Memorial Memories

I have always loved Memorial Day. It’s my favorite patriotic holiday. It even beats out Independence Day because the Fourth of July is usually hot, often rainy, and if you want a good fireworks show, you have to queue up with the rest of the people who want a good fireworks show.

As a kid, Memorial Day always meant School’s Out For the Summer, just as Alice Cooper promised. I still can remember the feeling of cleaning out my desk, throwing away my chewed-up Number 2 pencils, saying goodbye to those I wouldn’t see for Three Whole Months, and making plans with my besties who I would see a lot of over the summer.

Memorial Day also meant our annual trip to the cemeteries where Mom would carefully place the peonies and irises that she had picked from her garden in front of the graves of my grandparents and some of my deceased aunts and uncles. I loved those visits, and I can’t tell you why. Every time we take a trip back to Columbus, we stop at the Catholic cemetery and try to find Grandma and Grandpa Micek’s headstone. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. Then we head over to Rosemont Cemetery where we easily find Grammie and Gramps’ graves.

Memorial Day also always meant a cookout of some sort. Mom might pack a picnic of fried chicken and cole slaw, or Dad might cook steaks or pork chops on the grill. I can smell them cooking as I write this blog.

Memorial Day 2020 will be one for the books, that’s for sure. The reason, of course, is our friend the coronavirus. Yesterday felt about like every day has felt for the last three months. Actually, that’s not exactly true. I think people are starting to carefully come out of their dens, sort of like Punxsutawney Phil coming out of his hibernation home to see if the sun is shining so he can tell us how many more weeks there are in winter.

We went over to visit Court and his family on Sunday. For the first time since this all began, they felt comfortable letting us into the house instead of visiting them outside, responsibly distanced. Not only that, but I got to hug all three kids for the first time since we returned to a Denver. Admittedly, Cole looked at me suspiciously before he accepted the hug, asking me if I had been around people who were sick. I assured him that I always wore a mask outside. And then he not only hugged me, but sat on my lap.

I hope that everybody behaves themselves so that we can continue to move back to normalcy this summer. I’m looking forward to lots of time with our family, many picnics and cookouts, and lots of hugs.

And, by the way, Bill and I did make it out to the cemetery to place my own irises and snowballs by Mom and Dad’s headstone. No coronavirus is going to stop that tradition. ….

 

Saturday Smile: Sharp Eyes

I was able to spend a little outdoor time with two of my grandkids this week. Dagny and Maggie Faith accompanied me geocaching. This is, of course, one of my favorite activities, and they are two of my favorite partners. I hit 200 finds on Thursday, and those two found a lot of them while geocaching with me. On Thursday, we went four for four — 100 percent success. And when I say we, I really mean Dagny. She was on a hot streak, and Maggie and I were ice cold. Two of the caches were ordinary tubes hanging from the branch of two different trees. But one was called Woodchuck, with the hint suggesting cachers be careful to not “chuck” the cache accidentally. Dagny spotted a piece of a log under a tree. She turned it over, and found the cache…..

See the little hole drilled into the wood hiding the piece of paper that we sign?

But her real success came with one called Skullduggery. The hint indicated that the hiding place was something that had once been alive, but could no longer hurt you. We looked and looked, to no avail. Suddenly, Dagny’s voice rang out….”I found it.” She had literally lifted part of a tree that had fallen, and uncovered the skull of some kind of small animal in which they had inserted the paper to sign. I admit that Maggie and I were equal parts impressed and horrified…..

It was a good day, and we ended it as we always do with a trip to Sonic for a cold treat. It made me smile.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Sun Down Motel

Those who follow my reading choices know that I’m a big fan of mysteries. What most people don’t know is that I have developed somewhat of an interest in scary books. Not horror novels like Bring Me Flesh; I’ll Bring You Hell, a book by an author named Martin Rose, of whom I’ve never heard, and whose books I will never read. But a good ol’ gothic mystery novel with a side of ghosts can bring me satisfaction. The Haunting of Hill House, by writer Shirley Jackson is a good example of the type of scary book to which I’m drawn. Hauntingly scary, but no Freddy Krueger popping out of the closet.

So when a book called The Sun Down Motel, by Simone St. James, an author noted for her creepy novels, comes across my computer screen, you can understand why I was immediately hooked. Last year I read The Broken Girls by the same author, and was suitably impressed. And I have stayed at enough motels with signs that looked just like that illustrated on the cover to be drawn in.

Carly Kirk is at loose ends. She misses her deceased mother. She isn’t finding satisfaction in college. And she has always wondered what happened to her Aunt Viv, who went missing 30 years earlier, before Carly was born. So she drops out of school, and heads to the upper New York town of Fell to retrace the steps of her aunt, and make a true effort to find out what happened and why the police were never able to close the case. All she knows is that Viv ran away from home and found work as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY.

Carly arrives in Fell, and begins renting the apartment in which Viv lived.  Soon she accepts a job as the night clerk at The Sun Down Motel. In the course of retracing her aunt’s steps, Carly faces some of the same challenges faced by Viv. The challenges include nightly visits from the victims of the serial killer the police and Viv’s family think murdered Viv.

The Sun Down Motel is part ghost story, part romance, but mostly a mystery with an ending that might take you by surprise. I found the novel to be a great escape from the trials around me.

Here is a link to the book. 

Thursday Thoughts

Let Them Grow
I say this about three or four times every year about this time, but I think I have the last of my planting completed. The last things in were my petunias. Once they get settled, I’ll have a better idea if I want to plant a few more. I have a couple of tomato plants, some herbs, and a couple of pots of Swiss chard. I also have a pot of red geraniums in honor of my mother, and some dahlias in the front mailbox pot. If one comes my way, I might do a potted grape tomato plant as well.

Puzzled 
Thanks to all of you who gave me suggestions and links to puzzle makers who seem to have a few left. I have three unopened on my dining room table, so I think I will be busy for a while. Maybe by time I finish those, the puzzle companies will be back in business.

Vroom With a Buddy
The other day, it was so nice out that I wanted to take a ride on my scooter. I didn’t really have any place to ride TO, however. I was just going to buzz around for a while and see where it took me. As I pulled out of my driveway, I decided I might stop over at the grands’ house to see if Maggie Faith was looking for something to do. “Want to go on a scooter ride with me?” I asked. Before I could say Bob’s Your Uncle, she had shoes on and her helmet in hand. Off we went. We were taking my favorite drive through the rich neighborhoods when I realized that we were three-quarters of the way to Trader Joe’s. “Would you be willing to go to Trader Joe’s with me?” I asked her. She was, so off we went. We arrived, parked the scooter, and got off. “Oh, oh,” she said. “I didn’t bring my mask.” No problem, I assured her, because I had two. We put on our masks and headed to the door. We were quickly stopped by a Trader Joe’s employee, who pointed us to the end of the line, which was in a galaxy far, far away. I didn’t need olive oil that badly. We got on the scooter and headed home. My sister Jen assured me the line moves fast, so maybe I’ll try again next week.

I Heart You 
When I walked yesterday morning, I came upon a sight that lifted my spirits…..

For no other reason than to lift people’s spirits, a wonderful neighbor had placed hearts all over their yard. It made my own heart happy.

Ciao.

 

Puzzling Problem

I read an article recently that was fed to me from one of my various social mediums. Probably Facebook, which is about as close as I get to news these days. That’s scary, I know. Anyway, according to the article, the purchase of puzzles during the coronavirus crisis has gone through the roof. In fact, according to the article, the chance of finding an available puzzle is about as possible as the chance that we will be driving hover cars in our lifetime.

They didn’t have to tell me that. Once I got over the shock of being told that I must remain in my house for the foreseeable future — sometime mid-March, I guess — I went on Amazon to buy a puzzle or two. Ha! There was not a single puzzle of any brand to be found. Well, that’s not exactly true. You could buy a puzzle from a second-hand seller for somewhere in the neighborhood of the cost of your first car. And the price is only that low because there are three pieces missing.

I’m a addicted puzzle constructor. I have been for much of my adult life, but in the past couple of years, I have really taken to it in a big way. I started because I believed (and still do) that it’s good for our brains. I’m spatially challenged, so figuring out just where to put a puzzle piece really makes me think. And thinking is good.

For a while, I was posting a photo of every puzzle I completed. Then it occurred to me that people were likely as interested in seeing my finished work featuring puppy dogs frolicking around peony bushes as they were in seeing my photos of every pie I bake. I stopped posting puzzle photos; I’m not sure I’m going to be able to stop posting pie photos. They’re just too beautiful.

About three weeks ago, I wandered on to White Mountain Puzzles website. I had been routinely checking Amazon’s, Springbok’s, and White Mountain Puzzles’ websites on the off chance that there were once again puzzles available for purchase. Though Amazon and Springbok could offer nothing, White Mountain had some puzzles available. Even in desperation, I have some limits. They have to be in the range of 500 pieces, and I won’t put together a puzzle of a train. I don’t hate trains. I just don’t want to look at a picture of one for the two or three days it takes me to put the puzzle together.

But White Mountain had some kind of cool puzzles. And so I ordered three of them. I got the warning that it would perhaps take a few weeks instead of lickety split like they usually take. No problem, White Mountain. So I have been waiting to receive my puzzles.

In the meantime, Bill and I have put together some of our old puzzles. They get me by, but I was so looking forward to getting my three puzzles in the mail. They didn’t come until 7:30 last night. I was like a little girl waiting for a Santa Claus. Three fresh, new puzzles. Heaven.

As an aside, just for fun, I looked at White Mountain’s website yesterday, and once again, they have no puzzles available. This quarantine has to stop. I can’t live without puzzles.

 

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.