Wegmans Give Me My Christmas Back

Come on Wegmans, really? wegmans-logo-e1426658740478You are my only go-to store for groceries, and I love you dearly, but must you break the charm of Christmas 5 days before the day itself?

Yesterday I went to gather supplies for last-minute baking to find that all the lovely displays of food and novelties for Christmas were gone, and in their place, a big fat nothing. Gone, blank spaces, departed from this world. Gone were the mini-evergreen trees, the wreaths, and the scented pinecones. In store were the displays of health and diet foods – enticements for a new year full of resolutions for weight loss and better eating habits. This is all well and good, but Wegmans, please don’t take my Christmas away from me before it has even arrived …

Sad Little Evergreens

I went out to do some last-minute holiday errands today when I came across four very sad and little evergreens, leaning pathetically against the outside of a well-known, and not always well-thought-of, big box store. A week ago, in this same spot, there was a whole crowd of trees, puffing up their branches when someone walked by, like a prostitute on the corner saying “take me, take me.” And so they got taken – all but these four little waifs, branches splayed downward in defeat, huddling together against the bitter wind and piercing lake effect snow.

I thought of them two, three, and more months ago, how they wafted resplendent in warm breezes, basked under shimmering sunlight, and offered their fledging pinecones to anyone who asked.

Look at them now … I felt an errant tear slither down my face, freezing in midstream, and despite many choruses chastising us for our artificial tree, perhaps if more people opted for the tree in the box we’d have more, healthy and beautiful trees gracing the lands where they are meant to be.discarded-christmas-tree-on-a-london-street-in-january-bh8y1d

The Rosie Chronicles, Week 2

I can’t believe we’ve had our bundle of joy for two weeks now and during this time, not only have I learned about our little wild thing, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself. Or img_0970should I say, Rosie is hauling these things from somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my being.

Typically, I spend crazy amounts of time in my office, on my computer, dealing with email, social media, and all that goes along with that, getting stressed to the max! Yet there I sit, accomplishing nothing, going down one link trail after another, getting obsessed about really stupid stuff like the Pitt-Jolie breakup. When you have a little one in the house, you cannot ignore her for hours at a time; in fact, you need to take her out every hour or so to teach her the ins and outs (hopefully all outs) of housebreaking.  Since Rosie, I am prioritizing (what a concept) and only doing what I really NEED to be doing, like writing this post.

This brings me to another discovery. Puppies do not “go” on command. In fact, in the beginning they don’t have a blessed clue why they are outside and what they are supposed to do there.  Armed with a pocketful of treats, at first I anxiously followed Rosie around so I could give her an instantaneous reward when she peed or pooped and get back to my key-banging. This didn’t go as planned. Instead, I became a big distraction leaving potty time the farthest thing from her mind.  I mentally threw my hands and began to enjoy just being out there with her while she sniffed around incessantly, went mad-crazy over bugs, ran around in gleeful circles, and plopped herself down in the sun with a stick to gnaw on. And all the while I watched, I had on a great, big happy face!  Rosie was making me be in the moment!

Finally, also thanks to Rosie, I am entering another phase of life: second (maybe third?) childhood. I have always been an active sort, but truthfully, as the years have gone by, I’m not as intensely active as I once was. That has now changed. I am walking dogs, bending to pick up poops (mostly outside – yay!) and food bowls, standing, picking up toys, throwing balls, and more until I drop into bed at night more exhausted and fulfilled than I have been in years.

All of this thanks to a mad-crazy, funny, delightful Boston Terrier puppy named Rosie.

News Flash: Big sis, nine-year-old BT Sasha is actually playing with her nemesis!!

The Rosie Chronicles, Volume 1

img_0923Much to the negation of ‘we’ll never have another puppy again,” we drove 2 hours to just “see” the last of the litter of 5 Boston Terrier puppies – a little female with a not-so-smooshed-in” face and a wiggling butt and tail that sealed the deal at first glance. Home we drove with this squiggling little mass of black and white in my lap who finally fell asleep when we were just 20 miles from home – a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Next – the introductions! Our 2 resident BT’s looked at the lump in my arms with this “What is THAT and why is it in MY house?” Our oldest is indeed a senior citizen at 11, but he is mellow and always fine with other dogs. My 9-year-old female? Ha – now that’s a different story. Her track record with other pups is less than stellar and she usually goes for the weak one, a fact of which I am not proud. But dogs will be dogs, and so???

Day 1

It was late afternoon by the time we got home and the priority was to establish separate territories for the troops, namely keeping Sasha – the 9-year-old – behind the gates that wall off the kitchen. We left my old man in with Rosie and voila – let the party begin! Normally a dignified gent, Brinkley has risen to the challenge of our utterly relentless baby girl and become a puppy again in his own right. It is heartwarming. In the meantime, Sasha just sits, stares and throws me pathetic looks at which my heart breaks. Sasha – hang in there, we’ll work this all out.

Night 1

Our first night was … interesting. Brave hearts or foolish souls, we invited little Rosie into our bed. All was well until the bell tolled at 4 a.m. and little teeth found their way to nice, soft, warm fingers and toes. Ouch! I promptly went to my computer and ordered 3 books on puppy training. After our 4 a.m. unwelcomed wakeup call, we walked around like zombies all the next day, albeit with smiles on our respective faces.

Days 2 – 6

Laid back? Ha!! That’s the term the breeder used to describe our little wild cat who is constantly looking for the next thing with which she can get in trouble, who has learned how to jump the kitchen room divider when our two seniors have remained properly ensconced behind it for years, who marches around the back yard carrying a branch with leaves as if she is ushering in a parade, who was found happily munching on a cicada shell, and well – get the picture? And would you believe, at this moment, as I write, she is curled up in my lap, fast asleep, making me out to be a great big liar!!

To be continued ….

P.S. – Sasha actually played with Rosie for 2 minutes one day. Things are improving.

Italy’s Wandering Homeless

The first stop during our trip to Italy was the small town of Montorio al Vomano, located in the province of Teramo in the region of Abruzzo. With a population of approximately 8300, the town is surrounded by a river, mountains, but mostly built on hills and flatter land. I was struck by its beauty and medieval architecture and stunned by the fact that it houses the ruins of an ancient temple that was dedicated to Hercules. We have no such history in the United States.

Family brought us to this first stop of our Italian trip and on the first morning, Dominic and I sat on the piazza with our expressos watching the old Italian ladies dressed in headscarves and long dresses drag their shopping carts over the cobblestones while the young women pranced smartly dressed in the latest fashions.

As I watched the scene unfold, I felt a gentle pat on my thigh. I looked down and there was a small cat begging for a handout. I had nothing to give him, so instead, I stroked his natty-looking fur, and off he went looking for more lucrative donations.

Stray DogsMy focus changed then, and as I looked around the piazza, I saw more cats, lolling in the sun or looking for dropped crumbs and generous souls. Then I noticed the dogs, the wanderers, clearly homeless, without collars, and all on a mission. None were interested in socializing, yet they all seemed harmless and fairly docile. I was surprised that they were of good weight, and then I saw why: outside the doors of many homes were little bowls of water, milk and food, mostly pasta.

While there are many kind-hearted people, there are also those who brutalize these poor creatures who mean no harm. Take this story of a stray meeting up with a dog on a leash with its owner. The stray just wanted to say hello to the other dog, but the owner kicked it in the face repeatedly. Fortunately, I did not see this or else I might have found my way into an Italian jail.

So why are these abandoned, homeless animals not in animal shelters? Italy has many animal shelters, most not run very well, which lends fodder to the argument that these animals may be better off on the streets?

Some shelter operators round up as many dogs as possible, cramming them into cages to collect cash from the local, state and federal governments that fund publicly run shelters

Heartbreaking.

So why am I making such a big deal about Montorio al Vomano, in the province of Teramo, in the region of Abruzzo? Don’t we have a similar plight for abandoned animals here in the United States?

Yes and no.

For the most part, stray dogs are not wandering the streets of our cities and towns. Rather, they are locked away in animal shelters (hopefully well run), desperately waiting to be adopted, or the tear-jerking alternative.  Should they be let out to wander the streets, hoping for handouts and the occasional pat on the mangy head?

Germany has an interesting alternative to the world-wide crisis of abandoned and unwanted animals. It has over 500 shelters, known for cleanliness and caring attention to pets, and all with a no-kill policy except for animals who become seriously ill. Dog owners are required to pay yearly taxes on their pets, the amount of which varies by town and number of dogs. The purpose of the tax is mainly to regulate the number of dogs in a household, thereby indirectly limiting the overall number of strays. There is no such tax on cats which lends to more stray felines than dogs.

This issue of animal abandonment and homelessness is not going away, ever. And it is worse in other parts of the world where the atrocities are truly despicable. And on this note, an apt quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.”

Pet Ownership as Economic Factor

Note to Animal Lovers Visiting Italy

Free-roaming Dogs and Cats in Central Italy

Stray Animals Remain a Problem in Italy

Flying Alitalia

ALITALIAItaly! If you have seen my posts from mid-June to early July, you know how totally mesmerized I was about my Italy experience, and it all started when I boarded the Alitalia plane in Toronto.

The Experience

Our three-hour drive to the airport was harrowing, especially when we couldn’t figure out the parking situation nor how to get to the terminals once we finally did find a somewhat reasonable long-term lot. Despite the remarkably cheaper fares out of the Toronto airport, I was not impressed.

Onward.

We were early – like four hours – for the flight, but I am a nerd who loves hanging around airports looking at people and making up their stories. This time the stories added up to a book.

In the meantime, we ate, drank and made merry.

A half hour before flight time: Enter 4 flight attendants dressed in striking uniforms reminiscent of the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy and the trend-setting styles of Italian fashion of that era. The jackets of the suits were hip length atop narrow, perfectly form-fitting skirts. The look was completed with pillbox hats perched on heads with perfectly coiffed buns, leather gloves (Italy is known for its leather), and lovely satchel purses – all the same. Now the real stunner of these outfits was the colors: the suits were either all green or all red, the colors of the Italian flag. If the suit was green, the gloves and stockings were red, and vice-versa. The mail attendants green suited uniforms were not as compelling.

Next – the pilots: I have been gushing about the head pilot ever since this flight. (Dominic is ready to send me back to Italy). I truly almost fell over when in walked this tall, dark, young-ish and unbelievably good-looking pilot. My goal became to somehow find my way into that cockpit – not. This pilot was my introduction to Italian men, excluding Dominic, of course.

Time to board: The atmosphere was immediately set with a specially recorded version of Volare, originally recorded and released in 1958 in Italy and subsequently sung by such American notables as Dean Martin and Connie Francis. I was hooked. I’ve been listening to this version of the song ever since I’ve been home.

The rest of the flight: good, good, good. A night flight is never fun, but the angst of this one was mitigated with surprisingly good food – dinner and breakfast were served, all the drinks (free alcohol!) we wanted, and attentive service. I almost didn’t want to get off, but Italy beckoned. (More to follow on this.)

The Facts

I am obsessed with this airline and thus I embarked upon a study of it.  This is what I discovered:

  • In 2014, Abu Dhabi based carrier, Etihad, ‘purchased’ the struggling Alitalia with a 49% investment
  • Both airlines assure Alitalia will be profitable by 2017
  • A key part of the new strategy was the new uniforms, launched exactly one month prior to our flight
  • Alitalia seeks to improve the overall customer experience while cementing its image as an Italian- carrier
  • Alitalia is expanding its reach to Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Mexico City, Santiago and San Francisco

Flying Alitalia was the most astounding flying experience I have ever had. Keep up the impressive work, Alitalia. I am already planning my trip for next year!

Alitalia’s New Look
You Should Fly Alitalia