I am currently consulting for a really nice company. The people are very nice, and the place is not overly corporate. We just finished a large project and the executive wanted to thank the team for a job well done by taking everyone out to dinner. We went to a wonderful restaurant, the food was great, and we had a room to ourselves. The whole evening was right on point.
Here’s the thing.
I just don’t like corporate dinners.
I know, I sound ungrateful. But I find them awkward and uncomfortable, even with the best of company relationships. For me, it is still work. And at night, after working all day, I just want to go home. I commute in, so I had to take a train ride that got me home late, and then I had to get up the next morning and go back to work.
I see the evening after work as my time. When I was younger, I enjoyed these events more. But now I feel like it is an infringement on my time. I want to be home with my husband, or to go see my kids, or to walk my dogs. I spend enough time at work, well, working.
So here is my solution.
The long lunch.
Instead of asking people to give up an evening, take your team out for a long lunch. A two-hour lunch isn’t going to make or break the business day. And since people are already there working, they aren’t giving up any of their personal time.
A smaller segment of our team did go out to a lunch. And it was perfect. A fixed price menu with several selections was prepared in advance, and the meal was delightful. We all had a good time, relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. And then we went back to the office. No muss, no fuss. I didn’t have to give up any of what I consider my personal time.
I used to work at another company, and our department would do a holiday dinner. I was a single parent, and that meant I had to leave work, get my son home, get a sitter, and then meet them at the restaurant. Not only did I have to run around, but it also cost me money to hire a sitter. Another person in the department was a single parent as well, so we approached our boss and asked if we could make the celebration be a lunch instead. It had never occurred to them about us needing child care, and they gladly changed the party to a lunch. So much better. We still had a nice time, and I didn’t have to run around and be out-of-pocket for childcare.
So if you are the one organizing a corporate team celebration, consider the long lunch. It’s still a generous event, and you aren’t asking your team to give up any of their personal time. Your team will be grateful, not just for the thank you, but for not infringing on their personal life.
If you have been following my blog and Facebook page, you will know that I am a huge fan of pie. Just love it. So when my library offered “Art of the Pie-A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life” by Kate McDermott as the Big Library Read, I checked it out. I was totally into a cookbook dedicated to pie.
What I discovered was much more than a recipe book. It was Kate’s stories about her life and her philosophies. It is pie, with musings and insights. And with such beautiful photographs, by noted New York Times photographer, Andrew Scrivani. I fell in love with this book.
So I emailed her, and asked her for an interview. And Kate being the generous soul that she is, agreed.
When I called her for the interview, I was struck immediately by her warm demeanor. She radiated kindness and friendship. I could tell right away how much she loves what she does, and how pie has been such an important part of her life. She is completely down to earth.
We started off by talking about her book being selected for the Big Library Read. This is a global ebook club run through public libraries. The books are selected by librarians, and “Art of the Pie” was the first ever cookbook to be selected. Quite an honor.
We then reviewed Kate’s Three Rules, which are in the introduction of her book:
Rule# 1: Keep everything chilled, especially yourself- Keeping your ingredients chilled makes them easier to work with. And keeping yourself chilled makes your life easier. She says “chilling out” means that you can only control what you have control of. And that fretting and worrying about things beyond your control are simply non-productive. Instead, be kind, be generous and do meaningful work.
Rule# 2: Keep Your Boundaries- in pie making, this means watch your pie crust edges, so that they don’t burn. Finish your crust edges with a final crimp. In life, it means setting your boundaries for yourself and with others. You cannot, and shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. Kate said “Life is short, don’t take things so seriously. It is entirely ok to say no. You need to learn to stand your ground”.
Rule #3: Vent- I love this one! In order for your pie to not to erupt, you cut some vents in the crust to allow steam to escape. If you don’t, the pie will find a weak point and just blow. And so can we. There are times we need to off-load our feelings, and “vent” our frustrations. This keeps us from blowing up at the wrong thing or person. And if we don’t our bodies can react with illness and malaise. So, vent away!
Pie making gives you the ability to practice these three rules. Kate said “the rules are a constant work in progress. You have to practice on a regular basis, you have to own it”.
Our talk then turned to the meditative quality of simple tasks. A humbling task, like pie making, laundry or sweeping the floor, is grounding. Simple tasks have a rhythm, which allows you to wander in your mind. It is both physical and mental. Kate noted that all of her meditative tasks involve her doing something with her hands. It may be making pie, digging in the garden, or playing an instrument. Kate is also an accomplished musician. “I have lived an artist’s life” says Kate. “I am so fortunate”.
Kate teaches “Pie Camp”, where you get to spend a day or a weekend learning and making pies. I asked her about people’s anxiety about making the perfect pie. “Oh yes”, she says. “People are all caught up with their pie being perfect. Or they want to recreate their Grandma’s pie. I tell them, how about we create your own pie?”
“There is nothing wrong with things being perfectly imperfect”. Perfection is never achievable. Kate says that if something isn’t working, like a crust or combination of ingredients, then just walk away and start again. No harm, no foul, no judgement. Just do it over. “All is right and none is wrong”. Kate strives to instill this message to her Pie Campers.
Kate noted that people who come to her pie camps think that making pie is hard.”You have to be a lifetime learner. Know how to find out. Learn how to learn.” She shows them it is not about the end result of the pie, but the process of making it that counts. It’s about using your senses. The feel of the pie dough when it is not too stiff, not too sticky. The taste of just enough cinnamon for the apples. Maybe you need a bit more? The smell of the fruit as it bakes, yes, it smells like it’s done. Does the crust look brown enough? Time to come out of the oven. It’s learning to trust your senses, to get the gut feeling of just knowing. Pie can teach you that it IS about the journey, not the destination.
We then discovered we share a pet peeve.
The Trophy Kitchen.
You know, that fancy, super expensive kitchen with the high-end appliances and the granite countertops with the imported hand-made tiles from some obscure mountain town in Italy.
The ones no one cooks in. Except maybe for the caterer.
Kate does NOT have a trophy kitchen. In fact, Kate just recently splurged on a dishwasher. “All you need in a kitchen is water, heat to cook with, cold to refrigerate or freeze and a flat space to work”. The notion that you need all of the state of the art appliances and gadgets is just that. A notion. The Trophy Kitchen is the symbol of the quantity vs. quality mentality. It sets up a lifestyle of impossible competition. From “not enough” to “never enough”. Who needs it? No one, really.
In addition to being a book about life lessons, Art of the Pie is also practical guide to pie baking. There are many tips and techniques, plus many recipes. There are all kinds of examples of crusts. PS-pie crust is not the enemy. It isn’t hard to make…
Kate’s book has been nominated for the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Award in the media category. She has numerous other awards, and has been featured in Bon Appetit, Oprah Magazine and Food & Wine Magazine, plus many others. I asked her how it felt to be the Rock Star of Pie. “Oh pinch me. I feel like Cinderella every day. ” When asked about what helped create her success she said “I never had a plan. I followed my gut.” She loves to teach, and she took that love and brought it to pie making. But she doesn’t stand in the spotlight. “It is pie that is the star” she says humbly.
Kate’s goal is to turn this country back into people who know how to cook. She wants them in the kitchen, using their senses. She wants children to learn to cook from their parents. The experience of the process, the discovery of a passion, is what Kate wants to bring out in people.
The best example of Kate’s generosity is that she has NEVER sold a pie. Not once. Ever. Each and every pie she has made has been given away, freely and with love.
So, you would love to follow your passion, but how to get started? Follow Kate’s guiding principles:
Follow the voice in your gut. You know the one. Listen to it.
You must be passionate. Be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have before.
Make sure that you give something away. If your plan isn’t quite coming together, give more away. It will come back to you.
So, go find your passion. Make some pie, some art, some music.
I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21, and it was an exhilarating experience. There was an atmosphere of love, support, tolerance and a much justified dose of outrage. My two friends and I drove down from the Philadelphia area. We waved to others on the road showing their signs from their cars and wearing their pink hats. The mood was uplifting; from the train ride in, though the march to the train ride back out. I was so glad to be a part of this historic march.
This march has kickstarted many other marches on various days worldwide. With so much to protest about, I thought I would look into how food has played a part in the history of protests, and also touch on what to eat and drink when you are protesting.
The History of Protest and Food
Food and protests have gone hand in hand throughout history. But why food? Well, first of all, it was accessible.Tomatoes, eggs, easy to get and they make a great splat. NOTE: I don’t condone throwing ANYTHING. No one should get injured in a protest. While throwing food may be considered non-violent, I wouldn’t risk getting arrested for throwing an egg.
The first recorded protest with food was in 63 AD in present day Tunisia. Roman Emperor Vespasian was pelted with turnips by people who were angered by food shortages under his reign. That had to hurt…
Eggs historically were very popular at protests. In the Middle Ages people were put in stocks and pelted with eggs. Abolitionist George Whittier was hit with eggs at an anti-slavery talk in 1834. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was hit with an egg in 2003 on a campaign trip for governor of California. In 2011 Afghan protesters threw eggs at the Iranian consulate to protest a fuel blockade that caused fuel prices to soar. But the biggest egg protest took place in 2013, when French farmers broke 100,000 eggs a day to protest the low price of eggs set by the European Union.
On to tomatoes. While typically seen as a response to a poor theatrical performance, tomatoes have been used in protests. In fact, one tomato protest has turned into an annual festival. La Tomatina occurs in Bunol, in the Valencia region of Spain on a Wednesday every August. The legend is that the townspeople were upset with their town council and threw tomatoes at them. That one event became the present day festival. The festival begins with a ham being placed on a greased pole, and participants climb the pole to retrieve the ham. Once the ham has been obtained, the tomato throwing begins. A cannon sounds, and the tons of tomatoes are thrown. Its chaotic, and messy. The throwing continues for two hours, then the cannon fires and the throwing stops.
Not sure what happens after that. Many, many showers, I guess..
The cream pie in the face has had its place in protest history. Ok, most of the time, you see this in the Three Stooges or I Love Lucy… but both Ralph Nader and Rupert Murdoch have been “pied”. Anita Bryant got a pie in the face in 1977 during a press conference when she was trying to justify the fact that she hated gay people. Again, I don’t condone this, as it could cause injury, and you may get arrested for assault (but Anita had that one coming..)
Lack of food has had a significant place in protest history. The hunger strike has been used in many circumstances as a form of protest. The first hunger strike is purported to have happened in ancient India. Indian scriptures tell the tale of when King Rama’s brother fasted to urge the King to return from exile. Gandhi was on a hunger strike for six days to protest the British government’s decision to place a strict separation between India’s lowest and highest social castes. Gandhi’s actions caused this decision to be reversed.
In the United States, suffragettes went on hunger strikes in jail. This method usually got them released prior to completion of their sentence. But Alice Paul, famous woman activist and organizer of the Woman Suffrage Procession (and a Jersey girl from Mount Laurel!), was force-fed in a London prison. This damaged her gastrointestinal system permanently. Alice Paul returned to the USA, attended the University of Pennsylvania and continued her work in the Suffrage movement. Read more about Alice Paul here: http://nationalwomansparty.org/learn/who-is-alice-paul/
I found this really terrific blog called “Food and Resistance“. It is a collection of food related protest signs from various protests. Go check out the images. They are powerful and also humorous.
My favorite? “Muslims Invented Coffee”.
Staying Fueled While Protesting
So you are getting out and standing up for what you believe in. Good for you! Here are a few tips for staying fueled during your protest experience.
Cut back on the coffee. I know, this is a tough one. But comfort stations can be few and far between, and lines can be long. And peeing on the White House lawn is illegal…also a good idea to BYOTP. (Toilet Paper)
Fuel up in the morning. I recommend more protein than carbs. Eggs will keep you fuller longer than a bowl of cereal. Perhaps a little fruit as well, to get some sugars for energy.
Bring snacks. Granola bars, more fruit. You can also bring a wrap. Refried beans and rice with cheese in a tortilla are easy to carry, and have a great mix of carbs and protein. Make a few, and wrap them in plastic. Yes, you will have to eat them cold, but you can deal this one time.
Bring water, but watch your intake. You will need to stay hydrated, but drink just what you need. Again, the peeing issue. Warmer weather will cause you to need more liquids. Look at bringing some green tea with honey. This provides good energy and will soothe your throat from all of your yelling and cheering. Throat lozenges are also a good idea.
Bring some chewing gum. This helps keep you from getting dry mouth, and you won’t drink as much water.
If you are one of the organizers of a march, try to engage restaurants and food stores who may be sympathetic to your cause to provide some eats and drinks along the march route. They may choose to donate or sell. If they donate, make sure you provide a money jar for donations to cover their costs.
When you are done with your march, patronize the local restaurants. You are supporting the local economy, and you will assuredly meet others who were in the march as well. Share a table with some strangers.
These are challenging times. But I am so optimistic. People are becoming engaged, getting involved and running for office.
So get up, get out, make some noise. Fuel your cause.
Robert Burns, the bard poet of Scotland , was born on January 25, 1759. He became the voice of Scotland with his poetry and song. In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of his death, nine men who knew him well gathered to have a memorial dinner in Robbie’s honor. There was ritual and remembrances, and a toast at the end.
Oh, and haggis. More on that later.
Thus began the tradition of the Burns Supper. Around January 25, people and organizations hold the traditional Burns Supper to remember Robert Burn’s legacy. And it is quite a party.
First, everyone gathers and chats, and checks out the whiskey selection. Many varieties are offered, from light Scotches to my favorite, the dark, peaty, malty ones.
Next is the call to the table by the host and the Selkirk Grace is recited:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The soup course is then served. The Cullen-Skirk soup is traditionally served. It is a creamy fish and leek soup. Click here for the recipe.
The next part is my favorite–The Parade of the Haggis. A bagpiper leads the procession and “pipes in the haggis” to the guests. The chef follows the piper, and presents the haggis to each of the guests. The haggis is then placed on the table in front of the host, and a reciter will read the “Address to a Haggis”:
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s me arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind yer care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!
To see what this means in English, you can find the translation here.
Whiskey is offered to the chef, the reciter and the piper, and the host ceremoniously slices open the haggis with a dirk-a small dagger- but any sharp knife will do.
About haggis. This is a dish that was made in the fields by shepherds watching over their flocks. It was one of those meals that was born out of necessity. Haggis consists of sheep heart, liver and lungs, ground up, with oatmeal, onion or leek, spices, salt and some stock. It was encased into the sheep’s stomach and boiled or steamed. Before you get turned off by this, try it. It is quite delicious. I love it. Haggis is served with “neeps and tatties”-turnips and potatoes. You can find a contemporary haggis recipe here.
After the meal, it is time for songs and poems. And more whiskey. The host will deliver the Immortal Memory Address, which is a biographical telling about Robert Burns, and ends with a toast to the Bard.
Guests are invited to read from Burns’ poems and to perform songs, and this is great fun! Some folks have the Scottish brogue down, others, not so much. Again, more whiskey…
Next up is the Toast to the Lassies– a light-hearted lampoon of the shortcomings of women. But fear not, ladies, because next is the Reply From the Lassies– an opportunity to note the shortcomings of men. This is all done in fun and with great wit. You can read both the Address and Reply here.
And now for the reading of one of Burns’ most epic poems, “Tam O’Shanter”. It is a tale of drunkenness, debauchery, witches and ghosts. And the hero of the story is Tam’s horse, Maggie. You can read both the Scottish and English version here.
The evening progresses with more songs, poems and dancing. The host will then do some closing remarks, thanking the chef and the piper and all who attended and raising a toast or two or three.
The finale of the evening is for everyone to sing “Auld Lang Syne”. Nope, it’s not really a New Year’s Eve song. This is a song about friendship and the gladness of celebrating together. You can see the Scottish and English translation here.
Once Auld Lang Syne is sung, the evening is officially over.
If you would like to go to a Burns Supper, look for a Scottish Society in your area that may be hosting one. Or hold one yourself. It’s a bonnie auld tradition, full of fun and friends, with literature and drama.
The hangout. The go-to place. We all have one. But why? Why have one place that you go to repeatedly? What is the allure to going to the same location, having the same experience over and over? Where is the fun in that?
The answer is:
Familiarity breeds well, familiarity. In other words, sometimes you just need a place that you can count on. Your happy spot. Your own version of “Cheers”.
We have lived in our new location for 2 years now, and while we enjoy eating out at all different types of places, we didn’t have our hangout. And we missed that.
Growing up, I had a few places that were my hangouts. The Tewksbury Inn in Oldwick NJ, used to be a great bar and restaurant. The Inn was old, and the bar was an enormous old-fashioned wooden bar. The bathrooms were labeled “Bucks” and “Does” and there were deer heads mounted on the wall wearing hats, Hawaiian leis and smoking cigarettes. You could get a burger and a pitcher of beer inexpensively and listen to local blues or bluegrass musicians. But, as time went on, it was sold. The deer heads came down, and matching wallpaper and curtains went up. And so did the prices…. you can check it out here, but it ain’t no hangout…. $33 entrees, sheesh.
There was also Bernie’s Hillside Lounge in Chester, NJ. Bernie’s has been around for a long time, and used to host some well-known jazz musicians, like Bix Beiderbecke. I used to go there to listen to the Blue Sparks From Hell, a local band that played R & B, swing and blues. Frontman C.J. Tucker, was both talented and entertaining. Sadly, Tucker has passed away, and the band is no longer playing. But check them out on YouTube. Listen to one of their best songs “Caledonia”. Bernie’s is still growing strong, playing music. Stop in.
The Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ was a haven for great music. It was the place where everyone went to dance and drink. Sawdust on the floor, and plenty of graffiti in the restrooms. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Buddy Guy were some of the notables that played here. I danced the night away many time, reveling in blues and R & B. I have a term for places like this. It was my “clean dirty bar”. Tidy enough to just barely pass a health inspection, but gritty, colorful and raw. Loved it. It had closed for a time, but since has reopened, and back to being a roadhouse. I haven’t been back in years, but may take a trip to see if it’s still dirty.
So back to why we like our hangouts. Sometimes we need to go somewhere that doesn’t change much. After a day or a week of challenges, we all need to have some continuity. And a hangout offers that. My requirements for a place to be a hangout are:
Casual Atmosphere-nothing fancy. I want to be able to go right from the horse barn in my horsey clothes to the hangout. No cloth tablecloths. No coordinating curtains and wallpaper. Just tables and a bar. Fireplace is a plus.
Great food with entrees under $20-yes, it can be done. A hangout offers well priced entrees cooked superbly, plus burgers, salads and soups. And some specials. No overdone plating, no foam, no pyrotechnics. Just fine fresh food cooked well.
A large selection of beer, wine and spirits- an extensive and changing craft beer list is a must. With so many craft beers, local wineries and distilleries opening, I want to see an establishment support local products IF- and only IF- they are quality. And hard cider. Love hard cider.
Friendly staff- without a doubt, one of the most important features of a hangout. Personable wait staff who know the menu, and are pleasant and chatty go a long way with me. And a bartender who will remember what I like to order. Remember, I can go anywhere, so if you get to know me I will be back. No surly or pretentious attitudes at a hangout. No way.
We finally discovered our hangout here in Bucks County, PA. Becker’s Corner is located right near the beautiful Lake Nockamixon in Quakertown PA. It meets all of the above requirements, and we head there whenever we don’t feel like cooking, and we just want some time together. We have gone there with friends, and we now run into people we know. And they have hard cider on tap. Perfect. Give this place a try. You won’t be disappointed. And hey, we may meet at the bar.
What is your hangout? What makes a place a hangout for you? Share your place, spread the word. Everyone need a place to hang out.
I just got done making a batch of the fudge that I make for gifts every year. It’s easy, and really sinfully good. My son has adopted the tradition of making it at the holidays as well. So I thought I would give the gift of this recipe to you all, my dear readers and followers! Give it a try, and follow the tradition and pass the recipe on to your family and friends.
2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (6 oz.) evaporated milk
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup corn syrup, light or dark
2 TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts, raisins or coconut, optional
Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring CONSTANTLY until mixture boils. Turn heat to low or medium low, so that it is still bubbling, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring CONSTANTLY to prevent scorching.
Remove from heat-don’t just turn the burner off- take the pan off of the burner- and IMMEDIATELY add butter, vanilla, corn syrup and chocolate pieces and stir well until the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny. Add optional ingredients if desired and stir in and pour into a buttered 8 inch pan.
The mixture sets up rapidly, so spread it quickly. Chill for two hours in the refrigerator or until firm. Cut into pieces.
Makes 2 1/2 pounds.
The best method is to measure all of the ingredients out before you start cooking, and have it ready to pour into once the milk and sugar have cooked. You have to move fast, so it is easier if everything is opened and measured, and all you need to do is pour it in and stir.
A couple of variations that I like:
Add 2 tsp of peppermint flavoring in when you add all of the ingredients. This gives it a nice peppermint flavor. You can crush up candy canes and sprinkle on top when the fudge is slightly set, before you chill it.
Once the fudge is cooled and slightly set, sprinkle sea salt on top. You don’t want to add the salt when the fudge is too hot, it will get absorbed into the fudge. It is a lovely combo of salt and sweet. Delicious.
Or experiment with other ingredients. Let me know what you come up with!
Ah yes. It is the Holidays. With a capital H. Full of traditions and family rituals. Parties, gifts, food.
And a whole lotta work.
I am not being a Grinch here, far from it. And I don’t want to write another one of those ” how to reduce your stress at the holidays” pieces. We all see plenty of those. But the holidays are time consuming and exhausting. As much as I want to enjoy the holidays, I also feel anxious about it.
Bottom line is, I just want to have a good time. And the best way to do that is to take the Less is More Method.
Less gifts. Less food. Less fuss. Less activity. Less anxiety.
I’m going for the Quality over Quantity Holiday this year. My husband and I told our children that we don’t want any gifts this year except for them to contribute to our purchase of a new gas stove and cook-top. We currently have an electric one, and if you are a serious cook, you all know how much electric cook-tops stink. So instead of buying gifts for each other, and trying to surmise what each other wants, we decided to buy the new stove. Period. And our kids can give us money towards the purchase. Done and done.
Our children want gift cards for Christmas. And I used to fight that, thinking that it wasn’t personal enough, that it was a cop-out, that I should know them well enough to find the perfect gift, so if I bought a gift card, I was a lazy failure. Not this year. Gift cards purchased. Done.
I’m still going to buy small gifts for the Christmas stockings, but I am going to be buying from socially responsible companies like Bombas. This company started out with a mission to provide socks for homeless people. They have done their research by interviewing the homeless for what they need in a sock, and redesigned socks to make them comfortable and long lasting.With every purchase you make, they donate a pair to help the homeless.
They started with a mission to help people in need, and have already donated over one million pairs of socks. I can get behind that.
I will also be buying from Penzeys Spices. A friend turned me onto this company, and their quality is the best, bar none. But another reason I support them is how their CEO, William Penzey, has spoken out against the rash of racism, misogyny and fear mongering that is our current political climate. Sure he has taken some hits on social media, but go read his letter to CEOs of other companies on their Facebook page here. This is a company worth purchasing from.
And I will be supporting local stores. I have some favorites, but I want to get into some local stores that I haven’t been to before. Plus, when you actually shop locally, you meet people who live locally. Instead of hanging out on my laptop with my credit card, I will get out and interact. Try it. Even if you don’t make a purchase you will be in the world.
Don’t need or don’t want any more “stuff”? I know I don’t. Do what we did. We told our children that from now on, for holidays and birthdays, we only want:
Good things to eat
Good things to drink
Time with them
I have favorite wines that are always an acceptable gift! Plus, Turkish dried apricots, caramel and dark chocolate with sea salt candies, balsamic vinegar, coffee, and more. Consumables are the perfect gift for me, as I don’t want any more:
gee gaws and doo dahs
Time together is the one gift that we all too often fail to give or receive. Take time to go do something with your friends and family. Go to a museum or to a play, or go hiking. Dine out at a really special restaurant. That combines the time together gift with the great food and drink gift! Be unscheduled and just hang out. A day playing board games, or reading a book, sitting around in our pajamas is not time wasted, it is time well spent. So put aside some time to do something. Or nothing. Together.
We are working on our holiday meal menu, and we both do love to plan and prepare the feast. Our Christmas Day breakfast tradition is lox and bagels. Not your typical Christmas breakfast, but we love it. (This was the subject of my very first blog post, which you can read here.) We will most likely do some sort of roast beef, with the usual vegetables and pies for dessert. In the past, we have done the traditional Italian meal of the Seven Fishes Dinner on Christmas Eve. This is a perfect meal for a large group. We have done a shrimp cocktail appetizer, clams in white wine over pasta, calamari, or a bouillabaisse. Our favorite story was when my husband tried a recipe from the fifties that was a crab dip with Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. If it sounds awful…. it was. What a waste of crab. It was INEDIBLE. We both tried it, gagged and just started laughing. It is still one of our favorites tale of recipes gone horribly wrong.
And I will make a date with a friend who came over last year to make Christmas cookies. We had a blast. It was a great time to catch up, and we had so much fun. There was royal icing everywhere, but who cares?
I am sure there will still be some stressful or anxious moments over the holidays, but I am planning on letting go of anything that causes stress or discord.
My new ritual is…less ritual.
So, to my readers, I wish you a holiday season of less AND more. This has been a tumultuous year, with more upheavals and discord on the horizon.
I wish you less stress and more peace.
I wish you less fear and more community.
I wish you less helplessness, and more power.
And I wish everyone hope. Give it. Share it. Receive it.