Friday, June 24, 2016

Mow-Town USA

It’s summer and the living is easy. The sun rises early and fills our bedroom with light. My next door neighbor also rises early and wakes us with the sound of his lawn mower. Apparently there is a lot of grass under our bedroom window that requires some serious mowing action. Ah summer. After all, who doesn’t want to get up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday after a long week at work?

My neighborhood is firmly divided into two camps: those who mow, and those who hire folks to mow. The Falcone’s, my neighbors on the other side, have a lawn company who arrive with a small army of workers plus two serious looking, professional standing lawn mowers (i.e., the rider stands on it). They mow their lawn as well as complete their yard work in about 25 minutes, like a well-oiled pit crew.

For the past 17 years, I’ve been member of the hire folks to mow club. But quite unexpectedly our lawn mower guy gave his notice. So Mike and I decided it was time to take this chore on ourselves. Off we went to visit the lawn mowers at Sears and Lowes. We fell in love with a vintage style push mower and brought it home. We were so excited. We’ll be green! We’ll get exercise! We won’t have to spend extra money on gas! Our excitement lasted until we ran the mower through the grass. It didn’t cut the grass as much as flatten it, so back to Sears it went.

Mike was still interested in leaving a light carbon footprint so we purchased a cordless mower that runs on rechargeable batteries. So far, we’ve been pleased with it. Our yard isn’t large and Mike did a great job. The lawn mower is light weight, easy to push, and folds for storage. I’ve volunteered to take a turn the next time the lawn needs a trim. I’ve been researching cool lawn mowing patterns and How to Stripe Your Lawn for a Big League Look on the Internet. After all, who says your lawn has to be boring?

How about you? Do you mow or do you hire it out? And if you mow, what time do you start?

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Reads

In 2016 I'm going to try and keep track of all the books I read. Nothing fancy, no detailed book reviews, just a monthly list with some notes. It's more of a record for me, but I hope that you enjoy it, perhaps you'll find something you like.

My friend Sue is one of my regular book suppliers:
  • The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons--I think this was the first book that I read in 2016 and I really enjoyed it. It takes place in England during WW2. I'd recommend it.
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain--I've never read anything by this author before but I will definitely be seeking out more of her books! An intriguing novel of suspense that kept me reading past my bedtime. Another one I'd recommend.
My co-worker Dianne is a regular supplier as well:
  • Accused by Lisa Scottoline--always enjoy her books and this was one that I hadn't read before
  • Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child-- Of course, I'd read this before since I'm a huge Lee Child's fan, but you can never go wrong with a Jack Reacher novel.
Joannie loaned me a big pile of Dan's books before she left for vacation at the end of December:
  • Live Bait by PJ Tracy--I almost didn't read this book because the blurb on the inside cover seemed scary but it was a really good police mystery. I will also seek out some more books from this author (actually a mother/daughter writing team).
  • The King's Deception by Steve Berry--I've read this book before but it is still enjoyable even a second or third time. A spy mystery based on Tudor history.
  • Shall We Tell the President by Jeffrey Archer--This is an oldie by Jeffrey Archer. I found it formulaic and not too interesting.
  • The Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw-- Note, not THE Charles Brokaw, merely someone with the same name. This novel is definitely modeled after the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, but the DaVinci Code is much better.
Found these at the Post Office book swap:
  • The Sugar House by Laura Lippman -- I didn't care for this book, I found it fairly unreadable, but skimmed through to read the ending. I passed it to Marion who liked it.
  • The Sins of the Mother by Danielle Steel--Danielle Steel is like a comic book for grown-ups. This one was fairly dreadful, but it was something to read.
Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger--Light reading chick lit from the author of The Devil Wears Prada. Everyone is skinny, has great clothes, and has lots of sex.
  • Laced by Carol Higgins Clark--Carol Higgins Clark is not as a good a writer as her mother, Mary Higgins Clark, but this wasn't bad, especially since it came from the free book swap.
From the book swap at All About Quilts:
  • The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini--I thought I had read all of Jennifer's quilt novels, but I had never read this one. If you're Jennifer Chiaverini fan, you'll enjoy it.
Must start my list for February. Already read a book today! Thanks Sue!

Thanks for visiting,

Pugs and kisses,
Nancy

Sunday, November 8, 2015

You Better Not Pout...

‘Twas Halloween Day and I needed some duplicate keys,
So off to Lowes I went and instead found Christmas trees!


Yes, Virginia, despite the fact that it’s early November and 70 degrees in Braintree, Christmas is on its way. I know because I can see the signs on Facebook, if I’m not already busy buying my Christmas tree at Lowes. I haven’t finished eating my leftover Halloween candy and my annual Thanksgiving road trip is still several weeks away, but the Christmas countdown has begun.

Way back when I was a youngster, it seemed that the holidays arrived in a more dignified fashion. In High School, I worked as a cashier at Medi Mart, (a precursor to CVS and Walgreens). The Christmas candy was delivered to the store’s stock room right after Halloween, but we didn’t put it on the sales floor until December 1st. It was a special treat to accompany my parents to Natick Mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving to see all newly unveiled Christmas decorations. Even better was the year that we went to Manhattan to see the Macy’s Day parade and got to see the Christmas windows in New York City.

Alas, the long wait is over. Just head to your nearest retail store and you can find Christmas galore. If you’ve been enjoying our unseasonably warm weather, you can even drive over in your convertible while wearing shorts! One could argue that in today’s society, most families have two working parents and time to shop and prepare for the holidays is a precious commodity. My own family all lives out of state, so I admit that I need time to purchase and mail their gifts. Last year, I shopped often and early, but I admit that when the actual holidays finally arrived, I was a little disappointed to have been so efficient.

What do you think? Are the holidays coming too quickly for you? Is there too much marketing hype? Have you set up your family gift exchange yet? Been invited to participate in a cookie swap? Selected your ugly Christmas sweater? Heard your first Christmas carol on the radio? Or are you just hiding your head in the sand?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trick or Treat

As a child, growing up in suburban Framingham, back in the ‘70s, going “Trick or Treating” for Halloween was a much anticipated event. When we were little, my Mom would take us to the old Woolworth’s 5 and 10 to pick out a costume. These costumes were invariably made of fabric that was cheap, shiny, and thin, and they were usually accompanied by a plastic mask guaranteed to make your face sweat. We thought they were wonderful. As we got older, we started to make our own costumes. My favorite costume was the year that I dressed as a giant Hershey’s Kiss; my best friend Lisa accompanied me dressed as a giant Hershey’s Bar. We made quite a pair! My costume involved quite a lot of tin foil, and the only design flaw was that I used a large hula hoop to make the bottom round—I couldn’t sit down and I couldn’t fit through any of the neighbor’s doorways!

Each Halloween, we’d make our way through the neighborhood filling our pillowcases with candy. Sometimes the treats we received were less than desirable. Our neighbor the dentist gave out toothbrushes, the hippie neighbor gave out apples (we threw them away) and our neighbor the banker gave out shiny new pennies. Once we returned from our carefully negotiated six block rendezvous, guaranteed to maximize our returns, my two brothers and I would gather at the dining room table and empty our bags. Then the candy trading would begin. My favorite candies were (and still are) Junior Mints and plain M&Ms, my brother Jeff was partial to Hershey Bars and my little brother Gary liked the bubble gum and LifeSavers. My Mom would give each of us a large glass jar to store our holdings and if we were diligent, we could usually make our candy last until Christmas.

As an adult I still enjoy Halloween. Since I don’t have human children, every year I dress up my two pugs, Romeo and Elvis, and parade them in costume through the neighborhood. In past  years, they’ve dressed up as pumpkins, hot dogs and skeletons. Both pugs are good–natured and happily submit to my machinations. They enjoy the attention from all of the neighborhood children. Although we don’t trick or treat for candy, our neighbor Bobby always has dog cookies ready and our neighbor Clara is always good for a piece of cheese.

What was your favorite Halloween costume? Do you have a favorite Halloween memory? What is your favorite Halloween candy? What are your children (or dogs) dressing up as this year for Halloween?

This post was originally published in October 2011, in the pre-LarryPug days. LarryPug also enjoys wearing a costume and going trick or treating.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What Goes Around

“Tell me a story about the old days,” my nephew Ben will ask me. So I tell him about ancient times, before the Internet was invented, when people used to read books and newspapers for information.

“Tell me another one,” he asks. So I tell him about the telephone before cellular phones were introduced. We had a rotary dial phone that used to hang on the kitchen wall and Grandma Phyllis would only make long distance calls on Saturday because they were really, really expensive. Grandpa Alan was excited to own one of the first telephone answering machines because in pre-historic times if you weren’t home when someone called you on the telephone, they had to call you back later. Ben is absorbed.

“Anything else?” he asks. So I start to tell him about how his Dad and I used to listen to music on records. My favorite album was the movie soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees. It was a double album and I saved up my baby sitting money to buy it.

“But wait, Aunt Nancy,” my nephew cries out, “I know what records are!”

That’s right, people. In case you didn’t get the memo, vinyl is back. Although my husband’s beloved Tower Records is long gone, you can go to Barnes & Noble and buy records again (they’re located next to that other antiquated section—books made of paper).

Audiophiles can’t agree if the listening experience of a record is superior to that a computer-generated MP3 file, but there’s no argument with statistics. Vinyl records are a burgeoning industry again. What’s even more interesting to me is that vinyl records are being embraced by younger artists, such as Taylor Swift, alongside traditional recording stars such as Bob Dylan.

Some say it’s a love for nostalgia, or retromania, others claim to embrace the warm and fuzzy sounds or the immersive feelings that an album creates. According to music commentator, Simon Reynolds, in an article in Newsweek magazine, “…collecting is actually an intrinsic part of the vinyl record’s allure. An LP is an object and one that comes with a certain ‘ritual’ behavior, from the opening of the sleeve and the gentle handling of the disc, to the aesthetic qualities of the cover and the inner sleeve designs with its artwork (often considered to be art and diminished on the smaller CD case) and printed lyrics.”

My husband and I haven’t dug our record player out of the basement yet, but maybe I’ll go downstairs and see if I can find my old Bee Gees’ albums… and my leg warmers. Because everything old is new again.

How about you? Have you bought any “new vinyl” lately? Or did you never give it up? What was the first album, (tape, CD, MP3 file) that you bought?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Old Friends

Recently, Elvis, my black pug, celebrated his 13th birthday. Elvis is the same age as my nephew Benny. However, while Ben is in the throes of puberty and starting to think about PSATs, Elvis is the dog-equivalent of a 91-year old man, although, he’s in good shape for a canine senior citizen. While he’s got arthritis and his black paws and muzzle have gone silver, he can still make a run for it if you’re holding a cookie.

Elvis’ pug brother Romeo will turn 14 in December. Romeo has not fared as well in the canine-aging process. He’s extremely deaf, he’s lost most of his teeth, and I sometimes find him standing in the kitchen wondering where he’s supposed to be. Romeo often reminds me of my elderly father. They both spend most of their day taking a nap, they’re always happy to see you, and they never say “no” to a snack.

When I take the Pug Boys for a walk, people often stop us to pet them. They are always surprised when I tell them how old Romeo and Elvis are. Invariably their next question is, “Well, how long do they live?” I find this question offensive, although I’m sure they don’t mean it that way. After all, when people find out that my Dad is 85, they don’t ask about his life expectancy! Neither the Pug Boys, nor my Dad, come with an actuarial table, so we’ll just to hope for the best. In a perfect world, they will all live to be 100!

My senior pugs still greet me with enthusiasm when I return home from work, but it is sad to watch them slow down. Several of my friends also have senior pets, enough that we could probably form a senior pet support group. My friend Joannie recently spent a small fortune treating her 11-year old Boston Terrier for glaucoma, sadly without a good prognosis, and my friend Eleanor just had a cancerous lump removed from her senior Scottie’s lip. My co-worker Jen has an elderly cat with asthma, who she treats with a pet-sized inhaler. My neighbor Frank just had a funeral for his beloved cat, who passed away at age 21. He buried her in his back yard under a rosebush.

Sadly, escalating medical costs are often a reason why elderly pets come into rescue because their owners can no longer afford to take care of them.

It is indisputable that our pets are an integral part of our families. Do you have a senior pet? Do they require special care?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Some Like It Hot

I grew up during the energy crisis of the 1970’s. My Dad took fuel conservation very seriously. In the winter he kept our house very, very cold, and in the summer, our house was usually very, very warm. While I did have a small air conditioner in my bedroom, after I fell asleep, my Dad would sneak in and turn it off. When I used to complain that I was hot (or cold) my Dad would say, “When you have a house of your own and pay your own heating bills, you can keep the temperature whatever you want.”

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a native New Englander, but I prefer to be cold. I like to sleep under a quilt, even in the summertime. And now that I pay my own heating bills, my dream has come true. Unlike my childhood home, my house is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I’d rather wear a sweater than strip down to a tank top. Because you can always add another layer, but at a certain point, you can’t take any more off! In a perfect world, I’d live somewhere where the temperature was always 50 to 70 degrees (perhaps California) with low humidity.

My preference to be cool extends to outdoor weather as well. I’m happier outdoors in the winter, spring, and fall than I am in the summer. If it’s 85 degrees outside, you’ll usually find me indoors reading a book. I’m not a sun-worshipper. Give me a nice cool crisp New England fall day anytime.

Ironically, my parents retired to Florida many years ago and as many elderly Floridians do, they keep their house very, very warm (a la Seinfeld) because my Mother claims they’ve become acclimatized and their blood has thinned.

How about you? Do you prefer to be warm or cold? Are you a sun worshipper or do you prefer a chillier climate?