Serendipity

Serendipity.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama, with my daughter and a friend. We flew out of Charlotte on a Wednesday night and flew back Thursday afternoon. We were visiting a college. On the return flight, I traded seats with my daughter’s friend, so they could sit together. Often, I dread finding out who is sitting next to me on flights…someone who is coughing, someone who has body odor, someone who brought their own smelly food onto the flight…but this time, I was lucky. As soon as I saw my seatmate, I knew she was cool.

And I was right. We started talking before takeoff, and we didn’t stop chatting till we got off the plane. She was a cute little pregnant lady (in her 30s), and as luck would have it, we have friends in common! She went to high school with my next door neighbor’s children, and I even know her aunt and uncle! When we landed in Charlotte, we parted ways. I texted our friends in common and told them how cute she is, and I followed her podcast Instagram (@itssportssis). She and her sister have a sports podcast…very cool. I’ve listened to one episode, but I need to listen to more…these chicks are pretty awesome.

Today, I met a couple of friends at Cafe Monte (it’s a personal favorite; see the website here) in Charlotte for brunch. One friend we hadn’t seen in a while, because she moved to High Point, but she was in town, so we got together and chatted for a couple of hours. When we stood up to leave, I turned around and saw a familiar face at the table behind me…my friend, Sarah…the one from the plane! The one with the podcast! Yes, I called her my friend, because I think of her as a friend now.

What luck! I like to call it “serendipity,” which is defined as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” It was complete luck that I met her on the flight after trading seats with my daughter’s friend…and it was complete luck that I ran into her again today…serendipity.

We chatted for a little while, and I told her I hoped she hadn’t come down with the stomach bug that had fallen on my family after that Birmingham trip. She said she had been fine, so we decided my daughter and her friend must have caught it from someone they sat near on the flight. My husband caught it from my daughter, so we know it was contagious and not something they had eaten. I then introduced Sarah to one of the friends I’d just brunched with. I pointed out to them that they, too, have people in common, since my friend also knows Sarah’s aunt! I told Sarah I think we were just destined to be friends; there is no other explanation for our serendipitous meetings!

It reminded me of another serendipitious meeting I had four years ago yesterday. I had gone to Panera Bread with my then-14-yr-old daughter and some of her friends after school. We had walked all the way through the restaurant to get to a table…passing every table along the way, I’m sure. When our order was brought to our table, my daughter’s cookie was missing, so I had to get up and walk to the pick up window to ask for the cookie. When I did, I saw a familiar face…a friend from college…someone I likely hadn’t seen since 1989 or 1990! Instead of approaching immediately, I walked over to a wall opening, a sort of window that overlooks the dining room…it was right next to her table. I poked my head through and just smiled. My college friend noticed, and we had a delightful reunion right there in Panera Bread. She lives in the Atlanta area…what are the chances I would run into a college friend from Atlanta in a Panera in Charlotte?!?! Serendipity! (Today is that friend’s birthday, so Happy Birthday, Suzanne!)

I love when things like that happen! You never know who you’ll run into!

For now, I’ll be shopping for baby gifts for my new friend, Sarah, who is expecting a baby girl in January. She’s a Virginia Tech fan and big sports fan, thus the podcast, It’s Sports Sis. Give that a listen, and I’ll find a cute Virginia Tech themed gift.

Thank you, Krispy Kreme

Thank you, Krispy Kreme!

Oh, Krispy Kreme, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: dozens and dozens and dozens…

I grew up in Alabama. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, we had to drive past a Krispy Kreme on Government Street in downtown Mobile every time we went to Bel Air Mall…and that was pretty often…usually on Saturdays. My family would shop, and my brother and I would eat French fries at the Eckerd’s lunch counter or the Woolworth’s counter in the mall. And sometimes, when we were lucky, on the drive home, Mother and Daddy would want to stop for a cup of coffee at the Krispy Kreme.

That particular Krispy Kreme franchise, I’ve been told, was an early franchise location. It served many a reveler after late nights during Mardi Gras for years. After moving away from the Mobile area as a child, I returned in my 20s, and that franchise location looked the exact same as I had remembered it…nothing had changed. In fact, I think it looked “original” till I moved away in 2000. Sadly, it closed in 2011. Repeated efforts to redesign the building for a drive-thru proved fruitless when they realized they would have to move parking to the back of the building, making it difficult for walk-in customers to gain access. I have some good memories of watching the doughnuts being made in that building…moving down the conveyor system. And I remember sitting at the counter on one of the green and silver round stools, enjoying a doughnut and laughing with my brother as a kid.

Clearly, Krispy Kreme has a positive connotation for me. So when Krispy Kreme announced they will give a free doughnut to customers who show their vaccine cards, I was thrilled. When I heard people were bashing the company for it, I was baffled. What the what? Apparently, there are people who think Krispy Kreme is “bribing” people into getting the vaccine. Really? That’s a pretty cheap “bribe.” Others posted on social media about how unhealthy the doughnuts are, and they shouldn’t be offering them.

I have four words for that: Give me a break!

Here’s how I feel. I don’t think Krispy Kreme is “bribing” anyone. I think they are rewarding people for getting vaccinated, and I truly believe this is a genius marketing campaign. They know most people won’t just come in and get that free doughnut. Most people will purchase at least one more item. And then there are the folks like me, who will purchase a couple dozen, just to share with anyone who comes to our house. Krispy Kreme will make money on the deal for sure. If you can be bribed for the price of a doughnut, you’ve got bigger problems.

As for the “health” issues…if you don’t want a doughnut, don’t go to Krispy Kreme for your free doughnut. If a vegan restaurant were offering something free as a reward, I wouldn’t go get it, because…you guessed it… I’m not vegan. But Krispy Kreme? You can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be getting my doughnut. In fact, I plan to meet friends there and have coffee too! And we will take pictures in the Krispy Kreme paper hats and post them all over social media…just wait. But if you are so worried about the health implications of eating a single doughnut, don’t sit by me. I don’t want to hear it. I just want to enjoy my doughnut and laugh with all my friends who will be enjoying theirs too.

I think Krispy Kreme is a great business. I have supported them my whole life. As an adult, I’ve been known to purchase multiple boxes at holidays and pass them out to friends and family. When we volunteered to donate cakes to the cake walk at the school carnival when my daughter was little, our “doughnut cakes” made with tiers of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and frosting/sprinkles were the most popular cakes at the events! Do I think people should eat them all day every day? No. But the occasional Krispy Kreme doughnut? Yes, please!

So if you don’t want your doughnut, please don’t go to Krispy Kreme. The line will be shorter for me and my friends, several of whom are physicians! Or better yet, go get your doughnut and pass it to me. But if you’re not going to get one…get out of my way. Don’t be a buzzkill.

Thank you, Krispy Kreme! I will get there as fast as I can with my completed vaccination card next Monday! I’ll be posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook before I even leave the store!

***Want to learn more about Krispy Kreme? Want to order one of those awesome coffee cups or some apparel? Click here!***

Retro Road Trip

Retro road trip!

I’m 53. I don’t hesitate to tell people my age, because I don’t really care how old I am. I’m just happy to be here. At 53, though, I have accumulated a lot of life experience, and I have a lot of memories.

I don’t remember my parents ever being big on staying in little roadside motels, but I do remember a few occasions when we stayed in them in small towns. I remembering seeing lots of little locally-owned inns and motels in the late 1960s and 70s. There were lots of them lining the beach roads in the Florida Panhandle, a place we frequented. Panama City Beach was full of them, and a few are still there. When I was a little girl living in Spanish Fort, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, there was a cute little locally-owned motel near the entrance to our neighborhood. Anyone who lived in Spanish Fort in the 70s (and probably the 50s and 60s) remembers the Spanish Fort Motel, and they likely remember the Malbis Hotel Courts too, which had a swimming pool shaped like the state of Alabama. I know, because when I was a little girl, locals would purchase “memberships” to pools at both places. We spent lots of hot summer days swimming there. Both places had great restaurants for breakfast, and they both were on old Highway 90, which was the coastal east-west highway before the interstate, I-10, opened. After I-10 opened, of course, lots of those little places closed. Hotel chains built hotels near the interstates, and travelers opted for those instead.

Lots of those little roadside motels are gone now. But in some parts of the country, you can still find them.

This week, I am going on a retro road trip with a friend. We are leaving the kids behind and hitting the road…in search of every cute, little, retro, roadside motel we can find. We aren’t looking for luxury. We are looking for cute, quaint, old-fashioned fun. We haven’t put a lot of thought into where we will go, but we know we have to go somewhere that’s actually open during the COVID pandemic. We know we don’t need to drive into snow. And we know we need to go somewhere that there are still roadside motels. So, we are headed to Florida.

Originally, we had booked a five-night stay at a nice resort in south Florida, but then we decided to make this more of a retro adventure…a step back in time…and that’s what it will be. Plus, we felt like we would likely be more exposed to COVID at a large resort. Trust me when I say we are going to be careful. My travel buddy has already had COVID and still has antibodies. I don’t want to catch it, so I will be extra careful. But we want to have some fun and make new, silly memories.

Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to stay at any roach motels, and we don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to drug deals going down around us, so we have done a little research. And we will check reviews and ratings before we stop anywhere.

While we are on the road, we also will check out every cheesy roadside attraction we can find. All those roadside attractions the kids would grumble about? We are stopping! And we are going to take lots of photos! So stay tuned…the fun starts Tuesday.

I’m wondering if we should wear clothes from the 60s and 70s…maybe we will find some thrift stores along the way!

We are stepping back in time! Retro road trip!

***The feature photo is from a postcard from the Spanish Fort Motel. It features a photo of the entrance/check-in area.

***The photo below is a postcard featuring the Malbis Hotel Courts…and that pool shaped like the great state of Alabama.***

There’s Something About Joe

There’s something about Joe…

Namath, that is.

That’s no secret, though, right? I’ve heard Namath’s name my whole life…and I’ve written about him more than once. I was born in the late 60s, and my grandparents were Alabama football fans. My grandfather was offered a place on the Alabama football team as a kicker, but because the family home burned down, he stayed home to help his parents. My parents both went to other colleges, but my mother was a Bama fan. Daddy grew up in Florida and liked Florida State, but he knew a good athlete when he saw one, I supposed…so he was a Namath fan too.

Plus, I’ve written about Joe’s charm and charisma before…you want to like him, and you want to root for him. He still has that same charm and charisma…at 77.

I’ve said before that when I was a little girl in Alabama, my parents would let me stay up and watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson if Joe was going to be on. He was always so funny and self-deprecating…and always smiling. I’m sure there were lots of jokes that went way over my head. All I knew was that Joe Namath was on TV, and everybody else on the show seemed to love him. Even now, whenever I hear he’s going to be on a TV show, I make a point of watching it. He is still just as charming as ever. He seems like a man who loves his daughters and granddaughters. And he remembers where he came from.

But I’m not writing this to try to figure out Joe Namath. He’s an enigma. No one will ever figure him out. I’m guessing he doesn’t even know the secret to his charm, but it has carried him a long way. He’s that guy. The one about whom we say, “Women love him, and men want to be him.” Even at 77…he’s still that guy.

I’m writing, because I will never get over how many people seem to love him. In 2018, I wrote a piece about visiting his hometown (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania). It was an impromptu visit to the riverside town. My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been on a long road trip with our kids and decided to visit Beaver Falls on the way home. You can read about it here. Interestingly, that is the most-read piece of my blog this year…just like it was last year. It seems lots of people put “Joe Namath” or “Joe Namath home” in their search engines, and sometimes, it takes them to my little blog, where they read about my visit to Beaver Falls and my posing (in the rain with no makeup) with the plaque honoring Joe right there in the middle of town…next to the Carnegie Free Library.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Like I said, I’ve heard about him my whole life, and he wasn’t even playing for Alabama anymore when I was born! He was already playing for the New York Jets, but his was a household name…in my house, for sure. In fact, I remember seeing Richard Todd, another Alabama quarterback, play in the Senior Bowl in January 1976 in Mobile, and then I remember hearing he had been drafted by the Jets to take over after Joe Namath retired. Joe played the 1976 season before going to the LA Rams for the 1977 season and then retiring. To put it all in perspective, I was only eight years old at that Senior Bowl, and I knew all about Joe Namath.

Last year, for my birthday, my friend, Linda, gave me Joe’s autobiography called All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters. I was so excited to get it and just as excited to read it! Joe has had an interesting life, so it made for an easy read. If you’d like to read it, first, check your local bookstores to see if they have it, and if not, then you can order from Amazon. Since I’ve had him on my mind today, I decided to see if there are other books, and I found three more I want to order for my husband for Christmas: I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow…’Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day, Namath: A Biography, and Countdown to Super Bowl: How the 1968-1969 Jets Delivered On Joe Namath’s Guarantee To Win It All. Think he’ll let me read them too? You can find them all on Amazon here. Also, if someone in your family is a Namath fan, shop the Joe Namath Fan Shop here.

If you grew up watching Joe on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson like I did, or even if you didn’t, his life makes for a fun read. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised so many people search him on the internet. Like I said…women love him, and men want to be him. And if you ever decide to visit his hometown, Beaver Falls, PA, please stop in and get some goodies from Oram’s Donuts. I might just have to make a special trip there for those donuts.

***Feature photo from joenamathfanshop.com***

My Holiday Memories

My holiday memories.

At 53, I have lots of holiday memories…some better than others. Why write about my holiday memories now? Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving…my least favorite holiday, but I’ll get into that another day…and right after Thanksgiving, we start barreling toward Christmas, my favorite holiday.

I’m just feeling nostalgic, I guess. With this whole COVID pandemic, don’t we all just wish we could celebrate the holidays without getting government warnings and guidelines about how many of us can gather in one place? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not making a political statement…simply an observation. I’ve laughed a million times at a video made by Mark Mathis, a meteorologist with KUSI-TV in San Diego. He pokes fun at California Governor Gavin Newsom by pretending he is “King Newsom.” You can see it on TMZ here. I think it’s hilarious, but then, I think almost everything Mark Mathis does is hilarious.

But back to the nostalgia…the good old days when the holidays were fun and worry-free, and we could gather with lots of people, even stadiums full of them! Remember when we could go to football games with 100,000 people we didn’t even know??? This year, I’m just hoping there will actually be a live game played in a fan-free stadium somewhere, so we can watch it on TV. What else is there to do after all the festivities on Christmas Day?

Truthfully, I don’t remember watching football on TV on Christmas Day when I was a little girl…definitely on Thanksgiving, but not on Christmas. And I remember a lot about Christmas and all the great TV specials leading up to it…Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn…and later, A Christmas Story…so many greats.

I remember helping decorate our Christmas tree. For years, we could only have our artificial tree, because my younger brother was allergic. I can still remember standing in our living room in Brewton, Alabama, putting the tree up in the big picture window for all the world to see as they drove past on North Forest Hill Drive. We would assemble the tree’s “trunk” first, which was really just a few pieces of wood fitted together. Then we took the color-coded “branches” that looked like they were made from wire coat hangers and place them in the appropriate color-coded holes in the “trunk.” We would add lights, garland, ornaments, that silver tinsel stuff, and finally, the plastic angel on top. I thought that angel was absolutely beautiful, but in reality, a five or six-year-old’s idea of “beauty” is different than an adult’s idea of beauty. The angel really looked like a cheap knock-off Barbie doll with some lights around her. I’d say it was likely a pain in the butt to get her on top of the tree, but since our tree was only six feet tall, and Daddy was 6’3″, well, it was likely no big deal. Honestly, I thought that angel was so beautiful that I would stand in front of that tree just admiring her. Did I mention this was the old days when those fat Christmas lights got really hot and had a certain smell? Anyone who was alive in the 70s probably remembers that smell. It wasn’t bad. It just smelled hot. And the ball ornaments back then were made of glass, so if you dropped one, it shattered. I know, because it happened lots of times. But no matter what…as soon as we finished decorating the tree, we would walk outside and view it through the window…just to see what it looked like to passing cars or neighbors. In reality, that six-foot artificial tree with the knock-off Barbie on top probably looked pitiful from the road, but we thought it was the prettiest tree on the block!

Our family would decorate outside too, but our house wasn’t the one everyone wanted to drive past. Sure, there was lawn decor, but it wasn’t anything special. One year, we did all blue lights on the shrubs in front of the house. Maybe blue lights were on sale that year? Many years, we had white lights on the shrubs. And most years, we had our Noel candles out front, next to the front porch steps. Actually, at our house in Brewton, there was no porch step, so we just put them on the little entrance to the porch. But those Noel candles were my favorites. I don’t know why I loved them so. In fact, I have them stored away at my house now. I used them one year, but I’m a little afraid of the electrical components in them. Maybe I’ll get them out this year and only use them when we can keep an eye on them.

On Christmas Eve every year, after dinner, we would pile into the car and go drive around town to look at Christmas lights. We would drive through neighborhood after neighborhood, admiring the decor. And the whole time, I could hardly appreciate all the lights, because I was too busy watching the skies to make sure Santa wasn’t passing over my house. What if he came while we weren’t home? Would he know he needed to leave us gifts? Would he know kids lived there? In Brewton and later, in our house in Spanish Fort, we didn’t even have a chimney! I always worried about Santa finding his way into the living room with the six-foot artificial tree with the knock-off Barbie on top! After we got home from our drive, we would hop into bed and have lots of difficulty going to sleep. I would remind my parents at least twenty times to leave the front door unlocked for Santa.

I have lots of Christmas morning memories. I’ve written before about how my brother would get a toy train for Christmas every year, and we would play with it so much that the little engine box would overheat and die on Christmas Day. It might have been because we always played with it on high speed. Or maybe it was because Daddy was playing with it so much. We weren’t a sweet little quiet family. We liked to have fun! Go big or go home! And so those trains always burned up on the first day. But we always knew there would be another one the next year.

While I love my childhood Christmas memories, even better are the memories from our daughter’s childhood Christmas mornings. She’s 17 now, so some of the excitement is gone, but back in the early days…it was on! Her first Christmas, she was only 10 weeks old. We took pictures of her by the tree. Her second Christmas, in 2005, she was just 14 months old, but she was fun. She got a dollhouse, a play kitchen, a doll and stroller, and some red cowboy boots, but her favorite gift was from our neighbor. She gave her some toy cupcakes, and our daughter played with those things for hours! She carried them around everywhere…so cute! She also received The Muppet Movie, and on Christmas Day, we settled in to watch it with her. It was the first time she ever actually fell asleep watching something on TV…I guess all the excitement wore her out. I’m sure the nap didn’t last long; she has never been one to enjoy her sleep.

We have made lots of fun Christmas memories with her over the years. We even have some not-so-good memories, like the year she came down with the flu while we were ice skating with friends on Christmas Eve. We were up all night with her, because she was vomiting, and since I couldn’t leave her side, I had no idea how Santa would drop off her gifts. Fortunately, that year, I had been super-organized, and I had all her Santa gifts in a big black garbage bag upstairs in the guest room. All my husband had to do was go up and bring it down, and as soon as our daughter fell asleep for 30 minutes at 6am, I hurriedly put the gifts out in the living room for her to find later. She awoke an hour and a half later at 7:30am, and we stumbled in to watch her open gifts, but after just three gifts, she was too sick to continue and had to go back to bed. Poor baby. After three days of the flu, she and I checked into a local hotel, where we stayed for three more nights and ordered room service till she felt better.

And in 2017, we didn’t even spend Christmas Day together. My mother had fallen at her home in Alabama the night before, so I got up early Christmas morning and drove to be with her in the hospital. She passed away on the 30th of that year…a sad holiday season, indeed.

Here we are in 2020, the year of COVID. It’s going to be a different kind of holiday season, but we will make the best of it. I’ve put up our little aluminum tree and color wheel upstairs on the indoor landing, and right after Thanksgiving, we’ll put out some exterior decor and our real Christmas tree. So things will be different this year, but we’ll all be grateful for each other as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes

70s Saturdays and Hostess Cupcakes.

Earlier, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up one thing…some bottled water. Of course, like so many other people, I can’t walk out of Walgreen’s with just one thing. I have to “browse” the aisles. By the time I checked out, my cart contained hand sanitizer, cheap lipstick, Halloween candy I promptly hid when I got home, and Hostess Cupcakes. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes…the ones that come two to a pack. The creme-filled chocolate ones that have the white swirls across the top. The ones that I loved as a kid in the 1970s.

When I was a little girl, Daddy took us to Murphy’s store on Highway 31 in Brewton on Saturday mornings after he gave us our $5 allowance. It was our opportunity to get whatever we wanted, and back then, $5 would buy a lot of treats. Murphy’s was a little locally-owned convenience store. We always referred to it as “Murphy’s,” except Saturdays, when we referred to it as “the candy store.” Mr. and Mrs. Murphy actually ran it themselves. I’m sure they laughed when they saw us coming, because they knew we were going straight for the candy. By the time I left the store, I usually had an Icee or a Grape Fanta and a little brown bag full of different treats. My personal favorites? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I remember when the price increased from 15 cents to 20 cents), Pixy Stix, Marathon Bar, Grape Now & Laters, Spree Candy, M&Ms, Candy Cigarettes (it was the 70s, after all), and yes, those glorious Hostess Cupcakes. I thought those swirls across the top were beautiful. I guess I always had homemade birthday cakes, so those Hostess swirls looked like some special handiwork. Here’s a secret, though: I rarely ate the cupcakes. I usually just ate the frosting off the top…and that swirl? I saved that till the end.

So, after I got home from Walgreen’s and ate those Hostess cupcakes, I posted on my personal Facebook page about them, and the reaction was great! So many of my friends remembered those cupcakes from childhood. But the great thing was the memories they shared about their own experiences. One friend commented that her dad would take her to the deli on Saturdays, and while he picked out lunch stuff, the kids could get treats…including Tastykakes…a Mid-Atlantic treat. Others could remember the mom-and-pop shops where they got their weekend treats, and one friend frequented the 7-11 with her dad, buying comic books and candy.

One of my favorite comments was simply, “Nyolator.” It was a comment from a kindergarten friend in Brewton. I’m guessing not just anyone would understand it, but I knew exactly what it meant immediately. In South Alabama, when I was a kid, I didn’t call Now&Later candies by their real name. I called them “Nyolators,” and I now know I wasn’t the only one! We weren’t being funny. Since I never bothered to read the package, I just pronounced them the way I heard it,”Nyolator.” I guess that’s the way my kindergarten friend heard it too! So if someone had asked me what candy I liked at the time, I likely would have answered, “Grape Nyolators.” Later, when I bothered to read the package, I was amused to learn I had been calling them by the wrong name my whole life…I was probably a preteen by the time I realized it, but dang!

So now, I’m thinking those Hostess Cupcakes aren’t just cupcakes. They’re symbols of my childhood…memories of going to Murphy’s store with my daddy. Pixy Stix can have the same effect for me. I loved Pixy Stix then, and I still love them now. Again, grape Pixy Stix are my preferred flavor. I don’t know why I love artificial grape flavoring, but I do.

Grape sodas, which taste nothing like real grapes, also make me think of visiting my Granddaddy. I’ve talked with my cousin, Patti, in recent years about how Granddaddy would give us a quarter, and we would walk down to the little store down the street from his house. I don’t know what the store was called, but I know I could always get a grape soda or an RC Cola there.

And you know why all those items…the candy, the cupcakes, the sodas…remind us of our childhood? Because they represent happy times. We tend to lock things into our longterm memory if they are attached to an emotion, and I guess that emotion, for me, on a Saturday morning, with $5 to spend at a mom-and-pop convenience store…well, that emotion was pure joy! No doubt!

I was big on making my little brown bag candy stash last a while. I could drag out eating some M&Ms by peeling them. I never got Peanut M&Ms. Back then, I only got original milk chocolate ones. And I actually peeled them. Sounds crazy right? I would bite each one just lightly enough to crack the outer shell, and then I would carefully peel off the shell, eating it little bit by little bit. And that’s when there were still red M&Ms with cancer-causing coloring, and there were two different brown colors of M&M…one was tan. Remember that? Long before blue M&Ms. I remember hearing the slogan for M&Ms many times, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

And while I was peeling my M&Ms and hoarding my candy/cupcake stash, I was likely playing records on my record player…maybe Ricky Nelson singing Garden Party, which takes me back every time. That and Otis Redding singing Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. But I’m not even going to get into how music takes me back…that’s for another day.

For now, I’m going to sneak back into the kitchen and eat some of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from the bag of Halloween candy I purchased at Walgreen’s. I hid it from everyone else in my family, but I know exactly where it is!

A Fun, FREE Dance Workout

A fun, FREE dance workout…with tWitch (Stephen Boss) and Allison Holker.

Did I just say FREE? Why yes…yes, I did! Don’t be afraid of the word “workout.” This one is fun, and you can make it as easy or as difficult as you like.

I have followed tWitch and his lovely wife, Allison Holker, on Instagram for a long time. They are both great dancers, and they often post dances from their home. They’re energetic and fun to watch. If you aren’t familiar with tWitch, he was a runner up on a season of So You Think You Can Dance, but he’s probably best known as the DJ (and now co-executive producer) on Ellen. His wife, Allison, is also a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant and a professional dancer on Dancing With the Stars. Together, they host Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings. If you’re not familiar with either of them, look them up on Instagram. You can find tWitch under sir_twitch_alot, and find Allison under her name, allisonholker. But you can find both of them and their workouts on Instagram at bossfamilyworkout.

There are so many great things about their workouts. They take less than 30 minutes, and you can do them almost anywhere. You don’t need a DVD player, and you don’t have to pay for an app. It’s totally free. As long as you have your phone and follow them on Instagram, you can follow along with their workouts. And for each one, they show how to make it higher impact or lower impact. They walk you through it, and they have great personalities…making it a lot more fun.

I know tWitch is a good guy, because I have a friend in Montgomery, Alabama, whose daughter took hip hop classes from him years ago. According to my friend, all the students loved him. He was patient, and he was fun. I loved tWitch before she told me that, but I loved him even more after learning he taught hip hop to kids and was a beloved teacher!

The workout tWitch and Allison do is dance-based. No surprise there, since they are both dancers. But even if you don’t consider yourself a dancer, you can do some variation of their workouts. Sometimes I do low impact, and sometimes, I do the higher impact. Sure, it’s less than 30 minutes, but at least I feel like I’ve done something when it’s over. Plus, tWitch and Allison are super enthusiastic…making it a lot more fun. They are a super cute couple…playing off each other and laughing at/with each other all the time.

If you can step back and forth, you can do these workouts. While they are dance-based, they’re not difficult, and like I said, they always show an easy variation. They also repeat sequences (don’t let that word scare you), so it’s pretty easy to catch on…even for a 53-year-old mom! Seriously, I look forward to new workouts! They don’t post them every day, but because they are recorded, you can repeat workouts till the next one is out.

Did I mention tWitch picks the best music? Yeah…he is the DJ for Ellen. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to pick music that’s motivational. Most days, I find myself walking around singing or humming the songs from the workout.

So if you gained the Quarantine 15, or even if you didn’t, I think most people will enjoy their workouts. Look for them on Instagram and join in! They are recorded, so you can do them anytime and anywhere! No expensive equipment! No gym fees! No crowds! Just do them in the comfort of your own home! And have fun!

Lemon Cucumbers? Yes, Please!

Lemon cucumbers? Yes, please!

Back in the spring, when we were first “sheltering in place” because of the COVID pandemic, I decided to order the seeds for my summer garden online. As soon as I searched a couple of different sites, I realized I was not the only person with that idea. With the pandemic, lots of people decided to grow their own food this year, so I had to pick from what was available…and the “pickings were slim.”

I ordered my usual varieties of sunflowers and added a few new varieties I had never grown before…more about those later. And for veggies, I wanted to order squash, zucchini, and other things I like, but because they were all sold out, I ordered a few regular green cucumbers…some “slicers” and some “garden sweet hybrids.” I ordered some corn to plant (which was terribly unsuccessful)…and watermelon seeds. And then I saw something I’d never seen before…seeds for growing Lemon Cucumbers, or as Ferry-Morse labeled them, Cucumber Lemons. In reality, they are cucumbers, so I prefer to call them Lemon Cucumbers. According to Health Benefits Times, it is also known as a Yellow Cucumber, an Apple Cucumber, or a Crystal Apple, but I prefer Lemon Cucumber. It’s part of the gourd family, and despite the lovely yellow color of the skin, it is not a lemon in any way. These unusual cucumbers are round and bright yellow, and they are slightly sweeter than a traditional cucumber…with a slightly earthy flavor. It also has health benefits…offering Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber…and they look really summery in a cucumber salad. You can see more of the health benefit and recipes here.

So way back in March, I seeded lots of flowers and vegetables, starting them in the pool house, but eventually bringing them into my very own dining room, where I had a little more space and could get to them more easily. When I felt it was warm enough outside, I transferred all my seedlings, and I was absolutely shocked at how many of them actually made it this year! Usually, I have about a 50% yield on transplanted seedlings, but this year, it was closer to 85% or even 90%! You might have read my piece titled Welcome to the Jungle earlier this year…and now you know why my backyard looks like a jungle.

The plants were prospering, it seemed, but the vegetables were late to fruit. But at the beginning of July, things started picking up. The green cucumbers started fruiting like crazy, and I noticed small yellow cucumbers on my Lemon Cucumber vines. The plants have become quite prolific, and I was able to slice my first Lemon Cucumber earlier this month…after watching a YouTube video about when to harvest them.

As it turns out, they are as tasty as I had hoped! I’ve shared some with my next-door neighbor, a friend across town, and a friend who lives in Alabama. She sent some tomatoes, eggplants, okra, and peas from her garden, and sadly, all I had to offer in return was a few Lemon Cucumbers, but hopefully, she will enjoy them as much as I have. There is no way she will enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed what she sent me, but maybe I can make it up to her next year, because I plan to grow them again! So far, they’re growing like crazy cakes, and I love to grow anything that produces like these things do!

I’ve been making lemon cucumber sandwiches and cucumber salad. I’ve been putting lemon cucumbers in my water and in my salads. Does anything taste more like summer than fresh cucumbers? I’m hoping my plants will continue to produce for another month or so, because I’d love to keep enjoying these delicious yellow cucumbers as long as possible. For cucumber salad recipes, click here.

If you’re intrigued and want to plant them next year, I’m guessing you’ll be successful, because I do not have a green thumb. If I can grow them so well, I think anyone probably can! In the meantime, I’m sharing lemon cucumbers with anyone who asks! And when I share a lemon cucumber, I feel like I’m sharing some joy…because gardening has brought me great joy this summer, and the lemon cucumbers are a surprise, tasty treat.

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

How Did I Miss Out on This?!?!

How did I miss out on this?!?!

Throughout life, there are times that I’ve thought, “How did I miss out on this?!?!” But by the time I reached age 52, I thought I had likely seen it all. Surely, unless it’s something new, there’s nothing that’s been going on for years around me that I didn’t even notice. Sure, at 40-something, I learned about the little tabs on the end of the aluminum foil box that hold the roll in place, but that was before I was 50. I wasn’t surprised about the flat tire icon on the car dashboard or the little arrow that shows which side the gas tank is on. If you don’t know all those things, you need to get busy Googling.

But earlier this week, I learned about something that is supposedly southern that I didn’t know about. That thing? Pineapple Casserole. Never heard of it till Sunday or Monday of this week, and as I type, it’s Wednesday. I grew up in Alabama. If it’s a southern dish, how did I manage to make it to 52 without ever having heard of it?!?

So I did what I do. I went to my personal Facebook page and asked my friends if they grew up eating/knowing about Pineapple Casserole, and if they did, where did they grow up?

I got lots of responses saying they grew up with it. Lots of folks from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and surprisingly (to me), Alabama…even a friend from High Springs, Florida, which is actually in the part of Florida that’s still “southern” had grown up with it! My people (an aunt and cousins) in the Florida Panhandle (a part of Florida that is still very southern) had not grow up seeing it, just like I’d never seen it. One cousin said she had it as an adult when a friend made it, but otherwise, my family had somehow missed out on Pineapple Casserole. Maybe it’s a familial thing??? I’d never even had it at my grandmother’s house in Birmingham, but according to a cousin who now lives in California, she had served it to her and her friends she referred to as the “soup ladies.” Even my friend, Amy, from Selma, Alabama (does it get any more southern than Selma?!?), said she did not eat it growing up. I promptly decided we must be related, since we both grew up in Alabama and had never heard of it. I now refer to her as Cousin Amy.

But just so you know, friends from Indiana, Philadelphia, and Delaware also had it when they were growing up, so now I’m wondering just how “southern” it is. But that’s beside the point. Everyone except one South Carolina girl gave it two thumbs up, so you know I have to try it.

I will make it later this week, and I can hardly wait! But for the holy grail of Pineapple Casseroles, I’m going to ask my friend, Crazy Jane, to make it for me when she visits. Crazy Jane is the best cook in the world, so even if we followed the exact same recipe, her version would be far better than mine. She just has a special touch.

I’ve asked several friends what I should expect. Some say it’s the perfect side dish with ham. Others say it’s almost dessert-like, because it does contain sugar…and not just a little of it. Plus, pineapple is sweet and a little dessert-like, right? It also contains butter, flour, cheese, and other stuff. Sounds disgusting, right? But my friends know good food, so I’m trusting them when they say it’s delicious. I thought the recipe for the Mississippi Pot Roast (click here) sounded disgusting too, but I absolutely love the stuff!

So I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe. I went to the Southern Living website for the recipe, because it’s a site I trust. If Southern Living posts a bad recipe, they hear about it from lots of southern ladies, so I think they’re pretty careful. You can see the recipe here.

If you’ve never had Pineapple Casserole and decide to make it, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m starting to question my southern roots, since I’ve never had it! How did that happen?!? I’ve been to lots of church covered dish lunches and family potlucks, and I’ve never seen it. Or maybe when I was a kid, I saw it and thought it looked disgusting. That’s likely. I’ll let you know what I think after I make it.

I’m also wondering if I can get Hungry Girl to do some ingredient swaps and bring down the calorie count on this crazy sounding dish?!? Maybe I’ll send the recipe to their test kitchen!