Tag Archives: holidays

A Change of Venue

Who else goes on vacation and wonders why they shouldn’t just up and move to an exotic location? I doubt I’m alone and, if you’d been with my family and me in Turks and Caicos, you might’ve decided to stay there.

Vacations are a wonderful way to rejuvenate the spirit, reconnect with your family and friends, and explore a different part of the world. I love taking my kids to new places so they can learn about and experience different cultures, foods, and ways of life.

The family

Of course, this was just a four-day trip, so we didn’t do much exploration of the island–just a lot of relaxation, and perhaps a little internal exploration.

This is what I learned:

View from plane

  1. The colors of the sea there are the most striking variation of turquoise that I’ve ever seen. Whether seeing it from the plane or the shore, the ocean is simply breathtaking. Better yet, it is crystal clear when you swim.

The beach

2. It’s windy there. Really windy. I’ve never been so cold while basking in the sun. On the upside, it made for excellent sailing and parasailing!

3. Jerk chicken rocks. My son, in particular, ate more than his fill of this Caribbean favorite.

Ford sailing

4. It was a treat to put aside work. During the past two years, I haven’t gone more than 24-hours without writing. That’s right, even when on vacation, and every weekend, I usually do a little work. This trip, I promised my family I wouldn’t pull out the laptop. Instead, I lounged around the beach reading books (if you haven’t read JoJo Moyes’s One by One, do so!), drinking smoothies, and sunbathing. I NEVER do that. By the fourth day, I had really unwound. Now I know I need to do this a little more often.


5. My list of “top places to retire” keeps expanding. I’d always wanted to go west, to a mountainous area like Colorado or the Sierra Nevada range. Now I’m thinking island living might not be too bad. And I’m pretty sure my kids would like to come visit often if we chose someplace like this to live, right?

So how about you? Where have you been lately, and what did you learn while you were there?






April Fool’s Pranks

Happy April Fool’s Day! I’m not much of a prankster these days, but when I was younger, my stepfather and I used to try to sneak up and surprise the other. I’ll admit, he won the best “scare” attack of our ongoing battle.

One school night in the early-mid 80s, my mom and he went to bed about thirty minutes before I did. When I finally got sleepy, I climbed the stairs–arms loaded with school books–without turning on the lights, as was my custom. On the left side of the top of the stairs was a set of double doors that opened to a hallway that led to two bedrooms (including mine, which sat at the far end of that hall). The right wall of that hall had a built-in set of drawers with a marble top for folding things, which unit was flanked by two sizable closets. That particular night, unbeknownst to me, my rather large and clumsy stepfather had crawled up onto that slab and huddled in a ball–hidden by the closet walls–and was quietly waiting for me to appear. If you could see that space and know his size, that feat alone is remarkable. When he heard me come through the double doors and start down the hall, he screamed and flailed his arms about, nearly toppling off his perch. My books flew into the air and I fell to the floor, heart pounding, flopping like a fish on dry land, spitting out the words, “That. Was. The. Best. Scare. Ever!” My mother came rushing through the house, yelling at him for giving me a heart attack. He was laughing so hard, he was bent over, unable to breath. Good times, I tell ‘ya.

Yes, we were a bit twisted, and I probably wouldn’t enjoy that kind of scare today nearly as much as I did back then. But I still smile when I remember that prank.

He died almost fourteen years ago, and I haven’t engaged in any kind of real prank in at least a decade. My kids are teens now, so maybe it’s time I did. It’s not child abuse to torment your kids a little, is it?

To prepare, I did a little web browsing, hoping to poach a clever idea from people with more practice. Some good pranks I discovered include: putting tape over the sensor at the bottom of a mouse or the TV remote, making caramel covered onions and watching that first bite, turning someone’s clock ahead by an hour while they are asleep, putting a donut box with veggie snacks on the table, and texting someone “What’s your ETA?” when you have no plans.

While cute and not too time consuming, none of those ideas strikes the right chord for me and my family. I’m hoping you might have a suggestion. Make it quick, ’cause I’m running out of time!



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?



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!


Holiday Love

With Halloween in the rearview mirror, some of the most beloved holidays of the year are staring us all in the face: Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve.

Most would agree that Christmas and Valentine’s Day are more romantic than, say, Easter. Other holidays, like Halloween and New Year’s, are just plain fun. And then we have the family-oriented, cozy celebrations, like Thanksgiving. I’ve found my preference for particular holidays has changed with age (like so many other things in my life).

As a young kid, I preferred Easter to all others, mostly because of my insatiable sweet tooth. As a teen and young adult, Halloween became a favorite. Who didn’t love transforming into something or someone different for a night and going to a party?

My freehand attempt at The Grinch

My freehand attempt at The Grinch

Surprisingly, Christmas has never been at the top of my list.  First of all, it’s become so overly commercialized, it is disgusting.  Secondly, I’m not a shopper, so I don’t spend much time in stores or online retail outlets. Just thinking about it gives me a headache.  I guess I’ve turned into the Grinch.

All of this leads me to my “grown-up” favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. It’s always at my mom’s house. A giant gathering of extended family, and sometimes even some friends. It’s loud, there’s an endless supply of comfort food—mom’s home cookin’—and a lot of love. Clean-up? Well, that stinks, but you know the saying about no free lunch.  Even with ten tons of pots to scrub, I’ll still vote Thanksgiving as tops on my list.

The grown-up table at my mom's house.

The grown-up table at my mom’s house.

How about you? Which holiday do you love best, and why?