Archive for the ‘Tradition’ Category

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 Holiday Memories II

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Since 2008, when I launched my blog, I’ve occasionally written about holiday memories. As many will be spending this season without loved ones–Dr. Fauci said it’s the first year since his daughters were born that he won’t be with them at Christmas–I suspect that those who do gather will be saying, “Do you remember the year…..?” Others will recollect quietly.

As I draft this post salt-free butter is reaching room temperature in the kitchen. I plan to make the Christmas cookies I’ve baked–or helped make–since childhood [photo above]. I shared the recipe in 2009 in “Season of Seasonal Treats.” One year my mother and I made hundreds which we gave as gifts. Together, on her last Christmas, we baked them so she could enjoy the familiar fragrance in her apartment.

I remember a Christmas Eve my oldest nephews, in their late teens, carved the turkey for the extended family sit-down dinner celebration for 30 I hosted alone. I dipped into the kitchen to check on progress and saw them dusting off soil from the bird. I never asked how they knocked over a plant that hung well above the counter on which they were working, nor did I acknowledge the accident at the time. I was most grateful that everyone pitched in that year.

Were or will your 2020 Hanukah or Christmas gatherings be different? Have you thought of past celebrations more than usual? At every fête, before we dig in, our family toasts “les absents,” those missing from our holiday table. This Christmas I will raise a glass to all of you.

Service of New Traditions

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I wonder how many new personal traditions have begun as a result of sheltering at home and how many will remain when the worst blows over. The most obvious: families connecting weekly via video conference companies such as Zoom.

I had to figure out a way to exercise without exercising, which I despise. New York, like many cities, is a place to walk–and I did in the normal course of a day–but I have cut down on my outdoor time. My solution has been to reserve an hour a day to dance. I say dance but more accurately I walk/march briskly with intermittent stretches in the compact space of my apartment. My first target is 10,000 steps. So far I’m at 9,400+–3.9 miles according to my iPhone. It’s quite a trick, weaving in and out of chairs and tables and down a short, skinny hallway, but when my hour starts, I don’t stop.

A friend shared another example: “After breakfast my 3 & 5 year old grandchildren hug their father good bye and wish him a good day as he climbs the stairs to his office.  This helps the separation and they know he’s not available during business hours.”

Another wrote: “Two of my Beagle grandsons visited yesterday. My son brought a hot lunch.  He left my portion on the fender of my car. I picked it up with a disinfectant wipe and cleaned the  container.  He sat more than 10 feet away and I sat in my car. This is having lunch with a loved one in the new normal.”

I’ve begun to make French toast every Sunday as my mother did when I was a kid. Because it took me forever to wake up in the day, my pieces became hard as rocks without a hint of egg. That’s the only way I’ll eat French toast today.

Have you launched any traditions? Do you think any will outlast sheltering at home?

Service of a NJ School District Punishing Kids for Unpaid Lunch Bills

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

What is it about school systems and children’s lunches that brings out the worst in some? In May, 2017 I wrote “Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming,” exposing administrators in Canonsburg, Pa. who humiliated children whose parents hadn’t paid their lunch fees, not letting the kids eat. Earlier, in a different post, I suggested the NYC school system pay for breakfast and lunch for kids who couldn’t afford it and lower their spending on laptops from the Rolls Royce version they had in mind to a serviceable but cheaper model.

Recently Ella Torres wrote about a Cherry Hill “New Jersey school district [that] is banning students with school lunch debt from attending extracurricular activities, including prom and field trips” or from buying a yearbook. The ABC news journalist reported “Middle school students who owe $75 or more in school lunch fees will face the same punishment, while elementary school students will be barred from participating in after-school events and attending class trips.”

Torres quoted a grandparent who said: “It is an elitist assumption on the part of this school board that parents are not paying a bill because they don’t want to.”

A senior asked the board ” ‘What are colleges gonna think?’ noting how important extracurricular activities are on applications.”

According to Torres, reported that meal debt in the district was over $14,000, counting students of all ages owing $10 or more.

At least the district still feeds kids who owe lunch money.

The school superintendent, Dr. Joseph Meloche, said: “Money is certainly something that we have to deal with. That’s our world, but that’s not the most important thing that we’re addressing in terms of the policy and the work that’s being done. It’s about supporting children and supporting families … sometimes the right thing is not the easy thing to do.”

I haven’t changed my mind: Depriving or punishing kids over issues of food is atrocious. Do you agree? Prom, the yearbook, extracurricular activities and school trips are big deals for kids. Will deprivation cover the debt? Is this an appropriate way to teach kids a lesson–making them pressure their parents to pay up when it’s the school that should be doing so?  Are there jobs kids–especially the young ones–can do to pay off some of the debt? How do other districts handle it–taxes or fundraisers?

Service of Celebrating the Worst of the Past: What’s with Lloyd’s of London?

Monday, March 25th, 2019

I was surprised that this behavior survives in a civilized country.

I first heard this story on Bloomberg Radio over the weekend during a review of Bloomberg Businessweek stories. For more I linked to Gavin Finch’s story, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s.”

During the radio interview he emphasized the rampant drinking during business hours even more than in the article. It seems that after each insurance deal those involved retire to the local pub to celebrate, often many times a day. Sounded like “Mad Men” and the advertising industry in the 1960s though drinking in the latter took place at lunch while in London the practice seems to happen 9 to 5.

Appalling behavior outweighs the old world traditions that Finch described. He covered the unchecked “deep-seated culture of sexual harassment” for the majority of the article. The drinking makes it a dangerous place for women to work, he wrote.

For almost five years Inga Beale, as CEO, did her best to address “modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors—and met resistance at every step.” Currently, women in the industry “fear that Lloyd’s, already a deeply backward-looking institution, might actually be on the verge of regressing.” Finch added: “When she took over, everything was being done on paper, much as it had been for the past three centuries. By the time she stepped down, about 16.5 percent of the market’s business was being placed online.”

The drinking isn’t the only thing that harkens to the past and some is charming if anachronistic. Finch wrote: “Beyond the quaint nature of the trading, other rites date to the first exchange Edward Lloyd opened in a 1680s London coffee shop. When a ship is lost at sea, the event is recorded with a quill pen in a leather-bound ledger kept near the center of the main trading floor, which Lloyd’s calls the underwriting room. To mark major disasters that yield billions of dollars in claims, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a man in a red tunic and white gloves rings a golden bell.”

And According to Finch “the underwriters and brokers of Lloyd’s mostly do business the old-fashioned way: face-to-face, using rubber stamps, pens, and sheaves of paper. Well-tailored dark blue and gray suits are the norm, often with bold chalk stripes. One does not wear brown shoes. A code mandating suits was lifted last year, but it was clear on several recent tours of the trading floors that almost everyone still adheres to it. Some of the older underwriters wear brightly colored suspenders, or braces. Even by the standards of London’s financial district, the vibe is sartorially conservative.”

Was this news to you as it was for me? How come such behavior is accepted in the global marketplace? Isn’t the contemporary look of the Lloyd’s building in striking contrast to the culture of this company and what goes on inside? Do you think working under the influence impacts the insurance industry?

Service of Removing Shoes Indoors for Cleanliness or Health

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

I have always removed my shoes when entering my or anyone else’s home or apartment if I’ve just walked in mud, snow, or if my shoes are rain-soaked. Water and muck don’t mix well with wood floors, clean carpets or fine rugs. If I don’t have a pair of dry shoes with me I’ll walk around in socks or tights.

This practice almost broke the back of an otherwise blossoming relationship. It angered my boyfriend and his visiting family members who thought my request that they do the same when they visited me in inclement weather was irritating, irrational and absurd. I’d been told I couldn’t refinish the floors anymore and was therefore facing an exorbitant cost to replace potentially ruined wood and I didn’t want to accelerate the carpet cleaning schedule. So I put my foot down.

It’s far too late to say “aha!” but it turns out that while my reasons were related only to the health of my apartment and its fine rugs—and not to my wellbeing or that of my family—taking off your shoes when indoors is “good hygiene,” according to Ezequiel Minaya. In his Wall Street Journal article, “Is it Healthier to Remove Your Shoes at Home? It’s considered polite in some households, but are there more practical reasons for going shoeless inside?” turns out the answer is YES.

He wrote: “Shoes are a menagerie of microorganisms, sometimes carrying dangerous bacteria, says Kevin W. Garey, chairman of the department of pharmacy practice and translational research at the University of Houston. Bacteria can be very hardy.”

Unless you’re vulnerable—already ill, very old or young–you probably won’t get sick from the bugs that walk into your home. “But avoiding pathogenic bacteria that can cause illnesses from diarrhea to meningitis is easy, Dr. Garey says. Just take your shoes off. ‘It’s amazing how far humans travel during the day, and all that walking drags in germs and bugs,’ he says.”

Dr. Garey has recently published a study on Clostridium difficile—known as C.diff—that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported caused 29,000 deaths in the US six years ago from almost half a million infections. He found 2,500+ samples in the Houston area alone of which more than 25 percent collected in homes was on the soles of shoes. “And that’s just one bacterium. In an earlier investigation, Dr. Garey examined past studies to learn if ‘shoe soles are a vector for infectious pathogens.’ The answer was a resounding yes,” wrote Minaya.

The reporter added that researchers in other countries found a significant amount of Listeria and E.coli on shoes.

Do you ever take off your shoes when you visit others or when you walk in the door at home? If yes, is it out of tradition—as in Japan or Turkey—or for comfort, cleanliness or health reasons?

Service of Nostalgia II

Monday, July 30th, 2012


Christopher Bonanos wrote in New York Magazine, “When it was removed in 1990, few tears were shed, except maybe at Kodak.” He may have been right. I was the exception to prove the rule.

He referred to the 18 x 60 foot Kodak Coloramas in Grand Central Station. He noted: “…the big glowing billboard came to be seen not as a great piece of Americana but as kitsch unworthy of the terminal’s Beaux-Arts architecture.”

kodaksurfersIn the day, you couldn’t miss the Colorama if you entered the station’s central hall. My dad would let me know when there was a particularly spectacular image I shouldn’t miss, which may be one of the reasons I was particularly fond of the display. A loyal subscriber to National Geographic, he, too, took spectacular photos and appreciated others’ work. My nephew Edward also has a photographer’s eye.

grandcentraloldThe exhibit of prints at the New York Transit Museum annex at the back of Grand Central [open through October] is part of the great station’s 100th anniversary celebration. The prints didn’t grab me, nor did they make me feel nostalgic and I don’t think that they do the Colorama’s images justice. How could they? They aren’t oversize backlit transparencies.

And there was something else I saw in the images selected for the exhibit that I didn’t notice when looking up at the originals from the marble floor or if I did, the detail made so little impression that I don’t recall. In most, there were people taking photos of others. It makes sense as Kodak sold cameras and film. Amateur photographers weren’t in all the shots in the exhibit-there was one of deer on snow where I couldn’t find a shutterbug anywhere, even peeking out from behind a tree.

Photography has made huge strides since Kodak, now defunct, ruled. For most of the Colorama’s 40 years, you wouldn’t see photography sold at art shows and people didn’t collect it. Photoshop didn’t exist for the amateur in the 1950s and I doubt that digital photography was a beam in anyone’s eye.

I’m grateful to the exhibit for reminding me of something I shared with my dad, of my first camera–a simple Kodak box–and how much I, too, still love taking pictures. Do you remember the Kodak Colorama? What exhibits have strummed nostalgic strings for you?


Service of Print

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I continue to see people on trains, subways, in our apartment house [as evidenced by piles left outside front doors for garbage pickup] and in the library who read magazines and newspapers. There is increasing evidence print-vs-tabletthat while the print patient is sick, not all of it is on life support.

My observations are anecdotal, for sure. But take a gander at some of the things I’ve read lately:

From the Wallets of Billionaires

Warren Buffet told The Daily Beast‘s  Howard Kurtz why he has and continues to buy newspapers: “‘It’s not a soft-headed business decision,’ the 81-year-old investor tells me from his Omaha office.” Kurtz continued: “In putting his considerable money where his mouth is-Buffett’s company is in the process of buying 63 Media General newspapers for $142 million-the chief executive is challenging the widespread belief that the industry is trapped in a death spiral.” The papers he’s after “have to serve smaller markets where there is ‘more of a feeling of community,'” wrote Kurtz.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reads eight traditional newspapers a day and says “he prefers magazines the old fashioned way, despite having an iPad,” according to news aggregator, covering posts in VentureBeat and FishbowlNY. The news sources remind us that most of Bloomberg’s fortune has been made in the digital news and data service businesses.

Fashion and Beauty’s Youth Appeal

And print isn’t just for old fogies. In Adweek, Emma Bazilian recently covered statistics to prove the point in “Condé Nast Finds Magazine Readership Growing Among Millennials.” Note: I was confused by the word “millennial” in the title as the youngest of the millennials, who can be as old as 37, is 23 yet the article spotlights readers in the 18 to 24 age range.

Nevertheless, “Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically ‘grew out’ of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s.”

Bazilian continued,  “Men’s magazines also gained ground with the 18-to-24 set, thanks to the addition of lad mags like Maxim and the ‘phenomenal growth’ of male fitness titles such as Men’s Health.” Bazilian was quoting Scott McDonald, svp of market research for the publisher.

Not surprising, the pulse for women’s service and news magazines is increasingly weak. The former, according to the article, didn’t keep up with the fact that most of their readers no longer stay at home and millenials turn to the Internet for news.


Then there’s Tracie Powell, in Poynter, who wrote “Consumers aren’t rushing to replace their magazine and newspaper subscriptions with mobile news products, according to a new survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.”

Her article, “Survey: Mobile users as likely to be print news subscribers as non-mobile users,” continued “The survey shows that although nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults use at least one mobile device per day, nearly equal percentages of mobile media device users and non-users – 39.8 percent and 40.2 percent respectively–said they still subscribed to at least one newspaper or news magazine, which suggests users of smartphones and tablets aren’t abandoning print media.”

Another of Powell’s points: “The survey shows ‘news consumption ranks fourth among reasons people use mobile devices, behind interpersonal communications, entertainment, and internet usage for information not provided by news organizations.'”

So where are you on the life of print? Am I looking at mortally wounded vehicles of communication and sources of information, placing hope on the thinnest strands of signs of life? Will the publishing industry–and some of the billionaires who continue to enjoy holding paper when they read–find ways to save print?

Service of Buying on Principle

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The other week, NYC introduced its “Taxi of Tomorrow” and public advocate Bill de Blasio [Photo right, below] howled. I heard him talk about the city’s choice of foreign partner on the radio and on his website he noted that the billion dollar contract for “the exclusive right to manufacture New York’s taxis” is going to a business that operates in Iran. It’s one of a dozen car companies on de Blasio’s “Iran Watch List” that “targets businesses that operate in Iran and undermine economic sanctions.”

The website quotes de Blasio: “You cannot do business with the people of New York City with one hand, and prop up the dangerous regime in Tehran with the other. For our billion dollars, taxpayers and taxi riders deserve a guarantee that ____ will stop selling its vehicles to Iran.” I put the space in the quote although de Blasio identifies the company on his blog.

When I’ve met investment advisors, they’ve asked me if there are any companies or industries I wouldn’t want to support. It’s a good question for many reasons. Some might forget and inadvertantly invest in–and be accused of insider trading–stock in a company the firm they work for advises. Cigarette or arms manufacturers might be on the “no” list for others.

There’s a side issue to de Blasio’s point that’s worth a mention even if off-topic. I identified the car manufacturer to a friend who observed: “Why didn’t the city pick an American brand?” As I began to write I also remembered a buy American initiative where participating manufacturers hung the red, white and blue “Made in America” tag with logo on clothing, appliances and other products. Would this be unfitting today?

In wartime, many won’t buy anything made by their enemy. Some have longer memories than others and children often keep up their parents’ boycotts. Is such a consideration anti-business and therefore inappropriate in a tight economy? Or do we have no enemies?

Are there things you won’t invest in, buy, attend or support on principle, or is such thinking so yesterday?

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