Monday, March 30, 2015

A Little Survey

Sometimes I can’t think of anything to say. This morning I’m sitting here in front of the computer wondering what I should make my blog post about today. Then it occurred to me that I could put the question to you, my readers. Many of my blogging friends have dedicated sites. When you read their blog it’s always about one thing like writing or maybe gardening or llama raising.

But I prefer to go down the eclectic road and feel unable to dedicate this space to any one thing. I’ve written about my family, pets, happenings around town, faith, food, and a few of the crazy mishaps I’ve experienced through the years. I've had guest bloggers, too.

But, dear readers, what is it that you like to read here? Oh, how about this?  I’ll number them for you so you don’t have to think of anything to say (Unless you choose #8– then you’re on your own). K?

1. Family
2. Mishaps
3. Food
4. Faith
5. Around town
6. Pets
7. Writing
8. Other
9. Guest blogger
10. All of the above

There  ya go. Can’t wait to hear from you. Bless you for reading.  

Image: Free Digital  Photos

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Trivia Fun

I am a member in good standing of the Bathroom Reading Society. All of the members are anonymous for reasons of propriety. We do however love to share some of the nifty (love that word) things we find out while we’re – ahem – taking care of “business.” So that’s what I’m going to do today.

From several publications found in my private privy stash come these interesting tidbits. Drum roll please. . . 

Opossums do NOT mate through the females nostrils. I’ll be you knew that.

The blue whale is the loudest animal on Earth with a call at a whopping 188 decibels. Although I’d put the whale up against any four year old girl screeching for her brother to “leave me alone! Eeeee!” Just sayin’.

Found printed on a package of Fritos. You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside. Can you say Frito Bandito?

A pitchers glove may be any color except white or gray. Who knew?

The all time best selling Little Golden Book is The Pokey Little Puppy with 15 million copies sold since its debut in 1942. Wish I’d written that one!

Napoleon Bonaparte has been featured in more movies than any other historical figure. That would be 194 times he’s seen on screen scratching that spot on his belly – heh, heh.

And here’s a little puzzler to wind things up. Forward I’m heavy, backward I’m not. What am I? I didn’t get it, either. Had to look at the answer (below). I’m so bad at these.

So there you go. Some useless trivia to get you ready for the weekend.

Image: Free Digital Photos  

Answer: ton (did you have to peek?) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Back in the day there was a penchant among travelers to plaster stickers on the luggage that went with them to places exotic and otherwise. But then they made nylon luggage and maybe those stickers didn’t like it. Or perhaps it was the zippers that replaced those cool snappy lock things that kept your luggage closed. Who knows? Stickers can be real snooty. Anyway, if I could I would place a Texas sticker on my black jumbo suitcase. And it would be BIG because it would say TEXAS.

My brother lives there, in McKinney just north of Dallas, in a home that would fit in beautifully right down the road from me. Seriously. Look at this porch.

Tim and his wife Elizabeth have done a super job on restoring the old place. That porch is where we spent our happy hour – ‘bout 4 o’clock every day. It’s where the girls trounced the boys when we played Password. Remember that old game? Even hubby, Mr. I-only-play- pinochle, played and liked it. Texas is the place where miracles happen. Heh, heh.

Texas is downright presidential. Dealy Plaza, where President Kennedy was shot, is a sober reminder of how things can go horribly wrong when you leave the top down on the convertible.  The George Bush Library and Museum that remembers 9-11 sobers us again when we see the twisted metal from one of the Twin Towers.

Food in Texas is beyond yummy and I was introduced to the art of “massaging” kale. Kale loves it when you do that. You’ve just gotta refrain from telling it how much you’re going to enjoy chomping it down with the goat cheese and dressing later on. Kale doesn’t like to be reminded that it’s a super food. It prefers to be known as the Queen of the Produce Aisle. The salmon Elizabeth prepared for our last supper was spectacular. Alive the thing would have filled the average bathtub, but it filled our tummies instead. The lemon drop martinis were a new experience for me, but so delightful. 

It was so nice to be in the snuggly warm nest of family alongside the brother and sisters I grew up with. Memories flowed, faith was shared, funny stories had us spewing our wine. I’ll bet  you can relate.   

Back home I have small tokens of our trip and a promise from everyone that we’ll do this again – and soon! I hope you have some real honest-to-goodness family time this week. Let me know how it goes.

Elizabeth's handmade dryer ball and homemade soap

 Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, March 16, 2015

In Memory of Sister Agnes

Dear Readers – I wrote this back in November of 2013 shortly after Agnes came to live with us. It’s hard for me to read in light of the fact that she died yesterday. But – as I’ve told my children – we almost always outlive our pets. So in honor of the kitty who warmed my lap at night and my heart with her meow, I’m repeating this post from a better time. I hope you don’t mind.

Some of you may have seen this picture on Facebook of Sister Agnes – our come to stay stray. She’s graced us with her presence for about two weeks and she’s brought to mind other cats we’ve owned and one other we’ve rescued. Suddenly all things cat are coming back to me now – oh – let me count the ways.

Attitude – Or maybe I should say “cattitude”. There’s a reason the Egyptians worshiped the feline. I’ve yet to meet one that didn’t have a bit of regal bearing. As if, after God created Adam and Eve and said, “It is good,” He created the cat and said, “It is better.” And like Queen Nefertiti, who would dismiss her slave with the flick of a bejeweled hand, the cat will do the same with her tail. No jewels, but then, superior beings don’t need them.

Fastidiousness – Even Agnes, who was starving out in the wild – is fussy about her food. This came sharply home to me as I wandered the cat food aisle at Hannaford. Others were there, bending down, squinting at labels, reaching way back for the last can of Ocean Delight – this week’s rage among cats and harder to get than Red Sox tickets (I don’t know why I wrote that – I have no clue about tickets). Anyway, I want to go along the shelves handing out tissues to fellow sufferers whispering, I know, I know. And then to myself, What will you eat this week? What, Agnes, what??

Comfort Zone – James Herriot in his wildly popular (from a while back) book series, All Creatures Great and Small, notes that cats, of all the animals, know best where to find the places of maximum comfort. How right he was! So far Agnes has found my lap to be her favorite spot (covered with a fine Woolrich blanket), but when I’m not there, she manages rather well tucked into the corner of the gold love seat or curled up on the super soft yellow fleece baby blanket that’s supposed to be for our son’s dog.

Barfing – The other day I saw it just in time. The cat barf on the stairs as I was going up. The next day in a great, great hurry I gabbled to myself as I went down, “please no barf, please no barf,” and felt strangely thankful when there wasn’t any. What’s up with that???? My life was so simple before.

Our reward for putting up with Sister Agnes? The occasional grateful rub against the legs and a deeply contented purr that lets us know we’re appreciated. Somehow that seems like enough.

We couldn’t ask much more from the superior being who has come to live with us.

PS: Her nun- like qualities are the reason for her name. Look at her. Would you misbehave in her presence? Right after I took this picture she arched an eyebrow and I felt compelled to clean up that bit of dirt on the baseboard. Sheesh.

PS II: I’ll be taking a break for a week while hubby and I visit my brother and his wife in McKinney Texas. Behave yourselves while I’m gone. Okay? Love you guys. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What We Call Things

In a recent visit with a friend the conversation turned to smoking. Something neither of us ever did. I’m such a goody two shoes I never even tried it. But while we were talking I remembered something my mother (who smoked for 50+ years), told me. As a toddler I couldn’t say cigarettes so I called them ciggy socks. I also called pancakes panny cakes. My friend Karen, of German heritage, couldn’t pronounce spaetzle  (delicate little dumplings) when she was small so she called them nefflies. Don't you love it?

I’ve also heard friends, old, new, and long gone pronounce common words in interesting ways. When we lived in our first apartment, in an old farm house, another renter fully admitted she knew how the word breakfast should be pronounced, but it came out of her mouth as brefcust. Another friend from the same era said mayonnaise as mam-aise. And yet another puts the “L” in salmon. She thinks if the “L” is there it should be pronounced. I kind of agree with her. What’s  up with those silent letters anyway?

On another level I’ve always loved the old names for some of the maladies humans have dealt with over the centuries. Like these . . .

Piles – hemorrhoids (think about it)
Consumption – tuberculosis
Rhumatiz – arthritis
Dropsy – edema (bet you didn’t know that one)
Touched in the head – gosh, this could be so many things

And if you’re of British heritage you might say someone has a “dicky heart” which means the thing can’t be trusted so you better opt out of The Queens Quarter Mile Pub Run this coming Saturday. Even if the prize is a couple of free pints and a laurel wreath at the Duck and Chicken right after. Seriously, dude, opt out. 

So – what charming words did  you come up with when you were – say – three? Or what interesting words and phrases did the old folks use to describe the world they lived in? Go back a hundred years or so.

This should be interesting. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, March 9, 2015

Around Town

Here I go again – observing things. Or imagining them. Someone who lives in such a narrowly defined space does that a lot (two words – grammar gurus take note).

So . . .

While I was bebopping down the grocery store aisle one day last week I noticed a bag of bread on the floor.  That’s happened to you, right? Most people ignore such fallen goods. Not me. I made haste to get over to the fallen bag because I just know that somehow – this time – bells and whistles will go off. Big time. That’s right. For years now a new game show has been in development whereby grocery shoppers are observed by hidden camera – and – the kind soul that saves a fallen food item and returns it to its proper shelf Wins. Ta Da!

As I approach the bagged bread there’s a hitch in my step. Uh oh. How does my hair look? I give my head a little toss and finger comb it whilst I steer my cart with one hand.  Not so easy as I’ve positioned all the meat (including a small package of hamburger – the food of kings these days) on one side of the cart causing it to slew slightly to the left as I walk. But I walk on.

No one else seems to notice the bread until – I spot her. Another potential gamer coming at me from the other end of the aisle. Yeah – she’s looking all un- concerned about that bread – but I see the glint in her eye. And she sees the glint in mine. Okay lady, the race is on.  I’m at the far end of the aisle by the chips and she’s honing in on the Nutella and jam shelf thirty yards away. Smack between us is bread and the “fallen loaf” as I’m now beginning to think of it.

I lose all sense of hair and makeup at that point. I grip the cart with both hands and with studied nonchalance put on some speed. I notice the relative lightness of the other contenders cart and quicken my step even more. Past rye, past mult-grain and then I’m closing in on pumpernickel which is on the bottom shelf near my prize. I fancy some of the more enterprising loaves to be cheering us on. Now I’ve got a clear shot and I go in for the kill. So does she. Then I glance up to see my opponent up close and personal. Our carts clink and I know it’s now or never.

“Oh my goodness,” I say sweetly. “Why hasn’t someone picked this up?” It only takes me a nano second to swoop low and snatch the two for a dollar white loaf. I hear it sigh as I grin at the other woman, whose face is a mask of fury. I replace the loaf, pat it, and turn. That camera has to be around here somewhere – maybe in pretzels on the opposite side of the aisle. I smile at them and wink.

My worthy opponent walks off in a huff as I wait for the bells and whistles. But, alas, I sadly conclude as I stand there that, as in so many other situations in the world of gaming, the Supermarket Game of the Fallen has apparently not yet been perfected. I realize I’ll just have to keep looking for the Prize Patrol balloons until those gaming people get their act together.

Yup, my world is small. But thank God for imagination.

Image: KRAKRATHHOT                                       Free Digital Photos

Friday, March 6, 2015

March Again

This is from last spring and once again we’re wondering if the snow will ever melt. Or maybe we’re finally in the endless winter of Narnia. Eww – I shiver to think of it. Every bit of this post applies a year later. Sigh.  

Spring Cleaning

If spring ever gets here, I plan to clean. Really. It never fails to astound me the rate at which dirt, crud, cobwebs and dribbles multiply during the winter.

For instance. I be-bopped into the downstairs bathroom the other afternoon, wanting to check my general appearance before heading out the door. I have a really pretty mirror over the sink in there, but when I cast my eye into it something  moved – and it wasn’t my reflection. No, no, it was a masterpiece of a cobweb, evenly gray with many fronds (pretty sure that’s what you call them). I looked around quick to see if Mom was peering over my shoulder and swiped at the thing with my hand. Oh – wait – Mom has been dead for a while now. But you never know. How the heck long had that mother of all cobwebs been there for crying out loud?

And then there are the staircases. We have two. One grand and one small. The carpet on the small stairs absorbs a multitude of sins. Not so the front hall stairs. No siree. They’re painted wood and trap all the bits and pieces from dirty feet, barfing cats, and spilling grandchildren. And to add insult to injury, hubby bumped a heavy bookcase down those stairs one morning when I was out so there are dings on every other step.

Yesterday, our most recent graduate of the School for Three-Year-Old Dictators, Sierra, ran barefooted into the laundry room. Where the cat box sits. Some litter had been pawed out onto the floor and when her feet touched it she screeched to a halt. “Grandma, you need to clean up!” She stepped gingerly out of the room with little bits of litter stuck between her toes looking quite indignant. On the plus side she did help me clean it up, but only because I let her use the little cat-shaped whisk broom.

So, let’s see. My spring cleaning check list will include: all the mirrors, the grand staircase, the laundry room, and probably the floors. The one in the upstairs bathroom is practically made of hairspray. That should be fun. I can’t even bear to think of the 21 windows needing attention. I did have a very wise friend who suggested I clean only the inside of them. That way, you can see out, but nobody can see in. She was a funny little lady, that one.

It’s a good thing we have a snowstorm comin’. I won’t have to think about spring cleaning for a while yet.

Photo: What's under the snow

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Love a Library

When I was sixteen I elected to take a library science course in high school. It was one of the few classes I remember well from those years. Our teacher, Mrs. Fields, was one tough lady who ruled with an iron whisper, but we learned so much. In those days we still had the physical card file and I almost managed to master the system. My favorite duty was in the book shelves where returned books were put back into place. I could bury myself in the stacks so to speak. And then didn’t forty minutes fly by and I had to leave for algebra. Blech.

Believe it or not, one of the reasons I took that class was because of The Music Man. When Robert Preston sang “Madame Librarian” to Shirley Jones I was enchanted. And Shirley played the role of Marion the Librarian so well I just knew it was my destiny to do so, too. Okay, I didn't get there, but I never lost my love for libraries.

To my delight, since I’ve become a published mystery writer, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking in several local libraries this year. Book lovers and writers are great people. They cherish the written word and the worlds they pull forth. And they want to know so much. Do you have an agent? How long did it take you to write your first book? Who’s your favorite author and what are you reading now? I love it.

When you walk into a library you are greeted by life. The world is there in those books waiting for you. Narnia is in that corner and so is King Arthur. Pooh Bear crooks his finger at you as he pulls Pippi Longstocking’s braid. And look out for the murderers waiting to scare the pants off of you in Mysteries! So, where to begin? Your choice. It’s impossible for anyone, ever, to experience all things. But, psssst, those titles you’re staring at? They can get you closer. Maybe you already know that. Maybe you’re a bibliophile from infancy. Bravo! Or maybe you’re lost in an iPhone somewhere and you’ve forgotten the library that loves you.

Never fear, you can go back. Walk through the door with your eyes wide and yell – er – whisper, “Come to Papa!” And all of those books? They’ll love you for it and rush into your waiting arms. As long as you whip out a library card. There is that.

Go – re-kindle your love. And come to hear me and fellow author and sister Maven of Mayhem, Donna Lagone, at the Kinderhook Library this coming Saturday, March 7th. Four o’clock. We'll be reading from our masterpieces and can’t wait to see you!

Photo: Me at the Schenectady County Public Library speaking on Homicidal Humor.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Swedish Pancakes!

Last night we had the rare honor of a granddaughter spending the night. When Anna knew she’d be doing this her mind began working. The previous day as we sat at a basketball game for her brother, Sam, she leaned into me and said, “Can Grandpa make Swedish pancakes for breakfast ?”

Well, let me tell you about the enduring family tradition of making these delights.

It began with great grandpa Sundwall whom we called Pop. His mother came over from Sweden when she was a teen. All alone. One dress and a pair of shoes to her name speaking no English at all. She wound up in NYC (in company with other Swedes, not doubt) and became a cleaning girl. Met and married three husbands, one of whom was Pop’s father. I don’t know which of his parents taught him how to make the pancakes, but she did a good job.

Here’s the recipe. One egg for each person, some milk, some flour, a bit of sugar.

This must be mixed to the right consistency (thin) and free of lumps. Go ahead and add more milk or flour – a dab at a time. The pan is best a cast iron one and bacon dripping is optimum to slick up the pan. The first pancake is the cooks. He’s got to test it for flavor and tenderness. Sometimes the batter swirls unevenly in the pan, but this gets better with each consecutive pancake – it’s all in the wrist. Pop had a special wide bread knife to pull the crispy edges away before he flipped them. A wonderful thing to see. When done each pancake is flopped onto a warm plate and then covered. They are very thin and each person gets four or five so when that many are ready they are eaten right away. We don’t wait for each other – Ya gotta eat them pronto. This is understood.

NOW – the controversy. How to eat them.

The requesting granddaughter, Anna, likes hers with lashings of butter (love that term) and a generous slathering of jam – preferably strawberry. Once they are sufficiently loaded they are rolled like a jelly roll, cut crosswise and savored. Pardon me while my mouth waters.

Others will do the butter thing, roll them up and douse them with powdered sugar. Or syrup, in the case of Grandpa John, our cook. I like mine anyway I can get them. Lingonberry  jam is going all out Swedish, but the stuff is hard to find around here.

The tradition of making said pancakes has so far only passed down to the men in the family with number two son, Blaine, having taken up the task several years ago. His are excellent, too.

Anna has made inquiries into learning the fine art of Swedish Pancake making and Grandpa even bought a special pan for her at Christmas. One that’s lighter than the cast iron so as to facilitate better batter swirling. We’ll see if it comes to pass. Maybe by Christmas 2015 or 2016.

In the meantime – Kudos to the Sundwall men for keeping up this delightful and delicious old world tradition. We who eat them humbly thank you.

Photo: Free Digital Photos