Friday Book Whimsy: The Godmothers

You probably remember the movie Godfather II in which Michael Corleone tells his brother Fredo, “Nobody goes against the family,” and then has him killed because he had gone against the family. Now imagine four godmothers instead of a godfather, and you are ready to sit down and enjoy The Godmothers, a novel by Camille Aubray.

Filomena, Amie, and Lucy are three very different women with secrets of their own. The three women are strangers to one another, but fall in love with three brothers who, unbeknownst to them, have ties to the New York City mob. Throw in Petrina, their sister-in-law, and you have what amounts to a fearless foursome. They become friends and are godmothers to one another’s children. They live in the same house together, cook meals, take care of each others’ kids, and try to find their place in their new opulent and powerful world.

And just when things are going pretty well, World War II hits America. It becomes incumbent upon the four women to handle mobsters like Lucky Luciano and other real-life mafia bosses, keeping their families safe and trying to successfully get out of a business that most people are unable to escape.

I loved these feisty women, who, despite the wealth and power held by their families, are determined to hold everything together by themselves, and figure out a way to become free of mafia ties. In a world where the word feminism had never been heard, these four women were feminists of sorts.

While I’m not familiar with the ways of the Mob, I’m pretty sure that in real life, these women wouldn’t have survived some of the situations in which they found themselves. However, those situations, and the women’s responses, made for a fun and exciting read. The author threw in some real-life NYC mobsters, and that made the book even more interesting.

This book gets a thumbs up.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Movin’ On Out
I attempted to put the ziti casserole that I had made for Jen’s birthday into the freezer yesterday morning, and it was a big No Can Do. There wasn’t a space to be had. As I searched frantically for ways to make room, things were falling onto the floor. Voila! I thought. Why don’t I get the message, and use those things that are begging to be used by literally falling at my feet. So I took the two peaches (they were wrapped in plastic) and pulled out five more from the freezer. I used them to make a pie, which I took over to Court and his family. (I sent him a text in which I asked if they were interested in a peach pie, with a resounding YES as the answer.) I then opened the two bags of frozen broccoli that have been waiting to be put into soup, and did exactly that. I made some of my mother’s broccoli soup for my lunch. Every time I make my mom’s broccoli soup, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. It’s very easy, and oh so tasty. The ziti casserole slipped right into my freezer where it will await Jen’s getting well enough to see us. By the way, though it had nothing at all to do with cleaning out my freezer, I also made one of my famous six inch cakes, this time chocolate for Bill…..

No More Lap Sitting
You might recall that Bill’s daughter Heather and our grandson Joseph came for a quick visit a week or so ago. They stopped over at our house so that Heather could say hello to Jen, who was visiting. I wanted her to see Joseph, because she hadn’t seen him for quite some time. She was, as expected, surprised at how much he has grown. The thing is, the boy is only 12, and still wants some cuddling. I couldn’t help but laugh as he crawled onto his mom’s lap……

I think it’s getting close to the days when there will be no more lap sitting.

Happy Birthday Mom
Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 95 years old today. It’s pretty unlikely that she would have lived to her mid-90s, even if she hadn’t gotten sick at such a young age. There is scarcely a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mother in some respect or another. I’ve long forgotten the sound of her voice, but I haven’t forgotten her mannerisms, her hands, her smile, her sense of humor, or how hard she loved her husband, her kids, and her grandkids. Happy birthday in heaven!

Off We Go
Bill and I travel to our AZ home every fall to open up the house, and check to make sure things are as they should be. My brother keeps a close eye on our house, so we don’t worry to much about the latter. But it is nice to open the windows and cook a bit to get the house feeling like home. It’s dead air when we arrive, but we liven it up pretty quickly. We fly out on Bill’s birthday, which is October 19, and will stay a month, arriving home the week before Thanksgiving.

We Have Both Kinds, Country and Western

Yesterday, Bill and I had big plans to drive north to Fort Collins to help my sister Jen celebrate her birthday. Bill and B.J. tentatively planned on playing golf. Jen and I tentatively planned on going downtown and toasting her birthday with a glass of wine on a scenic patio. I made a baked ziti casserole in advance, and planned on baking a pie in the morning before we left.

Except we didn’t leave because Jen celebrated her birthday by getting sick.

So, Bill and I had a day with not a single plan looming ahead of us. Thinking of our day that way is funny because we are both retired, and the truth of the matter is that most days we have no plans. Still, this absence of plans was unexpected.

“How about a movie?” I asked him. He quickly agreed. We had both been interested in seeing Respect, the biopic about the life of Aretha Franklin as portrayed by Jennifer Hudson. So I got online and got two tickets to a nearby theater with a 1:10 showing.

As an aside, I always buy my movie tickets in advance as 100 percent of the time I am certain that unless I buy the tickets ahead, there will be no tickets left when we arrive at the theater. It’s worth the $3.95 service charge. I’m certain of this because it happened to me one time about seven years ago. As it turns out (and as it turns out 99.2 percent of the time), the theater was empty except for four or five other retired folks. You never know. Aretha Franklin could draw them in like a Grateful Dead concert.

The movie was good, though I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t like Aretha Franklin, or soul music in general. While I’m not a huge Aretha fan, I love music, and I love my husband. He, in turn, loves both Aretha and soul music. I think he also loves me. So we both enjoyed the movie. Jennifer Hudson was amazing in her portrayal. She sounded exactly like Aretha. As is the case, it seems, for most famous musicians, Aretha’s life wasn’t a bed of roses.

Bill and I went out for sushi afterwards. I feel compelled to add that sushi was Bill’s choice. When people ask me if Bill likes sushi, I always respond that he likes it fine, but he would never choose it. To my surprise, we walked right past Bad Daddy’s Burgers to go to Hapa Sushi at his suggestion. Even after 29 years of marriage, the man can still surprise me.

He was very animated about the movie, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He made a point of telling me that, though the movie was two-and-a-half hours long, he never got restless or bored. And it’s true. Every time I would glance over at him, he was wide awake and tapping his toes to the music.

“That was the music of my era,” he told me. “I know all her songs.”

When we got home, his excitement wasn’t over, because Aretha made him think of The Blues Brothers, which is his favorite movie by far, and the real Aretha Franklin has a role. He likes the Chicago setting; he likes the amusing storyline; he loves the music. He sings along.

I don’t believe I have ever sat down and watched the entire movie with him. Maybe once a long time ago. What I didn’t realize — or at least remember — is that many of the funny things Bill says come straight out of the movie. When I’m listening to my country music, he is liable to say, “You enjoy both kinds of music, country and western.” Straight out of the movie. And anyone who knows Bill has heard him say, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Again, words straight out of Elwood Blue’s mouth.

It ended up being a fun day.

By the way, when I talked to Jen yesterday morning, I would have bet my bottom dollar that she had COVID. She sent me a text yesterday evening telling me that preliminary test results indicate no COVID. They will test again two more times, but it’s looking like she just has a bad cold.

Not that that’s good.

Five Good Things

We had a wonderful Sunday, with surprises abounding. Breakfast with my niece Jessie and her boyfriend Rob. Then an invitation from Court to watch the Broncos play their season opener against the Giants, and WIN. I was reminded about my commitment to thinking of things that make me happy, and occasionally sharing them with you.

Here are five things for which I’m thankful today:

Grandkids are about the best thing that God ever thought up. All the love, very little of the worry. My brother was blessed with his ninth grandchild this weekend. Zoey Alivia was born to his daughter Kacy, who, I might add, already has four daughters. The household could use a bit more testosterone, but my brother is used to being around girls. Join the club, Zoey. As for my grands, we saw Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole on Sunday. Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to say we saw mostly Cole, since the girls are 11 and 13, and prefer spending time in their bedrooms. Cole, on the other hand, sits as close to me as he can get. As we were leaving, he hugged us both. As the door closed, I heard him holler, “I love you Nana.” Aw. Yesterday Alastair came and mowed. He doesn’t stick around long after he’s finished, but he always comes into the kitchen to see what I’m making for dinner. “What’re you making today?” he asked. “It smells good.” As it happened, I was just putting a baked ziti casserole into the fridge to take to Jen’s tomorrow for her birthday dinner.

I’m happy that the nights are mostly starting to cool off, indicating that Autumn might be quietly making its way to Colorado. Our trees haven’t started changing yet, at least not in our neighborhood. The days are still exceptionally warm. But when I climb the stairs to go to bed at 9 o’clock or so, the temperature is usually around 70. It won’t be long before it will be much cooler, and we can put our comforter on our bed. A chilly room with a heavy comforter makes me happy.

Every year I plant at least two tomato plants. I put them in an Earthbox, and they always grow big and strong. The production, however, is always a mystery. This year, my tomatoes were very prolific, especially the grape tomatoes. Bill and I have been eating tomatoes for our vegetable so often that I’m surprised our skin isn’t tinted red. I’m getting to the bottom of the bunch, but I’m thankful for my fresh, delicious tomatoes.

Having said that, I’ve begun pulling my tired annuals out of the ground in preparation for winter. I said bye-bye to my grape tomato plant first, saying a silent thank you for all of my little tomatoes. As much as I love planting in the spring, I equally (well, maybe not quite equally) love putting my garden to rest. It makes me feel productive, like the squirrels who are clearly getting ready for winter themselves.

Finally, I am ready for some football. Even if I’m not watching the game, hearing a football game in the background is about as satisfying as it gets. Football means autumn. The CU Buffs won their first game handily, and nearly beat fifth rank Texas A&M this past weekend. And the Broncos showed real promise on Sunday, handily beating the New York Giants. Our QB looked good, and didn’t have the deer in the headlights look on his face when the defense was heading his way like our last QB. Bless his heart.

There are many things for which I’m thankful.

Never Forget

Unless you are living deep in the woods without a television or a calendar, living off of wild mushrooms and greens for which you forage yourself, you know that Saturday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Around the world, we all remembered that sad, sad day 20 years ago. We know where we were when we first heard the news that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. We recall the fear deep within our guts that we felt when we heard that the second plane flew into the other tower. The United States was under attack.

Bill’s daughter Heather lived in New York City at that time. She didn’t work in the financial district, but she did work in lower downtown Manhattan. Thankfully, she let us know as soon as she could that she was safe. The world around her was crazy, but thank the good Lord, the worst thing that happened to her was that she had to walk home all the way from lower Manhattan to her apartment located about as far north as you could go and still be in Manhattan. Smoke and ash filled the city. So did fear and broken hearts.

We will always remember. Never forget. Words like that were bandied around aplenty on Saturday. And, God willing, we will never forget. Except for those below the age of 18 who were just coming into the world. The day our oldest grandchild was born, those of us who had been in the waiting room at the hospital (first grandchild; what can I say?) who finally were told the baby had come and we were invited in to see her began running towards the delivery room. As we ran past the television, the United States had just dropped its first bombs on Iraq, in retaliation for 9/11. While Addie might have cried that day, it wasn’t for the war in Iraq.

To those of us who remember that day as if it was yesterday, it’s hard to imagine that our kids and grandkids only know about it as an historical event about which they learn in their American History class. While they recognize that it was an awful day in our history, they look at it the same way I look at D-Day or Pearl Harbor, two other awful days in our history. They were both significant, but that’s all they are to me: an historical event.

Our grandkids are mostly unaware of many of the things that were lost that day. They are well aware of the loss of human life. They know that 9/11 led to two wars in which many people have died or been seriously — even permanently — injured. But do they know that there was a time when we could walk our loved ones all the way to the gates at the airport to say goodbye? Can they imagine that we got on an airplane without going through a thorough security check, often including patdowns? Sporting events and concerts and amusement parks were all accessible without someone going through your picnic basket to look for bombs. Can they even imagine a time when you wouldn’t give a second thought to a backpack sitting alone.

We lost a lot on 9/11, and we rightly continue to honor those who never got a chance to say goodbye to friends or family that day. We still pray for the living who were impacted by the terrorists. We really must never forget the terrorists attacks, but even more important, we must remember how we came together to honor many and fight our fears. And we need to try to teach our children what that day — and the ensuing days — were really like.

Saturday Smile: Bitchin’

I was over saying goodbye to Adelaide last week as she prepared to go back to Fort Collins where she is attending college. She and her mother Jll and I were chatting when Jll’s phone dinged, indicating a text message. It was from Addie’s sister Dagny, who was with friends. Here is how the message thread went:

Dagny: Hey mom if I find a homecoming dress today will you pay me back

Jll: Yes. Within reason. What is the price range?

Dagny: I don’t know yet.

(A bit of silence.)

Then, another ding. Jll’s eyes got big and she looked at Addie for assistance. Here’s why…..

Dagny: Can I get a bitch dress too

Addie and I spent the next few moments trying to think why our sweet little Dee would want a bitch dress (whatever that was).

Then….

Jll: Pardon?

Dagny: OMG. I meant church dress.

There was a great deal of relief in that room, let me tell you. And a great deal of laughter. Ya gotta love autocorrect.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Our Woman in Moscow

Remember the good ol’ days (at least the good ol’ literary and film days) when the Soviet Union and the Communists therein were our archenemies? We’ve tried to make the radical Muslims and the Chinese Communists our enemies in books and films, but it’s never been quite the same. Cold War spies on both sides of the Iron Curtain just make dandy enemies. And great stories.

Author Beatriz Williams offers readers a dandy look at the United States, Europe and the Soviet Union in the days following the end of WWII. The communist party has taken over the Soviet Union, and no one was to be trusted. They could be agents. They could be double agents. Secrets abounded.

Iris and her sister Ruth are living in Italy during the last days of the war. Iris meets and falls in love with Sasha Digby, a U.S. Embassy official with communist sympathies. Ruth and Iris have a falling out. Ruth returns to the U.S. Iris marries Sasha, and the two continue to live in Italy until they vanish.

Some time later, Ruth receives a cryptic message from Iris, indicating that she and Sasha are in Moscow, she is about to deliver a baby, and she wants out of the Soviet Union. Despite her feelings about Iris and Sasha, Ruth agrees to go undercover with an American counterintelligence agent posing as her husband in an effort to return Iris to safety. But there is a spy in their mix, and no one is sure who it is and what side the spy is on.

Our Woman in Moscow is a terrific spy thriller with a unexpected ending.

I like all of Beatriz Williams’ books, and particularly like that she ties characters and storylines together. Even in this novel, Aunt Violet makes an appearance.

I highly recommend this book.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Talking in Code
This past Monday, our niece Jessie and her boyfriend Rob joined Bill and Jen and I at my house for a Labor Day barbecue. At some point in the afternoon, Jessie and Jen began talking in what appeared to be some sort of code. I kept hearing the letters PSL with lots of smiles. I finally admitted my ignorance, and they explained that the letters stood for pumpkin spice latte. As you probably know, Starbucks has begun offering the beverage, to most everyone’s delight. I haven’t yet done my annual pumpkin spice rant, and probably won’t do so this year. As I have explained, I’m not particularly anti-pumpkin; I simply don’t know why we can’t get just as excited about apples this time of year. I will tell you that they all seemed to enjoy my apple cake, and there wasn’t a single complaint about the lack of pumpkin pie.

Traitor to the Cause
I have to admit something at this point. The other day, while I was waiting for Bill to finish his boxing class, I wandered over to the grocery store and noticed the ubiquitous Starbucks. They were advertising something called a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. It looked very good. I was hot, and had only had a single cup of coffee that morning at breakfast. Friends, I succumbed to the temptation, and ordered a pumpkin cream cold brew, one pump of pumpkin flavor only. I must reluctantly admit that it was delicious. So good, in fact, that I believe I will order another today, only this time a size up….

But They Go Too Far
Despite my apparent tolerance for All Things Pumpkin Spice, I must admit that the pumpkin spice lobby doesn’t fail to always go one step too far. As an example…..

Zelda
Among the British mysteries that I watch, my favorites almost always take place in the 20s and 30s. I love to see the elegant women in their glittery gowns with their long gloves pulled up over their elbows and their cigarettes dangling in the long holder. Martinis are always their adult beverage of choice, and I particularly like when they serve them in coupe glasses, which seem more realistic for the times. So I was delighted when I spotted these coupe martini glasses recently, and for only $3.20 a stem. A smoking bargain. I’m pretty sure I look like Zelda Fitzgerald when I am drinking my martini out of this glass. Minus the cigarette, of course…..

The Truth Hurts
The other day, I was following a trailer, and noticed the sign on the back of the vehicle. The message might be a little strong, but only a little. The truth hurts…..

Ciao!

Something in the Air

Last night we were watching the news, and a story came on that caught my attention. There was an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City on which there was a passenger who went nuts. Seriously. As passengers were asked to make sure their seatbelts were fastened and their tray tables were up, the Nut stood up and began shouting , “You can’t hold us.” He refused to sit down.

The fact of the matter is that they could, indeed, hold him because they were some-20,000 feet in the air. Unless he wanted to jump out of the plane ala Harrison Ford in Air Force One (a movie Bill and I recently watched, vowing never to fly again), he was stuck on the plane until it landed. Unfortunately, the other hundred-some people on the plane were stuck listening to the man go insane. He apparently sat down and began moving his mask up and down, up and down, up and down his face, while growling wildly.

They decided the man was intoxicated. I’m guessing his problem was more than three or four Jack and Cokes. But what do I know?

Poor flight attendants. The things they clearly have to deal with on a daily basis. The person delivering the news of this crazy man went on to say that situations such as this are frighteningly common these days, and more often than not, they start with someone not wanting to wear a mask.

As for me, I would happily wear a mask (and do) if I could only have a bit of breathing room between rows and seats. I don’t think I will ever go so far as to stand up and yell, “You can’t hold us,” but I will admit to being quite crabby on flights longer than an hour-and-a-half.

This story caught my attention, because on Monday, Bill’s daughter Heather and our 12-year-old grandson Joseph flew home from Denver to their home in Vermont. That evening, I sent Heather a text asking how their flight went. It was a polite question, and I expected a simple It was a good flight response. Instead, she immediately texted back this information:

The flight was really crazy. The guy in the seat across the aisle from Joseph seemed to overdose and stopped breathing. They had to get on the PA to ask if there was a doctor on board. There were a few people who helped and they revived him. It was very scary and stressful…..One of the medical people switched seats so she could sit next to him and keep an eye on him. Anyway, Joseph was really freaked out we were glad to get off the plane.

The flight was four hours long, and they still had another hour-and-a-half to go. I spoke to Heather and Joseph yesterday, and Joseph had settled down. “I was really scared, Nana,” he told me. He showed me how he huddled into his mom for the rest of the flight. The man had fallen into the aisle right next to the poor kid.

Joseph told me he saw the man go into the bathroom shortly before all of the drama began. The man apparently took (or shot) something, ODing shortly after.

I will stick with my Bloody Mary before flights, and promise to stay in my seat for the entire flight.

Here’s Your Change

I was reading something somewhere for some reason that posed this question: What did you learn from your very first job?

My first job, of course, was for my father at Gloor’s Bakery in Columbus, Nebraska. My father was the owner and proprietor. Every one of his kids would answer the same way. Our first jobs were all working at the bakery.

I think I was about 14 years old when I began getting paid for working at the bakery. All of us worked for Dad in some respect from the time we could walk. But at age 14, I began having set hours, set job tasks, and received a paycheck. I can’t remember what I was paid, but I’m guessing it was probably minimum wage. Minimum wage in 1967 — the year I turned 14 — was $1.40. I checked. I also checked to see what that buck forty would mean in 2021 dollars. The answer is $11.08. I didn’t complain about my pay because, well, he was my dad. More important, I had virtually no expenses except for the occasional album or 45 record.

One of the first things I did when I became a working stiff was to walk down to First National Bank of Columbus and open a savings account. As I recall, we got paid once a week, on Saturday. The following Monday, I would walk downtown after school and deposit my check in my savings account. So then, in answer to that initial question about what I learned from my first job, one of the things I learned is my need to have money in savings. Money put away — even if it’s not a lot — is important to me to this day.

Another practical thing I learned as Mom trained me to accept money-for-donuts-and-bread was that bills ALWAYS FACE THE SAME DIRECTION. She was a stickler about that. Again, to this day, the bills in my billfold all face the same direction. They are, however, rarely handed to me in the same direction, even by bank tellers. It takes a bit of time and work to get the bills ready to tuck into my billfold slot.

Unlike today, people actually paid in cash nearly all the time. Oh, a large purchase such as a birthday cake might involve a check, but cash was king in those days. As a cashier, I learned how to make change. Yes kids. There was a time when your cash register didn’t tell you how much change the customer receives. If a purchase was $6.17 and the customer gave you a ten dollar bill, you quickly slid out three pennies, a nickel, three quarters and three dollars from the cash drawer. You then counted the money out into the customer’s hand. I never made a mistake. I still wouldn’t.

I learned how to safely handle dangerous equipment like the bread slicer. Not a single injury. I filled bismarcks the correct way: slowly pulling back on the donut as you fill it so that not all of the filling is at the end of the bismarck. Because, of course, I also learned that you take the first bite of the bismarck at the spot of the hole.

Don’t get me wrong. I also learned a lot of things like responsibility and hard work. My years working for my parents helped me be a better worker throughout my life.