December 26, 2010

the days after...

topic number sixteen: recipe for recovery

As we all head down the home stretch of this season's holidays, the effects of getting, gifting and gastric gluttony can be a special challenge for many. Just as the master "to do" list was finally sent to bed with milk and cookies, a new re-engineered list develops, a requirement for post holiday responsibilities and new year resolutions.

My daughter has begun her back-to-school mode, ordering next term's class books and preparing suitcases for travel. Just as accountants look to the day after April 15th, my husband is planning his hibernation after Christmas retailing ends. For me, there are and will always be new lists, re-organizing, cleaning and...out with the old (yes, including this blog) and in with the new (whatever that may be).

Curiously, my daughter and I have had recent dialogues about the word entropy, a term often used to interpret the degree of gradual decline, of disorder or randomness in a system, the lack of predictability, degeneration and...chaos. Our online thesaurus uses entropy in a single sentence: Life is a struggle against entropy. Funny, as my absurdities, my habits have always intended to remove the "s" word out of this equation. Thus, my recipe for recovery is to choose adventure over struggle, select creativity over format and embrace the coming year enthusiastically.

Happy new year and best wishes to you all!

December 19, 2010

conquering chaos

topic number fifteen: calendar competency

Many seasons past when friends would call, our conversations would start like this: "How are you doing?" And my response would always be: "It is crazy here right now." In hindsight, I responded as though the ongoing chaos was completely out of my control. We all know better.

After the realization that I was responsible for the chaos created, the crazy busy, the question then became whether I actually wanted it or not. Yes, there are times in all of our lives when there is too little time and too much to do, racing from one activity to the next. Some of us enjoy the adrenaline rush on occasion. But quite frankly, who loves this on a sustained basis?

Managing chaos can be mastered with a calendar and a clear conscience. It means prioritizing the events that will be attended and those that will not. It means triaging chores. It means personally ranking what is urgent and what can be placed into procrastination. (We all can use that little treat once in a while.) But it also means creating time for play and for rest. I think many of us forget to schedule this on the calendar. This is especially important for the A types who have schedules filled through 2011 and beyond.

A balanced life may only be as good as the calendar you keep. I found that an active use of Quo Vadis kept me inside the line of sanity. Today, my computer calendar helps me out every day. I love using those color codes too. Syncing up in the morning to my iPhone frees up precious brain space from having to remember times, dates and activities, addresses and frequent flyer numbers. This alone is worth an extra hour!

So make an early new year resolution--communicate with your calendar using ink instead of pencil for personal time. Soon you may have time to take an extra deep breath or extra time for breakfast, even extra time with a loved one...catching up on calendars.

chaos in calendars

As a good friend tells me, "control is underrated in a world full of chaos." While my mother might ardently disagree, it is my firm belief that life's chaos cannot be controlled. Instead, I seek to understand, respect, and reflect on the chaos surrounding (and often caused by) me.

A remarkable calendar helps. In high school, I was voted "most likely to travel with her planner." While my commitment to my calendar has lessened since high school, my mother's has not. When I use the line "I have to check my calendar," it's never just my calendar but my mother's as well, without which our family would not function.

December 12, 2010

sticky strife

topic number fourteen: disorderly decals

Aesthetic unrest can be a real issue and for me, it is an ongoing battle. This is especially true when it involves home invasion of price tags. Yes, these sticky labels find their way into all our homes-on fruit, on picture frames, books, candles, wine bottles, on just about everything. For most people this is of no consequence. But in our household, bringing home bananas definitely requires extra peeling time!

There is no kitchen comfort until these little sticky eyesores are carefully removed from each and every piece of fruit. There is something just so uncomfortable about those bright orange tabs with code. I think most of us will admit it is much more pleasing to look at a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit without these unappetizing attachments.

Likewise, forget bookshelf harmony until all Barnes & Noble discount patches have been eliminated. I do not understand why these labels are so big, bigger than the book title and author's name combined. Think about it--if one needs a label that big to read, how are they possibly going to read the text inside the book itself?

My desire for sticky tag eradication goes beyond to vendor identification labels found on bath towels and well, actually on all towels. I see little need for those notorious tags once a towel has been purchased for personal use. We all know how they scratch! This is just me, but I don't relax until all towel vendor tags are cropped. Detaching is a careful process. It is very important when trimming off the tag not to compromise the towel's binding.

Tags, labels, decals, sticky or stitched are lurking everywhere. I happen to love the fresh look of a home without. If you do too, please know, tag removal can be habit forming. For your pleasure, this comes without a warning label.

stuck on stickers

While my mother spends her time removing stickers, I used to spend my time collecting them. One afternoon while we were visiting a friend's house, my mother and I discovered their "sticker cabinet." Casual sticker collectors, the family kept each fruit sticker they came across under the kitchen sink on the cabinet door. That's right, they stuck them directly on the wooden surface. It disturbed my mom greatly and she thought it couldn't get much worse . . . until I, entranced, requested to take up the same practice. My poor mother was stuck (like the very stickers she despised) between a rock and a hard place: deny her daughter a simple joy or go against her ideals? Well, my mom, the fine woman that she is, found a wonderful middle ground. I was allowed to keep the stickers, but they had to be placed on a separate piece of cardboard kept behind the cleaning supplies out of view.

December 5, 2010

tips on trips

topic number thirteen: terminal trotting without tumbling

I am always early to the airport. It is my personal tradition, holiday or no holiday. I think it has to do with early childhood memories of mad family dashes to airport gates accompanied by massive stress and controversy over everything from misplaced tickets to seat assignments. During those excursions, travel and relaxation never intermingled. So as I sit at the airport enjoying a few carefree moments writing this blog, I can not help but notice those who are less fortunate. These are the travelers who leave trails of tortured ticket agents and forgotten sunglasses at security checkpoints in their wake.

Today, much has been published about the art of packing and many of us have mastered this successfully. Strategies for ticket purchase and seat selection are also well known. But what is missing from this overall dialogue is about personal commitment to traveltude, yes, aka travel attitude. Traveltude is all about the way one thinks about travel.

My belief is that every trip should be planned with extra time scheduled to allow for traffic delays, gate or terminal changes, an extra restroom stop--anything that might create more than a minor hiccup in reaching a scheduled destination. It takes a balanced bit of foresight and anticipation without at the same time willing on the distressing situation itself. This means scheduling extra time(a true luxury). My secret? Do not tell others your actual flight time. Reveal only the exact time you plan to start your journey whether it be from home or hotel. Otherwise, the following may happen--at least one of your fellow traveling entourage may elect to delay packing or may need to make an additional stop or two on the way to the airport or worse yet, might convince you to leave later. Don't do it! My second secret is to keep a fully charged cellphone with charger on my person at all times. Having telephone access to a ticket agent verses racing with the rest of the flight to the next terminal, to the last gate and to the one-agent ticket counter is a blessing.

Mentally preparing for a trip is equally important. This means slow deep breaths. This means calm. There really should be an airport surcharge for tightly wound passengers, or better yet, their own line through security along with designated seating. They make me so uncomfortable. I feel very privileged when I have the time to stop and thank a deserving flight attendant or help another passenger on or off the plane. I find it pleasurable to smile through each and every security checkpoint transaction. I like having time to count out exact change for purchases rather than quickly pulling for the easy reach twenty dollar bill.

It is truly a satisfying experience to travel without vexation, without racing with rancor. And the more I think traveltude, the more I do.

hanging out . . . at the airport?

My mother is completely correct when it comes to travel preparedness--get to the airport early. However, I must add, from personal experience, don't get there too early. How early is too early? When I was traveling home from college last summer, I wanted to get to the airport early because I had to check two bags and somehow get another three through security. My bus got me to the airport at 10:30 am but my flight did not leave until 4:30 pm. Apparently, on many airlines you cannot check bags sooner than 4 hours before departure. As I had arrived a whopping 6 hours early, I spent a lovely couple hours sitting on top of my 5 bags in the doorway of the airport, brooding quietly while playing solitaire, poised to slide my luggage under the black ropes to the airline check-in the second the clock chimed 12:30 pm. Needless to say, I memorized the airport pubic service announcements . . . in two languages.

November 28, 2010

happy thanksgiving

Perri and Perri's daughter, Lindsay, wish you and your families a very happy Thanksgiving. Perri and Lindsay are taking a short holiday, spending quality time with family and friends. Their next blog will be posted on Sunday, December 5th.

November 21, 2010

in recognition of thanksgiving

topic number twelve: a note of thanks

A simple note of thanks. This can be the best gift, the best reward, the best high and sometimes in today's world, the best surprise. Being me, too often than not, I have worried about whether a gift sent was ever received or if a dinner or deed even appreciated. No thank you note, no telephone call, no email, no text can also send a message! Thus, a handwritten note of thanks is more than just an acknowledgment. I can not think of anything so simple, so timeless, that uniquely contributes to humanity the way a thank you card does. Need I say more? AH...but I do.

All that is needed--a clean piece of paper with envelope and stamp, a pen and 10 minutes of focused thought, right? So why is it so difficult for some of us to do? Putting aside any clear physical or psychological ills, I suspect that it has to do with the experience of writing itself. As children, the writing process was sometimes linked to time-sensitive school assignments often equating pressure not pleasure. This is most regrettable. As adults, I think it is actually related to the products themselves. Do your note cards and pen call to you like your computer and keyboard? Most likely not. For some, the thought of sitting down to write a short note causes a certain amount of anxiety. Also, most regrettable. With these reasons in mind, here are a few tips for making note writing a preferential choice above a chore-

a. Buy better papers, creative cards and/or stationery-styles you yourself would like to receive. Purchase not one, but several favorites to have on hand at all times.

b. Find "the" pen to write with. This does not mean making do with what is sitting at your desk and mostly out of ink. An excursion to a stationery supply store is warranted here. Personally, I like using Pilot's Razor Point Gel Ink Pen with an extra fine tip.(black ink only)

c. Make sure that you have both a dictionary and thesaurus at arm's reach.( and are also great resources.)

d. Use scratch paper or your computer word program to compose your note before it is placed in pen.

e. Think of your stationery and your pen as jewelry. Cherish it. Keep it in a clean, special place of honor.

f. Be intrepid! Write from the heart, write from the moment.

For me, the Thanksgiving holiday is about saying thank you, not turkey. So please know that I very much appreciate my blog readers-family, friends,acquaintances, strangers alike; whether you read and laugh or read and swear, thank you all!


Memories of the holidays and birthdays would not be a complete vision without the comings and goings on the "days after." Thanksgiving begets turkey sandwiches on small dinner rolls for days. Christmas includes the yearly untangling of the tree and removal of tasteful, well-placed decorations. New Year's Celebration is followed by resolutions. Gift-giving/receiving events are followed by thank you notes.

I never really objected to writing thank you notes. They are especially important in recognition for gifts that arrived from out of state--at least let the sender know you got it. My main problem as a young person was knowing what to say. It's not that I was not grateful. I just didn't know how to articulate this in written form. It seemed so formal and impersonal. But as I got older, I realized that thank you notes (and letters) are like an extended conversation. Yes, they are one sided, but they just take a bit of imagination.

I was never very good at spelling, so my mother made me memorize some standard words so I wouldn't burn through her nice, often expensive stationery. To this day, I still say each letter in "appreciate" when I write it like you do when you learn to spell "Mississippi." While this spelling problem was cleared up when I was little, sadly it wasn't until recently that I realized there is a difference between "Have a happy New Year's" and "Have a happy New Year." Oops.

Now, as a mail-deficient college student, getting a thank you note in my mailbox for a party invitation or unexpected help really brightens my day. I keep a box of stationery under my bed in order to pass on that sunshine right on down the line.

November 14, 2010

tables that top

topic number eleven: table mojo

My husband and I recently attended a local benefit where guests were seated as one might expect at a multitude of round tables set for the evening's dinner to follow. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to pay attention, repetitive ceremonial speeches were about to surrender me into unconsciousness. My mind began to wander, so I decided to put the time to better use--to observe each and every seated guest. Were they having a good time? Were they bored or distracted? Was there a disparity in the level of contentment between tables? I couldn't help but reflect on truly memorable parties and events my husband and I have been guests at over the years. Clearly this night was not one of them. But why?

There were numerous reasons, some more complex and others less so, and a few which were clearly preventable. We all know (or should know) that entertaining involves great libations and delicious food. More importantly it requires the due diligence and full presence of happy, engaged hosts and/or entertainers. This is a given in my book...however, I would like to take this a bit further.

Think about it--one half to two-thirds of an evening affair can be spent at a table. For those of you that can actually sit that long, "the" table, the one that is always eyed with longing is the one where guests are smiling, talking and laughing. It is the one where guests' backs are turned outward in a relaxed, "dare not unseat me" way. It is the table with guests who are usually the first on the dance floor, the first to raise bidding paddles, the first to sing and the last to leave. Having had the pleasure of sitting at some of those tables helps one understand another aspect of a life worthwhile.

Two carefully thought out items on one's entertainment checklist can make table guests feel that indeed they have the privilege of a seat at "the" table whether it be table number one or table number forty-four.

Take a very close look at table types first. Square tables, oval tables and unevenly extended tables can be quite distracting in and of themselves alone. Round tables make for easy conversation as long as they are not too small where one is elbow to elbow, wrist to wrist, literally locking knives. Nor should rounds be so large that megaphones are a required party favor.

I fondly remember one summer evening at the terrific home of friends, John and Efren. Smart guys as they are, they created a single very long table instead of the predictable floating of three or four 60 inch table rounds. It is this style of table configuration which can often be found for daily feasting festivities in Italy or Spain. When the party environment is appropriate, sitting at this type of table can be a wonderfully warm and welcoming dining experience. The table staged and set by John and Efren was just that and more. It was marvelous!

At seated dinner parties, people placement is a serious matter. This aspect of party planning can be particularly challenging. I suspect that more than some have a cousin "Stu" or a "Mr. Grump" who requires seating finesse. Trust me, people placement can make or break an evening filled with great food, drink and even the right table style. Table seat assignments can at times be a bit too formal, but there are ways to lighten the experience with clever cards and accouterments. I favor assignments for parties over six guests more often than not. Some may disagree, but I have found that in most instances "boy, girl, boy" tables are wearisome. We are not paper dolls people!

One of the most amazing seated dinner experiences was one that caught all attendees completely off guard--including myself. My husband, a business associate and I recently attended a dinner where we were each placed at a different table. Yes, the thought did occur to me to switch place cards, but at that point this thought was on everyone else's mind too! Young, old, coupled, partnered or not, we were all facing the same dilemma. With many out of their comfort zones, needless to say the first topic of table conversation was discussing this interesting people placement decision. And within a very short period of time-smiling, talking and laughing was in full force at each and every table. Why? Because our hosts, contrary to every one's initial concern, had indeed been quite thoughtful.

So, my point? For table carousers over killjoys--contemplate, then celebrate!