Dope, Redux

This blog post first appeared on February 28. 2018

When I was young, somewhere in the neighborhood of what we then called junior high (as opposed to middle school), I often walked from home or school to downtown Columbus with some of my friends. We would walk around downtown, wandering in and out of Woolworth’s or JC Penney’s or Montgomery Wards, or best yet, ride the elevator at Schweiser’s Department Store. Just ride the elevator. It was a THING.

One of our compulsory stops was at Tooley’s Drug Store, an all-purpose pharmacy and what-not store. We would look at the make-up, test the colognes, peruse the comic books, and finger the jewelry. Then we would head to their little café to enjoy a fountain drink. To be honest, I don’t remember my drink of choice. It was probably just a plain fountain coke as I’ve never been a big fan of vanilla or cherry flavoring. What I distinctly remember, however, is that one of my friends always – ALWAYS – ordered a Green River. My assumption then – and frankly, still – is that the soda jerk mixed club soda with some sort of lime flavoring and sugar or simple syrup. The beverage was served to my friend in a fountain glass just like my coke. I imagine she enjoyed this drink, but I can unequivocally tell you that she ordered it because it was green. She is 100 percent Irish, and green was her go-to.

What I didn’t know – and actually, just learned – is that the Green River soft drink  is indigenous to Chicago. It originated in 1919 in response to Prohibition. You might also recall that on St. Patrick’s Day, the Chicago River is dyed green. Hence, Green River.

Bill and I have a favorite hot dog place not far from our AZ home called Chicagoland. All things Chicago – hot dogs, beef sandwiches, gyros, etc. Recently, they added something to their Chicago repertoire – bottles of Green River….

Bill – who is a confirmed cola drinker (Diet Coke being his beverage of choice) — was nevertheless delighted to see the new addition and immediately bought a bottle, which we shared. Despite the fact that I love All Things Lime, I could take or leave a Green River, thank very much. Very sweet. Bill felt the same because See Above: he likes cola. Still, it brought back memories for both he and I.

It got me to thinking about what we called soft drinks when we grew up. In Columbus (and most of the Midwest) we called it pop. Bill said, however, that he grew up calling it soda. But, of course, he was one of those big city Chicagoans!

Interestingly, however, he said his cousins who lived in western North Carolina called soft drinks dope. As in, let’s go have a dope. That term originated from the fact that when Coca Cola was first manufactured, it contained cocaine, referred to as dope. I had always heard this rumor, but checked to see if it’s true. It’s true.

I asked him if they would even call an orange soda an orange dope. He looked at me like I was a crazy woman and said, “They would never have bought anything but a Coke or an RC Cola, so I have no clue.”

As a child, my pop of choice was strawberry. We never had pop in our refrigerator when I grew up. My guess is that few people did. At dinner, we drank milk or Kool-Aid. But on Saturdays when we would eat our noon dinner at Grammie and Gramp’s apartment above the bakery, she would give me 50 cents to go next door to the Ski Lounge Bar and buy a strawberry pop. Looking back, it makes me laugh to think that a bar would have orange or strawberry or grape pops. Today: wouldn’t happen.

For kicks, put on your reading glasses Baby Boomers and check out what Huffington Post says people call soft drinks in various parts of the country…..

It’s Cereal Business, Redux

I’m a bit under the weather this week, so Nana’s Whimsies will be featuring a few repeats. This first posted March 25, 2019

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.

Looking Ahead

Well, here we are. It’s 2021, the year we have been waiting for since March. We can all agree that 2020 is the year that will go down in infamy, just like December 7, 1941. We (and when I saw we, I mean the entire world) are all happy to see the back end of 2020. A friend of mine commented on my Facebook page that she hopes that on December 31, 2020, I remembered to open the door to let the old year out and the new year in. I didn’t know there was such a thing. If I had, you can guess that I would have given 2020 a big boot in the ass out the door.

We never know what the new year will bring. Heaven knows on January 4, 2020, I certainly didn’t expect that in a few short weeks I would be limiting toilet paper usage to a few squares each time and hoarding Ramen noodles. I have a good feeling about 2021, however. Let’s face it, after the year we’ve had, there is only one direction for our lives to go, and that’s up. Better days lie ahead.

As we drove to my sister Bec’s house on New Year’s Day, Jen asked if I remembered to bring the black-eyed peas that I make every year. Yep, I didn’t forget them. As you know, black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck to everyone who eats them. Even my niece Josey has a bite despite a loathing for legumes.

“They didn’t do us a whole lot of good last year,” I said to Jen and Bill as we made our way to Bec’s. Jen reminded me that out of our entire family who gathered together on January 1, 2020, only one person got COVID in 2020, and that was Maggie, who had a mild case. “You aren’t responsible for good luck for the entire world,” Jen pointed out. “Only for our family.”

Whew. That’s a relief for what I felt was an unbearable burden. My Hoppin’ John had done its trick.

The truth is, I was long asleep at midnight on this and nearly every other New Year’s Eve of the past 15 years. I’m not even sure a ball dropped in Times Square, and if it did, Ryan Seacrest was undoubtedly nearly by himself. I did awaken at midnight when a very loud boom went off that sounded like it came from my back yard. The Valley of the Sun is very big on fireworks for New Years Eve. I’m blaming it on the fact that the Fourth of July is so hot here that the fireworks could spontaneously combust. Better to leave them for cooler weather.

The houses in our neighborhood are very close together. Sometime after dark, our neighbors — who have a little girl — began lighting fireworks. They weren’t scary big, but the fountains were large enough that we could enjoy them over the fence, and did. The next day, Kevin apologized. “We didn’t know they were going to be that big,” he said.

I told him that there was no reason to apologize and that we had enjoyed their show. No reason we can’t start off this year with kindness. Perhaps kindness will get me by until the vaccine brings me home.

Thursday Thoughts

Hidden Treasures
Yesterday was the chilliest day since we got here a few days before Thanksgiving. The skies were blue and the kids were out of school. So Jen took a lunch break from work, and she and I went geocaching with her grands, Lilly and Austin. We went two for three (or the kids say three for four because they count checking on one that we had found in a previous geocaching adventure as a new find!) and finished at Sonic as is our geocaching tradition. We had a great time, and then Jen went back to work…..

Happy Together
I have mentioned before that Jen’s pooch Winston loves Bill. I can feed him and pet him and take him for walks, but at the end of the day, he picks Bill. He has great taste. The other night, Jen went to the Desert Botanical Gardens with her daughter Maggie and our sister Bec. The Garden was decorated with beautiful luminaries. Bill and I stayed home. Winston was distraught, but finally found his peace with his BFF. The two share a great napping experience…..

Black Ops
The last couple of nights, we’ve had an unusal activity in our ‘hood. Around 9:30 both nights, there has been a helicopter flying over our neighborhood with a spotlight shining down to the ground. The first night we decided they were looking for some sort of criminal (which made us feel GREAT). But when it happened again the next night, we were left entirely perplexed. Perhaps they are looking for some of the street racers I hear when my window is open. Where is Next Door when you need them?

Happy New Year
It is with no sadness on anybody’s part that we say adios to 2020. It has been a difficult year for everybody. Nothing magical is going to happen on January 1, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am praying for a safe, healthy, and happy 2021 for my family and loved ones. And to all of you as well.

Bring on 2021. Nana’s Whimsies is ready.

Talk to you all on Monday.

Table For Six

Thus far, almost a year in, Bill and I have outrun the COVID virus. Our family has not been entirely spared, as our niece Maggie had a mild case. She had few symptoms, but is only now starting to get her sense of smell and taste back.

Given this fact, I have almost no reason to complain. No reason to whine. No excuses for wah wah wah’s. Still, I’m sick of cooking. I’m tired of trying to figure out something to cook that we haven’t eaten several hundred times in the past nine months. I hate washing pots and pans.

My mother fixed dinner nearly every day of her adult life. She married when she was 21. She died when she was 68. That’s a lot of meals. The dinners she prepared were not fancy. Meat and potatoes every evening . Vegetables from cans, like a true 1950s homemaker. No quiche. No poached salmon with dill. Don’t get me wrong. Dad and Mom went out to dinner regularly, but she cooked many family dinners.

Welcome to the 50s, 60s, and 70s. That’s how things rolled back in those days. Keep in mind, however, that Mom was a working mother long before it became commonplace. She and Dad had a business that took a ton of his time, but a significant amount of her time as well. And just like Ginger Rogers danced as well as Fred Astaire but in heels, Mom worked hard at the bakery and then came home and helped with homework and single-handedly prepared a meal.

I loved my mother’s cooking. She was a practical cook. As I stated earlier, she prepared meat and a starch. Dad had his fill of the Heavenly Hash that Grammie often made for dinner during the Great Depression. He told me on several occasions that he actually LIKED the food while in the Navy. Always meat and no heavenly hash, he would say.

Our house was small, even smaller than I remember. Jen had the opportunity to visit inside a few years ago and was astounded at how small it was. But we had a kitchen table that fit six, and there were six at the table most every night. We all sat in the same spot. No switcharoonies. Dad at one end and Mom at the other. I sat by my dad on one side, and my brother sat by my mom on the same side. Jen and Bec sat on the other side. Jen sat by Dad, and would put her bones on his plate when she thought he wasn’t looking. Clean Plate Club. My brother and I would fight about which one of us got the juice from the vegetable cans. I was drawn to the canned peas. Nowadays I would happily let him have the juice.

To this day, on the rare occasions that Bill and I sit at our kitchen table in Denver, he sits at the end, and I sit next to him. No exceptions. He was brought up with the same scenario — six crowded around a small metal kitchen table, all sitting in the same spots every night.

I don’t know if families these days are as rigid. What I do know is that one night when we were eating dinner with Court and his family, I took a seat at the table. Mylee looked at me with a frown. “Nana,” she said. “That’s Daddy’s seat.”

So I moved.

Day at a Time

Bill returned early yesterday from his Monday boxing class. Turns out the class was cancelled, but no one had told the boxers early enough to prevent them from showing up. That was fine, because no one really wants to box a few days after Boxing Day.

So, instead, we putzed around a bit, and then headed out of the house to find something good to eat for lunch. After some discussion, we ended up at Culver’s, mostly because it was close to Bill’s favorite store, Home Depot. Following lunch on Culver’s patio, we walked into Home Depot and stopped dead in our tracks. The store was packed. Lots of folks out and about. All were wearing masks and socially distancing, but apparently they were either eager to get started on home improvement projects or they were simply sick to death of looking at each other and their own four walls and wanted a break. Methinks it was the latter.

For the most part, we have all been good about COVID. There are a few flies in the ointment, but most mind their Ps and Qs. But let’s face it; we are all sick to death of doing nothing. That realization made me start thinking of any good that has come out of this endless quarantine.

Remember 75 years ago when this started? While we were all scared to death, there was something kind of cozy about staying home with your loved ones. People started playing games and cooking dinner and putting together puzzles. Families took walks together and rode bicycles throughout their communities just to get out of the house. Celebrities tried to keep us entertained. Churches tried to keep us spiritually intact. It was all new and different, and somewhat enticing.

Until it wasn’t anymore.

Families started getting sick to death of one another. “I just need to look at another face besides my spouse and kids,” said one friend who will remain nameless but speaks for the multitudes. “I don’t want to hear my husband on the phone with his coworkers,” this person went on. “I’m better not knowing what his work style is.”

Kids, at first excited to be able to attend school in their pajamas, now literally yearn for a chance to sit next to their friends at cafeteria. “School’s okay,” said one of my grandkids. “But we don’t do anything fun.”

Because they CAN’T do anything fun. COVID won’t release its ugly grip. And this is no knock to teachers who are heroes, along with medical workers and grocery workers and store cashiers and everyone who keeps our economy running and our families safe. They do the best they can.

But we are all just about done. D-O-N-E. DONE.

Good thing that there is hope on the horizon. I’m not fooling myself into thinking things are going to change quickly. President-Elect Biden claims we will still be wearing masks 100 days into his presidency. I hope he’s wrong but I suspect he’s not. One of the byproducts of COVID might be that we never stop wearing masks. I hope not.

Things will undoubtedly never be quite the same. But a little bit of normalcy, that’s all we hope for right now.

Caroling, Caroling

Christmas Day, following Mass, Jen, Bill and I went to Bec’s house to begin our Christmas celebration. Her family had just finished opening presents, and Erik and his group were leaving to start preparations for the Christmas feast we were eating at their house later that day.

We drank mimosas and watched Bec prepare the food she was contributing to the meal. Afterwards, one of us — it might have been me — suggested we gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. And so the four of us, with Bec accompanying us at the piano, sang Christmas carol after Christmas carol. There was much variety, from Silver Bells, to Joy to the World, We concluded with Silent Night, which always makes me cry.

I come from a family of singers. Don’t get me wrong; you didn’t hear me say I come from a family of GREAT singers. But we can all mostly carry a tune and read music. And we all like to sing. Both sides of my family are music lovers. A cousin on one side is a brilliant pianist. A cousin on the other side sings like a songbird, and sang at my father’s funeral. As for our family, we hold our own. Bec plays a decent piano and she, Jen and I can carry a tune. As for Bill, he has a really nice baritone voice, and despite being 78 years old, he sings completely on key. Mostly what I can tell you is that for what we lacked in talent, we more than made up for in enthusiam.

My family of origin didn’t routinely sing together, but we did at Christmastime. At least once or twice during the holiday season, we would gather around the piano, with Bec tickling the ivories, and sing Christmas carols. Silver Bells was our favorite. When the four of us sang Silver Bells this past Christmas Day, I heard my mother’s voice in my ear. Ding dong ding dong ding dong (she always filled in the sound of the bells).

A couple of days later, Bec was out in her front yard. She heard someone hollar Hello! She looked up and saw a man from across the street that she scarcely knew calling to her. “I just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed hearing you singing Christmas carols the other day.” He went on, “In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went and got my wife and we listened to the rest of the singing together.”

That, my friends, made me smile. Furthermore, it wasn’t Elmer and Rosemary Huffenfeffer from Podunk, Nebraska, relaying his Christmas joy. It was a man about the age of our children who was enjoying the holiday spirit.

Maybe 2020 wasn’t a total loss after all.

Thursday Thoughts

Santa’s Early
There is nothing more magical when you are a kid than waking up on Christmas morning and running into the living room and seeing that Santa did indeed come overnight and leave lots of presents. At some point, however, for reasons we never really understood, Santa started coming to the Gloor house on Christmas Eve. Mom and Dad would gather the kids and we would tumble into the car and go for a ride to look at the Christmas lights in our town. Before we backed out of the driveway, Dad would run back into the house to retrieve something or other. We never noticed that it seemed to take him a surprising amount of time. When we would return from our light tour, lo, and behold, Santa would have come! We never asked Mom why they instituted the change, but it probably had something to do with being able to sleep in a bit on Christmas morning.

Doggone It
After Bec and Terry got married, they bought a dog. Lady Patton was a beagle. She, of course, accompanied her mom and dad when they came to our house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There were always tons of presents under the tree. I remember one Christmas Eve in particular. Patton and our dog Mac each had a present under the tree. We put them way in the back under other presents. We went to Christmas Eve Mass, and when we returned home, the two dogs had managed to find their presents with barely messing up the other presents. As they munched their bones, they gave us a look that said See? Santa came while you were gone!

Oh Christmas Tree
We always had a live tree when we were growing up. But Jen and I were recalling the other day that our grandparents always put up an aluminum Christmas tree in the living room of their apartment above the bakery in Columbus. Just like the trees that Lucy is always pushing on Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Silver in color, and about three feet tall. Grammie’s Christmas tree. Good memory.

At the Movies
I don’t think I watched as many Christmas movies this year as I did last year. Still, I saw the ones that matter. I watched A Christmas Story with Austin and Lilly. I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie that has grown on me over the years. Jen and I watched White Christmas. I watched Love, Actually, and last night we coerced Bill into watching The Holiday with us.

Happy Christmas
Nana’s Whimsies wishes everyone a merry Christmas. I am taking a break for the Christmas weekend, and will return on Monday, December 28. Unless the eggnog does me in!

Christmas Presents, Christmas Joy

I sent the last of the Christmas presents for our family last week. There frankly weren’t many, because Amazon did most of the work. The rest of the work will be done by the families when the gifts for the children land on their front porches. I had it easy this year, at least present-wise.

I will admit that, while I have enjoyed this season, as Christmas Day approaches, I am missing our kids and grandkids more and more. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that we made a good choice in not flying (twice) this holiday season. And I am very grateful for the family I have here. We will be lucky enough to spend Christmas Eve at Mark and Maggie’s and Christmas Day at Erik and Josey’s.

But not being able to watch my grands open their presents makes me sad. My fingers and toes are crossed that this will be a one-off and that next year will be a normal Christmas. I opened up my browser and saw the headline Biden: Pandemic Will Get Worse Despite Vaccine and closed down my browser before I broke into tears. Can’t we have just a little Christmas hope?

As I was picturing my grands opening their presents, I began thinking about the best presents I have received over the years. I recall being a very little girl and Santa Claus bringing me what I forevermore referred to as my Big Doll. She really was quite big, probably not that much smaller than me as a tyke. She had long blond hair and I named her Linda. Santa didn’t wrap our gifts, so she was sitting there Christmas morning awaiting my awakening. I loved that doll. In fact, I loved her so much that when I had surgery at age 7, I took the doll with me to the hospital. When I awoke from surgery, Linda had the same incision as me. Nurses are the best.

One year, as an adult, I got a denim shirt from my mom and dad. The shirt itself was nothing special, although it was soft denim and very comfortable. But on the pocket, my mother had embroidered the initial K with colorful embroidery thread. I wore that shirt so often that it finally ripped in such a way that it was beyond fixing. Nevertheless, that shirt still hangs in my closet reminding me of my mom.

One year Court got me a beautiful porcelain rose for Christmas. It serves no purpose but to look pretty, and it does a great job of that. It lives in my china cabinet at my Denver home. A year or so ago, I cleaned out that cabinet and got rid of a lot of things, but that porcelain rose made the cut. I love it so much.

Perhaps my most memorable Christmas gift was from Bill. The little house in Denver where Court and I lived had a detached one-car garage. When Court and I pulled up into our driveway off the alley, it was Court’s job to hop out of the car and open the garage door for me to pull in. One day, Bill picked me up at the airport where I was returning from a business trip. He and I were not yet married. He pulled up into our driveway and suddenly the garage door opened. I nearly cried with joy. He had installed a garage door opener on the garage as a gift. I don’t know who was happier, Court or me.

Do you remember your favorite presents?

Sing a Song of Christmas Cheer

This blog post originally was posted on December 22, 2014. I wonder what my siblings would say was their favorite Christmas song today?

The Williams Brothers

A week or so ago, I sent my brother and sisters a text message asking them to name their favorite Christmas movie. Within 30 seconds, I got a response from my brother. It was clear that he had misunderstood my question, because his answer was “Happy Holidays by the Williams Brothers.”

I immediately understood that he thought I had asked him about his favorite Christmas song. After that immediate first thought quickly came my second thought – Happy Holidays by the Williams Brothers?

Whaaaaaaat?

I wasn’t even sure that there was such a singing group as the Williams Brothers. Upon Googling it, however, I learned that there indeed was such a group – Andy Williams (whom I know) and his three brothers apparently performed together, if not regularly, at least occasionally, circa 1960.

This was not the answer I would have expected from my brother.

The answer I would have expected was something like, “I don’t listen to Christmas music because I’m too busy watching sports, but if you hold my feet to the fire, I would say Joy to the World or Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

But the Williams Brothers?

So I called to ask him if he really meant the Williams Brothers.

Yes, friends, he certainly did mean the Williams Brothers. And furthermore, HE OWNS THE ALBUM.

“Mom had the album and listened to it at Christmas,” he explained. I had forgotten that fact until he told me. I remembered an Andy Williams solo Christmas album, but not a Williams Brothers album. And then I looked at the album cover. Oh yes, indeed she had. Memories came flooding back.

Isn’t it funny how music, maybe more than anything else, can bring back such strong memories. My mother loved to listen to music, and especially at Christmastime. We had a huge stereo console in the living room on which she played her LPs. I remember Christmas music by the Ray Coniff Singers, Andy Williams, Mantovani, and, of course, the Williams Brothers. I’m sure there were more.

By the way, here are the responses I got from my sisters, when I asked them about their favorite Christmas song. Actually, what I asked them was what song or songs they were playing over and over this year.

Beckie surprised me by saying that rather than music from a CD, she was watching a couple of videos over and over – Mary Did You Know by Pentatonix, and Angels We Have Heard on High by Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, and David Archuleta.

Jen said she also is listening to Mary Did You Know by Pentatonix, and plays her Michael Buble CDs over and over.

As for me, this year, as in previous year, the Christmas song I play again and again is We Need a Little Christmas, from the musical Mame, performed by Glee.