Category Archives: Holidays

Which Gift Cards Are Worth Buying?

#Sephora #giftcard signI have a love/hate relationship with gift cards. Yes, they are convenient and show the recipient some consideration.

But…

The bank or retailer is holding on to your money until the card is redeemed. Not only are you lending them your cash for free, but banks actually charge you for the privilege. Hey, at least throw in some nice packaging! So as a public service, I visited local retailers and gathered some helpful intel: Continue reading Which Gift Cards Are Worth Buying?

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Union Square’s Seasonal Transformation

The calendar and political climate have caused New York’s Union Square to make dramatic changes in just the past two weeks. Politics and the holiday shopping season collide.

Many gathered at the park to speak of their discomfort with the presidential election results. It was a friendly scene; I thanked one speaker for urging protesters to select one thing to be activist about rather than be overwhelmed by the big picture. This turned into a casual conversation between two people  who were, clearly, older than most of the rest of the attendees. This is Union Square at 14th Street on November 10: Continue reading Union Square’s Seasonal Transformation

Bonding Over Thanksgiving Leftovers

cooked turkey on a platterI suspect every American knows that the best thing about Thanksgiving is the leftovers.

The sheer amount of food on the holiday can be overwhelming, especially if you are hosting and have to figure out where to put ALL THAT FOOD. Continue reading Bonding Over Thanksgiving Leftovers

Holiday Gift Shopping Made Easy

four-awesome-gift-ideasThis year, my sister and niece are organizing a new way of exchanging Christmas gifts, and I couldn’t be happier.

Each family member over high school age buys one  gift valued at up to $50.00 and brings it wrapped. Each recipient will be assigned a number. Number one selects first, number two second, and so on. You get the gift associated with that number or you can “steal” a gift that has already been opened. I’m not sure if that would be funny or cause some sore feelings, but I’ll go with the flow.

Our family members in the scheme will range from college age up to, well, me. Boys and girls. We are neither fancy nor cute, mostly suburban working class. And after some retail research, here are some ideas: Continue reading Holiday Gift Shopping Made Easy

Looking for Christmas

I always loved Christmas. The cheer, the celebrations, the pretty decorations, all never failed to put a spring in my step and a dent in my wallet.

I entered the season with an already dented wallet and was shocked when I realized that Christmas was almost here. So last week, after a City appointment and time to waste on a gloriously warm day, I walked through lower Manhattan looking for the weird or the wonderful. Continue reading Looking for Christmas

Mindful Shopping This Holiday Season

pretty jewelry at BamboomovesI recently read that Recreational Equipment Inc. is encouraging their customers to go play outside on Black Friday. They’re not even opening their stores, but rather paying their employees to go out in the fresh air. What a great idea: after the day to celebrate the bountiful harvest by eating ourselves into a stupor, we work some of it off. Of course it would be REI who leads the charge; they are one of a handful of chain stores devoted to outdoor pursuits. Continue reading Mindful Shopping This Holiday Season

Happy Father’s Day (in abstentia)

“As I watch the seedling grow, I feel my heart start to overflow. Where do I find the words to say? How do I teach him? What do we play? Bit by bit, I realize, that’s when I need them, that’s when I need my father’s eyes.” (the great Eric Clapton)

Happy Father’s Day to all the good dads, to the women who are both mother and father to their kids, and to the selfless male role models. I didn’t get to see my dad today; we’ll celebrate the holiday at a later date.

When I was young it was common for relatives to just stop by each others’ homes unannounced, simply because it’s family. Many years ago I my toddler screamed and fought me as I tried to wash her hair. Just as I was at my wit’s end my father appeared. I answered the door with a wet, angry child under my arm. He told me to go take a walk. I returned home to a clean, happy girl and domestic bliss. It helped that for a little while I lived about a mile from my father and he was old-school about visiting. When I started my new life and gleefully decorated on the cheap, it was Dad’s career as a tool and die maker that made it possible for us (mostly him) to assemble Ikea furniture without losing our minds. He loves all of his kids equally yet uniquely because we are all such different people. And does he love being a grandpa!

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

 

Hello Groundhog

Today is Groundhog Day, one of the more idiotic events in American culture. The premise is that some poor groundhog is awakened from hibernation. Whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow determines how much longer winter will last.

Two obvious problems though:

  1. Winter will last as long as it is cold. That’s subjective, though. Groundhogs are covered in fur. Humans are not.
  2. We don’t speak fluent groundhog.

Enjoy the video!

Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive, joyful 2015!

I spent New Year’s Eve nursing an ugly cold, not at the party on Long Island that I planned to attend. It was a night of positive introspection: I acknowledged my successes and weaknesses. I, surprisingly, felt gleeful when I realized that I have grown in confidence and, by extension, life experience, every year since 2006. That was the year I ceased to be Mrs. Suburban Wife And Mother and embraced this new life. I am grateful for all who came along for the ride and for the fun that we’ve had.

Of course, that could be the vodka talking. Instead a certain fizzy, celebratory beverage, I drank a screwdriver because the orange juice would be full of healthy vitamins. Well, that was the theory.

I had my New Year’s miracle just before midnight, when I realized that I’d left my pocketbook in my car. The car parked on the street. The bag and pretty gloves were right where I left them, on the passenger side, closest to pedestrians who could see right in.

So although I’ve started 2015 blowing through boxes of tissues, I just know that this year will be a good one. There will be setbacks and hurdles, to be sure. I will blog about them and fight to win. There is no alternative.

 

A Warm Christmas

candleIt’s hard to believe that after busy months of preparation and a couple of dizzying credit card bills, Christmas is over. I’ll keep the cheerful decorations up as long as I can; I’m a sucker for tree lights and candles. (The picture above shows a candle lighting up my kitchen table.)

In the past week I’ve celebrated with family and friends, missed my Los Angeles sibling more than usual, reconnected with a California cousin who should have been a bigger part of my life and going forward, she will be. I was introduced to the game Trivia Crack and ate the best pasteles I’ve had in over ten years.

The warmth of the season is the physical glow of lights and the heartfelt glow of sharing feelings, knowledge and laughter. It’s the fireplace in my youngest brother’s house and the moist, fragrant air over an active stove.

Also looking west from the Higghline at around 14 Street

Looking west from the High Line at around 14 StreetIt’s catching dusk over the Hudson River.

 

 

 

 

Coffee in ManhattanIt’s walking around with a toasty, rejuvenating coffee.

It’s higher than usual temperatures.

But nothing is warmer than a hug from my child and the company of people who do not annoy me.

 

 

 

It’s Gift And Tree Season

little pink tree 2014I kind of like buying Christmas gifts. It forces me to consider what the recipient, usually somebody I care about, would actually like. As I read the annual lists of suggestions and guides, though, I wonder, “Who buys this stuff?” Cutesy, impractical apparel, delicate looking toys, designer food. If I presented this to my family I would hear a rousing chorus of “What the hell is this?”

And rightly so. We are not that demographic who follow short-lived trends, at least those of us past high school age. We like real stuff: wine, cash, jewelry, my almost-annual gift to Dad of a new sweater.

Continue reading It’s Gift And Tree Season

Year eight at this apartment and I am still astounded at the lack of interest that this neighborhood has in Halloween. I had exactly one trick-or-treater, which is 100% more than usual.

If it’s true that Americans will spend over 7.4 billion dollars on Halloween this year (does that include the day-after clearance purchases?) then those statisticians were never in this area. Maybe they were studying the remarkable Halloween Parade in lower Manhattan?

Or were they driving through suburbia? Back when I was Mrs. Suburban Wife And Mother, I enjoyed my holiday decorating skills, using no outdoor electricity or intentionally offensive images. It was so much fun to dress the inflatable skeleton and seat it on the porch, to set up the ceramic spooky light-up houses on the sill of the big  living room window, make masses of cute candy bags for the neighborhood kids.

Those kids are grown now and I hope I contributed to their childhood Halloween memories. It’s a fun holiday with no family obligations, no furtive phone calls in the weeks preceding asking “Where are we celebrating this year?” and “What obscure gift do I have to buy for your kid?” Yes, it has a long history dating back to the ancient Druids, but in its modern American incarnation, it’s a day to try on a new persona, to pretend to be that princess or superhero. It’s the day when neighbors welcome your knock on the door and reward it with candy.

What’s wrong with these people? Are they too busy to let their kids do the things that they’ll remember as they get older? Don’t the children want to recite, “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat?” Aw come on, loosen up, be glad we have these fun traditions.

As for me, I only own a few of the Halloween decorations that I used to. I wasn’t even going to use them this year but decided two days ago to just do it.  I like candles and they fit right in. It makes me happy.

Halloween 2011: It snowed.
Halloween 2011: It snowed.

Fourth of July Balloons on a construction ladder_photoThe Declaration Of Independence: While our nation started as an imperfect set of laws, opportunities and rights, we are ever evolving into a country leaning toward equality.  I’ll sit out the rainy holiday and contemplate how lucky I was to be born female where  I have a chance to thrive.

 (Two WordPress writing prompts!!)

Happy 2014!

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From my child’s school craft fair in 1999.

12/31/99: Y2K. There was some concern that the world’s computer systems wouldn’t handle the change to the new century. But the ball dropped, the lights stayed on and our East Coast ground did not shake. All good.

Life changes often don’t get a national holiday. Your birthday, graduation dates, the day you closed on your house: these are huge personal events that are probably more worthy of celebration than the change of the calendar. This New Year’s Eve I feel grateful for the opportunities and good people that made my life Interesting. I am grateful for having had the guts to try new things, including blogging. This was the year I stopped spending inordinate amounts of time trying to make my hair look straight and instead, let it go curly. (I’m sure there will be future posts about that.) I stopped eating ice cream and lowered my cholesterol levels. (Take that, Pharmaceutical Industry!)

I have grown stronger. This will be a quiet New Year’s Eve because I choose my own company over that of a roomful of drunken strangers. Right now I am watching “A Toast To 2013” and laughing my head off.

That’s how I hope to start 2014. I wish everybody love, health, happiness and personal growth!

Ghosts of December 23rds Past (Or, Boy Do I Love My Life)

For some two decades December 23 was a frenzy of busyness. The day started with working whatever job I had at the time and after my commute home, continued with my Mommy job: loving and caring for my child, preparing 12-23 used to really stress me out_photosalad or cooking for Christmas Eve, wrapping those last gifts and trying to figure out how everything was going to fit in my Geo Prizm. (Little people get big toys!) Add why, oh why, did I volunteer to bring folding chairs?

Continue reading Ghosts of December 23rds Past (Or, Boy Do I Love My Life)

Small Business Saturday

imageToday was Small Business Saturday, as declared by Amex to supposedly entice people to shop the smaller stores after beating the crap outta each other to get the Black Friday deals. In the spirit of Christmas, I suppose.

But I digress.

I visited one of my favorite small businesses, over in New Hyde Park, Long Island: Bobb Howard’s. This is an auto repair shop and old-time candy store, attached to each other, owned by Eileen Caplin Wysel and Ron Wysel. When I say old-time I’m not kidding. They sell the treats that many of us grew up with, like candy cigarettes, kazoos, whoopie cushions and slide whistles. And games! Ouiji, Mystery Date, little pinball toys, whee! I’m not generally a nostalgic kinda gal; I like modern times, microwaves, the internet and a much higher glass ceiling than in the days of Mad Men.

But I loved my toys and candy. I enjoy going to a shop where they’re helpful without stalking you, where the merchandise is intriguing and where they serve a little warm cider and popcorn before you go back out into the cold. New customers also got a little welcome gift: that paddle with the ball attached that you’re supposed to bounce on the paddle. I never mastered that.

Oh, and Small Business Saturday? Ron made sure to remind each customer that they get ten bucks back for their purchases if they charge on American Express. Cool symbiotic relationship there. I didn’t get ten dollars but I got a blog post and maybe somebody’s Christmas present. Works for me.

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http://www.BobbHowardsGeneralStore.com