A Timeless Gift Idea (Really)

Three years ago, a writer for Better Homes & Gardens magazine was kind enough to call and interview me about my top gift recommendations for the season.

I told her about the "Sewell Family Yearbook" that I had created for the last five years.  Below is the cover of that December issue and clip of that article.  Three years later, this continues to be the gift we make for Scott's family every Christmas!  (Honestly, I don't think anyone would let us stop doing this - not that we would ever want to).

More details here about how this came about and how you can put one together.  There's still plenty of time to get this done.  Even though it can take a bit of time to gather and organize the photos, it is so worth doing.  It lets us relive memories from throughout the year as we put it together - and then enjoy reviewing the entire year with family at Christmas as we sit around the tree.

Thanksgiving Countdown: Cornbread Stuffing with Ham

This year, Scott and I are hosting two Thanksgiving dinners.  The first is actually next weekend, when a whole bunch of Sewell's are coming to New York.  Then, on the holiday itself, we will host friends who have joined us for Thanksgiving dinner the last five or six years.

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so I am super-excited about getting to do two menus!  Over the next two weeks, I'm sharing a few holiday prep ideas I'm chatting about on TV shows this month.  Last week, I posted my mother-in-law's breakfast casserole recipe that is the staple of our family gatherings.  Today, I am sharing a yummy recipe for Cornbread Stuffing with Ham - or, if you're from my neck of the woods, Cornbread Dressing. 

I shared this recipe for Smithfield on a TV segment this week in Nashville.  Whatever you call it, it's savory, yummy, and has that perfect crispy crunchy top.  


The only thing I'd add to this recipe?  A note to make an extra pan if you're hosting a crowd.  After all, it's not Thanksgiving unless you have leftovers, and stuffing/dressing is at the top of my list to enjoy the next day.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers?

On-the-Air: Los Angeles

I hate throwing things away.  Tossing things that are brand new or in perfectly good shape just isn't my thing.  It always seems kind of wasteful, and I would much rather pass them along to someone who can use them or - very frequently - donate them to one of the numerous charity thrift shops that populate our Upper East Side neighborhood. 

What to do with extra stuff seems to be an issue at the beginning of year when tackling that annual resolution to "get organized" or figuring out to do with a gift you received that isn't your style.  Maybe you received a perfectly good holiday candle or bath set for the holidays that isn't quite your taste.  Or a gift card to a place you'd never shop  - but it just happens to be your sister-in-law's favorite store.

If you're thinking about passing along any of these items - or wrapping them up for the next gifting occasion - I shared a few "rules for regifting" with my friends at CBS Los Angeles on my final TV segment of the holiday season. Even though this aired a couple of days before Christmas, it might give you a few ideas for what to do with any duplicate items, gifts you cannot use - or brand new things you unearth when cleaning out your closet. 

Confession:  I may have regifted a few items last month - but I told the recipients (members of my family) exactly where they came from.  So - as I discuss in this segment - you don't necessarily need to be secretive about it.  It's hard to go wrong when passing along something that truly suits the interests and style of the recipient.   

More on regifting etiquette here - or check out the full segment below.

Christmas Movie Marathon

I can - and do - watch Christmas movies year-round.  

Once November arrives, however, said films are in constant rotation on TV (thank you, Hallmark Channel!).  So - in addition to popping up on our Netflix and Amazon Prime pages - they fill up our DVR until I get a chance to watch them.

Here are a few of my favorites - which I may or may not have already caught more than once this season:

"The Holiday" - All I want for Christmas is Kate Winslet's cottage.  Happily, its presence on American Airlines' entertainment system this month fulfilled my obsession with watching it multiple times during the holiday season.

"Love Actually" - Christmas Is All Around...and I love it!  This movie is also all around my iPad.  I like to watch it while working out in hotel gyms, as it makes the time fly by.

"Disney's A Christmas Carol" - The Jim Carrey version is the best.  Dickensian London never looked so good.

"Christmas Vacation" - I haven't gotten to watch it yet this year, but can always count on my husband and his siblings to work quotes from this movie into pretty much any conversation around the breakfast table at Christmas.

"Desk Set" - It's not necessarily a holiday movie, but much of this delightful 1957 Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film is set during the holiday season. 

"The Preacher's Wife" - Beautiful movie with amazing gospel music.

Finally, not listed here, because the lengthy list merits its own separate blog post: a ridiculous number of Hallmark and Lifetime movies - especially cheesy, modernized versions of "A Christmas Carol" featuring female Scrooge characters portrayed by everyone from Susan Lucci to Tori Spelling.

Okay - your turn to chime in.  What are your holiday favorites? 

Christmas in NYC: Holiday Windows

Growing up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, we had exactly one holiday store window to visit each Christmas.

Every year on Thanksgiving night, after the turkey had been eaten, Mom's homemade rolls devoured and - most important - the Christmas tree was up, we piled into the car and headed downtown to Hutson's Furniture on Main Street.  I looked forward to seeing their holiday displays so much, and get a bit nostalgic just thinking about it. (Happily, I hear that the store windows are still going strong all these years later!)

Not surprisingly, one of the things I love about living in New York during the holidays is taking in all of the gorgeous Christmas windows in department stores.

Most windows are revealed - to much media fanfare - about a week before Thanksgiving.  In past years, Scott and I might get up early on Thanksgiving, grab a Starbucks, and hit the empty city streets by 6 a.m. to stroll and enjoy.

This year, since we were working that weekend - followed by me traveling the week after Thanksgiving - we had to wait until the following Saturday morning for our annual adventure.

We bundled up, headed down to 34th Street, and started at Macy's - which decorates windows on both the 34th Street and Broadway sides of the store (check out the videos at right and below).

All videos below were taken by Scott, who is a much better photographer than I am.  (Being eight inches taller than me, he also has a serious height advantage when taking photos in crowds.)

Then, we headed east over to Fifth Avenue, and up to 39th Street to Lord & Taylor.

In my opinion - with all of the holiday greenery and thousands of tiny clear lights covering the scaffolding along Fifth Avenue - they win the award for "best use of construction scaffolding" in their holiday design.  At right - take a walk through the the Lord & Taylor windows.

Next, we continued up Fifth Avenue to 49th Street to check out the scene at Rockefeller Center.  During the holidays, Rock Center is usually wall-to-wall people from mid-morning until well past midnight - but at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning, there was plenty of room to move (and even snag a few pics beneath that famous tree).

Finally, it was across Fifth Avenue to the "Land of 1000 Delights" at Saks - and their own interpretation of               The Nutcracker "Sweet."

Before the clock struck 9 a.m., it was time to scurry back uptown and grab breakfast at one of our neighborhood diners before the rest of the camera-wielding crowds arrived in Midtown.

Christmas trees, light displays, holiday windows - what are your favorite holiday traditions?