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Main street in Hingham — a prestigious area where most of the homes are at least 200 years old and where homes are only allowed to be painted certain colors.  It’s a lovely slice of New England life to observe.  We were passing by on the way to the beach — enjoying the magazine quality look of the homes with their manicured and beautifully landscaped yards, when what should we see? A huge grouping of plastic pink flamingos at the end of a driveway, as out of place here as a Vegas showgirl.  In the center of the group: a sign that read, “You have been flocked!” In small letters it said it was courtesy of the Hingham High School Football team.  (I would have posted a photo here, but unfortunately the one I took with my phone was blurry and unusable.)  We both laughed and enjoyed the spectacle.

When I think of more destructive past times of 17-18 year old boys like smashing mailboxes or tipping over gravestones (which as a homeowner and history buff I find quite distressing), this struck me as clever and ironic.  Much more civilized than toiletpapering the owners’ trees.  If the team was looking for attention or donations, this was a great way to do it.  Bravo!




I have always enjoyed collections that tell an observer something about the collector’s life.  Examples from my mother’s day include collections of spoons or glasses with state names; I have collected Christmas ornaments from places I’ve visited and have a bowl of matchbooks from restaurants or events I attended.

It is ironic that I picked up the matchbook collecting habit, considering that I am not a smoker, and to be honest, I’m one of those clumsy people who is a bit afraid of lighting matches.  However, I saw someone else’s collection displayed in a coffee table bowl and loved the colors and designs.  And best of all for me, they didn’t cost anything!

With the advent of laws against smoking in restaurants, disposable lighters, and fewer people with the habit, my matchbook collecting days have reached their end.  I still look whenever I go to a new restaurant, but without much luck.  One time I thought I had scored one only to open the “matchbook” and discover toothpicks.

The other day when my mother was sorting through things at her house she came across a matchbook from one of my friends’ weddings.  She gave it to me for my collection.  As I put it in the bowl I sifted through and found my own from the same wedding as well as several others.  I love wedding matches —  usually a white background with the couple’s first names and wedding date in their “wedding” color.  I took a quick trip down memory lane, feeling a little sadness as some of the couples have since separated or divorced; their marriages like the matches, now a remnant of the past.

It occurred to me that the wedding matchbook tradition will completely fade away in the 21st century as a result of the no smoking laws, thus making it a “dated” collectible, like so many others, although not worth a thing to anyone but the person who collected them.  I supposed someday I will just toss them out.  For me, it’s time to come up with a new item to collect.



{June 28, 2011}   The Irony Behind Yard Sales

What is the irony of a yard sale nowadays? The economy is bad and you need to make money, but you can’t; nobody’s spending and everybody’s looking for free stuff. As you drive down the street, it seems like everybody’s selling something in the front yard– their “toys” including motorcycles, boats, and sportscars — to plants or firewood.

Before the advent of online auction sites, yard sales were a legitimate way to make some extra cash when you needed it. If you had furniture as part of your yard sale, you were almost guaranteed to make over $100. These days, having a yard sale is just another way to get rid of extra stuff, not a true money-making activity. If you like meeting people, sitting around for the day, and you hope to see some of your extra stuff find a home, by all means, have a yard sale. Don’t expect to make much money, and expect to put a lot of leftovers out front with a “free” sign or donate them.
My husband and I have had a couple of yard sales, trying to help my mother get rid of some stuff and make her a little money. We were hoping to do the same. When there were initially no customers, we sat silently looking at all the unwanted items. I said, “I’m thinking about all the money we wasted on this stuff.” My husband said, “I’m thinking about all the time I spent working to pay for this stuff.” It was an enlightening and sobering experience.
We eventually got some customers and sold a few things, but I was left with this thought: Don’t buy anything unless you really need it and you plan to use it until it breaks, or you absolutely love it and will enjoy looking at it for the rest of your life.




My desire to simplify and clean out has coincided with my desire (and need) for extra money.  I would have thought this was serendipitous, but…NO.

Posting things on Craig’s List has only led to Spam or responses reading, “If you want someone to take it off your hands, I’ll take it for FREE.”  Selling on Ebay?  I don’t like paying a fee and a lot of the stuff I need or want to get rid of is too big to mail or ship, or just plain not worth it.  I’ve got shelves of stuff in the garage put aside for a yard sale that hasn’t happened; my husband wants me to prepare for it by pricing and organizing things, not just throwing them out in the driveway.  Yes, I’ll get around to that…

My father was a saver (the PC word for hoarder).  It paid off for him at one point in this life when he was unemployed and was able to sell his childhood comic books to support our family for a year, but that was a long time ago.  We’re discovering he also held onto a lot of things only because he thought they were useful: jars, boxes, etc.  I’m not surprised no one wants those things; they go off to recycling without a second thought. (We loved him too much to just toss them.)

Many of the memorabilia items he saved are worth a little (i.e., between $30-$50), but that isn’t much considering the time needed for researching, posting, monitoring, and shipping that would be required to hold an auction on Ebay, or the time that would be spent trying to find the right “niche audience” elsewhere.

Like my father, I have saved a lot of oddball things. What…no one wants my RC cola cans with baseball players on them? REM trading cards, anyone? Ok…I get that, but what about my beautiful wool cape that I splurged on 15 years ago?  I would still wear it, out of style or not, if it fit me, but unfortunately I will never be that small again.  That reminds me — I tried the consignment route before and ended up not bothering to pick up the clothes after they didn’t sell.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t an average size in my younger years (size 4 is small for most people), which is also a reason there were less buyers.  So, I’m learning about the law of supply and demand the hard way.

The psychological part is really hard; it’s difficult to get comfortable with money that I now see as “thrown away” on what I thought were quality items.  It’s also difficult to get past the same mentality my father had: it is still a useful item; we don’t need more in the landfills.  I don’t mind giving to someone I personally know who needs help, especially when I think they will actually use what I gave them, but I can’t give something away to a stranger on Craig’s list; I can’t get past the feeling that I’m being taken because they will figure out a way to sell it and make the money that I can’t.  Swaps are great, but again, there has to be a demand.

This is an eye-opening time in my life. In the end, I will continue to hold onto some things and donate others — at least I can get a tax credit — but these days I sure could use a small fraction of the money back and it is hard to recognize that was a pipe dream.



{February 7, 2011}   Mailbox Mania

We’ve all heard some version of the postman’s creed that nothing will deter our mail carriers from their job.  What about annihilated mailboxes?  This winter has certainly taken its toll on them.  My husband and I walked around our neighborhood the other day, observing the mailboxes along the way.  We figured there were about 1/3 leaning and another 1/3 broken or destroyed by the plows (not to mention just plain buried), including our own.

I love seeing New Englanders’ frugality and creativity at work, though.  At this point in the winter, people are making do with mailboxes repaired with duct tape or ones without doors; they are using plastic containers on their sides sitting on top of snow piles, and I even saw a canvas bag on a pole.  According to my research on the Internet, the “creed” may not be real, but from what I have seen, it is basically treated as such: as long as the mail carriers can put the mail in something, they will.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the winter is over.  Will people purchase cheaper mailboxes, not wanting to see them destroyed again?  Will they continue with the duct-taped versions?  Tune in, in the spring.

A lot of people came to my register at Home Depot after the first couple of storms purchasing new mailboxes, new poles, and other products such as cement to put the mailbox pole in the ground.  I wonder if those people lost their new mailboxes in the storms that followed or if they wish they had waited until the spring.  One of the few customers not asking for roof rakes or ice melt the other day bought a new plastic mailbox and said, “You must be selling a lot of these.”  “Not yet,” I commented, “I think most people are making do.”



{November 4, 2010}   Pricey Resources

A customer came through my line the other day with soil, a bag of rocks, and bottled water in her cart (along with several other things).  She said, “I never thought I would be paying for dirt, rocks, and water.”   We both laughed, but it made me think.

When I was a child I lived next to an abandoned gravel pit;  it was my playground.  I collected bag after bag of rocks.  I studied them, decorated with them, and played games with them.  I even had a rock polisher that I used to make them smooth. The soil was sandy, but was still capable of growing things (it was great for growing potatoes).  I also collected smooth beach stones when I went to the beach.  I never considered rocks as something to buy until I was grown up and we used them for landscaping at our home.

It used to be if I wanted soil to plant something, I just went outside and dug some out of the ground and dumped it in a pot (of course that was before I knew anything about gardening and bugs).

Also, when I was a child our family had a well.  The water was fine to drink.  In fact, I remember there being a spring at a park near my house, and we would often stop to drink from it when we were out playing for the day.  We didn’t need water filters or bottled water to drink.

I know the world has changed, and I’m okay with that.  It just gives me second thoughts about how we use our resources and reminds me not to take them for granted.



{October 22, 2010}   One Project Leads to Another

My husband and I have been doing some painting in our home.  Of course one project always leads to another.  My project was to begin painting the laundry room the other day while he was working.  I pulled out the clothes dryer so I could paint behind it; it had not been moved in five years.  BLECH!  The floor underneath it was a sticky mishmash of dust, water, and old detergent.  I took a break from painting to clean it up.

Now that it was pulled out, my fire safety training kicked in.  I knew I needed to clean out the vent hose.  I detached it and reached in…DOUBLE BLECH!  Although I dutifully clean out the lint filter after every load, I was unprepared for the handful after handful of wet clumps I discovered in the dryer and the hose.  I got a plastic grocery bag and filled it with the linty goo to show my husband what I found. (Be glad I didn’t post a picture here.)

Cleaning out the dryer vent should be done every year, but until something else prompted me to do it (the painting project); I kept the chore on the end of the TO-DO list.  Don’t be like me and wait for a big project to prompt you to do this.  It is a fire hazard— do it sooner rather than later.



{August 29, 2010}   Memory Triggers

We all have sensory experiences that remind us of certain times or dear people in our lives: unique smells, pictures, or a certain song.  I was taking a walk today and a neighbor had a silver dollar plant (http://www.gardeningforums.net/gallery/data/500/medium/silver-dollar.jpg).

My thoughts immediately went to my deceased grandmother.  She used to have some “money plants” by her back door.  I was fascinated by them as a child: the crackling sound they made when the wind blew; the way they felt like old paper when I touched them.  Their delicacy reminded me of my grandmother’s skin, white and thin, and I thought they were beautiful.

My Nana also used to have some in the house in a vase.  Unlike flowers, there was no need for water with silver dollars; they would last forever.

I wanted to pick some and bring them home, but they belonged to someone else, and I had no right to them.  The memories do belong to me though, and somehow I’m sure my grandmother knew that I was smiling for her.




High-profile chores are chores that are “visible” and provide a sense of accomplishment like vacuuming, dusting, or doing the dishes.  You can tell when these chores have been done; things look neater and cleaner, and you feel happy and proud of your environment.  But what about the invisible chores, such as filling the soap dispenser, emptying the trash buckets, and watering the plants.  You only notice when they aren’t done.

For me, it seems like the invisible chores, which usually only take minutes at a time, are squeezed in between other tasks, but they add up.  Because they are “invisible,” they leave me feeling like time is gone and I didn’t get anything done.  Add to that, the fact that there are so many of them (count changing the toilet paper roll and washing out bottles and cans for recycling in this category), and I  (and my husband) wind up questioning what I’ve done around the house.  I think it would be a good experiment to keep track of them for a week—keep a list with completion time (in minutes and/or seconds) and add them up.

Of course, some of the invisible chores are chores that I choose to do—like having pets and plants.  That’s why I won’t call them “thankless” tasks.  I get a lot of pleasure from my pets and plants, they “thank” me in their own way for being taken care of.  The “invisible” chores are like saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome”; they are second-nature and make the world a better place.  So maybe I shouldn’t be keeping track of them at all—doing those things has to be something that gives me self-satisfaction and makes me who I am. Lesson learned…



{July 13, 2010}   My Day Off

It’s Tuesday, but it is my day off.  I finally understand that this can be my Sunday if I make it so.

My husband and I got up early to go to Hull and walk on the beach.  On the way, we stopped at Breugger’s Bagels and got a toasted blueberry bagel with strawberry cheesecake cream cheese and a Breuggerchino (iced mochachino).  We walked the beach and I picked up sea-worn shell pieces to make jewelry.

We stopped at a Jake’s, one of our favorite restaurants that also sells seafood, and we bought a pound and a half of mussels.  We took back roads home and stopped at a farmstand to buy fresh corn and a vidalia onion for the mussels.

We got home and swam in the pool.  We each had a Bloody Mary with lunch: mussels cooked in onions, garlic, white wine and diced tomatoes, with fresh Italian bread and corn on the cob.  My husband could be cooking at a restaurant.

One of my kitties is in my lap as I write this, purring and putting her nose up to mine.  After writing this, I am going down to the basement where it is cool and listen to music and play pool with my husband.

Life doesn’t get much better than this, and it is Tuesday.



et cetera
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