31 March 2014

Let's Review, Shall We?

I don't know about you, but I'm surprised that it's the last day of March.  I don't know why, specifically, because it's not like it's lasted longer than any other Marches have ... anyway.

Remember this post, where I outlined my goals for March?  I set that list with a certain degree of enthusiasm, and was feeling very confident that I could check things off as the month went along.  Now it's time to review, and I am dismayed to report that the only one of those goals I achieved was enjoying what the month had to offer - my birthday, St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day zeppoles, a long weekend in Rehoboth Beach, etc.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that it all happened that way - but REALLY?

I didn't even come close on any of the other goals - and I have no idea what I was doing instead, which is the real killer.  So I will give it all another try for April:

1.  Get back to more regular exercise.  I signed myself up for a special program at my gym that starts next week, and especially since it required prepayment, I'm likely to actually go!

2.  My Agnes sweater was completely ignored during March, so I would like to get it well underway (and in a perfect world, finished) during April.  I am stating now that if I end up ignoring it all of April, I'm putting it aside until the fall.

3.  Clean out a closet, and get rid of things that can't be repaired and donate things no longer worn.

4.  Make/fix something using my sewing machine.  I have hand-sewing repair to make, but I need to clean up the junk piled on top of the machine, and actually use it!

I thought about adding another goal, as I like the idea of five things for the month.  But until I can get at least one more thing off the list above, I'll stick with this group of repeats.

So, farewell, March - thanks for the fun things!

26 March 2014

Mega Decisions

If you are a book reader or a book lover, you may have seen this article in today's New York Times.  It's a sign of the times in big cities (and probably elsewhere) that rents are ridiculous, and some businesses have a hard time staying put.  In this case, the article is about bookstores, which are one of my particular loves.

These days, too many places are full of "mega" stores, or chains that everyone knows.   I will admit that sometimes, I'm glad to see a Starbucks in a strange town, because I know exactly what I will get there.  I'm not a big coffee drinker, but when I do have a cup of coffee, I'm pretty picky about it.  However, a strange town without a Starbucks is also fine, and there's always the chance I will find something better than I could have ever imagined.  Even here in Philadelphia, there are places with wonderful coffee that are not national chains.  I would be depressed if they had to pack up and move because they were priced out of the city.

But - back to bookstores.  For the last decade or more, people have been lamenting the demise of the independent bookstore.  Once Amazon became a habit, and Barnes & Noble moved in, many small, independent, interesting, and quirky bookstores closed because they couldn't match prices.  The MegaBookstores ruined the neighborhood bookstore.

I will be the first one to be appalled that local bookstores are disappearing.  There is nothing more fun to me than walking into a bookstore, to discover its personality, and also find things that I might not ever even think of seeing everywhere else.  To a book nerd like me, *that* is a fun experience.  Fortunately, there are still some of these bookstores in the Philadelphia area, albeit fewer than when we first moved here, many years ago.

But I usually buy books from Barnes & Noble.  And that is related to the real subject of this post.

On a personal level, I would rather go just about anywhere than ever be caught dead in a Walmart.  It's a strictly personal thing - I know plenty of people who shop there regularly, and love it.  Walmart is someplace that to me, represents evil, and the loss of local flavor.  It's one of the "Mega" stores that has ruined local businesses, and even in some cases, made local downtowns ghost towns.

So given my feelings for Walmart, why would I buy books from Barnes & Noble, one of the Mega bookstores that have led to the demise of some local stores?  Well, the short answer is - money.  Ah yes, money, the answer to so many questions.

When we first moved to Philadelphia, it was because The Tim had accepted a job at a scholarly press here, as the Assistant Director.  He had been in publishing at that point for about 15 years, moving up in the ranks, and he loved his work.  We were both thrilled that he had gotten this job.  And for nine years, he worked at it and did really well.  Then the Director left for other pastures, and The Tim was named Acting Director.  This was a job he held for about 18 months, during which the press in question had one of the best years in its history.  But when they hired a permanent Director, he was passed over in favor of someone else.  Unlike me, he was OK with it, and worked to get the new person settled in.  Then we went on vacation, and on our first day back to work, the new person called him in to tell him his job had been eliminated, and he would be finished by the end of that month.

This stunk, big-time.  But after looking into it, we realized that we could not afford to mount a legal fight, especially just for the satisfaction.  So we tried to figure out how to move on.

The Tim found two jobs - one was a part-time bookseller position at Barnes & Noble, the store in question being very close to our house.  The other was as a one year, permanent substitute as a fifth-grade teacher in one of the Philadelphia public schools.  He would teach all day, work in the evenings, and all day on Sundays.  And though he loved the teaching job as much as the bookstore job, in order to do that, he would have had to return to school for his teaching certificate, and then start at the bottom of the pecking order for seniority.  He decided that he wasn't up for that, so signed on at the end of the school year to work full-time at the bookstore.

All of these years later, he is still there.  He is now one of the Assistant Store Managers.  He loves it, and they [apparently] think he does a good job.  Working at Barnes & Noble has meant that we could pay our mortgage, stay in our house, pay our bills, and sometimes take a wonderful vacation.  They have treated him well, providing benefits that are much better than ones I've had from my two most recent employers.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I think it's important to remember, when you read about MegaStores making it more and more difficult for small businesses, that it does not mean evil is taking over our lives.  In the case of bookstores, just because one was local and independent, did not mean it was worthwhile.  But unfortunately, some really good ones got lost, and are still getting lost, in the shuffle, and not always because of high rents, like the article mentioned above is saying.

And I would also ask you to remember that for some of us, MegaStores have been a godsend.  And when you seek out a local store someplace - which you SHOULD DO, remember that we do not live in a perfect world, where the combination of both things would mean we could always find everything, every time we were looking.

For me, most of the time, I'm "staying with the one who brung me."

21 March 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

This week is an easy one, since it's been full of good stuff!

1.  A weekend in Rehoboth Beach, with my niece and her husband.  The Tim, Dug, and I traveled to Rehoboth last weekend, to spend the weekend with my niece, Amanda, and her husband Pat.  They have a house there that belongs to Pat's family. and everyone takes turns staying there.  They had invited us for the weekend.  Saturday it was so nice we sat on the beach most of the day.  Sunday, it was overcast and chilly, and when we left on Monday, there was 8 inches of snow on the ground!

2.  Soda bread.  I always bake either soda bread or brown bread for St. Patrick's Day, and this was a soda bread year.  I have a recipe that I love, mostly because it results in a bread that is yummy, and not dry like some soda breads can be.  Plus it makes four loaves, so we have one right away, give one (or sometimes two) away, freeze one, and one of us takes one to work for a treat for our co-workers.

(Not mine, but mine looks like this ...)

3.  Zeppoles.  March 19 is St. Joseph's Day, and in Philadelphia, that means that one of the old-fashioned Italian bakeries has zeppoles in celebration.  They are so yummy, and when you pick them up at the bakery, there is an old-fashioned music group, with an accordionist playing music.  Such fun!

4.  Knitting group at work.  Thursday was the second meeting of the new knitting and crochet group at work.  It was so nice to have a break with other fiber types, and see what everyone was making.

5.  A letter from a friend.  I have been remiss in my letter-writing lately, but I got a letter from a friend who does not usually write letters, and though it was short and not that newsy, it was exciting to receive.

Have you had a good week?  I sure hope so.  But, even if not, the weekend is here, and I hope it's a good one for everyone - enjoy!

18 March 2014

Division of Labor, Reversed

I do actually have other things to post about, and hopefully life will settle down so that I can post more frequently, but in the meantime, it's only fair that I participate in this week's Ten on Tuesday, since we are to list the reverse of last week's topic.

10 Things You Do That Your Spouse Could Do But Doesn't

1.  Laundry.  I am one of the few people who actually likes to do laundry.  It goes into the washer all dirty and wrinkled, sometimes smelly, and then comes out clean and fresh.  And for me at least, folding laundry appeals to my sense of order, and is somewhat therapeutic.

2.  Scooping the litter box.  Though The Tim does the weekly scrubbing, etc., of said box, I'm the one who scoops every day.

3.  Dusting.  Dusting is like the laundry for me - immediate gratification!

4.  Pay bills.  A few years back, The Tim decided he had a "better" way to pay bills than mine, so he took it over.  Then after a month, it was all mine again.  And we  had to pull money out of savings to even out some things, since part of his way of doing it was to pay an entire bill the day it was received.  Probably works if you are wealthy ...

5.  Keeping up with birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  This has always been something I enjoy doing.

6.  Wrapping gifts.  Well, at least most of them.  The Tim is an excellent wrapper, but often doesn't have the time to do it, particularly at holiday time, when he works 6 days a week.

7.   Cleaning the house.  As previously mentioned, he does the vacuuming and cleans the bathrooms, but I'm the one who does the rest of the cleaning.  (Albeit not as often as I should ...)

8.  Vet appointments for the cats and dog.  He is happy to take them, but it never occurs to him to make an appt for them, unless [God forbid] they are very sick.

9.  Getting rid of clutter that is not specifically his.  I get rid of my clutter, and the overall general clutter that comes from living.  I do not however, touch his, even though it drives me crazy.  But he has a tendency to put important papers in the same pile as Publishers' Clearinghouse mailings, and other than obvious ones, I'm not willing to figure it out.

10.  Decorate for holidays.  A lot of times it's not convenient for his schedule, but for most holidays, I'm the one who gets out most of the decorations and places them.  Though at Christmastime, we do a lot of it together, which is especially nice.


As I mentioned before, we actually do share most things; but as I suspect is the case with a lot of other people, some things just turn out being His and Hers ...

11 March 2014

Division of Labor

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is a funny one (at least to me):

10 Things You Can Do Yourself But Get Your Husband to Do Instead

Now, I know I am lucky, because ever since we have been married, The Tim and I have shared most chores, activities, etc. related to hearth and home.  And since The Tim has strong Felix Unger characteristics (aka he is somewhat of a clean freak - albeit only about certain things), he does some things all of the time because he thinks I don't do it as well.  Which is fine with me.  

In any case, here is my list:

1.  Clean the bathroom.  Apparently this is one of the things I don't do as well.  Though as far as I know, no one has ever died from being in our bathroom when I cleaned it.  But since I hate cleaning the bathroom, it's all his.  

2.  Vacuum.  You guessed it - I also don't do this very well.  Again, I am happy to let him live it up.

3.  Shovel snow.  I will admit, I don't enjoy doing this, but it's not like I can't.  This year, it turned out that every time we got a huge snowstorm, he was either already home on a day off, or got home from work before I did.

4.  Clean the litterboxes.  I have been told that he has "a system" and it's "just easier" for him to do it.  

5.  Wash windows.  Don't ask.  It involves another system.

6.  Scrub floors.  Again, just don't ask.

7.  Wash the car.  I really don't do much with the car, since I don't drive I am only ever a passenger.  But he gets a particular pride out of washing the car HIS WAY, so I stay out of the way altogether on this one.

8.  Give the dog a bath.  He LOVES doing this.  

9.  Prune the trees, roses, etc. when appropriate.

10.  Repairs or painting around the house.  OK, so I don't necessarily know how to do a lot of these things, but the things I do know how to do are usually done by him as well.


You may think from reading this that we must have an immaculate, sparkling home.  You would be wrong.  One of the things I do well is get rid of clutter.  One of the things he does well is create it.  Plus, we have three cats and a dog, so "House Beautiful" is not likely to show up to do a magazine spread on our house anytime soon ... 

07 March 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

Long week, work-wise.  But you know what - ONWARD!

Here's what has stuck with me from the past week.

1.  "Live" Facebook-ing with my family during the Oscars.  Two of my nieces in particular, have a running commentary on FB during awards shows, and the rest of the family joins in, as well as some of their friends.  It is absolutely hilarious, and ridiculous, and the next best thing to being together watching.  (Of course, I signed off to go to bed before it was over.  I was already up past my bedtime as it was!)

2.  Starting a new pair of socks.  So far, I've barely finished the cuff on sock #1, but I love the colors of the yarn, and I like having a pair of socks on the needles, no matter what else I am or am not knitting.

3.  A visit to my dermatologist.  I know, weird, but I really like her, and since she knew I was coming, she brought in some pictures from her son's wedding last fall.  It was at Halloween time, and the bride, groom, and everyone else wore costumes at the reception!  How many people have drs who bring pictures to show?

4.  A compliment from a stranger.  I was walking home from work the other day, and a young man came over to me and said, "Excuse me, but I just wanted to say that those are great glasses."

5.  My new humidifier.  We used to have one, but it died, and we never bothered to get a new one.  A couple of weeks ago, I kept getting truly major nosebleeds, and my dr said that a humidifier would help.  So I got a new one, and not only has it resolved the nosebleed issue, but I've been able to sleep more soundly, I think because I'm not always waking up with a dry nose and throat and having to get a glass of water.

Hopefully you have some good things to remember and enjoy from the past week as well.  Have a really wonderful weekend!