Saturday Smile: Happy Birthday to ME!

Yesterday I turned 65. I remember when I thought only really old people were 65, but now it’s me. I feel no different than I did on Friday!

To celebrate my birthday, our family gathered at Dave and Jll’s house, where we ate pizza and salad. The high point, however, was after dinner, when the whole gang participated in the making and decorating of Christmas cookies…..

Maggie Faith, Kaiya, and Mylee get ready to hunker down and make themselves some cookies.

Alastair was pretty particular with his batch, and I’m pretty sure he ate them all.

Addie and Allen are carefully working on making cookies shaped like biology experiments. Go figure.

Maggie gets ready to put her first batch in the oven.

Dave, Court, and Bill started the ball rolling by softening up the dough for the kids.

Some of the results, courtesy of Mylee.

And, of course, she made a monkey!

You may have noticed a few missing grands. Dagny was feeling the effects of an injury she received at school. She was there, but escaped Nana’s camera. As for Cole, he has been feeling punk the past few days and wasn’t able to come to the party. His sisters made sure he got some cookies, however…..

I had a wonderful birthday, spent with people I love. Thanks to everyone who helped make my day special.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

There’s a couple of reasons why I should have hated author Stephen King’s memoir/writing textbook On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. First, I dislike most memoirs. I believe that the majority of people are just like me with lives that are pretty ordinary. Thus, I believe one must be extraordinarily full of oneself to justify writing a memoir. Second, I am in the .00002 percent of the world’s population who has never — not EVER — read a novel by Stephen King. It isn’t that I am protesting his prolificacy. On the contrary, more power to a person who can come up with that many ideas. He has written 58 novels, six non-fiction books, and some 200 short stories. And I’ve read exactly none. I just am not a fan of horror stories that involve talking cars and snarling giant dogs. I’ve loved the movies made from his books, however. Go figure.

At any rate, despite the fact that I SHOULD have hated this book, instead, I loved it.

The first part of the book is mostly memoir — his own fairly self-deprecating story of his ordinary life growing up in the 50s and 60s. It was a nostalgic walk down Memory Lane for me as in many ways, his life duplicated mine and many other Baby Boomers. But the story of his youth painted a clear picture as to why he ended up being a writer, and specifically primarily a writer of horror fiction.

The second part of the book is a writing lesson. I will freely admit that I’m a writing geek. I love grammar and vocabulary, and I mostly always have. King’s lessons were not preachy, just practical. Basically, he says, if you want to be a writer, then you must write, write, write. Find a spot where you are comfortable and write. Pay attention to life around you and write. Find someone with whom you are comfortable and let them critique what you write.

Even if you aren’t a writer and have no desire to become one, this book is an interesting look at an ordinary man during one of the best times to be a kid, and told by someone who can write one heck of a good story.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Piddling Penny-Pinching
As I have already mentioned, Jen got a new puppy that she named Winston. Despite the fact that Winston is three-quarters poodle and only a quarter Yorkie, he looked more like a Winston than a Jacque. Anyhoo, when she picked him up, the breeder told her that he was nearly housebroken using what she called a piddle pad. She suggested that Jen continue using that method of housebreaking. But she went on to say that when she orders them from Amazon, she orders piddle pads for humans. Why? Though they are exactly the same, the pads for dogs are significantly more expensive. Apparently people are more willing to pay hard-earned cashola for their dogs than for Grandma.

It’s a Lego! It’s a Robot!
My eight-year-old granddaughter Mylee has liked playing with Legos since she could fit them together. At 3 years old, she was building complex vehicles and buildings using my meager Lego supply. So it’s not surprising that she has been participating in an after-school Lego Robotics class. Last Saturday was the day that they shared their hard work with the public. Mylee was proud to show me the results of her team’s — the Super Rainbow Robotics — hard work…..

Next year she moves into the competitive category.

It’s a Bargain
While I am embarrassed at how much food I waste, there is something deep within me that won’t allow me to pass up a Buy One-Get One Free item. The other day, I was purchasing whole nutmeg, because EGGNOG. The problem was, the only brand the store offered was McCormick’s whole nutmeg, and it was Buy One-Get One Free. Dang. I won’t go through even one jar before the expiration date, but I simply couldn’t leave the store with only one. I’m going to start seeing who among my friends and family would like a free jar of whole nutmeg. Any takers?…..

Though a faithful wine drinker, Jen came across an interesting whiskey that she allowed me to taste the other day. The liquor’s developer is a country singer — John Rich — who apparently decided one shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage to drink tasty whiskey. Friends, it was delicious. Now if I can just find Redneck Riviera Whiskey somewhere near one of my two homes……

Since I’ve been buying most everything online (and have managed to avoid getting any of my packages pilfered by porch pirates), there are many, many boxes that we have to find a way to fit into our recycling bin. Bill spent an hour the other day cutting up boxes. Bless his heart…..

Lettuce Pray
I’m delighted to see lettuce back in the grocery store. They promise me that it comes from farms that aren’t producing lettuce with e-coli. Should I believe them?


Christmas Frenzy

One thing that I’ve noticed this Christmas season is that there appears to be a lot of tension in the air among the people with whom I interact. Especially people who are driving. For one thing, there seem to be so many more people on the streets and highways at this time of year. Maybe I’m just getting old (well, actually, there’s no “maybe” about that. My Medicare card flashes its ugly face at me every time I open my billfold. Maybe I need to move it to the back where it’s hidden by my Costco card).

On several occasions since Thanksgiving, I have observed and/or experienced some really bad driving choices made by others. I’m blaming the millennials because I blame them for everything. For example, the other day when Bill and I were driving to his monthly doctor’s appointment, we were at a red stoplight. Suddenly, the car behind us shot off to the right of me on the two-lane street and went straight through the red light. Yikes, I said to Bill. Since we’re only a few  blocks from a hospital, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he is taking his wife to the hospital to deliver their baby.

In our show of unfrenziness, yesterday, Bill and I drove to Fort Collins to have our annual Christmas lunch with Jen, my stepmother Shirley, and my nephew B.J. Normally, we celebrate and exchange our gifts at a restaurant. This year, however, Jen wanted to introduce us all to her newest little buddy, Winston, a Yorky Poo puppy who is no bigger than a minute and unimaginably cute. He took a liking to Shirley, and neither seemed frenzied at all…..

As usual, we had a lot of fun and shared a lot of laughs. Jen made delicious sandwiches that involved ham and swiss cheese and Hawaiian rolls. She also prepared Mom’s broccoli soup (though our brother Dave would say it wasn’t Mom’s soup because Mom used slices of American cheese and I’m pretty sure I tasted Gruyere cheese in Jen’s. No worries, however. I’m petty sure Mom would approve of Gruyere cheese because who wouldn’t)?…..

On our way home after lunch, Bill requested that we stop at the Duluth Trading Company that he had noticed when we were driving towards Fort Collins earlier in the day. I was happy to oblige because shopping is not Bill’s thing, so I knew he must have seriously wanted to check out the store.

There have been numerous times when Bill has accompanied me to stores that I enjoy. Big fancy grocery stores. Stores specializing in kitchen and other home goods. Mexican or Asian markets. He generally lasts about 15 minutes and then starts saying things like so, you about ready to go? That’s kind of the way I felt at the Duluth Trading Company. But I bit my tongue because that’s how I roll. Ha! Anyway, as he perused the store from top to bottom, I spent most of my time reading the Thomas J. Glover Pocket Reference Guide, a little black book from which it appears you can find out anything about everything. Not that I remember anything I read.

Bec and I agree that we think the frenetic pace of Christmas shoppers this year is because Thanksgiving was so early. It simply FEELS like you are behind in your shopping because the season has been going on so long.

Calm down, peeps. When December 24 rolls around, if you haven’t finished your shopping, simply do what Alex P. Keaton (played fabulously by Michael J. Fox) of Family Ties fame did: go to 7 Eleven and buy everyone Bic pens.

Fall of Royalty

The low point of my day yesterday hit early, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 a.m. As I have told you all many times, I’m an early riser. Not being up and at ’em until 6 means I slept in. Being so well rested, I was off to a cheerful start. But when I settled at the table with my cup of coffee, Google fed me the sad news: there is strife amongst the British royal family. Sadly, according to some news sources, Princess Kate and Duchess Meghan are bickering. Yes, my friends, some sources are admitting that the Duchess of Sussex might just be a pain in the ass. Or perhaps I should say arse, it being Great Britain and all.

Some news sources are reporting that members of the duchess’ staff are fleeing like General Cornwallis during the Siege of Yorktown. Why? Because she is reportedly meaner than the Grinch. And Prince Harry is going along with it. Yes dear, he has been heard to say. You know if Meghan — oops, I mean the duchess — is being defended by her father, who was forced to have a heart attack so the monarchy had a reason to prevent him from showing up at the church, things are serious.

Prince William and Princess Kate have reportedly installed a peek hole in the door of their apartment in Kensington Palace so they can make sure not to answer if Meghan stops by to borrow a cup of sugar…..

Doesn’t it look like they’re both gritting their teeth?

The whole thing made me happy that I didn’t get up early to watch their wedding like I did when Charles married Diana. Instead, I recorded it so that I could fast-forward through the boring parts, which was nearly everything except for the chorus that sang Stand By Me and the minister who I suspect was sent to the Tower of London soon after the wedding was over. Using the same numeral references as Americans use for President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush — that being 41 and 43 — the queen was heard to say if 1 could send people to the Tower, so can 2.

When you’re up on a pedestal as high as Meghan and Harry have been, the fall from grace is an even more difficult tumble.  I’m reserving judgment, however. After all, let’s face it. The first trimester of pregnancy can make anyone cranky. After having to pee 10 or 12 times during a single ball, smiling at your skinny sister-in-law might make you grumpy. And then, as your stomach becomes larger and larger — oops, I mean, your baby bump gets bumpier — and you have to look at Princess Kate in her size 0 dresses, it’s enough to annoy even a duchess. Or, at a minimum, scream at your lady-in-waiting……

Harry to Meghan: Ha! Kate is dragging toilet paper from her panties. Let’s not tell her.

And then, of course, there’s all the pressure to make your appearance wearing stilettos and a clean dress five minutes after you give birth because KATE DID IT! You really want to sit at home eating frozen yogurt and cheese balls, but nooooo, you have to make an appearance within seconds of cutting the cord so you can’t gain more than two pounds…..

Anyway, the whole thing makes me realize that royalty or not, being pregnant can be as hard on a duchess as it is on you and me. Just concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas, Duchess.

O Christmas Tree

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter.
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter.

Lyrics: Ernst Anschütz, 1824
Melody: Volksweise (traditional)

My dad, when asked, always maintained that his favorite Christmas carol was O Tannenbaum, or better known to us as O Christmas Tree. That particular carol has never done much for me, I will admit. It doesn’t speak about the birth of Christ, but I don’t hold that against it. It just isn’t snappy enough for my taste. Not like I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas (Only a Hippopotamus Will Do). But I guess if you are of Swiss descent and heard your mom and dad speaking that language as you grew up, you would be a bit nostalgic about a song with German ties.

Here’s what I do know, however: Christmas trees were always a big part of our holiday tradition.

My siblings might be able to correct me, but I don’t think Mom and Dad had a fake Christmas tree the entire time that they had kids at home. And longer than that, I believe. We didn’t go traipsing out into the country with an ax and cut down a tree. We weren’t the tree-cutting-down type. But we did have a family tradition of going to Earl’s Garden Center in Columbus and picking out a big Christmas tree that would then be delivered to our house.

In my early years, we decorated the tree with colored lights and tinsel and ornaments collected throughout the years. At some point when we were all a bit older, Mom and Dad began to get their Christmas tree flocked; that is, sprayed with some sort of chemical that looked like snow, (and probably caused cancer). At that point, we began accenting the tree in red, heavy on the candy canes. I’m pretty sure that tradition stopped when they picked up and moved to Colorado. But they still had a live tree.

I don’t have a live tree. In fact, as the years have gone by, my trees have decreased in number and size. I used to have big trees in the family room, the living room, and the kitchen (decorated with cooking-related ornaments). But since we leave for AZ on Christmas, we make it easy on ourselves and just put up a small tree in the living room (for my angels) and a really small tree in our family room, so we can enjoy the lights…..

When Court was a baby, however, we always had a live tree. The Christmas after I became single, I was determined to keep up traditions for Court’s sake. Court and I went and picked out a live Christmas tree. I then had to struggle to get it home, drag it inside, and try (unsuccessfully) to saw the bottom off of the tree. By this time I was crying real tears and poor 5-year-old Court was looking forlorn. So much for keeping up every single tradition. From then on, it was a fake tree for this girl.

The Christmas trees they are selling at my nearby grocery store are becoming fewer and fewer. The other day I saw someone driving a car with a tree on top, and it looked like a Christmas card. It made me smile.

Here’s my favorite Christmas tree story: When Court was a toddler — maybe 3 years old — we were at my dad and mom’s house in Frisco, CO. Nestled among the ornaments of their Christmas tree were numerous candy canes. Court was instructed NOT TO TOUCH THOSE CANDY CANES. Later that evening, I spotted him, hands to his sides, leaning over and licking one of the candy canes that hung on the tree. He was technically following the rules — he wasn’t “touching” the candy canes. 3-year-old logic. He was following the spirit of the law. The Christmas spirit, that is.

Dad, I hope you are singing a chorus of O Tannenbaum with Grammie and Gramps in heaven.

Saturday Smile: Tattletale Troubles

I already provided my readers with my thoughts on the Elf on the Shelf in this blog post. But whatever makes Christmas more fun for kids is alright with this nana.

Having said that, something happened to one of my grandkids this past week that I have not seen before. It happened, of course, to 4-year-old Cole…..

Because seriously, who else?

One morning last week, his sister Kaiya sent me a text with this photo attached…..

Who knew that there was a Department of Elf Surveillance? Apparently Wally-the-Elf took umbridge at the fact that Cole tested Wally’s patience by sending him flying off his shelf in one fell swoop.

His mommy attested to the fact that within a nanosecond of the incident, Cole was repentant. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he immediately said. “Tell that to Wally,” was her response.

Sorry or not, he has gotten his one-and-only warning. Time alone will tell whether Cole gets, well, coal in his stocking.

Have a great weekend.