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.
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