Thursday Thoughts

Holiday Nana’s Whimsies Shop
I am starting to make some items for my Etsy shop – Nana’s Whimsies Shop – for the holidays. My Etsy shop hasn’t generated a lot of income, but at least it gives me somewhat of a reason to crochet. I love to crochet, and have given almost everyone I can think of a handmade afghan. Anyway, if you are so inclined, check out my shop. There’s a link at the top of my blog. Here is a Christmas afghan you simply MUST have for, well, someone….


Pizza Pizza
We may or may not have stopped at Fox’s Pizza before we went to Wilma’s house when we arrived in Chicago last week. What the heck, we thought. She probably won’t notice that hour that we could have been with her. And we were fearful that we wouldn’t make it again. We, of course, in fact did make it one more time. Besides seeing Wilma, it’s the best thing about being in Chicago. As we eat the pizza, we talk endlessly about what exactly it is about that particular pizza that makes it so delicious. Is it the sausage? Is it the pizza sauce? Is it the crust? We still don’t have an answer. More research is undoubtedly necessary!….


Forgetful Today and Tamale
Yesterday Bill and I made a trip to Tamale Kitchen located a bit south of us to see if their tamales are as good as the ones we get in Mesa at Old El Paso Tamales. They weren’t. They are, however, pretty darn good. One of the things I like best about Old El Paso Tamales is that they have different kinds varying from pork and other meat to corn to sweet. Every one of them is delicious. The Tamale Kitchen offers two choices – hot or mild. I had the hot, and as I said, they were good. However, after we left, we drove all the way to Joann’s Fabrics before I realized that I had forgotten my purse at the tamale place. Left it hanging on the chair, as I do several times a year, someplace or other. It’s a terrible habit of mine. Thus far, I’ve been lucky. The purse has always been found by an honest person who hasn’t taken a single thing. Bill bought me a clip-on purse a couple of years ago as his solution to my problem. However, while in theory it is a great idea, in practice it is uncomfortable and unwieldy. I simply have to remember to pick up my purse when I leave someplace. Argh. By the way, it was there, safely tucked behind the counter.

Fruits and Vegetables
While we were visiting Wilma, Smith Crossing had a Farmers’ Market on site. It was supposed to be outdoors in the terrace area, but it happened to rain that day. Instead, the farmers set up their goods on a table in a hallway that has a lot of foot traffic, well, walker traffic. As you can see, the fruits and veggies looked delicious. I bought a locally-grown pear, and will attest to its sweetness and freshness. I’m just not sure how much they sold because no one cooks. Still, it’s nice that the facility offers a variety of activities….


I Always Cry at Weddings
And last, but not least, here is a photo that I probably look at 10 times a day, and laugh every time I do so. Cole was the ring bearer at his Auntie Sineat’s wedding this summer in Maine, and he was not crazy about his role…..



Thursday Thoughts: Wednesday Edition

Travelers is Not Just an Insurance Company
This week is sort of Upside Down Week because we are, for all intents and purposes, still traveling. We got home Sunday afternoon from Arizona, took Monday to say hello to our Denver grandkids, and left bright and early Tuesday morning for the airport to fly to Chicago. Bill’s mom will turn 99 this July, and so we take opportunities to spend time with her when our schedules allow. So you have my weekly THURSDAY THOUGHTS post on Wednesday so that I could do a throw-back on Thursday. You know – TBT. At any rate, we return to Denver on Saturday and get a few weeks here until we return for one more week to the desert so that Bill can finish his dental work. Phew.

Which Way to the Bathroom?
I have mentioned before that no matter which direction we’re going, it takes us a bit to remember where everything is at this particular house. I think that phenomenon is worse in Denver because the house is bigger. Even the toilet paper is on the other side in our toilet, so in the middle of the night, I tiredly fumble for the toilet tissue on one side when it is actually on the other. As for food and other kitchen items, it’s nearly a lost cause. I’ll be fine in a week or so.

Grandkidpalooza, Part 2
We had to fit a lot of grandkid-time into a day-and-a-half before we left again for Chicago. Dave and Jll and the kids, along with Allen, stopped by Sunday night for hugs and catch-up time. Monday I picked up Mylee from school. Kaiya had stayed home because of a cold. I took Mylee home and gave Cole – who will turns 2 today – his present. I bought him some swimming paraphernalia, some bathtub toys, and some age-appropriate Legos. Mylee was very happy that Cole was willing to share the Legos as Legos are about her favorite thing after Play Doh. Cole cried when I left, which makes me happy and sad all at the same time.

cole birthday 2

Creepy Facebook
When Bill and I go to Chicago, one of our MUST-DOES is a trip (or two) to Bill’s favorite pizza place – Fox’s Pizza. There are three or four of them around the south side of Chicago and its suburbs, but the one we go to since his mother moved to Orland Park is called Fox’s Pizza on Wolf Road. The other day, I opened up Facebook, began scrolling down, and came across an ad for Fox’s Pizza on Wolf Road. So, not only do “they” know that we are going to Chicago, “they” also know where we plan on eating. I try not to think about it too much. Apple (bless its heart) worked so hard to avoid having to allow the government access to telephones, when the fact of the matter is they all know where we are at all times anyway.


Hey Vinnie, Where’s the Beef?

When I actually worked for a living, I had the opportunity to eat at a lot of really nice restaurants all around the United States. You know, the restaurants where you are served a tiny piece of Mozambique tilapia with stewed raspberries and capers drizzled with Sicilian olive oil on an oversized, square white plate, costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, salad not included. For the most part, those meals were delicious and I was able to try a lot of foods I wouldn’t have been able to try otherwise. I am grateful to have had that opportunity.

But for the most part, I am a simple eater. And thankfully, so is my husband. When I told Bill I would take him anywhere he would like for his birthday dinner, he chose a place famous for its fried chicken. And as I go through my recipe files – those on Pinterest and those in my recipe box – the fanciest recipe I have is Coq au Vin. And I haven’t made that for years.

Bill grew up in Chicago – the food capital of the United States in my opinion. If you go downtown, there are innumerable fancy restaurants, similar to those I enjoyed earlier in my life. But the restaurants that Bill enjoyed were not really restaurants at all. They were food joints on the South Side of Chicago. Hot dog stands. Gyros places. Pizza parlours. If he was feeling really fancy, he might go to a locally-owned steak house where they still have red leather booths and serve a relish tray before bringing your salad made out of crisp iceberg lettuce and carrots.

And when we go to Chicago to visit his mother, those are the places we dine. I have mentioned before that Bill’s favorite food is pizza, and his favorite pizza joint is Fox’s, a chain of four or five restaurants on the south side of Chicago. The pizza is thin crust, and he always orders pizza with sausage. Yum…..

Bill Fox pizza

We were thrilled a couple of years ago when one of Bill’s favorite Chicago joints opened up a restaurant in Mesa, right down the street from where the Chicago Cubs play spring baseball. Why not? The place is always busy when we are there, and we go quite often.

Portillo's MesaPortillo’s has all of your Chicago favorites – hot dogs, gyros, tamales, hamburgers. But his (and increasingly my) favorite is their Italian Beef sandwich. Italian beef is slow cooked roast beef sliced very thin, served on a roll that is drenched in the “gravy.” It is served with either sweet or hot peppers. Sweet peppers are simply roasted green peppers and hot peppers are similar to giardiniera – a mixture of spicy pickled vegetables. Again, yum.

Recently he was hankering for an Italian beef sandwich, and it wasn’t handy to make a quick trip to either Chicago or Arizona. So I tried my hand at it, and found a Portillo’s copycat recipe for Italian beef. I’m no expert on whether or not it rivaled Portillo’s but I will tell you it was good, and satisfied my sandwich loving husband. And best yet, it cooked in a crock pot!

Soon we will be eating the genuine article in Mesa. But here’s something to enjoy in the meantime….

Italian Beef

Portillo’s Italian Beef Sandwich, adapted from

1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
a t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
1 t. onion salt
3 c. water
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 (2/3 OZ) package Italian salad dressing mix
5 lb. rump roast

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine the water, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, onion salt, parsley, garlic powder, bay leaf and salad dressing mix. Stir well and bring just to a boil.

Place roast in a slow cooker and pour mixture over the roast. Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours OR high setting for 4 to 5 hours. Remove bay leaf and shred meat with a fork. Serve on hard rolls.

Nana’s Notes: Genuine Chicago Italian beef sandwiches are made on a certain kind of bread that’s not available here. I used French hard rolls and it was delicious. Also, the genuine article uses roast beef that is sliced VERY THIN. Since I don’t have a meat slicer, I shredded the meat and it worked great. Chicago, don’t hate me. Finally, the test of a true Italian beef sandwich is that it is so sloppy that you have to lean over your plate to eat it. It might be hard to tell from the photo, but this one definitely was.