vanilla bean joy


See these bottles?  They are filled with vanilla bean-scented liquid hand soap.

At the risk of having you think I have become one of those crazy hoarders you see on television, I will confess that I now own nine of these.

I went to five stores to hunt them down after sniffing the one and only bottle at TJMaxx and discovering–with great joy–that it smelled almost exactly like my favorite vanilla-scented soap from Paris that isn’t made any more.

Well, it’s still made but it’s not the same formula and is very disappointing.

Many years ago I was invited to join a writer friend who was spending six months in Paris.  Of course I had to do a lot of research before I stepped on the plane.  One of the tips?  Wear black.  Another?  For bargain gifts to take home to the USA, buy giant bars of Le Petit Marseillais soap (for about a dollar each).

And so I did.  My suitcases were loaded with many bars of Le Petit Marseillais soap and two tins of chocolate from Belgium.  What could be better?

I replenished my vanilla soap stash a few years later, when I met My French Friend Janou in Paris for a week of shopping (Paris Flea Market) and sightseeing (Mont St. Michel).

(I’ve just spent an hour searching for those photos and can’t find them!  Darn!)

Once again, the suitcases were filled with bars of soap when I left France.

I managed to order it online for a couple of years, but then they stopped making it.  It recently resurfaced, but it doesn’t smell the same.

But this is close.


If you like the scent of vanilla and you’re as fussy as I am, try to find a bottle and sniff for  yourself!




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another birthday


Notice the bonnet tossed in the air!

I think I’m in a stroller, 1950’s style.  And happy to be there, from the looks of things.

This was taken in Washington, DC, where my Dad was stationed at the time.  My mother loves to say she changed my diapers on the White House lawn.

My claim to fame.

It’s going to be a lovely day.  We’re going to saw a board, move a table, rehang a quilt and attend a cocktail party at Mom’s elegant residence.

One happy birthday word:  tequila.



Posted in family, just for fun, rhode island | 3 Comments

I haven’t been able to think of what to blog about lately.  I sit here at my tiny, slightly wobbly folding table and try to juggle the keyboard, mouse and coffee mug while my monitor is on the old sideboard and seems very far away.

I do not have a pair of glasses that helps me see the print, so I’m glad this is only temporary.

Here’s what yesterday afternoon looked like.


I’m determined to get this room–sideboard gone, bins filled and labeled, and new table in place–so that when we return from our little Christmas trip to Texas I can walk right in and pick up the fiddle.

The clutter and messes and issues all over the house are starting to get to me. 

We started our downstairs project two months ago.  The electrician and the carpenter still haven’t arrived to do any of the work.  The guy from the propane company came, after we waited a month for an appointment, and installed a gas line for the future gas range in my upstairs kitchen, but in the process discovered an electrical issue that had to be fixed immediately.

Immediately?  Ha!  I told some friends that I had as much chance of seeing “our” electrician as I would having Jesus Himself walk up my front steps to hand me a winning Powerball ticket.

(Yes, I know I sound cranky.)

On the opposite, more joyful, end is that the local flooring store has been more than happy to order and install anything.  Within a week.  Can you imagine?  I want a bumper sticker that says, “I Love Bart’s”.

On Wednesday I called the insurance company, who promised that an adjuster would call me within 24-48 hours and come look at my warped floor.  On this same Wednesday,  Banjo Man went off to a Sand & Gravel company and ordered a mountain of gravel for our driveway.  It was delivered Thursday morning.  And Thursday afternoon the landscaping boys down the street came with their equipment and spread the gravel.  And even compacted the gravel.  All was right with Banjo Man’s world.

In the meantime I am still waiting for the insurance adjuster to call.

What is wrong with this picture?

Banjo Man says I’ll feel better when the electricity is all fixed.  But I’ve given up on getting the gas range.  For over ten years I’ve wanted a simple, no frills, gas range with a center griddle.  I want to be able to cook dinner and make coffee when the power goes out during nor’easters.

But Winter Is Coming (yes, I am a Game of Thrones fan) and so is snow.  And getting a stove delivered (steps! ice! long driveway!) could be next to impossible.  Banjo Man suggested I buy the stove now and keep it in the dining area.  We would move the table to make room and sometime this winter we could get it hooked up–after the electrician and after the gas guy do their jobs.

And after the kitchen floor is fixed.

Uh-huh.  I don’t share his optimism.   At this rate I figure I’m looking at April, folks, before everything is completed.  Call me crazy, but I do not want a gas range next to my dining room table until April.  Would you?

It’s back on my Wish List…for the fall of 2019.

So maybe I should apologize for this cranky blog post.  I certainly need more coffee.

Tomorrow is my birthday and we will celebrate it at my mother’s assisted living facility’s annual Christmas party.  And I will feel very, very young!  I will walk without assistance from any devices!  I will open the doors by myself and use the stairs instead of the elevator!  I will drive myself there and stride across the parking lot!

All things to be grateful for.

And by tomorrow I will have a clean office and a smile on my face.


gas range

The dream continues.










Posted in family, personal female whining, rhode island | 3 Comments

what’s missing?


It was part of my world for 37 years and I wrote almost 50 novels and novellas on it.  But the big, white desk is gone and that’s a good thing.  I spend too much time sitting there, just because that’s what I’ve always done.  It’s where I go every morning, to listen to the radio, drink coffee, eat my protein bar and check email and the news.  I get stuck there.  Time–too much time–goes by.

I’ve been wrestling with the lack of space in my office for several years now.  Computer, quilting and music?  Not room for all three, unfortunately, no matter how much I stuff I organized, decluttered or eliminated.

It was always still gridlocked.  And because I am basically a clumsy person with very little depth perception and arthritic fingers, I lived in fear of dropping my violin or banging it against a table.  I didn’t want to drop my lap steel (that thing is heavy!) on my foot or knock over my guitar.

Sunday afternoon Banjo Man installed my new blinds (I love  In order to do that he had to move my white desk out of the way.  When it was time to put it back, I said no.  Leave it in the middle of the room so I can think.

I sat there and thought about how I didn’t need a huge desk any longer.  I didn’t need to spend so much time at the computer.  Looking at the empty area in front of the windows made me feel lighter.

“Lighter” is always a good thing.

The next morning I told my husband that I no longer needed that desk.  I still needed a desk, yes, but something smaller and more narrow that would fit under my bookshelves and hold my laptop.  In order to make room for this future narrow table I would get rid of my old mahogany sideboard, too.

And because no one ever wants an old mahogany sideboard, no matter how elegant, Banjo Man will dismantle it and take it to the dump.  It’s too heavy to haul to a consignment store, even if we had a truck to put it in.

Yes, that is sad.  But not as sad as not having room to play my guitar or practice my violin.

So now I will empty the sideboard and I will be ruthless in throwing away things I have shoved in cupboards and drawers.  My goal is to begin 2019 with plenty of room for all of my musical stuff, from instruments to music stands to speakers and lesson books.

I’ve made the choice between having “stuff” and having “space”.

This is going to be fun!



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the thanksgiving flood


Friday morning surprise.

At 3:30 AM, the day after Thanksgiving, we took our Texas family to the airport.  It wasn’t part of the vacation plan, but the Funny Grandson’s mysterious stomach issues had occurred again and it was important that he get home to see his doctor asap.

Exhausted and worried, Banjo Man and I were back in bed before 5.  When I woke at 9:30 and staggered out to the kitchen to join Banjo Man and Will for coffee, it was to discover water had flooded underneath the Pergo laminate flooring more than two feet from the sink.   Banjo Man was collecting bath towels.

We thought our plumbing was fixed, but it wasn’t.  There is a little flaw…which means that when there is too much water going down the drain at once, the pipes can’t handle it and it overflows.  I keep a dishpan under that pipe connection just in case, but it has stayed dry since last winter.

And I forgot all about it.

And we had done a lot of dishes on Thursday, both by hand and by dishwasher.  A lot of water went down–or didn’t go down–that drain.  The dish pan was overflowing.

It looked bad, but I have to tell you that it didn’t seem like that big a deal at the time.  I was experiencing Major Grandmother Stress as I worried about FG’s health.  A minor kitchen flood was barely a blip on my radar.

I reminded Banjo Man that years ago we’d had a leak in the air conditioner in my office, resulting in a warped area of Pergo about 12″ x 18″.  It took a year or so, but the boards flattened by themselves and now you would never know.

We’ve been clinging to that hope, but it doesn’t look good.  The boards are warping in a 3 by 8 foot area.  We’ve piled all sorts of weights on them.

We used a portable heater to dry the area.


This was my idea.

Now we are using anything we can think of to apply weight to the warping boards in the hope that they will settle back into place.


This was Banjo Man’s idea.  It’s the very, very heavy top of my old white desk.

It gives me an excuse to stay out of the kitchen, so it’s not all bad.

But I think it’s time to call our homeowner’s insurance to see if they cover things like this.

Suggestions, anyone?



Posted in family, rhode island | 3 Comments

up periscope

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a submarine.

Especially when the best doughnut shop in Rhode Island is closed on Mondays.


On the Monday before Thanksgiving, we’d intended to take a little field trip to Allie’s Donuts, but Aunt Nancy texted that they were closed on Mondays.

Plan B:  a drive to Groton, CT to the submarine base and museum.  With a stop at Dunkin Donuts along the way.


This is called the “Dear Santa” special.  I think it looks like a bow on a gift.  Others think it’s supposed to symbolize Rudolph.

This trip to Groton turned out to be a surprising hit.


Before we even went inside.


Working the controls.


Testing the periscopes.


View of the Thames River, in Groton.

And the highlight?  Going down inside an actual submarine, the “Nautilus”, the first nuclear powered sub and the first one to travel under the North Pole.


Back in the gift shop, the FG was the proud owner of a new t-shirt and matching hat.  He would wear them for the rest of the week.

And the day wasn’t over.  We drove through Mystic, Ct for a photo op at the restaurant of movie fame, Mystic Pizza, then on to lunch at Mystick Village and a little shopping.  Then it was back in the car for a drive through historic Stonington Borough (a narrow strip of land that was home to Connecticut’s whaling captains).

It was time to go home and put the casserole in the oven.  Another evening with four generations around the dinner table!





Posted in family, rhode island, road trip | 4 Comments

catching up post thanksgiving


The Funny Grandson’s great-grandmother gave him an early Christmas present when he arrived in RI and visited her at her assisted living apartment.  Don’t they look happy to be together?

We thought he’d want to dive right into that Lego set, but instead he opted to take it home unopened and save it.  Go figure.

(Yes, I made that quilt above the bed.  It’s a technique called “Stack ‘n Whack” which involves stacking matching sections of fabric and precision cutting.  I love precision cutting!)

After this photo was taken, we bundled my mother into the car and took her back to our house for Sunday dinner.  On the menu was Shepherd’s Pie, the FG’s favorite, which thrilled him no end.  He would go on to happily eat the leftovers for the rest of the week while the rest of us gorged on enchiladas, meatballs, ravioli, etc.

There were mounds of dirty snow at the airport when they arrived Saturday night.  That, of course, was a big thrill for a little Texan.  I bought him rubber boots so he could stomp around in what snow was left in our yard.

I’ll post more pictures tomorrow.   Today I take my mother out for lunch and errands and general riding around, so time has run out for blogging.

More tomorrow…


Checking out the ocean at Stonington Point.

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Well, this was exciting!  Not in the “Jack Ryan” death-defying style of exciting, but an interesting miniseries nonetheless.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was originally a podcast before being turned into an original tv series for Amazon.  The episodes are short, so you can watch quite a few of them (there are ten in total) in one evening.

Julia Roberts plays a therapist helping American soldiers with their PTSD in a mysterious Florida facility.  That’s all I’m going to tell you so I don’t ruin the mystery.

An aside:  it’s amazing how beautiful that woman becomes when she smiles.




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reconnaissance mission


Table for two, please.

When asked what touristy thing she would like to do during her Thanksgiving week here in New England, my Texan daughter-in-law replied, “I’d like to eat in a real Italian restaurant.”

We have a lot of those here.  It was a matter of refining the request.  Fancy?  Casual?  Red sauce?  Gourmet?

I asked advice of many friends, all of whom said, “Federal Hill”.  Yes, that area of Providence has been the center of Italian dining since it was the home of Italian immigrants in the 1880’s.  It was the hub of the state’s Mafia organization, with shootings and killings galore in the wild days of the  1960’s, ’70’s and 80’s.


Federal Hill has always been an area for tourists and locals alike to eat some good Italian cooking from casual to fine dining.  In the past years it has become a bit dangerous at night and, aggravatingly, peppered with parking meters.  Banjo Man decided that we would drive up there and see for ourselves.  We would take the family to lunch next week IF the traffic wasn’t bad, IF we could find a place to park, IF it didn’t feel dangerous and IF we could find the perfect Italian restaurant.

I researched everything, of course.  And I settled on a restaurant called Andino’s.  It has a colorful Mafia history and great reviews on Tripadvisor.

The traffic was fine.  We didn’t get lost.  We even found a “free” parking space on a side street.  It felt like a long walk up Atwells Avenue, but that was only because it was the first cold and windy day of the season and we weren’t ready for winter yet, even though I’d worn a new sweater and a new coat.

Andino’s was crowded, so we sat at the bar and drank wine until our table was ready.  It was a lovely place, with linen tablecloths, flowers and lots of pleasant people working there.  Frank Sinatra songs serenaded us.

In other words, it would be perfect for our family lunch next week.

I had butternut squash and ricotta ravioli in a maple cream sauce for an appetizer.


Banjo Man had chicken escarole soup.  For my main course I chose eggplant parmigiana.


Does he look happy?


Clams in linguine with red sauce.

We were quite proud of ourselves for spending a Tuesday afternoon is such sophisticated surroundings.  We’d gotten out of the country and were in the big city for the first time in many years.

Our afternoon didn’t end there.  We stopped at Sciola’s bakery (everything baked in a 1920’s brick oven) for bread and pastry and at Venda Ravioli to admire the enormous array of cheeses and meats and olive oils.  We saved the wine shop for next week’s visit.

Sciola’s bakery window:



I think my little Texas family will like it here.




Posted in family, food, rhode island | 5 Comments

it’s all about the tables

I’ve spent the last two days auditioning tablecloths.

I know, you’re really glad you’re not here to watch the process.  Kinda like watching paint dry, I’ll bet.  But I take it seriously.

We have two dining tables–one in the dining area and one in the living room–for Thanksgiving dinner.  Yes, it will be a little tight, but no one will care.  The house will smell like turkey, the conversation will joyfully flow, and there will be wine.

Banjo Man set up table #2 so I could measure and plan.  And then he fled to the basement, where he is busy painting a little bookcase.  He was so intent on doing a good job on this project (after a total disaster painting a wire bistro set) that he actually took the vintage bookcase to Home Depot to ask the paint guy what paint he should use.  No fewer than three people stopped him and asked if they could buy the bookcase before he got out of there with his little cans of primer and paint.

Anyway, back to the tables…


I changed to a different cross stitch cloth, the one made by my grandmother.


Pumpkins that didn’t make the cut.  Maybe next year!


This might work.  With the addition of sparkly lights and some artificial leaves.


Dining room table.  I wanted something blue so I could use my blue-trimmed wedding china.  Blue or white or gray napkins?  What color pumpkins?


I love this spider web cloth, but it might be a little too colorful.  But I’m going to iron it anyway and decide after I put the turkey in the oven.

So today I will be ironing tablecloths and napkins–something I really love to do.  It’s fun thinking about how pretty everything will look.  Holidays should be special events, if you’re up to it.  I remember my grandmother’s elegant dining room table and how impressed I was by the china and the tablecloth.  I will be using her crystal water glasses next week, too.

It’s a nice memory.

And getting together with friends and family is something to look forward to all year.

Time to plug in the iron…





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