No Holiday Sweaters for Me, Please

Love them or hate them, holiday sweaters are here to stay. Each year they seem to be more lurid than the year before. I know people who love having “ugly seasonal sweater” parties; it’s their thing and they wouldn’t miss it for the world. Here are a couple of beauts I found on the Internet:

Snowtorious - Ugly Christmas Sweater (Red)  Ugly Christmas Sweater Men's Reindeer Hood Sweater - Blue Onyx 2 - L

I don’t know what it is about them that get to me, but don’t go by my opinion; I don’t even wear graphic t-shirts. Check these out:

Not my circus Don't Poke The Bear 

The Crankee Yankee however is a big fan of graphic tees (which makes my life easier at Christmas and birthdays!). I often will work with a graphic t-shirt guy and make up my own sayings for him, such as:

  • “I Didn’t Get This Old by Being Stupid” —another crowd pleaser.
  • “I Have Nothing to Do and All the Time in the World to Do It” —always good for a laugh.
  • “Nobody Pantses America!” A great line from the TV show, “Madame Secretary.”
  • “Wicked Smaht” —ubiquitous saying in any t-shirt shop in Maine.
  •  “I May Be Wrong, But It’s Highly Unlikely.” (This one caused a major traffic jam at our favorite breakfast place—all the men wanted one, and all their wives just rolled their eyes.) BTW, I didn’t make this up; I bought in online.

But back to holiday sweaters. During one Christmas season, a co-worker of mine offered to lend me one of hers. Now try to imagine how to turn that offer down politely. I didn’t, I just said that wool sweaters make me itch.

But hey—don’t go by me; this is only my take on holiday sweaters. You could walk right up to me in your own holiday sweater, and I would only say, “wow….that’s some sweater!”

Just don’t try to make me wear one. Just—-don’t.

Delayed Gratification—A Thing of the Past?

During a heat wave in August, I was in a shopping mall. As I looked around, I became aware of a familiar tune playing in the store. I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized that the song was “*Let It Snow!”

Really? In August?!

Do you remember as a kid, how long it seemed to be until Christmas? Even at Thanksgiving, it felt like Christmas would never come. And now, it’s breathing down our necks in the summer. You can call it commercialism or just me getting older, but doesn’t that seem a little too soon?

Then in September we see and hear all the Halloween stuff, and all the movies on TV are the traditional scary ones. The hot minute Halloween is over, there are some brief nods to Thanksgiving, but mainly it is full-blown Christmas season everywhere.

I get it; if you’re in business to sell things, you’ve got to be in on point, in-your-face, full-on sell mode to make the profit margins. Business is, after all, business. Which reminds me of **Stan Freberg’s wry song, “Green Christmas:”

“CHORUS: Deck the halls with advertising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
‘Tis the time for merchandising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Profit never needs a reason,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Get the money, it’s the season,
Fa la la la la la la la la.”

But oh, how I miss the long drawn-out approach to the holidays, the anticipation, the thought of having a house full of family and friends, the special “holiday only” treats, and all that goes with the holidays. During this time of year I like to think of holidays past, watch my traditional ***holiday movies and just take my time about it all.

This year, no matter how many commercials I hear, how crowded the stores get, or how pushy folks get in the shopping malls, I’m going to slow myself down and just enjoy the progress of the season and the holidays, remember all the good times and look forward to what is to come.

 *”Let It Snow!” by lyricist Sammy Cahn and the composer Jule Styne in 1945.

**Stan Freberg (born Stanley Friberg; August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015) was an American author, recording artist, voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director, whose career began in 1944. He remained active in the industry into his late 80s, more than 70 years after entering it.

***”The Walton Family Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol” (but only the one starring the fabulous Alastair Sim as the best Scrooge ever), “A Christmas Story,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Love Actually,” and “White Christmas,” to name a few.

Happy Easter and the “Magic Eggs”

Happy Easter everyone!

When I was growing up, I naturally assumed that a big fluffy bunny was responsible for my Easter basket. But the first Easter I remember was the one with the “magic eggs.”

On that Easter morning, I woke up to a basket of great big colored eggs and some candy. Since the eggs attracted me the most, I immediately opened one. It was a hard-boiled egg with a purple shell. I certainly had had hard-boiled eggs before, but never a purple one.

So I bit into it, expecting a real treat. No—just a regular old hard-boiled egg. ‘What’s up with this?” I thought. Of course, there was also candy in the basket, but I needed to know about those colored eggs. I went to the source of all truth, my mother.

“Mom,” I said. “These are hard-boiled eggs, not Easter eggs!”

She smiled at me and said, “Of course they’re Easter eggs—look at the colors!”

“I know,” I said. “They are very pretty, but they taste just like plain old hard-boiled eggs.”

Mom laughed and said, “Well, that’s all you know. It just so happens that these are special eggs.”

“What’s so special about them?” I asked.

“They are magic eggs!” she said.

“But what makes them magic?” I asked. I was starting to get a headache.

“The colors! The colors make them magic!” she said, smiling.

Well, that made sense to me. So I went back to my room and ate every single one. Of course, by then I had no room for any candy.

Looking back, I think that that was the whole idea; to fill me up with nutritious eggs and then I would be too full to eat candy in the morning.

Whether you enjoy a special breakfast, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans or Peeps, have a wonderful Easter.

Just don’t forget the magic!



Welcome 2017!

Happy New Year, everyone! Although my standing theory is that each day we wake up is a new start to the year, it’s always fun to see the first of the year roll in.

I always used to think that it would be wonderful to spend the night before the new year dawned camping on a mountain top. I’d wake up to the sun coming up on the first day of the year, make breakfast over a camp fire, then drink my coffee while watching the sun rise up over the mountain.

Then I remembered how a sleeping bag, even on top of an air mattress; makes my back ache. Then who knows what critters seeking warmth in the night might have crawled in with me? And then there is the business of boiling coffee in a can over the fire; it ends up tastes more like can than coffee.

But that was always my go-to fantasy for the start of a new year. These days I am perfectly content to wake up in a clean, warm bed with a firm mattress, fresh coffee in the pot, and a ready selection of breakfast-y things.

Which makes me think of all the New Year “lucky” foods around the world I’ve heard of:

  • In Spain, people eat twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock.
  • In some countries cooked greens, such as cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are eaten; their green leaves look like folded money, so are considered a sign of good fortune.
  • Danish folks enjoy stewed kale sprinkled cinnamon and sugar.
  • The Germans eat sauerkraut.
  • In our South, collards and black-eyed peas insure good luck.
  • In Italy, sausage and green lentils are consumed
  • For the folks of Brazil, the first supper of the new year is usually lentil soup or split peas soup with sausage.
  • In Japan, a gathering of symbolic dishes (called “osechi-ryori”) are eaten in the first three days of the year.
  • In Cuba, Portugal, Hungary and Austria, roast suckling pig is the traditional New Year’s meal.
  • In Sweden, pork dishes like pickled pig’s feet are eaten. (Note: Why pork, you ask? Pigs symbolize progress.)

Then there are all kinds of “lucky” sweets and cakes around the world. Suffice it to say that all of us on the planet enjoy our lucky foods for the new year.

Whatever this bright new year brings, and whatever you choose as your own lucky food for the start of the year—let’s go into this year with hope and gladness. Hope because that is what motivates us and pushes us forward to new interests, new friends and new ideas, and gladness for all the old and cherished things close to our hearts.

Whatever way you choose to celebrate the brand new 2017, enjoy it immensely.



Well, Christmas Day has come and gone

And brought us all that we were hoping on—

Whether with family, friends or on our own,

The Christmas spirit burns bright in hearts and home.

The love we feel for family and friends

Is a love that lingers, lasts and never ends—

It brings us back to Christmases past

The fond memories and joys that last and last,

The real gifts are those we love and who love us back—

(Plus the usual cache of otherwise forbidden holiday snacks!)

The whirlwind day goes by in countless memories and love—

With those still here and those above

The season of love, it never ends—

With all my heart I wish you well, my dear friends!




Christmas Bustle

Now is the time for Christmas bustle,

That makes us run and shop and hustle

Through local shops and stores and malls,

Until every bit of our energy falls

Right down through our feet and socks and shoes—

This time of year can give you the blues!

But wait—let us all just stop and think—

Does little Abby need one more dress of pink?

Does Mom need another set of cooking ware?

Does brother need more socks and underwear?

Does the dog really need another holiday sweater?

Will giving money make everything better?!?

How about we just slow down,

Take time to be thankful, happy and calm

Maybe give each person on our list

Some dear treasure of ours; a new twist!

The things we’ve cherished for many years,

Can go from our hands to theirs without tears—

There’s no rule saying we can’t gift family treasure

To those we love beyond all measure—

Besides, all that giving will give us more space

To clean up the clutter and live with more grace—

This year, let’s let Christmas be a time to pass on

The heirlooms, the linens, the old watch and so on—

Keep the memories, but not the baggage

Let’s let others enjoy all that swage-age!






Taking the “Bah, Humbug” Out of Christmas

The Christmas season can be joyous and relaxing, or it can be nerve-wracking and thankless. I had plenty of experience with the latter when I was married to my first husband.

In the years we were married, we lived in Massachusetts, then moved to Dallas, TX, then to San Antonio, TX, and then to Austin, TX. That last move turned out to be the death knell for our 10-year marriage.

All during those years, I painstakingly bought, wrapped, packed and sent carefully-chosen gifts to his family well before Christmas day. I don’t remember one single thank-you note from any of his family—ever.

I did all the Christmas cards for our families and friends, as well as all the shopping and cooking for holiday meals (except when I could gracefully back out and fly up to my parents in New Hampshire for a quiet, happy and blissfully first-husband-free holiday).

It was a lot of work, and, long before I realized that my first marriage was slowly falling apart, I discovered that, while I was busy trying to keep everyone happy for the holidays, I was ruining Christmas for me.

Now, years away from all of that and having been happily married to the Crankee Yankee for nearly 15 years, the holiday takes on a new meaning. Christmas is all about the love and companionship of family members and dear friends.

When I was a child, our tradition then was to have a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother (whom we called “Ba”) made her fabulous *club chowder. Along with that we enjoyed her watermelon pickles and my mom’s wonderful homemade Parker House rolls. The dessert varied from year to year, but that chowder was the star of the meal.

After that, my parents went back home and I stayed overnight with my grandparents. I slept upstairs in “the pink room;” the walls and ceiling were painted a soft seashell pink. The bedding was pink as well. There was a convenient table beside the bed just under the window, perfect for my book and the cookies and milk Ba pressed on me. Those were happy and wonderful Christmases.

Now, at this time in my life, Christmas has less to do with gifts and cards, and more to do with lovely memories and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the time we spend with them that matters most; the smiles and hugs are more precious than gold.

Our Christmas trees have grown smaller through the years and are now artificial because seriously—who really wants to vacuum up all those fallen pine needles? It’s enough to have a few strings of lights up to get in the holiday mood. I now am the one who makes the Christmas chowder, and I love keeping the tradition.

Christmas these days are cozier and less “gifty.” Being with family members and friends are the longest lasting gifts. The older I get, the more I treasure who is around the Christmas tree, not what’s under it.

*Or “Christmas chowder” as we called it; full of lobster and crab meat, clams, scallops, oysters and fish. It was rich with butter and cream, bits of bacon, and served with a pile of oyster crackers.



Halloween is Coming Again

Note: This post is actually one I wrote in 2013, but now that Halloween is creeping up on us again, it’s fun to remember how it used to be back in the “olden days” when my friends and I went trick-or-treating out in the moonlit night of Halloweens long ago.

I grew up in the ’50s when there were no bike helmets, no designer kid clothes, no expensive family vacations, and no computers/iPods/iPhones/tablets/Kindles, etc. The only blackberries we knew about were the ones growing wild that we picked and ate during high summer.

Halloween was as sacred a holiday to us kids as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t know anyone who wore a “store-bought” costume; most of us dressed up as hobos, fortune-tellers, witches and ghosts, using borrowed clothes and imagination.

The best costume I ever had was my black cat outfit. Mom and Dad made a giant *papier mache cat head, painted it black and pink, with big green eyes and eyelashes. I wore it with black tights, a black sweater, black shoes and pinned on a black tail (one of Mom’s dark stockings stuffed with rags). It was great.

Almost as much fun as actual trick or treating was the costume parade. After a cookies-and-punch party at school (back then, no one knew or cared about peanut allergies, gluten, fats, sugar, or germs), we were allowed to get in costume and parade down Main Street. We all laughed and showed off, and people clapped and cheered.

Official trick or treating started right after supper. It was a struggle to sit still and eat the meatloaf and mashed potatoes Mom made when all I wanted to do was get out of the house and collect all the candy I could. I went out with my best friend, and we roamed the streets with our bags and flashlights, collecting candy from our neighbors.

Back then a lot of people made homemade goodies such as cookies and popcorn balls wrapped in plastic wrap, as well as store-bought candy. Others gave out apples, which we politely accepted but seldom ate. It was a small town, and we only went to houses we knew—it was considered rude to knock on someone’s door you didn’t know and ask for treats. Once you got your treat, you always said thank you.

Mischief happened, of course–windows got soaped, cars got egged, and trees got TP’d. It was understood that, if you did any of this, you showed up in the morning to clean it up. I never took part in it; it was more of a boy thing, and also because  I was told not to. Back then, you listened to your parents, and no meant no.

When it was all over, we’d trudge home, tired and dirty, but happy and full of licorice whips, Milky Way bars, squirrel nut zippers, mint juleps, chocolate drops, Hershey bars, Bonomo taffy, molasses kisses, M &Ms, french nougats, peanut butter cups, coconut marshmallows, pixie stix, Junior Mints, jelly beans and the aforementioned homemade treats. But it wasn’t over just yet.

The finale of the evening happened after we  came home, and Dad drove us up to Mirror Lake where my grandparents lived. My grandmother always made “treat bundles” — homemade cookies and candy wrapped in large holiday napkins and tied with ribbons. She would make a tray of them, with two enormous ones in the middle for my best friend and me.

After we were admired for our costumes, she gave us each one of those huge bundles, then pressed the rest on us. It was the real bonanza of the evening.

Post-Halloween in our house meant unloading all the treats into my mom’s biggest wooden salad bowl. After Mom and Dad picked out what they liked, they let me have a few pieces of candy, then the bowl went up on the refrigerator. It would slowly be eaten during the next few weeks.

Usually I would sneak in and grab a few pieces to squirrel away under my pillow for later. Why I never thought to hide some of the candy BEFORE I brought it home is beyond me.

Halloween was always the official start to the holiday season. I loved it for the treats, of course, but most of all for the fun and mystery of dressing up as someone else for one night. Scuffling through mounds of fallen leaves in the dark, it was easy to imagine great black bats circling overhead, witches cackling as they rode their broomsticks in the light of the moon, scarecrows come to life for a night, and ghosts sneaking up behind you and wrapping you in their cold, clammy embrace. It was exciting and just a little bit scary.

As much as I hated for it all to end, I was always happy to be home in bed, cleaned up, full of candy and memories, drifting off to sleep as witches chased, but never caught me.

*Blow up a big balloon, cover it lightly with Vasoline, then strips of wet newspaper and let it dry. When dry, pop the balloon and pull it out. Paint it, then cut out eye and mouth holes and you’re good to go.

Happy Easter!

How do YOU celebrate Easter? Do you go to your church’s sunrise service? Do you visit relatives and have a big holiday dinner together? Do you give or receive Easter baskets filled with treats? Or do you do nothing special at all?

In my family, each and every holiday was celebrated richly at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother, “Ba,” would cook and bake all the day before to produce a luscious dinner the next day. We all sat down in our Easter best, and enjoyed the meal. The best linen tablecloth was used, along with matching napkins (I remember hating to use them because I didn’t want to get them dirty!), and the “good” silver and china.

On Easter morning, I always woke up to a beautiful Easter basket, filled with jelly beans, chocolate and caramel eggs, a big chocolate bunny, and usually a little toy as well. Up until the time I was about 9 years old, I believed in the Easter Bunny with all my heart. As I drifted off to sleep the night before Easter, I imagined a tall white rabbit, walking on his hind legs, carrying lots of baskets of goodies, a happy rabbit-y smile on his face.

That night before Easter I happened to wake while my parents were still up, and noticed that my Easter basket was already on my night table! In that instant I knew that the real Easter Bunny was my parents. The pang of discovery didn’t last long; after all, I still had a full Easter basket to enjoy the next day. I never told my parents about my discovery because I didn’t want to stop getting an Easter basket.

These days the Crankee Yankee and I may give each other funny cards and some chocolate, or not. We always wake up and say “Happy Easter” to each other, then get up to feed the four cats who really don’t care if it’s a holiday or not–they just want their breakfast.

Today we will be enjoying ham, baked butternut squash, green beans in a lemon zest and butter sauce, plus apple crisp. Except for the ham, it’s all homemade, and yesterday we brought my Dad a serving of everything. Holidays have become a lighter affair these days; casual with less prep, but a more and deeper kind of love and affection. We are well aware that our lives have changed, but we celebrate still because there is so much to celebrate each day. Easter is just another reason to love each other and celebrate the fact that we are here on Earth with each other.

So wherever you are, whoever you are with, and however your life is, please have a wonderful Easter and know you are loved dearly and more than you know.




Thanks on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition. We trace this custom back to our Pilgrim and Indian ancestors, and on this day we not only give thanks for what we have, but thanks for how far we have come.

For many of us, Thanksgiving is sort of an appetizer before Christmas, and we enjoy a lavish meal with family and friends. Some of us will watch sports on TV, with pants unbuttoned and eyes drooping from overindulging at the table. Some of us will do service of some kind, to mark their own thanks by helping out at the local food bank or shelter. Others will go to church and make their thanks there. Many will simply ignore the holiday altogether for reasons of their own.

Personally, I love it, and as each new Thanksgiving approaches, I think of all the wonderful get-togethers I’ve had throughout my life. Most were with family and friends, and some were with people who were not able to be home with their own families. This is when I lived in Texas, and I invited everyone I knew who was on their own for the holiday. It was a lot of fun, and it took the sting out of not being with our families.

These are just some of the things I am grateful for, today and always:

  • That my mom got to see her 84th birthday (11/23) and will see this Thanksgiving along with my dad
  • That I will be with the Crankee Yankee and have Thanksgiving with my step-daughter and her family (with granddaughter #2 due in April 2016!)
  • For my good friends
  • That I live in America with all its freedoms, hard-won by the sacrifice of so many
  • For the opportunity to share
  • For all the laughter, love, hope and joy I have in my life
  • That five months after I was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer, my recent mammogram showed no trace of cancer
  • That I am married to the love of my life, the Crankee Yankee
  • That we have four (yep, count ’em, FOUR) cats who live with us; Nala, our one female, Pookie, Plumpy-Nut and Tinker (our latest) — all males
  • That I have a strong and sturdy roof over my head
  • For a strong and healthy body
  • For a sharp mind
  • For a sense of humor and for all the many things that make me laugh
  • For sheer gratitude for all I’ve been given

Does anyone remember the traditional Thanksgiving hymn, “*We Gather Together?” It goes like this:

“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”

Whether you are spending Thanksgiving with family, friends or by yourself, may you know joy, gratitude, love, happiness, peace of mind, and may you enjoy your many blessings.

*”We Gather Together” is a Christian hymn of Dutch origin written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius as “Wilt heden nu treden” to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout. It was originally set to a Dutch folk tune. In the United States, it is popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and is often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day.