Tag Archives: holidays

10 simple steps for creating an annual holiday letter

It’s that time of year again when mailboxes are clogged filled with holiday letters from various friends and family, updating everyone on the various accomplishments of the past year. I seem to received a lot of these letters (I post my own online, for instance here and here) and having read many thousands of such letters, I have come to recognize certain patterns. Since it is still fairly early in December, I thought I would share my insights with you all and give you 10 simple steps for creating a holiday letter that will be the envy of all your friends.

1. Salutation

Most of these letters start off in one of two ways. The decision on which way you start off the letter is crucial because it sets the tone for the rest of your message. In the salutation, you are addressing your audience and in letters like these, your audience is often broad and varied. The two most common variants are as follows:

  1. Dear Friends and Family,
  2. Dear Family and Friends,

I’ve listed these two salutations in order of popularity. This is a tough decision for those afraid of offending anyone. By listing “friends” before “family” you risk offending family members by relegating them to second place in the salutation. However, by listing “family” before “friends” you risk the same with your friends. One could argue that “friends and family” has a more sonorous ring to it, and feels more natural rolling off the tongue, but in these tough diplomatic situations, how something sounds is less important than the meaning it conveys.

A reasoned approach is necessary which is why I recommend addressing your letter to “Friends and Family.” Friends you can lose by offending them. Family is family no matter what. They are stuck with you and you them. In consideration of the fact that friends can be lost when family cannot, in the same sense, be lost, going with “Dear Friends and Family” is the obvious choice.

A more ambiguous (and if you ask me, somewhat cowardly) approach is to leave off the salutation all together and jump right into item #2. In this instance you single no one out so the chances of offending any one group is far less. The chance of offending all groups seems greater, however. As far as anyone can tell, with this approach, you might be addressing the dog or the pet goldfish.

Continue reading 10 simple steps for creating an annual holiday letter

Happy (Mushy) Valentine’s Day

Today marks the 4th Valentine’s Day that Kelly and I have spent together, and it is worthy of at least a brief mention:

<begin mushy sentiment>

I generally agree that Valentine’s Day has become a Hallmark holiday and a rather sentimental one at that, given its history. We buy cards and flowers and candy. It becomes an obligation, just to save face among one’s peers and family. But it also provides a convenient place on the calendar to take a few minutes respite from the day-to-day routine and consider your lot in life. And for me, I woke up this morning thinking about how lucky I am to have Kelly in my life, how much better she makes my days, how tolerant and patient she is with my many (many!) idiosyncrasies, how supportive and encouraging she is of my dreams. If I believed in reincarnation, that in each subsequent life you are rewarded for the good things you did in the previous life, I’d have to assume that I was saintly indeed in some previous life, given my good fortune in this one to be blessed with such a wonderful companion with whom to live it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Kelly!

<end mushy sentiment>

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Christmas morning

The Little Man has an ear infection and managed to have a bit of a rough night last night. He slept in this morning, however, much to the chagrin of everyone else who wanted him up so that he could open all of his presents. He finally got up about halfway through our gift unwrapping and he seemed to have a wonderful time opening all of his presents.

When he first woke up, he was a bit out of it and not too sure what was going on. But after he opened his first few presents, he got the idea pretty quickly. He got close to a dozen Thomas trains and a track on which to run them. He got some of his favorite Cars cars inlcuding Mater and Lightning McQueen. He got his own laptop computer and a Little People farm set. He got a work helmet and toolbox. The number of toys was nearly overwhelming and he seemed delighted by it all.

He is now sitting on the floor in his Santa Rocks pajamas playing with his trains, exploring and he has a big smile on his face. A very merry Christmas, indeed.

Holiday Letter, 2059

Dear Friends and Family,

We are just back from another trip around the sun and let me say it is good to be home. Virgin Galactic lost our luggage on the way back but I am optimistic that they will pick up its beacon before our bag spirals into the sun. And besides, I’d already uploaded all of the holograms we took so that only real loss is the suede jumpsuit that Marcia’s mom got me for Christmas last year.

And speaking of Christmas, the holiday season is virtually upon us again and I wanted to take this opportunity to update all of you on what has been going with the Rubin clan this last year.  My Dad started this tradition way back in 2009 and I’ve tried to continue it each year because like him, I think it’s important that everyone we know or have ever heard of is made aware of all of the wonderful things that have happened to us over the course of the year.

Alas, this year I must open with some sad news. Dad is no longer with us. We moved him into a special facility on Luna earlier this year because quite frankly, his fame and ego were getting to be too much for us to handle. And besides, the low gravity will do him some good; he’s always complaining about back pain and it should be significantly improved in 1/6th gravity. He took it in stride, I think. He is busy working on his next novel, a science fiction thriller about about a family who tries to get rid of their patriarch by sending him off to the moon. We still tweet with him almost every day. I find he is much easier to take in 140 character chunks. Mom went with him and she apparently loves “their condo in Mare Imbrium” as she refers to it.

It is hard to believe, but I turned the big Five-Oh back in June. Of course, I feel like I’m twenty, but Zoe, who turned twenty this year keeps reminding me that I am not. Zoe is beginning her junior year at Princeton and majoring in “singularity studies” which I have no chance of understanding. (Frankly, I don’t believe she or her professors understand it either, but that’s just my opinion.)  Zane turned 18 this year and has just completed his first semester at Julliard, where he is majoring in virtual musical performances.  (“Rock Band,” I call it.  Kids these days…)

Marcia appears to be following in her father-in-law’s footsteps. Earlier this year, she got a major book deal and the very next day, she did something she’s always talked about doing. She walked into her bosses office and said, “Marty, I’ve been here for nearly twenty years and I’ve really liked working here. The people are wonderful and the job is, for the most part, interesting. But I’m afraid I must give me notice. You see, I can no longer afford to word here. With this latest book deal I simply make too much money as a writer.” So Marcia is now self-employed, or put another way, she’d her own boss. (She’ll claim she’s my boss, too, but don’t let her fool you. We all know who wears the kilt in this family.)

As for me, not much has changed. I’m a year older of course, and I’ve added a few hundred million frequent flier miles to my account. With both the kids away at school and Marcia now her own boss, we are planning on traveling a bit more. We’ve already booked a cruise to Venus in 2060, and some friends are trying to talk us into seeing the ruins of the alien city on Titan in 2061. I really can’t think that far ahead.

I hope that your year has been as blessed as ours and that your holiday season is filled with friends, family, and lots of alcohol holiday cheer.  As you can see in the background, Mom is impatiently waiting for me to finish this hologram so that she can put in her favorite holiday movie, Love, Actually, yet another Rubin holiday tradition. (Can you believe that picture is not even 3-D, let alone interactive!?)  It’s been wonderful seeing you all and I look forward to hearing from you in the new year.  And as Dad used to say…

“With love and kisses,”

Zachary, Marcia, Zoe and Zane

The First Night

So last night was the first night of Hanukkah. It is no secret to anyone who knows me that, while I was brought up Jewish, I am non-practicing. Other Jews have a phrase for this: I’m a bad Jew.

(This reminds me of the man who told a friend that he was getting a divorce from his wife.  The friend said, “But you’re Catholic, how can you do that?” The man said, “Ah, you haven’t heard of the loophole?” to which the friend replied, “I know of no loophole.”  The man smiled and said, “I’m a bad Catholic.”)

In any event, I might not be practicing, but it seemed appropriate to expose the Little Man to the experience, just as we expose him to the Christmas experience. We didn’t light the candles, mainly because I don’t practice and besides, the Little Man would not yet understand what that was all about, but he did open a Hanukkah present sent by his grandparents. I took video and will ultimately put together a video montage of each of the eight nights, starring the Little Man opening his gifts.  One lesson I took away from last night: let him eat dinner before opening the gifts. While he generally enjoys tearing up paper, he was acutely less interested last night because he was hungry and wanted to eat. So we’ll try again tonight, but only after he has a belly full of food.

If you celebrate the holiday, Happy Hanukkah.  Or is it Chappy Chanukah?

My long holiday weekend plan

Since everyone has been posting what they will be doing this Thanksgiving weekend here is my plan:


  • Head home early
  • Clean up the house a bit
  • Work on more fixes for the novel outline
  • Write Chapter 24
  • Arlington Writers Group meetup at 7pm


  • Early morning writing (Chapter 25)
  • Last-minute house-stuff
  • Thanksgiving with friends: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

(Black) Friday

  • Get up very early to… write Chapter 26 while everyone else is shopping
  • Hang out with friends coming into town for the weekend


  • Get up early to write Chapter 27
  • More hanging out with friends


  • Get up early to write Chapter 28
  • A little hanging out with friends before they head home
  • Cleaning up the house
  • Dexter and Boardwalk Empire

What will you be doing for your holiday weekend?

Columbus Day

No work today as it is a federal holiday and that meant I could sleep in late and be lazy all day long. And that’s more or less what happened. Kelly headed home after lunch at TGI Friday’s. I planned to get the house cleaned up a bit, do some laundry, and head to the gym for my upper body workout. Instead, I lay down on the bed to pet Zeke and ended up falling asleep for nearly 3 hours. When I finally work up, it was around 5 PM and the day was mostly used up.

I am looking forward to the Yankees/Indians game tonight. And I may manage to get some laundry done between now and then. Maybe even a few odd chores. I do wonder how I’ll sleep tonight, however, having slept in late and taken a lengthy nap in the afternoon. I guess I’ll find out.

Spoke briefly with Dad today. And had a longer video chat with strausmouse earlier this afternoon. (He had the day off too.)

Now let me see if I can’t get a few things done before this long weekend is all over.

Congratulations Andy and Mandy!

Hannah Riley Owens arrived this morning via c-section, weighing in around 6 pounds, which is only slightly smaller than her mother. Congratulations Andy and Mandy! That’s awesome news. I love days like this. We haven’t seen pictures yet, but Andy described his daughter as having a birthmark that looked strikingly similar to the NY of the New York Yankees. He also said that her gentle cry sounds similar to a crowd shouting, “Jeter! Jeter!”

It’s fitting for Andy and Mandy that Hannah was born on the Jewish New Year. As strausmouse has said, Happy Rosh Hash-Hannah! Even though there is supposed to be no labor on the Jewish New Year, my guess is that not only would rabbis make an exception in this case, they’d probably say it was a sign of good fortune.

So congratulations once again, kids. You have all sorts of amazing things to look forward to. Just read strausmouse‘s blog to see what I mean.

I can’t wait to see her!

Happy programmer’s day

Being a programmer, I should have known this, but I’m off my game. Today is “programmer’s day”. It’s the 256th day of the year. If you don’t get it, then you are definitely not a nerd. If you do get it, welcome to the club!

To L.A. for Thanksgiving

I just booked my tickets to L.A. for Thanksgiving. This year, we are having Thanksgiving at Mom and Dad’s house. Doug, Rachel, Ruby, Carson, Jen and Jason will all be flying in. I’ve been holding off on buying the tickets because they are pretty expensive right now, but I bought them today for fear that the prices wouldn’t come down any further. Granted, I could have probably bought tickets on another airline, but it makes sense to me to only fly United because that’s where all my miles are, my upgrade credits, my Red Carpet membership, etc. It’s the price I pay for those benefits. This time, that price was $468 round-trip from Dulles to LAX, which is about $100 more than what I paid for essentially the same trip over Labor Day weekend.

In any event, I’ve got my e-tickets. I leave for L.A. at 8 AM on Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) and arrive just before 11 AM. I’ll see if Doug can pick me up from the airport in the fashionable minivan he will be renting for his trip. I head home on the red-eye, Saturday night, at 10:20 PM. That means I can drive home Sunday morning and go right to sleep.

Incidentally, this is the trip that will, for the fifth or sixth year in a row, guarantee another full year of United Mileage Plus Premier membership (I’ll likely end the year with somewhere around 30,000 miles flown.)

Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, so:


Also, Happy Father’s Day to Doug, strausmouse, Rich, Todd, and all of the other Dad’s that I know.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to Mom (a.k.a. rubysnina) who is celebrating a milestone 35th Mother’s Day this year. I hope that you have a terrific day today!