Friday, December 3, 2021

Five on Friday: The Evolution of Holiday Traditions

It's family tradition season, folks! It starts annually in October when the bin of Halloween decor comes out of the attic only to be swapped out for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year . . . 

Every year there's the possibility for slight tweaks but the changes have picked up in frequency, due to three main factors:

* First: Kids insisting on growing up. Our oldest two are off at college so aren't home to participate in some traditions. Some of them start to feel a little too babyish, so it's understandable that the young teens will begin to roll their eyes at them. But with a ten-year age gap between oldest and youngest, I've always wanted to make sure there was plenty of holiday magic for the youngest to experience, too.

Somehow, though, even the baby has grown though and she's now a tween herself. This means she wants to act grown but still be a little girl. This extends to how she approaches holiday traditions (eye-roll or get excited?)

Some examples from this category include:

1. Decor placement! I shared this meme with my friend and we both chuckled. 

I can relate to the sentiment while also realizing how silly it is. This year my 11-year-old wanted to place all the Halloween decorations around the house and she was absolutely putting things where I didn't usually put them. I had to tell myself to relax and appreciate how excited she was to be doing it herself. And really, who cares? (Okay fine. It's me. I care. I stealthily switched some things around but I swear, just a few.)

2. The Thanks-Giving Turkey has traditionally been made of paper and added to after dinner the entire month of November. This wasn't really possible since two kids were at college and three kids didn't care that much about it. I still wanted to have an option on Thanksgiving Day so this year it was relegated to the chalkboard door, participation optional:

* Second factor, related to first: parents getting burnt out.
3. The annual gingerbread creation, originally my husband's idea and project, has been feeling overwhelming to him in the past couple of years. It is really fun, though, so many of  us are not ready to abandon it. 

My oldest daughter and I usually take the lead on it but this year it felt particularly burdensome . . . I wondered if this might be the end. Somehow all five kids ended up getting really invested in it (in a way I hadn't expected) and it turned out great. It's our family's Museum of Art:

4. Aw, look how cute these card holders are that I made! I hated throwing away all the great holiday cards we get so I started saving them in homemade pouches. I was delighted that my children loved poring through them each year.

Uh, apparently last year's card holder looks like this:

This is a plastic zippered pouch that bedsheets probably came in, with 2020 written on it in marker. Is it because I was burnt out--or does this one really belong under the . . . 

* Third Factor: Pandemic influencing everything.
Because maybe a shitty plastic low-effort card holder just sums up 2020, am I right? 

Lastly. . . 

5.  When I opened up the bin of Christmas decor, I thought, "Why the heck is there a face mask in here?" 

Oh. A holiday-themed one I made last year and surely put away thinking that by 2021 it'd be a funny blast from the past . . . that's sort of bittersweet, isn't it? Because now I wonder if we'll be wearing it again in 2022.
Man, is that a bummer way to end this list? I didn't mean it to be. Overall I want to express that times and our family are changing and actually, I'm okay with it. Yeah we have holiday-themed masks but now we also have vaccines and boosters . . . we spent time with family, in person (!!), this Thanksgiving. 

I'm thankful to be alive and healthy to experience these evolving traditions together . . . might have to add it that to my chalkboard turkey.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Five on Friday: Requisite Sappy Holiday Gratitude Post But With a Twist!

I'm supposed to write a gratitude list today, right, because Thanksgiving was yesterday? It should be sappy and I should gush about how much I love my husband and kids.

Meh, I do that all the time.

But since it is a slow week because of a holiday that's all about being thankful, I think I will write a little grat list. However, I've been trying to think of some that are unusual or seem contrary or force me to take a new spin on something that I'm *not* actually grateful for, like:

1. Daylight Savings Time. It is stupid and I hate it and I wish we would stop doing it. Also I loathe the cold of winter and can't wait to be a snowbird. But I'll tell you what, the sunrises this time of year always knock me out.

2. All five kids are home and yes, it is wonderful, but I am so glad they're going to go back to school (university, high and middle) soon. Not in a "oh my kids are driving me crazy please open school again" sort of way, though, which I have felt before and will maintain that that is a completely valid feeling. 

This time, though, it's pandemic-related . . . I just continue to feel so grateful that my kids can have a more normal year this year, with sports and friends and more typical college experience. We survived the virtual/hybrid year, but I am so grateful it is over.

3. The dryer is still broken and even though I do really look forward to having it fixed, the little-girl-playing-Little-House-on-the-Prairie in me kind of enjoys hanging the clothes on the line and/or on the rack near the fire. And what I really love is putting on a shirt that smells like outside. It's not summer anymore, which does make me sad, but my clothes and sheets smell like sunshine.

When I sit on the couch with the television volume turned up to 50 because the teenage drummer upstairs decided to forgo practice all day and start at 9pm, I like reflect upon how  much I rue the day we ever got this goddamn drum kit  lucky we are to have such talented children.

5. I really love my job and look forward to going to work, I honestly do. But a day off to be with my family, creating our annual gingerbread and just being together is something to not take for granted. 

Sneak peek: these are just some parts, it's not done yet

Friday, November 19, 2021

Five on Friday: The Bigs are Coming! The Bigs are Coming!

The bigs are coming, the bigs are coming! 

In our family of five kids, the oldest two are referred to as "the bigs," followed by "the boys" and lastly is "the baby." (Honestly at age eleven she hasn't really been called that in many years but it's the only other B word that makes sense here.)

The bigs have been away at college for three months now. Of course we knew they'd be home for Thanksgiving, but much like every single Friday sneaks up on me without warning (leaving me scrambling to come up with blog content), I can't believe they'll be home tomorrow! 

Some last minute realizations:

1. Uh, I guess the boys and baby had better clean up these bedrooms they've taken over.

Whose bed is this anyway?
The college sophomore's, the high school sophomore's or the small dog's?
2. I'll have to readjust my food shopping and cooking! Again! 

3. Speaking of meals, looks like it's time for the migration to the larger dining room table! 
I dressed it up for the occasion!

4. They better not be bringing laundry home. Dryer's busted.

5. Hope they miss the freedom of having a car and driving . . . I have lots of younger sibling chauffeuring lined up for them! (I'm not a total monster, I also have lots of fun things I want to do with them while they're here. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about making them do some errands for me! Mwah ha ha!)

Friday, November 12, 2021

Five on Friday: Season's Swan Song (a Short Photo Essay)

Just when you thought the riding season for cold-weather wimps was over, a few mild days in November come along.  At the beginning of the week, my husband began pointing out the forecast for me and nearly begging me to take advantage of one last ride. Each day didn't work out for one reason or another and on the last nice day of the week, I finally got around to it.

Totally enjoyable. Thanks for the push, Daddy-O.

1. It's been awhile . . . Giacomo stalled out a few times. Thought I'd just get him across the yard to the driveway to run a bit while I finished getting ready. Realized I've never taken a ride when the red maple was this bright red before.
Season's swan song 

2.  About that cold-weather wimp thing, normally I consider sixty degrees to be my riding cut-off temperature. Even though the day was going to get above that temp, it was closer to fifty when I started (plus then there's the wind chill!) Pretty sure I could have easily been mistaken for Randy Parker:

Personally, I could put my arms down--
I just couldn't walk all that great with so many pairs of pants on.

3. What I didn't account for: these little vents in the front of my helmet letting so much air in. 

My god they really work.

4. So that little neck warmer I had on was moved up.

Et voila, it is now a chin warmer!

5. Thanks for the fun K, Giacomo. See you in the spring.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Five on Friday: Big Month for The Local History Nerd

Whoever could that nerd be? Spoiler: it's me!

Friday snuck up on me this week and that means you're getting a short, sweet, pic-heavy list today. Why did Friday sneak up on me so hard? It's like asking why it takes me multiple days to answer messages, friends, and it's the same answer: I'M BUSY. I keep trying to say I feel more busy than usual but that's a lie, "more busy" is, at this point, clearly my usual.

I have noticed a distinct theme to what has been occupying me lately, aside from some very exciting soccer playoff games (not even being sarcastic, we've had some real nail-biters!) and that theme revolves around being a local history nerd. 

For example:

1. I was honored to give  a presentation to the local 7th graders on the concept of forced assimilation at Indian Residential Schools:

2. I've been able to support local historical sites with both work and play by:

    a. Volunteering in the ticket booth at for a "haunted mill" fundraiser. Bonus: some of those 7th grade boys stopped by to say hello. One of them said, "Thank you for giving the presentation at our school."

    b. Attending a murder mystery birthday party/fundraiser at a local historical house:

3.  Becoming more involved with (read: going from "I'll help with emails" to somehow finding myself a member of the Board of) a non-profit volunteer group that meets socially once a month and supports the aforementioned historic mill. I adore being in this group and not just because I'm the youngest by decades (or maybe because I do like it, in the sense that I really value intergenerational friendships . . . but I digress) and plan on sharing more about my experiences with them in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

4. So many little excursions to solve local history mysteries! Or have fun trying, anyway.

5. Last (not really but for this Five on Friday purposes) but most certainly not least, my work partner and I are extremely honored, excited, pleased, stressed and overwhelmed to be presenting for the State Historical Commission's Annual Conference next weekend! Yes, we've known about this honor for months and you can bet we will dazzle our audience. But right now we're in freak-out mode and every spare moment I can find (ha ha ha ha ha) will be spent working on this presentation. It's virtual so if you, too, are a history nerd, local or otherwise, you should check this out:

Registration is open for the 2021 Virtual New Jersey History Conference, We’re Still Here: Indigenous History and Persistence in New Jersey. Join us on November 12-13, 2021 as we explore the history, cultural heritage, and contemporary issues facing diverse Native American communities. To register and learn more, please visit:

Friday, October 29, 2021

Five on Friday: I'm Sensing a Theme Here (Otherwise Entitled: I May Be Dancing on The Border of Creative & Crazy But at Least I'll Be Wearing the Plastic Halloween Costume of My 1980s Dreams)

Octobers in the late 1970s & early 80s: I give up on asking my mother to buy me one of those god-awful plastic Halloween costumes because I know she won't buy one. She'll insist on some sort of amazing hand-sewn costume like a genie or a pirate or a dancing bear from the circus. Ugh, Moms!

1982: The height of ET insanity. I remember the line wrapping around the single-screen movie theatre that no longer exists and actually seeing this movie with my whole family in the movie theatre (a rare occurrence in my childhood).

Early October 2021: While visiting my college students, I go to a flea market and find the plastic ET costume of my elementary school dreams. I love it but do I really want it? "Oh come on," says the seller, "It's only $5." Considering the original 1982 price tag says it cost $4.88, I figure 12 cents inflation after thirty-nine years is not bad at all! I buy it.

Slightly later in early October 2021: Now I am home and I own a plastic ET costume from 1982 that smells like someone's basement. What am I going to do with this thing, I wonder, as I find myself giggling alone in the kitchen altering a book for a man I've never met before and wondering about my sanity.

. . . and during this aforementioned process of giggling and sanity contemplating, I realize what I must do with this costume: I must alter it so I can wear it. I will finally have the terrible plastic Halloween costume of my dreams.

First was the book and then was the costume, if you were wondering.

Do I have any parties or other Halloween plans that would require a costume? No. Did that stop me from pursuing this insane goal? Also no.

I would like to present some highlights of my 1982 meets 2021 Plastic ET Halloween costume along with the question: am I super creative or insane? Either way, I hope you enjoy:

1.  The top. First of all, what the hell is this supposed to be? Am I being ET or am I being ET wearing a picture of himself? Why doesn't the costume look like his body? God, did I really pine for one of these things?? It's awful! But I MUST wear it and celebrate its cheesiness. So instead of trying to make the shirt any more comfortable and . . . attractive? . . . I made it as boxy, cheesy and oversized as possible. Also I guess it's more of a smock than a shirt now. So be it.

2. The pants, which were attached to the shirt, were not going to fit me at all. So with the back of the shirt I cut off, both sides/legs of the pants and one little tiny section of black plastic bag, I created a plastic skirt!

3. The mask was in pretty good shape, just needed a little tape in one spot and some new elastic. Easy-peasy.

4. The box was not in perfect condition but had some really amazing aspects, like being SUPERSTAR brand and oddly calling its contents "flame retarded" instead of "flame retardant." Maybe this is also grammatically acceptable (????) but I have never seen this before.

(It also said "DO NOT WASH. Washing removes flame retardancy." But it smelled really bad. I soaked it in soapy water and hung it outside to dry.)

With the box being so . . . unique . . . I really wanted to incorporate it into the costume somehow. Also I am sort of obsessed with the idea of sewing paper, so I sewed the box pieces to a paper bag for my treat bag. Again: I have no plans but surely someone, somewhere will want to give me treats for my efforts.

5. I wondered if I should put a picture of my own face in the spot where the mask would have shown through? My husband said, "Duh, make it your face peeking out of a pile of stuffed animals," (and idea that made me squeal with joy, which made him add: "This is why you should always ask me first," which made me start to wonder a little if he is also a little creative-crazy.)

I started thinking about how I'd be able to take a selfie once I was hidden in some stuffed animals and thought it might be easier just to superimpose my face into an existing image. I searched for a picture of the scene of ET hiding in the stuffed animals and instead came across a photo of a WHOLE BUNCH OF ET STUFFED ANIMALS. I text-nagged my alleged adult until she woke up and did some magic for me, and I already know she has the creative-crazy from me (us?). She woke up and did not disappoint.

She texted this to me while I was on a walk which meant I then found myself giggling madly in public instead of at my kitchen table.

Et voila! 

Hope you're not too jealous! Stay tuned for updates on how many treats I get. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Five on Friday: It's Time I Told You About Pete

One year ago this month, a Halloween card arrived to the museum where I work. 

Aside from the fact that candy corn is revolting, it was a nice little card. Only problem was, I didn't know any Petes. I gave the card to the former curator and sent a card back, giving him the updates on the museum including information on the staffing change.

Remember when I told you about my fun relationship with my associate curator? She once said something that I thought I had on this list, which was something along the lines of "You somehow always attract the weirdest people." (Spoiler: it's not actually on the list, I guess I was thinking of #2.)

But both of those apply to what then transpired, which was that Pete became my weird quirky penpal and I became his equally weird quirky one in return. He has consistently sent me cards, letters, stickers, paper confetti, magnets, candy . . . even DVDs! I am sometimes confused by what he sends but I am also always very delighted.  I'm going to share some of what he's sent to me for today's list:

1."I am sometimes confused by what he sends but I am also always very delighted." 

2. We had some jokes about Bob Ross going at one point. He also sent some Bob Ross magnets that now adorn the museum kitchen.

3. Sometimes there are some . . . let's say unconventional choices like letters written on the back of used paper bags. But as someone who has recently questioned--twice--for her own self--where the line is between creativity and insanity. . . who am I to judge, really?

4. After he sent me this Christmas card, I mentioned that I initially didn't want to give the movie Elf a try but now I really do enjoy it. That started a few more Elf-inspired correspondences including, most recently, not one but two Will Farrell DVDs. (I'm not sure how I feel about the second one.)

5. He recently sent a "Pete the Cat" book, inexplicably cut off at the bottom (to fit in the envelope?) with no note.

By this point you must be thinking, "But Gina, surely you haven't been quite so . . . so . . . so . . . unusual unusually creative in your responses!"

Friends, I've mentioned that I'm struggling to keep up with everything lately. I can't find time for working on my memoir. The kids need Halloween costumes. Everyone needs dinner. And yet recently I found myself alone in the kitchen at an ungodly hour of the morning cutting, gluing and giggling like crazy as I altered the book to make this.

This detail in particular is why I was cracking myself up.
Happy Anniversary, Pete. I hope you like it.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Five on Friday: Hold on to This Feeling

I always feel sort of cheesy when I recycle weekly themes here. Then I laugh at myself because it's not like anyone is grading me on this, or forcing me to do it or paying me or anything. (Did I ever tell you how this whole thing could potentially be monetized with ads? Not to brag or anything but one of the first essays I posted was so popular Google thought I was cheating them. So I'm entertaining you for free, people. For free!)

But I digress. Back to reducing and reusing.

Last week I was gushing about how excited and grateful I was for my upcoming weekend trip to visit my college kids and this week I'm going to tell you how great it was. It's not only so I don't have to come with more creative content (for no pay!) but considering that I returned from a few refreshing days away and jumped right back into "just euthanize me if we ever try to sign the kids up for five teams in one season again" mode, I'd like to hold on to this feeling for a little longer.

Here are some highlights from my trip:

1. Me: Ugh, I need to get a way for a few days I'm so tired of thinking about food and shopping and taking care of everyone.

Also me: Mommy's here! Let me take you food shopping.

To be fair, though, all I did on this shopping trip was drive, advise and pay.
I didn't even insist on being the one to push the cart!

2.  Also ugh, but in a "this mama's heart almost can't take it" sort of way: these two go to college in the same city and run into each other accidentally and get together on purpose and generally get along. 

These kids grown-ups!! Ugh!

3. I got to visit to an art museum and have a personalized tour led by the cool new intern (my daughter).  I enjoyed some really amazing exhibits and had a lot of fun with my two alleged adults.

You can take the alleged adults out of Rumspringa . . . 

4. I was able to spend my daughter's twenty-first birthday with her doing lots of great things together--from stealthily popping mini champagne bottles at the hotel breakfast buffet to flea marketing, vintage shopping, lunch at a Peruvian restaurant (with more stealthy champagne bottle popping), to bingo at a Moose-Lodge-turned-college-town-bar and more. I regretfully returned her to her dorm a little after ten, apologizing for such a boring twenty-first birthday and she said, "You gave me alcohol with every meal today, we had a lot of fun, none of my friends are twenty-one yet and I do have class tomorrow. It was a great birthday."


5. On my last morning I slept in (7:30! Yeah baby!), lounged around a bit and then headed out for a little bit of solo sightseeing. The weather was gorgeous for doing one of my favorite things . . . riding the Duquesne Incline! I realized on my ride up that I had this huge, stupid smile on my face. Was it because I have an inexplicable obsession with funiculars that gets me disproportionately happy or because I just had an absolutely amazing weekend? I'm going with a little bit of both.