Friday, March 29, 2013


This essay was originally posted for Easter 2011. I thought some of my newer readers might like to read it.  From time to time I’ll be perusing my essay cache for suitable reposts like this one.                    


Today’s array of Easter goodies just boggles my mind. Who would want all that junk? From themed clothing, to masses of stuffed animals, on to fully loaded and cellophane-wrapped baskets, the sales start right after the St. Patrick’s Day green stuff is pulled off the shelves. Again, the ka-ching of profit rears its ugly head. Nothing’s new there; it’s just on a larger scale. But I can calm myself in the midst of all the commercialism by remembering the Easters of my childhood. 

I’ve always loved Easter. Sometimes it came around when there was snow on the ground, but usually it was in the warmth of spring.  My sister and I loved shopping for our new Easter outfits, especially the hats. While the coming holiday meant the small sacrifices of Lent – not too burdensome for most of us kids – we could also look forward to Easter baskets. 

I know that many kids’ parents did up the whole Easter basket, compete with hard boiled eggs.  Maybe they wanted to have all the fun, but it certainly can be a big mess.  At our house, Mom would hard boil the eggs then sit us down at the newspaper-covered kitchen table with crayons, wire dippers, and coffee cups filled with hot water and a touch of vinegar.  We dropped in the color tablets, let them dissolve and then went to work. We’d make crayoned designs on the eggs and dip them in our favorite colors.  Sometimes we dunked each end in a different color to get a third color band in the middle. Sometimes we messed up and dunked the whole egg several times, and those were usually nasty looking.  But we did have fun. Of course we always wrote our own name on at least one egg. We tried to make our own eggs identifiable so that later on we wouldn’t eat one of the other’s eggs by mistake – that would have been ‘gross and disgusting’.

On the Paas Easter egg dye website I learned that they go back 125 years, and that coloring eggs goes back to the Persians of 3000 BCE. I do remember our Greek neighbors cooking goose eggs and dying them with red onion skins for Greek Orthodox Easter.  Then they polished them with some bacon grease for a beautiful display. It was neat to have two Easters while we lived in that neighborhood: lots of wonderful and different foods. I vaguely remember the bread and a good soup, and other delectable things on the table. 

But back to the baskets. The Easter Bunny is like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy: even when you become one of those characters for your own family you still cherish a bit of their magic in your own heart. On Easter morning many of the eggs we'd dyed found their way into our baskets, and the Easter Bunny had made a visit.  On a bed of shredded, soft, always green waxed paper, there might be a chocolate lamb and several chocolate-covered, egg-shape marshmallows, and in the best of times there was big sugar panorama egg.
Even in the slimmest of times though, we always found a chocolate bunny in our baskets.  There is an official ritual for chocolate bunnies: you must eat the ears first. Yes, it’s true, trust me.  I’m sure it’s all because they are the handiest part to shove in your mouth.  Next comes the tail.  It’s just has to be that way.  The rest gets broken up and eaten willy-nilly, but stretched out over as many days as possible before Mom says “enough is enough,” and puts the baskets away until next year.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The Swedish like to have extra holidays. Lately I’ve been following
My Life in Sweden - Alexandra always has an interesting blog. In January I reported on Tulip Day. Yesterday Sweden celebrated Waffle Day. I’ll drink to that – with another cup of coffee, to be sure.
Saturday is waffle day at our house – I’ll celebrate then.


Friday, March 22, 2013


The fine art of handwriting – or the art of fine handwriting – might be dead or dying (I’ve written another blog about that), but the art of the letter is quite lively indeed.
I am just one grain in a big pile of sand, and if I’m carrying on a lively correspondence I’m thinking many, many other people are doing the same. I recently read about the death of conversation. The group under discussion was quite a lofty one. I suppose they were mourning the death of lofty, esoteric conversations. Such exchanges can be fascinating, but the vast majority of us grains of sand are quite content with the more modest level of our own conversations – especially the emailed variety. I’ve a wonderful Canadian friend I’ve never met. We’ve a meeting of the minds and of our personalities, but not of our persons. We’ve been conversing for over a year now, and we’ve not yet run out of conversation. We stay away from the topics of sex, religion and politics: we’re too old for the first, agree that our own brands of religion are tailor-made for ourselves, and we’re both often disgusted with the politics of our respective countries.*
The nice thing about email conversations is that we can take whatever time we need to complete our reply and, unlike a phone call or text, it can be interrupted and resumed later without the recipient even noticing.  Washed laundry has to be put in dryer, bread taken out of the oven, meals need to be made, walls need painting, and even though the other one would never have known the difference, it’s interesting when we let the other one know just what we’re doing on the home front and why we interrupted a letter or where we’re going when we finish.
We converse about clothes and shopping, what the children are doing, what we’re reading these days, or exercise and the lack thereof and our efforts to improve. We kibitz on the care-and-feeding of husbands – especially the care thereof. That in itself could keep us conversing for years.
One favo(u)rite topic is the weather – after all, the differences in climate from London, Ontario to Indian Land, South Carolina can be significant. I must say though that this past summer’s conversation dwelled too frequently on the incessant, mind-sapping heat in both locations. Our winters, so far, haven’t been too bad. We thank the powers that be for small favors. 
I do recommend that you find a congenial correspondent of your own, or if one seems to find you do not let it get away. It’s sharing everything to the nth degree, it’s finding a sister of the heart.
* Do go and peruse the postings in Susanna Says here 
and her new blog Susannah's Journey here,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013



* I know where one birdie is - and this morning he was right outside my window, doing his incessant tweeting when I wanted to sleep late.  Ah, well - I got up and got a lot done.
As for the grass rising, our Bermuda grass is still a light shade of brown, but this too will green up.

Happy Spring to all my readers. 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I am getting a bit tired of making fun of seniors, even if it is the seniors making the fun. And I'm getting a little bit tired of all this stuffing my email inbox, even if it is the seniors who are sending it.

This is a little ditty, enhanced with pictures culled from the internet, that extolls the idea that even with all their bladder and bowel problems, with their arthritic limbs and hearing loss, among other things, Seniors should be happy because they’re on the Green Side of the Grass – that is, not six feet underneath it. “Tain’t funny McGee.”

Friday, March 15, 2013


   Or: my answer to Mr. Seinfeld

I don’t smoke or drink or even chew gum. My vice: I buy books. Many are worthy of any good library, many, some of you might think, are not.  Recent purchases in the former category include Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present, and the Merriam Webster New Book of Word Histories. The latter? Well, let’s just call them Fiction: Romances, Mysteries, Romance Mysteries – I’ve a long list of favorite authors.
Since 1990 when I stopped lumping in book money with the rest of our entertainment expenditures, I’ve spent just over $14,000.00 on books, many of them used. Egad! That’s a nice chunk of change.  I’m sure the lifetime total would be nicely impressive too, and I delight in every dollar’s worth.
I was reading Theodore Dalrymple’s essay Why second-hand bookshops are just my type, and I came upon the telling of a bibliomaniac whose library was sold after his death for only a third of what he’d paid for the massive collection. I sold off my college text books – about twenty years later - but I can’t imagine selling my books now. I’ve always given them away when I was finished with them. I’ve read many of my books four or five times, but usually when I’ve read a book twice – or have gotten only part way into a real dud – it goes into the bag to be taken to the library for the sale room.  Sell them? I’ve not got the time: I’m reading!
Dalrymple’s essay mourns the passing of second-hand bookshops. I’ve rarely had the pleasure of browsing in a second-hand bookshop.* I do now have the pleasure of browsing in second-hand book sites on line. My favorite is Thrift Books, and Britain’s Awesome Books is pretty well that: awesome.
Really, really esoteric volumes can sometimes be found, used, of course, at Amazon – but then, what can’t you find at Amazon?  I do browse the shelves of the sale room at the library – always going with book lists in hand to be sure I’ve not read that one before, always looking for new treasures. (And library sale rooms are great sources for children’s books. I’ve got on hand new birthday and Christmas books for my granddaughters will into 2016, but used books are great to hand out throughout the year for un-birthdays and such.) 
I don’t know if you’ll think this good or bad, but though I’ve always belonged to the library wherever we lived and occasionally do check out books, I’d really rather own a book than borrow it. If it is mine I can take as long as I want to read it: though I read many books in a week, it gives me the itch to have a time limit on my reading.  If it is mine I am happy to let it just sit in my stack of to-be-read and enjoy its being there.
In one paragraph, talking about the pleasures of finding markings and various papers and bookmarks in used books, Dalrymple says “there is no substitute for being able to hold the physical book in one’s hand.” I agree wholeheartedly – but for another reason on another plane: I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with an electronic book.  A good friend of mine has shown me the wonders of her iPad, and how she can enlarge the type, and how it remembers where she left off, and all the other delights of electronic reading.  Not for me. I want to be able to flip back to that remembered reference to a certain character or place – and I remember it was on the left hand page about two inches from the bottom. Yes, there it is. I remembered the ‘landmarks’.  Can’t do that with an electronic book. 
This is just a fraction of th books I once owned. I keep them
and all my litle dustables in our bedroom - this way none of it
has to be dusted very often.
I want to hold the book and not have to be too careful not to drop it in the toilet if I’m in a bathroom reading session – though there I usually read magazines. I want to refer every once in a while to the jacket’s cover picture or inside blurb and bio.  I want to see my books – especially the ones I’ve kept and reread for years.  Just seeing the books on the shelf gives me a fleeting remembrance of the story. I can’t get that feeling with an electronic device.
Books are neat and compact, easier to collect and store and dust (though I rarely do) than say salt and pepper shakers or automobilia. Yes, for many reasons on many levels, I’ll stick to books as my vice of choice.
*but I love pictures of them – so higgledy-piggledy, stacks and stacks.  As the bibliophile’s lament goes: So many books, so little time. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



“What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they're trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?”
                           ― Jerry Seinfeld


In answer to Mr. Seinfeld, I say “read my post this coming Friday.”

Friday, March 8, 2013


A dear friend of mine delighted me with a narrative about her fun foray into turquoise, one of the ‘different’, shall we say, nail polish colors. The colors are not so new to the world, though I really do think that any but the red and pinkish shades are ugly, but they’re new to senior gals like us. She got me to thinking about finger nails – and there lies (lay?) an essay.

Nails? I just try to keep mine clean and neat. My Mom never used polish on her nails, although she had lovely hands. I must be a throwback: I’ve got short, stubby hands. My father was a pianist and had long fingers, but I can just about reach an octave. To top it off, I bit my nails until just before I was married. Couldn’t have ratty nails when I showed off my new, old wedding ring (it’s my husband’s Grandmother’s wedding ring from Norway in 1901) so I finally let my nails grow. If you know what you’re looking at, you can tell that I bit my nails for years. I know several gals with model-worthy hands and nails. I think they’ve been taking good care of their hands and nails since waaaay back. It’s ingrained in them, not in me.

This wasn't me - I bit my nails for years.
Good grooming is ingrained in many if not most women. As a young girl, the closest I got to any tips and know-how was the Good Grooming Badge in Girl Scouts. It’s not that my Mom wasn’t well groomed – she was. It’s just that she rarely if ever had my sister or me in to see what she did with herself: Mom had too much on her plate to even think about stuff like that. I do know that she was one of those women who couldn’t wear perfume – it turned sour on her and reeked. And she loved the smell of perfume – her favorite was always Chanel N°5. She kept a bottle of it on her dresser and gave it a sniff every once in a while.

I think that my Mom absorbed her grooming knowledge from her older sister. Like me, she wasn’t very good at teaching others the things she had just assimilated from observation. She just did her morning prep and that was that. In my mind’s eye, as I think about such things, I can see myself only watching her cook, clean the house, or take care of chores. I can’t ‘hear’ that she’s telling me anything – I’m just watching her. Oooh yes – she did teach us the proper way to iron. I get a ‘visual’ on that one! I think she hated to iron. I know that in later years she told me that when we were little she had enough hand-me-down dresses for my sister and me and enough playsuits for my brother so she had to iron only once a month. It was economical to be in a family with lots of cousins. She was delighted when we went to school and wore uniforms.

Maybe Mom was unconscious of us is a way. When I started on a ‘real’ job – not just baby-sitting and summer jobs – I bought a lovely, lacy slip with some of my first pay check. Mom commented that she didn’t know I liked such frilly things. No, of course she didn’t. We never thought to complain or comment on what she purchased for us. It wasn’t in us to have comments or complaints. She purchased whatever we needed and what she purchased in the way of most clothing was to her own tailored taste.

The Girl Scout Good Grooming badge showed Cinderella’s pumpkin and glass slipper. Well, I was sort of the pumpkin type. Oh, I was allowed use a little Tangee lipstick on occasion – remember that stuff? You can still get it at Vermont Country Store - but that was about it until I spent some summer money and learned a bit about makeup from a friend. She didn’t use much either, so it was almost the blind leading the blind.

But here I am at seventy, and I think I’ve done all right by myself in the grooming department. Because my hair is blond verging on white, if I don’t want to look blank as my blond aunts did in their old age I have to use eyebrow pencil and mascara. But those and a bit of lipstick seem to do the trick. Sometimes we oldsters go about things wither with complete neglect or with a heavy hand, so I’ve asked my stepdaughter and daughter-in-law to tell me if I make a mess of anything or need more of something in the way of my grooming efforts for my face or body.  I appreciate all the help I can get!

I'm more of a plain moth than a butterfly.


Monday, March 4, 2013


Google tells me that today would have been Miriam Makeba’s 81st birthday. It evokes wonderful memories for me. My sister and I loved Miriam Makeba’s songs. (My sister’s other favorite was Edith Piaf. Shows you how catholic she was in her tastes.)  We had her first two – and to us the best – of her albums: The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba and Miriam Makeba.  We would dance around her living room to the Boot Dance or the Click Song – and we never could say ung-a-twine.  Some of the songs were lively, some were haunting – we loved them all.  What ever happened to my LPs? I think I’m going to check out what’s on CDs.

Friday, March 1, 2013


This is the gorgeous Adirondack Gruide Boat that Frank
made in our New York basement workshop!

Frank is out of commission for a while after his shoulder surgery, so I thought I’d pay a small tribute to him and the body of work he’s done during his retirement years. Many of you know that my husband is one of the handiest guys on earth. There’s very little that can go wrong around the house that Frank can’t fix, and, needless to say, he’s done a lot of work updating and refining this house and our three previous homes in New York. But most pleasing to him – and to me – are the many things he’s made for our home and for our grandchildren.

This cradle was made twenty-four years ago for our first grandchild.
I had the opportuity to make some digital photos of it when it was brought east
from Texas for the three new grandchildren in South Carolina.
It's now back in Texas and has already cradled our first great-grandchild.
The cradle will swing on the stand or rock on the floor. We designed it
around a small cradle mattress and the result, in cherrywood,
is one of our treasures.

This is the fourth edition of the rocking horse made for that first grandchild.
The original mas made of maple from our own property.  This one is cherry.
Of all the things from the shop we are proudest of the rocking horses.
We planned the first out from a photo in a country decorating book. The photo was no bigger
than this one. We marked it off, and judged the sizes, and were so pleased that when the head went on it balnced perfectly!  Kids love this rocking horse, and especially when
they're not feeling too well they can just rock and rock.

Just after he retired I was smart enough to begin keeping lists of what he made and for whom. He’s worked in wood and wrought iron, and even done some stained glass work. Over twenty-five years later the lists are extensive – everything from kitchen spatulas and spreaders to a wonderful Adirondack guide boat. He’s made many toys, large and small, for our grandchildren. He’s made all the beds in our house, and most of our living room furniture and lamps. Do you think I’m spoiled? I am – and I am soooo lucky.
We’ve kept two fat scrapbooks of pictures of the things Frank has made, but not too many of the photos have made their way to my PC files. Here’s a small selection of what I do have for you to see.

All made of cherry, Frank made the side table, mazazine rack, foot stool,
lamp, couch, and the rocking chair made to order for my not-inconsiderable
Frank made the wrought iron lamps, the little butterwood chest, the
cherry Shaker style high chair, and the maple buffet. Again, the maple
came from our own property
The wrought iron Owl Court owl.
Here you see, on our front porch, a mirrored plant holder and
part of a quatrefoil Frank copied from one we saw in Volterra,
in Tuscany

For post-stroke therapy Frank began chip carving. This box he made
for me is one of my favorite things.

Just rowing along. The guide boat is one of the fastest man-powered things
afloat - and beautiful too.
Post script on Sunday, March 3 - I discovered that I had, elsewhere in my digital picture collection, two pictures of Kate and her first toys made by her Grandfather.

Here she is on the kiddie car, holding on to the doll carriage that Say -
she called her Grandfather 'Say' - made for her.

And here she is on the maple rocking horse.