Archive for the 'Christmas' Category

On the Road Again

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Last fall, when our daughter, Valerie, went away to college in Southern California, she decided not to take her car with her. She said she didn’t want the responsibility that went along with having a car at the same time she was getting adjusted to living away from home.

If I were talking to anyone else who was moving to Southern California, my thoughts would have been, “Are you crazy moving to Southern California and not having a car? Public transportation in Los Angeles is probably just an urban myth. And even if it does exist, who rides it? It is probably mostly empty buses with just the occasional creeper lurking in the back.”

But when it came to my own daughter, the thought of her having a car in LA scared me. In the year and a half since she had gotten her license, her driving experience was pretty much limited to a five mile radius in Petaluma between home, work and school. I imagined her trying to navigate her way among a sea of cars on the Golden State freeway where no one goes below 75 mph or it’s totally congested stop-and-go traffic and any driver who is the least bit indecisive gets a raised middle finger. In short, I was sure she would get eaten alive on the LA freeways.

But those were my thoughts, not hers. Because when it came time to discuss how she was getting back to school in Orange County after Christmas break, she said that she had been thinking about it, and she wanted to have a car for the rest of the school year.

For the first semester, she had done her best to get around on public transportation or to hitch a ride with friends. I was very proud that she gone to Target on the bus a couple of times and she had even made a four-hour trip on trains and buses to UCLA to visit her friend. But she said it took forever to get anywhere on the bus and she really wants to get a part-time job off campus which will be nearly impossible to do if she doesn’t have a car.

Gulp. My little girl on the big, bad, LA freeways. But before I could say anything, Steve said to her, “That’s a great idea. I think you will enjoy school a lot more if you don’t feel like you’re trapped on campus.”

It’s times like this that I am especially grateful that I am not raising my children alone; if it were solely up to me, I would have let my fears and overprotective nature undermine Valerie’s desire to take another step of independence.

So the plan was made that she would make the seven hour drive to Chapman in Orange County early on New Years Day ““ hopefully traffic would be fairly light at least for the beginning of the drive ““ and Steve would ride shotgun to navigate. And once they got to Orange County, Valerie would drop Steve off at John Wayne Airport so he could fly back the same day. Of course, she would have detailed directions about how to get from the airport back to campus.

Steve and Valerie made the trip safely with Valerie doing almost all of the driving. When we talked with her on Skype after I picked Steve up from the airport, she looked totally exhausted from the drive ““ and we were all a little teary over saying goodbye to her after a really nice Christmas break ““ but the important part was that she had made the drive and now had her car with her so she can start the semester with a new sense of freedom.

And as for me”¦I’ll be praying for a bubble of protection around Valerie and her 2001 Volvo

Christmas Presents

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

This Christmas I really enjoyed seeing what our children bought for their siblings and Steve and me now that they can do their own shopping. Each gift showed that they thought about what the person likes and then combined it with their own interests.

Some highlights: Ethan, our 21-year-old son who is a film production major at San Francisco State, went next door to State to shop at Stonestown Galleria. Ethan and his dad share a love of movies, so it’s no surprise that Steve unwrapped a DVD from Ethan. We don’t take it personally that he chose “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” after all, it’s the classic spaghetti western that according to Ethan, should be in the collection of any serious film aficionado.

For me, Ethan bought a book called Inventory by people who write the A.V. Club for The Onion. It’s a book of lists such as “7 terrible movies on the top 100 all-time box-office hits list” and “15 really good bands with really bad names.” He’s hoping it will give me a crash course in the pop culture world that he inhabits.

Valerie, 17, avoids malls (unless it’s the gleaming, upscale San Francisco Centre) but loves antique stores. Fortunately, Petaluma has plenty of them so that’s where she headed for her Christmas shopping. She bought Steve a 1950’s 35 mm Argus range-finder camera. Although still functional, she brought it because she knows it would make her dad happy to look up from his computer and see this well-crafted old piece of technology.

Jennifer is the only one of the three who isn’t old enough to drive so she put her creativity to use in making hand-crafted gifts. I got an embroidered felt key chain and Steve got a polar bear and penguin vignette (think Hallmark Card store) that she had crafted out of Scupley ““ a brand of bake-able clay.

Barbies and Legos are great but Christmas is a lot more fun when personalities shine through.

The Christmas Letter

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

It was our yearly Christmas letter that got me started writing a blog. One year when I was late getting the cards out, several friends wrote back to me saying that they missed getting our Christmas letter and they hoped they were still on our list. Their reaction, with added encouragement from Steve, prompted me to start writing a Christmas letter every week”¦or in other words, to start writing a weekly blog.

I was hoping that writing a blog for three years would have gotten my writing muscles into such good shape that when it comes time to write the yearly Christmas letter that it would just roll off my fingertips. However, that is not the case, and I find myself procrastinating starting it.

One reason I struggle with the Christmas letter is because I want to represent the year with the right tone. I want to balance the reality of what we have struggled with in business this year”¦”it sucked””¦with the greater truth that we are still very blessed to be in excellent health, have great kids who are growing into vibrant adults, and the hope that each day holds something wonderful. After all, that’s why we celebrate Christmas.

And while I think our kids are pretty special”¦what parent doesn’t”¦I don’t want to go overboard when it comes to listing their accomplishments. I always smile when I think of the Christmas letter we got from some friends. The news of their six-year-old son winning second place in his class’s coloring contest was worthy of three exclamation points. Shouldn’t they allow a little room for growth? In 12 years from now, when their Christmas letter tells us he has been accepted to Stanford, I suppose it will be followed by a page of exclamation points.

Sometimes I think I’ll just go with a half page of bullet points about the year. “Ethan is at college in San Francisco, Valerie wants to go away to college, and Jennifer just wants to have us quit talking about college.” There, I’m done.

Nah, I can’t take the easy way out. So with that said, I had better get back to the letter so I can get them in the mail tomorrow if there is any hope of them arriving before Christmas.

Thanks for reading my blog. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Scarf-less in San Francisco

Monday, December 29th, 2008

On Saturday, we made a post-Christmas outing to San Francisco Centre. I think this trip into the City may become as much of a holiday tradition for our family as making cookies, decorating our Costco gingerbread-kit house, and PhotoShopping my wrinkles out of the family photo.

In case you’re not familiar with it, San Francisco Centre on Market Street is anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom; the rest of the high-rent space is filled in with a couple hundred other high-end stores. However, when we go there, we’re not shopping for Movado watches or Juicy Couture warm-ups. The items on my daughters’ shopping agendas fall more into the trinket category, stuff that’s fun to shop for but that won’t wipe out all of their Christmas gift money. Jennifer planned to make a beeline to Maido, a Japanese stationery store to get the 2009 version of the calendar that she got there last year. And Valerie was on the hunt for a particular shade of sparkly purple eye shadow.

On our first trip to San Francisco Centre a couple of years ago, it was difficult to focus anything besides the opulence of the mall itself. Between the curved escalators in Nordstrom’s, the glare from the highly polished black-and-white floors in Bloomingdales, and the huge glass and steel dome overhead, I found myself blinking like a camera flash had just gone off in front of my eyes. But I wasn’t too blinded by the light to see that the people shopping there were much better dressed than the mall crowd I’m used to rubbing shoulders with.

On our latest trip there over the weekend, we certainly had the same observation, only more so.  While the girls were enjoying their gelato in the very busy food court area, I got a chance to get a good look at what people were wearing. The people there looked darn good. If you watch “What Not To Wear” on TLC, you’ll understand why Stacy and Clinton, the stylists on the show, would have applauded what we saw.

Almost without exception, it was apparent that these people had given thought to what they were going to wear when they came downtown that day. They gave off a sense that “I’m going to a fashionable place, so I want to dress fashionably.” No one was wearing sleepwear as clothing; no teenage girls in flannel pajama pants or guys in baggy logo sweatshirts. Most people were wearing dark jeans and a dark sweater or jacket. The footwear on most of the women wasn’t running shoes, but instead black or brown leather, and many had high boots with the jeans tucked in and were going for the upper-crust equestrian look.

And by far, the biggest style cue that we saw were scarves”¦casually yet fashionably twisted, draped or looped on both men and women. Although we had “dressed up” in our least faded jeans and best jackets to go to San Francisco Centre, we started feeling underdressed without a scarf. Steve joked that he missed the “No shirt, No scarf, No service” sign on the way in.

You might be thinking, “Of course the people who are attracted to the pricey stores in San Francisco are going to look and dress better. After all, they have the means to do it. What’s so notable about that?”

I liked it because it reminded me of when I was growing up and going shopping downtown was something special and we dressed up for it. Clothing is so casual these days that comfortable often descends into just not caring how you look”¦if you’re not at work or church. And I don’t think looking pulled together is necessarily a function of having a lot of money. I think it’s a choice and a way of showing self respect. I know I feel better when I put some effort into how I look. Call it superficial, but I can hear Stacy and Clinton clapping.

Nutcracker Memories

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the moment I hear the opening downbeat of the music for the Nutcracker ballet, I’m instantly taken back to when I performed in it. I have memories from every role, starting when I was a “little girl” in the Act 1 party scene.

I remember that we passed the time while we waited to be called on stage by playing jacks, a game that today seems so low-tech and old-fashioned that it sounds like I grew up in pioneer times. I was always short for my age so I continued to get cast as a girl in the party scene for a couple more years. Some of the choreography is so ingrained in my memory that when I hear certain phrases of the music, I can’t help but say the combination of steps in my mind: piqué, step, glissade, pas de chat, changement, changement,”¦

As I got taller and as my dancing improved, I moved through the student roles until I was able to join the corps de ballet in the snow scene and Waltz of the Flowers.

My Nutcracker experiences took place in Salt Lake City during the mid 1960’s through the mid 1970’s. I was studying ballet at the school associated with the University of Utah and was very fortunate to often have Willam (and it is “Willam” not William) Christensen as a teacher. Being there at that time, gives me a connection to one of the great dance legacies of this country; Willam Christensen along with his brothers, Harold and Lew, founded San Francisco Ballet. Willam left San Francisco in the early 1950’s to return to his home state of Utah and established Utah Civic Ballet which later became Ballet West.

And it was Willam who premiered the first complete version of the Nutcracker in San Francisco in 1944. This was the same version of the Nutcracker that I learned in Utah so I feel like I carry a little bit of dance history with me. The popularity of the Nutcracker productions in San Francisco, Salt Lake, and Balanchine’s version in New York launched hundreds of Nutcracker productions across the country.

When I watch a Nutcracker performance now, one of my most vivid memories is when I was a soldier in the battle scene. I was probably 10-years-old and I was picked to be the “head” soldier. We must have been getting close to opening night because Mr. C (as we called Mr. Christensen) was running the rehearsal. He always carried a stick, which was actually just a dowel, to set the beat of the music for the dancers or nudge (that’s a euphemism for whack) their foot into proper position. During the run-through, I missed the timing of the opening step of the soldier/mouse battle scene and was late for the “bang” in the music that kills the first mouse in the scene. Mr. C swore loudly and threw his stick across the room.

I got an instant demotion and went from being the soldier leading the charge against the mice to just being one of the ranks. That was fine with me. I was relieved to not have the pressure of possibly upsetting Mr. C again.

Now that I have a few decades between me and my misstep, I have some perspective on it. The way Mr. C reacted to my mistake really wasn’t all that unusual for him; it happened fairly often in rehearsals. It was probably his artistic temperament combined with a quest for perfection from his dancers. Really good dance companies don’t get that way because mistakes are let slide. Mr. C’s vision was to build one of the best companies in the country. And by all accounts, he succeeded.

So today, I see being yelled at by Mr. C as a badge of honor; it happened while I was in the presence of one of the legends of the dance world.

Visions of Sugarplum Fairies

Monday, December 15th, 2008

One of the pleasures of attending plays, concerts, or ballets in a small community like Petaluma is knowing some of the young artists who are performing. My daughters and I had that experience when we attended the Petaluma School of Ballet’s “Nutcracker” on Friday night. I certainly enjoy the spectacular scene changes and professionalism of San Francisco Ballet’s version, but given a choice, I prefer a local production; it’s much more meaningful to me to attend a show when I have a personal connection with the performers.

We were particularly looking forward to seeing one of Jennifer’s best friends dance the role of Clara. And when we settled into our seats and started studying the program, we recognized other dancers who we know from school or who danced in the Nutcracker when Jennifer was in it five years ago or even when Valerie was a flower presenter ten years ago. My daughters moved onto other activities, but these girls stayed with ballet and now, it’s a joy to see how they have grown up and improved as dancers.

I also appreciate the performance because I know the sacrifice that that both the girls and their parents make in order for them to perform. I don’t know the specifics of how many hours a week the girls rehearse prior to the performances, but I would guess it’s probably 20-plus hours a week. This has got to be especially tough on the dancers who are in high school and have finals week following an exhausting weekend of five performances. And the parents have to get them to rehearsals and put in their volunteer hours on top of the usual busyness of the holiday season.

As I mentioned earlier, Jennifer had a brief dancing career, so my stint as a Nutcracker parent was limited to one year. However, because I danced in about ten “Nutcrackers” in Salt Lake City starting when I was eight-years-old until I was 19, whenever I hear the music I’m immediately taken back to the experiences I had in each role.

To be continued”¦

Updating Our Ornaments

Monday, December 8th, 2008

When stores start decking their halls with the year’s latest home décor items for Christmas, I enjoy looking at the wreaths, ornaments, and table decorations but I don’t feel the urge to purchase anything new; I look forward to getting out the same decorations every year. The continuity from year-to-year is very reassuring to me; even though I’ve added a few wrinkles in during the last twelve months, the face on our nutcracker looks just as cheery as when I packed him away a year ago. And even though the bow on the wreath has gotten a little flat, I enjoy thinking back to when I made it twenty years ago and I was pregnant with our oldest son and wondering what life would be like after his arrival in the coming year.

And thankfully, I also haven’t felt the need to buy any new Christmas decorations in order to make a fashion statement. That takes off some of the pressure of decorating for the holidays. After all, it’s not like red and green ever go out of style at Christmas. I’m glad that unlike changing styles in clothing, I don’t need to be concerned that the hemline of my tree skirt looks so 1980’s.

Unpacking and hanging the ornaments on the tree is a part of the Christmas celebration that my daughters always want to be included in; wrestling with the strands of outdoor lights, well, they’re fine letting Steve have all the fun. Each year, as Valerie and Jennifer take the tissue-wrapped ornaments out of the storage box, they love finding the ones that they picked out and remembering the circumstances around buying it, like the souvenir candlestick ornament from an outing to see “The Nutcracker” or the poodle dressed in a poodle skirt that we found while we were window shopping on Kentucky Street here in town.

So when the girls and I launched into decorating the tree this year, I expected to continue with our tradition of hanging all the same ornaments, most of which I have had since before Steve and I were married. However, after the girls found their favorite ones and hung them on the tree, we unpacked the rest and lined them up on the sofa. As we surveyed the assortment and tried to decide which ones to hang on the tree next, one of the girls commented, “These just aren’t very cute.” And she was right.

Some of these were ornaments that I had spent hours crafting before we had a family: hand-crocheted snowflakes and stuffed and embroidered little angel figures. Others were ornaments that seemed very unique when Steve and I bought them ““ such as little stuffed bears and carved wooden animals ““ but that was more than 25 years ago.

So why did these ornaments actually look kind of tired and not seem nearly as precious to me as they have in previous Christmases?

You just have to walk into a Target to know that the variety of merchandise available today is overwhelming. I can buy a dozen different ornaments for $4 each that are adorable. Only 10 or 15 years ago those same ornaments would have been very expensive”¦if you could even find ones with such good design or charming detail.

This is especially the case with ornaments that are meant to look handmade. The craftsmanship of pieces manufactured in China astounds me. And it has raised my expectations of how decorative objects should look to such an extent that my hand-crafted soldiers and angels look shoddy by comparison.

As I discovered this year, the fun of decorating the tree for my daughters is appreciating each ornament as they hang it. We decided to put the remaining ornaments back in the box and to stop by the Hallmark store so Jennifer could pick out a new ornament. She chose one that is a little tiny tin of cookies that is made to look like it was crafted out of Sculpey ““ which is bake-able clay. Amazing that it can be designed, manufactured, and imported and still only cost $6.

We have some ornaments that we made out of Sculpey too, but now ours look big and clunky to me. If I wanted to make an ornament with the same level of detail as the one that was designed by Hallmark and made-in-China, I would probably take me at least three hours.

So much for our fantasy that we were amassing a collection of ornaments that would become heirlooms; the array of merchandise that is available today surpassed what I could have imagined ““ or make ““ years ago. As I frequently say to my daughters when we’re shopping, “There’s no shortage of cute stuff out there to buy.”

Christmas Cheer Up

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

At times, I’ve certainly lamented the early arrival of Christmas on the retail scene. You see it in Costco in October when the Halloween costumes bump up against the lighted snowman lawn decorations. And I’m probably not alone in wondering if next year, “Back to School” and “Pre-Season Christmas” sales are going to run side-by-side in the same newspaper ads.

But in the last couple of days, I have started changing my mind about early-onset Christmas. I think the early arrival of all things Christmas should be embraced and relished ““ not bemoaned. If the decorations and music and other elements that are part of celebrating Christmas make me feel better, why not start enjoying them sooner ““ whether it is in a store or at home ““ even if it’s before the “official” holiday shopping season starts. And this year especially, a strong dose of holiday cheer”¦so what if it is ahead of the calendar”¦would really help counteract the prevailing economic gloom.

Why did I start to see this differently? It happened because our daughter, Jennifer, wanted to watch “A Christmas Story” DVD. Usually, that’s one of the movies that we save to watch during Winter Break, along with “A Bishop’s Wife” (the Cary Grant version), “Christmas Carol,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Once we’ve watched them they are packed up with the ornaments and decorations and stowed in the garage until next December.

So I was a little surprised when she asked if we could watch “A Christmas Story” now; she’s still eating her Halloween candy and we haven’t even gotten past Thanksgiving yet. But is there any rule that says just because it’s a “Christmas movie,” we can’t enjoy watching it in the middle of November?

Of course not, so we popped in the DVD last night. For Jennifer, watching it was a way of anticipating all the activities surrounding Christmas that she looks forward to so much. Things like getting the tree, unpacking the favorite ornaments, and decorating it. And then when the tree and the room are fully decked out in red and green, she loves lying under the glowing tree with a favorite book and basking in the holiday spirit.

I enjoyed “A Christmas Story” more than I ever have before because so often when we finally get around to watching it, the pre-Christmas shopping, baking, wrapping, and shipping have left me feeling burned out on the whole Christmas experience. But last night, it was easy to focus on the sweet story of a Christmas wish coming true.

In the past, it’s always seemed a little strange to me that around the first of November, Steve asks me to get out the Christmas CDs. In my rigid thinking, I’ve thought that the window between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the only appropriate time for listening to “Carol of the Bells.” But now I get it. Christmas music lifts his spirits and he wants to extend that feeling for as long as possible without overdoing it to the point that it’s not special anymore.

But that makes me wonder, is there any point to putting limitations on little things that make a person feel good? There’s no law against playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving and after New Years. What would be wrong with listening to Christmas music in March? Ok, so it would be strange to have Dean Martin singing “Let It Snow” in July, but “Joy to the World””¦that’s a message of Good News that would be uplifting 365 days a year. I might give that a try.

Even though I love having a Christmas tree, I don’t plan to have it up year-round. I’m talking about being happier, not crazier. But I’m with Jennifer…why wait to enjoy the things I like about the Christmas season? Bring on the eggnog and when does Costco get their shipment of trees?

Slowing Down the Christmas Rush

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

If I was the only one in the house who had any interest in decorating the tree, baking the cookies, and wrapping the presents, I would power through those pre-Christmas tasks with such determination and efficiency that the gingerbread men would be saluting me by the time I set them out on Christmas day. That kind of attitude is great when I’m cleaning a bathroom and my objective is to get it done as quickly as possible; lingering over the over the toilet bowl doesn’t really enhance the experience.

But getting ready for Christmas? That should be more meaningful than checking chores off of a list. After all, these are special activities that we only do once a year. We’re building on traditions and celebrating a sacred holiday so there should be room for a little joy in the process”¦something I can quickly forget when I get fixated on achieving a goal.

That’s why I am so thankful that Valerie and Jennifer participate in all of the preparations for Christmas. They get pleasure out of everything they do because unlike me, their objective isn’t to get it done as quickly as possible. Whether it’s putting gumdrops on the gingerbread house or piping frosting onto cookies, they don’t want to rush through it. To them, it’s an opportunity to experiment and use their creativity ““ and to savor the enjoyment they get from doing it.

So when the three of us are working together, it forces me to slow down. I stop focusing on “getting it done” and instead participate in the “doing,” and I make a shocking discovery”¦whatever the project, it stops being work and starts being fun.

Let me give you an example. One of the traditions in our house is to bake and decorate Christmas cookies. When I’m the one doing the rolling and cutting out, I roll out a hunk of dough and cut out as many tree shapes as I can fit on that particular circle of dough, then I re-roll it and then cut out as many bells as I can fit, and then the next time it’s snowmen, and on and on. Very efficient, right?

But that’s not how my daughters approach it. First, they look through my assortment of cookie cutters. They’re not just interested in only using the ones that are the typical Christmas shapes. Someplace along the way, I acquired a camel, bird, and moon cookie cutters, and those, in addition to the usual gingerbread man, tree, and bell are the ones that see as having potential for some really cool decorating options.

Then as they start rolling out the dough and cutting out the cookies, they start playing around with the shapes. After cutting out a few, Valerie notices that the shape that’s left in the scraps of dough resembles a Celtic cross and she adds that to the cookie sheet. Then as Jennifer is lifting one of the gingerbread men off of the cutting board he sticks a little, so she exaggerates the curve of his arms and legs and turns him into the AOL running man icon. Then one of the cookies arms accidentally gets folded, so Jennifer folds the other one so he becomes a praying gingerbread man.

And when it comes to decorating the cookies, if I were doing it, it would turn into an assembly line: trees all get green frosting, red for the bells, snowmen of course are white. Very literal and boring. But Valerie and Jennifer use their imaginations; each cookie becomes a little work of art. I just stand back and enjoy watching what they come up with. We mix up a little black frosting, and Valerie stripes a camel with green and black and then drags a toothpick through it to create a herringbone pattern. Then Jennifer picks up on the idea and starts making a snowflake out of blue and white icing on a circle cookie. A snowman doesn’t just get sprinkles dumped on it, Jennifer gets the tweezers so she put sprinkles on one at a time to make a silly angry snowman face.

Their creativity sparks ideas in me and before long I’m caught up in the fun of decorating and experimenting. But every so often, I can’t help myself. I interject, “You know you could do that a lot faster if you”¦” and then I have a variety of suggestions for systematizing the process. Valerie teases me that I’m being a Christmas Nazi again. We laugh and then I go back to seeing what a moon frosted in blue and green looks like.

Did decorating cookies with the girls take longer than if I had done it by myself? Absolutely and I’m so thankful that it did.

Ego Food

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

A few days ago, we received an emailed invitation to join a few other families from our church for a casual holiday get-together and “Please bring finger food to share.”

That sounds like it should be simple enough; all that’s required is to show up at the designated time and place with a tray of Bagel Bites. Or if I want to contribute snacks that are less white-bread, I can go to Trader Joe’s and choose from Spanakopita, or Spring Rolls, or meatballs, and on and on.

But instead, I started listening to a little voice inside of me that says, “Grabbing a box off the shelf is a much too easy. Everybody does that. You should make something to show off your cooking skills. Think how great you’ll feel when you whip off the foil and hear the compliments for your delectable and beautiful hors d’oeuvres.”

Now I have got my teeth and my ego into my finger food offering. I’m determined that I’m not going to take the easy way out and show up with a hunk of cheese and a box of Triscuits. “That’s for wimps!”

Over the course of a day, I have become totally invested in the process; I’m not just looking for a recipe, I’m on a quest for the perfect balance between taste, appearance, preparation, and oh yes, price”¦so forget the platters of shrimp. It starts consuming me. When I’m nestled all snug in my bed, it’s visions of finger food that dance through my head. And during the day, Steve notices a distracted expression on my face and comments, “You’re thinking about crudités again aren’t you?”

I start scouring the internet for appetizer recipes. This assignment calls for backup so I enlisted the help of my daughters and we scroll through pages of recipes on the Food Network and Epicurious websites. We are struck by the strange combinations of expensive ingredients, the fussiness of the preparation, and how unappetizing most of the appetizer recipes sounded. The staples in this category are goat cheese, dates, and figs, and as Jennifer points out, it’s always wrapped in proscuitto. Or in Paula Deen’s more down-home (dare I say redneck?) version; it’s lunchmeat wrapped around cream cheese and pickles. We let out a unanimous “Yuck.”

After searching through a few pages of “Quince Paste Napoleons,” “Carrot-Beef Sushi,” “Foie Gras with Date Puree,” “Proscuitto-Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese,” and “Duck Pastrami,” the three of us started coming up with our own ridiculous appetizer combinations of cheese, balls, dates, nuts and proscuitto”¦and we couldn’t stop laughing.

It must have been the serotonin that was released in my brain by spending the half hour laughing with my daughters because by the next day, my compulsion to find the perfect finger food was gone. I guess you could say I got my perspective back because whatever I decided to take to the party just didn’t seem very important anymore. After all, it’s just snacks”¦and not a test of character and proof of who I am as a person.

So I opened the freezer and was delighted to find that I had almost a full bag of potstickers from Costco. I boiled and browned them and lined them up a platter with the dipping sauce in the middle, and it looked darn nice. I had to smile when I brought back home the empty plate. For a while there, I had worked myself up about bringing something that would impress everyone; but the ironic part is, that at the party no one knew who brought which tray of finger food. Thank goodness I didn’t spend hours making “Crostini with Beef Tartare and White Truffle Oil.”