Christmas Eve 2016

santa

It happened again, like it did last year. At the last minute on the 24th of December, I found myself in Rite Aid looking for a Christmas card for Bruce. Me and a bunch of men, who you could tell, didn’t have a clue, trying to find a card that said ‘just the right thing’. The only “To My Husband” card left was in Polish. Oh well, Bruce would get a kick out of it. I remember last year, I ended up with a Charlie Brown card for him.charliebrown

Then, off to the hair color aisle. Thank God there was no shortage of Clairol products. I felt I just had to touch up my hair.  You know the feeling.

Next stop was Masse’s Seafood to pick up 2 pounds of cocktail shrimp and sauce. Back home, I needed to make dessert, finish the laundry, wash the kitchen floor, color my hair, shower, and get ready for our annual Christmas Eve get-together with family and friends.

Bruce had been working steadily making short rib stew [a new addition to our menu] and bourbon and bacon mac and cheese [which replaced lasagne a few years back].

bourbonmaccheese

We also had a salad which didn’t go over that well~not sure why~spinach salad with glazed pecans and pomegranate seeds with a honey vinaigrette. He grilled up a kielbasa and made deviled eggs. A small catastrophe with the paprika, but I won’t go into that.

Bruce bought a loaf of bread rather than making his own, as he had just made a rye loaf for the family gathering on the 23rd at Betsy [his ex-wife] and John’s home. We gather each year with Bruce’s son, Daryl and his good woman, Julia, her parents, Kim and Joe, Bruce’s daughter, Danielle, our son-in-law, Mike, and our two grandchildren, Emily and Matthew. Freddy comes along too and plays, meaning makes a commotion, with their border terrier, Libby.

Bruce made baked tortellini with tomato sauce which I made from a recipe I have used for decades. I made a cheese ball~first one I ever made. It was made with blue cheese, dates, pecans and scallions and covered in crumbled bacon and parsley. It was served with club crackers and curried peach preserves. I found this recipe on PBS food site and it was by Vivian from “A Chef’s Life”. Here’s a picture of it. Definitely, a keeper.

cheeseball1

Back to our Christmas Eve gathering. I had a hard time deciding on a dessert. I went through my recipes and cookbooks and websites and finally landed on peach upside down mini cakes.  It sounded good.  As I was putting the recipe together, I could just tell it wasn’t going to come out right. But what was I to do at this point? So 30 minutes later…The mini cakes are stuck in the tins, of course. I managed to get them out and pieced together the peach and brown sugar mixture that was supposed to be on top, rather than stuck in the tins. The batter was tough, but I served it with vanilla ice cream which kind of redeemed it. I had also made chocolate chipolte cookies and oatmeal cookies.

My friend, Jacki, brought chocolate dipped strawberries~yummy. And Julia brought “Legs” inspired by “A Christmas Story”.  She is very talented and very funny!

leglamp

Daryl and Julia like Moscow Mules, so we made a cranberry version. The punch was a big hit.

cranberrypunch

Here’s a picture of the table with the appetizers.

table1

The nativity set was my mother’s. It is very beautiful and I am honored to have it.

We had a house full of people, friends and family, and a good time was had by all.

susanfreddy161209fujiwarmpastel

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy new Year.

xmastree161225

Wind Beneath My Wings

The song, Wind Beneath My Wings, was playing on the car radio the other day and it started me thinking how much my mother influenced me with her encouragement and support.

marenov2014

She was my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

I remember she told me when I was born that Joe went to the Tatham Social Club and told everyone there that I was the prettiest baby girl in the whole nursery. It’s not that I actually was; what’s important is that every loving father thinks his daughter is the best and every loving mother tells her daughter she is the best.

She told me it was the happiest day of her life when I was born~she had a daughter, after having two sons.

Once I had applied for a job and Mare inquired what was happening. I stated maybe they didn’t like me. Immediately she said “How could they not like you?”

There was a Seinfeld episode with the very same theme. Remember when Jerry was pitching a pilot to NBC and he was waiting out their decision and he said “Maybe they don’t like me.” Mrs. Seinfeld reacted, “How could they not like you?” Every loving parent thinks the same thing and communicates it.

I had Mare’s approval on the way I dressed and how I decorated and cared for my home. She was always complimentary. My hair~not so much. She would tell me if it looked messy or dry and suggest I needed a deep conditioner. Once, when I said to her she needed a good haircut, she said: “You know, sometimes your hair looks like a horse’s tail, but I don’t say anything because it isn’t nice.” I think that’s a mother-daughter thing and probably a topic for another story.

She thought I was smart and believed I knew everything. Really. She would ask a question and if I said “I don’t know”, she would say, “But you have your Master degree.” Seriously.

Once, we were in the hardware store shopping. She needed garbage bags for the kitchen waste bin. I picked up a box of 250 bags. She asked if that was enough, should she get 2 packages? I said, “Well if you use one bag a week, this package would last 5 years.” She turned to the pimply faced young boy who was helping us and said, ” My daughter is very smart. She has her Master’s.” He must of thought, “Oh boy, it’s gonna be one of those days.”

It wasn’t that I thought I knew everything. Mare conveyed to me that she had faith in me to reason anything out, big or small. For the most part. She disapproved of me getting married when I was only 18 years old and she disapproved of me getting a divorce 7 years later. She worried about “where I would fit in.” As the years went on, she saw that I could manage very well on my own.

Mare was proud of my degrees and what I accomplished in college. It was Mare who financed my undergraduate degree. I had stupidly delayed going to college after high school and got married instead. So although I was married, against her wishes, she paid for my tuition because she wanted to see me go to college and  not be stuck without the ability to earn a living.

When I went to grad school, I was no longer married. I paid for tuition and fees myself as I had been working for 4 years and saved money. However, Mare gave me living expense money, monthly, to make things a little easier on me.  She was the one who made it possible to start and complete my education and go on to have a successful career, enjoy financial prosperity, and accumulate wealth.

She took pride in all the positions and companies that I worked for over the years in my Human Resources career. I have always said that ‘behind every successful person is a woman.’ For me, it was Mare.

She helped me run my home when I was working long hours or traveling extensively. She did my errands. She arranged and met the repairmen and contractors at my home. She did stuff that needed to be done at my home. She varnished my sun room that was covered in knotty pine paneling, walls and ceiling, one hot summer day. She had a neighbor remove a snake she found in my yard. Little things, big things, she took care of what needed to be done, to make my life easier.

She was concerned about the effects the demands of work had on me and how emotionally draining it all was. I had dinner with her every night [when I wasn’t traveling] and she was always nurturing and encouraging. A home cooked meal and a glass of wine and upbeat conversation~balm for the soul. Remember, Mare and Joe took care of my dog Casey for me while I was at work. What a Gift!

At one point, she suggested that I train to become a yoga teacher as she knew how much I enjoyed going to yoga classes and how much I gained in fitness and relaxation. In retrospect, I should have given more thought to her suggestion.

When she thought I needed help or advise she gave it. Mostly, what I remember of her loving, challenging, important words to me were:

Be bold. Show compassion. Persevere.

These were the hallmarks of her personality and her legacy.

maryamccarthybench

The thing is, the regrettable thing is, I didn’t let her know that she was the wind beneath my wings.

Mare passed on December 11, 2014, siting in her comfy chair, in her living room, in my arms.

One thing leads to another

You know what I am talking about, don’t you? We all have plenty of these stories.

Guide:

$-affordable

$$-it won’t break the bank, but you need to be careful

$$$-expensive, but you want it and you will figure out how to pay for it

$$$$-wicked expensive, you should probably think twice about it.

$$$$$-get outta here

I’ll tell you my latest version. I guess it goes back 2 years when Bruce bought a teardrop camper [$$$$]. We both have different recollections as to why he bought a camper since he has never camped and I have camped, but hate it. In the past 2 years the camper has moved from the driveway to the front lawn. That’s it, folks. A total of about 30 feet, one-way. It had a maiden voyage and then one other, if I remember correctly.

susan

So, if you buy a camper and you have a VW Jetta, you need to buy a new car to haul the camper. Yes, one thing does lead to another…A new 2015 Outlook Subaru [$$$$$] and all the accessories [$$]that go with it, especially the custom hitch and the mirror to see it when you are backing up to the camper.

subaru15061198

We bought all the special things you need for the camper, too. Who knew that you needed special toilet paper?

If you have a car and a camper, you need to enlarge your driveway. Otherwise, the camper is sitting on the side lawn causing all sorts of weeds to grow under it.

20160909_091747

A new enlarged driveway was installed [$$$]. The camper was moved to the front lawn during construction.

lp17

At the same time, we noticed that the pine trees in the back yard had overgrown. At first we thought we could have them cut back, but as we looked more closely at the trees, we realized they would need to come down. Mind you that these were once little slips of trees that my mother planted for me for privacy when I first moved into this home in 1979. So, we called in the tree service that we usually use and the 4 trees were removed and the stumps were grinded down. [$$]

Whoa! We were blinded by all the light that now streamed into the backyard, reflecting off the white vinyl fence that encloses the entire back yard.

yard10

In the meantime, we noticed that the four 10 year old Martha Stewart lawn chairs from K-Mart were looking rather ratty. They were rusty and some of the faux wicker was coming undone.

I went to a nice outdoor furniture shop and purchased 2 chairs for Bruce and me to sit and relax in while we enjoy our glass of wine each evening, looking at the garden and enjoying the visiting birds and butterflies.

The chairs were to be delivered the following week. Bruce wanted to see what I bought so I showed him a picture on-line. He said we ought to go and look at them again and probably buy 2 more chairs to fully replace what we were going to let go of. Okay! Bruce and I, and Freddy, went to the store and we ended up buying the dining table that went with the four chairs. Then, we picked out two lawn chairs for us to sit in. You knew that was coming, right?

I went on-line and purchased 4 cushions for the dining chairs and two coordinating cushions for the lawn chairs.

The removal of the trees and buying the new dining set led to engaging a landscape designer to create a plan for the back yard so that we would have greenery to deflect the light and add beauty. And, could you add a design for a patio because we just bought a dining table and chairs? A water feature would be nice, but we didn’t pursue that idea. Sometimes, you just have to say “no more, that’s enough for now.”

dsc07811

And, yes, the front entrance way needed a new landscape design as the brick walk way would be torn up and replaced by the driveway contractor as it had failed by sinking.  More stone was needed to widen and lengthen the walkway.  Concrete window wells were also installed [$$]. A Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry tree was added.

lp19

Even though autumn was coming upon us, we thought it best to have the landscaping/driveway contractor plant the large shrubs and trees that the landscape designer specified since he and his crew were here already and they had the equipment to transport the trees and shrubs and to dig the big holes to accommodate the plantings.

lp25

Bruce and I, with Freddy in tow, went to a nursery to select plantings according to the designer’s specs. We were able to find exactly what we wanted. Ten arborvitae, two hynoki bushes, and the aforementioned snow fountain weeping cherry [$$$].

20160918_110252

When the contractor went to pick them up, he was surprised by how much we had purchased as we had only discussed the arborvitae with him. But, once we saw that the nursery had the other trees and bushes that the designer had specified, we said why not get them now?

Oh, by the way, we needed to get the stump grinder back to go deeper as the crew hit roots when they were digging [$].

Here are 2 trees planted next to the back steps–a verdon golden hinoki cypress on the left and a Stowe Pillar White Pine on the right. New white metal chair on the right.

dsc07806

Here is gracilis hinoki, a beautiful specimen, which is centered in the corner of the northwest fence.

dsc07807

When you buy a dining table and 4 chairs and cushions, you need an umbrella. So off I went back to the outdoor furniture store, with Freddy, and picked out a lovely Aruba Blue umbrella and an umbrella stand, which is necessary. While I was at the shop, I noticed a casual lawn chair that was marked down and I asked for a further discount. That chair was the least expensive thing we bought during this 2 year episode!

So, I went back on-line to buy a cushion for the new chair. And, oh by the way, we might as well get a new cushion for the vintage metal motel chair (that belonged to Mare) we have as the old cushion will look out of place [$].

garden140906

The paint color on the four exterior doors needs to be updated, of course. We have had Benjamin Moore Victorian Purple for the past five years and it has suited us very well. Yet, we want a change in paint color and something new to reflect all the other changes we have made to the outside of our home. Of course.

Paint is relatively inexpensive for the bang you get out of it. And, Bruce paints. He is the best painter. We are considering Benjamin Moore Calliente. It is a shade of red with orange undertones which will pick up on the brick steps and walkway.

calliente

But why he bought that teardrop camper, I’ll never know.

dsc07830

Lesson learned~Don’t buy a teardrop camper unless you are committed to all the other things that go with it. And, support local businesses that are dog friendly. We do.

An Up Close and Personal Interview with Freddy

So how did you come to live with Susan and Bruce?

Susan had wanted a dog for so long after she put down Casey. However, her aging parents were no longer able to watch a new puppy  as she was still working. And, she is not the type to leave a dog alone or in a crate all day. She worked very long hours and did a fair amount of business travel. She also enjoyed personal travel.

She was diligent about praying to God for a dog to come into her life-“the right dog at the right time who needed her care and attention.” You don’t need to include this if you don’t want to, but I know that she was praying for the right man to come into her life, too. Whew, it’s a good thing those 2 prayers didn’t get mixed up.

So, go on.

Well, Susan kept looking on dog search sites and she would visit local shelters. The shelters only had pit bull dogs which Susan did not want and the search sites seemed a little risky for her. By this time, her prayers for a man were answered and she and Bruce started living together with Bruce’s cat, Nadine.

nadine wicker basket

The desire for a dog subsided a bit as she adjusted to her wonderful new life, living with Bruce. But, when Bruce’s daughter and son-in-law got a Goldendoodle puppy, Bella, the desire for a dog reared its puppy head again, so to speak. Danielle and Mike had visited with Bella a couple of days after Christmas 2012 and Susan was smitten. She wanted a dog, NOW.

This is Bella, Danielle and Mike’s Goldendoodle.

bella3

She went online and searched, mistakenly for Labradoodles. Well, lo and behold, she found a breeder of Labradoodles in East Otis, MA. and she called. She spoke with my breeder and learned that a litter had just been born but all the puppies were called for already, except one. It was me! Because of a recessive gene from my grandfather I turned out to be a mini Labradoodle. Well, that suited Susan even better as she preferred a smaller dog.

She told Bruce what she found and that they had an appointment to visit me at the breeder’s home. They visited me and I could tell they wanted me!  They wrote a check, signed the contract, and picked me up on January 4, 2013. I was 8 weeks old. It was a cold, snow-covered afternoon when we drove home. Bruce drove and I sat on Susan’s lap, covered up with an afghan that Mare had crocheted.

day one with Freddy010413First day home with Susan And Bruce.

Once we arrived home, Susan got down on the floor with me and I crawled around and sat on her lap. Bruce went out for grinders as he didn’t want to take time away from me by cooking. They made me feel so safe and warm, even though I was missing my Mom and my puppy mates. They had a special cushioned pillow that they placed me in, with the crocheted blanket and that’s where I slept during the day when I wasn’t roaming around throughout the house. At night, I slept in their bedroom in a crate with a soft bed. I did this for 6 months per the veterinarian’s instructions. Doctor said I needed my privacy and they needed theirs. Without a hitch at six months, my crate was moved to the Sitting Room where Bruce and Susan spend time watching television and reading.

It was  a bitter cold snowy winter. Bruce shoveled a path out back for me to walk and run and do my business. I was house broken within a couple of weeks as Bruce was so consistent in taking me out regularly. I did have a few accidents in the house. I was embarrassed, but they said it was their fault. That’s the kind of people they are.

freddysnow

What are they like to live with?

They are totally focused on me.  The important thing is that they love me unconditionally.  Susan tells me that God loves me, too. I don’t know who that is. But, I do know that GOD is DOG spelled backwards.

bruceandfreddyFreddyBlessed

Wherever they are, I am. If they are at their desks, I am under their feet. When they are sitting on the sofa, I sit on their laps or beside them. They put a rug under the kitchen table, so that I can be comfortable when they are eating. We go out in the back yard several times a day. There is agility equipment, toys, balls, and Frisbees for me to play with and I have my own pool. They usually always take me with them wherever they go in their car.

freddythechampfreddypool

Are you ever alone?

Rarely. Susan and Bruce don’t leave me alone longer than an hour or two. They take me to places that allow dogs, like The Home Depot, outdoor festivals, the local farm stand.

freddyatearthdayfairAt The Earth Day Fair

I have the full reign of the house so I cuddle up in my bed, or the sofa, or my crate. I don’t shed which is a bonus.

freddyandsockmonkey

When they come home, I go to the door and bark my head off. I am so happy to see them again.

freddywindow

I was The Best Man at their wedding.

IMG_4380

Any guilty pleasures?

I tease Nadine and that gives me a rush.

freddy and nadine

I love taking afternoon naps with Susan because it is the only time I get to sleep on their bed.

Freddy15050283

I like digging holes.

Freddy15091530

Any fears?

Flies in the house freak me out!

Whenever I feel fearful or unsafe, I retreat between the end table and the sofa and stay there until I feel okay to come out. I don’t like being brushed, so when Susan goes to the drawer where the brush is kept, I run to my safe place. She is usually just getting a pen to do the crossword puzzle, but you never know.

I see you have lots of toys.

Yes and I know them all by name. There’s:

Hedgehog and Squirrel-my favorites.  Blue.  Dyno-which I played with at Mare’s house.  Froggie. Trick. Chomper. Bone-from Uncle Dennis and Aunt Debbie. Stripey. Sock Monkey-I have 3 little ones and one big one.  Red Bull and more.

Freddy15081953Freddy15081944

 

You seem like the type of dog who has regular habits.

Yes. Yes, I do. I go to bed at 7p.m. every evening and Bruce gives me a treat. I wake at 7 a.m. each morning. I give a call to Bruce and he opens up the crate door. We both do downward dog position.

I go for several walks during the day with Bruce. I make my mark about every 5 feet and my bowel movements are regular.

I eat 3 meals a day. Bruce mixes organic beef, chicken, or cheese into my regular dog food. For breakfast, I usually have organic, range free scrambled eggs. Bruce gives me a variety of small treats during the day. My weight is stable at 16 pounds.

Freddy, what’s ahead for you?

I am presently enrolled in Advance Beginner Agility classes. Susan takes me each week and we practice on the equipment for one hour at it’s pawsible dog training center in Westhampton.

I have so much fun and Susan does, too! I have agility equipment at home, too. They say I am fast and smart and that I have the potential to be a champion.  We’ll decide whether to compete once I am more experienced. In the meantime, I am enjoying the classes and practicing at home. Susan and Bruce tell me they are proud of me and they want me to be the happy little dog God, whoever that is, wants me to be.

FreddyJump16080822

Thank you Freddy.

Thank you.

 

Growing up with Dogs

We always had dogs as pets when I was growing up. On the cover of the Springfield Republican paper one Sunday morning was a photo of a litter of puppies at the animal shelter in Springfield.

litterofpuppies2

My father got my brothers and me in the car and we went and picked out a dog. We named this one Skunky; the mutt we had before was called Yogi, probably named for Yogi Berra, by my brothers.

Here’s Skunky as a puppy with my brother and me holding Fido.

dog7

Skunky was a big, fat mutt, as you can see.

dog1

Very lovable. Not very energetic. As a child, I remember Skunky as just “being there”, wagging her tail, soaking up all the attention and affection we gave her.

dog3

I don’t remember how she passed; that’s kind of weird to me as I am sure I was grief-stricken for losing her. I do remember my best fiend, Sue Cipriani, had the same kind of dog, a mutt, named Dutchess, and she was killed by a car on Westfield Street. We were heart-broken.

bathroom w pets

During the time my father owned the bar, he bought a black, male toy poodle and he named him Clancy.  How he came to choose a poodle, I do not know. As you probably know by now, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about matters between my parents and there  was  no “family discussion”.

dog5

By the way, here’s my favorite dog cartoon from The New Yorker:

ontheinternet

I remember Clancy having a lot of energy and his favorite toy was a stuffed sock. Clancy had epilepsy, probably due to close in breeding and died one day after being hit by a car. That was back in the day when you just let your dog roam.

Joe bought another poodle–a gray female that he named Candy. Candy was very attached to Mare. Mare would take Candy with her in the car and Candy just loved that.She was sweet and very smart. I was in high school at the time when Joe got her and I left home shortly after I graduated high school. Even though I loved Candy, I wasn’t that attached to her.

Joe had Candy mated with a stud dog so that she would have a litter. He was so nervous and concerned about Candy and he kept telling my mother what to do when the time came for the delivery. Joe was working that evening, the 3p.m. to 11p.m. shift, and Mare was at home. Candy jumped into Mare’s wicker laundry basket and delivered 3 healthy puppies. Joe was very happy. He gave one puppy to his mother and brother who lived across the street and the 2 other puppies were sold.

The thing about dogs is that they just make life better. Liz Taylor knew that.

eliztaylor

One time, after I had already left home, I took Candy to the veterinarian’s office for a check up. She had an ear infection, as many small dogs often get. As the Doctor was cleaning out her ear with a piece of gauze, she whimpered, and I saw the yucky output on the gauze pad.  I could feel myself getting woozy and I fell right down as I fainted. The next thing you know, I was stretched out, laying down on the Doctor’s sofa in his living room, in his attached house.

Woman-Laying-on-Green-Fainting-Couch-Images

Candy eventually was put down and it was Mare who took her to the veterinarian’s office. Mare always got stuck doing the hard jobs.

animal hospital.jpg

Mare once told me that Joe had hunting beagles that he kept in the back yard in an enclosed area. She claimed Joe did not take care of them properly. One day she decided to get rid of the dogs and gave them up at the animal shelter. I am sure Joe had a fit.

Lesson learned~ A home is not a home without a dog.

Coming up: Interview with Freddy

freddydryerball