Category Archives: Hearth and Home

Epiphany

January. I don’t have much use for it; hate it, really.

January is a dark and cold reminder that we’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, spent too much, perhaps slept too little, for way too long. Boom. The scale. The credit card bills. Dry, cracking, pasty skin. Freezing pipes.

Every January I’d like to turn myself inside out and hide until the first crocus peeps through the thawing ground.

Not today.

Call me nuts, but today I added about 20 Christmas cards, which have trickled in over the last two weeks, to our sprawling display. Every year I use nearly two full rolls of masking tape to affix incoming cards to the molding around the doorways in our home. One hundred seven in all this year–so far.

Today it hit me. One hundred seven people or families expressed their love and good wishes – to us!

One hundred seven people went to the time and expense to buy or hand-make cards. Some signed their names or wrote lengthy personal notes. Some even addressed envelopes. They spent 46 cents apiece for stamps. They went to the mailbox. To wish us a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Today, in the frigid darkness of the month I despise, I counted 107 expressions of good wishes. And, as I counted these blessings, I saw light. I felt warmth.

In the rush of opening the mail, we can forget that there is meaning in the wishes that honor the holy event we celebrate in December, and there’s immeasurable hope in the wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Fellow January-haters: Let us thumb our noses at seasonal affective disorder by re-reading our Christmas cards (if they haven’t already gone out with our dried out evergreens) or remembering at least one person who wished us well, and appreciate how much we are loved.

And let there be light.

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays

Farewell, best friend

Dear Hasbro, say it isn’t so. As if the discontinuation of my china, bed linens, lipstick, wallet, kitchen whisk and hair clips were not enough, my favorite Monopoly token is being tossed out like yesterday’s crossword.

The company has just announced that, among its long-lived Monopoly board pieces—the race car, the Scottie dog, the top hat, the wheelbarrow, the thimble and others—they must phase out one out to make room for another. Seriously?

Enter the new token, the cat. This crazy cat lady has no complaint against Fluffy, but it’s replacing my all-time favorite token, the iron.

The iron is a symbol of what is right and useful in the world. Perhaps its ability to smooth wrinkles and create a polished and professional look appeals to the editor within me. From our everyday khakis to our finest table linens, it’s the tool that makes it all presentable.

True confession of an ironing geek: When I was in my early 20s, every Thursday night, while my peers were noshing at the local happy hour, I stood at my ironing board in front of the television, and pressing my way through Taxi, Barney Miller and Cheers. And then I was all set for a smooth weekend.

Maybe it runs in the family. Years ago, when my mother was imparting essential life skills to her two adolescent sons, she employed one of her finest Momilies: “The tip of the iron is your best friend.”

Hasbro could have phased out the thimble and no one would have noticed.

At least they had the good sense to save the shoe.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Hearth and Home, Sports and Recreation

Tackier than thou

What’s the tackiest gift you received last year? Or ever?

Over the years, my family members and I have engaged fiercely in Olympic-level competitive gag-gift-giving.

My mother and I send each other kitsch personalized with names—of people we don’t know. She once sent me his and hers coffee mugs meant for “Dwight” and “Daisy.” In return, I bought her a doggie bowl from our church thrift shop, personalized for “Georgina.” Mom doesn’t have a dog.

My father and I have exchanged nativity scenes and other collectibles constructed of everything from neon-painted seashells to rusty beer caps.

My husband and I have passed the same can of Pepperidge Farm Vichyssoise back and forth for more than 25 years. Not exactly a tacky souvenir, but something neither of us wanted to keep. Obviously.

It’s my turn to re-gift a 32-year-old bourbon decanter in the likeness of the head of John Lennon. I’ve been mulling who in my life deserves such a treasure. So far, no one qualifies.

Those worthy relics notwithstanding, I’m here to announce that we might have a gold medal winner in this Kitchlympic event. You be the judges. Better yet – it’s not too late to submit an entry.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Hearth and Home, Holidays

Famous last words

Hurricane Sandy’s doing her thing and I’m doing mine.

Yes, I’m blogging, as so many are. What’s there to say about Sandy that isn’t already being said? What elements of the human condition are being discovered?

I’m not in the direct path and, as of now, Sandy hasn’t yet made the scene. It’s little more than a rainy Monday where I am but already I’m seeing posts of disappearing electricity from the other side of the Beltway.

A few moments ago, I re-read a text message I sent to an out-of-towner who had inquired about my welfare. My words struck me as what are quite likely to be my last words on this earth, preferably decades from now:

“I am scrambling to finish my vacuuming and ironing before everything goes black.”

Two days ago, I stocked up supplies on while they were still on the store shelves. Yesterday I organized my refrigerated goods. Today, after tending to a client project, I vacuumed the house and ironed some altar linens for the church.

An image from one of my favorite childhood movies peeked through my consciousness: The Impossible Years, starring David Niven, about a stodgy British father of two California teenagers in the 1960s.

A scene, the father demanding his daughter clean her room, resonated with me as much in 1968 as it does today:

DAUGHTER: How can you make such a big deal about one little, messy room when the world is flying apart? Race riots, people dying from air pollution, and any moment we could be blasted from the face of the earth, victims of push-button warfare. I can’t understand you, Daddy. Where’s your sense of values?

FATHER: Linda, if we’re going to be blasted from the face of the earth, you’re going with a clean room!

My sentiments exactly.

Hypothetically, say Sandy takes a spin through my neighborhood and, hypothetically, a 150-year-old black walnut slips from the loose grasp of its soggy ground and, hypothetically, slices into our guest room, exactly as one did in 1996.

Can I bear the risk of an insurance adjuster spotting a dust bunny under the nightstand? Not on your life.

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Movies, Television and Radio

This old house

1912. It was a very good year.

Well, maybe not for the passengers of the Titanic.

So far this year we’ve commemorated the 100th anniversaries of the Oreo cookie, the Girl Scouts (and eventually their cookies), the state of Arizona and the arrival of cherry blossoms in our nation’s capital. And the sinking of the Titanic. Nineteen-twelve also saw the International Opium Convention. No, not a precursor to Woodstock, but a drug control treaty. Too bad; it might have paired nicely with the Oreo.

Julia Child was born in 1912. So was Art Linkletter. And Gene Kelly. Helen Travolta, John’s mother, was a nineteen-twelver. (Did you know she was also in Saturday Night Fever? She portrayed “Lady in Paint Store.”).

As we turn in to the home stretch of 2012, I pause to appreciate the most important 100-year-old thing in the life of my family — our house.

We bought Old Yeller in 1990 with grand visions of renovation, many of which remain today only in our imaginations. We’ve lived happily here ever since, with only one full bathroom, two tiny parking spaces and, until last year, no central air. Most of our renovations came thanks to a tree falling on our house in 1996.

After 22 years, we are blind to the holes in our walls and our nicked Formica countertops. We jiggle each door uniquely to get it to open or close, and we still must open our dishwasher to access the utensil drawer. Our furniture is cat-clawed and our basement leaks. The Derecho of 2012 ripped several shutters off the back. But that’s okay. We have thousands of good memories, including more than 20 Christmas mornings and, in the old days, countless margarita parties. I’d be happy to hang out here indefinitely.

I suppose we should honor this old house in its centennial year in some meaningful manner. Any suggestions?

(Don’t tell anyone, but I wish we could register at Pottery Barn.)

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No time to lose

Does anybody really know what time it is?

For a town known to be a center of power, much of our nation’s capital went without at the time of our nation’s birthday.

The Friday before Independence Day, el derecho huffed and puffed and took down trees, power lines, homes and cars in one big bad blow.

We lost power for four days. There isn’t much about this weather event that hasn’t already been said.

But, after losing power again yesterday, something struck me. Without juice, it’s hard to tell time.

We rely unduly on our mobile phones, our televisions, cable boxes, VCRs (yes, I still have two of those), stoves, microwaves. Even our electronic thermostats tell us what time it is. As a result, many people don’t even wear watches any more. I wear mine for adornment as much as I do for information–and only when I go out.

On a recent dark day, I walked about the house, upstairs and down, looking for the time. My cell phone was dead; even an analog landline was of no use since Ma Bell cut our time lines last year.

I remembered that we received six clocks—none electric—as wedding gifts 27 years ago. It was comforting to rediscover that some if not most of those are still around. Then I remembered the trusty timepiece my husband brought into our marriage, a relic from the 1950s, when his father sold shoes for a living.

As time slips away, so does our ability to tell it.

Does anybody really care?

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Technology and Social Media

Survey says…

The recent passing of TV game show host Richard Dawson has me feeling a little Family-Feudish.

By the way, I know someone who knows someone who was once on Family Feud. Are you impressed?

You wouldn’t be impressed if I were playing.

You know it goes: Contestants are asked to “Name something that …” as they aim to match their answers with answers of others on their team, as well as with survey responses cast by the audience. If instructed to name something you would find your refrigerator, for example, you might say “milk,” knowing that might be a popular—and hence, high scoring—answer.

If I were to be truthful I’d say “a canister of 35-millimeter film,” or today, “a brick.” But then I’d likely win no points for a match.

Suppose I asked you to Name Something You Would Take on a Beach Vacation. Would you say, an umbrella, a good book, a Frisbee perhaps?

If I were playing Family Feud, perhaps I’d name those things too. But what if I were answering based solely on what I need to occupy a particular cottage, one that is perfectly situated on a beautiful beach, but is ill-equipped to handle my needs?

How many points would I earn I earn if I told you truthfully what will soon go into the trunk of my car?

  1. A specialty whisk, two knives and a cheese grater
  2. A pesto torte, along with the clay brick that makes it mmm-mm good
  3. A bottle of homemade ginger walnut salad dressing
  4. A jar of lemon curd (you never know when you’ll need one)
  5. Fresh mint, for making chilled cucumber soup
  6. Apples to Apples, Taboo and Boggle, three must-play beach cottage games
  7. A bathroom rug
  8. A sound machine, for playing my carefully constructed beach playlists
  9. A noise machine, in case the Atlantic isn’t white noise enough
  10. A large E-Z UP canopy, to shade our dune deck during Happy Hour (when we’re sipping cucumber soup, of course)

Say the game were reversed, you were packing for vacation, but you got points for unique answers.

Go!

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