Archive for the 'My Favorite Things' Category


The 12 Ways of Christmas: the lights

[Part 8]

This is disgusting to me now, but it would have delighted me as a kid.

It wasn’t December if my family and I were not driving around looking at other people’s Christmas lights.

We started in our own neighborhood, admiring the wild and colorful houses, and the simple monochromatic houses in white, gold, red, blue. In my little kid’s logic, I always assumed the blue houses must be Jewish. Or something. Just a feeling. I wanted to say so, but it seemed rude. I never knew any Jews growing up—at least none that I knew of.

My mom and I especially loved the ones that looked like gingerbread houses with sidewalks lined, every angle of the roof highlighted, doorways and windows lit. Our house should be like that. I studied them carefully as we slowly passed, making mental notes between audible gasps every time a new extreme came into view.

I really appreciated the people who did their trees. Those were the ones who really cared. Random placements among the branches were popular one year. Then our neighbors began to include the trunks, too. A few years later, a tightly wrapped cluster of lights on the trunk with a contrasting color densely filling up the branches was en vogue. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: the lights’


O’er the fields we go, packing all away

We just finished un-Christmasing the house. I have never before seen so many dead pine needles all at once. It’s weird to have things back to normal, but I’m getting used to it.

I came home to find Jeff pulling ornaments off the tree. He was putting them in the wrong boxes, but I didn’t say anything. It may seem like it does’t matter, but I have a system. They should go back in the boxes they came from. Different colors should be distributed evenly to ensure equally even distribution next year when we hang them on the next tree. But at least they’re all put away. We can deal with it next year. Continue reading ‘O’er the fields we go, packing all away’


The 12 Ways of Christmas: the cookies

[Part 7]

Santa's givin' you some sugar this year!

There was nothing in particular that linked my mom’s cookies with Christmas, except that we never made them at any other time of the year. You can have eggnog in the summer, but why? Grandma could make her baked beans for Easter, but why? No, these things were for Christmas only.

I always looked forward to those rare and special nights when my mom dragged out her big electric mixer and the glass and metal bowls and wooden spoons. Soon the kitchen countertop would be covered with bags of flour and sugars, syrups, shortening, butter (it was always margarine, but we called it “butter”), eggs, nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, vials of food colorings and flavorings, shredded coconut, candied cherries. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: the cookies’


The 12 Ways of Christmas: the tree

[Part 3]

Somehow the threat of danger seemed to make our Christmas tree more worthwhile.

Our family room tree, in contrast with the more austere “nice tree” in the living room, was a garish, hulking thing. A hodgepodge of lights and garland and ornaments of every shape size and color, its beauty derived mainly from its randomness. Our Christmas tree didn’t give it a shit, because all other trees cold suck it. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: the tree’


The 12 Ways of Christmas: The decorating

[Part 2]

My mom had a couple of great friends who went nuts every year with Christmas decorations in their house.

Auntie Cel and Auntie Mary had so much stuff, they had to start decorating the day after Halloween to get it all up in time for Christmas. Every room had a different theme; some rooms had more than one. There were the religious icons, the secular icons, nativities, santas and elves, snowmen and snowladies, stars, snowflakes, trees, holly, wreaths, lights, lights, and lights. Continue reading ‘The 12 Ways of Christmas: The decorating’


Orange Alert


Bon appetit!

From spring through autumn, sidewalk fruit stands are rampant in New York City. It’s great, because warmer temperatures seem to convince us to eat lighter and fresher, and I like having the options. A couple bucks can get you a light and relatively healthy lunch. I should know, I passed by enough of those stands on my way to Chipotle.

However, you can never be sure of the quality or the flavor. And you should really wash that stuff off before you munch on the go. So it’s a good idea to have some alternative reliable sources.

I could always find the best oranges at this little deli on 46th near Broadway, a couple doors down from my office. I don’t work in New York any more, however, and those oranges are among the things I miss most about my routine there. They were consistently easy to peel. And unlike the typically dull, pulpy monstrosities of grocery store fare, these had an intense flavor every time without fail. I don’t know what voodoo those shopkeepers were working. I have no idea where the fruit came from. But no matter the season, they were always awesome.

Having them there kept me from defaulting to a bagel with butter or a two-egg and cheese on a roll. (Though I miss those things dearly, too.) If they didn’t have any oranges in on a given day, I would walk right back out of the store.

So now that I work in Philadelphia, I need to find a new routine, a new source. I don’t yet know where to get a good bagel near the office, and that’s probably for the best.


My Tomatoes Ride the Short Bus

We said good-bye to summer last week, and I’ve all but given up my dreams of garden-fresh tomatoes.

We started from seed back in February in little clay pots on the kitchen window sill. It was like a terra cotta maternity ward. I thought we were so clever to get heirloom varieties: a yellow one, a red one with stripes, and a purple one. I wouldn’t remember their funny names, but they would be so colorful! My plan was to choose the strongest, fastest growers, eliminate the rest, and plant a few of them outside.

I built a huge planter box as big as a coffin and transferred five plants around Memorial Day, when they were finally big enough to be moved. In the sunniest section of our garden, they probably got about 7 hours of direct light a day. But even with daily watering, fastidious care and trimming, fighting off slugs, chasing away bugs and alley cats — folding chicken poop into the soil — they didn’t take off until July.

We mixed up the labels on accident, and I forgot which was which, but I figured we’d be able to identify them when the tomatoes ripened into full color. The first little fruit, a lonely green globe of pure joy, came budding out a full two months later.

I was a little embarrassed to tell anyone, because August was so late, but I was proud of my little trooper anyway. His tardiness was surely my fault, not his.

Soon every plant had tomatoes growing, but we didn’t actually eat one until last night. It was that first one. Turned out to be yellow, bright and beautiful as a lemon. It tasted awesome in a salad.

One awesome salad after six months of energy and expense.

Now the plants are ready to give out. They’re starting to self-destruct, cutting off energy to their leaves and turning brown. We should be sick of tomatoes by now, but instead I’m just grateful for whatever I can scrape up.

A few months ago, I thought I might have too many. I had visions of cooking huge pots of sauce to freeze for the winter, sending some home to my mom, leaving little paper bags of tomatoes on neighbors’ doorsteps. Now I’ll be lucky to get a dozen.

So I have accepted it as my personal mission, my calling, to see those green tomatoes through to the end. This garden will not be a failure. I will see them on my dinner plate if it kills me. (At least I’m not likely to die while choking on a tomato.)

Maybe before the frost comes, we’ll see some color out there, and I’ll finally know what I planted.

the untallied hours

the tweets

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