Write Much?

…..And since we’re on the topic of my childhood (remember yesterday’s nostalgic ruminations about favorite cereals?), let’s move on to Nancy Drew. I’ll bet every female Baby Boomer is familiar with the girl detective, and there are probably only a handful who didn’t read at least SOME of the books. Perhaps you even have a favorite.

I certainly do. I read The Secret of the Old Attic again and again as a child because OLD ATTIC. What is scarier than being locked in a creepy old attic? The only thing that could make an old attic creepier is if you were tied up and blindfolded and THE VILLAIN TOSSED IN A TARANTULA. Yowza. That scared me so much that I remember it so clearly 50 years later. Who knew that I would one day live in the desert where there are tarantulas aplenty? And I know, I know that as it turns out, tarantulas are supposedly gentle giants who aren’t prone to biting. But GENTLE GIANTS THAT ARE HUGE AND HAIRY AND HAVE FANGS!

I truly loved Nancy Drew books when I was in elementary school. I read them all. I read the old versions where Nancy and Bess and George drove around in Nancy’s sporty little roadster and referred to African Americans — in the rare instances in which there were characters that weren’t white and wealthy — as darkies. Let’s face it, River Heights wasn’t a bed of diversity. (Although, I’m pretty sure Nancy’s BFF George (who was always referred to as a tomboy) was a lesbian. Tomboy, indeed.

But despite the fact that Nancy, in various and sundry books, tap danced Morse Code, spoke a vast number of languages, repaired her own car — er, roadster — knitted, gardened, and played the bagpipes, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a detective. Instead, I grew up wanting to be a writer.

At the height of my Nancy Drew reading days, I began writing my own mystery stories. I wish I could see them today, but, alas, I don’t have any of them because I turned them all into my third grade teacher for extra credit.

I’m delighted to tell you that at least two of my grandchildren have my propensity for writing. When we were in Denver, Maggie Faith showed me a notebook of stories she had written. They were creative and leaning towards scary. Scary in a good way…..

Kaiya, too, writes clever and imaginative stories, which she emails to me for feedback. I will admit that they are pretty darn good. She has inherited her nana’s love of the written word. To illustrate this opinion, I will tell you a story.

Again and again, people tell me I should write a book. People: it’s easier said than done. But I have had an mystery book idea niggling at me for awhile. Nothing definite. It would involve a group of four or five women friends who live in a retirement community. They are besties — eat together every night, go to the movies together and so forth. One night, one of the staff members in the retirement community gets killed, and a young man who works as a server is accused of the crime. The women are very fond of the young server and believe him as he insists he is innocent. They set out to find the real killer.

Ok, I know we’re not talking great literature here, but I like a cozy mystery as much as the next guy. My problem is that I couldn’t come up with a reason for the murder, or the identity of the perpetrator. In one FaceTime conversation with Kaiya, I told her about my idea, and mentioned my concerns.

She was quiet for a few moments. Then her face lit up in a smile.

“Nana, I’ve got it,” she said. “One of the five women has a secret from the past, and the server is new, and he knows the secret. She kills him to keep him from telling her secret.”

I know. Right? I practically teared up with pride.

“Kaiya, that’s perfect,” I told her, because it was.

I wonder if I have to list her as a co-author or if I can just mention her in my acknowledgments…..

It’s Cereal Business

When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, sugary cereals were growing in popularity. I blame Captain Kangaroo. As I recall, he was sponsored by Kellogg’s. Tony the Tiger haunted my childhood. He’s grrrrrreat!

We didn’t eat a ton of cereal as a kid. It wasn’t that Mom particularly worried about sugar intake the same way young parents do nowadays. We weren’t gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant or any of the intolerances prevalent in today’s world. We just were more likely to eat smoky links than Sugar Smacks, because we also weren’t processed-meat intolerant.

The two cereals you would find in our pantry were Rice Krispies and Frosted Flakes. Tony got to us after all. I preferred the Rice Krispies with bananas. When I would eat Rice Krispies, I would put so much sugar on them that there was a layer of sugary goodness at the bottom of my bowl. It was the best part. As far as I’m concerned, the leftover milk is still the best part.

As an aside, my grands are a divided nation when it comes to the leftover cereal milk. Some like it and some throw it down the sink. As for me, I’m Team Slurp-the-Sugary-Milk all the way. Especially if it’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I recently came across a BuzzFeed article that ranked 27 cereals by taste. I won’t link to the article because, well, BUZZFEED. Since my grands read my blog, the language wouldn’t be prudent. But I will tell you that number 27 — therefore the least tasty cereal according to BuzzFeed — was Grapenuts. According to this Nana, I couldn’t agree more. Eating Grapenuts is like eating dog food. Wheaties was next worse. Personally, I’ve never tasted the Breakfast of Champions. Raisin Bran was number 25, and I disagree with that. I actually like Raisin Bran, or did when I was not on a low-fiber diet and could eat bran. However, if my choice was between Raisin Bran and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, it would be hell-to-the-no on the Raisin Bran. I’m not crazy, after all.

You might have picked up by now that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is my favorite cereal. It’s also my favorite cereal milk. Next in line in both categories is Apple Jacks, a cereal that didn’t make the cut at all by BuzzFeed.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch was number 4 in the BuzzFeed author’s opinion. Beating out my favorite cereal were a couple of dark horses: Reese’s Puffs at 3, and a surprising Life as second runner up. And as to BuzzFeed’s favorite sugary cereal, number 1 was Fruity Pebbles. Wow. Fred Flintstone must have bribed them to claim that as their choice for the best cereal on the grocery stores’ shelves.

In this tell-all blog post, since I admitted that Cinnamon Toast Crunch was my favorite cereal treat, I will also tell you that my sister Bec’s secret cereal choice is Frosted Flakes. Like Tony, she thinks they’re grrrrrreat. Another fun fact is that when her grands come over, they are terrified that their only choice will be Frosted Flakes. For them, Froot Loops is the winner by far. In fact, before committing to a sleepover at their nana’s house, they make sure she has been to the grocery store and has an ample supply of Froot Loops to meet their needs.

The other day, my great-niece Lilly told me she and her Grammie (my sister Jen is in town for a visit) were going to the grocery store to buy Lucky Charms. She was quite excited, because sugar cereals are not a part of her typical breakfast. I told her a true story about the time Cole got ahold of the box of Lucky Charms while Mom and Dad were still in bed. His goal: easy access to picking out the marshmallow “charms.”…..

She thoughtfully considered the photo, and then gave her assessment: He shouldn’t have dumped the cereal on the steps; he should have dumped it on the kitchen table. It would be easier to get the marshmallows.

There are cereal rules when it comes to 4- and 5-year-olds.

 

Saturday Smile: Can’t Keep ‘Em Down

A week ago this past Thursday, a perfect storm of weather and climatic elements aligned to create historic flooding in parts of the Midwest, the bread basket of the United States. One of the areas hardest hit was my hometown of Columbus, Nebraska. Obviously the fact that there was a tremendous loss in property and even lives did not (and does not) make me smile. But the resilience of the affected people, the stories of strangers helping one another, the anecdotes and comments I read on Facebook indicating gratitude and generosity make me proud to be a Nebraskan, and that makes me smile.

Heck, even comedian Larry the Cable Guy —a Nebraska native himself — generously agreed to donate the proceeds from his March 27 show in Lincoln to the Nebraska Red Cross for rebuilding efforts.

Larry the Cable Guy

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Whiskey in a Teacup

I have a THING for cookbooks. Well, at least I USED to have a thing for cookbooks. Now I have a thing for Pinterest and cooking shows with recipes that I can save to Pinterest and read from my iPad. Still and all, the Joy of Cooking cookbook that my mother-in-law gave me many years ago remains one of my most precious possessions. Why, it even tells me how to dress a deer (and I don’t mean dress as in put it in knickers and a cardigan sweater and call it ready for church).

I rarely make it into bookstores these days, but when I visited a bookstore recently with a friend, I found myself wandering through the cookbook section. One of the cookbooks reached out to me: Kris, your southern roots are calling your name, it said.

I have no southern roots, but just as I would like to like to garden, I would love to love my southern roots. Unfortunately, I have never lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. At least not in this life. I am convinced, however, that I was a southern belle in a previous existence.

The book that caught my attention was Whiskey in a Teacup, with the unexpected author being Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon, of course, is best know for being an actor, with my favorite of her movies being Walk the Line. What can I tell you? My southern roots from a different life.

In her introduction, Witherspoon says that her grandmother Dorothea always said that women’s combination of beauty and strength made them “whiskey in a teacup.” I love that description, and I equally love that title for the cookbook.

The cookbook does actually have a fair number of recipes; in fact, there is one or two in nearly every chapter of the book. Good southern recipes, in fact; recipes I’d like to try. But the book is more of a combination of nostalgia and common sense advice on handling an uncivilized world in a gracious manner. Knowing how to make a room beautiful or how to set a pretty table doesn’t make a person incapable of making strong business decisions. Beauty and strenth: whiskey in a teacup.

While I may not feel the need to monogram anything that isn’t moving, I agree that knowing and using (and teaching your children and grandchildren) good manners will make the world a nicer place.  I loved Witherspoon’s memories of growing up, her stories of bringing up children with good manners and a kind spirit, and even her suggested playlists for different occasions.

I enjoyed Whiskey in a Teacup, and plan to rent Walk the Line sometime soon.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Waste Not, Want Not
Here’s a crazy thing about me: There are some things I don’t think twice about wasting (time being one that comes to mind immediately). If there is a dab of food left from, say, a casserole, both of my sisters will bring out a little empty chicken bouillon jar or a tiny plastic container that once held sour cream and scoop that minuscule dab into the vessel for tomorrow’s meal (that wouldn’t fill up a mouse). Not me. If it’s not enough to fill me up for lunch, it’s history. But I can’t waste fruit or eggs. So what can you do with overripe fruit and eggs that are dangerously close to expiring? Make bread! So yesterday afternoon I peeled and chopped two lone apples that had been ignored in our fridge (because I keep forgetting that I don’t particularly like uncooked apples), and made apple fritter bread…..

Spring Has Sprung
Within a span of a few days, we went from turning on the heat in the morning to thinking seriously about turning on the air conditioner the past few afternoons. Couldn’t do it, though. And I’m not complaining, believe me. We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of warm weather. I can now open up the doors in the morning and hear the birds sing. That makes me happy.

Play Ball
Because of our cool weather, Bill and I have been avoiding Spring Training. But on Monday the weather promised to be warm and sunny, so we took ourselves out to the ballgame. The Cincinnati Reds played the Rockies. We miscalculated a bit and spent the entire game in the sun, something that makes me happy but makes Bill, well, hot…..

Good Eats
We like the games, but the other thing we like is driving a few miles further to have lunch before the game at Guido’s Italian Deli. I’ve talked about Guido’s in other blog posts. Their Italian sub is a sandwich even a non-sandwich-eater can love. We enjoyed every drippy bite. Oh, and we might also have gotten a hot dog later that afternoon at the ballgame. Because BASEBALL.

Ciao!

Next Step: A Chip In The Head

In 1987, I started working for the company from which I eventually retired 20 years later. I was part of the communications and marketing department. Using the term department is a tad misleading since the department consisted of my boss and me. My boss — a very convincing salesman — managed to convince the Powers That Be that despite the fact that the entire rest of the company used PCs, we needed to have Macintosh computers (yes, kids, that’s what they used to be called). Honestly, we didn’t need Macs, but he used terms like creative liberties and better design elements and won.

So we each had a fat, squarish box on our desks that was the Macintosh personal computer. If something went wrong, our IT Department (all three of them) would look at our Macintoshes as though they were ET.

Well, I don’t need to tell you about the growth in popularity and general coolness of Apple products. They are user-friendly. No matter which piece of technology you’re using (MacBook, iPod, iPhone, etc.) they all interface. It’s technology for technologically inept people like me.

What I particularly remember about the technology being used when I started working hard for my money was the size of the mainframe. Gotcha kids. Bet you don’t even know what a mainframe is! It was huge. It required its own room that had to be temperature controlled. And then, maybe 15 years later, there was a big to-do when we downsized to a mainframe that was considerably smaller. It was cause for celebration.

And now I’m wearing a computer on my wrist. Go figure.

I am not particularly a spontaneous person. Well, unless I’m in a kitchen store, when I can quickly convince myself that I can’t live without a waffle cone maker. The fact is, I don’t require a whole heck of a lot of fancy things. I buy clothes without even trying them on. I wear only flip flops except for church when I upgrade to black sandals.

But I really wanted an Apple watch, and I can’t really tell you why. My iPhone 7 works like a charm, and I almost always have it with me. The Timex watches that I have worn for years tell satisfactory time and light up in the dark when I press the Indiglo button. Woo-hoo.

But then my sister Jen would check the time on her Apple Watch, and I would be green with envy. Or my daughter-in-law Alyx would read an email on her Apple Watch, and I could bite my lip to keep from tearing up.

But they are so ridiculously expensive that I just couldn’t jusyify the cost. Then my Timex broke and so did my will. I bought it with points (sorry grands, Christmas will be bleak this year), and compromised by buying Series 3…..

Little by little, I’m learning the tricks. In the scheme of things,however, I have scarcely learned much at all. Jen arrives on Thursday, and she will show me everything I need to know. Like why does my watch regularly tell me You are doing great. You have met your walking goal! Because a) I didn’t know I had a walking goal; and b) how on earth could I have met my walking goal when I have been sitting in my chair crocheting all afternoon.

We have come a long way from those square Macintosh computers all the way to computers you wear on your arm. Next stop: computer chips in our brains. You read it here first.

There is No Place Like Nebraska

There is no place like Nebraska
Dear old Nebraska U
Where the girls are the fairest
The boys are the squarest
Of any old place that I knew
There is no place like Nebraska
Where they’re all true blue
We’ll all stick together in all kinds of weather
For dear old Nebraska U.

These are the words to the school song of the University of Nebraska. Just about everyone who lives in that midwestern state knows these words, whether or not they attended that school. While the words refer to the student body of the University, they hold true for most of the people who live in this state from which my family and I hail.

Year after year, Nebraskans have watched hurricanes and volcanoes and tornadoes and floods and human evilness destroy communities in other states. Though it’s true that there have always been disasters (I remember the entire village of Primrose, Nebraska, for example, being destroyed by a tornado), I don’t personally remember anything that came close to the devastating floods that have hit central and eastern Nebraskans of late.

The photos you are (finally) seeing on the national news are of the town where I spent my formative years, and the communities nearby. Last I heard, one could literally not get into Columbus.

One of my cousins, who has a small business in Fremont but lives a few miles away in West Point was appealing to Facebook friends for advice on how to get into Fremont to check on her business. The answer — at least a day or so ago — was to forget about it; it was a no-go.

The photos and videos are horrifying. A lot of the town where I lived is literally under water. And it’s only one of many communities facing the same situation. People have lost their homes and their businesses. Farmers’ fields are under water and any seeds they’ve planted are destroyed.

But the biggest takeaway from this whole situation — at least for me — is how Nebraskans and other midwesterners aren’t whining and crying and waiting for help. They are helping each other. They are evacuating their friends and neighbors and total strangers. They are feeding first responders. They are providing moral support and praying and rescuing animals and comforting others.

Because that’s what Nebraskans do.

I became familiar with what was happening on Thursday via Facebook. By Friday, my sister Jen hadn’t heard a word about it on the national news, whose reporters are still trying to figure where Nebraska is located on the map. Facebook — which often gets a much-deserved bad rap — provided a lifeline to many people trying to find out what was going on in the vacuum that was the national media for several days.

Here is a photo that has gone viral on Facebook. The photo of a man named Craig Sorensen and his scared and shivering pooch Ollie was taken by his wife Julie Sorensen. The photo perfectly captures the sadness and confusion facing thousands of people.

Here is a link to a story about the photo and about the people facing a difficult future with grace.