I woke up yesterday morning feeling vaguely depressed, but until my husband, Nick, wished me “happy birthday”, I didn’t realize this was the day I turn 75 years old. I think I was dreading this birthday partly because my mother died at 74. ( Her birth day was Feb. 3, 1911, mine is Feb. 4,1941.) My mother died of congestive heart failure and actually outlived her doctors’ predictions by about a year.
So I drank my morning coffee and tried to sort out the jumble of thoughts and emotions. This 75th birthday, so close to the beginning of a new year, was definitely for me a liminal experience, as daughter Eleni would call it. (“Limen” means threshold in Latin.) Eleni studied anthropology in college and in her blog “The Liminal Stage”. she explains: “Liminal stages are psychological thresholds, times of transition when we stand ‘betwixt and between’ one state and another. The biggies are birth, marriage, death---cultures develop splashy rituals around these transitions to ease the anxiety they provoke.” You can guess which liminal stage I was contemplating. In fact, I’ve been talking so much about death in recent months that my kids and husband keep razzing me about it. I’ve sent them memos about what I want and don’t want at my funeral. (No open coffin, in fact no body or casket. Funeral service for immediate family only. Some time later a party/open house/memorial service with no eulogies, only extemporaneous anecdotes with lots of food, wine and music. I’ve already worked out the entire mix of songs I want -–heavy on Led Zeppelin and Queen.)
Before her death, my mother, the world’s most organized person, had written down the hymns and scripture readings for her funeral, specified cremation, and purchased the mausoleum niche where her ashes, and my father’s, would be stowed in brass boxes that resemble books. She chose a niche which had a view of the swans on the cemetery’s pond. She had all their financial affairs in order, filed neatly in her desk when she died.
My father, on the other hand, had dementia as well as Parkinson’s disease until he died at 80, so he didn’t even known when my mother died. His dementia first became evident at our parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1982, when he was about 76. Needless to say, I’ve been watching myself for signs of Alzheimer’s, and avidly doing Lumosity “brain games” every day. (Daughter Marina kindly signed me up, knowing my worry about memory loss.) I realize, as recent articles have pointed out, that Lumosity doesn’t really help you stave off dementia. It just measures how you become better at the games with practice. But nevertheless, it gave me comfort that yesterday’s workout results put me at 91.3% LPI --whatever that is-- as compared with my age group, and 97.3 % for “problem solving” (but only 81.9 % for memory.) I was happy that my numbers had gone up, but then I realized that, overnight, the age group I was being compared to had changed from “age 70 to 74” to “over 75.” Less competition!
For the past fifty years or so I’ve been making pretty much the same New Year’s resolutions as everyone else: Lose ten pounds, go to the gym (or Pilates) twice a week, publish a book with my own name on it, learn Spanish (so I can communicate better with my bilingual grandchildren.)
This year my New Year’s resolutions changed. I’m no longer interested in improving my weight, career, or possessions (but still want to learn Spanish). All my resolutions can be collected under the theme: GET RID OF STUFF. I am a hoarder, as my family will attest. I even bought the best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo, but after reading several chapters I had to stop, because it was making me feel so guilty. Now I’m going to target certain areas—my studio, my computer desk, my make-up area, the library and especially my closets—one at a time. Tons of papers have to go. All those books I’ll never read again will be donated to the Grafton library for sale. All my office-appropriate clothes will go to “Dress for Success” so that other, younger women can find jobs. I’ve told the kids, whatever they want, take it now, (in hopes of avoiding, as among my mother’s nine siblings, bitter schisms between two children who want the same antique bureau.)
As the day of my 75th birthday moved from morose reflections over coffee to astonishment at the sight of over 200 birthday wishes on the internet, I alternated between tears (over the card my husband gave me) and laughter (for instance when daughter Eleni posted on Facebook: “Did you know that on her 60th birthday I witnessed this woman sip from a hash milkshake in Amsterdam? Trust me, she was in it for the milkshake. Happy Birthday, Party Girl!) I was delighted to receive calls and gifts from son Chris and daughter Marina, both on the opposite side of the country, and chuckled at the books Marina sent: “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program”, “Keep Your Brain Alive” and “41 Uses For a Grandma” among them.
At the end of the day, at dinner in the romantic restaurant Casa Tua in South Beach, FL, Nick and I told each other how lucky we are that we’ve made it through 45 years of marriage, that we have three great kids and two extraordinary grandchildren, and that when we get up in the morning, no parts of our bodies hurt. That’s a rare blessing when your age group is “over 75.” So by the time the waiter brought a birthday crème brulée with a candle in it, (as well as a “chocolate meltdown”—both surprises ordered by daughter Eleni)-- I felt ready to cross the threshold into the next liminal stage, whatever it brings.
In my forthcoming book “The Saga of Smiley”, which
chronicles the history of the Smiley Face icon since it was created in 1963 by
artist Harvey Ball in Worcester, MA, there is a chapter about the surprising
number of murderers and criminals who have incorporated Smiley into their
Among them is O.J. Simpson, whose “suicide letter” was read
to the media by Robert Kardashian on
June 17, 1994, while O.J. was fleeing on his famous white Bronco ride that glued
everyone in the country to their TV sets, waiting for the conclusion: would
O.J. kill himself, escape the cops, or what?Trending on the internet yesterday, because a 10-episode FX TV series based
on the OJ. Simpson case begins, (‘The People v. O.J. Simpson—American Crime
Story”) is the news that the letter showed that O.J was nearly illiterate, and
that his attorney Robert Kardashian edited and improved it as he read.
What was not in today’s news was that O.J. actually
signed what seemed to be his suicide farewell with a smiley face in the letter
Here is the section from “The Saga of Smiley” that deals with
No discussion of Smiley’s life in crime would
be complete without mention of the Smiley Face that O. J. Simpson added to the
“Suicide Letter” he wrote in June of 1994.
After the murders of Nicole Simpson and
Ronald Goldman were discovered onJune
13, 1994, O. J. Simpson’s lawyers promised that Simpson would turn himself in
at 11 a.m. on June 17. A thousand reporters were waiting for him at the Los
Angeles Police Station, but O.J. didn’t show up.The police issued an all points
bulletin.At 5 p.m. Robert Kardashian,
his close friend, who is today perhaps better known as the father of Kim and
her siblings, read a letter written by Simpson to the media.
It said that Simpson had nothing to do with
Nicole’s death, it thanked two dozen of his friends, and it ended, “Don’t feel
sorry for me, I’ve had a great life, great friends.Please think of the real O. J. and not this lost
person.Thanks for making my life
special.I hope I help yours.Peace and love, O. J.”
And he drew a Smiley Face inside the “O”.
About an hour and 20 minutes after Kardashian
read this letter, which everyone interpreted as a suicide note, a motorist saw
O.J. riding in a white Bronco that was being driven by his close friend A. C.
Cowlings.There ensued a long,
slow-motion car chase, while police and friends tried to convince O.J. to pull
over and turn himself in, crowds of helicopters filmed from above, and millions
of TV viewers around the world watched the chase in fascination, waiting to see
if it would end in a suicide, a crash or a confrontation with the police.
It ended at 8 p.m. as the car and O.J.
arrived at his Brentwood home, his young son came out to greet him and he went
inside to talk to his mother and drink a glass of orange juice.Three days later O.J. was arraigned and
pleaded not guilty to both murders.(Ultimately, after an eight-month jury trial, Simpson was acquitted.)
So what about that happy face in the O of his
signature?Was O.J. happy, sad, or
suicidal when he drew it?People are
still debating this question. The driver, A. C. Cowlings, reported that during
the ride O. J. was holding a gun to his own head.But it’s doubtful that he really intended to
kill himself that day.Here’s what
police found in his car afterwards: $8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded .357 Magnum, a passport, family pictures,
and a fake goatee and mustache.
What prompted O. J. Simpson, “ Happy Face
Killer” Keith Jesperson, and possibly the gang of Smiley Face Killers, to
include the Smiley Face in their signatures?Were they trying to convey their love and joy, their ironic glee at
spilling blood, or something else altogether?For each individual, Smiley may have meant something different—but it
certainly meant something important.
Everyone who uses a Smiley is trying to
communicate something emotional that written words are not adequate to convey.
That’s exactly what led to the most prevalent manifestation of Smiley in the
twenty-first century—the emoticon, and its offspring, the emoji. Happily, these
days people who include Smiley in their signatures aren’t murdering
anyone—except, in some cases, the English language.
Back when I was a child and attended a Presbyterian church,
baptizing a baby was no big deal.The
parents and baby came down to the front for a few minutes after the Sunday
service, the minister sprinkled some water on the baby’s head and said a few
words, and it was over.I don’t even
remember that I had a godparent, although I must have.
When I married a Greek in 1970, I quickly learned that in
the Greek church, baptisms are a really big deal, involving ritual, dancing and
a fancy sit-down meal after the elaborate church service. When Nick and I baptized our three children,
the godparents presented their godchild with a new set of clothing and a gold
cross.And every time, my father-in-law,
Christos, led the dancing while balancing a glass of Coca Cola on his
head.(And he never spilled a drop!)
Here he is at the baptism of daughter Eleni in 1975.She was only 11 months old, but after
watching her Papou, she started dancing Greek-style, holding her little hands
in the air.
Last November, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when
daughter Eleni and her husband Emilio threw a baptism party for their second
child, Nicolas José, no one danced with a glass on their head, but everyone had
a rollicking good time, even nine-month-old Nicolas, once he got over being
submerged three times in the baptismal font.
Here’s the family ready to leave for Saint Spyridon Cathedal
in Worcester.Nicolas is wearing the
antique christening gown that his abuela, Carmen, brought from Nicaragua.It’s been worn by babies of the Oyanguren
family for over 100 years. Mommy and Amalia are dressed in accordance with the
color palette Eleni chose for the baptism: dark blue, light blue and silver.(Eleni works for Martha Stewart, so there’s a
color palette for every party.)
Nicolas is always ready for a party!Here he is waving at his about-to-be
godmother Amy Ambatielos Pappas and her husband--another Nick.
Once he was carried to the baptismal font and Father
Dimitrios Moraitis blessed thewater,
Nico looked a little worried.On the
right is Nico’s godfather, Gerardo Baltodano Cantero, the brother of Emilio’s
father Alvaro.“Tio Gerardo” came from
Nicaragua for the baptism along with his wife, Maria Caridad.
When Father Dimitri immersed Nico three times in the water
the baby protested loud and long.
By the time his godparents had dried him off and dressed him
in his new clothes, Nico had calmed down a bit, but still wasn’t happy.Here his Godmother Amy leads a procession
around the baptismal font to symbolize his new life as an Orthodox Christian,
while his godfather Gerardo carries him.
By the time everyone arrived at the Cyprian Keyes Golf Club,
Nico was ready to party.Eleni decorated
the tables with the theme of Saint Nicolas, baby Nico’s patron saint, who is
the protector of sailors.The centerpiece
on each table was a sailboat topped with two tiny flags—for Greece and
Nicaragua.The adult favors were small
icons showing Saint Nicholas rescuing sailors from a storm, tied around the
traditional bag of Jordan almonds. The children’s favors weresailboat cookies (and each child took home a
Here are Amalia and her Yiayia Joanie examining one of the
Before the meal began, Eleni, Emilio and even Amalia
welcomed everyone.Once Amalia saw the
power of a microphone, she didn’t want to give it back.
Nico’s Papou, Nick Gage, gave a beautiful blessing, saying
in part, ”I want to wish him a long life full of the love, joy and wonder he is
feeling today, I want to express the hope that all of us will be around to
dance at his wedding…But if I don’t make it, I hope that those of you who do
will tell him how deliriously happy I was today that he was given my name to
carry on throughout this century…And finally I want to wish Nicolaki a blessing
we say in my village: ‘May he live as long as the mountains’.”
Later it was time for photos.Here is Nikolaki flanked by his godparents.
Nick and Amy are holding their son Alki, who is looking forward to a sibling coming
And here Nico is with his grandparents.That’s Abuela Carmen Oyanguren on the right.
Then the dancing began.Here’s Amalia leading Papou on the dance floor.
Now she’s in a line of dancers that includes her great-aunt
Alexandra Stratis, her cousin Anthi Vraka, and her Mommy.
Even Nico’s non-Greek relatives from his Grandma’s side—namely
Great Aunt Robin and Great Uncle Bob Paulson, cut a mean rug during the Greek
dancing.(But then Robin’s a
professional dancer.)At the far right
is Amy’s Mom, Vicky Ambatielos, dancing with her grandson Alki.
Finally, Papou Nick asked little Nico if he would like to
learn Greek dancing.Nico said yes.
So, although the baby’s Papou Nick did not balance a glass
of Coca Cola on his head, as his great-grandpa Christos used to do, Nico’s
Papou gave him his first lesson in the kalamatianos,
and that was even better.
In my last post, chronicling the beginning of the
action-packed day when I toured Manhattan with George, a young visitor from
Greece, we encountered the Museum of Natural History, Columbus Circle, a series
of three-star restaurants, and various street people on our way to Times
When we got to Times Square, they were already setting up
barriers and cameras in preparation for the next day’s New Year’s Eve dropping
of the ball at midnight, which would be witnessed by an estimated one million
people packed into the area (plus 6,000 cops hoping to keep them safe.)One professional cameraman, setting up his
tripod, said the ball would fall from just above the Toshiba sign above.
George took photos in all directions, and so did I.The crowd frantically waved at the huge Revlon
billboard, which kept zooming in on the people in the street below, including
us.It’s a kick to see yourself on a
lighted billboard above Times Square!
Next George led me into the nearby Hard Rock Café, where he
bought a tee-shirt, saying “We don’t have a single Hard Rock Café in Greece.” Then it was on one block to MadameTussauds where the line of people waiting to
get in stretched for what seemed like miles.
When we finally got in, after paying $40 each, we were
herded into a large elevator to the 9th floor, called “Opening
Night”, filled with film stars dressed in red carpet garb.We would walk down to the other floors, each
with a different theme.The first statue
to welcome us was Kim Kardashian and then Kanye West, seen here with George.
On the next floor I enjoyed seeing John Wayne with this
elderly fan, and then Jennifer Lawrence with a much younger admirer.
Jimmy Fallon was interviewing this young lady.And Don Draper was already celebrating Happy
I made George pose with Lucille Ball and Ernest Hemingway, even
though he had no idea who they were.There were floors with scientists and writers and inventors and a
theater where we watched a six-minute 4-D Marvel Heroes film.Evidently 4-D means that, when you see
splashing water or a bullet whizzing by or a punch in the back or an explosion,
you experienced it yourself, sitting right there in your chair, with water in
the face, air whizzing by, and a poke in the back.
We passed through the floor featuring presidents past and
present with their first ladies.Obama
and Michelle didn’t seem to mind two teenagers taking over the presidential
desk.And finally George reached the
floor he had been waiting for, where he got to spar with Mike Tyson and
When we left Madame Tussauds, we walked across to Fifth
Avenue, looked at the Library lions, then set out to walk up Fifth Avenue to
see thefamous Christmas tree.The sidewalks were so crowded that I kept
thinking about how, in India on religious holidays, people who fall down are
trampled to death by the crowds.Luckily
I didn’t fall down before we got to see the tree, with the skating rink in front
of it and all the beautiful lighted angels
lining the way.George was determined to
be photographed with a New York police officer (don’t know why) and this
Finally, because George wasn’t able to mount the Freedom
Tower or the Empire State Building the day before due to fog, we bought tickets
to go to the Top of the Rock --the observation tower atop what we oldsters call
the RCA building, right behind the tree. (In 1988 it became the GE Building and
last year the Comcast Building.)Halfway
to the 67th floor, everybody got out and filed through a security
checkpoint just like at the airport.
It was worth it, and the $32 tickets, because from the top
we got amazing views of Manhattan at night, including the Empire State building
that was decked in red and green lights for the holidays.
Once we were back on the ground we sprinted over to Loi
Estiatorio on 132 West 58th Street where Nick was waiting for
us.There the owner and chef, Maria Loi,
the official “Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy”, shared some of her cooking
secrets with George.
After we caught our breath, George declared that he had seen
a week’s worth of New York City in two days. I had to agree.
You often hear long-time New Yorkers say things like: “I’d
never been to the Empire State Building (or the Statue of Liberty) until a
friend came from out of town and wanted to go.”
That was pretty much my story, too, until George, a young
man from Greece, came to Massachusetts and told us that his dream was to visit
New York City.And he had his own list
of must-sees: The Empire State Building, Times Square, the Apple Store, the Hard
Rock Café and especially Madame Tussauds. “Madame Tussauds?” I said. “I thought
that was in London,” but George assured me there was one in Manhattan.
And because George is a budding chef, his must-see list
included the famous New York restaurants that have three Michelin stars (there
are five of them in Manhattan.)He could
recite the names of their chefs, just the way movie fans recite the names of
their favorite film stars. We had only two days to show George all of that-- Dec.
29 and 30-- so we drove to Manhattan to stay in daughter Eleni’s apartment,
which was empty over the holidays.
The first day, Nick took George to Ground Zero and the
Empire State Building, but they didn’t go up either one, because heavy fog had
covered the city and there was zero visibility.But George did manage to get photographed outside the restaurant he most
wanted to see – Eleven Madison Park (chef Daniel Humm, tasting menu $295.
excluding beverages).And Nick took him
to the bustling Apple Store at 59th and Fifth Avenue, where George
pondered buying a tablet.
The next day I was the tour guide and we had to pack a
week’s worth of sight- seeing into 24 hours.First stop was the Museum of Natural History. George had seen the film
“A Night at the Museum”. We arrived before the museum opened at ten and the
line of waiting families wound around the block.As soon as we got in, we hit the high spots:
Here’s George, wearing camouflage, posing in front of the elephants.Next came the battle between the whale and the
Here’s the famous 94-feet-long blue whale hanging from the
ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life. And
of course the dinosaur skeletons, although they did not scamper around as they
did in the movie.
Next we took the subway from 80th Street down to
Columbus Circle, where we photographed the window washers dangling from the
Trump International Hotel and Tower.We
admired the statue of Columbus in the center of Columbus Circle and I told
George the story of how Mafia Boss Joe Colombo was shot right there in 1971while addressing a huge crowd at the Italian
Unity Day Rally, protesting the media's use of the word “Mafia.”. (Nick covered it for The New York Times.)
Then we walked across to the Time Warner Center where we
found, on the 4th floor of the Atrium, two of the three-star
restaurants, Per Se (chef Thomas Keller, 9-course tasting menu $325 excluding
beverages) and Masa (chef Masayoshi Takayama, prix fixe menu $450 excluding
beverages.) We took pictures but we did not eat at either one.You can probably figure out why.
Instead we walkeddown Seventh Avenue to my personal favorite Greek restaurant Molyvos,
between 55th and 56th, where we enjoyed the three-course
Express Lunch menu for $28, with some nice wine from Santorini. Then we went around the corner to see
the very trendy Milos Restaurant, whose chef is Costas Spiliadis—one of
George’s idols.We walked in to see the
famous “fish market” in the back, where diners go to choose their seafood.It's flown in daily from
Greece and the prices start at $125 a pound and go up.
From 55th Street we started walking down Seventh
to see Times Square.I knew it would be
crazy on the day before a million people crowded in on New Year’s
Eve (plus 6,000 cops). As we approached, we encountered this
homeless man, holding a sign that read, “Happy New Year!No Family.Nowhere to go. Please help raise $48 for a hostel.Thank you! I Miss the Good Life.”
I gave him
some change, he continued sleeping, and we moved on, encountering the infamous
Naked Cowboy.I had warned George about
the scam artists who populate Times Square; topless women in bikinis and men
dressed like Sesame Street or Star Wars characters. They come up to you, say,
“Take a photo with me” and then demand $20 . So we stealthily photographed the
Naked Cowboy from the back and moved on.
Next Blog Post:George and I survive Times Square, shake
hands with VIPs at Mme. Tussauds, marvel at the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center,
and ride 65 floors up to the Top of the Rock.
Last Friday, the first day of 2016, I sent the following letter to the Public Editor of The New York Times. I knew I was beating a dead horse. I understood that ranting about the proper use of "lie" and "lay" is a lost cause, but I did it anyway:
"To the public editor of The New York Times:
It happened again yesterday, Dec. 31.In an article on the front of the Arts
section by Doreen Carvajal describing an installation at the Pompidou Center,
the second paragraph begins: “Waves of
undulating sand are dotted with upright slabs of mushrooms.A rusting machine gun lays across a hospital
It also happened on Nov. 29, 2015 in a laudatory review of
the book “Like Family” by Paolo Giordano, written by Jennifer Senior: “All while Mrs. A. lays dying—the ultimate
As a professional journalist, I flinch every time I
encounter a grammatical error like this in my beloved Times.(Interestingly, when
I looked up the Senior book review on line today, the error had been corrected.)
Three years ago I wrote on my blog “A Rolling Crone":
always an error in The New York Times that sends
me off on a grammar rant -- and there was another one today (Thursday, March
28). In the Style Section, in a large, bold pull-quote from an article about
photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith taken in the 1960s, I read:
"After laying dormant for decades, a second life for photographs taken of
a pair of artists on the cusp of fame." Of course, it's supposed to be:
"after lying dormant...”
olden days, when I was being trained in New York
Times style at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, these errors would
have been caught by people called copy editors, but I can only imagine that, in
this very difficult period for all print media, The Times has been forced to fire all its copy editors for
thumping noise you hear is the late, lamented Times editor Ted Bernstein
spinning in his grave. Once upon a time, Theodore M. Bernstein was the watchman
of the venerable Great Gray Lady as well as a professor at Columbia J School.
After he died in 1979, Time Magazine noted,
"Theodore M. Bernstein, 74... served as the paper's prose polisher and
syntax surgeon for almost five decades, authoring seven popular texts on English
usage and journalism... In a witty Times house organ
called 'Winners and Sinners,' the shirtsleeves vigilante caught solecists in
Columbia J School we often saw Bernstein's "Winners and Sinners"
newsletter. Somewhat like the judges on American Idol, Ted Bernstein would
periodically praise a brilliant headline or turn of phrase in the NYT and chide and make fun of grammatical and syntactical
lapses.." You might reply to me that
nowadays, when almost no one uses “lie” and “lay” correctly, the readers of The
Times don’t care about grammatical errors.That’s what I thought too.But
when the blog post quoted here was published on the Huffington Post, on April 4,
2013 it received 958 likes, 243 shares and 728 comments—by far the largest
response I’ve ever had to a post.
Please hire a copy
editor!The Times was the last bastion
(in the U.S.) of proper English.
Above is the Woodland Creatures tree, new for 2015, made up mostly of ornaments I got from Pier One (all at least 30 per cent off, because it's the last minute.) I just couldn't resist these rustic little animals and birds made mostly of twigs and straw and natural products.(The star on top is a tiny starfish.) The gold stars seem to be made of twigs--I cut apart a Pier One garland to get them. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
And here below is the little white tree I decorated with my hammered, painted tin ornaments from Mexico and the lacquer-on-wood (I think) ornaments from India.
The Mexican tin ornaments are wonderfully crude and folk-y and the Indian ones are so carefully detailed and elegant, so each country really should each have its own tree.
There's even a Mexican nativity scene of tin. I love the clay angel at upper left sucking its toe. And I love the Indian sets of three camels and three elephants.
At Thanksgiving 2015, with the help of kids and guests at the tree-trimming open house on Saturday night before Nicolas's baptism, we decorated the four trees that I always have. And here they are (in photos from 2010, but they look much the same in 2015).
The Real Tree goes in the
living room. I
usually pick a color scheme, and this year went with silver and white,
with the only color coming from some crazy peacock ornaments I got from
With the peacocks, I also used lots of white butterflies (from the
Dollar Store) and white birds and angel wings, so I guess the theme of
the wonderful-smelling Real Tree this year would be wings.
In the dining room I always put a wire tree to show off my antique
ornaments. And I put a wire from the tree to the window latch so that
it (hopefully) can't get knocked over. You can see that we don't have
snow yet in Massachusetts, unlike Minnesota, but we will soon.
Some of these ornaments are reproductions, but most are the real thing.
My grandmother had a whole tree decorated with blown-glass birds with
those spun glass tails and often a metal clip to hold it on the tree. I really love the fragile teapots once sold
at every Woolworth's for pennies. They cost a lot more now. The
blown-glass ornaments usually say "West Germany" on the metal cap. The
glass ornaments that were once screw-in light bulbs were made in Japan
between 1930 and 1950 and are a lot less likely to break.
In the library I always put my Shoe Tree, which started when the
Metropolitan Museum in New York first started selling ornaments based on
shoes in their collections.
This became a kind of mania and now I can't afford to buy the newest
ones from the Museum, but I've added lots of cunning real (baby-sized)
shoes, and people keep giving me more. My favorites on this tree are
the Chinese baby shoes that look like cats and the fur-lined baby
moccasins and the tiny Adidas sneakers.
On the porch I've put the Kitchen Tree, or Cookie and Candy Tree.
This was inspired by some friends who live in a tiny apartment and
decorate their tree only with cookies and candy and pretzels and candy
canes. Then, when Christmas is over, they put it all outside for the
birds and other New York fauna to enjoy.
As you can see, I've cheated quite a bit--adding ornaments that look
like kitchen utensils and non-edible gingerbread men and peppermints.
An authentic Kitchen Tree should have chains of real popcorn and
cranberries (which we did back when I had children small enough to enjoy
Last year Trader Joe's sold little gingerbread men with holes already
punched in their heads so I could string them on the tree, but this year
the gingerbread men are frosted but the holes are missing, so I just
stabbed them with the wire hooks and it worked fine (and any that
broke, I ate, of course. They taste better frosted.)
That's four trees so far (six in 2015!)-- and I haven't shown you my
Santa Claus collection and the miniature town in the bay window in the
kitchen and the many creche scenes we have from around the world....But let's
face it, I have to get back to those Christmas cards.
After 40 years as a journalist, I turned 60 and decided to return to my first love--painting. I’ve exhibited watercolors and photographs in Massachusetts and have a slide show of paintings below. My photo book “The Secret Life of Greek Cats” can be purchased by clicking on the cover below.
I collect way too many things, but my great passion is antique photographs, from the earliest—daguerreotypes (circa 1840) up to 1900 (cabinet cards, tintypes.) I approach each one as a mystery to solve, and in unlocking their secrets have met some fascinating historic figures. For some of the stories, check the list of “The Story Behind the Photograph”.
My husband Nick and I live in Grafton, MA and recently celebrated our 41st anniversary. We have 3 children, now amazing adults. And on Aug. 26, 2011, we greeted our first grandchild, Amalía-- world’s cutest baby. But this blog isn’t about grandparenting (although photos of the grandkid sneak in). As it says up top, it’s about travel, art, photography and life after sixty. And crone power.