Tow-away zones

They’re paving my street this morning.

Yesterday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) posted signs about roadwork and no parking. My busy, overdeveloped, main street had suddenly become a 6am – 6pm tow-away zone.

Now, I have to tell you, parking here is a major issue. When one is lucky enough to get a spot in front of their own home, it’s the envy of the neighborhood. And THEN, when that person has to leave that spot, they usually beg a friend or family member with a driveway to tag them. They pull out, the friend pulls in. When they come home, the friend goes back to their own driveway, and they get their spot back. It’s a never ending cycle. People have even followed me in their cars like a cat stalking prey as I’ve walked to the corner deli. You know they’re not looking to kidnap or hurt you. They just want your parking space. I’ve had to stop and tell them, “Sorry… I’m not pulling out of anywhere.”

So, when at 6:30am today, the DOT trucks inched up our block and spoke in clear and heavy New York accents over the loudspeaker saying, “If you have a car parked on this street, move it or it’s gonna be towed”, I have to be honest and say, some of us would have preferred a towing to searching for some other spot for our cars. At least with a tow, the car would have a place, out of view, to rest without worry of being stripped or stolen.

Today? Well, we were lucky enough to spy a spot last night and can just about see it on the side street at the corner. Tonight? Well… you can bet everyone who is in town will be racing to get onto the street at exactly 6 so they can reclaim their spot or occupy someone else’s… I’ll be taking my wheel lock off by 5:30 so when 6:00 comes, I can make the switch that much quicker. For those not in town by six tonight? Well, trust me, they’re going to be stressing all the way home about where they’re going to put their car since all the good spots will be taken by the time they get there.

Ah, city life. Love it or hate it, it’s always a challenge.

What’s the greatest challenge in your neck of the woods?

Summer opener

The birthday honoree in this house gets to choose whatever it is s/he wants to do on his/her birthday. I always choose something to do with nature – maybe a ride upstate to visit one of the mansions so we can later stroll the grounds and picnic under some shady tree or on the banks of the Hudson.

Since my birthday is today, the end of May, it’s always connected to Memorial Day weekend – and that means an extra day to play. 🙂

This weekend was fabulous. Daughter worked a fund raising event for the shelter all day on Saturday while Hubby worked. That meant I was free to write without interruption for several hours. I am now up to Chapter 11. Or just about. I’ve slipped with my Book-in-a-week focus (obviously, since it’s been more like a month plus) but I’m still writing faster and tighter than ever before.

Sunday, we went to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. We go there often and never tire of it. It’s a living history village on Long Island. They’ve taken houses from around Long Island that date back to the 17 and 1800’s and relocated them on this property. It’s set up to look like a working farming village of the period. Like Williamsburg, Virginia, only not as well funded. It’s such a sweet and peaceful place that reminds us of all we have now as compared to the people of that time.

This is the only home in the Village that is original to the property. It was built in the 1700’s with rooms added on through the 1800’s. It was home to Quakers who worked the farm. The immediate area is still a working farm with some of the animals actual descents from the originals.

OBVR - Powell Farm OBVR - Powell Farm2

Some of the homes are classic stuctures that clearly stand the test of time. Isn’t this one beautiful?OBVR - Kirby

Also on the grounds… a cemetery from the 17 and 1800’s…

OBVR - Cemetery

After dinner in a colonial era restaurant, we stopped near home, at Fort Totten, to watch the sunset. So pretty and peaceful, isn’t it?


Yesterday, we went to Sands Point Preserve, a stunning reminder of Long Island’s Gold Coast history. There’s a castle on the property called the Castle Gould. In the 1920’s, the filthy rich Gould family had this home built in the style of Castle Kilkenny in Ireland.

It’s a stunning building and the property – including the drive in from the main road – is breathtakingly beautiful. However, after waiting two years for this castle to be built…

Caslte Gould (Castle Gould on Long Island)

…the Gould family took one look and turned up their noses. They hated it and never spent a day or night inside of it. And there it sits all these years later, a gift to Nassau County. Lucky for us, I suppose, but hard to grasp the concept of just how much money these people had that they could simply walk away.

There are two other homes on the property which now belongs to the town. Hempstead House and Falaise. In all the years we’ve been visiting Sand’s Point Preserve, we’ve never gone on a day when Falaise has been available to tour. We’ve made it our mission to get there at some point THIS summer and finally see the place.

Hempstead house is lovely and, in my opinion, in a much nicer location than Castle Gould.  Hempstead House – side view, facing the Castle Gould (acres away)Hempstead House - Side

Hempstead House - rearview Rear view of Hempstead House

Harry Guggenheim had this house built and used the Castle Gould – which had been left to rot – as a carriage house.

He used the Castle as a carriage house. Imagine?

The view from the back of the house and yard is of the Long Island Sound and it is just magnificent, in my opinion. Since funds are low, Hempstead house is not as well-maintained as it could be, nor is it open for tours, but the bottom floor is often used for social or fund raising events.

Yesterday, we used the grounds to (try to) fly our Nemo kite.

Hempstead House - Kite

The kite, apparently, was afraid of heights, but check out the view of the Sound. ::sigh::

What a glorious day it was. What a beautiful weekend. A perfect way to remember our heroes, to start the summer and to celebrate yet another birthday.

Assessmet tests, percentiles and bragging

For children in the public school system, assessment tests are practically a weekly thing. The schedule for testing is incredible. No wonder ‘teaching for the test’ is such a common concept now. For homeschoolers, there is a requirement that children take one state assessment test every other year until high school, then every year until graduation.

Since this is my daughter’s second year of homeschooling, we were obligated to select one of our state’s approved tests and administer it. A friend of mine is a public school teacher, and she graciously agreed to proctor this test for Daughter.

It’s the typical, timed, No. 2 pencil test. Remember those?

Needless to say, Daughter was stressed. Anytime we have to be tested on what we know – or don’t know – stress levels rise. You can imagine mine rose, too. I felt as though it were not just Daughter being tested, but myself as well. I have, after all, been her teacher for the past two years.

In order to ‘pass’ these assessment tests, children have to score in the 33rd percentile. In case you’re unsure what that means, allow me to explain – it means in order to pass, a child must score higher on the test than 33% of the children who have taken it. It has nothing to do with their actual score. Yes. You read that correctly.

Well, I knew Daughter would pass but I wanted her to breeze by, not simply pass. After all the effort she – and I – put in this year (and last), I hoped for that. My hopes were answered yesterday when her score came back from the state. She not only surpassed the 33% expectation, she surpassed everything I could have dreamed. My homeschooled child scored in the 98th percentile.


When I took the time to average her overall scores and not just gaze dreamily at the percentile, I saw her average is a 96. Ninety-six.

How wonderful it was to realize all the work this child did throughout the year , all of my gentle persuasion  , my agressive mothering, my patience , and reserved encouragment paid off so well.

We celebrated last night. What an affirming end to our second homeschooling year.

Oooo, goody! Rebates!

So, the federal government is sending each and everyone of us a $600 rebate. Cool, right? What will you do with yours? Well… you might want to think long and hard about that before you run out and spend it… because…

If we spend that money at Wal-Mart, the money will go to China.

If we spend it on gasoline it will go to the Arabs.

If we purchase a computer it will go to India.

If we purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.           

If we purchase a good car it will go to Japan.

If we purchase useless crap it will go to Taiwan.

And none of it will help the American economy.

The only way to keep that money here at home is to buy prostitutes, weed, beer, cigarettes, whiskey, and tattoos, since these are the only products still produced here in the states.

No, I want cola.

The images from China this week have been heartbreaking. The devastation is unimaginable, and the loss of lives is shocking… and still rising.

But from this horror, there are amazing stories of survival, which should really come as no surprise since the human spirit is such an amazing and powerful thing.

The earthquake hit just over a week ago. You would think everyone buried under the rubble of their city would have passed on by now. But just yesterday, they pulled a man from the jumble that was once his fertilizer factory. The man’s daughter would not give up on him. She organized a search party of her own and screamed and called for him until, finally, he answered. Stunned, thrilled, all movements ceased and she called out, “Father? Is that you?” To which he replied, “Yes. I’m thirsty.”

I’m thirsty.

100 hours after hearing the man’s voice, soldiers managed to remove him from the rubble, leaving his leg behind, but his spirit in tact.

Further away, three 10-year-old girls were found together under the remnants of their school where so many children perished. All three were rescued – whole. How did they survive – these young children, alone, terrified, injured? How was it possible for them to hang on until they could be plucked from that hell?

They talked to each other. They told jokes and cried. Together. Close to the end, before they knew they would be saved, one girl cied, “I want water.” To which another girl joked, “No. I want cola.”

Maybe there’s something we can learn here, something that can keep us going in our difficult times. Knowing that very little if anything we’ve experienced has been as devastating as what those three girls experienced and survived, has got to give us a boost regardless of the trials ahead.

I’ll remember that young girl’s humor. The next time I whine about something I can’t have, or think a situation is hopeless, I’ll think about that child and how she took a situation where asking and getting the smallest thing was impossible and not only stated what she wanted – not water, cola- but laughed at the absurdity of it. And survived.

Until you can laugh

My 93-year-old grandmother often talks about old times. Some of those times weren’t so great but in retrospect humor can indeed be found in them. Sometimes, when she and her sister would chat, they’d shed a few tears and then suddenly burst into laughter.

“Finchè potete ridere,” she’d say. Or, “Until you can laugh.”

And how true is that? Cry if you must, wallow if you need to, but as long as you can laugh at some point, you’ll be just fine.

Which brings me to this – a man witnesses an accident. Now, it could have been truly awful. Elderly women were involved – I picture my spunky Sicilian grandmother and her just-as-spunky sister – and they could have been seriously injured. However, things get turned around and what started out as a shocking account turns into one hysterically funny, tear-inducing play by play of the incident.

Perhaps you’ve heard this before. Even if you have, you must hear it again. I listen to it whenever I need a laugh and it has not failed me once. Click the link, press ‘PLAY”, then listen…finchè potete ridere… until you can laugh.

A guy witnesses an accident

Misson Accomplished….?

I don’t like to discuss politics or religion because they are such hot-button issues. However… when I read articles like the one I read yesterday from, I feel something has to be said.

The article is titled, “Bush Warns of Iraq Disaster“. My first thought when I saw that? Gee, Mr. President, I thought the Iraq war was already a disaster.


However, he sees it as a disaster not now but WHEN a democrat takes over his seat and changest the course of the war. You see, in Dubya’s eyes, a change to the war will be bad. As opposed to blindly staying the course and watching our dollar disappear into nothingness, and more ‘insurgents’, ‘terrorists’ and the like enter what was a stable – albeit torturous – country in the Middle East.


Saddam was evil, there’s no question. And the Iraqi people deserved to be liberated. But not on the pretense of a 9/11 or Al Qaeda link. Was Bush lied to? Of course not, he says it himself. He wasn’t misled. In the linguist contortionists own words – “’Misled’ is a strong word, it almost connotes some kind of intentional.” The statement begs the question… Intentional what, Mr. President?


Personally, I think the answer is clear. And no, I don’t think the president was misled, but rather the president DID the misleading.  


After all the horror, all the fear and bloodshed, I have to hand it to this president for doing his part. See… in case you weren’t aware… as a way to personally acknowledge the sacrifices of our soldiers who have given up their lives, and their families who have given up their loved ones to this war, he, the President of the United States of America has… well… given up golf.


It clearly states this in the article.


“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he (George Bush) said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”


In solidarity as best he can with them? As if giving up a sport is a true sacrifice when compared to lost innocence, lost limbs and lost lives.


If this administration were not already an embarrassment and burden America must bear for generations, we now have this to add. It’s as if the president himself were trying to make a mockery of the very office he holds and the very country he represents. 


Congratulations, Mr. President. Mission accomplished.

Sunday Memories

Hubby worked on mother’s day. As a wedding photographer, he’s not available for the Sunday dinners I’m used to having. When I was a kid, Sunday was THE day. “Dinner” was a feast where my mother AND grandmother would cook. The meal would start at noon and last until maybe 2 or 3. Sunday evenings, well, food wasn’t on anyone’s mind so we’d have a ‘light snack’. The light Sunday evening snack I recall most is waffles and ice cream – though I couldn’t have the ice cream because I’m allergic to dairy fat. Still… I love that memory from youth.

I can’t recreate that memory for Daughter since our Sundays are nothing like my childhood Sundays. Instead, we’ve created our own memory. Movie night. Since she was a toddler, and since hubby would always be working the weekends, she and I would sit alone by candle light for a mommy and me dinner of baked ziti – her favorite. Then, we’d make popcorn, snuggle into my bed and watch a new movie of her choice. Sunday nights became OUR night.

This Sunday, Mother’s day, was the same.

During the day, we packed a lunch – grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and tomato on panini bread – and rode our bikes to the park. I might live in the city, but when I’m in the park, I forget city life. It’s truly a beautiful place. We have a view of the marina and… my favorite… we have the sounds of song birds – nothing soothes me or makes me smile as quickly as songbirds.

I love this view of the park… 

For lunch, we sat by the gazebo overlooking the marina…

Then we rode around the park for about an hour. When we came home, we each took a couple of hours for ourselves – she IM’d friends and played on the computer, I added a page to my WIP. And then, we made dinner together and snuggled in for our movie.

It was a simple day, no balloons, flowers or fanfare, but it was a beautiful day, with no schedule to keep, stress or watching of hours.

My Sundays of today may be very different from my Sundays of yesterday, but I have a feeling it’s the idea of Sunday memories that will create new and exciting ones for Daughter and her family ‘tomorrow’.

What special family memories do you have from your youth? Do you try to create a special memory for your family now?

Summer vacation

We LOVE history. We don’t excel in it, but we love it. Especially living history. Our family vacations almost always include some kind of historical walking tour or immersion – like Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Williamsburg, Virginia.

So… where to go this year? That is the question. Recently we watched all episodes of North and South, Book I and Book II. Daughter LOVED them. Soon after, we watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Daughter loved that as well. Her vacation suggestion, therefore, is to go to either Savanna, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina.

Since vacation for us is in July, I’m thinking both will be heat-stroke havens. BUT… we survived Disney World in mid-July one year, so we can survive one of these locales, yes?

We’re leaning toward Charleston for this year. My limited research shows they offer a Civil War walking tour. Since we’ve already taken part in the Gettysburg walking tour, we figured this would give us a more rounded sense of that war. History lesson for a homeschooled child!! 😀

We also love the idea of the vast open space, the waterways and tours of plantation homes with all their original furnishing. Nature trails and the like are also a treasure for us. I think this will be a great trip – especially since we might skip the idea of flying there and drive down instead. Yay!!

Have you been to Charleston? Are there any non-touristy must-sees we should know about? Any inside scoop on proper attire? I ask that because I hear Historic Charleston is all about finery in the evenings. Is that true?

As you can see, I have a lot of research to do, but I’m getting excited just posting here about it. That’s always a good sign. 🙂

Raccoons in the roof update #2

time for my closeupWell…

As some of you might remember from my original raccoon post and my first update, we live in a row of attached homes here in the city and during the winter, a couple (maybe 3) raccoons went house-hopping, taking up residence each night in one of our attic crawlspaces. We would hear their footsteps crunching overhead and worry they might fall through our ceilings. Fortunately, that has not happened.

Here in the city, the law is that raccoons cannot be trapped and transported. Rabies is the concern. That means all licensed trappers MUST trap and kill these poor creatures. I know some people view them only as vermin, but I’m sorry, I just will not pay someone to climb on my roof and set a trap that will slowly strangle an animal to death.

I researched and found humane ways to rid attics and other areas of raccoons. Murder is not the only way.

For those interested, here are some proven methods of HUMANE animal evictions –

~~It is best to leave them alone until mom moves the babies out.

~~Scare them out. Use caution! Just making your presence known will usually do it. Go into the attic a few times a day with a flashlight. Shine the light on them and talk to them. But if touched or threatened, by being cornered or feeling boxed in, they will defend themselves and they are quite adept at doing so.

~~If there are babies, give the mother 1 or 2 nights to relocate the family.

~~Roll some rags into a tight ball and tie with twine to keep them tight. Soak the rag balls in ammonia. Toss them into the area of the attic where the raccoon is located.

~~If you can, sprinkle Cayenne pepper or Repel® granules, a commercial dog and cat repellent, around the entry hole, both inside and out, if this is possible.

~~During the day, place a radio in the attic tuned to an all talk station.

~~Use floodlights to keep the area where they are living well lit.

~~Once the raccoon has moved out, secure their entry point. Use hardware cloth or welded wire.

~~They usually won’t come back. If you want to use a repellent, then you can either Sprinkle Repel® granules or Cayenne pepper around the entrance area, if that is possible; or use a repellent, such as Ropel®, sprayed around the entrance area.

Check out the Urban Wildlife Rescue website for more HUMANE tips!

Havahart Live Animal Trap

In our case, one neighbor bought a Havahart trap and set it on his roof. He caught one – a VERY large one – then sealed up his roof and released the raccoon back into our attached yards. Poor creature ran off terrified – but at least s/he was alive.  Since then, not one of us has heard the pitter-patter of furry feet overhead. And ALL of us have, or are in the process of, sealing up our vents so neither we nor the raccoons will be in danger of experiencing this same situation next year.

Alls well that ends well. 🙂

*no animals were hurt in the making of this blog.




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