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Q:  We only get to see our grandparents in mid-January because they live so far away. Our grandmother insists on cooking an after-the-holidays meal. It seems like her taste buds have changed dramatically over the years. Would it be outright rude if we showed up with everything already prepared?

Help from readers:

If my family hadn't pointed out that they really didn't like my food, I'd still be cooking the same meal for the holidays that I always had done for the last 10 or so years. It was a bit of a shock, and I certainly wasn't happy to hear it, but with the help of my two daughters, we changed the menu and it actually turned out well for everyone. Talk to your grandmother about the situation and help her plan and physically help her cook some new dishes that relatives will enjoy. — J. B. in Akron, Ohio


Sometimes, as individuals get older, they prefer more or less salt and/or other ingredients, depending on which way their taste buds have changed.

Although holiday meals are often cooked because they're part of a tradition and even though they're a lot of work, they're still meant to be enjoyed. Instead of just showing up with everything already prepared, why not share your opinion with your grandmother first and ask if you could perhaps add a few new things to the menu?

Many people take their cooking quite seriously, so if you just show up with a whole meal prepared, her feelings might be hurt more than you might suspect. Plus, she may have spent time preparing the original.

Once you've been honest with her and you've given her the help she needs making small changes, she may be more open to larger ones over time.

Giving her assistance throughout also allows you to keep an eye on things you and your family don't like, such as the amount of a certain ingredient she uses.

In other words, don't tell her that you are going to replace all of her traditional dishes, but suggest that you would like to try some new ones that you know your family likes and that you think she would as well.

Be sure to tell her that you will pay and shop for all of the things needed for these and will prepare them right along her side. She will most likely appreciate this.


We just found out that the sister of the woman that our brother just got married to in Mexico is the receptionist at our doctor's office. We know her better than his wife but didn't know the two were related until recently. She has six kids and our brother's wife has four. Our family would like to buy all of them gifts for Christmas. The challenge is that my brother's family will not be home for the holidays until Jan. 12. Should we go ahead and buy gifts for the kids and celebrate with her sister's family? Either way, it'd be helpful if you could provide us with gift ideas.

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