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I grew up taught that teachers are to be revered, and heavily gifted at appropriate times during the year.  My kids, however, go to a Montessori school where students are highly encouraged to make, not buy, any holiday gifts for the teachers.  I appreciate the idea that making their own gift teaches my kids both self-sufficiency and the satisfaction that comes from making something with your own hands, your own eyes, and your own heart.

That said, it goes against the very fiber of my being to believe that anyone would actually desire goods made by the nasty hands of a five or two year old.  My kids came out of my body and it’s still hard for me to eat something that has come from one of their hands.  Finn has had the same stamp on the back of his left hand (faintly visible in photo below) for approximately 9 days, which indicates both the relative infrequency and lack of vigor of his hand-washing.  As for Tate, if you ask him where his nose is, he will demonstrate, by pushing the index and middle fingers of his right hand up both nostrils.  I don’t know where he learned that, but it has proven powerfully difficult to un-learn him.

What to gift, that you can make with the kids in your life, and that others might actually enjoy receiving as a gift?  Granola.  Everyone loves granola.  Even if you don’t love granola, chances are you’ll still eat a bowl or two if it’s put in front of you.  People regularly eat bad granola, and hardly seem to notice.  But I’ve been making my own for a few months now, and the difference between homemade and store-bought–even the fancy organic type–is truly eye-opening.  You can tweak granola to suit your own preferences; for example, my friend Monica has a killer recipe for raw granola.  The best part is, granola is truly easy and fun to make with children.  There’s a lot of scooping and mixing, and if you throw in too much of an ingredient or too little, no one’s going to notice.

The recipe below is based on Ina Garten’s recipe from the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook.  After at least a dozen batches, I think I’ve come up with a pretty addictive mix.  Certainly good enough to gift, or so I’ve been promised by friends who have asked for seconds.  I’ve adjusted the proportions and added candied ginger, because my husband loves a gingery granola.  I hope you’ll use this as a starting point to come up with your own favorite mix.  And I’d love to hear about your favorite granola ingredients.

Granola with Candied Ginger

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook


4 cups rolled oats

2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup dried cranberries (or dried blueberries, or dried sour cherries, chopped)

2 cups dried apricots, chopped or slivered

1 cup candied ginger, chopped

1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3-1/2 cup honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set rack in middle of oven.

2. Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and pumpkin seeds together in a large bowl.

3. Whisk together the oil and honey in separate bowl.  Pour mixture over the oat mixture and stir with wooden spoon to coat evenly.

4. Spread onto 13 x 18 inch baking pan with shallow lip (like a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides).

5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, checking at the following intervals, to stir occasionally and check browning: 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes.

6. Remove the granola from the oven when golden brown, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the remaining ingredients, combine so ingredients are distributed evenly.

8. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

*Notes: this is generally a low-maintenance recipe.  The only high-maintenance part is the baking, because granola browns very quickly, especially towards the end.  Ina Garten’s original recipe called for 45 minutes of baking, but in my oven, 28 minutes is about perfect.  The original recipe also calls for more oil, but I think it’s unnecessary, and will make the granola brown even faster.  If you are not a fan of ginger, this recipe is still scrumptious without.  For gifting, I put granola in canning jars and finish with ribbon and a fun gift tag, like these from Jigsaw Graphics

leaving on a jet plane

It’s likely a sad state of affairs at home if you’re looking forward to an upcoming business trip.  Or, it may just be that, like me, you’re a working parent, and looking for whatever opportunity you can find to escape the reality of your life.

Tom travels for work more than I do, and for a while now, despite his protestations to the contrary, I’ve suspected that his trips are less onerous, and more enjoyable, than he has led me to believe.  There was the trip to Anchorage that he returned from blabbering on and on about how he could spot bald eagles and orca whales from his office window.  The rigorous retreat in Scottsdale from which he returned with a tan.  The recruiting trip to Ann Arbor, coincidentally scheduled during the week of the Wolverines’ home opener.  The trip to Chicago, from which he returned heavily conversant in both the architecture of that city, and deep dish pizza.  After a recent week-long trip to Seattle where he was supposedly working so hard that he managed to call home only four out of six days, he came back looking like he’d spent the week at Canyon Ranch, with bright blue eyes popping out of a face glowing with health, and five fewer pounds on his frame.

And why not?  Anyone who tells you that spending a night in a hotel with room service is rougher than dealing with the daily reality of a 5 and 2 year old, is yanking your chain, and yanking it hard.  Tom texted me the photo above during the aforementioned Anchorage trip, from his twilight run along the water.  I can only assume that he was rendered momentarily senseless by the natural beauty, because he is well aware that the only thing I want to hear from him when he’s traveling is 1) how much it sucks, and 2) what gifts he will purchase to make it up to me.  When I received this photo on my phone, I was mopping up the second glass of milk my toddler had spilled on our rug, while simultaneously trying to pick every piece of cilantro out of my older kid’s beans and rice to prevent a meltdown.  Basically, by sending me this photo at that stressful moment, Tom managed to ruin for me, not only the entire state of Alaska, but also, nature itself.

Why so tense, you ask?  Because, when Tom is away on business, I’m back home, wasting away from stress and exhaustion, and being eaten alive by my offspring.  During Tom’s trips, I go through stages, and those stages look a lot like this:

Day 1: Invincibility.  I got this sh*t in the bag.  If only I had more kids and a night shift at work, to really challenge myself.

Day 2: Martyrdom.  I am working hard so that Tom can work hard.  I am a good wife, and deserving of jewels.

Day 3: Anger.  I have my own damn job, and my own deadlines, and why have I never noticed before how much I hate making lunches?  Also, if these kids want another book read to them, they should try their dad, except I guess they can’t, because HE’S NOT HERE.

Day 4: White hot rage.  Yes, it does feel good to throw all of Tom’s cufflinks and stupid collar stays on the floor.  Think I’ll put them back in their stupid little tray and do it again.  And yes, I think I will clean the tile grout with his Sonicare.

Day 5: Surrender and acceptance.  This is my lot in life.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Perhaps I can dull the pain with online shopping.

Anything longer than five days, and Tom simply risks returning home to my dead body, drawn on by washable markers, covered in cheerios and yogurt, with one withered hand gripping a half-finished legal brief and the other clutching the remote control, frozen in the act of searching for just one more episode of “Dora the Explorer.”

So today, it’s my turn.  I’m in a shitty hotel, after a turbulent airplane ride and two missed exits on a California highway.  And I’m loving every minute of it.

Now, if only I could stop missing those boys.

ways to wear: holiday

Dressing for a holiday party can be a tedious chore.  You want to be festive without looking like Santa Claus, to stand out without being talked about.  For me, the challenges of holiday dressing are exacerbated by the fact that I hate to spend money on things that I will not wear that often.  I also run into problems because I am a habitual under-dresser.  I often show up at a party looking like I am at the wrong party.

But recently, I’ve come around: what’s the point of a holiday party if you can’t wear something fun and look like you put a little effort into it?  This year I pushed myself to get creative with my party outfits, using existing pieces and mixing in a few new things.  Below, some ideas.

Cover Up

There’s an instinct to show more skin when dressing for a party.  But covered up can be just as alluring, if the silhouette is right.  The fit and flare of this cotton dress is kicky and it feels seasonal because the skirt is quilted.  I like the zipper detail in the back, which breaks up some of the black.

This is a pretty tame outfit, but please note that I’m pushing myself here, because I hate wearing things that are fitted around the middle.  A downside to having a relatively curveless figure is that there is only about a 2 inch differential between the circumference of my hips and that of my waist.  I don’t cry about it, but I definitely envy my girlfriends who have a waist that flares out into some bangin’ hips.

I am so irrationally sensitive about my lack of a waistline that I will flinch visibly when people hug me around the middle.  Frankly, I’d prefer that you say hello by putting your hand on my face and pushing me over.  But since I discovered Spanx Tight-End tights (shown above), being hugged around the waist is less stressful, because these tights suck in your waist without giving you the dreaded waistband roll, or worse, flattening your ass.  They are also completely opaque and don’t get shiny when you put them on your legs.  They have once or twice given me the confidence to wear my most dreaded fabric, clingy jersey.  What more could you possibly require from a pair of tights, except that they be free?  Nothing, I tell you.  Nothing.


I bought these yellow pants on a whim a few years ago.  They aren’t the best pants to wear repeatedly (“Yoona’s wearing her yellow pants again”), but I have worn them exactly once, and they weren’t cheap.  So I pulled them out to see what kind of holiday outfit I could come up with.  Holidays are a good time to pull out the brights, because they are naturally festive and eye-catching.  I think the outfit below would work really well for those work-related parties that you have to attend straight from the office.  Throw on some extra jewelry, swap your pumps for some satin heels, and you’re ready to get all boozy and inappropriate in front of your coworkers.  And yes, Tate here hates my blog.

Heavy Metal

The best fashion tip I’ve ever read is that you should wear things that you enjoy wearing, regardless of whether they are in style or not.  This tip has potential for some grievous misapplication, especially if you are a grown man who enjoys wearing sports jerseys, but generally, I think it’s true.  Because usually, you enjoy wearing things that make you look good, and who cares if what you are wearing is considered a trend of the past by OK Magazine?

I tell myself all this to justify my unhealthy penchant for harem pants, which were technically in style for 12 minutes in 2009, and maybe for like 2 weeks in 1992 when Aladdin came out.  I love everything about harem pants, but mostly I like that you can eat a steak in them without having to unbutton them underneath the table.  I got these bronze ones on clearance, and the metallic is fun for the holidays.  I paired them with a metallic top and some fake gold cuffs to round out the theme.

The Twenties

My husband watches a lot of a show called Boardwalk Empire.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother, because I’ll tell you right now that there are about fifty random guys in the cast, none of them are hot, and some are actively frightening.  But the clothes are lovely, especially the dresses.  The dress below has a drop waist that reminds me of a flapper dress, and it’s comfortable and easy.  Wear your tallest heels with a drop waist, to avoid making your legs look shorter.

Sweater Girl

I love me a full length skirt.  They are dramatic and unexpected in most situations.  If you’re thinking that shorter people can’t wear maxi skirts, you may be wrong.  If the fit is right (make it hug your waist and butt), a long skirt can be lengthening in a way that especially benefits the relatively petite, particularly when worn with a heel.  If you are wearing a heel, make sure the skirt goes right to the floor.

The skirt below is wool, but it’s cut on the bias so it’s not overwhelming in its volume.  Because it’s cut close on top, I paired it with a fuzzy sweater.  I like that this outfit is monochromatic but has textural interest to keep it from being too boring.  Plus, it’s warm!  I think I’ll wear it to my firm’s holiday party this year.

Jump Around

I’ll usually take a pass on a dress if I have another option.  I don’t know what my problem is, but I suspect that it may again be the shoe issue.  Most dresses require that you buy a new shoe to go with them, and by the time I get to the shoes, my attention span for the outfit has usually run its course.

I suspect the outfit below is going to get a lot of push-back, but let me defend myself.  First of all, this is a jumpsuit, but it is not a romper.  I can think of maybe two people who can get away with a jumpsuit that ends in freaking shorts, and both are Kardashians.  By the way, not to state the obvious, but if you often find that you are wearing the same thing as a Kardashian (especially Kourtney, but really, take your pick), it may be time to re-evaluate your wardrobe.  This jumpsuit is the only one I own, and yes I realize jumpsuits are generally not very flattering on anyone.  But how do you know it will be so terrible on you, if you don’t give it a try?  My stylish friend Caroline likes them, and ol’ Yves Saint Laurent has been making them for decades, so there, they can’t be all bad.

The jumpsuit below has elicited strenuous objections from my husband, who hates jumpsuits, and especially hates this one, because, as you can see, it is cut to the navel.  Personally, I think that if you’re going to get skankified, a low-cut top is preferable to a too-short skirt, especially if you are not well-endowed up above.  I mean, the stakes are pretty low–if my boob falls out, congrats, you’ve now seen a breast in its full A-cup glory.  Nonetheless, Tom refused to go anywhere with me in this jumpsuit until I got something to put under it.  Hence the lace tank, which I think actually classes it up a bit and takes it safely out of Kardashian territory.

What are you wearing to your holiday parties this year?