My Favorite Things

Join me on a holiday stroll down memory lane

There’s nothing more heartwarming than the pageantry and spirit of Christmas, which is why it’s long been my favorite holiday. The gathering of loved ones and the festive decorations are nothing short of magical, and my family celebrates with a menagerie of traditions that have been passed down from generations. 

I grew up in Dobbs Ferry, and like most households both then and now, we mailed holiday cards each year. Ours was always a photo of myself and my brother, Michael, in front of a Christmas-y scene in matching outfits. 

Decorating and baking for the holiday was a family affair marked by each of my aunts gifting me with a sentimental ornament symbolizing a significant moment in my life every year. We’d then bake batches and batches of traditional holiday cookies, eating and laughing, reminiscing about Christmas’s past and feasting on goodies. While these moments were special to me throughout my childhood, I’m even more touched as an adult, and my Christmas ornament collection is one of my prized possessions. 

For many children, Christmas Eve is the most anticipated event of the year, and I was one of those children. We always spent the evening at my Aunt Phyllis’s, indulging with family in the Feast of Seven Fishes, and like clockwork, Santa Claus would pop by just before it was time to go home and snuggle into bed. For the record, he never came in down the chimney, but he tried! On the drive home, we’d pass the church to see the live nativity – volunteers dressed as wise men, Joseph, and Mary awaiting baby Jesus. I’d then rush into our house to our own small nativity under the tree, place baby Jesus in his cradle in the manger, and then my brother and I would prepare the provisions for Santa and his reindeer: cookies and milk (of course), carrots, and a small glass of red wine. After all, Rudolph was leading the sleigh — Santa could have a sip and Christmas deliveries would be safe! 

On Christmas Day, my mother, Debbie, would orchestrate the opening of gifts like a choreographed dance. Myself and my brother (who always slept in while I anxiously waited) were only allowed downstairs once my parents set the scene with a warm fire roaring in the fireplace and holiday music playing lightly on the stereo. My mom wore a plush velour house dress in royal blue or deep red; I always took a moment to admire how beautiful she looked and to imagine myself grown up, just as elegant as her, as I took in the effortless ambiance she so lovingly created. Michael and I would then eagerly open our presents from Santa and watch as the last gift of Christmas was given, a little something special from my father to my mother, just for her. We would then make our way to the kitchen and Christmas morning breakfast was served: Victorian French Toast. 

Traditions are a tribute to memories - those we’ve made and the opportunity to continue making new memories, year after year, generation after generation. No matter which holiday you celebrate this season, I wish you joy, peace, and the unforgettable moments that make the very best memories. 

Victorian French Toast 

1 stick butter, melted

1 C brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon 

1 loaf French bread cut into ¾” slices 

5 eggs mixed well 

1 ⅓ cup milk 

1 tsp vanilla extract

9”x13” pan | 350 degrees | 20-25 minutes

Pour melted butter into the bottom of the pan. Add brown sugar and sprinkle half the cinnamon. Place the sliced French bread snuggly in the pan. Pour eggs over the bread, then pour the milk. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon on top. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight. Bake and cool. Dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh berries, if desired.

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