When life gives you lemons, pick up your ukulele


I love celebrations. I’m very big on birthdays and holidays.

Anniversaries trip me up, however. With each passing year, my own wedding anniversary brings on more complicated reactions. A wistfulness sets in. 

If you are interested in reading about my (long ago) wedding, click here!

Over the last ten years, most of the anniversaries I celebrate over the course of a calendar year are somber days of remembering the life of someone I loved who is now gone. I didn’t realize how much these losses were changing me, but – over time – a certain sparkle I remember from my falling-in-love days seemed to have faded. 

When my husband and I were first dating, I used to sing to him, in that unabashed way that besets you when you are falling in love. 

After our wedding, our losses just seemed to pile up with a swiftness that people our age should expect, but rarely do (I didn’t, anyway). Singing at too many funerals seemed to have stilled my voice, and I stopped making joyful noises.

Five years later, the New York Times published a follow-up

Because my husband and I married later in life, we seem to have an amplified response to our own wedding anniversary; over the years we have settled into an extravagant routine of treating ourselves a weekend of opera. We get dressed up like proper people and stay at a beautiful hotel. We attend three operas over the course of two days.

I am very happy to let other people do my singing for me.

It’s hard to know what to give someone who has so much (he has me, after all), and so for our tenth anniversary, I decided to revive my singing days.
Call it a coda. 

Click below to see a very short film I made to celebrate a relationship that I can’t always describe, but is certainly worth singing about. Turn on the sound if you want to hear my scratchy ukulele playing and even scratchier singing.

(Stick with it for the finish – which, I promise – is VERY VERY BIG. VERY. BIG.)



(Where my friend Laura recommends great things)

Laura writes:

“It's easy to overlook the little moments that can end up having a profound impact on someone...that moment when you smiled and someone needed it, that time you brought an extra cookie for a co-worker just because, that day when you popped a card in the mail to a friend. You probably didn't even think about it much, you just did it. 

I was thinking the other day about my great-aunt showing me how to make camp cobbler one summer day (not really a real cobbler, just fruit and sugar and a thickener, with Jiffy cake mix on top) and I remember being so pleased that she told me what to do and just watched. She handled the oven parts, but the rest was all me. I was maybe 5. I was so proud of myself. It's a good memory. So to celebrate the anniversary of that, here's an option for one of the kids in your life that might make a similar fine memory moment. 

Mentioning this is certainly not original to me...whole books have been written on the subject of French children and how their families urge them to start cooking quite young, but I figure that it's possible you've forgotten, or perhaps never tried it. I suggest to you: French yogurt cake, basically put together by a child. 

There are a zillion recipes for this, which you can find elsewhere, but they all have one basic thing in common -- you use the yogurt container to measure the ingredients.

This is a lot easier now that they sell yogurt in these little glass containers here in the U.S. You use one container of yogurt, 2 containers of sugar, 3 containers of flour, some eggs, some oil, a little baking powder, mix, and bake. Could not be easier, and you can let a kid pretty much do the whole thing other than using the oven -- it is practically impossible to screw this up. The child in question gets to feel the sense of accomplishment, and you get cake. Win-win. I like to bake it in little ramekins so everyone can have a little snack cake, but follow whatever recipe you like. 

(The little terracotta yogurt pot is the same size as the ones you can get here. I just asked a friend of mine who was headed to France for a vacation a couple of years ago to bring a couple back for me, because I think they're nifty. But any kind will do for this cake.) 

I have actually given some of the little French terracotta yogurt pots to kids and parents as gifts, with my favorite yogurt cake recipe on an index card. It's always been a big hit. You're not just giving them a recipe, you're giving them a memory. 

Try serving with summer fruits -- it's DYNAMITE with raspberries.” 

[Do yourself a favor and follow Laura Lorson on Twitter @prairielaura]

Railey Jane Savage’s JUNK FOOD: (Things I consume to feel better…)

Oi! Oi!

Railey writes:

“No! NO!” she shouts from the middle of the crowd, interrupting clinking glasses and congratulatory flourishes. The guests are stunned as their stiff upper lips are met with a display of messy, unbridled emotion and the anniversary party grounds to a silent halt. I refer, of course, to our beloved early 2000s everywoman, Bridget Jones, interrupting someone else's party. Her reaction stops the room cold and she makes a less-than-smooth exit into a chilly foyer, marking another year of making bad decisions and having a big ass.

We love Bridget for saying the things we wish we could express, but watching her flail makes us glad we keep quiet. I thought of Ms. Jones last week when I attended an outdoor performance of Sondheim’s wicked romp, Sweeney Todd. For someone who spent her first 20 years unapologetically showboating, I find attending live theatre (even pre-Covid) an unnerving experience: I worry I’ll lose all sense of decorum and bring the fourth wall clattering to the floor as I run to the stage and shout, “It’s made up! These people are pretending!” It’s an utterly ir/rational reaction to the invisible scrim that separates player from audience, but one I have poked holes in before.

I was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in A Christmas Carol and, while slowly descending steps through the audience in my heavy robe and black veil, fell on a man and we both squealed, ruining Scrooge’s climacticepiphany. I was Kate in Kiss Me, Kate and sent a stool flying into the pit orchestra and onto the clarinetist during a particularly rousing performance of “I Hate Men.” I was a nun in The Sound of Music and, while exiting stage right, tripped over a piece of the set and launched myself off stage, headfirst.

While squirming to keep my mouth shut during Sweeney I realized it was the 20 year anniversary of my brief stint as a flying nun in the same theatre, outside of which Mrs. Lovetts was now wielding her cleaver. It’s also been 20 years since Bridget Jones’s Diary was released and, lucky for everyone at the theatre that night, I've finally learned Bridget’s lesson.”

(It’s OK to offer up a big finish)

Railey Jane Savage is the author of A Century of Swindles, due out September 2021 from Lyons Press


Our consumer correspondent reports on what the internet is trying to sell her

Emily writes:

What’s New?

“If you’re unsure of what to get that special someone on that special day, fear not: I have just found Friendship Lamps via many (so. many.) targeted ads. 

(Hello Friends!)

These lamps come in sets of two and — unlike the best friendships — are designed to be split up.

Two friends connect the lamps to wifi, and whenever one of the lamp owners touches their lamp, the other one lights up, no matter how far apart they are.

Oooh! Aah!

In addition to lighting up at random intervals, Friendship Lamps can be customized into many different color variations! Because...friendship comes in lots of colors (including cerulean), I guess. 

Ok sure!

Why am I seeing this?

I suspect the internet has figured out my best friend moved to a different city, and it is desperately trying to get both of us to spend money on something we don’t need.

Did they sell me?

A thoughtful concept, but ultimately no, in large part because this bills itself as a lamp it?

I was curious about whether you can actually use Friendship Lamps as, you know, lamps. It seems the answer is no! As far as I can tell, they can only be activated when the other lamp is touched. So you can turn someone else’s lamp on but...not your own? Creepy.

Then there’s the brightness. According to the reviews, these things pack a wallop when turned on. I’m imagining myself giving this to a person I love, then accidentally waking them up in the middle of the night when I elbow this thing on my way to the bathroom. Then the lamp is returned to me, because we are no longer friends!

(Oh no! I have blinded them with my friendship!)

At the end of the day, I don’t see how Friendship Lamps are more thoughtful than just talking to someone I care about over phone, email, or text. Say what you will about the digital age, but there are so many ways to connect to people these days, do we really need one more? 

I think I’ll just stick to: saying it with candles.”

(Emily Mason lives and shops in Chicago. You can follow her on Instagram! @abitahooey)

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