Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Service of It’s Only Five Cents More: Impact of Another USPS Price Increase

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Mostly older people mail traditional letters or pay bills by mail and mostly older people enjoy receiving traditional cards. One of the recipients of my Halloween, Valentine, holiday and birthday cards was a dear friend who died recently at 99. After she retired, she told me how much receiving the cards meant. I will miss her especially as I address those envelopes.

How long will I keep up the tradition of sending cards? I shared the news of the July 14 five cent price increase for a Forever Stamp—on top of two cents in January–with folks who use the mails. We will be paying 73 cents for one. I’ll no longer fork over chump change to mail 100+ Christmas/Hannukah greetings. I’ve pretty much stopped sending cards to younger people as I suspect they languish in unopened mailboxes for months and are an annoyance considered wasteful.

Cousin Deb responded to my stamp price increase news: “I will buy quite a few before that date. What a large leap in price!  As a senior, I feel that they are not so subtly telling us to go everything electronic. I am stubbornly still paying some bills by check, and I also like to communicate by cards and letters.

“But even though I never had any problems with leaving my mail out for the mailman to pick up, I now will be mailing them inside the post office. AARP has convinced me to do that.  And, making sure that I use a pen that is permanent black, like a fine point Sharpie. It is a major pain, as it is now too far to walk!”

For a while, after I read about the importance of using the right ink for writing a check, I was giving Sharpie pens to friends who mail checks.

Like Deb, I’m careful about where I put mail to be sent. I haven’t put a letter in a blue street mailbox in months. I am lucky that in my apartment building the trusty mail people pick up our letters from a box inside the building. Post offices near me aren’t convenient.

I have reasons for wanting the microfiche check images I get from my bank. The memo section on one in which my husband had written “downpayment,” was proof needed in a disagreement with a vendor. And I dislike the concept that a company or organization can suck out of my account any amount of money it cares to for as long as it wants. I also use the tiny check facsimiles as proof of charitable donations. Some less sophisticated yet needy organizations–such as local food banks–have no staff to send online or physical acknowledgements for donations.

Will you change your mailing habits as the cost of a first-class stamp gallops towards a dollar? Have you already done so?

Service of Year-End Gratuities

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

Tenants in our apartment house place December tips in the slot on the roof of this house

I’ve only lived in a gargantuan building the last four years of my life and I still can’t get over my holiday tip challenge. This year there were 28 envelopes to fill for porters, handymen, door staff, manager and temps. I keep a chart of what I’ve given to every staffer each year. While expensive, the system is impersonal but efficient. We place the envelopes in a container in the lobby. If only half the 510 tenants give something, staff should do quite well.

Co-ops and condos often ask for $X.00 from each tenant and the money is divvied up by management. I’d come out way ahead if that were the case here.

One friend gives $0.00 to porters in his co-op because they “don’t do anything” for him. I guess he forgets who removes garbage from refuse rooms, vacuums the hallways, shines the marble lobby floor and polices the outside of the building, watering trees and flowers as well.

Another friend reminded me of all those who stiff the staff while urging me to bring it down a notch for some of the gifts to staff I never see. “You are one person,” she added. And during the year I tip anyone who so much as turns a screw to fix something in my apartment. [They are so quick to unclog a sink or fix a bathroom fan that sounds like a jet revving up on a flightline I suspect the word is out to expect $ from my apartment.]

My hair stylist told me that some ridiculous weekly or monthly customers go elsewhere in December so as to avoid giving a holiday gift and tip! They shouldn’t feel obligated, she said. If they have the substitute stylist color or cut their hair, this only-in-December person could ruin a year’s work not to speak of causing a dip of income in month 12.

Some staffers in office or home may be nasty or appear to be unconscious yet you never know if you’ll need them so stiffing them at Christmas may not be a great idea.

How do you handle the tipping situation?

Service of Word Fat: Unnecessary Words

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Scott Simon, host of NPRs Morning Edition Saturday, recently interviewed Benjamin Dreyer, author of “Dreyer’s English,” and also just-retired VP, executive managing editor and copy chief of Random House.

Dreyer explained to Simon what a copy editor does—which is far more than spell checking surmised Simon. Dreyer said “copy editors do certainly attend to spelling. That’s a very important function of the job – and to punctuation. But there are so many other things that you do. And the longer you do it, the more you sort of accumulate this massive bag of tricks that you apply to every manuscript, including, for instance, pointing out to an author that, oh, you know, you’ve used the word irrevocably five times in the last 20 pages. So let’s maybe switch that up a little bit. And if you’re working on a novel, you’re going to be keeping very close track of the chronology to make sure that all the days run in the proper order and that people are aging at the same rate as the other. You’re there to do what an author might have done had an author not already looked at their manuscript 175 times.”

And, in my opinion, just as important is what Dreyer added “you are always, as a copy editor, looking for unnecessary fat that isn’t really helpful and suggesting, urging the author to consider disposing of that fat. To say that somebody is very smart almost sounds like pleading. If you want to say that somebody’s very smart, why not reach for a jazzier adjective like brilliant?”

Which brings me to a pet peeve.

Why do people insist on qualifying a greeting with “FOR THOSE WHO CELEBRATE?” When we wish someone Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Passover, Happy Easter, as some examples [to which, on July 15th, my husband would have added, Happy Saint Swithin’s Day], we only wish cheer to the recipient of the salutation. No harm is meant, only good cheer and the sharing of joy. So bring it on!

Is this qualification only a NYC thing?

I welcome all and every well-meant wish. Do you? What examples of word fat in both expression and writing drive you nuts?

Service of the Season to be Frazzled

Monday, December 11th, 2023

Packed schedules become more so during the holidays. When irritating things happen that usually don’t, isn’t it grand when they turn out better than expected?

On the same day two friends shared examples of uh-oh’s that ended well.

The Keys to Kindness

One friend is shuttling back and forth between her home and her daughter’s for a week to dog sit while the family is out of town. She spends the night with the dog at the pooch’s home—she has two cats and they don’t get along. Early one morning she arrived home after settling the dog and she couldn’t find her keys. To get in she woke a neighbor who had a second set.

She subsequently wrote: “I just got a call from the library. Someone found my keys on the sidewalk between our two houses and my library card is on the key chain, so that good person turned them in. I will pick them up at the front desk!”

The Bus Left Without Me

A friend arrived just in time to catch a bus that was taking a group on a museum tour and lunch only to discover it had left without her. As she had paid for the day she scrambled to get to the first stop on her own all the time wondering why the bus hadn’t waited for her and her plus one. Although they’d cashed her check, they may have been omitted from the list, she worried.

Once she caught up with the group she complained to the event organizer, eventually forgot about the anxiety she’d experienced and had a grand time.

She wrote a few days later: “The woman who organized the museum/lunch just dropped off a bottle of wine and Godiva chocolates as apology gifts with hopes that we will continue to attend the organization’s events.”

It’s so easy to be distracted during the holidays, increasing the chances that untoward things will happen. Have others saved your bacon or made memorable apologies for mistakes?

This was not the gift mentioned in the story.

Service of Changing Tastes of the Holidays

Tuesday, December 27th, 2022

I wonder how many holiday tables groaned with atypical taste sensations this year to accommodate increasing numbers of family members and friends turning to diets ranging from vegetarian and vegan to gluten-free and foods forbidden by allergies in addition to environmental aversion to beef.

I am not a fan of substitutes simply because I don’t care for the taste.

Most traditional foods a family makes come with stories. I’ve mentioned before the thumbprint cookies we baked for Christmas ever since I can remember as did my grandmother before us I’m told. Butter is essential to my cookies—it’s no friend of vegans–as are ground almonds, a no-no for those allergic to nuts. Nevertheless I made them again this year even if I was unable to find red current jelly. [I’m using black. Doesn’t look or taste the same.]

I no longer make the bûche de noël that I first tried early in the 1980s, including the decorative meringue “mushrooms” sprinkled with cocoa. My dad was so blown away by my effort that he told us one of only two stories shared about his life in a WWII prisoner of war camp. The inmates were allowed to receive care packages. One of the men was a baker. The others gave him the cake and chocolate they’d received, and from them he crafted a Christmas log. When he presented it, the men cried. Because eggs, chocolate and sugar are involved some would pass on a slice today. My sister lives near a fabulous baker and we rely on his talents these days.

Did you add foods to your holiday table to accommodate changing tastes? Have you nodded to the traditions of others who join you through marriage or friendship? Are there stories associated with some of your favorite holiday foods?


Image by John Nisbet from Pixabay 

Service of Rituals and Traditions

Thursday, May 26th, 2022

We eat hot dogs, homemade potato salad and all the trimmings on Memorial Weekend and turkey at Thanksgiving–although not all of us love the bird and these days some avoid real franks. [Ersatz foods not my favorite–I’ve not once found any I like from ice cream and sodas to cake.] I enjoy seeing the fresh faces of sailors in NYC for Fleet Week from today through May 31.

I get ashes on Ash Wednesday and don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent: it’s a tradition. Others fast or don’t drink alcohol during their religious holidays to maintain their customs.

What do you think about a bride wearing a white gown to her second wedding? My friends are split yea or nay.

Do rituals give you comfort? Are there any you follow religiously?


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Service of Formal Entertaining: In Fashion or Wishful Thinking?

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

We're breaking out of pandemic mode, some more gingerly than others, into unprecedented inflation, a zigzagging stock market with war on the wings. When, last week, I passed these Bloomingdale's windows dressed for spring I had, simultaneously, contradictory reactions. One was a flashback to a time people gave formal dinner parties not associated with Thanksgiving and other traditional gatherings--me included. Perhaps the store's tabletop team had hopes of inspiring Easter and Passover celebrations, the next ones up. St. Patrick's Day's corned beef and cabbage, as yummy as it is, doesn't evoke gold rimmed plates.

So who would buy these elegant dishes and wine glasses? Young people aren’t interested in things much less luxurious ones, and many older people, who might want them, already own them. Friends tell me that they have a hard time passing on family heirlooms to their offspring.

I asked Google for the items that top bridal registries and for March 2022 they are, in this order: Cookware (nonstick skillet, sauté pan, pasta pot, saucepan, etc.); Bakeware (roasting pan, casserole dish, baking sheets, loaf pans, muffin tins, etc.); Knives (serrated knife, paring knife, chef’s knife, etc.); Cutting boards; Dutch oven; Cast iron skillet; Stand mixer and Food processor.

I thought “that can’t be right! Not a plate?” and hit “more” which led me to Sarah Zlotnick’s article in brides.com, “The Ultimate Wedding Registry Checklist.” Under “Dining and Entertaining Registry Ideas” she lists: Everyday dishware (eight to 12 settings—dinner plates, dessert and/or salad plates, bowls); Everyday drinking glasses (eight to 12); Mugs (eight to 12); Flatware (eight to 12 settings); Steak knives (eight to 12); Wine glasses (red and white); Champagne flutes; Salad bowl and serving utensils

Serving bowls, platters, and trays jump in at the end and the Specialty glassware (margarita glasses, martini glasses, rocks glasses) and Colored Stemware.

I loved to dress a table because it was fun, I liked to look at something pretty and I felt that it said to my guests, “I wanted to honor/please you.” I think that I should invite over some friends and do a table up round even if I’m ordering in Chinese, Mexican or pizza. Maybe manufacturers should promote their products this way rather than in the same old same old. The market has been stagnant for them since well before the pandemic. I wonder if, like changing dress and skirt hem lengths, the fashion for formal entertaining will ever return just for the fun of it.

Service of Planning Way Ahead

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Does everyone plan way ahead these days?

As early as August people had rented homes and hotel rooms to gather with family members for out of town Thanksgiving celebrations.

Daily we’re warned to buy Christmas gifts now. Wait and we will be unable to purchase the ones we want.

Michelle Fox at cnbc.com reported that a creditcards.com survey forecasted that 27 percent of holiday shoppers plan to start before the end of September and 13 percent started in August. In addition to bargain shopping and threats of rising prices that inspire early purchases, supply chain clogs and shortages of computer chips and other key components inspire shopping now.

Toys are particularly at risk. Fox wrote: “Some Lego advent calendars are already selling out, Ellsworth noted. Other hot items include Squishmallows and a plush toy of the Morris character from the Marvel movie ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.’” Kate Ellsworth is the executive editor of commerce content at Reviewed.

Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, reported in mid-September that “A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days.”

An article on thedeepdive.ca reported; “According to data from the Bank of America cited by CNBC, overseas shipping container costs have significantly ballooned since the beginning of the pandemic.” The article: “Costco Warns of Higher Inflation Ahead of Holiday Season, Dismantling ‘Transitory’ Narrative.” Reporter Hermina Paull continued “A 40-foot container shipped from Shanghai to New York was priced at approximately $2,000 just over one year ago; now, that price tag has soared to around $16,000.” She predicted that with upcoming holidays consumers should expect to cover such increased costs.

Have you noticed that people are making plans unusually early this year whether holiday related or otherwise? Are “buy early” warnings real or an attempt to stimulate or increase sales?  Are you shopping early or resorting to gift cards? Is this a one-off due to the pandemic or may we expect it for years?


Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

Service of Making the Comfortable Decision: Thanksgiving 2020

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

I like being in control. That’s one of the terrifying things about the deadly virus. At the moment, it has us all by the short hairs and will until most of us have been injected with two doses of vaccine so it can follow the demise of smallpox and all sorts of other  worldwide plagues.

There’s hardly a newscast that doesn’t warn about Thanksgiving 2020 whether it involves traveling–don’t–suggesting that college students think twice about returning home and recommending that folks celebrate exclusively with those in their households.

In accordance with my response to the 2020 census, that would be me.

Nevertheless I plan to make the usual: sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and apple pie as, until recently, I’ve done for decades. Don’t yet know about the poultry. [I hear an outcry from balanced meal enthusiasts who wonder “where is the green vegetable?” Answer: I’ll eat a ton of salad the day before.]

And as always, I will relish Friday’s leftovers.

Grow up people. Traditions are off kilter this year. Get over it.

I feel no sympathy for those who whine about giving up their traditions of celebrating at their Colorado condo or visiting a brother in Cincinnati. One woman wailed on Facebook that she’ll be alone with her husband, not entertaining her 10 grandchildren and their parents. She could send a check for the cost of the dinner to a food pantry while counting her blessings that she has a husband to share dinner with and a lovely family she’ll hug next summer–if we’re lucky.

Tyler Perry donated dinners to 5,000 hungry people in Atlanta over the weekend. There are countless charities desperate for help. Yesterday NPRs Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviewed Katherina Rosqueta, founder and director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, in a segment “How To Give Back During The Coronavirus Pandemic.” The focus of high impact philanthropy is to improve lives of others rather than maximize tax benefits or honor someone. The major takeaway: cash is better than goods as its more flexible under circumstances where volunteers to distribute food or other goods are hobbled due to the pandemic.

It doesn’t soothe my Covid-19 anxiety that the president is distracted about his lost election and isn’t watching the store. The one hour he gave to join the virtual G-20 summit this weekend, with Covid-19 high on the agenda, was hardly enough. During his “attendance” he tweeted about election results in Michigan according to John Follain, Arne Delf, Ilya Arkhipov and Josh Wingrove reporting for Bloomberg.com.

In addition, the angry pandemic is raging again. It’s time to stay within our safety comfort zones and to focus on what we’re thankful for, not on what we’re giving up. My cup runneth over. Speaking of cups, I might buy a very nice wine to sip during dinner and while chatting with friends and family. I am blessed with a vivid imagination and will hug my family members and friends virtually. They don’t love me more or less because I’m not with them.

What are your plans? Do you feel pressured to give up your Covid cautious routine or do you think it’s all a lot of hooey and that people who are ducking tradition this year are pitiable?

Service of Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

I asked our hosts who are giving a Halloween party this weekend whether Frank and Mary [not their real names] were coming. They weren’t invited this year because Frank had been such a pain before last year’s celebration.

In addition to decorating their house with fantastic collections of goblins, ghosts and grinning jack- o’-lanterns and treating guests to a delicious dinner, they show a frightening flick in their home’s movie theater. Frank told them that he didn’t like chilling movies and asked if they could show something else. And he didn’t say it once, he kept bringing it up. We all enjoyed the movie and company of good friends last year, and expect to again on Saturday, but without Frank and Mary!

And one of the best reasons for striking someone from your dinner list happened to friend and colleague David Reich. One of his guests sat down and put a loaded gun next to his plate. David quietly asked him to remove the gun.

I had a friend who’d ask what I was serving for a party and would remark, “I don’t care for that, can you make something else?” Irritating.

The first time I invite someone for dinner I ask if they are allergic to or despise anything. There’s no reason to serve a strawberry dessert or a mushroom soufflé if you know that one of your guests will break out in hives or faint simply by sharing a room with the offending food.

Have friends or relatives tried to impose their druthers on you, expecting you to change your tradition or menu when they are your guests? Did they win? Can you share examples?

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