Comin’ Home — The Next Day

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I was somewhat nervous about the prospect of making Aunt Lauren’s crescent rolls, bread-baking being something with which I struggle a bit. I was so nervous, in fact, that I stewed about it for some of the night. At one point, I had an epiphany. Jll had said that she was serving pulled pork for dinner. Why, these crescent rolls weren’t appropriate for pulled pork AT ALL.

Yesterday morning, I called Jll and said, “Why, these crescent rolls aren’t appropriate for pulled pork AT ALL!”

“Oh, that’s no problem,” she said. “I bought hamburger buns for the pulled pork. These rolls are simply because Dagny loves them so much and is so excited about baking them with you.”

She went on to tell me that if I wasn’t inclined to make the rolls, it was not a problem at all. Still, I just imagined Dagny’s big brown eyes looking at me, and her saying, “Why, Nana? Why?”…..

I am fully aware that the biggest problem I have making bread is a lack of patience. In the winter — when I am most likely to be making bread — my house is pretty chilly. As such, bread takes a very long time to rise. And if my recipe says let it rise until it’s doubled in bulk (about one hour), there I am in one hour frantically concerned that it hasn’t doubled in bulk. I am even liable to push ahead, ending up inevitably with a door stop, calling it a fail. In fact, if I could just talk myself into waiting until it is actually doubled in bulk, I would be fine.

A chilly house was not a problem yesterday as Dagny and I began our roll-making process. She proclaimed that she had watched her Aunt Lauren make these rolls many times, and she knew exactly what to do. And she was quite right.

My brother-the-baker tells me that when yeast won’t ferment, it is much more likely to be from water that’s too hot for the yeast than too cold. I always use a thermometer to make sure my water is in the neighborhood of 110 degrees, something that my brother would find amusing.

We mixed the yeast and the water and the eggs and the flour, and Dagny took over. “It’s just like mixing slime!” she proclaimed with delight…..

A bit different, I told her. I showed her how I learned to knead the  bread.

Once the bread was fully mixed, we put it in a bowl, and headed off to our next adventure: buying school clothes at Old Navy.

And can I tell you that I don’t know when I’ve had more fun. Despite having all of these granddaughters, I have never — not once — shopped for clothes with any of them. Dagny is 12, and has her own very defined taste in clothes. Comfort is her primary requirement. My kind of girl.

When we returned, some hour-and-a-half later, the bread was doubled in bulk and ready to be rolled. This was the point at which Dagny took control. She divieded the dough in half and rolled one half into a circle. Modeling her Aunt Lauren, she then cut the dough into triangles, and rolled the triangles into perfect crescent shapes…..

She then did the same with the other half. Once they were baked and cool enough to pick up without burning her fingers, she popped one in her mouth. “They taste just like Aunt Lauren’s!”…..

Yay. And phew.

Comin’ Home

As the McLains made their way back to Colorado at the end of their summer sabbatical, they drove right through Palisade, Colorado, the Western Slope community that is famous for their delicious peaches. I’m serious. There are no better peaches anywhere. Anyhoo, they bought a box of peaches as would any traveler with knowledge about the western slope fruit. The peaches are at their ripest.

On Friday, as I was packing clothes, toothbrushes, pajamas, underwear, picnic supplies, and wine in preparation for my sisters’ weekend in Estes Park, I received this text from Dagny (Let me warn you that despite the fact that she is as smart as a whip, her spelling, well, suffers. I am not changing a single thing.)…..Hey nana we stopped today to get some peaches could you help me bake a pie. (Punctuation is also not a strong suit; her love of cooking and her fondness for her Nana, however, are.)

I explained that I was leaving town, but if she could wait until Monday, we could definitely make a pie. Her response: I can wait. but i would love to make a cherry pie as well so we can eat them for desert for my birthday party.

It’s true, my friends. She was baking her own birthday treats. And thoroughly delighted to be doing so. But she went on: I can’t wait to be with you. Hey can we also make aunt Laurens roles. Mom has her resipie.

Now, this particular text post told me that she has a lot of her Papa Bill’s lobbying talent. Suck them in with compliments, and then deliver the final blow. It worked. Today, perhaps as you are reading this blog post, I will be kneading bread with Dagny at my side to make my daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s famous crescent rolls. And I feel compelled to tell you that while I believe myself to be a passable pie maker, bread is certainly not my strong suit. Still, a promise is a promise. Here are we two pie bakers as I taught her the art of making pies — one cherry, one peach, and one gluten-free peach for her Uncle Allen……

 

It was absolutely wonderful to catch up with this young woman. I heard about the fun they had (Alaska was her favorite spot), and about how nice it was to sleep in her own bed without Maggie Faith’s feet in her face in the middle of the night. We talked about her playlist on her phone, and about facing seventh grade in a few days.

She even took a bit of time (well quite a bit of time, actually) to eat dill pickles and fly a drone with Papa Bill…..

It only required one trip to the neighbor’s house to retrieve a drone that she flew over the fence. Bill is so happy to have a drone-flying partner.

As for me, I’m so happy to have those grandkids back in my neighborhood. I want to get lots of quality time before school starts. It’s almost certain I’m going to get lots of pie.

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.

Birthdays
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…..

Ciao.

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.