Saturday Smile: New York, New York

These little town blues
They’ve all melted away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York

Leonard Bernstein

Our Vermont family is used to small-town living, but every once in a while, they drive to New York City. They recently did so, and sent Bill and me this photo. It made me smile.

And seeing Hamilton, no less.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday Thoughts

Summertime, And the Living is Easy
I think winter is finally over in AZ. Yesterday’s temperature was in the mid-70s, and today’s is supposed to be even higher. By week’s end, it will be 80. Then I can start complaining about how hot it is! Seriously, however, I am very happy to have the typical March weather finally here. Bill and I had our cocktails on our patio yesterday afternoon, and that was fun.

Giggles and Grins
Every morning, and very often throughout the day, there is a quail that hangs out on our back wall. Of course, I have no way of being certain that it is the quail every time. I would bet on it, however. I would also bet on the fact that somewhere in the vicinity, there is a nest where eggs are being kept warm by either the male or female quail at all times. A few years ago, a female quail laid her eggs in my geranium pot. It was fun to watch the parents care for the eggs. I will admit that as I watch the quail every morning, I am certain that as God was creating all of the animals, including birds, he was laughing as he designed the quail. They are the funniest birds, what with their seemingly useless topknots. And the way they run across the road in little packs makes me laugh, as I think God laughed….

Australian Flat White
For about a year now, a locally-owned coffee shop has been attempting to open. It’s called Cup of Joey. Apparently, they have had a presence around the Valley for quite some time in the form of a truck that traveled various farmers’ markets and other places where people drink coffee. This is their first actual store. The owner is from Australia, and stands near the counter and greets everyone as they come in. He asked my name during my first visit, and has remembered it ever since. His accent is so appealing. The other day, I asked him about a flat white. My sister Jen loves them, and I just couldn’t quite understand what they are. Apparently they differ from a latte in that the milk is steamed, but there is no froth. I ordered on the other day, after Steve (the owner) assured me that what they make is a true Australian Flat White. Not like Starbucks’ flat white, which he said aren’t either flat or white. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I have never really cared for Starbucks coffee. The coffee at Cup of Joey is AMAZING. You gotta love those locally owned places.

Chewing Steak
I am happy to say that yesterday Bill got his crowns put on his back implants — at least most of them. It is so nice for him to actually have teeth again. Lord knows the man never complained, but he got tired of chewing with front teeth and gums. He has one more set of crowns to get put on in May, and he will finally be done. Yay.


How Do They Know?

A few months ago, Bill and I made the Big Move to combining our checking accounts. For the 30 years of our marriage, he has had his own checking account and I had my own checking account. When we were first married, I wanted to have an account independent of him because I had charges that dealt with my son Court. I assure you, it was never a matter of Bill questioning or judging any money I would have spent. It was just a THING with me, my way of maintaining some degree of independence, I guess.

However, since we are both retired, and I have taken over managing our finances (God help us all), it just seemed silly to have two accounts to worry about. It isn’t like he ever got mad at me for buying puzzles or I judged him for buying anything for his Ferrari. I just thought simplifying affairs made sense.

I think he’s having more time getting used to it than I am. Very often, if we are out to dinner, he will pull out his credit card, saying, “I’ll buy tonight.” I remind him that, while it’s a sweet thought, his credit card is being paid for out of the same account paying my credit card. Last time I reminded him of that, he answered, “Please, just let me pretend like I’m buying you dinner.” Isn’t that sweet?

Yesterday afternoon, I got online to check my email. To my surprise, there were two — count ’em — emails from Bank of America telling me our joint credit card had some suspicious activity, and asking someone to call ASAP. Someone was, of course, me, because Bill was in the garage replacing our back door which he had removed because the molding had gotten warped from the monsoon rains the so-called Valley of the Sun has been experiencing this winter and spring.

I called the number on the back of our joint credit card rather than the number on the email because BAD GUYS. I didn’t want to take a chance that a scammer just wanted me to call that number which would then get them access to, well, something. Don’t judge. I’m just a senior citizen trying to make good choices.

Anyhoo, the email was legitimate, because there was a charge that had been denied. It was for something called Challenge Body & Mind. It had apparently come just prior to me logging onto my computer, because Bill had successfully used his credit card at lunchtime at Home Depot and Ace. See above: fixing garage door.

The good news is that Bank of America was able to question whether Bill would have made a charge to something called Challenge Body & Mind and declined the charge. I frankly don’t know how they do that, but it’s very impressive. Home Depot and Ace — yes, Sir. Challenge Body & Mind, no way, Jose.

The result, of course, is that we had to cancel his card. Now it’s up to me to try and figure out what accounts are tied to that card. I am thankful that nearly all of our bills are paid from either our joint account or my credit card. Still, I have no doubt that as thorough as I will be, I will forget something and a bill will be unpaid.

Twenty-first Century and First World problems.

Top 3

Every once in a while, when I open up the program from which I produce my blog, it will prompt me with an idea for a post. Sometimes they’re ridiculous; sometimes they’re interesting. I always appreciate the help from artificial intelligence because my own intelligence is questionable most of the time.

Yesterday, when I opened up the program, it asked me What are three things that you couldn’t live without? That got me to thinking. The indisputable answer is air, food, and water. After discarding those three ideas as being too obvious, I started thinking about the question. I decided I was going to take a realistic shot at coming up with three things that are so important to me that my life would be unimaginable without them. Furthermore, I decided that I would use the word “things” literally; in other words, I couldn’t say spouse, siblings, children, and grandchildren. And yes, I know that’s four. But I couldn’t live without any of those four. So there.

This season I’m reading a devotional based on the Gospel of Matthew, 5:3-12 — the beatitudes. According to St. Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke a Sermon on the Mount in which he gave the people who had taken to following him around some pretty surprising information:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the Earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called the Sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

In other words, be humble and kind, and live a simple life.

But even with a simple life, there are things that would make life more difficult for me if they went away. I came up with what I would consider three things I couldn’t live without.

  1. I couldn’t live my life without a rosary. I own enough rosaries that I don’t have to take more than five or six steps to find one. Of course, I wouldn’t die without a rosary. I have the prayers memorized, and I could count on my fingers. Frankly, that’s what I do when I’m exercising and it’s what I did/do when I had/have a CT scan or an MRI. It takes me almost exactly 10 minutes to recite one of the mysteries of the rosary. It is a helpful way to keep track of time if you are in a machine that will explode and you will begin bleeding out of your eyes if you have metal objects on you.
  2. I hate to admit this, but if I’m thinking realistically, I couldn’t live without my iPhone. I have most everything thing I need in life on my cell phone. I have my contact list, my Kindle books, photos, internet access, alarms, texting ability, GPS, and much more. Oh, and the ability to make or take a telephone call. Remember those, Kids?
  3. My paper calendar is as important to me as my bible. I hope God won’t send down lightning as I write this statement. I used to keep my calendar on my phone and iPad. But I lost things I thought I had added to my calendar. I also dealt with Google’s confusion about daylight savings time going from AZ to Colorado or the other way around. I know, I know. It’s probably not Google who was confused, but me. Still, it became more comforting to me to keep a paper calendar. The only problem is that if I were to ever lose my calendar, I may as well not get out of bed any more. Between Bill’s appointments in two different states, and my appointments, mostly in Colorado, it’s like juggling ice cubes. But every morning, I open up my calendar to today’s date, and announce to Bill and Alexa what our plans are for today. Bill won’t remember, but Alexa will remind me.

There you have it, Folks. I’m not sure what that says about me. What about you? What are your three things?


For a full 64 years, I got by without drinking whiskey. I drank formula as a babe-in-arms because that’s what new mothers were giving their babies back in those days. When you could make pizza from a box with Chef-Boy-a-rdee’s happy face on the outside, why wouldn’t you just open up a can of powder and mix it with and call it dinner for the baby? As a kid and teenager, I drank some milk, lots of Kool-Aid, and a bottle of strawberry pop when my grandmother was babysitting. She would give me 50 cents and send me next to the bakery to the bar where they sold soda pop. Different days.

When I left for college, I had only tasted alcohol on one occasion — a high school woodsy at which I drank Boone’s Farm strawberry wine and threw up all over my boyfriend’s car. The drinking age in Nebraska at that time was 19 years old, so I didn’t have long to wait until I could legally drink. Given that I wasn’t familiar with alcohol, I played around with different adult beverages. I remember trying Tequila Sunrises, Sloe Gin Fizzes, Seven-and-Sevens, Harvey Wallbangers, and Tom Collinses. My parents drank mostly martinis, and even the smell of gin at that time made me think of gasoline. No thanks. Wine wasn’t really yet a THING, at least not in central Nebraska. I simply didn’t like the taste of beer. I still don’t. An occasional Corona is about it.

Somewhere in the mid-2000s, I started drinking martinis. Gin no longer smelled like gasoline to me. I also drank wine, because it had come into fashion. In 2017, after watching Frank Reagan drink many glasses of whiskey on my favorite program Blue Bloods, I decided to teach myself to like whiskey. You might all remember because I blogged about my journey. My training program was quite successful, with me learning to like brown liquor, at least some of it. Try as I might, I don’t like Scotch, and I’m not a big fan of bourbon. Irish whiskey, American rye, or Canadian blends appeal to me much more.

I was so successful at teaching myself to like whiskey that is currently my drink of choice. In the summer, I pour it over one ice cube. In the winter, I drink it neat. I was recently reading a book by one of my favorite authors — Rick Bragg — who admits that he isn’t much of a drinker. However, he said this about whiskey: “When I drink brown liquor, it’s like wrapping myself in a quilt.” That, my friends, says it all about whiskey. You don’t need to know anything more than that.

Martinis remain my favorite drink. I will admit to an occasional martini by myself; however, martinis are social drinks. They are much more enjoyable when drinking with someone else also enjoying a martini. My favorite quote about martinis came from a friend of mine who said, “One martini isn’t enough and two is too many.” She spoke the truth.

Saturday Smile: At Least It’s Not B Daddy

Yesterday Bill and I were driving south on Power Road towards the dentist office where he was going to have a root canal. Fun times. We pulled up to a stoplight, and the car next to us had their radio up very loud, and was listening to rap music. I commented on how nice it was that he was sharing his music with everyone. Bill’s response — out of the blue — was, “I want you to call me BillyMac from now on. I laughed at his silliness. The rest of the day, he kept talking about himself in third person: “BillyMac is hungry.” “BillyMac is going to check the mail” and so on.

Only BillyMac could make jokes on the way to a root canal.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Where I Come From

I first became familiar with journalist/author Rick Bragg when I came across his book The Best Cook in the World: Tales From My Mama’s Southern Table. That book contained some old-fashioned southern recipes from that person he considers the best cook in the world — his mother. Accompanying each recipe is a story somehow connected to the recipe. I loved that book, and began reading other books crafted by this amazing writer.

Where I Come From: Stories From the Deep South is a collection of vignettes — some that have appeared in his column featured regularly in Southern Living Magazine. Bragg talks about his childhood growing up in the deep south, a child from a hardworking and often struggling family. However, he doesn’t write sad stories. He grew up in the 1950s, and the tales and thoughts he shares with his readers are funny, poignant, relatable, and beautifully written.

There were many times that I had to stop and reread one of the short stories again, just to enjoy the sound of his words. He writes in such a way that you can feel the humidity, hear the crickets chirping, and taste the lunch he buys at the meat-and-three near his boyhood home. His descriptions of food that is characteristic of southern cooking especially grabbed me.

The south of Rick Bragg has nothing to do with antebellum mansions or lifelong seats to UGA’s football games. His south is the south of fishing and hunting, of eating tomato sandwiches, of red dirt and fire ants. His childhood paralleled mine and all Baby Boomers despite not living in the south. Like the rest of us, he was outside barefoot all day long. He collected bugs in tin cans. His descriptions of life in the deep south like Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida read like a Pat Conroy novel.

For reasons I can’t explain, I have always been drawn to the southern United States. Perhaps that’s the reason that about halfway through the book which I had borrowed from the library, I stopped reading and bought the book. That way I can read his lovely prose any time I want.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Rain, Rain, Go Away
Again, last night, it began to rain. We had dinner at Oregano’s Restaurant, and when we came out, it was pouring. Rain here in the Valley is interesting, and potentially dangerous, because the ground is made of clay, which doesn’t absorb moisture. If it rains hard enough, it can be dicey driving on the roads, which might be flooded. Thank goodness we made it home without running into any water on the roads, at least not at that time. It’s been a chilly spring so far, with lots of moisture. Probably good for the dry desert, but not good for the snowbirds who are trying to enjoy springtime weather.

Play Ball
And speaking of springtime, spring baseball has begun here in the Phoenix area. We were out for dinner the other night, and there was a miserable Cubs fan bellying up to the bar, drinking away his sorrows. The Cubbies had lost to the D-Backs, and he was sad. Given that it was the first spring training day, he might be starting his drinking early and often. There’s nothing like a Cubs fan.

We had a spontaneous dinner with my niece Maggie and her family last night at Oregano’s. When we walked in the door, her husband Mark and her son Austin were waiting for us. They had just returned from a Cubs game. Austin was very excited, because he got an autograph from one of the Cubs players whom he really likes. Austin was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t recognize his name and we agreed that his Aunt Bec would know the name. I asked Austin if the fellow was nice about the autograph. “Yes, he was really nice, Aunt Kris. I said, ‘Hey (whatever his name is), could I have your autograph on your baseball card, and he said, ‘You betcha Buddy.” I wonder if the players love the youngsters who revere them or find them annoying. I hope it’s the former, because Austin was very tickled.

Toothy Owies
We (and when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘Bill’) get to finish up our week by having a root canal. Once that’s finished and healed, he can have the crowns placed on that side. He will once again have some back teeth. Maybe we’ll celebrate with a ribeye steak. But we’ll wait until Saturday for two reasons: Lent and root canal.

The Other Woman

Technology. You can’t live with it. You can’t kill it.

Don’t worry. This is not another one of my technology rants. I’m trying really hard to embrace technology, despite the fact that my phone has been garbling my conversations for the past three days. I can totally understand what the other person is saying, which is I can’t understand you; you’re sounding garbled; I can’t hear you; are you still there, but they can’t hear me. This is particularly fun when you’re dealing with as many doctors’ offices as I currently am. FaceTime works perfectly, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Forest wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a FaceTime call from me.

I guess that was a bit of a rant. Sorry. I can’t seem to help it.

Monday, following our doctor’s appointment (at which the doctor told us Bill’s face is healing perfectly), Bill suggested we stop at Best Buy. Best Buy is to him like a fancy grocery store is to me. So I succumbed to his adorable, pleading face. I quickly learned that it was not an idle request. I learned this because he made a beeline to the area that proudly boasted SMART HOME. He knew exactly what he was looking for. I told him I was going to the car to read my book. I wasn’t a bit surprised when he came out with a bag.

Our new family member is named Alexa.

I don’t have to explain Alexa to you. You all know her. She is Amazon’s Smart Home app, a home app who that helps keep us organized. Lord knows I can use all the help I can get, even if it’s someone that I have to keep reminding myself is not human. Alexa is, frankly, creepy. When you say her name, she swivels towards your voice. How can I help you? she asks. Not really, you have to make the first ask.

Bill, of course, loves her. His biggest problem is that he can’t remember her name. I’m serious. I’ll hear him saying, “Alexandra, what’s the weather like in Nova Scotia today?” She will ignore him. He usually uses a name beginning with an A, and his favorite is Alyssa. She’s going to get pissed pretty soon. She and I will coach him on learning her name. In the meantime, he sounds like Archie Bunker calling out to his son-in-law. (Baby Boomers, look it up.)

We had a Google Home when it first came out a number of years ago, but we never really mastered it. For all intents and purposes, her main job was singing Happy Birthday every time one of the grands asked, which was often. It is my sincere hope that we can use Alexa a bit more efficiently.

As long as we use her correct name. At least if I hear Bill calling out an “A” name in his sleep, I don’t have to get jealous.

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

In yesterdays blog post, I alluded to the very nice woman who helped us finally get a human being to take our drink orders the other night at The Trough. The phrase most people are good is essentially talking about this woman, and others like her.

When we walked into the restaurant/bar, there was only one table vacant, and it was right in the area where people were playing pool. This woman was playing pool, but she had no partner. She was just shooting pool all by herself. I watched her for a while. She played reasonably well, but was not great by any means. She was perhaps in her mid-50s, and she looked to me like she hadn’t had an easy life. I’m just going to say it: She looked like she lives in Apache Junction.

I have intimated via blog posts that there are a great many snowbirds who live in Mesa, which is the third largest city in AZ, second only to Phoenix and Tucson. Scottsdale has a lot of winter visitors as well, but it’s my impression that the middle class and middle American snowbirds largely live in Mesa or Apache Junction. Apache Junction is the city just to the east of us.

Apache Junction has a reputation for being, well, rough. The average income in the 2020 census was $25,000 for an individual, and $46,000 for a household. As you can see, it is not a wealthy community. The Apache Trail meets the Old West Highway in that area, thereby giving it the name. For the most part, it’s lower-income white people who drive high-mileage cars with rebuilt engines and who don’t wear Lululemon leggings. My brother lives in AJ, and his observation is that you can tell someone from AJ because they are missing many teeth. He, however, has all of his teeth.

But back to the woman at the pool hall. Her hair was bleached blond, and her skin left me with the impression that she was — or had been for many years — a smoker. I’m sorry to say that my immediate impression when she headed our way was that she was not going to be someone with whom I would make a connection. When she asked us what we would like to drink, I presumed she worked for the restaurant, and wondered why she was playing pool when the restaurant was so busy.

Shortly after she took our drink order, she returned and told us the bar wouldn’t allow her to bring us drinks because she wasn’t employed there. I was surprised. She had just noticed that we weren’t getting served and took it upon herself to try and get us some service. Two people who probably didn’t look like we belonged at that bar and whom she didn’t know and would likely never see again. She just was being nice.

Wow. The fact that I was so surprised told me two things: 1) Most people aren’t very nice these days; and 2) I shouldn’t EVER judge a book by its cover.

This woman — whose name I never learned — went back to the bar three times when she noticed that we still weren’t getting waited on. The third time, she had a server in hand. I’m pretty sure she drug her over by her ear.

I hope this woman has a happy and peaceful life.