Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Home Improvements, Mothers and Daughers

Cleaning House

When you hear the phrase “cleaning house,” do you immediately think it means a company, attempting to trim the bottom line, has laid off a number of workers?

For me, “cleaning house” conjures up something completely different.  It may seem old-fashioned but, at the first hint of spring, I can picture my mother, and my grandmother before her, standing on a step-stool, with a wad of paper towel in one hand, and a spray bottle of Windex in the other, merrily cleaning the windows.  And given that I was born with the same cleaning gene, I carry on the twice-a-year, deep-cleaning ritual known as either “Spring Cleaning,” or “Fall Cleaning.”

It’s been unusually cold here in New England, so I have not yet begun what I call “the Big Clean.”  This activity usually takes a week or so and goes way beyond vacuuming, dusting, or keeping on top of the weekly laundry.  For the Big Clean, I take out the spin brushes that give the bathroom tile a dazzling sheen.  I wash the baseboards and the chair railings with just the right mixture of lukewarm water, white vinegar, and a gentle wood cleanser.  I rotate the mattress, launder the quilts and blankets, and change over the closet with the appropriate clothes of the season.  And yes, I wash all the windows.

Perhaps you don’t feel the same way I do.  Which is fine.  Maybe you’re content if there are no dirty dishes in the sink, and there’s a fresh roll of toilet paper in your powder room.  But I like when my ordinarily clean and orderly house is positively sparkling, and every room smells like fresh laundry, with a hint of citrus.  I’m satisfied when all my ducks are in a row.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

Shopping With My Mother

This weekend my mom will be celebrating a special b-day – her 80th birthday!  She’s not only my mother, she’s my best friend.  She doesn’t look eighty, and she doesn’t act eighty.  Here is a re-post from January 2016 to give you an idea of what I mean.

“What other colors does it come in?”

This is how my mother shops for clothing.  When she sees something she likes – be it a blouse, or a particular style of pants, not to mention shoes – she’ll buy it in several different colors.  It’s insanity, I know, but now she’s even got me doing it.  Yes, all I’ve learned about shopping, I’ve learned from my mother.

You’d think living over two hundred miles apart would’ve put a crimp in our shopping expeditions, but it hasn’t.  When I’m home for the weekend, our shopping marathons lead us to fine stores everywhere.  And when she’s visiting me, we often drive up to the outlets in Kittery for a full day of shopping in the great state of Maine.

Then there’s the long distance shopping… I’ll find a voice mail message when I get home at night: “I got something for you today.  It’ll arrive tomorrow by FED EX.”

I’ll call back to tell her, “Thanks Mom, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but it was so perfect for you – and they were just giving it away.”

“Why’d you FED EX it? I’m coming home in two weeks.”

“I couldn’t wait – I wanted you to have it now.”

When I offer to pay for said item, she flatly refuses.  And I don’t have the heart to point out to her that whatever she supposedly saved on the sale, she’s more than spent on the FED EX charge.

Her other big rationalization for committing what can only be described as consumer carnage is that she wasn’t even looking for this latest treasure.  “I fell over it!” she’ll insist.

She frequents craft fairs, not only to support the local artists, but also to pick up some truly unique, one-of-a-kind items.  She’ll present me with a stunning ceramic bowl or piece of stained glass that’s been stuffed into a shopping bag with bubble wrap and wads of tissue paper.  When I innocently comment, “You didn’t get a box?” she’ll reply, “Box, schmox – he would only take cash – it was tough goin’.”

Despite all the shopping, one of my mother’s greatest gifts to me is not something she purchased, but rather something she taught me.  How to always, always, be generous.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  XOXOXO

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Best of Boston, Girl Talk, Mothers and Daughers

The Staycation Vacation

The following is a re-post from July 2016.

Here in Boston, tourists abound.  I regularly see them taking pictures in the Public Garden, walking the Freedom Trail, milling around Faneuil Hall.  Beyond the city limits, they visit historic Plymouth and Salem, scatter all along Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.  Sometimes I see them struggling along our cobblestone streets with their luggage, but mostly they look as if they’re having a good time.

At the risk of sounding like “Trip Advisor,” Boston’s a great vacation destination with its rich architecture, abundant historical sites and museums – not to mention great seafood.  In fact, not long ago when friends visited for the weekend, we went on a harbor cruise and took a tour of Fenway Park.  And of course, we ate delish Italian cuisine in the North End.

My vacation is coming up and, this time around, I won’t be getting out of Dodge, but I’ll surely dodge the usual travel hassles, lost luggage, and second-rate hotels.  I also won’t end up more exhausted than when I started, and I won’t spend a fortune doing it.  Call me crazy, but I’m taking a staycation.  I’ll sleep decadently late, go to the Museum of Fine Arts, meet a friend for lunch, stroll through the Copley Square Farmer’s Market, get pampered at my favorite Newbury Street day spa, and spend the day at Singing Sand Beach.

No matter where you live, a staycation could be the ideal way to spend your leisure time.  I’ll bet there are some places you’ve been meaning to go – a day trip, perhaps – or a show you want to see.  Maybe go hiking or biking, or try that restaurant you’ve heard so much about but haven’t gotten the chance to try.

Remember, like Dorothy once said, “There’s no place like home…”

Staycation 2018 was my first staycation in my new home.  It was not so much about sightseeing as it was about luxuriating.  I’ve not only had a glorious week, but my best friend came to Boston and spent it with me.  Instead of the Charles River, we had a view of the glistening Mystic River.  We drank sweet tea while lounging on lawn chairs in my backyard and nibbled on French pastries in a neighborhood cafe.  Our spa day featured a mani-and pedi- and a botanical face mask.  And we shopped until we dropped.  She left this morning, and I already miss her.  Who’s this best friend?  She’s my mother, of course.red poppy

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Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

NESTING

At first, I thought the debris strewn all over my front porch came from the gutters, after a soaking spring rain, so I gathered it up and threw it in the trash.  But when more debris mysteriously reappeared the next day, it dawned on me that the mess was the building materials for a bird’s nest.  This time, I left it alone.

My own building project – total kitchen and bathroom reno – was finally completed and, over the weekend, as I was busily putting my own nest back in order, I kept watch from my living room windows as a robin redbreast built her home on one of my porch pillars.

She’s not a very good housekeeper, I thought, as the unruly nest began to take shape.  There was a bit of masking tape and paper weaved into the structure.  They use whatever they can find…  And the nest wasn’t the perfect little basket I imagined, as much of the dried twigs and loose grasses spilled down the pillar.

Once she took up residence, I felt compelled to keep tabs on the expectant mother.  I felt guilty that I’d thrown away her initial attempt at building the nest.  Each time I entered or exited my front door, she grew skittish and quickly flew away, only to return minutes later.  Now my movements are tentative, and I’m careful with the door.  I feel protective of her and of the tiny blue eggs I imagine beneath her.

That robin might not be the impeccable housekeeper that my mom has always been – that she has taught me to be – but she’s guarding those fragile eggs with the fiercest maternal instinct.  With Mother’s Day coming, that little bird has me thinking about what it means to be a good mother.  It doesn’t matter how neat the house is, or if a mom – especially a harried, working mom – gives her kids PBJ’s for dinner.  A good mother gives of her time, she nurtures, and she puts her children’s needs before her own.  Her love is boundless.

To all the moms – and especially to my mom – Happy Mother’s Day.

You are truly amazing!  XOXOXO

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers, Pop Culture

Red Hat Lady for a Day

Have you ever seen a group of women all wearing red hats, and flamboyantly dressed in purple?  These older ladies can be seen lunching and laughing, and generally whooping it up all around town.  Some of them even wear feather boas… Truth be told, my mother is one of them and, on a recent visit home, I crashed the party.  But I did not wear the requisite purple, nor the red hat.   According to Red Hat Society lore, someone my age wears lavender and pink instead.

The Red Hat Society was founded quite by accident by a woman who bought a stylish red hat for herself, then started giving them as gifts to her friends.  The purple attire came about as an homage to the poem that begins, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”  Now, there are a bazillion chapters all over the country.

On the first Wednesday of every month, when my mother and her friends get together adorned in their whimsical outfits, they remain mindful that everyone is not as carefree and blessed as they are.  That’s why they never fail to pass around an envelope for their donation to a food pantry.

I was expecting lunch to be a quiet affair in a subdued café.  Instead, it was a raucous celebration in a sports bar with Bon Jovi and Led Zep piped through the loud speakers.  The ladies talked about hair and makeup, current events, and their families, just like my friends do when we get together.  And I nearly forgot how much older they were until the talk turned from gardening, to their former careers, and to their numerous doctor appointments.  Save for the arthritis, they were mostly just like their younger counterparts.

So thank you Red Hatters for welcoming me into your circle, and for offering me a window into what lies ahead.  It promises to be fun and fabulous!

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Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

How Do You See Yourself?

A collective groan came from the women in my office – myself included – when we recently found out we had to write a self-evaluation for our annual performance review.  Meanwhile, the guys seemed unfazed.  Why were the men so comfortable when it came to tooting their own horns, while we women struggled to recognize our talents and quantify our skills – let alone engage in anything resembling self-promotion?

So, as the guys retreated to their respective offices to write their evaluations, the women did what women do – we came together – to talk and share, and basically buoy each other up.

We put aside basic competencies and all the long hours we logged in at our desks.  Instead, we thought about who the three of us are when we’re not at the office: a mother to a ‘tween and a teen; a preacher; and a writer.  We looked at all the “life stuff” each of us brings to the table.

Hearing my co-workers’ observations reminded me of the way my mother would often compliment me when I was a girl.  When I dismissed her praise, insisting that she couldn’t possibly be objective, she would reinforce it saying, “I wish you could see yourself the way other people see you.”

In the end, I wrote about my challenges and accomplishments.  We all did.  Because when we saw ourselves as our peers see us, we looked pretty damn good.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

A Red Swing Coat

She stepped out of the taxi, so vibrant, so cute, in her hot pink woolen swing coat.  Her lipstick was a perfect match.  She opened her vintage black patent leather kiss lock purse to pay the driver.  Then she was on the move.  She clearly had places to go.   It was many years ago, but I still remember that older lady in the bubblegum pink swing coat, and how I thought: I want to be her someday.

Now let me preface this by saying that my mom has not yet reached the age of that older lady in the pink swing coat.  She has a way to go yet.  But during one of our recent shopping expeditions, the topic of dressing one’s age came up.

Me, I’m of the belief that looking fashionable has no age limit.  My mother, however, was concerned that the pair of dress pants she was trying on were not exactly age appropriate for her.  “Are they too trendy?” she wanted to know.

Forget that we were shopping in a store that caters to women of a certain age.

“No,” I asserted.  “They fit you like a glove – and you look great.”

She shrugged, “I don’t know…”

vintage-red-swing-coatJust then, the older lady in the pink swing coat came to mind.

“Do you like these pants?”  I asked, “Will you enjoy wearing them?” and before she could answer, I added, “Then who cares what anybody else thinks.”

I shouldn’t have had to convince her to buy the pants.  It’s a shame that we, as women, are always questioning ourselves, especially about our appearance.

As for me, I’m still planning to wear a lively swing coat someday.  But I’m not a pink girl.  So mine will be red.  And with it, I’ll wear lipstick that’s a perfect match.

red poppy

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