The Universe Gave Me This Blog Post   Leave a comment

I thought I had a problem. I wanted to write a blog post for this week, but I had no ideas. Then, lo and behold one was handed to me on a platter.

I should have known I’d get an idea over the weekend since I’d be going  to Manhattan, not once but twice. Saturday, while I had a wonderful day and a delicious vegan lunch with friends, yielded nothing in the way of a light bulb going on over my head. Sunday, however handed me this post, but in a very mystical way, one that reinforces my belief that there are no coincidences.

Summer Sundays begin with coffee on the deck and the New York Times, not necessarily (in fact, not usually), the current day’s paper. Anyone who knows me well knows I am obsessed with reading the whole Sunday edition – all seven sections (Sunday News, Sports Sunday, Sunday Business, Week in Review, Arts & Leisure, Sunday Styles, Real Estate) plus the Magazine and any special sections that may be included. Only when I’ve finished, do I buy another Sunday edition; even if it takes me a month of Sundays. So there I was reading  Chronicling Neighborhood “Joints” in May 24’s Metropolitan Section,  a feature paying tribute to eateries that have stood the test of time in a city that has a continuous turnover of restaurants.


Kindly note this paragraph. We’ll return to it in a moment.


After arriving at Grand Central Terminal, I set out to meet a friend downtown.  About 10 blocks into my walk, I happened to look across the street and  noticed this line of parked taxis.


I looked up at the street sign. 28th Street – I was in Murray Hill, also know as Curry Hill. Now go back and read the sentence aboutbiry

  • cabbies,
  • biryani (an Indian rice dish)
  • and Murray Hill.

For those not familiar with Manhattan, here are two  bits of information.

  • A large percentage of NY taxi drivers are Indian,
  • and there’s a two block stretch of Lexington Avenue with nothing but Indian Restaurants.


And my own personal favorite:


These only begin to scratch the surface. I’d have been very late to meet my friend if i snapped a photo of all the Indian restaurants. But think about it, of all the old Times I could have been reading, I found one that made mention of cabbies in Murray Hill, and of all the avenues I could have taken through Murray Hill, I happened to take  Lexington.

Life, I love ya!

I love the New York Times,  too, and since I’d finished the May 24 paper, I stopped to get


The Universe Provides…. and SheTakes Away.   1 comment

Way back in what was another lifetime, I was a teacher. Actually you could consider it two lifetimes. When I was fresh out of college I spent eleven years teaching in the Bronx, then after taking a nine year sabbatical I returned to the profession – this time in San Jose. While my Bronx “lifetime” was a pleasurable, rewarding one, my California career took an opposite turn. I attribute it to the fact that in the Bronx I never ventured above third grade. After my first two years I descended to first grade, and eventually snuggled into Kindergarten.

As for California, all was going well until the year I volunteered to leave  my comfort zone of, kindergarten and “move up” to fourth grade.  Little did I know I’d be teaching the Fourth Grade from Hell. Looking back I wonder if it would h ave been half as bad had not the class roster included Russell, Ruben, Alex, and Mark, known to me as The Gang of Four.  I’ll say no more about them, as they are now about 35 years old, and they may find me on Facebook!

I guess it could have been worse. I could have been teaching The Class that Drove Mr Mays Crazy. True story – one day that same year I was enduring the ten-year-old old gang wannabes, the second grade teacher went home, and never returned – not until the next year, by which time he had recovered from his nervous breakdown. The now third grade class prided themselves as being the class that drove Mr Mays crazy.

I survived the fourth grade without a breakdown, and was grateful to be able to return to a first grade class for the next two years. They would be my last two years in the profession. My students were darlings, but  the fourth grade experience had done irreparable damage.

Resigning at year’s end was in the pipe dream  stage when I came across a sentence in a New Age-y magazine.

If a woman follows her heart, the universe will provide.

My heart didn’t have a destination in mind, but it did have an escape. At the end of the school year, I followed my heart the hell out of teaching!

Speaking of provisions, wouldn’t you think the universe would be only too glad to provide in the garden? Not at The House of Mars! Not yet, anyway. She’s toying with me. My soil is home to the most amazingly large, beautiful lush squash plants – one yellow squash

DSCN1899and one zucchini.


I was so thrilled when they started putting out vibrant yellow flowers. I was crushed when they fell off a few days later.

DSCN1901This happened again and again. Flowers. No flowers. Flowers. No flowers.

I looked it up (gotta love the internet!) and found this is normal. They were all male flowers and that’s what male flowers do – mature, scatter pollen, and fall off. The article promised the female flowers would come. It sounded suspiciously like an exhortation to trust the universe to provide. I’m still trusting.

Then one day I was adding scraps to my compost pile which is nearly as far away as you can get from the squash, and still be at The House of Mars, when I saw this growing out of the pile of stones retaining it.

DSCN1898Another squash plant! The universe had provided, after all!!!!!

Later on I thought about it. The leaves and flowers looked similar but I’d discarded lots of pumpkin and melon seeds there last year. Oh well, whatever it was, Mother Universe was giving me a bonus plant, and I was grateful.

A couple of days later, I went back to check on it. The universe had provided, but she provided it to the woodchuck squatter on my property, not me.


I decided to give it a chance, and dug up the remains to transplant to the garden.


And that’s when the answer to its origins was revealed .


Posted July 29, 2015 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

How Do I File a Complaint?   2 comments

Last week was hot – almost too hot for me. And that’s saying a lot.


It was the first time in my sixteen years at The House of Mars that I had to run all three window fans at once, along with the ceiling fan in the kitchen. Normally I only use the fan in the bedroom , and only at night if I wake up and can’t get back to sleep. Most summers that only happens three, maybe four nights.

But hey! I’m not complaining. I love the heat. And I’m not one of those people who philosophizes about how it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. I say BRING IT ON. Heat and humidity are what I dreamed about all last winter.

Speaking of winter, I do have something to complain about.

Hey V bite your tongueNobody’s talking about winter. That’s a bad word in July.

(Can you hear that? That’s my inner voice speaking. )

But actually a bad word in July is exactly what I’m complaining about. Many many summers ago, come the end of July, my mother would start with the comments –

“Before you know it, school will be opening.”

“We’ll have to go look for clothes for school.”

Well, there went my summer The clock was ticking.

“Look, the stores are already advertising  Back to School sales.”

Yep, the alarm was set.

Well, it’s happening. Last week while it was still mid-July and 97 degrees in the shade, what did I hear on TV but a Staples stock up for school ad. And yesterday a famous Footwear ad  about how this school year can be the best yet if you get cool shoes.

But actually now that I’ve gotten how I despise rushing the end of summer off my chest, that’s not what I’m complaining about.

This is


Posted July 23, 2015 by virginiafair in Summer

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The Return of the Prodigal   2 comments

At first I thought my failure to blog regularly was because my work situation has changed. I am now writing freelance from home. While it was one thing to come home from a day on my computer at the office and write a  blog, it was another thing to spend all day on my laptop  up in the loft, then come down to the living room and attempt a blog post.

But that wasn’t it. I realized it was the lack of pictures. You see, normally I’d be inspired by  something in the city or at the shopping center, think I must write about that, snap a photo or two, come home and write. But then, back in January…………..

……….. I lost my camera.

I searched everywhere: in every coat, under the car seat, in my gym bag, my pocketbook, in the kitchen drawer. You name it, I looked there. I was even beginning to think about getting a new phone so I’d have a camera, when……….

……………I found my camera.

The prodigal camera had returned! It was hanging out with some t-shirts in the t-shirt drawer! If I ate meat, I’d proclaim “Prepare the fatted calf ” or whatever it was that the father said when his prodigal son returned. Instead…………..

………….. I charged the camera and started snapping shots .

Ready for an update on the house of Mars?

Marble has calmed down somewhat. He’s two years old and now that it’s summer, he’s content to sit on a little blue rug I bought at the dollar store to wipe my feet on when I come in. The cast of characters changes DSCN1877

After breakfast… with The Brothers

DSCN1884 with Marcel

DSCN1890Alone at last

Then there’s the garden. If you recall, I started  tomatoes and cucumbers from seed. Two cuke seedlings emerged, and 23 tomatoes. Not having space for that many tomatoes, I put them up for adoption and ended up with 5 for myself. Well, 2 died, and the cukes got eaten by groundhogs. The tomatoes are doing well They are the kings of the vegetable garden……

DSCN1880…….Ruling over 2 eggplants. 2 squash, 4 yellow pepper plants

I tried to rise above it, but I can’t. I have to point out, that’s not my shed.

DSCN1882Mine is pretty

So that’s what’s going on in the House of Mars. I’m enjoying this summer so much, writing on the deck is like not working at all.


So be prepared for more blogs from The House of Mars!


Marceau and His Rabies Vacinations – Again, a Starcrossed Path   2 comments

It’s been seven years since Marceau got busted. It started when I   recognized the symptoms of his having a urinary construction – repeated straining in the litter box with no results. Since this is potentially fatal, I rushed him to the vet. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I remember this because the vet said they couldn’t treat him since it would entail a three- day stay at the hospital and they’d be closed over Thanksgiving. He referred me to the Bedford- Katonah Emergency Veterinary Hospital since it is fully staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Bedford? Bedford as in Martha Stewart? Richard Gere? Ralph Lauren? I was a few breaths short of hyperventilating as the dollar signs flashed in front of my eyes. I packed him back in his carrier and off we went  to the moneyed town. Emergency hospitals are always expensive, but I could only imagine how much this one would cost. As it turned out the bill lived up to my expectations……. and then some! But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was  Marceau got busted.

He was released on Thanksgiving evening, and I thought all was well until I received a call  Monday – at work, no less. It was the Westchester Department of Health. The hospital had reported Marceau’s scratching a technician,  and records showed he was not up to date on his rabies shot. Visions of a truck pulling up to The House of Mars and white suited men with respirators and masks taking him off to be beheaded so they could test his brain and see if he was rabid. Then he realized I didn’t live in Westchester County. “Putnam County will be calling you.” he said

Five minutes later – different voice – same story. But this guy was cool. “Mail us his rabies certificate.” In other words. Go get the shot.

In case any one is wondering why I let his shots lapse. It’s because since all my cats are indoor cats, I saw no reason to vaccinate them. Up until that phone call, I didn’t realize New York State requires all dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies. You better bet I’ve learned my lesson!

Since the rabies shot is good for three years and three Mars live at The House of Mars, I’ve staggered the visits so I only have to capture one cat per year.

Last year was Marble’s turn.


Next year is Marcel’s.


This year was Marceau’s year.  Lucky Marceau.


Poor me. Vet visit day is my most dreaded day of the year. It seems I send out a psychic signal and the intended flees just as i close in. I kept track of Marceau’s  sleeping mid-morning sleeping schedule for weeks so I could make a strategic appointment.  Since he likes dosing in the sun on the cat condo from 10:30 AM on, I made an 11 AM appointment. The conversation went this was – as it always does.

“Which cat will that be.
“Marceau, Mar-ceau. e-a-u

The day arrived and of course, he bolted as I closed in. It cost me a can of cat food, and a ton of guilt. The only way to get him back was to open a can which brought him on the run – along with Marcel and Marble. They got to eat, he didn’t!

When we arrived, we were ushered into an examination room. The door shut, then it opened again and in popped the head of the receptionist. “This is Marcel right?

“Nope, Marceau. e-a-u

Next the vet and a technician came in. Marceau actually enjoyed the experience since, after the examination and shot the technician rewarded him with a through combing and removed at least a pound of winter hair.

All went well, The vet  said he looked great, and was in great shape. At last the dreaded appointment was over. I paid my bill, packed up Marceau, and off we went.

When I arrived home, I took out his rabies certificate so I could put it in a safe place.

20150614_174728 I took one look and grabbed my  phone. The contrite receptionist promised to send me a new certificate right away.  One that said Marceau. – e-a-u

Sure enough the very next morning the mailman brought this.

20150614_175421 I can hardly wait to see what 2018 will bring our way! Not!

The Sad Sweet Saga of the Tomato Plants   3 comments

I so enjoyed growing tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers last year that I decided to one-up myself and instead of buying plants. I usually start flower seeds in the basement, and although historically, most fail to thrive once in the ground, hope springs eternal. So, early March found me carefully opening seed packets and tomato, cucumber and pepper sowing seeds in planting trays. I placed them in the basement windows where they’d enjoy the morning sun.

Each morning I visited them, whispering words of encouragement as I gently misted the soil.  As the days passed with no signs of life, I entreated them. As April dawned, I summoned them to choose life. Finally in mid-April I threw up my hands and declared OK for you! Do what you want. Who cares. I can always buy plants.

In early April, I brought them up to the deck where the sun could bake the soil all day, then put them in the shed at night since, after soaking up the heat of the sun all day, it retains it well into the evening. Finally, one by one, 19 pairs of green leaves popped through the potting mix, stretching toward the warm sunlight. Tomatoes!!!!!! Welcome, Welcome,to The House of Mars, I exulted over each one as it emerged.

Eventually I realized I had a problem. What was I going to do with 21 tomato plants? They were my babies. I’d brought them into the world. I felt obligated to find them homes. Not just any home, my tomatoes needed good, caring homes. With this as my standard. I eliminated a few people who came to mind immediately. I stopped short of asking for references but i did come up with a list of candidates.

Actually the first two had no choice. I know my SIL (sister-in-law) to be an accomplished gardener with experience working in a nursery,and she and my bro have a fairly large terrace in their building; one that gets lots of sun. So no questions asked, I thrust two plants on her. 19 to go.

Same thing for my BFFFW (best friend from work). We’d discussed gardening many times, primarily who’s poison ivy itched more. She has more property than I do.  So she got 3. 16 to go.

I put out the word to the other candidates I’d come up with and the answers poured in, all in the affirmative.

I’ll take one15 to go.

We can take two. 13 to go

Sure give me two 11 to go.

That’s so nice of you. Give us 6 Six! gulp.

Oh well, that left me with 5 for myself. Last year I bought 4 and while they produced an adequate amount of tomatoes I could have put more to good use. At least I had one more plant this year

Since they needed lots of  TLC, I kept the five runts of the litter, kissed their siblings goodby, and delivered them to their new caregivers.

As for my five? Well, one decided it didn’t like The House of Mars, so, a couple of days after bring planted, it withered away. Then aliens invaded – not the usual suspects, my resident ground hogs  and neighboring deer.(Not yet anyway). Not even the usual tomato-eating insects. No these strange-looking hard-shelled aliens are bout the size of a ladybug, but with a hard black shell ,shaped somewhat like a family crest , and a round clear yellowish suction cup bottom. At first I just removed them to another part of the yard since I hate to kill anything, but they multiplied as did the perfectly round munch holes they left in the leaves. I hardened my heart and found myself taking glee in the crunching sound they made as I crushed them.

So now I’m left with 4 plants, one of which looks very questionable. Since the three cucumber seeds that germinated produced plants that looked healthy in pots, but bit the dust once in the ground, and the pepper seeds never woke up, I set off on a mission yesterday. I couldn’t find any cucumber plants but I’ll keep searching; meanwhile I came home with four yellow pepper plants and four cauliflower plants.

At least Ithink they’ll produce cauliflowers. The tag was missing and, of the two workers I asked, one said he thought so. The other one didn’t speak English.

Let’s put it this way, by the looks of the leaves, I’ll either get cauliflower or collard greens. I’d take a picture of the mystery plants and see if anyone would post a knowing comment, but somewhere, sometime, someplace, I lost my camera this winter.

However,  thanks to a postcard two of my happily settled plants sent from their new home, I can close with a photo.WP_20150516_003

The View From the Peanut Gallery   3 comments

I recently came across an obituary. Rhoda Mann Winkler died. She was 87.

You may not think you know her but if you are “of a certain age.” You know her moves. Ms Winkler was a puppeteer on The Howdy Doody Show. Just reading those magic words, The Howdy Doody Show summoned a parade of characters. Howdy Doody, of course but also Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring, Flub-a-dub, Mr Bluster, Don Jose Bluster. These characters who visited homes late on weekday afternoons via tiny screens (television screens, not smart phone screens!) were all puppets.

whole gang

There were also two humans, well kind of –  if you count clowns as humans. Clarabell liked to squirt people with a seltzer bottle and communicated only by means of a loud bicycle horn, the kind where you squeezed a rubber ball on the end. The mere sight of Clarabell on our 10″ black and white screen usually sent the 3 or 4-year old me fleeing into my bedroom. He is probably why, to this day, clowns make me nervous.

The other human was Buffalo Bob Smith who dressed in a fringed buckskin suit which, as I now picture it, was part cowboy and part safari suit. He tried valiantly to keep rein over all these characters.

Allow me to interrupt myself for  a second – if my mentioning the 10″ screen and the fact that I was 3 or 4, didn’t tell you this was long, long ago, ponder this. Clarabell was played by Willard Scott, who now entertains people even older than me by wishing them a  Happy Smucker’s 100th birthday on The Today Show.

willard scott

Despite the dangerous prospect of Clarabell, my deepest desire, at the time, was to view the show live and in person, seated in The Peanut Gallery; “peanut gallery”, being the name given to the studio audience composed entirely of children who appeared to be about my age.

peanut gallery

Alas, the closest I ever got was second-hand. I once lived, for a short time (not short enough!),  with a young man who had actually been a member of the The Peanut Gallery, but it didn’t end well (our relationship or his adventure!). His mother was so late coming into the studio to pick him up after the show that he was the only child left, and he started to cry. And guess what!? He got to sit on Buffalo Bob’s lap until she finally got there. As for the lap, it was a far more innocent time than the present.

It took me a long time to get there, but I finally got to sit in a modern day Peanut Gallery. There were no clowns –  only comediennes – well, three, anyway. The fourth was a former George W Bush aide. Yes, it was the daytime show, The View. A friend secured tickets and invited me.

Well, it started off bad and got worse. We had to line up two hours before the show – on the sidewalk outside ABC studios …….

ABC studio

… the rain. We were lucky on two counts: we’d come prepared with umbrellas, and it was a warm September morning. Since everyone else came prepared with umbrellas, it was a colorful mass of jostling, bumping, and dripping but at least everyone had to keep their distance from the person in front of them.

Finally we were herded inside by ABC personnel so young that I imagine even their parents were too young to remember Howdy Doody. Dressed in black with ABC badges clipped to their lapels,  these millennials barked at us to walk fast, stay in line, and remain in single file. In short, they treated us like we were kindergarteners headed for The Peanut Gallery, and speaking of kindergarten, when we arrived in the next holding area  we were given snacks of apple juice and popcorn!But the worst was yet to come.

Finally seated, we were “warmed up” by a comedian who after a reasonably good job of getting our laughter pumped and primed, proceeded to put us through a drill of responses. We were to keep our eyes on the stage manager. When he raised his right hand and waved, we were to utter AHHH , when he waved his left hand over his head we were to laugh.  And when he clapped his hands over his head, we were to break out in wild applause. Not content to merely tell us, we had to practice it again…….and again………and again.

Suddenly Whoopi, Big Rosie O’Donnell, Little Rosie Perez, and The Republican proceeded to their seats.


And at every break, assistants flurried out with powder puffs, combs and light meters


But the best part was there were no horn-honking seltzer-squirting clowns. The bad part is I can never view an ebullient “live” audience anymore without wondering which arm the stage manager is raising.

But  you know what? I wouldn’t mind dancing with Ellen!


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