One of the side effects of COVID-19 is that people are no longer able to hug, unless the hugger is intimately acquainted with the huggee. Even good friends who in the past I might have greeted with a brief hug, I now only give a a smile and a wink. (Actually, I don’t wink, not the least of which is because I’m unable to wink. But I would if I could. I love a good wink.)

My models were mostly hand-shakers, and not huggers. Nowadays, everyone hugs. I admit that my Get Off My Lawn crabby self has been known to holler at the television when people who are meeting for the first time give one another hugs. Why are you hugging, I will yell at the television. You just met that person. Bill doesn’t approve of my yelling at the television, but he agrees with my sentiment. He too was reared by non-huggers.

Neither my mother nor my father were particularly demonstrative when we were growing up. It was hugs before bedtime, rather than kisses. And while I never doubted my parents’ love for me in the least, there weren’t a lot of I love you’s tossed around. Polish and Swiss genes, donchaknow.

I remember very clearly that after Jen and Leroy got married, Jen started hugging Mom and Dad when saying hello and goodbye. Leroy, being of hispanic ancestry, was a hugger. (I must admit that Jen’s son B.J. inherited the hugging gene, and is about the best hugger I have ever met.) I pointed out to Jen one time that she was the one who broke the “hugging barrier” in our family. She admitted that it was a conscious effort on her part. She had missed the hugging that we used to get from Grammie Gloor (who didn’t get the no-hugging memo), and was determined to break down the Wall Against Demonstrative Love. It worked because before long, we were all hugging one another in greeting and departing.

I was thinking about this the past day because demonstrative love varies among my grandchildren. It even varies within individual families. All the grandkids will hug me; some have to be persuaded a bit.

Here’s what I mean: The other day, Court dropped off the kids to spend the day with us. Of those three kids, undoubtedly Cole is the most affectionate. In fact, he is probably the most demonstrably affectionate of all of my grandkids. That makes me laugh, because Court has dug deeply into his Swiss and Polish roots. Like my grands, he often has to be persuaded to hug.

On the other hand, Cole and Mylee were playing outside on the grass, and I was sitting on the patio reading. Suddenly, Cole left their game and ran up to me and reached for a hug and said, “I love you Nana,” and took off back to his game.

While I think I can honestly say I have never hugged anyone upon first introduction. I will admit that I am more apt to hug now than I was when I was a kid or a young adult. I will also admit that the first time I was able to hug some of my loved ones once the quarantine landed upon us, I literally teared up.

Sometimes I good hug is what you need….


Saturday Smile: Giddy-Up

I mentioned that Jen’s daughter Maggie and her family are visiting from AZ. Since this is generally their Big Vacation of the year, Jen tries to find fun things for them to do. This year, her big surprise was that they were all going to go horseback riding in Estes Park.

Many, many moons ago, my dad had the same idea as Jen. He took the family horseback riding in Estes Park. He and Bec and Jen enjoyed the experience. Mom, Dave, and I decidedly did not. Mom and I were simply terrified. Dave, being only about 2, rode in front of Dad on the same horse. He cried the whole way. Once we got to the top of the mountain where we would eat breakfast, Dad learned that Dave was crying because his, well, family jewels were pushed up against the saddle horn the entire way. Not a good way to learn to love horseback riding. At one time, there existed a photo of that day. What I remember is the look on Mom’s face: a mixture of terror and unhappiness.

Jen sent me photos yesterday of their experience. She proclaimed it to be one of the most awesome days of her life. In the photos, it seems like Lilly and her parents enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately, Austin did not. His face reminds me of Mom’s, and it made me laugh…..

When they got to the top, Jen asked Austin, “Isn’t it so beautiful up here?” His answer came quick, “No. I’m scared of heights.”

Back to the drawing board for him. And by the way, he takes after his Great Aunt Kris.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Ghosts of Harvard

Twists and turns run rampant in Ghosts of Harvard, a book by Francesca Serritella. The book can’t decide if it’s a mystery, a ghost story, or a teaching tool. Despite a few flaws, I decided it was, in the end, just a good book to read during a quarantine.

Cady Archer can’t come to grips with the fact that her brilliant, but schizophrenic, brother killed himself while attending Harvard University. Against her parents’ wishes, she elects  to attend the prestigious university to find out first hand what drove her brother to jump out his dorm window to his death. Armed with her brother’s notebook that contains his thoughts and unexplained and indecipherable numbers, she sets out to find the answers to her questions.

But before long, Cady begins hearing the same voices that haunted her brother. Is she also schizophrenic or are there actually ghosts that haunt the Harvard campus? The ghosts, however,  don’t slow her down, and she doesn’t give up until she solves the puzzle. She nearly loses her life in the process.

I learned a bit about schizophrenia and what it can do to a person’s life. And not just the person suffering with the disease, but the entire family. I also learned a lot about what life is like at a prestigious and very challenging university with lots of history, both good and bad.

It’s true that some of the book made me roll my eyes. I struggled a bit with the Cady, who is the main character. Perhaps it’s because I am a mother, but I really, really wanted her to stop skipping classes and not studying for tests. But it wasn’t a book that I was interested in abandoning. And I’m glad I finished it, because the ending caught me by surprise.

Ghosts of Harvard served its purpose in providing a break from some difficult times.

Here is a link to the book.


Thursday Thoughts

Can You Watch the Baby?
Tuesday morning, my telephone rang. The caller had a 602 area code, which is Phoenix. Still, I make it a practice to not answer phone calls from unidentified callers. I figure if it’s important, they will leave a message. And this caller did, indeed, leave a message. The message was from Rob, who is the boyfriend of my niece Jessie, both of whom recently moved to Denver. Jessie had three wisdom teeth pulled this morning, and she really shouldn’t be left alone. But I have to take my mother to the airport. Is there any chance you could come by for a little bit this afternoon to stay with Jessie? Well, hell to the yes! I haven’t babysat Jessie since she was a little girl. It was an easy gig, with no temper tantrums or diapers to change. In fact, except for a few minutes right when I arrived during which she ate some ice cream, I didn’t see her at all. She went back up to her bed, and never made a peep. When Rob got home, I had a flashback to being 12 years old and babysitting. But I didn’t get the 35 cents an hour that I took home back in those days.

Is It Hot Enough For Ya?
The temperatures have been hot this week. I can’t complain to my Arizona family, however, because their temperatures have been hotter, and they don’t see an end in sight. I can handle the 95 degrees, but unlike usual, the temperatures haven’t been dropping when I’m ready for bed. Usually the temperature is in the mid-70s, and I open our bedroom window and turn on the whole house fan. Our bedroom cools off nicely. The past couple of nights, I have just had to turn the air conditioner low and hope for the best.

Thirsty Plants
A few years ago, Bill pulled up the juniper trees in our front yard and made the area into a berm of sorts. By definition, berms provide a separation between land and a body of water. Ours, however, only partially separates us from our neighbor. Anyhoo, I planted some wild grasses, a miniature evergreen tree, and some perennials (including Black-Eyed Susans earlier this summer that I am hoping will bloom in the fall). But it wasn’t hooked to our sprinkler system, so it had to be watered by hand. That, of course, was difficult enough that I didn’t water as often as I should. We had a man come out this week to fix one of our sprinklers which looked more like Old Faithful than a sprinkler. At the end, Bill asked him what would be necessary to get a sprinkler for the berm. The man went out, and 5 minutes later, he came back and said DONE. I don’t know what he did, but I am a happy woman now that my plants will be watered.

My blog post from yesterday about my grandpa got some favorable remarks. I think as we age, we become more nostalgic about our past. That’s about the time we start wishing we had asked more questions. And, of course, by that time, it’s too late. I really mean it when I tell people to ask your parents and grandparents lots of question now, when they’re able to give you good information.


A Few More Hours

My Grandpa Gloor was a quiet man. When I was a kid, he seemed stern but not mean. He was very handsome, with dark hair and blue eyes, and he had a mustache. I never saw him clean shaven. He worked hard and was a smart businessman, creating a thriving bakery business from scratch. I think he had a typical Teutonic personality: quiet, disciplined, serious, proud, strict with his children, and intelligent.

Grammie told me many times that Swiss men were very good looking while Swiss women were homely. Her words and not mine All You Swiss Women Who Are Now Taking Umbridge. “Krisily,” she would say, “when you are older, you should go to Switzerland to find a husband.” I actually didn’t make it to Switzerland for another 30-some years, and already had a husband, but judging from my grandpa, my dad, and my brother, she is right about Swiss men being handsome.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t talk to Gramps very much. He never wrapped his arms around me like Grammie did. Instead, he gave me a firm handshake when saying hello or goodbye. It’s where I learned to shake hands properly.

If you asked me the one person I would like to spend a couple hours with, be they dead or alive, I would probably have a different answer each time you asked, depending on my mood. But if you asked me today, I would tell you that it would be my Grandpa Gloor. He’s on my mind.

I would ask him how he met Grammie, and what was it about Lina Huntziger that caught his eye. Grammie said they lived in different villages in Switzerland and that Gramps had to walk over a steep hill to reach her village to court her. What made her worth that journey as a young man? Was it Lina’s zest for life? Was it the devilish twinkle in her eyes? Was she kind and funny and did she make you laugh?

Did Grammie make you crazy sometimes with her enthusiasm compared to your serenity? When she would give free bread and rolls to the homeless men during the depression, did it make you angry or were you secretly proud of her? Did you like her cooking? Did you like her family?

When you would play German polkas on your accordion in the afternoon, did the songs make you homesick or did they bring you comfort? Were you proud of your kids? Did it make you happy to teach my dad to bake?

I would ask Gramps why he made the decision to immigrate to America in 1925. Were you scared by the Great War, fearful that the fighting wasn’t over? Was the economy so very bad that you felt joining your brothers who had already immigrated to the US was the best decision for your family? Were you so sad to say goodbye to your family, knowing you might not see them again? Were you scared to move somewhere with an unfamiliar language and an entirely different culture? Why did you become a baker?

There are a million more questions I would ask him. A couple of hours probably wouldn’t be enough. Well, considering how quiet he was, maybe the time would be spent in silence, holding hands.

Kids, ask your grandparents questions now…..


Summer Blonde

Dino Martin

When I was 17 years old, I read Seventeen MagazineOf course, I also read it when I was 13, 14, 15, and 16. I loved that magazine. I had a subscription. (I also had a subscription to Tiger Beat, but let’s not talk about that. All I can say is, ahhh, Dino Martin.) Seventeen taught me how to dress, what hairstyles were in fashion, how to put on makeup, and that to be attractive to boys, you needed to be 5’10”, and weigh 110 lbs. In high school, I was around 5’2″ and weighed 105 lbs., and thought I was fat. Thanks Seventeen. 

The other thing I learned, of course, is that you needed to have blond hair. I think every single model featured in Seventeen lived in California. When I was little, I had blond hair…..

I am the middle blond child.

By time I reached junior high, I was a solid dishwater blond, and stayed that way until I turned to my present shade of dishwater gray. Oh, I had a few adult experiences with so-called highlighting. It never really looked good on me.

But Seventeen Magazine told me I needed to have blond hair, and they had just the advertiser, er, product for me: Clairol Summer Blonde. Baby Boomers: Remember Summer Blonde?…..

Well, I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. More surprisingly, somehow I managed to talk Mom into letting me dye my hair using Summer Blonde. I’m pretty sure I used the product’s own advertising spiel to convince her: Summer Blonde will gently lighten your hair, just like spending a day in the sun. Say the sun did it, Clairol suggested in their advertising slogan.

As I recall, the first time, it did just lightened my hair a bit, like the sun did it. But then the roots starting showing. Nowadays showing roots is fashionable; back then, showing roots was completely trashy. So, to hide my dark roots, I once again applied Summer Blonde. And a couple of months later, I did the same thing. Again. Again. Until my hair was a completely white/yellow color that is found nowhere in nature.

I don’t remember if it was Mom or my conscience that finally said: STOP THE MADNESS.

And so I went through months and months of letting my hair grow out to its natural color. Again, though now having two shades of hair is commonplace, then it was completely humiliating to my 14-year-old self. So not only was I fat, I also looked like my parents breeded tigers in our back yard, ala Tiger King.

I managed to live through that humiliation, and come out with dishwater blond hair. I will confess that there have been times throughout my adult life when I have considered coloring my hair. My considerations became fairly serious as more and more gray appeared amongst the dishwater blond hairs. There was a time when I volunteered as Mystery Reader for Dagny’s second grade class. The Mystery Reader is someone that has a relationship to one of the kids in the class. The teacher gives hints, a few at a time. When she got to the part about hair color, and cheerfully said, “This person is someone’s grandma and has gray hair,” I knocked her aside, saying, “That’s about enough there, Missy,” and entered the room. Dagny was totally surprised, not so much at the hair color, but she didn’t know that I was her grandma. She knew I was her Nana!

At the end of the day, once I retired, the idea of coloring my hair simply went away. I’m too lazy, my hair is still short, and my grandkids (and I THINK my husband) don’t care what color my hair is.

I will admit that I have been pretty smug during the quarantine, as I didn’t have to go through the process of dying my roots.

Been there, done that.

Red, White, and Blue

We had a marvelous, really better than marvelous, Independence Day weekend. We spent the Fourth with Jen, who is being visited by her daughter Maggie and her family…..

In these photos, we are patiently awaiting the flyover parade of old airplanes. We saw about 14 or 15 planes flying in formation.

We ate our meal and finished off — as tradition dictates — by a banana split bar. Lilly and Austin are masters…..

Their great uncle Bill considered himself no amateur. However, Lilly set him straight. She asked to see his bowl. When he showed it to her, she announced firmly, “That isn’t enough ice cream. You need to go back.” And so he did…..

We set off a few fireworks in the driveway…..

…..and then watched Lilly set up her “grand finale,” which consisted of an entire box of Pops which she then ran over with her scooter…..

Our day concluded as we all watched the fireworks offered by Fort Collins and all of the surrounding farm communities from our fourth floor window in the Hilton Garden Hotel.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to see Allen and Emma (we had not yet seen them since we’ve been home). Our weekend concluded with a delicious meal of eggplant parmesan and chicken parmesan, prepared by Court and Alyx…..

Kaiya had not a thing to do with the preparation of the meal, but she seems to be ready to take the credit!

It was a wonderful weekend, and an appropriate celebration of the birth of our country.

Saturday Smile: Wood-en It Be Nice

For the past couple of years, Bill has been cutting down trees in our backyard that have gone to that big forest in the sky. He dutifully chops up the wood and and adds it to our big pile. The problem is that we rarely light our fireplace because we live in AZ in the winter. So the wood just sits there, seasoning. I have talked about putting something on Next Door about free firewood, but I was too scared. Those people are MEAN.

Anyway, we found a way to get rid of most of our wood pile…..

The David McLain family — or at least half of them — are going up camping this weekend. “Dave likes to play with fire,” Jll said.

Done. But as Smokey the Bear would say, “Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.”

Happy Independence Day! #improudtobeanamerican

Friday Book Whimsy: The Holdout

A few years ago, The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore, was surprisingly among my top three books of that year. Surprising, because that novel was about the invention of the light bulb. Who da thought? Not only did I learn a lot about electricity from The Last Days of Night, But I also learned that Graham Moore was an extremely talented writer. The Holdout once again demonstrates the author’s talent, this time telling a story of the power of persuasion.

Jessica Silver is a 15-year-old girl, missing and presumed dead. Not just dead, but murdered by Bobby Nock, one of her teachers and African American. He is, in fact, on trial for her murder, and it appears to be an open-and-shut case. However, after lengthy deliberation, Maya Seale, the only jury member to question Nock’s guilt, manages to convince the other jury members that the prosecution hasn’t proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They vote to acquit. However, one of the jury members regrets what he did, and spends the next few years trying to prove Nock’s guilt, even though he can’t be tried again.

Ten years later, the jury members reunite to participate in filming of a documentary about the trial. Later that night, one of the jury members — the one who regretted his decision — is found murdered, and Maya, now herself a successful defense attorney, is the chief suspect.

This new murder investigation provides clues to the original murder trial in unexpected ways. The author cleverly gives the reader insights into the minds of each juror by allowing each one to tell their story. Their own stories leads to a surprising conclusion.

I loved this book, and recommend it very highly.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Master of Suspense
I have taken a break from my British mysteries to enjoy some Alfred Hitchcock movies. Most of the better-known movies I have already seen; there are others, however, that I am pretty sure I haven’t seen. Day before yesterday, I watched Shadow of a Doubt, which is purportedly Hitchcock’s favorite of all of his movies. For good reason, because it was a doozie. Yesterday I watched Strangers of a Train, starring Robert Walker and a very handsome Farley Granger. My interest in Hitchcock movies was piqued by a conversation I had this weekend with a friend about puzzles. She, too, has been working puzzle after puzzle during this quarantine. She told me about a puzzle she did that had no picture. Whaaaaaat? That’s right, she insisted. Apparently in lieu of following a picture, you followed clues that come straight out of Hitchcock movies. OMG. She hinted I might borrow it, so I thought I’d better study up! I was able to spot the Hitchcock cameos in both movies, so that’s a start.

Really? Another One?
Day before yesterday, I was working in my office when Bill hollered up from downstairs. “You got a package that you’re going to like,” he said. I knew what it was. I had ordered another puzzle from White Mountain Puzzles that featured a photo of a vineyard. I’d sort of hoped to sneak this one in, since I got two other puzzles last week. Bill is almost certainly considering having me committed. ” How do you know I’ll like it?” I asked him. “You don’t even know what it is.” “Oh, I know what it is,” he said, holding up the telltale box with WHITE MOUNTAIN PUZZLES practically flashing in neon. Why, oh why can’t they send puzzles in boxes with no identification; you know, like they do porn?

What Can’t You Make? 
Earlier this week, I got a Facebook message from my sister Bec. Paula Deen is making homemade vanilla, she said, and attached the video. A few months ago, I had pinned a recipe from Ree Drummond on making homemade vanilla, and promptly forgot about it. I watched Paula Deen’s video (in which I suspect she was tippling from her bottle of Tito’s vodka as she made the vanilla), and before you could say “you practically have to mortgage your house to afford vanilla,” I had ordered some vanilla beans from Amazon. They came a day later, and voila! With a mere two ingredients, I have vanilla beans sitting in a jar of Grey Goose vodka in my pantry. In three to six months, it will be vanilla extract!…..

If it works, you all know what you’re getting for Christmas.

It’s Too Cute to Eat
In keeping with my miniature cooking, day before yesterday, I made Bill a chocolate cake for two in my brand new 6-inch cake pan. Next time I’m trying a double layer…..