Thursday, December 31, 2009

For the Love of...Lord & Taylor!

A storm caught me off guard today, perhaps because the weather forecasters--I mean meteorologists--downplayed this storm after over blowing the last, perhaps because I just haven't been paying a lot of attention to the weather while I've been on vacation (since snow days don't exist). But I was already half-way to the mall (well, to Lord and Taylor at the mall) after my unexpected (and emergency) trip to the credit union (that's another post) when it started to snow. And I didn't think road conditions would deteriorate so rapidly. Actually, they were terrible from the outset. So I put both hands on the wheel and proceeded slowly, as I passed vehicles that had spun out or had been involved in fender benders.

This is crazy!, I thought as I inched along, and then Jesus, Jesus, Sweet Jesus! I nearly screamed as I nearly rear ended a car on the exit ramp, then again in the parking lot of the mall. Road crews were not out yet, and there was clearly ice under the snow, but there was a clearance sale at L&T, and it was probably safer to take refuge. Right? My hope was that by the time I did my quick look for some new lined pants, and maybe a top, for the new year, the roads would be treated, and the ride home would be less treacherous. (Which was the case. Amen.)

I didn't have my coupon with me, since I really hadn't planned on going, but after a little pretty please/the roads are horrific/I'd come back with my coupon if I didn't mean risking my life--AGAIN to the nice woman who has been working in the women's department for as long as I've been shopping there, I got the additional 20 percent off and a sweet deal.

Lined Jones New York pants (to replace a pair from back-to-school shopping because they're too loose...Go, me!), originally 119, with clearance and coupon savings? $50

Adorable Liz Claiborne leopard print v-neck t-shirt, originally $45, with said discounts? $15

Getting there and back alive? Priceless.

Happy New Year to you, too!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Okay, if anyone has seen me out there somewhere, maybe looking through clearance racks at L&T, or browsing through the New Fiction shelves at Barnes and Noble, or maybe even tying one on somewhere, dropping f-bombs and rolling my eyes back in my head at some dim wit, could you send me back? Because I don't know who the hell it was sitting on my couch tonight, crying through the Kennedy Center Honors for two hours, but it certainly wasn't me.

We can do this without incident. Just ring my buzzer and we can make a quick switch in the dark of night and no one will be the wiser. No one has to know. Because if this Emotional Thing (as represented by the blubbering buffoon on my couch earlier tonight) is going to make friends with Hot Flashes in the near future?...Well, we're all screwed. Seriously screwed. So come on. Bring me back home.


I am a high school teacher, having once been a high school student, so I am well aware that I am probably known for things--and by names--I'd rather never learn. Smart Board technology has practically eliminated my need to turn my back to the class and thereby display both my ample a*s and jiggle my flabby arms in order to write (more anatomically appropriate) vocabulary terms on the board, but my instincts tell me students don't talk about my colorful array of v-neck cashmere sweaters. A few of the girls I know covet my Tiffany jewelry, and others love my nails, but none probably think her grammar is impeccable! What I am most known for, by my current and former students, is my sneezes.

My odd, no-two-are-alike sneezes provide daily entertainment for my students, especially those in my first period class. With my blessing. Well, they bless me, but I give them my blessing to laugh without risking detention or my death stare. I laugh at my sneezes too. Some are downright embarrassing. I sound tortured, startled, or tickled. Some sound like mating calls of yet unidentified species, and some of my long, drawn out ahs are never followed by a choo. Like trying to get a car to start and after the initial sound of the ignition struggling to catch comes the click.

Just the other day, after one of my first-period sneezes, my phone rang. I answered and heard “Bless you” on the other end. “Thank you,” I replied. “Excuse me.” Apparently, three doors down, one of my colleague’s Chemistry students who is a former Biology student of mine, heard me sneeze (as did the other 20 students and my colleague)and said “That’s Ms. K.” From there, they decided to have a little fun and call me in my classroom.

Well, those dust allergies that got really fired up before vacation in my dry, heat-less classroom successfully ignited a full-blown cold for me to suffer through this vacation. Bummer, right? Well, on one hand, it’s unfortunate that I’m not feeling 100 percent while I’m off from school. On the other, my tissue at home is much softer than school-issue tissue. And my sneezes aren’t nearly as cute, or odd, or funny these past couple of days. They’re more productive (I know: eww) than they are entertaining.

So I’ll let my sinuses drain while I’m home this week, and when I go back to school I can still be teacher with the silver jewelry and the funny sneezes. Among other things, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Is It Over?

In my adult life I have been a part of or privy to dozens of conversations during which married people (some, my friends and relatives) kvetch about their spouses and their marriages, and how they have gotten any "good gifts" in months, or years. If I am a part of the conversation I often respond with, Remind me why it is I should want to be married? Frankly, I like "gift giving"!...Even if I could make the leap of faith in marriage at my (early) middle age today I am reminded of another reason I would never have a wedding, an expensive production complete with white multi-layer dress and a multi-tier cake: how I feel today.

Mind you I didn't start Christmas shopping a year ago, choose a date, negotiate a guest list, and almost call off the holiday a half dozen times while spending the equivalent of two European holidays and two island vacations. I started shopping about a month ago (okay maybe only 2 weeks in earnest), limited my spending to about 600 hundred dollars, and I am spent. Financially, emotionally, and physically I am spent, and ready to hibernate for the week ahead that is my Christmas vacation.

How do newlyweds have the energy to “give good gifts” and enjoy their honeymoons after their wedding weekends? I made chocolate bark, I shopped, I wrapped. I even cheated and used gift bags. All I had to do was show up at my aunt and uncle’s house on Christmas Eve and my cousin’s on Christmas day. My delightful and well-behaved nieces slept over my house on Christmas night, and we drove together to my parents’ this morning to have our immediate family Christmas celebration.

One month of preparations and it’s over. [snap] Like that. I know it happened. My tree is still up, I have a new Food Network mug and a couple of new Pandora charms, and I am ready to pop a few ibuprofen and crawl in bed in my new flannel nightgown. I can’t imagine having to pack a suitcase and get on a plane to go frolic in the sun. [Read: “exchange a lot of gifts.”]Tomorrow I look forward to finishing my book and watching the Patriots game.

But would I do this whole Christmas thing again? Gladly. And I will.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Wishing you all a Christmas that is jolly, bright, and blessed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

[Heart] the United States Postal Service

My post office looks like something out of The Waltons. Good night, Jim Bob. Good night, Mary Ellen. It's a little house with hardwood floors and three parking spots out front. (I’ll take a picture eventually, but don’t know when—in these next few busy days—I’ll actually see it in the light of day. So I’ll post without a photograph now and let you know when I add one.) Right next door there is a little general store. Well, they don’t call it that anymore, but it’s a little store with a deli that sells bread and milk and other staples, as well as lottery tickets of course. But I digress. This post is about the United States Postal Service.

On Saturday, when a large part of the United States was crippled by a massive snow storm, I brought a package to my Waltonesque post office, paid $10.35 (“if it fits, it ships”), decided to pay another 70 cents for tracking and confirmation, and went on my way.

And while I haven’t heard from Tamara yet, I know she got the package because—get this—I even got an email from the USPS telling me my package was delivered. Of course I had already gone on line and looked it up because I get excited and impatient that way. But still. Not bad for 11 dollars. No looking for drop boxes in the foyers of Staples stores, or driving all over to find a (brown) store that will actually mail a package without a corporate account.

I [heart] my little post office. And I love the United States Postal Service that can get a package across the country in two days. Not two business days, but two days. In plenty of time for Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

White Christmas Guaranteed

Well, the southern part of the state (a whole 50 miles away) saw double digit amounts of snow. Some towns got over 2 feet. I think we got 3 inches. Maybe 5. And it didn’t start until after I went to bed. But it is enough snow to guarantee a white Christmas, and I’ll take that.

Now I just need to get through these last three days of school. Three full days. Not even an early release on Wednesday. I’m trying to do my part to keep students focused—my Biology classes have lab reports due Wednesday, and my Anatomy and Physiology class has a quiz on muscle actions Wednesday—but I’m afraid they’ll still be distracted. And I can’t blame them. I’m distracted too.

I keep playing the list of things I still need to do in my head, which includes wrapping and cleaning and finishing my shopping, and I’m looking forward to plans with Maureen this afternoon, and with Amy tomorrow. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or that there would be if we didn’t have to spend these 8 in school.

Sometimes it’s hard to relate to the kids. This is not one of those times.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

At this moment I am doing my best impression of a kid on Christmas Eve, looking through the mini-blinds for signs of Santa and his sleigh—only I'm looking for the first flakes of what promises to be a huge winter storm. Although the initial time projections are off , I do believe the forecast accumulation predictions of 8 -14 inches. Of course there's a 6 inch cushion there. But still. I first heard about this Nor'easter yesterday, while I was out shopping after school, from people stuck in long lines with me, and used the rumors to motivate myself to stay out and do as much as I could. And I did.

This morning I was content to go to the gym and run a couple errands (and stock up provisions as if this is the 1920s and a foot of snow will cripple us). I proceeded home to wait for the storm. I cancelled dinner plans with Mandy and I’m still waiting.

But I’ve made some chocolate bark with hidden treasures worthy of consideration at Ben and Jerry’s, I’ve written some cards and emails, and I’ve thought more about running into an old friend, whom I haven’t seen in nearly 30 years, at the mall last night. And getting home and finding an email in my in-box from a friend in Boston with whom I used to work at Crate and Barrel and with whom I fell out of touch a couple years ago. I called him immediately and we picked up where we left off, no hard feelings or hurt feelings, happy to laugh and promising to get together next time I’m there.

So as I wait for the snow to fall it's not because I'm hoping for a snow day tomorrow. (Although I must say the timing is off by a day...) Rather, it’s because I want Christmastime to look out my window as magical as it feels to me tonight.

If snow is not in your forecast, or if it is but you still need a spirit boost, click here. I promise it'll do the trick.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

[Heart] American Chop Suey

Growing up in a Polish family, there weren't any Sundays when a pot of spaghetti sauce sat simmering on the stove. I don't think I ever even saw a blue box of mac and cheese until I went to college.
Comfort food for my family was different. In fact, I can't really put my finger on what my comfort food of choice was when I was a kid--although I'd probably go with one of the many soups my mom used to make. Well, still makes.

But somewhere along the line, maybe at home, maybe in my high school cafeteria, maybe not until college I discovered what is called American Chop Suey by some, and I think is referred to as (American) Goulash by others. The joy here is that jarred sauce works. It doesn't need to be a labor of love. It just needs to coat the ground beef and onions and elbow noodles. Essentially, it's homemade hamburger helper (which I never had growing up either) and begs the question, Why ever use Hamburger Helper?

With four ingredients (onion, ground beef, jarred sauce, elbows or other twirly pasta), in twenty minutes you can make a vat of this almost mushy, scarfable comfort food. I [heart] American chop suey.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Too Much Information

or Oh My Goodness! How'd That Happen? , part 2
or Slow and Steady Decline , part 3

Clearly I don't hold back much in this blog. I don't think it's appropriate to air dirty family laundry herein, but if it is my pride and only my pride on the line, I am comfortable telling all. What the heck. It doesn't make me a bad person that I had a panty liner stuck to my shoe. It was funny--after the fact. I know it made other people laugh. And it made people tell their own embarrassing moment stories. Any time we can lighten the load in this journey called life, well, I'm all for it.

That being said, I don't want to go into any detail, and I know intuitively that you don't want me to go into any detail either. But it is another tell tale sign than the clock is not turning back. Middle age or bust! It is a story that needs only one word.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Holidays for Singles

This Christmas season, as I continue to be assaulted by all that is commercial and hokey, and feel grateful that I no longer feel lonely, I remember clearly how lonely I felt several years ago, when I wrote this in my main character Anna's voice...

On any given day from Thanksgiving to Christmas on television sets in every living room in America, proposals are made on snowy streets with sparkling diamonds, high end cars are bedecked with enormous bows and the keys handed over from one adoring spouse to another, couples cuddle in matching fleece leisurewear, and handsome men twirl gorgeous women wearing little black dresses while champagne is being served from silver platters around them. Any single person who claims to be unaffected by such advertisements I say is lying.

When do you ever see a single woman in flannel pants hanging out by herself wrapping gifts with a half-empty bottle of two buck chuck by her side? Exactly. They don’t ever show you that unless it’s a scene from a romantic comedy, and even then Hugh Grant is probably on his way over. Those of us relegated to spending some nights in the holiday season watching reality TV by ourselves while we wrap don’t quite know how to do it. Or don’t want to be doing it at all.

We look for clues from media on how to dress, which mascara will lengthen or thicken or curl, which detergent works best on darks and which works best on whites, and which credit cards to carry. There are no hints on how to get through the holiday season without a boyfriend, husband, or lover. It’s not there. Ergo it’s not normal. It’s not okay. It’s errant. Aberrant. And that makes the season grueling and lonely.

Shutting off the TV and avoiding ads might take away a seven o’clock sting, but it doesn’t eliminate family get-togethers and parties at which people invariably introduce new boyfriends or girlfriends, announce engagements and pregnancies, show pictures of their honeymoons or bring blueprints of their new houses. It’s maddening. You muster up the energy to get out of your own misery and into a velvet top and put on a happy face and go out to a party only to be assaulted by the sight of a woman wearing a Christmas tree sweater with pompons affixed, who is standing with a man who is clearly her boyfriend. And you look on, trying not to be jealous, and are eventually relieved he’s not your boyfriend because you realize he’s probably wearing snowman socks, and well, they’re made for each other. Every pot has its lid, right?

Then on the drive home you wish you had stayed home. Because as awful as all those love-is-in-the-air ads are, at least you wouldn't have had to talk to the woman in her thirties who looks like she’d been pelted with giant spitballs while keeping a straight face and trying to act interested in anything she had to say.

So you move on to the next event and with any luck hope it will be a family gathering where everyone knows and loves you, where you won’t feel so much like a Have Not. As much as they represent the married masses, they are your family. Then the camera comes out. Someone orchestrates: Okay, first one without spouses. Now with. Okay, couples no kids. Now with kids. You do the math quickly and figure out your presence was required in only a quarter of the shots taken, and feel humiliated that you actually stood there waiting in vain to maybe be called back into the field of view of the lens. And so it goes. Try as you might to banish the thought, you wonder why you haven’t found your lid, what it is that might be wrong with you. When the real despair sets in, you can’t help but wonder if your line of cookware has been discontinued.

Holiday Cliché

I’m in a good mood. I’m definitely in the holiday spirit. I got my requested snow day last week so my tree is decorated and my house is festive. I started my writing out my Christmas cards yesterday, and what gifts I haven’t yet purchased are on a very organized list. I’ve been making holiday treats and plans and am looking forward to vacation. Life is good.

I say all this up front because I’m about to go on a rant. (It has been a while, hasn’t it?)

Why is it that all advertisers and journalists feel that it is important to force every commercial or news story about shipping or shopping into The Night Before Christmas format. Ugh. All those forced rhymes and cadence. So overdone. So unoriginal.

If there was any important information, like shipping cut off dates for Christmas arrival, I missed it in this morning’s 4 minute rhyming news story on NBC. Given that I have a package to get out to Tamara in Seattle it might have been nice to have gotten and retained that information. Instead I just got annoyed as I listened to another abomination of one of the greatest stories ever. In fact, I think I tried to block it out.

Just sell what your selling, or tell what your telling. Leave the story book alone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Time for Awkward

Yesterday was a day that I really wanted to go to the gym. I know. Who am I and what have I done with my former self? That's not to say there's a dramatic physical difference; in three months I've lost 13 pounds, 10 in the first month, 3 in the last 2, making the average I guess around a pound a week. But it's not about the numbers. It's not even about feeling better in my clothes. It's about feeling better period. I have more energy, I'm more motivated, and I'm doing something good for myself. I don't even find I'm fighting urges to go home and hibernate. I like to go the gym. Take yesterday. The end of the school day was particularly frustrating and I felt frazzled, so I looked forward to sweating out some of that negative energy on the treadmill, to some me time before going home to correct more papers.

I got there just at that time before it starts getting really busy, which had been getting earlier and earlier before Thanksgiving. Getting there before 4 used to be fine to avoid the pre-dinner rush, then 3:30 was safer, and now even 3:30 is pushing it. I was glad I pushed myself to get there at that time--and relieved when I saw the parking lot was especially empty. Yay. No fighting for my favorite treadmill!

Yet 4 in that row of 6 favorite treadmills were taken. Two [wait for it...] by students. I HATE that.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate the students. Quite the contrary, as they are two very good students that I'd put on my list of favorites (which teachers don't have, of course). I don't feel weird for them to see me in sweats or for them to know I exercise, it's just well...I don't want the gym to be an extension of school. I may as well be shooting hoops in the gym when the bell rings.

What makes it worse is the reaction these girls have. I try to wave right away and get the moment over, but as happened the last time, they pretended not to see me at first. And I stopped trying to get their attention until they acknowledged me on their way past my machine. They seem uncomfortable and awkward, as if seeing me on the treadmill is the equivalent of witnessing parental copulation. Or just figuring out that they had to have sex in order to have them.

No matter how fast your machine is set, you can't run away, girls, I want to say. Let's get over the awkward moment and move on. We're here to work out.

But, oh, that's right. When I'm there I'm not their teacher.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Day After

The snow turned to rain yesterday (in the evening we actually had thunder and lightning), and the wintry scene out my window quickly disappeared. Nonetheless, I remained in the spirit and took advantage of the time and decorated my Christmas tree. I didn't get my cards done, but I got around to one of those monotonous projects of going through junk mail and catching up on shredding and recycling. And I thoroughly enjoyed my day.

Today I am rested and ready to catch up on the correcting that I need to do to prepare for mid-quarter grades, which are due at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I'll hide in my room during my free periods and do some power correcting, thereby also avoiding those useless, waste-of-energy conversations with colleagues who will complain about the snow day, about the overreaction of the weather forecasters and the 500 superintendents in the state of Connecticut who called off school yesterday. I'd rather get our earlier in June, they'll say, and I'll be hearing Charlie Brown's teacher in my head. wah wah wah wah wah wah

I say what's done is done. No use wasting energy complaining about what you can't take back. I'm sorry if you didn't enjoy the day. I did enjoy the day. I got a Saturday in the middle of the week. And now there's no use in me complaining about my anti-snow day colleagues. Especially since I have correcting to do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I promise today, on my first snow day of the season, to do my best not to sit and do nothing but read. I will decorate my tree and write out my Christmas cards and maybe correct some papers. On second thought, I will not correct papers. I will decorate my tree and read and enjoy the pretty scene out my window (and maybe a Brandy Alexander). tee hee

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Home

One of the first pieces of advice I got as a college student at Simmons--probably from an upperclasswoman--was, if you ever get lost [in Boston] just look for the Citgo sign. From Kenmore Square it was just a walk up Brookline Avenue back home. Fortunately, I never had to use it, I never got lost...

When I found myself driving through Kenmore the other night I felt compelled, as I hadn't before, to stop and take a picture of this Boston icon that was for many years my compass, and now will be part of my window of the world .

Friday, December 4, 2009

In My Next Life...

I might be a photographer. Or maybe I should try to sell some of my best photos in this life. Rent a booth at a high end town fair (West Hartford comes to mind) and sell prints of Tuscany, and London, La Jolla and Boston.

Or I could be a chef. With a show on Food Network. I could hang with Guy Fieri, and finagle a way for Deanna (and Gordon) to meet Ina Garten, and for Amy to meet Nigella--or get her own show. All my nieces (well, technically some are first cousins, once removed) who like to cook (and who put a tiara on my pillow at our Thanksgiving sleepover at Dawn and Henry's)--Meredith, Amanda, Maddie, Jenna--would be over the moon. I could influence the next generation of chefs. Maybe I could even hire them.

I might go the retail route, though, because I think I'd also like to be a shop owner. If I were, only the back of my eyelids would ever see 5:30 in the morning. If not a bookstore cafe, I would own a very cool boutique (of course, I would) selling handbags and jewelry and scarves and other accessories. The packaging would be art. And then I'd also enjoy being a buyer for Crate and Barrel, and get to travel to far away places on someone else's dime, to shop for dishes and vases and fashionable imports.

But for today, and the foreseeable future, I am a teacher, who had to ask permission from the principal to go to the bank so I could take care of a debit card fraud issue (how scary that some scam artist has my account information and ran a test 0 dollar PIN transaction; how fortunate that I am vigilant about my accounts!), who caught a student cheating and later sat and watched her cry, and who is oh-so-happy the weekend is here.

Let it Snow!

I want snow. Which means, really, that I want a snow day. In fact, I need a snow day. Not just for the mood (although I really am over the 65 degree weather in December) but for the opportunity to get ready for Christmas. Aside from a bunch of correcting I could catch up on, I have sixty invitations to my parents' 50th anniversary party to address, Christmas cards to write out, and a Christmas tree to put up. And those are just the high priority items from my list of things to do. There's always more I can do--closet and storage bin projects come to mind--but I'll get to those, and to my growing stack of new books I want to read, on subsequent snow days...but first I need one. The first of the season. Preferably in the next week or so.


My lucky snowman looked silly sitting on my desk the other day while it was rainy and balmy out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis the Season

Last year when the holidays were over (I guess then it was at the beginning of this (calendar) year), I decided that I would be more prepared for the Christmas season this year. I would start shopping earlier, and be more thoughtful and deliberate about gifts.

So as much as it was Thanksgiving weekend--and I have never been one of those crazy people to decorate the day after Thanksgiving--it was time to decorate. Something at least. Thanksgiving was late this year, and I won't be around next weekend, so I had to get started. I decided I didn't have to do it all at once; I could do it piecemeal. Yet even if I did get it done in one fell swoop, it's not like I have that much anyway. (Unlike Tamara and her friends and neighbors, I am not setting up beacons for Santa and his reindeer.)

So I put a holly garland around my entertainment center. I put my sequin sprigs in the vases in my bay window. I put new purple and silver glitter trees on my corner table. I put the bulbs back in the hurricane that I bought on clearance last year. But my angels are still in storage. And so is my tree. I'm trying, but I just can't get all the way there.

Honestly, I don't know how people in warm climates get ready for Christmas. It's been in the fifties in Connecticut and I'm struggling with getting in the spirit. I can't imagine decking the halls while it's 70 degrees out! I used to think we New Englanders were the lucky ones (yeah, I know, go figure: nor'easters and sub-zero wind chills make us lucky) because season changes made it easy to get into the spirit--until this year when the season seems not to want to change, and it appears we've been spoiled with mood flurries and snow days to decorate and bake cookies and write Christmas cards because there is not a flake in the forecast and tomorrow is the first of December.

Looks like this year we're going to have to find the Christmas spirit in our hearts....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Finally, Thanksgiving!

No more inane news stories about how many total calories are consumed in one meal, how much exercise it takes to burn off that one meal, or how to avoid the diet dangers! For God's sake, it's Thanksgiving. If you are so fortunate to have a table to sit at with family or friends or both, and the economoy didn't leave you and yours without turkey and the fixin's, by all means enjoy yourself. Don't count calories.

Count your blessings. And give thanks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Sometimes the best part of the weekend for me is the moment, on Friday night, when I shut off the automatic timer feature on my coffee maker. The little clock icon in the corner LED display disappears and I know that 5:30 the next morning will not bring the sounds of perks and sputters. Following close behind this thrill, as a highlight of my weekend, is getting into bed without first walking over to my alarm clock and turning it on. Just knowing the next day is all my own makes me happy. When I pull up the covers and tuck myself in for the night, I am smiling.

Similarly, while not the best part of Thanksgiving, I always look forward to the day before Thanksgiving as well. The Wednesday before my family feast is a holiday in and of itself, a half-day at school that I usually follow with a "grown-up lunch" with a friend or two, just because I can. I'll often do a little shopping too, taking advantage my afternoon off and my last opportunity to shop without roller-derby gear. When I get home late in the afternoon or early in the evening tomorrow, it will be dark. I'll probably have a night cap--a glass of wine or a cocktail--and when I go into the kitchen to pour it, I can shut off the coffee timer. And so it will begin. For four days: no coffee timer, no alarm clock.

Ooh. Come to think of it, when I get my coffee ready tonight for automatic brewing in the morning, I don't have to make myself lunch too. That makes me smile. Tonight is starting to feel like a holiday already!

[Heart] Soup

Whether it's my mother's rosół or homemade tomato soup, or the Hungarian mushroom soup from Price Chopper that fills in for her Christmas Eve cream of mushroom, I love soup. The list goes on and includes soups I make, like Italian sausage soup, creamy corn and squash chowder, and basic vegetable soup. The clam chowder at McCormick and Schmick's was a perfect (and delicious) late dinner the other night, and a can of Progresss soup is lunch in a pinch on many school days. I'm not ashamed to admit I even eat red and white label Campbell's soup on occasion. Whether I make it or buy it or bring it home from my mother's, there's nothing like soup.

Sometimes it makes me sweat, or my nose run; other times it just fills my belly. Always, it's a meal in a bowl, a hug in a mug, and why I [heart] soup.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Room with a View

Over my kitchen sink, I have no window, only a wall. I have created there my view of the world in a way, by framing and hanging a few of my favorite photographs from some of my favorite places. This weekend, as I looked out of the balcony of my room at the Millenium Bostonian hotel, it occurred to me that I don't have any photographs of Boston. At all. I have the requisite print of a Newbury Street scene, and a framed postcard of the swan boats at Boston Common (The Public Garden), but not a single picture I have taken.

Maybe it's not that strange, from the perspective that I lived there so long and still visit so often. But still. It's one of my favorite places. And taking pictures is one of my favorite things to do. So I grabbed my camera.

This is what I saw.

And this is where I stayed.

And this is where I felt at home again.


Some people can hula-hoop, some unicycle, others can touch their noses with their tongues. I can't do any of those things, but I'm very good with voices and faces--particularly with actors on commercials. I can name the voice-over in three words or less --and not just James Earl Jones. And faces, well, remembering faces can ruin a commercial for me.

I know they're actors, but it takes away from the credibility of the testimonial if the woman who takes her kid to McDonalds is the same woman who can't find her car in the garage, who approaches Jamie Lee Curtis with "Activia lady?". Just last year she was hanging out with a couple of male co-workers doing the single 20-something fast food lunch in the park.

And then there's the woman who has a computer issue in one ad, and is making an egg for her son the chef in another. Or the guy on meds who is seeking financial advice. And the corporate couple turned inn-keepers who both play other roles. One of the worst for me is the woman who knocks her knuckles on a granite counter top with a large diamond on that hand (calling the counter 'the rock that really counts') who also advertises for a local college or technical school of some sort. Suddenly Miss Wealthy and Married is really a college student.

Are you seeing my point?

Good for them that they're getting lots of roles, but I'm remembering their faces and work, and not necessarily the product. My sister Liz says its ridiculous that it bothers me. But it's my talent. Or my sickness. (One of them, anyway.) And I can't turn it off.

Thank goodness I fell in love with the man who dresses like the sun for Jimmy Dean sausages before he did the ad for building a website. I love those ads! I'm grateful that I got to enjoy the latest of those ads, which is my favorite, where he's home cooking breakfast and singing his conversation about breakfast as if he's a rock star--one daughter (the younger of the two) rocking out with him, the other (the teenager) rolling her eyes. It made me laugh every time.

But now he is also a man trying to build a website with his wife. I believed him more when he was just the sausage sun.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Breaking Point

Every once in a while I get to a breaking point. Today is one of those times. I am tired and frustrated and dealing with a parent issue at school and not feeling very supported. When I get frustrated like this and I’m overtired, I don’t do very well with my emotions and I can cry if someone looks at me wrong. Like I did during my free period today. I hate it when my job makes me cry. I hate when I let something get to me. When I give it more energy than I should.

But I have good things to look forward to. This weekend I’ll be in Boston, and even though it’s only one hundred miles away it feels far, far away when I am there, walking down Newbury Street or strolling through Faneuil Hall. I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a Brandy Alexander or a pumpkin spice martini this weekend, and maybe get a start on Christmas shopping—even if it’s must for me.

Then next week is a short week and Thanksgiving is Thursday. I get to see aunts and uncles and cousins (and Nanny Frannie!) and nieces and nephews and new babies that have been born. I get to relax and eat great food and get extra sleep and enjoy five days away from work.

By the time I get back I hope to have forgotten that today I cried at work about something not worth my tears.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Knife Skills

Sometimes, it's the little things in life, like sharing a humiliating story with friends and hearing theirs, or cutting a 12 ounce package of mushrooms in a minute (I timed it), that make me smile.
+ Onions and Bacon:
Sauteed together

served with tortellini

= delicious dinner

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

But Wait, There's More...

So I shared my FHP story with Mandy yesterday, and when she finished laughing she said, “That’s definitely worse than the stockings story.” It took me a minute to recall at all, and then I even questioned “was that you or me?.” Eventually all the details came back. I recalled the entire incident, the day I went to school and half way through the day noticed the foot of a stray pair of tights peeking out of the bottom of my pant leg.

Apparently, when I got dressed that morning, I hadn’t noticed that there was a pair of tights hiding in my pants when I put them on. Nor did I notice an extra bunch of fabric ruining the smooth line of my pants. Until it made it’s way down and started coming out the bottom, that is.

I’ll never know if students noticed and said nothing or if everyone else was as oblivious as I was that morning when I got dressed. I do know I was lucky enough to catch it before I tripped over and fell.

Although that, too, would have made for some good laughs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blogable Moment

The other night Jill and I had an opportunity to chat at length. It was a treat. The three hour time difference isn’t always on our side, and often we settle for a few minutes of conversation when she’s commuting home (if I’m not in bed yet). I shared with Jill an embarrassing moment, and we laughed so hard it hurt. We could hardly understand each other when we tried to speak through the wheezes. When we finally calmed down she said, “You have to blog about that!” I told her I would, but only because I could to take her down with me, so to speak, since she had a similarly mortifying moment. I guess we’ll call it a blogable moment, akin to the “bookworthy” details Amy identifies in the emails I send to her, things I say that make her laugh or are over-the-top b*tchy, sometimes both. She’ll reply “that’s bookworthy,” and I write it down. So without further adieu…

I told Jill that I had been to a party, where I knew hardly anyone besides my friend, the host, but enjoyed myself nonetheless. I was glad I went despite the fact that toward the end of the party, when just a few of us remained, sitting at high bar stools around the breakfast bar, I looked down at my shoe, and there was my panty liner.

Yep. Not toilet paper. My panty liner was stuck to the bottom of my shoe, and had been apparently for some time, since I had ventured outside after my trip to the loo, which I imagine is the moment my panty liner decided to escape from the cotton crotch of my granny panties and take a walk around Mo’s kitchen.

Oh my God! Had anyone seen it? And not said anything? Please, doesn’t a stray panty liner fall in the spectrum of spinach stuck in your teeth or the swinging snot in the nose? To tell or not to tell? Tell the poor woman. (In this case, me.) Or maybe I—like my panty liner—had actually escaped without notice before the moment I casually crossed my legs, detached the stray feminine hygiene product (FHP) from my shoe and tucked it in my pocket for appropriate disposal.

I welcome you to share similar FHP nightmares, like Jill’s—when she went to the bathroom at work only to find her panty liner missing. Nowhere to be found. MIA. Not stuck in her stockings, since she wasn’t wearing stockings, not stuck on her shoe.

For now, I think I win. And men? Well, they have it made.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Ready

I had a couple of friends over last night, and although they would have been okay with stacks of magazines around and lint on the floor from my new throw blanket, I got my place “guest ready.” I caught up on recycling, and shredding. I dusted, and vacuumed, put tea lights in their places, fluffed my throw pillows, folded my throw and draped it on the back of the couch. I got my living room to look as good as the dining room table did after I set it for dinner.

As always, after enjoying the company of my friends, I also enjoyed the absence of clutter and unfinished projects. This morning it was delightful to sit with my coffee and not look around at what amounts to my list of things to do, what I should take care of this weekend. I thought I should have people over more often, when actually, I wish I would take the time to care a little more—whether or not I have friends coming over.

My friend Tamara, who would say when she knows I’m stressing about preparing for guests, “they’re there to spend time with you, not your baseboards,” is also a woman who is happy to have become, in her adult life, a bit obsessive about cleaning. After years of being lazy, she has become a bit of a neat freak as she wrote about in her blog, and I envy her that. I just can’t get there.

For one, I live alone. It’s only me. Meaning there is no one else around to be bothered by my stack of cookbooks that could so easily be put away on their shelf in my bookcase. While it’s there I don’t mind the stack of junk mail that needs to be shredded—too much, anyway. But I also mean there is no one to help. No one else to stop and pick up some milk while I get started on dinner. No one else to wash the dishes after I try a new recipe. No one else to take out the trash while I clean the toilets. It’s all me.

I know I’ve probably done a fair amount of making people, moms especially, envious. I’m sure there are eyes that have rolled back in their sockets in response to my tails of staying in bed to appreciate my sheets, and plating an antipasto to make it picture perfect. I guess I’m telling you today it’s not always so glamorous. Sometimes it’s hard. It takes time and energy and sometimes seems pointless.

But, as of today, I’m going to try to change my attitude about cleaning. I’m going to try to get to my inner neat freak. Rather than see cleaning as a time consuming chore, I’m going to try to see it as another way to pamper myself. I encourage others to pamper themselves, right? Keeping my place picture perfect is worth the effort, and the enjoyment it brings when I go home and put my feet up on the coffee table and turn on Oprah and I’m not distracted by the things I need to take care of. At that moment all I will need to do is enjoy the moment, and how pretty everything looks in its place.

If my friends are worth a clean living room, so am I.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fa La La La Blah Blah Blah

So I told you I’m good with fall, excited about Brandy Alexanders, and I get that we are on the moving sidewalk to Christmas, but Christmas carols? Before Veteran’s Day? Seriously?

I understand retailers are a bit nervous, hoping that maybe if people start earlier they’ll spend more, or the same as past years if they spread out the spending a bit, but when I’m in my workout gear, with no coat on, because it’s 60-some odd degrees out, the first week of November, I have a little trouble with Winter Wonderland being piped through the store while I look at picture frames. Maybe I wouldn’t mind it so much if I were doing some Christmas shopping, but I’m just rebounding from those tires that threw my checkbook into a frenzy, so I wasn’t. I was looking for a 4x6 picture frame at a craft store. On November 8.

I had made my way past the fall harvest clearance items (again: seriously?), through the jungle of Christmas foliage and holly berry branches, and had gingerly passed by the display of ornaments, when I stood looking at the frames and the sounds sunk in. I was hearing cheerful Christmas music. I haven’t even gotten the call from my cousin Dawn yet to invite me for Thanksgiving (which really is not necessary since it’s a longstanding tradition. I frankly can’t imagine the circumstances under which we would not have Thanksgiving at Henry and Dawn’s) and there I was, assaulted by Christmas carols.

I felt disoriented. And, then when I realized I was in fact in the moment, and not crazy, I felt cranky. I’m not ready! Don’t force this on me yet! Let me throw my pumpkin away first. Bah Humbug. Stop the moving sidewalk!

At least, give me a snow day to get in the mood….


I understand that some routines can’t be avoided—like getting up at 5:28 (my lucky number), showering, and sitting with my coffee before drying my hair and getting dressed, then leaving at 6:45 to get to school on time. I know I choose to spend time watching the news and drinking coffee, and our routines may vary according to our work schedules, but getting up to get to work is not a choice for most of us. (Trust me. If I ever win the lottery, it would no longer be a choice for me.) We have our workweek routines that can’t be avoided. That’s why God gave us weekends, right?

Well, this past Saturday, when I woke up and sat with my coffee, flipping between Weekend Today and Food Network, and geared up to go to the gym, setting a time in my head and thinking of what gym clothes were clean, I stopped myself. It was Saturday but it may as well have been Tuesday. Suddenly Saturday and Sunday had started to feel too much like Monday through Friday, and aren’t weekends supposed to be fun? Not that I don’t enjoy going to the gym (really, I don’t), but it was more the routine I had gotten into that bothered me. During the week it’s shower, coffee, work; on weekends suddenly it had become coffee, gym, errands, shower. (Yeah, I know the shower should probably come somewhere else in that order of things.) What happened to spontaneity? To whims?

So, since I had baubles on my mind, and had recently renewed my permission to indulge in guilty pleasures, I instead got my big box of jewelry supplies and beads out of the closet and decided to make jewelry. (It’s one of those Gemini things I do on occasion: make and sell jewelry.) I was in the mood for a few new pendants, and bracelets, so why not? I had another cup of coffee, then sat in my pajamas until well after noon, making new pieces, looking at old ones I haven’t sold (and some I even forgot I made), not stopping to eat lunch. At about 2:30 I got in the shower, and accepted a friend’s invitation to stop by and visit later in the evening. I went grocery shopping first, stopped for a bite to eat, and then went and visited with my friends.

On Sunday, when I had coffee and went to the gym and…well, you know the rest…it didn’t feel so bad, because I had changed up my routine the day before just enough to feel refreshed. Making jewelry, and skipping the gym, staying in my pajamas until afternoon provided just enough variety and spontaneity to make me feel better about my returning to my routine. Structure is good. But so is having a little fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Egg Nog

I flipped through the grocery store flyer the other day and there it was. On sale. Egg nog. Friggin' egg nog. Which means I can't say it's only November. That's the point. It is November! And Thanskgiving is only three weeks away! Not even my blog post on November, which I wrote just last week, prepared me for Egg Nog. Folks, we are on that moving walkway of time headed right for Christmas. And there's no getting off. Just like in the airport, when right after you commit to the moving walkway you see a cute shop but you can't get off until you pass another 15 gates.

The good news? That means it's officially Brandy Alexandar season, too, that holiday cocktail Mr. Sterner used to make for me and Jill on Christmas day, that she and I took liberty to extend the season of and enjoy before and after. I’m not sure Jill and I have ever met a cocktail we haven’t liked, but even we follow some guidelines. In this case, pretty much, if you can a burn pumpkin spice candle in the house, and the store carries Egg Nog, you can have a Brandy Alexander.

Ooh. Wait a minute. That means it's pumpkin spice martini season too...

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I have liked jewelry as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to call me “Little Gypsy.” In my First Holy Communion picture, taken at a professional photographer’s studio, I have on a ring that I got in a gumball machine—an adjustable, tarnished silver metal band with a painted black clover. I suppose it’s actually a club, like on a playing card. I don’t remember my parents asking me to take it off, nor do I remember having a tantrum to keep it on; I just know that it’s there, on the hand on which my rosaries are draped while I hold my prayer book with a devilish grin.

In middle school, in the seventies, I did the silver and turquoise and coral thing. And tiger’s eye and abalone. Multiple rings on multiple fingers. If it didn’t make me laugh when I think back, I’d cringe.

In high school, I thought I might try out gold, although I didn’t have much. I suppose I thought it was more sophisticated and mature (it certainly was more expensive!) and I would alternate silver and gold depending on my outfit. By the time I graduated I had a few pieces of gold jewelry that I treasured, including a birthstone ring I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday, which had two tiny emerald chips and two even tinier diamond chips. My other favorite piece was a charm for my necklace that said Polish Princess. Again, if I weren’t laughing, I’d probably be cringing. Or crying in embarrassment.

In college I was among real princesses, who had more jewelry than I would or will ever amass. I remember this one princess (I can’t remember her name or where specifically she was from, but I believe she was Middle Eastern) who had matching gemstone sets--in emerald and sapphire and ruby. A different gem for every outfit, with matching rings and bracelets, earrings and a necklace—all set in heavy gold. (She had a safe in her room.) Woah. They were gorgeous!

And boy did I feel inadequate. I could not, would not, go back to tiger eye and abalone, so I kept wearing my pauper’s gold and discovered costume jewelry. Now we were in the eighties so big, colorful pieces were in—enamel coated metal earrings the size of a half dollar. Hideous.

Finally, I was in graduate school, and I happened upon what I considered some really beautiful silver jewelry at the Harvard Medical Coop near Simmons. I bought the earrings (still big; it was the late 80s) with one check, and an interesting ring with another, and thus began my love for silver. My love for bold, beautiful, interesting jewelry has not faltered and my collection has grown. Of course it probably doesn’t have much monetary value, it is only silver after all, but the sentimental value of the pieces, and the history they keep for me, makes it priceless.

My baubles tell stories. They remind me of places I’ve been where I’ve opted for jewelry instead of t-shirts: my blue topaz from Portland and the set of three cabochon rings I bought in London. And they take me back to times in my life, like the rings I have from the “silver vendor,” as I called her, on Boylston Street in front of the Arlington Street Church or the bracelet my friends Mandy and Jodi gave my on my fortieth birthday. And some pieces just put me in a good mood, or the right frame of mind, like the gift I gave to myself a few years ago when I was focused on loving and accepting myself, a ring with a quote from Shakespeare engraved in it...

This above all, to thine own self be true.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

We all have them. Those things that make us feel good that we know are all bad or that we are embarrassed to admit make us feel good. Grown-up contraband. Foodie faux pas. Kraft Mac and Cheese. Velveeta. Cheese Doodles. Anything fluorescent orange for that matter. For me, it is Funyuns. I [heart] Funyuns. But maybe your GP is sweet instead of salty. Twinkies. Ho-hos. Baked goods with shelf-lives longer than some marriages.

Not meant to be shared, we indulge in private, to eliminate the risk of having to be polite and ask, “Want one?,” only to have the person say "sure," as you grumble and groan on the inside. Or maybe it’s the sheer decadence of it, a day’s worth of calories in a single sandwich, the condiments alone capable of clogging an artery, which makes people reluctant to go public, eating instead in the cramped quarters of their cars. Or the meticulousness with which one approaches and enjoys a GP that prefers privacy. That bordering-on-OCD way you eat the chocolate around the peanut butter cup first and then try to disrobe the top and bottom, too, so that all that remains is a peanut butter nugget. Or the fact that you still haven’t grown out of the desire to pull the Oreo apart, lick the “frosting”, then dip the cookies in milk that’s not appropriate cafeteria behavior.

Maybe your guilty pleasure has nothing to do with food, hard as that is for me to imagine. Whatever it is, I encourage you to enjoy your guilty pleasure. Indulge the cookie-dipper child inside you, or the junk food junky that lurks in your new mid-life Health Nut. Take time to let the blanket-loving couch potato out of your tied-tight, A-type persona. Turn your ringer off and take a nap. Give your Neat Freak the day off and leave clothes on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink.

Enjoy life. [Heart] your guilty pleasures, whatever they might be.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


October is behind us now, and store displays have moved beyond Halloween right to Christmas, neglecting Thanksgiving in the process. Some leaves are still hanging on for dear life, but most have been ripped from their branches by wind and rain. Most forecasts include blustery. We just gained an hour, and it’s dark early now. Sunday, our first day after falling back, felt like the longest day of the year. This is the month of Thanksgiving, and sometimes our first snowfall, although for some New Englanders that already came in October this year. We may get a little more tonight while we sleep.

For teachers, at least those in my district, this month is also one marked with days off from school. Students stayed home on Election Day while we had a Professional Development day. Next week, we all get Veteran’s Day off from school. The week after that we have a long week, with Parent-Teacher conferences one night, making it officially the longest school week of the year, but reprieve comes the week following, with our Thanksgiving break.

For me, this also means we are one-quarter through the school year. I just came out of what I call grading hell, preparing and sending quarter grades, and it made me tired. Soon, hitting snooze won’t be enough, but November is followed by December, and that means we’re within a month of having snow days. The sad thing is I’m ready for that.

In ten short weeks I’ve gone from relaxed to stressed, refreshed to exhausted, tan to pale. And the idea of getting a phone call in the morning that essentially tells me to go back to bed puts a spring in my step. Bring on the snow days.

At least I’m not wishing for an H1N1 outbreak.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

[Heart] Mimosas

Mimosas make me feel special. My favorite are made with Prosecco, but I will use cheap champagne in a pinch. They are really nothing more than a different kind of wine spritzer: sparkling wine mixed with orange juice. But they feel sophisticated in a way, and indulgent, but not too potent. I can sip them on Sundays and still get things done.

They indulge my inner movie star, and pamper the woman of leisure that lives inside me. Which is why I [heart] mimosas.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

In the Moment

I have a very vivid memory of being on the T in Boston, holding the overhead bar, standing as the C-line car rode up Beacon Street out of Coolidge Corner toward Washington Square, thinking I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I don’t know where the feeling came from, or what prompted it, but it was visceral. And it was a powerful moment. I remember feeling so content and at ease and in the moment. Everything in my life, every moment previous, had brought to that moment and it was right. I was centered and grounded and certain.

These days, as much as I feel certain and sure, I also feel distracted, sometimes dissatisfied, sometimes uncertain. I wonder if I should change careers again, or if I should move back to Boston—if not now then when I retire from this career. I wonder how different my life might have been if I hadn’t moved back to Connecticut to teach. And I wonder if I will ever be paid to write something other than quizzes and tests and lesson plans. Still, despite those moments, I believe that I am content more often than I am not.

I have moments, when my feet are up on the coffee table or up on the couch tucked under my throw blanket, and my house smells good—perhaps of something I cooked, or the scent of a candle or both (the other day, the smell of fresh brewed coffee and my pumpkin spice candle combined to make it smell like a donut shop in a weird way)—and I’m reading a good book or flipping through a magazine when I think, what a perfect day. That kind of contentment feels close to what it was like that moment, but not quite.

The other day I came even closer. I decided to stop at a restaurant I used to frequent but no longer do (for no particular reason) to have a quick bite to eat and a drink on my way home from shopping after work. I ended up having an absolutely delightful conversation with the gentleman to my right, who was also on a first name basis with the bartender and whom my instincts knew was a good person. (How nice it was not to be in my twenties and not to have wondered for one moment about ulterior motives!) Indeed, through conversation I found him also to be a good husband and father. We talked easily, about food and wine, and Boston, our favorite restaurantts and hotels there. We talked about Florence and Rome and London and his children, and his wife, and education. I was able to have that conversation because of every moment that had come before it in my life, because of all the places I had been and the experiences I brought with me.

And at that moment, I was in the moment. I was content. And I was glad I stopped in.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Making Things Right

or follow up to Breakdown

I think it’s only fair that I update you on my tire nightmare…

Early this week I decided to pursue a formal complaint with the Customer Service Coordinator at the tire company (that I said sucked) after my experience with them last weekend. The CSC replied to my initial email and asked me to call to discuss specifics. I did, and was able to share my frustration and disappointment--along with names and times. In return he offered his sincere apologies and told me that he would refund me the labor costs associated with the four hour nightmare (actually six--two on Friday, four on Saturday), for which he said there was no excuse. I have not received my check in the mail yet, but I should get it any day.

Obviously I would have preferred good customer service last weekend, but at least they (he) tried to make good. I won't get those 6 hours of my life back, but I'll take the 67 bucks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I have a thing with chili. I love to make it in the fall and winter but never make or eat it in the summer. In the spring, a frozen portion may find its way into my lunch bag, but for me chili is seasonal—in a way that makes sense, I think. Which implies that I know someone with food season rules that don’t make as much sense. In fact, my brother-in-law Jim thinks soup is seasonal (winter food) but will only eat clam chowder, and only in the summer. And then there’s Amy. Her rules are not seasonal, per se, but she has a list of foods that are not Amy-approved that I can’t figure out. Miss Foodie McFoodenstein, who was just a finalist in a recipe contest, won’t eat mushrooms, or fish. She’d probably eat offal before eating squash. But I digress. (Which I imagine you are beginning to see is common with me. I may circle around the airport a few times, but I will land the plane. I promise.)

I didn’t grow up eating chili, and I can’t remember when I decided I liked it, but I do remember being in search of the ultimate chili recipe when I lived in Boston. I tried recipes, combined recipes, used some elements from different recipes, tried those out, then tweaked them and ultimately came up with the recipe I use today. Which I continue to tweak. I make it with ground beef and onion and garlic and beans and crushed tomatoes, seasoned with chili powder and cumin and garlic powder. It’s not quite Cincinnati chili, but it’s not Texas chili either. Because it has beans, it’s not chili con carne. I guess it’s just my own concoction, which always gets great reviews.

I think chili for me is the equivalent of my mother’s chicken soup, which in Polish we call rosół. When I make chili I am my mother’s daughter. Food is love. I make it in a big pot and share it. I always have Jodi and Mandy over for chili in the fall and send them home with the leftovers, and I usually have my friend Kim over for some. Amy gets it for lunch (it is Amy-approved), and a batch usually makes it to a Patriots tailgate. Sometimes I bring some to my parents, and my sisters. Yesterday I brought some for Erika and Juli to try. If there’s any left, I’ll freeze it in portions for lunch or dinner in a pinch. But I’d be just as happy to give it all away then to keep some for myself just in case. Happier, in fact.

Like my mother’s rosół, I secretly hope that—even when I share the recipe—people can’t replicate it, that there’s just that something about my chili that makes it better and worth waiting for me to share it again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Purple Pens

Several years ago, maybe ten, my friend and colleague Fran (who also teaches Biology) gave me two boxes of purple pens for Christmas. It was a bit of a gag, because she knows how much I covet school supplies in general, but also how much I loved my purple Pilot (Precise Roller Ball extra fine V5) pens and how I watched them like a hawk. I guess she figured if I had two boxes, which equals two dozen pens, I could relax. Au contraire.

I still guarded them with my life, and meted them out sparingly, taking a new one out of a box only if the one I was using was almost out of ink, or if I decided it was important to have one in a location other than my school bag. Like my purse. Or one for home. That sort of thing. That is, having two boxes did not give me permission to be careless with them—especially when they stopped making them! I kept them locked in my desk.

Alas, I am down to my last one, and there’s probably only enough ink in it to correct one more set of quizzes. So it was time to go to Staples, of course, to gear up with more. But what would I pick? What could replace the Pilot Precise V5?

If you are like me, you need to test drive a pen before you can buy it; you need to see how smooth it writes, how it feels in your hand, that sort of thing. Well, when they’re packaged in sets of 5 and 7, it’s hard to do—but even more necessary since it becomes a bigger risk in said packaging. Imagine taking a pen home and hating the way it writes, and having 6 of them. I was not going to fall into that trap. No way. They might take advantage of me at a tire place, but I know my way around school supplies.

So I stood in the aisle and discreetly opened three packages of pens and tested them on the back. I was conflicted. I liked all three that I tried—one liquid ink, two ball points. I looked at price and unit price per pen. In the end I went for one with liquid ink (the Pentel Energel, metal tip 0.7mm), and one ball point (the Zebra Z grip, medium). Today, I rather enjoyed correcting with the ball point.

Moving on was not as hard as I thought it might be.

[Heart] the Mechanics at my Oil Change Place

After all the inconvenience and aggravation I suffered over the weekend trying to get my alignment done, I still had one more car care issue to deal with. I needed an oil change and I made an appointment.

Imagine how tentative I was walking in. Would they be as cavalier about my appointment? Add to that the fact that I was early and wondering if they’d take me early so I could get to the gym before the dinner rush and tentative now looks like crazy. Well…

They took me early! And they didn’t try to sell me a half dozen filters or parts that probably don’t even exist! I used my coupon and left spending only what I planned to.

“You made my day,” I said to the mechanic at the counter. And I thanked the one who changed my oil. "Thanks so much!" I stopped just short of saying, "I [heart] you guys." But I said it here.

Monday, October 26, 2009


After the tire debacle on Saturday, I wasn't in the mood to do much. I was exhausted--emotionally, physically, financially. But Sunday was another day. And I needed to make up for lost time.

I woke up early, did laundry, went to the gym, ran errands, and was home for kick off by 1. I watched the Patriots game and afterward decided to have my favorite BAT (Bacon, Arugula, and Tomato) sandwich for dinner... Again proving that there's nothing bacon can't fix, and always room for a little arugula.


Picture this, if you will. It's just before 9:30 on a rainy Saturday morning. The strip mall is not quite astir yet, although eager shoppers stand with their carts in front of Costco, ready to rush in the moment it opens. Further down the way, in front of the Dollar Tree stands a woman--in jogging pants, a hoodie, a jacket--who is crying, glasses fogged, hair matted from the rain, patent leather bag between her feet as she crosses her arms in front of her, as if to warm up, or to comfort herself.

That woman was me. (Did the patent leather bag give me away?)

Because just minutes earlier, after adding 2 more tires to my weekend's expenditures, bringing my total to $400, I was told it would take 2 hours for them to put those tires on and do the alignment I had paid for the day before, that I had an appointment for that day as well. Yes, despite my appointment on Friday afternoon for an alignment, they could only manage to put on my new tires. I rescheduled the alignment for 9:30 that morning, and was told I'd be in and out in a half hour. Only, as the sales person handed my back my debit card after he rang up the additional two tires and took my keys he said “that'll be about two hours.”

“Two hours?!?!? But I have an appointment! I had an appointment yesterday and you couldn’t do it.”

Apparently, that didn’t matter. And no one had the decency to be honest the day before and say “we like to get people in and out with new tires. We usually do alignments in between other customers, in the lulls, so your best bet is to make arrangements and plan to leave your car for the day.” Or that morning, when I announced myself as Joanne, having a 9:30 appointment, the salesman should have said, “Did you make arrangements to leave your car? I’m sorry you have an appointment, but it looks like it’s going to be a couple of hours before we can get to it.” Instead, he was too eager to ring the sale and let me know afterward how long it would be.

And so there I was, in the rain, not having made arrangements, not able to reach my parents, wondering what to do. I was overwhelmed and upset and all I could do was cry.

Flash forward about 4 hours, after my sister Mary saved me and took me home to dry while my car stayed behind waiting for tires and an alignment, after I’ve been sitting home for 3 hours. I call my father to pick me up and take me back there, no longer crying but using language I never use with my father, because after 3 1/2 hours I decided to call and check on the status of my car and found out it’s done. At 1:15.

Car care sucks. Town Fair Tire sucks more.

I should have called my dad to begin with.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I learned to drive a 1972 Pontiac Catalina; my friends called it the Kielbasa Wagon. I drove around in that for years—until the day it died one summer day when I was on vacation during college, at the drive-thru window at the bank, doing the banking for Dr. B. If that car could have talked before its demise, it would certainly want to tell the story of how the horn got stuck when Jill and I were driving around in it and should not have been, maybe because we were cutting study hall our senior year of high school. I didn't have the car with me at college, given that I was in Boston and didn't need a car, so it wasn't hugely devastating when it died. It had been on its last leg for years. The Fonz could have opened the trunk just looking at it; I could do so with a little push. I could pull the keys out of the ignition while it was running.

At the end of my senior year, my parents bought a used Plymouth Horizon, which became my car after I graduated. I had that car through my twenties, and it was loyal to me. It got me back and forth from Boston to Hartford and back to Boston umpteen times—for every holiday, birthday, wedding, and christening—although I was not as kind to it as I should have been, neglecting regular maintenance and ignoring noises as they got louder. Every ping and grunt I drowned out with a turn to the right on my volume dial. If I got to 65 miles per hour on the Pike, God help you if you made me decelerate. And if you beeped at me, well, screw you, I couldn't hear your horn anyway over the sound of Frampton or U2. Maybe Pearl Jam or Live. When it was beyond all hope, too expensive to repair, it wasn’t even worth the standard $50 junk yard trade. The twenty-five dollars I got barely covered lunch for my roommate and me—as a thank you for her following me there.

I lived without a car again, taking the T for a couple of years instead, again memorizing the Peter Pan bus schedule to Springfield that I had known when I was in college. I actually enjoyed those years in Boston without a car and all the associated expenses. Eventually, when I got a job as a textbook editor in Lexington, it was time for a new car.

My Geo Prizm was my baby: the first car I actually owned. My dad went to the dealer with me, of course, but I got the loan and made the payments and was more responsible with it and better about maintenance, although in the end I ran that one into the ground too. It was ten years old and had more than 100 thousand miles on it when I traded it in (well, when the dealer took it off my hands) and I bought my 2005 Toyota Camry.

And here I am again, with an aging car, wondering how long I’ll be able to drive this car if I take good care of it, curious about how much that will cost. I didn’t name this car, as I did the Black Pearl (my Prizm) but I do love it. I needed a water pump and timing belt this past spring, and a new battery a couple of weeks ago. Today I have an appointment for an alignment (my bracelets clink as I try to steady the steering wheel) and probably two new tires. Tomorrow I have an appointment for an oil change.

I’d rather two new outfits, and shoes, and matching bags, of course, but I love my car, and I’d love to have some time with it and without car payments. (As Amy hoped in vain she and her husband could, before his Volvo died the other day.) So I’m going to do the right thing and keep my car appointments this weekend--and I'm not even going to ask my dad to come with me. My nails will wait until next week; my highlights will wait until my next paycheck.

How’s that for prioritizing?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


One of the nice things about getting older is having fewer and fewer (what I call) Nervous System Shutdowns, those moments when looking back on an event makes you lose feeling from your gut out to your limbs, to the tips of your digits, followed by an instinctive eewwww or I can’t believe I fell for him/that or, alternately, I can’t believe I was so stupid/drunk/desperate.

I think we make better choices as we get older, so we have less cause for such recollections. More importantly, we learn to forgive ourselves for our indiscretions and mistakes, and the forgiveness creates more distance in between those debilitating memories. In those spaces I find myself a bit more nostalgic lately, randomly remembering things that make me laugh or feel good.

When I was at the Big E recently with my sister Liz and my nieces and nephews, I remembered being there in my twenties with Jill, indiscriminately tipping the bathroom attendants with singles from the pockets of her jacket that I was wearing. Meaning I was spending her money. And she didn’t get mad at me. I often think of how she would tap dance and sing down the aisles of 7-11 or anywhere she was inspired to embarrass me and make me laugh. I have at this point three decades from which to draw memories with Jill—most of which make me laugh, all of which make me miss her.

The same goes for experiences with other friends; though I have known them for fewer years, smiles outnumber Nervous System Shutdowns, which works out well. I’d rather chuckle or say aaawwww any day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

[Heart] Coffee

I don't drink nearly as much coffee as I used to. I drink it daily, but I don't drink it all day long. I can even get out of the house some mornings without having a cup first. Of course, then I am in search of one, but...

Today I woke up and still needed to wake up, if you know what I mean. I didn't sleep well and wasn't rested and refreshed. My coffee smelled and tasted better than it had in a while, as if I had brewed the perfect pot, when really it probably because I needed the caffeine. I could have sat sipping my coffee for hours. And I could use another cup right about now.

I love my coffee. And I can't imagine life without it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Self Control

There I was on a Friday afternoon, having found the perfect scarf for my new green jacket and made my way to Domestics. Or is it Tabletop? You know the department: dishes, platters, vases. Porcelain, pottery, crystal. Five minutes later I was lost on a world tour—China, Portugal, Italy—looking for red clearance tags on things that, albeit on sale, I do not need. I do not have room for. I know. It is a sickness. As far as I can tell, infection occurrred during my employment at Crate and Barrel. I have been symptomatic ever since.

Some things were easy to pass by, like the kitschy pilgrim and turkey salt and pepper shakers, and anything in cat motif. Then I found an adorable tea cup and saucer (here I remind you that I am a COFFEE drinker)—made to look like terra cotta whose off-white glazed has been worn on the edges. And another. Three. All slightly different, their own patterns. They’d look so cute on my dining room table on a serving tray with a tea pot, maybe a bud vase. OMG. Four cups and saucers!


Make that three cups and saucers. I knew I should have taken a cart.

Then, as I put them on a shelf so I could rearrange them in my hands so as not to break any more, it occurred to me that I should not be buying any of them! That was my sign.

I walked away.

But they were so pretty….

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Several years ago I went into a gas station to pay for my gas and was surprised to receive a free car wash coupon—although I had not filled my tank. The clerk explained that there was a gas minimum (I can’t remember it now; 10 gallons?) so even though I hadn’t filled my tank, I had purchased enough for a free car wash. I continued to use that gas station and convenience store, and continued to enjoy my free car washes. Then one day I paid at the pump, and was just shy of the gallon requirement, although I had, in fact, filled my tank. My Prizm wouldn’t take another drop. So I went in to ask for my validation code. It was literally, a fraction of a gallon, which equated to cents back then, but the clerk denied me a car wash. I asked to speak to the manager who, with a slightly better command of the language, also told me that I could not get a free car wash. I pursued the matter, spoke of past experiences, and did the math. In the end I asked, “Okay, you’re sure? For twenty cents today you are willing to give up my business forever?” They still refused. I have not been back since. Years—and thousands of dollars I would have spent there on fill-ups and coffees and snacks—later I have kept my word. They lost my business that day forever. And whenever possible, I try not to patronize any stations in this particular gas chain whose name rhymes with hell. As in: rot in.

I try to limit my trips to WalMart to Human Birth Control Experiences. That is, if I for a minute think my ovaries are crying out for a match for one of the remaining, withering ova, I go to WalMart to snap out of it. Still, it has its bargains and when timed correctly I can run in and out without incident. I just keep DCF programmed on my cell. In case. Anyway, I stopped going altogether when WalMart countersued a family, after a woman (WalMart employee) suffered a tragic accident on the loading dock. Eventually they made good, pressured by people like Keith Olberman and my msnbc heroes. I decided I could lift my personal boycott, but tend not to go there first if I can help it. They seem to be in the news a lot, and not for good things.

My issue today isn’t with a store, or a national chain, but more with an idea—spurred by an incident, and then another—that I intend to fuel with that kind of stick-to-it-ness (stubbornness?). Some time ago, I went into a convenience store (that doesn’t rhyme with hell) and paid 99 cents for something—probably a bottled water, or a Big Grab. And when I gave the clerk a dollar, he took it, and closed the register. Hm. I was too in a hurry to be pissed and ask for my penny back, but I thought about it.

Then just this weekend, I went into a service station, and gave the clerk one dollar in change for a 99 cent item. He put my coins in, took a penny out, and dropped it in the penny cup. I looked at him all askance and when he realized he probably did the wrong thing, I said, “forget it,” although I won’t.

I started to wonder. I contribute to them far more than I take from them. Is that true for most of us? Do these stores have glass jars under the register counters where they periodically empty those change cups? Do they really help random consumers who are a penny or two shy, or are these cups magnets for the two or three “extras” that costumers drop in, to later line the pockets of the franchisees?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind helping people, but I’m not much into leaving extra pennies behind for the store owners who are already over-pricing their merchandise. So what I’ve decided is that I’m going to stop contributing to those cups and start collecting those pennies in the change cup in my car that yesteryear would have been an ashtray. And I’m going to keep track of how many of them I collect. Then I’ll donate them to a good cause. And I’ll give periodic progress reports.

Feel free to join me. Grab an old change purse or empty said compartment in your car and save your pennies. This could be fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New England in October

The leaves are still changing here. As I drive around, I find myself taking in the colors and monitoring the progress of my favorite trees along my routes, while hoping that the fall rains and wind won't take down the leaves before the foliage reaches its peak.

So imagine my shock when I reached past the pumpkins on my coffee table to grab a tissue and looked up to the TV and saw news footage of snow falling in Connecticut. On October 15. Though not unheard of, snow is rare here in October--but boy was it coming down!

After my initial WTF?! response, I started thinking…about what a hassle it was to leave lesson plans so that I could stay home to blow my nose ad nauseum, and about how nice it would be to have a day off that requires no planning—or catch-up the day after... And even though I had just decorated with pumpkins and autumn leaves, and my pumpkin spice jar candle is only half gone, and I want to see the fall foliage reach its peak, I admit that I thought ahead to my first snow day--the wistful way I would, on the first warm day in April, dream of sitting by the pool in July.

But I’m over it. It was snowing yesterday morning on my way to school and it was far too bizarre to see the flakes coming down on orange leaves. I decided I could wait for my first snow day, for my first tee hee of the season. The next season.

Friday, October 16, 2009

[Heart] Apples

If in one of those annoying, get-to-know-your-friends emails--hugs or kisses? seconds or dessert?--I were asked fruits or vegetables, I would definitely go with veggies. If I didn't love meat and fish so much I'd be a vegetarian. Not that I don't like fruit.

In fact, I love watermelon and can eat it all summer without getting sick of it and grapes often make appearances in my fridge--finding their fate in my curried chicken salad or cheese plates. But I can go all winter without a piece of fruit, much to the distress of my mother, unless the orange juice in my mimosas counts as fruit.

In between the daily treat of watermelon in the summer and those fruitless days of winter I fall in love with apples. Every year. There's nothing like biting into a cold, crisp, sweet but slightly tart apple: nature's perfect fall food. And even though I have to cut the apple first because it hurts my lips, I [heart] apples.


Actually, I won’t make excuses, but I will explain my absence. Yes, it has been a few days. More than a week, even. In a weird way it makes me happy that some of you are thinking, Where is she? What the heck? Not that I want to upset you in any way, it’s just nice to know that you look for more, that you’ve made a daily habit of reading my posts, and that a week away is uncharacteristic of me.

That being said, I didn’t have writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe in “writer’s block” anymore. There was a quote I came across years ago by a famous author (his name and the exact quote escape me now) that essentially dismisses the notion of writer’s block, and says that inspiration is the act of getting your butt in the chair, sitting down to write. I have been making my best efforts to do just that, despite teaching and otherwise living. Writers write. They don’t make excuses about writer’s block.

That being said, I wish I could say I flew off to London for the long weekend and decided to take a few extra days abroad, chunneling over to Paris. Or that I got a great deal on a ticket to California, and Jill and I took off for some R&R at her timeshare in Palm Springs. But I’ve got nothing glamorous to share. Remember, I’m a teacher. We give up all rights to spontaneity September through June.

As you know, I don’t have any kids, so I can’t use the sick kids excuse. Not that if I had kids I’d want them to be sick, but I am fascinated by how easily people with children can get out of anything—baptism, wedding, backyard barbeque. Even if the responses have been sent and the bride and groom have committed hundreds of dollars for their meals, mention your kid has a fever and you’re all set. No one might ever suspect you’re lying. I, on the other hand, often feel like the only acceptable excuse would be that I am on my death bed. Even then, since I don’t have children to tend to, it would probably be expected that I get my childless, sick ass off my bed and get there. In fact, something similar did happen a few years ago. I didn’t attend a potluck surprise 40th for an old friend because I was in the throes of an allergic eczema attack—my eyelids pink and puffy and peeling—and (go figure) was not in the mood to attend this party in said condition, by myself. And I couldn’t call to say so without giving away the surprise. On Monday I had an email from the caring nurse, mother, and wife of this friend, asking what happened. When I replied her response was pretty much “oh.” No hope you’re feeling better, or glad you’re okay. Clearly, she didn’t believe me or didn’t think it was a good enough excuse. This incident created a somewhat bitter divide between me and them, and exacerbated the one that I think exists between breeders and non-breeders, but I digress.

I wasn’t jet-setting, nor was a nursing a sick child or a case of writer’s block.

I had a furlough day on Friday and a long weekend to follow. Over the weekend, I went away for a couple of days and came back Monday not feeling very well and have not been feeling well since. All the while, my computer at home is still temperamental. Trust that, even when I am not at the keyboard publishing posts, I am writing in my head or longhand in my notebook and there are posts in the hopper and I’ll catch up.

So let me get right to it.

(Thanks for noticing I was gone, Mo.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Somewhere someone has a voodoo doll of me. Last night s/he kept throwing me against a wall, then decided to stomp on me, do a little dance. I swear. Take that, Ms. K, I couldn’t go snowboarding because of my detention. They took my X-box away! It’s so pathetic, and I can hardly tell the story (again) without laughing at myself. My colleagues in the science department were in tears as I told them during lunch.

After school I went home quickly and changed, and then went to the gym. After that I stopped by my parents’ for a few minutes to visit before heading down the street to my nail salon. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home for salad bar for dinner, as I was craving a salad that would not require any slicing or dicing or protein preparation on my part. I went home and ate it. And the next thing I knew, I ached from head to toe.

How sad! How inexplicable! I considered that maybe I was flu-ish but I didn’t have a fever. I hadn’t been in a fender bender, although I remember feeling that way after being in one years ago. I certainly did not recall being run over by an eighteen-wheeler. And 45 minutes on a treadmill should not render such a result.

I just needed a good 800 milligrams of ibuprofen…but I didn’t have any in the house! And I hurt too much to go out and get some. Seriously. Instead, I got out the Icy Hot and rubbed it on the tops of my feet and the back of my neck. I wondered if it would work on my aching hips. For God’s sake I wondered if I should rub some on my a*s, as that almost hurt, too. I covered up with my fleece blanket and did nothing until I went up to bed at 9 o’clock.

This morning I was good as new. Rested. Feeling perfect.

More evidence that someone is practicing voodoo on me. No?
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