STARTING HOLIDAY TRADITIONS IN A FAMILY THAT NEVER HAD ANY

For as long as I can remember, my family never had those traditions that most families have when the holidays rolled around. Whenever it came to anything holiday related, my dad would be working for the extra money, and sometimes we’d go and see him at work for dinner. That was basically our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration every year for as long as I can remember.

About four years ago when I started dating my now husband, I began to see what the holidays should really be like. His family is very big on holidays to the extent of arguing over who gets to host which holiday each year. And that’s when I started to see how much fun the holidays could actually be.

My sister and I decided right then and there that we were going to make our own traditions. Forget the fact that all these years we never had any. We just decided with the snap of our fingers we needed to do this for us, and if we met others along the way that would join us, great! If not, we would still make it happen.

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We started with little things like watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the Jim Carrey version) and listening to Christmas songs when they played on the radio. Pinterest wasn’t as big as it is now, but we were able to find ideas through that and Google. We saw that “Elf on a Shelf” was big with parents, and how adults in general were using the idea of naughty elves to make funny jokes.

That year my husband actually bought us both an “Elf on a Shelf” for Christmas. It was one of the best things we’d ever received because we’d never had anything like it. We kept it in the box because we didn’t want to ruin it, but we put it to use the next year. The second year was a little hard to do anything because of health issues with my dad, but the year after we decided to wear ugly Christmas sweaters with our significant others, and they were FUNNY! I bought mine but my sister made hers and my husband’s that year.

Last year, we brought my husband’s cousin into the family traditions. We all chose to wear some kind of Grinch themed clothing and it was great! It made us all happy that we could start doing these small things which meant a great deal. This year we’re still trying to decide what we are going to do, but we are steering towards actually dressing up as our very own “Elf on a Shelf.” We are very crafty people so we might even sew our own costumes!

What hits us especially this year is that my sister is pregnant and will be giving birth around Christmas time. We’ve promised to give her daughter these traditions that we never had growing up, because we want her to be happy during a time that always felt like a chore to us as kids. It just takes one person (or two in our case) to decide that the holidays are going to be happy time, rather than something to dread.

Find new friends to start your traditions with by downloading the Hey! VINA app today!

HOW TO INVITE A NEW VINA TO THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving is for spending time with friends. If you’re inviting your vina to a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by someone else, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should obtain permission from the host. Call your host, and ask if you can bring your new friend. If your host is less than welcoming to your guest, then you shouldn’t invite them to that party. Instead, you could host your own!

Now, I know what you’re thinking; that is a lot of work! Well, it doesn’t have to be. First things first, what kind of an event will your new vina like best? There are a couple options that I’ll lay out below: a formal dessert and beverage get together, a laid back Turkey Day dinner, and a leftover smorgasbord complete with family are a few options.

FORMAL DESSERT GET-TOGETHER

This works best for a new vina that you want to get to know better or for a group of new friends who don’t know each other yet. The best way to invite your vina to this party is with a cool invite. Zazzle has some super cute paper invites. Mail your invite to your vina or hand it to her when you go on a Vina date. If you give it to her in person, tell her that you are hoping to have a fun Thanksgiving event, and you are going for a glamorous and fun vibe!

Have lots of pie on hand, all your Thanksgiving favorites should be there. If your family has an unusual favorite, have that too. My family is obsessed with Mincemeat. Also, make sure you have plenty of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream to go with your goodies!

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Serve your pie with fantastic coffee, and if you and your friends drink, a mulled wine or other fall cocktails are a great option! You can be as simple or as sophisticated as you would like with this part of the evening.

Decorate with candles, maize, and miniature pumpkins.

LAIDBACK DINNER

Tell your vina that you are having dinner by yourself or with a small group of friends for Thanksgiving. Ask her to come by sending her the date/time/address via email or text.

Pinterest has a host of recipes that are easy to prep and cook. For Friendsgiving last year, I made a turkey breast with gravy recipe in a crockpot. Green beans can be roasted in the oven, and mashed potatoes can be made ahead of time (or even made instant!). Whole pies can be picked up from bakeries or the frozen food aisle. Remember, this is fun! Don’t stress too much.

LEFTOVER SMORGASBORD

This one is the easiest to manage. After Thanksgiving dinner with the fam, call your vina and tell her that you can’t wait to compare family holiday sagas. Ask her if she was sent home with mountains of leftovers and if she would like to do a middle-school-style food swap. Tell her you’ll provide drinks (again, whatever you and your vina enjoy), and you can both provide dessert! The more pie, the better.

Then, eat, drink, and be merry while gossiping about all your family drama. Tell your new bestie all about how your dad keeps asking you when you’ll get a promotion, your mom wants to hear about your bae, and your crazy cousins keep bringing up all the embarrassing stuff you posted on Facebook circa 2008. Nothing sparks a new friendship like good old fashioned family drama!

Happy Turkey Day, vinas!

Want to host your own vina-giving? Of course you do!! Download the Hey! VINA app and create an open plan in your area now!

IT’S SOUP SEASON! SOUP RECIPES TO MAKE THIS MONTH COZY AF

I decided to stalk some familiar faces for some inspiration and boy, am I happy I did that! The first person I went to for inspiration is the Season 8 winner of MasterChef USA, Dino Angelo Luciano. He was described by Gordon Ramsey as “MasterChef’s dark horse.” In the end, it was his roasted pistachio tiramisu with orange mascarpone cream, espresso caviar, and a pistachio tuile that beat Eboni Henry and Jason Wang’s dishes, and crowned him the winner. Dino served up a soup he calls his favorite. We call it Kabocha squash soup!

KABOCHA SOUP

INGREDIENTS

1 Kabocha Squash (peeled, halved, deseeded and chopped); 5 carrots (peeled and halved); 1 yellow onion (roughly chopped); 5 peeled garlic cloves; 1 tbsp salt; 1 tbsp turmeric; 1 tbsp chopped ginger; 1 tsp ground; ginger; 1 tsp lemongrass powder; 1/2 tsp cumin; 1 and a 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon; 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill; 1 tsp pepper; 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar; 1 blood orange juiced (Or 1/2 orange and lemon); 6 cups unsweetened almond milk (rice milk for nut allergies) 1 cups coconut milk 1 tbsp grapeseed oil

METHOD

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, toss in oil and roast kabocha, carrots, onion, & garlic for 45 minutes or until soft enough to cut with a butter knife. Stir vegetables halfway through to prevent burning. In a blender, puree roasted vegetables with almond milk to a creamy smooth soup texture. Add soup to pot, add all other ingredients and cook on low heat for 1 hour to marry flavors and reduce to desired thickness.

This next one is from Georgina Hayden’s Stirring Slowly: Recipes to Restore & Revive.  Georgina is a cook, food writer, and stylist from North London who spent 10 years with Jamie Oliver on his food team. This recipe is hearty and homey, and anything that has “restore” and “revive” in it has my vote!

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER & COCONUT SOUP

Ingredients

2 onions, 600g cauliflower, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 heaped teaspoon ras el hanout, olive oil, 1 handful of unsweetened coconut flakes, 1 x 400g tin of reduced-fat coconut milk, 600ml vegetable stock, 2-3 tablespoons chili oil

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350ºF/gas 4. Peel and cut the onions into 1cm wedges and trim then cut the cauliflower into even-sized florets. If it has the leaves on, don’t cut them off, roast those too. Place it all in a roasting tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves and sprinkle with the cinnamon and ras el hanout. Season well, and drizzle everything with a good glug of olive oil. Toss it all together and pop into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and a little charred. Scatter the coconut flakes on to a small tray and pop into the oven for the last few minutes to toast – they should only need 3 to 4 minutes. When the veg is ready, remove the garlic cloves and scrape all the veg into a large saucepan. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and add them too. Pour in the coconut milk, add the stock and gently bring to the boil. Reduce the heat a little and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, blitz the soup until creamy and smooth, adding a splash more water if it is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve topped with the toasted coconut flakes and a drizzle of chili oil.

Lastly, we have a proud South African recipe that is truly my favorite!

CREAMY MUSHROOM & BILTONG SOUP

INGREDIENTS

125g butter, 250ml flour, 10ml black pepper, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 500ml milk, 1.5 liters beef stock, 250ml cheddar cheese (grated), 250g biltong (finely grated), 125ml cream

METHOD

Prepare a grill for medium to low direct heat. Using a Weber Wok Melt the butter and add the flour. Stir over a low heat for one minute (ensure it does not burn). Add the black pepper, nutmeg and ground coriander. Stirring continuously, gradually add the milk and the stock. Stir over low heat until thickened and remove. Add the cheese and 200g of the biltong keep warm until ready to serve ensuring soup don’t boil. Add cream to taste, just before serving. Top each serving with a generous sprinkling of grated biltong.

Snuggle up and enjoy with your vinas!

Check out Hey! VINA today to find new vinas to swap soup recipes with or make an open plan for a potluck dinner. There are tons of foodies on VINA waiting to meet you. Start swiping today👯‍♀️

5 FAMILY-FRIENDLY VINA DATES

If you’re on Hey! VINA (and if you’re not—what are you waiting for?!), you know that there’s already a thriving Working Moms and Stay at Home Moms communities. Next time you start texting with your new mama friends, why not plan a vina date…for the entire family?

Here are some ideas to get you started!

VISIT A MUSEUM

I know, I know, you may be rolling your eyes, but hear me out! First of all, it’s hot outside, so let’s play indoors! Many museums will have exhibits or play areas tailored to kids which will keep your littles occupied (and engaged) while you and your vina can chat. Museums are especially great if you’re worried about running out of things to talk about (been there!). You’ll be literally surrounded by topics if you feel the conversation lagging. Some museums even have their own cafés that will carry coffee, snacks, light meals, and beer and wine!

HIT UP AN ARCADE

Confession: this option is totally inspired by Stranger Things. Live up the nostalgia and let the littles go hog-wild at Dance Dance Revolution or Pacman. Get a little competitive and see who can win the most tickets or score the most points.

TRY AN INDOOR ACTIVITY

Challenge yourself and your littles to try something new (or revisit an old favorite). Whether you choose to slip on some super stylish bowling shoes, or strap-on some skates, your kiddos will be entertained and active.

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VISIT YOUR LOCAL WATERING HOLE

No, I don’t mean take your kids to a bar. I mean an actual–natural or man-made–body of water. Pack a picnic, SPF, and water shoes, and bond in the great outdoors! Kids can splish splash while moms have a splash of rosé. This option is not only kid-friendly, but budget-friendly as well.

THINK FREE

Check out your area’s list of events. Maybe you want to stroll through the local farmer’s market and sample the goods while the kids check out the petting zoo. Maybe you can to swing by the Strawberry Festival and leave with a bushel of berries and a new friend (2nd vina date: make strawberry pies?). Whether it’s a tractor-pull or a summer concert series, check out what is going on in your area and you’ll find some unique and family-friendly events!

You have all the ideas, now find a vina to go with!

WHY SOME VINAS ARE KEEPING THEIR LAST NAME FOR LIFE

What’s in a name? For many vinas, a lot! According to NY Times data blog, The Upshot,  women are keeping their maiden names more often than they used to be: “Roughly 20 percent of women married in recent years have kept their names according to a 2015 Google Consumer Survey.”

We all know that our name is something special. It’s what our parents give us moments after we’re born. A last name is part of our family lineage and can travel with us to the ends of time. It’s a namesake that father’s pass on to their sons.

And while many vinas are choosing to take their partner’s last name (which is obviously cool too!) here are the reasons why I won’t be changing my name when I say “I do.”

IT BELONGS TO ME

I like my last name. It’s 10 letters long. It’s Polish, which means I rarely find someone who pronounces it correctly. Is that what I like? The length? The challenge of the pronunciation? No. I like that it belongs to me and no one can take it away. No matter how many people have the same first name, I am one of the few that has this first and last.

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I always believed that taking my (future) spouse’s last name would mean a portion of me would become disassociated with my family. I would become saddened thinking of not being labeled as my father’s daughter. Upon mentioning that, my dad would give a wise crack of, “Take your partner’s name! You’ll be someone else’s problem then.” The truth is, I liked being my dad’s problem. I liked knowing that my last name will forever be tied to the people who raised me, instilled my values, and molded my morals. I’m proud of who they’ve helped me become. Why would I want to pull apart the only public thing that links me to those two awesome people?

DIVORCE, SEPARATION, REMARRIAGE! OH MY!

Let’s face it: Divorce and separation are real things! Getting remarried can happen too (just look at eight-time-married Elizabeth Taylor)! It gets a vina thinking: keeping your maiden name may possibly be the easier option in the long run. Besides the cost of the legalities with divorce and separation, there’s also the social aspect. Explaining the name change to countless people can be hurtful or embarrassing. Disclosing a divorce to the public on social media or even to the window clerk at the DMV can bring up a set of uncomfortable emotions.

Take a moment to look at your signature. Reflect back on your childhood as far back as you can. That day you were named became the day you started forming an identity. You grew up learning the fundamentals of everyday life under the surname at birth.

Keeping your last name through marriage and life is not for everyone. For those of us that do, we have a strong emotional attachment and reasoning why we don’t let go. Sometimes holding on to your last name is all we have left.

Want to talk about this topic with some vinas? Start swiping!