Spring is in sight and I’m bursting with anticipation for my favorite bloom. And I don’t mean crocuses or daffodils. My vernal blossom of choice is that other colorful perennial: the giant “Tag Sale” signs that crop up everywhere with the first thaw.
I became a casual tag sale shopper when my kids were small. I’d drive around with toddlers dozing in the backseat, lazily previewing the goods and stopping only when something caught my attention. Yard sales were my secret source for books, DVDs, toys and even the occasional piece of child furniture. My gang still uses a set of wooden chairs and craft table from a high-end chain that I picked up for $40.
My true addiction, however, kicked in about five years ago. And for that, I blame the lovely Australian family in our neighborhood who spent two decades expensively decorating their home only to move back Down Under for good. They were selling ALL, and I bought it. Lamps, tables, furniture, decorative pillows, window treatments storage units all found a new home with yours truly—snapped up for a fraction of their actual cost. It was the mother lode of tag sales, the proverbial big score that kept me going back for more. (more…)
It’s taken me years to publicly admit this but here goes: I’m a napper. That’s right. Almost every day, at some point between 1 and 3 p.m., I sneak off and lie down for an hour of delicious, refreshing sleep.
In our go-go culture, where busyness is often viewed as a badge of honor, my nap habit sometimes feels like a moral failing. I have had friends and acquaintances who–upon hearing of my snoozes–offer remarks such as, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly rest during the day, I just have too much going on,” or “You’re so fortunate that you can find time to relax.” As if I’m lying around dozing and eating bon-bons all day.
True, I don’t work a full-time office job. But I get up before five a.m. and with work, kids, pets, husband, volunteering at school and keeping my household running, I barely sit down. Fast forward to three p.m., and I’m on the go again, supervising homework, more volunteering at school and church, and feeding and chauffeuring children ‘til well past 9 o’clock at night. Suffice it say, I’m no slacker. And I need to nap…with no apologies.
It turns out I’m not alone. Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Salvador Dali (imagine his dreams!) were all devoted nappers. And study after study extols the benefits of a brief nap. (more…)
Home renovation projects really do take on a life of their own.
First allow me to note that, within a seven-year period, my husband and I moved three times–all in the same town. We weren’t house flippers or wannabe real estate moguls; we just needed the space for our growing family. Adding on to our homes was never really a consideration; on some level we both knew we’d crack under the strain of construction. It was safer to call the realtor and start packing.
Fast forward to us happily ensconced in our current home, which is roomy enough for our family of five. My grandmother had left us a small sum of money and we decided to use it to re-do a space in the house in her memory.
We targeted the mudroom. Found in lots of homes here in the Northeast, mudrooms are areas between the garage and house designed to store coats, boots, shoes and, of course, backpacks. Ours did triple duty—storage, laundry and makeshift pantry–and it was a disaster. Not to mention a tripping hazard. We decided to reclaim the space with shelves and cubbies for our gear, a homework desk, and, at last, a proper pantry. Our contractor friend drew up plans we loved at a price that fit our budget.
There was only one problem…the washer and dryer had to be moved. And this is where–as I’m fairly certain it always does with construction–one thing led to another. (more…)
I miss the good old days of airline tickets.
Trust me, I’m a huge fan of technology. The Internet delivers loads of convenience and general awesomeness to life but, in my view, the demise of paper tickets is hardly one of its crowning achievements.
Getting that sleek packet of tickets all lined up in their colorful folder and stapled to my itinerary was always a highlight of trip planning. In the weeks and months prior to departure, I’d take them out of the drawer and gaze upon them, attempting with my layman’s eye to decipher the mysterious codes and hieroglyphics that marked my coming adventure. It made me feel like I was in the Golden Age of Air Travel…and that excitement lay just around the corner. Somehow, calling up my flight confirmation email on the smart phone just doesn’t deliver that same thrill.
And right about now, I’d clutch them to my chest and tuck them under my pillow at night, if only… (more…)
I’m so lucky to have my friend, Stacey. While being one of the sweetest people I know, she has an uncanny ability to muscle me out of my comfort zone in all the best ways.
I met Stacey when our oldest sons (now 14) were babies. In my postpartum haze, I couldn’t believe that anyone with a newborn could possibly be so outgoing and friendly. Who had the time? Working three days a week and taking care of a husband and a baby sapped me to the core. I shuffled through my days in a fog of feedings, diapers and computer monitors.
But Stacey reached out time and again with invitations for walks, playdates and coffee. She introduced me to her friends, and encouraged me to join not one but two moms’ groups. I, of course, argued that I didn’t have time for such things; ultimately her persistence won out, and her efforts helped me climb out of my new-mom rut.
Over the years, our friendship grew. We each went on to have two more children, boys and then girls, all of whom matched up in age. She and her brood have become treasured friends, more like family. (more…)
When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of my family. Every year we celebrate together…my husband always writes me a beautiful card that makes my heart skip a beat, and leaves a tiny trinket or treasure on my pillow. And, of course, I absolutely melt over the sweet little handprint Valentines and drawings the kids make for me. I’m such a softie.
But there was a time, back in my single gal 20’s, when Valentine’s Day wasn’t all hearts and flowers. It seemed like the whole world had a sweetheart but me. When February 14 rolled around, I wanted to pull up the covers and wallow in my lonely bed all day.
Every year, though, something got me smiling. My Dad would show up with a beautiful card and a big box of candy. In fact, the more miserable I was, the bigger the candy box. I guess he wanted me to know that, no matter what, there was one guy who’d always love me. As time passed, and I built a family of my own, the cards and candy from Dad slowed down. But that’s okay—he got me through the tough times.
Last February, I had the chance to return the favor. My dad went to the hospital for what was meant to be a routine catheterization. He had done all the right things: he was in great shape, worked out daily and ate a Mediterranean diet. But something was fluky on his EKG. It turns out he had six major blockages…he was the proverbial ticking time bomb. So, the day before Valentine’s Day, he underwent a six-hour quintuple bypass surgery to completely rewire his heart. (more…)
You know you’re in an Italian family when somebody gives you cheese as a wedding gift.
That’s exactly what happened to my (understandably baffled) husband and me, when my aunt and uncle presented us with a 20 pound wheel of aged Asiago procured at great cost and effort from the Italian market in Philadelphia.
Never mind that, at the time, we were living in a garage apartment and the cheese occupied fully one-third of our refrigerator. Or the fact that, two weeks after the honeymoon, we moved to my in-laws’ empty house for the winter. All the wedding presents—the china, the crystal, the cookware—got boxed up and shuttled off to storage before I could so much as admire a plate. But the cheese…that came with us.
The following summer, happily ensconced in our first home, I hauled the wheel down to a local shop for grating. Of course, it had already aged for years by that time, so its months of travels with us newlyweds did nothing but enhance the flavor. I actually felt a little pang parting with it. The cheese guy was impressed, and actually asked for a hunk as payment. Afterward, I bagged it up, gave some away and froze the rest, which we enjoyed for more than a year. It was a truly fantastic present. (more…)
After buying approximately 100 holiday gifts for friends and loved ones, just about the last thing I want to do these days is shop.
However, this is the absolute best time to restock my “present closet.” I learned the concept as a kid at my grandmother’s house. The closet on her stair landing served as a magical storeroom perpetually chockablock with goodies. Swing the door open any day of the year and you’d find china and glassware; pretty linens; charming packages of notepaper and journals; and of course, gourmet sweets—all beautifully wrapped and ready to go. All bought on sale. Yes, my grandmother was a shopper with a great eye for a deal. But what she really loved was giving. She never went anywhere without a present…and nobody who came to her home ever left empty handed.
And so, in that spirit, I’ve been journeying out to fill my own shelves. With a little effort and shoe leather, I’ve found some fantastic deals. I picked up some brand-name gloves and board games that I’m putting away for my kids til next Christmas. I also landed some earrings , scarves and headbands—all for literal pennies—to package up with the gift cards my daughter likes to give to her friends at birthdays.
I have to say, I get a special thrill out of finding the gift and decorative items that the stores are practically giving away post-holidays. I got some adorable bottle stoppers for 75 percent off last week. I squirreled a stack of them away ($2 each) to wrap up with the wine I’ll bring to my hosts at parties next December. My other favorite score was a red wood lacquer tray—marked down to nearly nothing because of the color (did they forget that Valentine’s Day is coming?). I grabbed four of those. (more…)
Around this time of year, I get pretty well acquainted with 3 a.m.
I used to be a fantastic sleeper: I went to bed at 11 and woke alert and refreshed at 7. But somewhere in my thirties, all that changed. As Winter approaches, my internal clock goes cuckoo, and I’m up way before dawn.
When it first happened, I thought my enormous holiday to-do list was keeping me awake. But my early December mornings continued well into February. No matter how late I stayed up, my eyes flew open before four a.m. Finally, my brother-in-law, a physician, suggested I might be suffering from a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I had read about “winter blues,” but I didn’t feel down…just exhausted. He explained that my sleep was affected by lack of light; my circadian rhythm—which is responsible for the sleep/wake cycle—was knocked out of whack during the short winter days. (more…)