Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Service of Guardian Angels

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

The tiny framed picture was one of the surprises among the letters the guardian angels sent me last week.

A dear friend was admitted to a memory ward last year. His only relatives are distant cousins, one who lives 1,800 miles away and the other in his town. In addition to rescuing him and finding a place where he’ll be well cared for and safe, they emptied his house and sold it, an exhausting, miserable chore.

I never met them, but we’ve been in touch. My friend seems to recognize the local cousin though probably doesn’t grasp their connection, he wrote. My friend no longer knows how to open an envelope.

These guardian angels did something over and above. They’d set aside and sent me a stack of cards and letters my husband and I had mailed my friend over years—even a fax–and included two surprises. One was a box of chocolate from their town’s oldest chocolatier founded in 1902. Why the chocolates? They’d delivered a box to my friend from me from Li-Lac. The store had celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Li-Lac was his favorite when he lived in NYC. The other surprise was a tiny image of an angel in a frame purchased at a craft fair that we’d sent him for Christmas, 2018. [It’s the smallest of all the pictures in the photo above.] He’d noted this on the back.

I’m overwhelmed. The cousins work, by the way. Can you imagine having to sort through all the things a person accumulates in a lifetime and taking the time, trouble and expense to segregate a pile of things for a stranger? Can you share examples of extraordinarily caring gestures such as this?

Service of Christmas in New York

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Every city has its special time: For Paris it’s spring and New York–Christmas.

The joy and delight from the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show remains if after seeing it you walk east past the Rockefeller Center tree and Saks Fifth Avenue displays. Following are just some of the images I found around the city this season.

Send me a photo of a favorite holiday scene at home or outside and I’ll add it to the post.

The stage at Radio City Music Hall
“Are you worthy of entering my library?” says the iconic lion in front of the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue
Santa in front of a Saks Fifth Avenue window.
Radio City Christmas Show –the Creche scene
Saks Fifth Avenue Fifth Avenue lights
Wreath on the Park Avenue South side of Grand Central Terminal
One of the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue
Creche in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Trees in front of Whole Foods on the UES two days before Thanksgiving. On December 5 there wasn’t one tree or pine needle left.
Lotte New York Palace Hotel
West 42nd Street
Cartier on Fifth Avenue
Lotte New York Palace Hotel

One of countless trees lighting up office and apartment lobbies throughout the city
Actor Simon Jones in the red sweater, currently playing Bannister, the Butler in “The Gilded Age,” was the narrator at Marble Collegiate Church’s “A Caroling We Go Concert & Carol Sing,” on the first Sunday of Advent. It’s a not-to-miss concert for next year!
Baby it’s cold outside!
May be an image of 1 person
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook
No photo description available.
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook
No photo description available.
Nancie Steinberg posted this on Facebook

Service of Tips of the Day

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Could this be the launch of a tips of the day series, born because of an almost botch?

I received a bunch of Christmas cards at once, opened them, pulled out the cards and put the empty envelopes in a stack. When I tossed them in the paper-only trash, fortunately I felt something hard in one and inspected it. It was a gift card! The person who sent it had already given me a fabulous present. I’m rarely the lucky recipient of a gift card. I could have lost it by mistake.

The tip: When mailing a gift card, tape it to the notecard so it doesn’t slip out into the envelope. A friend suggested when enclosing a check or gift card always insert what you are sending facing out to lessen the chance of contents being left behind.

Because it happened last night, I had to share another tip—literally and figuratively.

I love it when a restaurant lists a choice of gratuity according to three percentages, as I don’t have to figure it out myself. I know, I know—EVERYONE says how easy it is. Not for me. But take care if you are splitting the check. Often the revised check keeps the percentages based on the total, not on half of it. [See photo below].

The tip: pay attention especially if you are in a deep conversation or have had a few glasses of wine. [We each gave $11.]

Do you have a tip to share?

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 Who Took the Children Out of Christmas and Hanukah Department Store Window Decor?

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Bloomingdale’s Louis Vuitton holiday window made of Legos

I guess Christmas and Hanukah and their iconic symbols designed to enchant youngsters no longer inspire NYC holiday windows, or so a few major retailers made me believe. And what children appreciate the senior members of their families often do as well. For decades trains and marching soldiers enthralled New Yorkers and tourists of all ages. Some things never get old. The last year Citibank installed a major train display in Manhattan there were lines to see it daily. I visited with my husband. I can’t forget the dad at the front of the display who had to tear away his three-year-old who screamed in protest when pulled off the line to make room for others. The crowd was mesmerized.

Bloomingdale’s holiday window featuring giant camera

Yesterday I was looking at Bloomingdale’s holiday windows as was a couple with a toddler in a stroller. The little one was staring at the windows without expression. His blank look—and the subjects of windows there and at Saks—gave birth to this post.

At Bloomingdale’s, I didn’t get the connection to holidays other than accents of red and green plaid ribbon and a giant plastic teddy bear. Louis Vuitton’s window was slightly child-oriented because it was designed with Legos. But the static design—a blue and white checkerboard tree with a “skirt” of multicolored Legos heaped in piles and a blue and white background–was bleh and not eye-catching to a little one. The oversized camera and scissors in other windows didn’t score nor did the child manikins dressed in bizarre fur onesies.

Window at Saks. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

What about Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows?  Nancie Steinberg’s images didn’t shout children either. In fact, I had to read media coverage to understand what I was looking at. Do you think a child would think, “Aha! I recognize the toys inspired from ‘special gifts from years past,’ also described as ‘nostalgic’ and ‘heartwarming,'” according to press reports? Only two examples of toys of yore were referred to: a kaleidoscope and rocket ships. And boy were those references subtle.

In addition, Justine Golata reported in secretnyc, “Saks has teamed up with Sir Elton John for this year’s holiday campaign to support the British singer’s AIDS foundation, The Rocket Fund, which includes a $1 million donation and dedicated holiday window displays. People can also shop the Elton John x Saks Fifth Avenue special holiday collection where $500,000 in proceeds will go towards The Rocket Fund, regardless of sales.” Now I get the rocket window.

I’m all for charity at any time of year and I like Sir John and his work. Did Saks really need to import him to attract store traffic? And what does he have to do with Christmas or Hanukah?

How hard would it have been to honor Charles Schulz, who turned 100 this year, featuring his ever-popular Peanuts gang? Or for those who insist on breaking from tradition to be trendy and fresh what about a contemporary setting through which trains might travel—it could be enchanting.

Anyone remember the windows at Lord & Taylor? The lines in front were four+ people deep.

Could it be that adults don’t like to shop with their children in tow anymore so commercially, windows that would enchant kids are not viable? Are the windows I mentioned fabulous and visually over my head? Or do children take a backseat as a retail priority during the December holidays these days?

Saks holiday window. Photo: Nancie Steinberg

Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021


2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Photo: Bob Gula

Striking contrasts seem even more vivid this Christmas season.

If you watch commercial TV you’ll notice the shattering contrasts of some commercial lineups and you might wonder who determines their order in a typical 4 minute run. One station plays gut wrenching videos of emaciated, starving young Africans to generate donations to Save the Children immediately followed by extreme jollity as a family rips open presents or welcomes a child to the grownup table that is groaning with food. These are sponsored by Walmart. Obviously the company doesn’t control placement.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

Nothing new: There have always been unfortunate pairings in print of advertising and editorial subjects placed together on a page or across from one another. My friends in advertising had to frequently deal with the fallout: Their clients’ ruffled feathers.

I wonder if some who position ads are paying attention.

The hyperallergic.com headline of Valentina Di Liscia’s article illustrates a similar point:  “While 11% of Staff Was Laid Off, Guggenheim Director Made Record $1.5 Million.” She wrote “The museum says its director, Richard Armstrong, took a 25% pay cut during the pandemic — but the reduction didn’t apply to ‘compensation earned in prior years.'”

As you walk around a city like New York you see homeless huddled in doorways or holding pleas for help spelled out on cardboard. In contrast holiday lights and decorations in office and apartment lobbies, store windows and in front of landmarks dress the city, brighten chilly short days and punctuate early nights. Nevertheless they seem jarring while so many suffer. Big money is spent on some of these seasonal pick-me-ups. Could we dim the lights just a bit and help the hungry and unfortunate at the same time? The 50-foot high tree outside of Fox took 21 hours to install and had 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. News reports estimated the damage–a mentally ill homeless person set it on fire–at $500,000.

What strident contrasts have you noticed?


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 Terrible Decisions: Pay Bills or Buy Gifts for the Children?

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I saw a Facebook posting in which a single mother grieved that she was overwhelmed by debt with no end in sight. She was jobless. She worried that she didn’t know how she’d manage to buy Christmas gifts for her children.

One comment caught my eye. The writer reprimanded the mother for thinking about gifts when she owed money. She should pay her bills and forget presents, she scolded.

I empathize with the mother. Imagine if you’re faced with eviction, starvation, and possibly illness without medical care for you and your family. The looks of disappointed children who may understand what’s going on at home but nevertheless hope for a surprise would add to an already astronomical heartache. [I am sorry I rushed by the post at the time and didn’t track down the mother.]

Churches, organizations and clubs around the country traditionally had giving trees this time of year, all cancelled now, while at the same time the need for basics by millions has exploded. There was nothing frivolous about the wishes I took from such trees. Written on paper ornaments or tags were requests for a warm coat for an infant; a housecoat for a senior. Real estate companies at some of the larger buildings in NYC showed off the bicycles, games and dolls slated for children associated with a charity.

Not this Christmas.

The economy isn’t going to snap back even after 70 percent of us are vaccinated. Millions will continue to suffer.

As I pass residential and commercial lobbies in Manhattan I see gargantuan Christmas trees decorated to death. They cheer for the moment tenants and guests dash by. What if co-op and condo boards and tenants in rentals voted to skip the trees and donate the budgeted money for food, warm clothing or gifts for little ones? There might be a collection in each building to buy a few poinsettia plants for a lobby instead.

But such efforts are miniscule potatoes.

All around the country small businesses have crumbled and with them the hopes and savings of the owners. Thousands have been let go by giant corporations. I fear another stimulus check–$3,600 for a couple with two children–while better than nothing won’t make much of a dent on past due rent, electric, phone and credit card bills.

I’ve written before about the thrill of sending a surprise to a child through the Letters to Santa program. This year the link is https://about.usps.com/holidaynews/operation-santa.htm. The site reported that 23,244 letters have been adopted so far! In addition, when I looked early this morning I read: “There are none left now, but check back later. We add more every day.” Aren’t Americans wonderful?

There are 630 $billionaires in the US according to cnbc.com. It would help if each tossed in one of those billions to pay the rent and essential bills of the unemployed. A compensation lawyer such as Kenneth Feinberg who deftly handled the 9/11 and BP cases, among many, could organize and direct the distribution.

What might non-billionaires do?  What choice should a mother in such a predicament make?

Service of A First: Two Billboard Top 100 Songs Celebrate Christmas–What Does It Mean?

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Gary Trust reported that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” represent the first time the Billboard 100 had a twofer of Christmas songs at the top.

In “Mariah Carey No. 1, Brenda Lee No. 2 in Billboard Hot 100’s First-Ever ‘Christmas’ Double Up,‘” on Billboard.com, Trust went on to write that “a record-tying four seasonal songs rank in the Hot 100’s top 10, as Burl Ives’ ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ climbs 10-6 for a new high and Bobby Helms’ ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ rolls 15-9.”

You can’t extrapolate with certainty the significance of this development but it’s fun to try. Are we becoming more traditional? Is music more accessible to people through their smartphones so they can easily add seasonal tunes to family gatherings? What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Service of Self Restraint

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Many stretch their money to give a little or big something to family and friends at this time of year. If you don’t put self restraint to work, you literally pay the price. I had a great idea for a gift for 2 good friends but to implement it meant spending a ridiculous sum. It’s not every day you think of the perfect gift for people who have everything but common sense said “move on.” I did so far.

There’s a new bakery that also sells sandwiches and salads near my office. I’ve been in twice to reconnoiter and I’ve left empty handed. One small beautiful pastry, that may or may not be tasty, costs what a scrumptious, though not as glam, cake does at Trader Joe’s. The price of an éclair, gone in two bites–far smaller than standard size–is $4.95.

I love flowers but daily pass by the many delis that sell tempting sunflowers and roses in peach, yellow and magenta. It makes no sense to buy them for myself. In summer, our apartment gets too hot when we’re not home so they don’t last long and in winter, the shock of the overheated apartment, when they come in from the cold, kills them pronto. And anyway, I have a collection of orchids, many of which, as I write, show signs of blossoms to come. When they bloom in winter I’m enchanted. In spring I cut daffodils, lilacs, peonies and daisies.

Self restraint isn’t any easier if faced with dietary restrictions. It rarely fails: people are forced to give up things they most love to eat. Was anyone advised to avoid grouse or liver ? [the two foods I most dislike].

Are you good at self-restraint? What are your tricks for avoiding temptation?

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