Category Archives: holiday

a quiet season


|  Photo by Joseph O. Holmes, c/o 20×200  |

“It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

Moving into a new house two weeks before Christmas…hoo boy, what was I thinking?

I haven’t baked a single cookie, haven’t mailed a holiday card. My Christmas tree is safely ensconced in the mountain of boxes in my garage, where I suspect it will remain until next December.

By now, my kitchen should be bustling, filled with homemade caramels and kitschy tins of Chex Mix. Instead, the fact that I can see my countertops feels like the greatest Christmas miracle of all.

The Hubs and I decided to skip gifts this year. The two of us are spent, in every possible sense of the word. I can’t even find the energy to choose towel bars, let alone pick out a gift that shows him how much I appreciate the unfathomable amounts of time, energy and patience he’s put into making this house perfect. (Lesson One: no house is perfect, not ever.)

In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t bought a gift. Period. Not for anyone. It’s almost unthinkable.

And yet… Somehow, even without ribbons and tags, Christmas creeps in. In between the mountains of stresses and boxes and drama, it shows up in the most surprising ways.

It’s different without presents, without a tree, without my grandmother’s Nutcracker on the mantle. It’s quieter. More subtle and soft – peripheral, almost. But it’s there. And every so often, I catch a glimpse.

A dear friend drove an hour out of her way to bring me a miniature tree her adorable daughters helped her decorate for me. And as the Hubs and I wandered Union Square one evening last weekend, I watched a half dozen strangers drop their shopping bags on the sidewalk to rush to the rescue of a car that broke down in the middle of the busiest street in downtown San Francisco. For anyone who’s ever lived in a big city, if that isn’t a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

And speaking of Christmas miracles… Slowly but surely, just as all of you promised me it would, this house is becoming home. The pile of boxes is shrinking, and the pile of checkmarks on my to-do list is growing. Last night, I finally cooked dinner in our new kitchen (oh, do I love it!), and when I was done, I realized the smell of fresh paint had given way to the smell of fresh-baked cornbread.

I miss the usual holiday fanfare, I can’t deny it. But this quieter Christmas has its charms. Curling up on the sofa to watch a movie in between loads of laundry. Getting a quick fix of carols on the car radio between errands. Anxiously awaiting the fireplace installation, in the hopes that St. Nick will see a gas log flickering in our hearth.

However your holiday comes to you this year, my friends – whether it’s filled with sugarplum fairies and tinsel or whether Christmas morning brings nothing more than a quiet cup of tea with someone you love – I wish you joy. So very, very much joy, and a new year filled with possibility. Over these last ten years, you all have brought me more joy and more possibility than you’ll ever know, just by being your amazing selves. I’m profoundly grateful, today and every day, for the love and support you’re never shy about sharing with me.

Happy holidays, my friends – whatever you celebrate. May they be merry and bright, and filled with love.


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giving thanks, and why i’m skipping black friday

fall leaves shoppingsmycardio|  via Instagram  |

Am I the only one who’s already stressed about the holidays, and they haven’t even technically started yet?

Didn’t think so.

Seriously. I’ve been getting Black Friday emails in my inbox since last week. And most of the sales have already started! It’s getting so out of control, I found myself siding with those hippie-crunchies over at REI for possibly the first time ever.

I need a breather, friends. And I’m guessing you do too. This has been a rough month for me. Health drama, house drama, family drama…I’m in one of those life phases when you’re convinced the universe has it in for you. And the truth is, I’m getting a little too good at wallowing in my own crap for my own good.

So this year, I’m taking Black Friday off. Ditto for Small Business Saturday (which you should absolutely support, btw), Cyber Monday, and whatever other panic-inducing schemes retailers have concocted to make you feel like you’re going to miss out on something unmissable if you don’t give them all your money rightthissecond.

I mean, I can’t lie: if you do shop, I’d be super grateful if you’d use a few of my affiliate links at some point, since it turns out running a website is sort of expensive. (I’ll list a few below that I already know will have knock-your-socks-off deals happening, or just click any of the pretty pictures on your right.)

But you know what else would be okay? Not doing any of that.

Here’s my big idea: Let’s make this weekend our breather. Instead of a frenzy of parking lots and coupon codes and early bird specials, go see a stupid movie (or a great one). Take your dogs for a hike. Buy yourself a book you’ve been dying to read, open the good wine, and don’t talk to a single soul for an entire hour.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to try try try to find the gratitude. It’s going to be uphill, for sure. But I’m going to do my darnedest to remember what my grandfather would be saying to me right now, which would be some variation of reminding me to look on the bright side, and to remember that there’s actually very little in this crazy world over which I have any control at all. Which is both horrifying and strangely comforting.

I’m grateful for friends who haven’t given up on me yet, despite the fact that I’m not the most fun person to hang out with these days. I’m grateful for yoga pants and sneakers having been deemed “athleisure” by the fashion set (thanks, Eva!), because it means that my sore stomach and joints get some relief without my having to feel like a total schlub. And I’m grateful for fall‘s crisp air and red leaves, which clear my mind and lift my spirits every time.

And, as I am every other day of the year, I’m grateful for you. Thanks for all you do to lift my spirits every day, friends. I wouldn’t be the same without you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!


PS: Behold, the links you could click if you just can’t resist a sale and want to support SMC:

  • Amazon (got a sneak peek at their sales, and they’re great this year)
  • Shopbop (spend some, save some)
  • Nordstrom (always a mystery, but always worth a look)
  • Jonathan Adler (20% off sitewide)
  • Cusp (40%+ off)
  • Saks (I’m betting on a sitewide discount)
  • Tory Burch (spend some, save some)
  • James Perse (if you’re buying for everyone else, might as well treat yo’self)
  • Net-A-Porter (a mighty, mighty good sale going on.)

Thanks, friends. I owe you one!


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hug a mom

mom and me

|  Me and my adorable mom. How lucky am I to have those genes?  |

A dear friend of mine, who also happens to be a new mom, is having A Week. By which I mean, a week that would make me – any normal human, really – just curl up into a ball and give in to your darkest thoughts.

Luckily, this friend of mine is not a normal human – she’s a superhero. I’ve known this for some time, but the simple fact that she has not completely lost her mind this week, or resorted to sticking a bendy straw directly into a bottle of tequila seals the deal. I’ve been doing my level best to pitch in and be a friend, but let me say this: I spent a handful of days this week walking in her shoes, cuddling her adorable newborn munchkin for a handful of caffeinated, showered, daylight hours, and all I know is that I adore the heck out of that baby, but if somebody doesn’t put me on a plane to Bora-Bora, and I mean immediately, I’m not sure I’ll last the week.

Watching my friend bring it in such a profoundly impressive way has left me thinking about my own superhero of a mom, who did all of it with one more kid to juggle and one less co-parent to lean on. Who worked three jobs to pay our rent, who didn’t own a new car until I was in high school, and who went without more often than I’ll probably ever know. Oh, and put herself through college and law school while she was at it. I think she knows by now that I’m in awe of all that – I talk her up all the time, to everyone – but I’m pretty sure she also knows that because I am a contentedly kidless person, I have no fucking clue how hard it actually was for her. I can’t begin to know.

I texted my mom earlier this week and commented that babies were harder than they look. “I remember,” she said. Sometimes I think about having kids just so that she could be a grandmother. She’s earned it.

All this rambling to say: hug a mom this weekend. It doesn’t have to be yours – I know things are complicated. Mine happens to be utterly amazing, but it’s not always so. There are issues and heartbreaks and regrets and distances we can’t always cross. Life is messy. But I promise you, this weekend you’ll see a mom out there in the world who needs an encouraging smile and a reminder that she’s doing it right, because she’s clinging to her grip on sanity with two very tired, very sticky fingers. When you spot her, hold the door open. Pay for her coffee, bite your tongue when her toddler pitches a fit, or leave her a note telling her she’s a superhero. Just take a moment and acknowledge that, my God, she is doing the hardest job I know. And she’s doing it for free. No vacation days, no time-outs, just for the sake of that little bundle of milk and poop she’s stewarding through the world, one spit-up-covered day at a time.

{PS: While you’re at it, you might keep your eyes open for a non-mom who could use a hug too. This Mother’s Day business is tough for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, and a little bit of kindness goes a long, long way.}


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the best love advice i never got

best tenth anniversary gift

(Warning: the following is not gender-neutral. Not because I’m a big insensitive jerk, but because writing that way is surprisingly hard. Please read with whatever pronouns you love best.)

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, friends! I know, I know. Every year, I preach about how we should use this “holiday” (such as it is) to celebrate much more than our romantic relationships, so I’ll keep this year’s tirade brief. But. Remember in grade school, when everyone in your class got a Valentine? Even the fat girl everyone made fun of got a card and some conversation hearts. (That was me, by the way – not that I’m bitter.) I try sometimes to remember at what point in our childhoods Valentine’s Day stopped being about everyone, and started being about The One. It’s a travesty, if you ask me. I miss conversation hearts.

As God and Hallmark intended, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Which, in turn, means thinking about my darling Hubs. Not long ago, we had a pretty big anniversary – the kind that makes you sit back and think about all you’ve been through together. And phew…have we been through some shit. Sure, I might occasionally want to strangle him with the dirty socks he leaves on the floor, but when I think about what we’ve survived together during the last decade-plus? We are most definitely MFEO.

And yet.

It took me forever to find him. Or at least it felt like forever. Single Me thought I was going to die waiting. Single Me chased bad idea after bad idea, hoping I could browbeat Not It into being The One. Single Me sat home, listening to Sarah McLachlan, watching marathons of Meg Ryan movies and convincing myself I’d never find love. Single Me was the original Bridget Jones. (With a mental picture like that, I know it’s hard to imagine why Single Me wasn’t more successful on the dating market.)

And so, without resorting to black hearts or Anna Howard Shaw, I thought I’d share a few things I wish I could have told Single Me while she was sitting on the floor of her apartment getting down and dirty with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Not that she would have listened.

Single is not a disease to be cured. It’s a chapter in your book. And whether it lasts 5 days or 50 years, there’s no pause button to hit while you’re waiting for The One. So, get to work enjoying the unattached life – it’s awesome! Go on a week-long meditation retreat, make new friends, sit in a bookstore for hours, take a class, make out with a stranger, move to Spain for a month…all things you’ll probably never do once you’re paired off. Youth is wasted on the young, and singledom is wasted on people who are too depressed about not being coupled to actually enjoy being single.

Likewise, despite what every romantic comedy ever made would have you believe, being coupled isn’t the end of the story either. It’s just another chapter. Hopefully a long, epic chapter filled with Great Love and unforgettable adventures, but still. I know, you’re looking at paired-off people and assuming their lives are settled and everything is perfect. Trust me: they don’t sprinkle magic dust on you up at the altar. Those coupled people are working just as hard as you at finding their way.

Speaking of working hard, when you’re out there auditioning possible mates (and remember, the audition process goes both ways, friends), ask yourself this: who would I want in my corner? If the going was really, really rough – and at some point on your long road, it will be – would this person have my back? Would they hold my hand during the ugly parts? If they came in a room and saw me curled up in a ball of frustration and fear, would they know whether to pick me up and dust me off or plop down next to me and hand me another brownie? Trust me: that’s the person you want.

Of course, that all makes sense in principle. But in practice, when you’re out there cruising Tinder (purely for research purposes, of course), how on earth can you tell whether the person whose children you’re mentally preparing to have is a person worth giving your life to?

Well, for starters, it won’t look like it does in the movies. (Spoiler alert!) In real life, the one you have to chase is almost never The One. Nope, you want the guy who’s doing everything he can think of to get your attention. The guy who calls when he says he will and shows up on time. Because I promise you this: after a few months, “dependable and smitten” looks a lot sexier than “exciting and unpredictable”.

Marry the guy who wishes he could afford to buy you diamonds. Whether or not he ever gets rich, generosity is harder to find than money.

Maybe most important of all, marry the guy who tries. The one who brings over soup when you’re sick, and makes sure you never run out of chocolate. The one who buys you a tin of Altoids for your anniversary, because he bothered to look up what gift you’re supposed to get for #10, and fancy gifts made of tin are hard to come by. (Don’t worry…I got the diamonds too.)

And once you find the person who does all that? For god’s sake, hold on tight.

Remember that just as real love doesn’t look like the movies, real marriage doesn’t look like a sitcom. So, leave your carping fishwife routine at the door and keep the nagging nice – he’s your partner, not your royal subject.

Take a deep breath before you start screaming – the things that make your head most likely to spin off into another dimension are almost never the Really Big Things, so just be sure the punishment fits the crime.

And every so often, buy the matching undies.

Well. That’s just about everything I know on the subject. What about you? What’s the best advice you’d give your single self?

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a very very merry

happy holidays

via Instagram

This morning, I’m getting ready for a Christmas cookie-decorating date with two of my favorite little munchkins. Being a person who prefers “Favorite Aunt” status to “Mom” status, I can tell you there are few things I enjoy more than borrowing my friends’ children for a few hours, loading them up with sugar and sparkly shoes, then sending them home to crash and burn on my friends’ time. Read on

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Gift Guide: The Men

mens gift guide, guys gift guide, gift ideas men, gift ideas husband, gift ideas dad, gift ideas brother

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Everyone knows that men are notoriously difficult to shop for. But this year, we’ve got you covered with a men’s gift guide jam-packed with creative, no-brainer ideas for the guys in your life. Whether it’s your spouse, brother, boyfriend, father, grandpa or son, there is sure to be something here that they would love to receive more than that neck tie you’ve had your eye on. Read on

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Gift Guide: The Jetsetter


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They joke that their home address is the Chicago O’Hare International airport, their Instagram feed is peppered with exotic locations and impromptu road-trips, and most of their stories start with “When I was in…” . Even if you can’t pinpoint their last known location, here are a list of gifts that any frequent traveler will love to receive…once they’re back in town. Read on

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Gift Guide: The Tech Geek

gadget gift guide, tech gift guide, computer gift guide, nerd gift guide

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They know about the latest gadget before it even hits stores, are the resident IT support for friends and family, and if they can’t use a life hack to automate something, you can bet that they’re working on optimizing it. Even if you don’t understand a single word on their wishlist, here’s a list of gifts your favorite tech geek will be thrilled to unwrap. Read on

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