Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Books of Summer

So far this summer I’ve won three books from various blogs promoting them. Yay me. Two were pretty good and I’m trying to decide about the third. That one, by Terry Shames and written in present tense, is hard to wrap my head around. It’s from a wildly popular series, so I’m guessing something is wrong with me. Huh.

Anyway – here’s a review or two for you.

NEVER BURIED Book One of the Leigh Koslow Mysteries by Edie Claire – This was the first I’d heard of this series and book one was pretty good. Leigh and Cara, cousins, set out to discover the identity of a ten-year-old corpse that turns up in the hammock outside Cara’s beautiful old Victorian home. In short order threatening notes – “Get out of my house” and events – dead fish with “Leave" carved into them – begin to surface. Then an old murder steps up to wave “Hello”. Of course. Leigh has to do a lot of the leg work as Cara is pregnant but the story moves along at a good clip and I didn’t see the end coming.

THE WRONG MAN by Kate White – Turns out I know Kate’s cousin John so I was glad to have won this. I have to say up front that I was disappointed in the first chapter when our heroine, Kit Finn, in an effort to have an “adventure”, sleeps with a guy after only knowing him a few hours. So original. However, the intrigue begins when he wants to see her again and a man with the right name and the wrong face opens the door of his apartment. Surprise! Mistaken identity gets turned on its head a couple of times and then some as Kit attempts to unravel this ball of twine with a murder or two inside. Thieves, interior design, and insider trading are also involved. I’m not quite done with this one, but it’s well written and I have a feeling Kit will wind  up with the right man.

I've also re-read, in part, THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT by Rosaria Butterfield. It's the story of her conversion (or perhaps coming back to) Christianity from a lifestyle that is much in the news these days. Quite thought provoking.

And what have  you been reading this summer, my friend?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Journey of a Top

All kinds of thoughts stream through your head while you’re high up on the ladder painting a side of the house. In an old top. One that’s had a life. The one in the picture here is such a top. I remember when . . .

I stood in Penney’s thinking how pretty it was there in the display with several others of similar design. Karen and I were out shopping again. I found my size and pulled it out. She liked it, too.The flower pattern splashed across the front and silver threads witnessed to its fashionable nature. Bling was really coming into its own and I wanted to be “trendy”. Yeah, even us old gals like that.

But it was a bit more pricey than this frugal chick usually considers. Still  . . . I thought of all the coordination possibilities. Black, gray, tan and denim. It would pair up nicely with all of them. White shorts? Perfect. Silver jewelry? Awesome. Upcoming summer barbeques, out to the restaurants. Excellent. I could go on and on. You know I bought it. I’ll call her Sylvia.

So then – the cute new top must be debuted, right? Probably at church with the black pants and a short sleeved black sweater, heart silver earrings and black shoes. Ah, so lovely. And it felt good every time I wore it for a number of years, maybe two.

As time went on, I bought other tops. Hid them from my beautiful Sylvia with the silver threads. Downgraded her. Didn’t always choose her first when outfitting for the day. Loved her a little less. I still felt good when I wore her, but now she was a grocery shopping top. Or picking up our granddaughter at pre-school apparel.

And then, this summer, I grabbed her (don’t gasp now) to wear up on the ladder to paint. I figured someone might come along, see me toiling up there and maybe the silver threads would distract them from the sweat dripping into my eyebrows. NOT a pretty sight. But Sylvia still was.

So wouldn’t you know it. I leaned in a bit too close to the paint can and Blammo! I got paint on Sylvia.  Right smack in the rib cage area. At first it didn’t bother me. Then I remembered how pleased our granddaughter Anna had been when she realized Grandma could pick out a halfway decent top after all. How perfect it was with the white shorts at the lake last summer. Remorse set in. So I scurried off the ladder, ran into the kitchen, tore Sylvia from my tortured body (remorse makes me a drama queen) and scrubbed the paint from her, apologizing profusely as I did it.

The paint came out. Whew! Sylvia was washed, dried and hung back up in the closet later that day. I may return her to grocery shopping status. I’ll wait until there’s a conspicuous hole somewhere before she’s downgraded again possibly to cleaning rag. Please don’t let her know!

I understand now you have to be loyal to your best tops. I don’t know what I was thinking making her go up that ladder with me.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Upon Waking

If you’re like me, you probably wake up in the morning with about 82 random thoughts going through your mind as you peer through blurry eyes at the ceiling. Right? And after the first one, I Want Coffee, others begin thrashing  around wanting attention. They might go something like this.

On one of my trips across country, it was my turn to go through security. One agent, a woman, had a ‘tude. She looked at me from afar, then wiggled her fingers for me to come forward saying, “C’mon, lemme see your bling.” I obediently drew near, held out my hands and showed her – my one, plain, well worn,  gold, diamond-less wedding ring. No bling. She was so bummed. “Oh, you don’t have any bling.” I grinned all the way to the plane.

The last bite of a purple Popsicle can be tricky for a four-year-old. Will it drop or will she manage to slurp it into her mouth just in time? It can be tense. The slurp, the napkin or the sidewalk? I always root for the slurp or the napkin. The sidewalk can have her bubblegum.

I spent over seventy dollars on groceries yesterday and still forgot the dishwasher detergent. One of the first things on my list because I’m all out. Dang!

Is it time to pick blueberries yet and should I go before or after my shower? After. Why stink up a perfectly good berry patch? On the way home pick up more pint jars – and the dishwasher detergent, and some milk.

We have a pool going among our card playing friends (we play pinochle almost every Saturday night). Who will get the first “Fall Sneak Preview!” catalog? Summer stuff is crazy on sale right now, so it’s gotta be soon. We still haven’t figured out the prize for winning the pool. Ideas welcome. Or you could join the pool. We're very open to new members as long as you don't trump Ed's ace. He hates that. 

Will I EVER get to visit Cape Cod.

Then finally – “Where have all the flowers gone – long time passing”. Ugh - one of those 60’s songs sitting in the back of my brain waiting to attack when my resistance is low. I’ll have you know I’m a Hippy in body type only. My mind never went there. It’s so unfair.

And I’ve only been awake for two minutes. I want my coffee!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Home Town

Going home is a phrase almost anyone can use, anytime, and at any age. For most of us it’s a good thing and it was for me this time with a little twist. I’d add “old” and “town” to the  mix. I went back to my old home town, Pengilly, Minnesota last week. Can you say ‘going home’ about a place you left when you were only seven? I’m here to tell you, you can.

I laughed when my cousin Mike told the ice fishing story. His dad was a real prankster. He surrounded an alarm clock with beer bottles, set it for a few minutes from now and roared with laughter when the alarm rang waking his buddy who crashed them to the floor as he sought to stop the clanging. "Hey pal, time to fish!". I barely remember Uncle Vern, but the rascal in the guy sure came out in that story.

Until I walked into the tunnel that led to the speakeasy, I never would have believed it was there. As a little girl I only saw the glory of the Bovey Mercantile with it’s abundant wares and, at Christmas, shelves full of toys that I probably wouldn’t be getting many of. I sure loved looking though. Now it’s an antiques mall and café. Bovey is one town over from Pengilly and home to Enstrom Studio famous for the picture "Grace". 


Tunnel from the street. Speak easy, now.

Swan Lake is lovely and much bigger than I remember if you can believe it. Things from our past usually seem small when viewed through adult eyes, but not this. It seemed even bigger when my brother Tim took me and my sister Liz on the Boat Ride from He**. Whew. A little choppy out there. We had life vests on so I knew I could survive if we capsized. But who wants to see a chubby, panicked New Yorker flailing around in the water like that?

Birch trees. Oh. Very different from other trees and the ones in Minnesota seem so much whiter than those here in New York. When we were little we’d tear off pieces of the bark and write on it. Turns out that’s not the best thing for the trees, but it’s nice to know we didn’t wipe out the species by doing so.


Caramel rolls from Nana Chelle’s at the antiques mall. Delicious, big, gooey and fattening. ‘Nuff said.

Golf and 99. Two card games I learned how to play in minutes! I come from a long line of card players, but usually a big “DUH” appears over my head when I have to learn a new game. It was only a small “duh” this time.  

Mom and Dad. Went to the Itasca County Historical Society and looked into their senior year high school year books. How could they have ever been so young? Mom was described as a “trim little ship on the ocean of society”.  Pretty cool, huh?

We visited graves of the long dead. Hard to believe some of them were born before the Civil War. I only recognized the names from family chatter around the supper tables of my childhood. Walking over their bones was a little weird, but enlightening just the same.

“They’re just like us.” These words were uttered by cousins on both sides and when my sisters and I met four of them, all girls, we discovered it was true. That came out fully in the late hours of the one night we got to curl up, chow down, play games and yak. How delightful they are: Colleen, Susie, and Kathy. Molly couldn’t make it, but she showed up at the bonfire the next night with a raspberry cheesecake that was so good it got devoured within minutes.

Other notes: Uncle Clarence, 90 ish, spoke of his adventures in WWII.  Fascinating. Mike's daughter Lori has the cleanest kitchen I've ever seen. Four women and one bathroom CAN work. My old elementary school is boarded  up - sniff. Bugs in the headlights look like snow when you're driving along highways through the woods. Ewww. And I got to hug Aunt Shirley, Mom's half sister. She's a real sweetheart!

I'll stop now, but I hope you have similar experiences in your life that bring your “old home town” to you in ways you didn’t expect or can’t imagine as it did for me. It’s what makes us round out and bloom and is especially sweet looking back through the lenses of old age. Or late middle age. Okay, yeah, that’s what I meant. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Memories

I'm off to Minnesota for four days - flying away tomorrow. It's been a crazy busy summer so far. So I'm not writing much. But, lucky reader, I did take a few moments to peruse some past posts and this one is "bra!" Read on to see what I mean.

Learning how and when to say Bra! was part of our lesson. Of course, as Americans, we all got a big kick out of repeating the word because it brings something else to mind. But our Swedish cousin and lovely new friend, Ulla (pronounced Oola) was giving it her all. Bra in Swedish means “good.” Ulla stood with the Karaoke mike in one hand and her flash cards in the other all full of enthusiasm and eager to share words and phrases with us. Please don’t ask this old lady to remember them all although kör som fan, “run like hell,” stuck in my mind as I imagined a bear rearing up in the blueberry patch. Okay, I confess, I had to Google translate this one partly because we don’t have those two little dots over any letters in our alphabet.

Perfect weather, canoeing, hiking, golf, howlers (the little ones) and growlers (a brown jug of beer for the big ones), cavernous houses, and crummy hair (me) were the order of the day. I was in charge of the cooking and my menus were well received though not perfectly executed. The kitchen was awesome however lacking in equipment. And my assigned sous chefs were at the ready for each meal and after all the food was on the table and devoured, I walked away. Cooking and not having to clean up has always been a dream of mine. Am I a simpleton or what?

Now, imagine staggering, cup of coffee in hand, to the big kitchen picture window in the early hours and having to look at this:

Or the joy of baking four pies with blueberries as big as this:

Or sharing the Karaoke mike with a crew like this:

After supper one evening several of us sat on the plush chairs and sofas and asked Ulla if her experiences with Americans met her expectations. She didn’t answer right away but you could see the wheels turning. “I was surprised at how gentle Americans are,” she said. “Not arrogant like some other countries.” She puffed out her chest in a slightly bullying fashion as she said it. She also said it seemed like the people were satisfied with their lives here. She and her family visited Manhattan before they flew on to Oregon and even in the city she said, “The workers at McDonald’s seemed happy with their lives.”  It was so nice to hear!

I’m not one to blather on and on about a good time I’ve had to people who weren’t there and don’t care. But you’ve had wonderful times like this haven’t you? Times when you really, really wished everyone you know and love could be there having just as much fun, sharing stories of their lives, yukking it up at the antics of the kids, and chowing down because the food always tastes so much better when the good times are a rollin’. Yeah, I know you have.

For the 35 Americans and 4 Swedes who gathered at the Sunriver Resort in Sun River, Oregon last week it was bra times all around. Next time why don’t you come along?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Sweet Peas of Summer

While my granddaughters are sleeping in the bed behind me and their dad is off getting his first cuppa coffee, I thought I’d drop by my blog to say “hello” to all my faithful readers. It’s that out-of-town company time of year.

I’m pretty tired right now – a tired that sleep doesn’t help much. But – I’m not complaining. It’s the kind of tired you get when you’re serving others. Where your head begins to swirl with “what do I have to do today” thoughts just as your eyes crack open at dawn. Food and fun. Two things I love to work on especially for family.

A few days ago there was talk of a trip, by train, to New York City. Then that changed when the heat index shot up. Last night we considered Old Sturbridge Village, but it’s a two hour drive which meant getting up before noon and that’s not the norm for the girls. Only partly kidding. Now we think Hancock Shaker Village, only an hour away, which might be just the ticket for today with maybe a trip to the lake afterwards to visit cousins and  have a dip. The fun part is it could all change on a whim. We’ll see.

So far my menus have included pulled pork sandwiches with my sweet and spicy bbq sauce, blue cheese coleslaw, corn on the cob, pasta salad, rhubarb custard bars, blackberry pie, and strawberry shortcake. I mean, does that sound like fun summer food or what?

And lest I forget – the peas. Lillie is eleven and happily helps Grandpa pick them from our loaded vines. When the first bowl was presented I suggested she try one and she hesitated. Kids and peas – hmmm. But she got her brave up and popped a tender little green one into her mouth. Guess what? I must now guard the shelled peas with a whip and a chair. She loves them that much.

Ah summer. A beautiful time to bask in the love of friends and family with nature pouring forth bounty from her skirts. It makes God and me smile.

PS: I don’t really use a whip and a chair. I’m pleased as can be that peas are now Lillie’s favorite vegetable. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Oh Boy - Fireworks!

Just after Memorial Day they’d start going up. The fireworks stands. We watched them being assembled on street corners and the excitement built as we imagined buying explosives of all shapes and sizes. I knew my dad would be exited too and always wanted to go with him when he chose our assortment. You could buy piecemeal or a boxed up batch of goodies. It was a toss up which he’d choose and I wanted to be there in an advisory capacity.

Almost always there would be some worms in the mix. On the sidewalk and with no rain involved. Uh – what? Yeah, the worms were little black pellets you touched a match to and stood back while the black – whatever it was – uncoiled from the pellet. The remnants stayed on the sidewalks for weeks and sometimes we’d even get it on our shoes so we could track the stuff into the house. Mom loved them, too. They were for the daytime and kept us occupied until the big show at night. Included in the daylight delights were pinwheels. Pinwheels were literally pinned to a tree or telephone pole, lit and then get away quick cuz’ that puppy was going to “Wheeeee” for about twenty seconds spinning wildly while trying to break the sound barrier. When they started going off around the neighborhood you knew the 4th of July was at hand.

Still, the afternoon dragged on. Unless. You could sneak your brothers cowboy gun (I know, I know, it was a long time ago when you could still own one and not be shamed) and a roll of caps. The rolls were made of red paper and every quarter inch or so there was a small dot of powder that went “POW!” when the gun was fired. Sometimes we’d smack them with a hammer. You could get just as much “POW!” out of a roll as with the gun and it was faster, too. Of course you couldn’t play out a good “I’ve been shot!” scene and stagger around like a victim of John Wayne's wrath when you used the hammer, but on the 4th that didn’t matter as much. It was all about noise.

Then there was the year known in the family as the Night of Infamy. The story gets more and more twisted as the years go by and still raises the ire of all involved because it set our dad’s face against fireworks for a long time.

The box was beautiful. We could see through the cellophane window that there would be glory on the street that night. It was the longest afternoon ever, but we bounced our anticipation off each other as the hour grew near.

“Did you see that big fountain? Man, I bet it goes sky high!”

“There’s colored sparklers in there not just plain ones. Yay!”

“Five Roman Candles! Wait’ll the guys see that!”

And so on. We lived on Annette Circle in Southern California at the time and roughly sixteen families were on the street to view the show.

Except for what happened next it would have been spectacular, too.

Dad hauled the box of fireworks out into the driveway. It was almost dark enough. We could hear other families getting their explosives ready.  All seven of us kids, along with a few cousins and friends, assembled on the grass, chased each other around the lamp post or nibbled on watermelon.

I don’t know who had the matches. I don’t know where each kid was. I don’t recall if Mom was still in the kitchen with aunt Marie and Dad had gone for a pail of water or what, but all of a sudden . . .

The whole box of fireworks was on fire! Shouts rang out. Dad came running. Even more shouts rang out – Dad was often the biggest firecracker of them all. Things began bursting from the box. We skittered this way and that. And then the box was doused.

Fingers were pointed. Explanations and excuses “it wasn’t me!” flew from every kids mouth. It was a whole different kind of fireworks display that year and it’s gone down in the annals of our family history darkly shrouded in mystery. Under the heading of “Big Fat Liars”. This title applies to a culprit who, to this day, has not stepped forward (he or she may still do so by posting a response here on my blog – no judgments will be made). C’mon Tim, fess up. Ahem . . . anyway.

I think the story is one of the greats. It’s lasted longer than any box of fireworks ever could and comforts us in our old age. I’ll bet your family has a humdinger or two of a story about Independence Day, too. Right?

Photo: Free Digital Photos