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Holiday Cheers

December 22, 2012   

Sarah on the Radio

Yesterday, I went to the studios of Wisconsin Public Radio and interviewed with some producers from NPR in Washington D.C. for a segment on All Things Considered. I was so excited and nervous that the interview didn’t go anything like I had imagined or hoped. But hopefully they got enough useable content for their piece, which will air on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.

It all came about when I heard a request for stories about food that people eat on Christmas. “I have to do this!” I thought. Our family Christmas is steeped in all kinds of traditions, though not many of them involve food… unless you count a 7-layer taco dip. So I decided to write about the holiday drink that my family has been serving for 29 years. Here is the essay I submitted:

My Favorite Christmas … Drink

My favorite culinary Christmas tradition isn’t actually food… it’s a drink. Whenever the family gathered at our house for Christmas, the dinner was always different. But there was one thing you could count on. As the adults were sitting and chatting, my dad would bring out a tray of “Holiday Harveys.” It seems like we may be the only family who still knows of this drink, since Google came up surprisingly empty when I searched for “Holiday Harvey.” Not a single hit!

A Holiday Harvey is based on the “Harvey Wallbanger,” a drink made with orange juice, a shot of vodka, and a splash of Galliano liqueur on top. My mom found the recipe in a 1983 issue of Good Housekeeping, and we still have the clipping today. The Holiday Harvey uses Five Alive instead of orange juice for a brighter citrus taste. Though, the original recipe called for “Squeeze Six,” a citrus juice drink that no longer exists.

But more important than the drink itself were the tall, lime-green frosted Blendo tumblers that they were served in. Our whole family has a sentimental attachment to those green “Holiday Harvey” glasses. The tray my dad carried glowed like the northern lights. Unfortunately, over the years, their numbers diminished and we had to use other serving ware. But a Holiday Harvey never tastes quite as good, at least to us, as one served in a tall lime-green glass.

As a child, I was, of course, not allowed to partake. But as my cousins and siblings and I grew older, getting handed a Holiday Harvey of our own was like an initiation to adulthood. With time, as our family grew, we introduced this drink to significant others and spouses. While some were skeptical at first, everyone came to look forward to their Holiday Harvey at Christmas.

Holiday Harvey GlassesI remember one year my dad interrupted the conversation to ask what everyone wanted to drink. Perhaps he thought it was time to move on or that some people might want something else. But everyone looked at him with confused expressions on their faces. “Aren’t we having Holiday Harveys?!” And ten minutes later, the tray appeared and we haven’t questioned the tradition since.

Inspired by this assignment, I went on a search, and this time Google did not let me down. I was able to find the exact same vintage tumblers, and I can’t wait to surprise my family this year with a lime-green tray of Holiday Harveys.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Where are the brakes?

December 20, 2012   

It has been two months since I last wrote. That is an eternity on the internet. I watched the days slip by, some ideas came and went, but I never wrote them down.

There are two reasons for my silence. First, I’m finding it a lot harder to write when I am home. It is a realization that has become part of the definition of “home” for me.

Home n. (hōm): A place where things are so normal, they don’t seem interesting enough to write about on your blog.

Things are also much more personal at home. When I was writing in Switzerland, it was about all the things that were going on around me, or things that were happening to me. And though they were part of my life at the time, that chapter of my life feels like a separate book. Like I put my “real life” on hold for a while to have that experience. And the experience itself was a constant flow of things to write about.

Here, when things happen, they don’t just feel like part of a fun adventure. They are part of my life. And it is a lot scarier to write about real life choices and struggles and joys. But I’m working on it.

The second thing that makes it harder to write now is that I am so much busier. Being home also means that I have more responsibilities, more things to do, and a lot more stuff. I am engaged in things I enjoy, but sometimes I feel like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. The other day I found myself missing not having a car. I laughed because the thing I missed most often in Switzerland was my car. But now I feel tied to it. There is hardly anything I can do without it.

I had intended to slowly reintegrate myself, being careful not to get involved in too much too quickly. Apparently I’m not very good at that. Now I manage our household with three kids, sit on a volunteer committee, have a part time job, and I’m starting my own business. (More on that soon, I promise!)

So, perhaps this space is a reminder for me to slow down. To really experience things and to find the courage to share them.