Sunday, August 29, 2010

Steppin' out in Schenectady County

Last week, the HH* and I dined and enjoyed some local music at two different Schenectady County venues. On Wednesday, we went to Freedom Park in Scotia to hear the Rymanowski Brothers polka band. There were enough eager adult polka dancers that the little kids who wished to dance in front of the bandstand, a usual sight at outdoor summer concerts, had some competition for floor space.

Freedom Park is on the banks of the Mohawk River and some folks were out water skiing behind the band shell.
We had dinner at the adjacent (and locally famous) Jumpin' Jack's. Mmmm... burgers and onion rings. Sure tasted like summer to me.

The next night we headed to the glam Stockade Inn in Schenectady's historic Stockade neighborhood. The food was very good. We chose to eat in the lounge instead of the dining room so that we could listen to Sonny and Perley
perform their jazzy/bossa nova music with vocals and keyboard. A very good sax player sat in, but I have forgotten his name. We had first heard Sonny and Perley at a Saratoga First Night venue and liked them very much.
In the Stockade Inn's lounge, we ran into Tim Coakley, which wasn't too surprising. Tim Coakley = Schenectady and jazz. If you live locally and are a night owl, catch Tim's jazz radio show on Saturday nights at 11:00 pm on WAMC.
* HH = Handsome Husband

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy 23rd Birthday, Tom!

Happy Birthday, Tom! This photo was taken exactly eight years ago, on your 15th birthday, August 18, 2002. We were on our first visit to Bend, Oregon, to see John.
I remember it as a wonderful day. John made you a cake. We had a lovely picnic and walked around the lake. Mt Bachelor is in the background.

Our family is far-flung now - Oregon, New York, Afghanistan - and photos like this won't be easy to come by again.
All the more reason to treasure it and the good memories of that day.

With much love and good wishes for a happy birthday, Mom and Dad

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Parcel pissed, Part II

Here I continue my rant regarding the US Post Office, poorly informed postal clerks, and cumbersome policies connected to the act of mailing a package to a deployed military person overseas.

First, it might help to know that when a package goes from Mrs. Bee Balm Gal in upstate New York to her Brave Girl in Afghanistan, no one touches this package except US Postal Service employees, contract carriers, and US military staff.

So WHY am I required to fill out a customs form? WHAT country's CUSTOMS does it pass through?

Last week, I showed up at the branch post office with a typical box of assorted goodies to send to my deployed soldier. I think it contained some boot socks, dried fruit snacks, perhaps some granola bars, some crackers, some canned fruit, stuff like that, all of which I had duly listed on the customs form.

The clerk peered at my customs form for some time before informing me that I had neglected to list the weight of each individual item in the package. He commanded me to fill in this information.

"I don't know what each item weighs, " I told him. "It's snacks and socks. Nothing that I haven't mailed like this before."

But, no, the clerk insisted that I write in the individual weights or he couldn't accept my package.

So I made them up. I just filled in random numbers. This clearly made the clerk nervous but I think he could tell he'd pushed me far enough for one day.

What the hell is this all about? Nine years into the Afghanistan war and we can't make it easy for moms back home to send their soldiers a package of cookies?

I think Postmaster General Jack E. Potter need to hear from a few thousand military moms. He needs to know that his policies and his clerks are unhelpful to families trying to send a bit of cheer to soldiers serving multiple deployments abroad. Here's his email: .

Or you could always send him a letter. Just don't forget to put a stamp on it:
Jack E. Potter
Postmaster General
U.S. Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-0010

Photo credit:

Parcel pissed, Part I

I'm an Army mom and I'm mad. Fed up. Parcel pissed, you might say.
For the past couple of years, I've sent a fair number of packages overseas to military addresses. Not only to my own Army daughter and son-in-law, both currently deployed in Afghanistan for the second time, but also to an "adopted" soldier through Blue Star Mothers.
And this summer, I became a volunteer for Operation Paperback, sending gently used books to deployed servicemen and women who have requested them.

I have encountered many frustrations in my nearly weekly quests to ship packages to APO addresses abroad.
Let's take today, for example. I showed up at my local Malta post office branch with my two parcels, all correctly packaged, forms filled out, and the clerk tells me that I can't send my box of paperbacks overseas via media mail (this is the least expensive way to send books.)
I tell her, politely, that I CAN do this, that I do it regularly. My voice is low and calm.

No, no, she says, I'm quite sure you can't.

I assure her again that this is quite permissible.

Well, she says. I'll check but I'm fairly sure you can't. Pause. Oh, I guess you can.

No apology for giving me incorrect information.

Variations of this scene play out nearly every week. And it happens at almost every post office branch I go into. Clerks routinely tell me, incorrectly, that I can't do something or that my customs form isn't filled out properly or that they can't accept the package as addressed.

Twice I've returned home, a sixty-year-old lady lugging heavy boxes back and forth unnecessarily, because the information given to me by postal clerks was wrong.

Well, these days, I don't budge. I've looked up regulations online enough times that I now KNOW I am doing things the right way.

In case you suspect that I am just a befuddled granny and that these problems are somehow my fault, here's what the Operation Paperback website advises its volunteers about going to the post office:

•You may be told that Media Mail cannot be sent to an APO / FPO. This is not true. Tell the clerk to look up the zip code restrictions. They are sometimes on the second screen of their console.

•You may be told that because you have included our standard shipping notice that the entire box cannot be sent Media Mail. This is not true. Tell the clerk that Postal Regulation DMM 173 – Media Mail, Section 4.3 states that the nature of our "written addition" qualifies under "Instructions and directions for the use of the item mailed."

•Take a copy of DMM 173 to the Post Office just in case! DMM 173 is available online ( This sounds extreme, but it has worked for our volunteers in the past!

The war in Afghanistan has been going on for nine years now. Shouldn't the US Post Office have all of this stuff down pat by now?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Gardening without work and making money without trying

Inspired by Apron Thrift Girl 's Thrift Share Monday and Southern Hospitality 's Thrifty Treasures Party, I wanted to share my bargain of the week.
Okay, I know this book doesn't look like much, but I was first introduced to this gardening classic by Margaret Roach in her blog, A Way to Garden, back in December. (How many blog links can I squeeze into one post?)
Anyhoo, the Round Lake Library had its week-long annual book sale last week. Now, this library book sale offers a preview night where, for a $20 admission, book dealers can go through the books before the general public and scoop up anything valuable.
So what were the chances, three days later, that I'd find anything interesting? I'd really only popped in to see if they had any books suitable for Operation Paperback, a cause I support, in which volunteers like me send good used paperbacks to military folks serving in war zones. And, indeed, I did find some good books for that purpose.
But just as I was making a last stroll around the sale, I quickly checked out the craft and gardening sections, and voila! There it was, Ruth Stout's classic book, for one dollar. This is a hard cover, 1971 edition.
So what's it worth? Let's see, shall we?
Amazon has this listing: 11 used from $58.20. And the prices go rapidly up from there, to a top price of $1,002.97 for a "used good ex-library" copy. Hmmm.
Alibris has two copies for sale, starting at $42.95. And so on.
I may not be able to retire on the sale of this book, but it was exciting for me to find it, especially after the experts had already combed through this sale. And inspired by the aforementioned Apron Thrift Girl, I just might try my hand at reselling this book, after I read it myself, of course.

If you have any interest in reselling books or other thrifted items, I highly recommend several excellent recent posts by Apron Thrift Girl, such as this one about reselling books.

Happy treasure hunting!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A perfect Adirondack day

The Handsome Husband and I spent a relaxing Saturday at Silver Bay near the northern end of Lake George. We were taking advantage of a free day away offered to Saratoga YMCA members yesterday.
Silver Bay's website says, "The mission of Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks is to offer all people opportunities to renew, refresh and nurture their spirit, mind and body."
As we kayaked and swam and strolled and

relaxed on the porch, I think we qualified for the "renewed and refreshed" categories.
Silver Bay has lots of activities for all ages and we certainly saw many families happily trying them all out.

Although most folks seemed to be there for week-long vacations or retreats or family reunions, Silver Bay does offer day passes. The $24 day use fee isn't really unreasonable when you factor in all that is included, such as the use of canoes and kayaks and lovely beaches and many classes, lectures, and entertainment opportunities.
I'm hoping we can find an autumn weekend to go back and enjoy this peaceful place again. The inn looks charming, and what a view...
If you don't mind afternoon tea on the porch in lieu of gin and tonic, this might be a place you should check out.