“If you’re cold, put on a sweater.”

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‘And keep your paws off that thermostat.’

The other day I rushed home from an event and found myself stripping off layers as I strode through the door, said event having taken place at a particularly overheated venue. Every stitch I was wearing had to go in the laundry or the (ka-ching) dry cleaning pile. (The Child, on her last visit home: “Mom! Do you know what they charge at that dry cleaner’s on Lex?”)

Honestly. I swear I don’t know what’s happened this winter. Every place I go — restaurants, museums, busses, the subway, the opera even — has the heat cranked up to the absolute max. Could it be that people are cold from all those outdoor activities during Covid? (I must admit I did not take part in these, at least not voluntarily. Oh, there was the occasional outdoor restaurant date with Concerned Covid-Avoiders, but few in my cohort really got into Outdoor Covid Stuff — unless it was something that usually happens outdoors anyway. Like, say, a picnic. In summer.)

Here’s someone who looks really cold. An not because I turned down the heat, but because it was, like -29 up there in Canada

While I can’t control the heat in public places, I like to think I can do so at home. But there’s the indisputable fact that I do not have exclusive control of the thermostat.

Nope. Dude Man lives here too. And, as I like to say, our marriage runs hot and cold. As in I’m always hot, and he’s always cold.

(And before you get all kinds of snarky ideas about the state of my hormones, my overheatedness has nothing to do with that.)

One of the reasons he’s always cold: Dude Man wears a tee shirt, no matter the weather. At least here he has a nice warm kitty to hand

It’s just that I’ve always “run hot.” My mom was the same way. In fact, she’s the one who used to say not to touch the thermostat and if you were cold to go put on a sweater. Of course back when I was growing up, keeping the thermostat on the low side was done more to save money than because everybody liked a cool house. This was even more apparent in the summer, when the air conditioning was not only set to a high temperature, but only turned on when company showed up.

Sometimes, instead of sweaters, my family would put on spoons

So yes. I tell Dude Man to go put on a sweater when he’s cold. Of course this is a guy who likes to sit around in a tee shirt even in the depths of winter. Often clad only in his underpants as well. (See “I’m the sheik of Araby.” for hilarious — and swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles-true — details.)

Helmet: check. Shirt: check. But pants?

You may or may not know this about me, but I am never not knitting a sweater. And, trust me, I’ve knit The Dude dozens: pullovers, argyle vests, grampa sweaters with pockets, even a camel number with leather buttons stamped with little camels. Which he never ever wears.

My latest sweater, featured in an Instagram post by the pattern designer. Nope, it isn’t for The Dude

On the rare occasion when I can get Dude Man to put something on over his tee shirt, it’s invariably something in polar fleece. So, no. I don’t knit him sweaters anymore. (See “Is that for me?” for more.) And while I’m beefing, what is it about Cold People always marrying Hot People? Personally, I have yet to meet a couple who is thermostatically matched.

Someone who actually wears the sweaters I knit. (And not just for a photo, like His Dudeness is in the shot at the top of this story)

Someone else who actually wears my sweaters. But then, he is a baby and has no choice

But, as I’ve pointed out in the past, I am rapidly turning into my mother. (Heaven knows I am looking rather uncannily more and more like her every day.) And Mom has gone from running hot — to She Who is Always Cold.

That’s Laura on the right. That person on the left morphing into my mother — is me. (Note Mom swathed in warm scarf)

Perhaps, one day, it will be my turn to be She Who Is Always Cold. Until then, I’m hogging the thermostat.

Amagansett, New York. January 2023

 

Time to undeck those halls

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‘Christmas is a wrap.’

No, I didn’t have to go to the City last week.

There I was, comfortably ensconced on our well-worn Amagansett couch — pile of knitting on my left, stack of New Yorkers on my right — when I realized that I had not seen the Metropolitan Museum Christmas tree.

That’s me, making like a Medieval ornament at the Met

I had nary a doctor’s appointment or lunch date or party invitation. My calendar was clean. But I knew that if I didn’t get myself back to the City and up to the Met, I would miss seeing the Christmas tree. Because, like almost every other Christmassy Thing in New York City, it would disappear after January 6.

January 6, you see, is Epiphany. Or Three Kings Day. Or the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Whatever you call it — well, except for the Day The “Patriots” Stormed the Capitol — it is more or less the end of Christmas. (Hmmm, I guess the Day They Stormed the Capitol was kinda the end of Christmas, too.)

But back to decorations. After January 6, people untrim their trees, dismantle their mantels, take down their lights. Well, except for the Russian Tea Room. They famously leave theirs up all year ’round.

She’s not Russian, and this isn’t a tea room, but I have a friend who decided to leave this up all year round. And who wouldn’t?

To be honest, taking down the decorations used to be my favorite part of Christmas.

Oh, I enjoyed looking at decorations. As long as someone else put them up. For some reason I’ve never been fond of hanging shiny balls or strewing tinsel. And don’t get me started about stringing lights. (See one of my takes on this in “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly.”)

The extent of our Amagansett Christmas decor: a bowl of ornaments

Why, back in the day I disliked decorating so much that I used to bribe my friends with champagne and pot roast to get them to come over and decorate the tree for me. (See “(N)o Tannenbaum” for delicious deets.) This went on for years until The Child grew up and left the house — taking my Tree Trim urge right with her.

Our last Tree Trim Party. We held it on Jan. 6 and “undecorated” the tree. Needless to say, this tradition did not “stick”

But somehow this year felt different. I liked looking at all the pretty lights. I liked smelling all the evergreens. I even liked setting out my bowl of ornaments and my little ceramic tree with the teensy train that goes round and round its base.

And I kinda didn’t want to put them away.

But put them away I did. Then went and poured myself a bourbon.

The little ceramic tree, before I (sniff) put it away

New York City. January 2023

 

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wombat

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‘Camouflage for kitties. Er, cities.’

“I’d pass the stuffing, but I can’t see you,” I wise-cracked to a Young Relation at the Thanksgiving table this year.

He was wearing a teeshirt in a camouflage pattern, you see. (Or don’t see; hahaha.)

I get my sense of humor — and of the absurd — from my mother, who once famously remarked that she would have bought that set of camo sheets on sale at Target but she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to find her bed.

Look closely; that ornament in front is actually Yours Truly

But back to the Relation in the camo shirt. His was the pattern that one wears while hunting. You know what that looks like; it’s that woodland/jungle pattern that’s not only on teeshirts, but on cargo shorts and leggings, raincoats and totes. Pretty much everything has been “camo’d,” including those sheets on sale at Target. In fact, I’m sticking my neck out and saying that camo print is the young version of animal print. Instead of leopard or zebra, the under-MediCare Fashionista slink around sporting U.S. Woodland or Desert. (See my “At Least it’s not a Dead-Squirrel Stole” for a riff on the Elegantly Mature and their penchant for animal prints.)

In my humble opinion, the only person who ever looked good in this hat is The Child. When she was five.

Incidentally, I asked the Relation — who in fact uses his camo for actual camouflage while deer hunting — about the inherent conflict in wearing camouflage clothing with a fluorescent vest, as hunters do. Wasn’t it counterproductive to work at blending in with the camo, then add that touch of blazing orange? Turns out that deer can’t see orange, he said. How do you know, I couldn’t help but wonder.

Bird hunting needs no camo. Just binoculars — and lots of patience

The other thing I wonder is why they haven’t come up with better camo for cities. See, the Ken & Barbie House is right across the street from the 69th Regiment Armory, and I often see National Guardsmen (and women) striding to and fro wearing camo. Which means they stick out like a sore thumb. If we were attacked, the Enemy would have absolutely no trouble spotting them. So, what is the point of the camo? Why not just dress them in, say, khaki? Or black jeans. Put the New York National Guard in black jeans — or black anything — and, boy would they ever blend in.

The National Guard Armory, right across the street from the K&B House. Lots of brick; not a jungle in sight

But if camo is really important — and I guess it is, since they have patterns for troops that replicate desert and snow as well as jungle and forest — then they should come up with a pattern that blends in with their urban environment — a bricks-and-mortar print, say. Maybe with a grafitti motif.

I’ll end with an explanation of the adorable photo at the top of this post. I had been calling and calling for Wombat so I could stick her in the dreaded cat carrier for the ride back to the City when I finally realized that she was right there — hiding in plain sight. Clever kitty. And those weren’t even “camo sheets.”

Not Wombat this time, but another adorable pet — my Beloved Favorite Sister Laura’s — who knew her camouflage

Amagansett, New York. January 2023

 

 

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Socks

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‘The Child’s footwear phobia, conquered at last?’

It’s been cold here in the Great Northeast. Why, last weekend, the temperature dropped from 51 to 15 in twelve hours. But it’s even colder where Her Childness has been spending the Holidays. She reported twenty-nine below on Christmas Day up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the SIL’s family — bless their rugged little hearts — is based.

Forget the frankincense and myrrh. Somebody bring the Holy Family a space heater

And what has The Child been doing every single day she’s been up there in the Frozen North? Why, running, of course. She made a resolution at the beginning of the year to run every single day, no matter what. And, by golly, she’s kept it. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet has kept her from her appointed running rounds. All year long.

What happens when you run every day — including days when it’s -29

I’m not worried about the running-in-all-weathers. Nope, as a Concerned Parent, I’m just hoping that she’s had an attitude adjustment toward socks. 

See, when Her Childness was an actual child, she hated socks. (Well, except for her Christmas stocking, which you see her brandishing in the picture at the top of this post.) It wasn’t a fashion issue, the hating-sock thing; she was notoriously anti-fashion, preferring to dress with the utmost simplicity. She once rejected a gift tee-shirt because it was embellished with a practically microscopic applique of a flower.

I trust there are socks down there. Somewhere

No, it was the way socks felt. Apparently, they crumpled up and caused great distress to her tender little feet. If I didn’t get them on just right, she’d howl. During the normal course of things this didn’t bother me too much. I’d just skip the socks. Though I did get sharp looks from well-meaning interfering old ladies. “Aren’t her feet cold, dear?” “Well yes. And so is her head, since I can’t keep a hat on her either.”

Now, a mixing bowl on her head? Different story

The problem was school. There was a uniform, which, one would think, would make dressing every day a breeze. But this uniform included socks. Which meant that dressing every day was a battle.

The Child, at prime sock-hating age, dressed in her school uniform. You can’t see them, but there are socks on her feet. I think

Middle Younger Brother Roger can attest to this. Once, after a lovely visit with him and Aunt Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn, we almost missed our flight home — we were going directly from the airport to school — because we couldn’t get the socks to feel right. (Somewhere there is photographic evidence of this; in this long-lost-but-memorable shot, The Child wails while Roger holds aloft the Offending Sock.)

She likes some socks, at least socks on other people. She gave me these as a gift one year

Could antipathy toward socks be an inherited trait? There are some pretty wacky inherited traits. (See “Hands on Clocks, Hands on Hips” for a particularly nutty example.) I wonder because The Child’s great uncle Buddy never ever wore them — not even riding his bike in the dead of winter. (He never drove, either.) Of course it didn’t get down to minus 29 here in Amagansett. But if it did, I betcha, being a Whitmore, he would have stuck to his sockless guns.

A Whitmore Wish to all for a warm — and warm-sock-filled — Holiday Season

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

 

Chilling Effect

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‘The Icebox Cometh. The Refrigerator Taketh.’

Harrison Ford is 80.

Yes, that Heartthrob of the Seventies, he of Han Solo and Indiana Jones fame, is old. Older than me, even.

“Ain’t he neat?” Harrison when he was not old. In my favorite role — that uncredited drag-racing devil in American Graffiti

Even if they hadn’t given his age in this interview I read in the NY Times, he would have given the game away, age-wise, by referring to a certain kitchen appliance as an “icebox.”

Incidentally, Harrison gave the interview to promote a new role of his — playing somebody’s great-great-great uncle — which is also a rather elderly thing to do. But, hey. More power to you, former carpenter-who-made-it-big!

I’m just glad you’re older than me, Harrison. So few people are these days. Well, my mother is, but I get mistaken for her sister. A lot.

“My sister” “My daughter” “My sister” “My daughter” (movie reference!)

But back to “iceboxes.”

Chances are, O Reader, you are too young to remember when these contraptions were called “iceboxes,” much less why. (It had something to do with cooling with actual ice, which came in blocks, delivered by an iceman. Hence The Iceman Cometh.“)

I too am too young to remember iceboxes, thank god. (It’s nice to be too young for something.) Oddly enough, The Dude’s family didn’t have an icebox either, but he calls our SubZero “the icebox” all the time. And he — you guessed it — is younger than me.

Youthful Dude when he was genuinely youthful, yet still younger than me

I do remember that our refrigerator had a very important ancillary function in my childhood household. It was used as sort of a chilling area. No, mom wouldn’t stick a kid in there. But if, say, we’d fight over a toy, that toy would get put “on top of the refrigerator.”

As in, “If you two don’t stop, that cap gun” — yes we owned toy weapons — “is going on top of the refrigerator!” See, the top of the refrigerator was too high for a child to reach, so it was the perfect repository for Things That Were Taken Away From Kids.

Cap guns got put up there. Yo-yos. Sets of jacks, decks of cards. Chocolate Easter Bunnies. Pretty much anything we’d grapple over. Messy or annoying toys went up there too. (Play-Doh and harmonica, I’m talking about you.)

Thank your lucky stars, O Child. If you’d had siblings, that tiara would have ended up on top of the refrigerator for sure

You might be asking, why not just stick these things in a closet or drawer? Well, for one thing, we kids were pretty good at finding even the most well-hidden treasures. (Birthday and Christmas presents were famously “hidden” under the parental bed.) But the most important reason was the inherent reprimand of having something you dearly wanted put in an inaccessible place where you could see it and thus be constantly reminded that you were naughty enough to have had it taken away.

Pretty perfect parenting trick, that. I’d recommend it, but these days refrigerators tend to be built in to a bank of cabinets. So there’s no way to stick something up there in a tauntingly reprimandish way. Oh sure, you could stash that slingshot in the fridge-top cabinet, but if your kid can’t see it and whine to get it back what’s the fun in that?

I’ll end here with a shot of two kids who look like they did get stuck inside the refrigerator — or maybe even an icebox:

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

How much is too much to pay for a party dress?

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‘Read this before handing over your credit card’

Apologies for being (sort of) late with this week’s post. Unless you’ve been living under an undecorated rock, you too have been attending party after holiday party and don’t have a lot of time for relaxing pursuits like blog writing.

Part of the fun of these parties, for me anyway, is dressing up. What’s the fun of going to a party if you can go “casual?” Since I retired, “casual” is how I dress pretty much 24/7. I like a little duding up.

Speaking of “duding up,” here’s his Dudeness looking extremely spiffy in black tie. Dressing up is so easy for guys

I was at a party last week where I admired a woman’s earrings. (Hi, Elizabeth!)  Coincidentally, we were both talking to another woman who was also wearing stunning sparkly earrings. (Hi, Kim!) Turns out they both got them at the same time, from the same jeweler. And they both spent outrageous sums on them. (No, I did not ask how much.)

I’ve worn this fur hat so much it’s now practically free. Read on to see what the heck I mean

Their Spending Guilt prompted me to reassure them with my CPW Theory. Simply put, CPW (Cost Per Wearing) means that the true cost of an item of apparel is not how much money you spend on it. No, the true cost of that item is how much money it costs each time you wear it. In other words, it’s the cost of the item divided by the number of times you wear said item.

This taffeta skirt is the same taffeta skirt in the previous shot of dressed-up peeps in an elevator. The elevator wearing was 22 years ago. But there was a glitch this last time: read “Skirting the Issue” to find out what it was

Say you spend $500 for a coat. (Is this expensive? It’s been years since I bought a coat.) Anyway. If you pay 500 bucks for a coat and wear it once, well that coat cost $500. But you usually don’t wear a coat just once, do you? I have a black plaid Burberry that I’ve owned for 20 years that I’ve worn, oh gosh, 20 years. That’s 20 winters at 4 months a winter at 4 weeks per month times 3 days a week. That’s 960 times. Even if that coat cost a thousand bucks — which it didn’t; I got it on sale — its true cost is about a buck a wearing.

Too bad you can’t see the rest of the Burberry coat here. Trust me, it’s a keeper

On the other hand, say you pay a mere pittance for something like a bargain at Target or TJ Maxx. Something like a spangly top for $20. (Yes, I have done this.) I fell for the spangly top, wore it once, then gave it away. It was sort of itchy and hot, and very very spangly. So guess what? According to the CPW Theory, that was not a cheap top. It cost me $20 per wearing. So. More expensive than the Burberry.

(Notice that I am wearing a sort of spangly top in the photo of The Child and Me admiring ourselves in the mirror while drinking Birthday Veuve. That’s not the top. This one I got on e-Bay. For 80 bucks. So far I’ve worn it twice. But it’ll get out there again. You’ll see.)

The only downside to practicing CPW is that, if you wear an item enough, people start to recognize it. As in, “Oh! I remember you — I recognize that dress.” Which happened with this one. So I finally gave it away

Back to that Burberry coat for a sec. Every time I wear it, I get a compliment. So there’s that. In fact, I told my earring-bedecked friends that even if they didn’t wear those pricey earrings lots and lots of times, they could modify the CPW Theory to be Compliment Per Wearing. So. Still a good investment, I say.

I’ll close with the ultimate in CPW, as practiced by the one and only Child.

New York City. December 2022

“I can’t believe I read the whole thing.”

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‘Literary taste: The Food Theory of Books’

I’ve actually written about this before — how books are like food. Check out my fifth-ever post from (gasp) 2014. I called it “Tolstoy is So Tasty,” because, like beets, I didn’t know how delicious War and Peace would be until I actually tried it.

It’s no War and Peace, but this book was also waaaay more delicious than you’d think (!)

But tonight I am going to an event featuring Andre Soltner, he of the late lamented Lutece fame, and I got to thinking about this whole topic — how reading is a lot like eating — and decided to give it another go. (Also, it’s the Christmas season, and though I do very little decorating — see “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” — and send absolutely no cards, I have been holiday-busy, mainly going to a lot of holiday-themed events. Which involves little work other than dressing up, but does make me blog-lazy, to say the least.)

Holiday Decorating, Ken & Barbie House style

So. In “Tolstoy is So Tasty”, I explain how some books are like a good dinner: satisfying, filling, memorable. As a bonus, they inspire conversation.

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“I want to see what I’m eating”

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‘Let there be light. Very bright light.’

We were about to introduce “Tell No One,” a really great multi-watchable movie (I’ve seen it at least a dozen times) to our multi-Thanksgivingable pals Jim and Phyllis (they’ve been Turkey Guests at least 20 times) when Jim says, “I think we could dim those lights, can’t we?”

Jim, bless his dimmer-loving heart, just secured a Thanksgiving invitation for at least the next 20 years. Or as long as I can lift a 20-pound turkey. (Probably not 20 years, but one can hope.)

That’s Jim (in red shirt) describing a cheese. (Note turned-off ceiling lights) Of course, it is still daytime. Barely

See, I hate bright lights. Especially bright ceiling lights. In fact, if it were up to me, there would be no ceiling lights. Just discreetly placed table lamps. Maybe a standing lamp here and there.

I am particularly fond of cabinet lighting, like this in the Ken & Barbie House *sigh*

But guess who loves lights, the brighter the better? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

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Stuffing and Nonsense

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‘Nothing’s on the back burner this week’

My cart at the IGA this morning actually inspired comment from my fellow shoppers. “Wow, you sure have a lot of cooking to do!” (“That I do, that I do.”) “You must be expecting a crowd!” (“Not so many. But they’re young!”) And my favorite: “Such gorgeous short ribs. So meaty!” (Sage nod.)

What happens to 15 nice meaty short ribs. I have a batch cooling right now. This is what I serve Friday when everyone’s sick and tired of turkey

See, not only did I have a twenty-pound turkey propped up in the cart’s kiddie seat, but I had a Saran-Wrapped slab of fifteen big old beef short ribs balanced on top. The rest of the cart was filled with various and sundry: Granny Smith apples (for the pies), cranberries (for the sauce and the pies), plus breads, milks, tons of deli meats and loads of snacks to keep the Young’ns at bay. (Note: this was just the perishable stuff. I’d shopped for all the nonperishable stuff on Sunday.)

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The birthdays just fly on by

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‘What happened to “You sure don’t look it!”?’

I’ve whined (er, written) about birthdays before. (Thank you, Loyal Readers, for your patience with my elderly musings: “Sixteen Candles. Plus Another Sixteen. Or So.” “All Saints’ (Birth)Day.”  “Skirting the Issue.” There are way too many — kind of like the number of candles on my cake.)

A scene from one of many random birthday celebrations. I believe this one was not actually mine — I was just trying on the tiara for size

I’m actually grateful for reaching the astounding age that I have reached — especially when I consider the alternative. One of our friends, even older than I, has a motto: “Every day above ground is a good day,” with which I heartily concur.

Having a very nice time above ground with a tiara and a glam group

Last year I celebrated a Landmark Birthday — seventy, it was, for heaven’s sakes — with a fancy party and all the glam trimmings. I was riding high on birthday glory when — about a week later, it felt like — I turned seventy-one.

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