Thursday, September 27, 2012


Tomorrow is our 38th anniversary.  We’ll be off later today to the mountains of North Carolina for a celebratory trip. We’ve had folks comment on how well my husband and I get along. Naturally, above all, we love each other to pieces.  Though we can mildly aggravate each other at times, we enjoy each other’s company above any others.

We both enjoy planning ahead: for the next meal, the next shopping trip, the next car, the next house. This usually helps us with our P’s: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. We’re probably in our last house now, but we still enjoy the planning. One never knows, do one? We’re fortunate that we’re both inclined to be neat and organized – it precludes sniping at one another.  Above all, we are courteous to each other. Saying a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for little favors leads to greater appreciation of bigger ones.

Over the years we’ve developed little rituals that we enjoy: from being sure to put out the sweet gherkins for our tuna melts to selecting fresh flowers for the house. Our best, now ingrained ritual is to say “I Love You” or “Love You to Pieeeeeeeeeeces!” Waking up each morning, settling in to bed, and all times in between; coming and going – especially going or ending a phone call with each other or any of the family – the words are always there. 

We’ve got a song-book of family sayings, many of which our children and grandchildren outgrew years ago. When Joe was Joey – a little kid, that is – if he’d had a bad day, struck out, guttered too many bowling balls, or maybe fallen off his bike, he’d say to his Dad “it’s a no day Dad.” “A no day Dad” is a phrase of the past for him, but it is a regular in the conversation between Frank and me.  Similarly, when our oldest grandchild was in day care, she came home disgusted one day because the resident baby ducks were gone.  When asked how they were that day she replied: “No ducks, es worms.”  This too is part of her past, our present. 

These are just family sayings and doings, nothing too catchy or memorable outside of the family, but they keep the memories alive and the love renewed.

You might like to read about Zen Hugs, another of our family favorites.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


...heading west into Montana in 1994.  A load of hay!  My Mom always said it was lucky to see a load of hay, and that was the trip and the time of year to see them.  And it was lucky: we had a wonderful trip.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words” sang Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.  Words, words, words – I just love words.

 Yesterday’s  The Writer’s Almanac  celebrated the anniversary of the Norman Conquest in 1066, and cited many of the words we owe to the French. Now I know why we have cow/beef, calf/veal, and sheep/mutton. These three alone are a clue as to why English is not an easy language to learn. So many words, so little time.

On last year’s anniversary (I sometimes think this anniversary is a moveable feast) my blog celebrated the same, the 945th anniversary, with a blog on languages.  To celebrate the day this year, why not check out Grammarphobia, a blog of “grammar, etymology, usage, and more” that is guaranteed to fascinate and enlighten anyone who loves words.


Saturday, September 22, 2012



It’s another story as to why, but when my sister and I were small we shared a double bed. Many nights under the covers we would play-act. We had vivid imaginations! We must have played many things, but the ones I remember most were “Radio” and “Farm”.  We thought we were putting one over on our Mom, but of course she knew what was going on and knew, as she told us years later, we’d soon fall asleep.
When we played “Radio” one of us would decide what she wanted to hear and the other would make twist-the-dial noises and provide the show. “Farm” must have been our favorite.  Chit-chatting about our day, she was Mrs. Cow and I was Mrs. Horse.  And to each other, until the day she died, we were still Mrs. Cow and Mrs. Horse.  We were Mrs. Cow and Mrs. Horse to the point that our Mom once bought us beautifully-made cloth dolls with cow and horse bodies. We were Mrs. Cow and Mrs. Horse to the point where every time I see a cow – or her favorite daisies – I think of my sister Karen.

A heartfelt thank you to Sharon Santoni at My French Country Home. Today when I opened her blog there were several wonderful pictures of my favorite animal: cows. My sister would have loved those photos. Sharon has a great eye for photography and takes the most gorgeous photos. The shots from her brocante trips are not to be missed. I save many of her pictures for my Desktop slide show. So – the real cows are from Sharon, the dollies, sitting happily in my guest room, are my own.


Friday, September 21, 2012



I recently started a relatively free subscription to Vogue. (I used some extra air miles.) Two days ago the September issue arrived – a bit late, but that’s probably because the mail carrier could have developed a hernia carrying it.  The darn thing is one and a half inches thick, runs to over 900 pages, and reeks of perfume samples, about 90% advertising content, and a lot of ugly clothing.
Oh, there are some clothes I just love. Trust Oscar de la Renta and Valentino, among others, to come up with some stunning creations. The magazine goes next to my daughter-in-law, so I dog-eared several pages of my favorites for her to note.
The issue marks the 120th anniversary of Vogue.  I subscribed to it way-back-when.  Years (eons) ago I joshed that I went from Seventeen magazine to Vogue. There is no further step up.  There is no fashion magazine for us almost-seventy types living in fixed-income territory and wearing what is most comfortable, most presentable, suited to many occasions, and classic enough to span the seasons as well as the years.
But I digress. The impetus for this blog entry was the lack in the anniversary issue of any pictures of my favorite super model from “my era”, namely Veruschka.  Oh they had Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, Iman and even Jerry Hall.  But no Veruschka.  Well, I was mildly miffed – I suppose perhaps the 70’s Vogue-Veruschka feud goes on – so I googled for some pictures of her. Even at the age of 73 she is still striking.  And there, down among all the images, was one I’d cut out and still have in my own special scrapbook. I just adored this coat-of-many-colors.  I once bought a rainbow striped caftan that was the closest I could get to the real thing.
Franco Rubartelli’s 60’s – photo from the blog Pleasurephoto  This one will find its way into my electronic "Eye Candy" file.  It is a pleasure photo.
[See that!  Frank just strolled by behind my desk and saw the picture. “I remember – didn’t you have something like that? Where is it?”  Or words to that effect.  Well as things do go, it went.  It had some strange unremovable stains down the side, and so I tossed it, donated it, whatever.  It’s gone, alas, but he remembers, and I remember, and I still do have that page from Vogue.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Lucia Sturdza Bulandra
in The Madwoman of Chaillot
by George Ştefănescu (1967)

Last week Sue, my dear Canadian friend, and I were continuing our emailing conversation. Both of us are certainly certifiable 'madwomen' at times. I couldn't recall offhand if in "The Madwoman of Chaillot", as she first referenced it, the 'madwoman' was one word or two, so of course I googled it. (She was correct! Why do I question these things?)  The top entry was, as usual, for Wikipedia.  I could see right there that madwoman was one word, but of course I had to click on the Wikipedia entry - and there was this wonderfully colorful picture that just just "spoke to me." I just had to save it for my "Eye Candy" collection, and had to show it to all of you. See that! My question led me to a great picture.
Lucia Sturdza-Bulandra, as I learned, was a Romanian actress. She died at the age of 88 in 1961, so evidently this painting of her was from one of her final performances. She must have been a wonderful character!

                                                       Painting by Corneliu Baba - 1953

Friday, September 14, 2012


Galilleo's Tomb
In 1632, some 380 years ago this month, Galileo Galilei was ordered to Rome to stand trial for holding the then heretical idea that the sun was the center of the universe. We now know that his theory was but a step on the way to understanding the greater size of the whole shebang. What rang a bell when I read again about the association of the date was our visit to the Santa Croce in Florence, where Galileo is entombed.

Before we traveled to Italy with our daughter-in-law we asked for trip suggestions from her colleague Liliana who later took us on the wonderful gustatory tour in Liguria.  Liliana suggested that in Florence we pass up the Duomo and head for the Basilica de Santa Croce. I’m so very glad that we took her advice.
Ornately Michelangelo

Though I’ve never been inside Westminster I know of the many, many royals and other notables buried there. The names Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare do, after all, strike a familiar note. Still, to me the Santa Croce isn’t just another of the world’s big churches. Never in my whole life have I been so awed as I was there. It’s not that I didn’t believe that these men really lived, but whew, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo! Most awe-inspiring was the tomb of Michelangelo. I can’t explain why, but I just stood and stared at it for quite some time, having a surprising sense of being in the presence of greatness. That sense of something special, all in my head and imagination as it may have been, has stayed with me. I hear or see a reference to Florence or the Santa Croce and the feeling is there again. Even a reference to the Duomo elicits a fleeting thought of “boy I’m so glad we didn’t go there.”

Simply Machiavelli
So my advice to you, should you be going to Italy and have, as we did, just a brief time in Florence, do take yourself to the Basilica de Santa Croce – and then have a great Margherita pizza in one of the outdoor cafes on the Piazza della Signoria. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ALL ANYONE EVER WANTS... a little patch of shade to call their own.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


This article was first written for Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes, our community magazine, for the September 2010 issue.  It will also be included in this month's issue, the last printed issue, of Refund Cents.  I've updated some of the numbers and added items such as e-coupon which weren't so prevalent two years ago.


         Recently I was told that September is National Coupon Month.  Who knew?! Evidently it is has been dreamed up by the Promotion Marketing Association Coupon Council. Never heard of that bunch, did you? September or not, every month is coupon month at our house. My mother ‘couponed’ back as far as I can remember, and I carry on the practice. I call it a practice, not a hobby. It is just part of my regular routine for preparing to shop: cutting coupons, checking the larder, reading the fliers, making the lists. The fun part is seeing what great deals I can get and totaling up the savings. Along about 1983 I began to keep track of my savings. I included savings on coupons, supermarket discounts, and refund checks. In that year my coupon savings amounted to just 3% of my supermarket bill. It gradually grew to be around 33 to 35% of the bill. That’s quite a savings. Just to impress you, I went back and totaled it all. (Yes, I still have the records!). I can tell you that to date, since 1983, I’ve saved $18,861 using coupons; $20,310 in supermarket discounts, and received $2,915 in refund checks, for a nice total of $42,086. Now that is a chunk of change to add up over almost thirty years. 
       If you are unfamiliar with couponing you may think that number impressive. For a household of just two people it may be, but there are people out there who make me look like a piker. Right here in Sun City Carolina Lakes we have people who not only manage to save for themselves, but who amass shelves-full of food and other products for the various local pantries and drives. I can come up with many items to donate, but these folks are in it ‘big time’. They don’t just collect a bagful or two over the year, they collect bagsful in a month! They work the deals at CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, the by-one-get-one free deals (known as BOGO’s) at the supermarkets, and glean as many on-line free samples as they can. Wow! That can be an almost full time job. 

        To start the couponing practice you must first get the Sunday newspaper. Your yearly savings will more than cover the price of the paper. In with the various store fliers will be two, maybe three booklets of coupons. (Don’t look for them on holiday weekends. That’s when their publishers take a break.) Begin by searching for and cutting out coupons for the products you use regularly. The manufacturers will try to tempt you with a lot of convenience food coupons, but don’t give in! (unless it’s a Freebie, of course!). Once you’ve cut out a good number of coupons over the weeks you will want to begin organizing them. Save any Business Reply envelopes you get in the mail. Write your shopping lists on the back, and keep your matching cents-off coupons in the envelope. Use other envelopes, either those business-reply or new ones, to organize your coupons into the categories. Making categories of the various departments and aisles of your most-shopped supermarket is the best idea. If you really take to couponing there are many coupon files and binders available to help you. 
        Next you must get familiar with the fliers from the stores where you shop regularly. Walmart fliers can be hit or miss, but Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Food Lion, CVS, Walgreens, and the other locals have their fliers included in the Wednesday or Sunday newspapers. (These are the ‘locals’ for my Charlotte neck of the woods.)The alternative to the newspaper fliers is to go on line to the websites of your favorite stores.  The complete fliers will be spread out for you there. It will be important for you to check these regularly so that you can know when the stores are running specials. Harris Teeter, as many of us at SCCL know, doubles coupons up to 99 cents every day, but will often triple those coupons, and sometimes double coupons from $1.00 to $2.00. 

      And now, while we’re on line, let me introduce you to two of the couponer’s newest, greatest assets: printable coupons and e-coupons. There are many sites where you can select and print just the coupons you need. The best of the bunch are and All the rest are takeoffs on those two. 
      E-coupons from sites like are coupons you select to be electronically loaded on to your account at participating stores.  When you shop and purchase the matching item the price is deducted from your bill. There is nothing to print or clip, and many stores will take the e-coupon plus a clipped coupon for double the money off.  Many supermarket chains have their own e-coupon programs too. One drawback to this is that the coupons are “out of sight, out of mind”, so you may forget to use them before they expire.


       There are many hobby-couponer sites out there too. The best of that bunch, one to which I’ve subscribed to in print and on line for eons, is This is couponing and refunding’s bible, its vade mecum, its Wikipedia. Much of the site’s information can be accessed for free, but the ’good stuff’ requires a subscription. Some of the ‘good stuff’ includes weekly listings of the double plays and free items at, for example, CVS and Walgreens; news of free samples; store deal such as the Teeter Triples and Kroger specials; previews of the Sunday coupons; and great deals at on-line retailers, known as etailers. An on-line subscription is $12 a year, and that will repay itself many times over. 

      Once you have the couponing habit you’ll be on the lookout for good deals everywhere. Don’t throw out those newspaper fliers or mail box stuffers without checking them first. There’s a trove of savings to be had by coupons on restaurants, pizzerias, clothing, cleaners, hair cutters, home improvement centers, oil changes - savings all over the town. Sign up for emails from Wendy’s, Ruby Tuesdays, Outback and other places you visit regularly. Many emails contain printable coupons or news of good deals.

    And finally, do keep track of those savings. There are those who ear-mark the savings for special nights out, special gifts, or an otherwise frivolous purchase. Part of my savings justifies my subscriptions to the shelter and cooking magazines I love, not to mention that subscription to RefundCents. Do look into couponing. You will be pleasantly surprised when the savings start to add up. 






Tuesday, September 4, 2012


...and cypres knees and one Barred Owl on the lookout for a meal.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina   May 2011