Thursday Thoughts

Religion from Roomba
In my blog post yesterday, I talked about the newest member of our family – Rosie Roomba. I neglected to show you a photo…..

Even as I was writing the post, Rosie was busy vacuuming our bedroom floor. When she finished, I went to check out the results…..

You have all heard of the people who see images of the Virgin Mary on their toast or in their mashed potatoes. Well, I think Rosie might be giving me spiritual messages. Can you see the cross clearly imaged into the carpeting? Hmmmm. Well, at least she’s not leaving me Satanic images.

I Spy
I probably go to my neighborhood King Soopers nearly every, sometimes a couple of times a day. While I always have good intentions, I rarely (and I mean RARELY) remember to bring my own bags, despite the fact that they are almost always in my trunk. That, my friends, simply means I’m too lazy to walk back to my car to get them. Anyway, yesterday I was making at the grocery store, and for a change, I had my own bag. It was sitting in my cart. I went through self-check, something I nearly always do. I had scanned the first item and laid it in the bagging area when the scanner (in her friendly female voice) asked me Do you have your own bag Dummy? Well, the truth is she didn’t say dummy, but she did ask me – FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER – if I had my own bag. I’m pretty sure King Soopers has joined ranks with Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Comcast and is spying on me. How else would she know that I had my bag with me? I wish I could use their spying tactics to make the world a better place.

Slimy Business
When Kaiya is anywhere around, there is likely at least TALK about making slime. And, much to her delight, her cousin Grace (who was one of the visiting dignitaries from AZ this past week) is a slime connoisseur. So, not surprisingly, this happened….

Aunt Bec was there to provide supervision. Cole and Faith are steadfastly sticking to Play Doh, thank you very much.

The Heat is On
I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I’m about ready to have the temperatures cool down a bit. Today — when it was supposed to be a bit cooler — my car thermometer showed an outdoor temperature of 63 degrees. Day before yesterday, it hit 81. But just wait. The first cold and snowy day, you will hear Nana’s Whimsies complaining!


Making Nice

I’ve been grocery shopping since I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 years old, after I finally moved into my first apartment. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Prior to that, I would go to the grocery store and pick up a few necessities on occasion. Ice cream. Tortilla chips and salsa. Ibuprofen. Sometimes when I was a kid, my mom would send me off on my bicycle to the neighborhood IGA store to pick up a few things. That abruptly stopped after she sent me to the store one time to pick up a head of lettuce and a can of corn and I returned, flushed from riding my bike, with a head of cabbage and a can of hominy. Hey. I was 8. Cut me some slack.

But I didn’t do any once-a-week kind of shopping until I had my own place and cooked my own food. So that means that I have been grocery shopping for 40-some years. And I will tell you that it isn’t one of the jobs that I hate to do. Those include emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, and defrosting the freezer in the garage. I find grocery shopping to be kind of fun and relaxing.

Now, having said that, I have to place some caveats on that statement. First, though I do so regularly, I HATE shopping at Walmart. There is simply nothing fun about it. If it wasn’t for some of the things that I buy that are cheaper at Walmart, I would never go. I am not a Walmart hater. I just think they are uninteresting, seem to often have empty shelves, are staffed by crabby cashiers, and are visited by people who maybe should have looked in the mirror before stepping out of their house. Including me.

Second, I am retired and so can shop at a leisurely pace and at a time of day and week that is quiet and less stressful. It’s a whole different ballgame if one works full time and is trying to grocery shop with two fighting kids and at the same time as everyone else who works.

I have found Tuesday mornings are a great time to shop. Mondays the shelves are often empty because of the heavy shopping traffic over the weekend. By Tuesday, most shelves are stocked. And if you go around 10 o’clock, you miss the morning donut-and-coffee crowd and the stockers (who apparently no longer work at night) are almost finished with their work.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I worked at Safeway in Leadville. That was back in the days before computers, so cashiers had to look at the price tags and key in the price. I was FAST. VERY FAST. And because of this, I was very popular. The lines were long at my check stand. I was proud to be so good at something.

This is a long post about nothing in particular, so I will get to a semblance of a point. There is a cashier at the grocery store at which I shop in Denver – King Soopers – who has worked there for at least 23 years (as long as I have shopped there). He isn’t particularly quick; in fact, he’s quite slow. But that’s because he chats with his customers. Now, it’s true that if I’m in a hurry, I avoid him. But I wasn’t in a hurry yesterday, and went through his line. And what I noticed is that he is apparently the cashier-of-choice for the over 55 crowd, because, while there were other cashiers working, his line was the longest.

He’s nice. You don’t meet a lot of nice people these days. And here are a couple of things that I learned from him as he leisurely bagged my groceries. One, it’s not good to microwave things twice. So when he buys the already-prepared mashed potatoes that are in the dairy case, he – being single – opens up the container, takes out what he wants to use, and then reseals it. He then microwaves the smaller amount.

Two, the jars of sweet pickled cherry peppers like I bought used to contain garlic, but no longer do. It is an addition that he apparently misses. So he opens the jar and adds a bit of garlic powder and mixes it in.

groceries (2)


I’m not sure that either of these suggestions are earth-shattering or even something I wouldn’t have thought of doing myself if, for example, I wanted my pickled peppers to be garlicky. Still, I loved that he and I built a brief relationship for that small period of time. I would say that I wish more service people would do the same thing, but then I would be writing a blog post about how annoyed I get at cashiers who talk too much and are slow.

Today, however, I’m going to accentuate the positive!

Forge Ahead

Much as we love spending the winter in Arizona, we are always happy to be back in Denver, for a number of reasons. We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy a second springtime. We see the cactus flowers in Arizona in March and April, and we are back just in time to see the end of the forsythia blossoms and the beginning of the lilacs and the iris. I love to get my garden planted – mostly herbs and a couple of tomato plants – and will put in my petunias just as soon as the tulips die completely back and make room for them.

The pitiful end of my forsythia blossoms

The pitiful end of my forsythia blossoms

Tulips with their BFFs, the dandilions

Tulips with their BFFs, the dandilions

This spring, I have made a few resolutions. It makes sense since most of the resolutions I made in January have been forgotten. Not just neglected; I can’t even remember what they were. Sigh.

I have been feeling like a slug because we got out of the habit of exercising, something we had done faithfully for a long time. And I have been putting on weight, something I conveniently blame on my low fiber diet (rich in carbs and sugar), forgetting that one can eat low fiber without eating ice cream every night after dinner. Sigh again.

So I am facing the upcoming warm months with renewed energy and commitment. I started by going to the gym Monday, and plan to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning right now. Tuesdays and Thursdays I will lift my measly little weights at home. Hey. It can’t hurt.

Furthermore, while I’m not going on a diet (diets don’t work for me; all I think about is food), I am simply going to cook healthier meals.

While in Mesa, I walked over to our nearby Basha’s most every day of the week. I am determined to walk to the grocery store here as well. King Soopers and Whole Foods are a bit farther away than Basha’s, but no matter. Even if I don’t do it every time, I can do it regularly.

There are simple things around the house that will get me better organized. For example, when I want to remember to take something upstairs, I put Whatever-It-Is on the steps. And then I step over them again and again because heaven forbid I would bend over to pick Whatever-It-is up. And then I would just have to PUT WHATEVER-IT-IS AWAY!

No more! Whatever-It-Is will go up with me the next time I climb the stairs.

And speaking of the stairs, I am determined to stop thinking of walking up the stairs as undertaking the Bataan Death March. The other morning I used the last tissue from the box in the kitchen. I found myself using paper towels or toilet tissue to wipe my nose until I finally realized that it wasn’t going to kill me to walk the exactly 14 steps up to the linen closet upstairs where I keep my boxes of tissues. Our house in Mesa is small, and 14 steps will get you practically anywhere in the house. But I don’t live in Windsor Palace, so the stairs will become my friend.

Sometimes I come to the sudden realization that my glasses are so dirty I can practically not see out of them. I am going to use my handy-dandy microfiber cloth to clean my glasses each and every morning before I put them on.

As part of my healthier eating, I found a recipe for a casserole that uses ground chicken for the meatballs. I halved the recipe and we enjoyed it for dinner, with plenty for leftovers.

Chicken Parmesan Meatball Casserole, courtesy Buns In My Oven

chicken parmesan meatball casserole

For the meatballs:
1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
For the casserole:
1 pound campanelle pasta (any small shape is fine, such as ziti)
1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 1 minute less than package directions state.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the meatballs. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to mix them together well. Form into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Add the pasta sauce to a large bowl and stir in the cooked pasta and meatballs. Stir gently to coat everything in sauce.

Spread half of the pasta and meatballs into a 9×13 baking dish. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Thursday Thoughts

Thirty Days
Hello October. I can’t believe you’re already here. One hundred percent of the time, I can’t tell you how many days a month has without reciting in my head: Thirty days has September, April, June, and November….. Well, I guess I remember that October has 31 days because Halloween is October 31. So 98 percent of the time. I laughed one day when Bill was trying to figure out how many days a particular month had, and he recited out loud: Thirty days has September, April, MAY, and November. Being ever the helpful wife, I suggested the little poem isn’t helpful unless you have it memorized correctly. He loves when I point things out like this to him. Wouldn’t you?

The Swarm
Our son Dave is in England playing rugby with some Denver team. Don’t ask, because I don’t understand it myself. Anyhoo, that leaves our daughter-in-law Jll as the single

I believe Dave is in the second row from the front and is the only one not looking at the camera!

I believe Dave is in the second row from the front and is the only one not looking at the camera!

parent of their brood of four. With the youngest being 7, it’s considerably easier than when they were small. Still, it’s a lot of work, especially as they are all involved in a variety of activities. So the other night, I invited them over for dinner. Only come if it’s actually making your life easier, I told her. I wasn’t trying to make it more complicated. They always make me laugh when the whole gang comes. I hear them coming from afar. They acknowledge me with smiles, maybe a hug or two, and immediately head out to the back yard where they quickly find entertainment. That night it was tossing a football. I had made a simple oven dish in which you put chicken pieces, potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onion on a cookie sheet, add salt and pepper, pour olive oil over the whole kit and caboodle, and bake for an hour-and-20 minutes at 375 degrees. The chicken and the bread were consumed quickly. They had to be coaxed to eat the vegetables, largely, I think, because I decided to add Brussel sprouts. A deal breaker for sure. That’s okay. More for Jll and me. Homemade milk shakes for dessert. No coaxing. A lot of slurping. And that was just Bill! It was a fun night.

Sew There
apronIn response to my post entitled Apron Strings, I got several leads on apron patterns. While Bill was in Chicago, I went and purchased some material. Yesterday Bill spent much of the day making my apron. I think it was more time consuming than he anticipated. What would make it easier, I asked him. A square apron, he informed me. The curves were a killer. But I think he did a good job all things considered. It is not quite complete since he ran out of rick rack. “Or whatever that stuff is called,” he told me. It’s called rick rack.

When You’re Alone and Life is Making You Lonely, You Can Always Go…….
While Bill was busily sewing at home, I had lunch downtown with my two besties from my old job back in the days when I got paid to write. I don’t get downtown much these days, but I enjoy the heck out of it every time I do. More and more apartment buildings have been built every time I go downtown. Will it ever stop? I guess it has to because at some point they’ll run out of space. I always think if I was a bit of a different person, I would live in lower downtown Denver where we had lunch. They have now built a King Soopers right across the street from Coors Field, and apparently a Whole Foods is scheduled to be completed next year. There are restaurants, bookstores, churches, parks….everything you need. Except grandkids living within walking distance and/or 10 minutes from you. I’ll stay where I am, thank you very much.

Ma Oui
Speaking of lunching with my friends, we ate at a place that has only been open for about three weeks, or so our server told us. It is called Bistro Provencal, and was very delicious and surprisingly affordable. (I still can’t get used to $15 hamburgers.) I had Tourte de Boeuf, which was basically a pot pie that had filet mignon and mushrooms in a creamy sauce. It was absolutely amazing. Of course, I think you could wrap puff pastry around an old shoe and it would taste good. I hope the restaurant makes it.