Struffoli: Not all it’s cracked up to be


Mom and me and the struffoli: Sometimes traditions are better remembered than observed. (Photo by Laura Groch)

With most of the holiday fun and fuss behind us, it’s a good time to look back on tradition: what family rituals still work, which ones should be adjusted, which ones need replacing.

I offer you the story of the struffoli.

One December afternoon after school, my little brother and I returned to my paternal grandmother’s house, where we would do homework and watch TV until our parents came home from work to pick us up.

Throwing my book bag on the floor and shedding my winter gear, I was suddenly aware of something out of the ordinary. It sat proudly on Continue reading


Need a gift for teacher? How about a chicken-bone necklace?

reporter interviewing state trooper

On the job in Indiana, interviewing a state trooper. Photo by Mary Patchett

My first reporting job was on the education beat in a small Indiana town, and near Christmastime I thought of how my mom used to puzzle over what to give my teachers as gifts. No gift cards then, and cold cash was frowned upon. On the list were gloves, scarves, candy, dusting powder and lotions  (most grade-school teachers were still women).

I wondered what the teachers’ reactions were, and the result was this story (and I wonder how this story would read if it were redone today!). Here it is, slightly abridged. Hope you enjoy:

Most teachers know, when they open a Christmas gift from a student, it’ll probably be something conventional, like gloves or after-shave.

But once in a while, a teacher gets a doozy of a present that brings back Continue reading