Monday, November 17, 2014

Please don’t take my Kodachrome away!

Some of my earliest vacation memories include lugging a heavy camera bag through Disney World, Story Land, and the Franklin Park Zoo. My Dad, an avid photographer, used me and my two brothers as his pack mules to carry his equipment. Not only did we tote an astonishing array of “still” cameras, such as the 110, the 126, and his trusty 35 mm, we also brought the movie camera, as well as extra film, flash bulbs, and batteries. Once we arrived home from our trip, my Dad would mail the film cassettes off for processing. A few weeks later our vacation photos would arrive. My Mom would arrange them in an album and mail a few to my Grandma.
Dad passed his love of photography onto me and I minored in photo journalism in college. I spent most of my junior and senior year ensconced in the darkroom happily developing my black and white photos. I also worked at a local newspaper as their Roving Reporter, asking the question of the week and taking pictures.

When digital photography came along, I quickly became a convert. I love the convenience of being able to tell if I “got the shot” right away, delete my bloopers, and take as many photos as I want. These days, my iPhone is my primary camera. It’s light weight and it fits in my pocket. My husband, like my Dad, is also an avid photographer. He prefers to use his digital 35 mm camera, but fortunately he carries his own equipment bag.

With the switch from film to digital, I print out very few photos. I usually share pug pictures on Facebook, and post pictures of my quilting projects on my personal blog. Sometimes I will make a photo book for a special event such as my Dad’s 80th birthday or our trip to Hawaii.

Of course, everything comes full circle. My 16 year old nephew Josh loves photography and collects vintage cameras. I gave him several of the “old” cameras that my Dad had passed down to me. He was thrilled. This summer he took a week long class on black and white photography. He learned to develop his own film and now he wants to set up a darkroom in his basement.

How about you? Do you enjoy photography? Anyone still use a film camera or develop your own photos? Any scrap bookers out there making intricate photo albums? How do you share your photos? Instagram? Facebook?

Originally published July 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shop Often and Early

If you check your calendar you may think that it’s Halloween, but in reality, it is almost 60 days until Christmas. I love to shop and the December holidays offer me a year-long excuse. It’s never too early to shop for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza. Shopping for the holidays all year long, instead of waiting until December 24th, offers a number of advantages: you don’t have to fight the crowds and it helps you to amortize your costs rather than incurring a huge credit card bill in January.
I bought my first holiday gift on March 22nd at a local craft fair. I remember the date because my sister-in-law’s birthday is March 23rd, and I was already buying her holiday gift. It was almost laughable because her birthday gift was probably still in the mail. Eat your heart out Martha Stewart, but this year I made an Excel spreadsheet to record my purchases, mainly because I’m afraid that every year I buy my niece a pair of purple earrings and a horse t-shirt.

These are my hints for year-long holiday shopping:

Keep everything in one place! I have a large Rubbermaid box that I keep next to my computer table. I throw all the gifts in there. I label each item with the recipient’s name.

Know your audience! I never buy ahead for my young nieces and nephews because they change their minds right up until the holiday arrives. So while they may want Tickle Me Elmo in May, by December, they’ve moved on to My Little Pony. I learned this one from experience. And don’t bother with actual gifts for the teenage crowd, they just want gift cards.

If you want to go the home-made gift route, start early! You don’t want to be hand dipping 9,000 Oreos in chocolate while your guests are waiting outside.

My husband claims that shopping is a “girl thing” but I’m sure that I’ll find some blog readers who will disagree. And so the holiday countdown begins… ladies and gentleman start your charge cards!

Who does the holiday gift shopping in your family? Have you given up on the gift exchange and gone to a family-style Yankee Swap? Any men out there tackling the holiday gift shopping? Do you prefer to start shopping early or do you wait until December 24th?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Hometown Tourist

My husband Mike and I decided to play tourist, so one sunny Sunday afternoon, we drove into downtown Boston and walked the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long path, denoted by a painted red line, which winds through the city leading you to 16 different historical sites that help tell the story of the American Revolution. Our guide was dressed in full Colonial garb from his tri-corner hat to the buckles on his shoes. He even had a canteen (the Colonial equivalent to the omni present water bottle). 
I’ve been on the Freedom Trail before, since I grew up in Massachusetts and it seemed to be a popular destination for every elementary school field trip. However, I hadn’t been back in many years. By contrast, my husband grew up in Delaware, and although he’s lived here for 30 years, he had never taken the guided tour.

Our tour started in Boston Common and included stops at the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, the Park Street Church and the Granary Burial Ground. We ended our tour in front of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where a lively concert was taking place.
The Granary Burial Ground
Paul Revere's marker
Boston's Haymarket
My handsome husband on the Rose Kennedy Greenway
We walked to the North End, the home of Boston’s wonderful Italian culinary delights, for dinner. And it wouldn’t have been complete without a stop for dessert at Mike’s Pastry for cannoli.
Being a Hometown Tourist has its advantages. We were able to schedule our drive into the city around the Red Sox playing schedule and avoid unnecessary traffic, and we knew where to find an inexpensive parking garage. We had a recommendation for a great restaurant from one of our neighbors and we knew that it was worth waiting 20 minutes in line to get into Mike’s Pastry. We had a great time, and at the end of the day, we went home to sleep in our own bed. Our next destination?  The Adams National Historical Park in nearby Quincy, birthplace to two U.S. Presidents: John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams.
We ate dinner here.
Have you ever visited Boston? What tourist attractions would you recommend in your local area? When is the last time that you played tourist?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You Can’t Take It With You…

Here at my office in Quincy, we are on the move again. I’ve been with the company since 1995, and I estimate that I’ve moved at least 11 times in my tenure here. This time the move is a big one.

Although our office is only moving a couple of miles down the road, I, like many others, am also downsizing from an office to a much smaller cubicle.

My coworkers are urging me to pack, pack, pack! And although the move is still 7 days away, they have left me both a dumpster as well as a large pile of packing crates outside my door. I get the hint!

I freely admit that I’m a “stuff” person. My office is filled with family photos, pug memorabilia, an assortment of client mementos as well as my world famous shoe collection (eat your heart out Imelda!). Today, I’ve started the process by looking at my files. I have thrown out my expense reports from 2006-2009 as well as my old calendars. But how do I part with the ceramic angel that my niece made me when she was three?

My friend Joan faces a similar issue as she prepares to move her 80-year old Mom from her 4-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment in a retirement community. Every time Joan tries to throw something in the trash, her Mom takes it out.

How do you deal with downsizing? Are you sentimental about your stuff or are you the poster child for the office's clean desk policy? How long do you keep your kids’ artwork?

Originally published May 2011

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Paper or Plastic?

After a recent flight from New Orleans to Boston that involved five hours of flight time plus a three-hour layover, I became intrigued with the idea of purchasing an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook. How cool would it be to bring one little device with me and load it up with two or three dozen books at once? Plus, I could download a book at any time, anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. I spied dozens of my fellow travelers happily engaged in their light weight, portable e-readers, while I trudged from Terminal A to Terminal Z, dragging my over weighted carry-on bag which contained four novels and two magazines, in addition to the prerequisite bag of M&Ms and bottle of water.

Inspired, I called my own resident Kindle expert, my 12-year old nephew Josh. Josh got a Kindle for the holidays last December, in an attempt by his Mom to make him more interested in reading for pleasure. Apparently, it’s worked. So far, in addition to his normal school reading, he has found time to read four or five books. Josh said that he enjoys reading books on his Kindle more than a traditional book because the Kindle is smaller, light weight and easier to hold. He also enjoys checking his Google email and is planning on buying some music on iTunes. Shopping for books online with his Kindle is very easy and there are millions of choices.

In late January 2011, Amazon announced that digital books were outselling their traditional print counterparts for the first time ever, with an average of 115 Kindle editions being sold for every 100 paperback editions. According to Amazon, Kindle is their #1 bestseller and has the most 5-star reviews of any product on their website.

How could 16,430 people be wrong?

But I’m still not convinced. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child and I like the feel of a book in my hands. Also, I read rather quickly and it’s not unusual for me to finish a novel in less than three hours. So, for me, constantly purchasing books can get expensive. Instead, I prefer to browse in the library, borrow a good book from a friend or pick a couple up from the book swap in our cafeteria. Just this morning, I rescued six books from my neighbor’s recycling pile!

Do you like to read? Read anything good lately? Do you own an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook? What has your experience been? Do you think that e-readers will eventually replace printed books?

Originally published in May 2011, this is still one of my favorite blog posts that I have written. Since the original publication of this post, I have since purchased a Nook, but I still prefer a real book.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tattoo, you?

I do not have a tattoo, but I am fascinated by them. Tattooing is an ancient art, dating back to pre-historic civilizations. When I was growing up, you only saw tattoos on Hells Angels or at a carnival sideshow. Today, tattoos have become mainstream. Even your grandma might have one. 

Tattoos have been popularized by a bevy of rock stars, actors, and athletes. They’ve been the stars of film (Memento, The Salton Sea, The Fountain) and television (Miami Ink, America’s Worst Tattoos, Inked).
Every tattoo has a story. I’ve found that a lot of people get tattoos as a memorial or as a symbol of their love, super-fandom, or favorite hobby. And of course, there are those who get a tattoo while drunk on Spring Break…
My neighbor Sean has two full sleeves of tattoos. One arm depicts a mural of Catholic saints; his other arm has a scene with Norse Gods. He got both of them for protection when he served in the armed forces.  My co-worker Dave has a tattoo of the New England Patriots football team logo and the year of each Super Bowl win on his arm. My hairdresser Lori has 13 tattoos; although most of them are hidden from view. At least six of them are memorial tattoos in honor of her Dad, who passed away a few years ago. She has a star on her wrist, “just because she likes it.” Several of my 60-ish year old quilting friends have tattoos: Grandmother of three, Paula sports a Red Sox logo and a Tasmanian devil and has plans for a new one for her 65th birthday; Terri has a fairy on her ankle; and my friend Joanne has an outline of a shamrock. Joanne’s tattoo never got filled in because she fainted while it was in process, so the tattoo artist was forced to stop.
I must admit that I am tempted. And if I wasn’t afraid of needles, I’d probably sport a few tattoos myself. Perhaps one that read “PugMom” with the name of my three pugs underneath, or a design with a small sewing machine that says, “Born to Sew.”
What about you? Do you have a tattoo? What does your tattoo represent? If you’ve had your tattoo for more than 10 years, do you still like it? 

Author's Note: This blog post was just published (September 2014) on my Company's intranet. I was surprised and pleased that it received 18 comments, which is well above average for a blog post there.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Extrovert by Day, Introvert by the Guacamole

Author's Note: This is my contest entry to become a blogger at my office.

Most people who know me would say that I’m definitely not shy. I’m friendly and outgoing; I even talk to strangers in elevators. When I take my pugs for a walk, I sometimes don’t return home for an hour or two, not because we’re power trekking, but because we stop and talk to every neighbor in a four block radius. As part of my job, I give presentations to clients; it wouldn’t even bother me if I had to get up in front of a large audience and tell jokes. Once during a management training class, we took a personality test, and my extrovert rating was off the chart.

But tests don’t show everything and mine was no exception. I have a secret fear: I’m afraid of cocktail parties. Cocktail parties make me uncomfortable, especially if I don’t know my fellow party-goers. I’m not good at small talk or chit chat, and I’ve never mastered the elusive skill of moving from one group of people to another. Just how do you break away from Group 1 gracefully and move on to talk to Group 2? I’ve never figured it out. Maybe I could take a class. Maybe they could offer one through our corporate Learning Center…

I have two coping mechanisms to deal with parties. The first is to act as a helper. The helper doesn’t have to talk, just smile and say “hi” and often can hide in the kitchen. In the past, at corporate parties, I’ve handed out tickets for drinks and raffle prizes. In a pinch, I can even pour drinks. The second strategy is to hide by the food table and pretend that I’m invisible. I examine the guacamole in great detail and occasionally rearrange the silverware. When other people approach the table, I smile and pretend to be very busy deciding between the red cookie shaped like a heart and the green cookie shaped like a star. Oddly enough, my boyfriend (now husband), who is quite shy, really likes cocktail parties and morphs into a friendly, happy party-goer. Go figure.

So what is your take on cocktail parties? Love them or dread them? Is a family party easier than a work party? Do you consider yourself shy or social? Or are you shy on some occasions and social on others? And can someone please tell me, how do you gracefully move on from Group 1 to Group 2…?

Originally published January 2011

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Real Women Love Housework

I have a confession to make. I love doing laundry. Probably because I’ve been doing it for a very long time. My Mom re-entered the workforce when I was a freshman in high school, and doing the laundry for our family of five became my part-time after school job. I probably did three loads a day. Today there are only two of us, so the work’s become much easier, especially since I recently purchased a spiffy new washing machine with a control panel that rivals a rocket ship. 

But my love of housework ends there. I do not enjoy cleaning the bathroom, dusting, or vacuuming. I often joke that I’m descended from a long line of bad housekeepers. In all fairness to my Grandma, she was a working woman way before it was popular, and at the end of a 60+ hour work week of running her own business, I’m sure that housecleaning was one of the last things on her mind. When I was growing up, we always had a pile of magazines, library books, and mail on the kitchen table that we moved around when it was mealtime. My brothers and I had very messy rooms, which was ok with our Mom as long as we kept the doors closed. Today, while my house wouldn’t qualify to be on “Hoarders” or “Clean House”, I probably wouldn’t receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval either. Given the choice of cleaning the bathroom or reading a good book, reading a good book almost always wins.

So the other day when my Mom called me to tell me that she had read a survey in the Palm Beach Post, that claimed that women loved to do housework, I couldn’t stop laughing. My Mom swore that she wasn’t making it up, that the article claimed that the women who were surveyed tended to clean when they were stressed and found they were upset or disconcerted when their home was not properly picked up. I kid you not. Personally, when I’m stressed out I reach for a candy bar, not a mop.

Ironically, both of my brothers went on to marry women who are neat freaks. Maybe our next generation will break the mold.

Is your house neat or messy? Do you think that cleanliness is genetic? Do you have a favorite chore? Do you split the chores 50/50 in your home? Do your children help with the housework?

This blog post was originally published in March 2011.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This is not my first rodeo

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
E.L. Doctorow

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing 

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx 

I have always loved creative writing. I've never yearned to write a book, but I love writing short articles. My love was reignited in January of 2011, when I entered a contest to be a blogger at the large insurance/investment company where I work. I won the contest and became a regular blogger. For the most part I get to write about whatever I want, although occasionally I am forced encouraged to write about some corporate initiative. And although I have thousands of readers across the company, you can't find my blog because it is on our corporate Intranet.

I usually publish a work blog one or two times a month. The corporate blog is published weekly and I share the space with two other writers. Sometimes we are replaced by a guest post from some executive up on high. At work, I never get to write a blog post as often as I want, and once in a while my suggested topic is not approved. So in March of 2012 I started a quilting blog, PugMom Quilts!  There you can read all about my quilting adventures and my three adorable pug boys. I also share photos of my garden. I love my quilting blog  because it combines all of my passions: writing, photography, and quilting into one!

So, why another blog? Because I love to write (and I love your feedback and enthusiasm) and I don't want to lose all my wonderful columns that you haven't gotten to read. Plus, I will be adding more (this is where all the non-quilting, non-pug columns that I write will reside).

If you'd like to read more about my quilting and writing process, read this post.

Thanks for joining me on another wild ride!

Pugs and kisses,