Hey-ho! For years I observed with joy, ambition, yearning, dismay, self-flagellation and sometimes sorrow the persistent displays of family love, humor, good-times, perfection (Christmas trees, gifts, meals, affection, mutual appreciation, romance and banished loneliness) we are bombarded with during the holidays. Not that our family doesn’t have our own sweet holidays but measuring up to (social)media and advertising heights is hard! I was a victim (well I allowed myself to be) of Martha Stewart’s impossible standards in the 80s and 90s. The J. Crew catalog slayed me… in a bad way. Why weren’t we playing touch football in the snow with adorable Labradors frolicking? Hot cidering in front of a fire, dressed in matching robes? (Where oh where was the counterpoint of SUCCESION? THE SOPRANOS? CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM with petty Larry David hitting on Mary in a living creche?) One year it was impossible to take a lovely snapshot of our family and so, for our holiday card, I used a photo of the dirty dishes after Thanksgiving. Though I said something about happy messes, it was literally the best we could do.
And let me tell you, (hear me out) the Obama’s didn’t help! I love that family and am grateful for all they did. I read both Michelle’s and Barrack’s memoirs. I was moved (am moved) by their dedication to their family. And I ADORE this photo! I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but man, when our family has had normal ups and downs, looking at this picture of the First Family oozing tension, being real, normalized my family being real. It helped me stop holding myself to impossible standards.
I hope you will let go of your own impossible standards. I hope, if you are traveling with family, visiting family you can grab a laugh and reality check with this photo…eye-rolling, teeth clenching, avoidant and pissed off. Man-oh-man! Thanks Obamas!
Before the next pandy wave makes it to Oregon, we’re seeing movies.
C’MON C’MON is gorgeous. I was in awe of the writing, and the performances. One line resonated particularly, something the boy’s dad said to him frequently. “Be funny, comma, when you can, period.” I’m changing it up, Laugh, comma, when you can, period. Putting that line on loop in my head.
My complaint about the film: the mother’s inner life is under used. Gabby Hoffman has too little screen time. And she ends up mothering her husband, her son, and her brother. The film literally asks the question, “Why on earth should it fall to [mothers] to paint things bright and innocent and safe?” Why indeed?
Nothing says anti-mother like Lady Gaga’s turn as Patrizia Reggiani in the HOUSE OF GUCCI.
Writers, the film is terrific to watch for the rhyming action—a romantic bath scene is replaced later with a fearful, lonely Patrizia holding her breath under water which must have gone cold. The precious cows in Tuscany that provide leather for Gucci products are later tender carpaccio consumed by the corporate raiders taking over the company.
BELFAST was my favorite. Just see it. Motherhood is realistic in this one. A mom makes mistakes, is strident about her expectations, fiercely protective, loving, and does not erase herself. It was stunning. I am grateful to Kenneth Branagh for portraying his mother with honest complications.
If you just aren’t feeling it, not ready to sit in a theater with strangers, I understand. So check out this beautiful short film (only 7 minutes) by Stella Blackmon, THE VIRTUAL YEARS. Honestly, don’t scroll past this, even if you don’t come back for the rest of the newsletter. It is lovely!
Driving to visit far flung family? Spending long hours in the kitchen? This series from the podcast, THE SPORKFUL, is funny and intriguing. MISSION IMPASTABLE, in which the host sets out to invent a new pasta shape. Just sayin’, it hooked me!
In need of a non-traditional Christmas playlist? I got you. Doesn’t “Under Pressure” seem the perfect anthem for the holidays?
On a long drive, we enjoyed listening to THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, by Amor Towles. The book is a roadtrip, with many missteps and adventures. Buckle up for a long drive. (We particularly loved Billy and Ulysses.)
Here’s a recipe for cranberry bread that may delight, sustain, and brighten your day. (I know, that is a lot to ask of a loaf!) The original recipe is from the NYTs and I of course reduced the sugar, switched to whole wheat flour, and increased the pecans.
Cranberry Nut Bread
- 2 c ww pastry flour
- ½ c sugar
- 1½ t baking powder
- ½ t baking soda
- ½ t salt
- ¼ c butter
- 1 egg
- ¾ c orange juice
- 1 T grated orange zest
- 1½ c chopped fresh cranberries
- ½-1c chopped pecans
- 2 T demerara sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan w/butter.
- Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Using a stand mixer or two knives, cut in butter until the mixture resembles corn meal.
- Beat egg until light and well mixed. Stir in orange juice and zest. Lightly stir this mixture into the flour mixture just until the ingredients are blended. Fold in cranberries and nuts.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 1 hour, or until the bread is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched.
- Cool thoroughly on a rack before slicing.
Thanks for spending a minute with me. Take good care. Please, get vaccinated, boosted, and test before you spend time with vulnerable people. We all want to be in service to those we love and to our greater community.
I wish you all a lovely holiday that is fun, and funny, and lumpy and awkward and full of hugs!
Stanley is grabbing a peaceful moment.
If you need a book, I’ve got all the recommendations from two years of this newsletter at my Bookshop.
Take good care! Hug your people!!