Sunday, December 21, 2014

Too Old for Jealousy

There was a time when I grabbed all the magazines at the grocery store checkout with articles entitled "Five ways to avoid Christmas stress" or "How to make your Christmas a Time for Joy". You know the sort. Then they upped the ante and told me that elegance could be mine. They are probably still putting them out, but I don't bother to read them. I finally reached the conclusion that perfection was not for me.

I'm not sure what's going on here. Are the trees covered with snow part of the decor, carried in to the dining room to provide ambience? Or are the guests supposed to take their plates and eat al fresco? Either way it doesn't seem like something we would do in Grosse Pointe. I can see that the theme colors are green and red, though last year they were probably silver and blue, or various shades of copper. All this means, of course, that the plates and tchotchkes a person of discernment bought last year would have to be replaced. Out of date.

No longer do I want to make an impression on guests. In fact, I am the guest in my children's homes. We have always had a lot of fun when we get together. No-one throws mashed potatoes or brings large dogs. We have had our share of small children, but we understand that. As for those in-law problems beloved of Carolyn Hax, they have never reared their heads.

I think we will have fun again this year. Though I do wish I had bought a bunch of candles and bits and pieces in various shades of copper.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

On Sunday morning the laundry chute was full from the second floor to the basement with sheets, towels, tablecloths and dishtowels. There were enough plates, cups, serving dishes and wine glasses—don't forget the wine glasses—to fill the dishwasher three times over, even though I, or more likely my wonderful children and in-laws, had set it going several times on Saturday. Before the day was over we were able to announce to ourselves that Thanksgiving was over.

My oldest grandchild got to meet my youngest. Emmanuel (at 17) is here holding his cousin Joe (at 10 weeks.) In fact every photograph taken this Thanksgiving shows someone holding or looking at this little boy.

The 2014 Thanksgiving dinner was at Elizabeth's. Twenty eight of us tucked into traditional turkey and stuffing and all the fixings, followed by pecan pie, pumpkin pies and pumpkin cheesecake.

Next day was the local parade and more eating and drinking (minus three revelers) and on Saturday a trip to the Great Lakes Museum and the Aquarium, followed by a movie, interspersed with and followed by more eating and drinking. Children slept in various houses, not always where they started off. Football games and naps also played a large role.

So by the time the Washington contingent left early on Sunday morning, we (by that I mean the grandfatherly and grandmotherly duo) were exhausted and it has taken until today to get it all together.

Ernie spent the weeks before Thanksgiving working away in his workshop finishing the fourth and final Advent calendar. All our children have one, though Andrew decided to make his own. His is almost finished, but I think he has a new admiration for the skill and patience of his father. This one is for Lucy and Peter, who will eventually realize that it is also a lot of work to fill the cavity behind each door with an object to mark the days of Advent, leading up to the gold star at the top.

And before we know it, Christmas will be here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ain't We Fancy?


I never knew there was a Facebook page called "Grosse Pointe Architecture", so I certainly never knew it featured, or rather included, our house. Mind you, since the page was pointed out to me and I have started checking it out from time to time, it looks like sooner or later every house in the Pointes will turn up on the pages. This photo must have been taken slightly earlier in the fall, because by late November all leaves have gone from the maple. Those lovely red leaves remain on the oak all winter and the rakes have to come out in spring just as the russet leaves fall and the bulbs begin to break through. It wasn't taken this fall, because the new landscaping isn't there.

The person who posted these photos has done his homework because he identifies the architect and it appears I know one of his descendants.

To those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving. Be back soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Farewell, Kafka; Bye-bye, George Orwell.

Time for confession: we all have fears. Creepy crawly objects from the natural world, maybe standing up and making a speech in front of people, even laying bare our souls in a blog. It is only in the last year or two that I have stopped waking up in the middle of the night, terrified that I have to present myself in a university examining room to fill out sheets of paper with my collected wit and wisdom on a bunch of books I have never read. I guess that is common, and the reason this topic is best dealt with by the friendly neighborhood psychologist.

Fear seems to be part of a continuum. Imagine one of those annoying lines beloved of doctors, "On a scale of one to ten, where would you assess your pain?" I hate those, it is all so relative—or maybe it isn't and I should learn to play their game. In my continuum I start with apprehension, move on to concern, nervousness (as in, "Al, I am so nervous at the thought of you and your family driving up and down the Maryland mountains to come here for Thanksgiving"), pass through to being scared (That's when I am summoned into the workroom and asked to catch a piece of wood as it passes through this monstrosity.)
I would be more scared, but I have been doing it for many a year without any harm coming to me, the carpenter or the saw.

You have been waiting for me to pass through being terrified to arriving at petrified, and there is only one part of life that pretty much guarantees I'll wet my pants.

I am turning more and more into an on-line shopper, no longer a luxury but more of a necessity in these wet, snowy and cold days of winter. I'm not always comfortable handing over my credit card number, but there are a few safeguards and the amount of money concerned is usually not too frightening (that's another synonym. Wonder why there are so many?) Staring at a site like this represents the end of my continuum.

Normally I would double those numbers, even triple and add on a car, though maybe I wouldn't mean to. What if I had made reservations at a hotel for a different month? The possibilities for mistakes are endless, especially now that I am a little more careless and forgetful.

Or maybe that is what petrifies me.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Testimonial

Way back when, I used to have a section on the right hand side of this blog headed "People I Know". Under that heading I had links to blogs written by friends. At one time or other I listed blogs written by Bridget and John, Barbara, Kim, Liza and Marcie. Well, I guess that's  not too many, but they are all people I know and I enjoyed their writing (any chance of your coming back, guys?) As they stopped writing, I took them off one by one. Life, as they say, gets in the way of writing blogs.

Now there is a worthy replacement. Allow me to introduce you to Ron's Bookshelf. As you can surmise it is a blog of assorted book reviews. I should tell you that when I subscribed to a service which will let me know a new post appears, I received this reply,

"Congratulations!

You recently signed up to follow this blog's posts. This means you're joining the most amazing conversation about books on the Internet today. You need to confirm below to receive each new post by email.

To activate, click Confirm Follow. If you believe this is an error, ignore this message and nothing more will happen".

This blog has every promise of being good, possibly great, but "the most amazing?" It's OK, he won't be offended. The writer has a wonder and acerbic sense of humor, is a published playwright, an accomplished actor, terrific husband and father—and my son-in-law.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Spice of Life

When my kitchen was remodeled a few years back, there were many decisions to make. Some were made for me, mostly dictated by the size of the kitchen —mainly walls we couldn't knock down, or adjacent rooms we could not do away with. We had to keep two doors and a window, which meant the walls we had to work with to install cabinets were pretty limited. Then there were so many cabinet designs . . .

One choice I made was one I probably couldn't have made when I had five hungry children living here—a spice cabinet. Then I would have needed the space for food or casseroles or pots and pans. At this stage of my life I have loved it, because I was so fed up with rummaging around for thyme or marjoram or whatever.

These shelves are half the width of the cabinet, which means there is an identical arrangement on the back and also taller shelves at the rear of the cabinet. Savory spices on the front and sweet spices to the rear, and arrangement which confuses the other inhabitant of the house, "Is cinnamon sweet or savory?" I keep threatening to arrange the jars alphabetically.

See those shorter jars? They make so much sense, because it is almost always impossible to use up an entire jar before it is out of date. When we were last in Chicago we visited the Penzeys store in Naperville and I bought jars, both short and tall, and caused laughter—or was it scorn?—in my family by indicating by labels the date of their purchase. Since then I have been replacing some of my older purchases, studying a jar or two before I visit the grocery store. 2002? I really bought some in 2002?

Excuse me while I go arrange my jars alphabetically. It really will be even easier to find Chinese Five Spice.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Beauty is in the Eye . . .

Two of my favorite blogs are stored in a folder entitled "frothy blogs." They are The Sartorialist and Advanced Style. In each the blogger trolls the streets of European cities, though the latter is mainly confined to New York, camera in hand, taking photos of (mostly) women, who catch his eye for their fashion acumen and eye-popping style. As you might surmise, the latter blog is confined to women of a certain age, though most of them can pop an eye or two.

The community where I live has more than its share of well dressed women, but they are mostly clad in Lily Pulitzer garments suitable for cocktails and dinner at the Yacht Club. I am exaggerating, I know, but the look tends to be a tad boring, especially in high fashion areas—such as the grocery store.


This woman really caught my eye the other day as I was buying low sodium ham. A fabulous look for the grocery store. So I, and my cart packed high with quilted Charmin, followed her to the check-out lane, where I whipped out my iPhone and took a photo. Did I need her permission? Probably. Should I have edged closer and got more detail of the red swing coat and the large hat? Quite probably.

Maybe this will encourage me (and some of you) to make blog entries whenever you see eye-catching outfits. Or even to wear them if you have them tucked away in a closet.

And you can't see it, but this woman was a candidate for "Advanced Style."