfortable under the kitchen sink with his monkey wrench. I'd like to say that a fun time was had by all. Ha.

The Zen mindframe I'd talked my husband into adopting pre-tree lighting seemed to carry him over to the plumbing. Me, on the other hand. . . Apparently, I had missed the 100-lights per foot of tree rule by, oh, say, half, when purchasing the new strands, which I only discovered mid-way through the endeavor. This moment of awareness coincided with my Mister's not first but second trip to the hardware store for plumbing parts. My hopes for productivity rose as he arrived back home with more boxes of Made in Taiwan lights that looked to be a perfect match to the unique sparkly little globes purchased all the way across town. Things appeared to be back in the flow, at least as much as they can in times like this.
At this point, I must say that I don't think I've ever had more than five tree-trimming experiences in my half-century plus of Christmases that have gone without some form of grand emotional display or disaster. Each of the five "good years" have been in the most recent past, so I'm still a little skittish. You'd think that this tree curse would have passed over someone born on Christmas Day, wouldn't you? But no. As if we weren't having fun already, the new lights, when plugged in, glowed a strange flickery fluorescent blue, not the pretty candlelight glow of the others. Not wanting my living room to feel like a Wal-Mart store, the project halted until tomorrow. (The good news: The dishwasher works better than it has in years, and there's a new kitchen faucet installed to boot. My Dear Sweet Helpful Husband has earned his Hero badge for the week. And, to borrow the words of my friend Kim, we both managed to keep a cuss-fest at bay. )
So yesterday turned to today. I found a huge stash of old Christmas lights buried in a box I thought I'd lost, and decided to put them up along with the new ones rather than going to the across-town store for more that match. About four frustrating hours into the six total hourlong job of hanging 17 strands of lights, I gave up on my hidden cord technique. Seventeen (YES! 17!) strands of lights on our six-foot high tree-plus-antlers, and I've still got a light gap about a quarter of the way up from the bottom. And a neighborhood holiday cocktail party to host this weekend. And the resignation that Christmas is just like this, and I can choose to either be depressed or to laugh. I think I'll laugh, and officially declare this the Year of the Wreath.
I'm an utter failure at lighting a tree, but I make a crazy good soup. The other day, Martha Stewart was kind enough to send me her January 2013 magazine issue, right on time, like she has for the better part of 22 years. She has a few nice soup recipes included, and within a couple of hours of pulling the mag out of the mailbox, I'd made a version of her Mexican corn and poblano soup. I won't presume to instruct you on lighting your tree, but I will encourage you to give this warming, spicy, friendly, chowder-like soup a go. And I'll refer to Martha, the Maven of Everything, for tree decorating advice.

Martha Stewart Living, January 2013

As much as the scent of a freshly-cut evergreen is nice, so much more is that of a roasted poblano!! You'll see where I differed from the recipe, as I roasted my chiles over the open flame and the onions (and yes, I added garlic) on top of a cast-iron comal in the traditional Mexican way. The recipe is also a bit wonky with their corn measurements. I used a 2-lb. bag, about half of which went into the blender and the other half later.

The recipe is not yet available online.


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