My grandkids are now in shower-every-day mode, which means that when I mind them in the evening, I get to listen to arguments not only about eating supper (“I hate stew/chicken fingers/vegetables/etc.”) but about bathing (“Why do I have to go first/(sob)But I want to watch this movie/I had a shower already/You did not!/(kick, punch)/Waa!”)
I’m so worn out with this that I’ve taken to bribing them. I only had a five dollar bill and a dollar in change last night, which led to more turmoil (James and Bob fighting to be first/Bob pushes James into the bathroom door/Waa!) and negotiations from Emmeline, the lawyer:
“I was second. That should be worth more than a dollar! At least two dollars! $2.50 for second! Waa!”
I don’t remember any of this when Peter was a kid, which is possibly a good argument for not having more than one child per cognizant adult.

Once Upon a Mattress

Seized with buyer’s remorse after my recent purchase of a mattress at Macy’s, I stopped in to a Sleepy’s store and got the same model for 20% less with free delivery.
I could have scored an even better deal if I’d purchased the mattress during a 50% off sale when the Red Sox won the World Series.
This whole mattress game – in fact, buying furniture in general – has got to be the biggest retail rip-off there is.
Stores will offer a 21-day exchange policy, during which you can switch the mattress for a different model. Due to state law, they can’t resell the old mattress, but will replace it for $249 (full size) plus delivery plus any delta in retail price.
That tells me that the actual wholesale cost is not $600 or $700 or $1,000, but $249.
In any event, my new mattress arrived yesterday. I’d been warned that it takes up to 2-3 weeks to get accustomed to new bedding, but I found the mattress comfortable right away.
It probably helped that I’d also replaced an old pillow with one specifically designed for people with the same sleep pattern as mine.
I’ve had chronic problems with night time pain in my left arm and “pins and needles” in my right hand for months. These, plus general muscle stiffness in the morning motivated the purchase of the new mattress; I figured all these symptoms were due to a too-stiff and very out of shape old (1994) mattress that was cutting off circulation.
So, I was very happy to wake up with no back or leg pains, but the same recurring numbness in my right hand.
I finally figured out this morning that the latter is due to a flare-up of carpal tunnel – what an idiot!
Still, I’m happy to have new bedding and am certainly pleased with the service I received from Sleepy’s. They arrived as promised, were courteous and pleasant, and most importantly, delivered the model I’d paid for.
Because I was “stuck” in the house for about half of the delivery window, I was also able to finish most of my usual Sunday chores a day early: a bonus.

Turkey Soup

Carolyn gave me half of a Thanksgiving turkey and fixings, and I’m making turkey soup with the carcass and bones.
The bird was so large that I’m using the big stock pot, which gets dragged out only rarely. I threw in some chopped up carrots, celery and onions, fresh thyme, parsley and bay leaf.
In the household where I grew up, they prepared broth using a whole chicken and cut the vegetables into huge chunks. The broth would be served as a first course, sometimes with homemade ravioli, with the boiled chicken and vegetables as the entree, a bland and tasteless aftermath.
I think prepping the veggies into smaller bits is nicer, which seems to be the way commercial soups are made.
I don’t usually buy canned or dry soup because of the sodium content. I don’t salt my food and have found through the years that it’s rarely necessary to use it in cooking, even with fresh ingredients.
The fresh thyme is left over from a Nigella Lawson recipe made earlier in the week: winter squash baked with thyme and olive oil, then tossed with pecans and blue cheese. It sounds like a bizarre combination, but it was excellent.
Cooking and serving ravioli in soup isn’t the usual, but my grandmother’s recipe works. The filling is made with cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan/romano cheese, finely chopped spinach, an egg, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest.
It’s a fine dish and fun to make, especially with kids, who enjoy cranking the pasta maker and folding the dough into triangles, then forming the ravioli into little “hats”.
Usually at least one ravioli falls apart in the cooking, making the soup even more savory.
Because it’s time-consuming and so rich, we make this mostly on special occasions, like holidays and birthdays. Also, with pasta machines, it’s possible to prep the ravioli yourself, but much easier with a helper, another reason to defer making “cuplit” until you’ve got extra pairs of hands, little ones included, to help.

T-Day and Beyond

My friend Carolyn and I observed our tradition of taking our holiday meal at the Mashpee Chamber’s Thanksgiving community dinner at Camp Farley, an old estate that is now a 4-H property located on Mashpee-Wakeby pond.
This is the seventh community dinner, and the third that Carolyn and I have attended. As in prior years, there was a fire in the large stone fireplace in the lodge. Unlike last year, the weather was excellent, and I was able to stroll a little around the grounds.
We learned that there’s a new group of volunteers every year, and this time, they really outdid themselves with a more efficient service set-up, superb homemade stuffing and beautifully decorated tables.
The crowd was very different than the ones in years past. There were very few senior citizens and a lot more families.
A lady introduced herself to us, she is a writer for a travel magazine and drove 5 hours to attend the dinner. She’s working on a story about how Cape Codders celebrate Thanksgiving.
All of us being single, we laughed about how awful it is to be in forced company with married couples, their kids and even their dogs during the holidays – much nicer to engage in civilized, pleasant conversation with old and new friends in a beautiful place.
Carolyn recognized a friend of hers whom she hasn’t seen for some time, so between chatting with the writer and Carolyn’s friend, we stayed for the entire two hours.
Today, I was out of the house early to visit my oldest client in Beverly, about a 200 mile round trip. I made great time back and forth through town, had a good meeting with the client, and was even able to buy three new shirts on sale at the Sagamore outlets.
On the way back, I washed the truck at the self-serve, which costs about half of a “regular” carwash.
All in all, a good two days.

Clean Up

As noted in prior posts, I’ve been sorting through what must be years of paperwork over the last few weeks, an annoying project not nearly as gratifying as actual home improvement.
The possibility of moving provided the primary impetus. I’m changing jobs and will be commuting to an area I like very much, which is further down Cape. If things look stable after a few months, I might be relocating closer to work.
With all the “stuff” in this house, it may seem stupid to spend so much time on just a few boxes of paper, but anything with account numbers, even old ones, really needs to be disposed of properly.
There’s plenty of other things that could have been done, but I lack the skill and know-how to tackle any real home improvement project, short of painting. Also, I just finished four weeks of physical therapy following a leg injury, so for most of the fall, have been avoiding heavy physical activity.

Continue reading Clean Up

What Is It About Massachusetts Judges?

An incomprehensible decision earlier this year by Superior Court Judge Kathe Tuttman, a Romney appointee who at her confirmation hearing partially justified her appointment based on her experience as president of her synagogue, is only the latest in a series of disasters for the Massachusetts judiciary.
Tuttman is the judge who overturned a district court ruling and released Daniel Tavares Jr. on personal recognizance following his assault on two guards at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. Why was Tavares in prison? In 1991, he stabbed his mother to death with a carving knife and copped a manslaughter plea.
Tavares then moved to Washington state, where earlier this week he admitted murdering neighbors Brian and Beverly Mauck, claiming that they had “insulted” him.
Judge Tuttman’s decisions have been in the news before: it was she who denied hospital visitation rights to the mother of Haleigh Poutre, the little girl who was beaten senseless by her adoptive parents, Holli and Jason Strickland.
With this latest exercise in dubious (pardon the pun) judgment, she joins Hiller Zobel, Leila Kern, Maria Lopez, Patrick F. Brady, Walter E. Steele and others in the bumbling pantheon that has given Massachusetts a national reputation for judicial incompetence.

James is Cool

I love my three grandchildren dearly, but the older two’s unwillingness to venture beyond their four walls is a despair.
James, on the other hand, enjoys being outside, even if it’s just to chat with me while I do yardwork.
He has also been enjoying tagging along on the weekly transfer station runs which Peter and I have been doing for the last six years.
We frequently explore the old furniture section, and we always check out the metal pile, which is a wonder of old appliances, lawn furniture and bicycles.
Sometimes we get decent stuff from the metal pile, more often we don’t, but it’s always a treasure hunt.
Giving Emme her due, she pried herself away from her DS to go with me to a lecture at the Orleans Snow Library the other day. Afterwards, we tried to get in to see “Chatham”, but the lines were long and the evening air was cold, so we punted for now, but I still appreciated the effort.
Oh, and we’ve had snow flurries this week.

A Stick, a Stone, the End of the Road

People associate the Cape Cod style house with this region, but in the early twentieth century, a group of artists and intellectuals commissioned the building of Bauhaus summer homes on the lower Cape, especially in Wellfleet and to a lesser extent, Truro.
Woods Hole has a Prairie School structure, the Harold C. Bradley House, designed by Purcell & Elmslie in 1911, but the stunning collection of post-Modernist homes on the lower and outer Cape, most of which are privately owned, were designed in the 1940’s and 1950’s by Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff, Paul Weidlinger and local architects like Nathaniel Saltonstall and Oliver P. Morton.
This community was started by Jack Philips, an “acolyte” of Walter Gropius and heir to a substantial tract of coastal land. Philips sold lots to his colleagues from MIT and Harvard with the idea of creating a vacation enclave for relaxation, conversation and enjoyment of the Cape landscape.
Even more stunning than the views from these houses is the appreciation in their value. Then, land was cheap, $1,000 an acre. The houses were also pretty inexpensive to build: they are boxy, flat-roofed structures on slabs or stilts, constructed with recycled materials and sited on unlandscaped lots.
One such house is currently on the market. The asking price is $3,299,000.
For a splendid and fascinating history of the Cape’s modernist architecture, please visit Modern Cape Cod.
The title of this post is taken from the first two lines of Tom Jobim’s elegant composition “

X, Y, Z

This week, I’ve been reading online copies of legendary pitchman Elmer Wheeler’s books Tested Sentences That Sell and Sizzlemanship.
Wheeler, who coined the phrase “Sell the sizzle, not the steak”, developed his sales theories in the 1930’s and 40’s, and he’s still considered a guru today.
He came up with a simple formula for the three basic buying motives: X, or health and self-preservation; Y, or “romance”, by which he meant glamour, fun and adventure; and Z, or money, either making it or saving it.
Another of his simple rules is the A and B formula: “Tell the Benefits (A), then give them proof (B)”.
A third rule is to offer the customer a choice of goods rather than ask a yes or no question: a waitress will sell more ice cream by asking if the customer wants chocolate or vanilla on their pie than by asking if the customer wants their dessert a la mode.
Wheeler also believed strongly in treating customers with respect. He uses an example of a vacuum salesperson: if a customer asks if the vacuum cleaner is too heavy to easily operate, the salesperson replies, “It may look heavy, but see how light it is” rather than arguing with the customer that it isn’t really heavy at all (you dummy!)
Reading these 60 year old classic treatises on sales comes as a shock because the deftness and diplomacy described therein seems almost non-existent today, as inundated as we all are by hundreds of daily sales messages. I’m thinking in particular of the clumsy, almost sleazy recent attempt to sell me a timeshare as an example.
Having grown up around salespeople, I have respect for how difficult a profession it is. I also don’t enjoy heavy-handed pitches and appreciate someone who has mastered the craft, whether the sale happens in person or online.

Lucky, Unlucky, Lucky, Unlucky

Sometimes, I consider how fortunate I am that my soul/consciousness occupies a physical shell that’s at the top of the food chain as opposed, for example, to being in the body of a cow or a species of plankton.
I was not lucky to be born female, though.
To take away at least some of the curse of gender, I was extremely lucky to be born in the United States. While it’s not as enlightened as the Scandinavian countries, the US is a heck of a lot better for women than just about anywhere in South America, Africa or Asia, and I was lucky to beat the law of large numbers in being deposited here instead of there.
Then I think about the petites.
My son is sick of hearing this, so I’ll make this brief: petite women have the life celebrated in American song and fable about the love, money, privilege and esteem that is supposedly strewn at female feet.
Let’s just say that unless those feet are a size seven or smaller, the love/money/privilege/esteem pickin’s are slim to none.
Which is an irony and a shame: having beaten tremendous odds to be born human and American, one loses out at the last possible role of destiny’s dice.
I guess it’s true, the odds are always stacked in the house’s favor.