I mentioned in this blog a while back that I had never made my mom Bonnie’s famous “nut goodie bars”. I rectified that over the holidays.
With Valentine’s Day coming in a few days, I figured it’d be a great time to share this recipe and story with you all.
I found the recipe in Bonnie’s recipe box (the best tangible item to take for myself upon her passing). It was written out in her pretty though at times hard to decipher handwriting. It was not completely coherent, but I knew that my sister Kelly could fill in the blanks if necessary.
Here’s the recipe exactly as written:
1-12 oz. real choc. chips
1-12 oz. butterscotch chips
1 oz. sq. unsweetened choc.
Melt over hot water. Add 1 1/2 C. peanut butter. Put 1/4 mixture in jellyroll pan, 11×17-let harden (freezer).
2 sticks marg.
1/4 C. reg. vanilla pudding
1/2 Cup Carnation Milk
Bring to a boil-remove from heat & beat in 2 lb. pkg. powdered sugar (watch so doesn’t scratch)
Spread on bottom layer. Sprinkle 1 1/2 C. spanish peanuts over this & spread remaining mixture over this.
You can imagine I had some questions, no? Funnily enough, when I texted Kelly, she remarked she was also making these bars that day. Gotta love those mysterious sibling soul connections! She clarified for me that “regular” vanilla pudding did not mean “instant”. She said she didn’t think it sets up right using instant. Hubs, good sport that he is, offered to run to the store for “regular” vanilla pudding mix, as I only had the instant variety. Kelly mentioned that “mapleine” flavoring might be hard to find at the store. “Strange”, I texted, “not only have I never heard of “mapleine” flavoring, but it wasn’t listed on the copy of mom’s recipe I had. “
How one can record two different versions of the same dish is beyond me. But then, in looking through Bonnie’s recipe box I found more than a few copies of the same recipes. I think she would write them down from memory and then forget to present them to their intended recipient. People were always asking her for various recipes because she was a phenomenal cook. It’s all such a glimpse into her personality I think, and that’s the beauty of having this sweet little box here in my house now.
Anyway, these bars turned out great. The are very sweet and rich. The perfectly decadent Valentine sweet. I hope you get a chance to make them for you and yours this Valentine’s Day!
So Wednesdays are typically the day I publish a blog post. Today is Wednesday as well as Inauguration Day for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
It’s a big fucking deal.
I published a post not long ago where I pondered the word “unprecedented” in relation to the year 2020. It is a word that is (to use another “u” word) ubiquitous to that year. A multitude of unprecedented shit went down. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has sadly claimed so many lives. Political unrest. Domestic terrorism in our nation’s capital.
Also unprecedented is the diversity of the individuals chosen for the new White House administration. The state of Georgia turning blue is unprecedented. The number of Americans who voted in this past election is unprecedented.
One of my IRL and Facebook friends, Eldree, posted the other day about this word and how it could be used in a positive manner going forward into 2021. This inspired me to think about all the “unprecedented” positive changes that I am hopeful for as a result of the Biden/Harris administration.
Unprecedented bi-partisan support for an economic stimulus package to address the needs of Americans financially struggling due to the pandemic.
Unprecedented job growth
Unprecedented racial reconciliation
Unprecedented access to quality mental health services
Unprecedented care for our global environment
Unprecedented drop in homelessness
Unprecedented levels of civic engagement
Unprecedented investment in our educational system
Unprecedented overhauls in our nation’s police departments
Unprecedented justice for those who lost their lives due to racism and domestic terrorism
Today is a new day. The beginning of something better.
I think for those of us that celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular way, a non-secular way, or a combination of both (like me), we can all agree that this year the holiday season is different.
Obviously, the reason it’s different this year is because of Covid-19. No in-person holiday parties like in years past. Worries about loved ones who may be alone for the holiday. The inability to travel and employment uncertainty.
Out of spite, as in “screw you, Covid-19, I’m not going to let you steal my joy”, I’m embracing this Christmas even more than I have in the past. Like it’s a life boat. Doing this, I think, is a healthy coping mechanism for these times.
We here in this house are gorging on all the Christmas movies. Not so much the cheesy, predictable, brainless Hallmark channel varieties (though they do certainly have their place). I’m talking the classics: “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Love Actually” and more. The ones we all know the best lines to. The ones that fill us with a giddy joy and warm our hearts.
Our little townhome has been properly adorned with all the Christmas decorations inside and soon Hubs will be putting up the lights outside. We’ve even chosen to string multi-colored lights along the periphery of our living room and around the windows. We didn’t do this the previous years we lived here.
All of the Christmas cookies have been made to send to our loved ones in three different states. The presents have been purchased (online) and received. Names have been picked at work for our “Secret Santa” exchange.
Special desserts will be made. A drive through the local holiday light display for charity is happening this year.
One of my blogger friends, Crystal, wrote this lovely post which prompted me to read Luke. I was compelled by the passage in Chapter 3: John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”, to do a quick clean out of my kitchen cupboards to donate to the food pantry I now run. I think it’d be so cool if others did the same.
I’m determined to suck the marrow out of this Christmas season.
Who’s with me?
**Header image circa 1984 posing with a friend as Christmas elves/mannequins in the front window of Bonnie’s Clothes Bar**
Next Tuesday will be our 30th wedding anniversary.
Obviously, with the Covid-19 pandemic and recently rolled out “Safer at Home” orders, Hubs and I will not be getting out of dodge to celebrate, like we typically do. I’m guessing the most I can count on is an invigorating hike and a picnic. Which is fine by me.
It’s fine by me because our marriage is bigger than that.
Our pairing began as a summer fling. Hubs seduced me one night by giving me what was the only foot rub I ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I was 21 and he was 18. I was taking summer courses at college to ensure I would graduate in 4 years. I was bored and starting to come to terms with the notion that I may not find someone to marry in college after all.
The truth is, I entered my freshman year of college as a romantic. While I was determined to obtain my degree in that 4 years, I was equally determined to meet my future husband during that time.
I was such a silly girl back then.
The romantic relationships I had up until that point were lopsided. Either I was more into him or he was more into me. It never felt equal.
But with the Hubs, it was different. Our conversations flowed. He made me laugh. He made me feel good about myself. He encouraged me in my studies. He was thoughtful and mature beyond his years (I actually thought he was at least a couple of years older the first couple of times I met him because of this).
Over the course of that summer, we fell in love.
Hubs proposed to me in the basement of my sorority house one evening. It was November and starting to get chilly out. He presented me with a new pair of gloves and requested, with a big grin on his dimpled face, that I try them on. Inside the left glove there was an engagement ring.
I did not hesitate for a second, responding with a resounding “Yes!”.
I graduated with my BS in Social Work that spring. Hubs and I moved into our first apartment in the summer, where we slept on a mattress donated by his parents, sans boxspring and frame. I spent the next year working in a customer service job while he continued working and going to school. During this year, my mom and I planned our wedding.
We got married in the church I grew up in one year to the day after I graduated from college. It was Pastor Reppe’s last wedding before he retired.
Years later, while milling about with friends and family at that same church following my Godfather’s funeral, Hubs found himself in a conversation with Pastor Reppe. The good pastor had of course been retired for a number of years by then and he asked Hubs how the two of us were faring. Hubs gave him a solemn look and said “We actually didn’t make it. Haven’t been married to that woman for a few years now”. Hubs recounted that the look of shock and sadness on Pastor Reppe’s face was priceless. Then Hubs let out his hearty, loud laugh and told him he was teasing; we actually were still together. Still happy and busy working full time and parenting our two kids.
Now, as with any long term marriage, we’ve gone through a lot together. Raised our two kids, adopted a few dogs, moved 6 times, laid both of my parents to rest, enjoyed a few epic vacations (with and without kids), changed jobs, mourned the loss of friends and family members, became grandparents, and much more. Good and bad. Happy and sad.
I wouldn’t change a damn thing. And I’m eager to see what the next 30 years might bring.
I’ve got vacation on the brain. It is all I can think about and therefore all I can write about today.
Hubs and I are flying to Tampa next week (Coronavirus be damned), where we will meet up with one of our long time couple friends (Hubs’ first college roommate and his wife, Lynda) and drive a rental car to a 2 bedroom condo in Siesta Key. Where we will stay for 5 days.
There, we will be celebrating Hubs’ 50th and our upcoming 30th wedding anniversary.
Beyond having our flights and VRBO booked, no other plans have been made. Which is what makes me so excited about this trip (the element of surprise, you know). All four of us have agreed on our priorities while there: lounging on the beach, sipping ice cold adult beverages, and fishing in the ocean. That’s it. No further expectations.
The fishing part is all Hubs’ idea. Not that the rest of us goons hate fishing. It’s just that Hubs adores it. He and I went on a charter boat fishing when we traveled to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We both enjoyed it tremendously.
Lynda’s husband is wary of the “devil sun”, as he calls it. He will be slathered from head to toe in sunscreen, wearing a Minnesota Twins baseball cap and reading a newspaper. That is how he rolls, and we all know it.
Lynda and I will enjoy ourselves some chit-chat between our spates of attempting to catch “the big one”. Snort-laughing all the while. That is how we roll.
Of course, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit there are scenarios in my head of what we might do between the fishing, soaking up the sun on that white sand beach, and downing frozen fruity cocktails. Like kayaking, eating fresh seafood, and souvenir shopping (in tribute to my mom, Bonnie, who never failed to bring us all back tchotchkes when she came back from vacations).
And with the time I’ve left before this vacation, I’m going to be working on a playlist. Cool thing is, my office mate gave me a water bottle with a blue tooth speaker implanted in the cap. So I can take my bottle of cold *whatever* with me wherever we go, unscrew the lid and sync it up to my cell phone and together we can all jam out.
First song I will add to this playlist is going to be this David Byrne song that I discovered by accident. I was in awe of his performance with his talented troupe on SNL the other weekend, and it occurred to me that beyond the major “Talking Heads” hits, I wasn’t very familiar with his music. So I used google to grant my wish of listening to his music and this came up. As I was listening to it, I thought to myself that this is a perfect song to sit and listen to while on a beach in Florida with our friends. Then I looked at the name of the song.
My mom loved Christmas. This woman went all out each and every year. In spite of the fact that she and dad worked full time and then some, many of those years operating their own business, we always had a beautifully decorated (complete with fake snow from a can) Christmas tree, perfectly wrapped presents underneath it, and copious amounts of cookies and holiday treats to enjoy.
I think somehow her Christmas spirit has been infused into my being this holiday season. I sure am missing her a lot these days.
In honor of my mom and the sense of peace and gratitude I’m feeling this holiday season, let me tell you what I’m loving about Christmas 2019.
More than anything else, I believe that giving is the most joyful and soul-affirming aspect of the Christmas season. This year, I found myself purchasing my first Christmas present for a loved one in September. That is truly unheard of for me. I usually hit the Christmas present shopping hard at the start of December.
So when I purchased this one small present in a cute gift shop in Estes Park when my sister was visiting, I determined right then and there that I was going to proceed with intention and purchase items that I believed would make the recipients feel my love for them. I enjoyed the heck out of keeping my eyes peeled for extra special presents both in store and online this year. I am so looking forward to hearing the reactions from my beloved family about their presents.
Then there’s the giving in my workplace, where my primary duty is running the food bank. On a daily basis, I get to experience the joy of giving our aging adults good quality, healthy food. However, this time of year I get to give them even more! Like the stockings filled with snacks, toothbrushes, word puzzle books and other fun items, which are donated by one group each year. Like the gift cards donated to our organization from local municipalities. What a joy this is for me-and our clients. The other day, I witnessed one of our clients weeping with joy as she went through the large bag of goodies her own personal Santa gave her. She commented that prior to becoming physically disabled, she was the one donating Christmas presents to the needy.
I couldn’t not write about one of my favorite things in the whole wide world for this Christmas blog post of mine. Since I respect my Hubs’ low tolerance for the music of this season, I have intentionally created a Christmas music playlist that appeals to both of us. That way, we do not have to suffer through Chipmunks songs or what ever totally changed up in not a good way classic Christmas songs performed by artists we don’t know on the cable tv Christmas channel.
I have only chosen the “best of the best” Christmas tunes for this playlist. Our favorite favorites, if you will.
Michael Buble’s version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas”. His 2011 cd titled, simply, “Christmas” is on repeat on my tablet this time of year.
Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka”. Hubs is learning this one on his ukulele as a matter of fact. I get a lot of enjoyment from singing along. The goal is for us to get good enough at it to perform it in front of actual people next Christmas!
Amy Grant’s “Grown Up Christmas List”. It’s Hubs’ favorite Christmas tune, which speaks to the kind of human he is.
“Sugar and Booze” by Ana Gasteyer (yes, from SNL). This is a new one discovered while watching late morning tv during our recent trip to DC. A new classic for sure!
“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. This song to me is so fun and festive! And it’s featured of course in my favorite movie of all time, which also happens to be a Christmas movie-“Love, Actually”. Check out this charming and fun video I just discovered of this song here: https://youtu.be/_IlZu9X9W_k
While in DC earlier this month, I caught the black and white Christmas classic “Holiday Affair”. It’s about a widowed mom of a 6 year old boy. She is proud of the fact that she works hard to provide him with a good life and they have a very loving and playful relationship. She almost marries Mr. Nice Guy but along the way falls in love with a salesman who has a dream of moving to California to build ships. Mr. Nice Guy’s name is Karl Davis. The salesman’s address is on Christopher Street. I feel like I was supposed to see this movie this Christmas season, on account of sharing the same last name with Mr. Nice Guy. And, big news here, on account of the fact that in the new year a cat named Karl (and his 26 year old human parent, aka Spawn #2) will be moving in with us. And our grandson (living in Wisconsin with his mommy, Spawn #1) is named Christopher.
Of course, there will be a viewing of “Love Actually” happening in this joint soon, along with “Four Christmases” and “A Christmas Story”. If we’re up for more Christmas movies, we’ll likely add in “The Grinch” with Jim Carey and, if Hubs has his way, “Bad Santa”.
FOOD AND DRINK
Let me just tell you one thing I know for sure when it comes to the food and drink of this very merry season: my own personal Esther is running the show. If you’re unfamiliar with Esther, here’s a clip of Wanda Sykes that will clue you in.
But back then, I was interested only in telling you all about how others were reacting to my own personal Esther (note to self: name your Esther!). Now it’s Christmas time and she’s in charge. My Esther is having the time of her freaking life right now. She’s sampling all the chocolates that her co-workers brought in to work. She’s conned me in to making extra Christmas cookies after I packaged and sent the 24 or so dozen we made to our family and friends, you know, because there are other people that I love here in Colorado that would enjoy them. She’s currently plotting how many cheddar bay biscuits she can consume before feasting on seafood at Red Lobster with Hubs for Christmas Eve.
What she doesn’t know, however, is that come January 1, she is going down. Wish me luck on that one, because I know that bitch is going to fight me tooth and nail!
When we moved into our townhome in 2016, we realized there was literally no good place to put up a regular, standard-sized Christmas tree. So while shopping at the local thrift store that first winter, we snatched up a table top version for a pittance. We had it up the first couple of Christmases, but this year we left it in the garage. That’s not to say we don’t have any sort of Christmas tree up; it’s just that the beautiful peace lily my wonderful in-laws sent me for my 50th birthday a couple of years ago looked so damned lovely sitting atop our occasional table and we just couldn’t bear to move it. So we left it there. Then adorned it with those itty bitty led lights and hung our favorite ornaments along the edges of the pot.
I personally love it!
I wish each and every one of you fellow holiday celebrators who read through this goofy, happy, and weird Christmas inspired essay a beautiful holiday. May you enjoy time with your favorite people, music, food, and cheesy Christmas movies and marinate in the joy that is this season!
Americana (also known as American roots music) is a genre of music that represents the spirit of the United States. It is a contemporary mashup of folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and gospel. It features a distinctive roots-oriented sound that exists apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it draws. It is often performed acoustically but at times includes a full electric band.
Americana music is my current jam, people. I’m at the point in my life where my musical tastes are more eclectic. In high school, I was all about Classic Rock and Top 100 Pop Hits. I listened to Kasey Kasem’s show on the regular. In my mid-twenties, when I was a mom to two toddlers, I went through a “New Country” phase (think Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill). I was an avid viewer of CMT.
What has always stuck with me, however, was an appreciation for classic country and bluegrass artists, like Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Reba McIntyre, Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, and Garth Brooks. I’ve enjoyed their music since forever. These artists and more have no doubt ushered in the Americana genre.
What I love about the Americana genre of music is the storytelling aspect, much like the iconic country songs of yesterday. I love the bluesy, swampy melodies. I love the harmonies often found in these songs. And I love that these songs are uniquely American.
So it seems fitting to me as a creative writer, card carrying AARP member, and music lover in the current “upside down” political and social culture that is our United States to highlight the talents of today’s Americana musical artists that I enjoy and appreciate.
Here’s a sampling of songs that fall under the Americana umbrella that I find especially special:
Side note: Hubs and I saw Logan play live at the last John Hiatt concert we attended (I’ve written about John Hiatt in previous posts, but this post is the most comprehensive one). Logan opened for Hiatt, and after he did his set, the audience was invited for a “meet and greet” with him. I took this opportunity to tell him I thought he was an amazing performer and that I looked forward to watching him win his Grammys. Yes, I am a dork. But I’m also right on this one. “Mark my words” as my Mom used to say. If you chose to skip clicking on the link I provided above, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Just sayin’.
True confession: as I was putting this post together, I got myself thoroughly lost in Americana. I wanted to add songs from Drive-by-Truckers, Todd Snider, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams…
But instead I’m going to have a little faith that you, my music loving readers (Americana or otherwise), will treat yourself by checking out some of these artists and songs. Tell me what you think of them. Maybe turn me on to some new artists yourselves.
Here’s something special from the King (to me) of Americana music for your listening enjoyment:
November is a special month for me. It’s been that way for me for years now but I’m only now starting to appreciate it.
First off, it’s the month both my mom and sister were born. So I have people I love to celebrate and honor.
Then there’s the crisp fall air and pretty blue skies here in Colorado mixed in with the golden and rust hues of the trees. There’s gaining an extra hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time.
And the new clothes. Cozy sweaters and leggings. Fun boots to wear.
And Thanksgiving this year is right at the end of the month. The perfect holiday, in my opinion. No expectation of gifts or the shopping for them that stresses me out. I’ve always enjoyed my Thanksgivings, though none of them end up being the same.
There was the Thanksgiving when Hubs and I were new parents living in Lubbock, Texas. We did not have the funds to travel to Minnesota to be with our families, so we made the best of it by hosting a lasagna dinner (I had yet to make a Thanksgiving feast on my own at that time in my life) for new friends Hubs made in grad school.
There was last year, when we opted to stay put in Colorado and got invited to church friends home for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner that included the bonus of lively conversations.
This year, Hubs and I are flying our two adult spawn and one grandchild out to Colorado to spend an extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend with us. I will massively enjoy the planning aspect of it (as a medium recently told me, I’m a “chip off the old block” because my mom was a compulsive yet very talented planner Of. All. The. Events.).
For my small and beloved family, I will be making homemade comfort food (in addition to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. Yes, I said Friday-because I think Black Friday should suck it). I will be choosing an array of family oriented “feel good” movies for us to enjoy. I will be determining games we can play together that interest all ages, from 5 to 52. I will be reserving tickets to a movie or live show that we can all enjoy together.
Note to self: I will keep it together if any of these plans go kaflooey on me. Appreciating that we are all together in one place for this specific and relatively short period of time will be my focus. Like Clark Griswold taught me.
This song will be shared. Because it’s the song that I imagine will play at the end of the movie of my life (yes, I have a rich fantasy life). Accompanied of course with images of my beautiful family, which will have expanded by that time in probably unexpected ways. The setting will be our dream home/cabin in the woods on a lake in Wisconsin with plenty of windows, a stone fireplace, and a couple of happy canines.
Today is the holiday you didn’t even know existed, ladies! It is Gorgeous Grandmother’s Day!
While searching the interwebs for writing fodder (aka for shits and giggles) a couple of months back, I decided to search for national holidays to see what came up. Once I saw that 7/23 was Gorgeous Grandmother’s Day, I put it on my calendar to remind myself of it.
As any of you who have been following my blog likely knows, I am a grandmother. My my very first post, in fact, was inspired by this fact.
And like any legit Grandma, I am sharing pics of my beautiful, smart, and witty grandson with you all.
How Gorgeous Grandma’s Day came to be (I did the research, man): In the early 80’s, a 50 year old recent graduate (woo hoo!) from Wellesley College decided that there needed to be a special day honoring Grandmothers. She felt that for many people, the title “Grandma” evoked an image of elderly women who had little to contribute to society. She was thinking about grandmothers over 50 who don’t conform to that image, so she decided to flip the script. She recognized that grandmothers can be not just wise, but also sassy, ambitious, and energetic.
In honor of Gorgeous Grandma’s Day , and because as you all know, I like to share, here’s some anecdotes from interactions I have had with Christopher.
Recently during one of our weekly video chats, Christopher happily declared that he’s going to first grade, “after I finish Kindergarten!”
Then there was his 4th birthday celebration here with us in Colorado. At the end of a busy day checking out the Denver aquarium and having a special lunch, while awaiting his birthday cake, Hubs looked across the dining room table and said with a chuckle in his voice, “Well, I know that some of us are going to sleep really well tonight”. Christopher’s response? “And that would be me”. Ha ha!
What kind of Grandma am I? A Gen X one for certain, who likes to focus on the future:
Like watching the movie “Ugly Dolls” with him and having a discussion about it; seeing how he feels about people who are different than him. How they are treated and should be treated.
The kind who can’t wait to see him play with Radar. I suspect they will be best friends.
The one who hopes to be present when he earns his first belt in Tae Kwon Do. Or plays in his first organized sporting event, such as baseball or soccer.
My wonderful mother in law, who is seriously the best grandma any two kids could have, has been known to say “If I knew how much fun it was to be a grandma, I would have done that first!” While of course technically impossible, I get the gist. And I really appreciate it.
Fellow grandma’s, how are you going to celebrate this special day, now that you are aware of its existence? Please share pics of your gorgeous selves and/or anecdotes of your gorgeous grandchildren in the comments!