Posts Tagged With: Experiences

Things I Wish I’d Known About Selecting & Decorating a Christmas Tree

I’ve been around Christmas trees every holiday of my life. And yet, when it came time to deck my halls on my own this year, I was thrown by unexpected issues. So, for the person who, like me, has apparently seen without observing all their lives, here are some handy tips

Look at multiple trees. I went in to Home Depot bright and early the Sunday after Thanksgiving and headed straight for the 5’-6’ section. I didn’t really know the difference between Douglas, Frasier, or Balsamic (I still don’t) other than the way the needles look. So I went for the value and chose Frasier. I started unwrapping one of the trees which actually appeared pretty full and well branched in the 30 secs I spent shaking it out. Having no one to consult and thinking that this was one of those times when you really could find the best tree on the first try, I bought it, delighted that I could get in and out within 15 minutes. Well, get the tree home, and it looks great, except it’s missing what would be the butt region on a person. Or not missing exactly, but excessively sparse. So I’m just turning that portion of the tree near the wall…

Get a stand with good quality control. On the way out of Home Depot I grabbed a capacious tree stand good for trees up to 8 feet tall. I get the stand home, and begin the simple task of screwing the metal tree anchors through the holes in the stand. And discover after 30 minutes of painful twisting, that one of the five holes is a tiny bit too small to allow the tree anchors through. And now I’m too tired to head back out to Home Depot for a replacement, so I resign myself to a potentially lopsided tree. That will just be part of its charm!

This independent do-it-yourself attitude being too much for me, I wait a few days before putting on the lights and ornaments I bought.

Beware mini light sets that say they’re twinkling. I assumed, in my speedy 30 minute visit to Target that I was so proud of, that twinkling meant it was optional. So I decide I probably won’t do twinkling this year and string them around 1/3 of the tree with the rest of the lights. Well I should have read more closely, because it’s 20 twinkling and 80 steady, no option to turn it off. So my tree does look slightly like it’s having spasms around its midsection since none of the other strings twinkle.

Beware resin. My live tree may not smell, but boy is it sappy. While stringing my lights and hanging my ornaments I became well bedaubed with resin. This leads to the next tip…

Don’t assume they smell.

On to the happy tips! When choosing lights, do get a string of small red globes, they’ll look like berries on the tree. And get a pickle ornament. There’s just something happy about that artificial green reflecting the lights.

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Chinese Comfort Food in Annandale, VA

Last night I finally got to experience a restaurant I’ve been hearing about for awhile. Authentic Chinese food different from my usual fare and still different from Americanized Chinese food. A delightful, low key place that only takes cash and non-native speakers are definitely in the minority: A & J Restaurant in Annandale, VA.

In addition to great food, it’s also very inexpensive with dishes running $3.95-$7.95. There were 4 of us and we wound up ordering about 7 different dishes which totaled only $33 including tax.

Food started coming out almost immediately after we ordered, beginning with the cucumber in chili oil cold appetizer. That was my favorite! Something about the soothing cold cucumber with a spicy aftertaste. Next to arrive was the smoked chicken. I’m not a huge fan of chicken on the bone, although this hardly could be considered such. It was very tender and moist, and easy to manage with chopsticks. Good, but not one of my favorites.

The chicken was quickly followed by a braised pork rice with braised egg dish. Braised egg apparently means hard boiled, and at first glance I thought it was still in the shell (it wasn’t). The pork was pleasantly spicy but the texture of the boiled egg didn’t quite seem to go for me. Still, quite tasty and a bargain at <$5.

Read the full review on!

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