Tag Archives: Christmas And Holiday Season

The Holiday Card Dilemma

T’was the week before Christmas
And all through the nation
Dangled the holiday card dilemma
Should I send? Or is it too much aggravation?

paragraph breakI don’t know about you, but my holiday card routine comes up for review every year.

Before the advent of e-cards, holiday cards were a given. I gave as many as I received. It was a good way of staying in touch with far flung friends and family.

But with the internet, sending a card is just a few clicks away. Easier, yes. Less costly, for sure.

So I think to myself, maybe this year an e-card will suffice. Why not? It’s the thought that counts, right?

Well, call me old school, but for me there is no comparison. I still get a thrill from finding holiday cards nestled amid the catalogs and junk mail stuffed in my mailbox. My IRL mailbox, that is.

And I enjoy buying holiday cards. Really, how cute are these, from Hallmark? (Disclosure: Hallmark sent me these cards as part of an ambassadorship program. Opinions, as always, are mine alone.)

The Holiday Card Dilemma

So although I debate each year about sending them, and although my list is shorter than it used to be, the answer is usually yes.

Holiday Card Facts — Did You Know That …

  • Americans send 1.6 billion holiday cards annually [source]
  • Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards [source]
  • E-cards have become an environmentally friendly alternative to paper cards [source]
  • Christmas cards originated in London, where Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first in 1843. [Source]
    • Two batches totaling 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each. [Source]
  • Despite the separation of church and state, it’s customary for the President and First Lady to send White House Christmas cards each holiday season. [source]
  • Calvin Coolidge issued the first official Christmas message to the American people in 1927. [source]

Grammarly has created a tongue-in-cheek infographic designed to help with the holiday card dilemma. Are the people on your list worthy of a stamp, an e-card, or (brrrr) the cold shoulder?


Holiday Card Flow Chart Infographic2

Wishing everyone on my list — and beyond — a happy holiday season and a new year filled with peace.

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Book Buzz: The Dress Shop of Dreams

Christmas lights are still twinkling in my neighborhood as I’m sure they are in yours. Today, New Year’s Eve, the merriment of the holiday season is still upon us. And until next Monday when it is back to reality, we can enjoy what is left of this special time of year.

Understandably, the holidays are not merry for everyone. But if the whimsy of sugar plum fairy dust and the ho ho hos of jolly St. Nick can still cast a magical spell on you, I suggest that now is the time pick up a copy of the fanciful new book from Menna van Praag, “The Dress Shop of Dreams.”

The Dress Shop of Dreams

This romantic fairy tale, embellished with sparkly sequins and a ruffle of bewitching fun, whisks us into the lives of characters who are either falling in love, searching for love, or thwarted by it.

The Dress Shop of Dreams

The story takes place in Oxfordshire, England and is about a young woman named Cora Sparks, a serious and emotionless scientist intent on completing the scientific work begun by her parents 20 years earlier. Her parents never got to finish the work themselves; tragically, they died in a mysterious fire in their home from which Cora narrowly escaped. Cora’s grandmother, Etta, has been the parent figure in her life since then.

Etta is the owner of a charming little dress shop on a side street in Cambridge, in which mysteriously wonderful things seems to happen. Filled with colorful fabrics of delicate silks, ornate lace and rich velvets, the store bespeaks enchantment in these racks of dazzlingly beautiful dresses.

When a woman enters the shop and tries on one of these gossamer gowns, she is instantly transformed. She looks in the mirror and as if by magic, the imperfections are gone. She is delighted with her appearance. When Etta unobtrusively sews into the garment a few tiny stitches of her red thread, it is akin to waving a magic wand: the article of clothing will unleash the wearer’s most fervent desire.

This is what Etta intends to do for her beloved granddaughter, Cora.

At the time that Cora’s parents died, Etta had carefully put a spell on her granddaughter to protect her from the crushing sadness of losing them. By doing so, she also hampered the girl’s ability to experience emotions and feel love. Now that enough time has passed, Etta thinks, Cora is ready for romance. And she knows just who Cora’s intended should be: Cora’s childhood friend, Walt, who has been in love with her forever, unbeknownst to her.

When Etta removes the spell, Cora’s emotions are reawakened. At the same time, she experiences a surge of interest in the fire that took her parents’ lives. What was ruled an accident seems more like a murder, and she is determined to find out.

Doggedly pursuing a trail long left cold, Cora searches for answers about her past and ultimately finds what she needs to move on with her life.

Praag, author of The House at the End of Hope Street which I reviewed and enjoyed, pulls the threads of her characters’ lives together in this confection as sweet as a Christmas cookie, with a bit of mystery, a bit of romance and a bit of fun, with a nod to the magic of fashion that women of any age can appreciate.

And to start this New Year right, I am pleased to give one of my lucky readers a copy of “The Dress Shop of Dreams.” Please leave a comment (US addresses only, sorry) and a winner will be randomly selected.

Disclosure: I received a copy of “The Dress Shop of Dreams” from Random House for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

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12 Things Jews Can Do on Christmas

As an observant Jew, Christmas is not my holiday, and yet the traditions for me on Christmas Day are as predictable as those experienced by my Christian friends.

Our traditions on Christmas Day

Instead of gathering around the Christmas tree opening presents? My family and I gather at the local theater for a movie.

Instead of sitting down for a sumptuous Christmas dinner served on lovely china? We’ll be at our favorite Chinese restaurant eating with chopsticks.

This year, though, has given me pause. In spite of the many blessings in my life, I am heartsick about what is happening in our world.

And I am fearful that the unending violence has rendered us numb. We are like deer in headlights, stunned into inaction.

Our world is gravely in need of repair. We all know this, and yet we feel helpless. What can we do that will make a difference? Nothing, right?

But to do nothing to acknowledge the malaise in our world and do what we can to reverse it is tantamount to acceptance. And that is simply unacceptable.

There is something we can do. And for us Jews, what better day to start than Christmas Day? A small gesture that, although seemingly insignificant, can make a difference. That can change our course and set us on a better path. Or at the very least create a feeling of goodwill.

Because if we all perform little acts of kindness –not just on Christmas Day but every day — maybe we can start to repair the world.

Tikkun olam, it is called in Hebrew. To repair the world.

Mitzvot, in Hebrew. Good deeds. Acts of kindness.

Instead of hopelessness, why not choose hope? Wouldn’t this be a great way to end this sad year and launch 2015 on the right note?

A few ideas for what we Jews (or anyone) can do on Christmas.

  • Volunteer a couple of hours somewhere. At a soup kitchen, a facility for the elderly, an animal rescue.

What Jews Can Do on Christmas Day

  • Contact local hospitals in advance to see if they can use some help on Christmas Day.
  • Check on your elderly neighbors to make sure they are safe and warm. Offer to drive them to church if they would like to attend but have no transportation.
  • Bake cookies and deliver them to your local police department or fire department. Thank them for all they do to protect your community

What Jews Can Do on Christmas Day

  • Go through your closets to weed out unused clothes and toys and bag them up to deliver to a local charity.
  • Weather permitting, go for a walk in a local park. Take a trash bag with you and gather up debris.
  • Make sandwiches and take them, along with unused warm coats and blankets, to homeless people.
  • Instead of shopping online, find an organization doing good for the world and make a donation.
  • Write letters to your legislators concerning issues that are important to you.
  • Traveling on a toll road? Pay for the person in the car behind you.
  • Go through your collection of books and set aside the ones you don’t want to keep. Box them up and donate them to a library.

10 Things Jews Can Do On Christmas

  • Wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone you see.

10 Things Jews Can Do on Christmas

Can you think of any other ideas?

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Save the Date for #GivingTuesday


Giving Tuesday

With Thanksgiving just two days away, I am happily organizing my kitchen for the deluge of food preparation to come. For many of us, Thanksgiving is perhaps the best holiday, a time when we can give thanks for our many blessings while enjoying a special meal with family and friends.

In my family, Thanksgiving is just the start of a long weekend, and as traditional as the turkey is on Thursday, so are the turkey sandwiches and football games on Friday.

I wake up on Friday morning before the rest of the house has stirred and putter around the kitchen, putting my good china away and preparing a nice breakfast for my family.

What I do not do on Friday is get in my car and head for the stores.

I hate shopping.

As someone who finds shopping tedious and holiday shopping downright painful, Black Friday has about as much charm for me as the Black Plague. Just the thought of the crowds, the lines, circling the parking lot for the space that never materializes … ugh.

Call me a Grinch, but I’m just not into this time of year when over-consumption overcomes so many. As I get older my buying habits have changed considerably. How many “things” do we really need to be happy?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been recognized as the official kick-off events to the shopping season. And now that many stores have opted to be open on Thanksgiving Day itself, holiday shopping has gotten another shot of adrenaline.

Well, no thank you. This year I’m focusing instead on #GivingTuesday which is next week, December 3, after the trifecta of holiday shopping days have come and gone. #GivingTuesday is a call to action to give and give back, not just one day but year-round, and put personal philanthropy back in the holiday season.

#GivingTuesday is next week.

Founded last year by the 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, the first #GivingTuesday brought together more than 2,500 partners in all 50 states and increased online giving that day by 53%. Pretty wonderful, huh?

This year, #GivingTuesday has set its sights even higher. Campaigns are underway around the world, and right now there are over 6,500 partners!

giving educationgiving timegiving food

The holiday season can and should be about giving and giving back. There are so many organizations that need our support, and why not make this season a time for reaching out to help.

This short video explains what Giving Tuesday is all about.

Will you consider participating in #GivingTuesday and making it the opening day of the giving season?


Disclosure: I am a social media ambassador for #GivingTuesday but have received  no compensation.

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Separation Anxiety: Mine


My cheerfulness sounds forced to me as I chatter incessantly on the way to the airport. There is little traffic, and for once I wish for a delay, just a short delay so I can sit beside my son a little longer. I pull up to the terminal and get out to say goodbye, wrapping my arms around him and wishing him a safe flight. Don’t forget to text me when you land, I call out. I watch as he lugs his bag over the curb and makes his way to the entrance. He turns to wave, then disappears into the crowd of holiday travelers, sealing our separation.adult son, airport, Philadelphia, luggage, travel, international, airplane, leaving

And with that, the last of my three children has left the family nest for a home many miles away.

I come back to a house that is much too quiet, devoid of the shrieks of laughter, good-natured ribbing and late night comings and goings that marked my children’s stay over the holiday season. My husband is already going from room to room, picking up a stray sock or an empty soda can, getting our house back in order. Tomorrow I will return to my normal routine, but tonight I will wallow in a bit of sadness.

My son and two daughters have grown up to be delightful young adults, funny, thoughtful, affectionate. We have great times together.

Problem is, we just don’t see each other all that often.

For the past six years my son Evan has lived in England, a whopping 3,500 miles from our home outside Philadelphia.

Last June my daughter Emily moved to Montana, just a hop, skip and a 2,200 mile jump from home.

And Laurie, my youngest, lives the closest, just 100 miles away. But it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if her next move takes her just as far away as her siblings.

Where our children get this wanderlust, don’t ask me. I’m pretty much a homebody who thinks the best part of a trip is coming home, and my husband feels the same.

I’m reminded of the lyrics sung by Carole King: “So far away, why doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?” Families used to stay together, sometimes out of necessity but other times just because … well, because that was home. For some, multi-generational households made sense, financially and otherwise. Growing up, most of my relatives lived nearby.

My husband and I raised our family just an hour from my hometown where my parents still reside. In my mind, that’s the way things should be. An hour away is about right.

Not so with my children.

My husband is sympathetic, to a point. He misses them, too, but is adjusting quite easily to being an empty nester. I have mixed feelings.

In a way, I would prefer my little chickens to repopulate the coop. But I know that’s not the way it should be.

Because as much as I miss them, I am proud of them for being self-confident, ambitious and adventurous. I admire their sense of independence. I love that they are savoring new experiences and learning about different parts of the world. Knowing that they are healthy and happy and living life to the fullest is truly the best feeling a parent can have.

And in their absence, new technologies have given us many unexpected ways to stay in touch. If we can’t reach out and hug each other, Skype, Facebook, texting and Instagram are the next best things.

I don’t know when we will be together again, but we’ve got their rooms ready. Just in case.

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Words Escape Me

Holiday season is upon us. Ah yes, the family get togethers, the office parties, the presents. Lots of merriment, twinkling lights and auld lang syne. And of course, the festive meals.

Thanksgiving, holiday, turkey, sweet potatoes, jello, stuffing, plate, dinner

our Thanksgiving dinner

Lest it go unnoticed in the hubbub, however, may I point out that the 2012 “Word of the Year” has been announced?

The Oxford English Dictionary has named omnishambles, meaning a “situation which is shambolic from every possible angle,” the winner this year.

According to BBC News, the shortlist also included Eurogeddon, “the threatened financial collapse in the eurozone,” and mummy porn, a “genre inspired by the 50 Shades books.

I eat this stuff up like handfuls of popcorn at the movies.

And so, as is tradition in this blog (well, OK, this is the second year) I offer you the official holiday edition of:

Books is Wonderful 2012 Words of the Year

BindersFullofWomen’sRecipes: a collection of yellowed scraps of paper including Aunt Rose’s foolproof mashed potatoes

CrispChristie: the New Jersey governor tartly deflecting a Twinkie defense

Fatulence: embarrassing stomach sounds as one’s pants get tighter

HomecookedLand: Carrie takes a day off to uncover the secrets of her kitchen

MiddleYeastConflict: a tense situation sparked by differing opinions on how to bake bread

NobelPeacePie: making the same dessert year after year to avoid arguments

SevenNaturalWonderBread: a miracle that this miasma of chemicals was considered food

Stuffington Post: endless topics of conversation due to the inability to leave the table

The Food Hangover: Misadventures of three zany guys who OD’ed on the desserts

WarrenBuffet: a wealth of culinary riches on the holiday table

related: SageLeavesofOmaha

Wolf Blintz-er: CNN reporting live from the delicatessen

WontonAbbey: Lady Mary ordering takeout on Cook’s night off

… and when planning your holiday parties, don’t forget to invite these celebrities: Paris Stilton, Susan SaranWrap, Beans Affleck, Robert Poulet, CranJerry Seinfeld, Salad Field, Potatum O’Neal, Cake Gyllenhaal, BrusselSproutCrowe, and Carrots Fisher!

You can read Books is Wonderful’s 2011 Words here.

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