Sunday, November 29, 2009


The Christmas shopping season officially has begun! For the men that I know well, Christmas shopping is a duty that is almost impossible to live up to. For these men, and for all the men out there who feel helpless and lost in any store other than Lowe’s, I am going to present my TIPS FOR SHOPPING FOR FEMALES. The first thing for men to keep in mind is that what women love 364 days a year does not necessarily mean that they want to see it under the tree. Women want to feel special and feminine at Christmas. As a matter of fact, men should keep that in mind for all occasions! So here goes:

TIP NUMBER ONE: If it has something to do with keeping things clean, women don’t want it as a gift. Those nifty little steam cleaners for carpets? FANTASTIC. But if you give her one for Christmas, it’s an INSULT. “What, you don’t think I can keep house? Well, YOU try cooking, doing laundry, trucking kids around, taking care of Fido, and just see how many spots YOU will find on the rug!”

TIP NUMBER TWO: Women, as a rule, hate gifts that come pre-packaged. I know, the department store tells you that if you spend $30, you can take home a really nice shrink wrapped basket that contains soap, a loofah, some body wash, and three lip balms. Men love this, thinking that somebody, somewhere, has scoped out what women like, and put it together for them. This is erroneous. Generic things in shrink wrap are too cheesy for words, and only men will buy them.

TIP NUMBER THREE: The home made gift certificates that say, for example: “Good for two back rubs,” or “Will do dishes every Friday,” are COMPLETELY BOGUS. No one EVER lives up to promises made on these things. Children can get away with gifting these to Moms, but never men. Do men think we are really that gullible? And if a man DOES actually try to make good on one of these, it is a half-hearted effort at best. Charlie’s idea of a back rub is twenty seconds of vague patting while watching a television program. And a kitchen cleaned up by most men has grease around the edges every time.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: If it is in a big package, it better be a big gift! I have said this before, but it bears repeating: my friend, who received BED PILLOWS in a big beautiful box from her husband at Christmas twenty years ago HAS NEVER FORGIVEN HIM. A big box, to a woman, promises things like cashmere coats, leather boots with five inch heels, or cable knit cardigans!

TIP NUMBER FIVE: Unless she is a gourmet cook, don’t consider kitchen paraphernalia. Le Creuset and Cuisinart are SPECIAL INTEREST gifts. As a matter of fact, any special interest gift is risky. Sports equipment, fitness gear, gardening tools, and things like bird feeders are only welcomed by real enthusiasts. The rest of us regular women think that the kinds of gifts found in, say, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, are very technical and kind of BORING.

TIP NUMBER SIX: I may be the only woman in the world who feels this way, but for me, getting a CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT for Christmas is anti-climactic. It is too late to use it this year, and in order to enjoy it, a whole year has to go by. Furthermore, almost every family I know has TOO MANY Christmas ornaments already. Just because the stores are full of them this time of year is no reason to get one for your wife!

All in all, this time of year is fraught with peril for the male shopper. The best advice I can give to any man looking for the perfect gift is this:

Are you considering buying that thing in your hand? Before you go to the cash register, look around the store. Find a woman. Show her what you have in your hand. Ask that woman if you should buy the item. DO WHAT SHE SAYS. Foolproof!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


All around America, in kitchens and dining rooms this Thursday, people will gather to give thanks. Many of us make it a ritual, going around the table reciting what we are most thankful for. What a wonderful custom! However, there IS an element of political correctness involved. EVERYONE is thankful for family, love, pets, abundance, good fortune, and good will. But I am willing to bet thousands that there is not one woman in America who would be REALLY honest and say she is thankful for tampons, for example. But there are just so many things that make life worth living, and I, FOR ONE, am going to go on record this year and say what I AM REALLY THANKFUL FOR.

CEREAL. Back in the day, you could have Corn Flakes or Corn Flakes. These days, there is a myriad of choices, and they are all so delicious! High fiber, fruity, puffed, rolled. You can eat it cold. You can eat it hot. You can eat it right out of the box, for heaven’s sake! And it is fast, easy, and portable. I have it for at least one meal a day, and for that, I am thankful!

DEODORANT. This was truly a tremendous leap forward for mankind. Without it, many people might never have found a life partner! Would ANYONE go to the gym if it weren’t for deodorant? Therefore, we have deodorant to thank for lower cholesterol levels, longer life spans, and that honed “six pack” look. Without deodorant, no one would be able to attend sporting events without getting nauseous from the fumes. SO WITHOUT IT, THERE WOULD BE NO SUPERBOWL!

SPANDEX. Now, this one is HUGE. Without it, women my age would not be able to wear tight pants and still breathe. Spandex made leggings possible. Men should also be very thankful for Spandex, without which Pamela Anderson might have looked dumpy.

THE VACUUM CLEANER. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for women who had to use a BROOM to try to clean house. Why, just today, I spilled a box of cereal on the kitchen floor at lunchtime, and before you could say “Tony the Tiger,” it was all cleaned up. Beating rugs with a stick? Forget it! Cat hair? It would never come off the carpet with a broom! If I had lived a before the advent of the Dyson, my life would have consisted of sheer drudgery and lots of unwanted crumbs.

THE BIG BOX STORE. I know, Wal-Mart might be evil. But honestly, when time is at a minimum, one trip does it all. I am still astounded by the sheer diversity offered by the big boxes: you can get bug killer, mulch, toilet paper, apricots, best sellers, pinto beans, and organic tomatoes there. You can get your hair cut, nails done, and develop photos. There is a bank in there! Starbucks! You could actually LIVE at a big box store. Wait a minute! Should I be thankful for this or not?

CORTISONE CREAM. Cortisone is the tenth wonder of the world. It cures everything. If it itches, put cortisone on it. If it burns, put cortisone on it. If it looks puffy, cortisone will de-puff. You can do just about anything but cook with the stuff. Remember the “heartbreak of psoriasis?” Of course you don’t, because there is CORTISONE CREAM!

KLEENEX. Everyone who knows me personally will vouch for the fact that I could not exist without it. I blow my nose, or attend to it in some fashion, at least three times an hour. As a matter of fact, Kleenex is a part of my persona: one of my friends said, “I saw you on Monday at the corner of X and Y Street! Of course it was you! She was blowing her nose!”

And finally, I am thankful for THE INTERNET. I have friends now in England, New Zealand, France, Canada, and all over the United States, thanks to Etsy and Facebook. I can Google whatever I want to. I can buy everything on the internet that I can’t find at a big box store! I can SELL stuff! I can watch a movie, a hilarious video of a cat playing the piano, or a film clip of a gorilla playing dominoes. But this is what I am most thankful for:


Friday, November 13, 2009


I have been encouraged lately by many people to write a book. I am not up to it yet, but I am ruminating on various potential themes. I have about three or four recurring dramas that I play out in my head for entertainment, and perhaps one of these has in it the germ of a novel. You can be the judge.

THE ECCENTRIC MYSTERY. Someone is murdered. A detective is hired to solve the crime, but this particular detective has some personality quirks that make solving crimes particularly challenging. The detective, one Arnold Scullwood by name, works by day in a bookstore, and moonlights as a nude model to bring in extra cash, which he squanders by buying lottery tickets. Arnold, a bodybuilder, also finds sleuthing hard to work into his training schedule and frequent odysseys to weight lifting competitions. But when a woman is found dead after the “clean and jerk," Arnold gets strong-armed into solving the crime.

THE FOOD NOVEL. In this book, the plot is secondary to giving the author free rein to talk about making food, eating food, and sharing recipes. Back in the day, this was called a “cook book,” but today’s readers apparently demand more from that genre. So in this, the protagonist either falls in love with the wrong man, or is a widow who moves to a new town. Either way, the heroine learns to solve her problems and renew her faith in herself and mankind by opening either a: bakery, a quilt shop that serves little homely snacks, or a tea room that ultimately fails. In the process, the heroine—we will call her Polly Underwinger, finds love with either the coffee delivery man, or the local pharmacist.

THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOME SAGA. This is one of my favorites. It follows the Crompton-Flingford family over a span of a couple of generations, beginning with little cockney Harold Crompton, who begins life as a lackey in a glue factory under horrid conditions, but works his way up to owning the whole thing. Along the way, he meets Daisy Flingford, who hails from a noble family and completely upsets the feudal order of things by marrying Harold beneath her station. Their marriage is, of course, fraught with trouble, but they persevere and produce a wayward son, Bartholemew Crompton-Flingford, who goes to public school, buggers his underlings, and then procedes to squander the entire glue fortune on “fancy women” and Thoroughbreds. Daughter Paisley Crompton-Flingford is a silly, spoilt schoolgirl who eats too many cream scones at tea, and hence finds it hard to interest any local bachelors, due to her girth. The whole plot thickens when Rodney Mink-Nulton, a slick character, enters the picture to seduce Paisley, blackmail Harold, charm Daisy, and challenge Bartholemew to a duel. This novel is full of chintz, tea, scones, and fires with fenders. It is also replete with bodice ripping, unseemly characters, foxhounds, pheasants hanging in the larder, and, naturally, chambermaids.

THE PRECOCIOUS CHILD NOVEL. Of course, no one can top “Anne of Green Gables,” or “Little Women,” but I might try my hand at writing the story of Annabricks Le Table, the daughter of a boring British nobleman and his lively and gutsy French lover. Annabricks is the darling of the neighborhood around the Rue de la Cul de Sac, where she lives. She introduces the colorful characters who are her friends: Raoul, the roguish butcher, who gives her free bones for her dog “Bouillon,” and Madame Raclette, owner of the local brothel, who teaches Annabricks the ways of the world. Annabrick’s parents, Clive and Manette, struggle to keep their darling but larger-than-life daughter safe, while allowing her to grow up experiencing the ways of the French, all the while learning how to brew a really good cup of tea.

I am continuing to cogitate, but really, the most fun for me is coming up with names for my characters! A few more, perhaps?

THE SOUTHERN BELLE: Fanny Cerise Fernduke






Sunday, November 8, 2009


He is talkative, svelte, and handsome. His blue eyes are piercing. He is a charmer! He walked into my life, took one look at me, and I was hopelessly in love! He thinks he is the coolest cat around, and actually, he is kind of conceited. But he knows I am crazy about him. Even my husband likes him.

You would think that a woman of my age would know better than to fall in love again. But what could I do in the force of his personality, his presence, his charisma? Even my friends don’t blame me. They admire him, also!

He arrived in Dayton from Atlanta on Delta Airlines on a summer day two years ago. He needed a place to stay. I took him to my place. We hit it off immediately, and before you know it, I was kissing him. He went upstairs into the bedroom, and I followed. What can I say? The rest is history….

He is very forceful and demanding. When he wants attention, he gets it. I would compare his style to Frank Sinatra: he is smooth, sophisticated, and he can be very entertaining. Yet, he has a great sense of humor, and at times is a real clown. But he is just so handsome! When he is around, I just can’t keep my hands off him!

Ever since he came into my life, everything has changed. My husband is just not as exciting as he used to be. At times, when I am listening to one of Charlie’s stories, my mind wanders, and I start thinking of HIM. When I am on vacation with my husband, I miss HIM. There are days when all I want to do is see him, touch him, just BE WITH HIM!

There have been others. But with this one, it is different. He makes me feel young again. He makes me laugh. He understands me. I will never let him go.

Somehow, my husband understands, and the three of us have learned how to coexist. Yes, it is a beautiful relationship: one man, one woman, and one Siamese cat.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


There is a reason why my house has a “servants” room in the attic. Of course, the attic is neither cooled nor heated, and it has never been. But there is a rudely finished room up there, with walls, a hardwood floor, a nice dormer window, and a corner with a sink. It must have been the place where “the girl” lived in the olden days. In my imagination, “the girl” did all of the things that I now have to do, and she was, I bet, an extremely hard worker!

I spent the day “putting away” summer. We have lots of chairs and cushions on the deck. It also has potted plants galore. There is a table and chairs where we ate meals al fresco, sitting in the breezes and drinking wine. Today, Charlie and I wrestled with those same cushions, furniture, and plants. Dumping soil, carting stuff to the curb. Putting pots in the garage. Sweeping leaves off the furniture cushions, and stuffing them into big trash bags. Lugging the bags into the basement.

On the screened porch upstairs, there is MORE FURNITURE! IT IS COVERED WITH ADDITIONAL CUSHIONS! The screened porch is one of the reasons we bought the house, and it really looks dandy in the summer, with the Boston Ferns, the reed matting, and the many lamps and accessories that I have amassed. TODAY, I HAD TO CARRY ALL OF THAT STUFF INTO THE ATTIC. This is actually a definitive two person job, because one person has to guard the door to the attic, while the other totes everything up there. If we don’t follow this procedure to the letter, CATS GET IN THE ATTIC. You don’t want cats in your attic. At least not in our attic, where there are numerous chinks and crannies. A few years ago, a Siamese kitten managed somehow to GET BETWEEN THE WALLS up there. After emergency phone calls to family members, one of whom had to drive all the way back to Dayton from Cincinnati, we managed to get the kitten out. It took all day, and I had to call in “sick” at work.

Back to the porches. All those chairs and loveseats have winter covers. When spring comes, we tend to be in a big hurry to uncover everything, and so all the covers are jumbled together in a large trunk in the basement. So today, Charlie and I had to devote forty five minutes to COVER ANALYSIS. Truly, these covers all LOOK THE SAME, until we try to actually cover a piece of furniture with one. And it doesn’t fit. No matter how we turn it. So we stood on the deck, and it went a little like this:

No, no, no! THE SEAM should go across the back!”

“If that is the case, then why doesn’t it fit?”

“Ok, then turn it upside down!”

“There is a picture on the tag, and it is of a SOFA, not a ROCKING CHAIR!”

“Well, if you are so smart, why didn’t you tell me to look at the tag in the first place?”

“I am going to watch TV.”


I am sure that in the days of yore, when people had servants, things moved along smoothly from season to season, and there were no loud arguments between the master and mistress of the house about how to best dispose of dead potted plants and where to store the wicker side tables. In those days, houses of a certain size had folks like Anthony Hopkins polishing silver, dusting in the corners, and changing the slipcovers from linen to velvet in the fall. There were cooks to make dinner. A yardman came to take care of the pesky leaves and to clean out the gutters.

Now we have labor saving devices. But having a dishwasher and a Dyson is little consolation when wrangling recalcitrant furniture covers.


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