Thirty Days to Create a Habit

 Q. What’s red, white and black all over?

I wasn’t going to write today.  Friday marked 30 days of blog posts and with the publication of number 30 I felt I’d accomplished my goal.  I told myself I’d still write, but only if I had something to say.  Well, it is 5:55PM and I find myself feeling unsettled with the fact that I didn’t write anything.  Not because I have something to say but because, well…I don’t really know why.

They say anything you do for 30 days becomes a habit.  I just realized how much I hate sentences that start off with, “They say.”  Just who the hell are “they” and how do “they” know so much?  Per usual, I’ve now googled, “30 days to create a habit.”

According to this Huffington Post article, the 30-day thing is kinda malarkey. And no, The Huffington Post is not necessarily the best source to site when trying to back up a scientific theory, but it sites an abstract from the European Journal of Social Psychology thus my source is in fact, totes legit.  According to the EJSP study it is too early to tell if I have created a habit and the bottom line is: Habits take a long time to form.

A. A nun in a blender!

OK, my joke was totally out of left field (possibly borderline inappropriate.) I’ll explain. When I was fifteen I played Sister Mary Leo in two productions of Nunsense.  First at Raleigh Little Theatre and then later at Triangle Dinner Theatre – which based on my internet searches no longer exists.  This bums me out because it was the first place I was paid to work as a theatre actress. But at the same time doesn’t seem at all surprising because I have memories of the theatre’s producer handing out checks on Sunday nights and asking us to kindly wait a few days before depositing/cashing the checks.  This was the first, but not last theatre gig I had over the years where this request was made.  Ahh, the glamour of show biz!

Back to explaining why any of this is even remotely relevant to a bad joke about nuns.  The show has a song with the lyrics, “Nunsense is habit forming, that’s what people say.” And thus, that song has been in my head since I first wrote the word habit in the post title. Fortunately, 99.9% of you will have no reference for this song, but for the .1% that do (I’m looking at you Erin) I apologize.  I know you too will now be cursed with it playing in your head for the remainder of the day.


Patti Thorp, 15 year old me, and Sandi Sullivan. {At the time these fabulous women seemed “so old.” Now I look at them and see babies.  Argh.}



Raleigh News & Observer clipping courtesy the scrap book my Mom made for me as a High School Graduation gift.




Before and After Dresser

Sometimes the best things in life are free.

About 2 years ago we needed a dresser for the downstairs guest room.  (AKA: The Blue Room.)  Per usual, I had a pretty clear image in my head of what I wanted the dresser to look like.  And then one day lo and behold, I spotted it with a free sign at the end of one of my neighbor’s driveways! I zipped back up the street to find Shawn to help me haul it home.  Shawn was skeptical at first.  It was after-all, a brown metal dresser with kelly green ceramic pulls. According to the previous owner, “Gregg with two Gs,” his wife got it years ago out of a mental hospital that was shuttering its doors.  So you know, not exactly what Shawn thought we’d be using.  But you have to look beyond the current condition and see the possibilities.

After a little primer, white paint, and gold spray paint, all of which we already had in the garage, the dresser was ready for its new home.

Before (minus the drawer pulls) 



The Blue Room


Total Cost: $0.00

  1. Borrowing next door neighbor’s Volvo station wagon so we wouldn’t have to strap it to the roof of the Jetta.
  2. Elbow grease to scrub and clean.
  3. Time to prime, sand and paint. (And sand and paint, sand and paint, sand and paint! The key to painting furniture is light coats of paint with fine sanding in between coats.)

Thanks Gregg!!


Penny Lane is in my Ears and in my Eyes

My favorite song by The Beatles is Penny Lane.

With so many hits to choose from I imagine it is hard for most people to definitively state one favorite song produced by the Fab Four.  And while many of their songs have helped create the musical backdrop of my life, Penny Lane was where it all began for me.

Let’s go back.  It’s the late-1980s and I am a member of Girl Scout Troop 351. (Best. Troop. Ever.)  Several of my fellow troop members and best friends live in the same neighborhood.  One summer afternoon we are all playing together outside.  For reasons that now escape me, we decide to choreograph a dance. In the back of my mind we are creating it to be performed during the talent show at the annual Jubilee held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  Ha.  As I write that I realize just how weird it sounds.  But yes, a highlight of the year was an overnight camping trip at the Motor Speedway where we would spend hours walking around and around the track.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I digress…

I am certain Penny Lane was suggested by Emily.  At the age of eleven she had a love for the Beatles and their music that surpassed anyone I’ve ever met.  In fact, she was the first person I knew that really, really loved music.  Her love for music would inform my musical interests for years to come.  I remember listening to Penny Lane over and over that day. Learning the lyrics and figuring out how we would act out each scenario described in the song.  I remember working together as a team, excited as we came up with each new idea; feeling so grown up and accomplished.  It’s funny that I don’t actually recall ever performing what we created but I can’t hear the song without seeing this group of girls standing in the Decker’s driveway and having such a great afternoon.

I would later follow Emily’s lead and become a devoted Beatles fan.  The only posters I ever had in my room as a preteen were theirs and to my great fortune the first concert I ever saw was Paul McCartney.  Emily’s parents took us to see “The Paul McCartney World Tour” in the summer of 1990.  The show was amazing.  He hadn’t toured in ten years and Raleigh was one of the last stops.  Emily and I were, not surprisingly, some of the youngest concert goers sitting around us but we were just as excited as those that were allowing his songs to take them back to a time when they were our age.  I sure wish I still had the concert t-shirt.

It’s funny the things I remember about that night.  I specifically remember Emily’s mother, Bonnie, making and bringing fried chicken.  I can’t imagine being allowed to bring a bottle of water into a stadium now, much less a picnic dinner.  In fact, recently  I was busted at Madison Square Garden for having gummy candies in my purse.  And not so long ago my sister was asked to throw out make-up that was in her bag.  Something about drugs being smashed into powder compacts.  WHAT?  At the risk of sounding as old as my knees sometimes feel I can’t help but sigh and say, “Things were simpler when I was younger.”

I’m not sure if I’ve ever really said thank you to Emily (and her folks) for making “real” music a part of my musical education but I very am appreciative.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some pop music (the afore mentioned gummy candies were in my purse when I was going to see Madonna), but I feel super fortunate to have been listening to John, Paul, George, and Ringo on vinyl during my formative years.

And now for your listening enjoyment….

Penny Lane. 



I lived in Brooklyn for six years and never ate kale.

Anyone living in the five boroughs is probably questioning everything they’ve every known to be true.  Yes Virginia, you can live in Brooklyn and not love everything kale.  To be fair, one year we were members of a CSA and ate an ungodly amount of kohlrabi. Never. Again.

So despite my ignorance to the bliss of kale while living in BK I am now a card carrying member of the, “I Love Kale Club.” It all happened last fall when I discovered this kale and brussels sprout salad.   {I add pomegranate seeds to the recipe.  They are a pain in the ass to work with but so worth it.}

Since falling in love with that salad I’ve expanded my kale repertoire to include various versions of kale caesar salads, adding it to soups and on occasion I’ve even used it in place of my beloved collard greens.

I’ve learned the trick to a tastier raw kale is to massage the leaves.  I guess hearty greens are pretty stressed out.  OK kidding aside, massaging the leaves makes kale more palatable and easier to digest.  You simply chop it, throw it in a bowl and massage it a bit like you would knead dough.  The kale actually changes color while you massage it.  It will begin to wilt as the cellulose structure breaks down (fancy science talk!) and becomes more vibrant green and softer in texture.  Because of Kale’s heartiness it stays crisp (even after it has been dressed) for days in the fridge.

So while I still staunchly believe the Park Slope Food Coop should be feared like a communist during the cold war, I am now a devoted (ex-brooklynite) fan of Kale.

Kale - Before and After Massage

Kale – Pre and Post Massage.

Modern Marvels

Yesterday I walked on water, well across it.

Now that we live in Washington Heights the George Washington Bridge (GWB) feels like the backdrop of our lives.  From the rooftop deck on our building we have an amazing view of the bridge and the Hudson River below it.  Outdoor space, even shared or common, is a huge commodity in the city so the roof deck was certainly a significant selling point for us when we saw the building for the first time.  We joke that we no longer need to listen to the traffic report before heading upstate for the weekend because we can just go look to see how things are moving on the GWB.

Yesterday, when I decided to take a walk, it seemed natural that I would stroll the foot path on the bridge so I could take in this view even closer.  Well, that was kinda a bust.  The walk was fine, but peaceful it was not.  I mean clearly I knew this going into it since at least twice a week I am in one of the cars crossing the bridge in traffic that often feels a bit like a crazed video game. But jeez-louise, is it ever loud and exhaust-filled.  The idyllic view you see from our roof feels more like a stroll down I-87 when you get up close and personal.

To save you from a google search, the bridge is just shy of a mile long.  And while a peaceful afternoon stroll it is not, the engineering behind this modern marvel of construction is rather mind-boggling when you think about it.

Construction on the George Washington Bridge began in October 1927 as a project of the Port of New York Authority Its chief engineer was Othmar Ammann, with Cass Gilbert as architect.

Workers built the six-lane bridge in sections.  They carried the pieces to the construction site by rail, then hauled them into the river by boat, then hoisted them into place by crane. Though the bridge was gigantic, Ammann had found a way to make it look light and airy: in place of vertical trusses, he used horizontal plate girders in the roadway to keep the bridge steady.  Ammann used such strong steel that these plate girders could be relatively thin and as a result, the bridge deck was only 12 feet deep.  From a distance, it looked as flimsy as a magic carpet.  Meanwhile, thanks to Amman’s sophisticated suspension system, that magic carpet seemed to be floating: The bridge hung from cables made of steel wires–107,000 miles and 28,100 tons of steel wires, to be exact–that were much more delicate-looking than anything anyone had ever seen.[1]

The bridge, dedicated on October 24, 1931, was the longest main bridge span in the world at the time.

Anyone that has ever renovated anything in their home will be shocked to know construction was completed under budget and eight months ahead of schedule.  WHAT?  I somehow assumed the world would self combust if a construction project finished on time much less ahead of schedule.

So while the walk was nice, I think going forward I’ll enjoy the bridge from afar and keep my walks to strolls through nearby Riverside or Fort Tryon Parks.

854 Rooftop.jpg

Home Sweet Heights Roof Garden

[1] George Washington Bridge is Dedicated, Staff,, 2009.

Reclaiming the Back Porch

It’s time to unplug.

The first summer we owned Hilltop was probably our best. (Hilltop is the name of the house upstate.  What?  Martha Stewart isn’t the only person who likes to name her houses.)

We closed on a Friday morning in early May 2012 and moved in with 2 beach chairs, an air-mattress, and a ton of cleaning supplies.  The house and yard had been neglected for a couple years and was filthy, over-grown and in a number of places being held together by tape.  Literally.  The p-trap under the sink in the downstairs bathroom was taped together with electrical tape.  Not a choice I would have made but I guess it was working….kinda.

We spent the first weekend sweeping and vacuuming mouse poop and scrubbing every room and surface like our lives depended on it.  We’ve both done a lot of long distance running and no long run I’ve ever accomplished was as exhausting or lactic acid producing as that first weekend of scouring turned out to be.

Each subsequent weekend that summer was filled with projects to reclaim the house and epic trips to the hardware store and eventually furniture stores. What it wasn’t filled with was screen time.  With no internet or cable we were blissfully cut off from the world from Friday night through Monday morning.

We created a makeshift living room / dinning room on the back porch with our 2 beach chairs and an empty card board box between them.  We’d work ourselves silly all day and then enjoy a cold beer (or three) on the back porch before collapsing into bed at night.  Towards the middle of the summer we bought an inexpensive outdoor table and chair set and it was like our entire world changed.  We typically woke up around 6:30 or 7AM and now with our new luxury table we enjoyed iced coffee and game of cribbage on the back porch before getting started with the day’s to-do list.  Simply put, it was awesome.

Flash-forward.  We now have internet, computers, TVs, streaming Netflix, and all the comforts of home in the house.  Saturday mornings still involve iced coffee but usually what accompanies it is checking work emails or watching an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters.  We still enjoy time on the porch but it is not the same.  We’ve gotten sucked into too many modern conveniences, aka: distractions.  I think it is time to dial it all back.

Somehow it felt like we had more hours in the day that first summer.  I know a lot of it was the excitement of something new and I know we can’t get that back.  But what we can get back is time away from the flickering glow of a TV screen or the rabbit-hole of internet searches.  Because I don’t really need to know half of the things I “google” and we all know there really isn’t anything good on TV!

So this coming weekend I will pull out the cribbage and turn off the computer. I will set the table outside for dinner rather than sitting with a plate on the coffee table in front of the couch and turning to Shawn to ask, “What do you want to watch?”

This weekend I will reclaim our back porch.


What “Friends Character” Are You?

I don’t need a Facebook quiz to know “I’m Monica.”

Like all self-respecting Gen-Exers I have seen every episode of Friends, most of them more than once. (For those of you that haven’t, all 236 are streaming on Netflix. Go watch them, now.) I even painted the living room of my first NYC apartment lavender. My sister, while living with me in said lavender apartment, pointed out my similarity to uptight Monica. At first I scoffed, but when she reminded me of the Green Ottoman Episode I realized she was right. But dude, why would Rachel move the ottoman? And fanned magazines are a terrible idea. Terrible. Moving on.

Unfortunately, my desire to have the apartment look and feel exactly the way I want doesn’t coexist with owning two endlessly shedding, booger slinging, water dripping dogs. On a regular basis I see something they’ve ruined and sigh, “We can’t have nice things.” In their defense, they are not destructive nor do they roughhouse inside. They spend 18 or more hours a day sleeping and yet they manage to keep the apartment in a constant state of dirty no matter the amount of cleaning we do. I find their hair inside my refrigerator. INSIDE. How does that happen? The surface of the lower 3 feet of our walls are constantly covered in eye boogers. Those of you without dogs may not understand what that means. An eye booger is the goo that is in a dog’s eye, like ‘sleep’ for people but not crusty. When dogs wake up to get a drink of water (and then drip it on the floor) they stand up and violently shake their head. Thus boogers fling to whatever wall or piece of furniture they are standing next to. (OMG, as I was typing that sentence I heard Marvin wake up, shake his head, and then go gulp some water. Though I can’t see him, I know right now his floop (aka jowls) are full of water that is being dripped across the foyer floor and then onto the rug in our bedroom while he circles 15 times and then finally lays down.)

The other issue is, despite having Maddie for 9 years, we continue to buy rugs that have light backgrounds. The learning curve at our house is weak. The rug in the living room is a gray, charcoal and off-white diamond pattern (or it was when we bought it) and the rug in the bedroom is almost entirely cream. I just can’t compromise design for the dog life-style. Instead we replace rugs far more often than a normal household and we own a very expensive vacuum cleaner.

Likewise our couch is constantly covered in dog hair. And no, I don’t want to put a sheet over it. What’s the point of having a nice couch if all you see is an old sheet? And not letting the dogs get on it isn’t going to happen either. We tried that when we bought our current couch last summer. “We have a new couch and we shouldn’t let the dogs ruin it,” I declared when it was delivered. This lasted approximately 2 weeks. I looked at Maddie, sleeping on her dog bed – perfectly content, and thought about how she was getting old and she’d always been allowed on the couch and it was cruel not to let her on the couch anymore (#Ihaveproblems). So instead I regularly scrub it with with a cleaning rag and vacuum the cushions. OH – in case you have this issue the best trick I’ve learned is to put on a clean rubber dishwashing glove and rub the couch with it.  The friction of the glove grabs and balls up the hair.  The clumps are easier to vacuum up or get off with a damp clean towel.

I am not quite sure how thinking about Friends made me talk about balls of dog hair. It’s safe to say that Monica would not have faired well with two dogs in her NYC apartment. But (**spoiler alert**) one does wonder if she had a nervous breakdown after the show was off the air and she and Chandler were raising those twins out in Westchester.

Obligatory dogs on couches photos.