Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A George Orwell Christmas

This year, "Santa" gave Seamus a copy of Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. But then Ian gave Seamus the very same book, and also Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. (Seamus wants to study journalism, so we've been doing our best to give him books we think a future journalist should read.) Meanwhile, Santa gave Ian a copy of Keep the Aspidistra Flying, also by George Orwell. Are you sensing a theme here?

In addition to the Orwells, there were quite a few other books exchanged and we all have a lot of reading to do now.

It was a lovely Christmas overall. My sister and her husband came down from Washington, DC, as they do every year, and a dear friend from our ER days also came over for dinner. All the kids were here, but the girls went back to Richmond a day early because of severe allergies. This being 2016, our Christmas tree is trying to kill us with its pollen. We've never reacted so violently to a tree before. Not only did the tree make us sick, it had vicious spines that made hanging lights and ornaments acutely painful. Indeed, Christmas Tree 2016 was so terrible, I took it down on the day after Christmas (yesterday).  Jon's convinced I bought it because it was the cheapest one at the nursery, but I was drawn to its twiggy appearance and elegant, slender branches.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

 I am happy with the pine rope on the bannisters though.

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We had a lovely rib roast from the hipster artisan butcher for Christmas dinner. For dessert, I made a crepe cake. Because why mix up a batter and throw it into the oven for half an hour when you can make nineteen crepes, one at a time and then pile them into a precarious stack with hazelnut cream painstakingly spread between each layer? The cake was a success though, so it was worth the effort. The recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

The kids were happy with their presents and I'm particularly proud of these mittens that I knit for Grace. Finished in the knick of time. I got off to a late start because the local yarn shop didn't have what I wanted and I ended up ordering yarn that had to be shipped here from Sweden.

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My daughter Brigid took this picture of Jon and me at Christmas dinner.

I hope that all of you and yours had a lovely Christmas. Did you attempt any ambitious dishes for the holidays? Do share if you did. I hope that those of you who do a Christmas tree got cooperative ones!


  1. That tree is lovely. Such a shame it behaved so horribly. I wonder if it was the weird fall weather that had it so covered in allergens?
    The only ambitious thing about our holiday is that we put off wrapping until after having hit up several Christmas Eve gatherings with dear friends. Needless to say, the scene under our tree Christmas morning was rather interesting. There was at least one gift to my husband only half wrapped because I ran out of paper. Dinner was entirely all our favorite sides and dessert was a yule log. I did most of the prep prior to going out Christmas Eve, so Christmas day was extremely lazy and nap filled. It was a lovely holiday.

  2. PS....love that shot of you & Jon. It's adorable.

  3. No ambitious meals for us. I don't want to spend loads of holiday time in the kitchen. Christmas Eve dinner was a slow cooker beef ragu and Christmas dinner was grilled salmon. Dessert both nights was Pete's annual Yule log.

  4. I think your tree LOOKS lovely, but I, too, would have acted right away to rid the house of the allergens. I really like the deployment of the pine garland on the railing.

    That's going to be a lot of Orwellian reading, but perhaps Orwell is appropriate. I've only read "1984" and "Animal Farm."

    Two people (including me) gave my niece the same book about trees. So when we took a break she secretly wrapped one of the copies and gave it back to me. Instant regifting!

  5. No tree for us this year.
    No real Christmas dinner either, just a huge platter of antipasti, with three types of air dried ham, French, Spanish and Italian, just a long, long snack.

    Really like the mittens.