Saturday, November 29, 2014


Wow, so I haven't blogged in 6 months.  I'm always thinking about topics for the next blog, but somehow get myself all finger-tied (as opposed to tongue-tied) when it comes to putting the ideas stirring in my head on to the keyboard.  Too much thinking and not enough doing.  

My mother-in-law, Helen Wachtel, passed away in September.  She and I were civil to each other, but in a way, we were rivals, both vying for Broccoli Rob's attention.  I always lost that battle.  Helen was a difficult person to begin with and I'm not here to trash her like I used to.  She lived to be 92 and was in fairly good shape until a few weeks prior to her demise.  I can't say she was a happy person, but as an outsider looking in, I didn't think she had it so bad.  But anyway, she once told me of how she left Hitler-occupied Germany when she was 12 or 13 years old and I thought I should let that information go forth.

Helen, born in 1922, grew up with her younger sister, Ellen, in Worms, Germany.    She spoke fondly of her family, especially her grandparents on both sides.  We have some lovely photos of her childhood in Germany and it's a shame no one can name many of the friends and relatives in the pictures anymore.  But my mother-in-law, who grew up Jewish (but not observant), said that one day she was forced to attend a Catholic School.  She was young, but she was aware of the indignities around her.  Her father, who must have been very clever, decided it was time for the family to leave Germany.  This was the early 30's.

As Helen once told me, she and her family lived next door to a Gentile family, a wife, an alcoholic husband and a child.  Helen's mother had befriended the wife in that family and would be especially helpful when the alcoholic husband was, well, alcoholic.  The child of the alcoholic grew up to work in the passport office in Germany.  Voila!  The child didn't forget that Helen's mother was a good friend to her own mom and was able to process all the passports to get the family and one set of grandparents to safety in the US.  (The other grandparents must have already passed away from old age).  

So, my mother-in-law and her immediate family were able to sail to America with all their belongings--furniture, clothes, dishes.  I thought that was pretty amazing, as my own grandparents/great-grandparents, came here from Minsk with the little that they had to their name.  When I first got married 30 years ago, Helen gave me some of the furniture that she sailed with.   She didn't want the items anymore as she wanted new stuff.  I like the old stuff anyway.  And to think of the history that came over on that trip.   

 Look at this old buffet from Germany.  It's a bit scratched up on the bottom (from the vacuum cleaner), but still functional and beautiful.

 These are the dishes my mother-in-law's parents brought with them to the US.  Service for 16, but not all the salad plates survived.  I proudly use this set every Thanksgiving.  Haven't broken a piece yet.

This wooden armoire is still in great shape.  I still have the original skeleton key to open the doors.

So these beautiful old pieces of furniture remain with me, from their start in the days before Hitler-powered Germany.  A lot of history here and, quite frankly, some nice pieces of homesteading that I've put to use.  Thank you, Helen, for these items.  Rest in peace.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mother of the Bride, Part I

I'm an MOB, a mother of the bride.  My older daughter, Broccoli Baby, will be getting married later this year.  Small-ish, fancy-ish affair for mostly immediate family and the betrotheds' friends.  Broccoli Baby has nice taste, is a master at party planning and pays attention to detail.  She's making all the wedding arrangements herself and I predict all will be perfect. 

As the MOB, of course I’ll need a new outfit for the affair.  (Broccoli Bob insists on wearing one of his, ahem, better suits, and we're just hoping he gets it altered in time.  He's no fashionisto).  This past weekend, Broccoli Baby came over for the sole intent on shopping with me for my MOB outfit.  I have in mind what I'd like...palazzo pants (back in style, thankfully!), a colorful, flowing jacket and pretty flat shoes.  I also know what I don't want--no spanx, no high heels, no pantyhose, no matronly dress and probably not any dress at all.

Broccoli Baby is fine with my ideas.  She, being the daughter she is, wants me to be comfortable and agrees with my decision to wear nice pants to her Saturday evening affair.  She knows that:         
  1. I haven't worn a dress in ages. 
  2. I don't do pantyhose.  I consider them tortuous to women without waistlines.  I gave them up a long time ago when it was clear that I wasn't getting a waistline back post-partum.  Being on the short and squat side, pantyhose can only fit around my waist if the legs are about 20" longer than they needs to be.  All that tucking under the toes and cramping the nylon into the shoe is way behind me.  I stand firm on no pantyhose.  Ever.  
  3. Haven't worn any footwear with a heel in ages either.  That has naturally happened after years of walking around hospitals and years of comfort in sneakers.  When I first started working as a dietitian, I was able to wear gorgeous peep-toed high heels to work without pain.  Now, I can wear cute flats, but they're only worn for beauty, not comfort.  
  4. Spanx.  see #2 regarding tortuous women's apparel.  
  5. Oh, and I don't wear sleeveless, so that needs to be added to the "what I know I don't want" category.  Those with thick waistlines often have wriggly upper arms.  There I am.

Broccoli Baby and I go through the entire mall looking for my MOB outfit.  Lots of strapless gowns, plenty of matronly long dresses with sparkly shoulder padded jackets (not me!), loads of too-young-for-me outfits.  But wait.  Sak's has a pair of black palazzo pants with a beautifully designed stripe up the sides.  I try them on.  No exaggeration--they're about 15 inches too long.  And they're (no exaggeration again) $1195.00.  Yup.  1200 bucks for a pair of pants.  (All the clothes in my closet right now don't add up to $1200).  Broccoli Baby and I carefully slip out of the Sak's dressing room before the saleslady returns.  (But at least they fit in a smaller size than I expected.  Now that’s priceless).  

Next to Nordstroms, where Broccoli Baby has arranged a personal shopper for me, and he is waiting, with bottled water, and clothes already hanging in a lavish dressing room based on the “rules” Broccoli Baby phoned in.  What's there but:
  1. A sleeveless cocktail dress.  (Can you picture me in this?  What a laugh).  To boot, it’s creased.  The least he could have done was steam those lines out.   
  2. The aforementioned matronly dress with a sequined, shoulder-padded jacket.  And to boot, it ties at the waist.  Didn't I already say I didn't have a waist?  
  3. A horrible, really horrible, gold jacket with dolman sleeves with a stretched out buttonhole.  
this isn't me, but you get the picture, don't you?

So this poor personal shopper is feeling badly for me.  I tell him that I’d like pants, so he goes back out and brings back, ta-dah, the exact same pair of pants I tried on at Saks.  And the price tag is still $1195.  He brings in a white (sleeveless!!) sparkly top and a black sparkly jacket and they’re obviously not a matching set.  Even though I tell this to him, he insists that they match.  I see Broccoli Baby from the corner of my eye shaking her head “no.’”  See, I’m right.  They don’t match.  But I try them all on anyway, the $1195 pants, the $200 white sleeveless blouse and the $600 mismatched jacket.  Pants are too long, blouse and jacket too baggy.  They don’t fit.  They don’t match.  They’re schlumpy and hideous.  I stand on that little platform in from of the tri-folded mirror and pronounce…”FOR TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS SHOULDN’T I LOOK BETTER THAN THIS.”   Loehmans...come back.   

Friday, February 21, 2014


Cute name, huh?  It’s the name of my childhood piano teacher from Jersey City.  Nat Glatt (I had to address him as Mr. Glatt, but when I referred to him otherwise, it always came out as the melodious sounding one-syllable "NatGlatt") came to my house every week to hear my horrible piano playing.  The piano was beautiful however.  A Wurlitzer ‘living room grand’ in the turreted alcove of my grandparent’s apartment on the first floor of the house we shared with them.  The piano was bought in Newark by my grandfather and presented to my mother on her 16th birthday (1942) in that same apartment.  My mother, to my knowledge, barely played it, but can still play “I love coffee, I love tea” if she’s in the mood. 

Wurlitzer living room grand piano, in of all places, my living room.

I loved that piano but, as most kids of age 10 or so, didn’t want to practice.  I used the excuse that I couldn’t practice because I had Hebrew School right after school, and after that, in the evenings, my grandparents were in the living room watching tv, so how could I practice?  Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good reason.  I guess I could have made more of an effort on the weekends, but nah. 

Nat Glatt as far as I was concerned though, was renown in all the Jewish piano-playing homes in Jersey City for his great knowledge of Broadway show tunes.  I still have the enormous book of ‘show tunes’ piano music that Nat Glatt said was used by weddings bands of the era.  That book I loved!!  Words and music for all the hit Broadway and pop tunes of the 1960’s—‘Blame it on the boss nova’, 'Mame,' 'Sunrise, Sunset,' etc.  It’s the reason I knew all the lyrics to these songs, though all my friends were listening to the Beatles by then.  I still have the book and had put reinforcements on all 470+ pages!!  I certainly had time to lick reinforcements, but didn't find the time to practice the piano.

We only had to pay $10, not the $75 that's printed!!
Nat Glatt's instructions penned in
The best part though--besides the Wurlitzer living room grand piano--and besides the big book of show tunes, was my Aunt Jane singing from the kitchen whenever Nat Glatt or I was playing from the show tune book.  Aunt Jane was my mother’s sister who came back to live with my grandparents after her divorce.  Aunt Jane had a fabulous voice and even studied vocal performance in college (for the one year she was there).  She could have made a living as a singer, but she said she had 'mike fright.'  But boy, could she sing in the kitchen when no one was looking!  I swear she sounded just like Barbra Streisand!  

I think it was Aunt Jane’s accompaniment that got me as far as it did with playing the piano.  I was done with the instrument by age 13, though I'm still a show tune nerd.  My mother presented the piano to me as my college graduation gift, big pink bow and all wrapped around it, and I taught myself a couple of Scott Joplin rags on it right after that.  It had a place of honor in my first home after Broccoli Rob and I got married and it’s still with me, here in the living room of my condo, kinda hidden behind the couch. Years go by without a note being played on it’s very-out-of tune keyboard.   A few weeks ago, after seeing “Saving Mr. Banks, a movie about P.L. Travers and the making of the movie “Mary Poppins,” I came home and immediately opened my 1964 easy piano book to “Spoonful of Sugar” and played.  Those few left-handed chords came back to me natch.  Nat Glatt would be proud.

Just a buck!

Friday, December 20, 2013


Broccoli Rob and I finally got around to having our bedroom painted.  We wanted a nice, soothing color and researched some feng shui-ey websites to get the right shade of calmness and serenity, appropriate for sleep.  Normally, I'm pretty color-challenged.  I like bold, bright colors, whether they're in fashion or not.  Give me primary colors and keep the pastels.  My kitchen is orange.  My dining room is red (already red when we bought the place, and I think the red walls solidified the deal).  My kids may say the colors I like can even be obnoxiously loud, but I like 'em.  Even my personal trainer had to look me up and down in disbelief because I matched my hot pink workout gloves with the same color sneakers.

But trying to bring in a well-liked color into a peaceable-to-be bedroom can be a challenge, especially because Broccoli Rob and I have very different tastes.  Add to that, Broccoli Rob's devotion to spirituality and I was afraid I was going to say "just make the walls white" to the painter if I got frustrated if we couldn’t agree on a color.  So we go to youtube to check out bedroom feng shui colors and find that yellows are too bright and energizing, oranges and reds almost illegal in the bedroom with suggestions toward earth tones of greens, browns and beige the most promising of boudoir colors.   But beige walls are like white walls.  BORING.  And of course an interior brown color is only good if you're a hibernating bear.

So it comes down to green.  But my den is a beautiful sage green and I don't want to rival that color.  Bright greens are, well, too bright for sleeping, but we couldn’t agree on the gazillion of other greens on the large color wheel.  We finally pick a green color, probably because we both loved the name...'feel the energy'...and the painter, who has obviously not had work recently said he will come to paint the next morning.  Didn't give us much chance to stew about this. 

The painter and his assistant come in the morning and I run off to work with the promise that the bedroom will be finished at the end of the day.  My younger daughter (I'm now going to call her Broccoli Bubelah) is the first one home.  She sends me a text that reads "saw the room--it's bright."  I start to get a little nervous since this sounds like it’s not the pretty green I selected.  Did I make a color mistake?  Should I have gone to Home Depot and bought a pint of the "feel the energy" green paint and slapped a little on the wall in advance so we could have contemplated it?  Should I not have been so eager to help the painter’s finances by agreeing to the quick booking?    Should I not insist that everything in my life has to somehow be related to green vegetables?   I then call the painter and ask him how it looks.  He said "it's neon."  When he hears the hesitation in my voice, he becomes sympathic and says that he can paint it another color 'at cost' on another day.  Okay, now I'm plotzing.  I wait 3 years to finally call the painter and I schedule everything right away and then question my color choice?  Was I going to come home to a bedroom the shade of a sharpie green highlighter?

But when I get home, I walk into the bedroom and immediately love the color.  Yes, a little bright, but just that kind of bold color that I love.  Broccoli Rob likes it too, so it stays.  And I’m sleeping so well in this room, so I’d like to attribute this to the new color.  Broccoli Baby was consulted for accents and accessories as this is her specialty and she’s under orders not to make any comment about the new green color.  She agrees and all is well.  Broccoli Rob thought the red curtains and red linens that were in the room previously could stay, so now I see he’s much more color challenged than I am.  I’ll be taking Broccoli Baby’s advice and getting beige and brown items to go in our new room!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What's in your closet?

This isn't going to be a post on gay rights.  I'm all for that now, after a few decades of being confused about it all.  Hey, growing up in a very conservative, very traditional mid-century household will make you confused.  But, I've come to embrace equality in marriage.  No, this blog is really about the stuff in my closet.

Broccoli Rob and I recently got back from a trip to Florida, home of the 55-and-over active retirement communities.  Though we're not ready to make any decisions about moving yet, I have in my mind that I'D LIKE TO RETIRE at a relatively early age--62.  Though when we 'crunch the numbers," it really seems unlikely that I can manage this financially, unless I'd like to consider a used trailer home to live out my retirement years.  

But the trip got Broccoli Rob and I thinking.  Of course, he's thinking that the trailer from "Deliverance" is just fine and I'm thinking of a cutely decorated new condo and planning each retirement day with fun things to do.  So we start to think if we should downsize now.  Right now, we're in an adorable condo with lots of stuff in it.  And I'm the type of person who always gets rid of 'stuff.'  Just ask my kids.  "Hey mom, where's my so-and-so?"  "Went to the thrift shop a while ago."  "Figures."  So despite all my round-ups for the thrift shop, there's still a lot of stuff.  

But this morning, I open my big basement closet to start considering clearing out the clutter, and I glance at the packed shelves and racks, and then close the door.  I just wouldn't know where to start.  There's stuff there that I've saved forever and it's starting to hit me, what am I saving this for?  And the next question is, "do I cart this unpacked stuff to the next house, I mean trailer."

I have EVERY Playbill from all the Broadway shows I've ever seen, going back to my first show in 1960-ish.  ("My Fair Lady").  Loads of boxes with Playbills.  I once tried selling some on EBay, but there's really not a market for these.  It's just personal ephemera, useless to anyone else and thrown away by most.  (Sidebar:  I once sold a program on EBay from an early 1970's performance by Bette Midler at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ, and got 20 bucks!)  But I can't- no make that don't- want to get rid of my Playbills.  I've thought of using the covers to wallpaper a basement wall, but then my 50 years of Broadway memories will be in someone else's home if we move.  If they were easily available and organized, I'd love to peruse through them, reminding myself that I saw Bette Midler before she was famous, as one of Tevya's daughters in "Fiddler on the Roof."  But they're not organized and not perused.

Other stuff in that closet too--loads of extra yarn, thousands of family photos, several photo albums I made before I became a wife/mother/dietitian, the kids school supplies (they're now all grown up), prom dresses (kids, not mine, I wasn't asked to the prom, fodder for another blogpost), my mother-in-law's old kitchen stuff and a HUGE piece of framed artwork that my mother-in-law gave to my husband when she downsized and moved to a nursing home.  The picture is a big triangular splash of different colors and I never liked it when it hung in her immaculately decorated condo when she lived there.  I remember one of her friends and I were studying that particular piece of artwork in her apartment and he said that it looked like a vagina to him.  Since that day, I can't look at the picture without wincing.  So that's in my closet too, big and vagina-ey, reminding me that my mother-in-law and I never really had a relationship anyway so why would I want to feature this framed monstrosity in my cute red living room?

So, the closet door is closed for the time being.  Stuff in there I just can't part with and a big picture that Broccoli Rob hopes I'll change my opinion of and hang up in our home.  And it all gets me to think about this possible move to warmer climate.  

Though warmer is better to these aging bones, especially on this cloudy, chilly day, moving out of this area will take me far from The Great White Way, and now I'm thinking I don't want to be so far.  And mazel tov to the state of NJ for allowing marriage to those whom you love.  Oy, what my grandparents would be thinking.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Having my frozen cake and eating it too. Big time.

I will always have a food obsession.  Weight Watchers notwithstanding, I still have problems with overeating sometimes, and out of the blue, can give in to my addiction for sweets.  Actually, it’s more than just ‘giving in’—it’s an all-out matter of can’t stopping.  My years as a dietitian and my years (decades actually) as a Weight Watcher member have not cured me.  I used to think I had this problem solved, but I have discovered that it will never truly go away. 

Backtrack a few weeks ago.  Our 2 daughters gave Broccoli Bob and me a surprise 30th wedding anniversary party.  We had friends and family there, grey and pink personalized M&M favors, and lots of especially-ordered-for-me healthy food for the luncheon.  And the requisite wedding cake, complete with the original bride and groom topper that my mother had saved all these years for just an occasion like this.  Let me elaborate on this cake.  Bottom layer is chocolate cake with a mousse filling.  Top layer is vanilla cake with pudding.  All wrapped in an immaculate white frosting with a pink and grey ribbon around each circumference.  Gorgeous.

The cake was big!  Hey, cake leftovers are always welcome.  As this “bride” was cutting the cake for the party guests, I made the serving sizes Jewish-style generous.  Not only did I wish to share my joy, but I wanted as much of this cake to disappear so I wouldn’t have to think about it later.  Even while slicing the cake, I knew I was going to have a problem with the leftovers.

Party over.  Cleaned up and packed up all the remaining sandwiches, salads…and a lot of cake.  Broccoli Bob divided the cake into 3 large, lidded Tupperware containers and put them in our freezer.  And later that night, he takes out the cake from the freezer and leaves it on the counter for a truly unnecessary snack.  But who can wait until it defrosts?  Notthebroccolimama (younger daughter) and I start to eat the cake frozen and Broccoli Bob joins in.  OMG.  Frosting is now crunchy.  Cake is roll-and-then-melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.  And those mousse and pudding fillings?  Fuhgettaboutit.  Forkful after forkful, 3 of us work on this cake proclaiming our pleasure.  But the problem isn’t in the eating of the frozen cake.  The problem, like with many foods, good or bad, is in not stopping.  And here’s where my addiction, which I had so had hoped to have conquered by now, bubbles up like champagne for the anonymous alcoholic.

So here I am, dietitian-not-so-extraordinaire, Weight Watcher-with-some-success, reader of loads of books about our relationships with food, and I can’t stop eating the frozen cake.  The addiction comes back with a vengeance to fill my mouth and soul with sugar.  Mentally and physically incapable of stopping that sweetness insanity.  Eating until I feel sick.  Bringing me back 40 years and 40 pounds. 

And the next day, there is still more cake left in the freezer.  I toss out the rest of the vanilla cake into the trash in one solid heap.  Happy it’s gone and is no longer a burden for me to deal with.  But Broccoli Bob and Notthebroccolimama are angry that I threw it out.  They just don’t understand.  They don’t feel out of control in the cake’s presence.  But I remind them that there’s still the round chocolate cake in another square Tupperware in the freezer.  A puzzle in itself.  It comes out again a few nights later when I’m no longer feeling sick from the previous sugar overdose.  The 3 of us sit at the kitchen table again and tackle that frozen cake enthusiastically, and fortunately, less guiltily.  Reassembling the cake in my mind, I fit the calories into my points system, into my diet, into my life.  The cake is here and I need to be comfortable with letting it live in my home.  It was bought for a celebration and will get the respect it deserves.  At the age of nearly 60, it’s time to admit the sugar/cake addiction will always be here.  I’ll just eat more of the good stuff on all the other days.  And those wonderful daughters of mine who gave us this beautiful celebration, well, that is what life is truly about.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Snail Mail Woes

Some people are clutterers.  I’m a de-clutterer.
Every day, I walk down to my mailbox and bring in a pack of letters and catalogs.  Just about everything is nonsense since Broccoli Rob and I pay most of our bills online.  I’d estimate 90-95% of my mail is junk mail.  I open all the envelopes and toss out anything with my name on it.  I also toss the back pages of the catalogs that has my name on it.  The rest of the catalog and all the envelopes and papers without names gets put into the paper recycling bin in the garage.  Hauled out to the curb every other Monday for the recycling delivery.  Isn’t this a waste of time for the US mail service, me and the recycling workers?  Why do I get more mail than is necessary?  I seldom buy anything from a catalog and I don't trust the scruples of companies that do direct mailings, but I seem to be on more mailing lists than I should.

But I've found that I can very easily cancel these unwanted mailings and you can all do the same.  (Maybe the postal service will take notice!)  I did it for my mother as she once sent a check to an animal rescue charity and then started getting dozens of similar requests.  Look at the mailing—you’ll find a toll-free phone number on there somewhere.  Call them during regular business hours.  You may have to go thru a prompt, but not for long, as ‘customer service’ is typically high up on the prompt-ladder.  Someone always answers the phone--it’s not done by messaging.  Just tell them you want to remove your name from the mailing list.  That's it.  They're very happy to help you.  I’ve done’ this at least 30 times and every discussion is quick and polite.  No one asks why you want to remove yourself from the list.  They may say it takes 30 days as they may be ahead with their next mailing, but you’ll stop getting their mailings.

Just today, on my lunch hour, I called:
Full Beauty- They sent me a catalog for bras for full size women.  I never bought anything from them before but they obviously got my contact info when I purchased a plus size bathing suit online.  Big mistake-pun intended.  And BTW, I'm no longer a plus-size.

NY Philharmonic-  Never went there, but maybe one day I’d like to be supportive of this.  They probably got my contact info when I was a subscriber to the Roundabout Theater Company a few years ago.

Essex County College Continuing Education- Never went there and have no plans to.  Years ago, I took a few courses at another local adult ed school and recently took a meditation class under the auspices of the Montclair Adult School, so either of those places gave out my name.  (It's like Six Degrees of Separation).

Pottery Barn Kids- My kids are grown and I don’t yet have grandkids.  Why did this company send me a catalog?  I'll tell ya'.  I recently bought a gift for my college roommate’s new grandson, getting the gift through the Pottery Barn Kids registry online.  A one-time purchase and they put me on their mailing list.  What nerve.  But I'm off the mailing list now.

Moving Comfort- they make great sports apparel and I bought something years ago and then returned it.  But they kept me on their mailing list.  Until today!  hah!

So, take the time to call these places and get off the mailing list.  Stop wasting paper, stop tossing these papers in the trash and then bulking up the trash.  Stop the excess from the recycling bin.  And certainly stop paying those extraordinarily high wages of the US Postal Workers who are very happy to brings these catalogs and mailers to your mailbox.  Take a look at your incoming snail mail.  Can't we get by with less?