Returning the 60 Blog

Cereal is an acceptable meal at all times of the day.

It’s Tuesday, which feels like Monday.  And time to get back to work after a nice relaxing few days off.  Leslie’s boss gave them extra time off, so she’s been out of the office since Friday, and she returns to work tomorrow.  I hope she’s home today doing some laborious tasks, like laundry and preparing dinner.

It wasn’t easy to get up this morning.  But there wasn’t much traffic on the road (maybe schools are out one more day)? and I came in to a dead plant and a dead lightbulb above my desk.  It looked like I was going to serve cocktails for happy hour at mid-day.  The building engineer was here in no time and fixed the bulb while straddling part of my desk and knocking my keyboard over.  Awkward for the win!

Today is also a day to celebrate someone’s retirement.

Last year, BuzzFeed wrote an article about Diana Hunter, also known as the Honey Bunches of Oats Lady.  As the article stated, “Unlike Flo [from Progressive], Diana actually works at the company that she promotes—she’s legit!”  The article goes on to commend Diana because she has a permanent smile on her face, and she finds joy and love in life by doing her job.  She made those “sparkle flakes” you love to eat with a spoon.

One of her coworkers notified BuzzFeed about Diana’s retirement last week and a follow-up article states:  “Diana here finds the JOY and LOVE in life by making these flakes.  She’s not an actress—she’s just like us!”  She is indeed work goals, happiness goals, laugh goals.  Diana is everything.

Do you have anyone in your life who reminds you of Diana?  Someone who just appears to love life, does her job with a smile on her face, and has the admiration of her coworkers.  Are you that person?  At one time, I might have been the one who did her job with a smile, but I was young then.






Rewriting the 60 Blog

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I tried to form a gang once, but it turned into a book club.

I hosted book club yesterday and we discussed Where’d You Go Bernadette?  It’s a whimsical story about a dysfunctional yet loving family involving Antarctica, blackberries and Seattle.  We agreed that the author’s depiction of life in Seattle was spot-on, and the main characters were very intelligent, but not all that likeable.

Our customary short story-writing ended the afternoon.  Our keyword was “fruit.”  We were told to write one sentence incorporating the word and then pass it along to another guest.  We then read our short stories as follows:

No. 1:  The pineapple sat close to the strawberries and now they are called pineberries.  And boy, do they taste berry-ish.
No. 2:  But I was craving it.  I didn’t have time to chew.  I just swallowed, bite after bite.  Next thing I know, I’m in the ER feeling like an alien is inside me!

No. 1:  Why is fruit so damned expensive?  Is it all coming from other countries like Venezuela and Chile?
No. 2:  Yes it is.  Times have changed!

No. 1:  Fruit, fruit, fruit.  Eat enough of it and you will become a fruit.
No. 2:  Unlikely, but you may spend enough time indisposed to wish you were a fruit.

No. 1:  Walking into the kitchen, the warm spicy scent of fruitcake enveloped me in holiday nostalgia.
No. 2:  Another Christmas I was spending all alone on my farm in Vermont.  No invitation from family or friends.

No. 1:  My brother’s favorite fruit was a tangerine.
No. 2:  Every summer when the trees were in season, he would spend hours picking and eating the sticky, sweet fruit.

No. 1:  Laura walked into the kitchen to discover a lovely bowl of fruit, each piece with a single bite missing.
No. 2:  Laura then took her turn and put a second bite into each one.

No. 1:  I was sitting there in my room reading a book.  All of a sudden, I wanted a piece of fruit.  I went tearing outside, screaming for fruit–anything.  Two men walked up to me…
No. 2:  And asked what movie I was filming.  I had been mistaken for Julia Roberts.  It was the best day of my life.

No. 1:  While in the market evaluating the ripeness of the fruit, specifically the peaches, she reached in to to grab a particular orange and red specimen, when his hand brushed hers.
No. 2:  They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity and they realized that the peaches were sticky.

No. 1:  As a young girl, I loved to eat fruit–especially fruit salad.  I loved the berries.  Making fruit salad brings back memories of sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother, peeling fruit and talking.  A great memory of mine…
No. 2:  Do kids today have this opportunity?  Do kids even talk to their grandparents?  Cynical much?

Lessons learned yesterday?  You can meet your soulmate wherever peaches are sold, Julia Roberts has a lot of good days, and having a farm in Vermont doesn’t guarantee you friends.

Next month’s book is The Night She Won Miss America and I’m about two-thirds through.  It’s very good!  It’s based on a true story and, no spoilers here, it’s about Miss America 1950.  Guess what?  She doesn’t expect to win!



Slicing the 60 Blog

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Why do we put round pizza in a square box and eat it in triangles?

Is it because square boxes are more stable during transport and triangles are the easiest way to cut a circle in equivalent sized pieces?  Or can we argue that pizza slices aren’t exactly triangles, but instead are wedges?

Most pizza places use a square box as it’s simple, cheap, hard to copyright design, and little waste of cardboard.  Round cardboard boxes are more expensive to make, would waste a good deal more paper, and do not have the corners to be utilized for any sides (garlic sauce, pepperoncini peppers, seasoning packets).  Also, a round box would be harder to fold (square boxes are shipped flat and are folded at the store by the drivers when they aren’t doing anything else).

Round pizza as a round ball of dough rolls to a round shape easier/faster. Round dough rises in a round shape consistently. Also as cheese melts it spreads out, round helps with that. A spoon of sauce, easier to spread out sauce while holding the spoon and spinning the pan.

If you want to avoid all of these silly questions, go to New Haven, CT.  None of the really good pizza places are concerned about shapes resembling anything you learned in math class.  Home pizza, like a lot of food,is about shared experiences, friends, and family. Tradition extends from these shared experiences.  Commercial pizza is about volume. Volume business relies on economy of process. Keep it simple.  You don’t have to have your pizza cut into triangular slices. They’ll slice it any way you like.

Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.


Grandmothering the 60 Blog

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A grandmother is like an angel, who takes you under her wing.  She prays and watches over you and she’d give you anything.

I met an older woman yesterday who reminded me of what we can be like twenty years in the future.

We were outside of the Katella Deli, waiting for a table for seven to have lunch.  As we were sitting outside, an older lady (she was probably 80) sat at an outside patio table next to us and started chatting (and chatting) about her day.  She was meeting three other women there–who she had never met!  They were going to have lunch and head to the Performing Arts Center for a concert called “300 Voices.”  She had driven there herself and was waiting for her lunch companions.  She told me that one of the women would be wearing beige, so the group would be easy to spot.  She also told me that she was going to Oregon later this week to visit her daughter and watch the solar eclipse.  Her daughter had sent her some printed material to read about the eclipse because she doesn’t have a computer and “it was so interesting, I read it twice!”   Her three friends showed up exactly on time and they were seated at their table before we were.

When we were finally seated after waiting almost an hour, we had a very nice lunch with lots of deli food (potato pancakes, pastrami, chopped liver, beef and mushroom barley soup!) and a salad (boo hiss!).  Jake (the greatest-girl-on-earth’s boyfriend) told us about his 96-year old grandmother, who they had just visited in Florida for her birthday. Jean picked up Jake and Marissa at the airport, insisted that she pay for lunch, played a few serious games of bingo (no phones allowed!) and Rummi-Kub.  Jean runs the small coffee shop in her retirement community and seems to be as independent as a woman half her age.

After hearing about Jean and meeting the theater-and-eclipse-loving grandmother, I got to thinking about being as active and spry as they are.  I’m not sure I could do half of what these women do.  Can you?



Bloodletting the 60 Blog

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Murdoc Khaleghi:  What’s amazing about a blood test is that knowing your health data can only help you.  There’s never been anyone that hasn’t benefited or been harmed by knowing more about their health markers and organs.

I had bloodwork done today.  I’ve been with a new doctor since April and, at my last visit, the phlebotomist came into the exam room with a little bucket and took two vials of blood.  No big deal.  Today, I had an appointment for lab work and it was a full-on production.

Four vials of blood, less than five minutes, one bandage.  And done for three months.  I see my doctor next month and I’m not sure my results will be what we’re looking for.  

How do you feel about having bloodwork done?  I think it’s a fascinating process and I don’t mind watching the vials fill up.  (The most I had done at one time was seven vials of blood.  I think they gave me a bottle of water as I left the lab to boost up my energy!)  For some reason, I don’t like watching the needle go in my arm, but I’m fine with everything else.

When I was with my prior medical group, they had an onsite lab that would process your bloodwork instantly.  By the time I drove the five miles home from the doctor’s office, I’d have an email with some of my results.  This new office will send results within a few days.  I hope I can wait that long.  Kidding.


Dining the 60 Blog

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Phyllis Diller:  I have so many liver spots, I ought to come with a side of onions.

Yo, it’s Friday.  What are your plans for the weekend?  Leslie has a bee in her bonnet and wants to make homemade spaghetti sauce (known as “gravy” in the old neighborhood).  We invited some friends for a late lunch on Sunday and everyone is just too busy, so we’re meeting at an enormous deli a few miles away.

The Katella Deli, founded in 1964, reminds me of delis back east.  If you grew up or went to school on the East Coast, you know what I mean.  Dr. Brown’s cel-ray tonic.  Black and white cookies.  Kasha.  Noodle pudding.  Oh wait, that’s the list of what I plan to take home from the deli and bakery sections of the restaurant.

The deli serves food from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  We met there for dinner after the Jewish holiday last fall.  I think we waited two hours for a table, and then they were vacuuming the floor when we were paying our check.  They don’t take reservations, because they don’t have to, and people happily and hungrily wait for a seat with a beeper in their hands.  When that puppy goes off, your mouth starts watering because you know you’re in for some good food.

What’s your favorite deli meal?  I don’t like pastrami or corned beef, so that’s one strike against me.  But I can find plenty of other things to eat.  My go-to meal, if it’s breakfast or lunch, is a LEO omelet (lox, eggs and onions) and it’s something I’ve never tried making at home.  I’m convinced the grease on the restaurant grill adds to the flavor.

Someone said the word “liver” to me yesterday.  I love liver and have never tried to make it myself.  I could have chopped liver at the deli, or I could have a plate of liver and onions.  I know, some of you are grossed out, but too bad.  I need the iron because I’m anemic.  Don’t judge me.

By the way, National Liver and Onions Day is May 10.  You’re welcome.



Baking the 60 Blog

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Procastibaking:  The art of making cupcakes instead of doing something else you should be doing.

When we were growing up, my mother loved to bake.  Cookies, cake, but never pies. She was not a fancy baker, but we loved it.  She had recipe cards for everything and Leslie and I look at those cards periodically.  We say “we should make those bar cookies,” or “remember her apple cake?” but we never get around to finding all the tools and ingredients.

Maybe because my mother was such a good cook and baker, Leslie and I love to watch cooking shows.  We started early with The Galloping Gourmet.  Then came Unwrapped, Next Food Network Star, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, Top Chef, Cupcake Wars. We tried watching Great American Food Truck Race and Hell’s Kitchen, but those were too over-the-top.  Also, how did Guy Fieri become a TV star?

We had never watched The Great British Baking Show until this season that just ended on Sunday (in the U.S.).  Recently, ABC renamed it The Great American Baking Show, which we watched, of course.  Same show with American hosts and American contestants.  Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood appeared on the American version and they are characters.

The British show is the one to watch.  The British hosts are very engaging and Paul and Mary love to issue royal challenges to the contestants.  Sunday’s “star baker challenge” was to prepare a picnic fit for a queen.  In five hours, the three finalists had to prepare a total of 49 items to theoretically put into a picnic hamper.

Andrew is a good baker and very meticulous.  He created a color-coordinated spreadsheet telling him how to spend every five-minute increment of those five hours.  After the first half-hour, he was already five minutes behind.  He wasn’t as creative as the other two finalists and we knew he wasn’t going to win.

Jane is a home baker and her two grown children think she’s the best mom ever.  She seemed a bit disorganized and it appeared she didn’t measure a lot of her dry ingredients.  What kind of a monster is she?  She promised to make a white chocolate collar for her four-tier chocolate cake and, for the second time this season, the collar didn’t work out for Jane.

Candice is the star of the show.  Each week, she made each challenge look easy and she always seemed to make more than what was asked for.  She made a peacock out of a five-tier cake covered in multi-colors of marzipan.  I would have loved to have a bite of that!  One of the items to prepare for the royal picnic was sausage rolls, and she actually made hers look like little piggies with eyes, a nose and a tail!  Candice went home at the end of the day with a bouquet of flowers and an engraved pie plate.

Did we learn anything watching this show?  There are two kinds of marzipan.  Two kinds of meringue.  Making 49 items in five hours in a large tent is nearly impossible.  I sure hope that there were cash prizes given, because these bakers worked their tartlets off.






Sweetening the 60 Blog

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Don’t forget to buy your Halloween candy early so you have time to buy more after you eat it all.

Late last week, a friend in New York lamented on Facebook that it was just a little too early for the stores to be putting out Halloween candy.  Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute!  It’s a month until Labor Day, followed by two more months until Halloween.  What the hell is going on here?

I think it’s acceptable to start seeing Halloween candy in late September-early October.  In 2010, it was estimated that Americans would spend about $2 billion on candy during the Halloween season.  In 2016, that number rose to $8.4 billion.  Think about that.  Candy corn.  Bite-size candy bars.  Pumpkin-spice kisses.  Likely, we wouldn’t even dream of eating candy corn any other time of the year because it tastes like crap!

The California Milk Processors Board states that “an average Jack-O-Lantern bucket carries about 250 pieces of candy amounting about 9,000 calories and about three pounds of sugar.”

And since we’re talking about candy, we may as well discuss how trick-or-treating has changed over the years.  Given that candy will be everywhere in the next few months, it is hard to imagine that 100 years ago, Halloween looked quite different from the candy avalanche we know today.  Trick-or-treating is a quite recent American invention. The ritual of costumes, doorbell-ringing, and expectation of booty appeared for the first time in different locations throughout the country in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  It wasn’t until the late 1940s that trick-or-treating became widespread on a national scale. And even then, candy wasn’t the obvious treat.

Kids ringing a stranger’s doorbell in 1948 or 1952 received all sorts of tribute: Coins, nuts, fruit, cookies, cakes, and toys were as likely as candy.  In the 1950s, Kool-Aid and Kellogg’s promoted their decisively non-candy products as trick-or-treat options, while Brach’s once ran ads for chocolate-covered peanuts during the last week of October that didn’t mention Halloween at all.

It took a while for candy to become what it is today, the very essence of Halloween.  Going back even farther to the early decades of the century, before trick-or-treating spread across the land, candy didn’t have any special role to play in Halloween observance.

For youth, and especially boys, Halloween was the one night of the year when communities generally tolerated pranking, which might range from the clever or playful to the dangerous or destructive. Mailboxes, fences, streetcars, and gravestones were popular targets. The point was to cause mischief, not to gather treats. Halloween also wasn’t a gift-giving holiday, which in the case of Christmas and other early candy holidays provided the candy “hook.”

While the hooligans were out wreaking havoc, the more genteel would celebrate Halloween with parties. The menus and décor for these early Halloween festivities emphasized seasonal fruits. Pumpkins and apples were especially important. Making popcorn balls and fudge was sometimes part of the festive activities, but if there was purchased candy along the lines of candy corn or jelly beans, it was an afterthought.

Carting the 60 Blog (One Last Time!)

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One more update on shopping carts and the people who use them.

Scientific American conducted a survey and some of the comments regarding returning shopping carts are cringe-worthy.

  1.  I always return my shopping cart because I don’t want to think of myself as lazy or inconsiderate.
  2.  As the mom of four sons, I used to purposely leave my cart out of the place intended….so the store would need to hire young kids.
  3.  I don’t return my carts on principle. Although I also don’t block parking spaces – i put them on islands and curbs. My assumption is that if the cart wrangler could get a better job, he would. So I’m doing my part to keep him gainfully employed.
  4.  I return carts and usually take a few up with me that I find stray in parking spaces. First job was at a grocery store and getting carts isn’t an easy job.
  5.  There is not a specific job to go get carts. The people who went out to get carts were usually the baggers, stockers, or cashiers so they had plenty to do besides go out in the heat/rain/snow to get carts strewn all over the parking lot. At the very least people could put them in the cart return instead of leaving them in parking spaces or in the grass.
  6.  At least at the grocery store I worked at, no one was designated “cart getter.”  Typically it was a cashier who wasn’t needed because the store preferred to have too many cashiers available as opposed to too few. And if the cashiers were too busy and the carts needed to get brought in immediately, then one of the floor people got the carts. But that typically only happened on big grocery shopping days, like before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Unfortunately, you aren’t providing anyone with job security.’
  7.  Always return the cart! I spent many years in my youth working at grocery stores, so I know what a hard job doing a “cart run” can be! My routine now:  park near a receptacle, especially in bad weather. Take a cart or two inside with me.  Use one. When done, it goes back into the receptacle, or if I’m parked close to the door, I put it inside (or if my teens are with me. They can handle a walk!) Not hard, and can make a staff member’s day a *little* easier.  And not ding cars!

I think the article on returning grocery store carts neglected to mention an important trend worth mentioning: the fact is that many businesses expect customers to do more and more of the work without a corresponding drop in prices that would reflect the money businesses are saving by having customers do that work. For example, when I was young, a grocery store employee would take your cart to your car, load your groceries in the car, and take the cart back into the store. Now we not only are expected to return our carts, but also to bag our own groceries, and with increasing frequency, even perform self checkout. In fast food restaurants we are expected to prepare our own drinks. But are prices lower reflecting the extra work the customer does? Absolutely not. And in fact the self-service trend does cut jobs.

What’s your opinion?