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?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Silence is Golden

In today’s world of media madness, peace and quiet are undervalued. People are constantly “plugged in”, whether they are using their phone, listening to music, or surfing the Internet (or any combination thereof). There is a television blaring in every possible location, from our workplace cafeteria, to the nail salon, to the gas station pump, to the back seat of a New York taxi, and now even at the “better” restaurants. A large screen TV recently appeared at my favorite local ice cream shop, so now I can watch television while I wait in line to order my ice cream sundae. Even the small child in the baby carriage is playing a game on a computer tablet. Do we all need to be entertained at every possible moment?

Sometimes I wonder if all this media stimulation is normal or if this barrage of information is going to make me crazy. Lately, I’ve been driving home from work with the radio turned off. As I enjoy the purr of my new car’s engine, I try to breathe deeply and decompress. When I take the pug boys for our daily walk, I take in the sights and sounds of my city neighborhood, and enjoy the tranquil greenery in the local park.

Last weekend I was at a quilt retreat with 17 other women. As you can imagine, it was a lively venue with several loud conversations going on simultaneously over the hum of multiple sewing machines. On Saturday night, the girls de-camped for dinner en masse, while I waited to meet my husband. Suddenly, I was completely alone in a large hotel conference room. The ensuing silence was welcoming, yet at the same time, almost an unfamiliar sensation. Peace and quiet surrounded me like a pair of two fluffy pillows. I embraced it.

When I googled “a world full of noise”, I expected to find studies on noise pollution or the invasiveness of the media, so I was surprised that the first several pages of references were actually religious or spiritual. One book title piqued my interest: In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. I haven’t read it yet, but in an NPR interview, author George Prochnik says, “quiet spaces are essential because they can inject us with a fertile unknown: a space in which to focus and absorb experience."

Where is your quiet space? How often do you unplug? Do you meditate or practice yoga breathing?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Not Quite a Nielsen Family

Did you know that according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than four hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or two months of nonstop TV-watching per year)? This means that in 65 years, that same person will have spent nine years glued to the tube.

I’m proud to say that I’m below average, and possibly even in the silent minority. For years my husband and I have owned a single television. We do not have a television in our bedroom or watch television when we eat dinner. We record every program that we watch and fast forward through all the commercials. Unlike my friend Marion who leaves her television on all day for background noise, we turn the television on to watch a program and when the program is over, we turn it off.

Recently we upgraded our cable service and went from a DVR recorder to TiVo. The installer proudly reported that I could record up to four shows simultaneously while watching a fifth show. The only problem is I can’t find much to watch. Back when I was growing up, it seemed like there were a lot of great television shows. Some of my favorites were MASH, Hill Street Blues, and the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Today, it seems like the average season for a show has grown shorter and shorter. And reality television shows, which range from the banal to the really, really bad, have replaced most network programming.

For a while, Mike and I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix, long after the show had ended. This worked out well for us because we had several years’ worth of episodes to catch up on. Sometimes on the weekends we’d hold a Breaking Bad marathon.

I love Downton Abbey and I just watched the Season Finale. It seems ironic that the “2015 season” only consisted of nine episodes and the next season won’t start for another nine months! I’m not sure that I’ll even remember what happened when the new season starts.

I find these statistics fascinating:
  • Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
  • Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
  • Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
  • Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49

Where do you fit in? How many televisions do you own? How many hours a week do you watch? What are your favorite programs? Do you think that you watch too much television?

This blog post was originally published at my workplace in March 2015.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Curb Your Child

Blogger's Note: I wrote this for my blog at my workplace and my Editor refused to run it. In an email to me, she opined: I appreciate you penning another post  (after refusing to run The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and being so candid about your opinions. I’m struggling because this one offends me on a personal level, as a parent of young children. I agree with you about the fancy restaurant, but tantrums are a normal part of child development, and if it were easy and appropriate to do away with them by bribery, all parents would do just that. It’s not always possible to just pick up and leave. In my opinion, the price of raising well-adjusted children who can conduct themselves out in the world is that we all have to be generous about some tantrums now and again, in airplanes and restaurants and stores. It may seem like parents are oblivious or pretending, but sometimes the best thing to do is just get through it so you can address it when everyone is calm. Most parents are trying their best.

I can run this one, and share my personal opinion above in the comments, but it does seem a bit negative and judgmental, and again, I’m having trouble being objective on the topic. I know it’s your opinion and I appreciate that, but is there a way you could make it a little less one-sided? 

Nancy's note: My post is intended to be humorous. In addition, it has my name and photo on it, so it's obviously my opinion, right? And after reading my Editor's note, I'd never want to go to a restaurant with her!

Lately, it seems that everywhere I go, whether it is on an airplane, in a restaurant, at a movie, or even shopping for a car, somewhere nearby is a screaming child with his or her seemingly oblivious parent (or perhaps they are just wishing for oblivion). This seems to be an alarming new parenting phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Many years ago, my sister-in-law and I were shopping with my then 2-year old niece Rachel. After a while, Rachel reached her shopping limit and started to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. Unfazed, my sister-in-law put her items down un-purchased, picked up Rachel and we left the store. Rachel was screaming at the top of her lungs and I’m sure that everyone was grateful when we left.

Last month, my husband got a bonus at work and we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company in Boston. This is an expensive restaurant downtown and you can’t get in without a reservation. We were very excited to go eat there. Naturally, the hostess tried to seat us at the table next to the young couple with the screaming toddler. I refused and asked to be seated somewhere else. Fortunately another table was available. We still had a view of this young family and I watched the child scream for at least 20 minutes before the mother finally handed the little boy her cell phone to play with.

I do not have children of my own, but I have a niece and three nephews, and when they were little I would never take them out in public without a bag of snacks, several books, and a couple of toys to play with. I don’t even take my pugs for a walk without a bag of dog cookies in my pocket. I call it, “Better living through bribery.”

I realize that baby sitters get sick and sometimes Grandma is not available, but shouldn’t there be a limit on bad child behavior? I expect to dine with children if I’m eating at Denny’s or Papa Ginos, but if the restaurant doesn’t have a children’s menu, isn’t that a clue? Recently a diner in Maine attracted public attention for asking a mother to remove her screaming two year old. I’m sorry to sound old and crotchety, but I’d pay extra to fly on a child-free airline flight or eat in a child-free section of a restaurant.

Have you ever experienced this? Would you pay extra to eat or fly child-free? How do you handle your child if he/she is misbehaving in public? What do you do if the child at the table next to you is having a complete meltdown and their parents are pretending it isn’t happening?

Dear Reader, I'm wondering, do you think my post is too negative?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Blogger's Note: I wrote this post for my blog at my workplace and my Editor said it was too controversial. It was not published.

Alas, Cecil the mighty Lion is no more. In case you haven’t been watching the news or avidly perusing FaceBook, Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, recently paid $55,000 to shoot a lion on an African Safari. Photos of his trophy went viral, the public went wild, and Palmer has been forced to shut down his dental practice and website, at least for the time being.

Palmer half-heartedly apologized for his actions saying that he is a life-long hunter and that he thought his “kill” was legal since he booked his trip through a local African safari tour. Perhaps killing Cecil the lion would have been justified had he had been terrorizing Palmer’s local city of Eden Prairie, MN. Call me naïve; I thought that killing big game for sport had gone out of fashion with the late President Teddy Roosevelt, over 100 years ago.

I find this story reprehensible on so many levels, especially as a life-long animal lover. I believe that people have the right to hunt as a sport, if they’re planning on eating what they kill. And if I had $55,000 to spend on a vacation, I can think of a lot better things to spend it on than killing a lion that was illegally lured with bait from his protected animal sanctuary. Ironically, a friend of mine and her family are in Africa right now, although they are only shooting animals with a camera on a photo safari. They’re out of reach via the Internet right now, but I would love to hear what they think about this case and what the people in Africa are feeling.

RIP Cecil.

What are your feelings on this incident? Are you a hunter? Do you hunt for sport?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Eating Michael's Bonus

My husband Mike got a nice check last week for Employee Appreciation Day at his office. He suggested that we use part of it to dine at a couple of fancy, aka pricey, restaurants. The man didn't have to ask me twice. We both love to eat!

Last night we had dinner at Sofia's in West Roxbury, MA. We had eaten there once before in February for our third wedding anniversary. We loved it then and we were not disappointed last night.

We shared an appetizer and a salad. For the appetizer, we enjoyed the Maryland Crab Cake. It was quite large. For the salad we selected the Baby Spinach Salad with white balsamic, red onion, frisée, granny smith apple, bacon and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese. They also serve you fresh bread warm from the oven with a delicious hummus. We probably could have just eaten this for dinner and moved on to dessert.

For dinner, Michael ordered the Sam Adams Steamed Mussels (with tomato, mild peppers, garlic, basil, Sam Adams Boston Lager and garlic bread) from the appetizer menu along with a side of pasta. I'm not a mussels fan but Michael said they were wonderful. I carefully reviewed the menu but in the end, I chose to order what I had before in February, because, YES, it was THAT GOOD. I'm warning you that the ingredients sound odd, but trust me, they work together. I ate the Pan Seared Day Boat Scallops with sautéed shitake mushrooms, salami and sweet potato served over a parsnip purée.

My dinner last night. Yum!
And even though we were both stuffed, we shared a dessert too! Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée, garnished with fresh berries.
Double Yum!
My handsome dining companion, my husband Michael.

Hope there was some good eating during your weekend!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pimp My RIde

In an unusual turn of events, two of my closest friends got new cars this week. Joannie brought her car in for service and was offered a sweet trade-in deal from her dealer for her 2013 Prius, which had 35,000 miles on it. She is now the proud owner of a 2015 Prius. My friend Marion and her husband were on their way home from an extended road trip to see their oldest granddaughter graduate from college when they got into a car accident in Virginia. Their three year old car was totaled by the insurance company, but luckily neither of them was hurt. They just bought a 2015 Hyundai Sonata, which was the newest model of the car they had before the accident. I spoke to Marion’s husband last night and he gleefully described to me all of the car’s new bells and whistles, which included a back-up camera, individual climate control for the front seats and “memory” for the driver’s seat position, just to name a few. I’m sure he will take me for a ride soon.

I’m not jealous even though my car is a ten year old Mazda Tribute. I did buy it new back in 2005 and even though I’m not much of a “car” person, I still really like it. It was the first car that I ever owned that had heated seats, cruise control, and power windows. It still seems like a luxury vehicle in contrast to my husband’s 1999 Saturn SC, which has over 160,000 miles on it and rides like a go-cart, hitting every bump in the road.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun personalizing my car, affectionately known as the Pugmobile. I have a vanity plate reading Pugmom, pink windshield wipers, as well as pink and black zebra-striped floor mats. The back of my car features a variety of pug magnets and stickers, mostly gifted by friends, as well as a license plate frame that reads, “I’d rather be quilting.” I’m pretty sure that most of my co-workers know it’s my car when they see it in the company parking lot.

If I had extra cash lying around, I’d consider having my car custom painted hot pink with gold sparkles. Only I’d be afraid that Mattel Toys might call and say that Barbie wanted her car back. Or that my husband and the pugs might refuse to ride with me anymore.

What about you? How’s your ride? Do you buy a new car every few years or do you drive a vintage vehicle? Do you lease your car or prefer to buy used and drive it into the ground? Have you personalized your car’s interior, had it custom painted, or “pimped out”?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Rose by Any Other Name...

My co-worker Kathi is having her second baby this fall. She already has a little girl named Brinley. Despite the fact that her last name is several syllables long, as well as hard to spell or pronounce, Kathi insists that she prefers trendy, unusual baby names.  Baby on board #2 is a boy, so naturally I suggested Romeo or Elvis.

We agreed that choosing a name for a future person is an important and often daunting task. It can be hard to please the myriad of relatives who want to offer suggestions. We joked about some of the crazy names that celebrities name their children such as Blue Ivy, North, Apple, and Moses. And don’t forget former boxer George Foreman, who named all five of his sons George. Perhaps he took a couple of blows to the head too many…

I always like to ask people who have unusual first names if there’s a story associated with it. My friend Portia’s Dad was a car nut. She had two other sisters: Mercedes and Lancia, as well as a brother named Dave (I’m not sure why he wasn’t named Lamborghini or Maserati). Another friend, Kai, was named for a family friend who had saved his Dad’s life during the war.

Of course, if you don’t like your name, you can always change it. My brother Gary has a friend who changed his name to Sunshine Megatron. It’s definitely distinctive, but I bet it’s hard to make a dinner reservation without a snicker or two on the other end of the phone. Personally, I’ve always been happy with my first name. It is easy to spell and pronounce. When I was growing up, some of the most popular girls’ names were Lisa, Karen and Linda, but I was usually the only Nancy in my class.

Do you have a distinctive or unusual first name? If so, did you like it growing up? Do you like it now as an adult? What is the story associated with your first name? Have any of you changed your first name? Given your children unusual first names?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pomp and Circumstance

I spent last Sunday at my nephew Sam’s high school graduation. Simultaneously, across the country in California, my niece Rachel also graduated from high school. The last time I went to a high school graduation ceremony, it was my own, so it was a long time ago. The only thing I remember was that it had rained the night before, and our folding chairs were wet. Fortunately Sam’s ceremony was held under a large tent.

The theme for the speeches at Sam’s graduation was “Do your best.” I’m not sure if there is a central repository for graduation commentary, but somehow all four speakers gave some iteration. I was disappointed by “Do your best” because it felt a little trite to me. They didn’t ask me to give a speech, but I entertained myself by trying to imagine what I would say to a group of high school graduates…

Dear Class of 2015,

While your graduation today is indeed important, what happens in high school stays in high school. Thirty-three years later it won’t matter if you never went to the Prom or if you missed catching the winning pass in the football game. Keep moving forward. Life doesn’t happen in the past.

Be thankful to your parents who made many sacrifices (both time and money) so you could go to hockey practice, wear a North Face jacket, own an iPhone or simply have lunch money. Be kind to your siblings. They don’t mean to be annoying and if you’re lucky, when you grow up, they’ll be your best friends. Family matters.

Find your passion! Do something that delights you every day. Volunteer! Vote! Participate in the community around you. Get a summer job! Put your money in the bank (at least some of it) to help alleviate those immense college expenses.

Doing your best is important, but sometimes it won’t be good enough. Failure is important too. Sometimes we learn best from our mistakes. I like to say, “Good judgment comes from experience and a whole lotta that comes from bad judgment.”

Work hard in college. Take advantage of all the opportunities you are offered. Try a new sport or learn a new language. Do an internship. Study abroad in an exchange program. The next four years will be your time to shine!

What advice would you give to the senior class of 2015? What do you remember from your own high school graduation? What’s the best advice you received at graduation?

To see photos of my beautiful niece and my handsome nephew, go here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Bookworm's Favorite Reads

As our weather turns warmer and our thoughts turn to summer, I thought you might enjoy some books to add to your beach reading list.

I’ve been a bookworm since I was a child. Two of my friends, Dianne and Sue, are also avid readers and we swap books regularly. I am particularly fond of mystery novels, historical fiction, and “chick lit”, but I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on.

Several months ago, my brother Gary challenged me on FaceBook to name my top 10 books. They didn’t have to necessarily be my favorite books; instead they should be books that made an impact.

From my childhood, I vividly remember reading Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, not because it was my favorite story but because it was the first book that I ever owned. Conversely, I also remember Moby Dick by Herman Melville, because I found it unreadable and it was the only book that I used the Cliff Notes for in my honors English class back in High School (still haven’t read it…)

Without further ado, here’s my list of favorites. With the exception of Clara, which never leaves my nightstand, and is my all-time favorite book because of the humorous writing style and subject matter, they are not in any order. I’ve read all of these books many, many times.
  1. Clara: The Early Years: The Story of the Pug Who Ruled My Life by Margo Kaufman (Warning, after you read this book, you will want to run out and buy a pug or two.... As I write this blog post, Elvis and LarryPug are snoring underneath my desk.)
  2. Eleni by Nicholas Gage (a gripping and true story)
  3. The Gate to Woman’s Country by Sheri Tepper (if this book is the future, I don’t want to go)
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (see comment above)
  5. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (based on a true story about life in a plague village during the 17th century)
  6. The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta (wish you were still in a band instead of working for corporate America?)
  7. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (set during World War 2)
  8. The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds (set in a religious sect)
  9. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (the movie was good, but the book is better)
  10. Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gardner West (I liked this book for its quirky characters and small town charm)
Need more to fill your beach bag? Some of my favorite authors include: Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Harlan Coben, Daniel Silva, Ken Follett, Philippa Gregory, Diana Gabaldon and JA Jance.

Have you read any of the books on my list? Do you love to read? What’s on your reading list this summer? What are your top 10 books? Who are your favorite authors?

Thanks for visiting!

Pugs and kisses,

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spin the Globe

Now that we’ve broken the snow record in Boston it’s time to think about spring and summer vacation plans. I’m yearning to travel the world, but my husband and I are booked solid with family events. This year our vacation time will be spent travelling to two weddings, two Bar Mitzvahs, two high school graduations and an 85th birthday party. I’m happy to be included in so many wonderful milestones, but did they all have to take place in the same year?

Meanwhile my sister-in-law and her family are leaving next week for a glamorous trip to Amsterdam and Barcelona. My friend Joannie has booked a trip to the Azores in June where she will explore her Portuguese heritage. My friend Eleanor is taking a river cruise in December to visit the Bavarian Christmas markets. Somehow, my vacation plans just don’t measure up.

The last time I went to Europe was more than 20 years ago. I went to London and visited lots of great museums. I also took advantage of the discounted theater prices and saw several shows, including Starlight Express, a musical done entirely on rollerblades.

My husband is more well-travelled than I am and has been to England, Scotland, France, Holland, and Israel. If I get to pick our next vacation, I’d love to go to Italy and take some cooking classes. Mike is eager to go to Costa Rica and check out the rain forest.

Where will your vacation plans take you this year? Will you be travelling abroad? What countries have you visited? Where would you like to go next?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


It’s winter 2015 and we have been hit by cold and flu season in full force. Everyone I know is either sick, getting over being sick, or feels like they are getting sick. I caught a nasty bug in early January which morphed from a severe head cold with lots of congestion, to a sore throat, to an intermittent stomach bug, which has only recently resolved. I was voted “least popular” among my co-workers, who requested that I work from home until I was able to breathe through my nose again. 

My husband valiantly nursed me and even made me home-made chicken soup with matzo balls, the Jewish equivalent of penicillin. I drank gallons and gallons of ginger-ale and should have bought stock in Nabisco saltine crackers. I became adept at opening the child-proof packages of Mucinex, Sudafed, and Nyquil. Romeo, Elvis and LarryPug kept me company even as I sniffled the day away.
Now that I’m on the road to recovery and regaining the ability to breathe through my nose, I’m reluctant to take my good health for granted. I’m eager to get back to the gym and I had a salad for lunch today. I’m considering getting a flu shot, even though I keep hearing that they’re not very effective this year.
My friend Wendy, who is a nurse, says that a simple key to prevent illness is to wash your hands frequently. My husband Mike swears by anti-bacterial wipes and has recently started taking Airborne every day. My coworker Lauren liked Emergen-C, a dietary supplement with 7 B vitamins as well as antioxidants and electrolytes.
How do you stay healthy? Have you had a winter cold yet? Did you get a flu shot?