Saturday, August 19, 2017

Come on over

The best way to entertain is to tell yourself sternly that you’re not going to fuss. You’re going to keep it simple.
          And then of course, that last hour before people arrive you fuss anyway. You probably didn’t need to tidy the powder room quite so ruthlessly. So what if you left the plunger in there? These are just friends coming over, not the Queen.
 (Do you wonder if Queen E. ever wishes that people would invite her around for a nice pot of chili, when maybe there are dishes drying on the drain board and she could just skip the finger bowls and foie gras?)
          We had good friends over last night and my tidying beforehand was of the ambling variety – yeah, maybe put that magazine away, and perhaps I’ll empty that wastebasket. The good news is that not only do we have kind friends, we haven’t been here long enough to get the usual handprints on the door going to the garage, or gunk around the edge of the kitchen sink.
          This made me realize that timing is everything. I learned that when you move to somewhere new, you should grab those first few weeks and entertain. Right away. Invite everyone you can think of. And be sure to leave an unpacked box in the front hall and maybe a roll of packing tape on the end table so your guests will remember to lower that judgment bar – you just moved in, for heaven’s sake.
          With skill, you may be able to string this out for at least a month, maybe two.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wallflowers at the Dance

Absolutely no one showed up for the open house at our place on Sunday – granted the weather that day was spectacular, but still. . .no one?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Country girl to city girl

Mamie is adjusting nicely to condo living, although I’m sure she misses her favorite patch of pachysandra back at the house. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Land management

Our move is complete.

          That is, as long as you don’t count the boxes filled with tools of his father and his father before him that My Guy is still hauling over from the house. And the many pictures we’ve left on the walls to brighten the now-empty rooms for buyers. Oh, and the shed and garage treasures still to be disposed of – anyone interested in a cross-buck for sawing wood, or perhaps a vinyl panel left over from building our outside shower?

          Our neighbor took the wheelbarrow and my hairdresser came over on Sunday for a big roll of tar paper for the roof of the mudroom he’s adding to his house. How serendipitous that I got my hair cut last week.  At this point, any conversation with us can be dangerous: “Really? You’re thinking about chickens? Well! We just happen to have a length of fencing that would be perfect!”

          Since we’ve only now put the house on the market, we’re wearing a path over the 1.8 mile stretch of Main Street between it and the condo. Sanity prevailed over thrift and we hired someone else to paint two rooms that were looking a bit battered, but we’re still bopping back and forth. I spent much of Sunday morning weeding, but with an acre and a half of land, the process had a teaspoon-and-ocean kind of feel to it. There’s an open house planned for next weekend, so that means back to the homestead for more yard work and touch up.

          Today I hope to get outside here and gain control of the flowerbeds surrounding our condo.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Moving Experience

No, I haven’t fallen into the failing septic system out back or collapsed after the umpteenth trip carrying boxes from the old house to the new. We’ve spent the last two weeks in a different dimension.

Monday, July 17, 2017


As if putting every blessed thing we own into a box, and then cleaning every blessed space where those things sat isn’t enough fun, we’ve had visitors to the back yard today. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Real Estate Glamour

It’s 60 degrees and raining – not very July-like – and so today will be a good packing day. After our flurry of whipping the homestead into a state of unrealistic tidiness for all the real estate photos, I may even welcome the return of boxes everywhere.
          Yesterday we sat with the real estate lady and sorted through documents for a good portion of the morning. I had on a more presentable pair of black shorts and a new-ish tee shirt, now that I had a reprieve from the back-breaking work of shoveling mulch, handwashing the green film from the shadier parts of our siding, and vacuuming and scrubbing floors.
          Before beginning the heavy paperwork, we settled at the kitchen table with her iPad and viewed the photos she’d taken the previous day. Our house, which is a fairly unpretentious place, gleamed invitingly in the pictures. The kitchen beamed back at us, the dining room glowed, and light ricocheted off the living room floor. The upstairs bedrooms somehow had gained at least three feet in square footage and even the Pepto Bismol tile in the guest bathroom wasn’t so bad.
          A small frown crossed the realtor’s forehead when the second bathroom popped into view.
          “I’ve noticed . . . see the tile there? The grout is a bit darker here.”
          I’m sure she’d reviewed all the photos before coming to see us, but as though the thought had just occurred to her, she said, “You know what? If you could just scrub that with a little bleach, I could re-take that before I go. Oh, and if we put some of those beautiful tiger lilies you have on the counter it would look terrific!”
          It was already a humid 85 degrees outside, but we need to sell this house. 
          I dug around through my stripped kitchen cupboards, found something that could pass as a vase, put on my sandals, and went outside. Pickings were a little lean so I climbed the hill next to the house and clipped two tiger lilies and one day lily, along with a few ferns.
          My morning shower was already proving to have been pointless. Perspiring, I left my now-muddy sandals outside and carried the flowers and the vase upstairs.
          I dug the bottle of Clorox out from under the sink. Black shorts and a black and white tee was not the best uniform for this job.
          Hoping she wouldn’t suddenly decide to come up and oversee my efforts, I stripped down to my underwear and got to work.
          I didn’t see a huge change in the grout but I was a little cooler.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bucket List Revelation

     Thanks to the wild range of jobs I've held over the span of my life - waitress, ice cream scooper, CIA clerk, television production, hospital secretary, teacher - I've had a few experiences I might not have had otherwise.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Stress versus a stroll with a little dog

So that snowball has started its roll down the hill and it’s picking up momentum and objects at an alarming rate.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Monday Errands

Leaving the YMCA today (my water aerobics was class back to normal, thank heaven), I stopped my car for one of the many walkers who hoof it around the complex.

Friday, June 30, 2017

All Wet

It’s official.  I’m a humorless curmudgeon. Maybe not all the time, but I have my moments.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Purge Continues

As we try to clear the decks for The Big Move, some furniture just needs a home other than our basement 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Laura Ingalls Wilder has nothing on us

Remember that chapter in On The Banks of Plum Creek?  
"A cloud was over the sun. It was not like any cloud they had ever seen before. It was a cloud of something like snowflakes, but they were larger than snowflakes, and thin and glittering. Light shone through each flickering particle."  

Well. . .

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Extra! Extra!

“A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself.”
Arthur Miller

Nowadays, it’s a busy time to be a reporter.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


I’m developing a routine here in the land of downsizing. I spent this morning sifting through our 47 years of detritus and boxing up the items for donations.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

They're Baaaack!

I remember in 1978 at our last house coming home at night after my 3 – 11 shift as a secretary in pediatrics at the hospital. With two young kids, these hours worked out well. I only went in two days a week, either Friday and Monday or Saturday and Sunday, which meant I only needed one of the teens in the neighborhood to sit a few hours until my husband got home from work.

          I was a little short on sleep those years, but that wasn’t the hard part about getting home late. Our trees and our house were under attack that year. To reach the front door I had to first travel under the giant maples in the front yard and then under our portico. Both were festooned like a steamer covered in bon voyage streamers, except these were sticky and ended in a creepy caterpillar and they were impossible to see in the dark so I ended up a bit festooned myself.

          The gypsy moths had arrived and they were on everything.

          Our weapon of choice was masking tape and Vaseline, the plan being that the creepers wouldn’t get past the barrier to nest and eat the leaves up.

It worked pretty well except the trees didn’t appreciate the tape either and we lost a few anyway.


 So it was not good news when I looked out the window and saw this.



 And when I looked above the clematis and saw this.



 And even when I looked down on the bedroom floor and  - you guessed it.


Monday, June 5, 2017

A Walk and Random Thoughts

          The weather here being distinctly un-June like, I put on my fleece and took Mamie for her afternoon walk.

Friday, June 2, 2017

I Know All the Best Places

We are on the verge of a major life change here, and before it even happens my day-to-day life is filled with new experiences. I’m now not only spending an inordinate amount of time at liquor stores (source of all the best free boxes), but I can now speak knowledgeably on thrift stores in our area.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

And the battle goes on.

     At the last Town Meeting we passed a warrant item allowing chickens in suburban yards, a ruling apparently embraced with enthusiasm.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fuzzy Afternoon

It probably says something about our social life that the highpoint of our weekend was a picnic for dogs.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What global warming?

     Yesterday I climbed out of bed, pulled on socks, sweatpants, sweatshirt, sneakers, and parka, hitched up the tiny dog to her leash and took her out for her morning pee. 
     This morning at exactly the same time of day, I climbed out of bed, pulled on shorts and t-shirt, and stepped into my flip-flops and took the tiny dog out. 
     Today it's in the 90s, 
     Tomorrow night it will be 46 degrees.
     New England is a whimsical place.
      On the plus side, Mamie got a bath today minus the scary hair dryer, but the rest of the day will feature lots of sitting for everyone.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Before Nutrition

 I remember my grandmother telling about her shame at school in Mangum, Oklahoma when she had to take “dirty bread” out of her lunch pail. Even back then my forward-thinking great-grandmother Lucy Wilson had already figured out the benefits of whole wheat bread.
And I like to think my mother approved of watermelon for breakfast because of its antioxidants and amino acids. (In reality, a grumpy kid in the blazing hot Virginia summer mornings could have been a factor.)
But John Gray’s recent post at Going Gently about his sheep and their love of white bread triggered a couple of memories from the 1950s food pyramid.
It’s been years since I’ve had one, but every now and then I’m tempted to pick up the ingredients for a baloney sandwich: spongy white bread, Miracle Whip, and the ultimate illicit pleasure, a big pack of baloney.
Granted, your peanut butter and jelly sandwich was usually bleeding grape jelly through one side by the time you opened your metal lunch box in the cafeteria, but the bread itself was great for wadding into grey balls and flicking at your neighbor.
And in spite of my mother’s offerings of a crunchy peeled white turnip or celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins for a snack, just as common as an after-school treat at our house was white bread spread with margarine and a generous sprinkling of white sugar.

Emptying the Basement

      In spite of a monsoon weekend, our tag sale went off without a hitch. Miraculously, the morning was chilly but dry – a good thing since we had cleverly positioned several things on the lawn to lure shoppers farther in to our garage.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Begging for Boxes

We have a tag sale on Saturday, and of course the weatherman is tossing around predictions of four straight days of rain beginning guess when.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hoover Horror

Sorry – I didn’t mean to drop off the edge of the blog world. My absence is due more to mundanity and inertia than a madcap social life.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Public Service Announcement

     It's not often I have a chance to use this blog for good rather than just blowing off steam.
     (The fact that it's a slow news day here could be a factor, too, so maybe I'm not all that altruistic after all.)

    Anyway, one of my favorite bloggers, Henny,  at Henny Penny Lane  included some helpful advice in her comment about my !!!TICK!!! adventure and I'm quoting it verbatim:

"One easy way to remove a tick that is buried and biting is to rub a little liquid hand soap on the tick and wait a few seconds, and the tick will easily come off."

     I haven't tried it yet, but anyone who spends the amount of time she does in her garden knows what she's talking about.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

From Author to Victim

      Okay, that’s it. I’m ready to return to the artificial world of Florida where everything feels new and clean and landscape people spray away every possible living thing that could bite or sting.

          Yesterday started out well enough. I packed up a rolling suitcase full to bursting with my books, candy for customers, and one dollar bills to make change and headed off to set up my table at the local authors’ fair in our town.

          We authors were a diverse group – my friend Cheryl's children’s bible stories, a graphic novel about a paranormal investigator, a beloved sportswriter and his memoir, Ellie’s new book about her trip to Tibet, a collection of letters from a family in the 1700s, a novel of history and witchcraft, and an ophthalmologist.

          And we actually had an audience, unlike last year when not even family showed up. I caught up with friends, reacquainted myself with others, and went home a few books lighter. 

          Once home, I morphed from local author to yard lady. My Guy and I grabbed our rakes and blowers and started in on the leaves that had gathered over the winter in spite of our marathons of yard work in the fall. Mamie helped by sitting in the pachysandra, the periwinkle, and following me worriedly every time I disappeared from view around a corner.

          After two hours or so, itchy and sweaty, we stopped for a water break. I was scratching my thigh and looked down to find a dark spot surrounded by a red, sore, and unhappy skin.

       We put down our water, stuffed the dog in the house, and took off for the urgent care center.
          Where      time       slowed       d  o  w  n.

          No one there looked particularly sick, and one family seemed to be having a great time, chatting and ribbing each other when they were loudly recounting past trips for emergency care.

          Even though I knew I could feel the tick burrowing deeper, and even I was sure my leg was becoming more and more painful, I sat for an hour and a half while others went in ahead of me. The people with the clipboards were obviously uncaring that my tick was probably spreading its toxin through my system as each minute passed. I tried not to think about the joint pain and loss of cognitive functions and God knows what-all that can happen as a result of a tick bite.

          Finally, finally, I was called in – the last patient of the day – and waited another 15 minutes for the doctor. He came in, took one look at it, and ordered one round of an antibiotic and left after telling me I was his 10th tick bite that day.

          Yes, I knew our area was reported as inundated this year with ticks.

Yes, I was stupid, stupid, stupid to be working in shorts.

          But it was actually Mamie I’d been worried about, since she’d been bitten in the fall and had 6 weeks of antibiotics as a result. Friday I’d sprayed the front yard with tick deterrent (we were working in the back) and yesterday wiped her down with a topical deterrent for pets to augment the drops I already put on her once a month.

          Looks like I’ll be using the same wipes on myself, and the next time I lift a rake or a trowel my gardening ensemble will make beekeepers look like they’re headed to a wanton day on the nude beach.   


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rollin' Home

It must be the effect of those two 12+ hour days in the car that it’s taken me this long to announce that we’re back from Florida.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Familiar Faces

          I’ve grown resigned to the wonky knee, the shock of seeing my mother in an unexpected glimpse of a store mirror, and the difficulty of staying out and awake past 10 at night.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Claim to Fame

I checked in on Going Gently, my favorite blog in the ENTIRE WORLD (and judging by the numbers of comments, the favorite of the entire world) and was intrigued by his topic for today.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Gray Rush

         One of the things that most amazes me about Florida is the huge expanse of undeveloped land interspersed with cattle ranches.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Age and Trust

          So the other day at the pool a neighbor whom I barely know turned to me and inquired whether I had a doctor locally.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The EGGs meet Venice

Looking for shark teeth, one of Venice's claims to fame.

          So, yes, you can fit seven people into a two-bedroom condo. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Condo Etiquette


     Some adjustment is inevitable when you switch from living in a free-standing house on over an acre of land to a condo sandwiched between three other condos and topped by more above.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A slice of the olde world

      Here in the US, today is a day for some to celebrate their heritage, or just borrow it long enough to lift a few green beers. My errand today, though, took me in another direction.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Florida Factoids

          One good reason to open your home to company is that it will spur you to get up out of that armchair and actually go out and see the sights where you live.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Public (and Publix) appearance

     Late in the afternoon I made a dash to the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken (how, or how did I survive before they came on the scene?) to make a salad for incoming company.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Broadway on the Gulf

We’ve been meaning to get to the Venice Theatre, one of the largest community theatres in the country. Last night we saw Crazy for You, “a madcap story with the Gershwin brothers’ musical magic.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

Power to the People

The first skirmish I noticed here at the commune was the monthly ladies’ luncheon. These are at a different restaurant each time and should draw a big crowd, considering there are 130 units here in our complex but that day there were only about 10 people. In a world full of retired people you’d have we would have filled the place.
          And there are the bi-weekly cocktail Thursdays by the pool. Again, perhaps 15 or 20 at most showed up.
          But I hadn’t yet learned about the power plays going on behind the scenes.
          My next door neighbor, M, who organized the Thursdays, never goes to the luncheons, and B, who organized the luncheons, won’t attend the cocktail Thursdays. Hmmm.
And then there’s C, the head of the social committee, reportedly as difficult to unseat as the Pope and who keeps an iron control over the pot lucks.
Who knew Shangri-La would be so riddled with power struggles?
Our condo board takes this to a whole other level. At least here the politics are about things that matter, like water bills and maintenance.
We’re still the newbies here, but even we have figured out that our complex is in need of change. Our complex is governed by a board of 5, and the place is overseen by a management company that deals with the day to day administration.
Our current board president – S - has dug into her position like a tic on a hound dog and seems to have forgotten that this isn’t a life-time term.  She also doesn’t realize that the management company actually works for us, not the other way around and so we’ve received pretty lackluster service. Painting is flaking on one of the older buildings and the landscape company hasn’t fertilized the grass for over a year.
I’ll give S credit though – in spite of being 80, you’ll see her everywhere, on the job. However, people who have been to her unit on the third floor of her building report that she also keeps a pair of binoculars on the ready. Her place overlooks the pool and heaven help the person who puts a float in the water or who stops by to chat for a moment with their dog.

   The good news is we’ve just elected two new members to the board and S is due for re-election next year. I see a coup in the making.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Me and the Monster

I’m one of baseball’s unlikeliest fans. I certainly didn’t have a sports-filled childhood. My parents’ idea of a leisure activity was a spirited dinner argument over how to pronounce ‘medieval’, reading the latest New Yorker, and building a better cocktail.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spa Girl to Biker Chick

     A few weeks ago, our first attempt with a Florida dog groomer was not an encouraging experience. It was off-putting enough to find hair on the floor, dogs barking, and the owner making conversation as she trimmed a dog.  And the girl checking us in kept referring to Mamie cloyingly as “Baby.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Shirking my Duty

 I’ve made an executive decision. It happened at the time of day that life-altering epiphanies usually arrive – when I was lying in bed unable to sleep.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mystery Solved

. . . . goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night. . .

          We’re still adjusting to life here in the commune. After years and years and years of living in a house, we’re used to hearing water run and knowing who flushed. Now we have two floors above us, and in spite of having two feet of concrete between us and our neighbors, sound still manages to travel. 
          One night last week I woke at 3:30 a.m. to Mamie, usually the most silent dog on the planet, barking her head off. This was immediately followed by pounding feet running upstairs.  I made it to a front window just in time to see a car in front of the building, motor running, passenger door open, and a young woman sprinting toward it.
          Robbery? Family drama?
          The next morning I asked the woman on one side of us if she’d heard anything. Nope.
          I asked the woman two doors down if she’d heard anything. Nope.
          Later in the day I asked the neighbor next door if he’d heard anything. Nope. But as a year-round resident he’s also sort of the mayor of our building and has keys to many of our places so he can check to make sure we don’t come back to ugly surprises. Nobody had arrived yet at the units above us so he said he’d go upstairs and take a look.
          When I saw him the next day he said the doors had been locked and nothing looked disturbed.
          Huh. The next night I thought twice about leaving our window unlocked, but I slept soundly, undisturbed.  
          Days went by and the upstairs neighbors arrived, followed by their three granddaughters in the 7 to 13 age range. In person they look sedate enough, but once in their grandparents’ condo they must strap on hobnail boots and while away the hours moving furniture. The first night they were there I woke again to running footsteps at 3:30, but attributed it to the heavy-hoofed kids above us.
The soundproofing between units is excellent, but our concrete block and iron buildings carry percussive sounds so effectively they’d be perfect should we ever find ourselves duck-taped by evil-dooers and forced to tap out a cry for help in Morse code.
Yesterday we had our annual condo meeting, and after discussions about landscaping, building color, water bills, and non-working street lights, the grandfather from upstairs raised a tentative hand.
He asked, “Has anyone else heard running at 3 in the morning?”
He was answered by puzzled and affirmative head-noddings.
So, I thought, that latest pre-dawn clomping hadn’t come from his family after all. .
Then from in the back of the room someone called out, “Oh, that’s the paper delivery.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Obstinence and Triumph

     My Uncle Sam had polio as a child and was bedridden with it for several years. After several operations and lots of physical therapy he eventually walked, but it was probably during those years that he became such a proficient knitter – what could you do with a kid in bed in the thirties with no TV? – and all that reading paved the way for him becoming a distinguished and published English professor.

          Putting on new sheets today reminded me of how adept Mama said Granny became at changing the bed with Uncle Sam still in it. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

On a Happier Note

(Taking a page from Steve at Shadows and Light, here's a snapshot from my travels in Sarasota. )

     We went to the Sarasota outdoor arts showcase yesterday and wandered around from booth to booth admiring things we'd never considering buying, let alone bringing into our house, and others that we'd love, love to have but could never afford. We came away empty-handed, but got a nice lunch out of the day.

     We exited the restaurant at the same time as a woman who'd been sitting nearby with the fluffiest dog I'd ever seen. You could have attached a broom handle to it and cleared out every dust bunny in your house.  Curious, we asked what kind of breed it was and were dumbfounded to learn that it was a Coton de Tulear, the same breed as our dog. 


     Mamie's family tree is documented back to both sets of grandparents, but I don't think she'll ever look this aristocratic - mainly because I don't intend to spend every waking hour with a dog brush in my hand.
    It was comforting to see that this meticulously groomed dog had the same grubby whiskers as my own little snuffler. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jan 1948 - 2017

Four years ago, I was semi-newly retired and still sorting through what to do now that I was no longer starting my day at 6:45 in a high school classroom.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Not-so-parallel universes

I knew that being in Florida would feel very different from slogging through the winter in Massachusetts. This weekend, though, I passed through so many alternate dimensions I might as well have been in an old episode of Star Trek.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fear and (Self) Loathing

The excuse I give anyone who will listen is that I just learned how to play golf. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it – even though in reality I took lessons at least four years ago.