Previous month:
August 2014
Next month:
October 2014

September 2014

Frugal Vancouver

When our son Seth, The New York Times Frugal Traveler, invited us to join him for part of his annual summer trip, we couldn’t refuse.  Flying across Canada for four days with your grown child is a no-brainer, sort of.

However, this time there was a catch.  We had to do the frugal planning for the “older generation” portion of his three-part Pacific Northwest trip.  He gave us a budget and the rest was up to us. He would only go along.

That meant another challenge, one we put to ourselves.  We had to be “better” than the rest.  We didn’t want any younger people outdoing us in providing frugal fun.

The planning was not easy.  According to one source, Vancouver is the second most expensive city in the world (after Hong Kong).  Peter and I spent hours on the Internet to find a place to stay and plan our days.  We had a “had to do”, “want to do”, and “just too expensive” list of activities.  We knew that we would be riding a lot of buses because our Airbnb accommodation was a ten-minute walk plus half-hour bus ride from downtown.  70-something readers can see Seth’s take on our trip at   But I’ll just say that it worked. 

Peter did a heroic amount of the planning.  My major contribution was to serve as our cashier, holding all our Canadian cash.  Funding innumerable bus rides, each requiring $6.25 in Canadian coins was a challenge. But most stores gave change with a smile.

Everything worked.  The weather was perfect.  The flowers, the mountains, the art, the neighborhoods, the “frugal” restaurants, our apartment in the ‘burbs, the long walks, the togetherness with one of our (charming, handsome and talented) grown sons made for a way-too-short trip.

When Seth left us downtown to catch a train to Seattle, we had one more bus ride to our apartment. Without Seth, we only needed $3.50 in Canadian coins. 



The Last Visit of Summer

We visited the grandkids and their parents in Maryland last weekend.  It was only a bit over two months since we last saw Leo (age 10) and Grady (almost 8), but they change fast.  Here’s the report.

Friday night: A football game at the private school where Jeremy is CFO.

Saturday morning:  Grammy and Gramps split to attend simultaneous grandchildren’s soccer games.  Noted that both kids are taller than their teammates and that Leo’s ten year old foot is bigger than his grandmother’s.

Saturday afternoon:  Road trip to Alexandria, VA. Walked the waterfront and King Street. Visited the art studios at The Torpedo Factory.

Sunday morning:  The inevitable—grandson walks grandmother through the installation of a new operating system for her smartphone.  Not so inevitable—grandson understood “spurious correlation.” 

Three generations discuss whether it’s OK to do the crossword puzzle at a Starbucks using the shared newspaper provided.  No agreement.

Sunday afternoon:  Six boys, ages 4 to 42 play football on the front lawn, followed by a cookout with neighbors.

Monday Morning:  Back home.

Summary:  Grandkids grow too fast, know too much, live too far away.


A Visit to our LP's

Remember long-playing records?  That’s how we used to listen to music.  When Peter and I got married and put our records together, we had quite a collection—classical, popular, show tunes, jazz. 

Remember CD’s?  That’s how we listen to music now.  But for most people, the way to go is some form of streaming music.  As usual, we are behind.

Last weekend, we paid our annual visit to our records.  They reside in the New Hampshire vacation home of our friends Gordon and Christa who still have a record player, just like the one I owned fifty years ago.  We listened to some of our favorites as we always do.

I told them that our son Seth had said that LP’s are coming back and that we shouldn’t have given away our collection. The next thing we knew, all of our records were in our car.  Well, all but a few that Gordon and Christa really like.  And they still have a couple of hundred from their own collection and donations from other friends.

Of course, we don’t have a record player, but Seth says he will buy one.  So, he will have our record collection and we will continue to visit them in their new home.

We are holding on to our CD’s.


Finding Neverland

You’d be hard put to find someone who didn’t encounter J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan as a child.  Read it, saw the movie, whatever.  It’s a classic.

A new play, Finding Neverland, based on the 2004 Johnny Depp movie of the same name, and directed by the ultra-talented Diane Paulus is at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge and headed for Broadway in March.

The show opened to mostly good reviews and friends told us that they had enjoyed it.  However, our evening at the theater got off to a bad start when the 7:30 curtain was delayed an hour because of a last-minute cast substitution and some technical difficulties.  The audience was grumpy after standing in the lobby for an hour.

That is until the musical started, when all was forgiven.  For two and a half hours, we were enchanted.  The dancing, the sets, the music, and the acting were joyous.  We laughed and (I, at least) cried. Captain Hook, Peter Pan and the Darling family were characters we knew well.  But Finding Neverland was fresh and captivating.  We hated to see it end.  We walked out of the theater grinning.  Just like everyone else.

These are the moments that lift us up and let us realize how much joy we can experience, no matter what our age.


Back to School

One of the joys of living in a college town (besides having had a rewarding career at one of its colleges) is attending free events that range from sheer entertainment to intellectual challenges.

And, as I am finding out this fall, you can also go to class.  Not to doctoral seminars, or over-subscribed classes, but a polite request to a faculty member will usually get you a slot to audit a course if there is space.

That’s why Peter and I are spending two mornings a week with a bunch of undergraduates learning to appreciate five great classical musical pieces with the help of a gifted instructor.

We got to class early the first day, introduced ourselves to the professor and asked if we could sit in.  He graciously agreed and then told us that he loved auditors because they showed up on time (and haven’t just fallen out of bed, and raced to class with hair still wet from the shower).

And there’s another bonus.  Observing undergraduates is fun.  The first day there was a lot of “Hey, how was your summer?”  “Do you like your dorm set up?”  “What are you taking?”  Very different than our conversations with our peers.  And they have different distractions than we had in college.  There were a lot of open laptops.  Taking notes, or surfing the Web, I wondered?  The undergrad next to me thumbed his phone for a while, but after that he seemed engaged.

At Thursday’s class, things got serious.  Harder material.  Open laptops forbidden.  And a chance to experience music more deeply.

The class lasts 53 minutes.  I never look at my watch.



I had my annual eye exam last week.  When I was working, I always took the first appointment of the day because I had to get to work, but this appointment was for 11:00 a.m.  I grabbed a section of the newspaper from home to read while waiting, but decided not to take my book.  Bad decision.

At 11:20, having finished the paper, I asked the receptionist how far behind the doctor was.  Alas, I had made a mistake.  My appointment was for 11:40, not 11:00.  At that moment, a staff member came into the waiting room to announce that Dr. Wong was running thirty minutes behind. I was not happy.

I read my email. Then I turned to the pile of dog-eared magazines in the waiting room.

First up, The Ladies Home Journal July/August 2014.  The editor’s letter announced that LHJ  was shutting down after 131 years, and I was looking at its final issue.  Another casualty of the Internet era.

Next I picked up Arthritis Today.  Ten seconds later I put it down.  Then People Magazine entertained me for a few moments.  On to Opera News where I learned that it is possible to get tickets to LaScala, The Met, The Palais Garnier and the Vienna Straatsoper by dialing 1-800-326-0331 (and spending a lot of money).

I drew the line at Motor Trend.

My eyes are fine, and when they asked me to schedule my next appointment, I took the 8:30 a.m.






Politics as Usual

My political juices were running a bit slowly after I left my politics-oriented life at the Kennedy School of Government a year ago.  But this year’s election has gotten them flowing again.  After all, I was a government major.

That’s why I found myself at a breakfast fundraiser for Jeanne Shaheen on Friday.  Shaheen is running in a tight race for re-election to the Senate from New Hampshire.  I knew her from her stint as director of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. Of course, she served three terms as Governor of New Hampshire as well.

The private room at Henrietta’s Table was full of politicians.  The Governor of Massachusetts and the current Governor of New Hampshire were there, as well as a Congresswoman and a number of state officials. Then there were my former colleagues—professors and administrators. 

You could feel the “I want to be seen” vibe.

I’ve written three checks to support politicians in close races this year, none in Massachusetts. All are women.

My fingers are crossed for a Congress that just might do something.


Art Triathlon

Williamstown, MA, located in the Berkshire Mountains close to the Vermont border, is home to Williams College. It is also home to the Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art. Just minutes away in North Adams, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (or Mass. MOCA) occupies a campus of old industrial buildings.

This summer the Clark finished a $100 million plus renovation that has put this “fusty” art museum back in the headlines. (Google the museum to see pictures of its transformation.)  Williams College welcomed its students back with an exhibit of art they can borrow for their dorm rooms.  And Mass MOCA, with its huge installations, featured Teresita Fernandez, a contemporary sculptor and artist in a breathtaking exhibit called As Above So Below (at Mass MOCA until March, 2015).

We managed to visit all three museums over the Labor Day weekend.  Of course, we didn’t have the stamina to see everything, but once again I was grateful for my art history courses over fifty years ago. 

Summer 2014 was beautiful in New England, perhaps to compensate us for our awful winter.  As always, it went too fast.  But spending the last weekend in a beautiful place with good art and dear friends—it doesn’t get any better.