Day 13: Hanukkah helper

Chag Sameach everyone! That means Happy Holidays in Hebrew. I know this because I Googled it in honor of Hanukkah, which started yesterday and ends Dec. 20.  I also Googled the order in which candles on the menorah are lit and what’s appropriate Hanukkah food, because I was sure it wasn’t the pork tenderloin I…

Day 12: Elves

It started as a whim one November day when, walking through Barnes and Noble, I spotted a pile of white boxes stacked against a wall. The sign said 30 percent off, so I wandered over and there it was: the Elf on the Shelf gift set. Looking at that distinctive red elf peering out at…

Day 11: Christmas stories, a gift guide

There’s no better gift than a good story, so with that in mind we offer a few bookish ideas for the people on your holiday shopping list. Before Turner Broadcasting turned “A Christmas Story” into a Christmas Eve movie tradition, humorist Jean Shepherd told the charming tale in his memoir In God We Trust: All…

Day 10: Krampus?

Like most families, we have certain traditions we enjoy during the holidays. One of them is heading to the Walnut Room in what used to be Marshall Field’s for a holiday lunch and a day of shopping. When they were young, my kids visited Santa to list out what they wanted him to bring. Nice,…

Day Nine: Holiday reds

Remember the I Spy books? We do. Here’s our I Spy challenge for holiday reds: I spy a house, a wagon, and bows, a white button mitten, a puppy who knows; A snowman, a bell, a red glitter star, nine Santas, a wreath and bright peppermint bars.

Day Eight: Handmade

I learned traditional domestic arts at an early age, taught by great aunts and uncles who were our official babysitters while our parents worked. My siblings (both male and female) and I learned the basics: how to sew, cook, bake, and clean. But we also learned  office and warehouse work in the family business and…

Day Seven: Let it snow

I step in frozen footsteps and make my way past a patch of dry blacktop where the car was parked. A sudden gust of wind dances loose powder snow across the bare pavement to remind me of the task at hand. We’re old-school (or cheap) when it comes to clearing our 120 feet of driveway…

Day Six: Cookie party

Driving home from my nephew’s birthday party last December we passed the Fannie May Candy House. We’d never stopped there before, but this time I told my husband to turn left, into the parking lot. My friend Lisa’s holiday cookie exchange started in one hour, and I had nothing to bring — no cookies, no…

Day Five: Reflection

Chicago after a snowfall, exactly one year ago today. The weather has finally turned cold, bringing with it a reminder of stillness and beauty in the reflection of light.

Day Four: Love

A few years ago I discovered the perfect balm for holiday stress: The Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas. Turns out I’m not the only one. Last year alone, Hallmark’s Christmas programming drew more than 70 million total viewers — so while some of you might not want to admit it, I know that, like me,…

Day Three: Say cheese

‘Tis that time of year – the annual holiday photo shoot. Over the years I’ve approached this tradition with the zeal of an art director on a blockbuster movie. I’ve sifted flour over my kids to make it look like snow. (It didn’t.) I’ve made them wear reindeer antlers and Santa hats on their heads….

Day Two: Oh Christmas tree

Oh Christmas Tree, in four scenes: The day after Thanksgiving, bring down the box from the attic. Place in usual corner. Open box, pull out three pieces of pre-lit artificial Nordic pine … Screw the middle section to base, then attach top section. Gently pull apart branches to form conical pine tree shape and tuck…