Rule Number 1 in my personal survival handbook.

Image for post
Image for post
Donna Reed always looked pretty when doing housework. Image from

Self-care has been a struggle for me lately, but I’m getting better. After a couple of days staying in my sleepwear until dinner (while writing, parenting and old-dog-ownering), I finally did things right today.

Yes, this was the day I shimmied into tights, stepped into my mauve knit Anthropologie skirt and popped on a pretty turquoise sweater from last winter. (I bought it at a fancy boutique in town, on sale — at the end of February 2020, right before Covid dug in its heels.) …

I was young and didn’t always ask the right questions.

Image for post
Image for post
I wish I had researched the show or thought of a couple of great questions before meeting the creator and producer, who had an air of power, brilliance — and impatience with someone who hadn’t done her homework.

Sometimes I still cringe over my early interactions with famous people (click for high school Pacino blunder) as I climbed partway up the ladder, rung by unsteady rung, in the magazine world. But we learn from our missteps as well as our reaches, so it all worked out.

1. Don Hewitt. My first job was at Woman’s Day, then owned by CBS Magazines. I wrote (for free, after hours or at lunchtime) for the CBS employee newsletter and was dispatched in 1985 to Black Rock, the network’s imposing skyscraper at 51 West 52nd Street. Task: Interview Mr. Hewitt, creator and producer of top-ranked “60 Minutes,” regarding his new book called Minute by Minute, a look at the show’s history. I knew the ticking clock from Sunday night TV but really, I was more of a Mademoiselle reader than a news hound and had no clue what a busy power broker he was. I also didn’t know what to ask, and Mr. Hewitt couldn’t waste minutes. I felt like a hayseed. I stammered out some questions. Above all, it was a lesson in being prepared as a reporter at all costs, which I was not. And who better to learn it from than the brains behind the award-winng news show?

You know the famous question: What (insert number, up to 10) things would you take to a desert island?

Image for post
Image for post
I’m crazy about the decaf beans (and pink floral logo) from Sweet Laurel in California. If I could bring a battery-powered coffee bean grinder, a French press and organic half and half in a retro glass milk bottle to a desert island, I would.

The list of things we could not live without on a remote island has included a range from multitasking peach lip balm (I really want it, thanks to this Australian article) to a tarp and fire-starting kit, according to Prepping Planet.

But I’ve been thinking about grocery essentials during this pandemic, when so many of us have been locked down to some degree, venturing out in masks when necessary. And about which items were kitchen musts for my parents (he, Italian-American; she, Irish-American), raising four kids from the 1950s through the 1970s. …

I recognized her from somewhere, with her dark curls and tentative smile…I knew I did. But she didn’t remember me at all.

Image for post
Image for post
Icebox Cake from old-time Billy’s Bakery. This is a chocolate wafer affair, but Billy’s bakes classic layer cakes of all kinds, from coconut to lemon. The original location is in Chelsea.

Picture a warm, sunny spring weekday in New York City, more than 10 years ago. Employees were sprung from their desks with freedom and joy, headed out for afternoon coffee/cake breaks in Chelsea. I recognized the office attire — rolled up shirtsleeves for men, pantsuits for women.

It was the first taste of spring, in all its beauty, balm and buzz.

I was walking uptown to the Port Authority to catch the #66 DeCamp bus back to Montclair. …

Well, we didn’t actually lose them — we were just too exhausted to hunt them down.

Image for post
Image for post
One desperate Yuletide, our Elf on the Shelf was missing and I subbed in this perky plastic figure from the brand’s musical game.

Farewell, 2020. Here’s your hat — what’s your hurry? Close the door behind you on your way out.

In our slow shuffle this Christmastime, we didn’t get around to tree shopping until Fred’s Since 1956, a local landmark, had sold out and boarded up for the year. The traveling men, and their axes and pine trees, had vanished. It felt like a dark moment from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The nursery in the next town was open, but had only one straggly Charlie Brown tree standing. We settled for a pricier potted evergreen, which doesn’t wobble (bonus!) …

I‘ve known Susan, the White woman at the heart of a Montclair racial controversy that went viral, for 21 years — and I have some good things to say about her.

Image for post
Image for post
Montclair — home of White privilege or ordinary neighbor bristling? Photo from HERE.

Saturday, July 18, was hot and sticky. Kate, who was hosting our book club, stirred up icy gin and tonics. She had just perfected the recipe on a trip to Cape Cod. We were on the patio in her sweet Montclair backyard, over by Mount Hebron Road. We settled into lawn chairs surrounded by pretty hydrangeas.

Our longstanding group had met monthly on Zoom since the pandemic took hold in March, but we missed being in person, and thought we could swing it if we stayed masked when not eating or drinking, sat at a distance and didn’t dig into a shared platter. …

Chanukah and Christmas cheer will save us this December, in the time of Covid.

Image for post
Image for post

The sweet, simple donut menorah spotted December 10 at Daily Provisions in Union Square, New York City. Photos by Alice Garbarini Hurley.

Many of us carry extra weight on our shoulders these days — debt, worry, health risks, loss, family fault lines. We try to shrug it off, but it’s not easy. Still, along the way, it’s hard not to smile at these bursts of holiday joy.

  1. Menorahs. I’ve seen them brighten the dark with white, blue or natural beeswax tapers — for your consideration, the brilliant donut menorah, above, spotted in New York City last Thursday night. I zipped in for a few hours with three masked kids in the back seat of my secondhand Toyota and was focusing on pretty blue Joe Coffee bags at Daily Provisions in Union Square. The kids noticed the menorah in the window and mustered up their courage to ask if the swirled cruller donuts were real. …

I am a sugar addict and plan to focus on merry notes that replace baking this Christmas — our health, my teal velvet dress and a sweet, fragrant orange.

Image for post
Image for post
My Williams Sonoma cookie jar will not hold cookies this year, but it’s still a sign of holiday cheer.

I am hooked on sugar and trying to break the bond— there, I said it — so Santa, you will not find these accoutrements in our house this Christmas Eve.

  1. Christmas tree cookies with melted-chocolate swags. I made my first batch of buttery sugar-cookie dough in the International Chefs’ Club at Dumont High School (New Jersey) in the 1970s. As a younger mother, I left you a plateful and a note, first with our daughter Annie, and then with Skippy. If our girls were still believers now and the stars were in their courses, you would be fortunate to find a beautifully trimmed cookie from The Little Daisy Bake Shop. …

I wrote this on Monday, August 14, three summers ago, and posted it on my blog. I’ve updated it here with photos and details.

Image for post
Image for post
My parents’ friend and Dad’s co-worker, Marguerite (Rite) Bremner, who first rented the little cottage on Windmill Lane to our family of six.

Dear Figgy (on the cusp of 22) and Skipper (age 10),

Tell me, is it in you? The love of Cape Cod?

I have gone, on and off — but lately, most definitely on — since I was about four. My parents took their maiden voyage in 1951, a honeymoon road trip from New York City to Maine, New Hampshire and Cape Cod.

About 14 years later, our family rented a cottage in North Eastham, on Windmill Lane near Great Pond. I remember my Dad backing the white Ford Falcon out of the driveway in the Saturday morning dark; that’s how eager he and Mom were to return to that sandy hook. My mother packed most of our things in one big gray suitcase. How magical it was to see her zip it up in our Dumont house and know it contained our vacation.

There’s nothing cozy about a blanket of depression, especially in the time of Covid.

Image for post
Image for post

Image from HERE.

I consider myself experienced at dealing with depression, but that doesn’t make me an expert. I’m just an ordinary person who has seen the darkness, felt it closing in on me, and witnessed others snowed under it, too.

But I’m here to tell you that I threw the blanket off, at least for now. By that I mean both figuratively, the heavy cover of sadness and bitterness, and literally, the soft meadow-blue flannel sheets I took refuge under for so many days.

Miraculously, I am in recovery, holding onto happiness one moment at a time. …


Alice Garbarini Hurley

Magazine maven, craft coffee lover, legal guardian. Passionate about fashion and lipstick — though it may not look that way when I dash to the supermarket.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store