Friday, November 27, 2015


I did some early Christmas shopping the other night. I browsed through nearly every department in Macy’s, Target, Sears, Barnes and Noble, JC Penney and Home Depot.

And I never set foot out of my house.

I have to admit that online shopping has made buying Christmas gifts a whole lot easier.  Years ago, I never would have believed the day would come when I’d be able to wear my pajamas, hair curlers and slippers while shopping.

I clearly remember how Christmas shopping used to be, long before there were home computers or fancy phones – long before there even were any malls around. Shopping when I was young meant having to bundle up and go downtown, where all of the stores were separate and outside, not linked together in cozy, heated malls.

On a cold winter’s day, when my mother and I would take the bus downtown, she’d make me wear a warm coat, hat, mittens, a scarf and even long underwear. Then we’d go into one of the stores, where the temperature was hotter than the surface of the sun, and after only about five minutes, I’d whine that I was going to faint. 

My favorite part of Christmas shopping when I was a kid was the hot-chocolate break we always took at Woolworth’s lunch counter.  Not only was the hot chocolate thick and rich, it was topped off with a big dollop of real whipped cream. And it was served in heavy ceramic mugs, nothing Styrofoam.

Woolworth’s was my favorite store when I was young. Just about all of my allowances were spent there. I used to enjoy buying costume jewelry and then having it engraved. It fascinated me to watch the clerk use the hand-operated engraving machine, where a metal stencil of each letter was used and had to be traced over and over again, which seemed to take forever. 

I also was magnetically drawn to the pet department upstairs. I think just about every kid I knew back then bought, at some point, one of the store’s live turtles that came in a little plastic bowl with a fake palm tree in the center.  I hate to say it, but once those turtles left the store, their days were numbered. None of us kids knew the first thing about taking care of a turtle. I remember one of my friends put so much turtle food into the bowl, it absorbed all of the water and turned into something that resembled wet sawdust.

Woolworth’s also sold baby alligators, which I thought would be a fun pet to own. But when I asked my mother if I could have one, she said (quote), “Over my cold, dead body!”  To this day, whenever I hear those urban legends about live, full-grown alligators roaming through the sewers of New York because they survived being flushed down the toilet by angry parents, I always wonder if they were purchased at Woolworth’s.

I also remember the Salvation Army bell ringers on the street corners downtown at Christmastime. But they didn’t just ring bells. They actually had musical instruments and played Christmas carols. My mom used to say that sometimes their lips would stick to their trombones or trumpets because it was so cold outside. So every time I passed by them after that, I’d stare at their lips, wondering if they had any skin left on them.

When I got older, Christmas shopping always seemed to involve driving to 10 different towns and spending so much money on gas, I no longer could afford to buy Christmas gifts. This was due to countless elusive searches for impossible-to-find items on people’s Christmas wish-lists.

Both my mother and my mother-in-law seemed to have a knack for sending me on the proverbial wild-goose chase.  I began to suspect they did it on purpose, solely to test both my patience and persistence…or maybe just to drive me crazy.

“Oh, I’d like a nice pink robe,” my mother-in-law answered matter-of-factly one year when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas.

A pink robe sounded simple enough to me – a quick and easy gift.

“But it has to be soft flannel, snap up the front, have three-quarter length sleeves, and be mid-calf length,” she then added. “Oh, and nothing belted, and I want it to have pockets to keep my tissues in.”

I can remember spending an entire day driving from store to store in search of that robe. I found ankle-length pink ones, knee-length pink ones, zip-up ones, button-up ones, long-sleeved ones and belted ones, none of which had pockets. And then, after 30 stores and 150 gallons of gas later, I finally found the perfect robe…but it was yellow.   By then, I was so desperate, I was ready to hire a seamstress to make the darned robe…or have her dye the yellow one pink.

Believe me, nowadays, finding that robe would be simple. I’d just grab my laptop and enter all of the specifics into “search,” and the computer would do all of the searching for me while I sat comfortably on the sofa and sipped hot tea.

Sure, Christmas shopping might be a whole lot simpler nowadays. But to be honest, I don’t think it’s nearly as much fun.

And I really do miss the hot chocolate at Woolworth’s.


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Friday, November 20, 2015


Ever since I moved into my house six years ago, weird things have been happening on a regular basis. In fact, I’m convinced the house was built on top of some ancient burial ground. The deceased obviously aren’t happy I’m here, so they’re deviously plotting ways in which to slowly drive me crazy so I’ll eventually run screaming from the house and never return

The latest strange occurrence began a few months ago. There are two ceiling lights in the laundry room. Suddenly, one of them didn’t light when I flipped on the switch. I groaned out loud, because if there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s changing bulbs in ceiling lights.

I grabbed a new bulb and a kitchen chair, and then climbed onto the chair. The difficult part was unscrewing the glass dome over the light and removing it without dropping it and sending shards of glass flying like miniature missiles and impaling one of the dogs.

I managed to change the bulb and screw the dome back on, then I got down off the chair and flipped on the light switch. The far light lit, but the one I’d just put the new bulb into didn’t.  At that point, I figured I’d be needing an electrician – and probably a second mortgage to pay for him.

The electrician, who charged $55 just to show up, arrived a week later. He walked into the laundry room and flipped on the light switch. Both lights brightly glowed.  I glared at the one that hadn’t lit, not even once, since I’d changed the bulb.

“Flip it again,” I said to the guy. “Believe me, that light right above your head hasn’t turned on in over a week.”

He flipped the switch several more times. Both lights continued to pop on, sinisterly mocking me. He checked a few things, probably just to pacify me, then said he couldn’t find anything wrong. He said that if, as I’d told him, only one light had gone out, it probably was a problem with the light itself rather than the electrical work, otherwise both lights wouldn’t have worked.

So I paid him his $105 and he left.

That night, to my relief, the problem light immediately popped on when I flipped the switch.

The other light, however, didn’t.

I actually burst out laughing because I couldn’t believe it. It was as if my ceiling lights were playing a game of musical chairs. But I wasn’t about to call the electrician again. I decided I could get along for a while with just one light.

And for a while I did. One day the far light would light. The next day the closer one would. And sometimes they both would pop on. But then only one would light again. I never knew what to expect. I found myself making mental bets every time I hit the switch.

Two weeks ago, the worst-case scenario happened. I flipped on the switch, saw a bright flash of light and then everything went dark. Neither light lit. The laundry room was thrust into complete darkness.

I was pretty certain at least one light eventually would pop back on, but total darkness remained.  I tried flipping the circuit breaker. It didn’t help. So I had to do my laundry by flashlight…and by touch.  And when I finally carried the clothes out to a room that actually had lights, I discovered I’d accidentally washed a couple pairs of white panties in the same load as my new green sweatshirt and turned them the color of pea soup.

That did it. The next morning I called an electrician – a different one, because I was too embarrassed to the call the first one again.

“I’m sorry,” the woman who answered said. “But our electrician is booked for the next two months.”

My first thought was, “You’re one of the biggest companies in the state, and you have only one electrician?” My second thought was, “I’d better get used to wearing a lot of pea-soup colored underwear.”

She asked me to describe the problem, probably because if it turned out to be an emergency, like bolts of lightning shooting out of the ceiling, she might have decided to send the electrician over in two weeks rather than two months.

“Sounds like a problem with the switch,” she said, in a tone that told me she wasn’t about to disrupt the electrician’s schedule for something so trivial.

“But there’s a switch for the kitchen lights on the other half of it,” I explained, “And that half works fine.”

She remained unfazed. In retrospect, maybe I should have fibbed and told her that something was smoking, shooting sparks or crackling. Instead, I just thanked her and said I’d try to find someone else. 

As it turned out, everyone else I called also was booked up until next year. I began to wonder if a solar flare or something had caused a massive power problem, making everyone desperate for an electrician at the same time.

A couple nights later, my friend Nancy and her husband Paul came over. I previously (like every week for the past four months) had been complaining to them about my lighting situation, so Paul asked me about it.

“The lights won’t come on at all now,” I muttered. “I have to hold a flashlight with my teeth when I do the laundry.”

He walked over to the laundry room, flipped on the switch, and both lights immediately came on. My mouth fell open.

“They look fine to me,” he said, shrugging. He flipped the switch a few more times and the lights behaved perfectly. “Are you sure you haven’t been hallucinating?”

“It’s a curse, I tell you!” I cried. “The spirits in the ancient burial ground under here are out to get me!”

He laughed and shook his head.

Twenty minutes after Paul and Nancy left, I went into the laundry room, which also is where keep the dogs’ food, and hit the switch. Only one light popped on. I flipped it again. Total darkness.

To heck with calling an electrician.  I’m going to call an exorcist.

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Friday, November 13, 2015


I discovered something disturbing the week before Halloween: I no longer like horror movies.

Back when I was a kid, I was a horror-movie fanatic. It didn’t matter to me that they’d often give me nightmares or I’d end up crawling into bed with my parents because I was certain Dracula was hiding in my bedroom closet and waiting to sink his fangs into my neck. No, I loved horror movies.

I still can remember my favorites from back in the 1950s and early ‘60s.  There was, “The Crawling Eye,” about a giant eyeball with tentacles that crawled around near a mountain resort and killed people. And then there was “From Hell it Came,” which featured a killer tree called The Tabanga, with a hideous scowling face on its trunk. After I saw that movie, I was glad I lived in the middle of the city and not out in the country near a bunch of trees.

My father, however, thought The Tabanga was the most hilarious thing he’d ever seen.

“That’s a guy wearing a rubber suit!” he’d laughed. “Look at his limbs bouncing when he walks! And I could swear I saw a zipper going up the back of the tree!”

Another thing about the movie that my dad thought was hysterical was the tree walked at a really slow pace, shuffling its feet as it inched along – probably because the guy’s rubber suit was too tight.  Yet the people in the movie were trampling each other in their effort to avoid being “limbed” to death.

“A 90-year-old guy using a walker could outrun that tree!” my dad said between guffaws.

He sure knew how to ruin a good horror movie.

And I clearly remember going to the Rex Theater in Manchester to see, “Mr. Sardonicus,” about a grave robber whose face froze into the exact replica of the corpse he was robbing. His facial rigor-mortis prevented him from chewing, so he had to liquefy all of his meals and slurp them. This made him really irritable, so he ended up doing mean things like stringing up women and attaching leeches to their bodies.

But I think my favorite horror movie from my childhood years had to be Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Never in my life would I have believed a flock of birds could be so terrifying. Even to this day, whenever I see a bunch of birds flying overhead, I wonder if they are going to swoop down and peck out my eyeballs.

After I got married, I still enjoyed horror movies, even though my husband and I spent most of our time laughing at them and their bad special effects. One of our favorite hangouts was the Bedford Grove Drive-in, which showed really corny horror movies that were advertised as being so nauseating, the staff actually handed out barf bags with the admission tickets.

I remember one particularly bad “barf bag” movie we saw (its name currently escapes me, which probably is a good thing) about a restaurant that was using human body parts in its meals. Conveniently, all of the people the chef murdered had last names like Lamb and Partridge, so when the menu advertised, “leg of Lamb” or “roasted breast of Partridge,” it actually was the truth.

But there was one horror movie my husband and I didn’t laugh at. In fact, it actually gave both of us nightmares for the first time in our adult lives. That movie was “The Exorcist.”  We went to see it at a special late-night showing at the Bedford Mall, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the place. During a particularly gory scene in the movie, one of the theater-goers stood up, began to walk up the aisle, and then passed out, flat on his face. I was pretty sure if I’d have stood up at that moment, I probably would have joined him face-down on the floor.

And I’ll never forget when we took Richard, the kid next door, with us to see “Jaws.” I don’t think I’ve ever jumped so many times during a movie. Richard ended up being so scared, he refused to go swimming in his backyard pool after that, even though everyone assured him that a great white shark couldn’t possibly fit into it – or survive in anything but ocean water.

I think the movie that finally made me realize I didn’t enjoy horror movies any more was, “Jeepers Creepers 2,” which came out in 2003. In the beginning of the movie, a boy is in this cornfield where there’s a really creepy-looking scarecrow. As the boy passes by the scarecrow, its eyes follow him. In a flash, the scarecrow leaps off its post and attacks the boy.

No kidding, on that day, I fully understood the meaning of “scare” in the word scarecrow. It affected me so dramatically, I haven’t been able to eat corn, not even a can of Niblets, ever since.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with the horror movies of today is they are just too graphic and realistic. They leave nothing to the imagination, like back when I was a kid. No, everything is right there in living color, leaping out of the screen at you – from blood and guts to projectile vomiting. Gone are the days of dismembered hands made of rubber with ketchup on them. All of this new technology is just too much for my aging brain to handle.

So from now on, I think I’ll be better off if I stick with safe, family-oriented movies like “The Sound of Music.”

Although, that fabric Maria used when she made new outifts for all of the kids was pretty scary.




I’ve had a number of inquiries about my books and whether or not I will be offering autographed copies again this year, particularly for Christmas gift-giving.  The answer is yes!  You can order copies of my humor book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” or my suspense novel, “Heed the Predictor” and its sequel, “Conceal the Predictor,” directly from me for $10 each, which includes shipping. Also, I will personally autograph each book to anyone you’d like – just make certain to print the name or names clearly when ordering. Autographed copies of my books also will be available at Bobby Dee’s Records and Audio Repair at 132 Main St. in Pembroke Village. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Manchester Animal Shelter. Send orders to: Sally Breslin, PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585, or you can send payment through Paypal to my account:

NOTE: For those of you with electronic reading devices, my book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” currently can be downloaded free of charge at, or



Friday, November 6, 2015


Everyone has been saying that this year’s autumn foliage was the most brilliant and ooh-inspiring in years.  I was pleased it was, because I had friends coming from Nebraska to visit, and they were eager to see some breathtaking colors.

“Nebraska is basically all cornfields,” they said. “So seeing trees, any trees at all, will be exciting.”

They arrived with two other couples, rented a van and decided to take day trips. I recommended they visit North Conway, mainly because of the spectacular views of Mount Washington there.

Just about every October, my husband and I used to take a drive through North Conway, where I would snap photos of Mount Washington. Then the moment we got home, I’d rush down to the local pharmacy to get the film developed with their one-hour processing.

“Aren’t these shots of Mount Washington just gorgeous?” I’d fairly gush, showing them to my husband.
Mount Washington, NH

He didn’t even attempt to feign enthusiasm.  “They look exactly like the other 547 photos you have of Mount Washington,” he said. 

I vigorously shook my head. “No, some have a little more snow on the peak than others. And a couple have no snow at all.”

“I really think you need a change of scenery,” he muttered.

In retrospect, he probably ended up regretting his words because he made me start thinking he might be right and I really did need to branch out with my leaf peeping. So the next autumn, I asked him to take me to the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts instead of up to North Conway.

His reaction was less than enthusiastic. “But it’s so far,” he protested. “And once we get there, it’s another 60 miles of steep, winding road.  Let’s just stick with North Conway.”

I frowned. “You’re the one who said I needed a change.  I’ve taken so many photos at the same scenic stops every year in North Conway, I swear the mountains actually strike a pose and smile when they see me coming.”

So bright and early on a Tuesday morning in October, we headed to the Mohawk Trail. We even stopped at a rest area to pick up some brochures so I wouldn’t miss anything.  Armed with two cameras and enough film to qualify me as a Kodak shareholder, I was ready for an entirely new fall foliage adventure…ready to expand my horizons, so to speak.

The minute we actually set tires on the Mohawk Trail, however, my husband complained that he had a headache and felt lousy.  “But don’t worry, I’ll still chauffeur you around,” he said. 

Unfortunately, he seemed eager to cover the trail in record time. As we zoomed past one spectacular view after another, I commented, “Gee, that would have made a nice photo.”

His response was, “Well, there’s no place to turn around now. Next time, give me some notice in advance and I’ll stop.”

I wanted to tell him I had no way of knowing how nice a view was going to be when I was still a mile away from it, but I kept silent.  I saw in one of the brochures, however, that the Longview Tower up ahead had a view of three states, so I notified him well in advance that I wanted to stop there.

He pulled the car into the tower’s parking lot. “Want to climb the tower with me?” I asked him, even though I already knew the answer.

He shook his head. “You just go ahead and have a good time. I’ll watch you from down here.”

So all alone, I climbed the four-story tower, which kind of looked like a giant lifeguard’s stand.  By the time I reached the top, I was so out of breath, I was afraid I’d need a respirator.  I grabbed my camera from around my neck and walked over to the railing. That’s when I made a big mistake…I looked down.  Somehow I had forgotten just how afraid of heights I was. My husband’s arm looked about the size of a piece of elbow macaroni as he waved at me from the car below. To make matters even worse, the tower was on the edge of cliff, which added even more height.  I suddenly felt dizzy. 

Clinging to the railing, I froze where I stood.  There was no way, I thought, I was ever going to climb back down those four flights of stairs, because that would mean I would have to look down.  And believe me, I didn’t want to look down…not ever.

It was pretty chilly and windy at the top of that tower.  My nose got so cold it started to run, but still I didn’t move. I finally convinced myself to at least look out at the view, to see if I actually could see three states, as the brochure had promised.  Well, I was so high up, when I looked east, I swear I could see Queen Elizabeth waving at me from her balcony at Buckingham Palace. I aimed my camera in a few general directions and quickly snapped some shots.

It took a while (and the beginning of frostbite) before I finally plucked up the courage to head back down the stairs. That’s when I noticed that most of the boards on the stairs had gaps between them.  A couple of the stairs even sagged and creaked a little.  I clung to the railing and inched my way down.

When I finally set foot in the parking lot about 4,567 steps later, I nearly kissed the asphalt.

I did manage to take a lot of photos that day:  the 28-foot Indian figure at the Big Indian Shop, the sign that said “Welcome to Florida” (Mass.), the Bridge of Flowers, the “Hail to Sunrise” monument, and miles of foliage. During the entire 5 hours, my husband, still complaining of a headache, never once set foot out of the car.  I think that by then, his headache probably was caused by the pressure of his bladder backing up into his brain.

The following year, when it once again came time for our annual leaf-peeping excursion, my husband was quick to suggest North Conway.

“A person can never have enough photos of Mount Washington,” he said.

I had to agree with him.

As it turned out, my friends from Nebraska never did make it up to North Conway during their visit last month.

No problem. I have about 2,000 photos I can show them.

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