I've lived in San Jose my whole life, with the exception of four years of college in San Diego. As such, there are some local holiday traditions that are very nostalgic for me.

While we have a Jewish household, I grew up celebrating Christmas. We celebrate Christmas with my side of the family and friends. This weekend while my sister and her kids were in town we visited Christmas in the Park. I grew up enjoying the animatronic holiday displays and seeing the hundreds of decorated trees. The Christmas trees are decorated by a wide variety of community groups: scouts, school groups, volunteer organizations, local businesses, etc. Throughout the years I've helped decorate numerous trees and enjoyed seeing the handmade ornaments and interesting themes that groups have come up with.

My kids really enjoyed seeing the Broadway San Jose tree, with Playbill images from the shows they have seen (Fiddler on the Roof and Blue Man Group).

I didn't get to see all the trees (we were walking through the park with four kids), but my favorite was the sub sandwich tree by Aedis Architects. Such a creative idea!

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

I'm participating in the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge with Cheryl of muppin.com.


I'm a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier. On a recent episode she shared a simple and free gift giving idea that I wanted to pass along. Gretchen's "Gift of Podcast" is a was to share your favorite podcasts with friends and family. On the Gift of Podcast website you can even download a certificate for giving the gift. She also shares details for how to listen on your iPhone, iPad, or Android, or using a smart speaker.

Here are a few of my favorites that I've been listening to lately:

Happier by Gretchen Rubin

Co-hosted with her sister Elizabeth craft, they discuss happiness and good habits.

Love to Sew Podcast

Cohosts Helen Wilkinson and Caroline Somos discuss garment sewing, the sewing community, and small business, including interviews with indie business owners and inspiring sewists.

Modern Sewciety Podcast

Stephanie chats with creatives in the quilting industry, sharing the latest tips and trends.

A Way With Words

A podcast about language and how we use it. Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett discuss changes in language, origins of odd phrases, and interesting tidbits.

Brains On! Science podcast for kids

An award-winning science podcast for kids and curious adults. Also check out their spin-off Smash Boom Best.

How I Built This with Guy Raz

Impressive and interesting stories on how people have built their well known companies.

I hope you enjoy these. And please share your favorite Podcasts in the comments below. Best of all, with just one shopping day until Christmas, giving the Gift of a Podcast will save you a trip to the mall. ;-)


In 1978, when I was one year old, a family friend started hosting a Christmas cookie exchange. My mom attended that first year. The 12 ladies would each bake 13 dozen cookies, sharing a dozen on a plate that evening and taking home 12 dozen (one dozen of each variety) to enjoy for the holidays. Once I was old enough I would always wait up for my mom to arrive home after the annual party to see what treasures she was bringing home. 

At some point the women stopped sharing plates of a dozen in favor of half dozen, requiring a mere 7 dozen cookies for the exchange (a dozen to eat that evening and 12 half dozens to swap). Once I was in college I started attending the party, tagging along with my mom (but she baked). Then there was a phase post-college that I lived alone and my mom and I each baked 7 dozen and attended as two separate participants. Now I'm the official participant, and my mom comes along with me.

I'm kinda fly by the seat of my pants and usually pick a recipe that I've never made before. I went one step further this year. I picked a recipe I'd never made, and then asked my husband to do the actual baking (while I sewed and played board games with the kids). He made two 13 x 9 pans which I cut into 48 cookies each. With the big mixer he was able to do it all at once as a double batch.

The recipe I chose is Easy Peanut Butter Bars from Midwest Living. I think they went together easily as advertised, but they could certainly be improved by the addition of some chocolate. ;-) I could see them crumbled over chocolate ice cream. With hot fudge. Mm. They came out pretty much looking like the ones in the picture on the recipe, though I cut them a little smaller. The bar itself has the consistency of a cake-like brownie. And some of the topping (peanuts and Reese's Pieces) were sacrificed in the cutting of the bars. I'd maybe smash them into the dough a bit more before baking if I made them again. Overall, tasty... but I'm hoping to end up with some delicious chocolate cookies in tomorrow night's swap.