The Oldest Thing in My House #2 – Books

Probably the oldest stuff in the house are my books. Steve has some old crap in the basement, like a 100-year old tiger skin from China, but we’ll get to that later. Let me show you some of my oldest books.

About twenty five years ago, I was visiting a friend who lived in a small town outside of Boston. One day, we roamed through an antique shop, and I rummaged through a basket of old books under a table. I picked up this old copy of Little Women, which is one of my favorite books, and bought it for 25 cents. I promptly put it away in a box and forgot about it.

I found it last year and put it on my Etsy shop. After doing a little research, I found out that it was a I believe it was a second edition from 1870. I sold it in couple of months for $700.

I’ve got a Robert’s Rule of Order from 1876.

I’ve got “The Red Cross” by Clara Barton from 1899, but I haven’t listed it yet.

I love this illustrated history of the Civil War from 1895. I honestly don’t want to part with this one. (Click on the link for all the beautiful and horrifically racist images inside.)

I lost today to parenting chores. Ian was home from school for the Jewish holidays, and he needed a lot of help with an engineering project. For the rest of the week, I’m continuing my break from real writing and will the time listing a huge allotment of vintage textbooks that I bought a couple of months ago for $3. Engineering textbooks from the 1930s are surprisingly collectable.

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The Oldest Thing in My House #1

Picking up a comment thread in the last post, I thought I would find the oldest things in my house. (I’m waiting around for edits on a draft and don’t feel like starting anything new until next week. It’s the Gig Worker’s prerogative.) We’ll do our own Antique Roadshow here at Apt. 11D for a couple of days.

A couple of weeks ago, I unpacked my grandmother’s old sewing machine from its box in the basement and decided to display it somewhere in the house. It’s kinda cool. Check out the beautiful scroll work.

I actually had no idea how old it was until a few minutes ago. It’s from the 1940s, which means it’s probably not the oldest thing in my house, but it’s still cool.

My grandmother used it, until she died about fifteen years ago. In fact, I used it ten years ago for some project or another. It still works great.

More to come.

Chill Out

On this lovely Saturday afternoon, I sent Steve off by his lonesome to watch Ian bang on his bass drum at the football game. I need to put in a couple of hours on a big article that I’ve been working on since the end of August. I’m about ten hours of work away from submitting the piece to the editor. Maybe twenty hours. Who the hell knows?

And then I’m going to chill out for a couple of weeks. I’m going to exercise every morning and sell some books on the Internet for the fun. (Somebody just bought $75 for an old set of encyclopedias that were heading for the dumpster. Who knew?)

I need the time to regroup and reassess plans. I’ve been freelancing education articles, on and off, for seven years now. A seven-year anniversary seems like a good time to look at my ROI. I’ve paid a lot of dues (writing for free). Is all that effort paying off?

I basically like what I do and would be content to keep doing it forever, but at some point, one should question that plan when one could make more money working part time shelving books at Barnes and Noble.

This current article was paying well enough, until I kept digging and realized that I had a bigger article than I anticipated. I’ve put in so many hours into it, that at this point, I’m working for free. I suppose it’s my own fault. I’ve gone way beyond the original plan for the article. But I just couldn’t stop myself.

Between stressing myself out over this article and doing too much at home, my insomnia flared up again. It’s really hard to function on three hours of sleep.

So, chilling out is happening. We’re not over scheduling our weekends with socializing. I’m not signing on to write anything except for essays or editorials for a little while. I’m reading long blog posts from Martha Stewart; I find her very soothing.

And inspired by Martha, we’re getting caught up with home chores. We have some driveway work happening this weekend. Steve’s laying down a PVC pipe underneath the driveway with tubes that will operate a future sprinkler system. We have a mason repairing the front stairs. And then the driveway guys will come back next week and pore out the asphalt.

Enjoy the weekend, folks!

The Unbearable Misery of Traveling in September

Around here, the schools close for two days in September for the Jewish holidays. Seems like a perfect opportunity for a quick vacation, right? The weather is still nice, but the crowds are gone. The autistic kid doesn’t have friends, so it makes him much more portable. We switched around some tutoring time, and we’re good to go.

A couple of years ago, we used this break for a quick trip up to Lake George. This year, Ian and I hitched a ride to Toronto with Steve, who had a business trip there.

But both September trips were kinda “meh,” because it’s really a bummer to be at a place that isn’t set up for tourists. Sites are closed; others are a little depressing. Meanwhile, both Steve and I are in work-mode, so we’re either feeling guilty about not working or answering work e-mails from the top of CN Tower.

And this trip involved some serious transportation hassles. Toronto is actually very close to us. The flight is only 1-1/2 hours on a tiny plane that flies into a little island in the downtown area. Should be piece of cake. But still, it felt we were traveling for the entire day.

Slightly sleep deprived – I’m a terrible hotel sleeper — we cut corners when we could. We lugged our suitcases to the airport in a cab, rather than waiting 30 minutes for the free shuttle, for example. But still it was a whole day affair. Customs, suitcase weigh-ins (failed/had to check a bag), security, cab rides home, cushion time, taxi home in rush hour. The whole process probably took six or seven hours.

The autistic kid got a gold star and kept his frustrations to himself. Mostly.

On the way back home, the driver of the car service yelled at Steve for nearly the entire 40 minute trip home, because Steve texted him too early. Steve hadn’t considered that it was going to take over an hour to process our passports, pick up luggage, and then go another mysterious 30 minute line. The dude had to circle the airport for an entire hour, because there’s no place to wait with a cab.

Getting from Point A to Point B was so miserable yesterday that I can’t imagine flying again for quite a while. How do people, who travel frequently for work, survive this process without despairing?

OPINION: Out of necessity, I taught my son to choose a college for its value, not its prestige or vibe — My latest in The Hechinger Report

Without photoshopping his face onto the body of a water polo athlete, like some of the parents caught up in the recent U.S. college cheating scandal, I could have prepped my older son, Jonah, for college like a prize pumpkin at the county fair.

Starting when he was in middle school, I could have taken a stronger role in overseeing his schoolwork by editing his papers, re-teaching certain subjects and hiring tutors in others. I could have checked his online gradebooks daily. I could have supervised homework and nudged him to schmooze with teachers. In high school, we could have hired one-on-one tutors to prepare him for standardized tests. I could have pushed him to take on leadership positions in clubs he didn’t care about. I could have written his essay and filled out the Common Application for him.

Lots of parents do these tasks; most aren’t even considered cheating. It’s just how things are done these days among many upper- and middle-class families.

With our backgrounds in higher education, my husband and I have more relevant skills than many other families in our community. We likely could have micromanaged our kid into Harvard. But we didn’t. Between our son’s stubborn resistance to our help, and our own ethics and laziness, we did very little to turn our kid into a tidy package for colleges. Instead, I taught my son how to be a good education consumer.

More here.

Travel: Camping, Outdoorsy Stuff in Roscoe and Livingston Manor, NY (Catskills)

About halfway between the NYC metropolitan area and the upstate New York Colleges is the Roscoe Diner. Now, it’s nothing fancy. You’re safe going for the diner usuals, like the grilled cheese deluxe, pancakes, a burger, but eat at your own risk on the rest of the menu. Still, this joint has always been a ritual pitstop on the way to college with fresh linen and clean notebooks, and on the way back with a killer handover. The Roscoe diner knows its place in the world and is profusely decorated with college pennants from all over the country.

I did my share of hangover pancakes there in the 80s, as my folks drove me back from SUNY Binghamton. Over the years, we’ve camped in the area. So, I can say with confidence that I’ve been visiting Roscoe, NY for thirty years.

It has changed.

Prohibition Distillery, Roscoe, NY

That whole area is infested with Brooklyn and Upper West Side New York people now. In addition to the Roscoe diner, there have a restaurant where you can get brick oven pizza with a ramp pesto. There’s an artisanal gin company. Over priced farmers markets. Ironic furniture stores. The gays moved in and gentrified the place.

Now, I have mixed feelings about all this, because, truth be told, the ramp pizza was excellent. We got loaded at the distillery and bought some excellent gin. But it’s a little annoying to see people on vacation, who probably (let’s just admit it) look a lot like us. Sigh.

And the locals clearly have mixed feelings about the rich folks moving in. On the one hand, they like to sell them overpriced produce and sandwiches. On the other, the new people jacked up property values and have all the wrong bumper stickers.

The locals are Trump voters. Massive banners on the side of barns announce, “Farmers For Trump!” They like their guns up there, too, so they view the gun haters/tourists with major distrust.

Tense politics and questionable fellow vacationers aside, this area of the Catskills is gorgeous. There are a ton of opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing. It’s hard to take a bad photograph there. We had a marvelous time and will probably head back up there in a couple week for an Octoberfest.

Here are the links to things to do:

  • Camping at Russell Brook. Tents and Cabins. Privately owned. Has a game room for kids and hosts events like Bingo on the weekend for regulars in the trailers and the tent people. A general store where you can buy things that you forgot for double the price.
  • Al’s Sports store Fishing licenses, canoe and kayak rentals, organized trips. We canoed down the East Branch Delaware. 3 to 4 hour trip. Al’s wife followed Steve’s car down to Roscoe and then brought him back up to the sports store, so we canoed to our car. Left the canoes down there.
  • Prohibition Distillery in Roscoe. Super nice vodka and gin.
  • Roscoe Beer Company in Roscoe.
  • Kaatskeller, Livingston Manor. Outdoor beer garden and fancy pizza place. Can hang out for long time and use their wifi.
  • Main Street Farm. This place has been around for a while. Nice earthy, crunchy place. Sandwiches and soups.
  • Brandenburg Bakery, Inc. Seriously must go there. We had the donuts and two or three kinds of bread. Got some loaves on the way out of town for home.
  • The Red Rose Motel. I think it’s a boutique hotel right now. We didn’t see the rooms. We went to the tavern. Nice burgers and beer in hipster joint. Played chess and used the wifi for hours.

Travel: Camping In Tents

I love sleeping outside in a tent. Weird, right?

It’s probably because of all my years in the Girl Scouts. Steve was also a Scout. Unlike me, Steve earned all the badges to become an Eagle Scout. I was a slacker scout, who went on all the trips way into my high school years, but never earned a single badge. I couldn’t be bothered to read the manual. Still, that experience was formative enough to hook me on the outdoors.

I like the mobility of life in a tent; you can find a campsite anywhere. I’ve camped in a New Mexico desert and on an island in Maine. It’s super affordable. There’s nothing like sleeping in the fresh air and drinking wine around a roaring fire in the evening.

We took the boys camping last weekend. We haven’t gone as often as we have liked with them in the past, because Ian had trouble functioning in a world without Internet access, when he was younger. (He’s fine now, so we’re going more often.) Even with those obstacles, we were able to go once a year and accumulate all the right equipment piled on a shelving unit dedicated for camping in the basement.

The fall is actually a perfect time to camp, because the temperature in the Northeast is not too hot and muggy. The leaves are turning, so the views are magnificent. We’re going to go again in the next few weeks to take advantage of the local Octoberfests. And camping gear is all on sale.

In the next post, I’ll share all the links to places we went, in case local readers want the details. In this post, I’ll just give some tips about how to do it:

  • Get a good tent. If it rains, you do NOT want to sleeping in a puddle. Good brands are Kelty, Marmot, or Big Agnes. Make sure the system has a ground cloth and a tarp. Tents can be found at REI, Campmor, and Amazon.
  • With a family with teenagers, everybody should get their own tent. And always go a size up for comfort; a two person tent is really a one person tent.
  • Bring your own pillow. Camping pillows suck.
  • Good sleeping bags are a must
  • I love our air mattresses. I couldn’t sleep outside without one anymore.
  • We only cook breakfast at the camp site. We’ve got a propane stove for that. A coffee press is essential. Need a cooler and ice for eggs, milk, and the white wine.
  • On the way into the campsite, get some wood at the local supermarket. (Don’t forget the fire starter and fire gun like we did this year.) It’s also good to have the day’s newspaper in the car. You read it, then crumple up the op-ed pages for tinder.
  • You have to go for two nights minimum to make it worth the effort of setting up a site.
  • We’re medium level campers. We’re not eating freeze dried lasagnas or carrying all our gear on our back. Nor are we “glamping”. That middle level means that we go to campsites where you can park your car at the site. These sites are also near civilization where a person can find a decent burger and beer in the evening.
  • Most camping sites come with their own picnic table, so if your trunk is short on room, then you can skip folding chairs. But if have room, a comfy chair is nice.
  • With the four of us and all our stuff, we usually do need the car roof top cargo holder. We’ve got the canvas one, which means that we have to wrap everything in plastic garbage bags. When it dies, we’ll replace it with the hardtop version.
  • Lanterns are needed, of course.
  • Put your food in the car over night, so you don’t get a visit from bears who can smell your s’mores a mile away.
  • And here’s my favorite camping/hiking memoir: