By the end of November, I begin nudging my parents to buy a freshly harvested evergreen from the local hardware store. That may seem awfully early, but I know it will take several weeks for them to act. In the meantime, I drag a 50 pound box out of storage and construct a fake spruce in my living room, branch by lettered branch.
Ever since I left for college a tree has become optional in our family Christmas celebration. When I spent a year in Japan in my early 20s, my parents decided not to bother with one at all. Miles away, I celebrated Christ's birth with a tiny artificial tree that I found while wandering around Kamakura. When I returned to the states, I bequeathed the tree to the American teacher that replaced me.
I can do without a single present at Christmas, but somehow the idea of not decorating a tree makes me despair. I love the ritual of clearing a space for one in my parent's kitchen and the debate that follows about whether it's standing upright or not. I also love passing homemade cookies around the table while the tree's lights flicker softly in the background.
BROWN BUTTER CARDAMOM COOKIES
Years ago, a kitchen savvy neighbor told my mom that some of the best recipes are the ones that food companies use to promote their products. So when I found Land O' Lakes recipe for Brown Buttered Cardamom Cookies I rushed to try it. I love the rich caramel-like aroma of browned butter so preparing the cookies was almost as enjoyable as eating them.