Saturday Smile: If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

I think you all will agree with me that when you are under quarantine and staying mostly in your house with nothing to do but work on puzzles, watch British murder mysteries, or bake things that you really shouldn’t eat, every day seems like the next.

I had a text conversation with my nephew Erik yesterday afternoon in which I offered him use of some puzzles that are sitting in my closet. He expressed an interest, and said if they decide to go on a drive this weekend, they may stop by.

When’s this weekend? I asked him. I’ve lost track of my days.

Today is March, he responded.


Have a great weekend (whenever that its).

Friday Book Whimsy: The Spies of Shilling Lane

World War II is raging, and England is in chaos as the Germans bomb London and its surroundings almost nightly in what is called the Blitz. It’s hard to imagine living in a world where you don’t know if you’re going to make it through the night.

But all that Mrs. Braithwaite, the protagonist of The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan worries about is that she has lost her standing in the community because her husband has filed for divorce. Never mind that it was he who had the affair. She is being shunned.

So she sets off to London to surprise her daughter Betty, with whom she has never been close, to find comfort. Imagine her surprise when she learns that her daughter has been missing for a few days. Mrs. Braithwaite is immediately suspicious, and sets out to find her daughter. She convinces Mr. Norris, Betty’s timid landlord to help. The two quickly figure out that Betty isn’t just a secretary, but instead, is a spy working for the British government. It isn’t long before Mrs. Braithwaite and her new friend are in the thick of it.

The novel is a feel-good look at the role women played in World War II, and the difficult relationship between mothers and daughters. It’s hard to dislike Mrs. Braithwaite’s spunk, and her unwillingness to quit until she knows her daughter is safe. 

War is, of course, a serious topic, but Mrs. Braithwaite and her newfound friend provided readers a look at how strength and kindness we don’t even know we have can have a major impact.

The Spies of Shilling Street might be the first in a series? At least the ending led me to think so.

Here is a link to the book. 


Thursday Thoughts

Put the Groceries in the Boot
I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post one creature comfort I’ve given myself during the coronavirus pandemic: I purchased both Acorn and Britbox television subscription channels. Between the two, they offer every kind of British television show known to mankind. I’m primarily interested in the mystery programs. You know, Hercule Poirot, Doc Martin, Broadchurch, on and on. By time the guarantine is lifted, I will undoubtedly be speaking with a British accent. Poor Bill. He just shakes his head. Poirot in particular drives him crazy.

Going Crazy
Up until the last couple of days, Bill has been able to keep busy. He is now starting to become antsy. He’s started a couple of projects, but they are frankly boring, even to him. So I pulled an old puzzle out of the closet and blew off the dust. It features memorabilia about Route 66. Since he rode the entire road on his motorcycle, he feels particularly fond of this highway. It is killing some time, that’s for sure…..

Earning a Living
I mentioned that we drove to Lost Dutchman State Park last weekend, but couldn’t get in because there were so many folks with the same idea. I posted some photos from our drive, especially of the beautiful flowers. We saw a man sitting in front of a particularly beautiful field of flowers who has carved out a niche for himself — selling the seeds from these flowers. At a dollar a packet, he’s going to have to sell a lot of seeds….

Since the coronavirus entered all of our lives, we have been aware of the various folks we know who are experiencing unemployment because their places of employment are closed. Hair stylists, food servers, stadium vendors, and so forth. But I thought of one employment category that is also likely suffering that no one talks about. What about the all of the home invaders who can no longer safely break into houses and cars while no one is at home? After all, there is now never a time when no one is at home. I suggested to Bec that I might start a GoFundMe page in support of these workers!

If You Get Desperate
I hope by now everyone who needs toilet paper has enough to get them by. I have three stories about the shortage. First, I heard a nighttime comedian (I think it must have been Jimmy Fallon) suggest that if you run out of toilet paper, you can just use your CVS receipt, and it will last a good month. Here is a photo of a CVS receipt from a recent purchase that proves his point…..Second, at long last, I was able to obtain one package of four rolls of toilet paper. That will get us by for a while. The cashier — a young woman — commented on my lucky score. “We ran out of toilet paper,” she said. “We ended up using coffee filters.” Desperate times call for desperate measures. Finally, my sister told me about a friend who lives alone, and works full time. She has been unable to purchase any toilet paper, and was down to her last roll. She went into the grocery store yesterday, and there was no toilet paper to be had. She was quite concerned. When she went to pay, there was a package of six rolls sitting at her self-check station. She considered for a bit, and looked around to see if anyone looked like it belonged to them. And then she decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Best guess: someone was trying to borrow more toilet paper than was allowed and got busted.


Creature Comforts

Well there’s a dark and a troubled side of life
There’s a bright and a sunny side too
But if you meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side we also may view
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way
If we keep on the sunny side of life. – Ada Blenkhorn and J. Howard Entwisle

On Monday, my sister Bec blogged here that she found a taste of “creature comfort” in this rather dark period with an ice-cold martini and a bouquet of her favorite flowers, pink tulips. I loved her sentiment, and so did many others. In fact, quite unexpectedly, a number of people commented about their creature comforts on both the post itself and on Facebook, where I download my blog daily.

My sister Jen, for example, said she was brightening her days by giving herself permission to buy Kindle books from Amazon instead of putting the book on hold at the library. A good book that was a click away was her creature comfort. Several people indicated chocolate provided them comfort. Chocolate Reese’s candy bars for one; chocolate for breakfast for another. Bill would concur with chocolate as a creature comfort…..

Another added Diet Mountain Dew and her hope for bright flowers soon as her creature comforts during the pandemic.

I have found it interesting, if predictable, that many people are looking for things to cheer them up. I say predictable because I think, when it’s all said and done, Americans are optimistic in general. Give us a roadblock, and we’ll look at the sunny side. There are examples during some of the roughest days in our history. Images of Rosie the Riveter during WWII. Yellow ribbons around the old oak tree during Vietnam.

Even before posting Bec’s blog, I had people sending me photos of things that were making them happy. My friend Denice, for example, sent this photo of her Christmas cactus that decided to bloom right now. Cactus-strong, she told me…..


My brother Dave has been working his butt off moving from one Basha’s Market to another baking bread to fill the shelves so people can have their toast in the morning and their children can eat their peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. He hasn’t complained, because he wouldn’t. But he sent this photo the other day, saying that he had finally gotten a chance to drive a big truck like he’d always dreamed of doing. A creature comfort…..

As for me, here are a few things that have made me happy in the past week or so…..

The orange blossoms are out here in the Valley of the Sun. The fragrance is beautiful as it hits my nose when I go out for my walk…..

When our Canadian neighbors went home, they gave me their geranium plants. Geraniums always make me happy because my mom planted them every summer no matter where she lived. Always red…..

When we were still in Denver, about the time that the pandemic was becoming real to everybody, I looked out in my flower bed and saw these yellow crocus peeking through the debris…..

And finally, last weekend, Bill and I went for a drive. It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky. We came across this field of flowers, with an old rusty car parked right in the middle. It was all so pretty…..

What are your highlights or creature comforts during this difficult time?


Soviet Shopping

I don’t want to write about the coronavirus. I hate the coronavirus. However, the fact remains that there is really nothing else to talk about. If I turn on the news (which I frankly do as seldom as possible lest I round up a noose and hang myself), that’s all they’re talking about . It’s like nothing else is happening in the entire world, which is probably mostly true.

Inasmuch as I was resistant for some time, I now — like most others — remain in my house looking at my husband (well, really the bottom half of my husband since he’s still working on his sports car), binge-watching Longmire.

Every couple of days, I gather up my nerve and go to a grocery store. I go to different stores each time, hoping things will look better. Yes, I have heard about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But Einstein didn’t live through the coronavirus pandemic, did he?

It’s excrutiatingly depressing. I came home the other day, and burst into tears when I saw Bill’s smiling face. “It’s like shopping in the old Soviet Union,” I told him. “The shelves are completely empty. There’s no meat. There’s no pasta.  There was not a single roll of toilet paper.”

He looked a bit panicked, as men are wont to do when the woman they love bursts into tears. I went on, “The good news is that I was able to get the last jar of peanut-butter-filled pretzels for you.”

“Maybe I could use those to wipe my butt,” he said. That, of course, made me laugh hysterically, since depression is only a step away from mania. I’m glad I married that man.

I tried again yesterday to mostly no avail. I am on the lookout for yeast, because I want to make bread. I have been totally unable to find a single packet of yeast. The lack of yeast makes me laugh, because I don’t really envision a bunch of millennials baking bread. In fact, prior to this quarantine, they had their food delivered to them by Blue Apron ready to put in the microwave and serve. I expect after this is all over, there will be plenty of yeast, only it will be in the garbage cans with past-due expiration dates.

I had purchased sugar and flour prior to the whole panic-shopping thingy, but feel very sorry for those hunting down the precious commodities now. As for me, being unable to find a box of brownie mix (or really any kind of mix) at the store, I tried my hand at baking from scratch using the aforementioned sugar and flour, with cocoa that I also had on hand. They weren’t as good as my sister Bec’s brownies, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Bill was wise enough to not complain….

By the way, our local grocery store chain Basha’s was the first in our city to set aside an hour for seniors. That happened last Wednesday, from 5 to 6. Yes, friends, I’m talking about 5 to 6 in the a.m. I got there at 5:04, feeling smug because I was sure I would be the only one there that early. Au contraire, mon ami. There were no parking spots left, not a cart to be found, and there was no room to move in the store (though this didn’t matter that much because there was mostly nothing on the shelves)…..

Since then, most other grocery stores are doing the same thing, most with a bit more sensible hours. As a result, I think seniors have settled down.

I continue to talk to my family, check on my neighbors, pray madly, and hope for the best. Stay healthy, my friends.

Guest Post: Tanqueray and Tulips

By Rebecca Borman

Many years ago I was in a church choir. I was an alto, and of course all altos sat together when we rehearsed. I usually sat next to a lovely woman whose name I wish I could remember. But I do remember quite a bit about her. Like me, she was a high school English teacher, and while we weren’t close friends, I gleaned a lot of wisdom from her. She was very down to earth, and a devoted teacher. She taught in the public school system, whereas I was teaching in a Catholic school. So, while the state-wide teacher strike didn’t include me, because I wasn’t in a public school, she was affected. I recall some of our conversations around that time. The “strike” was something called “work to the rule,” meaning that teachers would go to school and teach, but per their union they were not allowed to do any work at home. It struck me as typical that the teachers’ idea of a strike was to work only the hours you were paid to work. But even that was too constraining for my friend, and she would smuggle papers home in a large purse, so that she could grade them at home. I’m sure her students didn’t appreciate that as much as they should have!

Anyway, she and I usually arrived a little early for rehearsal, and we dutifully took our seats in the second row, the first row being for the sopranos, naturally. We often sat next to each other, and as soon as she sat down, she checked the chair in front of her. If it didn’t have a bar between the back legs, she’d switch it with a chair that did, because then she could rest her feet on that bar. “Creature comforts,” she would say to me. She used that term often, referencing small things that made her life just a little bit better.

It is a philosophy I whole-heartedly agree with. Sometimes, like when there’s a pandemic going on, it’s hard to find much to be happy about. But, creature comforts definitely help. The other morning, I went to Safeway for their “seniors only” shopping hours. (Thank you, Safeway and all grocery store workers.) Fortunately, I found some things I really needed, like the dish soap I was almost out of (ok, a very expensive organic brand, but still). I purchased some pasta which I hope is not whole wheat. I grabbed the last jar of off-brand peanut butter. These are not exciting items, but they were necessary. And then…I wandered over to the liquor section and bought a bottle of Tanqueray gin, because I’ve been hankering for a martini since Nana Kris posted a picture of one recently. From there, I went to the floral department and purchased some beautiful tulips, my favorite flowers. Tanqueray and tulips are my creature comforts. They won’t keep me from getting sick, and they aren’t going to enable me to enjoy the many fun things I had planned over the next few months. But they make me happy; they lift my spirits.

Never underestimate the power of Tanqueray and tulips, or whatever your creature comforts might be…..

Saturday Smile: Ya Gotta Laugh

Facebook has been full of funny memes written by men and women trying to cope with home schooling their little darlings. The respect for teachers has risen astronomically. Rightfully so.

I was with my niece Maggie and her kids, Austin and Lilly, geocaching yesterday afternoon. As tradition holds, following our successful adventure (three finds out of four tries), we got into the drive-thru line at Sonic. We weren’t the only one with that idea, and so we were in line for some time. Maggie checked her texts, and started to laugh.

She received a text from one of her girlfriends who is tackling home schooling her two little ones. According to her, one of the kids was protesting the amount of cutting Mommy was requiring. I hate cutting. My hand hurts. You’re making me cut too much. And so forth. Her sibling got tired of hearing the whining and responded by asking What do you do when you have to cut at school? Do you whine like this?

The friend then told Maggie that the argument quickly became a wrestling match between the two kids.

I’m calling that fight P.E. her friend concluded.

Hang in there mothers and fathers. It will end sometime.

Have a great weekend…..