Greater Good

When I started writing this blog, I didn’t want to be pinned down to one particular subject matter. I didn’t want to restrict myself to a cooking blog because I’m frankly not that great a cook. The idea of a fashion blog was and is a laughable notion because I never have been a fashion plate. You can probably count on two hands the number of times that I have worn high heels, and now that I’m retired, I’m almost always wearing leggings and a sweat shirt or t-shirt. I put on a pair of black pants — the same black pants — and one of my few nice shirts or blouses every Sunday for church. When I get home, I change into leggings and a sweat shirt. And a political blog? HA!

I’m prefacing this post with the above information to let you know that Nana’s Whimsies is absolutely not going to weigh in on the subjects of border security, security walls, or government shutdowns. Not going to happen.

What I want to talk about is what Luke Bryant says in the song that I can no longer listen to because it gets so stuck in my head: Most people are good. When I first heard that song, I thought to myself, “Is that really true? Are most people really good? Because it seems like I hear a lot about bad people.”

My sister Bec posted something on Facebook a few days ago that caught my eye. It was something she received from Estes Park News. You might recall (or simply KNOW) that Estes Park is the small Colorado town right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is so small, in fact, that there is no place besides the local hardware store to buy ladies’ underwear. Believe me; I know this to be true. But Estes Park relies heavily on visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, so the government shutdown is directly affecting even this small mountain village.

The article starts out saying People and businesses of Estes Park and our surrounding areas are reaching out to help the furloughed federal employees. Here is a list to help those in need.

The list was compiled by a nonprofit called Flinch Forward, which is a military veteran and first responder group that provides help to local communities as necessary. The list includes such things as the Town of Estes Park waiving penalties and service disconnects on unpaid water and/or electric bills starting in December and ending one month after the furlough ends; an internet provider called Airbits offering free internet to affected government employees for the length of the furlough; Alpine Bank providing interest-free personal loans equal to a worker’s monthly pay. Even cultural facilities got into the spirit: Denver Art Museum, Four Mile Historic Park, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science are all providing free admission to furloughed employees.

The list goes on and on. My takeaway, however, is that at the end of the day, as divisive as we have become, when people are in trouble, Americans put aside their differences and dig in to help. Yes, corporate greed exists, but no matter their reasons, even corporations are providing helping hands.

If only we could be so full of grace when there isn’t a crisis.

Bec and I at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in the good ol’ days when it was open for business!

The Most Beautiful Music

Both Bill and I grew up in the Midwest where winters are cold and snowy. You would think, therefore, that we would be used to bone-chilling temperatures and shoveling snow. Alas, we both hate it, Bill even more than I. Hence, a house in AZ. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there soon enough.

A few weeks ago, my sister Jen and I planned our annual trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to listen to the haunting and beautiful sound of the male elks bugling for their mate. Well, MATES, actually, since they don’t seem happy unless they have a whole herd. Greedy little devils. When we made our plans, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s.

About a week ago, it became abundantly clear that fall was making itself known, and winter was just around the corner. Our lovely weekend was threatened by the forecast of snow and cold temperatures. I know I’ve been whining for a week now about the cold, but the forecast was for truly COLD temperatures — highs in the teens.

We considered canceling. After all, part of the fun is sitting on the car at dusk and listening to the beautiful mating calls, then returning to the Deercrest Inn, lighting up the firepit, and drinking a cuppa hot chocolate spiked with Fireball whiskey. All of that would be considerably less fun if the temperature was 12 degrees.

We didn’t actually make a final decision until Friday, when the forecasters were telling us that Saturday would be in the 60s, and wouldn’t turn cold until around dusk. Snow, they promised, would soon follow, the amount of which they are always vague. Very vague.

We decided to risk it. With the help of a rental SUV that had solidly good tires and all wheel drive, Bill and I drove to Estes Park, where we met up with Jen. After a quick trip to purchase the essential taffy, we returned to the Deercrest Resort and enjoyed the warm(ish) fall temperatures, with the help of some wine and (as the temperatures began to drop) the firepit…..

It is never unusual to see a lot of elk this time of year, as they come down from the high mountains to the more clement weather to graze and hook up. This big bull elk was hanging out all by himself at the Deercrest. He was clearly old and fairly crippled, so I think he was glad to get away from the youngsters’ shenanigans and enjoy some peace and quiet. All that bugling and testosterone, doncha know. It wears on one’s nerves…..

We made it into the park and though it took a bit of hunting and the help of a park ranger, we were able to locate a herd of elk. In addition to the mating calls, we were just a few feet away from a battle between two young bull elks…..

And Sunday morning, we woke up to a temperature of 12 and this…..

We all made it home safely, with another year of elk bugling under our belt. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I could live forever without the snow, however.

Mountain Moments

It’s become a tradition of sorts. Bec comes to Colorado each year for a few weeks in the summer to escape the exhausting heat of AZ. And each year, Bec and Jen and I spend a long weekend in Estes Park as part of the itinerary. It’s a tribute to our childhood during which our family vacationed in this village just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park almost every summer of our formative years. But more than that, it’s a chance to escape the busyness of our lives and sit in a comfortable chair by a rushing creek with a glass of wine and talk. And laugh. And cry. And make confessions. And laugh at our confessions.

Oh, and swat bees and douse ourselves with spray to fend off mosquitoes and watch various kinds of wildlife make their way through the motel grounds. This year it was wild turkeys….

We have several Must-Dos when we are in Estes. One, of course, is to visit the taffy shop……

Don’t worry. I actually left some for others to buy.

One night each year we eat dinner at a long-time Estes Park restaurant called the Dunraven Inn. The restaurant features Italian food, and sort of specializes — randomly, perhaps — in seafood.

This year, Jen invited a friend of hers to enjoy dinner with us. Bec and I stewed a bit about whether or not Jen’s friend Karma would be put off by our sense of humor and — quite frankly — our love of good food and wine and great martinis. As it happens, we needn’t have worried, as Karma could have been one of the sisters for all anyone knew. Well, except that she is very tall and has the figure of a fashion model. But other than that…..

Here am I, enjoying my food and delicious martini and NOT looking like a fashion model…..

Our server, though quite congenial, wasn’t stellar. He made up for his incompetence (and quiet speaking voice) with a good attitude. We thought he said his name was Bill, and called him by that name for a good while. Finally, towards the end of the meal, he admitted his name was NOT Bill. “But my brother’s name is Bill,” he added happily. And then proceeded to take several pictures of us, including this one….

As I said, he made up for his shortcomings with good cheer.

Another tradition we have adopted is our annual visit to Cinnamon’s — a bakery featuring the most delicious cinnamon rolls one can imagine. And there is no need to point out that all of our traditions seem to include food. Anyhoo, the proprietor of Cinnamon’s is a retired baker from somewhere in the midwest (Kansas? Missouri?) who lives with his family in Estes. The bakery offers a very limited number of choices — pecan rolls, gluten-free blueberry muffins, one type of fruit roll, and, of course, cinnamon rolls. There is really no need to look further than the cinnamon roll, and most people don’t. The hours during the summer, according to their signage, are “7:30 – 10 or when sold out.” The day we went, I got into line at 7:15…..

…..and brought cinnamon rolls back to the room. When we drove past the restaurant at 8:30, the SOLD OUT sign was already out.

I’m happy to tell you that we do have one tradition that does not involve food. We try our best to walk around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It isn’t always possible, as Bear Lake is the tipping-off point for many popular hikes so parking is often unavailable. This year, Bec and I found a spot Sunday afternoon around 4, and had just enough time to take a lap around the lake that was one of our mother’s favorites…..

Our time in Estes Park is always one of my most special memories of each year.

Guest Post: Estes Park-It’s Not Just For Taffy Anymore

By Rebecca Borman

I’ve said it before…while it’s really fun to travel to new places, it’s also nice to go back to places you love.  For me and my sisters, one of those comfortable places is Estes Park, Colorado.  The drive through the Big Thompson Canyon is stunning, and the first view of Estes Park, nestled in the midst of the Rockies, always lifts my heart.  In a way, it’s like coming home.  Our family vacationed there when I was a child, my honeymoon was there, and there have been many more visits after that.  This summer, in the midst of my Colorado road trip, my sisters and I worked in a few days’ trip to Estes.  Kris and Jen are busy women, so each could only stay two nights.  But, I was there for three nights, and Friday evening we were there together.  We all made the most of our time…..

Kris and I enjoyed a walk around Bear Lake.

A visit to Estes Park always involves some familiar and important activities.  For instance, the first evening, Kris and I had a cookout at our motel.  And when I say we, I mean Kris.  She brought the steaks, lit the grill, and cooked the steaks.  Well, I did toss the bag of Caesar salad!  We even ate outside at a picnic table by the river, enjoying the view of the mountains surrounding us as the evening set in…..

Another must for us is dinner at the Dunraven Inn, a lovely Italian restaurant that has been in Estes Park for years.  We ate there after Jen arrived on Friday night so we could have dinner together.  I thought it would be fun to take Uber or a cab so we could enjoy our cocktails without worrying about driving back to our motel. I tried Uber…seems there is one driver who may or may not be on duty at any particular time.  Hmmm.  Then I checked for taxi companies.  There is only one, and I mean one cab, not just one company.  We called for our taxi and were put into the driver’s que, third in line.  We made it to the restaurant almost on time.  Our driver assured us that while he was going off duty soon, another driver would be driving the cab.  We asked the Dunraven to call for the taxi as we finished dinner, and we patiently waited for it outside.  We waited quite a while, wondering what we would do if the taxi never showed up.  Finally, we saw it coming toward us.  And driving right past us.  That didn’t seem good!  We hoped he was dropping off someone, and that was the case, because he pulled up a few minutes later.  “I saw you waiting here,” he said.  “I bet you got worried when I drove past.”  Haha, yes we did.

The next morning we tried something new, a trip to Cinnamon’s Bakery, which makes one thing only:  cinnamon rolls.  We got there just before it opened at 7:30, and there was already a long line.  We happily bought our rolls and coffee to take back to our room.  The bakery is open until 10:00 or until they sell out.  When we drove past it around 9:00, the CLOSED sign was on display.  It paid to get there early.

Our next adventure was a drive into Rocky Mountain National Park.  As we started toward the Park we noticed that some streets were blocked off, presumably having to do with the Scottish Festival being held that weekend.  We wondered if there was a parade.  We didn’t think much about it as we enjoyed a drive through some of our favorite areas of RMNP.  When we left the Park we had a plan.  We would find parking near downtown and do some important shopping, primarily for our favorite salt water taffy.  However, police blockades prevented us from turning into town.  We asked a kilted police officer who was directing traffic what was going on.  It was, as we suspected, a parade.  Elkhorn Drive would be blocked completely until the parade was over.  Wait a minute…our motel was on Elkhorn Drive.  “You mean we can’t get back to our motel?” we asked.  “Not until the parade is over.”  Bummer.  Now what?  Plan B was to buy deli sandwiches and go back to RMNP for an impromptu picnic.  We found a good spot by the river and enjoyed our sandwiches al fresco.  It was a good Plan B!….

At that point Kris had to leave, so Jen and I were on our own.  We both wanted to hear the elk bugling at dusk. So after we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at our motel, we drove back into the Park.  We found a spot near a meadow that seemed to have elk potential, and we weren’t disappointed.  We saw many elk, including a bull with a 16-point rack.  Very cool.  There’s something special about the sound of their bugling and the feel of the crisp fall air as darkness falls upon the mountains.  It was an evening well spent…..

As always, I felt a pang of regret when I drove out of Estes Park the next morning.  I had purchased my taffy and a few Christmas ornaments, and they would serve as my reminders of these few days in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

I’ll be back again next year.

Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See

In November 2014, Colorado’s temperature dropped by 77 degrees in just a couple of days. On November 10, the state was experiencing a lovely fall day with the temperature reaching 65 degrees. On November 13, sprinkler systems were exploding and furnaces were coughing and sputtering as they tried to battle the 13-degrees-below-zero temperature. Bill and I were in Arizona when this weather event took place, but I remember that we were eating lunch al fresco as we called our daughter-in-law and asked if she could perhaps, just maybe, go over to our house and turn on the heater which we had optimistically  left off. She didn’t seem too bitter.

I remember it also because all of the beautiful bushes in our front yard were brown and straggly when we got home, having died from the sudden and drastic temperature change. It took a full two years before they came back and now once again look like this…..

All this is to say that wild weather changes are not uncommon in Colorado, and after 44 years of living here, I should be aware of this fact. That, and the reality that in the mountains of Colorado – especially during June – there is an afternoon thunder storm almost daily. But last week Bec – who was visiting for a few days before embarking on a trip to China — and I took a day trip to Estes Park so that she would have a chance to get a bit acclimated to high altitude before visiting Nepal, being a low-lander and all.

I didn’t even bother to check the weather. The sky was blue and the temperature was warm when we set off towards Estes Park. We headed directly to Rocky Mountain National Park when we arrived in this small mountain community we both love so much, and happily handed the park ranger our Senior National Park Pass. This pass, my friends, is about the only thing good about turning 62 – a lifetime pass to all national parks for a one-time fee of ten bucks. (The cost of the senior pass is allegedly going to increase to 80 bucks by the end of the year, so all you elderly folks should grab your walkers and go buy your passes NOW!)

We had stopped at King Soopers before leaving Denver to pick up a Gloor family traditional picnic sandwich made of salami and swiss cheese. As an aside, when we make ourselves a salami sandwich, we might put on three or four pieces of salami and a slice of swiss cheese; we were therefore astounded when we pulled our sandwiches out of the cooler and saw this…..

My sodium level must have peaked so much following my lunch that I’m surprised my heart didn’t simply stop beating. But it was good, my friends; it was very good.

Anyhoo, after lunch, we made our traditional drive through the park, making our way to Bear Lake, flipping around and going out the Beaver Creek exit…..

A few clouds had appeared by this time, but we didn’t give them a second thought, or frankly, even a first thought…..

We drove back to town, parked our car, stopped at our favorite taffy shop and bought 30 or 40 pounds of taffy (well, maybe not quite that much) before making a decision to have a drink at the new (at least new to us) outdoor bar.

A few more clouds had appeared.

We had just gotten our beverages when we heard the rumbling of thunder (and nothing sounds more beautiful than thunder echoing off the mountains). And then we began to feel a few drops of rain. We weren’t worried, however, because though the bar was outdoors, we were sitting under an overhang, small but certainly sufficient.

Until the few drops of rain became hail….

and then became heavy hail….

We weren’t the only ones who had by that time become cold and drenched, seeings as the overhang wasn’t quite as big as we’d thought…..

The dogs eyes tell it all, friends. You could practically see him thinking about his comfortable doggie bed at home, and wondering just why his master thinks it’s such a great idea to take him everywhere he goes. What the photo can’t show is just how much the dog was shivering. As were we.

Once the hail stopped and the rain became manageable, we scurried to the car and drove to Longmont to meet Jen for dinner. Following delicious pizza, salad, and wine, and lots of conversation and laughter, we drove home to Denver. Our capri pants, ladies and gentlemen, were still wet when we arrived home.

Welcome to colorful Colorado.

This post linked to Grand Social.


Thursday Thoughts

Workin’ Man
When Bill McLain decides to be a workin’ man, he goes all in. We (and when I say we, I mean Bill) have been working on demolition of our family room in preparation for putting up drywall to replace the 70s paneling that has lined the walls since the house was built, and then painting. After that, he is going to embark on installing wood floors. To say it’s a lot of work is to put it lightly. Trust me when I say that Chip Gaines makes it look a lot easier than it actually is……

Do Not Tuch
Amidst all of the demolition, Mylee had built a variety of items out of Legos. When I went to clean up after she had left, I found her legos on top of this note….

Trust me. I didn’t tuch.

I’m pretty sure it’s official. I take the worst selfies in the entire universe. And this selfie, I’m afraid to say, is particularly bad. I took it during our trip yesterday to Rocky Mountain National Park. Bec thinks it’s just because we have short arms. That may be so, but from the looks of this photo, I have the arms of a Tyrannosaurus Rex…..

My goal, by the way, was to get a photo of us with the mountain in the background. Selfie fail.

So the Mountain Came to Mohammed
So, what the heck! I just took a photo of the mountain, which is very beautiful. And much more beautiful than it looks with our mugs in front of it….


This Time It Wasn’t the Yellow Bug

Fall River

Beautiful Fall River in Estes Park, Colorado.

When my sister Bec was visiting back in July, we had plans for a sisters’s weekend in one of our favorite places — Estes Park. I have mentioned before that we have pleasant memories of family vacations in that pretty little town just outside Rocky Mountain National Park and Bec, Jen, and I try to spend a weekend there once a year. Unfortunately, as they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (Those Scots. They’re so optimistic.)

Well, awry the plans indeed went as I ended up in the hospital last July. However, since resiliency is our middle name, we immediately made new plans for Bec to come back early in the fall so that we could not only hear the elk bugle, but see some fall color as well.

So, we spent this past weekend in Estes Park, and had an amazing time. I will tell you about it tomorrow. Because I have to tell you about some more best laid plans that went where? Yes, you guessed it. Awry.

We decided to conclude our wonderful weekend with a walk around Bear Lake before we would leave for home. The walk is not only breathtakingly beautiful; it was one of our mother’s favorite activities. We walk it partly in memory of Mom.

After morning coffee and some relaxing time sitting by Fall River, which flows merrily past our hotel, we packed up the cars — Jen’s and mine. I had elected to drive the Hyundai to Estes Park because Bill is in Chicago and it is so much nicer to drive in the mountains than my yellow bug. I agreed to drive into the park to Bear Lake. We all got in, put on our seat belts, and I started the car. Smooth sailing. Until I try to put the car into reverse and it won’t happen. A no-go. A deal breaker. It won’t move out of park and my dashboard is black. That seemed troublesome.

I won’t go into detail about how calm, cool, and collected I WASN’T. Thanks be to God my sisters kept me centered. Jen worked with Bill via Face Time and regular telephone in an attempt to figure out what was wrong. We finally narrowed it down to it being a problem with one of the fuses. Bless Bill’s heart. He really tried to talk us (and when I say us, I mean Jen) through a number of attempts to diagnose and perhaps even fix it, but at the end of the day, I called my old friends at AAA. God bless AAA.

“Hello Kris. How have you been? What’s the yellow bug up to now?”

hyundai tow truck

Bec and I end up driving back to Denver in a tow truck, pulling the Hyundai behind us. Bec sat on the hump. She’s a good sister. As you would imagine, there are not a plethora of towing companies in Estes Park. Bob’s Towing is about the only game in town. So Mrs. Bob’s Towing towed us while Mr. Bob’s Towing stayed in Estes Park awaiting the next call. Apparently they get many calls every day.

We enjoyed our conversation with Mrs. Bob’s Towing (whose name is actually Diane) as we drove down the mountain into Denver. The car is awaiting repair, and I’m back to driving the yellow bug, which is feeling smug that for once, it wasn’t the cause of the AAA call.

And Bec is wondering if she will ever visit us without drama ensuing.