No-cookies cookie swap! Plus, GRAND Social No. 284 link party for grandparents

No-cookies cookie swap! Plus, GRAND Social No. 284 link party for grandparents

No-cookies cookie swap!

The holidays were happening at my house yesterday as a chunk of extended family gathered for a no-cookies cookie swap.

No cookies in a cookie swap? Well, our annual family cookie swap — a family tradition with my mom and my siblings for nearly 30 years — has become quite large as more and more kids of the siblings became adults and joined the swapping. Which meant the number of cookies...


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Saturday movie briefs: 5 (possibly forgotten) family faves for Thanksgiving gatherings

Saturday movie briefs: 5 (possibly forgotten) family faves for Thanksgiving gatherings

My favorite Thanksgiving film is the 1995 treat HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. It's funny and sad and sweet and sorta romantic, and it's the one and only film I must see around the Thanksgiving holiday.

I set out to share with you today not only my Thanksgiving film fave but a few other family friendly movies with a Thanksgiving theme because if your family is anything like mine, watching a film or two together during extended family gatherings is a given.

Turns out the selection of quintessential Thanksgiving movies is slim to none. Those I did find are available primarily only on DVD, not streaming, which means families must decide in advance what to watch together — and how likely is that to happen?

There are still grand options for Thanksgiving weekend...

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An evil weevil repeat

Dear readers: Several years ago I shared the following story as part of a paid campaign. Here I share it again (modified) simply because weevils and their evils are on my mind once more as I prepare to host Thanksgiving dinner.

indian corn
photo: stock.xchng

Many years ago I established a tradition of spreading Indian-corn kernels on the Thanksgiving dinner table. Friends and family are invited to place kernels symbolizing their personal blessings in the special "gratitude" dish at any time during the meal.

It’s a kinder, gentler, and less intrusive way of getting all around the table to give thanks without shining an invasive spotlight on folks not used to spotlights or  expressing gratitude out loud, be it to friends or to family.

I could never explain the tradition to newcomers to our Thanksgiving table. Each time I'd begin the explanation, I would get...

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Holiday highlights... in passages and pics

It was quite indescribable. It was like what happens when you shake a kaleidoscope. The parts of it are the same parts, but they are arranged differently; they are arranged in a new pattern...
~Agatha Christie "The Water Bus"

family at Christmas 

They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters...

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The more things change: 10 ways my Christmas has long remained the same

Now that the nest has emptied, home, family, Christmas and more are far different than they were in the past. The more things change, the more it matters that some things remain the same, things such as the following.

10 ways my Christmas has long remained the same

Christmas treeThe Christmas tree — Regardless of all the ornaments my daughters accumulated through the years then took with them when they moved into their own places, our tree always — somehow — continues to look the same every single year. (And our cats...

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Unexpected guests and GRAND Social link party No. 82

My family's annual cookie swap — which we started long before cookie exchanges were in fashion — took place yesterday at my sister's house. She lives relatively far up in the mountains, and life up there is a wee bit different than it is here in the city.

For one thing, during the holiday festivities, the neighbors came right up to the back door and begged to join our invitation-only party.

begging deer 

Needless to say...

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Back when pie was P.I.E.

One of my favorite times of the year is here: It's pie season!

pie buffet

The weeks surrounding Thanksgiving are when pies take center stage. Christmas time is for cookies; Thanksgiving time is for pies. The planning for them. The baking of them. The eating of them. This is when the traditional Thanksgiving favorites top dessert menus.

I'm talking pumpkin pies, of course, but apple pies, pecan pies, sweet potato pies and mincemeat pies, too. Though I admit I've never tried the last three on the list, as traditional Thanksgiving pies at my place are pumpkin, cherry and chocolate cream. (Pecans, sweet potatoes and mincemeat aren't something I have a hankering for any time of the year, in pies or otherwise.)

Then there are the fancy-pants kinds of Thanksgiving pies seen on magazine covers and Pinterest boards, the pies I hope to one day bake, hope to one day taste. Caramel apple pie. Pumpkin ice cream pie. Peanut butter pie. Strawberry-raspberry pie and cranberry pies of all sorts, too.

I love pie.

But Thanksgiving time is the only time I make pie, the only time I eat pie.

That wasn't always the case.

For a brief period of time when my daughters still lived at home, I proposed pie as our all-time — meaning All. The. Time — dessert of choice. Not for dessert though, but for breakfast. On Saturdays. Saturdays far removed from Thanksgiving.

For several months, I offered my then-teenage girls (and my husband, too) pie on Saturday mornings. A time or two I baked a pie, but more often than not it was a perfect pastry picked up from the nearest Village Inn or Perkins, those 24/7 restaurants featuring display cases filled with full-sized pies of the most luscious sorts. Our favorite was the silky smooth French Silk topped with rich, thick, real whipped cream and chunky chocolate shavings. Runner up? A cookies and cream concoction that was to die for, at least for those who'd die for more than their share of Oreo cookies.

On very ordinary Saturdays, I'd set out on the kitchen counter the perfect pie for the family to serve themselves a piece as they woke on Saturday mornings. Alongside the delectable pie and the dessert plates on which pieces were to be placed, I set a note card on which I'd written the following:

May you always have P.I.E.
Peace, Inspiration and Enthusiasm

Those three things — peace, inspiration and enthusiasm — were what I considered essential ingredients for a fullfilled life. I wanted fulfilling lives for my girls. I wanted them to always have peace, always find inspiration, always be enthusiastic about their world and their place in it.

I wanted them to always have P.I.E.

I thought pie was the perfect way to serve up regular reminders to pursue exactly those things.

My pie-serving quest took place during my oldest daughter's senior year of high school. When the opportunity arose for parents to purchase ad space in the yearbook, space in which they could publish a farewell to their graduating children, I bought space, noted a few niceties for Brianna from Mom and Dad, and ended it with "And remember to always have P.I.E."

I wanted Brianna, as well as Megan and Andrea, to place firmly in their hearts and minds my efforts at impressing upon them the importance of P.I.E.... and pie. I wanted those pie-serving Saturdays to be added to their lists of Cool Things Mom Used to Do and become cool things they would one day do with their own children. I wanted them to always remember to have P.I.E. and to always remember Mom's serving up of such slices of wisdom.

That didn't happen.

I asked one of my daughters not long ago if she remembered all the pie we used to eat. My question sparked not even the slightest glimmer of remembrance. More recently, when the proliferation of pie pins on Pinterest reminded me of our P.I.E. eating days and I considered writing a post such as this, I asked Jim if he remembered those pies I hoped had meant so much to my family. He didn't.

pumpkin pie

Sometimes our attempts at making an impression on our children, on our families, fail. My earnest efforts at making P.I.E. an important part of our Saturdays and each and every day to come were one such failure. It was good at the time. No, it was delicious at the time. But, as is the case with all things related to growing babies into adults, that time didn't last. Our prime pie season, for reasons of which I'm not quite sure, lasted a shorter period than most other seasons of childrearing.

No matter, though. The return of pie season brings with it my hope that peace, inspiration and enthusiasm abound in the hearts and lives of my daughters — even without me foisting upon them oversized servings of French Silk Pie.

And despite being unable to share oversized servings of French Silk Pie with you, my friends, I hope that during this Thanksgiving season and beyond, you, too, will remember to always have pie. Not only the pie that satisfies your stomach, but the P.I.E. that satisfies your soul, too.

Photos: Top photo from and altered by me. Pumpkin pie photo mine (click the pie for recipe).

Today's question:

What are your favorite kinds of pie?

Ornaments of Christmases past

At tree-trimming time every Christmas, I gave each of my three daughters a new ornament, beginning when they were all still quite small. Some years the ornaments given reflected a passion or hobby of each individual girl; other years, all three received similar ornaments with only a slight variation on a common theme. Every year, all were dated and hung upon the family tree.

With three new ornaments added for the girls each year plus a new one for Jim and myself annually, too, our Christmas tree became jam-packed with ornaments by the time the girls were ready to leave the nest. The paring down of the baubles was far more abrupt than the collecting. First it was Megan's collection that we wrapped up and sent with her once she became a newlywed. Next, Andrea moved up and out and on, taking her ornaments with her. Then, just a few years ago, Brianna and her seasonal stash found a new home, as well.

Now that Jim and I decorate our tree with many old ornaments of our own, plus nearly just as many new ornaments to take the place of those relocated to our daughters' Christmas trees, it's been especially heartwarming this past week while visiting my grandsons to see many of the familiar ornaments of Christmases past hanging on Megan's tree. Not only those I had given her through the years, but ones she had made herself or received from others, too.


Equally heartwarming to see hung in a place of prominence at Megan's house was an advent calendar I had made for my daughters many years ago, now providing a chocolate-y countdown to Christmas for my grandsons.

It's bittersweet to see old, familiar seasonal decor adorning a home so far removed from mine, in years and in geography. Every once in a while during this visit, I've been hit with the overwhelming realization that things will never go back to what they were, that time has indeed ticked along, those days are gone, and this is where we as a family are, what we will be from now on. Not that I didn't realize that—or be okay with that—already, but the confirmation of such sometimes comes in unexpected and occasionally uncomfortable waves. No more kids' ornaments hanging on the tree was and is just the beginning...and the end.

That serves as the bitter. The sweet? Seeing the enjoyment my grandsons now get pulling foiled Santas and chocolate balls from the very same crudely numbered pockets their mom and aunts once did, counting the days until Santa's arrival. Days that to a child move far too slowly. Days that to a mom—and now a grandma— moved far too fast and somehow, without proper notice, became years.

Today's question:

What holiday ornaments have you passed down to your children?