Ask Red & Black
December 08, 2020
Design by Sawyer Pennington
|Are you kidding?! I'm a cookie baking carpool mom and although we had just published a book based on my "crisis", we didn't even think of ourselves as authors. (My sister saved our emails and Instant Messages, and has never told me if she taped our phone conversations!) And the book was supposed to be the basis of a sitcom! We had literally done one speaking engagement and now were being asked to get in front of classrooms full of high school seniors for a semester-long course. During their LAST semester! Surprised? "Shocked" might be a better word. Or, maybe "panicked."|
|My immediate reaction was, "Sure, not a problem." Then, while Red was busy panicking, I focused on how to get it done. The request was in keeping with KIPP's approach to looking for non-traditional methods of educating students, so they agreed when I asked for a task force of students to help us develop the program. (I knew it had to be relevant or there was no point in doing it.) And, it was the students who suggested we use our book as a textbook, calling it a "reality show in a book" … which, at least, validated my idea that the book could be the basis of a sitcom.|
If you had
asked me this when my girls were young, since we celebrated both Chanukah and
Christmas, I would’ve said, “Shop for lots of gifts.” Which, I found out the hard way, resulted in
lots of credit
card debt. The funny thing
is, except for my immediate family, I give homemade baked goods to almost
everyone else on my list. Black made me
realize how important it was to plan and budget for the holidays, and I started buying things throughout the year and/or
putting aside money. But, maybe
more importantly, it also made me think about the “best” gifts to give my
And I quickly realized it was the gift of time. I couldn’t help but think of the times I’d be busy and only give half my attention to the girls, promising to spend more time with them “later”. And “later” would never happen. So, I created “Day with Mom” gift certificates that were redeemable for a day to do what they wanted (within reason, of course). Surprisingly, actually shockingly, each chose simple things to do, and this special day of spending time together became one of their favorite gifts (and mine, too).
I have a very short list. In terms of family, I always give my
nieces gifts throughout the year versus feeling forced to find something during
the holiday season, although I do give small “token” gifts and send Red rugelach
from Zabar’s. (It is efficient as I am
already on the website on Cyber Monday buying business gifts.) Of course, for
some people I want to “thank” during the holiday season, cash is the best gift. |
I recognize I am very fortunate, and charities (like Make-A-Wish) help me keep my life in perspective. I have an annual budget, and as situations arise throughout the year (unfortunately, given the increase in natural disasters, they occur all too frequently), I make charitable donations. But, I also realize that during the holiday season, many people are hungry and turn to food banks, so part of my holiday tradition is donating to the Houston Food Bank (part of Feeding America).
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me, this is a very special Black Friday
… as it’s Black’s birthday, which makes me smile as the term “Black Friday”
couldn’t be more perfect. So, as much as
she prefers to ignore it, my daughters and I will ignore her (it’s probably the
only day we can get away with that) and, at the very least, wish her a very
Happy Birthday in person.
After that, I’m looking forward to carrying on my “day after Thanksgiving” tradition, which unlike millions of other Americans, isn’t going shopping. It’s going to the movies! And it’s not because I hate to shop; it’s because I love the quiet and escape of a movie, especially as it’s the perfect way to relax and recuperate after my marathon Turkey Day shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. Of course, the popcorn is the best part, and Black claims (rightfully so) it’s the real reason I go to the movies.
I celebrate my birthday the same way I celebrate holidays
and even Black Friday. I work. And, enjoy the quiet and uninterrupted pace
of the day as everyone else is busy doing something else. (Red refers to this time of year as the “silly season”,
but all I know is that in-store shopping is too crowded, too time-consuming,
So, when do I do my holiday shopping? For family, I do things for them throughout the year, so holiday gifts are more like holiday tokens. For everyone else, usually on Cyber Monday, especially at Zabar’s, where I traditionally buy most of my holiday gifts. And, while I know that for some people, nothing will stop them from shopping on Black Friday, for others (such as myself), nothing will get us started.
it’s a simple question, but I hope you weren’t expecting a straightforward answer. In terms of my favorite candy, which I rarely
eat at any other time of the year (but I find the Halloween sizes irresistible),
that would be M&M’s (regular or peanut), Nestle Crunch, and KitKat. The
funny thing is, unlike our mom, I’m not a chocoholic,
but there’s just something about the combination of sweet and crunchy. (Which may also explain why I love kettle corn, but
that’s an entirely different subject.)
But when I think of Halloween and fall (my favorite season), there’s one candy that beats out all the others – candy corn! And it has to be the traditional white-orange-yellow ones. I’ll admit that I loved them more when I was a child, but the fact they’re one of my daughter Natasha’s favorites always make me smile. As does memories of making turkey cupcakes with candy corn forming the perfect feathers, beak, and feet!
I have one word to describe candy corn – nasty. Consistency and flavor. Although I will admit they make great
(non-edible) cupcake decorations. Anyway,
growing up, my favorite Halloween candies were Mounds, Milk Duds, Charleston
Chew, and Starburst. (Candy trivia –
which of those was used to teach rheology, the branch of physics that studies
the deformation and flow of matter? For the answer, check out this paper
from the Geological Society of America.)
Today, although I am no longer a candy fan, I enjoy the history of Halloween candy in general as well as specific nostalgic treats. But, I love how the Halloween concept of individually wrapped smaller versions of candy is now being used for other food items (such as pretzels, veggie chips, and popcorn). And, I am stocking up on them as they are perfect portion-controlled snacks good year-round.