Pack a Lot into a Little

Every year, sometime during the winter that we spend in AZ, we make a quick trip back to Denver. It gives us a chance to check on the house, pick up anything we forgot that we need for spring in AZ, and most of all, to get hugs from our Denver family.

And every year when we come home, it seems to snow at some point.  It’s so regular, in fact, that I think we should hire ourselves out. If it’s been a dry winter and the trees and flowers need a boost, the farmers should pay for us to visit! This year was no exception, as it began snowing Sunday evening and continued into the night. We woke up to this winter wonderland…..

And honestly, I can’t complain much because it doesn’t even compare to the snowstorm that hit Denver 15 years ago yesterday, that being the same day that our eldest granddaughter Addie was born…..

Bill and I are big fat babies about snow these days, and we live in the desert during the winter for this very reason: to avoid the snow.  While Coloradans in general are better about snow than, say, Alabamans when they get a few flakes, we still can be heard grumbling, and our driving is admittedly not the best. On the other hand, Vermonters are not a bit put out by snow, even more than a few flakes. Heather sent us a photo of our grandson Micah at a school outing in Montpelier, VT. One of the classes his kindergarten glass takes is called Educating Children Outdoors (ECO), and they don’t let a little thing like the recent Nor’easter stop them from learning. Heather said Micah is the one drinking tea in the photo. I have to take her word for it because they are all so bundled up that I wouldn’t be able to pick him out without help. But God bless the hearty New Englanders…..

Here are a few more photos of our trip. We packed a lot into a little time…..

Court and Alyx and the kids came for dinner Friday night…..

Saturday, all of the Colorado grands wandered in and out of our house at different points in time. Alastair and Cole played outside…..

Dagny got her first personal cell phone that morning, and she spent much of the day learning about the phone, including taking a selfie of her and her Nana…..

That night, Addie’s family gathered at the restaurant at which she works as a hostess. We ate a delicious dinner and celebrated the fact that she was getting ready to turn 15. Whaaaaat????…..

Sunday, after church, Maggie Faith stopped by. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she didn’t hesitate. Go geocaching! We had a fun day……

Sunday night, Bill and I went to dinner with friends who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a great achievement, and what a lot of fun we had with John and Carol and a few of their friends and family. We went to an old school steak house and I had an old school dessert drink – a Grasshopper…..

On Monday, I had lunch with my very good friend Megan. I had every intention of having our server take a photo, but forgot all about it as we caught up with life.

Last night, we concluded our trip with dinner at the Zierks and grabbed a few more hugs from the McLains on our way back to our house.…..

Addie’s birthday was yesterday, and she turned 15. What does that mean? It means we must all steer clear if you see a 1997 white Subaru station wagon with a pretty girl in the driver’s seat, because this happened…..

She got her learner’s permit.

This morning, we caught an early plane out of Denver to spend a few more weeks in AZ before we come back for the summer. Our quick trip was tons of fun.

Born to Be Wild

Many years ago when I worked hard for a living, I traveled to Washington, D.C., a couple of times a year for conferences and to visit with our Congressional delegation to seek their support on affordable housing legislation. As part of my job duties, I was assigned the task of finding places to eat for the other staff members who attended, and – more important – for the board members who accompanied staff. We ate some really good food, as you can imagine. Finding topnotch eating spots is something at which I excel, and the Washington, D.C., area offered a huge selection of spots from which to choose.

One of the more interesting venues I selected was a restaurant – I don’t even remember its name – which offered what I considered to be a great perk. There was one big table that sat right in the kitchen where diners could watch the wonderful chefs prepare the food. I managed to secure reservations at that table, and we all enjoyed the adventure.

As one who likes to cook, I also enjoy watching others prepare meals.  And it’s not just fancy chefs that are fun to observe. I used to sit at the counter at my mom and dad’s house in Dillon, CO, and watch Mom cook our dinner as we talked about life. I loved watching her mix the ingredients with her loving small hands.

The other night, Bill and I wanted to go out to dinner. Our bags were packed to leave for Denver the next day. I didn’t want any leftovers and eating out seemed logical. Our neighbors had told us about a burger joint they had visited that isn’t far from our house. I love a good burger, and our neighbors are clever cooks themselves, so we took them at their word and drove to Apache Junction for dinner at the Handlebar Pub and Grill.

Let me start out by saying that Apache Junction is not considered to be the food mecca of the East Valley. If Arizona is the Wild Wild West, Apache Junction is the Wild wild WILD West. You half expect to come across a gun fight at any turn.

We drove up to the Handlebar with some trepidation. It looked to be a motorcycle bar, nothing less. I’m not particularly nervous about a biker bar, but I don’t think I would expect great food or drink someplace that could get wrecked in a bar fight on any given night…..

However, we were greeted pleasantly at the ourdoor host stand, and there were plenty of folks waiting for a table, usually a pretty good sign. We were preparing for the 30-minute wait when the host asked us if we wanted to wait at the counter overlooking the cooking area. We were told we could even eat there if we were so inclined. We, in fact, were not only inclined, but eager to watch the goings-on.

The counter was outdoors in a covered area overlooking a large grill, a large flat griddle, and a cookstove. At the stove, there was a woman who looked like she had hopped off her Harley five minutes ago stirring some seasonings into a huge pan of cut-up mushrooms. We realized quickly this wasn’t your typical biker bar…..

One look at the menu confirmed our suspicion. Not a French fry in sight on the menu…..

We had such a fun evening eating our amazing hamburgers – Bill’s a bleu cheese peppercorn burger with a side of pecan maple acorn squash…..

and mine a green chili burger with jack cheese and a side of balsamic Brussel sprouts that were parboiled and then cooked on the grill…..

We chatted with the cook and his sous chef (who looked like a motorcycle gangster and his biker babe). We watched him grill everything from chicken breasts to asparagus topped with feta cheese, while she prepared the Brussel sprouts, the mushrooms, and the onions cooked in Guiness beer…..

It seems as though I’m not pleasantly surprised very often any more. Most restaurant menus look disappointingly similar. Once in a while you might come across some truffle salt tossed on French fries or a bit of gorgonzola cheese on a burger. But finding a hidden gem like this in the middle of Apache Junction made our day for sure.

Next time I might have the bleu cheese potato salad, but I will for sure be eating at the counter watching the cooks prepare the meals.

Saturday Smile: Welcome Hugs

Bill and I got in around 10 o’clock last night, grabbed our suitcase, and ordered a ride from Lyft. Our driver kept us awake with stories — most likely fake — of all of the rides he’s given to big sports figures and other famous folks  visiting Denver. He purports to have given a ride to Jim Carrey, who supposedly paid thousands of dollars to ride with him. Right.

Yesterday morning Jll and Maggie Faith stopped by on the way to school. I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture, because Maggie was photo-worthy. Her school was having a St. Patrick’s Day party, and she was dressed quite literally from head to toe in green. She even had a headband that sported shamrocks on her antennae. We were happy to get some smiles and hugs on her way to school.

Last night Court and Alyx came for dinner with Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole. We all caught up with each other’s business, laughed, and reminisced about such things as Court’s early days of driving. I managed to capture this photo before they all left for the evening….

Hard to take a serious photo!

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Woman in the Window

I love Alfred Hitchcock movies, and Rear Window, starring the adorable James Stewart and a stunning Grace Kelly, is one of my favorites. Being one who will “write” a story about someone after just a quick observance, I always loved that he put together – and solved – an entire murder mystery just via what was really just voyeurism. I can overlook the tad bit of creepiness involved.

Because of my love of that movie, the plot of the novel which was purported to be the next Girl on a Train or Gone Girl grabbed my attention. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn seemed to be right up my alley. From the first pages, the plot grabbed ahold of me and it never let go.

Anna Fox spends her days in her New York City apartment where she has become a victim of her own agoraphobia. When she isn’t watching old movies and drinking way too much wine, she is peering out her windows watching her neighbors. Just like James Stewart in Rear Window, Anna believes she witnesses a murder.

The police don’t believe her; in fact, they think she’s pretty crazy, because it seems the woman she claims she saw murdered never actually existed. The man she believes killed his wife disavows that woman’s existence, and introduces her to his actual wife. Their son seems scared, but supports his dad’s claims. What the hell?

Anna pursues the matter, though fully unable to venture even a few feet out her door. The more she digs, the more the reader learns about Anna herself. The twists and turns in this absolutely gripping thriller are unpredictable and made me shout out loud in dismay. How could I have missed this? The ending, while wholly unpredictable, wasn’t the biggest surprise this reader faced in this clever book.

The Woman in the Window is the author’s debut novel, and it is a mighty good first effort. If you like thrillers or are a fan of Rear Window, grab this book and settle in as soon as possible.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

This is When I Need a Hover Car
I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for yesterday afternoon at 1 o’clock. At 12:50, I’m sitting in my recliner reading the wonderful novel that, despite it being about WWII, is bringing me much joy because it’s how people fought back. Suddenly my cell phone makes a distinctive beep. Distinctive because I know it reminds me that I have an upcoming appointment. The reminder default is 10 minutes. If I’m smart, I change that default to something a bit more useful like an hour. The reminder, of course, was for my doctor’s appointment which was a minimum of 25 minutes from my house. I moved remarkably quickly, crazily putting on shoes while at the same time scrolling down my contact list to find the telephone number of the doctor’s office. As I scrambled, I was trying to think of a good excuse for missing my appointment. It finally occurred to me that there simply wasn’t a good reason and that I probably should just tell the truth. Go figure. When the receptionist answered, I said, “Hi. I have a 1 o’clock appointment. I ain’t gonna lie; I spaced it out.” I held my breath. They couldn’t have been nicer, and had an opening at 3. I’m blaming it on morphine brain left over from the hospital. Yeah, Kris. Nice try.

Time Flies When You’re Blabbing
In the course of trying to find something I knew I had written about in my blog, I came face to face with the fact that I wrote my first Nana’s Whimsies blog post on August 14, 2013. That is a mere four years and seven months ago. That’s almost impossible for me to believe because it seems that I have been writing this blog for a heck of a lot longer than that. Perhaps I’m confused because I briefly wrote a cooking blog that was a complete failure in large part because I’m not a great cook. I also wrote a travel blog while Bill and I were on our big European adventure. However, maybe that’s why it seems like I’ve been blogging for longer than four years. We bought this house in 2010, so my blog wasn’t even a gleam in my nana eye when we bought our AZ escape with Jen.

Last night Bill and I went out for dinner, despite my best intentions to cook at home. I was yearning for a burger. We had been told about a restaurant not far from our house that cooked a mean burger. Stay tuned for more about the restaurant. For my purposes right now, let me just tell you that it appeared from the outside to be a biker bar. So as we waited for our table, Bill told me that he had recently read that Harley Davidson was having financial troubles. It seems Millennials are not swept up in the Harley mystic. I’m not sure if they aren’t interested in motorcycles at all, or just not Harleys in particular. It would not surprise me if they are buying BMW motorcycles instead. Young whippersnappers…..

Hugs and Kisses
Bill and I leave this evening for a quick trip back to Denver to see our family. I generally make it until late February or early March until I get homesick and need some hugs and kisses. In the next few days, we will be getting hugs from all but two of this bunch, and then return to AZ on Tuesday….



In January 2016 (which was the last time I was in the hospital), I announced via this blog that I was embarking on a low-fiber diet. That’s what the doctors had suggested could potentially mediate my stomach problems. While there is no fool-proof answer to preventing the situation that puts me into the hospital, a low-fiber diet seems to be a step in that direction.

You might notice, by the way, that I am going to great lengths to prevent using the word bowel. If I could drink a shot of whiskey every time I used the word bowel in the past couple of blog posts, I would be in desperate need of a nap. So my euphemisms will have to suffice.

Sunday, while Bill was at the NASCAR races watching cars go around in a circle, I was home researching my condition. I am challenged by the notion that all of my hospital visits involving my small intestine have been here in AZ. I have not been able to find anything to address my questions, but I did stumble upon a message board consisting of comments from people like me. Hospital visits and surgeries and NG tubes were a running theme. They all shared my frustration that there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do to prevent hospital visits, but they also all talked about low-fiber diets being helpful. Many, like I, had been told to keep fiber to a minimum by their doctors.

I like to eat. I also like to cook what I eat. For the most part, preparing low-fiber meals is not fun. The whole concept is counterintuitive. Nutritionists and dieticians tell you over and over to eat high-fiber meals and lots of protein to fill you up. Though the days of the Atkins’ diet are mostly in the past, cutting down on carbohydrates – especially so-called bad carbohydrates – is still considered a good way to lose weight and stay healthy.

Unfortunately, while protein is generally low in fiber, it is suggested that steering away from red meat – especially tougher grilled chops, etc. – is the way to go. The truth hurts, because this is what I had for dinner the night I went to the hospital…..

Yep. Chops and broccoli. On the contrary, fish and chicken: rah rah rah. Also high on the list are potatoes, white rice, white pasta, white bread, canned vegetables and fruits. Mashed potatoes and milkshakes every night of the week would be splendid for my digestion! Gah. No fun to cook.

I did learn that the fiber that is the most troublesome for me is insoluble fiber. That’s the fiber that doesn’t break down. Eating insoluble fiber is a great way to feel full for a long time. But for people with my condition, it can cause all sorts of problems.

For a long period of time after my January 2016 incident, I was a zealot about steering away from fiber. Fiber was evil. I didn’t touch a refried bean. I peeled my celery before cutting it up for soup. I avoided broccoli and cauliflower like the plague. I took tomatoes from my salads or sandwiches and gave them to Bill.

But as the months went by and I had no health issues, I became lax. As of late, I had pretty much limited my fiber restriction to nuts, popcorn, and sweet corn. And once, when Bill wasn’t looking, I put a spoonful of sunflower seeds on my salad while visiting a salad bar. He has a way of looking disappointed and saying tsk tsk tsk when I cheat.

But, as we used to say to each other when we were kids, “Mom knows, and God knows.” So beginning immediately, I am back on the low-fiber band wagon. In addition, my new message board friends suggested small meals, tiny bites, lots of chewing……

By the way, today is National Potato Chip Day. And the good news is I can eat all the potato chips I want. No edamame, but keep those greasy fiberless chips coming!…..


Who’s the Boss?

Thanks to all of you who presented me with nice responses full of good wishes to yesterday’s blog post about my health scare. In addition to words of encouragement, I also got several stories of experiences that paralleled mine. Apparently navigating the health care system – never a glorious experience – has gotten considerably more difficult in the past decade or so. Maybe Baby Boomers are ruining it for everyone!

I promised in yesterday’s post that I would give some thoughts on what I wish I had done differently and what I will do next time. (Perhaps the first change I should make is with positive thinking and instead of saying will do next time, I should say would do next time in the unlikely event that an ER visit is required!)

Interestingly, all three times that I have had small bowel obstructions, I have been in AZ. I find this quite astonishing because we live here for less time than we live in Denver. What are the chances? I don’t know if this is purely circumstantial, but it is interesting nonetheless. Anyhoo, I have gone to the same hospital each time. The first time I admitted to that hospital, it was because the Urgent Care I visited sent me there for a CT scan. When the scan indicated an obstruction, I was immediately admitted to that hospital. Subsequent admissions have all been simply because it seemed to make sense given they have my history.

Next time, I would choose a different hospital. Why? In part, because it is a Level 3 trauma center, and therefore it has a busier ER than a regular hospital. I have mixed feelings about saying that, because if a bowel obstruction isn’t traumatic, I don’t know what is. The truth is, however, that my trauma definition didn’t seem to be the same as the medical staff at the hospital ER. And who’s to say who is right? Perhaps the competition for the lone doctor’s attention was people who had been in car accidents and were bleeding to death. My takeaway, however, is that I am going to do some research right now on what hospital in this vicinity has a good reputation and is part of my insurance network.

If at all possible, I wouldn’t wait until 2 o’clock in the morning to head to the hospital. While I realize I only have limited control over the time I head to ER, it makes sense that 2 o’clock in the afternoon might be a bit quieter than the late night/early morning hours. Not only that, but as a result of waiting this time, I lost an entire night of sleep. My tiredness certainly didn’t help matters when it came to thinking clearly or healing.

I’m lucky that Bill is with me when I head to the ER. Even so, he wasn’t with me the entire time. For a number of very legitimate reasons, it turned out that Bill was out of the room or out of the hospital for every important conversation I had with a doctor or nurse except for two. He was there when the ER doctor finally examined me. He was also there when the surgeon came back to tell me that the obstruction had resolved and surgery was no longer necessary. But he wasn’t there when I learned that the CT scan showed an obstruction; he wasn’t there when the surgeon told me about the need for an NG tube for the contrast after I had been admitted. At that same visit, the surgeon told the nurse that he should put me on his surgery schedule for the next day without even giving me a second glance. He was out of the room when the ER nurse told me that I was in control of my medical care and I shouldn’t let myself be bullied into an NG tube without a lot of thought. My takeaway? I always have my cell phone in my hot little hand both in the ER and in the hospital. Whether or not Bill is there, I would turn on the recording device on my phone and record the conversation. After all, I am scared. I am sick. And I am under the influence of narcotics. Not a good combination for getting every detail right.

I would no longer assume that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. The night after the doctor had deemed surgery unnecessary, the head nurse came in and informed me that I would be given no food or water after midnight because of surgery the next day. I, of course, panicked. “I’m having surgery? I was told it was no longer going to happen!” He checked and learned that I was right and he was wrong.

But perhaps the most important thing that I would keep in mind is exactly what the ER nurse told me: I am in control of my medical care. To me, that means not assuming I have to do exactly what a doctor tells me. As my grandkids would say: They aren’t the boss of me. They are, however, folks who are a lot more knowledgeable about medical stuff than I. I certainly am not saying I would ignore them. But instead of rolling over and allowing another attempt at the insertion of an NG tube, I elected to drink the contrast despite the surgeon’s warnings of its nasty taste and the possibility of vomiting and asphyxiation. The stuff did, in fact, taste incredibly nasty but I didn’t toss my cookies. So there.

One of my blog followers – a woman approximately my age – commented on yesterday’s post. I have had medical challenges the past 9 months. More than I have ever had in my life (including challenges with giving birth). I don’t know if it is my age or what but I have had to learn to stand up for myself with the medical staff. “No, I don’t want to do that. What do you mean by that or what does that term mean? Yes, I would be willing to do that.” I am not a super bold person so it hasn’t been easy – but necessary. And, I have tried to learn to listen closely to what they are saying and ask questions. I have also had some wonderful nurses taking care of me, a few PA’s and doctors as well. Some just so so, you have to just roll with it I think.

Good advice.

I have only one more story to tell you and then I promise I will not write another word about my hospital visit. At one point I was still in the ER awaiting a room assignment and Bill had gone home to get a bit more sleep. By that time I had finally been given morphine. I was alone, scared, and high on pain meds. My curtains parted, and a very cheerful person pushing a computer on a stand walked in. Despite my condition, I knew immediately that Accounts Payable was making its first appearance. After confirming that I was who I was, she happily informs me that after insurance pays its share, “you owe us $5,827.62, payable immediately.

Blink. Blink. Blink. (That’s me, not she.)

I glance down at my hospital gown, and inform her, “Well, I don’t actually have that much on me right this minute.”

Blink. Blink. Blink. (That’s her, not me.)