Friday, June 29, 2012



The counter at Blogspot tells me that this is my 100th posting - happy birthday to me too!

On July 2, 2012, Walmart will turn 50.  Happy Birthday Walmart -  you’re now eligible for membership in the AARP. Or should that be that the AAPR: the American Association of Powerful Retailers?  You think there’s power in the Presidency? For real power think Walmart. It is the world’s largest private employer and the world’s largest retailer. World – not just the good old U.S. of A.  From an international down to a local perspective, they are the tail that wags the dog.

I can remember when the entry of Walmart into a town was a thing not to be borne. It was heralded as the death of any local retail endeavor, and was fought tooth and nail lest the whole local economy go down the drain, and the town take in its sidewalks and go belly up. The last state holdout against Walmart was Vermont.  The idea of that method of retailing just made them squirm - if you know and love the Vermont Country Store you’ll understand why - and Vermonters  would not permit any of those huge, stand alone, big box stores. I can remember when some strange folks thought ski areas were a blight on the landscape, but I could readily agree with the Vermonters that they didn’t need these monstrosities cluttering up their green mountains.

At the time I was living in upstate New York, just ‘next door’, and Bennington was one of our regular haunts. Well those sneaky folks from Arkansas up and slipped a Walmart into an old vacant Woolworth’s in beautiful downtown Bennington, Vermont. Yes sir, what a hoot! 
I never did get into that particular Walmart, being well endowed with two closer Walmarts in New York or Massachusetts, a mere twenty miles away east or west of where I lived.  Now that I’ve moved to the Charlotte area, I am spoiled for choice as far as Walmarts are concerned. I can set out in any direction and hit six of them – the newest and closest only about four miles away - and I can shop ‘til I drop. I’ve been to Walmarts all over the country, and I can usually find exactly what I need at most of them. They’ve become like the old Howard Johnson restaurants. Not haute cuisine or haute couture, but reliable. There’s usually the standard layout so that I don’t have to search all over the place. I must say that they really scrambled the layout when they opened the closest one just two years ago. It took me a while to be comfortable there. Many of the aisles are at an angle to the main one, but I do love having the ‘drug store’ aisles on the same side of the store as the grocery. 
I remember from reading some random Heinlein (yes, I believe it was one of Robert Heinlein’s stories: my memory ain’t what it used to be and it was during my youthful addiction to science fiction) of future life on the moon where the major suppliers were Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, or a combination thereof.  As a science fiction writer Heinlein was quite a prophet of real things to come, but he missed any cues from a burgeoning Walmart. 

Last, but not least: I know I’ve mentioned this in another essay, but while we’re on the subject of Walmart’s birthday you must go and have a celebratory laugh or two at The People of Walmart. Yes, you will be amazed, you will be awestruck, you will laugh yourself sick.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


As most of you realize, I live in a Sun City.  The development is still under construction, and so the builder, and therefore the HOA, is very particular about what is published in the community magazine and on the community website.  Because of this, one of my intrepid neighbors created a Yahoo group to be the unofficial forum for airing our grievances – whatever form or turn they may take. (Sometimes the builder and the HOA even listen to what we say!) I am grateful for the forum because I have often posted on it and aired grievances or opinions of my own, and I’ve come to be even more grateful to it for giving me several ideas for my curmudgeonly essays.

Have you ever noticed that many old people think that because of their years of ‘experience’ they are always right?  Many are ready to jump to judgment with only the slightest bit of information. One recent group opinion exchange – I can’t call it a real discussion - concerned an eye-witness account of a driver who made a right-turn-on-red to head south from our development and then, once on the main road, made a U-turn and got the long green light to head north. Outraged, folks immediately pegged the driver as an inconsiderate, impatient speeder who just wanted to get ahead. And yes, it was an unwise, unsafe manoeuver,  and yes, they may well be right that it was just a ploy to get ahead, but did anyone ever try to guess what might have been going on in that car to justify such a dumb move?

“Mert, you dumb cluck where in the Sam Hill do you think we’re goin’?”

“You said to the bank Maud.”

“Mert, you dumb cluck, I meant Founders, not Fifth Third! Turn around!”

And so Mert, the dumb cluck, instinctively made the instant U-turn.

Most of the time it’s good we can’t read each other’s minds, but in this case, if this was the case, it would have been very helpful.  Really, it seems to me that it was more of a dumb move than a sly one.  You can usually tell the speeders from the dumb clucks almost by the body language of the car. Too often I see someone pull a stupid move and I mutter “Idiot” or “I-D-Ote” or the proverbial AH – and not just the initials. But I’ve pulled a few stupid driving moves myself, and I hope the witnesses were a bit more kind.

I try not to be a Pollyanna, but this leads me to ask my fellow elders to be a bit more forgiving, not jump to judgment, and try to see the other side of a situation. Instead of getting annoyed and going off on a tangent it will be better for our innards if, in a similar situation, we give the other guy the benefit of the doubt and try to see the amusing side of things. Some day that dumb cluck could be one of ‘us’.

Monday, June 25, 2012

just by coincidence...

...this picture was posted today on APOD

Isn't this a fabulous, dare I say heavenly, picture? The caption reads: Milky Way Over Piton de l'Eau. You can read about today's picture at Astronomy Picture of the Day

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Isn't this a wonderful picture? Just by chance today I went through my pix files and perused the one I call Sky Shots. With great regularity there are wonderful photos like this at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.  You can see the large version and explanation of the one above right here.  I check this site daily for information and pictures of sky phenomena from here to the outer limits of the universe.  There's rarely a dull day at APOD. What I'm always wondering about the 'earthlty' pictures is how the photographers arranged to get those memorable, perfect shots. The answer must be patience and persistence, and lots of both

I've got dozens of Sky Shots saved, and, as I find so many other bloggers do, I am going to post a range of my favorites.







Friday, June 22, 2012


It’s summer, and it’s time to celebrate one of my favorite things: ice cream.

I’ve stored four main memory bits that relate to ice cream.  Each a different flavor, two from childhood, two from my travels.  
I’ve always loved ice cream – there isn’t a flavor I’d refuse, though I’m a bit leery of the modern mixtures where they throw in every ingredient at hand.

Well, maybe I’d refuse something like chocolate chip cookie dough, or blueberry cobbler.  Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing with those two.  I tend to stick to the pristine, single flavor ice creams.  My personal favorite is coffee, though none of my main memories pertain to that flavor. Coffee is just the flavor I choose whenever I’m given the choice.  I do know that as a kid I’d choose coffee because I could have it as an ice cream even though I couldn’t have it as a beverage. Do you think my Mom ever caught on? Probably.

You might not expect this, but the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever eaten was bought for me at the Brooklyn V.A. Hospital.  My father was at the hospital due to a war injury, and we children were allowed to see him only on Sundays. We could stay with Dad for only a short time, so after our visit we went down to the cafeteria, promising to stay there and behave until our Mom came to get us, which probably was just long enough for us to have our treat.  One afternoon I chose a dish of chocolate ice cream – maybe they had no coffee flavor - and that was my order there from then on.  They served the ice cream in a white paper cone in a metal holder, the same ones in which they served us a drink of water. The ice cream was almost as black as the cone was white.  The chocolate flavor was as intense as a bitter-sweet chocolate bar.  This wasn’t just one dish of that ice cream that I had – it was many over many Sundays, so the taste is imbedded in my memory.  The hospital is now part of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.  I wonder if they still have that wonderful ice cream.

The other of my childhood ice cream memories is of the pistachio ice cream at Howard Johnson’s.  If I remember correctly, I might have had two ice creams in one day because Mom would, on some Sundays, take us to Howard Johnson’s on the way home from the hospital. I loved their fried clam plate, and I loved their pistachio.  Distance does lend enchantment, but I’m still searching for clams and pistachio ice cream like theirs. Not even the few remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurants can match them.  Again, they’re embedded in my memory, and pistachio is my second favorite.

In Moustiers-Saint-Marie

Fast forward about forty-something years: we’re in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur department of France, mid-afternoon, and it’s time for something to eat to keep us from getting peckish.  Down a winding side street we came upon an ice cream kiosk where a deft-handed girl created something I’d never seen: a flower of individual ice cream petals for a cone that was a thing of beauty and a cool delight to eat. The base petals were raspberry, the center of the flower was hazelnut, and the treat was so big we shared just one.  

My final ice cream memory was made right on the waterfront in Portofino. I’ve written before about our wonderful gustatory tour of Italy, and I mentioned the decadent dessert of ice cream covered with berries and other fruit.  Truly delicious in its own right, that dish of ice cream was just one of the gustatory highlights of that particular day of boating with the locals on the Mediterranean.  Dah-ling, we felt like movie stars!


My husband and I have recently reverted to childhood: we’re now enjoying our ice cream in cones.  The original idea was to cut down on our two- to three- scoop servings of ice cream to just one little scoop on a cone.  But you know how it goes: I had to insure that there was good, cold ice cream all the way down in the cone – couldn’t have it drip all over – so the one scoop has become more like two. And yeah, I know about the calories in the cone.  We all wear halos in our own way. We all have ice cream dreams.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


O.K. all you tightwads, listen up! (or read up! as the case may be).

I’ll start with a tale of a master tightwad. Eons ago – it seems like eons - I was engaged and about to be married in a few months.  My fiancé had few relatives: just his mother, grandmother, and sister who lived nearby, and an aunt and uncle who lived in Arizona. They wouldn’t be able to get to our wedding, so we decided that my fiancé, his mother and I would take a drive out there to see them during our summer vacation.
All the way west from New York and all the way back, he had us stay in the seediest places. And all the way west and all the way back he refused to leave any tips. “I work for my living and never get tipped, why should I tip them for doing their job,” or words to that effect. No amount of reasoning would change his opinion, so all the way west and all the way back his mother and I left tips. This happened back in the late 60’s, and ever since then I have been assiduous in leaving proper tips. (By the way, when we got back from the trip, his mother, who hadn’t lived with him for several years, said to me “If you marry him you’re crazy,” and those are her exact words. And I didn’t, and I’m so glad!)

I know there are many out there who would never neglect to tip their barber or beautician because they might get a buzz cut or a purple dye job next time out. There is a great deal of face- or name-recognition with tipped employees who are seen regularly, and thus many patrons are generous with their tips. But too many, and I do know a few of them here, think nothing of short changing wait staff or others they think they’ll never see again.  (I hope they do see and remember you again and spit in your soup!) 

Then there are others who don’t tip properly or don’t tip at all under circumstances new to them.  Many have never been in an establishment where there are washroom attendants, many have never been to a massage therapist, many have never even had a pizza delivered. So for them and any other of you who don’t know how or how much to tip, or don’t tip at all, here’s a master tool: TIPPING – How to Respond to Hospitality.  The tip on the tip guide came to me from Nicole Stennes at She thought – absolutely correctly! – that I would be interested in it for my blog.

Bookmark the guide, read through the various categories to familiarize yourself with the art of tipping – proper, sufficient tipping. If you’re lucky enough to have a portable device to get you to the internet while you are dining out, you can consult the guide’s Tip Calculator. Remember to consult the guide when you come to a new situation where you are unsure of what to do.  The clever chart covers everything from waiters to tattoo artists. (And if you think you are going to be using the services of a tattoo artist, I want to know how you ever stumbled onto my blog for seniors.)

Friday, June 15, 2012


In writing about her recent grief, and thinking of writing a manual on it, Tania Kinindersley of Backwards in High Heels, googled “grief”, found several entries and

Then I found this, on the website of the dear old BBC, and all the bells went off:

Physical symptoms may include: hollowness in the stomach, over-sensitivity to noise, tightness in the chest or throat, weakness in muscles, lack of energy, a dry mouth, fatigue and breathlessness.
Feelings may include: sadness, anger, guilt, self-reproach, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, shock, emancipation, relief, numbness and yearning for the dead person.
Behavioural changes may include: insomnia and sleep interruption, appetite disturbances, absent-minded behaviour, social withdrawal, dreams of the deceased, avoiding reminders of the deceased, sighing, restless overactivity, crying, visiting places or treasuring objects that are reminders of the lost loved one.
Thoughts may include: disbelief, confusion, preoccupation with the deceased, a sense of presence of the deceased, auditory and visual hallucinations.

I’m sure that sooner or later – let’s hope later – we’ll all experience many of these symptoms of grief.  Tania wrote that she had many, but not all of them.  What struck me was that the list was something I should copy and ‘document’. There are so many platitudes that are trotted out in times of grief, but I wondered if the list and a brief accompanying word by me would be an appropriate thing to send to others as the occasion arose.  Something hand-written, to go along with a printed page, to this effect: “They say these are the symptoms of grief. I know you’ll experience many of them, but I hope that as each day passes everything will be just a bit better for you, and that time will ease what you are feeling now.”

Only if we barely knew the deceased to I send a store-bought sympathy card. Usually I send an appropriate photo card of my own making. I’ve developed a small repertoire of brief letters to personalize to suit the people involved, but perhaps this list might be the most helpful thing they could receive. What do you think?

When you are
Sorrowful –
Look again
Into your heart,
you shall see
that in truth
you are weeping
for that which
has been your

Tuesday, June 12, 2012



Yes, when pigs fly* will be the time I find a magazine that fits me to a T.

I had to laugh when I recently got the “wonderful news” that I had been selected for a free seven-issue subscription to Family Circle. That one and others like it are full of clothes for slim, young women; advice on how to educate, entertain and ‘vet’ your children; how to organize your life, your expenses and your home; and recipes galore that I’d never ever try. Starting with Woman’s Day and Real Simple I’m gradually letting most of my subscriptions run out.  Even Martha Stewart Living may go – I’ve got another year to decide.

Where is the magazine for long-retired septuagenarians who no longer need to plan for retirement and are no longer slim, whose children now have children, whose lives are already organized to the teeth, and who have settled in to basic cooking for two? I refuse to support the AARP, and we didn’t particularly care for their magazine to begin with, so I’ve been searching for some new reads.

We do subscribe to Smithsonian and Archaeology, Southern Living and one or two others – we’ll always need “bathroom reading” – but I’ve found a new source of reading material: ezines. They are extremely colorful, entertaining, educational, and (is this best of all?) free.

The best source for perusing the magazine rack is Issuu. They publish ezines for a great range if interests, many profitably aimed at younger generations, so your eyes may pop at some of them. They’ve shelter magazines, sports issues, foodie fun galore, travel, fashion, and collecting magazines, to name a few. If nothing else, I get a glimpse of what’s going on elsewhere than in my own little niche. Another nice feature of ezines is the ability to click on an interesting item and go right to the website that sells it. And – just think of all the trees that are being saved as more and more magazines go digital.

At Issuu you’ll find some of my favorites: House of Fifty, Est, FOLK, Heart Home, and Sweet Paul.  Two out on their own, are the excellent Lonny, and Covet Garden.  You can ‘subscribe’ to any or all of them and they will email you when a new issue is published.  They're not the grail in my quest for a great magazine for Seniors, but do give some of them a test ride – at least the price is right.

*Every once in a while it strikes me that certain changes in this world will happen only "when pigs fly."  When the spirit of exasperation moves me I just might put out another essay under the "When Pigs Fly" banner.

Friday, June 8, 2012


One gal's trash excess stuff is another gal's treasure?

I’m starting this on a Saturday night.  Frank’s already in bed and, I’m sure, asleep.  He can fall asleep in less than 5 minutes – it takes me forever.  We had a nice day out.*  We went up north bit to Concord, North Carolina, to an old textile mill that has been converted – at least one huge part of it – into and antique/collectables/ decorator-stuff mall.  We perused for an hour and a half and didn’t get to see even half of it.  Going through there is like going through a memory lane museum, and had a teary moment when I recognized a print just like the one my Grandmother had in her bedroom. I found some neat little things – two old, two new – to add a new touch to the house; a sample piece of upholstery fabric just perfect for recovering our two footstools; and a wonderful bargain that, had we gone down a different aisle on the way out, I would have missed.

Over the years we have given several of Susan Loy’s “Literary Calligraphies” for various weddings and other occasions. These things cost! Twice, at least, we’ve given her version of 1st Corinthians. The fanciest one, gold framed to 24" x 24", is now $252.00.  Never have we given the fanciest version of any of them. We got one for $35.!! We could not believe it. We have two smaller ones of hers, one’s a quote from Thoreau, one about the magnolia in the language of flowers – it means love of nature. Anyway, we came singing all the way home.  I had the perfect spot for it, so I whipped off the picture that was there – I’ve already got another home for it in mind – rearranged the lamp and chair in front of it, and it looks like it grew there. 

Flea markets, street fairs, antique malls: these are America’s version of the brocante markets and dealers and towns of France - I had a blast in L’Isle sur la Sorgue; or the car boot and jumble sales, the Portobello Road and Petticoat Lane of England.  Antiques Roadshows, the original Brit version and our own long-running PBS show, have made us aware of the treasures that might be out there.  Shelter magazines, shows like some on HGTV, and blogs galore are showing us how to include all this “stuff” in our décor.

Though I do admit that, for some Americans there might just be a soupçon more cachet in ‘real’ French brocante or British jumble, and I do treasure the few pieces I brought home from my travels, I treasure even more the wonderful things I’ve ‘scored’ here at home.  If you go antiquing you’ve got to go with a person on conscience: a person, be it husband, lover, best friend, who will rein you in and make you think twice about any large purchases. And I mean large either size-wise or price-wise. The only drawback to visiting antique malls and flea markets is, to paraphrase the line about books: “So many neat things, so little cash and so little room to house them.”  

* When Frank and I get home from a day like this, one of us always says the tag line: ”Well that was a nice day out for the old folks,” or words to that effect.  Years ago, when we first retired, Frank was only fifty-five then, we took advantage of the seniors discount at a local IGA market. One day we overheard a snippy checker there, she was definitely not one of our favorite people, comment snidely on all the seniors taking advantage of the discount. She ended her commentary with “At least it makes a nice outing for the old folks.”  As though we had nothing else to do, nowhere else to go.  Old folks, my eye!  This was at least twenty-five years ago. That gal was no spring chicken then, so I wonder what she’s thinking about senior discounts and such now that she’s an old cluck herself.

                                             - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Spring is here! I'm so excited I wet my...

...plants"   That's Plants!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Evidently today is Wedding Day.  The gal at Splenderosa has a recurring "By Invitation Only" party every month.  Her invitees - also bloggers - make that party theme their own theme of the day.  Today it is Weddings.  I wasn't invited - why would I be? - but I thought I'd chime in. Annie at Plum Siena has done her blog on the flowers.  I had just a small bouquet in cream. I'd love to have had a bunch of white lilacs, but you can't find them September - at least you couldn't all those years ago.  Vicki Archer's blog at French Essence is all about the wedding of her dreams, and Sharon at My French Country Home has chosen to conjure up a delightful correspondence between a soon to be married daughter and her Mama. This one is charming.

If you have oodles of time this morning you might want to check out what all the invitees have done with the theme.  If you have just a few minutes, do check my three favorites above. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012


...don't you wish she was our Queen too? 

Check out my essay from March 20th, and have a wonderful Jubilee Weekend of your own.

Friday, June 1, 2012


I have become an addict – well, sort of. I’ve discovered quite a number of blogs that are just up my alley.* If not checked – usually by household chores, things to do, places to go – I could spend hours going from blog to blog. Seeing as how I am fairly new to the scene, I’ve a lot to catch up on. After many posts the bloggers entice you with “You may also like”: several pictorial references to further explore past posts. The temptation is too great to resist.

I don’t know how many blogs are written by younger women, but most of my favorites seem to be from gals of a certain age, a certain age where they’ve discovered something sweet unique inspiring beautiful intelligent that they want to pass on to others.  They blog not to get on the rooftop and yell “listen to this,” but to give a little nudge and say “excuse me, this struck me as being fairly sweet unique inspiring beautiful intelligent (maybe even sad) and you may enjoy reading about it.” –or- “You know I’m not a world leader, not even a neighborhood one, but someone else out there may just find this topic food for thought – and comment.”

We ‘mature’ bloggers don’t sit around “chewing the fat” – or talking about it - or talking about our kids or, worse, our grand kids.  We bring to each other the best tidbits we found that day, offering them like petit fours on the prettiest plate we can find. That ‘pretty plate’ is usually an accompaniment of wonderful photos, some gleaned from the internet, some the blogger’s own. Myself, I use photos from both sources.

Though every once in a while I’ll comment on what’s happening that day, my usual posts are essays like this, sometimes about my memories, or are my curmudgeonly observations. Most of my favorite bloggers let me in on what they did that day or that weekend, their latest travels, or their local culture scene. I learn what’s new in the world of fashion, home décor, or even the latest in beauty products.  And of course, many of them offer wonderful recipes. I’ve got to watch myself or I’ll drool into my laptop.

I get the weather reports and how the weather is affecting the bloggers from as close as the Carolinas or even Ontario, to as far away as Scotland, Normandy, Provence, and further on to North Africa. How could I fail to be intrigued and amazed?

*These then are some of my favorite blogs.  You may notice a definite French connection in several of them: I am a died-in-the-wool Francophile.
A Femme d'Un Certain Age – from France, of course!
Backwards in High Heels – from Northern Scotland
French Essence  - from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, by a transplanted Australian
   My, my my!      
My Carolina Kitchen – from North Carolina (ah, and she’s a Francophile too!)
My French Country Home – from Normandy
My Marrakesh  - there’s the North African connection   
Plain & Fancy Living – from Kentucky
Spectator – from Carla Carlisle in England. Her weekly blog in Country Life is required reading.
susannahsays – by my dear friend from Ontario (ZH) – she says she may not continue blogging, but I hope she does.  I need more of her insightful essays, and her wonderful poems.

I follow many other sites, of course, and you can find them listed on the right.I’ve seen other lists of followed blogs and they are longer than a roll of toilet paper. I think I’ve culled mine down to the best, the essential few for my own delight.  Any less and I’d feel I was missing something, any more and I’d be bleary-eyed.