There’s Always Room for Haggis

I never participate in those surveys that people find so much fun on Facebook. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? Do you prefer vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream? What is your mother’s maiden name? What is your favorite password? I will forever be convinced they are designed for someone in Nigeria to learn my passwords.

But I read them, and answer them in my mind. Yes, I’ve ridden in an ambulance. Chocolate ice cream all the way. No comment on the other two questions, but I know the answers.

Recently, one of the questions I read was What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten? That got me to thinking about what strange foods I’ve eaten in my nearly 67 years of life. Furthermore, it got me to thinking about how “strange” is in the eye of the beholder, or palate of the individual in this case. I, for example, have eaten oxtails on many occasions. It was one of my favorite meals made by my mother. Slimy, fatty, and delicious. Perhaps some consider that strange; I don’t. I also love me some escargot, though there are those who wouldn’t THINK about eating a snail. Yummy with lots of butter and garlic, and a bonus if puff pastry is involved.

I guess many would consider haggis to be strange. It’s hard to argue that it isn’t. After all, it’s the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep mixed with oatmeal and fat and spices, wrapped in the sheep’s stomach lining, and boiled to within an inch of its life. I have eaten it on two occasions: once in Scotland, and once here in Denver when we attended a multicultural night at the grandkids’ school. Dave hired a bagpiper to “pipe” in the haggis, as is traditionally done in Scotland. It’s not tasty. Sorry Scotland. Stick to your whiskey.

My dad used to eat head cheese. There is no cheese involved in head cheese. What is involved is the ciced-up head (and various organs) of a calf or a pig floating in gelatin. My father loved it. It smelled awful. Simply awful.

One thing that I didn’t eat, but wish I had, was horsemeat in northern Italy. Again, the Italians don’t consider that strange at all, but I wasn’t brave enough to order horse meat on my pasta. I have regretted it ever since. It is on every menu during the spring in northern Italy.

The Asian countries take home the gold medal when it comes to strange things to eat. Lots of insects and worms and uteruses. (Uterusi?) As I perused a website featuring strange foods, I literally gagged at some of the photos.

My sister Bec tells the story of a friend of hers who served in the military in Vietnam. He dined one night with a native Vietnamese family. He was presented with a bowl of the soup they were all eating. However, as the guest of honor, his bowl featured the eyeball of the animal, with the retina holding it up so that it floated. They all watched him for his reaction. Not wanting to hurt any feelings, he ate the eyeball as expected. He told my sister, “I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, but I also didn’t want to act too enthusiastic. After all, I knew there was another eyeball out there in the kitchen.”

It kind of makes a guy appreciate a good ol’ American hamburger, doesn’t it?

Friday Book Whimsy: The Women in Black

After reading a series of books that were somewhat dark, it was a pleasure to stumble upon The Women in Black, a novel by Madeleine St John. This book, like the book I reviewed last week, takes place in the 1950s, but this time the location is one with which I am less familiar — Sydney, Australia.

This quirky, quick-reading novel features four characters, all of whom work at Goode’s Department store in Sydney. The women who work here are recognizable because of the black dresses they are required to wear.

Patty is married to Frank. Her biological clock is ticking, but unfortunately her husband pays little attention to her. As long as she puts his steak in front of him every night, he is content. He eats and then goes to bed.

Fay is single but would love to be married, but she hasn’t yet met the right man. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to her that she will ever find happiness.

Magda works is the fancy dancy dress department of Goode’s. She and her husband moved from Slovenia, and have worked hard at acclimating to the new culture, but maintaining their roots. She wants to own her own dress shop someday.

Along comes young Lisa, who is hired to work during the busy Christmas holidays. Lisa is eager to find her way into the world. She just graduated from high school, and is awaiting her final grades to see if she will get a scholarship to attend the university. Even if she does, her father will fight her all the way. In his opinion, women don’t need college; they need a husband and kids.

These four women come together under funny circumstances and are tied together in unexpected ways. They all find out that nothing in their lives is more important than knowing who they are and what’s is important, and friendship.

The author has a very unique writing style. The characters were all so very likeable. I read the book in a day-and-a-half, and it left me smiling and feeling like we can tackle anything in the world with patience and friendship.

I recommend this book!

Thursday Thoughts

Facing the Ballot
Our ballots showed up in the mail over the weekend. Yesterday I made the Big Move and opened up the envelope to glance at what I will face when I finally get up the nerve to vote. That will happen before the end of the week. And then I don’t want to hear another commercial, watch another debate, get another unwanted text message, or read one more Facebook political post.

The Fly
Bill purchased a pair of heavy-duty safety sunglasses. He tried them on, and is very pleased with how well they protect his eyes from dust and debris when he’s working in the yard. He demonstrated to me how handsome he looks when he wears his glasses with his facemask. Hmmmm. I see the resemblance….

What About the Lawn?
Yesterday I called the man who has blown out our sprinklers for the past few years. He didn’t answer, but I left a message for him. He called back yesterday evening to tell me he could come this afternoon to do the job. What is your address, he asked me. I told him, and he answered, “Oh, your husband is the one with the Ferrari in his garage, isn’t he? I admitted that he was the owner, though the car isn’t currently in our garage in Denver. Oh, if only his memory of our house was our beautiful lawn.

Little Bitty
In my never-ending quest to make cute small things to eat, yesterday I made the most adorable pumpkin pie for two. I actually try to make it for a couple of days, but Bill isn’t satisfied with one piece. I can’t blame him. They really are small. But the small piece makes me happy. Here’s a photo before I put it in the oven. The measuring cup is a quarter cup. I placed it there for perspective…..


Changes in Gratitude, No. 2

This week thus far, I have written two I-Am-Crabby-And-I-Know-It blog posts. Today, I’m not a bit crabby. Of course, it’s 5 o’clock in the morning when I post this blog. There’s still plenty of time.

A couple of months ago, I posted a blog about being grateful. Concentrating on the glass-half-full instead of the glass-half-empty. I think I’m generally a pretty cheerful person (unless you’re Bill McLain and you’re sitting across the table from me before I’ve had my first cup of coffee in the morning or my 5 o’clock cocktail in the evening, or really any given time between). But I do tend to go down the doomsday path pretty quickly when a problem arises. Like Pumpkin Spice toothpaste or being called Honey by a 22-year-old receptionist.

Anyhoo, I figured it was about time to look again at the positive side of my life, and name the five things for which I am most grateful THIS DAY.

No. 1: I currently have three — count ’em — three UNOPENED puzzles. That means three puzzles with which I am totally unfamiliar. Yesterday morning I started a puzzle that I bought last year around this time. It is a Springbok puzzle (my favorite brand) that features Halloween cookies. I’m having fun with it given the season and all, but I have to tell you there is something simply wonderful about starting a puzzle that is totally new to me…..

No. 2: All of my grandkids are stepping up to the challenges they face in school. They are all in live school now, and they complain little (at least to this Nana) about having to wear a mask all day. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable. Our eldest grandchild — Adelaide — is a senior this year. Rather than moaning and complaining about all of the things she is missing, she is creating her own fun. Both she and Alastair — along with their friends and with the help of parents — created their own “homecoming” that included dressing up and having dinner (provided by the parents). One of the perks of being a senior at Addie’s high school is that the seniors are given a parking spot. For a slight charge, they can paint that spot. Even though up until yesterday there was no live school, she purchased and painted her spot in August just because it was the tradition…..

No. 3: I love autumn, even though it’s a forewarning of winter. But the trees are spectacular this year, and I’m grateful to live in a place that has four seasons (and that I can be in AZ for the season I don’t like!)…..

No. 4: Years ago when we decided to take out a bed of perennials that made me crazy and put in a big patio, I immediately envisioned the grandkids playing on scooters or drawing with sidewalk chalk. I am happy to report that it has come about just as I’d hoped. Every time I see one or more of my grandkids riding scooters or playing four square or drawing pictures, my heart is grateful…..

Oh, and it’s more than the grandkids who enjoy sidewalk chalk.

No. 5: I am grateful to live in the 21st century when we can have cataracts removed and knees and hips and shoulders replaced. Just imagine how our ancestors suffered through crippling arthritis and blindness because there were no alternatives.

And so, my friends, this is my gratitude list for the day. I hope it makes up for my crankiness earlier this week.

Nevertheless, get off my lawn.

Rant Increase

In a few weeks, my sister Jennifer is having shoulder reconstruction surgery. You might recall that this past January, she had a knee replaced. Pretty soon she will have so much metal inside her that she will even stick to refrigerator magnets.

The reason she’s having the surgery this fall is that she met her insurance deductible with her knee replacement surgery, so since shoulder surgery was inevitable, she chose to do it in 2020. Why not? After all, it’s 2020. She probably could fit in a hip and her other knee if she put her mind to it.

She chose to have the surgery again in AZ at the orthopedic surgery practice where she had her knee surgery. Though it’s the same practice, it’s a different surgeon. She had to work with a member of their staff to get the information. Not surprisingly in this day and age, it took some time and angst to get it all settled.

Not the least of her frustrationwas the fact that the man with whom she worked talked to her like she was 10 years old. Well Sweetie, I’ll see if I can get the doctor to help me set a date for you. Would that work? Or, Now don’t you worry Honey. We’ll get everything to work out.

“Why does he think he can call me Sweetie or Honey?” Jen would say to me day after day when the man wouldn’t respond to her pleas to get a date set so that she could make her arrangements. “He doesn’t know me,” she went on. “He doesn’t know how old I am, and he certainly wouldn’t be calling me Honey if he saw me grinding me teeth in frustration.”

It’s a good question. Why is it that young cashiers or food servers or receptionists in doctors’ offices think it’s okay to call a Baby Boomer something like Sweetie, or Honey, or Dear? It is annoying as hell! I have been a cashier and a receptionist and a food server, and I promise I would NEVER have called an older person by such a name. It’s demeaning.

Do you hear that, Young People. IT’S DEMEANING. Stop. Just stop.

This is my second rant this week, and for that, I apologize. But the grocery store cashier yesterday said to me, “Goodbye, Dear. Have a great day.”

I’m not your “dear” and don’t tell me what kind of day I should have. To tell you the truth, it was going quite well until you called me Dear.

While much of my readership is on the receiving end of the Honeyisms, I will nevertheless make this plea to those who have yet to reach the Golden Years. Don’t call us Sweetie. Let’s go back to the good old days and just call me Ma’am or Sir.

Rant complete. And get off my lawn.

Spice Things Up

Several people have asked me when I was going to post my annual pumpkin spice rant. To tell you the truth, I’ve hesitated for two specific reasons: 1) With everything that 2020 has brought to us — particularly COVID — I’m finding it a bit hard to get too worked up about pumpkin spice; and 2) I’m convinced that the market has spoken, and pumpkin spice is not making its appearance as much as it had for the past several years.

I haven’t seem Pumpkin Spice toothpaste, for example. That, my friends, might have been the one that put me over the top. Toothpaste must be mint, and that’s that. Even bubble gum or watermelon flavor makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. After all, you don’t hear about toothpaste that makes your mouth pumpkin spicy fresh. Or even watermelony fresh. I’m Team Mint Toothpaste all the way.

Nor have I seen a single can of pumpkin spice Spam. You think I’m kidding? And actually, I think it’s the Spam that set me off on my Get Off My Lawn rant last year…..

What’s more, much of my pumpkin spice discontent had little to do with the pumpkin spice. I like pumpkin. I’m a fan of nutmeg and cinnamon and even a LITTLE touch of clove. My issue was that the poor apple — the fruit/veggie of choice in Autumn for much of my life — had been completely set aside in favor of its archenemy, pumpkin spice.

Thus far this year, I’ve made three apple pies, two apple cakes, one apple crisp, and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, not the partridge, since I don’t know what a partridge is and I don’t think it represents Autumn. But the other three are accurate. I love apple things. I haven’t made a single pumpkin roll, pumpkin pie, and nary a batch of pumpkin spice muffins.

I’m less worried this year about pumpkin spice than I am the fact that markets have pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and colors. There are even pumpkins that look like they have leprosy Hansen’s Disease. When did plain round orange pumpkins stop being de rigueur?

I want to go back to the days when pumpkins were round and orange and perfect for carving. And I don’t mean that fancy dancy elaborate carving. I’m talking two triangles for eyes, an upside down triangle for the nose, and a mouth with three teeth. Boom. A jack-o-lantern. You could roast the seeds, but why bother when you can buy pumpkin spice popcorn?

To let you know just how much less angry I get about pumpkin spice, I will admit to you that I may — just may — go to Starbucks and buy a slice of pumpkin spice loaf for breakfast tomorrow morning. But I’m going to bake an apple pie for dessert just to play fair.

Saturday Smile: I Love You

The other day I watched Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole while their mommy and daddy went to a 40th birthday party for a friend. Court has been working from home since mid-March, as have many folks. He recently made a move from his temporary “office” in their bedroom to a new office he designed downstairs in their walk-out basement. The kids were happy to show me his new workspace. I found it to be a nice, cozy place that will undoubtedly be much quieter.

We were getting ready to go back upstairs, when Mylee said, “Nana, do you want to see Dad’s creepy doll?” Well, who wouldn’t. She showed me that he had a Raggedy Andy doll that I’m pretty sure my mother gave him when he was a kid. I love Raggedy Ann and Andy, but looking at the doll, I can see why Mylee calls it creepy doll.

“Do you want to know a secret about Raggedy Andy?” I asked the three of them. The two girls were basically uninterested. Cole, on the other hand, wanted to see the secret. So I opened up Raggedy Andy’s shirt and showed him the mark of every single Raggedy Ann and Andy: the heart with I Love You on the chest.

Well, he couldn’t have been more impressed. When I tucked him in bed that night, I laid down with him for a bit. Hand to God, his last words before those beautiful brown eyes closed were, “I can’t wait to show Daddy the surprise on his creepy doll.”

The next day, I texted Court to ask if Cole had shown him a surprise on his Raggedy Andy. He answered, “Yep, he was excited to show me. I didn’t know it was there.”

Well, he had of course known it was there at some point. Perhaps, things like providing for a family of five took priority in his mind.

Cole’s delight at the message made me smile. Cole: I love you.

Have a good weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Operator

Where I grew up in the midwest in the 1950s, we didn’t have to go through an operator to make a phone call. We did, however, have a party line when I was in early elementary school. Mom told us under no circumstances were we to listen in to a phone call if we picked up the receiver and someone else was on the line. Being the obedient sort, I would immediately hang up if I heard someone else on the line. But man-oh-man, did I ever want to listen in on the conversation. The Operator, by Gretchen Berg, made me glad I didn’t succumb to temptation.

It’s 1952, and Vivian Dalton is an operator for Bell Company in the small town of Wooster, OH. Just like the own in which I spent my formative years, it was big enough that not everyone knew every other person, but it was a small world, nonetheless. There were the rich folks, or what my mom referred to as the Little 400, and what Vivian referred to as the Four Flushers. And there were the Working Class people. And there were the Bible Thumpers. And so forth…

And unlike me, Vivian can’t help but listen in on the phone conversations which she manages. She justifies it by saying she knows the people of Wooster better than anyone. She has what she calls intuition, and what her teenage daughter calls nosiness.

And then one day Vivian listens in on a conversation that she really wishes she hadn’t heard. It changes her marriage, her relationship with her daugher, in fact, her entire life. And she can’t unhear it.

Though I enjoyed the book, I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. I loved the 1950s setting. The way people lived and thought in those post-war days was captured very well by the author. My biggest problem with the book was that I really never grew fond of the main character, Vivian. Or at least not until the very end of the book.

And most problematic of all — at least for this reader — was the repetitive use of nursery rhymes throughout the book. It begins with the first paragraphs of the story, and continues on through the entire book. And there is never an explanation why.

The book was a reasonably good look at a 50s woman taking charge of her own life. Not a stupendous book, but one that kept my interest.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

They Eyes Have It
I am fully recovered from my cataract surgery; in fact, I suspect I was fully recovered some 24 hours after the doc put down the laser (or whatever he used to make me see clearly again). Now it’s Bill’s turn. Tomorrow he goes under the proverbial knife. And just as I was, he is nervous about it all, despite the fact that I keep telling him it’s a piece of cake. I get it. The thing is, no matter how many people tell you it’s not unpleasant. THEY’RE MESSING AROUND WITH YOUR EYES. And, of course, they make you sign that form that says if you go blind, don’t blame us. He’ll be fine, but remember him in your thoughts today and tomorrow.

Tabling It
I have been toying with the idea of getting a new kitchen table. We have had our current table for something like 300 years. It worked swell for all that time. It’s big, people. Very big. And it can fold out to be even bigger. It has fit our entire family on several occasions. Perhaps not comfortably, but it fit some 11 or 12 folks that get along really well. But we almost never have that many people for dinner any more. Ninety-eight percent of the time, it’s Bill and me, looking like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, so far away we can barely hear each other. Perhaps we just need hearing aids. Nevertheless, last weekend we went out and looked at tables. In my perfect world, we would have a smaller table that extended out to what our existing table does normally. Easier said than done. For one thing, almost all of the tables are high, requiring special high chairs. Not good for two reasons: 1) We are senior citizens and can’t boost ourselves up as easily as youngins’; and 2) If we need to pull in more chairs, well, we can’t. After about two hours of looking, we both got weary. So we are still sitting at the same table.

Royal Battles
And speaking of the Queen and her prince, as I was awaiting a cashier at the grocery store today, I glanced up at a National Enquirer. According to the magazine, the queen has HAD IT with her prince, and the marriage is in trouble. I’m thinking not so, as she is 94 years old, and he is her senior at 99. I’m thinking he’s not doing a lot cheating any more. In fact, I’m guessing he only gets out of bed to be propped up and wave at the crowds when necessary. But you can always trust the National Enquirer.

More Puzzles
I finished a puzzle yesterday that featured the Denver Broncos. It was lots of fun, and gave me a bit of a battle. (More battle, unfortunately, than the Broncos are giving their opponents.) I texted the Biggest Broncos Fan Court and told him he is welcome to borrow the puzzle and work it with his kids. His reply? No thanks. Puzzles and our house don’t go well together. I believe that to be true, as Cole made a honest attempt to send my recent puzzle flying during his last visit.