How to Be the Greatest Holiday House Guest*

Are you traveling this holiday season? Staying with family? Using strange towels that smell of strange fabric softener? Sleeping in someone else’s bed?

You’re not alone. Over twenty million Americans** will be staying with family members for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and at least half of them will feel displaced, displeased, and generally disgruntled–especially if those family members are in-laws.

Here’s hoping, if you’re part of this group of intrepid travelers, you’re one of the happy ones–basking in familial love and the comfort of home. If not, don’t worry! We’ve got five happy hints to make your holiday away from home completely holly jolly.*** For you, anyway.

Continue reading → How to Be the Greatest Holiday House Guest*

Office Parties

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Does your/your partner’s company throw a holiday party? We attended one at my husband’s office yesterday afternoon. It was pretty low-key: some snacks, a ping-pong table, and coloring pages for the kids. My husband won second place in the ugly sweater contest for that Mario jumper you see in the picture, which isn’t really that ugly but only like four people wore ugly sweaters.

I always find office parties a little awkward–perhaps because it’s never been my office we’re partying in, but also because it seems so forced. I got to have a nice chat with somebody’s wife and daughters, but mostly people kept in small clumps of well-known office mates, talking about office stuff and sports teams, about which I know nothing.

The kids had a blast, though. Violet spun and spun to the Christmas music in her head, and Sam tried his hand at ping-pong.

What are your office parties like? I know they vary hugely in size and style. I’d love to hear your stories.

Some Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

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We’re visiting my parents this week. Last night, the girl and I slept cuddled on a futon while the boy and his daddy shared a mattress on the floor.

The kids have been having a blast. There’s a neighbor kid who’s spent a lot of time here, playing with them–Violet loves chasing him around, blowing raspberries.

My parents have the kind of house where people are constantly coming and going. They rent out portions of their house and the tenants don’t keep to themselves. They live near family and somebody is constantly dropping by. I don’t realize how isolated I am in my regular life, how much I close myself up inside my bubble, until I come to visit–and in some ways, I’m reminded of why I’m so solitary. It also explains why I wish the neighbors behind us would drop in unexpected sometimes. There’s a hole in their fence and they could cut through the green space and come through our gate, no problem. I’d love it if they came by to play sometimes.  Continue reading → Some Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

Divinity, Divine

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This might not look like anything special, but inside that sugary white cloud there’s a hailstorm of flavor.

At Christmas, my Grandma Vivian made candy. Her food is the stuff of family legend, especially her bread, but for me, the candy was the high point. It’s a tradition I’ve tried to keep up in her absence: peanut brittle, fudge, and divinity.

I think I use the same recipe for peanut brittle that she did–from the red-and-white checkered Better Homes and Gardens book–and it’s always a hit. Ditto the fudge, except my dad always wants me to make it grainy, like she did (technically, an error on her part, but the sense of taste resides in both the tongue and the heart). My divinity, however. Well. After several years of making piles of fluffy white sugar bombs, my dad sat me down. It’s not you, it’s me. That sort of thing. It turns out, though they revere her as the cook of all cooks, no one ever really liked the divinity. (Any relatives who might be reading this, feel free to contradict me.) They ate it to be polite, and because it was there. Me, I enjoyed it. It was simple and sweet and I loved the texture. Could it have had more flavor? Absolutely. But did my family want me to keep on making it?

Nope. Continue reading → Divinity, Divine