Saturday, January 31, 2009

Goodbye to January

It seems like the holidays were just here but in fact we have already made it through the first month of January. Man time flies. One month down and 11 to go in 2009. January wasn’t especially remarkable in my world. I got my fair share of culture between attending a couple of Avalanche hockey games, a night at the Symphony and watching (on TV) our new President get sworn into office. I reacquainted myself with my gym and am proud to say I have lost the holiday pounds that creeped up on my body between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. I have spent some quality time with friends and I have enjoyed some down time by reading a few good books. All in all, I can’t complain. I hope the start of 2009 was good for each of you as well. If not, February starts tomorrow. Make the most of it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

And baby makes 14

As you may have heard, a woman in California gave birth to octuplets earlier this week. Personally, this is something that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. What is even more stunning to me is that the mom already had six young children when she went for fertility treatments resulting in the 8 babies she just gave birth to. According to an article on the Today Show website the mother is “fairly young” and lives with her parents.
I’m sure I’m going to offend someone here so I apologize in advance but I find this whole situation completely irresponsible. The family’s friends and community will undoubtedly help and support them. I’m sure there will be donations like there are with many other large births in the form of donated transportation, diapers, and other necessities but at the end of the day this woman signed up for this. She had a sizeable family and decided she needed more. I guess my question is why would you put forth the effort and costly investment associated with fertility treatments when you clearly already have a healthy, sizeable family. Given the sacrifices and challenges that now face this family, the decision to do this sounds a little bit selfish to me.

Again, my apologies if I have offended anyone. Just hang with me for a few more days. Toad will be back on Monday. :-D

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Observations of a Mail Geek

I just read today that the Postal Service may consider cutting back from six day a week mail delivery in an effort to cut their multi-billion dollar deficit. According to a study, this tactic could save the Postal Service anywhere from $1.9 billion to $3.5 billion. I am a complete mail geek. I love when the mailman comes. I probably check the mailbox 2 or 3 times a day before he comes to see if maybe he came and I missed him and I get cranky when he comes late. The funny thing about my mail obsession is that I don’t’ get a lot of fun mail. Like most of you, I primarily get bills, junk and magazines. I was kind of upset when I heard the Postal Service may be cutting back to 5 day delivery but the more I think about it, it sounds like a solid solution. There are other delivery options is something absolutely must get delivered on a certain day. Most businesses are closed on Saturday so it doesn’t seem to out of the question for the Postal Service to want the same thing. If it saves some money and helps reduce a debt then it probably is not a bad plan. This is by no means a done deal yet. Congress still needs to review and take a vote. In the mean time, I will continue my mail obsession and be happy that I get to stalk the mail carrier 6 days a week for my junk mail and catalogs.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to obtain a healthy glow in the dead of winter

Next week I am headed to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for a few days of relaxing in the sun. In an effort to not be the whitest person on the beach and scare the other vacationers, I began to think about ways that I could work on a quick base tan. Ten years ago I would not have thought twice about heading straight to the nearest tanning salon and leaving fifteen minutes later looking like a lobster. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also gotten a little smarter. I’m confident skin cancer will find me eventually, no need to rush the process.

Anyway, when I was at Target over the weekend I strolled into the skin care aisle and started looking at some self-tanning lotions. I remember when these products first came out and after lathering the lotion on, the user would then be a lovely shade of orange. For that reason I have actively avoided these products. It appears that self tanning lotion has actually come a long way. I picked up a bottle of Dove Energy Glow for Fair to Medium skin. It cost around $9 which to me was cheap enough that if I ended up pitching it after my first use, I wouldn’t feel like I’d had too much invested. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised by the results. The color is very natural looking and not the pumpkin orange that it was when I was in college. In fact, I didn’t even realize that the lotion was really working until I caught a glimpse of my ankle in a mirror the other day. I have been lathering up my legs but not ankles and feet. I guess I need to start because there is a noticeable tan line at the bottom of my leg. Sweet! Thanks to Dove I won’t have the whitest, pastiest legs on the beach after all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 2 day project

For the last 5 days our jack of all trades – Norm – has been at our house re-doing our primary bathroom which is located off the hallway on our main floor. While there was nothing aesthetically wrong with the room, the shower was starting to leak slowly into the basement and mold was beginning to grow behind the tiles. For fear of sitting in the basement, watching TV and having the ceiling collapse on us from water damage, we decided to bite the bullet and get this repaired sooner rather than later.Typically when we call Norm to get on his schedule, we can guarantee at least a 3 or 4 week wait before he can get to us. When we called him on Monday, he said he could start the next day. Obviously times are tight in Norm’s world which is unfortunate for him but worked out very well for us. Norm showed up two days later (the next day actually did not work for us) and gave us a quote for “probably around $800.. unless there is some unforeseen mess when I tear out the shower”. This in itself made my husband and I cringe. The man who owned our house prior to us buying it was a self-proclaimed “handy man”. Please note the quotes around handy man. Unfortunately over time, we have found more than our share of things that he has tried to “fix” that has ended up costing us substantially when they break and we need to fix again. We never know where these fixes are or when they are going to pop up. The timing is generally never good. So.. needless to say, the bathroom was another one of these situations.Apparently the prior owner had installed the shower plumbing himself and had done a very shoddy job. Norm had to not only replace the plumbing in the main bathroom but also in the bathroom off of the master bedroom where the (cough) stellar prior guy had connected the two pieces of plumbing. Why have 2 when you can jerry rig it with one right? So..our two day job is now on day 6 and is undoubtedly going to cost much more than the originally quoted $800. The good news is that he thinks he’ll be done today. The results, while not yet finished, are great. Norm is fabulous and we can’t say enough great things about the work he does. Hopefully by the end of today, we will have a pretty new shower that is mold free with leak free plumbing and the comfort of knowing that yet another project of the former guy has been corrected and won’t come back to bite us when we least expect it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Today is the Chinese New Year. It is the year of the Ox. The Chinese New Year is often referred to as the Spring Festival and is celebrated after the fall harvest but before the spring planting season. The date always changes and is dependent on the Chinese calendar which is a combined solar/lunar calendar. I’d like to say that I know this because I’m that culturally in tune with other customs but in all reality I stumbled upon it while searching the web earlier today.

I am not sure what the traditions are for this holiday. If it’s anything like the New Year that I recently celebrated with good friends, it starts by over indulging with fine food and libations and ends with spending a day in bed cursing the headache that has plagued me by my own hand. Something tells me however that the Chinese are smarter than I am. Regardless of what the traditions may entail, Happy Chinese New Year to all. May it be prosperous and filled with hope.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Top Chef I'm Not

Anyone who knows me knows that cooking is not one of my strengths. I am capable of cooking but tend to overlook key ingredients or key instructions in the recipe. Oh… I was supposed to cook the chicken before putting it in the casserole? OOPs… missed that part. It drives my husband crazy but I’m very fortunate that he is a good cook and enjoys doing it most nights.

I begin with this insight into my culinary ability so that you will all understand how funny it was when I received a packet from the Cooking Club of America inviting me to join their club. The intro letter starts off with “Well, it’s no secret among your friends and family that you are an outstanding cook”. Hilarious! If my friends and family think that, it is definitely a well-kept secret. Average cook – Yes. Good cook, it’s rare but on occasion I don’t completely suck but outstanding cook.. in all honesty that is just not me. I undoubtedly ended up on their list because I subscribe to several cooking magazines. I may not be an “outstanding” cook but I certainly enjoy good food and it’s fun to pick out new recipes for my hubby to make. I’m pretty certain that I will not be joining the club but I definitely appreciate the invitation. It’s nice to feel wanted.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The First Daughters

Ty, the company that makes the Beanie Babies has recently introduced two new dolls named "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia. According to a Ty spokesperson, the dolls names do not refer to President Barack Obama’s young daughters. The names were chosen because "they are beautiful names," not because of any resemblance to Malia and Sasha Obama. Right! The Sasha doll has pigtails and wears a white and pink dress with hearts. The Malia doll has a side ponytail and a long-sleeve shirt with capri pants.

Maybe it's just me but something about this is just wrong. These are people..not Beanie Babies. These girls were thrust into the spotlight by the fact that their father chose to run for the highest position of elected office in this country. Don't get me wrong.. I am a huge supporter of our new president but I think it's kind of tacky that we are capitalizing on his two little girls and creating dolls in their likeness. Oh.. sorry.. I forgot... NOT in their likeness. My bad. Pure coincidence.

I’m sure to many, Sasha and Malia (the real ones..not the dolls) are considered role models. They demonstrate to many that opportunities are everywhere and I'm sure that there are many little girls who would love to run out and get these dolls. If these dolls serve a positve purpose, and not just to put money in Ty's bank account, I encourage it. Hopefully the real Sasha and Malia will adapt well to life in the White House and will be able to retain their privacy and have fun being the little girls that they are. I wish them the best.

Jumping In Feet First

For the next week I will attempt to keep your attention while Toad is off relaxing in beautiful, sunny South Florida with Mrs. T. When I was first approached with the opportunity to be a guest contributor to To-The-Manner-Born I was a little unsure. I definitely thought it sounded like fun and would enjoy filling in for him but what on earth would I write about? Having spent the last few days pondering this, I have a new appreciation for all of you out there who blog on a daily basis and let us into your world. Thank you! Having not kept a blog myself but following many (including many of yours) each day, I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to log onto some of my favorite sites only to find that it is still the same post from the day before ..or (gasp) several days prior. How selfish of me. It’s only day 1 for me but I definitely now understand the time and effort that goes into such a task. I’m sure it gets easier over time but for a newbie.. WOW! For those who don’t update everyday… I now get it and promise to be more patient. Thanks again to all of you who give me something to read each day. I can’t promise to be as entertaining or thought provoking as Toad, but I hope that over the course of the next week I don’t disappoint and we all enjoy the ride. Thanks in advance for your support!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We're off

Toads are warm weather creatures. So, in search of warmth we are off to Florida. I promise not to return with stories and pretty pictures about how we had a better time in the warmth than you did in the cold.

Whilst away, I have promoted my dahlink daughter to Empress in Charge. She promised to continue our regular missives, in my absence. I leave you in her capable hands. I shall be incommunicado, and unable to defend you or myself from her barbs.

Be well, I'll miss you, but shall return February 2 or so.


PS. Please do not rob my house while I am away.

Follow up day

Fair Isle Sweater

The original sweater I solicited your opinion about, I did not win, but for half the price scored this one. The colors are not as vibrant, but I like it. It works very well with a camel cord jacket, barbour or light tweed. Thank you all for your opinions and sound advice.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shorttimers Ltd

I am privileged to have met many interesting people through this blog. Its still a shock to me to whenever I am reading a blog and find a link to here. To all of you I thank. I am humbled and grateful for your review. Other times I get email from someone who has a fascinating tale to tell related to a something I have posted. This is about one of the best.

Recently I published a rambling story about my misadventures in the Air Force. The following day I received an email from a Mr. James West, who may or may not be The Wild Wild West. We'll have to find out later.

Mr. West is a disabled vet who enjoyed being short so much, he named his company: Shorttimers Ltd - Home Page

I have purposefully avoided being a shill for the companies I post about, but I make an exception here. Shorttimers deserves our support.


A friendly male reminder

Gentlemen may I offer a little advice?
You are NOT what you do at work!!!!!!!! You are a spouse, companion, friend, lover, father, brother......

You and the world deserve better, than for you to think of yourself so narrowly. That just because you do whatever it is that you do, that's who you are is just so wrong. Want confirmation?

Your kids don't have a clue what you do and they still like you.

Gents it's cold outside. Drop her off at the door, she'll wait for you... inside.

(Can you tell I have spent too much time with the recently unemployed lately?)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Gentleman's Library Sale at Bonhams

If you are not the sort of chap the Hovey sisters are likely to invite for cocktails, but still have a taste for the exotic, may I suggest a quick on-line visit to Bonhams auction Wednesday.
The Gentleman's Library at Bonhams auction house - Telegraph

Stuffed animals, travel accessores, shells, buttons and gimcracks of all kinds. Just the kind of clutter so perfect for a erudite gentleman's quarters.


So Long, Adios, TTFN


Edmund de Rothschild

I had planned to write about this later in the spring, but events overtook me.

I am a Rhodoholic. Gardening in an oak and hickory forest has given me an appreciation of Rhododendrons, Azalea's and Mountain Laurel. They are amongst the few plants that grow here and the deer won't eat, I have come to love them.

The greatest Rhodoholic that ever lived recently died, Edmund de Rothschild, scion of the Rothschild banking family. His family garden is known as Exbury Gardens and is THE worlds treasure garden for lovers of RAMLs.
Exbury garden web site home page

His Daily Telegraph Obituary includes the following about his life: Edmund de Rothschild - Telegraph
"After his return from the Second World War in 1946, Eddy de Rothschild set about the restoration of Exbury Gardens in Hampshire, the 260-acre woodland garden created by his father Lionel in the 1920s and 1930s. The gardens had been greatly neglected since Lionel's death in 1942.

Over the next 50 years he replanted some three-quarters of the acreage, and produced several dozen new rhododendron hybrids. He also developed the highly successful Solent Range of Exbury deciduous azaleas, which are noted for their strength and colour. In 1955 he opened Exbury Gardens to the public.

Well into his eighties, Eddy de Rothschild would hurtle around Exbury's network of garden paths (designed to be wide enough for his father's Armstrong-Siddeley) in a small car with the number plate NMR 1. He would stop the car to pass the time of day with the visitors, and liked to get out to hack off dead branches and blooms with a stout rhododendron-wood stave."

I have several of his rhododendron hybrids here at The Park. They are an enduring legacy to a fascinating man.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Toad the Massage Virgin

Mrs T. gave me a gift certificate to Massage Envy for my birthday last year. If you are unfamiliar with ME let me explain. It is a national chain of massage parlors offering a more therapeutic, less inclusive service than those near the airport in most major cities. Or so I'm told.

I had forgotten about it until recently, then I had to search high and low for the card. Without prodding and unknown to my bride, I made a reservation for a couples massage for our anniversary. We were told to be there 10 minutes early, since there were important papers to fill out.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, allow me to announce that in my 50+ years I have never had a massage of any sort. I am a massage virgin.

Driving there I made two completely uninformed snarky comments which I will share. I was wrong about only one of them, but only temporarily. First, I publicly stated that this was probably a business which will not survive these troubled times.

Second, I allowed that this seemed to me to be a lousy way to earn a living. I feel I am right here.

So naturally, we arrived on time, but late, the waiting room was packed, which pozalutely stunned me. A clip board with the all important papers were handed to us. Mrs T is a Catholic school educated, former school marm, so anything on a clipboard is vitally important, and likely to be graded. Her best penmanship is also required.

Page 1 is a survey.

First 2 questions I got 100%.
#3 what are my massage needs? How would one know?

#4 Have you ever experienced massage therapy? Resounding NO.

#5 How often do you get a massage? correct again

#6 Do you get a massage as often as you like? Again, I am a 50+ massage virgin. I answered Yes. This was the correct answer, or so I thought.

#7 How often would you like to get a massage? See above. So far I'm batting 100, except for #3.

#8 What days would be most convenient for you? Huh? I answered "For What?"

#9 What do you look for when scheduling a massage? I answered, "a human being to answer the phone." Correct again.

#10 What qualities are you looking for in a massage therapist? My answer, "Someone who is not the mother, wife, sister or daughter of a friend or acquaintance.

I certified I had answered truthfully to the best of my knowledge.

Page 2 was entirely name and phone. I used a bad number and got this page wrong.

So we had our massage. Two lovely young women administered them and I am hopeful the pain in my back and arms will go away in a couple of days.

As they say in horse racing, I have won my maiden, and I still think it would be a horrible way to earn a living.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shoe Dog

Somehow I have turned into the shoe guy, which I find odd, because I have always liked what I liked and didn't care about the rest. My taste in men's shoes is fairly conventional, although I do prefer suede to calf, and insist that leather shoes be shined.

Over the past week or two these have passed my desk. The first pair may hopefully just be a joke, or filler to someones spring clothing line. I hope they are not serious.

Frighteningly, the second photo is serious. Made by esteemed British shoemaker Grenson they are suede, made available in most pastel colors, and even with the lower exchange rate frightfully expensive. I shudder to think what suit would be most appropriate. Nothing of mine thankfully.

The final photo is from the Timberland Boot coming spring collection. I think I like them.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday Night Date Night, part 2

We were joined by friends for Date Night Friday this week, and once again it was my pick. I chose Last Chance Harvey with Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman.

Turns out it was a pretty good choice. It's the story of a divorced father, estranged from his family who leaves NY to attend his daughter's London wedding. Throughout Dustin is a fifth wheel, until he meets the redeeming Emma.

Strongly recommended, although probably better for an over 40 crowd. Younger views may have no clue who Dustin Hoffman is, unless they saw Mr. Magorium.


Presidential Polls

Beginning this weekend will be a number of polls of presidential rankings. Who's best, who's worst. All will respectfully conclude, probably correctly, that it is too soon to rate the most recent presidency, that time will tell, and its for posterity to decide, etc, wa wa wa.

One consensus you will likely find is that near the bottom of most polls is our 14th president Franklin Pierce. Franklin is credited with having almost as much to do to cause the civil war as anyone else in history. He was a drunk, warmonger, racist, anti immigrant tyrant. His domestic policy included keeping Irish, Italian and Catholics from immigrating, while attempting to ship those already here back. Jeff Davis served as his Secretary of War. His own party didn't nominate him for reelection.

Well, Franklin survived his one term presidency, and had a grandson. His grandson had a granddaughter who is still very much alive. She was born Barbara Pierce. Barbara's distinction is to be one of only two women whose husbands and sons were US presidents.

Perhaps you recognize Barbara (nee)Pierce better as Barbara Bush.

Is it nature or nurture? Perhaps even mediocrity is hereditary? The jury is still out.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Help please, traveling friends

Once again I am back, seeking assistance from my favorite people.

It's cold in Mayberry. My barberette says there is no point to cold if you can't have snow, so with so much wisdom from the mouths of babes, I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

We're leaving, but not for long.

To celebrate our nuptuals I have booked room and board in Sanibel Island, Fla. from Jan 24-31.

We have never been there. Generally, we head to Key West, but Saniibel was muy cheaper and two days less driving.

So, is there anything to do there? Any don't misses? Any must avoids?

Thanks once again.


My name is Toad, and I'm a lurker.

One site I lurk fairly regularly is Mossback Meadow, which I would describe as something like reading a small town newspaper, in a town you enjoy being in. Written by a woman who stops here periodically. She has a son who recently joined the Army and another child due in a couple of months. I cry reading many of her posts.

This story is for her.

I suspect all branches of the military have a similar practice. They may call it something different, but when I was in the Mo. Air Force National Guard, the most important status you could be was "Short".

Short was a nickname for a short timer. You were soon to be finished training, or about to be redeployed, or get out . You get the picture.

Back during the dark days of December 1970 and January 1971 I fought the battle of Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas. Others called it basic training. After about 6 weeks they told us that if we could sew stripes on all our uniforms they would let us out the next day. Ever watch boys sew?

So they put us on a bus and chauffeured us to Keesler AFB in Biloxi Miss, to attend technical school. In typical Air Force fashion, we got there mid Friday evening, were shown to our rooms, and told to report at 9 am Monday. Not knowing anyone in town, and with a couple of friends from home in my unit, we tried to get the lay of the land. We found it in about 5 minutes. There were soda machines everywhere and they all sold beer, at a dime a can. Weather was better than we left too.

Monday morning was awful.

Whoever was in charge took roll and asked the new boys what class they were in. Once recorded, on a large bulletin board was written your name, class, expected graduation date, and short date. We hadn't a clue what short was, so they explained as such.

Every weekday, until you were short you were expected to show up at roll call and afterwards you were assigned some stupid clean up project, until noon. When you were short you were excused from this drivel. You became short when you had the same number of days left in class, that you originally had weeks.

In my case I would be short 20 days before the end of class.

Four days there and already I'm having trouble with my room mate. Poor kid's regular AF from upstate NY, homesick as hell and 10 weeks into a year long program, after which he could look forward to a year in Thule, Greenland.

Over and over he played the same gawd awful Joni Mitchell album, then cried himself to sleep. Knowing I was out in 20 weeks did not endear me to him. But I was young and figured I could live with it.

So we did our grunt work, had lunch and went to class.. Next day same thing, except. Towards the end of class the instructor, said, "Gents, I've got news for you. In its infinite wisdom the AF sees no need for you to learn the last 2/3 of the material presented, so you will be out of here in 3 weeks... 21 days". On our second day we were SHORT.

No more getting up early. No more floor polishing, window washing, trash hauling. We were kings. God, were we hated. You would have thought we invented stink. Never again did morning roll include us.

Just to prove that good things happen to idiots, in 3 weeks I was sent to do battle at Jefferson Barracks, in suburban St. Louis, which is the oldest military base west of the Mississippi River. After a couple of days bothering people they had enough of us and sent us home. Told us to come back the second weekend of every month, for another 5 1/2 years.

Only problem was and it wasn't discovered until very much later, with our very little active duty time, we were not eligible for most of the GI benefits, and me a Viet Nam era veteran. (which I would never disgrace the honorable men and women who were there, by admitting.)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mrs. T's Anniversary

Today is Mrs. T's wedding anniversary.

We were married on a unseasonably warm January Saturday 9 years ago, surrounded by friends and family, in a little Lutheran Lite church (UCC) about 15 miles from Mayberry.

Just to tempt the weather gods, our reception was held at Hunter's Hollow, a very small community 25 miles in the opposite direction from Mayberry.

Picture a V. Mayberry is at the bottom, the church at the top to your right, the reception at the top to your left. The only way to get from the church to the reception is through Mayberry. We were late for both events.

I remember the day before the ceremony having a tremendous sense of happiness. It hasn't left.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Daniel Craig on Charlie Rose

Did anyone happen to see Daniel Craig on Charlie Rose last night?

I apologize for the quality of the photo, but I hope you will understand.

Take a good look at the suit and tie. I doubt Mr. Craig buys off the rack or much vintage. is this one of those deplorable Brooks Brothers creations, or even less likely did he find a tailor who would sell his soul to recreate a 50's Mad Man suit?

Daniel is a very good looking guy, but he had to feel like a dunce putting this on.


An Editorial Rant

So I am wondering.

My generation has seen the death of good manners, respect for our common institutions and our children's self esteem. Its allowed Sodom and Gomorrah pass for esteemed travel destinations, and sluttishness, both male and female to become not only accepted, but lionized in the public entertainments. All this without outrage or shame. I weep for our future.

Like the natives selling Manhattan, we've traded our nations security and well being to Walmart in exchange of toys and trinkets, in an effort to enrich China and save a quarter on a tube of hair gel. Frankly, I don't understand, and probably never will.

So now we are in hot water. Times are tough throughout this country. You know how I know?

I went to the bank yesterday, and the tellers looked like adults at work and not ragamuffins. I couldn't let this pass unnoticed so I asked the boy in charge what was up. He said that as of January 2, and a large infusion of Federal largess, the bank was to be run as a business, and therefore business dress was required of everyone. Alleluia.

I for one am sick of professionals showing up at work looking like they would rather be on a golf course. In fact, Mrs. T and I abruptly left an appointment with an attorney last summer when he showed up in shorts. Didn't seem like a serious person to me, and he was outraged when I told him so.

So now its no longer business as usual. Professions of all sorts are going to jump through hoops to demonstrate their value. I hope more follow our banks' example.

End of rant, my last for a long while. Thank you for your forebearance.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Book of Obituaries

Ever read the Obits?

It's not as macabre as you might think. The worst part is that most of them are dry as dirt and are anything but interesting. I have always found them fascinating though.

Several years ago, I found a book which opened my eyes to just how much fun a newspaper Obit could be. It was "The Daily Telegraph Book of Obituaries, A celebration of Eccentric lives." Let me give you an example written upon the death of one Ian Board. "Board was an heroic smoker and drinker-until recently he would breakfast on brandy and he once consumed a bottle of creme de menthe at a sitting-and if his drinking destroyed his youthful good looks it also shaped and nourished his magnificent nose".

Or Denisa Lady Newborough, who has died at 79, was many things: wire-walker, nightclub girl, nude dancer and airpilot. She only refused to be two things- a whore and a spy-"and there were attempts to make me both," she once wrote. Ever read that in an American paper?

While I am neither recommending nor encouraging excess, wouldn't you love to be immortalized by someone who told the truth. This whole book is a praise to the stereotypical eccentric Brit.

Other editions celebrate the lives of war heroes, politicians, criminals and churchmen. You can find many of them at Alibris

Where all this was leading is this. British Obituaries are a much different breed of cat than you will find in America. They are funny. erudite, and mostly good natured fun in a way that no American would ever consider. While I cannot speak to the reputation or character of either of these, I hope they are not the English language versions of Pravda, I recommend that you take a periodic look at these.

Obituaries - Telegraph

Obituaries Times Online

You won't have a clue who the deceased are, but somehow it just doesn't matter.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Your house

I suppose that most of our homes are design compromises. A little bit yours, a little bit mine and some of ours. It probably depends on age, resources and how long you have been together to settle the mixture.

Some of his pieces set your teeth on edge, but take pride of place. You rid your home of them at the same psychic cost as throwing out his threadbare favorite sweater.

What if, one morning after brunch, he puts the paper down, looks lovingly into your eyes and says, "Darling, I've been wrong. My taste evaporated when I found you. I want to live in the world you create for us. Design our home however you see best, with my full support and nary a word of discouragement or complaint from me".

He is a gentleman, and he keeps his word! Always.

So what do you do? Light the fireplace with his grandmother's sideboard for kindling? Keep in mind you haven't won the lottery.

This was brought about by the lovely Hollister Hovey's blog, and the February House Beautiful view of Mrs. Blandings' and the Hovey's living rooms. I know my bride would quickly get the shakes at Hollisters. I'd just be settling in. We each loved Mrs. B's.

Unfortunately taste cannot be taught, but design certainly can be, and done well comfort and harmony result. For now, neither of us is giving in. That makes it all the more fun.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ponder on this

Have you ever stopped to consider that the population density of Alaska is only 1.2 persons per square mile greater than that of the moon?

Pre Christmas Cook book search

First, thanks to all who offered their favorite cook book suggestions. I looked at all of them I could find and made decisions based upon a very discriminating criteria which I failed to mention in advance.

Cookbooks are somewhat like good porn, you know the one when you see it. So the book has to grab you visually. That is the problem with most church or Junior League cookbooks. They may have great recipes, but they do not visually grab your attention.

They need to be readable with adult eyes. If I have to search for my readers to cook broccoli, I'm not likely to open that book. Might make good bed time reading, but its not one I'd work with.

With these humble criteria I chose Martha's recommendation and brought home, Patricia Wells' Vegetable Harvest. It seems to have the right mix of things you'd actually do, with things you might enjoy eating.

Also, Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. I do not know Jack from the Beanstalk, but his genre appears to be Italian, and there are a number of Italian influences in his recipes.

Those who know me have been shaking their heads for a while now. I have mentioned in the past that for a fat man I am a choosy eater. I'd almost rather eat feathers than my veggies, but Mrs T claims to want me around for a while, so like it or not I am going to be served ample servings of greens and yellows and reds, and whites.

So my cook book choices are somewhat self serving, if not for me whom?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Too much?

Gang, I ask semi-seriously, is this too much?

As a fat man, I do not especially care for the vast expanse of shirt which shows beneath an open sport coat. So I make some effort to camouflage it by wearing a vest or sweater vest under a coat. I find the change of texture or color a workable stylistic tic. So picture this sweater under a corduroy or brown tweed sport coat.

In the first photo, Ralph copied the young Prince's sweater then cut the arms off.

While I am half a foot taller, 100 pounds heavier and 30 years older than the lad in the picture, I wonder would it work? Would you encourage such a choice for wear around your castle? The auction ends tomorrow. Comments welcome, I can take it.


Friday, January 9, 2009


I was dragged off to the movies Friday afternoon.

The usual drill around here is that we take turns selecting movies, but anyone can veto, depending upon who it is. This was not my turn.

For whatever reason, I tend to select the chick flix and my hard headed bride goes for the more serious stuff. Today's choice was Doubt starring Meryl Streep,and a number of actors you have never seen of or heard of before.

Set in a Catholic school in the mid '60's school principal Meryl believes a priest is taking undue advantage with a young boy in the school. I kept waiting for"this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime", but I was disappointed.

It would probably make a great 3 actor play, but as a movie it's eminently missable.


Book Report Day!!!!!

This is not only a test, but further proof that history is written by the winners.

Think back to your American or World History classes. Ignore the Ericson family, who beat Columbus by about 500 years.

Columbus arrived in the new world in 1492, never once setting foot on North or South America. The English settled near Jamestown in May 1607 and were surprisingly met by English speaking natives. Brits hit Plymouth Rock in 1620. What happened in the Americas in the ensuing 100+ years between Columbus and Plymouth Rock? Were the Americas ignored until a Pilgrim said let's find someone to persecute, just as we have been persecuted?

No indeed, and give yourself one point for every time that Columbus returned, if you remember that he returned and 2 points if you know how many times he returned.

This is where the names you heard in History class come into play, but you have no idea who they are or what they did. De Leon, Cortes, Coronado any of this ringing a bell?

These are the Spanish conquistadors who either alone, in Cortes's case or with large parties in Coronado's were the first Europeans to explore what is now the US.

Cortes, virtually alone, left what is now Sarasota, Florida in 1528 and spent 8 years exploring most of the south through Ga, SC over hill and dale through Mississippi and La, across Texas and across Mexico to the Pacific.

Coronado and his party explored much of present day New Mexico, Arizona, Texas , Oklahoma and Kansas in 1540. Explored the Grand Canyon in 1541, and returned to Mexico in 1542.

The first English explorations didn't begin until 1584.

I have been reading A Voyage Long and Strange, rediscovering the new world by Tony Horwitz. I found it on Book TV, and it's one of those books that make ya say wow, I didn't know that. When I think of Spanish Exploration, my mind immediately jumps to Latin and South America. It's hard for me to put Wichita Kansas and conquistadors in the same thought, but so it is.

A great read, especially if you know as little of the American west as I do.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Toad's Fantasy Garage

I used to be a car guy. The piles of junk I have owned over the years makes me weep to contemplate. Some I truly miss, especially the '65 Alfa GT. Some I couldn't get rid of quickly enough.

Still, I have a fantasy garage. The garage is mostly filled with cars that I would love to have, but have very little desire to own. My Range Rover County is an example. I'd love the yard sculpture, but the aggravation would drive me insane. Others are cars I would enjoy having, but really how much is too much.

Not that I am yet willing to consider a rice burner. I am still repulsed by the notion of approaching a stop light and finding 6 other cars exactly like mine waiting for me. I'd sooner walk. However, there is something to be said for a car that is as reliable as your kitchen stove. Maybe when I am younger.

So, the other day I was paying my annual property tax bill on my two cars, Camilla whom you have met, and my daily driver, an 1989 Mercedes 190 E Sedan. I hope the Benz will see me out, because as cars go, I kinda like it. Anyway the tax on the two cars is $46, so I can barely afford to be rid of them.

But still. I have always, maybe even in the womb, had a thing for luxury station wagons. It was a market niche that did not exist until recently. In my era if you wanted a wagon you got a Country Squire, and my dad was way too cool for a station wagon. I remember asking why Cadillac did not make a wagon and was told no one wanted a luxury kid hauler. I did. So what if I was 10.

So over the weekend I see one of the cars of my dreams for sale. An 80's Benz Diesel wagon. Maybe has 250,000 miles on it. Still smells like new. All for only $1000.

If ever you are in want of a little sport, try and talk Mrs. T into the practicality of owning a 20+ year old station wagon with a quarter million miles on the clock. If that's not sport enough try doing it the day you write the check for the property tax on the house.

For now it goes into the fantasy garage, next to the Rover, on the wall opposite the 1965 Ferrari 330 GT, which I would love to have in the barn, but have no desire to own.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What would you do for your pet?

From News of the Weird
To the Dogs

" A British surgeon will spend about $370,000 to equip her luxury home in Gloustershire with a state-of-the-art, three room suite for her two Great Danes, including cameras so that she can monitor them via the Internet while she is away" December 29, 2008

We have been blessed by my daughter and her husband electing to spend Kwanzaa with Mrs. T and I. We do not see enough of them and Mrs T loves to tussle with SIL's conceits, all in good humor and love of course, but still, she can't help herself.

SIL loves his two dogs. Dog 1 is daughter's 9 year old Golden Retriever. We learned the leash tied to Ted the Wonderdog's collar trick on this guy when he was just a pup. Dog 2 is SIL's foxhound. Two sweeter, friendlier, better behaved dogs you will never find.

These two pups understand that in their house SIL is the boss, then maybe my daughter, unless one of the dogs wants to be #2 that day. Everyone seems to be OK with that so who am I to suggest otherwise? Could be worse.

So this fall Dog 1 caught sick. Their vet suggested the dog might improve if many dollars transferred from their checking account to the vets. The money transferred, the dog got better, all are happy. Except Mrs T.

Mrs T immediately challenged the perceived wisdom of this plan. It was her strongly held belief, and one that Ted took an active interest in, that somewhere around 11% of the transferred funds Ted was a dead man. Or in her words, "it's a dog!"

So let's pretend for a moment that money is not an issue. Where do you draw the line with your pets? Does Spot get a better deal than Grandma? Just wondering.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

check your TIVO

I hope it not just a local presentation, or another TIVO joke, but according to our TIVO, scheduled on PBS Wednesday evening is a replaying of the classic 1967 airing of Mark Twain Tonight, starring Hal Holbrook.

{In my defense, the PBS website has never heard of Twain, and plans on airing local boy Kevin Kline in Cyrano.}

I clearly remember the first airing. Holbrook was a young man then, but immediately you accepted him as a 70 year old Samuel Clemons. It caused me to read all of Twains books. Take up cigars too if memory serves. My favorite book is Letters From Earth.

If you haven't read it, try it, especially if you have a bit of flexibility in your religion. God knows Twain's did.

If I am wrong, just remember I was thinking about you.

Waterford/Wedgewood/Royal Dalton?

My first thought when hearing the news that Waterford, Wedgewood and Royal Dalton filed for bankruptcy protection in Ireland was what's this gonna cost me?

Infrequently, I react to bad news in the negative, and this was one of those times.

Apparently, the three companies were purchased by two rich brothers who overpaid and saddled the company with too much debt (sound familiar?). The slow down in the economy slowed worldwide sales and it became impossible to meet the debt service. Now they seek someone richer and smarter to buy them out. In the mean time, the combined company is continuing daily operations. (Much relief)

I was temporarily overcome with the notion that I would immediately have to take in a lifetime supply of glassware for not only my own household, but those of all my descendants, born or planned.

Since I won't have to, at least immediately, I am willing to write the bankruptcy judge extolling the virtues of the petitioners products, especially as vessels for Redbreast Irish Whiskey. In fact I may invite him over to personally observe how magnificently a Waterford goblet refracts the amber liquid and background fireplace. As long as he had come that far, it would be inhospitable of me to not at least offer a wee dram, so he could tell for himself. May change the course of history.


Monday, January 5, 2009


She made me work.

"Why don't you start in the dining room", she purred. "Count the silverware, count the glassware." Mostly boring stuff. Putting away the Candlebulbs is the saddest part of all.

Candlebulbs are one of my favorite house decorates. We drag them out for Christmas and one or two other occasions during the year and then tend to forget about them. Let me explain.

Candlebulbs are glass, screw in, candle holders. They live in the chandelier. You remove the light bulbs from your chandelier, and screw the candlebulb into the light bulb sockets. Once inserted, light the candles. While I am not an electrician, I'm told the glass candleholder acts as an insulator should you accidentally hit the light switch while the candlebulbs are in place.

For those who love candle light in dining rooms, nothing is cooler than a candle burning chandelier.

So why don't we use it more often? It's because of the candles. They are becoming difficult to find, and must be made of exotic stuff since they are becoming unreasonably costly, for what they are.

Anyone know any candle crafters? We are a couple of years from needing more.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

I'm sorry

As Oppie says when you know better you'll do better, and so it is with me.

I had no idea I was promoting Noddas on my own blog, let alone captchas. I feel like an ass, especially after posting about them. I believe I have now gotten rid of them. If not let me know. I can change most everything, but the author and whatever comes out of his keyboard.

How else can I enhance your visit?

From small beginnings, a great year follows.


A youthful memory

Late Wednesday afternoon, the FED Ex man showed up with my semi annual Brook Brothers shirt delivery. Each year BB has their shirts on sale for 1/2 off the day after Christmas. With my additional 15% off its quite a deal. Mrs. T asked what was in the box, and somehow it carried me back to my wasted youth. I told her this story. She knew the principal characters from a different context, and is available to confirm some of the particulars.

Growing up, a good friend's father was a federal judge. To ease his life, he made a great effort to minimize the choices he had to make on a day to day basis. To get him out of the house faster in the morning, he always and only wore BB navy blue suits, white shirts and one from his selection of two or three ties. Black socks, black shoes. Six days a week, every week.

His four sons each took up the law, and eventually they formed a law practice together, with the understanding that there would always be an office for dad when he retired. Dad came sooner than expected and all went well until one day the oldest son showed up at the office in a pink BB button down collared shirt. The man was 35 years old.

Oldest boy got a dressing down that day that would make a Marine drill Sergeant proud. "Gentlemen of the law do not wear pink shirts", the old man is quoted as saying.

When son got home he tossed his shirt in the trash in front of his bride and children, explaining to all his day at the office. Rising to the occasion his adored bride called her father in law. In the Judge's eye, the sun and moon rose in her orbit, the woman could do no wrong.

"Papa" she said, "that was NO pink shirt. It was light red. I know because I bought it."

Within a week, the Judge had one too. Even wore it to the office once. On a Saturday.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Renovation Therapy's Auction

While I am recovering today, stop by our dear friend at Renovation Therapy RENOVATION THERAPY formerly I Love Upstate and participate in her on line auction. It's for a great cause.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


I like you just the way you are.

However, if you are hell bent on making New Years Resolutions have the decency and courtesy to avoid those self esteem destroying, I'm gonna lose 25 pounds by swimming suit season, types. I'll all for self improvement, but a bit of self delusion goes a long way.

Allow me to offer the hardest resolution suggestion that you will ever encounter. It is in fact mind numbingly easy to do, it only requires that you change your entire way of looking at the world. You will find that if you utilize its simple principles, over time it will improve every aspect of your life. And its free.

With heartfelt thanks to my old boss, Hap Lignoul, and author Douglas Adams I call it NMP. NMP should become your mantra. NMP, as in Not My Problem.

Imagine you're sitting at home wondering if your doofus high schooler remembered his homework, or scheduled 3 calendar conflicts. Instead of stewing about it, remember NMP. You're not paying the price, so do not give it another thought.

Co-workers flight leaves in an hour and he hasn't left for the airport yet? Bummer. NMP

Is your neighbor about to lose his job? NMP

Did Karen order the office supplies? NMP

What I am suggesting is, that if everyone worried about their own small piece of the world, and kept their nose out of everyone else's business, the world would be a much better place. Your stress levels fall instantly. Your blood pressure falls. You live a longer and healthier life. Your near adult children may learn the value of price paying, once they figure out you love them enough to let them fail, HARD. Focus on those things you are responsible for, and leave the rest.

Try it, I dare ya.