Friday, August 28, 2009


Our life here at the homestead is usually uneventful. But when something happens, it always turns into a saga. The latest unfolded on a seemingly uneventful morning. As usual, Charlie was hard at work communicating with 2000 of his closest friends on the computer. I was engaged in my usual activity for the early morning: drinking coffee in my PJ’s and reading the paper.

Suddenly, we both noticed an odd thing: our five cats were lined up in front of the glass fireplace doors, mesmerized, looking just like five guys at a bar watching Monday Night Football on the big screen. “OH MY GOD, THERE IS SOMETHING IN THERE!” I exclaimed. Charlie then assumed a position behind the cats, and peered in. “I think it is a small animal of some kind, maybe a raccoon.”

I assumed a position behind the cats and Charlie. IT MOVED. In my fright, I goosed Charlie, who stumbled forward. As we jostled about, spilling coffee and stubbing our toes on the decorative stonework around the hearth, we both realized that the animal in question was a little bird. A darling little sparrow.

“He can’t fly back up the chimney! How will he get out?” I wailed. As calm as ever, Charlie pragmatically answered, “When he dies in there, then I can get him out.”

“WHAT? You CAN’T let that poor little thing DIE! We have to get him out!”

Charlie pointed out the obvious. Getting the bird out would most certainly entail his death anyway, with five lethal felines just waiting for the moment to strike as soon as the glass fireplace doors opened. So we spent fifteen minutes chasing cats, capturing them, and locking them in the basement.

Back to the fireplace. ME: “Can we just reach in there and get him?” CHARLIE: “Are you kidding? As soon as we open the doors, he will fly out and we will never catch him.” ME: “Then let’s get the cats back in here. They won’t let him get far!” CHARLIE: “Are you an idiot? I thought you didn’t want the bird to die!”

Next idea. Armed with duct tape and a large garden and leaf bag, we affixed the bag tightly around the entire fireplace opening with the tape. Genius! We then managed to pry the glass doors open without disturbing the bag. And we waited. After ten minutes, it dawned on us that sparrows are not stupid enough to fly into black bags.

Back to square one. CHARLIE: “Get the cats out here. Let’s let them catch it, and then we can snatch it from them.” ME: “Who will be the snatcher?” The answer was obvious. I put on gloves, long sleeves for pecking protection, and let the cats out. We had a moment of silence, and then ripped off the trash bag.

I opened the door. The little bird, scared out of his mind, stared at me, and I at him. Suddenly, he made a break for it, and I grabbed him. The gloves came up empty. Before I could even register surprise, chaos ensued! Charlie, who never let go of his coffee cup during the entire proceedings, gestured wildly with said cup, flinging coffee all over the rug. I dashed wildly about, but the bird landed on the top of the armoire next to the sofa.

But our intrepid Bengal cat Salami (that is ANOTHER story) reverted to the wild at that very moment! Faster than a speeding cheetah, he LEAPT from the floor to the top of the armoire in a single bound. The bird was in Salami’s jaws!

Fast, fast, fast—I shook off the gloves, ran down the front hall after the cat, turned right into the TV room, emerged back into the living room. I was panting, sweating, and swearing. Charlie watched in amazement as I deftly grabbed the cat. Rushing to Charl, holding the cat at arm’s length, I shouted, “GET THE BIRD, GET THE BIRD, BEFORE HE DROPS IT!!”

Charlie, whose reaction time was never fast, even before he had a stroke, remained holding his empty coffee mug. He seemed stunned. So I had to revert to the wild myself! The cavewoman in me came out, and I swung the cat around, pinned him to the handwoven antique Persian rug my mother-in-law gave me, and with ONE GLOVELESS HAND, snatched the hapless bird. Running towards the front door, shrieking, brought Charlie to his senses, and he rushed to open it.

SUCCESS. I flung the bird to freedom. Relieved, I sank into a chair. Charlie looked at me with undisguised admiration. He gazed at me for a few moments, and then asked the question:

“How do you think she got in there in the first place? Do you suppose there is a nest up there?”


My mother gave me lots of advice. I have remembered much of it and used little of it. Mothers in my Mom’s day were concerned with what might happen to you if you suddenly had to go to the emergency room: WHAT WOULD THOSE DOCTORS THINK IF THEY DISCOVERED A SAFTETY PIN HOLDING YOUR BRA STRAP TOGETHER? As a Mother myself, I today’s world much more complicated, and the issues I nag my daughters about are MUCH more fraught!

Do you have to wear those eight inch heels? Podiatrists all over the world are profiting from this trend. Do men REALLY like women who are well over six feet tall? I you keep this up, by the time you are thirty, you will be a cripple, I guarantee you!

Do you have to send a text message every twenty seconds? Are your friends that needy? Or that lonely? What do you all TELL each other all the time? Why is it better to text than to talk? And you could DIE if you do it while driving!

Who invented pub crawls? Yes, I taught you to set goals. But what is the purpose of deliberately setting out to get drunk, flash your boobs, give lap dances to strangers, and then want to DIE the next morning? Is there a benefit to this that I am missing somehow?

What is the difference between downloading and UPLOADING? Do you need worms to go phishing? Is autosense anything close to COMMON sense? And if a HASH TAG is what I think it is, you better NOT be IT in that game!

Believe me when I tell you that having a career is great, but having a CHILD is greater. That biological clock thing is REAL. And really, the fact that it is possible for fifty year old women to gestate successfully HELPS THEIR MOTHERS NOT AT ALL. I would like to have a grandchild that I would be young enough to pick up, and still sane enough to recognize! By the time you are in your forties, I will be closing in on wearing diapers myself!

Really, the whole concept of multi-tasking has just gone too far. I know your generation is brilliant, competitive, and driven. But texting while driving, using your blackberry and your computer simultaneously, eating your lunch at the dry cleaners, and working on your Master’s thesis while on the treadmill just seems counter productive to me.

Remember to set some time aside for family. Book clubs, teams in training, yes, BLOGS, Ebay, eco tourism, TiVo, and fantasy football are all very important aspects of your life. But walking around the block with your Dad, emailing your sister, sitting around at Thanksgiving for just one more helping of potatoes, and calling home once a week are essential building blocks of life. Remember that thing about smelling roses?

Well, we have some unbelievable rose bushes here in our yard! Want to come over and have a whiff?


Raindrops on roses are fine. Whiskers on kittens are adorable. But COME ON. Who in their right mind would put these on a list of their favorites? It is time to revise that old saw and get REAL. Today’s world has turned so many times since Julie Andrews climbed that mountain! Here are a few of MY favorite things:

Central air conditioning. How in heaven’s name has mankind done without it? And now, with global warming? I can’t even imagine how pioneer women got through menopause.

Target. In one place, there is everything a person could want. In one day, at one place, I can stock up on underwear, coffee filters, popcorn, dental floss, patio furniture, M and M’s, and Swiffer Wet Jet refills. It is as near to achieving Nirvana as I will ever get.

The microwave oven. Without this, life on earth would grind to a halt. People would be late for work, waiting for water to boil for coffee. Long lines would form at take out windows. Families would miss soccer practices and be late for church. The company that makes Pizza Rolls would go out of business. My God, the ENTIRE ECONOMY would suffer!

CAKE. And if it is chocolate, with butter cream icing, I would commit a CRIME to get some.

Pets. I don’t trust people who don’t like animals. I cannot fathom a life without them. Siamese cats are the very best. They think they rule the world. Second to Siamese are cats of any variety, shape or size, as long as the purr mechanism is in working order. Dogs are best when mixed of breed, about to be eliminated at the shelter, and forever grateful to you for rescuing them. Pets give you love, courage, and renewed faith in living. Plus furballs on the carpet, scuff marks on the hardwood, and a crowded bed at night.

Self tanning lotion. Oh, my gosh, did you know about this stuff? Those days of turning orange after two applications are gone! Now I can wear Capri pants proudly! A word of caution, however—the warning on the label about washing hands after applying is still of utmost importance.

Shout wipes. These must have been invented for the Baby Boomer generation. With our eyesight going and our eye/hand coordination on the decline, eating at a restaurant can be MIGHTY EMBARRASSING! But now, just whip one of these out of your pocket or purse, and in seconds, that salad dressing will vanish from the front of your shirt!

Cell phones.
Now I can call my daughters from ANYWHERE, ANYTIME! I can have a conversation in the checkout line at Walgreen’s! I can contact my gynecologist while filling my car up with gas! I can have my own unique ringtone, and since I am so old and hearing impaired, I can set the volume up real high—so that EVERYONE at the grocery store can hear “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes when I get a call! And with Twitter, I can tell the world what I am doing every minute, all the time!

Finally, HERE IS A NOTE TO MY HUSBAND: The above listing is a small compendium of things that I love, but as far as YOU are concerned, just one thing counts:


Sunday, August 23, 2009


I have passions. I don’t just like things, I LOVE THEM. And why waste calories disliking something, when you can HATE it? Some people say I am a drama queen. I disagree. I simply KNOW MY OWN MIND. Here are some of the many things I simply despise:

Bad grammar. As a career English teacher, I spent twenty years in the trenches, battling improper pronoun reference, subject verb disagreements, dangling participles, mixed metaphors, tense shift, and sentence fragments. It was a losing battle and a lost cause. Of course, the fact that I commit many of the crimes I so valiantly sought to punish is beside the point. Totally.

Bad manners. Don’t stack your dishes at a restaurant. Cover your mouth when you cough. Don’t interrupt, for heaven’s sakes. Put your napkin IN YOUR LAP. If you get a present, send a thank you note! If someone has a black eye, DON’T ask how it happened! And geesh—stop staring!

Cooking every day is a pain. For the life of me, when people say that they RELAX by cooking, I simply don’t get it! How can peeling, chopping, measuring, proofing, stuffing, basting, skinning, straining, boning, and bain marie-ing be RELAXING? Is following a recipe that has fifteen steps remotely enjoyable? How did Julie Powell do it? How did Julia CHILD do it? Why does anyone do it, except for restaurant chefs and Stouffers?

I hate packing for trips. Will it be sunny and hot, or chilly? Should I take a sweater? Will I need something dressy? Should I take two or three pairs of shoes? Will I look like a tourist if I wear sneakers? Are Capri pants considered stylish in New York City? Do they wear leggings in London? How can I leave town for ten days with just ONE suitcase? Why is it my husband can go anywhere, for any duration, with just a carry on?

Chain letters. Guilt, guilt, guilt! It is my fault that there is no cure for cancer, that world peace is still a faint hope, and that my family is not rich beyond our wildest dreams. If only I had taken the time to forward that email on to ten people, or copy that chain letter and buy stamps in order to send it on! I have to live with this every day. No wonder I can’t sleep at night!

Hardware stores are the pits. OMG, there is simply NOTHING for me to buy at a hardware store! How my husband can spend hours in one is a mystery to me! And those big box home stores are worse! Grills, lawnmowers, storm windows, grouting, weather stripping, power tools—the list goes on and on, and on, and ON. We go in for a dowel, and an HOUR later, we are still browsing. The only thing worse than a hardware store is a COMPUTER store….

Small talk. I can’t make small talk for the LIFE of me! How do people navigate parties successfully? I can never think of anything to ASK anyone. Is it because I see a room full of strangers and want to keep it that way? I just can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm for chatting up unfamiliar folks. I don’t want to know what they do, where they live, how many kids they have, who they voted for, what their stand is on health care, what surgeries they have had lately, if they eat organic food, or if they have ever run a marathon. Sartre had it ALMOST right. “Hell is other people.”


Sunday, August 16, 2009


I am not fat. Not any more. I didn’t realize I had GOTTEN fat. I just thought that Target had started skimping in their sizing practices. I could deny it no longer the day my husband noted that I had “lumberjack arms.” So I joined Weight Watchers. I lost thirty pounds. Do you think it was EASY? Heck, no. Did I cheat? Hell, yes. Did I learn some things? You can be the judge:

Be stalwart at the Dairy Queen. A small swirl cone is seven WW points. And it can be satisfying. However, it is much MORE satisfying to order that cone, but at the same time, sample as much of your husband’s hot fudge sundae as you can before he gets annoyed with you. This ups your happiness quotient and only adds one or two more points to your daily total.

Beware of Weight Watchers dessert products. They give you GAS. I learned this the hard way by eating them after lunch at work and then observing the anguish of my co-workers….

Exercise, exercise, exercise. I have become addicted to Spinning. Not only does it make you sweat like crazy and burn 600+ calories an hour, but it makes you feel extremely virtuous. If you begin riding an exercise bike for ten minutes a session and keep adding on minutes, within about six months you can take your first Spinning class. Spinning teachers are invariably young, perky, fit, and enthusiastic. By enduring one of their classes, you will feel as if you have climbed Everest and survived. You might also want to slap the instructor. Nevertheless, after taking classes for a few months, you will wonder how you survived without a bike between your legs. If you catch my drift….

Eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. If you limit your consumption at those two meals, you will have enough calories left each day for a satisfying dinner. If by satisfying you mean a piece of chicken, some broccoli, butter spray, and a fist-size helping of rice. However, by doing this, you will still have calories/points left over for the most important nutritional part of the day: DESSERT. As far as I am concerned, the person who invented COOL WHIP FREE deserves the Nobel Prize. Cool Whip Free can make just about anything taste good. I have even considered putting it on a piece of toast, but I haven’t gone quite that far.

Keep busy. They say that if you get hungry, take a walk. I could never do that, due to exhaustion from my Spinning class. What would I do instead? I found that sitting on the sofa and watching people on TV exercise was diverting. And if that didn’t work, I found that shaking my arms wildly about took my mind off my hunger. If you try this, be sure that the curtains are shut. Neighbors witnessing this hunger diversion might jump to erroneous conclusions about your mental health. Another thing that took my mind hunger was arguing with my husband. Nothing makes a dieting wife madder than her husband FLAUNTING forbidden snacks. If I told him once, I told him a hundred times: “IF YOU INSIST ON EATING THOSE MALTED MILK BALLS, DO IT IN THE BASEMENT!”

Curb those spiteful thoughts! It might console you to know that every single dieting woman in the world has wanted to issue death threats to Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman, but these thoughts are simply not productive.

Forgive yourself for transgressions. If I beat myself up for every scoop of Jamocha Almond Fudge that I ate while dieting, I would be in intensive care. If you eat something you shouldn’t, remember that TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. Tomorrow, however, does come, and you must go back to good habits. This gets easier as time goes on. I said EASIER, not EASY.

Reward yourself for making progress. Food is not a good reward here. For me, the best reward for losing weight was a quick trip to Target, where you can get a really cute purse for very little money! Also at Target are bargain t-shirts and cute pants. But don’t get those, because you will soon need a smaller size!

Stick with it, no matter what. Did you GAIN weight this week? I know the feeling. Did you skip going to the gym? I have done that. Did you binge on thin mint Girl Scout cookies? Done that. Did you have a glass of wine with dinner four nights in a row? Been there. Did you catch a glimpse of yourself in a store window and wonder who that puffy stranger was? Me too. But in spite of all that, I kept at it, and today, when I look in store windows, I no longer see that puffy woman.

I see a thin OLD woman!

Monday, August 10, 2009


The older I get, the more I appreciate the person who wrote that book about Mars and Venus. Not that I read the book, but evidently the author pointed out that men and women are so different that it isn’t even funny. After almost 40 years of marriage, I still don’t understand the opposite sex. So what is it with men, anyway?

Friendship. For women, a friend is a lifeline, someone to share problems with. Women are good sounding boards. Women lunch with their friends, talk on the phone with their friends, babysit for their friends, laugh with their friends, and weep with their friends. Men don’t really have friends, but they have CRONIES. Cronies share sports, cigars, and poker.

Entertainment. For women, a wonderful evening consists of a beautiful dinner with candles, and a romantic movie. Alternatively, women enjoy drives in the country, shopping, picnics, and anything involving other women. Men enjoy watching sports on TV, scratching themselves, repairing cars, and anything involving tools.

Humor. Is there any woman, anywhere, who thinks that “The Three Stooges” are funny?

Gifts. I don’t even know where to BEGIN on this one! I feel I can speak for most women here. For us, the perfect gift involves jewels, perfume, anything associated with fashion or containing a thread count of over 300. Here are some examples of gifts that my friends and I have received from our husbands: socks, bed pillows, car caddies, Tupperware, “The Autobiography of Ann Heche,” birdseed, and AN ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH. Need I say more?

Tourism. To me the perfect vacation consists of an exciting city, a beautiful hotel with Frette sheets, wonderful food, theatre, and it goes without saying—SHOPPING. For my husband and many men, the perfect vacation includes lots of brochures about local attractions such as caverns, tractor pulls, civil war monuments, suspension bridges, and industrial museums. For me, to be seen on a street corner of an exotic city with a new purse hanging on my shoulder is exciting. For Charlie, the thrill involves hanging both regular and digital cameras around his neck, stuffing his pockets with maps, and standing on that same street corner peering intently at a guidebook. The highlight of our last vacation was our excursion (thanks to one of those brochures) to see the world’s largest concrete horseshoe crab.

Driving. For women, getting in the car is a means to the Mall. For men, the car is a gift from God. The faster the car, the better, apparently. No matter that we have speed limits in this country—just the fact that a car has the POTENTIAL to go over a hundred miles an hour is a reason to own it. Accessories? To me, that means a stainless steel and gold watch, diamond studs, and a Coach bag. To Charlie it means side pipes, white walls, a custom paint job, and mini moons.

But here is the thing: why are men so CUTE

Friday, August 7, 2009


One of my favorite blogs is "Snowbell's Handmade Jewelry." I am Nathalie's guest blogger today and tomorrow! Please visit me in ENGLAND by clicking on the Snowbell link. You will find it on the left side of my blog, second on the list of "my blogs." I will be in England (cyberly speaking) for a day or two. I am also on vacation until Monday, July 10. Look for a new post here on Monday! THANKS, NATHALIE!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I love peace and quiet. I admire good taste, old money, and fine art. I watch “Masterpiece Theatre,” read Agatha Christie, and spend lots of time on the First Dibs website. Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, and Katherine Hepburn are all icons. I am striving for a cozy and calm lifestyle. If only I lived in an English village, with views of hedgerows and dovecotes! Or maybe a house by the sea, with moors, gulls, and mist!

Instead, I live in a regular house, in a typical American city, and I have the usual daily routine. But I have discovered ways to enhance my little world, and I am on the road to a highly civilized and genteel existence. This lifestyle has the following requirements:

Purring cats. What goes best with chintz, stained glass, paneled libraries, and Aubusson carpets? At least one fat and lazy cat, lounging on a cushion somewhere. I have five of them (cats, not cushions), and I find them to be soothing beyond belief. Never mind all the hairballs, claw marks, and cat litter. Cats are nature’s tranquilizers!

The fireside. Not just a fire PLACE. Oh, no—the fireside conjures up so many images: warmth, security, old ladies and their tatting, afternoon visitors and gossipy conversations. I light a fire as soon as the temperature outside allows, and it burns all winter long. While sitting and tatting, one must also have things served on trays. Tea is of the essence here. Scones, cucumber sandwiches, and toast with marmite (despite its horrible flavor) are required.

Books. No room is really comfortable without books. Kindles just don’t cut the mustard—only the beautiful spines of REAL BOOKS scattered about. Technology has not been able to replace the comfortable aspect of settling down in a puffy chair, surrounded by books. Magazines are also very nice. Stacks of magazines give a contemporary and cluttered air to a room. But one must pay attention to the KINDS of books and magazines! Paperbacks are a no-no! And for heaven’s sakes! Limit those subscriptions—if you must read “People,” hide it in the nightstand! Put the “Town and Country” on the coffee table.

Afghans. Dogs are nice, but here I am referring to the kind of throw your mother used to crochet. Comfortable and old world as they are, afghans are simply required elements of the cozy lifestyle. If they match the furniture, much the better. However, throws of any kind are preferable to the naked sofa or wing chair. Another necessary accessory, as mentioned before, is the pillow. I have found that the more pillows one stacks on the bed, the sofa, and the floor, the more comfortable and cozy the room. For some reason, husbands HATE pillows, but I digress….

Tatters. Why do Americans need to have everything BRAND SPANKING NEW? As much as I like Ikea, I have learned that the old world lifestyle requires that everything be just a little worn around the edges. New things have no soul. Scuffs and spots enhance your furnishings! Pet hair gives things a certain je ne c’est quois!

Croquet and lemonade in the garden. Once again, a lesson in terminology: if you call it a YARD, the area has no charm whatsoever. A GARDEN, on the other hand, is charming even with weeds, dog poo and uneven topography. To spend time in the garden with friends, a classic drink and balls and wickets is the height of elegant old world living.

Meals at odd times. What is more elegant—lunch or ELEVENSES? Dinner or TEA? I would much rather stuff myself with little cakes and small sandwiches at four than eat fish sticks and tater tots at six thirty! What were Americans thinking? As for drinking, which would YOU rather have—a slug of beer, or a nice glass of sherry?

So take heart—you too can live a vintage lifestyle…

Now I have to return the Proust that I almost finished to the library.

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