A Very Charlie Brown Christmas

Last week I was so excited, as I waited the two days between ordering our Christmas tree and its expected delivery. We don't have a car here, so going into to town to find that beautiful real tree just wasn't an option. So, instead, we went to the internet in search for that perfect tree.

I found it. Unfortunately for me, the hubby didn't agree. It was too big. We'd have to store it later. There would be no room to display or store it. As much as I hate to admit it, he was probably right. So, instead of the beautiful 6 foot fake, prelit black fir tree that ready to decorate with the 100+ purple and gold baubles, we got the 3ft tree with kid ornaments. I wasn't so sure about the ornaments or the twenty lights that came with the tree, so I ordered a pack of red baubles and a strip of eighty more fairy lights.

I sat at the table Friday, expectantly waiting between noon and 6 pm for the delivery (which was late, by the way). I even rearranged the table in the dining/living room and set up a display table so the cute little 3 ft tree could be seen over the other furniture in the room.

I kind of wish I hadn't.

It turns out, twenty lights made the tree even more pathetic than it was by itself. Eighty lights is a bit too much. Adding baubles to fill in the gaps in the branches only worked so much until the branches started getting weighed down with the massively heavy red foil.

Luckily, when you come through the door to the living area, you can barely see the tree over the couch. Or, at least I'll tell myself that until after Christmas when I can take it down.

Poor little tree. As disappointed as I was at first, the little guy is kind of growing on me. Not literally, obviously, I mean, he's still only 3 ft tall and not filled out so much.

Note: The table doesn't normally look that cluttered. Actually, that's a lie. It always looks like cluttered unless we have company, and then I throw all that stuff in a corner somewhere hidden.

In Lieu of Teaser Tuesday

So, it seems I have a problem. Whenever I get really excited to write more of SoMH, I sit down at the computer and find myself completely unable to think. Basically, everything comes out as gibberish. Because of this, I have nothing in the way of a teaser this week. I hope to remember that for next week. We shall see.

In lieu of a teaser, I am hoping you guys can help me out! I've done a little bit of Q&A with the main character, Anna whose POV I've been posting in the last several teasers. However, I think it would be interesting if you guys came up with some questions you'd like to ask Anna. I'll compile the questions and interview her, posting her answers to the questions on this blog at some later date! So, if you would be so kind, post a question (or a few) in the comments here or email me some questions. The more I get, the better acquainted we all get with Anna! Feel free to ask demographic, historical, deep philosphical, or any other kind of questions you want!

Here is a short character profile so you aren't completely flying blind:

Name: Anna Rose Lawton (Pictured here: Rachel Hurd Wood)
Age: 16
Height/Weight: 5'4" at 120 lbs
Hair: Long (past shoulders), straight, reddish/brown
Eyes: Smoky blue with a sapphire blue ring around the outside
Things I Do for Fun: Sing in church choir, Read, Watch movies, Play board games, Hang out with Megan
Favorite Winter Outfit: Knee-length blue jean skirt with a v-neck sweater and boots
Favorite Summer Outfit: Khaki shorts with a t-shirt and flip flops

Note: The image used to portray Anna is not owned by this author. If you own the picture, and would like me to take it down, please email me, and I would be happy to comply.

Christmas Shopping...Laura Style

So last Friday, my friend Hazel asked if I wanted to go to the Trafford Centre (it's a mall) with her. She needed to do some Christmas shopping, and I needed to get out of the flat for a while. I figured the mall would be a good idea based on two things: (1) I could actually get gifts early on this year and not have to worry about it later and (2) I would have self-control in my spending and not purchase non-gift items.

So, the goals were basically to get Christmas gifts without spending a crapload of money. I feel like my shopping trip was a HUGE success. You might ask, "Laura, how many gifts did you buy?" to which I would respond, "Zero. Nada. Zilch." You might then say, "Oh, then you must not have spent any money!" That would be a wrong assumption. In fact, I spent quite a bit, just not on Christmas gifts. Or at least, not on Christmas gifts for other people.

Here are some of the items I purchased:

New items in this picture = long sweater, wool tights, and purple boots.

New in this Picture: Same boots as above (yes, they're really purple) and a new teal coat!

New in this picture: Same boots (Yeah, I wanted to show off another outfit.The shirt and tights were new 2 months ago.)

As you can see, I had a great time shopping. And, I found lots of things. Unfortunately for everyone else, the things I found were oh so perfect for me. You might think this sounds really self-absorbed. You'd be right. But, I just couldn't help myself. And, I did need a new coat. And, I really needed some boots, because everyone has them. And, the wool tights are a must in the cold weather. And, well, the sweater was just...cool looking.

Tip to self: Don't go "Christmas" shopping with Hazel if a) you plan to actually buy Christmas gifts or b) you don't want to spend money. She makes shopping FUN!

So, yeah. I think it would be safer for me to do all the Christmas shopping online this year. But, there is the Christmas market in town where I'm sure I could unload tons of cash...errrrmmm...I mean...responsibly buy Christmas gifts under the watchful eye of my husband. ;-)

Yellow Squash? Who needs it?

That's right. I said it. I don't really care for yellow squash that much, but I blogged about how I can't get it here in the UK.

I was fairly upset about not being able to find something that I thought should be rather commonplace. We're trying to eat healthier (and cheaper) and also trying to keep half our weekly meals vegetarian. So, I've been looking for yummy vegetarian recipes that looked hardy enough to keep the hubby from wanting meat. I've found a couple of things, one of which was a wonderful stuffed pepper recipe that I just made.

Not coincidentally (it helped spawn the other yellow squash blog post), it called for, among lots of other things, yellow squash. I thought about what I could substitute instead and decided on eggplant (aubergine), because I thought it would have a similar texture. I also haven't cared too much for eggplant in the past, but I've tried it a couple of time recently, and it was quite good.

I have to brag on the recipe, because it was excellent. My substitution went over quite well! I'm now excited to make some meatless dishes. Do you have any to suggest?!?!

Yellow Squash & White Vinegar

Or rather, extremely commonplace things I can't easily find in the UK.

Yes, that's correct. For the last four months I've been on the hunt for white vinegar. Thinking maybe it was called something different here, I actually went online, found a picture of white vinegar, and sent it to a friend asking where I could find it here. She asked if I meant white wine vinegar, which of course, I did not. I meant, you know, plain white vinegar of the caliber you use to clean your coffee maker. In fact, that's why I wanted it! Well, after much searching, I found some. At the vegan grocery store down the road. In the cleaning products section. For a ridiculous price. And, I bought it. Now, I have a sparkling white coffee maker, and I'm so happy.

On to yellow squash, another item I looked for today. I couldn't find it on my online shopping website, and, admittedly, I didn't look very hard elsewhere. I did ask a friend if it was called something different here. (Coincidentally, I asked the same friend I asked about the white vinegar. She's very patient with me sending her random pictures asking if what things are called here.) Apparently, yellow squash is a yellow courgette (zucchini), but it doesn't matter. She informed me that you really can't find them in stores. I'd have to know someone who grows them. I don't usually like yellow squash, so really it doesn't bother me that I've had a hard time finding it. But, it's the principle that matters! I needed it for a recipe. Instead, I'll be substituting eggplant (aubergine) for yellow squash. The horror!

My Obsession with Books

If you know me at all, you'll know that, although I rather enjoyed books as a kid, I had long since given up on reading when I got into Junior High and my distaste for books continued from there. I don't know what it was, but I was just never motivated internally or externally to go find books I really enjoyed. There were the occasional few, but I certainly didn't devour them. That was, I didn't until I finished writing a dissertation, moved to a different country, and, I hate to say it*, read the Twilight series.

My husband will tell you that while we were dating (for five long years), he often lost me to the television. He would, in fact, be correct. I had a TV obsession for a very long time. If I'd had a DVR, I probably would have been watching TV at least 5 hours a day. But, thank goodness, I didn't. Still, I had DVDs of TV shows delivered and managed to hole up in my apartment for entire weekends at a time just watching those.

I'm somewhat of an introvert by nature, I'll admit that. In fact, after moving to the UK, I think I've started indulging that aspect of my personality even more. The weather is rather conducive to wanting to stay in, and, well, sitting at my computer in the nice, warm flat is a tempting prospect that I normally give in to.

On top of that, I am away from my beloved American TV shows. That's not to say the British TV shows aren't good; there's just not as many of the kind I like to watch and the season lengths are quite a bit shorter**. So, when I first got here, I had a lot of time on my hands (my boss gave me an entire month off after I defended) and not a lot to do. This is where Twilight comes in. I'd seen the movie on the plane on the way over here. Then I decided to test out my new gadget, my Kindle 2, by downloading the first book. Shortly thereafter, I had to fly back to the US for a conference and read the entire book on the plane. I just HAD to download the other three. I spent every spare moment at the conference (in sunny San Diego, no less) sat*** in my hotel room reading. I kid you not. You can ask several of my colleagues who I'm sure think me nuts.

Since this is quickly turning into a book, I'll try to end with this. After that, I had an obsession. I needed to read. The very thought of not having a book with me at all times squeezed like a vice on my chest. I felt incomplete. My husband was ecstatic, because I stopped bugging him about putting a TV in the bedroom and, instead, bugged him about letting me use the Kindle. When it was his turn to use the Kindle, I checked out books from the library. Then, when they library didn't have the books I wanted, I started buying them. Oooohhh...the horror! We hadn't planned on buying books here, because they will cost a fortune to ship back. But, they're my babies now, and they will be shipped back!

It's gotten so bad that I have about 10 purchased books staring at me as I type this, begging to be read. I have another twenty or so that I can't way to read again. Then, I have eight books sitting on top of the bookcase needing to be read because of looming library due dates. And, there's another four waiting to be picked up. On top of that, I have over 100 books on my To Read list.

This may sound commonplace for lots of people. But, not for me. Ask my parents or any of my English teachers growing up^. Sitting here, writing this, I have a huge craving for walking over to the couch and curling up with my current book. But, I'll refrain for at least another hour, because I have several more important things to do, like search for more books I want to read so I can add them to my Christmas wish list.

* * *

* I only say that, because of the "everybody's doing it" mentality that I strive not to have, but tend to fail miserably. Plus, the farther away from it I get, the more some of the things about the characters annoy me on a personal level. However, I read the whole series twice in about a week and a half, so I obviously didn't let my personal hangups stop me from enjoying the story.

** I also haven't quite figured out how seasons (or series as they're referred to here) work. If anyone in Britain reads this and would like to enlighten on the timing of new seasons/series of popular TV shows here, please email me.

*** Hazel, if you read this, that's for you per our conversation on how much that annoys me. :)

^Especially my Senior English teacher to whom I confessed my penchant for using CliffsNotes throughout the entire class and still getting good grades. It's horrible, and I regret how lazy I was. But, it was what it was... I did read at least three books in their entirety that year, though.

Effigies = Fun (?)

So, last night I did actually end up going to Bonfire Night, also sometimes, but apparently not usually anymore, referred to as Guy Fawkes Night. It was cold and raining when I left the flat, but me, being the ever loyal friend, kept my commitment to go see the bonfire and fireworks. And, well, I was a just a little curious about this whole burning of Guy Fawkes in effigy thing. I mean, I've never seen something like that except on the news, and from my experiences, it looked pretty brutal. I was half not expecting anything but a big fire and some nice fireworks.

My expectations were half wrong, because when I got there, there was a huge tiered stack of packing crates. Sitting atop the crate: a chair with the life-like dummy of Guy Fawkes. I kid you not. Unfortunately, it was too dark to get pictures of him!! So, you'll just have to believe that in the following picture, poor Guy Fawkes is very much burnt to a crisp.

The other great thing about Bonfire Night?? Well, that would have to be the organization Make Jesus Known, who sponsored this particular effigy burning and fireworks display. In addition to that, they sponsored the entertainment: Jesus Rap. Oh yes, Jesus Rap. They certainly made Jesus known, but I'm not entirely sure if they added to His reputation or took away from it. It was all in good fun, and well, I'm probably going to Hell for some of the I thought as I stood there listening to and feeling the heavy base drown out words such as "Representin' Jesus" over and over and over again. I'm not a huge rap fan to begin with (although I do dance to some really good Southern rap), and I'm just not sure that the audience at the park cared for rap either. The did get the Message out, though.

Oh, I almost forgot! I saw/heard something I never expected to see/hear at a Bonfire Night...an American! I mean, I'm sure there were Americans in the crowd, but this one was on the stage, announcing everything. It was unnerving for a little bit, because I wasn't expecting it. And, when you've been here a while, your ears get tuned to certain accents. Mine and the hubby's withstanding, I wasn't used to the American accent, and it was just...weird.

But, Bonfire Night was excellent. The fireworks display, when it finally started, was beautiful. It lasted for 30 minutes!! I dare say it rivaled the Beaumont July 4th display! The last few fireworks were a little scary, but so incredibly awe-inspiring. It was like being encircled in shooting stars just wafting to the ground. Only, then you realized that it was burning bits paper heading straight for you! Ahhhh...Bonfire Night.

Remember, Remember

Just a short little post here to show my excitement for Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night, but I have been assured that most people don't know who that is anymore) tonight. This will be my first, and maybe only, time to celebrate the squelching of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament a really, really long time ago. In celebrating, I will be watching fireworks, trying to keep warm by huddling near a bonfire that won't be nearly as big as Aggie Bonfire, burning a long-dead man in effigy, and eating wonderfully fatty British food served from a cart. I mean, how could this be any better?!

Sarcasm aside, I'm really excited to go have fun with my friends. I just hope the weather decides to cooperate, or I'll be completely soaked when I get home tonight. Given that I live in The North, I'm expecting to get wet even with the rain coat I'll be wearing. Fun times!

In other news, I've decided to only keep one teaser up at a time. Each teaser will be up for one week only. If I post weekly--which is highly dependent on when I write--then I'll just replace the old teaser with a new one. Otherwise, the old one will just come down until I find time to tease.

Clowns and Faeries and Mummies, Oh My!

For anyone that knows me, I am definitely not a lover of parties. I don't mind get-togethers where I know people, but when tons of people fill a house, I tend to get a little panicked. So, you might be surprised to know that I went to a house party this past weekend and had a BLAST! Who knew?!

As I blogged previously, I went dressed as an evil faery. It turned out that my friend didn't have a costume yet, and we decided to go as TWIN evil faeries reeking havoc everywhere! It turned out fabulously! Here is the evidence.