Posts Tagged ‘tradition!’

Photo from minted.com

Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here at my computer, scrolling through holiday card templates and weeping. While there are still lots of the standard designs, some of the messaging has shifted to address the very significant year we’ve been having. Some are humorous, referencing Zoom meetings or qauarnteams or that “everything is fine” dog-sitting-cheerfully-amid-the-flames meme. But the more prevalent feeling is poignancy, I think. I am seeing a lot of messages embracing togetherness, a lot of very simple cards (just the name of the sender, or a moderate “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings”), a lot of messages about gratitude or thankfulness or hope. The one that made the tearfulness slip over into sobbing was one that said in bold, reassuring letters: Love is all around us. Oh jeez, and after I wrote this whole post and had calmed down and was looking for a photo to put at the top, I came across one that said: You are essential to us always. And I lost it again.

It seems fair and reasonable and maybe necessary that the messaging of this year’s holiday greetings would be different: gentler, more hopeful, more restrained. Yet I have such a complicated mix of feelings in response: tenderness, toward the designers who have so carefully crafted these messages of love and solidarity, and toward the people who choose them. Petulant anger that we need to have specialized messaging at all. Sadness that we can’t be with our loved ones this year, and grief for those whose loved ones have been lost forever. Resignation that even though this strange mostly-awful year is coming to a close, things aren’t BETTER yet. Determination to celebrate and be joyful nonetheless.

My husband, who does not particularly like the holiday card tradition in normal years, is even more against them than usual. On the other hand, I feel like maybe they are more crucial now than ever. My mother says they are not just the yearly hello from friends and loved ones, near and distant – now, they are an important touchpoint. We’re not just wishing one another happy holidays, we are saying, “We are alive, we have so far made it through, if not unscathed at least with enough left over to send out a seasonal card.” For me, sending holiday cards (and receiving them!!!!) has always been one of my favorite traditions of the season. And I am CLINGING to normalcy and tradition here, to help me power through the last few months of what is, dear lord in heaven please make it so, a very unusual and upsetting outlier of a year.

Of course, I completely understand the opposite feeling. That this year was so rough that it’s hard to know how to acknowledge it. That it may feel almost off-puttingly cheerful to send out a message about the holidays when these holidays are so full of unaccustomed stress and uncertainty. That we are all doing everything we can just to make it to 2021, and trying to send out holiday cards is just another expenditure of time and money and energy that we don’t necessarily have. 

So I get it. This may not be the year for holiday cards for many people, and that makes total sense. But I’ve come down on the side of wanting to do them. For me, it’s an important point of connection. And in a year where so many of those connections have been severed, I crave it more than ever. I haven’t yet persuaded my husband to my way of thinking. (He is the photographer, so I kind of need his buy-in.) But I am working on it.

What are you doing, cards-wise, this year? And, whatever it is, is it a break with tradition? And, if you are sending out cards, what kind of messaging are you considering?  

Read Full Post »

Well, yesterday’s sunshine has been washed away by an hours-long thunderstorm that woke me at 6:00 am and seems to have settled right over my house for the duration. It is very dark and wet with intermittent startling bursts of lightning and the grumpy follow-up of growling thunder and I am trying Very Hard to tamp down my School Is Actually Starting Anxiety. So I am retreating into happy memories – forcibly, this time – and still dreamily eating my way through my childhood summers. The food nostalgia is real strong, folks. 

Let’s talk about food! 

Today, for Labor Day, we are having ribs (it will be very fun and soggy to grill them if the downpour continues) and lemony potato salad.

(As an aside, potato salad is one of my Family Tradition Foods. We had it several times a year when I was growing up: New Year’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Fourth of July, Labor Day. My mom makes the BEST potato salad – it’s got a mustard base so it’s a nice sunny yellow, and it’s speckled with little bits of pickles and celery and red peppers and also – hork – hard boiled egg. My mom performs some sort of magical chopping technique on the egg so that it becomes dust and I barely even notice it. The potato salad is amazing and when I go to visit her, she makes a big batch of it and I eat it for breakfast. There is NOTHING that beats my mom’s cold potato salad for breakfast, you have to trust me. But even though she hand-wrote a copy of the recipe for me, I cannot make it so that it tastes the way her potato salad tastes. There must be something special she does, or maybe she doesn’t measure the ingredients as exactly as the recipe implies, or maybe she includes some sort of special ingredient like – hork – love. Whatever it is, I cannot replicate the flavor. So I have found my own potato salad recipe that I love but which tastes NOTHING like my mom’s. So even though it is Tradition to eat potato salad on Labor Day, it doesn’t really feel like tradition, because we’re not eating the traditional potato salad. Have I used the words tradition and potato salad often enough to create semantic satiation?) 

(My family is still sort of floundering to find our own Family Tradition Foods. Even for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we haven’t really settled on specific meals that are so good we want to eat them every year forever and ever amen. And that’s okay! I think variety is wonderful! But I also have such fond food-related memories of holidays growing up. The foods we ate at specific times throughout the year took on such significance – and eating something like my mom’s potato salad can bring so much warmth and happiness flooding back that I would love to create the same kind of thing for Carla. Of course, there’s the added hiccup that Carla doesn’t EAT anything, so…)

(Family Tradition Foods must be a thing for other families, too, yes? Do you have any that you remember with fondness? Or horkitude, I suppose – I’d be interested to know about the Special Food your dad made every September First that only he liked to eat, or, like, the hot dish Aunt Violetta used to bring to every family barbecue that you all pretended to love, but would dump behind the shrubbery at the earliest opportunity, or whatever.)

Back to the Labor Day holiday pigging: my husband made these AMAZING brownie crinkle cookies for dessert. We may have eaten some yesterday already. You know. To make sure they weren’t poisonous, and weren’t going to ruin the holiday or anything. They are so fudgy and delicious. You should make them immediately. 

Here’s what else is on this week’s menu. Spoiler alert: it’s full of comfort food.

Dinners for the Week of September 7-13

As I have already mentioned, several times, Carla is starting in-person school this week. She goes to a very small private school that has expended significant money and thought into how to make in-person school work safely for all involved. We feel hopeful and grateful and that this is the best decision we can make for our family at this time… but I am still nervous. Any and all distractions, especially but not limited to food-related memories or your dinner plans for this week, would be MOST welcome and appreciated. 

Read Full Post »

Our Christmas decorations have mostly been put away. The guest room and bathroom have been cleaned and all the laundry has been laundered. My husband and I have thoroughly organized our wrapping paper mess, I have cleaned out the shelving unit in the basement, and I have purchased new bins for Carla’s craft cabinet. Our home, if not the year ahead, is ready to be filled with great things. What better way to cap an excellent end to the year than with this annual bloggy tradition? (Autocorrect wanted to change “bloggy” to “bloody” which makes me giggle.)

And guess what, internet? This is the TENTH RECAP I’ve written in the history of this little blog! That seems like… something, right?

So settle in for… well, for more of the same, if you’ve been around for any of the previous recaps. However, just for a little change of pace, I have finally done away with all the questions that have irritated me for the past DECADE, so you have that to look forward to. (Don’t worry, I kept the original survey mostly intact, just with the offending questions struckthrough [strikedthrough? strikethroughed?] because I am nothing if not tethered to tradition.)

(Why don’t I just come up with some questions I WANT to answer? Would that be so hard, Self? NO, no it would not!) (And yet, will I come up with new questions? Probably not.) (Sheesh, I am so powerless to Tradition. This is the way I’ve always done it, therefore this is the way it should be done for all eternity!) (Also, am a teensy bit lazy.) (Do YOU have questions you want me to answer?)

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & SundryIf you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 201720162015201420132012201120102009.)

And do post a link to your end-of-year round-up when you get a chance, will you?

  • What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Well, the only thing I can think of for this response is that we did our estate planning. Which isn’t a particularly exciting accomplishment, but I suppose it’s worthwhile. Oh! I also went to Alaska, which is quite possibly a Once In A Lifetime sort of a trip.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I said:

I did NOT finish the novel. I did NOT find a way to speed up the process. In fact, I became mired deeply in the realization that this part of it is Slow Going. But [finishing the novel] is a good goal to put back on the list.

Also, I want to work on my patience, especially when it comes to my husband and my daughter. I want to work on exercising more regularly, because it greatly improves my mental health. I want to work on eating better. I want to read more.

I did NOT finish the novel in 2018. But I made some good progress, and I am plugging ahead. Maybe 2019 is The Year.

I think I made some good steps towards more patience, although I still have a long way to go. I definitely succeeded at exercising more regularly and eating better (well, for MOST of the year; there were a few months in there where I simply ate whatever I wanted in mass quantities). And I read the most books I have ever managed in a single year (31). That’s nothing compared to other people, but it’s a big one for me.

As for 2019, I have decided to make some very specific goals, which I hope means they are easier to accomplish.

  1. I want to learn German. Maybe not fluent German, which seems like quite a stretch. Especially for someone who took four years of high school French and another year in college and never actually learned more than basic vocabulary. But I want to learn enough that I don’t feel like a complete floundering oaf when I visit Munich and Vienna later this year.
  2. I want to finally, after seven plus years in this house, hang up the gallery wall that I’ve been planning to do. All of the photos and artwork exist, in frames, in my basement. The lovely blank wall is just sitting there, ready for decoration. I just need to DO IT.
  3. Last year, I lost 10+% of my body weight. And then gained it all back. I would like to do the former again without the latter.
  4. I want to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my phone. My Reach Goal is to put my phone in my bedroom when I arrive home with Carla after school and not touch it until I set my alarm before bed. But I’d be happy to just keep it out of my hands until she goes to bed.
  5. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I ENJOY this. But I always think about it and then never invite anyone over and they magically never invite themselves, so I am going to remedy that.

That seems like a good place to start. The bigger goals are in play, too – let’s not forget about patience and quality time and THE NOVEL. But throwing in a few specifics shouldn’t hurt.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own interpretation of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year?)

This year, I visited six states besides my own: Alaska, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and my home state out west.

  • What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I am a broken record about this, but A FULLY DRAFTED NOVEL.

  • What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I think I’m going to delete this one from future years’ surveys because I can rarely remember any specific dates. I mean, there was my tenth wedding anniversary, which is pretty special.  And my fifteenth college reunion was pretty cool. My kid turning five. My brother getting married. There were really great occurrences this year, but the specific dates aren’t really lodged in my brain, is what I’m saying.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don’t think I have particularly BIG achievements. I was proud of the freelance work I completed. I made a photo/memory album for my mom’s seventieth birthday, which I felt great about (and which seemed well-received by my mom). I read more than 30 books (this is a LOT for me). Nothing earth shattering, though.

  • What was your biggest failure?

What I have said the past two years applies here:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? If I can do it elsewhere, why can’t I blather and drivel my way through a first draft?

Also, I made some really great progress toward physical goals – more exercise, better/healthier eating habits – and then I erased my efforts by returning to lackluster exercising and lustful overeating, which I’d really worked to defeat. Well. Onward.

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thankfully, nope.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

I have no idea. The Barbie Dreamhouse we got Carla for Christmas? That seems to be a big hit.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?

Last year, I said:

Every year I think it’s the same, so maybe this question should go on the reject list.

So I am officially erasing this question.

  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I think the most exciting things that happened this year were the big surprise birthday weekend my dad and aunts put on for my mom’s birthday and my college reunion. I got super excited about both of them, and both turned out to be even more fun than I’d anticipated.

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2018?

“SoulMate” by Justin Timberlake

“God’s Plan” by Drake

“Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino

“Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse Theme Song” by someone who knows the true meaning of “earworm”

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? 
  2. b) thinner or fatter? 
  3. c) richer or poorer? 
  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing (evergreen item)!!! Keeping up with out-of-state friends. Doing fun things with Carla outside the house. Going on dates with my husband.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Same as last year: Yelling. Looking at my phone. Looking at headlines and freaking out. Stressing about things I have no control over.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Carla and my husband and I had a quiet Christmas just the three of us. We opened presents, Carla played with her new Barbies and Dreamhouse happily as my husband and I cooked dinner together. There was a tiny bit of leftover snow outside. Our tree was lovely. It was quiet and very very nice.

  • Did you fall in love in 2018?
  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

Oh, how I love television!!! I re-watched the entire series of The Closer, which I absolutely adore. But this question is about NEW television. The Good Place is probably the top of the list, but I also really, really enjoyed How to Get Away with Murder, which I know came out many years ago but is brand new to me. I also watched Silicon Valley for the first time, which is a fun show. And I really enjoyed The Sinner as well. There are probably a lot more I should be remembering but I can’t think of any.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
  • What was the best book you read?

Best book of the year was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. It was lyrical and funny and heart-rending and I loved it so much.

A very close runner up would have to be The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel, which was a perfect collection of short stories. The language was so beautifully crafted and the stories were so surprising and tightly drawn.

Then The North Water by Ian McGuire, which was on a subject I did not know I cared for (maritime disasters!) and the plot was lively, the language was vivid, and the whole thing was full of fascinating historical detail.

I also really enjoyed History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert,and The Line That Held Us by David Joy – each of which had a LOT to recommend it, from great plot to beautiful writing to thought provoking subject matter and complicated characters.

  • What did you want and get?

Freelance assignments from great clients. Really fun vacations. Wonderful new experiences – I mean, Alaska on its own was absolutely amazing. Lots of really fantastic quality time with my husband and Carla.

  • What did you want and not get?

Second verse, same as the first:

A finished first draft of my manuscript because I am SLOW. 

Also, the ability to overcome my desire to eat anything I want in mass quantities and instead find some way to consistently eat reasonable amounts of (mainly) healthful food.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Um. Did I see any movies? I remember really wanting to see The Big Sick and Crazy Rich Asiansbut I didn’t actually see either. My husband and I did take Carla to see The Grinch, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as every year (don’t I ever PROGRESS as a person?!?!):

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING. 


  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

I think I spent most of the year in skinny jeans and boots. That counts as a fashion “concept,” right?

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. Books. Recipe blogs. Writing partners. Alone time. Good TV.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Kristin Bell in The Good Place is my everything.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?
  • Who did you miss?

Same as last year:

I have had a lot of serious loneliness for some of my good friends who don’t live in my state. My best friend from forever, who lives two time zones away. My dear friend from medical school (not that she or I actually went to medical school; our husbands did) who has two beautiful daughters and a wonderful husband and who is, herself, fantastic. I wish they lived nearer. Some college friends I miss.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

I met a new mom this fall who is super smart and fun and engaging. I hope we hang out more in 2019. Also, my husband and I met another couple recently who seem super cool.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

I took on a lot more freelance work in 2018 than I have since I started writing the novel, which had two results: 1. I had less time for my personal writing, which is Bad. 2. I had a greater sense of accomplishment and contribution to my household, which is Good. So… I guess my life lesson is that sometimes your desires and your needs are in direct conflict with one another, and you have to find a workable balance.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Everyone’s excited / You’re always invited / To the Dreamhouse / Oh the Dreamhouse!

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope your 2019 is amazing!

Read Full Post »

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

This is the first year that we’ll have Christmas just the three of us. I am rather enjoying the quiet coziness of it all. We are all still in pajamas. There is lots of lounging going on. I tried to win Carla over to the joys of Home Alone, but it turns out it’s a bit old for her yet. Elf is on the agenda for later. My only job today – aside from copious cuddling, and perhaps finishing my book – is to make some rolls for dinner Friday; I will freeze them after I make them.

Family arrives on the 26th. We are not doing a special dinner because we will all have already had a big Christmas supper the night before. Thursday we go out to celebrate a birthday. And Saturday half of the family leaves, so the rest of us will either get take out or munch on leftovers. Sunday, the rest of the family leaves, which means that I will probably head to the store or scrape together some sort of Franken-meal from what we have on hand.

Still! There are meals to plan and make, so the post will go up!

Dinners (and Assorted Other Meals) for the Week of December 24-December 29

Christmas Eve: Avgolemono from America’s Test Kitchen (paywall)

Note: We have never eaten this before, much less tried to make it. I admit that I am deeply suspicious of a soup with egg in it, as I am no fan of eggs. But neither of us much wanted to make Mulligatawny soup, which was my Christmas Eve tradition growing up, and it would be fun to have our own soup tradition. We’ll see. It may end up that my husband eats it and Carla and I eat bagels or chicken nuggets. I mean, Carla has never once eaten soup as it is, so I’m not holding out much hope that tonight will be the night.

Follow up: This was NOT good. I can’t pinpoint why; maybe because it tasted heavily of chicken? Maybe because the lemony egg mixture you add to the soup gave the whole thing an unpleasant lemon-curd-with-chicken taste? In any case, I am not a fan. Even my husband, who eats pretty much anything, could not give this a thumbs up. I made a few of the rolls I prepared and ended up turning one into an impromptu pepperoni sandwich for my Christmas Eve meal.

Christmas Day:

Note: Neither of us has ever made a frittata. And, let’s be honest, it’s really for my breakfast-loving husband’s benefit. I don’t really like breakfast food, so I tend to defer to him. Usually for Christmas Day breakfast we make the Pioneer Woman’s overnight French toast. Last year we also made a savory strata. But that’s when there are more people at the breakfast table than the three of us. Carla will eat the sweet stuff, but nothing savory. So probably we’ll end up making her pancakes as per usual and my husband will end up eating most of the frittata and we’ll come up with something else for next year.

Follow up: This was delicious! I don’t normally like eggs, but this was very egg-light, with plenty of other tasty things. Our only complaint was that it seemed very salty. My husband and I agreed that next time we make it, we’ll add an extra potato, reduce the salt by at least 2/3s, and decrease the amount of bacon.

Note: Carla sometimes eats steak, so we are hoping that she’ll at least have a few bites of this Christmas dinner. When I grew up, our family tradition for Christmas dinner was a porterhouse spice roast, homemade Caesar salad, and lemony steamed broccoli. I LOVE that dinner. But a porterhouse roast seems overly ambitious for a group of three. Also, no one makes Caesar dressing like my dad, so I don’t really even want to try. Instead, we got a baby tenderloin and some mushrooms and we’ll be trying a new recipe. Who knows? Maybe it will become a family favorite!

Follow up: The beef tenderloin was wonderful — and super easy! You just smear it with some mustard and herbs and throw it in the oven. It cooks low and slow for a long time and then it is perfectly cooked and butter tender. We will definitely do this again. My mom’s mashed potatoes were, of course, amazing. And we ended up skipping anything green because we couldn’t agree on how to cook the beans.

Note: My husband loves dessert, and he is always super interested in the desserts featured on the Great British Baking Show. So we are trying a British-style dessert this year, just for fun.

Follow up: THIS WAS SO GOOD.


  • Brunch: Bagels & Lox

Note: With cream cheese, capers, lemons, and onions. And fruit for the kiddos.

Note: Someone at my husband’s office has brought in this cranberry salsa a few times, and my husband is in love with it. I am deeply suspicious but I’m willing to try it.

Follow up: This was actually quite delicious! It’s super weird — a combo of flavors that don’t seem like they would work. But they DO and I found myself unable to stop. We ate this with Stacy’s pita chips, which are delicious in and of themselves.

  • Dinner: Tacos

Note: Easy and delicious. So what if it’s not typical Christmas fare? (For us. I don’t know your magical taco-eating life.) If my mother-in-law and husband hadn’t insisted on simplicity over fanciness, I would have made this pork roast from Food & Wine and possibly Ina Garten’s chocolate creme brûlée. Well, there’s always next time.


  • Breakfast: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, leftover frittata – whatever we can scrape together.
  • Lunch: Cold cuts and leftover smoked salmon
  • Dinner: Out


Note: The BBQ pork is one of my all-time favorite SUPER EASY recipes. I throw a pork tenderloin, a roughly chopped white onion, and a minced garlic clove or two in the crockpot, then douse with my favorite BBQ sauce and a few healthy squeezes of Sriracha. Cook for 4 hours, shred, and eat. I eat my pork with a potato (which I liberally drench in sauce), but my husband prefers making little sandwiches, hence the rolls and coleslaw.

Follow up: The dinner rolls were easy to make and froze nicely. But they are NOT Parker House rolls, which is kind of what I was expecting. They are denser and… squishier than I anticipated. Still good though. Would definitely make these again.


  • This is where I completely give up on the pretense of cooking, not that I’ve been doing much of it. I can promise I’ll have been doing a lot of dishes anyway.

Follow up: Three loads of dishes EVERY DAY our guests were here. How is that even possible…?


  • Takeout????

If you’re bored this Christmas week, let me know what your traditional Holiday Meals include.

It’s beginning to snow – hooray! Happiest Christmas, Internet!


Read Full Post »