Issue #16: The Care That Binds Us
My Village, 5-Star Reads, and the Celebration of Joy 🤍
I grew up in Wisconsin, where three things are particularly sacred: Cheese Curds (I miss you, Champs), Beer (I miss you, Spotted Cow), and Family.
Whenever I hear the phrase, “It takes a village,” I think of my own. Summers were spent with my extended family at a campground where my grandpa and two of my aunts each owned cottages on the same dead-end. I’d walk across the street to my aunt’s front porch with the morning dew seeping through my flip-flops and sit with my great-grandma as she did her makeup. I’d beg my grandpa for rides on the golf cart to the candy store, where I indulged in Push Pops, big chewy sweet tarts, and maybe a pack of “Bang” poppers. I remember rainy days spent in my other aunt’s RV watching Gidget and coming home from a day at the lake to my Grandma Sue lying out a spread fit for an army for lunch. On Sunday, we’d often all caravan back to our town, where we’d stop halfway for a big breakfast at the same spot every time.
Our village was always there to babysit, swing by unexpectedly with little treats, celebrate birthdays with a backyard grill out, help move; you name it. It should be no surprise by this point that our holidays were large. I was blessed with a big family, and our celebrations were always full of laughter, kids running around, and enough food to feed our family, whoever got invited at the last minute, and probably the whole block.
I’m not just writing this out to reminisce, though doing so is a treat and makes me feel extraordinarily grateful as I sip my coffee this morning, but to paint a picture of why I’ve grown to love cooking, having a house full of people, and entertaining, and how the holidays living far from family can be bittersweet.
Each year, I aim to make holidays special, even if it’s just Aaron and me. We usually visit Arizona for Christmas (where both of our immediate families now live). Still, we also celebrate a “just us” Christmas where I make the same breakfast every year — Julia Child’s egg benedict — and I set out all of the Spode Christmas dishware I’ve collected.
This Thanksgiving, I followed in my grandma’s footsteps and made a feast for our little family — cranberry crisp, honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, and so on. I took the subway an hour round trip to grab mini pumpkin cheesecakes from Eileen’s, set out napkin rings that reminded me of our first-anniversary trip, and sugars that we collected on our honeymoon for our morning coffees. We talked about what we were grateful for and met a man on our walk who shared about his time in Greece and his beloved old dog.
I had one of my best friends come for dinner a few weeks back, and she commented on how I had done everything up. I had lit the tapered candles, picked up enough appetizers for a group of five, and set out the cloth napkins for our ham + cheese sandwiches. I told her that everyone says your true friends don’t need cleaning up for, the wine can be drunk out of old college mugs, and the laundry can be tossed in the corner, and I believe that to be very true. But I also reminded her that this form of hosting, this form of taking someone in my space + making a seemingly ordinary night into something elevated, is my form of love.
How can it not be when I have a grandma who sets out silverware with flowers engraved for lunch, and aunts + cousins who took us to the dollar store on a random Thursday to shop for Christmas gifts, and a dad who left out a special shirt I had been wanting “just because” on my bed in seventh grade, and uncles who took turns dressing up as Santa on Christmas Eve every year, and a mom who hand painted glitter clouds on the walls of our childhood bedroom, and sisters who host Taylor Swift album release parties + decorate to the nines each time?
I miss having my village close by, but what a gift it was to have their form of care embedded into me, so with every eggs benedict and vinyl spinning on the record player, and conversation I have with a stranger, there’s love.
To taking the good we’ve cultivated from others + sharing it this holiday season,
Family photo taken at my grandparent’s 25th wedding anniversary.
A special “hi-hello-I love you” to four beloved readers — my “GlamParents” Grandma Sue + Grandpa Tom, Aunt Susie, and Aunt Sally. I hope to spread your love + care to everyone I meet. Xx
Prepping Dinner & Enjoying // Thanksgiving Morning // A 90’s Christmas Eve // The Day Before Hosting Thanksgiving for Friends
Two 5-Star Reads
After a dry spell of just “so-so” books, I read two 5-star reads in one week! One of the best parts? They’re both debut authors.
❄️Talking At Night by Claire Daverly: Rosie and Will aren’t two people you’d expect to see together, but something magnetic can’t stop them from finding their way back to each other. Talking At Night can be found in the romance section, but to pigeonhole it down to another beach read would be to discredit the gravity of emotions you’ll feel while swallowing this book whole. This book is about love, yes, but it’s also about family, the intricacies of human experiences, and the weight we carry that few know anything about.
🎄The Christmas Orphans Club by Becca Freeman: I went to four (yes, four!) different bookstores before I finally tracked this one down, and it was well worth the wait. In fact, I read it in one day. This story follows a group of best friends who celebrate Christmas together over the span of ten years. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and also refreshing. Freeman chooses to write about chosen family and the evolution into adulthood in a way that’s lighthearted enough for a cozy afternoon of reading by the fire but significant enough for you to think about it long after the last page has turned.
For those of us in the Western Hemisphere, the months of early sunsets have arrived. The air is nippier, the black sheet of night is enveloping us by dinner time, and, often, we’re up before the sun.
Here are some things I do to help with the transition:
🏃🏼♀️Movement is key. I move my body every day. As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, the dopamine released from exercise is real! I love ClassPass for finding exercise classes in my area, and I only choose options I know I’ll enjoy; usually pilates, weights, or yoga. On days I don’t have a class (which are many!) I still aim to take at least one long walk to get fresh air and some indirect sunlight in my eyes for Vitamin D + melatonin production.
👗 For the love of God, get ready. I know I am not one to talk — I spent the majority of my winter last year in sweats and merch sweatshirts, but hear me out. You don’t have to get dressed like you’re up for your high school’s best-dressed award (did anyone else wear straight-up stilettos to geometry?), but, at least for me, it’s imperative to my sense of well-being. I believe that when you feel confident in how you look, it bleeds into other areas of your life, and you’ll perform better throughout the day. Also, you don’t want to feel like shit about yourself each time you look in the bathroom mirror + wish you took 5 minutes to brush your hair that morning. Sorry, but that’s the truth!
🕯️ Embrace hygge. Hygge is a concept hailing from Denmark that emphasizes the importance of coziness and the significance of embracing life’s simple pleasures. As one of the happiest countries on Earth and one that experiences notorious long winter nights, I think they’re on to something. Personally, I get excited for this concept to make its debut each year in our household! I choose new candles, Aaron strings up extra holiday lights, I invite friends over to dinner, prepare large batch soups, and take my big fluffy blankets out of storage. Don’t forget a good book, movie, or board game to snuggle up with, too!
It’s Hygge Time
Some things that add hygge to my life…
I am constantly bookmarking pages in this Recipes of Record NYT Cookbook // White or Cream Tapered Candles // Aaron and I love to dive into these at least once a week NYT Crossword Puzzle Book // Velvet Cheetah Print Gloves // Enamel Dutch Oven // Vintage Swedish Candelabra // My MIL introduced this card game to me last year + I’m hooked Five Crowns Card Game // The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store // This year I refuse to be cold on my walks Ultra Warm Long Coat // Something I think Nordic countries do so well is bring color into their living spaces Honey Gingham Sheets // Cashmere Blend Trouser Socks // I have these all over our house LED Tea Light Candles // I’m a big fan of collages + these add to them John Derian Sticker Book // Soup season could not exist without it Immersion Blender