Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brutal winter prediction

Brace yourself, a brutal winter’s coming
I predict this coming winter will be a very brutal one based on the extreme heat we’ve endured this summer and the extraordinary amount of rain which fell this past spring.
I’m no expert on meteorology but I’m willing to bet this prediction will come true.
This means, you better stock up on shovels, sand and salt crystals. I’m sure these vital supplies will be available in stores very soon because holiday items are already starting to appear on retail shelves.
That’s right; the favorite holiday of retailers is just four months away. Once again, it’s time to start making your list and checking it twice.
I’ve already found myself warning the children, “Santa is watching you.” They immediately retreat from whatever mischief they’re involved in; it works every time. I don’t know what I’ll do when they stop believing.
Actually, they’ve begun to question me because classmates have told them, “There’s no such thing as Santa.”
When they ask me if this is true, I tell them, “No. They are wrong. There is a Santa. I just talked to him earlier today.”
Their eyes shine with excitement and curiosity. “Did you tell him I want a dog?” my daughter queries.
“Of course, I did, but he has to get your father’s approval” I reply.
This is not the first time I’ve had to reassure my child about her doubts. I hired a Hannah Montana look-a-like for her birthday party. She was so excited and so were most of her friends.
However, there were a couple of girls who didn’t think it was the real thing and didn’t hold back from telling the others, raining on my daughter’s parade.
Weeks later, she kept asking me, “was that really her because (name) said she was fake.”
My response was, “That’s too bad, honey…She’s just jealous because Hannah didn’t come to her party.”
Luckily, her bubble did not burst and I still got my money’s worth.
I admire the people who impersonate celebrities for a living, especially the mall Santa’s. Last year, I took my children to the Watertown Mall to visit their Santa.
We waited and waited as patiently as we could because he was on a rather long lunch break. The sign said he would be back by 2:00 p.m, but it was 2:30 p.m. and he was still missing.
We were about to leave because the children were getting very antsy. As we moped toward the exit, low and behold, there was Santa, walking toward us.
“Well, it’s about time,” I blurted out loud, accidentally.
“I mean, it’s so good to see you, Santa. I hope you had a good lunch,” I added, attempting to cover up my initial negative remark.
My oldest son looked at me and rolled his eyes, but didn’t say a word. I know he has had his doubts, but we’ve never spoken about it.
Deep down, we both still want to believe.
I hope we never let go of this precious piece of our childhood. The memories Santa has given us are priceless (not to mention, he’s given us some pretty good gifts, too).
Now, back to reality; brace yourselves everyone. Winter is coming and I’m willing to bet it’s going to be another record breaker.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Is there a summer camp for moms?

By now, the panic usually starts to set in; it’s now less than a one week countdown before the three month school vacation begins and I haven’t signed my children up for any summer activities.
In the past, I’ve had no need to fear because I signed up as soon as I received the town recreation brochure; but something is very different this year.
It could be because my kids are a little older now and don’t drive me as crazy when they’re in my presence together for more than five minutes. No, that’s not it.
Perhaps it is because I’m a little older now and I’ve changed. I like spending every waking moment with them. No, I don’t think that’s it either.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a single second to even think about it and figure it will all fall into place when the time comes; that could definitely be it.
Or, I’m not worried at all because I’m sure we can come up with plenty of things to do on a day to day basis and if I have to work, I’m sure I can find a babysitter; now, that’s not realistic.
Here’s the real deal – summer is coming – help!
Is there a camp moms can escape to?
Why not change things around a little bit and instead of the kids going to camp, moms get to go.
A camp where there is no whining; nutritional meals are served three times a day; a personal trainer keeps us in shape; tanning does not cause wrinkles; everything is free and there is no time limit.
Moms can come and go for as long as they need to. We can skype with our kids if we need to. Dads would be able to handle everything on their own, balancing work and family, just like moms do on a daily basis.
If this kind of camp really existed, I have a feeling none of us would come home.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my little chicks, but the mother hen can sometimes use a break and certainly deserves one once in a while.
It’s nice to fantacize.
Seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to do this summer.
But, my number one goal is to try to have fun and relax with my perfectly behaved brood.
Who am I kidding?
I’m signing up for that mommy camp as soon as I find out if it exists.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This old house

For the past seven months my family has been simultaneously living in and renovating our 47-year-old multi-level style home.
The first time my husband and I laid eyes on this house in April 2009, there was something about it that immediately peeked our interest. It definitely wasn’t the smoke-stained wallpaper, smelly shaggy carpet, lemon yellow master bath barely big enough for my five-year old; or the Pepto-Bismol pink half bath about as big as a broom closet; the dungeon-like basement with red-orange carpet, dark paneling, and an orange vinyl wet bar; or the centerpiece of the first floor – a very dated two-sided white brick fireplace, rusting with age.
Somehow we were able to see beyond these cosmetic issues and look at the house with a vision of what we could make it look like. It was a great shell with a lot of potential.
We were drawn to the corner lot location in a quiet storybook neighborhood; the driveway which could fit about ten cars; the closets and storage space; the central air and two car attached garage; the large sunlit bow windows; but most of all, we couldn’t resist the “bargain” price tag.
Since July, we’ve gutted the original gloomy kitchen and installed fresh, new cream-colored cabinets with a seven foot granite eating island; all the wallpaper has been removed and the plaster underneath sanded and painted; the odor-filled carpet has been ripped up and the hardwood floors underneath re-finished with a high gloss stain; the fireplace in the living room has been transformed using medium-density fiberboard, crown molding, wainscoting and marble; and the basement is a much brighter, friendlier place for the kids to play now that we’ve added recessed lighting, tile flooring and painted the paneling a lighter cream color.
Taking on a project like this has been a great challenge, especially since we have never done anything like this before. There were many bumps along the way, but we managed to get through the first phase and learned a lot during the process.
There is still more work to be done; but for now, we are taking a much-needed break. It’s nice to finally live in an environment free from work boots, sawdust and the annoying sounds of drills and hammers.
We can sleep a little better not having to worry about all the choices and decisions; but most of all, it a tremendous relief for our very tired checkbook.

Style make-over

Many experts in the fashion and beauty industry such as 55 year-old Robert Berberian, owner of Roberts Salon in Belmont, believe looking good makes you feel good and the right clothing and hair style can help men and women accomplish this.
“When you’re 50 you might not look 40, but you want to look good for your age. A 50-year-old woman can look damn good for 50,” said Berberian who has owned his salon for 31 years. Yolanda Cellucci, 75, of Lincoln, also known as the dress diva, former owner of bridal shop Yolanda Enterprises in Waltham, is one of his best customers.
Berberian has worked side by side with his wife, Elizabeth, 51, for 24 years. “I keep him young, he keeps me young,” she said, adding the anti aging collagen treatment facials she gets from their staff aesthetician, Maria Bartolomeu, has also helped her skin rejuvenate.
For her wardrobe, Berberian prefers to shop in smaller boutiques with good, personalized service and likes to wear youthful, conservative, but an eclectic combination of clothes that look good on her. “Just because it’s in style, doesn’t mean it’s going to look good on you,” said Berberian.
Family owned clothing store, Gould’s, located at 260 Great Road, has been in business for over 75 years, serving men and women 35 and up. Owner Marvin Gould, who has been in the business for 38 years, said the biggest mistake men and women fifty plus make is to resist buying for their body shape which changes as it ages. “You don’t wear a size, you wear a fit,” said Gould.
His father George and Uncle David opened the first store in Clinton, Massachusetts in 1934. Gould now co-owns the Acton store with his brothers Arthur and Lester.
His dedicated staff of over 20 years is all trained to be personal stylists. Pat Goddard, a buyer and salesperson for Gould’s since 1991, said she buys with an eye for their customers. “I know what they are looking for. If skirts are too short, they aren’t going to sell. I won’t buy the baby doll look. Our customer does not want to look pregnant again,” said Goddard.
Clothing changes as lifestyles change, added Goddard which is why she always finds out what her customer’s lifestyle needs are. “If they are not working, they might buy more jeans and use dressy sweaters with accessories,” she said.
Gould’s customer Tammie Burns, 51, of Acton, said she feels more self-conscious about what she wears now that she is over 50. “I’m more interested in wearing what I think is more flattering to my body than what is the style. I’m not comfortable with that,” said Burns.
Nordstrom is another retail store which is family owned. It started out as a Seattle shoe store in 1928 run by brothers Everett and Elmer Nordstrom. Johanna Easter, personal stylist manager for Nordstrom in Burlington, takes great pride in her customer relationships which has made her successful in her 8 ½ year career with the company. She starts by giving her clients a questionnaire to learn more about their lifestyle needs and personal taste.
“The critical questions for the more mature customer I work with are about their lifestyle. Are they really active, physically active, do they attend a lot of black tie events? Typically, they may have a museum or art gallery openings, they are on a lot of committees. They need to make a statement in their wardrobe,” said Easter.
It is also important to accentuate the positive parts of your body and minimize an area that isn’t so great, she added.
“If a female customer has a larger chest, she should wear an open neck line or v-neck. If she has a smaller waist, she will want to accentuate that by adding a belt. If she is petite, it is great to be monochromatic; wear all one color and accentuate the top with a great printed sweater or jacket. It gives a great illusion of elongating the body,” said Easter.
For her male customers over 50, Easter said weight in the belly tends to be an issue. She always makes sure she puts them in something slimming, not tight-fitting or too loose and baggy. For pants, she would choose flat front, not pleated.
Easter has four personal stylists whom she manages. She trains them how to set up a fitting room so customers do not feel overwhelmed. “We set it up so it is appealing visually, not over stimulating. We want to make sure the fitting room experience goes as smoothly as possible,” said Easter.
The personal stylist services at Nordstrom and Gould’s are complimentary. Alterations are done on site and most are free of charge. Both stores said they will work within any budget.

Singing therapy

Every Tuesday evening for the past five weeks, Belmont parents have been meeting with teachers outside their classrooms.
Rather than having conferences, they are volunteers together in the second annual experiment of the Belmont Public School Fine and Performing Arts Department – the Parent/Teacher Chorus.
This unique group consists of 20 men and 47 women including Belmont Public Schools Director of Finance, Gerry Missal, retired Special Educator, Alison Goulder, Physical Therapist Debbie Dayton, the Director of Christ Lutheran Child Care and Nursery School Ronnie Johnson, as well as some married couples, a father and his daughter.
This is just a sampling of the mix of talented, experienced musicians and singers; and a few people who just like to sing in their car or shower, or have absolutely no singing experience, but just wanted an excuse to get out of the house or try something completely out of their normal comfort realm.
Directing this diverse, brave group is Music Specialist Christine Servilio who teaches at the Winn Brook Elementary and Chenery Middle Schools. She said she has been singing since she could speak and wanted a change of pace by working with this adult age group.
“It’s always interesting to do something for the first time, when no one has any pre-existing ideas or expectations,” said Servilio.
She also decided to take on the challenge to show students they won’t stop making music when they leave school.
“Music is a life-long experience – no matter what level of talent you have, you can always challenge yourself to grow a little bit more,” said Servilio.
Justin Roe of Belmont (originally from England) admits he has no singing experience, but his friend Amy Jones convinced him to give this experiment a try.
“I have been wanting to join a low-risk, novice chorus for quite a few years but have always found it too daunting,” said Roe.
“I am benefiting from some good music teaching and meeting some new friends in the community. I have never performed in public before, so there will be some good experiences for me in that,” he added.
Bruce Rosenblum of Belmont participated in last year’s experiment, “The Mamas and the Papas and the Teachers, Too” Band. He said he enjoyed playing his oboe again after a thirty year break.
“It was also a really great way to increase sharing the Chenery music experience with my 12-year-old son who plays flute,” said Rosenblum.
“Suddenly he was reminding me to practice last year instead of the other way around! So continuing this year with the chorus was just a natural extension of it,” he said.
Instrumental Music Instructor John McLellan is ecstatic about the response this year’s experiment has received.
“This ensemble is an experiment designed to provide another venue to allow our adult constituents an outlet for their musicianship.
“Primarily designed as an opportunity for us, the post-graduates, it serves also as an example to the young students that music making doesn’t have to stop on Graduation Day,” said McLellan.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, 7:00 p.m. in the Chenery Middle School Auditorium, the unveiling of this special group will take place at the Chenery Chamber Concert. Many of these adults will be playing on the same stage as their children and grandchildren in the Woodwind Symphony (35 students) directed by Sharon Phipps, the Brass Symphony (28 students) directed by John McLellan and the Percussion Symphony (8 students) directed by Mark Kohler, Berklee School of Music. There is no admission fee for this intergenerational performance.
Parents of Music Students, Inc. (POMS) is the sponsoring organizing behind this program, a non-profit parent-community organization created to support, enhance and enrich the Belmont Public Schools K-12 Music Program. For more information, visit http://www.belmont.k12.ma.us/art/poms/index.html.

Ban on texting and cell phone use while driving

Massachusetts is getting very close to joining 19 other states in a national movement to ban junior operators (16 and 17 year olds) from texting and cell phone use while driving. All other operators of motor vehicles would also be banned from texting and required to use a hands-free or voice activated device when using a cell phone while driving.
According to the bill, drivers could only text “if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the roadway intended for travel.”
A first offense by a Junior operator would result in a 180 day suspension of their license or learner’s permit and a $100 fine; a second offense would result in a one y ear suspension and a $250 fine; and a third offence would be punishable by a one year suspension and a $500 fine.
State Representative Charles Murphy said it is difficult to say when a final bill will be reached. “It won’t be finalized until the Senate acts on it and it’s in the works. We understand the importance of it,” said Murphy.
Burlington resident and parent Barbara Hospod said she is in full favor of it becoming a law.
“These ‘phone calls’ need to be kept within the confines of safe and acceptable places to use cell phones. Driving while texting or talking is not one of them and should not be tolerated,” said Hospod.
Her daughter, Kyla, is a senior at Burlington High School who admits she texts and talks on her cell phone while driving.”
“I know it’s a bad habit and it’s something I wish I could stop,” she said.
Her friend, Alyssa McNeill, also a BHS senior, recalled her mother took her cell phone away from her for two weeks because another parent caught her texting while driving; but now that she has it back, she confessed she is still guilty.
If it became a law, both Hospod and McNeill said they would have a reason to stop.
”I have nothing to tell me I can’t do it,” said McNeill.
BHS Associate Principal Mark Sullivan believes out of the 300 or 400 students who drive, 70 to 90 percent of them text and/or talk while driving.
“I get as many text messages in a month as these kids get in an hour,” said Sullivan.
BHS Senior Peter Milinazzo said he manages to keep both hands on the wheel while texting. His eyes are down but on the road at the same time. “I have never been to a point where my eyes are off the road for more than three seconds,” said Milinazzo.
He agrees it should become a law. “Texting should be banned. It can be just as bad as drunk driving,” he said.
Grant Gough, another BHS senior does not agree with the ban on cell phone use because he talks more than he texts and he uses his speaker phone. He believes hands free devices such as the blue tooth cause brain tumors.
Burlington Police Traffic Safety Officer Bernie Schipellitti is also the owner of a local driving school and teaches about the dangers of cell phones in cars to students every day.
“Statistics are showing that the act of being on the phone is the problem, as the same part of the brain is being used to talk and drive. That’s why motorists using hands free devices still crash a lot, too,” said Schipelliti.
Jim Tigges, Burlington police officer, said he was actually hit (off duty) by a 16-year-old female driver who ran a stop sign and hit his minivan.
“It was alleged that she may have been either on the phone or texting while driving but that wasn’t confirmed,” said Tigges.
He was out of work for five months and needed him surgery.
“My back and hip will never be the same,” he said.

Choosing art for your home

Interior Designer Carol Friedman of Design Resource in Harvard refers to art in a home as “the frosting on the cake”. For the past 18 years she has been buying and framing artwork for her clients which she believes is a necessary component of a room, completing the big picture.
“Art is all part of the finished product,” said Friedman.
She works closely with owner Lawrence Powers of Powers Gallery in Acton to select art that not only coordinates with the color and style of the space where it hangs; but also something which feels right emotionally and visually.
“Don’t settle unless it’s really moving you,” she said. Powers couldn’t agree with her more.
His business started in 1964 and has grown over the years from a simple home-based frame shop into a gallery representing over 100 artists from all over New England.
“Artwork is a reflection of yourself,” said Powers who compares art to music.
“Everyone likes to listen to music. When you surround yourself with artwork, it is like having visual music,” he said.
Acting like psychologists, Powers and his staff guide and educate customers during the process of shopping for a frame, a print, or an original work of art.
Quality art and frames is what Powers is proud to provide. “Buy something lasting, that brings you joy and will get handed down. It won’t end up in a yard sale,” said Powers.
Framing equally important as the art
David Smith, owner of Winchester Art and Frame specializes in conservation framing as well as frame and art restoration and the sale of fine and decorative art. He is past president of the New England Professional Picture Framers Association (NEPPFA) and currently serves on the board at the national level. He is also an international judge and has participated and won several international competitions for the PPFA.
Customers seek his expertise in deciding what kind of frame or mat to choose for their artwork. He always asks where it will hang to get a feel for the room’s setting and decor.
“Most of the time, frames cost more than the art,” said Smith.
He uses ultra-violet glass and alpha-cellulose mats which are paperless. This helps maintain the quality and life of the artwork. “Inferior materials will create acid burn or cause fading,” said Smith.
Both Powers Gallery and Winchester Art and Frame provide full service to their customers, from helping them choose the artwork and/or frame to putting the nail in the wall and hanging it in their home.

Powers Gallery “Do and Don’t” Recommendations:


1. Don’t be afraid to mix abstract with representational artwork. The unexpected adds a powerful and refreshing note of interest to a room.
2. Don’t hang artwork that is too small for the space. Consider scale; small pieces can be grouped together to create a bold look that fits the space better and breaks it up so that it no longer seems too large.
3. Don’t neglect older artwork. Restoration and/or reframing can breathe new life into old artwork.
4. Don’t hesitate to take artwork home “on approval”. It is the only way to know if the artwork is right for your home.
5. Don’t let friends talk you out of something you really love. Art is so personal. It should speak to you, trigger an emotion, remind you of something you enjoy.
6. Don’t choose a frame which overwhelms the artwork; choose a frame which coordinates with the environment of the room, but doesn’t distract from the art being displayed.


1. Do hang your artwork at the appropriate height; 60” from floor to the center of the painting is a good standard used by many installers.
2. Do use archival framing materials and conservation glass when framing your artwork. Also, use custom framing to enhance your artwork and complement the style of your room.
3. Do mix media in a room. Consider mixing oil paintings with works on paper and sculpture in the same room. This adds interest and is the beginning of a collection!
4. Do let original artwork be the finishing touch of style to your room. Just as jewelry makes an outfit.

To learn more, visit www.powersgallery.com or www.winchesterartandframe.com.