Sunday, December 19, 2004

Arrival of the spirit

There's nothing like a day spent shopping in (mostly) civil surroundings, followed by decorating the tree, to bring the Christmas spirit on in full force. As Meg mentioned in comments earlier, there's something about the long and drawn-out nature of the Xmas season that makes it just seem wearying.

We joked about the fact that we couldn't even get it together last week to decorate the tree, but in the end I think it was a good decision. After I returned from my marathon shopping effort - only a few stocking stuffers left to purchase! - I took a little nap, then we headed out to see Closer. There's a nice holiday tale for you - adultery, deception and some very unlikable people. That said, I think it's a good movie, and worth seeing.

[digression about to commence]

We actually had a miserable movie-going experience; in a mostly empty theater, Noisy Plot Explainer and Dim Husband sat directly behind us. There's a scene in which Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are sitting next to a window in a fancy restaurant in London. The Explainer loudly identified every building out the window - it was Trafalgar Square, apparently - then wondered aloud what was going to happen. I turned around and hissed, "Will you please be quiet?"

She stared at me. As I turned back to face the screen, she simply continued with what she'd been saying. I wanted to beat her senseless.

My revenge came at the end, though. The Explainer seemed to be a Julia Roberts fan, and this is not a movie in which Julia gets to play sweet and cute - far from it. As the credits rolled, the Explainer told Dim Husband, "Well, that was certainly darker than I'd expected."

No kidding.

[digression ends]

In any case, we headed home for spaghetti and meatballs from my grandmother's recipe. It's a very simple one: mix bread crumbs with grated parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, then combine with a small amount of water. Crumble raw ground beef (or a mixture of beef, pork and tortured baby cow) on top, then add a couple of beaten eggs. Mix with your hands, form into balls and bake for 30 min. at 350 degrees.

The meatballs certainly aren't gourmet, but they are simple and warm and they smell insanely good while they are baking. I made a very simple marinara sauce - sauteed garlic, crushed tomatoes, basil and the tiniest bit of oregano, plus salt, pepper and (the secret ingredient) crushed fennel seed - while Darren made a salad. After the meatballs are done baking, I drain them a bit on paper towels, then throw them in the sauce for a little while.

By this point, A. had arrived, with a bottle of zinfandel to supplement the cab/shiraz mix we'd already opened. I cooked some perciatelli - pasta shaped like spaghetti, but with a hole in the middle, the better to slurp with - and we settled down for a cozy meal at the coffee table and a discussion of the movie, which A. had seen a few days earlier.

Slightly tipsily, I draped the tree with lights - using a new vertical draping strategy I read about somewhere, rather than the traditional horizontal method - and the decorating began. It was then we discovered that the box in which we store our ornaments has mildewed over the last couple years, so the ornaments threw off quite a stench. (We'll be both ditching the box and moving ornament storage out of the basement this year...)

In any case, the picture above is our final product. And, yes, the real thing is somewhat less blurry.