Filed under: family | Tags: cleaning out, clutter, donate, down-sizing, memories, possessions, recycle, tiny house
Cleaning out our parents’ and in-laws’ apartments and houses — when they’ve downsized, moved, or died — has made us vow not to put our kids through the same task. It is so difficult to sort through a lifetime of possessions. Why did our parents save all this stuff?
Some of it is “valuable” — the breakfront filled with Waterford crystal dessert bowls and sets of bone china. The shelves lined with Lladro figurines, candlesticks, and souvenir plates from their travels. Then there are the books: stacks and stacks of paperback mysteries. Glossy coffee table books on baseball and spies. A book of golf jokes. A set of encyclopedias from 1964, in case you want look up the Soviet Union, typewriters, and cassette tapes.
We already have more than enough. We each have three sets of dishes. We don’t have an empty wall on which to hang their art. When we get flowers, we have 10 vases to choose from. We do want to keep the photo albums, the vegetable dish we always used on Thanksgiving, and the candlesticks from Israel, but we don’t need another dining room table.
When we called in a cleanout service, they gave us depressing news: Only a few items had resale value. Would we take a few hundred dollars for the entire lot? They would be willing to haul everything away if we “donated” it.
After these sad chores, we were determined to reevaluate our “treasures.” We, too, have too much stuff, and we set about to sort it. We started by offering some of the items to our adult children. We were overjoyed when one child found space in his tiny apartment for the teak wood kitchen table that had been waiting for him in the attic for 23 years.
We were sure none of the kids would want the old set of encyclopedias and we could safely throw it out. But then one son thought he might like to cut out and keep some pages, like the one with flags of countries that no longer exist.
Our kids aren’t sure what they’ll want in the future. “Hang on to that bookcase,” they tell us. It’s our decision to keep that old bureau, because down the road it will be perfect for a grandchild. That’s why we put it in the attic.
We’ve pared down the children’s books we’re saving to one plastic tub of much-loved favorites. The kids forced us to hold onto their Beanie Babies — waiting for the collectibles market to rebound.
When we came across the electronic chess set in the basement, which still sported a $99 price tag, we wondered — throw or keep? We found it on eBay for $2.50, so we’re proud to say we put it in that week’s trash.
We look forward to the day our children have established homes of their own. We imagine we’ll pack up their stuff and ship it to them — “Honey, a package arrived for you. Did you order Boy Scout badges, meteorites, old baseball cards, souvenir Playbills, and some old textbooks?”
It’s easy to understand why our parents kept all their stuff. It’s hard to pare down a lifetime of memories. Although not valuable, each item has value because of the memories attached. When one of us decided to clean out the attic, she was sure the clutter belonged to her husband and kids. It turned out that the charity run T-shirts, suitcases, and newspaper clippings were hers — mementos of her travel, work, and accomplishments.
We’ve made some progress on the clean-out front, but there’s definitely more to go. We’ll admit that we’re never going to move into a Tiny House or get joy from living simply with only 100 possessions. After all, the children’s photos on the mantle and their grade-school ceramic projects number at least 47. This doesn’t include the file we keep of their hand-drawn Mother’s Day cards. This is valuable stuff, and there’s still room in the attic.
This essay originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, November 1
Filed under: holidays | Tags: candy, costumes, dress-up, Halloween, holidays, Kit Kat, trick or treat, York Peppermint Patty
Halloween is just around the corner. We aren’t planning to dress up and go trick or treating, but we still look forward to the holiday for many reasons…. not just nostalgia for the days when our kids would dress up and go trick-or-treating.
Ellen has a box of twinkle lights and Halloween decorations squirreled away in the attic. This weekend she’ll haul it downstairs, and you’ll find her outside sweating and struggling to set up her fabulous outdoor display. She goes a little overboard because she doesn’t do Christmas lights, but she does do Halloween – with strings of white ghost-y lights in the trees, an electric spider, and reflective bats lining the walkway. Even though her kids are grown, she wants to keep her reputation intact as the nice lady at the end of the block who decorates her house for the neighborhood kids.
Last year, she was missing all of the Halloween excitement – helping the kids choose costumes, decorating the house, chairing the elementary school Pumpkin Fair – so she made a lonely trip to the store and bought last-minute, 50% off Halloween tchotchkes that weren’t even good enough to save for this year. She’ll be back in the Halloween aisle on Oct. 30.
Candy appeared in the supermarket the day after Labor Day. We noticed because we had to hold ourselves back from buying bags of snack-sized Kit Kat bars. Who are we kidding? If we bought those tempting so-tiny-that-eating-one-doesn’t-count candy bars that early, we would only have three left to give out on Halloween.
But when the week of Halloween finally comes and we are ready to purchase candy, we have to decide whether to buy the candy we hate (Sour Patch Kids, Warheads, or Sweet Tarts) so we don’t eat it, or the candies we love (York Peppermint Patties, Mounds bars and Snickers.) Who are we kidding? We bought both.
When we were kids, we loved all the sticky candies (Turkish Taffy, Jujubees and Jujyfruits), but now the thought of pulling out a filling or breaking a tooth from a bad bite frightens us away from buying those choices. That bite of Turkish Taffy could cost us $675 to re-glue the crown on our left front incisor.
A quick search online clued us in to this year’s “hot new costumes,” which aren’t that new: Star Wars, Disney princesses, and Superman are popular. After our city hosted Pope Francis last weekend, we have to admit, we did like the Pope outfit for your dog.
Group costumes are in style, too, but to wear these, you have to have a group – a fraternity, a crowd of housemates, or drinking buddies. We each have only one husband– hardly a group. And we have enough trouble dressing him up to go to a family wedding. We downsized and googled couple’s costumes. We’ll have a hard time convincing our husbands to be a giant sombrero-wearing taco (we’d be the salsa) or the sword-bearing, leather thong-wearing hero from Game of Thrones, but they might not mind being the bagel with lox to go with our cream cheese.
These days, when homeroom moms are requested to bring in carrots and hummus in place of cupcakes for a birthday celebration, we will not be browbeaten into giving out toothbrushes to the trick-or-treaters. We want to be known as the house that gives out the “good stuff.” But we are also aware that there are now peanut-free tables in school cafeterias. We don’t want to make our neighbors with food allergies miss out. There’s a national campaign to mark houses that are giving out allergy-friendly treats with teal pumpkins. We probably won’t paint our pumpkins teal, but we want to be inclusive so we’ll also be giving out Twizzlers, bubble gum and spider rings.
We’re excited for Halloween. We love to open the door and see the cute little kids in costumes. We encourage them to take more than one, even if their parents admonish them to, “Say please! Take just one.” We even like the fourth-grade boys who grab a big handful and the teens who can’t resist dressing up “for just one more year” to collect a bagful of candy.
So after dinner on Oct. 31, we won’t head upstairs and get into our pajamas like it’s a regular night. We’ll hang out downstairs waiting for the doorbell to ring, because Halloween isn’t just a regular night.
Filed under: calendar, family, Jewish mothers, summer | Tags: aging, bicycles, calendar, children, Frozen, ice cream, summer
This article first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, July 5.
When we were kids, summertime meant: “Go outside and play.”
Hopping on our three-speed Schwinn bikes gave us freedom. There was no need for helmets, no stranger danger. We could ride to the drug store and get a milkshake at the soda fountain. We could pedal to the playground, where we would find a friend, swing on the swings, and hang out till dark.
When we heard the jingle of the Jack and Jill ice cream truck, we’d grab a few coins from our allowance and run outside to be first in line. Then there was the decision to be made between the chocolate éclair and the Firecracker pop.
Our cousins lived nearby. Together we’d listen to the latest 45s, read Mad magazine, and play Monopoly and gin rummy while the aunts and uncles sat around the dining room table and talked. As the sun went down and the kids started to whine — “Are we ever going to have dinner?” — Uncle Sid would lumber outside, drag the grill to the patio, douse the coals with lighter fluid, and pull out a package of Hebrew National hot dogs.
On family trips to the shore, we would race to the sand while the adults unpacked the car. No sunscreen, no hats, no shoes. We’d sunburn and peel, sunburn and peel, throughout the summer. We couldn’t wait to jump into the ocean, no matter what the temperature.
Then we got married and had children. Our kids gave us a reason to do our favorite things all over again.
We joined the community pool because we wanted to sit on the edge of the pool and chat with the other moms from the neighborhood while our kids splashed around. We wouldn’t take the plunge until they begged us to put our heads under water so we could see them do a handstand.
If the ice cream truck arrived right before dinnertime, we didn’t deny our kids because we wanted ice cream, too. We’d stand in line with them, helping them choose and then we’d ask them for a bite.
We brought our bikes out of the garage, filled the tires with air, and bought a baby seat for the back. This time around, we all wore helmets. When the kids graduated to two-wheelers, we taught them to stop at the stop signs and watch out for cars. We’d bike along the West River Drive or ride with them to the variety store to get a fresh bottle of bubbles or a new balsa wood glider.
When our children were young, we loved going to places like Sesame Place and Hershey Park. With a brave face, we’d climb the stairs of the tall water slide to show the kids it wasn’t scary. We enjoyed the Muppet musical stage show as much as they did. Closer to home, we’d watch them wheel a mini shopping cart through the Please Touch supermarket, purchasing play food and empty boxes. At the Franklin Institute, we would lead the way down tight, dimly lit passageways through the chambers of the heart. We always enthusiastically boarded the huge indoor locomotive for the 10-foot ride.
We wanted our kids to spend time with their cousins, but now it involved coordinating calendars around summer camp schedules and family vacations. It required advance planning: We’d drive miles to each other’s houses for a barbecue or plan field trips to a Phillies’ game, an amusement park, or the beach so we could all be together.
Now our children are grown. We don’t yet have grandchildren. We have no excuse for childlike behavior, and we miss it.
When we hear the ice cream truck’s song, we still get excited, but we don’t run outside. Instead, we open the freezer and pull out a Haagen-Dazs dixie cup with a little plastic spoon tucked into the lid. Sitting at the kitchen table eating it brings back fond memories.
Now we have bicycles with comfy seats and 18 gears and we love them, but by the time we load them into the car and get the water bottles, suntan lotion, and bike helmets, we’re exhausted. It doesn’t help that when we’re riding, our husbands constantly warn us, “Car! Car!” They aren’t quite as bad as those “professional cyclists” in head-to-toe Spandex who zoom past and shout, “On your left!”
At the beach, we wait until the ocean temperature is nice and warm before we wade in. We look out for jellyfish, stay where the lifeguard can see us, and reapply SPF 100-plus when we get out of the water.
We wanted to check out the new Please Touch Museum, but we couldn’t find a kid to rent. We didn’t get into the building until recently when we attended a fund-raiser there. We saw the carousel but we couldn’t ride it.
When Frozen came out, we didn’t want to go alone to the movie theater to see it. We felt out of the loop with all the Olaf lunchboxes and Princess Elsa pajamas. Who is Elsa and why is she so cold? The next time our kids came home, we forced them to sit on the sofa and watch it with us on Netflix so we could see what all the fuss was about.
When a business trip took us to Orlando, we couldn’t resist going to Universal Studios. It wasn’t embarrassing to wait in line for the Harry Potter and Spider-Man rides without children in tow, but when we climbed aboard the flying couch for the Cat in the Hat Ride — “2 adults, please” — we felt like showing photos of our kids to prove we weren’t stalkers.
It’s not that we’re not having fun anymore; it’s just grown-up fun. Perusing the list of specialty summer cocktails and ordering the lemonade vodka freeze is pretty darn fun. So is going to the movies any night of the week without having to hire a babysitter. So, hey, ice cream man, please wait. There’s a middle-aged lady chasing your truck down the street.
Filed under: ethnicity, jewish food | Tags: borscht, brisket, food, gefilte fish, Jewish food, lox, macarons, smoked salmon
This essay appears in today’s edition of The Forward – on their beautiful newly redesigned on-line Food section. Here’s the link or just keep reading below:
“Pumpernickel is Jewish; white bread is goyish,” said comedian Lenny Bruce in the early 1960s, asserting that Jews instinctively categorize everything as Jewish or not. We agree, especially when it comes to food.
Fast-forward 50 years. Much has changed on the culinary landscape since Bruce got arrested for using the word shmuck onstage. These days, we are just as likely to eat chicken tikka masala as a corned beef special and to order our salmon atop sushi rice instead of a bagel — but we do have fondness for foods that evoke our bubbes’ kitchens, foods that are honorary members of the Tribe. This might explain why the two of us eat chopped liver but not liver paté. Why we make egg salad but not deviled eggs.
Almost every country has a doughy pastry filled with potatoes, vegetables or meat. The Spanish empanada , the Indian samosa and the Italian calzone are all cousins to the knish. Given a choice, our order is: “One kasha knish and one mushroom knish, please.” Knishes make an appearance at many a Yom Kippur break-fast and bar mitzvah cocktail hour, but they weren’t always saved for special occasions. At the turn of the last century, Jewish immigrants brought knishes to work in their lunch boxes, just like Irish workers brought their meat pies, explains Joan Nathan in “Jewish Cooking in America.”
When summer comes, cold soups are on the menu. We remember when borscht, that magenta-colored beet soup, would make an appearance on our childhood dinner tables. The grown-ups would swirl in a dollop of sour cream, and we would cringe in horror as they slurped down the brightly colored liquid.
In the shtetls of Eastern Europe, potatoes and beets were plentiful — hence latkes and kugel (yay!) and borscht (nay!). Leafy greens were few, with the exception of sorrel. That’s why borscht has a cold green cousin named shav. These days, cooks combine spinach with sorrel to make shav, but we don’t know anyone who actually eats it.
Thanks to CSAs (community-supported agriculture programs), farmer’s markets and the bounty of our summer gardens, we have no shortage of vegetables. It’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have gazpacho on its menu. We often order it. Tomatoes, cucumbers and red peppers trump beets any day.
Anyone who has sat through a Seder has had a Jewish macaroon, the ubiquitous Passover sweet. This flourless, chewy, ball-shaped cookie is made with ground nuts, shredded coconut and egg whites. We buy them at the supermarket and eat them straight out of the can.
We wouldn’t have thought to add the adjective Jewish to macaroon until a few years ago, when the classy French-accented macaron stole the spotlight. These elegant, brightly colored meringue-and-almond sandwich cookies come neatly arranged in doily-lined boxes from fancy bakeries. They cost five times as much as the kosher cookie with the similar name, but you’d never confuse the two once you’ve tasted them. And you won’t find a food truck cruising your city selling Jewish macaroons.
Gefilte fish also has a fancy French cousin — the quenelle . Both are made with chopped fish but then they swim in opposite directions. Quenelles are held together with breadcrumbs, gefilte fish with matzo meal. Quenelles are fancy; they can be served with lemon sauce and nestled next to a grilled scallop. Gefilte fish are dumped from the gel onto a lettuce leaf and dressed up with a carrot curl. We found a recipe for quenellesin “Larousse Gastronomique,” a bible of French cuisine; our recipe for gefilte fish is scrawled on a food-stained 3×5 card that Aunt Miriam pressed into our hand at Passover in April 1986.
We would never ask the deli guy for a half-pound of smoked salmon. We call it lox, which is the Yiddish word for salmon. You can distinguish the two by the company they keep. Lox is served atop a bagel shmeared with cream cheese. If you’re fancy, you can add a little red onion and a slice of cucumber. Smoked salmon sits alongside brown bread triangles. It is fancy, so it’s served with capers and lemon slices.
Texas barbecue is described as meat cooked “low and slow” — which sounds just like the way we cook brisket. Brisket is a particular cut of beef; how you cook it and what you serve it with determines its ethnicity. If you rub it with spices and smoke it over mesquite, it becomes a cowboy brisket sandwich, served on a paper plate alongside beans. If you roast it on cut-up onions and potatoes, put some ketchup on top, cover the pan with silver foil, and put it in the oven for hours, it becomes Jewish holiday fare, served on a china dinner plate beside kugel. Much like the Friday night roasted chicken, there’s nothing uniquely Jewish about brisket — except that we say so.
We have a lot to say: When we wait in line at Starbucks for our tall skim lattes, we want to tell the barista that the jar of biscotti on the counter is mislabeled. We call it mandelbrodt.
Filed under: books, Dictionary of Jewish Words | Tags: Philadelphia Writers conference, The Word Mavens, The Writer, writing
We don’t usually talk about our writing. We simply write. But recently, all’s been quiet on the blog front because we’ve been doing our writing business in other locations. By location, we don’t mean sitting in a beach chair by the pool with a margarita in hand. We’ve been glued to our desks and computers writing essays that will appear in publications beyond our blog.
After years of writing together, it finally occurred to us that we should write about our experiences writing together as a team. Creating personal essays together – and still liking each other after 15 years – is unusual. Many marriages don’t last that long. In fact, at our book talks we used to start off by introducing ourselves with: “Hi, I’m Ellen, and this is my partner, Joyce.” Then we realized that people didn’t know that we are married to two men, not to each other. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
We’re thrilled that The Writer bought our essay about writing together for the October issue of its magazine. In it, we talk about the process of writing together, our complementary skills, and confess how we meld our two families into one enormous lump so as not to embarrass a particular person – but the kids are always sure we are talking about them.
“Mom, I don’t hate your broccoli casserole…”
We recently wrote an entire essay about food, in which we pondered the difference between kreplach and wontons, macarons and macaroons, and why chopped liver is Jewish and pâté is not. It will be appearing in The Forward’s Food section soon.
The business of writing includes shmoozing with editors, agents and colleagues, and we did just that at the recent Philadelphia Writers Conference. We took an interesting class on memoir writing with Tom McAllister, author of Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly.
We also had a chance to shmooze with Lu Ann Cahn, former NBC 10 news reporter, and we were happy to take her class on writing nonfiction books. Optimistic, perky and full of energy, Lu Ann recently wrote a book entitled: I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day.” She started her year of new experiences by taking a polar bear plunge and moved on to hula hooping and zip-lining across a crocodile-infested lake.
Inspired by Lu Ann, we plan to:
- serve liver pâté at the next holiday dinner.
- refrain from phoning, texting, or messaging our children for 24 hours.
- pay it forward and thank the waiter who forgot to refill our coffee and bring the check.
We were thrilled to slip Lu Ann an autographed copy of the Dictionary of Jewish Words, and we wish her only mazel with her next adventures.
The conference also offered writers the change to “speed date” with agents and editors. The Word Mavens were lucky enough to meet with five, four of whom showed interest in our work and our ideas for future projects. So this week, like polite Bar/Bat Mitzvah teens, we’ve been sending thank you notes to the agents – by email, not snail mail. We didn’t order the personalized pink and purple thank you stationery to match our invitations.
Thanks for reading as we kvell a bit about ourselves. You’ll be the first to know when we have news to report.
Filed under: Dictionary of Jewish Words, ethnicity | Tags: blech, challah, Jewish foods, kosher, pareve, roast chicken, treif
Some days, we get a lot of junk in our in-box. But a recent invitation to take a short on-line quiz titled What’s Treif? caught our attention. After all, we wrote definitions for treif, kosher, pareve and more in our Dictionary of Jewish Words and wanted to test our skills. Let’s cut to the chase: We got a perfect score. We kind of think you will too.
Question 1: Which of the following dishes can’t be kosher?
a. Broiled salmon
b. Blackened catfish
c. Poached red snapper
d. Spicy tuna sushi
Were they trying to fool us with those delicious menu adjectives? They didn’t. To be kosher, a fish has to have fins and scales that can be easily removed with a knife without tearing the skin (of the fish, not the fisherman.) Catfish have fins and those creepy whiskers, but not true fish scales. And anyway, who wants to eat a fish that eats the stuff that sits on the bottom of the ocean? Answer: b.
Question 2: For a food to be kosher it must have been:
a. Blessed by a rabbi
b. Made in Israel
c. Made by Jews
d. Made in accordance with Jewish law
The laws of kashrut – keeping kosher – dictate a lot of things when it comes to food: No mixing of milk and meat. No shrimp. No eating your hamburger on a milchig (dairy) plate, and lots more. While the correct answer is d, we say c. If we go to the trouble of making you a roast beef sandwich with pesto, lettuce and tomato on a nice Kaiser roll for lunch, you better eat it.
Question 3: Which of the following is a classic Shabbat dinner?
b. Roast chicken
c. Matzah brei
We know they wanted us to pick roast chicken b, but we’re up for a good piece of halvah or a hamantaschen anytime. And if we have a box of leftover matzah in the cabinet, what’s wrong with eating matzah brie for Shabbat dinner in February?
Question 4: Which of the following is a traditional dish for Yom Kippur afternoon?
a. Roast chicken
b. Potato kugel
c. Challah with raisins
d. No food is served on Yom Kippur.
First of all, what’s with all the roast chicken? There’s nothing wrong with making a nice brisket now and then. And challah with raisins? We don’t want fruitcake. Our families like their challah plain – no strange fruits, no weird things mixed in.
The obvious – and correct – answer is d. Yom Kippur is a long, hungry, grumpy day. No challah. We look forward to that cup of coffee at 5 p.m. along with knishes and a bagel shmeered with cream cheese.
Because the quiz was so short, we came up with a few questions of our own.
Question 5: Proper matzah balls should be:
c. From the Manischewitz packet in the little box
d. Modernized with saffron and spinach
Our guests are divided between lovers of a and b, so at this year’s Passover seder, Joyce served everyone one floater (big and fluffy) and two sinkers (small and dense). Years ago, hoping to make her matzah balls very light and fluffy, Ellen handled the dough lightly and barely shaped each ball. When she lifted the lid, she saw that the matzah balls had disintegrated and the pieces had scattered like feathers into the soup. On second thought, we are going to add a fifth option: e. bought ready-made from the deli.
Question 6: For a bagel to be legit, it needs to be:
a. Baked in New York City
b. Sesame, lightly toasted
c. Bright green because St. Patty’s Day is coming
d. An everything bagel
Our answer is b, although we wouldn’t mark a wrong. New Yorkers think they are the best at everything, and we hate to admit it but when it comes to bagels, they’re right. Answer c? We put a dyed-green bagel in the same category as a jalapeno bagel – and just say no. Answer d, the everything bagel, may work for the undecided, but we think it’s a pain in the neck. It needs to be sequestered in its own bag so the onions don’t contaminate the other bagels.
Question 7: What does blech mean?
a. What we say when they sprinkle capers on top of our pizza
b. How we feel about the new paint color you picked for the bathroom
c. The metal plate on the stove to keep the flame lit on Shabbat
d. A synonym for yuck
When we say talk about blech during our book talk, our audience thinks we are referring to a, b, and d, but since this is a quiz about Jewish food, you could correctly assume that the answer is c. Blech is the Yiddish word for tin, and a blech is a metal sheet that can be placed over the burners on a stove to keep your roast chicken or brisket warm. There’s a modern version of a blech that’s electric and looks like a warming tray for hors d’oeuvres. They call it a “Shabbat warming tray” (and the full write-up says “electric belch”) Here it is on Amazon!
Filed under: Current Events | Tags: current events, daughter, England, monarchy, Prince William and Kate, princess, Princess Charlotte, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana
We are each mothers of a daughter. We were overjoyed to learn that Prince William and Kate’s second baby is a girl – Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. She is the first daughter born into the British monarchy in 25 years. We send a hearty mazel tov to the parents and big brother George.
Of course, we love our sons. They’re great guys, but for a mother there is nothing like a daughter. Now Kate will have someone who wants to go shoe shopping with her. Someone who will tell her that her pants look like Mom jeans. She’ll be able to talk about clothes and haircuts with someone who actually cares. She will have someone who is interested in gossiping about why the Duke of Norfolk has RSVPed “no” to their party and why the Duchess of Manchester never sends a thank-you note.
So welcome to your pampered, treasured corner of the world your Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge.
We can’t help but offer you some advice:
Share your toys: There aren’t too many little girls who can count on receiving gifts from around the world – but you can. After all, when your parents took George with them on their recent trip to Australia, he was gifted with a rocking horse, sheepskin boots, rugby gear and more than 600 other stuffed animals, toys, pictures, and articles of clothing by both officials and adoring fans. That’s way too many teddy bears to fit on your IKEA toy organizer, so get used to sharing and donating much of your bounty.
Don’t play the princess card too often: When your 7th grade friends get annoying – and we know there will be mean girls at those upper-crust private schools you will attend – it will be tempting to pull the princess card. When a classmate brags that she is going to Cannes on her private jet for the holidays, refrain from informing her that your Daddy is the absolute monarch of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Let the other girls have their Disney Frozen lunch boxes. You are a real, live princess.
Don’t fight with your brother: Of course siblings will squabble, especially when you two are young. But George will be king one day, so the old “He touched me first” whine probably won’t get much sympathy. You don’t want your quarrels to escalate. Remember the Tower of London?
Try new foods: Don’t be a picky eater. We know it will be hard to be enthusiastic about some of those traditional British foods. Really, bangers and mash for dinner again? But you don’t want Mummy to have to send the page to tell the butler to go back to the kitchen to order the chef to prepare another meal for the princess. Just eat your bubble and squeak like a good little girl. You can laugh about the name later.
Don’t touch anything when you go to great grandma’s house: You’re lucky to have your Mummy’s mom, Carole Middleton, as your grandmom. From what we’ve seen in the press, she’s the sort of mom we love. She has a close, loving relationship with her daughter and dotes on her grandson, George. That’s a good thing, because dad’s side of the family is highborn but complicated. We can’t imagine your step-grandmom, Camilla, cuddling or romping in the nursery. And when you visit great-grandmom Elizabeth, be sure to curtsy. It’s commanded that her subjects do so. We just hope she knows enough to (have the servants) put away all the precious tchotchkes when the grandkids come over.