Practical Gifts for The Kitchen!

It's that time of year again - time to spend/give/receive! If you are feeling bogged down at the idea of blind consumerism, it's a good idea to focus on practical and useful, yet also fun, gift ideas for your loved ones. As someone who loves to cook, I can attest to the fact that many of the products suggested in the following post from are must haves for any cook's or baker's on your holiday gift list! I use my Wusthof knives, OXO locking tongs, OXO zester/grater, 10" cast iron skillet on a nearly daily basis! All the better if you can find a well seasoned cast iron skillet, measuring cups or vintage baking dish at a local thrift store!

15 Classic Gifts That'll Stand the Test of Time

Lisa Freedman
Nov 14, 2018


You don't want to see a loved one at Easter and find out that the [insert gift here] you got her for the holidays has since broken. That would be terrible, right? To keep that from happening, we've compiled this list of 15 classic gifts that will stand the test of time.

Every single of one of these items consistently rank among the best in reviews. They're also pretty essential for a well-rounded kitchen. And they're from top name brands. Buy something on this list and you can rest easy, knowing that almost nothing can go wrong with it. When the holiday season of 2045 rolls around, you'll still be hearing how great that gift from 2018 is holding up.


(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150

This is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a good-quality chef's knife. Because it actually is perfect. It's balanced just right and the blade is well-rounded on the bottom to encourage the ideal rocking motion. The price is right in the middle of the road (not too cheap and not ridiculously expensive) and it's special enough to be a sweet gift.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs, $12

A good pair of tongs become an extension of a home cook's hands. And these are good tongs. So good, in fact, that they'll give cooks more control than, say, a spatula or turner. They lock closed, have non-slip handles, boast sturdy scalloped grippers, and can go in the dishwasher. They also go in a stocking; get one for every stocking you need to stuff.


(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Peugeot 7-Inch U'Select Pepper Mill, $45

Get this for your dad who always says yes to the waitress when she asks if anyone wants freshly ground pepper. Made in France, Peugeot is one of the best names in the pepper-grinding business. This model has easy-to-adjust settings to allow for all sorts of grinds (from fine to coarse), and a two-stage grinding process (the first step cracks the peppercorns and the second one grinds them) to result in the freshest and boldest flavor possible.


(Image credit: Amaozn)

4. Microplane Zester Grater, $13

The name Microplane has become synonymous with graters of all types because it really is the brand that matters the most. And this is one of their best, most important tools. It can turn hard cheeses into snow-like mountains, garlic into a paste, nutmeg into a powder, and more. Looking for a little host gift? Pair this with a wedge of Parm and you're all set.


(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Dish, from $50

Also made in France (seriously, why is all the best kitchen stuff made in France?), this baker diffuses and retains heat better than most. Because it can withstand temps up to 520°F, it can go in the broiler and directly from the fridge or freezer to a hot oven.


(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $15

Okay, maybe we take that French thing back ... our all-time favorite cast iron skillet is made in the good ol' US of A. It comes pre-seasoned, which means it can be used as soon it's unwrapped, it cooks better than any other cast iron skillet out there, and it only gets better as it's used over time.


(Image credit: Amazon)

7. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $20

The most ingenious measuring cups to have ever been invented, these are read from above instead of the side (although that is an option, too). This way, bakers can see how much they're pouring out while they're standing over the cup and they don't have to hunch over awkwardly. Get this set for anyone who bakes and maybe there will be some cookies in your future.


(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

8. Staub Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, from $160 at Williams Sonoma

One more French thing! We've always recommended Staub Dutch Ovens, but a few months ago, we got to take a trip to the factory to see how these babies get made and now we're even more enamored of them. So much work and care goes into each pot! (It takes about a week to make each pot and more than 20 workers play a part in every one!) So while the price is a tad high, we totally understand why. Plus, Staub really does have some of the best cooking results compared to other enameled cast iron pieces.


(Image credit: Amazon)

9. John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, $134

One of the things that separate beginner cooks from avid home cooks, we think, is their cutting board. Whereas, say, college students might be more likely to use a plastic one, serious home cooks have a substantial wooden cutting board that can sit out on the counter like a badge of honor. Get this 24- by 18-inch board for anyone who's hoping to feel more like an adult in 2019.


(Image credit: ThermoWorks)

10. ThermoPop, $34 at ThermoWorks

Nearly every professional chef will agree that a meat thermometer is one of the most crucial kitchen tools. And they'll almost always suggest the ThermoPop, too. Not only is it incredibly accurate, but it's also super responsive and easy to operate. Plus, it comes in nine fun colors, so you can make the gift feel a little more personal.


(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $27 for two

We can not say enough good things about these sheet pans. (So we're just going to keep writing about them.) They don't warp or discolor, and veggies roast just as well as chicken breasts on them. Chances are, the home cook in your life is annoyed by her sheet pans but she's never going to break down and buy herself some new ones. So that's where you come in.

Related: These Are Our Editors' Favorite Baking Sheets


(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Duralex Picardie Glasses, $20 for six

Maybe we should have retitled this gift guide All the Kitchen Things to Buy Your Francophile friends! These made-in-France glasses make the perfect juice, water, or wine glasses. Bonus: The price is right and they'll look great in any kind of kitchen.


(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

13. Goldtouch Nonstick 4-Piece Bakeware Set, $80 at Williams Sonoma

For the baker in your life, this Williams Sonoma set includes four of the most key pieces. The pieces are made of commercial-grade aluminized steel, which distributes heat quickly and evenly, and have a ceramic-based coating to ensure easy release every single time.


(Image credit: Amazon)

14. GIR 11-Inch Spatula, $13

It's hard to love a spatula (or any other inanimate object) more than we love this one. Unlike other spatulas, which have a scraper attached to a handle, the GIR is just one piece of silicone so there's no place for gunk to hide. It's perfectly bendy (read: not too bendy!) to scrape a bowl of every last bit of batter. And it comes in 13 bright colors. Gift it on its own or pair it with a cookbook or anything else on this list for a more substantial present.


(Image credit: Amazon)

15. Cuisinart 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $118

This small appliance consistently tops editors' lists of best slow cookers. (A few of us at Kitchn also have it and swear by it.) The Instant Pot may be super trendy, but this slow cooker has been a top seller for a while now. Translation: Your loved one will still want to use this even once America's moved on to the next new gadget.


Eastworks Holiday Pop-Up Store in it's Sixth Year!

Still need to do some holiday shopping? The Eastworks Holiday Shop in Easthampton will be open through December 31st. I've found lovely and affordable gifts, made by local Northampton area artisans, every time I've made time to visit this pop up store, now in it's 6th year. Conveniently located in the Eastworks Building in downtown Easthampton, it's well worth a visit, so put it on your pre-holiday to-do list!  More information in the Daily Hampshire Gazette article to follow. Happy Holidays one and all!

NORTHAMPTON — Now in its sixth year, the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store continues to provide the wares of local artisans to those searching for the perfect gift.

Meanwhile, a very different kind of “pop up store” has made a seemingly permanent home in Absolute Zero, selling penguin-themed merchandise — and nothing else.

Beth McElhiney founded the Eastworks Holiday Pop Up Store the year she moved to Easthampton, and into Eastworks, from Martha’s Vineyard.

“I live in the building,” said McElhiney, who said that it made running the pop up all the more convenient for her.

The store runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, although McElhiney said that she may extend its duration into the new year this time.

The shop only sells items from local craftspeople and sellers, most of which are made in Eastworks itself, although there are also vintage items for sale. All told, 26 artists are represented in the shop this year.

McElhiney said that customers are often surprised that the store is a pop up shop, given the quality of what is offered.

“People are pretty stunned,” she said.

This is not McElhiney’s first store, however. In addition to having once owned a store on Martha’s Vineyard, she operated a shop on Madison Avenue in New York City.

One of the artists represented at the shop is McElhiney herself, who makes and enamels new jewelry and resurfaces vintage metal tabletop pieces. The process that McElhiney uses not only resurfaces antique pieces with modern colors, but makes them suitable for serving food at all temperatures and dishwasher safe.

McElhiney’s only employee at the pop up, Carol Ostberg, is another artisan who sells her wares there, offering hand-painted furniture and ornaments. McElhiney’s boyfriend also helps out with big events.

McElhiney said that she intends to keep bringing back the pop up as long as she can find a space. 

“Maybe eventually,” she said, on the prospect of making the pop up a year-round affair.

Penguins and ice cream

Eric Bennett has been selling penguin-theme merchandise since 1984, thanks to a penguin-loving girlfriend and a fateful visit to Faneuil Hall shopping center.

Now Bennett, who moved his business online in 1999, has set up a small shop in Absolute Zero selling all things penguin.

“It’s one of these things where everybody’s a winner,” said Bennett.

While on a walk in September, Bennett asked Absolute Zero if he could set up the shop after he noticed that the business projects a spinning penguin onto the sidewalk at night.

“They should have penguins,” was Bennett’s opinion upon seeing the logo.

However, he noted that it took a few weeks to convince Absolute Zero of this.

“We’re an ice cream store, not a penguin store,” is what Bennett said he was initially told.

In the end, an agreement was made in which Bennett would stock shelves in the store with a variety of penguin items, including socks, plush penguins and toys. They can be purchased at the counter at Absolute Zero, which then receives a cut.

“At the end of the month, we settle up,” he said.

Bennett has two of each of 30 to 40 penguin items at the store.

“It’s like Noah’s Ark,” said Bennett.

On his website, however, Bennett offers around 500 different types of penguin-theme products. Indeed, running Penguin Gift Shop is his full-time business.

Bennett first got into the penguin business after visiting Faneuil Hall with a penguin-loving girlfriend, and getting the thought that the cutest store idea would be one dedicated to penguins. However, he decided that he wouldn’t be willing to move from New York City to Boston to do so.

Then the South Street Seaport opened in Manhattan and Bennett, fresh out of college, decided to open a penguin store there in 1985. In 1997 he set up a website to sell his products, becoming an early commercial user of the internet, and in 1999 he moved out of his space in the seaport, bringing his business entirely online.

He and his family moved to Northampton in 2009, and he said that he enjoys living in the city.

Bennett said that he likes having the shop in Absolute Zero.

“I haven’t really had a retail presence since 1999,” he said.

He also said that he wasn’t sure how the shop would shape up when he first started it, but that he has no intention of doing away with it now. Thus, even though he’s characterized it as a pop up shop, this all-penguin establishment appears to have popped itself into permanency.

Northampton Annual Toy Exchange Is Happening Next Weekend!

It's wonderful to live in a community like Northampton, which values the idea of repurposing. Between local clothing swaps, consignment stores, the re-center and local recycling events - we Northamptonites (and other local communities) like to do our part in the effort to reduce/reuse/recycle. This time of year where we celebrate our connections to one another, it's so great to be able to pass things along to others who might benefit from them. To that end - the Seventh Annual Toy Exchange is almost upon us! It will be held on December 9th at Smith Vocational High School, 80 Locust Street, Northampton. Toy donations will be collected in the school cafeteria from 4:00 PM-8:00 PM on Friday, December 8, and will be available to the public free of charge at 10:00 AM Saturday morning.

Do you have some toys to donate or exchange?

Northampton's Annual Holiday Toy Exchange is scheduled for Friday December 8 and Saturday December 9. Eight years ago a small event started at Nonotuck School where friends exchanged toys at holiday time, and has now grown into a city-wide event where hundreds of people contribute toys and other gifts. Hundreds of other people come to the Smith Vocational High School cafeteria to take home gifts for their children.

Here's the info if you'd like to donate something: 

Donated items must be clean, in working order and complete (no missing pieces). The following items are sought: musical instruments; action
figures/dolls; books, games & puzzles; model kits & building toys; arts/craft kits & creative learning toys; cars & trucks; outdoor toys &
structures; stuffed animals; electronic toys; video games & DVDs; and baby and preschool toys.
Collected toys are offered to toy donors and residents referred by community agencies early on Saturday morning and to the general public from 10:00 AM-11:00 AM. Participants are asked to leave children safely at home in the care of others on Saturday.
The Toy Exchange is coordinated by the Northampton Department of Public Works and the Reuse Committee and is co-sponsored by the Northampton Public Schools/CFCE via grants from the MA Department of Early Education.


Two More Local Events for Your Calendar! Northampton and Easthampton.

Tonight, December 9th, from 6:30 until late in the Ballroom at Eastworks in Easthampton - STRUT, "a flamboyant fashion spectacle" and a reboot of Easthampton's annual "Light Up the Arts" Holiday Party, and includes a fashion show, live performances, art installations, a dance party and silent auction. It sounds like it will be a fantastic way to ring in the holiday season! This event is an ECA (Easthampton City Arts) fundraiser.


East Works Sign


Tomorrow, December 8th from 4-9 pm. The Northampton 2016 Holiday Stroll hosted by the Downtown Northampton Association looks as if it's shaping up to be an exciting event. There will be performances, shopping, artwork to view and make, and food. Main Street will be CLOSED to cars and trucks during the event. So get your parking spot ahead of time and plan to dress warmly and be on foot. All municipal lots will be open and accessible. Check out the hot link above for full details. 

Northampton Holiday Stroll Lights


Holidays Sales in Northampton, MA


holiday banner

Well, it's that time of year again. If you haven't broken the bank on Black Friday through Cyber Monday (or #GivingTuesday) sales, here is a list of some Northampton area sales where local vendors sell their beautiful wares! Click on the links below for full details.

Cottage Street Studio Sale in Easthampton, MA this Friday (TODAY!), December 2nd

Pastiche @ Click Workspace  at Click Workspace in Northampton, MA on December 9th and 10th

Northampton Winter Craft Fair December 3rd and 4th at NHS - $4 admission supports Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hampshire County

Holiday Flea Market at the American Legion Hall in Florence, MA on December 3rd, 9-2 pm 

Rebecca Rose STUDIO SALE - 112 Beacon Street, Florence MA

Dec.9th- 6:00 - 9:00; Dec. 10th - 10:00 - 1:00; Dec. 11th - 10:00 - 1:00








Pioneer Valley Fourth of July Fireworks Schedule

Happy Independence Day weekend! In case you missed the annual Northampton Family Fourth Celebration on June 25th, we wanted to give you a chance to catch some fireworks this holiday weekend. To follow is a list of Fourth of July celebration venues throughout the Commonwealth. Luckily, there are a number of places to enjoy fireworks in the Northampton area so you won't have to travel far!

We at Maple and Main Realty, wish you a safe, enjoyable and relaxing holiday weekend!

This schedule was reprinted from

By Ray Kelly | 

Massachusetts skies will be lit in celebration of Independence Day with fireworks displays in the days before and following the Fourth of July.

Here are some of the more notable planned pyrotechnic displays:

Friday, July 1

Auburn – Pappas Recreation Complex, dusk (Rain date, July 2)

Mashpee – Mashpee High School , dusk 

Northbridge  Northbridge Middle School, 9:15 p.m.

Taunton  Hamilton Street, 9 p.m.

Webster – Memorial Beach, 9 p.m.

Saturday, July 2

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Greenfield – Beacon Field, dusk  (Rain date: July 3)

Halifax - Halifax Elementary School, dusk

Westfield – South Middle School, dusk

Worcester – Cristoforo Colombus Park, 9:30 p.m.


Sunday, July 3

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Andover – Andover High School, dusk

Attleboro – Cyril Brennan Middle School, 9:20 p.m.

East Longmeadow  East Longmeadow High School, 10 p.m.

Gloucester  Stage Fort Park, 9 p.m.

Haverhill  Riverside Park, 9:15 p.m.

Lynn  Red Rock Park, 9:15  p.m. (Rain date: July 6)

Milford  Memorial Park, dusk  

Millbury  Windle Field, 9:45 p.m.

Nantucket  Jetties Beach, dusk

Needham  Needham High School/ Memorial Park, 9:30 p.m.

Randolph – Randolph High School, dusk

South Hadley – Michael E. Smith Middle School, dusk (Rain date, July 5)

Monday, July 4

Agawam – Six Flags New England, dusk

Amherst  McGuirk Stadium, 9:30 p.m.

Barnstable – Lewis Bay, dusk

Boston – DCR Esplanade, 10:30 p.m.

Bridgewater – Legion Field, 9:30 p.m.

Edgartown – Harbor, dusk

Falmouth – Falmouth Heights Beach, dusk

Lowell – LeLacheur Park, 9 p.m. (Rain date, July 5)

Marblehead  Marblehead Harbor, 9 p.m.

Middleborough – Pierce Playground, dusk

Millbury  Windle Field, 9:45 p.m. (Rain date: July 5)

New Bedford  State Pier, 9 p.m.

Newton  Albemarle Road, dusk (Rain date, July 5)

North Adams – Joe Wolfe Field, 9:30 p.m.

Pittsfield – Wahconah Park, dusk

Provincetown - Provincetown Harbor, dusk

Springfield – Memorial Bridge, 9:30 p.m.

Waltham  Leary Field, 9:30 p.m.

Friday, July 8

Pittsfield – Wahconah Park, dusk

Sunday, July 10

Enfield, Conn. – Town Green, 9:45 p.m.

Past events:




How To Keep Holiday Spending Under Wraps (wink, wink)

Over lunch with my husband today, I subtly mentioned to him that the credit card bill next month might be a bit higher than usual. Instead of being disgruntled, the way he can be when I don't forewarn him of such things, he said "thank you for letting me know". I was glad to have gotten that piece of news off of my chest, but I am still feeling a bit anxious about the spending that I have done, and inevitably do this time of year. I came home to a text from my sister saying "I'm scared of what my credit card bill will look like for this month!". 'Tis the season.

Living in Northampton, MA, there are so many wonderful sales at open studios of local artists and artisans this time of year, as well as home-based sales, and the generally great stuff you can find at our array of local shops. Add to that the overall charm of our New England city, all dressed up in her holiday finest - it's hard to resist the urge to shop til you drop, as the saying goes.

I came across this article a week ago. one my go-to blog site, Apartment Therapy, with some sound advice about how to stay on top of spending over the holidays. Read on!


How to Avoid a Major Financial Hangover After The Holidays

by Dabne Frake

It’s not too late to ensure you make it through the holidays without going into serious debt. Even if you waded through the 5am crowds on Black Friday, the gift-buying season is in full swing, with plenty of time to say to yourself, “Oh, I just know Dabney would love that [insert item here]. I should just get it for her.” While I appreciate the thought, I’d much rather see you be free and clear of financial worry and set yourself up for budget-happy 2016.

1. Set a Budget
If you already budget, you’re probably in good shape. You know how much you have to spend this month and have planned for it. For the rest of you, take a minute to look at your bank accounts and figure out how much you have that can go towards gifts. And then stick to it.

2. Pay With Cash
Resist the urge to whip out your credit card at checkout register. Using cash makes you more aware of what you’re spending. And if you don’t have the cash on hand, then you can’t buy whatever it is you have your eye on.

3. Use Up Those Gift Cards
If you tend to accumulate gift cards, this is a good way to use them. They might come from actual presents you’ve been given, but we often get free gift cards as rewards for other purchases. Shop throughout the year using these bonus windfalls, and you'll have less to buy in December.

4. Don’t Buy For Absolutely Everyone.... or Yourself
A lot of overspending comes from getting everyone you know a little something, along with splurging on yourself whenever you come across a good deal. Pare down your holiday gift list by focusing on those people you care about the most, and leave off all those random people with whom you don't have a real connection. (Note: By this I don't mean you shouldn't buy gifts through programs like Toys for Tots....)

5. Start Saving for Next Christmas…Now
Set up an automatic savings account (Like Capital One 360) and have $10 slide out of your account every week and into a safe place where you won’t think about it our touch it for another twelve months. By next December, you’ll have roughly $500 to put towards presents.

6. Regift
This might be controversial, but sometimes it just makes sense. If you are gifted things you have no use for, pass them on to others who you might be genuinely happy to get them. Doing so reduces clutter in your own household, and saves you from having to buy more gifts. If you're unsure, check out our guide to regifting, and see what others had to say in the comments.

7. Make Your Gifts
Homemade gifts are way to make the holidays meaningful, and ease pressure on the wallet. Start with our Homemade Holidays gift ideas, and get to making!

(Image credits: Ashley Poskin)


Tipping During the Holidays

We recently got a dog - a 1 one-year-old mixed breed rescue dog from Tennessee.  It feels like "52 pick up" a lot of the time, and I feel so grateful to the people who have helped me with the transition to dog ownership - most especially, the people I pay to help her work out her puppy energy, and learn some doggie manners.  This time of year, I always make sure to tip the people who help make my life run more smoothly - such as our dog walkers and our wonderful house cleaner.  Before we moved from NYC to Northampton, it felt as if we relied on a myriad of people to help make hectic city-living feel easier, and we made sure to tip those people come holiday time.  I would say the list is smaller, living here in the Pioneer Valley, but there are certainly any number of people whom we want to be sure to thank at this time of year.  To that end, I came across this piece on the Apartment Therapy blog about holiday tipping. 


A Real Life Holiday Tipping Guide for the Rest of Us


When I was a teenager, I was mystified by the holiday tipping guides in magazines: do all grownups have a hairdresser/dogwalker/doorman, and fret annually about how much/whether to tip them? Growing up- nd 14 years in customer service- has taught me that it doesn't have to be so fraught...

1a. Tip whoever you want.

1b. Think about who made your life better this year, and tip them. 
The barista who starts making your usual when she sees you cross the street and hands it to you as soon as you walk up to the counter. The library clerk who spent 45 minutes teaching you how to use email. The daycare worker who really seems to get your kid. The hairdresser who comforted you through a breakup. The friendly, efficient bus driver who drives so smoothly on your morning commute.

2a. Tip however much you want/can afford...

2b. ...But perhaps consider the recipient's income level.
The library clerk probably makes minimum wage, and there's a good chance the barista does, too, while the hairdresser at a swanky salon might make big bucks. Tip whatever you want, but don't bow to the perverse pressure to give higher tips to people who make more money/work at fancier places.

3. A tiny treat can do the trick. 
Cash is great, and always helpful, but a little thoughtful something can make such a difference in someone's day. During insane holiday seasons at a bakery and a candy shop, customers dropped off bottles of wine for us to enjoy once our loooooong shifts were over. So fun! Cards are incredibly meaningful, and dollar store chocolate can provide exactly the burst of goodwill needed to get through the rest of the day.

4. Did they sacrifice their holiday so yours could be better? Tip.
If you're thrilled and grateful that your favorite coffee shop or restaurant or museum is open on a holiday, consider expressing that gratitude to the employees. Chances are, working on that holiday is mandatory, they're probably missing out on celebrating with their family and friends, and they're probably not being paid any special overtime. A verbal 'thank you' is lovely, as is cash.

5. Good cheer is the greatest gift of all. 
Working a 12-hour shift with no breaks? Fine. Missing all of the holiday festivities? That's okay. No holiday pay? No problem. Getting yelled at because the store you work for is out of Cabbage Patch Dolls/yule logs/wreaths on Christmas Eve? So, so terrible. I have had profanities yelled at me because the shop I worked for closed at 3pm on Christmas eve (information that had been readily available for weeks) and those few minutes broke my heart. I'm missing seeing my grandparents for this? I know that all of you are kind, civilized, and delightful, but remember that some of the people in line with you are not. An extra smile or friendly greeting goes along way towards erasing the damage done by jerks. Cash helps, too.

6. Don't worry about doing it wrong.
Every holiday tip, treat, and thanks, no matter how large or small, meant so, so much to me. Knowing that a customer or patron had gone out of their way to sign a card, or bring us a box of candy, or give an extra dollar warmed my heart to no end. Thank you, and happy holidays!

(Image credits: Natalie Grasso)



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Shut Your Pie-Hole!

I love that line.  I love Robert DeNiro, and even though I hated his character in 'This Boy's Life', that line has stuck in my brain for many years and won't go away.  Anyhoo, as I was elipting* at the Y the other day, it came to me that what I want to write about this week is how to get through the holiday season without overdoing it.  I realize that this topic has little, if anything, to do with real estate in Northampton MA.  But it does relate to entertaining and to the holidays.  So let me put my nutritionist hat back on for a second and say a little something about moderation.

Before I was a realtor, I was a nutritionist in private practice for 10 years.  Even though I have switched gears, professionally speaking, I still believe in, and try to live by, the notion of "everything in moderation".  With Thanksgiving/Chanukah behind us, and Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, New Year's Eve, Boxing Day (and other other important holidays that I might not be remembering) before us - many of us have at least a couple of holiday functions to attend in the coming weeks.  Aside from that, anyone who works in an office generally has to navigate the mounds of chocolates, cookies, cakes and candy that tend to show up this time of year.  In addition, it's getting colder outside, so we New Englanders tend to spend a lot of time inside vs. outside, and inert vs. active.  With all of these factors in mind, here is my list of suggestions to enjoy the holidays without overdoing it.

1.  Plan Ahead!  Have an idea of how many nibbles and drinks you are going to allow yourself before you get to a party.  2 pigs in a blanket, 2 crackers with cheese, 1 small slice of pie, 2 glasses of wine, etc.  The same can be said for the office - if you really want a chocolate, have one... just don't have 3.

2.  Never show up excessively hungry!!  If your event is in the evening, make sure to eat a sensible lunch and breakfast that day.  Even a late afternoon snack will help stave off the desire to scarf down everything in sight upon arrival.  Again, the same applies to the office.  Make sure to eat real meals so that you aren't scavenging for cookies and chocolate in place of food.

3.  Always put your food on a plate!  This will both give you context about how much you are eating, may allow you to eat slower, and help discourage you from filling your plate multiple times.  If you find yourself doing so, refer back to item #1.

4.  Plant yourself far away from the food table.  If the party is crowded, it will be harder to get there (once you have had something to eat, of course)

5.  Try to stay away from the "all or nothing" mind set.  "Well, I really screwed up already so I might as well have at it.  I'll pull things together after the holidays".  This type of thinking is what leads to unwanted weight gain.  Even if you overdo it on one occasion, that does not negate more positive eating behavior before and after the event.

6.  Don't drink *too* much (again, refer back to #1).  Drinking lowers inhibitions and will make it harder to makes good choices.

7.  Try to stick to your exercise regimen (if you have one) during the holidays.  Hiking, skiing, sledding (if there is snow), even walking can take the place of the gym if you can't get there.

Those are my words of wisdom for the day.  Happy Holidays!

*I must give credit to the creation of this semi-newly minted verb to my dear friend Katy Schneider - artist, musician, chef and humorist.

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas...

Ok, not really.  But a thought had occurred to me.  Having grown up with a mish-mosh of holiday celebrations around this time of year, when November rolls around I do tend to start thinking about how to balance my husband's discomfort with decorating the house for the holidays with my children's deep desire to do so.  It's not that he's a scrooge - it's just that he was raised in an observant Jewish household wherein Christmas was just another day.  I was raised by atheists who embraced the spirit of the holiday, if not the religious messages that are supposed to go along with it.  My father's family always has a giant, decorated Christmas tree, stockings on the mantle, etc.  My mother and stepfather ran a school that we all attended, and every year "Santa" would come to the school for the holiday party to give out presents and sing holiday songs with us.  I'm pretty sure that my nuclear family (Mom, Stepdad, sibs) exchanged gifts on Chanukah, vs. Christmas - but I faithfully traveled to see my father and his family every Christmas.  And every Christmas eve, my small home town would welcome "Santa" on a different mode of transport to the village green (horse, fire truck, space ship, etc) - where he would disburse stockings filled with fruit and candy to all of the children who awaited his arrival.  It is still an event that the kids and I look forward to each year.

The year after I graduated college, my best friend and moved to Vail, Colorado for the year.  It was a stupendous experience in many ways.  We were living in crappy Vail Employee Housing, selling lift tickets and such, working in restaurants, skiing on our days off, etc.  It was super fun and one of the most beautiful parts of the world in which I've ever had the pleasure to spend time.  Just in time for Christmas that year, some friends and I went 4-wheeling into the woods to chop down a pine tree (if memory serves, this was actually legal.  I think we paid a small fee to do this and were sent to some specific wooded area to find our Christmas tree).  It was such a wintry, snowy, Colorado adventure!  However, I now live with a staunch environmentalist, so even if Christmas were a holiday that we celebrated as a family, I'm sure I'd have to come up with a green alternative to chopping down a tree every year.  We make do with a string or two of blue and white Chanukah lights on the mantle as it is -- but this has got me thinking!

Back when I was a kid it was certainly frowned upon to have a fake tree vs. a real tree.  I guess it seemed tacky to me at the time.  Here in Northampton, a friend of mine who is a fantastic craftsperson and graphic designer hauls out a sparkly white reusable Christmas tree every year - and decorates it tastefully and beautifully.  No mess, no hassle of hauling a big tree home, and no concern over how to dispose of it after the fact.  It turns out, there are many interesting and beautiful alternatives available out there, thanks to sites like Etsy - and to the internet in general.  Feast your eyes:
















This is only a small sampling of the many interesting options available out there in cyberspace.  Ok, so they aren't green and they don't have that lovely pine needle smell -- but you have to admit they are cool looking!

Happy tree shopping and decorating everybody!




  1. Peggy on

    I loved this blog. Thank you for sharing such fond memories. It's OK to dream of a green Christmas. We have had them before. I know mine will be green as I will be in MS! Peggy