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Christmas ferns and clove oranges

I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in many weeks, I have no projects to finish, no articles to write, no tests to study for, no deadlines to meet. You can imagine the bliss!

Of course, there is Christmas to prepare for. Thankfully, over the years I’ve managed to simplify my Christmas traditions, which in a funny way has enriched them as well.

For example: I avoid the malls like the plague at this time of year and bake all my gifts instead. With some carols playing and the whole house smelling of melting butter, sugar, and chocolate, I always feel like I’m receiving more than I’m giving. It only gets better with the satisfaction of filling the tins and watching people’s eyes light up as I hand them their goodies.

My aunt dropped off these empty tins for me last weekend: a not-so-subtle hint!

Yesterday, after I handed in my last school project for the term, I made it my mission to find a little Christmas tree. The lady at the florist’s informed me, in a snooty voice, that nobody wants to carry small trees anymore. “They don’t make any profit.” I guess she didn’t realize she was talking to the Paper Bag Princess. I looked around the shop a bit and found Christmas ferns in four-inch pots. Four pots clustered around one that’s slightly raised make a very passable Christmas tree, as you can see.

An old gold shawl of mine makes a gorgeous Christmas tree skirt. All the decorations come from the dollar store, including the angel. (Ok, she cost more than a dollar, but I couldn’t resist her sweet face and feathery wings.)

The only drawback to a Christmas fern is that it has no scent. I was going to wait until closer to Christmas to get some fresh greenery, but at the market this morning I found an armful of fir and pine, eucalyptus, and twiggy branches for the bargain price of $4.99. Along with some red berries and white chrysanthemums, I was able to make up two bouquets.

To add to the Christmassy scents now filling my little queendom, I’m making clove oranges. Tie a bit of ribbon around an orange and use a couple of pins at the north and south poles to keep the ribbon in place. Decide on a pattern that you like and with a toothpick, poke shallow holes where you want the cloves to go. Stick in the cloves. Fill a bowl with them or hang them from your Christmas tree.

Finally, I’m decorating my shoji screen divider with these glittery red ornaments (also from the dollar store).

This is the time of year when I most sorely miss having my whole family around. But as I told someone just today, every time I try to create something beautiful, or to do something good for other people, I like to think that it’s also transformed into something beautiful and good in the lives of the ones I love best. And somehow, this is also the time of the year when it’s easiest to believe that.

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