That’s the Yeast of It

I made my weekly visit to the grocery store yesterday. This time I only spent a little over $100, and that included three six-packs of petunias. No meat, though, which explains the bearable total cost. My freezer is pretty full of protein at this point.

I’m a terrible shopper. I dutifully make a list, and I dutifully purchase everything on the list. However, I also see things like jarred spaghetti sauce, and ask myself, “Do you have spaghetti sauce at home?” Thinking I might not, and thinking that these days one never knows what’s going to be on the shelves from one day to the next, I might (and, frankly, did) buy some. Two bottles, in fact. I got home only to learn that I had two of the same jars on my pantry shelf. I convinced myself I wasn’t a hoarder by reminding myself that the brand I like was on sale for $3 a bottle less, and I use it regularly. Therefore, not a hoarder. Just a savvy shopper. See the difference?

I will admit that I might be hoarding flour. I have a flour container full of flour and purchased another bag yesterday. The thing is, I use a lot of flour because I bake a lot. Not having flour would make me sad. Being sad would impact my mental health. My mental instability could make me more susceptible to viruses. So, not a hoarder after all. Just taking good care of myself.

One thing that has been absent from the grocery shelves since the quarantine began is yeast. I have looked at every kind of grocery store to no avail. Apparently when people were frantically buying their stash of 300 rolls of toilet paper, they were also grabbing packets of yeast as they headed back to paper products. They were all going to make bread from scratch, because there would be none on the shelves. It’s true that at the very beginning, store-bought bread was a difficult commodity to find. That’s why my brother spent 12 to 15 hours a day that first week or so going from Basha’s store to Basha’s store, baking bread to serve their customers. God bless him. Now, however, bread is plentiful, and people are looking forlornly at the multitude of packets of yeast that they wish they hadn’t purchased.

Here’s why: bread making is difficult. I know that Caroline Ingalls baked bread every day on Little House on the Prairie. But as much as I like to bake, and inasmuch as I am the daughter and the sister of fabulous bakers, still, successful bread making eludes me. And I bet it has eluded a lot of the yeast hoarders, who once again go to the grocery store and buy Oroweat whole wheat bread, because it’s so much easier.

A few years ago, I got a notion to make English muffins from scratch. I found a recipe, followed it perfectly, and did exactly what they said, down to browning both sides on my griddle. Unlike most of my bread, they turned out perfectly. And they tasted delicious….

I was determined to make my own English muffins from there on out. I have made English muffins from scratch exactly zero times since. You know why? Because Thomas makes delicious English muffins and all I have to do is reach up to the top shelf of the bread display and make my choice: regular or raisin.

But nevertheless, I WANT SOME YEAST. I would like to make a homemade pizza, and making a crust requires yeast. I was so desperate that I went on Amazon yesterday to see if it was available. It was, if one is willing to pay $10 for a sleeve of three, plus shipping. I got so close, that it’s still sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. But yesterday, much to my delight — and for the first time since mid-March — there was yeast available. Of course, there was only one kind: Fleischman’s Pizza Crust Yeast. But that’s what I was seeking. Yay.

And I only bought one sleeve. And you know what? It was $1.99. Take that, Amazon.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Circumstances resulted in me being unable to get to my computer yesterday. So enjoy this Oldie-But-Goodie originally published on June 26, 2014. I’ll be back tomorrow….

Candy 1I think it’s pretty unusual for children – at least children living in a metropolitan area – to walk home from school these days. Just too many crazies out there.

But I would bet many of the Baby Boomers reading this blog walked home from school. Perhaps some rode a school bus, but particularly in smaller communities, getting to and from anywhere was generally on foot. Bill always tells our grandkids he walked two miles to and from school each day and it was uphill both ways! He adds that he had to get there early to get the potbelly stove going. Seeings as he went to school on the south side of Chicago, they are appropriately suspicious on all accounts.

But the part where he tells them he stopped each day on his way home from school at a little grocery store to pick up a bottle of Pepsi Cola and a package of Hostess Cupcakes is true. Many of us had similar experiences.

For my siblings and me, our stop was at a little grocery store called Potter’s, just a couple of blocks from our school. I recall that there were several little grocery stores like Potter’s around Columbus. Potter’s just happened to be the one closest to us. And I’m not talking little as in Sprouts as compared to Safeway. I’m talking little – a couple of shelves for groceries and a couple of coolers for meats and cheeses. In Columbus, our little stores also had butcher shops.

There were a few exceptionally good things about Potter’s. One, it was close to school and somewhat on our way home. Two, it had a HUGE candy case full of penny candy. And three, our Aunt Cork worked there. Our happiness at the third fact is closely related to our happiness at the second fact. Aunt Cork was always generous at doling out the penny candy.

Remember penny candy? When it really cost a penny?

You had pixie stix…..

pixie sticks

And what about those horrendous wax lips…….

wax lips

I loved Slo Poke suckers……

slo pokes

And, oddly, I also loved the wax bottles. You would bite off the tip and drink the one-hundredth of an ounce of sugar water that was in there, and then chew the wax (which was disgusting)…..

wax bottles

And how can any of us possibly forget candy cigarettes…….

candy cigarettes

It’s absolutely bizarre to think about how we would put them in our mouth and then pretend to smoke them, blowing out air in a manner that we felt was highly sophisticated. Talk about an ingenious marketing scheme!

Candy 2There is a really good old-fashioned candy store in Estes Park that we make sure we visit any time we are in the vicinity. Bill loves the bullseye candy. I usually buy him bullseyes, Bit O’ Honey, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Snaps. Instead of a penny, I’m lucky if I can get out of the store for under $20, and that’s with just a small bag. Still, the candy cases are beautiful and remind me of the showcase full of candy at Potter’s.

I guess small grocery stores like Potter’s were the precursors for stores such as 7-11 and Circle K. Those stores are a bit more antiseptic and less interesting. The little stores had just about anything you might need, but much less of it. No big coolers full of soft drinks – or “pop” as we called it, but a showcase full of candy, a few fresh vegetables, a cooler that held cheese and lunch meat, counters with canned goods and Wonder Bread, and a little butcher shop.  One of my childhood friends and I would stop by Potter’s when we were out riding our bikes and buy a string of frankfurters. Remember when wieners were sold by the pound and were strung together? We would tear a couple apart and eat them right there, sans the bun, cold and delicious. At least we thought so.

The days of little grocery stores is over for the most part. I guess you have the bodegas in New York City, and even Denver has some small markets featuring Indian food or Pakistani food or African food. But no little general grocery stores like Potter’s.

But I have one question. Where-oh-where do people buy their Black Jack gum these days?

Black Jack Gum

Did you have a place where you stopped after school to get a snack?

Saturday Smile: Whistle While You Work

The other morning, Bill was looking out our bathroom window, which looks out to the back yard. I put up a bird feeder last weekend, and the birds had not yet discovered it. “I think I see a bird on the feeder,” he said. I looked out the window to our backyard. Not only was there a bird on the feeder, but there was a bunny rabbit and a squirrel. I promise you I’m not making up this story. They were frolicking together, playing like they were friends. Maybe they were just vying for the best position to get the bird’s leftover, but it looked like they were playing tag. The icing on the cake was a half hour later or so, when a red fox casually walked through our back yard. The bunny and squirrel, wisely, were no where to be seen.

“I feel like I’m in a Disney animated movie,” I told Bill. “I’m looking for Snow White.”….

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

My reading interests have changed somewhat during these two months+ of sheltering in place. If you told me I had to read Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick, I think I would break down and cry. I don’t need deep thinking or meaningful literature; I need comedy or romance or if I’m feeling really spiffy,  a good mystery.

Given this state of mind, I set aside some of the beefier books that I had downloaded from the library and began reading a book I had purchased some time ago dirt cheap because I liked the title. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, by Kelly Harms, provided some fairly easy reading that contained a pretty good message.

Amy Byler hasn’t quite recovered from her husband and the father of her two kids — a girl teen and a boy ‘tween — leaving them without a thought of what would happen to them. Amy worked hard as a school librarian to keep the house where their family had lived since the beginning. With work and raising two kids all by herself, there is little time left for herself.

Then one day her husband shows up after being gone for three years, ready to forgive and forget, and eager to make up for lost time with his kids. He encourages Amy to attend a conference in New York City and connect up with her friend who lives there. And, what’s more, he gives her his credit card.

This leads to that which leads to an almost magical two weeks, in which she agrees to be part of her friend’s magazine article in what they are calling a Momspringa. A chance for overworked and tired and isolated mothers to take time for themselves. In this case, she receives almost a complete makeover, and a chance to see most of New York City without worrying about her kids. 

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler offers readers a chance to dream about a life of luxury and indulgence. I can’t say that I could particularly relate to Amy’s life situation, but there are a lot of single mothers who definitely could. However, even for me, the book provided some laughs, a little romance, and a peek into how the other half lives in an exciting city.

The message to take away from this book, even for those of us who are not overworked parents, is that we all need time for ourselves.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler was a fun and relaxing read. I enjoyed it very much.

Here is a link to the book.




Thursday Thoughts

Yesterday morning at 11 o’clock on the dot, sirens began to blow. I had a momentary start, but then realized that it was, well, 11 o’clock on the dot on Wednesday. You know, the time that the City and County of Denver blows the practice tornado whistle. I believe they will do it every Wednesday throughout the summer. It made me think about my little brother. When we lived in Columbus, they used to blow the same kind of siren every Thursday evening at 5 o’clock. My brother told me that when he was little, EVERY SINGLE TIME the whistle blew, he was convinced there was a tornado coming to bear down on Columbus. He would run to Mom, or one of his sisters, for protection. He told me it never occurred to him that the whistle blew at the same time on the same day. Oh, the angst!

Every morning when I wake up, I try to think about what I will be hungry for 12 hours from then. I need to decide early, because I need to take the appropriate protein out of my freezer to thaw. Yesterday morning, I decided that I was hungry for sloppy joes. I use this recipe from Taste of Home, and it’s delicious. I serve them like we were served at our cafeteria K-12, splitting the bun and putting some meat on top of each bun. But what to serve along side? Hmmm. Maybe potato chips, but that’s kind of uncreative. And then, voila! I knew that I needed to make potato salad. My sister Bec made it last weekend, and I had been thinking about it since. I have a great recipe for potato salad for two people. I checked the ingredients, and discovered that I had all the ingredients save one: celery. Being designed for only two, I only needed half a stalk. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store to buy one stalk of celery. I texted Bec and asked if it would be heresy to serve potato salad without celery. She assured me that it could be done without repercussions. But in the meantime, I texted my next door neighbor and asked if she possessed a stalk of celery with which she would be willing to part. She responded in the affirmative, which she shared. I in turn shared some of my prepared potato salad with her. Kindness counts, and not just in a quarantine…..

My sister Jen told me that she made the drastic mistake of going to the plant nursery the day after Mother’s Day. As one might expect, the cupboards were bare. She got most of what she needed, but was disappointed that they didn’t have dahlias. Monday when I was doing my big grocery shop, I noticed that King Soopers had dahlias. I picked up a couple of pots for my front yard, along with some daisy-looking flowers that I know aren’t daisies. I texted her the news about the dahlias. She was going to check her King Soopers. I haven’t heard the result. I got mine planted yesterday morning.

Cooking Extravaganza
In addition to making potato salad yesterday, I also made a pan of rice krispie treats that I will deliver to Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole later today. I hope the weather cooperates so that we can sit outside and be together for a bit. I also answered Bill’s plea for more chocolate chip cookie bars. I had a day of cooking and baking, and it felt good.


Masked Up

If you had told me two years ago that there would be a day when I would be sitting in a hair stylist’s chair wearing a face mask while my hair was being cut by a young woman also wearing a face mask, well, I would have told you that you were nuts. That would never happen in these United States of America. America Strong. America First. America the Beautiful. Never happen.

But that’s just what I did yesterday afternoon. On the salon’s orders, I pulled up to the building, dialed their number, and told them I had arrived. Someone came out of the building wearing a mask. She pumped some disinfectant into my hand. She then  had me sign a waver promising on the life of my eldest grandchild that I wouldn’t sue them should the coronavirus find me behind that mask. She then took my temperature. I passed with flying colors. I entered the salon, where I was greeted with a multitude of signs forbidding me from touching anything and a smile from the receptionist. Well, I reckon she was smiling. I couldn’t tell because she, too, was wearing a mask. I was smiling too, but she didn’t know that either.

I’m not complaining. Frankly, I was glad that the salon was so careful. I awoke yesterday morning with a lump of dread in my stomach. Was I being ridiculous thinking I needed to take a risk by getting a haircut? I texted my son, who had gotten his hair cut over the weekend, along with my grandson Cole.  I asked him: Did you feel safe when you got your hair cut this weekend? He assured me that the salon would take precautions and that I would be fine. I took him at his word because he has been extra cautious since All Of This began. And so…..

That should last me a while.

I also wore my mask as I grocery shopped yesterday morning. I did a big shop so that I wouldn’t have to go again for at least a week. That meant I was in the store for a fair while. When I left the store, I ripped off my mask as though I hadn’t had fresh air for a month. I hate that thing. As everyone else who wears glasses, I am unable to see within seconds of putting on the mask because the glasses fog. I handle this by not wearing glasses in the store, and hoping for the best. I hope any friends or neighbors that I ignore while grocery shopping forgive my rudeness.

Monday afternoon, I realized that my gin supply was running low. Heaven forbid. I can barely handle the quarantine, but I certainly couldn’t handle it without gin. I planned on a trip to Total Wine and Liquors yesterday afternoon. But when I awoke with that dreaded lump in my stomach yesterday morning about my haircut, I decided to forgo a trip to the liquor store and have them deliver my supply instead. I got on their website and placed my order. They promised a delivery between 9 and 11 a.m. yesterday morning.

As I awaited their delivery, I hoped with all my heart that the delivery van would be something unassuming that might look like a plumber. My neighbors aren’t teetotalers, but the box would be rather, well, large, I’m afraid. I was also out of wine, you see. However, when the van pulled up, it was not only not unassuming, it was the brightest shade of teal you can imagine, with LARGE letters on the side proudly saying TOTAL WINE AND LIQUOR. My only hope was that most of the neighbors were still sleeping at 9:30 when it was delivered. There’s that Next Door Judgemental Crowd, after all.

By the way, in yesterday’s blog post I mentioned my regular hairstylist had left the salon. I asked my new hairstylist where she went. She apparently became a dog groomer. I don’t know how I feel about that. Perhaps she felt it was safer dealing with miniature schnauzers than humans. They might bite, but they don’t carry scary viruses.

Putting Our Toes in the Water

This weekend, Coloradans opened our doors just a crack, allowing us to loosen up the quarantine reigns a bit. Frankly, nothing changes that much, but I must admit that it does make me feel like I can breathe a little freer. And wouldn’t you know it? I ordered two masks from a shop on Etsy seven or eight weeks ago. It wasn’t until I had waited about a month without receiving the masks that I noticed the shop from which I had purchased the masks was in Bulgaria. Talk about NOT BUYING LOCAL. And just as the governor is allowing us to peek out our doors, the masks arrived. I’m lucky that I have friends who are not necessarily in high places, but know how to sew. At any rate, now Bill and I have two masks each, which we are required still to wear.

There are a couple of changes for which I’m very grateful. The first is that our archdiocese in Denver is allowing churches to be open for people to attend Mass in person. There are very strict guidelines, and it will be literally MONTHS before we will be attending Mass like normal. I probably will hold off for a bit because it is going to be a nuthouse. And frankly, I’m enjoying watching Cardinal Dolan say Mass each Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. I will be very happy, however, when I can once again receive communion.

Another thing about which I am rejoicing is that hair salons are finally being given permission to reopen. The day after Bill and I returned to AZ following our quick trip to Denver for Bill’s doctor’s appointment, I went to my hair stylist there and told her to cut my hair ridiculously short. I was pretty sure that a shelter-in-place order was on its way in AZ, as it had been declared in Denver just days before. She clipped it very short in front, and literally used clippers in the back, and promised me no one would mistake me for a man. At the end of the day, who really cared? Bill is pretty sure of my gender at this point, and he was about the only one I saw for the last two months.

So later today, I have an appointment to get my hair cut. My regular stylist is no longer there. So I’m going to someone new, which is always somewhat disconcerting. But how much can anyone ruin a haircut like mine?

I texted my son over the weekend, and asked what he was doing. He and his family have been very cautious during the shelter-in-place order. But he and 6-year-old Cole were venturing out to get a much-needed haircut…..

Ah, I can breathe, I’ll bet they both said.

Over the weekend, my brother and most of his family drove from AZ to Denver to visit his daughter (my niece) Jessie. She and her boyfriend moved here a couple of weeks ago, and he was eager to see where she lived and if she was happy. (A nice house in a nice neighborhood, and yes, she is very happy.) I will admit that we gathered on Saturday at our house and Sunday morning at Jess and Rob’s, trying as much as we could to socially distance. We didn’t have our tape measures out, and in our excitement, I’m pretty sure we broke the rules a bit. Fingers crossed.

In fact, fingers crossed about a lot of things. We may survive yet.