From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Your new book is a collection of writings on Christmas. What inspired you?
I like finding things families can read that span generations. It would be nice if reading could be part of the Christmas celebration.

How did you choose what to include?
[Love of] reading is something my mother passed on to my brother and me, and some of our favorites are in this book. And there are things my own children [Rose, 19, Tatiana, 17, and Jack, 14] enjoy, like The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy [by Jane Thayer].

There's also your letter to Santa from '62—you ask for silver skates and "a real pet reindeer." Do you remember writing it?
No, but I remember dictating to my mother, her writing down things.

Other memories of Christmas?
We got oranges and walnuts in our stockings. In the "olden days" those were a treat. My brother and I thought it was completely unacceptable, but I think it's a nice thing to continue. My children don't like it either!

You had a big birthday this year—how did you celebrate?
Neil Diamond called in to my party [and said she was the inspiration for his song 'Sweet Caroline']. It was a great surprise my husband [Ed Schlossberg] had cooked up. I couldn't believe it!

How did it feel?
I always felt that was my song because it had my name in it, so it was really fun to find out maybe I had something to do with it.

Thoughts on turning 50?
Everything's going well, my kids are healthy. I feel so lucky. I hear it's a lot better than turning 80!