Tag Archives: family

family ties.

Phil was here for one of our precious few-and-far-between visits two weeks ago. And in a very rare turn of events, my entire immediate family was here as well, for a reunion. Our visit was much too short and, of necessity, really intense. But it was so good to have everyone in the same room together for a little while, to get to introduce Phil to my family, and vice versa. The kids, in particular, really bonded with him. We got some very precious one on one time with one sister, who lives overseas, and a morning at the zoo with my other sister and her family. There was a lunch with my parents, and a couple of gigantic family dinners and game nights. In amongst all this, we caught a few nights to ourselves as well. Two visits to Killer Burger in Hollywood for peanut butter-pickle-bacon burgers, a night out to celebrate Shana’s birthday, and a sold out show of Vertigo on a restored 70mm print at the Hollywood Theatre. Much, much too short, but very important time and I’m so grateful we had it.


gamers buddy system.


I talk about my niece a lot. She is precocious and pithy and imaginative, and I love to tell the whole internet about her. Sometimes I need the hive mind to decipher what she’s saying, and sometimes I just think everyone needs to know about it immediately. Just lately, though, I’ve realized that I don’t talk as much about her older brother, my nephew. Partly that’s because for most of the year, he’s in school during the day and I don’t see him as much. Partly it’s because he’s a quieter person than she is. But I am prodigiously proud of him. He’s smart, patient, and good natured, and I think I learn something every time I talk to him. He absorbs every detail about things that interest him.

He also plays a lot of video games. In fact, that’s the only time he’s not patient. He’s still good natured, but he’s fiercely competitive, and he will gleefully roll right over anyone whose skill or investment in expertise is less than his. He’ll encourage you to play with him, but he will not accommodate your weaknesses. It’s infuriating and hilarious, and I love to see the confidence in him when he’s talking about his home territory. This past week, when Phil was here, I finally got to see the two of them play some games together, and it was glorious.

My initial interest when I started playing video games was twofold: I wanted something I could fall into as immersive relaxation therapy after hard work, but more importantly I wanted a vocabulary and a skill set that would let me bond with my nephew. A few years, a lot of rabbit-hole conversations with Phil, and many game experiments later, I’ve learned enough to know what I look for in a game I’ll really enjoy. I have the vocabulary to listen to my nephew and to occasionally even be able to offer him advice or suggestions.

So it’s a pretty sweet part of my day when he sidles up next to me and his serious small face cracks a missing tooth smile and he boasts his latest triumph – conquering a tough board in Mario, or outwitting Enderman, or his newest dinosaur acquisition in Jurassic Park. I like to get the update while we’re dropping the day’s shipping off at the post office, or unloading the dishwasher together. Sometimes we talk strategy. Sometimes we debate how much real life money is reasonable to spend on what is essentially a picture of a dinosaur. Sometimes we talk about how he interacts with other gamers. Sometimes he just wants me to watch him play so he can show off his mad skills.

And sometimes I bribe him to do the hissing Dilophosaurus thing on camera by telling him he can use my iPhone to play a game. It’s shy kid economics. I love the boy.

grandma stuff.

My grandmother has been so much on my mind the last few weeks. She was 96 when she died this past February, at home and at peace and ready to join my grandfather. I was so lucky to have her for such a long time. But I’ve missed her a lot this month, because she’s been around every corner.


At Thanksgiving, I wore her apron and used her rolling pin to roll out crust for apple pie, using her recipe. The following weekend, I made a double batch of bourbon balls for Christmas and set them aging. In the last few weeks, I’ve used her typewriter to make a gift for a friend, and to type labels for bottles of homemade applejack that I sent. And ever since Black Friday, I’ve been getting emails from a florist company reminding me to “send Roberta Christmas flowers!” I could unsubscribe from that, I suppose, but it seems strangely disloyal and so I’ve suffered through the tiny pangs that arise every time one appears in my inbox. photo 1 (23)IMG_0075

For as long as I knew her, Grandma hated having her picture taken, so the smiling photos I’ve posted here are rare and precious. But in the days leading up to her funeral, I made a collage of photographs for the service, and I discovered a photo album from the year before she married my grandfather up through the year that their oldest, my uncle Sid, was born. She’s smiling radiantly in almost every picture. She may still have disliked the camera, but there’s no sign of it in these enchanting pictures. I now have this photo album, and I love looking through it at the pictures of their early life, and her beautiful smiling face.photo 2 (22)

So no flowers for Roberta this Christmas, but she is remembered in everything I do, and in many of the gifts I give. Here’s her recipe for bourbon balls. Consume with caution; if you let them age properly, they’re heady.

*NOTE: the measurements given are for cookies and nuts after they’ve been ground, not before. I managed to forget that this year, with slightly soggy results. So for proper results with a single batch, you’ll need to buy two boxes of Nilla Wafers, and more than a cup of walnuts. Grandma used a rolling pin, because she was a badass. I use a food processor, because I live in the future.*

Bourbon Balls

  • 3 cups ground Nilla Wafers
  • 1 cup ground nuts (I mostly use walnuts, but anything works)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup bourbon

Grind wafers and nuts fine. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into balls about the size of a large cherry. Roll in confectioners sugar (I roll them twice). Age at least two weeks. Makes about 36; keeps indefinitely.