Tag Archives: Family

Halloween: A Snapshot of Budding Character

They say you can tell a lot about a person from the way they handle themselves on the golf course. Does she cheat? Does she throw a fit when things aren’t going well? Does she understand the etiquette? However she plays that game is likely how she handles herself in life, at work, and so on. I think there is some truth to this particular saying, and I’m going to take it a step further.

60514268 - halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

60514268 – halloween: kids excited to trick or treat

You can tell a lot about a kid from watching her on Halloween. First, what costume did she pick? Is that little girl in a princess dress, or a football uniform? Next, does she look you in the eye, smile, and yell “trick or treat,” or does she keep her chin tucked and look back at her adoring mom or dad? Is she alone, with one friend or sibling, or running with a pack of kids? Does she ask “how many” she’s allowed, or just grab as much as her little hands can heft out of the bowl? Does she say “thank you?” or does she thrust her hands in there during someone else’s turn and grab a bunch before running away without ever once acknowledging you or the candy?

Last night I saw a little bit of all of these things. I admit, I get discouraged when I see discourteous children. I wonder how a kid gets to that point, too? Didn’t her parents teach her good manners? I know there’s a whole “anti-sharing” culture out there (schools that cater to that, too, by allowing kids to “save” toys from others even when they aren’t playing with it), so maybe that’s to blame.

A “me first” attitude is a huge turn-off to me, in kids and adults. It seems parents who are against sharing seem to think that, when another kid asks for a turn, then if their kid is expected to share, it is teaching that other kid that they get what they want whenever they want it. That seems to be a really twisted form of logic in my opinion. If anything, teaching your kids they never need to share (even if it is community property, like in a classroom or playground), is teaching YOUR kids that their needs always come first. ICK!!

Sharing is good for everyone. It teaches us to be part of a community. To realize that, if we’re lucky enough to have “more,” we can use that power to help others who have less. Giving is kind, and most people actually feel GOOD when they make someone else happy. Learning that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your needs is also a good thing (which I think sharing promotes rather than destroys). And people who share are much more likely to make friends easily and socialize better than kids who clutch everything for themselves.

What’s your take on all of this?



Big Love in Utah

No, this isn’t a post about the former HBO series, or Mormonism, or polygamy. This is a post about the benefits of extended family vacations. My immediate family takes two per year (one ski trip with my husband’s family, and one beach trip with mine). I’ve just finished zipping up the last suitcase to prepare for our flight home after spending a week in Alta, Utah with my husband’s family (the littlest ones were already in bed before this photo was taken). IMG_7121

Three generations (19 people in all) came from California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to live under one roof. We skied, played games, held daily “inspections” of the kids’ rooms (a contest with prizes–and, shockingly, my son and his cousin won), and caught up on a myriad of the past year’s trials and tribulations.IMG_7123

For some, this type of vacation may sound like a nightmare. Granted, it was not particularly restful, and the volume reached a feverish pitch around the dinner table. But the minor moments of discomfort were far outweighed by the many benefits of being together.

The kids (teens included) actually put down their devices for tremendous chunks of time and skied, played chess, Scrabble, and Guesstures, and hung out conversing with the adults (gasp) in front of the fire. The eldest generation reminisced about the decades of experiences in Alta. We were all treated to fabulous meals by the staff, forcing some of us with pickier palates–gently clears throat–to try new dishes. Kids learned to manage roommate issues. Differing parenting styles had to bend in order to avoid conflict among the nine kids. Abundant exercise and inspirational views filled all the senses. Heck, I even got a bunch of snuggles from my teen daughter (who has never been the snuggling sort).

As always, at the end of this week, I feel renewed kinship with my husband’s entire family, all of whom are unique, accomplished, and fun-loving individuals. I’m also thankful to Dan and Dusty (who run the house) for helping me with more research on competitive snowboarding and backcountry skiing. Finally, I’m grateful that we all are leaving this beautiful yet potentially dangerous mountain range without injury! FullSizeRender(28)

If you’ve never organized a major family trip (or reunion weekend), I highly recommend it. There may be a stray tear or argument, but your heart will be bigger when you leave.


Six Ways to Enliven Thanksgiving

It’s that time again, my favorite holiday of the year. No gifts, no jingles–just good food, friends, and family all together at a table. Of course, the holiday can be a lot of work (especially for the host), which can rob the day of some of its joy. Here are six ideas to put the fun and “thanks” back into the celebration:

44666577_sBring a Friend. Do you know someone who is single and has no place to go (maybe they are recently divorced and the other spouse gets the kids, or maybe they have a work commitment that prevents them from traveling home for the holiday)? Invite them to join you and yours. Not only will it brighten their day, but it’ll make you feel great, too. And sometimes adding a new face to an old crowd can take the conversation in new directions from which everyone walks away wiser.

Donate Food. The abundance of food on my mother’s table might be deemed obscene by some. Although my family does an amazing job at making sure none of it go to waste, it does make one stop to think about the many families in our country who are hungry. Thanksgiving week is a great time to donate food, whether to a food bank, local homeless shelter, or neighborhood family who is down on their luck. One bonus of taking a minute to be thankful and think of others is that it helps alleviate the guilt of that second helping of turkey and gravy.

Share Recipes.  Encourage your guests to bring multiple copies of their favorite holiday recipe. Collect the cards at the beginning of the afternoon and make little “gift bundles” for each guest. When they get home, they’ll have a reminder of their nice afternoon, and a bunch of new recipes to try.

Show Gratitude. Between dinner and dessert, have everyone at the table name one thing s/he was especially grateful for during the past year. Not only is this a nice way to reflect on one’s good fortune, but it is also a way to learn more about everyone you love.

18805762_sParty Punch.  Have fun drinks available for all ages. Little kids like to feel part of the party, too, so make a colorful, alcohol free punch for them and serve it with fancy umbrellas or little fruit kebobs. The awe and laughter of kids always makes any family event more festive, and this little touch is sure to please.

Move it!  Get everyone outside for a bit. Whether you take a post-dinner walk to help with digestion, or simply light up a fire pit and gather outside for a hot drink, the cool November air will awaken the senses, as will a change of venue.

Whether you take any of these suggestions to heart, or simply enjoy the traditions you’ve established over the years, I wish you and yours a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Drive safely!


“D—– in a Box”

No, no…this isn’t a blog about the infamous SNL film short. Had to capture your attention because, after a long absence, Katherine’s back on the blog to talk about her latest culinary adventures:

With the start of school (where I work), kids’ sports, and helping with homework, the ease of summer grocery store trips and menu planning vanished. While I love cooking, the school-day afternoons just get away from me, and the family never seems to be able to eat at the same time. I needed help, and I think I found it!

You’ve probably heard of the new trend: dinner in a box. Multiple companies now deliver ready-to-cook meals to your doorstep.  Inside the box are all the ingredients you need for the meals you select, which typically take less than 60 minutes to prepare.  No deciding what to make for dinner.  No trip to the grocery store.  Everything you need is right at your fingertips.big hello fresh

I’d been debating whether or not to try one of these services for about six months while I wallowed in a rut of making the same meals over and again. I finally decided, why not try!

Last week I received my first box from Hello Fresh.

Here’s my verdict:

The box came with a large recipe booklet that included a list of all ingredients and step-by-step instructions.  Each of the recipes was easy to follow (even while shouting at my kids to turn down their music and do their homework). The meal came together very quickly, which was key! It was also extremely convenient to grab it from the fridge knowing everything I needed to make dinner was in that cute little white box. 3 hello fresh

I have to be honest, my only worry was whether the meals would provide a solid dinner for four people (which includes two hungry teenagers).  Happily, we actually had leftovers two out of the three nights. Better yet, all three meals were absolutely delicious!

I was most surprised by the Zucchini Noodle Lasagna.  At first I wasn’t sure that my teen son would buy in, but, he didn’t just like it, he loved it, and my entire family is still talking about it.lasagna

I really loved my first week of dinners from Hello Fresh. It’s on the pricey side (about $110 for 3 meals), but I’d probably spend close to that at the grocery store for similar ingredients. This way, I saved myself the shopping trip and I didn’t have to “think” about what to make. Back to school is such a busy time, so buying these healthy, balanced, tasty meals was a win-win.

I am a little excited because box #2 arrives this week! All I need to have on hand is a glass of wine to sip on while preparing my family dinners.



Family + Vacation + Silliness = Love

Can you tell from the title that I’ve just returned from my extended family’s annual trip to the beach?  This is the gang (minus three who couldn’t make it this year): Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.15.57 PMThese trips began many moons ago with my mother (and step-father), her sister’s family, their parents, and my brother and me. We’ve carried on the tradition for decades (although it still amazes me to now find myself being that in that middle-tier of the family tree).

Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” I couldn’t agree more.

I grew up in Pittsburgh within a stone’s throw (literally) of two sets of cousins and one set of grandparents. The rest of my close-knit family all lived within a five-mile drive. Time changed all that, and now we are scattered across Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut, making large family get-togethers rare.

IMG_6295Of course, the Hilton Head Island beaches are beautiful (see?), the weather is reliably warm and sunny, and the rental homes fabulous as one could desire, but none of that is what makes these trips our favorite.

What makes them so special is the level of silliness we achieve together, and the life-long memories that creates. For instance, this year some of the dads decided to dress up in old-time bathing suits, glue fake mustaches above their mouths, and stroll the beach to the nearest resort hotel pool bar. oldtimersThey mimicked 1920s radio voices for the duration of the “show,” and needless to say, drew lots of attention, questions, and requests for photos. The kids were extremely amused and oddly proud, and it will certainly remain a memorable, if ridiculous, day in our lives.

FrostFrogAnother fun ritual is enjoying a meal at the Frosty Frog. Grown-ups like the frozen drinks (Fruit Loop is a particularly tasty one), and the kids like to dance to the live music with the restaurant mascot.

This year, my cousins and I decided to go out on the town and hit the dueling piano bar. My one cousin (a former rock singer turned elementary school teacher) ended up on stage belting out Janis Joplin’s Bobby McGee while the crowd cheered her on. Of course, that’s something the kids didn’t get to see, except via video the next day.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.52.26 PM

Then there are the other traditions, like my cousin’s constant fishing along the coast. Often he’s caught rather large shark and stingrays. This year he got one big stingray, while an even bigger shark snapped his line. He did manage to reel this baby shark in for the kids to pet. Yes, my daughter found this all very entertaining, while I decided perhaps my body surfing days were at an end.kaylababyshark

So much in our daily lives is regimented, it is wonderful to get away to laugh and play and remember what it feels like to be a kid again. I’m grateful for this opportunity to relax with my cousins, and for my kids to form the special bonds of kinship with distant cousins. I hope we can continue our “family” vacations for decades to come, even if it means my kids will need to wheel me onto the beach. That might make it a little hard for me to participate in our annual family vacation video, but I’ll find a way.

I’ll end on that note, with the video we made this year, as a reminder to all to be happy with who you are and don’t let others tear you down: