Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A tale of two Christmases

We have come to that time of year when the annual battle between Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas begins. On one side of the battle are people who are not Christians, or who firmly believe in the separation of church and state and the freedom for everyone to practice their own religion. On the other are people who are Christians, and know that most of us in the US are Christians, and that even though we say we are a secular country we all know deep down that the US is a conservative Christian country.
Unfortunately, the issue is not as cut and dry as it seems. I have argued this with my mom on countless occasions because, even though I'm Christian, I don't believe that we should force everyone to say Merry Christmas. I'm for keeping Christmas a religious holiday that we celebrate in our own ways and not making it a mandatory observance for everyone.
In the US there are two Christmases. You might try to deny it and say that no, Christmas is the biggest religious holiday that there is and that's all there is to it. But you'd be wrong. Take a look at the Christmas decorations, specials, cards, and entertainment. You have your religious, Christian celebrations filled with the birth of Christ, nativities, and celebratory songs. Then there is the secular Christmas, dominated by Santa, reindeer, snowmen, gifts, and songs about Santa and snow.
And while we are forcing everyone to celebrate Christmas the secular Christmas is gaining ground. If you look at the Christmas specials they show on TV only one or two even mention the nativity or the birth of Christ, the rest are all about Santa, presents, and snow. All of the decorations in the stores are of the secular kind, and most of what people focus their attention on are presents. This was amply demonstrated last year when DH was talking to his language teacher about Christmas. He mentioned that I was going home for Christmas because it was a big Christian holiday and his teacher said that she had no idea that Christmas was a Christian holiday.
I know that it is the case here in China. There are Christmas decorations out everywhere and I'm fairly certain that most of the people with decorations in their windows are not Christians, nor do they have any idea what the holiday is about other than Santa and presents. Is this what the founders of the "stores against Christmas list" were after? Did they want to create a holiday that everyone celebrates, but which has no meaning? I think the fundamentalists are shooting themselves in the foot by insisting that everyone honor Christmas, pretty soon they are going to wake up to a world in which Christmas is presided over by Santa.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To market, to market to buy a ......

For today's adventure I went off to the great big lotus market (called hehuachi in Chinese). I've been to this market once before about two months ago. It is huge and sprawling and a bit overwhelming. Last time I went I had to take a taxi, which took me 45 minutes. However between then and now the new subway line has opened up and getting on the subway and heading north took maybe half that time. Unfortunately as we were on the subway heading north there was a HUGE fight on the train not half a car away from us. From what we could tell, it was between a man and a woman who didn't know each other, and it might have started over a seat. But they were angry. They were pushing, shoving, kicking, yelling, screaming... I'm talking high drama. I was impressed with the security though, by the time we got to the next station there were security waiting to take them off the train. I swear, the pent up anger in people here.
Ah, but the market. This market is crazy. They have just about everything there. For example, today the people in my group bought Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, stationary, wind chimes, ribbon, painted pictures, seat cushions, fabric, metal snaps, buttons, wall stickers, and toys. We could have also bought rugs, plastic flowers, purses, cross stitch kits, costumes, aprons, blow driers, irons, and furry pants. Plus hundreds of other things that it would take me all day to name.
I think it would take you at least a year to go through every single stall there. Every where you look someone is selling something or other and for cheap. I didn't even bargain at most places because the price was so low to begin with that I couldn't see how the people would make money. For instance a bought about 30 buttons for a dollar. How are you going to make that cheaper, and is it even worth it. Sure I could have gotten it for 75 cents, but why?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

One of those women

So yesterday I went to my first Holiday Planning meeting as a wife of a diplomat. I have always avoided such things in the past by either working or leaving post. But this year I am in town and my child is too big for me to say I'm too busy. *sigh* I've crossed over and become one of "those" women. It's not bad I guess. I am involved in what happens over the holiday, and I can steer events towards things that I like or Babes likes, but still.
I knew this before though. We've only been at post 3 1/2 months and I've already been to 3 maybe 4 potlucks and I'm pretty sure we've got at least 3 more before the end of the year. So I've decided that I need a casserole warmer. But all the ones I have found are so old fashioned. You know, big sunflowers on the top and what not. I've decided that if I'm going to knit or crochet one I need to put something cool on top. But so far I can't find a 3 dimensional pattern for a Darth Vader helmet or tie fighter. *SIGH* I might just have to make the lame sunflowers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins

From Blogger Pictures
Thanks to Halloween and our regular vegetable delivery I have found myself with an over abundance of pumpkin. I cooked some, pureed it and stashed it in the freezer and I'm going to put some in Chili tonight, but this morning for breakfast I decided to try to spice up my regular oatmeal muffins and combine it with a pumpkin gingerbread recipe that I found on the internet. The result was very good, if I do say so myself. Here's the recipe:

Spiced Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 C pumpkin puree
  • 1 C leftover cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 C molasses (I'm wondering if this could be reduced to 1/4)
  • 1/2 C raisins

1. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients
2. In another bowl mix together eggs, pumpkin, oatmeal, molasses and raisins
3. Add to dry ingredients mix until just moistened
4. Spoon batter into lined or lightly greased muffin cups
5. Bake at 350 until muffin centers are slightly firm.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010


From Blogger Pictures

Look at this picture. You would think I took it in the US. But no, I am still in China. One of the local neighborhoods put together Halloween trick or treating for the kids. There weren't a lot of houses participating but for my 3 1/2 yr old it was perfect. She got to walk around in her costume knock on the doors of houses, some decorated spookily, and do her trick or treat thing. How awesome is that?

Monday, November 01, 2010

This week's bounty

From Blogger Pictures
So this is what came in our bag this week. Not as exotic. Lots of potatoes and greens. But it's good that we like cabbage, especially fried up with garlic.

Although, is this grass? The closest thing I can come up with is wheat or barley grass.
And of course the ever mysterious:
From Blogger Pictures
From Blogger Pictures
In other news I've been playing around with Picasa and blogger and trying to work out how to post pictures on the blog without tearing out my hair--the great firewall makes it very hard to post pictures to blogger (blogger being blocked of course) but Picasa is not and so far this seems to be working. We'll see.
I am working on a travel post, so pictures of Xian and Beijing to come!