Solving the Hard-to-Shop-For-Mother Quandary: A Little Macaroni and a lot of Inner Child

“Remember when you used to make me cards and presents for Christmas?”

I should never have made her that scrap-wood jewelery box when I was 8 -- I set the bar too high.

My mother, my wing-woman, is an Italian-Irish Catholic Canadian, but I swear, she’s got that New York City Jewish Mother knack for instilling a stomach-churning sense of guilt.

“I always liked it when you made me cards and presents for Christmas.”

She said this to me one December 22nd as she drove me home from college. I had just grumbled something inaudible about being behind on my gift-buying. Not 30 minutes had passed since I was freed from the relentless push of the semester’s end and I was worn out from two weeks of exams and term papers. There had been no time to eat and sleep let alone tackle the NYC holiday shopping crowds. Not surprisingly, I was in that typical student mode of pure selfishness. Forget holiday shopping and bow making. Forget fa la la la laaaing and joy to the world. I was going to sleep for the next 24 hours… some one else could deck the halls.

My mother, like all mothers, is a notoriously bad person to draw in Secret Santa. Shopping for her Christmas gifts makes me sweat, ties knots in my stomach, and often causes hyperventilation — I started carrying a brown paper bag with me when I hit the mall in Santa mode. Yet, once upon a time, all I had to give her for Christmas was a glittered construction paper and doily card gingerly assembled during afternoon craft hour.

Mum had made a good point (one I’m not entirely sure she meant to make) — homemade presents are not only more thoughtful, they’re also easier: standards are lower.

A summer vacation scrapbook? Who doesn't love a sentimental photo album, witfully assembled?

At home, bedraggled but eager to please, I rummaged through drawers and bins on a hunt for stowed-away crafting supplies. I should never have made her that scrap-wood jewelery box when I was 8 — I had set the resourceful bar high. Many years later, the only materials at my disposal were faded construction paper, colored string, and macaroni.

“You’re an art student,” my father, who escapes the thinking/shopping challenge through gift certificates, said encouragingly. “Surely, you can come up with something.”

“Dad, it’s Art History. I don’t make stuff. I analyze stuff other people make.”

Sitting on my living room floor, in front of the fire, I consulted my creative side and got to work. A humorous scrapbook from our summer vacation? Who doesn’t love a sentimental photo collage?

A construction paper collage card? It would be just like kindergarten. Half the fun of Christmas is rekindling your inner child, isn’t it?

But the piece de resistance of that Christmas? The pasta necklace.

Despite its aesthetic qualities and the diligence with which it was crafted, like many a Christmas present past, it never got any use. But my mother’s hearty laugh and big hug upon opening it said it all: this time, it really was the thought that counted.


A construction paper card and macaroni necklace made by a 20-year old college student. Without a doubt, it was the thought that counted.

What Halloween Revealed about My Sense of Fashion

If you've ever seen me first thing in the AM, you know I don't need a costume to look a fright

Some girls dress up as wenches or sexy police officers for Halloween. I have a personal aversion to skin-tight fake patent leather and catching pneumonia, so I tend to refrain from these options. Other girls opt for ghouls, hags, or witches. If you’ve ever seen me first thing in the morning, you know I don’t need a costume to look a total fright.

When I awoke last Saturday morning, I faced the pressing need to settle on a costume for a friend’s Halloween party. In my right hand I held the riding helmet that I wore in my equestrian days, in my left, a genuine pith helmet, on my bed sat a vintage straw cloche, a stetson, and a wide-brimmed embellished velvet hat. There was a costume to match each accessory… the question was  is it a “Puss in Boots” or a “Dr. Livingston” sort of Halloween?

Whenever there was a skit or film project in grade school, I was the girl everybody wanted on their team. It wasn’t just because I was a control freak who was happy to do the majority of the work if it ensured an A+. It was because I could always costume the cast. Outfit 5 for a Wild  West adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello?” No problem. How about a French perfume “commercial” set in the 1920s? Done. For me, Halloween has always been about taking on a new persona. Recently, it’s been about exploiting the eclectic contents of my wardrobe. How many western shirts does one New York gal really need?

For me, Halloween has always been about taking on a new persona... not about skin-tight, plunging necklines

Even in my adult years, my wardrobe remains one deep costume bin.  My closet is a varied but edited mix of styles and epochs — the product of a decade of smart buying and self-defining. “You have your own look,” Mara said to me as we walked through the East Village (on a night sans costumes). She’s a good, straight-shooting friend who has known me since the 4th grade. “It’s not ‘trendy’ or off the rack. It’s fashionable and totally you.”

Apparently, it’s also very Halloween appropriate.

A few days after the bewitching All Hallows Eve, I rummaged through my closet in search of an outfit to take me through a hurried city day with some friends and settled on something easy and layered.

“Going to a belated Halloween party?” Jessie asked as I gave her a hug.


“Isn’t that what you wore to Brian’s Halloween thing last Saturday?”

Okay, she might have been mostly right… but who says the whimsy only has to come out for costumes?


From Dr. Livingston to City Girl in Motion...

Another Reason to Love Sundays

We race through Mondays to Tuesdays, onto Wednesdays through Thursdays, from Fridays into Saturdays holding a venti, extra-shot, non-fat latte in one hand and a smartphone in the other. Ah, thank heavens for Sundays! For on Sundays, we get to meander through the day holding an iced mocha in one hand and our sweetheart’s hand in the other.

a sweet Sunday at MoMA