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Category Archives: Holidays
This Christmas stocking is more than 50 years old.
It was knitted by my Italian grandmother, and every one of her more than twenty grandchildren was given one. Then all her grandchildren’s husbands and wives received one, and their children, and their children’s children. How many are out there now? Sixty? Seventy? I tried to count but couldn’t figure it out.
Every Christmas for more than sixty years one has been hung somewhere, stuffed with the sort of things you stuff in a stocking. Go to any of my cousin’s homes and you’ll see them. Today, the great, great grandchildren have them, knitted these days by someone my aunt knows.
This is my favorite Christmas tradition.
The idea that so many in my family — kids and adults — have reached into these stockings for so many years, stockings that are nearly identical, some fresh and bright, others showing their age and yellowing a bit. From Hawaii to Florida and across Upstate New York, it’s something that binds us together, and when I hang them up I feel a connection. It’s a powerful thing, and to me, it’s what Christmas is all about.
It’s Christmas crunch time, and the hours are dwindling. I don’t know about you, but there’s still shopping to be done — and I’m thinking this would all be easier if I were married to another man.
A man, you ask?
Yes, because if I had a husband and not a wife I’d just go out and buy things that I like. For example, I’d start with a trip to Lowes or Home Depot and pick out some tools. Guys like tools. It doesn’t much matter if they won’t be used frequently, because as collectors of tools we just like to know that we have them. Another great things about tools is that there is something for every budget; you can spend just a few bucks and get something interesting — or if you really care about your man, how about a Dewalt 12-in 15-Amp Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw. You really care, don’t you?
Oh, I could go on all day like this, but I am not married to a man and I need to figure out what the hell I’m doing.
Yes, it’s Grinch season, that time when unimaginative reporters overuse the Grinch metaphor. Experienced scribes know that a good story needs a bad guy, and this time of year labeling someone “Grinch” is a handy tag.
Those are five examples. I could give you five-hundred.
The problem with this is that like many real-life stories, the Grinch tale is about something more complicated than simply an evildoer stealing all the Christmas stuff — but when you start in with all those other things, those inconvenient truths, you begin to lose what makes your story powerful: the bad guy.
A really good reporter will go out and build his case against his story’s antagonist. Maybe talk to the Grinch’s angry ex-landlord or interview his former spouse and disgruntled children. Make the Grinch looks like a real dirtbag. And then — the truth doesn’t much matter, does it?
This time last year I called Elf on the Shelf out for what it is: a tool of extortion. This year, Santa’s little informant is getting even more popular — and hence, more annoying. There’s no point in arguing against this creepy little fink to parents, so for the first time ever, I am directing a blog post toward our children:
Hey, kids! Do you have an Elf on the Shelf in your house? What did you name him? Rudy? Bingo? Dave?
He sure is cute, and it’s so much fun to get up in the morning and see where he’s hiding. Every night he flies to the North Pole and tells Santa if you’ve been naughty or nice. Your Elf makes Christmas special!
But how do you know if he’s telling Santa the truth?
Some elves are evil, and they make up nasty stories about children. And when they fly to the North Pole every night, they tell tell Santa lies about you. These terrible stories make Santa think you’ve been bad, and that means he will bring you less toys.
There’s only one thing you can do: make you elf go away.
When everyone is sleeping, grab your elf before he flies to the North Pole and stop him. One thing you can do is go outside and put him in the garbage can. Or throw him down the sewer. Do you have a dog that likes to chew things? Give him the elf.
You can even put him under your mattress. That way he won’t be able to fly to the North Pole and tell Santa lies about you and ruin Christmas.
Remember: the elf is there to stop you from getting more toys. And after he’s gone if someone asks if you’ve seen him, deny, deny, deny.
My wife Ann chimed in: “Yes, actually there is an ‘I’ in Christmas.”
Oh, whatever! Look, I’m deep in the throes of a Black Friday food hangover, and you expect me to spell? This was during our annual Christmas tree harvest, and somebody had complained about slogging through the gooey mud at Bob’s Trees. Suck it up! No I in Christmas!
Easy for me to say, because I was walking behind the boys supervising their trudge with the tree.
This year was sort of a milestone because we allowed our youngest to wield the saw. Cutting the tree is a HUGE responsibility, but he did a fine job despite the challenge posed by its girthy trunk.
Overall, we were having a good day. No arguments, manageable mud conditions, an excellent selection of trees… this was a good year. And I know the difference. After more than twenty-five years of cutting down Christmas trees, I’ve seen every variety of trouble.
Except for one.
In a giddy state from having other people do all the work, I let the boys (ages 24 and 17) tie the tree to the top of the car. This is something I’ve always done myself, and except for that time I tied the doors of the car shut, there was never any problem. However, when I looked up through the sunroof to admire the stump of our freshly cut tree, I noticed that it had shifted considerably while we were on the Northway.
It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what it would look like if your tree went tumbling off the top of the car at 70 MPH… or if it got loose and was dragged behind. At the risk of offending the young men sitting in the back, I got out and pulled the ropes tighter than a… oh, nevermind.
So, wrap up your Christmas with a bow if you like — I’ll fasten mine down with a nylon rope.
I am most thankful this year that I got to watch my son march off his plane from Afghanistan wearing these boots. For a parent, ten fingers and ten toes never gets boring.
I’m grateful for my wonderful wife and our 25 years together. These days, that’s quite an accomplishment. My family means more to me than anything.
And for the dogs and cats I say thank you. They adore me no matter what I say or do.
I’m thankful for the things I learned this year, even if I learned them the hard way.
Thankful for my job? Yes — and I’m sorry I’ve complained about it sometimes when so many people are unemployed.
You know, I’m also thankful I can run four miles. That’s not as far as I could once run, but it’s better than a year ago. So that’s a plus.
This will sound odd, but I have to say I’m thankful for iPods. It’s a miracle that I can take the music I love anywhere.
It’s impossible to list everything I’m thankful for. Most of them are small things that bring me joy, but isn’t that the secret of life? To find great pleasure in the tiny bits.
Oh, you poor ignorant bastard.
That’s what I thought at 7am when I saw the guy behind me at Price Chopper with a huge frozen turkey. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was sort of screwed, and the turkey sitting in his cart should probably already have been thawing for two days.
Truth is, you can cook a frozen turkey, at least according to the Iowa State University Extension. The problem with this is that dark meat always takes longer than the breast meat — and being frozen will make things worse — so there’s absolutely no way each will be edible. Which do you want to be cooked? It’s sort of like a Thanksgiving version of Sophie’s Choice — but I would probably not describe it that way to my guests while we’re sitting down to eat.
I was not there to buy a turkey, though, I was there for sweet potatoes — because it’s time to make my Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. We’re not hosting Thanksgiving this year, but we’re bringing this to my sister’s. I’m also dropping off a tray of it at a local shelter so some less fortunate folks will enjoy it on Thanksgiving.
This recipe, whose roots are in the deep South, is one of the most decadent things you can get away with serving as a main dish. It’s creamy, fluffy, and sweet — and you should be prepared to fight over the leftovers.
Three notes: don’t ever, ever, ever use canned sweet potatoes. Also, I favor baking the sweet potatoes rather than boiling. Where I’m sitting right now I can smell them in my oven. And of course, double the recipe.
Finally, if you’re frying a turkey please try not to burn your fu**ing house down. Happy Thanksgiving.
People were asking this week if we get a lot of trick-or-treaters. I wasn’t sure what to say because the truth is I’ve never actually counted — until last night.
In an effort to apply a little science to Halloween, I kept track of how many trick-or-treaters received candy, and took notes on their costumes to see if I could pick out any cultural trend among the local children.
We served a total of 63 trick-or-treaters. There was one adult, who was either dressed as a biker or an S&M enthusiast. I was not sure and did not want to ask.
The greatest number of costumes recorded fall into the category “unknown.” These were either impossible to distinguish by observation, or incomprehensible after explanation. This may reflect a cultural bias on the part of the examiner who is not up on every aspect of pre-teen culture.
A note on methodology. I tried not to ask young kids what they were dressed as. Generally speaking, adults should avoid chatting with young children who come to their door because it’s creepy. When I was growing up, there was one creepy guy who insisted that we do a “trick” to get our “treat.” He clearly misunderstood Halloween, which is about handing out a “treat” so you don’t become the target of a “trick.” I remember walking away flummoxed because I didn’t know any tricks. What a jerk! I hope somebody egged his house.
Anyway, the diversity of costumes was impressive. There were more than 40 different identifiable costume character types represented and it is difficult to establish any sort of pattern. Surprisingly, there was only one vampire — and there were no politically themed costumes. Here are the top costume categories:
|Type of Costume||Trick-or-treaters|
All of this makes me wish I’d started recording this data ten years ago, because it’s only with that sort of history that you can pick out trends. Expect another blog post like this in 2022.
By the time you read this, these cookies will be on their way to Afghanistan.
I baked them on Memorial Day for my son Alex who is serving in an infantry company in the western part of the country, a place that appears to be mostly flat and brown. I’m also sending a bocce set.
It was great to see so many people lining the streets of Albany for the Memorial Day parade. I think the biggest cheer went up for the guys who’d served in Vietnam. It seems that their number is beginning to dwindle, like the Korea and World War II vets before them.
My father, just a teenager when he joined the Navy during WW II, taught me the importance of Memorial Day, that before the picnics and parties, first we remember. As citizens, that’s our responsibility.
I’d like to challenge all Americans to remember every day that we’re at war.
To most people the war is far off and abstract, something that doesn’t mean anything in their lives. That’s understandable — but to those who have an opinion on everything and complain endlessly about our country, I’d suggest you spend five minutes a day reading about Afghanistan. I won’t try to tell you what to think, just to think.