Wednesday, February 6, 2019


I used to have the stereotypical blonde moment every now and then. Called senior moments now that my hair is grey, they are the times you forget something vital and don't remember it until your daughter, who lives 60 miles away and whose house you left an hour ago, answers the phone with, "We have your pocketbook, Nini!"

Of course, you knew she had since it wasn't in the grocery shopping cart when you went to pay and it wasn't in the car when you ran out of the store, waving hastily at the clerk to hold everything, you'd be back in two ticks. And then you weren't because you were tearing the car apart looking for the blessed bag that was an hour away at your daughter's house right where you'd left it.

And of course, everything you needed - credit cards, medical cards, driver's license, cell phone - were in that one bag you could be relied on to leave behind despite a taped note on your car's dashboard exhorting you to remember your pocketbook and the annoying little chimes on your iphone reminding you to grab your pocketbook on the way out the door. For the past six years you've been reminding myself with such reminders, and in those six years you've left your purse behind an embarrassing number of times.

Daughter obligingly took said pocketbook to the Post Office, wrapped it securely, and put it in the mail after being assured it would reach me the very next day. It did, intact and with a text message on the phone from daughter the day before saying it had just been mailed. Of course, she added sheepishly, she'd had a blonde moment of her own when, from the depths of the box in the Post Office clerk's hands, she heard my phone whistle to alert me that a message was on its way.

I relayed all this to my friend and cohort in aging, J, who has her own pocketbook issues. She laughed sympathetically, offered to take me with her on her trip to town, and reminded me to be sure to grab my bag before meeting her. I obligingly flung the strap over my shoulder, closed the door behind me, and met her at the end of my driveway. She grinned at me when she saw my purse and off we drove.

Ten minutes later the grin turned to grimace when she reached into the back seat for her pocketbook. "Why," she began, "where's my purse?" We both looked at the empty seat. She fumbled under the driver's seat. I searched the space between the driver and passenger seats. She got out of the car and looked in the empty trunk. Then she looked at me. I snorted. She giggled. We guffawed. "Who's going to take care of us?" we asked each other, only half in jest. Then we drove back to her house to fetch her pocketbook.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Angel Food Oooops

There comes a time in many a woman's life when she has to admit that she isn't the cook she used to be. My time is obviously now. I've been baking since I was knee high to my mother. I can't count the number of angel cakes I've made in my 72 years, but the one pictured here took the cake, literally. Rather than taking it to new heights, however, the accidental addition of an extra cup of water brought it to the brink of disaster. 
Today's efforts to produce a chiffon cake (pictured below) ended in a marvelously high dessert that scented the whole cottage in eau de chocolat. That is, until I propped the cake in its pan upside down on a bottle of balsamic vinegar to cool, whereupon it tumbled off the counter, pulling the bottle of vinegar with it, whereupon the cork popped out of the bottle and doused floor and cake alike with a river of the aromatic liquid.

I mopped up as best I could - cake top, floor, cupboard doors, table legs. Then I called J, my friend and partner in aging catastrophes, to come for a cup of tea and some "vinegar chocolate cake."

"Oh!" she enthused. "I've made chocolate cake with vinegar before. It's quite good."

"No doubt you did it on purpose though, right?" I queried.

There was a pause.  "But..." she began and I could hear a quiver of laughter in her voice.

"But," I reiterated and told her about the bottle and the crash and the river of aromatic liquid.

By this time she was laughing helplessly. "This reminds me of the angel cake you made, the one with too much water. The crust was quite good, though." She hiccuped.

Like its predecessor, the chiffon cake had some quite edible parts, those slices where the vinegar hadn't penetrated. And with enough whipped cream, even those bits that smelled like salad tasted almost like chocolate.

Oh dear.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Love Affair With Office Chairs

Perhaps I’ve lived alone too long. Perhaps in my 70th year I’m becoming a bit dotty. Or, perhaps I’m merely fussy. I’m sitting in my newest acquisition, an office chair of exceeding comfort. It’s my seventh office chair in 15 years. For one who doesn’t really have an office and only uses the chair for a bit of computer time, and that not even daily, a seventh chair might seem excessive. I don’t have them here all at once, of course. That would be excessive, not to mention eccentric (and uncomfortable since my accommodations are quite small), but as my friend J pointed out, there has been quite a succession of chairs moving in and out of my quarters.

The first chair came from a friend’s office, which was being refurbished. Since the old chairs were destined for the trash, my friend rescued one for me. I brought it home, rolled it up to the computer and sat there quite comfortably for a couple of years before the height adjuster lever gave out and I found myself much nearer the floor than was comfortable. (No, of course I didn’t sit there continually for a couple of years. There were interruptions such as mealtime, bedtime, work, etc.) At any rate, the chair needed replacing so I kept my eye out at my favorite Transfer Station and sure enough, my patience paid off. A beautiful rolling chair covered in brown velveteen appeared. J and I hoisted into the back of the pickup and brought it home.

The chair was perfect. It was comfortable, stylish, elegant, even. It was also big. Far too big for the space allotted it. I tripped over it and pushed it out of the way for a couple of weeks, then J and I hauled it out to the barn to wait for our annual tag sale. In its place I put another Transfer Station find, a much smaller chair with an ugly red seat and wheels that rolled only under duress. It, too, lasted a few weeks before being unceremoniously hauled back to the TS.

Next I tried a smaller version of the velveteen chair. At least it looked smaller in the second hand shop, fitted in as it was amongst some larger lounge chairs. It was softer than the first and shorter so that even when the height adjuster lever was in its highest position, I still had to reach up to use the keyboard. Out that chair went to join its compatriot in the tag sale pile.

I replaced chair number four with another large office chair which, though much too big for the space, won my heart with its leather cushions, it’s workable height adjuster, its smoothly rolling wheels and its general now-THIS_is-an-office-chair look. In fact I liked it so much that when I’d tripped over it and shoved it out of the way for a month or so, rather than take it back to the TS I hauled it out to my screened-in gazebo and spent the summer months lazing about in it. Finally the back gave out and I was in danger of spilling over backwards every time I sat in it.

Chair number six came home with me from a yard sale last July. It was smaller than its predecessors, had a cushioned seat, hard wooden arms and rollers that needed attention, but the price was right and I needed a chair. I was quite fond of it despite its drawbacks because the height adjuster level worked. I was finally able to fit my knees under the desk and still reach the keyboard. Until a couple of weeks ago, when the height adjuster lever got stuck in a lower setting. (I was trying to make a minor adjustment to accommodate a cushion.)

As luck would have it, while I was visiting my daughter’s family the following week, my son-in-law brought home two office chairs from a building in which he was doing carpentry work. “We don’t need two!” my daughter exclaimed.

“I’ll take one!” I offered. My grateful daughter hefted it out to my car.

I’m sitting in it now. It’s lovely. My knees, even with a cushion on the seat, fit under the desk. The height adjuster lever moves up and down as though proud of its functionality. The wheels swivel smoothly, the colors match my d├ęcor. I’m thoroughly smitten.

Last night I could not sleep, so got up, made some tea, and sat watching the stars spin through the night sky. “Did you sit in your new office chair?” asked J.

“No, I didn’t,” I answered. “But I did gaze at it fondly for a bit.”

She looked at me as though she thought I was eccentric.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The other day my sister-in-law, E, and I were on the tag sale circuit. We'd just pulled out onto the road from the last sale on our list and were headed home, congratulating ourselves on our brilliant finds and assuring each other we were done for the day when a tag sale sign at the edge of the road dragged the steering wheel from my hands. E and I looked at each other and shrugged. "May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb," I said as we clambered out of the car and set off at a trot toward several tables piled with unexamined treasures. 

Half an hour later, our hands full, we returned to the car. I'd rolled the front windows up while we drove so we could hear each other talk, but the rear windows were halfway down. As I opened the back door to set my purchases on the seat, the keys in my hand caught on a plastic bag. I disengaged them and tossed them into the front seat. As I did, I must have squeezed the button on the car door opener because I heard a beep. It didn't register though. I slammed the back door, reached for the front door handle and nearly wrenched my elbow. The door wouldn't open. Nor would the back door. I'd locked us out of the car. 

"Well, hellfire," I muttered. I tried reaching through the open back window to the front seat but my arm was not long enough to reach the keys. "I'll go see if someone here has a wire coat hangar," I told E. I'd no sooner turned my back on the car when the alarm went off. E looked sheepishly over the hood. 

"I reached in the open window and unlocked the back door," she said, tossing the keys over the hood of the car. Huh. I stood there for a second, feeling impossibly foolish. That had not occurred to me. I got over feeling foolish and began to feel distinctly unnerved. E is a year older than I but apparently she still possesses all her faculties. Why had I not thought to simply reach through the open window and unlock the back door? Was this a sign of early dementia?

As we were pulling out onto the road I remarked, "This reminds me of the Frenchman who locked his family in the car and it took him a week to figure how to get them out."

E turned to me, horrified. "I didn't hear about that!" she exclaimed. 

"It's a joke," I said, explaining that it was a slur on the French intellect. "None of them had thought to simply unlock the doors from the inside." 

"Oh," she said, not cracking a smile. I felt immeasurably reassured about my faculties.

I was relaying this misadventure to J, my friend in aging, who told me a story of her own to make me feel better. "Yesterday my son hurried in saying he needed a bag of ice so I pulled the bin out from under the automatic ice maker in my freezer, emptied the contents into a plastic bag, and set the bin down on the counter while I put a twist tie on the bag. We were in a rush so out the door we sped without a backward glance.

"Later that afternoon while I was making dinner I kept hearing a strange clunking sound, a sort of intermittent ka-thunk, ka-thunk. It continued through dinner and into the evening. During a TV commercial I got up to get some ice cream. I opened the freezer door and WHOOSH! I was inundated with ice cubes. They flew in all directions, there were so many of them. And there on the counter next to the fridge, right where I'd set it down, was the ice bin. I must have looked at it a dozen times but it never occurred to me to put it back in the freezer."

We looked at each other. "Who's going to take care of us?" she asked, only half in jest. 

The three of us can take heart, however, that things can always be worse. A mutual friend fell asleep in his chair one afternoon. When he awoke he looked at his watch and saw with alarm that he had only a minute or two before he was due at the nearby high school with the bus he drove. He wheeled into the drive and pulled up to his usual spot, surprised to see he was first in line. "Hmmm," he thought, checking his watch again, thinking perhaps he'd read the time incorrectly. Nope, only a minute or two late. He sat there pondering for a time before he noticed that not only were there no other buses in line, there were no cars in the parking lot. That was because it was Saturday and school was not in session. 

"I felt really foolish," he confessed, "but there's no way you can sneak home in a big yellow bus." He drove down the road scrunched down as far as possible behind the wheel, parked the bus in his yard, went back into the house, sat down in his chair, and pretended to himself that what had happened had not just happened. 

We're all obviously slipping down the hill toward dotage. But, I take heart from a report I read stating that there are currently over 9 million 80 year olds in the US. That gives E, J, and me about ten years to get our act together before we can use really old age to explain our actions.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Is Nothing Ever Simple?

J and I were on our way to Home Depot, a 45 minute trip, to purchase a new, higher (chair-level) toilet and some new floor tile for the cottage bathroom. My brother had generously offered to put down the floor. "Might as well get the toilet in at the same time," he told me. "No point in putting it in and then pulling it up to tile the floor. I'll do it all in one go." Oh, to be a strong man and have the  confidence and know-how to do things in one go.

Not that women can't do both - just not this woman. I could, however, choose the toilet I wanted and the floor tile. So J and I set off in her pickup to do just that. When I climbed in, she tossed me a folded piece of material. "Spread this over your knees," she said. "The heater is working but the fan isn't, so it may get a little cold in here."

I spread the cloth over my knees, pulled my hat a little closer over my ears to ward off the chill, and off we went. Not five minutes into our drive I noticed the window in my door was icing over. I glanced over. J's was doing likewise. "I think..." I began when J leaned forward suddenly. "I can't see so well," she said, scraping hard with her fingernail at the ice forming on the windshield. She looked at me with a wry smile. "Maybe we better go back and swap the truck for the car."

Nothing wrong with the heater in the car. "We're later than we meant to be," J said as we sped off. "We may as well stop and have lunch first before we shop." Eating always sounds like a good idea to me. (It was because of my chubby little knees protesting during a two a.m. visit to the loo that we were getting a higher toilet to begin with.) We stopped at a popular buffet place near the Home Depot and ate a leisurely lunch while we discussed tile colors, the weather, the state of the world, and how our bodies were betraying us into buying things like raised toilets.

As we stood to leave, J put her hands in her pockets expecting to encounter her gloves. Instead she pulled out two large hen's eggs. I felt my eyebrows crawl up into my hair. "Have they been in your pockets all morning?" I asked, wondering how on earth they'd avoided being scrambled given the way J clambered in and out of the truck and tossed her coat carelessly down on the bench in the booth when we came in.

She looked at me. "They've been in my coat since yesterday when I took them out of the laying boxes!" I thought of all the things J does in a day - heaving forty pound bags of grain around, rough

housing with her dog, shoveling snow, bounding in and out of the truck a dozen times, hauling trash to the transfer station - those eggs had been jostled and jiggled and bounced around. The thought of what might have happened if they'd broken while still in her pockets made me giggle, then guffaw. We left the restaurant poking each other and laughing like two silly school girls on a lark. The eggs rode safely home in one of the car's cup holders.

The tile and toilet have since been successfully installed. And other than J locking herself out of her car Thursday and me locking myself out of the cottage Friday, our recent days have been relatively event-free.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Back-Up Wreath

Yesterday at the Transfer Station J and I searched the shelves as usual for discarded treasures. Our local TS is a resourceful place. Adjacent to the the trash compactor are several shelves where residents can bring unwanted but still useful items for trade. The shelves are always full in the summer, especially after tag sales. The pickings in winter are much slimmer until right before Christmas. Before our arrival yesterday, someone had left three giant cardboard boxes full of Christmas decorations. I know there are people who, though they have no reservations about pawing through discount tables at Filene's, will shudder at the thought of looking through a box left at the TS. My sympathy goes out to them. Over the years I've found numerous discarded but still useful items at the TS including a glider chair, intact and without a stain or a loose screw; a Williams Sonoma popover pan; a Cuisinart; a camera never out of its box; assorted cutlery and enough pretty plates to feed 30 people at my daughter's pre-wedding dinner; vases of all sorts and sizes; a futon still in its shrink wrap, and… Christmas decorations.

My parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression which had a profound effect on the way they lived their lives once it was over. I was brought up with such slogans as make do or do without, waste not, want not, and use it up or wear it out. Nothing in our house was ever wasted or thrown away until every last vestige of usefulness was wrung from it and even then, many of the holdovers so necessary to survival in the 30s remained behind even after my parents passed away – the ball of string in the corner cupboard, the waxed paper bags that held kitchen garbage, the desk drawer full of rubber bands, the straightened and pressed wrapping paper, the rescued bows, the over-stuffed rag bag. I figure I could have gone two ways when I reached adulthood  – I chose the frugal way and it frames the way I now live my own life which, I suppose, explains my delight in our local TS.

J and I spent a happy half hour holding up one thing after another for approval. I make fudge at Christmas. This year each recipient will receive theirs in a charming china dish decorated with tasteful renderings of angels or penguins or carol singers on the outside. My grandchildren will love the Santa that lights up inside with a tiny candle; my daughter-in-law will enjoy the basket her gift will come packed in. I may not have saved more than $10 all told but it's $10 still in my pocket.

Often on the ride home, J and I discuss the pleasure we get in thinking about the money we've saved and how it gets harder and harder to part with our hard earned cash for something we know will, sooner or later, show up at the TS. Perhaps that is why, when I saw a perfectly good grapevine wreath in the shape of a heart, I snatched it up despite the fact that I already have a perfectly good grapevine wreath in the shape of a heart at home.

"This," I told J, waving it over my head, "will be my back-up wreath in case the one I have falls apart." And then we both gasped. Is this what it's come to, then? Are we on our way to hoarder-hood? I thought of the coat I'd snatched up last week even though I already have a perfectly serviceable coat. I thought of the Christmas decorations in my hands and the five boxes of Christmas decorations in the attic at home, leftovers from my childhood and my children's childhoods. I sighed. But, I did not put the wreath back. I brought it home and on the way we laughed at the thought of two old bats combing the TS for back-up treasures to the multitude of treasures we already have.

This morning J called. She was making cookies. She'd hauled out her old Sun-Beam MixMaster and rifled about in the drawer where she had not one, but two sets of beaters. "I remember when my mother didn't hook the beaters in tight and when she turned on the machine, they twisted all together," she explained. "I saw those extra beaters one day at the TS and I thought, 'I might need these someday!' They're my back-up beaters, you see, just in case I make the same mistake my mother did."

I suddenly felt much better about the wreath. Next week I'll return the coat because I don't really need it and someone else will. But I know that someday my little heart-shaped wreath will fall apart - it's already second-hand. And then, you see, I'll have back-up.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Won't Tell if You Don't

Unmentionables, my mother called them, introducing little me to the required undergarments never mentioned in polite society. Later the brassiere was added to the list of garments one did not mention in public, though one had better be wearing them and they had better be clean in case the proverbial bus struck. Good thing my mother can't read this.

J had a friend (I hope neither she nor my mother is reading this from that nebulous space all departed people inhabit, which is somewhere over my right shoulder). Anyhow, J had this friend who dressed rather hurriedly one morning in order to get to the the post office before it closed. She put on clean unmentionables but pulled on the same pair of slacks she'd worn the day before.

In the annex off the lobby where all the patrons' mail cubbies are stacked, J's friend unlocked her box and began sorting her mail. Another woman at the end of the annex was sorting through her own mail. J's friend looked up, ready to say hello, and at the same time felt something slip down the inside of her pant leg. She looked at the floor and there in a lovely puddle of blue nylon and lace were yesterday's unmentionables!

What to do? What to do? Should she stoop to pick them up? No, she hadn't brought her purse and there was no room in her pants pockets what with her keys and other sundries taking up space. Should she just ball them up and hide them in her hand? No, someone might see her doing that and think all manner of sinful things. No, better to just nudge them casually with her foot until they were in the corner. There. With any luck she would be gone before anyone else came in. And she was.

She told J about the incident and now J's told me (don't ask why were were discussing unmentionables in the first place. I can't remember). "What do you suppose the cleaning lady thought when she saw them there in the corner?" J asked me, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

I imagine she didn't mention it.

Of course, one good story deserves another and while we were on the subject, I told J about the time my husband and I took our young children for a walk along a high ridge that rose up behind the house where we lived. We often turned a Sunday walk into a green mission, bringing along a trash bag to collect trail debris. One son, the most adventurous, kept wandering off the track. He'd come back with some pine cones or a few interesting (to him) rocks. He wandered off again and returned with a lace thong dangling from his chubby little fingers. "Is this yours Mom?" he asked.

I was the only woman he'd ever seen in a pair of unmentionables in all his short five years so it seemed a natural question, but I was mortified. "It better not be," my husband joked as he took them from Son by the tips of his fingers and stuffed them in the trash bag.

I did, years and years later, lose a pair of unmentionables much the way J's friend did. I'd been asked out on a date, one of the first since my divorce, and as it was to be a picnic date, I hauled on the overalls I'd been wearing the day before. All went well until we got out of the car and began walking to the picnic site. I spied something white across the top of my shoe and stopped to pick it up. I should not have.

My date stared at what I held in my hand and his eyes grew round. "How did you do that?" he asked me. He said he'd seen Jennifer Beals slip out of her bra on Flash Dance but he didn't realize women could do that with panties, too. The ground should have opened up and swallowed me then and there but it didn't. I had to suffer through countless retellings of my "circus trick."

Fortunately I'm too old now and too thick in the thigh to be wearing unmentionables tiny enough to slip gently down a pants leg. I don't date anymore either, but I do shake out my trousers every night before bed just to be on the safe side.