Happy Holidays 2020

Well, it’s been one fucker of a year. We’ve all been tested one way or another. But as sucky as you and I had it, others struggled more.

Please drop off cans of tomatoes and boxes of pasta at your local food pantry this week, if you can. Check in with your single friends, family, and neighbors, who have been isolated for months. Reach out to families that aren’t managing well without functional schools and social services. And then take the time to recognize the blessings in your own home.

Here, I have work that fulfills me and wakes me up with sudden inspiration or baseless anxiety at 2:00am. I have two awesome kids and a husband/office-mate/favorite person. We’re going out tonight for a nice sushi dinner for Christmas Eve; I’m wearing an olive green dress and big hoop earrings. Tomorrow, I’m going to make filet mignon for the first time. Our extended family had a socially distant, backyard brunch this morning, which was lovely. It will be a different Christmas, but still a good one.

I hope everyone has a lovely week. Thanks to all who made purchases through the gift guides, and thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll be back soon.

41 thoughts on “Happy Holidays 2020

  1. Our family wound up with a Norfolk Island Pine, which is not an actual pine. It’s more of a glorified houseplant, but it’s the right shape.


    If we had wanted a real Christmas tree, we would have needed to buy one around Thanksgiving.

    Everybody (except our youngest) enjoyed smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches for lunch today and we’re going to have ginger honey glazed salmon, curried lentils, couscous, mushroom soup and a cheese plate for dinner. We have a large store cheesecake assortment waiting in the fridge, some Ghirardelli peppermint bark squares, some chocolate coins, and some English Christmas crackers, which we have never used before, but which are very shiny and pretty.

    My husband and the kids are wrapping gifts in shifts, with our youngest trotting up and down the stairs to transport gifts to the tree downstairs. We’ll open gifts after dinner tonight.

    We’re normally at loose ends on Christmas Day, but it may contain some of the following:

    –homemade bread pudding for breakfast (if I can talk a kid into making it)
    –online Mass
    –store tamales for lunch
    –ham, store stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and (mostly) homemade pecan pie from nuts we’ve gathered on walks.


    1. I forgot:

      –On Christmas Day, we will be observing one of our kids’ most treasured traditions: constructing cookie houses from a variety of store cookies and candies, using icing as mortar. After a decade of yearly practice, the big kids are really good at this. (Our basic construction cookie is wafer cookies. They stack really well into walls)


    2. At my boyhood home in Berkeley we had a 90 foot Norfolk Island pine. Amazing climbing tree – branches all level and come about three feet apart. Just like a jungle gym, except you could go up 75 feet before it got kinda bendy. Once you were up past about fifty feet you could see the Golden Gate Bridge. Black nasty sap which was a trial for my mother doing the wash. Very tolerant person, my mother…


  2. The kids seemed to be happy with their gifts–even the kid who I thought I shortchanged. Our youngest insisted on wearing the dragon pajamas I got her for Christmas.

    I got my husband a box of pistachio baklava straight from Istanbul, some figs dipped in dark chocolate and (his request) a spool of 3D printer filament.

    The 10th grader was thrilled to get his edible crickets, but found them a bit dry and boring (these ones weren’t flavored). He’s planning to take the remainder to school to eat.


    1. We did find out what a Christmas day plumber costs one year and it was worth it (even if only for the garbage disposal in the sink). I still don’t get why the plumber was willing to come, since it was only us who would have thought it an emergency. Did a really good job with a tricky under sink situation and reminded me of the skill of skilled trades.


      1. bj said, “We did find out what a Christmas day plumber costs one year and it was worth it (even if only for the garbage disposal in the sink).”

        We seem to be escaping so far.

        Last night, a downstairs toilet started profusely bubbling and filling with water at the same time the nearby washing machine was draining. A bit later, after some cautious experimentation, we realized that the toilet was filling up with laundry waste water. So we had to shut down all major water use from last night until this morning, when the clog seemed to be resolved, and we could finally get back to using the washing machine, dishwasher, and bathing.

        I’m not 100% sure that we’re OK yet, but so far so good.


  3. Happy Christmas to all on Apt 11D.
    From the future (1 day ahead) – it’s a cracker of a day!

    Certainly a year for us to count our blessings – and celebrate the joys of the season – while being mindful of those of us missing out (whether that be separated from friends and family, mourning loved ones, or in financial dire straits).

    Our Christmas has been as normal as possible (without overseas family) – and we hope that the rest of the world see this as a beacon of hope for the future.


  4. Happy holidays everyone! I enjoy hearing about the food and celebrations and seeing pictures of the trees.

    We are not on a tropical isle in what would have been our 15th year. But, it is easier to celebrate Jewish Christmas by getting Chinese food! I am trying to figure out a movie that seems properly celebratory but has almost no sadness. Maybe the goal should be predictable sadness that we know will be resolved (like wonderful life and white christmas). Take out and streaming is not the same as a chinese dinner and a movie, but we’ll do our best.


  5. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to Laura and everyone at 11d. My partner is sleeping late and I am about to put the premade egg casserole in the oven. Sad not to be with my sister and her family, and with my parents, but happy about vaccine prospects. I hope next Christmas brings crowded houses back to us all.

    Last night we watched Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s the sort of movie you’d say “It’s so bad it was good,” except it was so bad it then went around to being bad again and then almost reached good for a second time. For another non-traditional though more traditional feeling movie, I like Christmas in Connecticut and also the unusual Holiday Affair.


      1. Laura wrote, “Everybody got something with a baby Yoda for Christmas. Even me. Ian got me a baby Yoda charm for my bracelet.”



  6. My leftover-based lunch was very good. I had the last slice of turkey curry pie (turkey, a Patak sauce, potato, veggies, probably chickpeas–very good on the second day), some mushroom soup with extra pepper, and some curried lentils (also especially good the second day).

    We’re starting to bust into the box of Turkish baklava.


  7. This was the first Christmas I’ve spent in my own house (as opposed to my parents or in-laws). It was very restful.


    1. I know, right? The kids didn’t get up till 11 am, which is about right for 2 college-aged kids. I got to binge all 8 episodes of Bridgerton yesterday. I never would have been able to do that if I were at my mom’s. It was lovely.


      1. I thought Bridgerton was gorgeous to watch and well-acted and full of sex and angst. Are you going to continue?

        I reread To Sir Philip With Love last night, and show-Eloise is just 100x better than book-Eloise. I love the actress.


      2. So, inspired to watch Bridgerton by you guys – historical romance isn’t usually my thing – because as a historian I get so caught up in the stupid mistakes in the film.

        But…. not bad.

        Some clangers in plot, characterization and costume: e.g. children not yet ‘out’ certainly didn’t participate in daily social life during the season; the Duke needed to be wearing a cravat – completely socially unacceptable not to; all of the women should have been wearing bonnets any time they were out of doors and men hats; unmarried women did not wear diamonds or silk/velvet and only pastels (i.e. none of the Featherington girls would have worn those bright colours); gloves were kid (or sometimes knitted silk mittens)- so no gently sliding off a stretchy polyester glove for dalliance; duke and duchess wouldn’t have travelled without her maid and his valet (I realize this would have wrecked the wedding night scene!), there is zero chance Bridgerton would ever have invited his mistress to attend a society ball, and Marina Templeton would have been packed off to the countryside to have her baby (convienient fiction of an infectious complaint like measles, or the ‘death’ of a near relative), with the possibility of her returning for the next season (if it had been sufficiently hushed up), etc.
        I don’t know if it’s because Queen Charlotte isn’t the historical Queen – but being presented required a complete Georgian outfit (totally different to the regency fashions), and was hideously expensive – the Featheringtons (short of money) would not have been presented (it wasn’t required for social participation in the ton).

        Haven’t read the books, so don’t know how the TV series stacks up. But overall a light, fun, romantic re-imagining of early 19th century London – with a lot more feminism added to the mix.
        Eloise, for example just would not have existed – she would have been made totally miserable being squashed into a ‘debutante miss’ mould (and constantly compared to her older sister) – there was no alternative (apart from being a spinster, and living on the charity of her brothers) to marriage (and you needed to be conventional to be respectable). If she was that un-conventional, her parents simply wouldn’t have brought her out, since she’d have damaged the chances of the younger girls. Jane Austen was almost unique in having a source of income and a career outside of marriage.


    2. Staying home for Christmas has been normal for our family for quite a number of years now.

      Back in the day, we used to haul little kids across the country for Christmas, but at some point we wised up and realized–isn’t it nicer in Texas in December and nicer in WA and BC in the summer?

      But I have been trying to get out to WA with kids for Thanksgiving the last few years. Thanksgiving is a much lower maintenance holiday than Christmas for travelers.


      1. It seemed kind of sad and lonely with only three people. I should note that (i) fancy table settings with damask and crystal are my chief joy in life and (ii) we normally hire someone to serve and clean up. So the costs and benefits of a large family Christmas dinner might be different for us than for others.


  8. “..Please drop off cans of tomatoes and boxes of pasta at your local food pantry this week, if you can..” I am unconvinced that buying food and taking it to some selfless volunteer for him/her to take it to the local church… is the best way to do this. Lotta gasoline gets used, and the food bank does not necessarily get what they most need. We have been sending money to the local church and trusting that they will get the best deals on bulk supplies for the food they are heroically distributing. Mind you, if your teen age son went to the supermarket and bought SELF RISING FLOUR INSTEAD OF THE REGULAR FLOUR THE FAMILY HAS BEEN USING SINCE TIME OUT OF MIND it’s a good bet that somebody getting food from the church would be happy to make biscuits. Not to name any names, here. Just a hypothetical…


    1. And what if your wife bought semi-sweet chocolate when anyone who really loved and cared about her husband would know that his recipe for fabulous brownies calls for unsweetened chocolate and he doesn’t want to make three or four experimental batches to recalibrate the required amount of sugar? Just another hypothetical.


  9. Yes, a check is always the best way to go. Food pantries can buy food in bulk for cheaper than we get them at the supermarket. But they are still happy to take your cans of tomatoes. It’s also really tangible way to feel like you’re helping, especially when roping in kids.


  10. Merry belated Christmas. All our children are now old enough to understand that presents are not the point. I just finished making beef pot pie from leftovers.

    We’ve discovered a fondness for Korean/Japanese movies. I would recommend Train to Busan, Alice in Borderland, and The Witch. Warning: AinB is gruesome. Ok, they all are gruesome. It is fascinating, though, because it falls in the Lit rpg genre, which I think is a modern invention.

    In other foreign films, I recommend “In Order of Disappearance,” and “Headhunters,” both on Amazon. The foreign originals, not remakes.


    1. I’m sure many more fled the quarantine–that’s only one resort. Population control is very difficult when people won’t comply.

      However, multiple virus strains are emerging across the world with similar, adaptive mutations: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/12/uk-variant-puts-spotlight-immunocompromised-patients-role-covid-19-pandemic

      The theory is that immune-compromised patients are more likely to have long-running infections that give viruses more time to mutate. I don’t think a vaccine would help, as such patients need immune suppressing medications for other reasons.

      What about this? What if the use of quarantine is driving the emergence of later-emerging cases? See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-27/coronavirus-australia-berejiklian-seven-new-cases-in-nsw/13015738

      Gladys Berejiklian says there were seven more COVID-19 cases in New South Wales over the past 24 hours, all of them linked to the northern beaches.

      She says many of the positive cases were returned late in the quarantine process.

      So the use of testing to end quarantine increases the evolution of strains that take longer to test positive. Rather like the use of size restrictions in fishing drives the evolution of smaller fish.


  11. Kaua’i just closed after 84 cases related to travelers and one death (in a population of 72K). They are requiring a two week quarantine (and, I think there is enforcement because people have been reported and arrested). We were on Kaua’i last year and it does feel like a very small town. The rest of Hawaii is allowing entry after a test before travel, but, I think, one test before travel isn’t enough.


    1. bj said, “The rest of Hawaii is allowing entry after a test before travel, but, I think, one test before travel isn’t enough.”

      Especially to an island state 2500 miles away from the mainland. They have to be careful, because there’s no fast, cheap, easy way to get supplies and personnel there.


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