Thursday Thoughts

Speed of Light
If you read my blog, you probably remember that I told you about the “other woman” in Bill’s life – namely, Goggle Home. Thus far, she’s worked out fairly well. She’s not terribly cooperative about music yet; for example, she won’t play a particular song when requested. Instead, if you ask her to play Fight Song (as did Dagny on a recent morning), she will fix you up with what she calls a “Fight Song playlist,”which is a play list that includes many songs, but apparently doesn’t include Fight Song. She’s a bit contrary that way. But let me tell you about the funniest thing she has done thus far. Every morning when Bill comes downstairs, the first thing he does is say, “Hey Google, what’s my day like?” She then commences to say something like this: Good morning, William. The temperature in Denver right now is 26 degrees. The high today will be 48. You have an appointment with Joe Blow at 11:30. However, inexplicably, the other morning after he asked her that question, she did her spiel, but at the end of it, she added Your commute time this morning will be approximately 28 minutes. Hmmm. Now that’s interesting, because he is mostly retired, and even when he did work, for all of the years we’ve been married, and many years prior to that, he’s worked out of his house. Bill and I looked at each other, and I said, “I wonder where she thinks you work?” The next morning, he asked her the daily question, and she did her regular spiel. And this time at the end, she added Your commute time this morning will be approximately 18 minutes. Somehow his commute to wherever she thinks he works was 10 minutes shorter. So it got us to thinking….and led Bill to subsequently ask her this question: “Hey Google, where do I work?” She immediately responded, You work at 9109 E. Elmwood St. in Mesa, AZ. Bill did the math and figured out that to get from Denver to the job she thinks he has in AZ in 18 minutes, he must travel at a speed of somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 mph. As my sister Bec put it when I told her the story, “Apparently Bill is an astronaut.”

My grandmother crocheted and knitted. All of her grandchildren were on the receiving end of all sorts of her handicrafts – afghans, bedsocks, vests, booties, sweaters, and so forth. One of the things she often made was stocking caps, and every single stocking cap she made had a pom-pom on the top. Without fail. Always, always the pom-pom. Except she never called it a pom-pom. She called it a boobly. As in what color boobly do you want on your stocking cap? So that is, of course, what all of her grandkids call, well, booblies. In fact, my brother pointed out during winter NFL football last year that all of the professional football players at a particularly cold game were wearing imgresstocking caps with booblies. “I wonder if Peyton Manning is comfortable wearing a stocking cap with a boobly?” I remember my brother asking me. I was channeling my grandmother yesterday afternoon as I was finishing up some of my Christmas gifts, two of which involve a boobly. I am not too proud to admit that I had a HELL of a time making that boobly. First I didn’t use enough yarn. Then I had trouble tying the yarn together by myself. Once I had my yarn cut and tied, the final step is to trim it up so that it looks full and perky. My friends, I had yarn EVERYWHERE. I don’t even want to think about how much yarn I inhaled. One boobly – ONE SINGLE BOOBLY – took me something like an hour to make, and remake, and remake once again. As I finally tied the boobly on the last hat, I looked to the heavens and recalled that Grammie used to crank out these booblies like nobody’s business. One more thing to admire about the woman.

They Say It’s Your Birthday
Yesterday was my 63rd birthday, and I don’t know how in the hell THAT happened. But I am banking on the fact that you are only as old as you feel, and I feel pretty darn good. My birthday started with breakfast with Dagny and Magnolia and the celebration will conclude on Saturday when Court and the kids come for dinner and make me a birthday cake. Bill took me out for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, a neighborhood Italian restaurant called Farro’s. That restaurant has one of my favorite things to eat – a dish they call Seafood Farro, but which is basically cioppino.


Oh, yum.  And it was as good last night as always. They offer a special deal where when it’s your birthday, you get the percentage that equals your age off of your meal. Smokin’ deal. I asked the server what was the largest percentage they’ve ever had to honor. She told me it was for a woman who was 99 years old.


Thursday Thoughts

Parlez vous Francais?
Bill is a faithful reader of my blog, and occasionally (and helpfully) points out grammatical or spelling mistakes, for which I’m always grateful. While reading yesterday’s post about our experiences in Montreal last week, he pointed out that I had perhaps misspelled the name of the beautiful and colorful cookies we got at the patisserie. I called them macarons. He suggested it should be macaroons. Being dedicated to good spelling and grammar, or at least efforts towards that end, I am confirming that I spelled the word correctly. Macarons are meringue-like cookies made basically from sugar, almonds, and egg whites. They are generally brightly colored and have a filling. Macaroons, on the other hand, are more cake-like and almost always include coconut. They originated in Italy. What I purchased were macarons so light that they almost floated by themselves. Yum.

macaroon tree

You will recall that my grandson Alastair won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair in the butter carving competition recently. I was somewhat puzzled as to how on earth he came to compete, and received my answer yesterday. It seems all of the four siblings put their names in the box from which the competitors were drawn, and he was one of the lucky ones chosen. There were several competitions, and he was in the third round. He therefore, being Alastair, had plenty of time to think about it and make plans in case he was one of the lucky draws. His mother told me it was quite funny to watch. He competed against three girls about his age, whose unfortunate artistic style of choice was to approach the butter like Play Doh and smush it into shape. This, of course, resulted in melted butter from which very little design could emerge. Alastair, on the other hand, looked, according to his mother, like Michelangelo, carefully sculpting one thing, backing up to see his work, approaching it from the other side. He is quoted as saying, “I saw the car in the butter and carved until I set it free.” Oh wait. That might have been Michelangelo who said something like that…..


Bad Things Happen in Threes
The day before we left on our Vermont vacation, we noticed that the roof of our covered front porch has a great crack and appears to be buckling. Bill also noticed that one of the sprinkler heads in our back yard was leaking. In trying to fix the sprinkler head, he accidentally cut a line that allows us to have internet. It was not a good day. We turned off our water, and committed to handling the other two problems when we returned. And when I say we, I of course mean Bill. Since we returned on Sunday, he has fixed the cable wire, determined that the sprinkler system is working again, and placed a phone call to a roofing company to look at our porch. The roofing company, by the way, laughed at Bill’s request for urgency when it comes to getting someone out to look at it. “Because of the hail storm, roofers are busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest,” Bill said. I love my husband.

Waitin’ All Day For Sunday Night
I heard that they have written a new song for Carrie Underwood to sing for Sunday Night Football on NBC. I’m kind of sad because I find the old tune catchy, and it makes me happy. But I reckon I will learn to like the new tune. I haven’t heard it yet. I’m glad that Carrie Underwood is still the performer. As for me, I’m ready for some football, and mostly ready to be done with preseason.


Friday Book Whimsy: Hangman’s Game: A Nick Gallow Mystery

searchAs much as I love mystery stories, I try to limit the number that I review. I avoid reviews of mysteries mostly because each book is often part of a series, and so I am reluctant to review only one of the books. I’m making an exception with Hangman’s Game primarily because it is a debut novel, though the fact that it is called A Nick Gallow Mystery leads me to assume that the author, Bill Syken, intends to make it a series.

I hope so.

Nick Gallow is a punter for the fictitious NFL team the Philadelphia Sentinels. He is a somewhat disgruntled punter. He was originally a college quarterback but was injured in a way that precluded him from continuing as a QB. At the urging and with the assistance of his football coach father, he reinvents himself as a punter, a role he has played for five years with the Sentinels.

One night, following dinner with his agent and the brand new and highly-paid Sentinels rookie, a drive-by shooting results in the rookie being killed and the agent being seriously injured. Gallow is the only witness, and he didn’t see a lot. All fingers are pointed at a self-absorbed and arrogant Sentinels linebacker as the killer, but Gallow doesn’t think so, and sets out to find out.

The author is a long-time sportswriter and editor with Sports Illustrated, and so his descriptions of the BUSINESS of football are believable. As an avid football fan, I enjoyed getting a pretty honest picture of what it’s like to be a punter – basically the low man on the totem pole that consists of plenty of prima donnas.

Reviewers have said that the reader doesn’t need to be a football fan to enjoy the book, but I’m not certain I entirely agree with this assessment. It is a very good mystery, but part of what I enjoyed about the book was the element surrounding professional football.

With that caveat, I recommend the novel, and look forward to the next Nick Gallow mystery.

Here is a link to the book.


Keeping Score

They should make a law against 11 o’clock morning NFL football games. – President Rutherford B. Hayes

Lemonade Lucy

Lemonade Lucy

I will come clean right off the bat. President Rutherford B. Hayes didn’t actually say those words. I can’t confirm that he actually said any words. Have you ever heard any famous and meaningful quotes from Rutherford B. Hayes? I suspect he had some words with his mother regarding her name selection of Rutherford. And I’m certain he had a few choice words for his wife Lucy, who was referred to as “Lemonade Lucy” because she wouldn’t allow alcohol in the White House. “Lucy, how am I supposed to watch a Redskins game without a pint in my hand?” he might have said.

I’m actually the one to whom the above quote should be attributed. Because seriously? An 11 o’clock game on Sunday morning? And that would be 10 o’clock in the morning in California and Arizona. Heavens to Betsy. One still has sleep crust in the corner of one’s eyes.

Truth be told, I was wide awake at 11 o’clock Sunday morning when the Broncos began playing football against the Cleveland Browns. I just wasn’t sitting in front of my television. Instead, I was sitting at Wellshire Presbyterian Church watching Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith – along with several other children — sing an African hymn to the congregation. Off to the side, Adelaide played the glockenspiel as accompaniment, and quite well. She’s a young woman of many talents, glockenspiel-playing being only one.

I was foresighted enough, however, to set our DVR to record the game so that I could watch it when we got home from church. In fact, I invited Court and his kids to come over to watch the delayed viewing of the game. Court is used to watching recordings of the Broncos since he usually has parent-of-young-children type duties every weekend. He will generally text me something like I am not watching the game live so I will watch the recorded game later. If you text me one thing about the game, I will come over to your house and personally place a flock of plastic flamingos in your front yard. I keep my mouth shut.

But that was the thing. Just as soon as the minister said amen, Bill was out of the church with his cell phone turned on and was determining the status of the game. “Oh my gosh,” he said. “The score is….. .”

“STOP,” I yelled, making the 12 or so senior citizens (who were the only ones besides us in church as the other Presbyterians were at home watching the Broncos game) look up from their walkers. “I don’t want to know the score because I’m going home to watch the game.”

Bill has lots of wonderful traits. Keeping a secret such as the score of the game is not particularly one of them. Still, he did a pretty good job. The trouble was, Alastair was with us, and he asked his papa to show him the score.

“Don’t you dare,” I said to Alastair, just as he opened up his mouth to spill the beans. “I mean it. Don’t you even think about it.”

Well, he could think about nothing else, really.

“The score is an even number to an odd number,” he couldn’t help but tell me. And Ladies and Gentlemen, it took EVERY FIBER OF HIS BEING to keep himself from telling me who was ahead.

But I will tell you a secret. I sometimes read the ending of a book first. And apparently to me, watching football is the same thing. So, while Court was in one room watching the recorded game, I secretly went into the kitchen and watched the end of the game live. I justified it by telling myself that I would enjoy the game so much more if I knew we had won.

Of course, Peyton was being Peyton, so it was a nerve wracking experience to say the least. And seriously, has anyone mentioned to Demaryius Thomas that he’s a wide receiver and is, by definition, supposed to receive the ball and keep it? And maybe even run while carrying it? Sunday I’m not even sure he could have caught the downtown bus. Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest. I am very happy to be 6 and 0, even if our strong safety has scored more points than our highly-paid wide receiver. As far as I’m concerned, a TD is a TD.

Anyhoo, by this time, Court had figured out that I was watching the game live in the kitchen. He had likely also figured out that the game was in overtime because I was in there a long time. I could only pretend to be preparing baked beans for so long. Besides, as hard as I tried, I was unable to prevent myself from letting out mewling sounds when balls were dropped or interceptions were thrown. “I can hear you in there Mom, and I know what you’re doing.”

At the end of it all, the Broncos had another mark on the win side of the scorecard, and Court forgave me for my indiscretions.

Serving a platter of barbecued ribs for Bill’s birthday dinner helped. Take a look at this satisfied group….

McLains and Zierks gathered to celebrate Bill's birthday by eating barbecued ribs! Alyx is present, but taking the photo.

McLains and Zierks gathered to celebrate Bill’s birthday by eating barbecued ribs! Alyx is present, but taking the photo. And by the way, see the enormous platter of ribs? All gone by the end of the meal.

Saturday Smile: It Never Gets Old

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Apologies to my readers who are not Broncos fans. If you, however, are a football fan, you have to admit that the game on Thursday between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs was a good one. I PROMISE I would have said this even if we had lost. I might not have said it if we had lost big. But to tie up the game with less than 40 seconds left makes for exciting football. And then, the icing on the cake for Broncos fans is that on the Chief’s first play after the Broncos tied it up, rather than taking a knee, they ran the ball. A fumble resulted in a touchdown for the Broncos. It was quite exciting. Bill and I were screaming just a little bit.

But here’s what made me smile…..

Peyton Manning is 39 years old and has played I don’t know how many games, but a lot. So he has been interviewed very many times after a game, and many of those interviews were after a win. As many times as I have seen him interviewed, I have never seen him quite as tickled as he was in this interview. Even game analyst Phil Simms, who practically chokes when he has to say something good about the Broncos, pointed out that he has never seen Peyton look this happy in an interview….

Have a good weekend.

Cool at Night

Indian summer is on its way
It’s cool at night and hot all day
Ain’t no black clouds filled with rain
Santa Ana wind blew them all to Maine. — Written by Kelly Jones, performed by Poco

According to Wikipedia, Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November. It is usually described as occurring after a killing frost.

Well, I don’t really care what the definition of Indian Summer is according to Wikipedia, because in my book, Indian Summer begins just as soon as the days are still hot but the nights are cool. When I need to put on an extra blanket at night if my window is open, why then it’s Indian Summer. That’s what the country rock group Poco told me back in 1977, with the release of their song Indian Summer off their album by the same name.

And, by the way, under the rare circumstances when I hear the song, I am immediately transported back to the University of Colorado and I am 24 years old. But I digress.

It might not yet be Indian Summer — either by Wikipedia’s definition or Poco’s — but man-oh-man, you can feel it coming. It’s in the air.

Court told me on Sunday that September is his favorite month. I know exactly what he means. While I don’t love that the days are getting shorter, I do love that the nights are getting cooler. While I don’t love that my petunias are looking leggy and I keep forgetting to water them, I do love that the tomatoes are starting to ripen and I have been able to eat some of my homegrown jalapenos. While I don’t love that seeing my grandkids is mostly limited to weekends because they are all back or almost back in school, I do love that down to each and every last one, they were all excited for school to start.

Can you tell?………………………………

addie first day of school 2015

Addie starts 7th grade.

Alastair starts 5th grade; Dagny starts 4th grade; Maggie Faith starts 2nd grade.

Kaiya starts 2nd grade.

Kaiya starts 2nd grade.

Mylee starts kindergarten.

Mylee starts kindergarten.

Indian Summer aside, I will tell you that there was never a year – not a single year – that I looked forward to being back in school. I disliked school from kindergarten through graduate school. Even getting new crayons and the smell of the mimeographed papers we were given on the first day didn’t offset my reluctance to hear the school bells ring that first time. But at least we didn’t start until after Labor Day. So, while I’m delighted they are happy to be back, I will miss seeing as much of the grandkids as I did this summer.

1378403626000-NUP-156962-1336-rAs I said, I understand why Court likes September. I think fall is my favorite season. I love the changing colors. Jen and I always make a trip in the fall to listen to the elk bugle in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this year Bec will be joining us. And, of course, there’s football. If you are a sports fan at all, you can’t help but get excited at hearing Carrie Underwood sing about waitin’ all day for Sunday night. And if you can boast the fact that your major league baseball team is the very worst in the United States, you can’t help but be ready for some football.

If only winter didn’t follow fall. Still, it’s hard to complain when you spend the bulk of winter in Arizona!