“Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

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‘Words of Wisdom from One Who Is Older Than Dirt’

Yesterday I was with some super-swell women friends at a really nice Christmas lunch — the kind of Christmas lunch where your plate has a festive little foil-wrapped treat placed right there next to your fork by your thoughtful holiday hostess.

Well. The oh-so-elegant and beautifully-dressed woman seated next to me reached right for her shiny red-and-green-befoiled peppermint bark, unwrapped it, and ate it — not only before eating her lunch, but before she’d even ordered.

I must say that I was very impressed.

See, I’m the kind of person who promised myself when I was young that when I finally grew up I would eat dessert first and have sex every chance I got.

Needless to say, I haven’t kept either promise. Not very well, anyway.

The not-eating-dessert-first part had to do with wanting to maintain a svelte silhouette, something that mattered to me more as a matter of economics than vanity. I reasoned that, if I didn’t change size, then I wouldn’t have to go shopping. (I hate to shop, not having inherited the Shopping Gene from my loves-to-shop mother.) This worked pretty well for years and years. It got so that people recognized me from party to party not because they remembered my name or even my face — but because they remembered my dress.

Yes, I still have that dress. It has somehow escaped the fate of some of my other kept-forever items. It seems that, like many Women My Age, my weight has, well, redistributed itself. I have had to part with many choice items because either I can’t zip them or can’t breathe once zipped. The Child has become the beneficiary of this cruel twist of fate. Recently she scored a pair of black lace trousers.

Next up for grabs: the red satin sheath that’s under this apron. (The apron doesn’t zip, so I’m keeping it)

As for the having-sex-every-chance-I-got promise, well. I will kindly spare you any details. But you readers who, like me, have been married for a longer age than the age you were when you got married will totally get what I’m talking about.

I will tell you that I had rather a late start, sex wise. In fact, I didn’t even know about sex until very late in the game. I was so remarkably naive that I distinctly remember convincing my Younger Cousin Marcia that she couldn’t possibly be right about the carnal act she had just breathlessly described to me.

That’s me, left, leading the Christmas lineup of Peterson Cousins. Marcia-Who-Knew-About-Sex is third in line, right after my Oldest Younger Brother Scott

“Seriously, Marcia. You think your mom and dad would do that?!? Take it from me, someone has given you some very bad information.”

I think I was in high school at the time. Or at least junior high.

Me in college. Yup. I’m thinking I knew by this point

So. Where am I going with all this? Let’s start with the part about Life being Short. I won’t belabor this, but trust me when I say that it feels like it took about ten minutes to go from Actual Child to Current Edition.

Life feels so darned short to me now that I’ve started saying things like: “No, we don’t really need the new deck that lasts thirty years. The ten-year version will work just fine.” And The Dude is even worse than I am. When asked why we go on those tropical birding adventures to crazy places like the Upper Reaches of the Amazon or the Marshes of Uganda, he answers, “We need to go while we still can.”

Me, riding in a boat in Uganda — because I still can

Anyway. Take it from me, One Who Is Older Than Dirt, go ahead and reach for that dessert or that mate or whatever it is that floats your perhaps-Amazonian boat. You still have plenty of time.

What I’ll be grabbing instead of dessert

New York City. December 2018

“Is that for me?”

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‘A post about knitting, of all things’

What with Holiday Nonsense and all, my stats’ll probably be in the basement this week anyway, so what the heck — I’ll write about knitting.

Yes, knitting.

Knitting is actually a rather comfy cozy thing to do, especially when it’s cold out and you’re sitting in front of a roaring fire.

Somebody enjoying a roaring fire while not knitting

But I’ve also done my share of knitting elsewhere. I used to do a lot of it on TV commercial shoots. See, on shoots they have this thing called “craft services”, which is basically a big ole table loaded with every kind of tempting snack and/or treat you can think of: chips, cheeses, little pastries and sandwiches, candies of all types, including bowls and bowls of M&Ms. Our producer on a Hershey shoot once got in hot water by stocking M&Ms instead of Reese’s Pieces, which was the client’s product. She had to explain that the client on that particular Hershey shoot had requested the M&Ms.

Here I am, knitting on the beach, for heaven’s sakes

You can read about some pretty funny TV shoot adventures by clicking on Adland Lore in the sidebar. I highly recommend “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On”.  And no, I’m not the only one on shoots who does some knitting to keep her paws away from that craft services table. I know of several movie stars who do that, too.

Knitting mittens on Amtrak. A woman passing in the aisle stopped and tried one on. Read more about this in “The A-Hole Car”

So how did I get into knitting, you might be asking. (Or not.) Well, it wasn’t my Mom, even though you can see us both companionably wielding our needles in the photo at the top of this post.

Mom taught me many wonderful things, but she wasn’t the one who taught me how to knit. (I’m thinking that having your mom teach you to knit would be sort of like having your husband teach you how to drive a stick.) My dear Aunt Shirley — the one who used to hold me on her lap and lovingly brush my hair while wishing out loud that she had a daughter — was the one who taught me.

That’s my Knitting Teacher, Aunt Shirley, the woman on the right next to Aunt M, holding one of the two terrific sons she had before finally having a daughter

I don’t have a photo of it, but I remember that the first sweater I knit was purple and it was for — ahem — myself. I stored it in non-sweater season in a dresser drawer — the same dresser drawer where I had hidden a huge lollipop my Dad (I think) had bought for me at the County Fair. No, my brothers did not find it, but a family of mice sure did. They made a comfy rodent condo out of my sweater and lived off that lollipop for months.

Not the mouse fodder sweater, but one I knit for The Child featuring non-lollipop-eating reindeer

Oh, once in a while I knit something for myself, but most of the sweaters I’ve produced over the years have been for babies. In fact, I wish I had a nickel for every baby sweater I’ve whipped up. Many, of course, were for my own personal baby.

But I loved knitting baby sweaters so much that I’d knit one for pretty much any random baby with whose parents I had some sort of fond relationship.

I knit little bitty garments for siblings’ babies, cousins’ babies, and friends’ babies, but also co-workers’ babies and even The Child’s teachers’ babies.

I once knit two sweaters for our contractor. He had twins

But then there was, forgive the pun (or not) a Baby Gap. That first batch of infants grew too big — and too picky — for me to knit for them. Trust me, it’s heartbreaking to spend all that time — even if it’s not that much time for a teensy sweater — and find out the recipient won’t wear it.

The Child had a choice about the piano. But not about wearing that sweater

So I hung up my needles and turned to needlepoint. (Which is waaaay more boring to write about than knitting, so I will spare you.) And then, right about the time my couches and chairs just couldn’t hold another needlepointed anything, there was a new baby boom.

Yup. That first batch of babies started having babies. And I dusted off my needles and started up with the knitting again.

So, while I don’t have any grandchildren myself, I’ve whipped up sweaters for Other People’s Grandchildren — the babies of those babies. And, if I ever have one of my own, my own Personal GrandKid will get all The Child’s sweaters as a Starter Kit (yes, I’ve carefully preserved each and every one).

Some Truly Remarkable and Thoughtful Parents even send a video:

Okay, about now you may be wondering (or not) why I haven’t mentioned knitting sweaters for The Dude. Well. The Dude used to be my prime sweater-getter. I started with an argyle vest when we were dating and worked my way through vee-neck pullovers (one of which, if I recall correctly, is what I was knitting in that photo taken on the beach) all the way up to shawl-collared mohair delights with set-in pockets, no less. My favorite of these was a camel-colored Ward Cleaver style number enhanced with little camel-emblazoned leather buttons.

In fact, I knit The Dude so many sweaters that, to this day, whenever he sees me knitting anything he will ask “Is that for me?

Yup. He even asked if this little confection was “for me”. Sad note here: the recipient of this confection never wrote to thank me. (Consider yourself outed if you read my blog and see this. Though if you read my blog, I just might forgive you)

So why don’t I knit sweaters for His Dudeness anymore? Well, for the simple fact that he never ever wears them. And why, if they are indeed so handsome and delightful, does he not wear them?

Because, bless his practical heart, he discovered Polar fleece.

New York City. December 2018

“They’re just blankety-blank-blank so good!”

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‘Some Christmas Movies you might not know about’

Well. Another Thanksgiving’s been added to the Memory Bank. The leftovers are long gone, and Mr. Turkey himself has been stripped down to his carcass, the broth boiled from his very bones.

Remains of the Pie. This was a couple of years ago. As you can see, I had not yet perfected my crust

And, as much as I adore my Absolute Favorite Holiday, I honestly can’t look another sweet potato or cranberry in the eye. I don’t even want more pie.

But am I ready to move on to Christmas? Starbucks certainly seems to think so. (Half an hour ago, there was Judy Garland on the speakers warbling “I’ll be home for Christmas” as Miss Barista handed me my carefully non-religious “Holiday”-themed vente latte.)

In spite of an email inbox crammed with cyber deals, I’m so not ready to shop for Christmas. And even though my building lobby is tinseled and lit, I’m not ready to decorate for Christmas either. And thank goodness I know no small children, because I am certainly not ready to bake for Christmas. (Nor will I ever be, unless and until some small children reappear in my life.)

But I am ready to dig into my stash of Christmas movies. I’m the kind of person who really gets into Christmas Movies, even though, as I’ve made perfectly clear by now, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’d probably like Thanksgiving Movies even more — but, as far as I know, there aren’t any. Well, except for “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles”. And, sorry. As much as I adore Steve Martin (I even had a date with him once, honest) it just doesn’t crack me up as much as, say, “Home Alone”.

“Home Alone” — hilarious. “Love Actually” — hilarious, raunchy, and schmaltzy too

And of course there’s “Love Actually”, which I love, actually. I have whole sections of that one memorized. True, there are some unforgivably schmaltzy parts (that cringeworthy wedding subplot featuring a mouth-breathing Keira Knightly), but I never tire of Colin, God of Sex, telling the caterer that the teensy carrot hors d’oeuvres look like dead baby’s fingers. My kind of humor, that.

Der Bingle, Der Kringle, and that’s Charlie Brown up there in the corner

Now, I’m not going to waste your time extolling the virtues of “White Christmas” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or even “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. (Notice that I do not mention “It’s a Wonderful Life”; I honestly do not think it’s a wonderful movie. Waaaay too sappy for me.)

The Child’s “Miracle Moment”. No, I did not take this photo myself. In fact, I did not even take her to see Santa myself

Rather, I’d like to call your attention to some Christmas Movies you just might not know about. Like “The Apartment”. This one has an utterly marvelous and adorable very young Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon wearing a funny bowler hat to look older and Fred McMurray as the villain, for Pete’s sakes. I dare you to watch it and not cry at the end when Miss Kubelic tells C. C. Baxter to “shut up and deal”.

And how about “Die Hard”? It’s totally a Christmas Movie. With not one drippy drop of schmaltz. And if you’re not a Bruce Willis Fan (which how could you not be?) there’s Alan Rickman. I rest my case.

Christmas sans schmatlz

Last, and certainly not least, there’s the Christmas Movie from which my title takes its quote. Or something like that. And this is “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”.

A Christmas Carol sampler of sorts. That’s Mr. Magoo front and center

Now “A Christmas Carol” has been done, and done to death. There are at least two “serious” versions, the only one of which I can abide is the Alistair Sim One, shown above. But if I have to watch Tiny Tim, watching him as a Muppet is much less cringe-inducing. And he most certainly is in “The Muppet Christmas Carol”. In fact, the only human in this one is a very uncomfortable-looking Michael Caine. (He must have had a car payment to make.) But it’s worth watching him woodenly interact with puppets to see the Muppet Mice sing “Heatwave”.

But back to Mr. Magoo and his Carol. This was — and still is, I’m thinking — my mother’s Favorite Christmas Movie. Back in the Olden Days we could only watch it when it came on TV. We would scour the TV Guide for its seasonal appearances, and lie on our stomachs on the wall-to-wall carpeting, devouring washtubs of home-popped popcorn (courtesy Youngest Younger Brother Doug, who could barely reach the stove but was still the best corn popper in the family) and/or giant cereal bowls of ice cream, and watch Mr. Magoo do his Scrooge Thing.

What we used to do when we weren’t watching Christmas Movies on TV. That’s popcorn-making Doug on the right

But then a few years ago my Middle Younger Brother Roger performed a Christmas Miracle and found my Mom a copy of the movie on videotape. Which meant that she could watch it any time she wanted. Score, Roger! Best gift ever. And this is the scene she loved best. Which, of course, this being the Age of the Internet, took me just a few clicks on YouTube to find for your viewing pleasure:

Well. That certainly got me in the Christmas Mood. Maybe I’ll get my decorations out. Or not.

Christmas decor, chez nous. The seasonal Switching of the Cocktail Napkins

New York City. November 2018

My breast is in no need of a rub, thank you very much

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‘When it comes to turkey, isn’t predictability the point?’

I’m sitting here watching raindrops pelt my newly-washed windows while consoling myself with yet another cup of coffee. I just got back from the IGA, where there were no brussels sprouts to be had. Me, noticing empty bin: “No brussels sprouts?” Store employee, noticing panicky face: “Later, Miss. (She gets points for that “Miss”.) We are waiting for the truck.”

But I did get Mr. Turkey. And he looks mighty fine indeed. Speaking of fresh turkey, did I ever tell you about the time The Dude’s Dad ordered one, then put it in the freezer? We had hamburger and cranberry sauce that Thanksgiving.

On my Quest for the Perfect Piecrust

Anyway. Yesterday, I was scouring my sources for the Very Best Piecrust Recipe, which to me is like the Holy Grail. (No matter how many times I make piecrust, I’m constantly on a quest for a Better Way. The last couple of years I’ve been adding vodka; not sure if it makes a difference, but it’s sure more fun.) Continue reading

“Open mouth, insert foot”

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‘Questions my mother taught me just not to ask’

Back when I was an Advertising Upstart in Kansas City, I was appointed one of a panel of judges for a creative show. A “creative show”, for those of you not familiar with the Ad Biz, is where Ad People get together to award each other prizes for their work; the “work” being the ads that they come up with for their clients.

Now, I don’t know if agencies still do this sort of thing, but back then these were not only occasions for self-congratulation, they were opportunities for a whole hell of a lot of partying. Sigh. Those were the days.

Me, back when I was judging creative shows and sampling my own feet

Anyway. There I was, a freshly-minted Advertising Judge, on my way to the judging venue, which was some hotel in, I think, Omaha. I get on the elevator where I see a woman about my age dressed in slacks and a sort of tent-shaped top. So I say to her (just being polite, you know), “When is your baby due?” Well. If looks could kill, I’d have been dead for more than thirty years now. “I am not pregnant,” she spit through clenched teeth, then swirled her tent-topped self and turned to face the elevator doors. I swear I could see smoke coming out of her ears. Continue reading

We drink milk, and we don’t own a cow

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‘How I narrowly escaped a life in Florida’

Last week I had a birthday. Which is all well and good, especially since I am rather fond of drinking champagne and having people sing to me. But I’ve gotten to the age where it feels like every week I’m having another darned birthday. The pages on my calendar seem to be flashing by like one of those flip books.

It doesn’t help matters that my friends are moving to Florida. They’re buying golf clubs and boats and condos with a spare room for the grandkids. Why, just last week we bridge buddies bade good-bye to one of our number who was moving to some place called Jupiter. It’s a place in Florida, not a planet. Though it might as well be, since she won’t be able to make our weekly bridge games.

Visiting friends in Florida a couple of years ago. We were there for — you guessed it — a birthday

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Florida. Well, except for the fact that there are no sidewalks, people bank their turns in their huge boatlike cars, and there are bugs big as dogs. I’m sure Florida has some fine qualities. In fact, what with all those friends fleeing southward it’s starting to look kind of good to me. Continue reading

“Let me go! I want my Mommy!”

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‘The time The Dude (almost) got arrested for Childnapping’

I once took a crack at a funny story about dentistry. (You can chuckle at the result — or not — by clicking on “Is it safe?”) So I thought a humorous take on kidnapping might be worth a shot.

See, you wouldn’t know it from the idyllic father-daughter-on-the-beach photo at the top of this story, but one time The Child was screaming at the top of her lungs (in public!) for The Dude to unhand her.

Scream her lungs out? This little Sweetheart?

We were on a trip at the time, to one of The Dude’s ophthalmology meetings. The American Academy of Ophthalmology, to be specific. This outfit holds these in a different city every year. Nowadays The Dude and I make it a point to go to the “good” cities (Yay, New Orleans and Las Vegas!) and avoid the “bad” ones (Sorry, all-paved-over Atlanta and Disney-fied Orlando). That year the meeting was in San Francisco, and it was the first time we’d go as a family. (And the last, it turned out.) Continue reading

The first time The Child rode the subway

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‘Featuring a darned good “Lutheran Lie”, if I do say so myself’

First thing Monday morning I took part in a nature walk in Central Park. Our little group was listening, rapt, to our leader, an architectural historian no less, when a rat the size of a healthy young chihuahua weaved its way between our collective feet and disappeared under an ornamental shrub.

Me, the morning after my Close Encounter of the Rattus Kind. (Those are actual dogs frolicking in the background)

No one flinched. Though our leader, after a beat, did say, “They’re okay off-leash until 9:00.” Continue reading

Wedding Belles

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‘What’s not to like about a wedding?’

In my humble opinion, weddings are simply the best parties ever. You get to dress up, eat free food, drink free wine, and dance like a crazy person. All for the price of a wedding gift.

I can honestly say that I have never met a wedding I didn’t like. I’ve been to weddings in old New England Churches that smelled like mold (the churches, not the weddings), “hip” weddings with folksy preachers and awful guitar playing, weddings where the proceedings were so thoroughly photographed and filmed that you almost couldn’t see what was happening, weddings in back yards and on lawns and even involving hot dog stands (that would be mine to The Dude). And I’ve enjoyed each and every one.

“I Sabrett you to be my lawful wedded husband”

I even went to a wedding in the Vatican, which was pretty darned spectacular. That one got its own story, “La Dolce Vita and Me”, which you might enjoy reading. (Britney Spears makes an appearance — though, sadly, not the Pope.) Continue reading

Driving the Unicorn

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‘I’ve never bought a car. Not a new one, anyway.’

A couple of weeks ago I revealed to all and sundry that I have never, in all my grownup life, bought a couch. (See the aptly-named “I have never bought a couch” for deets.) Not buying a couch, I mused, meant that I’m probably not really a grownup.

Well, today I’m going to admit that I have never bought a car, either. Well, I have bought a car — an old Austin America, which I’ll tell you about in a sec — but I’ve never bought a new car. Where you go in a showroom and talk to a car dealer. You know, like that guy Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo”.

I remember going to the showroom with my whole family to buy this Ford station wagon. It was brown and cream and smelled amazing

I got to thinking about this whole new-car thing because we just got back from our annual Best-Friends-in-the-Catskills Visit. (See “Take me home, Country Road” for a nice tale about them.) Said Best Friends always have a new car — they lease a brand-new Mercedes every year. (Something to do with business or some such.) Continue reading