I bought my first media streaming device — the Roku HD Streaming Player, aka Roku 1 in January 2013. It was easy to set up and worked perfectly. Never hiccupped. Always connected to the WiFi and never faltered. I liked it so much, I bought another one for the bedroom a couple of months later. I wrote about it in “Roku – The Little Streaming WiFi Unit That Can” on December 18, 2013. By which time I’d had it for almost a year.

The only problem was the remote. It is line-of-sight. This technology works best in an uncluttered home with fewer dogs. So the remote worked, but it was like target shooting from a long distance with an inaccurate weapon.

FTVstickThis doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s the sort of thing that gets on your nerves over time. I replaced the living room remote with an upgraded version. A nominal improvement.

When Amazon came out with their bargain basement Amazon Fire Stick, I said “Oh, what the hell. Maybe the remote will work better,” and it did. Unfortunately, the stick didn’t. In fact, the stick hardly worked at all. As one reviewer succinctly put it, “You deserve better. Don’t do it.” He was right.

I had read the reviews, but I didn’t read all of them. I missed the ones that said the stick would lose the WiFi and sometimes, would never get it back.

From the beginning, it either couldn’t find our WiFi, or couldn’t hang on to the signal.  Even when it was connected, it was like watching a series of stills with sound. Like one of the strip films we watched in elementary school … a slide show with sound. I am told it’s an antenna problem, but whatever the reason, it stunk.

Roku 1

Last week, I gave up and bought the Roku 3 with the “point anywhere” remote. Which also, I’m told, responds to voice commands. We installed it today and it works. No stuttering, no faltering, no loading problems. Smooth as silk and you can point the remote at your own forehead and it will still work.

So, here’s the cost breakdown.

Roku 3 cost $49.00. Plus $4.20 for an HDMI cable. We got two years of service out of it, so it doesn’t owe us anything. And it still works, just not on this television.

The Amazon Fire Stick was a bust. It cost $39.00, was unsatisfactory for all 90 days of its service. The new, improved, wonderful Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model) cost $96.04 (and if I’d waited a few days, would have cost $20 less), but really when you include the cost of the Fire Stick, it’s more like $140.

It reminds me of how I always used to buy the cheaper, less comfortable shoes. Eventually, when I couldn’t walk in the shoes I had bought, I ended up buying the more expensive ones, too.

roku 3

In total, I spent more than $200 on a streaming devices. If I had bought the Roku 3 in the first place, I would have spent half that.

The motto of the story is worth remembering. You aren’t saving money by buying shoes that you can’t wear. If your feet hurt, the movie won’t load, the remote control drives you bonkers? You haven’t saved money if you will have to buy it again.

It’s not cheap if it doesn’t do the job.


If you are a women, discovering you don’t have suitable clothing for an upcoming event is a crisis. I don’t care how old you are. Since retirement, we go to so few events where anything dressier than yoga pants and a tunic is required that I don’t have “dressy” clothing.

Nonetheless, it happens. Someone invites us to an affair that requires dressing up. Not jeans. Not yoga pants. Not clogs. Not sweats. Real clothing. Without dog hair and lint.

Photo by Bob Mielke

Photo by Bob Mielke

Garry needed a tie and jacket. He has that. I needed a dress. Which I ought to have, but somehow, don’t. It’s one of the baffling things  in my life, how clothing I am absolutely sure I own isn’t there when I go looking for it. Pixies again?

So in answer to Garry’s question: “Do you have anything to wear to the wedding?”, I bought two dresses. One from Land’s End, another from J.Jill. Both arrived in time, but Land’s End won.

Shoes were a whole different problem. I eventually found the missing “box shoes” for which I searched, but they were higher than I remembered. Too wobbly. I wasn’t sure I’d make it down the stairs and into the car, much less to a wedding. I thought maybe I’d skip the falling down and breaking my hip part of our evening out.

Fortunately, in another box in a shady corner of my bedroom were a pair of new lower heeled dress shoes in go-anywhere black kid. Oh yeah.

Garry found his dress shirt and a brand new tie he’d bought, but never worn. Matching shoes and pants. The you-can’t-go-wrong-with-Harris-tweed jacket he bought in Dublin — on our honeymoon — and being Garry, it still fits just fine.

It was heart-warming and touching to be at the wedding of the woman who had been our flower girl when we were married — 25 years ago. Congratulations, Melissa and Christopher. May your marriage be long and rich with happiness.

And thank you, Bob Mielke for this great picture of us in our glad rags!


It’s Garry’s fault. He asked me a simple, reasonable, yes or no question.

“Do you have anything to wear to the wedding?”


Of course I have something to wear … don’t I? The next morning, I went through my closet. I couldn’t find anything to wear to a wedding. It seems everything I own is casual except stuff that’s old and dated. I’m not even sure it fits.

Garry HOF on stage

Surely there was something. Nope. I looked at the calendar again and realized there were only a few days to order a dress and have it delivered — even with super fast delivery. If we had some place local I could buy a “nice” dress, I’d go, but all we have is Kohl’s. They don’t have dresses because apparently, no one around here wears them, or they shop at Walmart.

Marilyn with shawl

Except for a couple of weeks before prom week, no store anywhere in the Valley stocks anything dressier than business casual. It’s a fact. You can buy jeans and tee-shirts. Cold weather gear. Even boots. But dressy? Uh uh.

So, off I surfed to Land’s End and bought  a dress. I hope it fits. Unwillingly, I coughed up the extra bucks for speedy shipping. Found another nice dress at J.Jill. Didn’t pay for speedy shipping. Presumably, at least one dress will arrive in time. If not, I’ll improvise.


It is entirely Garry’s fault. If he hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have thought about it. I would have assumed that there was something in the closet … and I’d have to improvise … which is still plan B.

Oh piffle. I suppose I have to think about shoes too …


If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.


For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.


If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.


Dateline: Uxbridge, Massachusetts 

It was an ordinary day. A sunny day. Autumn in southern New England. Cool. Crispy. The leaves had changed and shone bright yellow and orange. The best time of the year.

An ordinary day. Except, we ran out of half-and-half and tragedy struck the town.


In any other home, this might not have seemed important. It surely would not have required an emergency trip into town. But in this household of addicted coffee drinkers, we could not survive a day without half-and-half. To avert the crisis, it fell to Garry to go to Hannaford.

Hannaford’s is our grocery store, the one we patronize. Not big or fancy. Even by Uxbridge standards, it’s a modest store, but that’s one of many reasons we like it. Prices are pretty good and the produce is fresh. They offer locally grown stuff in season.


They are close to home, easy to get to, and have ample parking. You don’t need a special card to get the discounts — and they offer a 5% Senior Citizens discount every Tuesday.

I was in the middle of a book — I usually am — so I didn’t pay a lot of attention as Garry went out. Not a big deal. Get the half-and-half, pick up something for dinner. He came back a couple of hours later. It had taken rather longer than an errand of this type should take. Garry looked amused. Bemused.

“There is shock and confusion in downtown Uxbridge, today,” he announced.

“Shock and confusion?”

“Yes,” Garry said. “I thought it might be delayed PTSD from 9/11 or changing seasons. Everyone in Hannaford’s looked stunned.”

“Stunned? Because?” I questioned.

“The credit card readers were down. You couldn’t pay with your bank or credit card. Everyone had to pay cash or use a check. They looked shell-shocked. Thousand-yard stares. Stumbling, vacant-eyed around the store.”

“Holy mackerel,” I said. “I can only imagine.”

“You could see them mumbling to themselves. They kept saying ‘cash!’ I could tell they were confused and unsure what to do.”

“Wow,” I said. “How dreadful! What did you do?” I asked. Garry seemed to have survived with his sense of humor intact and brought home the half-and-half.

“Oh, I paid with cash. I had enough on me.”


He went off to the kitchen chuckling to himself. I hoped everyone would be okay back in town. A shock like that can haunt people for a long time. Cash. Imagine that. Everyone will be talking about this for weeks.

The day the machines went down at Hannaford’s. That’s huge.


Nothing is the way it used to be.

A couple of weeks ago, I needed some new nightwear. Nothing fancy. Not interested in lingerie. That’s for display, not sleeping. I’m talking about the ubiquitous sleep tee.

For years, I bought them from L.L. Bean. They were comfortable, loose, soft. Lightweight in summer, heavier, long-sleeved for winter. Then, L.L.Bean stopped making them. They decided we all want heavy flannel or pajama mix and match. In ugly colors.


I don’t want elastic while I sleep. I want soft, loose, breathable, comfortable. Priced so I can buy more than one. Colors other than flaccid pink and dainty floral on white.

When L.L. Bean stopped making what I want, I switched to Land’s End. I’ve been wearing their sleep tees for more than a decade. But with each passing year, the fabric has gotten less refined, rougher, and the cut skimpier. The neckline has gotten tighter to the point where it’s hard to get your head through it. The price keeps going up.

I gave up. While the price has risen, the quality has dropped to completely unacceptable. I found quality sleep tees on Amazon.


Did “new Coke” bring new customers to Coca Cola? Or did they give Pepsi a huge boost? Did Windows 8 improve business at Microsoft … or Apple?

Do corporations think we are stupid? Do they think we won’t notice when they sell us junk, reduce quality, raise prices?

I keep hearing that consumers are shopping online instead of at brick and mortar shops and it will drive them out of business. Has anyone in corporate America considered whether or not their products and stores serve the needs of the people they want as customers?

Did you know that Barnes & Noble booksellers — their brick and mortar stores — charge 30% more than Barnes & Noble online? For identical merchandise. If you want a discount card, that will cost you even more. Even with the “discount,” their stuff still costs more than it would online.


When asked why I should buy at the store, I was told the online and “real” stores aren’t run by the same organization and have different price structures. Which isn’t an answer.

Original Coke came back. Windows 8 will pass into history in a couple of weeks. DiGiorno’s is selling pizza with “original” sauce. Eventually, if we “vote” with our shopping carts, “they” get the message. How long will it take? Will it matter?

The thing is, you can never get back the faith of customers you screw. The relationship is broken. Trust is ruined.

Is there a price tag on trust? How much are we — your customers — worth?


I have acquired a lot of sweaters over the years. This is New England. Winters are long. Heat is expensive. Sweaters fill the gap.

This morning I noticed more than half my sweaters are purple. I’ve got a few in black, a couple in red, but purple dominates. The sweaters used to be all black. I’m from New York where women wear black. It’s a thing. A co-worker in Israel once told me I dressed like a nun. I could never wear the bright colors she wore. I’d feel like I was wearing a neon sign.

sweaters - purple orange

If you surmise from this that I love purple, you’d be wrong. Purple sweaters scream “final mark-down.” As a habitue of end-of-the-season sales, I know what to expect. Lots of purple, white, orange and some nasty shades of green in which no one looks healthy.

Leftovers also include “specialty colors” designers were sure would be the next big thing. They are inevitably named after fruits or veggies. They never sell well, so there are plenty of whatever it was in the clearance aisle.

All the normal, neutral colors are gone, but you’ll find cantaloupe , mango, kiwi, aubergine, honeydew, sugarplum, pumpkin, mocha and vanilla bean. We all knew they were tan, orange, coral and lavender. New names did not make old colors the next big anything.

I’m a big fan of neutrals. In addition to being essentially conservative where color is concerned, I spent many decades working and commuting. If I wanted to have a life outside of work, dressing had to be fast, mindless.


Neutral colors are the backbone of a working woman’s wardrobe. If almost all of your clothing is black, grey, off-white, taupe, brown, or khaki, putting together an outfit is a piece of cake. Grab a top, grab a bottom, attach earrings to lobes and voilà. It’s a go-anywhere wardrobe for the fashion-challenged. In other words, me.

After I stopped working, I didn’t have money to spend on clothing. The percentage of purple and orange in my wardrobe rose accordingly. Which explains the orange dress in my closet. I’ve had it for almost two years, but the tags are still attached. It was a 2012 leftover bought the spring of 2013. It’s still waiting to be worn as the spring of 2015 is well underway. It’s got short sleeves and is basically a long tee-shirt, so I’ll give it whirl as a nightie.


Lack of money has honed my bargain hunting skills, but I have always been a bargain shopper.

I shop final sales and closeouts, even when I am not strapped for funds. It’s a family tradition. My mother raised me to hold fast to one unyielding principle: Never pay full price. 

I take pride in scoring a great buy. You aren’t supposed to brag about how much you pay. You’re supposed to brag about how much you didn’t pay. The less you pay, the greater your bragging rights. I was astonished to discover that some people are proud of paying a lot for something they could have gotten for half off if they’d waited a couple of days. They might have had to take it in purple or orange, but think of all the money they’d save!

Would I have different attitude towards shopping if I were rich?

To put it in perspective, back in the early 1990s, I got into a tug of war with Carly Simon for possession of a 70% off clearance sale silk blouse in a very chi-chi shop in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. The blouse was orange.

I won. Fantastic blouse.

Bargain hunting is not just for people on a tight budget. For some of us, it’s a contact sport.

Somewhere, in Heaven, Mom is smiling proudly.