The Race is On

No sooner is the last bit of dressing scraped into a Tupperware container and the last dab of whipped cream scraped from the mixing bowl with someone’s finger than Christmas shopping begins.

In the olden days (10 years ago?), people would trudge out to the Big Box stores at midnight to grab all of their Black Friday deals. I, myself, remember standing in line some 15 years ago in bitter cold to purchase a television set at the behest of my husband who, with his son Allen, headed to Chicago to spend the weekend with Bill’s mom. Who says I’m not a good wife?

Other than that occasion, I have never shopped a Black Friday sale. I don’t say that with any particular pride, because more than likely the sales are amazing. My biggest problem is that I hate to shop. Period. My second biggest problem is that as my stomach is digesting the day’s turkey and mashed potatoes, I have no idea what I’m getting anyone. It really doesn’t get any better as the season progresses.

I’ve never been a clever Christmas gifter. Someone needs to put a list right in front of my nose in order for me to know what to buy for them. It’s gotten even more difficult as my grandchildren have gotten older. I don’t know what kind of clothes they wear. I don’t know what they like to read. Lord knows I don’t know what kind of music they enjoy.

Bill is even worse. There will be a knock on the door, and Amazon will have dropped off a package for something Bill ordered. “Seriously?” I’ll ask him. “A month before Christmas, you’re buying yourself (fill in the blank)?”

“I wanted it now,” he will explain.

And, the trouble is, I can’t even get mad at him because I do the exact thing. If I want or need something, I order it. I am Amazon’s best friend.

So, as dull as it seems (and is), last year I gave the grands gift cards. I try to give thought to the store from which I purchase the card. I will try to do that this year once again in an effort to not be perceived as the Grinch.

Let the games begin.

Angelic

On Wednesday evening, three of our granddaughters and one boyfriend came for a visit. Adelaide and her boyfriend Palmer, Dagny, and Maggie Faith swam in our salt pool, and Bill and I joined them. We ate a dinner of lasagna and salad. But the highlight was that they decorated my angel tree. The whole evening and this precious time with my teenaged grandchildren made me a very happy nana.

Have a great weekend.

Left or Right

Yesterday Bill and I met with our financial advisor. She took a gander at our financial situation, looked at us sadly, and said, “I’m so sorry to tell you that your financial outlook looks worse than that of Bob Cratchett. Without the help of Ebenezer Scrooge after his visits with the ghosts, you are in deep trouble. I hope you weren’t planning on a goose for Christmas.”

Just kidding. In fact, she gave us a great deal of peace when she told us that our outlook was good, and that we probably would be able to buy food for another year, provided the inflation rate stays the same and we don’t plan on goose for Christmas.

Just kidding again. We’re going to fine, according to someone way smarter than me.

I’m always interested in smart people. I’m also interested in the different ways that people are smart. I wonder why she can look at a financial statement and make sense of it, while I look at a financial statement and the numbers start swimming before my very eyes. I take comfort in the fact that she probably (maybe?) can’t diagram a sentence. Or write a blog.

I, on the other hand, not only could diagram a sentence should that even be a thing anymore, but I write a blog most days. Take that!

The whole left brain/right brain is interesting to me. I am amazed that some — if not all — of my grandkids seem to have both left brains and right brains. If I look at my nine grandkids and try to figure out if they like reading, I would suggest that two-thirds like to read and write. But it seems like three-thirds (yes, I know that’s all of them) seem to either be good at, or at least get decent grades in, math. I, on the other hand, got passing grades in math, but abandoned math classes as soon as possible. In fact, I was somehow able to get a BS degree without taking a single math class in college. I did take a couple of science classes (including my four hours of F, which is another blog post altogether), but I escaped taking any post secondary math.

I couldn’t help my grands with math if my life depended on it. In fact, one night when I was babysitting Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole, I had to help them with their homework. When Court broke that news to me, I immediately told him that I was entirely unable to help even little Cole with math. He assured me that they all had full capabilities of completing math homework without my help. It’s a good thing, because I missed the whole “new math” thing and so the core math thing escapes me entirely.

At any rate, I’m thankful that God gave us two sides of our brains, because I’m bound to get one of the sides to work for me. I’m also thankful our financial advisor gave us a few more months to live.

Pizza Pie

Bill and I were recently sitting at the bar of one of Wind Crest’s restaurants, drinking a glass of wine and eating our dinner. The manager of the bar recognized us as being relatively new, so she bought our wine. In the course of our subsequent conversation with her, we learned that she, like Bill, hails from the Windy City of Chicago.

If you know anything about Chicago, you won’t be surprised to learn that the conversation quickly turned to pizza. What’s your favorite? North Side or South Side? Thin crust or thick crust? It happens that she was from the West Side, where I think the pizza preferences are a bit more on the neutral side. As long as it has a crust, red sauce, mozzarella cheese, and some sort of meat, it works.

I have no business talking about Chicago and its food traditions. I had never been to Chicago prior to meeting and marrying Bill. I grew up in a town that had NO pizza joints during my early years. When Pizza Hut opened a restaurant in Columbus, we felt like we had hit the big time. Sometime in my late teens, a Godfather’s Pizza opened, giving residents a choice. Not much of one, but a choice nevertheless.

What I quickly learned, however, is that Chicagoans have strong beliefs about their favorite foods. If you don’t believe me, ask a Chicagoan to pass the ketchup when eating a hot dog. Unless, of course, you only plan to put it on your French fries. And if you ask for a fork to assist in eating an Italian beef, you will get laughed out of the restaurant.

Bill is a thin-crust pizza man all the way. While it’s possible to find a thick-crust pizza on the South Side, pizza joints are much more likely to have the St. Louis-style pizza. The pizza crust is made without yeast, thereby yielding a cracker-thin crust that doesn’t bend in the same way as a New York-style pizza crust. The pizza is cut into squares instead of the typical triangular shape with which most people are familiar.

In Chicago, you will find a family-owned pizza place every few blocks, likely next door to a family-owned hot dog place. That’s very different from here in the Denver metro area, where there are definitely locally-owned pizza joints, but they are few and far between. Pizza lovers like Bill notice the absence, I can assure you of that.

Bill’s family had a favorite pizza restaurant, called Fox’s Pizza. There were a few Fox’s sprinkled around the Chicago’s South Side, and their particular favorite was very close to the house in which Bill spent his formative years. Fox’s Italian sausage pizza was the favorite of all of the McLains, including Wilma, up to nearly the end of her life. If you will envision a round pizza cut into squares, you will understand that there are four “corners” that are generally very small, and so, very crispy. Those are the pizza gold nuggets, if you will. The McLains fight for those four pieces. Let me tell you, Wilma was part of the fight. I think her kids let her win, begrudgingly.

I tell you that, because Fox’s pizza is the pizza to which all pizzas are measured. Many have come close, but none have nailed it. Nevertheless, Bill and I continue to search for the perfect pizza in the Denver metro area.

I was recently fed an article about good local restaurants in the suburbs. One of them was called Roca’s Pizza and Pasta. It is located in Lakewood, which is a suburb on the west side of Denver. The owner was from Wisconsin, and grew up eating St. Louis-style pizza. It sounded promising. Saturday lunchtime, we drove the 20 minutes it took to get to Roca’s to see if this was the pizza that met Bill’s expectations.

The pizza was good. Delicious, in fact…..

Was it Fox’s Pizza-good? Afraid not. Was it worth the 20-minute drive? Definitely.

You will notice Bill is eating one of the corners!

We will return.

Saturday Smile: Down to One

After literally weeks of ups and downs in a deal that was supposed to be easy peezy, that is, the sale of our house, we successfully closed sale yesterday morning. It took a mere half hour or so to sign the papers. Since COVID, the buyers and sellers don’t sit down together, so I missed the opportunity to meet the people who will be living in the home we loved so much for 30 years.

Nevertheless, I wish them many happy years at 3962 S. Olive Street. The house we own with my sister in AZ is our one and only real estate asset. That, friends, makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday Thoughts

Brrrr
I turned on the local 5 o’clock news yesterday evening only to learn that the balmy 40 degree temperatures of the day were going to give way to highs today in the 20s. What’s more, measurable snow is expected starting midmorning. That shouldn’t matter, you’re all thinking, because I live in this lovely protected environment where I don’t have to worry about ice on the roads or bread on the grocery shelves. Ha! Wouldn’t you know that this afternoon I’m scheduled to see my PCP to talk about my cholesterol. Well, hopefully I can keep heart disease at bay for a few more days because I have no intention of driving the icy highway to my old neighborhood where my doctor is located. I know I’m a wimp, but that’s the way it is. I can reschedule for a later date, maybe sometime next week if I’m lucky. Or maybe after Thanksgiving so that I can have all of the yummy Thanksgiving goodies without guilt.

Tick Tock
We are scheduled to close on the sale of our house Friday morning at 10 o’clock. The gods of home sales are not with us, however. I got a phone call late yesterday afternoon from our realtor who told us that she pressed the button to close the garage door as she was leaving our house, and the door felt to the ground with a BANG. The good news is that no one was walking underneath to be maimed, or even killed. The bad news is that we have to get a garage door replaced by Friday at noon. I will be glad when this is all over, I can tell you that.

Queen
Before diving into Season 5 of The Crown, Bill and I decided to rewatch Seasons 1-4. I had forgotten just what a sad lot they all were. Last night we watched the Season 4 episode in which the queen met privately with all four of her children to decide who was her favorite. She lands on not really liking any of them. Really, who can blame her? The episodes are pretty sad, and I don’t think Season 5 is going to be any zippier. Still, a royal family addict like I am simply cannot go without finishing off the series.

Isn’t There Anyone You Can Trust?
The women of the second Summit Square second floor (Second to None!) received an email the other day asking if anyone had seen a bouquet of flowers that her daughter had sent her. She apparently never received it. What ensued was a barrage of emails saying that they have heard through the grapevine that packages left in front of our doors have gone missing. For the love of all things that are good! Is there really no one we can trust any longer? I’m going to blame it on the delivery people, because I just can’t blame the nice white-haired people with whom I share a dwelling.

Ciao!

Esther Williams

Yesterday morning, I walked over to the nearest fitness center at Wind Crest and walked two miles on the treadmill. Despite all of my best intentions, it was only the second time that I had done any kind of planned exercise since moving here. I have walked considerably further than I have walked for a long time just by virtue of the fact that Wind Crest is HUGE, and things are far apart. Still, I had promised myself that I would start exercising regularly, and I had largely failed.

There are a lot of options available. The fitness center is full of every kind of equipment a person could want. There are treadmills and exercise bikes and eliptical machines. There are weights and weight machines and a person who will show you how to use all of that equipment.

Just about any kind of class is offered, from aerobics to line dancing to stretching and balance to tai chi. I have spent considerable time thinking about which classes to take. I even mentioned to a friend that tai chi appealed to me but that I was concerned that the regular participants wouldn’t appreciate having to teach me something that I had never done before. Pshaw, she replied. The teacher will be happy to show you how to move and the other people in the class won’t mind at all.

Well, so much for that excuse.

Oddly enough, the exercises that appeal to me the most are the aquatic classes. That’s rather bizarre because, as I have mentioned before, I don’t swim. Not at all. I have a fear of putting my head under the water. However, I was pretty sure that water aerobics didn’t involve putting my head under water. I checked that notion out yesterday after leaving the fitness center. Wind Crest has two swimming pools. The one closest to our apartment is salt water and seems to be rarely used. But I noticed that there was a class scheduled yesterday morning, and I decided to watch.

The class was small, apparently because the notion of getting into a swim suit when it’s 20 degrees outside and snowing didn’t appeal to a lot of people, even though the pool can be reached without going outside. It’s a psychological thing. Despite the small number of participants, it looked like they (all women, not shockingly) were having a lot of fun. After watching for a bit, I was certain that swimming skills were unnecessary because most of the women had hair styles that they wouldn’t want to get wet. I also was comforted by the fact that none of the women looked like Jane Fonda in a swim suit. There were all sizes and shapes, which provided me a level of comfort.

The women looked at me quizzically before they got into the pool. I explained that I wanted to check it out before I went all in.

“Oh, you will love it,” they all said enthusiastically. You gotta love the Wind Crest residents. They are gamers.

I think I’m going to give it a try on Thursday.

By the way, as I walked over to the Colorado Clubhouse, I passed an apartment that had a Christmas wreath unashamedly attached to their apartment door. Celebrate the holidays early and often!

Village. Kitchen. Baby.

Bill and I dutifully go to our primary care doctor once a year for our annual wellness check. She looks in my ears (at which time I mentally scold myself for not cleaning them in the shower that morning). She looks in my mouth and asks me to say ahhh. She checks my lungs. She checks my reflexes (which I never seem to feel, but she is always satisfied). She thumps my belly for reasons I don’t understand or care.

But this time, for the first time since going to that medical office, she told me she was going to administer a memory test.

Oy vey.

“I’m going to give you three words,” she said. “Then, in a few minutes, I’m going to ask you to relay those three words back to me.”

Simple. Simple. Simple.

She gave me my three words. Village. Kitchen. Baby.

And then about 15 seconds later, she asked me to tell her the three words.

I failed. I could remember village and baby, but the word kitchen escaped me entirely. Fifteen seconds later, friends.

“Great!” she said cheerfully, as though she wasn’t busily wondering how quickly she could call Wind Crest and have me moved to Memory Care.

“Great?” I shouted back to her. “I forgot one of the words a mere 15 seconds after you gave them to me.”

“No worries,” she lied. “Two out of three isn’t bad.”

She then handed me a piece of paper with a circle drawn on it.

“Draw the numbers on this blank clock,” she said, silently hoping I knew what a clock was.

I passed. She then asked me to draw hands on the clock indicating 10 minutes to 11. I aced that as well. Yay Me.

I asked her what doctors will use to measure memory with our kids and grandkids who only know digital clocks. (I didn’t really care. I was just trying to make her forget about my not remembering the word kitchen.)

However, while I think I may have escaped a permanent move to Memory Care, my blood tests — which have always come back clean as a whistle — indicate I have high cholesterol. Dang. Up until about a year ago, I was one of the few over-65 people not on any prescription medications. Then my blood pressure became an issue. Now, it’s my cholesterol, a condition for which I will need medication.

I researched to see what sorts of things were high in cholesterol. They could have saved many words by just saying anything that tastes good is high in cholesterol. Nevertheless, this is something that I really am going to have to take seriously. No more slathering butter onto my homemade bread. No fried shrimp. No fried anything. Whaaaaat?

The only good thing is that apparently my blood sugar was fine, so I am able to continue to eat pasta. I’ll take what I can get. My guess is that what she will tell me is that I need to lose weight and exercise. And I already know that, but now I’m going to actually have to do that very thing. I’m hoping she will also tell me that I don’t have to stop eating everything good, but use common sense.

Common sense? Doesn’t she remember that I couldn’t remember all three words?

Lotta Rules

I love my nephew Erik very much, but if you look up first born in the dictionary, you will see his face. He can’t help it. He’s the first-born of a first-born.

Many of the things about which he feels strongly have to do with how things should be done during the holidays. That’s not really a bad thing, because it says that my sister must have provided wonderful memories when it comes to special holidays — primarily Thanksgiving and Christmas. Turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. Don’t try changing up the recipes for any of those things. Erik is a wonderful cook, and he can ad lib recipes with the best of them. But when it comes to green bean casserole, it should be canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, with french fried onion rings on the top.

My sister Bec told me that one day she and Erik were in the kitchen by themselves, and he was saying that the Christmas tree shouldn’t go up before Thanksgiving, and apparently went on to say how the holiday should progress. Out of the other room, his wife Josey said, “Lotta Rules, Erik. Lotta rules.”

I will tell you that Erik would not approve of the fact that I put up my angel Christmas tree this weekend. Both of my sisters have done the same thing. We like the sparkly lights. In my opinion, Christmas trees should be up all year round. I used to know a woman who did exactly that. She kept her tree up year round and decorated it for every holiday. Pink and red hearts for Valentine’s Day. Green lights and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Red, white, and blue for Independence Day. And so forth. I think that would probably test Bill’s patience. The reality is that we will spend the next few weeks feeling a bit crowded in our smallish living room which now is home to the Christmas tree.

Bill’s patience is already being tested, though he didn’t complain even a little when I asked him to help me put up Christmas lights on our balcony outside yesterday afternoon. I love looking out my window and seeing the colored lights lining the rail of our balcony. And if I’m breaking any unwritten rules about timing, I will tell you that there are a lot of our neighbors who have done the same thing. Maybe when you get older, you start wanting to celebrate early and often.

As a compromise, dear nephew, I haven’t put the ornaments on the tree yet. That’s a day-after-Thanksgiving activity.