Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Done!!!!!

Because I know so many of you (perhaps two) have been on pins and needles about THE chair project, I didn't want to keep you in suspense any longer.

My good, patient, talented, even-tempered friend, CG and I have been slaving away since I last updated you on THE chair.  Actually, she took off for Chicago for a few days and I suspect it was to escape me and my "chair-whininess". 

We had worked on it diligently for about 2-3 days a week for a couple of weeks after my last post about IT.  We ran into some snags such as, after methodically and carefully attaching the seat cover (the first piece of fabric we attached), it ripped!  Horrifying! And probably 2 hours out the window.  CG calmly strode to the cutting table and recut the piece.  Okay, she did say s--- first, but hey, it was our first new piece.  CG, this revelation only humanizes you in the eyes of my readers, so don't worry about a tarnished rep.  I said much worse throughout this odyssey.

Well, our journey was fraught with many a stumbling block.  I will spare you the gory details, but just know that CG and I emerged with our friendship intact.  Not only that, we have vowed that if one of us ever says to the other: "maybe we could do it ourselves", to just slap each other silly. 

So, now I present to you the before and after picture of THE chair:



After, after:

I know, I know, you warned me CG.  I was writing this post and went in one more time to admire our handiwork and look what I found!!!  And thus the vicious cycle begins again.  I will be getting that scat mat tomorrow and yes, I covered the chair, CG.
Disclaimer:  Although The Boston Lady wrote as if this was a traumatic, prolonged, agonizing process, her readers should know her well enough to realize that she actually had a great time, learned a lot, and REALLY appreciates the friendship she has with CG.  They should also know that she is very, very scared when she thinks about how she will ever repay CG in kind. i.e. what project will CG need The Boston Lady to help her with?  Very scary, indeed.  Thanks CG, you're the best!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Admit it. This is the scariest thing you will see this Halloween!

I know, because she scares me everyday.  They always told me Panda has a face only a mother could love...

But seriously folks.  I am missing the Halloweens of yore.  Last year we had ONE trick or treater and that makes me kind of sad.  Our neighborhood used to be saturated with kids and Halloween was a huge event.  Parties, trick or treating en masse, Orlando Grandma would come and scare the kids, scary music, too much candy.  Those were the days:

This was The Maven's first Halloween.  The Writer was already a veteran.  He'd already been Superman and a clown, but now he made one convincing pirate.  Hmm, maybe that's where his fascination with the lifestyle began...

Then we finally progressed to the next year where we began the Gator indoctrinization and fed The Writer's interest in magic. The Maven's blood runs black and gold instead of orange and blue, but she humors us still.  Don't know if The Writer still likes magic, but he doesn't look too bad with facial hair and his blood runs orange and blue.

I think he thought he really was Merlin:

The years have flown by with many costume trends, some more successful than others.  Wish I had a picture of the year we wrapped a large box and stuck The Maven in it and she trick or treated as a Christmas Present.  Hey, it was cheap! And easy!

Yes, I really miss those old Halloweens.  Don't know what Mr. Tennis and I will do this year, but we can always dress up the Bostons and hit the dog parks.  Those milk bones aren't going to be as tasty as the candy the kids used to bring home, but I still have lots of good memories to feast upon:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Coulda Been a Millionaire

This book could have been written by me. Or by anyone who has been owned by a yellow Lab, for that matter.  My only defense for not writing this book is that our yellow lab, Jake, kept me so distracted and confused that I was incapable of forming complete sentences when he was done with me.

Anyone who has read this book or seen the movie, or any dog movie or book,  knows that as infuriating, destructive, and unmanageable as these animals can be, we love them with all our heart.  In the end there is a large empty space when they are no longer with us.


It all began with this clown dog, Chaz, who owned a neighbor of ours. All we would see was his majestic beauty as his people walked him down the street.  They had no wild stories to share with us, no warnings, but I should have had an inkling about the yellow lab personality because of the numerous times I saw his people frantically chasing him after an obvious jailbreak. Chaz is the larger dog, the little blur is Jake.  I believe Chaz was secretly passing on lab behavior info to Jake during these play sessions. 

It was clear that both Jake and I needed obedience school, so we signed up.  Those evenings were supposed to be a bonding experience for the two of us.  What those classes ended up being was a sweaty, wrestling match between two beings and the canine being was winning.  We were the "before" picture even after 6 weeks of torture.  He jumped up on everyone.  He barked, he whined, he urinated on the floor, he pulled on the leash, he chewed the leash.  You get the idea.  When your dog is the one the instructors use as an example EVERY time, you have trouble on your hands.  Jake did learn to heel, sit, stay and come and he received the "most improved" award.  I never understood why HE was given the award, I was the one who came home bruised and crying every week.

We were at least able to take Jake out in public for family outings and walks at the park.
Looking at this picture I can't help but wonder what was really going on.  To the casual observer this looks like a nice day at the park with Jake and my mother.  I am obviously still not thinking rationally, hence the oversize coke bottle glasses, but what has come over my usually sweet and gentle mother?  Her hands are clasped around Jake's neck as if choking him. I also notice the tension on the leash.  We are obviously trying to keep Jake from running amok in the playground.  He would have loved to plunge in and knock down a child or two. Or three.

I wasn't the only female Jake had wrapped around his paw.  When he was six months old, our next door neighbors lost their minds and brought a female yellow lab home one day.  I smugly nodded my head and waited for the chaos to ensue. She was perfect. Didn't chew, didn't destroy, didn't bark at the air. What she did do was adore Jake.  Meet Miss Molly, Jake's GF. They were inseparable, playing every afternoon in their backyards while the human children tried to stay out of their way.  They did everything together.

Jake could do no wrong in her eyes. It was a sad day for all of us when Molly and her family moved away.

It was about 8 years before another girl would enter Jake's life and she came at just the right time.  Jake was finally slowing down by the age of ten, The Maven and The Writer were quite self-sufficient and it just seemed like the right time to add that small dog we thought we'd like. 
Panda injected new energy into the older version of Jake.  He patiently would let her box his nose with her front paws and climb all over him when he was laying down.  When he had enough, it just took a swing of his head and a lifted lip to make Panda stop. 
His memory lives on still through Panda.  She still stops dead in her tracks during a walk to stare at a passing motorcycle, she knows that they merit some sort of reaction, but doesn't quite remember that she should be barking wildly and straining at the leash when we see them. And even though she is a female dog, she always marks her territory along the walk just like a male yellow lab taught her to do.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

The weather people have been forecasting a "cold snap"  for the weekend.  Here, that translates to:  the temps will dip into the 70s and three days later will be back up into the high 80s with the usual humidity.

Our family, in a quest to satisfy my Canadian longing for cool weather, have experienced some REALLY cold temperatures starting with this ice laden tunnel on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC.  It was 17 degrees the morning we got up for this ride from Mount Mitchell down into the valley to Asheville.  Not being experienced ice and snow drivers we thought we were being cautious when we stopped to talk to a waving man outside this tunnel.  Surely he had some good advice for us how to navigate through this treacherous area.  He simply said to just go slow and we would be just fine.  Well, we weren't just fine.  As soon as all four wheels hit the ice we started sliding and fortunately bumped into the wall of the tunnel.  I say fortunately because just before that wall is a drop down the mountain that would have given us the ride of our lives.  Next time, Orlando Grandma drives over the ice.  She spent many a cold winter in Nebraska driving through the snow - why didn't she speak up???                     

This is another icy time in our lives.  For some reason we thought it would be fun to go camping at Stone Mountain, Ga. the week between Christmas and New Year's.  We were in our pop-up camper and it got down to 19 degrees at night.  Our water hose froze into an unmanageable snake-like creature that Mr. Tennis had to wrestle into the heated campground bathrooms so it could thaw out.  On the day this picture was taken we took a cable car to the top of Stone Mountain to look at the view, not realizing that it was below zero at the summit.  This picture was snapped during the 30 seconds we ventured out of the toasty observation building.  I don't remember how many pairs of pants we were each wearing. Don't tell me we can't take the cold!!

A surprise snowy, cold vacation was a spring break visit to NYC.  We knew it would be chilly, but were delighted (that's how I like to remember it) when it began to snow the day we arrived.  It snowed all night and this is how Central Park looked the next day when we walked through it.   It was absolutely lovely.


The snow seemed to put a quietening blanket over the usual noisy and bustling city and brought out the kid in all of us.

One of the most beautiful pictures Mr. Tennis took was at Strawberry Fields in Central park.  This is a quiet area of reflection and tribute to the late John Lennon and in the warmer months is a gathering spot for his fans.  The Imagine tile work is strewn with flowers quite often and this day we found it looking like this:

So, for a bunch of thin-blooded Floridians we do okay in the colder weather and I'm happy that at last, this weekend I am able to open my windows and let some of the outdoors, in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE chair and The Bumby

What you have in front of you are two things that I like very much. Unfortunately, one of them was the downfall of the other.

The little creature sitting in THE chair like a person looking out the window is a Bumby. Many people would call her a cat, but in this house, she is the most uncatlike cat living here. She likes to eat the dog's food, drink their water, hang out in their room and chase their toys. She also says "please" and "thank you" whenever she is let in and out the door. She has, however, within her a very catlike habit. Clawing.

Bumby and THE chair came into our household about the same time. I bought THE chair from a neighbor's garage sale for $25. It had been her grandma's and the history of it appealed to me. I liked the lines, it was well constructedand I felt that the upholstery would hold up for a few years and then I would recover THE chair.

Enter Bumby. We were out walking our lab, Jake one night and came upon three abandoned, very young kittens by the side of the road. As we were looking at them trying to decide what to do, a lady pulled up in a car. She had also seen them and was willing to take two of them home. Much to the dismay of Mr. Tennis, I said we would take the one left. Thus, The Bumby, entered our lives. Two unhappy older cats gave her the cold shoulder (okay, it was worse than the cold shoulder-one of them literally kicked the tiny kitten off the ottoman I placed her on- welcome to the household), but The Writer and The Maven were happy about the addition to our personal zoo. Bumby thrived and settled into the household rather seamlessly except for one thing. Okay, there were actually many things, but one for the purpose of this blog. She liked to work out her claws on THE chair. It was her favorite past-time besides hassling me in the middle of the night. Yes, I provided her with scratching posts and other outlets including this cathouse/scratching post that Mr. Tennis purchased in a moment of Bumby-love weakness.

Alas, THE chair did not fair well and looked awful after many months of abuse. I put it in storage. Bumby got declawed. We got two new couches.

The Dawn of a New Age: Mr. Tennis and I had finally dealt with emptying out our storage unit. THE chair! I had put it out of my mind for several years. We brought it home and I placed it in the living room and it really looked bad now that we had a new couch. I turned around to say something to Mr. Tennis and the next thing I knew the clawless Bumby was working THE chair over like old times.

Undaunted, I set about getting prices for re-upholstering or having slipcovers made for my old friend. I took my good friend, CG, with me to look at fabrics and get the estimates. As we left the first place, she complimented me on the ability to keep a straight face when the lady told me it would be $600-$700 to recover THE chair. I'm sure I at least had the good sense to blanch a bit.

I never got an estimate (including fabric and labor) for less than $500 for recovering. $350 for a slipcover. I was relating this ridiculousness to CG when she uttered the words that I'm sure she has come to regret: "We could do it ourselves". Gulp.

First we shopped for fabric. Check. $21 for 7 yards at a discount fabric store. Then we shopped at Joann's for other necessities such as thread, tacks, batting, button-making kits. You get the idea. So far this was a bargain in the making!!

Two weeks ago CG came over bright-eyed and bushy tailed for our first session. Actually, I thought the whole thing would be done in one day. I had no idea.... I should have known when she came armed with cutting boards, a sewing machine, quilting rulers, scissors, AND, two cans of Coke, that we were in it for the long haul.

That first day my friend amazed me. She had never recovered furniture before, but her analytical, physicist, engineer mind just took over and she was completely in control. We would take the fabric off, label it, write down what we did AND take pictures. That way, she said, we would have a record of what we did and we would do the reverse when we recovered THE chair. Brilliant! I never would have thought of it! I would have ripped the pieces off, used them as rough patterns, cut out the new stuff and started stapling.

The first day - 6 hours - we spent removing the fabric, removing staples and tacks, labeling, etc. just as CG said we should. I was exhausted. She was exhilirated. It was then I realized why the prices were so high to re-upholster. These poor people needed a therapist when they were done with each piece of furniture they recovered. Our next time together would be the next week. Surely we would finish it then.

The next week came and so did CG. I started out chipper enough, but didn't realize that our ENTIRE DAY would be spent placing the old pieces of fabric onto the new fabric. Yes, readers, it took a WHOLE day! Thank goodness for CG! Her brilliant mind gave her the instincts of an expert upholsterer. She knew that we would have to place the pieces carefully so the fabric design would flow and not look like some idiot (read, me) just put it on there haphazardly. I'm a person of action and a day of pinning old fabric on new fabric after laborously scrutinizing the design of the fabric did me in. I didn't even have the heart to take pictures of that stage of the process. I practically threw CG out the door. I'm surprised she came back after all the whining I did.

But, she is such a good friend, and return she did 4 days later after I had "recovered". CG arrived again with a big smile on her face and her rulers and sewing machine. This was a day of action as we used the batting to build up the existing padding on THE chair. After a couple of hours (yes, it took that long, don't be impatient) we were determined to get at least ONE piece of new fabric on. According to our (very detailed-yet still sketchy) records, the seat was the last piece taken off, so it would be the first to go on.

With her usual precision and sixth sense instincts for upholstering, CG placed the new seat fabric on THE chair. We were both nervous, but each wielded our staple guns with confidence. It went beautifully! We had made the proper cuts in the right places and, THE chair had such wonderfully hard wood for it's frame, that we occasionally needed to use tacks instead of staples. But we did it. We recovered the seat!!!

I am so grateful for the friendship and expertise of CG (okay, skeptics, I AM NOT "using" her). Although we aren't finished yet, she has made this project fun, educational and, well, I just need to say it again - fun! Thanks CG, you have the patience of a saint and I owe you big time! See you tomorrow! To be continued...

Some of us prefer "other" chairs and recline in them at our leisure:

Many thanks to my very good friend, CG. If the Bostons like ya, you're okay!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

People. People who need People....

Well, I have learned to become a dog person after many years spent living as a strictly cat lover. But really what I am is a "people" person. I'm not just talking about people who flit in and out of your life whenever it suits their needs. I'm speaking about the people who stay with you through thick and thin, for, let's say 35 years.

Rain, or shine, sleet or hail, my People magazine, always comes in the mail!

I know, I know. You thought I was the uber-intellectual who, after a brief foray into the bodice-ripper world, dedicated herself to "serious" literature. Afterall, I AM a book club participant! I can't help it! I love my People magazine. I consider it my "junk food for the brain". I started reading it when it first was published when I was in college and needed a break from those hated textbooks - Economics - ugh. Each week I'd slink into the Student Union and pick up the latest issue and then spend about an hour revelling in the glory of celebrity and pop culture.

After Mr. Tennis and I got married he fed my addiction by giving me a year's subscription each year. What a treat to get my fix delivered to my door.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how you look at it, thirty-five years of People consumption has led me to store useless trivia facts in my head. I tend to blurt them out and give myself away in social settings. For instance, about a year into our book club existence I was talking to one of my fellow Bookies about some pop culture nonsense. From across the room, one of the other members, says, "You sound like you read People Magazine". Everyone in the room froze and all eyes turned to me. I was faced with a dilema. Do I admit it? Sully my reputation as "above such things" and spill the dirty little secret that I'm a pop culture junkie and avid People reader?

I spilled. Then I went one step further and said, "I love People magazine". The lady who posed the question said that she only "looked through it" when she was at the hairdresser and once, when she brought in her neighbor's mail, she "glanced" at a couple of articles. I felt like I had just admitted I read dirty magazines. Then, I ran into another friend at the grocery store and it somehow slipped that I had read something in People and she did a quick intake of breath and said, "No, you DO NOT read People"! What in the world was wrong with these people? Other friends knew that I partook of the People and one in particular has been the beneficiary of the castoffs for 15 years. I had never been judged for my pop culture fetish before.

To take it further, both ladies were at a gathering a couple of weeks later and it was brought up again: "Well, she should know, she reads People". I had never considered my "habit" to be something of a scandal, but apparently I am scandalous! How very celebrity and pop culture of me!

Since I have come out of the People Magazine closet, I have admitted other indiscretions to my fellow book club attendees. These admissions must pale in comparison because hardly anyone batted an eye when I said I really enjoy reality television and thought nothing of watching "The Housewives of Orange County" when I could. I even heard a few murmurs from some of them saying they have "caught" an episode or two. Now, talk about scandalous, that show is full of scandal not to mention all it's spinoffs which I know they are watching too.

Well, the shock has worn off over time and I am accepted for what I am. In fact, if anyone wants to know a random fact about theatre, movies, a book, a famous person or just a regular person, who do they look to for the answer? That's right, I have become the go-to gal for movie reviews, the latest best sellers' info or an update on Survivor (my first reality show) and American Idol. So, I guess I have neither been voted off the island or eliminated from the competition.

However, even though I love my People, I love my real people, my family, who always accept me for who I am. Awwwwww.

Guess you can tell I finally figured out how to link pictures from the internet :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I recently came across some pictures of my parents and my mother's family while I was searching for items for a project I was going to do with my book club. This was actually a "bookless" club meeting as we had not read a book this month to discuss. One of our esteemed members is a working artist and thought we'd all like to try our hand at making shadow boxes with "found art".

I originally started looking through some old sewing boxes that had belonged to my Aunt Dot to see if there was some old ribbon or lace in there I could use along with a picture I had of my grandmother. Instead I came up with some truly interesting items from my mother's family's past.

After finding these items I thought I could make a shadow box that would connect to my roots a bit on my mother's side of the family. I went looking for some photos to put into the box as well and came up with a few interesting ones.

There aren't a lot of photographs of my parents in their early days as those pictures were lost in a move that they made. I was very excited to find this picture of my parents, taken when they were dating. Probably about 1942. I love this picture because they look so happy and carefree. My mom's saddleshoes are adorable and the expression on my father's face reminds me of my son, The Writer. I always thought he took after the other side of the family, but I can see a resemblence here to my dad.

With this picture I found another one. A single shot of my dad, probably taken even earlier than the one of them together. Or perhaps on that same date. Again I am struck by the similarities between twenty-something Grandpa H and his twenty-something grandson, The Writer.

I actually had already selected my "inspiration" picture which is a photograph of my maternal grandmother, Grace, that has been hanging in my bedroom for a very long time. I never knew what to do with it because it was kind of small and was overwhelmed by wall space. This project was the perfect way to showcase my grandmother.

My grandmother died when I was one, so I never really knew her. I found this picture after my mother died and was struck by how much The Maven, my daughter, seemed to take after her. At least in profile, it seemed. It was this reason I hung the picture on the wall - it made me feel like we were all connected.

I'm grateful for my artist friend's great book club idea because I ended up with a great family treasure:

My grandmother's picture is in the lower left. Other than the dark hair, she and The Maven look very much alike. On the top right of the frame of her picture is a pin from the Red Cross that says "I Gave". I imagine my Aunt Dot saved this. My Uncle Murph, my mother's brother, was a WWII POW. This had a huge impact on the family and I feel that my mother, her sister and my grandmother must have volunteered some for the Red Cross during that time. A lot of people did such things in those days to support the war effort .

On the bottom right of the frame is a pearl handled seam ripper that I also found in Aunt Dot's sewing box. I just thought it was so pretty and should be included along with a picture of a pretty young woman.

To the right of my grandmother's picture is a small map of New Jersey. I circled the city of Elizabeth where my mother and her siblings were born. Aunt Dot lived in their childhood home until about 1967 with her husband. I didn't notice until I had already circled the city, but my marker went over Bayonne. The birthplace of my father. I had never realized they were born so close together.

The picture in the cross stitch hoop (found in the sewing box) and the one to the right are both of my mother and my Aunt Dot. Dot is the elder by 7 years. They were very close up until Dot died in the early 1990s. I decided to keep the focus of the box on the women in the family. One reason being I only have a small picture (under the hoop picture) of my Uncle Murph and only a couple of my grandfather. I'm hoping to ask my brothers if they have any. I know many existed because I used to look at them when I was younger, but as I said they were lost in a move. Tragic, I think.

On the top right of the hoop is a button hook! Another treasure I found in the sewing box. I had never seen one before, but somehow knew that's what it was. I found a boy scout pin which I attached to the bottom of the frame. I'm sure it was Uncle Murph's. The baby spoon above is Dot's. It has her initials engraved in it and I think it's so sweet.

To the right of the picture in the hoop is a homemade heart-shaped pin cushion that I also found in the box as well as the two pretty hat pins that are stuck in it. My Aunt must have saved every button that came off their clothing because there were a good jarful in the sewing box. I had initally envisioned glueing them all along the edge of the box, but then just picked a handful to use as visual effect.

So, what started as a simple project with friends, took on much more meaning for me, and I'm so glad. Finding the pictures and putting this together helped me feel connected again to some people who I miss very much. I also realize that through my children they will live on.