Just Like Royalty!

After seeing the Downton Abbey movie, I commented last week that I’d probably have more in common with the servants than with the aristocracy of the estate or the visiting royalty. Well I’m thrilled to share that I actually have a lot in common with Great Britain’s current monarchy!

I can assert that because of Benjamin Leszcz’s  editorial “The life-changing magic of making do,” about conscientious consumption, in which he points out Prince Charles’ well-known penchant for upcycling/recycling clothing. Leszcz writes about the cardboard box found at the Prince’s tailor’s containing more than 30 years of off-cuts and leftover materials from the Prince’s suits. Prince Charles is even known to say, “I have always believed in trying to keep as many of my clothes and shoes going for as long as possible … through patches and repairs.” … “In this way, I tend to be in fashion once every 25 years.”

Wow! That’s only a couple years younger than the most vintage outfit I have in my “save-until-it-comes-around-again closet,” and about 17 months older than some sweaters I’m still wearing!

I’m a big fan of research, so I went ferreting out statistics on how many people fall into the category of “clothing savorer.” (I’m loathe to use “hoarder.” It has such judgmental connotations).  I have yet to find that statistic, but I did find a fascinating chart on the Inside Out Style Blog on how long different categories of clothing and fabrics are designed to last. The average design life of today’s clothing is 2.88 years, which is probably 2.75 years longer than they’re in style. I have to admit I was surprised that nowhere on that list were items listed with a life cycle even close to 25 years. I’m not sure if I should be a proud environmentalist or a mortified fashinista to admit I have proof positive that there really is clothing that will last that long!

The author points out that Prince C. comes from a lineage of “admirable frugality” in which the Queen Mother reuses wrapping paper. Wow! That’s another thing he and I have in common! My mother always reused wrapping paper. I might be tempted to copy her, but friends who know me—and I can hear you chuckling right now, ladies — know I have a penchant for “wrapping/camouflaging” holiday gifts in red plastic Folger’s containers decorated with pretty ribbons. So I too must have inherited this trait from my mother! She was someone who definitely fell into the clothing savorer category. When we cleaned out her house after her passing at the age of 79, we found my baby clothes and dresses she’d worn on her honeymoon around 50 years earlier.

Come to think of it, maybe now’s a good time to get rid of that Hawaiian dress I bought on our honeymoon and never wore after leaving Hawaiin soil. It would just be downright humiliating to follow in my mother’s footsteps with a muumuu that only fit me for one luau.

This editorial was published in the October 17 issue of Beyond the Nest’s weekly newsletter.

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Cleaning Downton Abbey

I saw the new Downton Abbey film that was recently released, and I loved it  Everyone from Lady Mary to the scullery maids are preparing for the arrival of the King and Queen of England, and the estate is in an uproar!

It kind of reminds me of when my daughters return home from college with boyfriends. Places that have not seen the light of day get cleaned. The difference is that the only servants I have to help are Mr. Clean, an assortment of emollients, and a vacuum cleaner with a wand that should really have another name. In my book, wands should simply be waved for the mess to disappear. They shouldn’t be attached.to a ball and chain you have to drag from room to room by a snake you have to wrestle to keep it from gobbling up tennis shoes, slippers, and the occasional cat that doesn’t move fast enough.When it comes to cleaning devices, the engineers who design them should be required to use them for a year before foisting them on the general cleaning public. I bet they’d be very different: lighter, less cumbersome….and I bet they’d have a built-in cup holder, a slot to recharge cell phones, and speakers. Who wants to whistle while you work when you can dance or sing?

Oh yes, and every vacuum should come  equipped with its own light-weight, fold-out hydraulic lift that would hoist that sofa, bed or love seat right off the floor for cleaning underneath! That would be solve a multitude of problems! Why, the last time I was able to vacuum under our bed, the dust bunnies had become hippos.

And how about a seat? If my neighbor can enjoy zooming around on his riding lawn mower, why can’t I have the same pleasure on a vacuum? It’s a similar concept, right? (Please note: comments from the peanut gallery about seats on brooms and women in pointy hats will not be appreciated, even if Halloween is just around the corner)

If I think back to the time of Downton Abbey, I was clearly born in the wrong era. And probably the wrong class. I’m pretty sure that if anyone on the British side of my ancestry had been aristocracy, I’d know about it. Most likely, if I were part of an estate like Highclere Castle, where the fictional Downton Abbey takes place, and we were preparing for the arrival of royalty, I’d be among the household polishing silver to appoint the 120-person state dinner table, using a teensy tiny brush not much bigger than a toothbrush, or.on my hands and knees with a rag, scrubbing the floors of the 61-bedroom estate.

I guess I’ll forget about time travel and stick with Mr. Clean and dragging my ball and chain around our three-bedroom “estate.”

This editorial was published in the October 10 issue of Beyond the Nest’s weekly newsletter.

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Giving the Gift of Yourself

For me, it’s not really Christmas unless I create at least one gift by hand.

I started this tradition in my teens, making a robe for my sister. She was so thrilled that I became hooked on creating gifts. One year, I did paper quilling on eggs to create Christmas ornaments. Qulling is a paper art where you wrap tiny strips of paper around a cylinder, then glue them together to form beautiful, lacy shapes and images. Another year, I created Victorian-style ornaments on embroidery hoops. I’ve done pastel drawings, sewn place mats, and created stained glass. This year…well, I can’t reveal what I’ve made, since some of the recipients may be reading this post!

To create a gift from your heart — for any occasion — you need not have a craft-oriented talent. Your gift can be baked or canned goods, or the offer to play cards with an elderly parent while your friends enjoy an evening out, a beautiful hand-planted terrarium, or a poem written and framed or recited especially for your loved ones. Maybe you have the skill to carve a wooden animal, or frame one of your favorite photos taken on vacation. One of my colleagues gives bottles of delicious homemade egg nog.

At one friend’s birthday party, we were all instructed to give only gifts of ourselves. It was a magical event that included poetry and dance, tangible hand-crafted gifts and delicious food. One friend, who was a floral designer, created a stunning yellow and white cake, completely of flowers and ribbon.

The most wonderful thing about such gifts is that its is only limited by your imagination.

So this holiday season, why not let your imagination soar, and give the gift of YOURSELF!

P.S. My egg ornaments were far simpler than the one shown above, but still quite lovely, quartered by red ribbon and quilled holly. If this craft interests you, check out inspiration on Pinterest and click the link above to learn more about this craft.

Originally published in the December 13 issue of Beyond the Nest.

A Thanksgiving Blessing

I began writing a poem for my Thanksgiving message, but somehow, it didn’t seem profound enough for what I consider to be one of the most important days of the year:.. a day in which we gather with family and friends to give thanks for all that is good in our lives. On this day, most of us set aside petty grievances and minor problems to focus on the important people in our lives.

So this Thanksgiving, what I wish for you is:

  • Friends who will celebrate you for who you are.
  • Family  members who will love you unconditionally.
  • People in your life who will care enough to be constructively, lovingly honest.
  • An attitude of abundance, even when it’s not there in your life.
  • The courage to create freely, and generously, however you are inspired.
  • A heart full of compassion, and the wisdom and strength to follow your heart.
  • Much for which to be grateful, on Thanksgiving and every day throughout the year.
I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
Originally written and published in the November 21, 2018 issue of BeyondtheNest’s Newsletter.

Josh Groban  When #ArtMakesADifference

Originally written for the November 15 issue of Beyond the Nest

On Tuesday evening (2018), I had the wonderful fortune to see Josh Groban and Idina Menzel in concert at the Blue Cross Arena. I seldom attend concerts, but the concert made me realize how important it is to sample different forms of art than those to which we normally gravitate.

Both Idina and Josh gave stunning, memorable performances. Because I have been a huge Josh Groban fan since I first saw him as the shy, dulcet-voiced Malcolm Wyatt on Ally McBeal, it was a thrill to see him live. His voice has matured to become even more velvety, rich and masterful.

I was also delighted to learn  how both he and Idina use their art to make a positive impact on the world. I always hope those who are in such influential positions take advantage of their opportunity to give back. In 2010, Idina founded A BroaderWay, a non-profit organization that offers underserved girls an opportunity to participate in summer theater camp in the Berkshires. Josh founded the Find Your Light Foundation in 2011, partnering with Americans for the Arts to help ensure every child has the chance to experience a quality arts education.

Between  songs — some from his Bridges album, some older works — it was as if Josh was chatting with us in his (albeit enormous) living room. He was genuine, charming, poignant and funny. He spoke candidly about having been a shy, depressed child and poor student in school, who has since been ever so grateful that teachers pushed him to find his “higher self.” The song “Granted” (video shown below) was written and filmed in encouragement to students finding their way, and in tribute to the teachers guiding them.

He also talked about mental health, sharing how dark periods in his own life inspired the song “River.” He implored those wrestling with depression and mental health issues to reach out to others for help, since the support and understanding of friends and loved ones can make all the difference.

As an encore, he performed Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” saying the time was “right” to record this song, and calling for empathy and compassion to end the division in this country.

When we attend theater, music, dance, an art or photography exhibit, a poetry reading or other event …we go for the art, but we often come away with far more.

In the end, I think each of us at the concert walked away far richer than when we entered, taking home a little piece of Josh Groban’s heart and soul. What more can we ask for from any work of art?


Above: Josh Groban performs with his entourage of musicians and with Rochester-based musicians as well as Nazareth voice and musical theatre students.

‘Tis The Season to Rekindle Memories  

I was walking the dog, when I passed a lovely big yard scattered with leaves. I found myself reminiscing, “Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful yard for….”

Suddenly, I was a kid again, no longer walking the dog, but galloping next to my sister on our “horses,” their manes streaming in the wind. Of course, passersby would have thought we were riding around on bikes, but they’d have been wrong (at least in our imaginations). The two of us worked at rounding up cattle until dusk, when it was time to head on over to the chuck wagon for some grub (I doubt Mom would have been flattered by a comparison of her kitchen to a chuck wagon).

Isn’t it amazing how a sight, a sound or a smell can take you back in time?

For example, the sight of Bonomo Turkish Taffy takes me back to Mr. Burch’s filling station and candy store in Sennett, NY.  My sister and I sometimes rode along when Dad went for gas. As an occasional special treat, we got to pick out candy for ourselves, Mom, and our little brother. In my mind, I can still smell the magic of that candy store, where Mr. Burch still lives on, inviting us to go behind the counter and choose just the right treat.

I always think of November 1st as the launch of the holidays, a season rich with memories and traditions. As you gather together for meals or parties, decorating or cooking, crafting or baking, why not share some of those memories with loved ones? You just might be delighted to discover how many you have in common. Sometimes, it’s fun when you bring up a memory that someone else who was there recalls differently. One of my favorite surprises is when someone else brings up a memory you’ve completely forgotten, and you get to rekindle it together.

As you share those stories, don’t forget to mark the moment, because today becomes tomorrow’s cherished memories.

Originally written for the November 1 issue of Beyond the Nest.

It’s Hard to Stay Zen in Rush Hour Traffic

I admit to being a nervous driver. It started in high school when my driving instructor used to grab my clenched fist off the steering wheel to get me to relax. It’s a good thing he had a brake on his side too. Lampposts make very odd hood ornaments.

Then there’s the 23 years I spent in New York City. NOT driving. You don’t need a car in the Big Apple. Especially in winter. I still have visions of shoveling my kindly-donated 1960s-something Buick boat out after the avalanche, er, snowstorm of ’85.

As I stood on its snow-covered hood lifting teaspoon after teaspoon of snow off, the guy that drove by, opened his window and shouted “good luck, lady!” was treated to a newly-invented expletive.

After three parking tickets, a bout of shoveling-induced bronchitis and one dead battery, I finally got it out, and I sold that beast.

So here I am, now, in Rochester, where I try to avoid rush hour. People from metropolitan areas like NYC laugh at our idea rush hour. In their minds, Rochester Rush Hour is to NYC Rush Hour as a Venus Flytrap is to Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.

What they don’t realize is that the very same people who will start up a cordial conversation across the frozen foods aisle in Wegmans will pass you on both sides, doing 80 in a 45 mph zone.

Since sensible truck drivers avoid NYC highways like the plague, I bet most have never had the thrill of playing highway hopscotch with a truck. My personal favorite is the pickup that melts metal as he spreads past on the shoulder.

My husband handles all of this much better than me. I tell him it’s because he missed his calling as a jet fighter pilot.

Every morning that I do have to drive during rush hour, I steel myself as I get in my car. I turn on my classical music, do deep breathing exercises, and back carefully out of the drive, feeling confident, competent and Zenfully-relaxed. That usually lasts past one church, one hospital, one Tim Hortons and two stop signs…until I hit the stop light that boasts its own 911 location code.

That’s when I wonder if there’s any money in publishing a dictionary of invented expletives.


Written and originally published in Beyond the Nest’s 9.6.18 newsletterClick here to subscribe to the weekly newsletter featuring an editorial and loads of things to do in the Greater Rochester region.

Audrey II from Pooh’s Adventure Wiki

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