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I know 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!


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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.


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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 girls.

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).


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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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Well, for 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.


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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, too inefficient).

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.

We’re a storytelling society, so it only makes sense that when asked about tattoos, stories are part of our answers. After all, each of us strongly believes that what makes a tattoo perfect isn’t only the creativity of the tattoo and the skill of the artist; it’s the story that has inspired the tattoo.

P.S. – And if Red ever decides to get a tattoo, you can guarantee there will be a story behind it!


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Well, I can tell you that what I think about them today, especially as they’ve become more mainstream (so many celebrities and athletes proudly display them), is very different than how I used to think about them! Growing up, I thought that only “bad people” had tattoos. And I couldn’t quite understand why anyone would want to permanently “decorate” their bodies. Using needles, no less!

So, what changed? When my oldest daughter, Natasha, was fairly young, she talked about getting tattoos. She’s always been a non-conformist (I wonder where she inherited that trait), but I’ve no idea where the tattoo idea came from. And I never thought she’d be willing to endure the pain , especially since she has an extremely low (as in non-existent) tolerance for pain. Yet, she got her first tattoo on the day of her high school graduation instead of walking the stage. And while it was a simple outline of a bat, in honor of her love of bats , she has continued to get more elaborate ones over the years. And my younger daughter, Sawyer, who’s more like a mini-me and more traditional, totally surprised me when she decided to get her first tattoo.


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Red neglected to answer the question as to whether she would ever get inked. Whereas I already have (warning: tattoos can be addictive ). My first tat is identical to Natasha’s bat, and I asked her permission to copy it as a reminder of the special bond between us. My second is the “ perfect tattoos” (yes, plural) as it was Sawyer’s first, and we got them done together. For me, while tattoos can be beautiful works of art on their own, there is something very special about having meaningful tattoos.

However, you must think about whether you will “outgrow” or regret the tat later. Keep in mind that while tats may have become more mainstream, there is still some stigma. (Some of my older and more conservative friends tried to hide their looks of disapproval when they saw mine.) It is a function of the other person’s age and prior exposure to tats, the specific tat and location (I still find some face tattoos scary), and your work environment .