• Grandma MaryGrandma MaryMary Ellen Snider Finch was (and, truly, always will be) my grandmother. My mother remembers her as a strong, fair and patient woman. I remember her being all of that but then I also remember her smile, Thanksgivings and Christmases with both of my grandparents and that Grandma Mary would eat a bologna sandwich and drink a Coke at breakfast. She was an avid crocheter and she was a devoted grandma, too. At the time she passed away (the day before her 62nd birthday), she had 13 grandkids. I can't recall a time that my family wasn't at her house at least once or twice a week.

    She was so beloved in our family, in fact, one of my cousins called her "Grandma Cookie" because she always had Keebler cookies in the freezer for all of her grandkids. She always had something special for us -- in fact, one of my last memories of her before she passed away is the night my brothers and sister and I stayed at her house while my parents went out. Grandma made us chocolate brownies that were so gooey

    Read More »from User post: Two reasons why my Grandma will always be better than your Grandma
  • I'm a family girl. For all the good and bad of it, that's who I am in a nutshell. This means that every tradition, every person, every meal prepared has meaning to me. I crave Irish Nachos from Rosie McCann's pub on May 6 each year to celebrate a romantic meal La Gringa and I had years and years ago. I play Barbara Streisand's Christmas album all the way through because it reminds me of my parents dancing in the livingroom when I was a child spying on them playing Santa. I make tamales around this time of year too because it reminds me of my cousins and grandmother and her tiny kitchen with the vinyl seats and fake wood. I love tradition, and, until one fated night in Rome ten years ago, I still do.

    I was traveling in an Eastern direction around the world in 2010, hitting nearly 30 countries and loving every single minute of my travel. My mom met me in Rome for a magical week in early October. It was set to be the last time I'd see her before Christmas eve. We decided to have

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  • Eighteen years ago, I married the love of my life.

    He is a British ex-pat with a wonderful family who live 6,000 miles away. My own family lives about 400 miles from my home town of Los Angeles.

    By the time our daughter was born, we realized we were at a disadvantage by having no close relatives to lean on here.

    On top of that: All the holidays were "taken."

    My sister has Thanksgiving and New Year, which means we drive north to her home in Sacramento to celebrate those. Christmas in her family belongs to her mother-in-law -- which makes sense, as my sister and I are Jewish and grew up with no real December traditions.

    My husband and I have had to make ours up as we go along, which hasn't always been easy, because it kind of depends upon whether or not we've scraped up the funds to visit his family in the UK.

    Of course, all the holidays are "taken" over there, too - mainly by my sister-in-law. This is fine with me, as she is a much better cook than I, and let's face it: the Jewish

    Read More »from My Family's Holiday Tradition is No Tradition
  • If my kids were disappointed that I didn't cook our Thanksgiving dinner, they didn't show it. Since I'm in the television news business, there aren't too many holidays in which I'm not working. Our holiday tradition seems to be no tradition.

    There have been Thanksgivings in which I've worked the early morning shift and then rushed home to cook the entire feast. There have also been times in which we've gone out to eat or joined friends at their homes.

    This year, I worked Thanksgiving morning and then stopped to pick up our turkey feast at Whole Foods. I had reserved the meal just days before. I was hardly alone. The place was packed with shoppers and other people picking up entire meals, too. I immediately felt less guilt about not cooking. And the meal was fantastic. So, let's see:

    1) Cost was comparable to buying all the ingredients.
    2) Very little work after work!
    3) Turkey, fixings and all dishes were delicious and beautifully prepared.
    4) Less clean up.
    5) More time

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  • Some of my favorite memories from my childhood involve my sister and I heading off to the theater with my mom to see the ballet or a concert or musical. (To this day, I can still remember touching the "junkyard" on the set of Cats.) At Christmastime, we'd get all dressed up in our velvet dresses and patent leather Mary Janes and trek through the snow to see The Nutcracker at Place des Arts. I never tired of it and the tradition became one that was very special to me. Now that I have little ones of my own, I've taken to exposing them to the magic of the performing arts as well, especially around the holidays.

    So far I've take my crew to see the children's performances of The Nutcracker and Sweet Honey in the Rock, a Kwanzaa show and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. They've had fun going to these shows and I hope that as they get older, they'll come to appreciate the performing arts as much as I do.

    Because my kids are ages 6, 4 and 2, the idea that taking little ones

    Read More »from User post: Tips to help your kids enjoy a live show at Christmas
  • The day after Thanksgiving has always meant only one thing, a steamy bowl of my father's homemade Chinese jook (also known as congee).

    There is no one recipe for jook. Some are served with 1000 year old eggs. Some contain shredded pork. Other recipes calls for sesame oil or a bit of ginger. Anything goes in this very forgiving soup.

    This year, after many years of greedily slurping up my bowl without knowing how it was made, I paid attention. I watched my father in action as he stirred up the steamy mixture. I asked questions, filing away the answers because I want to pass down this traditional dish to my children.

    As I watched, I discovered a surprising secret ingredient: Simplicity.

    Jook as made by my father contains nothing more than broth made from a turkey carcass and a cupful of rice. Sprinkle a little white pepper and a pinch of cilantro into individual bowls and voila, simple jook. What could be more resourceful?

    My father makes his jook from memory, never really measuring.

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  • IMG_5664

    Kids driving you turkey this Thanksgiving? Here's an activity I used to do with my elementary school class and now do at home with the kids.

    I'm fairly certain you'll have everything you need in your home, so no need to rush out to the store for this activity. You can even do it on Thanksgiving!

    You'll need, per turkey:

    • toilet paper roll
    • construction paper: 1 brown, 1 yellow, other colors
    • glue
    • black marker

    Create a tracer of a feather; trace and cut feathers out of many colors of construction paper (plan for 4 or 5 per turkey). Also, fold brown construction paper in half (length-wise) and cut. You'll need 1 half-sheet brown paper per turkey. Finally, cut out small, yellow squares, about 1/2 -1 inch.

    Place glue on the construction paper and roll the paper around toilet paper roll.

    Have child draw eyes. Fold small square yellow paper into triangle shape and glue one side onto roll as a beak.

    Ask child to think about the

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  • One of our favorite fall traditions is to throw on our aprons and do a little baking together, and there's nothing like Iced Pumpkin Cookies to get kids excited to help while they learn a little along the way.

    Many people dread the thought of kids in the kitchen--the mess, the stress, and the effort it takes just don't outweigh the benefits in some people's minds, especially if the kids are under five. But my feeling is to start 'em young.

    Get those little ones in the kitchen, hands washed, aprons, on, and use this time as a fun way of throwing in some early literacy, math, and science skills. Need a few more reasons to get the little guys up at the counter?

    Here are three big reasons to make this season's baking a family affair:

    1. The learning opportunities:
    New tastes, textures, and smells are in abundance in the kitchen, with almost every holiday recipe. And with even just a little tweaking, recipes can be made kid-friendly and ready to support early literacy skills. Add a

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  • Black Friday Night Lights

    What I love about this time of year is the transition from the Autumn holiday of Thanksgiving to the magical Christmas of Winter. In our family this transition happens on Black Friday.
    Many spend the day shopping - getting as many deals and steals as possible. For our family of five we spend the day decorating for Christmas!
    On Thanksgiving night my husband heads to the attic and pulls down box after box of lights, garland, ornaments, and holiday decorations. The next day we begin our family traditions of turning our normally simple house into a magical holiday extravaganza!
    My husband and son are in charge of hanging lights and garland outside and on the porch in an attempt to create an elegant scene for us to enjoy. My daughters help me inside the house. We put up the tree - telling stories of all the ornaments. We light the Christmas candles, turn the dining room into a warm, cozy atmosphere of red and green. We pull out or cookie book and begin deciding what we want to bake. We

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  • Celery and cream cheese may not be the sexiest recipe I could give you for Thanksgiving, but of all the Thanksgiving foods it's one of my favorites. In preparation for this post I looked around online to see if my recipe was anywhere else. I'll admit I wasn't that thorough, but in a cursory search I didn't see it.

    This is my grandmother's recipe who was raised in Minnesota, but it was really the next best thing to Norway. I don't think she even learned to speak English until she was about ten in 1920. Which is my round about way of saying this is the Norwegian way to make celery with cream cheese. Like any good Norwegian there aren't a lot of frills or pomp, but it definitely gets the job done.


    Cream Cheese
    Crumbled blue cheese
    Onion juice

    Instructions and fab picture of grandma after the jump

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