Downsizing: The Paint-by-number Clown (and a Life-changing Giveaway!)



Things are only things.

Nope. Don’t believe it. Not for an instant.

If things are only things, why do we collect? Why do we spend hours pondering fabric for a sofa? Why do we save baby dresses? Why do we cherish Grandma’s bracelet?

But that said, we only need/have space for so many things. As the daughter of a collecting mom, who loved to bring me presents, and as the mom to grownup daughters, who left lots of stuff behind, I had to figure out how to let go of things I liked, things that brought back lovely memories, and things that have been in the family for several generations. What goes? What stays?

Bring on The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up!  Linsdley Bowen, who owns Carlisle and Linny Vintage Jewelery here in Hillsborough, first told me about this neat (pun somewhat intended) little book. As the title promises, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up changed my life. Seriously

Author Marie Kondo writes, “To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

Magical Art of Tidying Up

Some of Kondo’s methods seem over the top. She gives instructions on clothing storage that made my eyes glaze over, and she believes in saving NO paper, including cards or letters.  I’m not planning on giving up Cliff’s love letters or Laura’s last Mother’s Day card, at least not anytime soon.

But I LOVE that Kondo personifies objects because I do too. That’s been part of my troubles all along. I believe at least some of my things have feelings (nutty, I know) and that makes it harder to give them away. But Kondo says if our things are stuffed in the back of a closet, they aren’t happy anymore. Send them on to a new life!

But the real magic of this book is this simple advice: “Take each item in one’s hand and ask, ‘Does this spark joy?”‘

My next downsizing project was a box of things sent by Mom ten years ago. The clown above would be a heart-wrenching decision. I created him with paint-by-number when I was seven. Mom framed him for my grandpa, who kept the clown in his apartment for the rest of his life.

I’m not deep into clown art. Couldn’t he go? Shouldn’t he go?

I studied the clown. My grandpa adored me -that undeserved, no strings attached kind of love- and so he loved my clown. Joy sparked!

The clown stays. In fact, he’s now grinning at me from my kitchen wall, where I promptly tacked him up.

Giveaway: I’ve got an extra copy of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m happy to share. Please enter a comment by October 30 if you’d like to win the book.

Paint by Number: Here’s a fun article and video on the history of paint-by-number kits.  They’re now considered vintage, and some collectors are after them. Who knew?

Grandma Update: Dressing for a Man



“I like your zebras!” a guy called out as I strolled down the sidewalk a few weeks ago. Men don’t usually shout out compliments on my clothes, so this put some spring in my step, especially since I had just purchased my zebra top.

But actually, I don’t dress for men these days. Nope. I dress for one man, a small one, my grandson Mazen.

At age one, Maze was intrigued with chickens. “Buck, buck!” (for “cluck, cluck”) was one of his first words. He knew a chicken when he saw one, and one day spotted two of them on my Friend for the Ride t-shirt ( which features Cliff’s childhood egg cups).


That spurred me on. I’ve added bumblebees, zebras,  lion, and giraffes to my wardrobe. I never knew dressing for a man could be this fun.

And since I have daughters (and because Cliff refuses to let me pick out his clothes), I never knew shopping for a man could be this fun! I look for animals and trucks/cars/trackers in 4 T. The shark shirt below was the hit of the summer.


Speaking of dressing for men, my gut says I’ve mostly dressed for other women over the  years. Women seem to be the ones to notice clothes and compliment them. But I must say, when a man says something pleasant about my outfit, I take extra note. What about you? Do you dress for yourself? Other women?  Men?

Check out this article, which says that few women really dress for men, since to a man, the less clothes on a woman the better. Any men out there? Agree?

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Fourteen



More doors!

Above, a faux chalk door at La Place, a restaurant not far from my house.

Below, a lovely silhouette in the lobby of The Queechee Inn in Queechee Vermont. We traveled to green and beautiful Vermont in June for the wedding of a family friend.


And this sign at the Burlington Town Center in Vermont gets the prize for prettiest mall bathroom door.


A carved wooden sign at the Queechee Gorge Village, a series of antique and other shops.


The Circle K where we stopped for gas in Ossipee, New Hampshire.


The Ice House in New Castle, New Hampshire.


This gentle giant gazes at you when you sit on the pot at the Ice House.


The very elegant door at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, New Hampshire.


From my friend Justin, who teaches English in China. This unisex sign hangs outside the art museum in Ningbo.


From reader Candace, who found this sign at a dive bar in Charlestown, South Carolina. Neither she nor her husband can remember the name of the bar. Sounds like they had a pretty good time!

Seafood dive bar Georgetown SC


Candace snapped this a way cool fish made of liquor labels.

dive bar Georgetown SC fish made from liquor bottle labels

And she found this door at Jalapenos in Annapolis, Maryland.

Jalapeno's Annapolis MD

Brand new friend and blog reader Greta poses outside a ladies room in Amsterdam.


From Lilly, a photo snapped at The Strand in Galveston, Texas.


And I found this one at Old Town, San Diego.


As I stood in front of the ladies room at Maggiano’s at Southpoint Mall in Durham, North Carolina, a woman said, “You must being doing something arty.” I explained that I photograph interesting ladies room doors for my blog. “I like this bumpy glass,” I told her.


On the way out she said, “Why don’t you take the back of the door too?” So I did!


What an amazing world! Art abounds, even in bathrooms, if you keep your eyes open for it. May you find today the ladies room door of your dreams (and snap a photo for me). Thanks!

Giveaway Winners: Here’s the latest list:

Sue won Dr. Paul Lam’s Born Strong: From Surviving the Great Famine to Teaching Tai Chi to Millions.

Stephanie won Carol E. Wyer’s Grumpy Old Menopause.

Barbara won Uno, a celebration of games on George Schalter’s post.

Shirley, Beth, Vickie, and Sandy won a trio of Lubrigyn products.

Happy Fourth Birthday to Friend for the Ride!



Happy Fourth Birthday to Friend for the Ride! Thanks to readers old and new for your enthusiasm and your kind words!

Because he’s a lot cuter than I am, I present the celebratory photo above of my grandson Maze blowing out the candles on his third birthday cake (some candles are hidden in front of the flowers). The blog is one year older than Maze!

Here’s my very first post: The Roller Coaster Ride.

Rollercoaster going through loop

Here’s one of my happiest posts: The Baby Is Here.


And another: Final Update: The Wedding.


A bittersweet post and perhaps some of my strongest writing: Losing Mom: a Life in the Details.


And one of my quirkiest (or grittiest) posts: The Museum of Menstruation, Oh My. Menopause springs surprises on you. Never in a zillion months of periods would I have thought I’d talk about them online, much less post such a distasteful picture!


Thanks to all of you who have sent me guest posts over the years. Here’s the very first guest post, written by my good friend across the street, Susan Bellinger: Creative Procrastination: Try It. You’ll Like it.


Thanks to my literary agent, Erzsi Deak, for encouraging me to create an online menopause presence. I love her advice: “Make everyone want to go through menopause so they will buy this book” (my book–yet to find a publisher).


And thanks to my husband Cliff, Pickle Counting King, for snapping so many ladies room doors when I leave my phone at home.


To finish this birthday post, I’m pretending I’m Miss Nancy on Romper Room.

Miss Nancy

I’m peering through my magic glass at all of you and saying, “Thanks to Carol and Judy and Susan and Gail and Michele and Sue and Phyllis and Marylou and Vickie and Karoline and Cheryl and Stephanie and Shirley and Pam and Erzsi and Ann and Sirena and Miriam and Haralee and Amy and Vickie and Beth and Bernie and Ed and James and Cliff (yes, men!) and Kathy and Cathy and Suzanne and Judith and Patti and Lisa and Wanda and JoAnn and Linda and Kath and Laura and Candace and Janet and Nancy and Rebecca and Teresa and Barbara and Penny and Wendy and Adela and Carla and and Brenda and Greta and Theresa and Heartpeace and Diane and Silvia and Joan and Rena and Ruthie and Mo and Chris and Cindy and Claritza and Bonnie and Jama and Debbie and Becky and Cyn and Elaina and and Andrea and Bonnie and Meg and Sharon and Kimberly and Sandy and Ruth and Edna and Chickie and Crystal and Ellen and Paula.”

If I didn’t write your name, let me know, and I’ll add it! Love each and every one of you.

Romper Room: Here’s the history of my first favorite TV show, which originated in my hometown of Baltimore.