I love these perennial rituals that bring family and friends closer together. Whether we're in the same location, or miles apart, these traditions become part of the rhythm of our lives. It can be something as simple as sharing gifts of food, setting the table with your great-grandmother's tablecloth, hanging that special ornament or playing a favorite game after a holiday meal. Traditions pay homage to who we are, where we come from and what we cherish most in life.
As I was setting the table for Thanksgiving I thought about Leila Saks Ranger, my husband's great-grandmother. While I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I've had numerous conversations with my mother-in-law about her life, her passion and her artistic creativity. She had an eye for beauty and the talent to transform that vision into a magnificent handbag, a needlepoint sampler, or a lovely flower arrangement. Often these heirlooms will spark an interesting conversation around the dinner table, or just quietly comfort those who remember seeing them in another home at an earlier time.
Traditions are meant to be passed on to the next generation. This year Ally and her cousins, Chloe and Nicholas, prepared the desserts for our holiday meal. Chloe made a delicious apple pie using a recipe from the original Silver Palette cookbook, while Ally made a traditional pumpkin tart that she served with a caramel sauce. I helped with the crust as that takes a while to master, but we left them on their own to assemble and bake their creations.
Nicholas arrived with his masterpiece which tasted as good as it looked. With the dessert making in more than capable hands, my sister and I went out to dinner on Wednesday evening and decided this might just become our new tradition. It was a welcome respite before a full day in the kitchen.
As we make the seque into the Christmas season, it's time to hang one of my favorite decorations: Stolle's angel. Some wonder why I'm so enamored with this bubble wrap angel and all I can say is that a gift made by a child can really strike a chord. Stolle presented it to me when she was about six years old and I was so impressed with what she created from some very simple, albeit unusual, materials. Who looks at bubble wrap and thinks of an angel? Obviously, an insightful child. With all the hustle, bustle and commercialism of Christmas it's sometimes hard to stay focused on what's really important, so this angel is a loving and gentle reminder as we head into the holiday season.