Unlikely Shopping, Redux

I always tell people I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. The truth is (and I actually checked the figures on the internet, so you know it’s right) that when I was born in 1953, there were probably close to 10,000 people living in the Midwestern town of Columbus. When I left for college in 1972, there were over 15,000 happy Columbus residents. Well, I don’t know if all 15,000 were happy. I’m overthinking….

Size is relative, my friends. I continue to maintain I lived in a small town. Still, that town had a J.C. Penney store, a Montgomery Wards, a couple of dime stores, a great drug store, and, of course, a fabulous bakery. My point is that if I needed to buy underwear, I knew exactly where to go.

Last weekend, I spent a few days in Estes Park, Colorado, with my two sisters. Estes Park, for those who might not know, is a small resort town of just over 6,000 located near Rocky Mountain National Park. There are lots of restaurants, two – count ‘em – two taffy stores, and shops selling all manner of chatzkies.  We have wonderful memories of Estes, and its proximity to the beautiful national park makes it one of our favorite places to visit.

Bec arrived first, driving in from Fort Collins, and I met her there. I had packed my bag quite hastily, and had included a picnic bag full of items for a cook-out that evening. At some point later in the afternoon, it occurred to me that, while I had remembered the steaks,  I had forgotten to pack pajamas.

No worries, Bec said. I have a spare pair.

Great news, except by that time I realized I had also forgotten to pack a toothbrush and, worse, underwear. (I did, however, have three corkscrews.)

Bec and I put our heads together to try to come up with a place that sold underwear. Had I been looking for a t-shirt that said My Mom and Dad Went to Estes Park and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt, or a coffee cup with a cross-eyed bear saying I Can BEARly Think Before Coffee or a lifetime supply of petrified wood, I would have been set. But we simply couldn’t imagine where one would find ladies’ underwear in this tourist spot. No Walmart. No Target. Amazon can’t make one-hour deliveries.

So I set off to the motel office, hoping against hope that the proprietor – Fred – wouldn’t be attending the desk, and that instead a woman would be sitting there. No such luck. There was Fred, looking cheerful.

Can I help you? he asked happily.

In a voice that was truly sotto voce, I said Hello Fred. This is really embarrassing, but can you tell me where I can buy women’s underwear in this town?

Fred gives it a moment’s thought, turns towards the back room, and hollars – HOLLARS – Hey Joe! Where can this lady buy women’s underwear?

Help me Lord.

Joe comes out, and you can see he’s giving it a lot of thought. After a moment or two, Joe says, Try True Value Hardware. It’s in the Safeway Shopping Center.

True Value Hardware. Men are from Mars.  If only I had three pairs of underwear and no corkscrews. But I knew that there was a pharmacy in that same shopping center, and I had high hopes that perhaps they sold women’s underwear.

I walk into the pharmacy, and there is, of course, only a man working there. I take a deep breath and ask him if they by any chance sell ladies’ underwear.

No Ma’am, we sure don’t, he said. Try True Value. It’s just across the parking lot.

Again with the hardware store. I was successful, however, at finding a toothbrush at the pharmacy.

As I left the store, I saw the True Value Hardware Store. What do I have to lose, I thought.

I walk into the hardware store, and there is, of course, a man at the front counter. Big man. Three-day growth of beard. Chewing on a toothpick. Do you by any chance sell women’s underwear? I ask him.

You’ve probably guessed his answer by now.

Yes, Ma’am. They’re on Aisle 16, just across from the ammo.

Well, I made up the part about the ammo, but I’m not making up the part about True Value Hardware selling ladies’ underwear.  I also found a Size 2XL t-shirt that with a picture of an elk and ESTES PARK, COLORADO in big letters. AKA, a nightgown….

Ace might be the place with the helpful hardware man, but True Value has the best selection of women’s cotton briefs in Estes Park. Well, the only selection, it seems.

Saturday Smile: Kicking it Off!

At Bill’s last semiannual movement specialist appointment for his Parkinson’s, we were invited to apply to participate in a clinical research trial for a distribution system for what is probably the most important medicine to combat Parkinson’s symptoms. Bill already takes Carbidopa-Levadopa three times a day. However, in the past few months, he has been bothered more by his symptoms during the period of time between when Pill No. 1 wears off and he can take Pill No. 2, etc. This clinical trial involves the same medication, but he would wear a pump that would give him a continuous flow of the same meds, thereby eliminating the down periods.

We were delighted to learn this week that he has been approved for participation. We have already had a couple of visits with the medical and research people involved in this study. It will be life-changing, both in the learning curve and potentially in his quality of life.

Please pray for us, as it is somewhat of a choppy road ahead as we learn the ins and outs. For example, he will be seen by a nurse twice a week for the next two years. I can’t get the image of a woman in a nurse’s cap looking through our bedroom window out of my mind.

We (and when I say “we” I really mean “he and his doctor”) will be facing such obstacles as figuring out the dosage, determining how to wean him from his current oral medication as this pump starts taking over, potentially increased symptoms as they work out the kinks, finding a comfortable way of wearing the pump that doesn’t involve wearing a women’s bra, and other things that we haven’t even thought of.

Having said all of this, we are both positively thrilled with the distinct possibility that this continuous flow will improve his day-to-day activities. If attitude has anything to do with this, he will be the participant to whom all other participants will be compared…..

This possibility makes me smile, if somewhat nervously.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: A Dangerous Crossing

A murder mystery on a cruise ship just as the world is about to embark on another war appealed to me. After all, if Hercule Poirot could solve a murder mystery on the Orient Express, why couldn’t the same thing happen on a cruise ship?

It’s 1939, and Lily Shepherd is eager to leave her home and her difficult life in England for Australia, where she is promised a job as a domestic worker as part of a relocation program.

She boards a cruise ship where, despite the fact that she is a second-class passenger, there is still promise of romance and music and cocktails. It isn’t long before Lily and her two roommates meet a wealthy and mysterious couple with a rather twisted relationship. They don’t even seem to like one another, but they certainly know how to have fun. Lily becomes friends with some of the livelier passengers, and becomes smitten with one man that she hopes has similar feelings.

In a clever twist, the author — Rachel Rhys — opens up A Dangerous Crossing with a prologue in which the boat is already docked in Australia and a woman being led off of the boat in handcuffs, having been accused of a murder. The remainder of the book challenges readers to figure out who is murdered and who is the murderer.

Rachel Rhys is a pen name for a British author who has written a number of suspense novels, but this is her first attempt at an historical novel. I found the book quite readable, though the characters were a bit flat. The ending rather took me by surprise, though I had partially figured out what was going on.

If you don’t mind a bit of slogging along, and if you can suspend belief long enough to buy the notion that a second class cruise passenger could intermingle with first class passengers in 1939, you might enjoy the story. It is a relatively light read with lots of glamorous clothes and lifestyle descriptions.

Here is a link to the book.



Thursday Thoughts

And Use Baking Soda to Polish Your Silver
Following my blog post about slime, yesterday I got a text message from almost-10-year-old Kaiya. Nana, it said. I have a solution to your chair. I heard you can remove slime from cloth or clothes with vinegar. Wipe it on. It should be at least a little better. Her text message made me laugh. First of all, I laughed at the use of her phrase “I heard… .” I’m guessing she heard it from her mother as she tried to get slime out of the sofa. But second, it sounded so much like something I would have read years ago in the Rocky Mountain News in the Hints from Heloise column. It appears from Wikipedia that Heloise is still alive. Should she be considering retirement, perhaps Kaiya could take over her column: Kleaning Tips from Kaiya….Tomato Takeover
I mentioned last week that I am getting an abundant crop of tomatoes. So many, in fact, that I’m having trouble keeping up. Finally yesterday I decided that I would can a few pints of tomatoes, something I haven’t done for a number of years. Bec helped me peel the tomatoes, and I only got a couple of pints, but it is better than throwing them away…..

You Think She’d Know Her Colors By Now
As I mentioned, Cole helps me harvest my tomatoes. The other day he was picking the red tomatoes. I pointed out a few more, and they apparently weren’t ripe enough for his taste. “Nana,” he said, “those tomatoes aren’t red, they’re orange.” As my sisters always say, our grandkids keep us honest.

August is my month for birthdays. Tuesday Dagny turned 7. August 17 Micah turns 6. August 22 Kaiya turns 10. And Court celebrated his birthday yesterday. He was born 8-8-80, a date that will go down in history as one of my best days ever. I will never forget that moment when my doctor put him in my arms after hours of labor. I looked down at him and he felt like a stranger. Then I could see both his father and me in his features, and he was suddenly ALL MINE. It was nice of him to make it such an easy date to remember, and such an easy year to assist me in keeping track of his age. I guess I had something to do with the year……

Two of my August birthdays.

Birthday Love
The kids stayed with Bill and me while their mom and dad had a birthday dinner downtown. I took them home around 8, just as their parents were pulling into the driveway. They were all excited to see their daddy, who had been out of the house by time they woke up. They helped him open his presents, and then gave him the best gift of all…..


Pickling Fun

There’s an old schtick that goes something like First prize is a week in Cleveland; second prize is two weeks in Cleveland. I’m not anti-Cleveland, by the way. It’s the first city that came to mind when I tried to think of places people aren’t yearning to visit. I’m over-justifying my use of Cleveland because you never know what’s going to offend people these days.

Or, the other old joke where the plumber says something like The price to fix your toilet is $100; if the homeowner helps, the price is $200. 

Okay, I’ll stop with the corny jokes. Badda bing, badda boom.

At any rate, the above-mentioned feeble attempts at humor came to mind on Monday when Kaiya and Mylee set out to help me make pickles. My annual pickle-making activity that normally takes about 20 minutes of preparation and another 20 minutes of processing took a bit longer, but was considerably more fun.

My grandkids — down to the very last one — are big fans of pickles. Big. Fans. If you think I’m kidding, I will tell you that I opened a pint jar of pickles that I had made earlier this summer, and Cole ate the entire jar by himself. The fact that the pickles were quite spicy didn’t deter him in the least. The whole jar. I’m attributing my grands’ love of pickles to the fact that every last one of them is of Polish ancestry. Also, I make really good pickles.

I’ve mentioned that I put up pickles nearly every year. I make cucumber pickles, but I also pickle green beans, because BLOODY MARYS. The other day I went to my favorite farm store and there were plenty of pickling cukes, but also a whole bin of homegrown green beans. On the floor next to the vegetables was a big jar of beautiful dill…..

This is a bouquet of dill that Jen gave me last year. Nothing is more beautiful than fresh herbs.

It was obvious. Time to make more pickles. And time to teach my granddaughters how to make pickles. (I would also happily teach any of my grandsons, but Cole was the only one around and his attention span — being 4 years old — is about the length of that of a chicken. He played with Play Doh while the three of us worked)…..

Hot jars out of the oven. Drop in a clove of garlic, a two-finger pinch of red pepper flakes, a three-finger pinch of black peppercorns, and some dill. Insert the cut-up cucumbers (cutting done courtesy of Kaiya) into the jars, and let Nana add the hot vinegar mixture. Along the way, I explained the process, emphasizing the need for cleanliness and what to do to ensure that a jar achieves the necessary vacuum.

“Nana,” asked Mylee. “Can you pickle other vegetables besides cucumbers?” I explained about dilly beans and pickled okra and yellow squash and zucchini.

Alas, by the time we finished the cucumbers, time had run out. And so had our energy. Still, while I have no idea if either of them will ever have any interest in making and canning pickles, I wanted them to see how it’s done. It’s my hope that one of their many memories of their Nana Kris will be helping me in the kitchen, and in particular, making pickles……

As an aside, last year Dagny and Maggie Faith helped me make pickles. As they prepared to leave, I handed a jar to Dagny, forgetting that they had ridden their bikes over to our house.

“Do you want to put it in your bike bag?” I asked Dagny. Nope, she would carry it in her hand. “I’m trying to learn to ride without hands anyway Nana.” Well, of course you are.

She made it almost to the curb before it dropped on the cement.

By the way, lest I fool myself that I do a better job of pickling when the grands aren’t helping, I must remind myself that last year, I completely forgot to add dill to my dill pickles.


I’ve written about slime on a number of occasions. Just about every time Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole come for the day, slime happens. Dagny (who, by the way, turns 12 today) is a slime connoisseur as well.  The purpose of slime rather eludes me. Play Doh I understand. I have seen my grandkids make amazingly intricate replicas of Play Doh food, or realistic-looking superheroes out of Play Doh. But slime? You just keep kneading it. Stress relief, according to Dagny and Kaiya.

I’ve taken to doing what I guess many parents and/or grandparents are now doing, that being buying sparkly Elmer’s glitter glue in bulk, hoarding contact lens solution even though I wear glasses, and stocking up on plastic storage containers from the dollar store in which to store the slime.

The popularity of slime, my friends, is an example of one of the most brilliant marketing strategies since Ray Kroc began hawking lukewarm hamburgers and a cheap plastic toy in cardboard boxes to kids and calling them Happy Meals. Elmer’s Glue must be making a veritable FORTUNE these days from kids making slime. It used to be that Elmer’s Glue’s success depended on parents and teachers buying tiny little bottles of glue to use to paste stars and half moons and suns onto construction paper. You have to sell a lot of little bottles of glue at fifty cents each to pay your CEO the big bucks.

Now, however, Elmer’s Glue is sold in gallon bottles at twenty-five bucks a bottle. There is Elmer’s glitter glue and Elmer’s colored glue and Elmer’s glow-in-the-dark glue. And every time one child in America makes a batch of slime, an entire bottle of one of these types of glue is used, making Mom or Dad or Nana go out and buy a new bottle (or two).

So, there I am, once every couple of weeks, filling my grocery basket with the makings for slime. I stand in line behind other weary-looking patrons with carts full of glue and Borax or contact lens solution. In an effort to maintain some control, I actually have purchased special containers to hold my slime supplies. My house has a lingering smell of boric acid.

Having said all of this, I will tell you that I have never understood why parents are so fed up with slime. It seems harmless, if also useless. Kaiya can make it in her sleep. Both Mylee and Cole feign interest, but they can’t even fake interest after about 10 minutes. Kaiya, on the other hand, will spend hours making it, and then stretching it and poking it pulling it and blowing bubbles in it and cracking and popping it. But what’s the harm in that?…..

Well, I was finally initiated into the I-Hate-Slime Club yesterday, when a tub of newly-made slime landed on my cloth kitchen chairs. Because you know what? Slime on upholstery doesn’t go away. It comes off of wooden and plastic tables and bowls and spoons. But slime on cloth — like diamonds — is forever…..

Bill did the best he could, but He-Who-Can-Get-Anything-Out-Of-Anything finally said, “Oh well, it think we can get new covers from IKEA…..

I have a great idea for Elmer’s Glue. It’s time they start selling Elmer’s Foolproof Slime Remover For Fabric. Shrink-wrapped with Elmer’s Glue.

Small World is More Than Just a Disney Ride

My teeny-tiny unimportant blog generally gets between 60 and 90 hits a day from somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 viewers. The discrepancy between these two numbers is because my sisters and my brother look at the blog a few times throughout the day, thereby increasing my hits. While these numbers aren’t remarkable, they are significant in that I started with maybe 10 hits a day, all from my family. They had to read it; I tested them!

Some really fun things have come out of this blog. For instance, I wrote a blog post in which I declared I was going to develop a taste for whiskey given that it looks so good when Frank Reagan, patriarch of Blue Bloods, drinks it along with his daughter Erin. I was subsequently contacted via my Nana’s Whimsies email address by a total stranger with whom I carried on a fairly significant back and forth email conversation regarding whiskey and Frank Reagan. We haven’t been in touch since. For a few years, I had a regular reader from Connecticut — a woman whom I had never met. When someone comments regularly, you begin to feel like friends. She has stopped commenting, and because her last comments made mention of being ill, I’m kind of heavy of heart. I pray for her every day.

Because of my blog, I have become more connected to old friends and some of my cousins who read my blog and might even comment, making me feel closer to them. I get hits from all over the world. Saturday, I even had a hit from Botswana. I love to picture a cattle herder out in the wilderness of Africa reading my blog. I’m not sure where I think he or she got the internet connection, but hey! it’s my imaginary story.

For a long time, the blog post that received the most hits was one that I wrote about a woman with whom I’m acquainted who donated a kidney to a friend. That record — over 200 hits — has stood for a long time. It held first place until a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about friends of ours whose son-in-law owns Bear Creek Distillery. While donating a kidney is important, what can I say? MAKING WHISKEY! Duh. That blog post has gotten significantly more hits than the kidney donation. I’m not sure if that fact has any social significance, but it is what it is.

Saturday evening, I was notified by a friendly ding from my phone of a new comment on that particular blog post. It came from someone with the same last name as my maiden name. From the comment, I learned that I have a relative living in Denver that, prior to this blog post, I never knew existed. The comment came from her father, who informed me that his grandfather and mine were brothers. I have unsuccessfully tried to figure out what that makes us. And to add even more confusion to the mix, what relationship does that make his daughter — the woman who lives here in Denver — to me? Does anyone have an abacus I can borrow?

It doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, blood is blood. My cousin-the-commenter said he has a vivid recollection of being in my father’s bakery. In fact, he recalls getting his high school graduation cake from Gloor’s bakery, and even remembers Mom handing the cake to him. And even more important, he noted that his grandfather made homemade wine just as did mine. And he admitted that it was probably lucky they both didn’t quit their day jobs to become vinters.

There’s a concept known as six degrees of separation. The theory is that all humans are six or fewer steps away from each other. In other words, the “friend of a friend” idea will connect one person to any other in six steps or fewer. I’m no sociologist, so I can’t comment on the reliability of this theory. Still, as Walt Disney said, “It’s a small world after all.”

Hey Cousin Mindy. Let’s have coffee!