Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moving Along

“Out with the old; in with the new” is the way the saying goes. Spurred on by this recent blog post from Dr. Wayne Dyer and the turning of the year, we rummaged through our closets this afternoon. The result was two bags of clothes destined for donation to charity. The phrase that helps me is: “moving things along in the world”. Of course there’s always more to move along! And I both envy and fear the mantra the uber-organized have adopted of “one thing in, one thing out”. But progress in any degree is good.

May 2010 hold peace, happiness, success, laughter, contentment and good health for us all...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Chuck and I got our H1N1 influenza shots today. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which had been restricting the H1N1 vaccine to high risk groups, opened it to the general public as of December 17th. I had been checking the MassPro Clinic Finder website to find a location near us, which was open to all. Fortunately, I took the advice noted on the website to : “Call any flu clinic listed in the Flu Clinic Finder BEFORE going to get a flu shot to confirm the time and date, and to see if there is any charge.” I called a couple of locations which were listed as “open to all” only to find that they were in fact restricted to town residents. But I finally located one in the North Quabbin town of Orange. The gentleman I spoke with said it was truly open to all, so we decided to drive over.

The Orange flu clinic was well organized. The Clinic Finder site had advised that “Some clinics may bill your health insurance, so please bring your health insurance card with you.” We did and spent a few minutes filling out some paperwork. Then we got in line which shuffled along quickly enough that neither of us got any reading done in the paperback books we had brought along just in case. From arrival to departure it took less than an hour. As we left, the line looked quite short.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's H1N1 Blog: “The amount of flu in the state continues to decline, however, it is important to remember that flu season typically lasts through the spring in New England. Therefore, we continue to encourage everyone to get the H1N1 vaccine and to keep practicing good health hygiene as we ring in the New Year!”

: : In addition to using the MassPro Clinic Finder you can also utilize the Google Map which includes commercial establishments like pharmacy chains that have the H1N1 vaccine available.

: : If you’d like to learn more about seasonal influenza, as well as the H1N1 virus, check out It’s a very good, user-friendly website with a wealth of information.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Turned In My Elf Badge

The hush-hush project which had me working overtime as an elf was a success. I made a photo book for my niece and her husband of their wedding day. When Carrie and Al opened it they were both surprised and happy, which was exactly what we had hoped for. After scads of research (bordering on the obsessive!) which included familiarizing myself with their websites and Googling lots of reviews and testimonials, I settled on Blurb to work with. These days there are a number of self-publishing outfits on the web. Shutterfly seems quite popular, especially in the digital scrapbooking world. But I didn’t want to upload my photographs to their site and then work on-line. Lulu was once almost exclusively text based, but has rapidly expanded their range. MyPublisher struck me as sophisticated as well as full service and was my second choice. But I chose Blurb because their site was welcoming, easy to navigate and intuitive. Plus, I was able to download their “BookSmart” software and work on the book on my computer. They offer templates and pre-made layouts for use. You can also create your own designs and templates. Or use a combination of the two. Blurb’s “BookSmart” software was a little difficult for me to work with initially. But after a couple of false starts and a few trips to their on-line “Help” pages I got it all sorted out. I ended up using some of their templates and creating several of my own. Because the book I made was photo rich, I decided against using any of their decorative layouts.

Once Al and Carrie’s 40 page book was completed I checked and rechecked unto the nth degree. I did follow Blurb’s advice and order just one copy, even though they were running some good pre-Christmas specials. Waiting was difficult! But as soon as it arrived and Chuck and I had a chance to look at it, appreciate the quality and feel the weight of the premium paper we had requested, I went directly to the website and ordered the other copies. Happily, they were offering substantial shipping discounts. Blurb allows you to keep your book “Private” and send folks an invitation link. That flexibility was another selling point for me. Here are some wedding photo books other people have published which will give you an idea of what you can do. I already have lots of ideas for other books I would like to create. And I would definitely use Blurb again.

Monday, December 28, 2009


It began this morning as light flurries. Soon there were squalls. Then, in stillness, came the big, fluffy flakes, filling the sky and drifting down to rest delicately on every surface.

It was lovely.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yiddish Proverb

In freydn iz a yor a tog, in leyden iz a tog a yor.
In happiness a year is like a day,
in suffering a day is like a year.

Translation and transliteration by Marvin Zuckerman and Marion Herbst from “Learning Yiddish In Easy Stages”


I cannot abide Holocaust deniers. I can’t tolerate contemporary revisionist history of a political nature either. Both leave me angry and incredulous. But what tears at my heart is when someone I know personally, turns on a dime and creates an entirely new version of an experience. One day an event is perceived as positive; another day the same event is described in wholly negative terms. I imagine the work involved in reweaving the memories from good to bad is substantial. And I can’t fathom the benefit one would derive from the activity. I only know it saddens me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I used to play Charades frequently. When I was in high school and college my friends and I would play it on a regular basis - but in a very competitive manner. (I once drew “Zbigniew Brzezinski” on my turn!) For many years it was a common activity for us to do as a family at holiday get-togethers. But somehow, over the last several years, as our holiday traditions evolved and locations changed, we just stopped playing. Then yesterday, while we were celebrating Christmas at Al and Carrie’s home, Carrie suggested we play Charades after dinner. Our side of the family immediately agreed. While some members of Al’s family had never played before and needed just a wee bit of persuasion. Soon we had all gathered around the tree in the living room, divided into teams which were approximately “boys against the girls” and were jotting down the books, movies, events, people, objects and animals we wanted the opposing team to act out. The slips of paper were folded and tossed into a red bowl for one team and a yellow colander for the other and we were off.

Goodness gracious, sakes alive it was a complete blast! Because the veterans were rusty and there were lots of newbies, we dispensed with timers. No one kept score and members of the opposing team would sometimes make suggestions to the person acting out the phrase (“Hey, try “sounds like” on the first word.”). Could we have laughed any harder? Could we have screamed and clapped any louder? No and no! Sometimes all we had to do was pantomime the category, gesture the number of words and give the first clue, when a teammate would call out the correct answer. Sometimes a person could be completely flummoxed by trying to communicate a simple thing like “stone wall” - a person like me perhaps! There were a few, well, let’s call them graphic concepts acted out, while still maintaining a PG rating! Although I did find myself explaining a couple of things to my 86 year old mother which, when I woke up Christmas morn’, I had not anticipated!

It was a terrific couple of hours of pure fun which left us hoarse and happy. I have a feeling we’ll be doing this again soon!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Did You Hear Santa’s Sleigh Bells?

I just did!
And some reindeer hooves on the roof too!



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Holiday Tradition

We attended Christmas Revels this afternoon at Harvard’s Sanders Theater in Memorial Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I can’t say it was wonderful, but it was good enough that I’m glad we didn’t miss it. David Coffin was terrific as usual. And Leon Joseph Littlebird and Janice Allen both gave standout performances. Chuck enjoyed it more than I did. But the final number at the end of Part One; “The Lord Of The Dance”, was as exciting and celebratory as ever. So all in all, it was all good.

After the show, we went over to Asmara restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue, also in Cambridge. They continue to serve delicious Ethiopian and Eritrean food. The atmosphere is cozy, the service excellent and the family is always warm and friendly. Over the years we’ve eaten at four (at least) different Ethiopian restaurants in Greater Boston, but Asmara is the only one we keep coming back to. Tonight, the Boneless Chicken in a red pepper sauce was out of this world. Oh, how I wish we lived closer!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From Post To Layout

If you’re like me, and you blog, you chronicle part of your life on the internet. An easy way to make a Digital Scrapbooking layout is to begin with one of your posts. On Thanksgiving I posted a photograph which I had tweaked and changed to sepia tones. I also wrote a list of all the things that happened that day.

Here’s a screen shot of the post:
Today I turned it into a Digi-Scrap Layout.
First I created an 11” x 8.5” landscape “paper” in Photoshop CS3. (I believe everything can be done in Elements.)
I named and saved it as a PSD file.
I also created a Text Edit or Rich Text File (RTF) of the same name where I chronicle the steps of a layout or photo manipulation.
I opened the photo of Chuck and Al carving the turkey and dragged it onto the blank paper.
I sampled some browns out of the photo using the Eyedropper Tool, deepened it and, using Paint Bucket, filled the background.
I then clicked on the photo layer and chose Edit > Stroke I adjusted the color to light cream and chose about a 20 pixel width Outside. I repeated the step choosing about a 25 pixel stroke in black, also Outside.
I then copied the text from my blog post, created a new layer and pasted it in.
For the text, I chose the same cream color as the first stroke on the photo.
I broke out the final line of text and placed it on its own layer.
I did the same for the title, caption and Pink Granite credit.
Finally, I added Drop Shadows of varying degrees to the photo and the text.
I switched on View > Show > Grid and using the Move Tool and the keyboard arrow keys, I oonched the various layers of text and the photo into what I felt was a pleasing alignment.
Once I was satisfied, I saved the file - as I had been doing throughout!
I used Image > Duplicate and saved the new file with COPY at the end of the name.
On that copy, I used Layer > Flatten Image and then saved it as a JPG file.
On my computer I created a new folder called “Thanksgiving 2009” and dropped the PSD file, the RTF file and the JPG into it.
Here’s how it turned out:

Original photo, manipulation and layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Fonts: Hypatia Sans Pro from Adobe and Hans Hand from DaFont. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Shortest/Longest Day

To everyone in the Northern Hemisphere

Happy Winter Solstice!

And to everyone in the Southern Hemisphere

Happy Summer Solstice!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What He Said

Thank you Charlie Pierce for writing what had been ricocheting incoherently around in my mind, about Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Bishop Thomas Tobin. It’s pithy and well worth the quick read.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The holiday cards are continuing to be delivered to our mailbox by the fine letter carriers of the United States Postal Service. Some days, if a package is also being delivered, we hear the sound of tires on gravel. Then a quick beep-beep of our letter carrier’s car horn as she zips up the driveway to make the hand off in person. Service - you can’t beat it!

Nor can you beat the holiday cards. (I say “holiday” because it begins with Thanksgiving, continues through Chanukah and into Christmas. We even received a New Year’s card once and the occasional Valentine in February. So “holiday” is an accurate term, not a salvo in the mythical “War on Christmas”!) We love opening the cards from family and friends and folks we do business with. It’s fun to be remembered, to hear from people, see how the kids have grown via photo cards and marvel at all the beauty and creativity that goes into the cards. I’ve been making greeting cards for nearly two decades so I love to see a truly beautiful one.

We even enjoy the holiday letters - well, some of them - some of the time! They seem to fall into three categories:
1. Breezy, brief updates on the family; mostly good news but even handed and not self aggrandizing.
2. We did it all, saw it all, bought it all; we’re fabulous and this letter is designed to make you green with envy.
3. Our lives suck pond water, but we shall soldier on.
Only holiday letter #1 should ever be written and mailed. Just one holiday letter recipient’s opinion...

So buy a card or make a card. Sign it, address it, stick a stamp on it and drop it into the mail. The addressee is sure to be tickled pink!

Friday, December 18, 2009


Last year, in the wake of the ice storm, we layered the winter quilt over the summer quilt in an effort to keep our teeth from chattering in a cold, dark house. This year, an early cold snap had us buttoning up and dropping storm windows. But before we could make the switch to the winter quilt, in came the unseasonably warm weather. That was a treat and a half - especially for hanging laundry on the clothesline. It was also perfect weather for Chuck to string the LED lights up outside. But single digit temperatures over the last few days meant I had to face the reality of winter. So the big winter-weight down quilt is now on the bed. The cats are trying to adjust. When they jump up onto the bed - which was already quite tall - they are not as graceful as they normally are. They come up a bit short, then grab on and scramble up the last couple of inches. They walk gingerly, awkwardly across it, surprised that their paws continue to sink into the plentiful poofiness. Once they regain their footing (and their dignity), they curl up contentedly - and warmly.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

F to G

I need to thank Chuck (BFF/Hero/Wonder Hubby). I finished designing the Christmas cards and managed to get them all printed. But it was not without a few hiccups. Each card has to be run through the printer a total of three times - cover art, inside greeting and credit on the back. I had a few cards that threatened to get hung up in the printer. No accordion-pleating jams, but it was enough to require close attention to the task. By the time I had everything printed I was not looking forward to doing the envelopes. Enter Chuck. He took over, despite my protests. Soon we were humming along with Chuck generating printed envelopes and me signing, sealing and stamping. I went from “Frazzled” to “Gratitude” in short order and the last of the cards are headed to the Post Office tomorrow.

Thank you Chuck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


We were down in Rhode Island yesterday with my Mom. She had a list of errands (including Christmasy ones) she wanted to accomplish. At age 86 At age 86 (“in my 87th year”) she plum near wore us out! While we were visiting back at her condo, she asked Chuck to take a look at her coat. It is her favorite, warmest, toastiest winter coat. Unfortunately, the zipper had become so balky as to be unusable. Chuck fussed with it for a bit and improved it slightly. But it was clear that Mom would continue to be relying on the overlapping snaps as the only way to fasten it. So we offered to bring it back up to Worcester for repair.

That’s how we came to be at 1025 Main South in Worcester at Trippi’s Zipper Hospital this afternoon. We’ve been availing ourselves of their specialized skills and services for decades, so we were pretty optimistic. Chuck ran the coat in, expecting to drop it off and pick it up another day. When he showed it to the gal at the counter he asked earnestly: “Can this zipper be saved?” She examined it and set to work. Chuck popped back out to where I was waiting curbside and pantomimed that we could wait for the work to be done. Sure enough, the zipper technician was able to bring the zipper back from the dead. (There might have been a small defibrillator and I think I heard someone yell “CLEAR”!) $7.00 later we had Mom’s favorite coat back in working order. Thank you Trippi’s!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hebrew Cemetery

On Thanksgiving Day, as I was driving down to Rhode Island, Chuck was reading the newspaper headlines to me from the passenger seat. When he read about the terrible vandalism at the Hebrew Cemetery in Worcester we were both appalled. Unfortunately, according to volunteer cemetery director Jordan Robbins, the cemetery has no money to repair the damage. The Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts is attempting to locate relatives of the people buried there. As reported by the T & G article they include: “former Worcester Mayor Israel Katz; Dr. Herbert S. Grossman; Battle of the Bulge veteran and pharmacist Sydney S. Levine; lawyer Lawrence H. Fisher; benefactor Max Norman; Purple Heart recipient Samuel Lazerowich; Rabbi Morris Reuben Kesner and former Gardner News editor Alfred J. Abbott.”

The final part of the barucha, the blessing, said when lighting the candles for Chanukah is: “who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old, at this season”. Perhaps you will feel moved to do a good deed, a mitzvah, for these ancestors, at this season.

Donations may be sent to:

Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts
633 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
Attention: Worcester Hebrew Cemetery

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It Takes Two To Make Latkes!

I’ve had my Cuisinart Food Processor for about 25 years.

Tonight, I forgot how to use it.

There I was, with a pile of potatoes and some onions, all ready to whir and grate and I could not for the life of me assemble the darn thing. For twenty-five years I have been hauling it out for big tasks like coleslaw, latkes, pesto and so on. Tonight, I had to call in Chuck who rescued me. I had the lid on backwards. Even when he got it turned around and working correctly, it still looked backwards to me!

There are some tasks for which my venerable DLC-7 Super Pro (It looks a lot like this one.) is absolutely perfect. Grating the potatoes and onions for latkes is an excellent example. Hand grating would take ages and a couple of knuckles. Using a mandolin or V-slicer would also be time consuming and finger tip endangering. But the Cuisinart makes the job swift and painless.

So with my Cuisinart finished whirring and the The Barry Sisters rocking out “Their Greatest Yiddish Hits” via the iPod, I made the latkes. I still use a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and canola oil to fry them. Once both sides are brown and crispy I transfer them to parchment covered cookie sheets and put them in a 350 degree F oven to let them finish. Chuck pronounced them delish - I could not disagree!

This photo from my 2006 post shows the same pan I used tonight, but on our old stove. And tonight’s latkes were just a teensy bit smaller.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I miss my Dad.
Sometimes it just hits me out of the blue.
Today was one of those days.
Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming.
Perhaps it’s because some days the idea that I can’t talk and laugh with him seems impossibly unfair.
Or maybe it’s because I feel so lucky to have Chuck at the center of my life, I wish he and Dad could have known each other.
Whatever the reason, I miss you Dad.
Thank you for everything...

Original photo, manipulation and layout by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Chanukah!

This week turned out to be more challenging than I would have wished for. So it was good to head toward Friday knowing that things were settling down and that the weekend held candles and singing and latkes! It was especially nice to walk in through the kitchen door this evening and have all systems humming along properly. You see, one year ago today the ice storm began here in Southern New England. Looking back over the photos I posted I still find the thickness of the ice amazing. And it was so cold those first two days before we found a generator! Today has been bitterly cold (around 20F / -7C) but this L.L. Bean shirt kept me toasty warm. It may not be stylish, but I so don’t care!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One Voter’s Tweets

: : What to do on a sunny December day in Massachusetts? Head to the polls! Vote in the special US Senate Primary today!

: : Live in Massachusetts? Polls are open until 8 pm for the special US Senate Primary!

: : I voted!

: : We made our decision w/in the last 24 hours, but we feel Mike Capuano @capuano4senate has what it takes to be our next senator! #MAsen

: : Sigh... RT @NECN Coakley has been declared winner of Democratic nomination - she'll face Scott Brown in Jan 19 special election

: : Geez I know we're the kiss of death for products, I didn't realize we could mess up an election too! #MAsen

Monday, December 7, 2009

Senate Primary Tomorrow!

The United States Senate Special Election Primary is tomorrow here in Massachusetts. It may have been one of the most lackluster campaign seasons, but it is still a tremendously important election.

If you need information about the election, including your polling place, you can go to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin’s website. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Please don’t let the campaign induced ennui keep you away from the voting booth tomorrow!

Live your values.
Love your country.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Moments

The Chanukah cards are completed and printed. It all went smoothly until I asked Chuck to pull up our holiday card lists. I needed a count for how many to make. He gave me one number and then quickly corrected himself, reducing it by one. We won’t be sending a card to his Dad this year. Nearly ten months after his passing, it still hit us both with a thud.

A few days ago, a still unfathomable family situation led us to learn much too late about the death of my aunt, the widow of one of my Dad’s brothers. During a conversation with my mother, in the midst of a cascade of emotions, Mom realized that she is now our family’s matriarch. Of four brothers who lived to adulthood and their four wives, only Mom survives and thankfully thrives. Mom is the first born of two in her family, with her younger sister alive, but in serious decline. Learning of the passing of her only remaining sister-in-law and her new uncomfortable status, hit Mom with a thud as well.

The Chanukah cards will go out in tomorrow’s mail, as will a sympathy card to my cousin. We will all continue to adjust and to grieve and to move on. We may wish to think that the holidays are the same every year. But the holidays are new every year. Every year they grow larger with memories. They are a time to celebrate and to remember. In the coming weeks, we will do both.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Elf’s Lament

With all my elf references this week the following Barenaked Ladies song has understandably been running through my mind.
Now it can be running through yours as well!

Friday, December 4, 2009

One Voter Plus Mike

Hey, I shook hands with Congressman and senate hopeful Mike Capuano today! I did not interview him (bad blogger!), but let’s see what I learned.

He smiled.
He made good eye contact.
He had a firm handshake.
He did not rush off in a rude manner, just a "I’m in a hurry and you don’t seem to be asking me any questions" sort of way.

As I wrote recently I have been wildly underwhelmed by all the candidates in this race. Have I made any progress you ask? Well, a little. As I indicated previously, I couldn’t imagine voting for either of the Republicans (Brown or Robinson). After looking at their websites,Twitter feeds and mailers to the house it’s official: I won’t be asking for a Republican Ballot on Tuesday.

That leaves me with the four Democratic candidates. Steve Pagliuca has some good, well produced ads where he says all the right things. But I just can’t shake the feeling he’s a right wing business mogul (AKA Republican) at heart. I watch the ads and I think “everyman”. But I read his bio and I think “management”. Plus, Steve needs to stop calling the house. The number of recorded calls reminds of a lovesick teenager relentlessly calling the girl he really, really likes and wants to take to the Friday Night Sock Hop.

Alan Khazei, like all the other candidates does not exude charisma. And he got some seriously bad advice about approving the “full diaper” ad. If you haven’t seen it, do not Google it. Trust me on that. But Khazei does have the citizen funded campaign going for him. And he does seem strong on the issues (i.e. willing to spell out his positions clearly - plus positions which I generally agree with).

Martha Coakley. In this very blue, generally Democratic, liberal leaning (in a schizophrenic sort of way) commonwealth that we live in, it is amazing that we have yet to elect a woman to the Senate. So if we finally did that, it would represent progress. But is Coakley the woman we want to send? I know she’s in the lead, which is surprising because she too comes off to me as blah.

As of today, I’ve actually shaken hands with Mike Capuano. In debates, Capuano comes off as a bit of a bulldog. I sensed no whiff of the bulldog today in my nanosecond exchange. Also a friend of ours pointed out that if we elect Capuano to the senate, we lose his considerable seniority in the House. But he sure does seem to have the experience and the oomph to begin to fill Teddy’s shoes.

Hmmm... I think what I really want is a Democratic candidate with the standards of Khazei, the experience of Capuano, the good political advisors of Pagliuca and the chromosomal make up of Coakley. And frankly, that’s about what it would take for anyone to begin to shrug the mantle of the “Lion of the Senate” around their shoulders.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Elf Update

I have no idea.
I have my fingers crossed. But I won’t know for a few weeks whether or not my hush-hush project is a success, a failure or somewhere in between. I’m a single rise yeast bread kind of gal, so waiting is not my strong suit! But wait I must.

I can say that the other two projects are that I still haven’t made our Chanukah cards, nor our Christmas cards. With Chanukah beginning at sundown next Friday night: tick tock, time’s a wastin’. Although, I suppose, that because it lasts for eight days, I have a bit of wiggle room!

By the way, it seems that Santa is technically “Management”. But the President of the “International Union of Toy Makers Extraordinaire” says he is a most beneficent employer and a congenial and accommodating negotiator. In fact, the union has essentially had a permanent contract, with steady cost of living increases, for as long as anyone can remember. Oh, and they have excellent health insurance: medical, dental and mental health. Did I mention the whole village is run on wind power and some sort of reindeer manure to methane gizmo. If the headquarters weren’t so darned close to the home state of a certain shameless ex-governor it would totally be worth relocating - snow and all!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I’ve been wrestling with new software. It’s not Apple. It’s not Photoshop. It’s something I’ve never used before. The project is really important. But it’s very hush-hush. I can’t say any more. You see, I’ve been deputized, by Santa. Yes, I suppose that does make me an elf. Unless they’re unionized. I mean, I don’t want to be a scab. But this is just a seasonal gig... I need to talk to Santa; maybe the Head Elf as well. Wait a minute. If there’s a Head Elf, a president of the union, would that make Santa “Management”? Nah! No way!

O.K. I’ve gotta go.
I’ll be back as soon as I can wrap up this project.
And maybe one or two more...