Monday, May 30, 2011

Wild, wild life

Even though I have lived in this semi-rural part of Southern New England for over 11 years, I am still in awe of all of the amazing wild life that calls our backyard and woods home.

We have deer (who graze at our all-you-can-eat salad bar, formerly known as our yard), coyotes and foxes (who run off whenever I try to snap a picture of them), a really annoying pileated woodpecker (whom I refer to as Woody), more types of birds than I can identify (or care to, including one I refer to as "the alarm bird," as it sounds like the annoying beep beep beep of an alarm clock and goes off every morning around 5 a.m.), and just this morning I was stopped by a rather large, ornery common snapping turtle (which despite its name is an uncommon site around here) on my way to the gym.

The wife of the neighbor who was conducting traffic around the turtle and I guessed it was a female about to or having just laid a clutch of eggs as 'tis the season. And man was she ornery (the turtle, not the neighbor).

Also, for those of you who have never seen a turtle run, it is an awesome site. (Click on the link to see what I mean.)

I am only sorry I was unable to videotape this baby in full motion, though I did catch her (?) as she was about to take off (see above). Am now totally rethinking the whole tortoise/hare story.

And if seeing a two-foot long snapping turtle dash across the road wasn't cool enough, check out this freaky moth that was hanging out on our doorstep the other day. Let us call her Mothra! (Click on the picture to see a larger view. Check out those antennae!)

Seriously, that was one creepy looking moth (can you hear that bug beside it screaming for help? Can you?), though the spouse thought it was beautiful.

Maybe my friendly neighborhood toad will eat it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Time to break out the Beach Boys and reggae music!

While summer may not officially start until June 21, I consider Memorial Day Weekend the unofficial start of summer (in addition to being a time to commemorate all the brave men and women who died doing military service on behalf of this country). And one of my fondest childhood summer memories is listening to the Beach Boys.

Indeed, you knew summer had begun in our house when my mother broke out the Beach Boys records and we danced around the living room... and kitchen... and dining room. To this day, whenever I hear "Barbara Ann" or "Surfin' Safari" or "Fun, Fun, Fun" or really any Beach Boys song from that era, I can almost smell the sunblock and am overcome with an urge to do the Monkey and bike, drive, or fly to the nearest beach.

[I don't know about all of you, but watching that clip of the Beach Boys singing "Surfin' USA" makes me want to don a bikini and blend up some piña coladas NOW. That is, if we had piña colada mix.]

Reggae music, specifically Bob Marley (with and without the Wailers), has a similar effect on me. Indeed, one of the best gifts I ever received from a former boss (actually, it may have been the only gift I received from an employer) was the deluxe CD edition of Exodus, whose loss (the CD's not the boss, whom I'm pretty sure is still alive, making someone else's life miserable) I still mourn.

[Hmm... wondering if including "Buffalo Soldier" is too controversial to include in a Memorial Day Weekend post.... What about "Jamming"?]

Oh, and the Police's Synchronicity. Every time I hear "Every Breath You Take" or "King of Pain," I am immediately transported back to the summer of 1983, when I had just learned how to drive and you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing the Police.

So what music -- group or song or album -- says summer to you? Let me know via the Comments.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hating James Taylor

I realize that hating James Taylor is like saying "I hate America," or "I hate apple pie," or "I hate kittens." For the record, I love all those things. I just hate James Taylor. Okay, I don't actually hate James Taylor. I just hate James Taylor's singing. Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word, but hearing James Taylor sing a song makes me want to curl up into a ball and die -- or threaten to cut a puppy until someone turns the music off.

Don't believe me? Ask the spouse. Or ask to see the closed-circuit footage of me at Whole Foods this morning when they started playing James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face."

Oh wait, here it is. (I'm the grouchy one in the trash can.)

I realize this is a slightly irrational reaction to a guy whom millions (maybe even billions) of people adore and pay good money to see in concert again and again and again. But surely I can't be the only one feels this way, right? [Are those crickets chirping? It's gotten so quiet in here.] RIGHT? [Come on, there must be one blog reader who isn't a fan of James Taylor's music. Though actually, it's not his songs that I have a problem with. It's his singing of them.]

Okay, FINE. If none of you has a problem with James Taylor's singing, there must be someone out there whose singing drives you nuts. And I want to know who it is. Via the Comments. [I'll start the ball rolling by suggesting Lionel Ritchie.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Defining "friend" in the age of Facebook and smartphones

When I was growing up, a friend was a friend -- and a noun. While you may have referred to someone as your best friend, or a good friend, or an old friend (as opposed to just a friend), there were no Facebook friends, friends with benefits, or frenemies (even though the latter two no doubt existed before those terms were coined). A friend was, well, your friend -- someone you hung out with, in person, who actually looked at you while you spoke instead of typing into a smartphone.

But with the rise of the Internet age and social networking, the concept of friendship has changed -- as has the definition of friend. Indeed type "friend definition" into Google and the first item that pops up is "Verb: Add (someone) to a list of contacts associated with a social networking Web site."

When did friend become a verb and not a person? (That, btw, is a rhetorical question. Though if you are looking for an answer, look no farther than Facebook, or Friendster.)

And why am I prattling on about all this friend stuff anyway?

So glad you asked.

Like so many things of late, it's because of my daughter. (Ah, the joys of parenting.) More specifically, my daughter's wrestling with how a girl she thought was one of her really good friends could repeatedly be so insensitive to her feelings and hurtful, especially on her (my daughter's) birthday.

Which, me being me and her being her, led to a discussion (not the first) of their being many different kinds of friends, or levels of friendship -- and that one of the most difficult parts of growing up was figuring out who your true friends were (love this definition) and who were your frenemies, or people you probably shouldn't be telling your deepest darkest secrets to or counting on for help. (The girl in question is in the latter category.)

But rather than turning this into an essay on friendship (and boring you all to tears) -- I offer up the following two quotes from a wonderful little book titled The Art of Friendship, written by Roger Horchow (whom Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in The Tipping Point) and Sally Horchow (his daughter), which I came across years ago and now keep by my desk.
Friendship is not always easily defined. There is a range of meaningful relationships, and not all of them need to be of the close, call-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the night variety to be worthwhile.

Work friendships, situational friendships, cordial acqaintanceships--the varieties are as plentiful as the people you meet. Each type of friend should be treated with respect and the appropriate level of affection. If you stay open to the possibilities for friendships that do not necessarily conform to the most common expectations, you are likely to engage in some rewarding interactions that you would otherwise miss out on.
So true.

Indeed, while I often complain that too many of my good friends live too far away for us to get together regularly, and that I rarely get to meet new people working at home (and being an introvert and having an unpredictable work schedule that makes it impossible to make or keep dates many times), I am grateful for my many Facebook and blog friends, many of whom I have never met, who post witty comments here and on my Facebook page -- and consistently brighten my day and make me feel not so alone (or lonely) in this big, scary, confusing world. Thank you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

They grow up so fast

In a few hours my "baby" will be a teenager, and I'm feeling a little verklempt all of a sudden.

How did she get to be this big, this old, this... this... this person?

As the spouse said to me this morning, he still remembers massaging my tailbone as I labored for 18 hours (most of them without drugs -- I know: WTF was I thinking?!) trying to get this stubborn little being the f--k out of me as we listened to the Chicago Bulls battle the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. (Was a HUGE Chicago Bulls fan back in the 1990s, when we lived in Chicagoland. And I insisted on watching the game, but the doctor made us shut it off so I would focus more on the bigger picture, pushing. On the positive side, I was spared watching the Bulls lose that game -- and I scored a baby out of the deal.)

Hopefully, over the last dozen plus years the spouse and I have given our daughter a solid foundation to build upon. But I worry about today's teenage girls. There is so much pressure on them -- academically, socially, emotionally. And we can't --and shouldn't -- protect our daughter forever. But still.... (The only thing tougher than being a pre-teen or teenage girl? Being the mother of a pre-teen or teenage girl.)

Which leads me to Britney Spears. (Bear with me here.)

Early this morning I saw a clip of the opening number from last night's 2011 Billboard Music Awards, featuring Rihanna and Britney singing Rihanna's hit song "S&M," and I thought, I wonder what their mothers think? And, How did Britney go from the cute, perky girl next door (if you happened to live in Kentwood, Louisiana) on The Mickey Mouse Club...

to Playboy bunny dominatrix simulating sex on stage in front of millions of people? (Fast forward to 2:45 in the clip if you are interested.)

Yeah, yeah, I know: fame... a broken home... bad decisions... bad managers... surrounding yourself with the wrong people... alcohol... drugs... The spouse and I have nothing to worry about. Stop overreacting, J.! But I do worry. While not every fresh-faced, seemingly innocent kid winds up in rehab or on a reality TV show or pole dancing for extra cash, you never know.

Oh geez. I'm tearing up again. And I gotta get to work. Just do me a favor: tonight, before she goes to bed, give your daughter an extra big hug and tell her you love her.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Proof the cats really do love me

Because a picture is worth a thousand words -- and a thousand grains of cat litter...

Found this token of the cats' affection (a heart-shaped clump of peed upon cat litter) when I went to clean the cat boxes this morning. Not sure which cat -- Felix or Flora -- left it for me, but I don't care. My cats love me! They truly love me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to keep the boys away (from your teenage daughter)

People always joked that the spouse would need a shotgun to keep the boys away from our daughter when she got older. Well, now she is about to become a teenager (and has discovered boys) -- and next thing I know the spouse sends me this picture (of him firing a shotgun), taken while he attended a "retreat" with fellow members of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes Lodge No. 26 last weekend.

And no, those were not blanks he was shooting.

Despite much trepidation about shooting a gun, the spouse admitted he enjoyed the experience -- and would do it again. (No mention of what -- or whom -- the target would be next time.)

All I can say is prospective suitors, watch out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So much for the Trump White House Hotel and Casino

A part of me (I think it's my hair) is disappointed that Donald Trump will not be entering the 2012 Presidential Race. Think of all the blog posts!

Fortunately, the Donald's decision not to run for President in 2012 does not mean the end of his involvement in the 2012 Presidential Race. Far from it.

Per Trump, "I will continue to voice my opinions loudly and help to shape our politician's thoughts."

Lucky President Barack Obama -- and us!

And why should anyone pay any attention to he of the perpetually windblown hair?

"My ability to bring important economic and foreign policy issues to the forefront of the national dialogue is perhaps my greatest asset and one of the most valuable services I can provide to this country," quoth the Donald.

And here I thought his most valuable asset and service was bringing viewers Celebrity Apprentice.

Want to read more about Trump's decision not to run for President? You can read the full text of his I'm-not-running-for-President-even-though-if-I-did-I-would-totally-win speech here. (And for those of you didn't see or want to relive President Obama's roasting of Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, click here.)

So question: What do you think of the Donald's decision not to run for President in 2012? Do you think the whole thing was a publicity stunt? Would you have voted for him if he had decided to run? Leave me a Comment.

[Slightly off topic: I actually interviewed Donald Trump YEARS ago, over the phone, and met him, and each time he was very courteous and polite, albeit full of hot air. To me he didn't seem like an evil guy, just a consummate promoter and salesmen, whose product was himself.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My new role model

People, I give you J-ONE-O -- or me 40 years into the future.

[Is it just me or could Yiayia be Jewish -- or Italian?]

[Seriously, I feel like we're related. Indeed, one bubbe (aka Jewish grandmother) I knew of used to refer to her granddaughter's live-in significant other as her grand-sin-in-law.]

[It's like my father and/or grandfather was reincarnated as an old Greek woman. Ask the spouse. When I met him, both my father and maternal grandfather when I asked them if they liked my then boyfriend, who was the editor of an alternative/green publication and making no money, both responded "How much can you like a guy who doesn't have a real job?"]

I'm not a brand-specific kind of gal, nor am I typically influenced by ads (in fact quite the opposite), but after seeing these three ads for Athenos Greek yogurt and hummus, I am totally going to buy both Athenos products next time I'm stocking up on Greek yogurt and hummus.

[Huge thanks to StrangeAppar8us over on Rumproast for introducing me to these fabulous ads. Also check out the Athenos YiaTube channel. Hysterical.]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time to stock up on muumuus?

If women of a certain age (i.e., moi) didn't have enough to worry about come late spring, now MORE Magazine, a magazine that supposedly "celebrates women over 40" -- HA! -- has to go and do a survey of how old is too old to wear a bikini -- or mini skirt or leggings or sexy tops. (What, no mention of shorts, MORE Magazine? Now that's what I call shoddy editing.)

To save you some time (though I encourage you to click on the link to see the full results of the survey), if you are 45 or over, you may as well kill yourself start shopping for muumuus now -- and stock up. Also, those of you 50 or over, if you haven't already done so, chop off all that hair NOW. (Seriously, could this survey be more depressing?)

Interestingly, on the TODAY Show site, where I found the MORE survey, the majority of people (of which I am one) when asked "Should age be a factor in what women wear?" replied "No. Rock it if you got it," which jibes with the comments I received on my related post on this topic, titled "Can women of a certain age wear bikinis?" (All I can say is, God bless you kind readers -- and Helen Mirren.)

As for me, as long as my abs stay as flat as my chest and I can cover my butt, I'm sticking with bikinis.

Rock it if you got it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So much for my nude dog walking career...

at least in La Jolla. (Click on the photograph to get a larger image.)

Interestingly, the sign (which is posted near the entrance to Torrey Pines State Reserve in La Jolla, CA) has no prohibition against drinking or alcohol -- just naked trail mix eating dog walkers or hikers. (Guess this woman couldn't read.)

Next time I visit, I will be sure to wear a bikini and bring my cat and a flask. Wouldn't want to violate any rules.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why is this seal smiling? Plus cutest squirrel ever!

Why is this seal smiling? Because she lives in beautiful, sunny La Jolla, California -- rent and mortgage free -- and gets to nap in the sun all day without having to worry about a sun burn or wrinkles or getting a paycheck or driving her pup to soccer or lacrosse or softball practice. Also, no polar bears.

These seals also looked pretty happy. And if it had been just a bit warmer (and not illegal), I'm pretty sure the spouse would have jumped over the railing and joined them. :-)

Also, until this trip, I had never seen beach squirrels before. Must be a California thing, which would explain why they were so mellow and friendly.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The mother of all days

I am typing this from the bathtub of our hotel room. No, I am not lounging in a bubble bath with one of those chic metal trays for soap and a book as would be befitting on Mother's Day. Rather, I am sitting on a towel, in a cold, hard, dry enamel tub, which is in desperate need of re-grouting, because I do not want to disturb the spouse and daughter, who are still sleeping. And when I am done writing this post, I will probably wander down the hall, in my Mets shorts and white t-shirt, to the Starbucks and give everyone in the lobby a thrill get everyone breakfast. Because that's the kind of mother I am.

I know: Where's my medal?

But today's post isn't about me (though let's be serious: all of my posts are in some way, shape, or form all about me). It's about all the great (and not-so-great) mothers out there who made us possible. (Dads, you'll get your turn next month.)

So here's to all the moms who get up early and make sure their kids have a good breakfast each morning; get them to their six zillion after-school and weekend activities week in and week out without ever complaining; help them with their homework and to study for tests; provide a shoulder to cry on, and a kind word when they are feeling down; who nurse them back to health when they are sick; get a warm, healthy dinner on the table each and every night; and read to their children or sit with them before they go to bed every night -- and to all the rest of us poor slobs who thank God each night for making it through another day, without having killed one (or more) of their offspring. This blog post is for you.

Wishing all of you a very happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I could use a beer about now (Cinco de Mayo post)

I've been so busy freaking out about planning and packing for our trip to La Jolla, California, I forgot today was Cinco de Mayo -- until I heard the latest "the most interesting man in the world" radio ad for Dos Equis beer:

I'm not sure why but I love the line "He can open a pinata with a wink and a smile." (And, for the record, dicing onions makes me cry, which is probably why I'm not the most interesting man in the world, besides not having a penis, but it does make for good eats -- diced onions, not a penis.)

Well, gotta fly (literally).

Happy Cinco de Mayo. (Just hope it doesn't turn out to be a stinko to fly-o what with Obama in town.)

UPDATED: It turns out the most interesting man in the world is a Jewish actor from the Bronx. (Thanks to friend of the blog J. In La Jolla for sending me the link to the New Yorker article!)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The zen of cat brushing

I think we can learn a lot from cats (besides how to drink from a faucet or squeeze into a tiny box). Especially about relaxing.

I am always amazed how cats can relax anywhere, anytime. Indeed, just watching cats relax makes me feel, well, more relaxed. And after the stressful day I've had (which started with a migraine, and included finding a 1 1/2-inch piece of jagged metal protruding from my right front tire and having to defend an invoice to a client), I could use some relaxation help.

Enter this video of the world's favorite Internet cat, Maru, being brushed. You would think he was getting massage with happy ending. (If you have to ask, go to

Watching this totally relaxing Maru video, I was tempted to furminate Flora, but I don't think it would be a relaxing experience for either one of us. See "How to Lint Roll a Cat" (if you haven't already). And yes, I know furminating is entirely different. So is Flora.

UPDATED: In the spirit of being fair and balanced, at least when it comes to cats and dogs, I present this picture of my friend C.'s Tennessee Husky Hound, Boo, relaxing.

Got a great pic of your dog or cat relaxing? Link to it in the comments or email it to me and I will post.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

You be the judge

So I just got back from taking J-THREE-O shopping for spring clothes at Justice, Aeropostale, and Hollister. And unlike the spouse, I actually went into each store, helped my daughter find clothes, waited while she tried them on, and fetched her different sizes. I know: I deserve a medal.

I actually didn't mind. In fact I kind of enjoyed it. But don't tell her that. The reason: I love the music they play in those stores. (Also, I have better luck finding stuff that fits me in those stores than in the stores supposedly geared to women my age. But that's another story.) But getting back to the music, did you guys know that those 1980s classic new wave songs "Don't You Want Me Baby" by the Human League and Peter Schilling's "Major Tom" had recently been remade?

It's true. Though they are not nearly as good, IMHO, as the originals. But you judge for yourselves -- and let me know what you think.

First up, the Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby":

And now Atomic Tom's version:

And here's Peter Schilling's "Major Tom":

And Shiny Toy Guns' remake:

Which versions do you like better? Let me know via the Comments.