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December 2012

November 2012

Just a Week Ago

It’s been a week since Thanksgiving.  The guests’ sheets and towels are back in the linen closet, the bed in the TV room is a sofa again, and Peter and I are back at our usual seats at a much-too-big dining room table.  A pair of boots and a leather jacket left behind are the only visible evidence that we had guests. 

Our grandchildren are back in their busy school lives; their parents back to their routines.  Our travel-writer son is off skiing frugally (an oxymoron) in Vail.

I wrote the following email more as closure for me, but I include it here as my real farewell to Thanksgiving 2012. 

"Children and grandchildren,
Thank you for making the trip and for participating in my very favorite holiday with Gramps and me.  I'm just getting used to the fact that you will not come bounding down (or up) the stairs with a big hug for us.  PK and I have been saying how lucky we are to have such a great family--and we couldn't do it without you.  :-)

Basically, we are proud of all of your accomplishments, all of your kindnesses to us, and all of the love I felt around the table, not just at Thanksgiving, but all week long.

I want to do a special shout-out to Katrina for her non-complaining Tivo work. 

We love you and are grateful for yet another Thanksgiving together. 



Another Thanksgiving with all present and accounted for is now history.  The only evidence of all the shopping, cooking and eating is some leftover cheesecake and a slice or two of pumpkin bread.  The remains of a huge jar of Utz’s Pretzel Stix, a super-sized container of apple juice, a bunch of miniature bagels and two unopened boxes of sugar cereals will go back to Maryland with the kids.

We had a guest this year, a Brazilian friend of Seth’s who has never seen an American Thanksgiving. Her price of admission—she had to write something for our grateful jar which contains notes saying what we are each thankful for. 

The jar was stuffed full.  The notes written by our grandchildren were astonishingly more articulate than they were last year when this tradition began.  We read everyone’s notes after the turkey, providing us with a break from eating before indulging in way-too-much dessert.

The tradition requires that we pass the jar around the table taking turns reading until it is empty.  My daughter in law Katrina read one she herself had written.  She is grateful for


 Much to be thankful for.

In the Audience

When our son Seth was invited to give a talk to his college’s Boston alumni group, Peter and I asked if we could come.  “I’ll check,” Seth replied.

That’s how we found ourselves sitting quietly in the audience on Monday night while Seth, The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler  entertained his fellow alumni with a talk called “Pay Less, See More”.

We thought it best to keep quiet about our relationship to the speaker, mostly for Seth’s comfort.  So although we talked to some attendees during the pre-speech reception, we didn’t let that on that we were the speaker’s parents.

Like the rest of the audience, we found his talk informative and amusing. The group was closer to our age than his, and he must have anticipated that because at the end, he observed that although folks might not want to take all the risks he does, traveling frugally is not limited to the young.

He illustrated that by showing a slide of an elderly couple crossing the street in Leon, Nicaragua, and identified them as-- his parents-- who happened to be in the audience.  Suddenly, we were the co-stars of the event. 

Another memorable evening for the record book.


Cold Hands, Warm Heart

It’s November and that means that this 70-something goes to bed with a cold-handed husband.  Not that my hands are all that warm, but his are like ice.  We’ve tried warming them with a hot water bottle, but that is a) too much trouble and b) doesn’t do the job.  So we do the best we can, but I have been known to jump out of my skin at his touch.  Not exactly a romantic situation.

The morning is totally different.  Our hands are toasty warm when we reach for each other.  Yesterday, I complimented Peter on his warm hands. 

“Thanks,” he said.  “I’ve been working on it all night.”


Thanksgiving Prep


Thanksgiving is as early as it can be this year, but I still can’t wait. 

In our house, the menu will be identical to Thanksgivings past, the same food in the same serving dishes, the same pre-dinner walk around the reservoir, (with the same detour by Jeremy to bring us the same snack—a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts), the same family picture taken at the same spot by a passerby (whom we reward with a doughnut).  Two desserts are already in the freezer with more to come. The turkey is ordered, larger than last year because we may have extra guests. 

On Monday, I grabbed our battered copy of From Julia Child’s Kitchen to see how long this year’s turkey will take.  Pictured above are pages 234 and 235.  Since 1976, I have scribbled the size of each turkey in the margins. I’ve noted the oven temperature and how long it took.  Also penciled in are some tips from Owen’s Turkey Farm, cookbook author Craig Claiborne and others.  My biggest turkey was 23.5 lbs in 1984 and it took 5.5 hours.

Above her roasting timetable on page 235, Julia wrote, “I do think every cook should keep notes on his or her own experience…to develop not only confidence but also your own special way of doing things.”

I’ll include a thank you to Julia Child in our Thanksgiving Grateful Jar this year.


Farewell Election 2012

It’s over.  Whether your candidate won or lost, you’ve got to be happy that the robo-calls, TV ads, and canvassers at your door are history.  And that you can answer your phone again.  (Note to friends:  Sorry if I missed your call. I hope you left a message.)

If I were in charge, I would:

  • Give the candidates federal funding so that the winner would be beholden to no one.
  • Require facts, and forbid personal attacks.
  • Limit the number of TV ads per candidate.

And finally, I would ban all sports metaphors. A newspaper article asked if the re-elected Obama would be “more willing to swing for the fences”. Romney conceded saying, “We left everything on the field.  We tried everything in the playbook.”  Even Elizabeth Warren told her supporters, “You taught me how to get in the ring and win.”

We have four years to learn how to do better.  

Keep hope alive.


Ladies Who Lunch

I live in the land of the Cabots and the Lodges, but I’ve never thought too much about high society.  I have a good life with middle society.

However, I had a taste of ladies who lunch while visiting my aunt in Buffalo last month.  My cousin Joannie and her friend Joanne met me at the airport and took me to lunch at their ladies’ club.  Fortunately I wasn’t in jeans (my usual travel outfit) and I had a nice pair of shoes in my backpack because my Merrells wouldn’t do.  Joannie agreed that I ought to leave the backpack in the car, but assured me that I would pass scrutiny in my gray slacks and Brooks Brothers navy blazer.

The club looked like a place where ladies lunch.  It had the air of an old boys club, but with lots of pink.  We ate our buffet lunch in a room with floor to ceiling windows looking out on a garden where members play croquet, but only if they are dressed in white from head to toe. I couldn’t help but note that our presence probably lowered the age average considerably—everyone seemed to be at least eighty. 

When we left, Joannie and her friend told me that their club has reciprocity with a ladies club in Boston.  They promised to take me there when they visit.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be a genuine lady who lunches.



I hate the end of daylight savings time. I don’t like coming home in the dark. Or getting up in the dark.  In fact, except for Thanksgiving (which I love), November is my least favorite month.

In in the Northeast, we have to make some adjustments at this time of the year.  For example, I double my daily dose of Vitamin D because we don’t get enough sunshine.  Some people who have serious Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.) have to sit in front of light boxes every morning.

I don’t need the calendar to tell me it’s November because I get a craving for sweets, especially chocolate.  Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate any time of the year.  But,when Halloween candy appears, so does my increased need for chocolate. 

At 3:00 in the afternoon, I often find myself, dollar bill clutched in my fist, in front of the vending machine at work. (By the way, peanut M&M’s are my inevitable choice.) According to my health plan’s latest newsletter, my craving for sweets is a symptom of S.A.D. and not Halloween-activated.  Who knew?

In addition to Thanksgiving, there is one good thing about November. 

It’s only thirty days until you have eleven months without it.

Bad Start

Whether it’s for business or pleasure, I go to the airport by public transportation.  It’s faster, cheaper and more environmentally responsible.  (Remember I commute to work on my bicycle.)

Last weekend I wasn’t paying attention when I got on what I thought was the direct bus to the airport. However, it was a bus that only went part of the way.  When I heard “Last stop” for the third time, I realized my mistake and got off.

An older man, a transit employee, was at the bus stop telling a stranger about his job counting passengers.  I asked him if I had to pay again when the right bus came because I had boarded the wrong one.

“Oh, I’ll tell the bus driver,” he said. 

Moments later, I boarded the right bus.  The driver had stepped off for a moment, and I got on.  As the driver re-boarded, my new friend shouted to him, “Don’t charge the old lady.  She got on the wrong bus.”

Bad start to the weekend.