Sunday, November 20, 2016


They say you’re never too old to start something new, and lately, that seems to be proving true for me in my senior years.

First of all, I recently began working as a copy editor, editing mystery shoppers’ reports. Mystery shoppers are people who are hired to eat at restaurants or go shopping at various stores and then fill out reports about customer service, product quality and the cleanliness of the facility. My job is to edit these reports so they make sense and sound professional. I also have to make certain the shoppers’ narratives match their scoring.

For example, on a report I recently edited, a shopper wrote: “Susie, our food server, was amazing. She was sociable and smiling, she recommended appetizers and specials, she kept our water glasses filled, and she checked back on us several times to make certain everything was OK.” 

Then, on the next question, “On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being poor, please rate the server.”

The shopper scored her only a 2. I changed it to a 5. I mean, other than giving them their food free of charge and standing there cutting their meat and feeding it to them, I don’t think poor Susie could have done much more to gain points.

On another form, the question was: “What was the best thing about your dining experience at this restaurant?”

The shopper answered: “The guy I went with.”

Some of the clients’ questions on the reports, however, make me chuckle. For example, one of the questions asks: “Did the employee offer you a departing greeting?”

A departing greeting? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Maybe a “departing or closing comment” might sound a little better?

And most of the restaurants want their servers to try to upsell to the patrons. For example, if the customer orders a burger, the server should suggest fries or onion rings to go with it. If the customer orders a piece of pie, the server should suggest topping it off with a scoop of ice cream.

But the question on the form asks: “Did the server suggestively try to sell you any additional food items?”

When I first read the question, without understanding the full meaning of it, a vision of a female server dressed “suggestively” in lingerie came to mind, as she sat on the customer’s lap and cooed, “How about a nice turkey dinner, big boy?”

And then there is the busboy question: “Were the bussers busy cleaning or serving guests?”
I pictured them with wet cloths, “cleaning” the guests.

One shopper was sent to report on five bars in one day, which involved buying a drink at each one and then sitting and observing the bartender. He ordered straight whiskey at each bar. By the time he filled out his fifth report, I barely could understand a word he’d written.

And then there are the shoppers who can’t seem to follow instructions. One client wanted the shopper to take a photo of her meal before she took a bite of it because he was interested in how appealing the food’s presentation looked. Well, the shopper submitted a lovely photo of the exterior of the restaurant, including the parking lot.  I haven’t figured out that one yet.

But I must say I’m truly enjoying the job because it’s always interesting. And I have to confess, I really am learning something new every day.

My other job began just two weeks ago, and it’s an entirely new venture for me.
There is this new online personality called Greta Grumble. Greta is in her mid-70s and is a cross between Mrs. Doubtfire and Maxine, that grouchy old lady on the Hallmark greeting cards. Greta has just started posting weekly videos called, “Greta Grumble Complains,” on

And I am the one who is writing the humorous material for her.

It’s not an easy job to come up with a new topic every week and then write out a script for Greta to follow, but so far, I’ve written two, and I haven’t been fired yet, so I think that’s a good sign. But this whole Greta thing is still in its infancy, so I have no idea if she will gain popularity or not. But being the big dreamer that I am, I’m hoping Greta will go viral and gain over a million viewers (I’m not wishing for too much here!) so then I’ll be guaranteed job security.    

 In the first video, I have Greta complaining about the world’s obsession with large breasts (you can check it out here:  and in the second one, Greta complains about how kissing has changed over the years: 

I write the stuff and then Greta ad-libs and adds her own comments, sound effects and gestures to bring everything to life. And then we pray that the finished product will make people laugh! All I can say is Greta is, well…a real character…um, unique.

Right now, however, I’m facing yet another rapidly approaching “Greta” deadline and I haven’t any clue what to write about. Talk about pressure. I’m praying I won’t crack, especially not this early in the job.

But who knows? If Greta becomes a hit, I just might end up getting a job writing for a big-time comedy show on TV and earning enough money to buy my own private island.

Hey, I may be older than dirt, but I still can dream big.

Meanwhile, I have to go edit a restaurant report now where the shopper has described the flavor of the food as tasting like sh*t.

As I said, it’s always interesting.

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Monday, November 14, 2016


It’s funny how now that I’m older, I don’t mind having warm weather in November. But back when I was a kid, I would have been panicking by now. Why? Because there HAD to be ice on the ponds for the Thanksgiving and Christmas school vacations.

When I was in junior high, the most popular winter hangout was Dorrs Pond on Manchester’s North End. On Friday nights, my friend Janet and I, our ice skates slung over our shoulders, would walk all the way from the West Side over to Dorrs Pond to go skating. The cool thing about skating there was it had a nice big hut with a fireplace and plenty of hot cocoa inside. And music was played over a loudspeaker so skaters could glide along to the songs.

But to be honest, the whole purpose of skating at Dorrs Pond wasn’t actually to skate. The real reason why junior-high kids gathered there on Friday nights and during school vacations was to meet members of the opposite sex. And back then, there was a strict protocol that had to be followed for the all-important “meeting.”

There was a certain section of the ice, a well-lit area of the pond in front of the hut, where the girls would skate in groups, while the boys circled them like vultures. Every few minutes, one of the boys would skate over to the girl of his choice, snatch her hat from her head and skate off with it…down to the dark, woodsy end of the pond. At this point, the girl was supposed to chase the boy so she could get her hat back. Thus, a meeting would ensue. And if the guy was really brave, he might even try to steal a kiss in the dark by using the old, “I’ll trade you your hat for a kiss,” blackmail trick.

Well, Janet and I usually skated until we were so chilled, we nearly lost all feeling in our legs, yet we never got our hats snatched. We even tried wearing hats that begged to be stolen, like fake rabbit-fur Cossack hats and multi-colored striped stocking caps with huge pompoms on them.

I think part of our problem was that it wasn’t easy to look attractive to members of the opposite sex when we were dressed in bulky ski-pants, three sweaters, long underwear, two pairs of socks, huge mittens and jackets so big and thick, a woman who was about to give birth to triplets could have worn one and no one would have suspected she was pregnant.

The guys, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been caught dead in anything warm. They had to look “cool” at all times, even if it meant turning blue, so most of them wore jeans or chinos and lightweight barracuda jackets.

Then, one Friday night…it finally happened. Janet and I, frozen, tired and red-cheeked, with our noses running, vowed to skate only one more time around the lighted part of the pond, and then head home. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we felt our hats being yanked off our heads. After we got over the initial shock, we raced after the two thieves.

They introduced themselves as Bob and Norm, two guys from the Pinardville area. Bob was short with a really bad complexion. Norm was tall, painfully thin, blonde and so pale, he looked as if he had never seen sunlight. Janet and I didn’t care. We figured that any guys who had the good taste to steal our hats couldn’t be all that bad.

We skated with Bob and Norm for a while, then agreed to meet them at Dorrs the next Friday night for an evening of couples’ skating. All the way home that night, Janet and I gleefully sang two popular songs of that era that perfectly fit our situation: “I Want to be Bobby’s Girl” and “Norman, Ooh-ooh, Ooh-ooh” (I may have left out one or two “oohs” there).

Anyway, the novelty of Bob and Norm wore off pretty quickly. They turned out to be really immature…and pesty. Janet didn’t have a phone, so she gave Bob my phone number. Whenever he wanted to talk to her, which was about 25 times a day during school vacation, he would call me and I would have to run across the street to get her. And when Janet wasn’t available, he would bend my ear for an hour. Norm, on the other hand, was shy. He called often, but said only two or three sentences per call.

And the first time we actually saw them in the daylight, Janet and I realized they had looked a lot better at the dark end of Dorrs Pond. Norm was even more ghostly looking in the light, and Bob’s teeth were in pretty bad need of a dentist. And naturally, Janet and I, being normal, superficial pre-teens, wanted our boyfriends to look like Ricky Nelson and Troy Donahue.

So we stopped going to Dorrs Pond for a while, and whenever Bob or Norm called, I made my mom say I wasn’t there. Eventually, the boys took the hint.

Years later, I was working as a newspaper correspondent and was covering a story about a new construction project. As I was standing there interviewing the project manager, one of the workers, clad in a tank top, snug jeans and work boots walked over to us. He was tall and blonde, very muscular, had a gorgeous tan, and flashed a gleaming white smile at me. No kidding, the guy could have posed for the centerfold in “Construction Hunks Monthly.”

“Hi, Sally!” the hunk greeted me.

I just stared blankly at him, my mouth hanging open.

“It’s me, Norm!” he said. “You remember me and Bob…Dorrs Pond?”

Now that I think about it, maybe I should go grind the rust off my ice skates and take up skating again.

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Every year at this time, I offer signed copies my books, There’s a Tick in my Underwear!, Heed the Predictor  or Conceal the Predictor, that you can order directly from me for $10 each (the price includes shipping), with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Manchester Animal Shelter – the shelter where I adopted my dog, Eden. To order, send $10 to me at PO Box 585, Suncook, NH 03275-0585.  I’ll even personally autograph it to anyone you’d like, if you specify his or her name (please print clearly). You also can pay me through my Paypal account ( if you want to use a credit or debit card. Thank you in advance! The animals and I really appreciate it!


Monday, November 7, 2016


I still can remember how excited I was, back when I was a newlywed, about planning, cooking and hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner.
Now, over 45 years later, I’d be perfectly happy just to buy some sliced turkey from the local deli, slap it between a couple slices of bread and eat it in front of the TV…while spending Thanksgiving Day in my pajamas.
I’ll never forget the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever cooked. It was a big deal for me because I’d never prepared a feast before, and I was going to be cooking for seven people. To me, that was the equivalent of having to feed an entire football team.
The month before Thanksgiving, I bought just about every woman’s magazine on the market and carefully studied all of the recipes in them. I didn’t want to make just basic, traditional holiday fare. No, I wanted my meal to be fancy and unique. I decided to make orange-cranberry relish instead of just plain cranberry sauce, and pumpkin-chiffon pie instead of the usual run-of-the-mill pumpkin pie. I also liked the idea of adding roasted chestnuts and wild rice to my turkey’s dressing.
By the time I bought everything I needed to make the meal, it ended up costing me so much, I probably could have hired Wolfgang Puck to personally prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner for me.
As it turned out, despite all of my careful planning and research, I encountered two major problems on Thanksgiving Day. The first was my roasted turkey, the main attraction. It looked beautiful – picture-perfect and a nice golden brown in color.
 And it was so tough, it actually bent the knife when my father tried to carve it. 
“This turkey must have died of old age,” my husband muttered, frowning, after he’d spent 10 minutes unsuccessfully trying to chew the first bite.
My aunt, also struggling with chewing, made a comment in Russian, her native language. I had no idea what the translation was, but judging from her expression and the fact she nearly needed the Heimlich maneuver after she finally managed to swallow a piece of the turkey, I was pretty sure she wasn’t saying, “Mmmm!  This is so moist and delicious!”
And in the time it took my father to saw off a drumstick for himself, a lumberjack could have taken down a couple giant redwoods.
The fact I’d left the bag of innards still tucked inside the turkey when I cooked it didn’t help gain any gourmet points, either.
The second problem was the mashed potatoes. I still have no clue what type of potatoes I bought, but I’m pretty sure they’d been cross-bred with rocks. After an hour of boiling them, they still were hard and crunchy. Desperate, because my guests already were arriving, I shoved the potatoes into the microwave, then took them out and mashed them.
The rich, creamy potatoes smothered in gravy I’d envisioned for the meal ended up sporting lumps the size of jawbreakers. So I added more cream and butter to them and poured everything into the blender.
The end result had the appearance and consistency of white glue.
“Please pass the gravy,” my husband said after taking a big mouthful of the potatoes. His request, however, came out sounding more like, “Puz pash ba gubby,” because his teeth were stuck together.
That meal forever came to be known as, “the year of the turkey-jerky.”
Thankfully, through a lot of trial and error over the years, my subsequent Thanksgiving dinners became increasingly better – and some even garnered rave reviews.
But experience also taught me there was something I could do a week before Thanksgiving to ensure that the meal would be absolutely perfect, from appetizers through dessert, with no stress whatsoever...
Make reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at a really nice restaurant.

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