Talking smack, on and off the track…

derbyYesterday I received a comment that the reader enjoyed my post but disagreed with most of what I said. I wasn’t at all offended but thought, “that’s why they have horse races,” thinking that is a well-known expression meaning we can all choose our own horse; decide what we do or don’t like. I thought is was an old horse-related adage as familiar as “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” The full version of this quote, by the way, was originally stated by Frank Robinson in 1973 when he said,  “Close don’t count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

But much to my surprise, after an extensive Google search, I could find no such “why we have horse races” expression quoted by a famous baseball player or anyone. Nowhere. Not even in Kentucky.

So I must have made it up, or my dad made it up or Grandpa Kyle made it up, but looks like it didn’t permeate common speech as far as I had thought. In my search, I was intrigued, though, by how many everyday expressions do allude to, and are derived from, horse racing terms. Many readers may already know these (yes you, Alan,) but I thought they were of interest and worth sharing. So for those of you as ignorant on this subject as I, here you go!

Horse Racing Terms Used In Common Speech 101:

across the board

Across the board originated around 1903 as a betting term in horse racing. Wagering across the board means betting that your horse will finish in either first, second, or third place–effectively betting all the way across a single line of the board.  In contemporary usage, this phrase indicates the inclusion of everyone or everything in a given scenario, such as across the board layoffs.

charley horse

What does a sharp muscle cramp have to do with a horse named Charley? The term charley horse began as baseball slang around the late 1800’s. Some think the phrase might be named for pitcher Charlie “Old Hoss” Radbourn, National Baseball Hall of Fame 1939, who suffered from sudden leg cramps. Again we have baseball and horse racing terms rubbing elbows–go figure. The Online Etymology Dictionary states that charley horse may be derived “from somebody’s long-forgotten lame racehorse.” But it’s suspected the cross-over to baseball was created by player Joe Quest, Chicago White Stockings (love the Stockings–now we in Chicago don’t even spell Socks right) from 1879-1882. Quest is quoted as saying, “the ball players troubled with the ailment hobbled exactly as did an old horse, a charley horse.”

dark horse

Dark, a term meaning lacking light, also means concealed, secret, or mysterious. By that token, a dark horse is a horse about whose racing powers little is known; a horse unfamiliar to the race organizers and the odds makers. Dark in this sense has nothing to do with color but more the unknown qualities of the horse. In daily speech, a dark horse often refers to any unexpected success. In politics, a dark horse candidate is one who seemingly appears out of nowhere and experiences a sudden gain in popularity.

front runner

Similarly, a front runner is the leading candidate in a contest, competition, or election and comes from the horse racing term referring to a horse that runs best while in the lead.

give and take

Give and take was originally referred to in horse racing.   The give and take plate was “a prize for a race in which the horses which exceed a standard height carry more, and those which fall short of it less than the standard weight,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  By 1769, give and take also referred to races in general in which bigger horses were given more weight to carry, lighter ones less. It was around 1778 that the phrase gained broader popular use meaning, “the art of compromise.”

hands down

To win something hands down means to win it easily. It comes from the practice of horse-racing jockeys loosening the reins and lowering their hands when it seemed certain that they will win. This type of confident finish in any scenerio has come to be known as winning hands down.

home stretch

When you’re in the home stretch, also known as the home straight, you’re almost done with whatever you’re trying to accomplish. That meaning began as a horse racing term in about 1841 and refers to the final length, or stretch, of the racetrack.

in (or out) of the running

In horse racing, those horses in the running are the lead competitors. This term came about in the mid-1800s, while the figurative meaning referring to viable, and not so viable, political candidates originated a couple of years later.

a run for one’s money

To give someone a run for their money means to give them a challenge. The term originated in horse racing around 1839, with the meaning “to have (or get, want, etc.) a successful race from a horse one has backed, especially when that horse appeared likely to be scratched, or  withdrawn,” again from the OED.

running mate

Running mate is yet another political term that we get from horse racing. It refers to a candidate or nominee for the lesser of two closely associated political office. In horse racing, a running mate is a horse used to set the pace in a race for another horse, and also, a horse that runs alongside a trotting or pacing horse in double harness, relieving that horse of some of the effort of pulling a load. (e.g. G. W. Bush/Dick Chaney?)

also ran

Commonly used to refer to the losing candidate in an election, an also ran is also an equestrian driven term for a non-winner. At the track, the results of each race would post the top finishers as well as the rest of the field. Any horse that doesn’t win is listed as an also ran.

down to the wire

Every procrastinator knows what it’s like to be working on a project till the last minute, but why to “a wire”? Today this expression refers to something being incomplete or unfinished until the last possible moment, but it originated in hotly contested horse races. A thin wire was strung above the finish line of the track to help the official—and later cameras—spot the horse that crossed the line first, and tight races went literally to the wire.

win by a nose 

This expression has spread to all different sports as a metaphor for a close contest even though a nose isn’t the first body part to cross the finish line in most human competitions. However, a horse’s nose is first over the line at the racetrack and is used as the reference for judging the victor. In racing, a “nose” also refers to the smallest margin of victory allowed for a horse to be officially declared the winner. Races won by a nose may also have been fought “neck and neck” as the horses ran side by side all the way to the end.

So there you have it, a former English teacher’s version of either boring you to death or a nice little distraction from whatever else you might be doing on this cool and rainy Thursday afternoon.

Tomorrow’s lesson will be on the unique verbage of petit point stitchers as well as a discussion of ocean allusions in space travel.

And if that appears, I will be hands down, across the board an also ran who before the home stretch of my short but hopeful blogging career was out of the running and dubbed, yet another equestrian term used in common speech, a horse’s ass.






“Montani semper liberi”–Mountaineers are always free

WVAs I have mentioned before, I spend any time I can at our lake house in my home state of West Virginia.  After we purchased this house eight years ago, I realized that novelist Thomas Wolfe was wrong, you can go home again.  I tell friends I exhaled for the first time in thirty years the day we signed the contract. These mountains are in my bones and this is the land of my people. I have always felt like a bit of a visitor living in the flatlands of the Midwest.

You see, West Virginians are fiercely loyal–to each other and their state. In fact, more West Virginians return to their home state to be buried than any other state in the union. The joke they tell here is the one where St. Peter is escorting a soul through heaven and is asked why there is a section that is walled-off. He replies: “Oh, that’s where we put the West Virginians. Otherwise they try to go back home on the weekend.” I don’t know a West Virginian on earth that doesn’t tear up, stand up or dance it up at the sound of the state’s now official state song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

Because of our mountains and sparse population, West Virginia is somewhat of an enigma to the rest of the country. And beauty is, West Virginians don’t really care. They like their state overlooked and underappreciated.  Leaves more room for them to live as they please.

As a whole, Mountaineers are completely uninhibited and comfortable in their own skins. If you ask a West Virginian for the time, they will tell you their name, their kids’ names, what they had for breakfast, their mother’s maiden name and how long the neighbor’s dog barked last night. And maybe get around to finally looking at their watch.

Unlike some other states that think pretty highly of themselves–California, New York, Texas, California–West Virginia doesn’t take itself that seriously. There is an unexpected candor and lack of pretense among West Virginians not often found in adults.

I was standing by the dryer sheets in Kroger recently and this voice beside me launched into an explanation of the many uses of Bounce, least important putting it in a dryer.  She said she had wasps on her back porch and she nailed dryer sheets all over her screen door and not only did the wasps disappear, the bees did, too. I was afraid to ask her where she had hung her Tide.

I actually found out later this a valid use of dryer sheets and had one friend tell me her allergist told her to keep them in her purse and car close to her allergic son’s epipen. Good sound horse sense and an unaffected ability and desire to share it with others. That’s a West Virginian.

My housekeeper, Trina, and her husband, Dean, told me that they were in Walmart last week in the ladies’ intimate apparel department. A lady engaged Trina in conversation beside the underwear, or “drawers” as Trina calls them. The woman said she had the hardest time finding the right size in stores. In fact, she told Trina, “I’m wearin’ my daughter’s bikini underwear right now.” “Why would I want to know what her underwear looked like?” Trina asked me as Dean added, “If she ain’t been so ugly, I would’ve asked her to seen ’em.”

Trina smacked his self-tattooed wrist (with her initials, by the way) and giggled. She cleans houses and he mines coal, both for 36 years.  One of the best marriages I know.

Many West Virginians are connected in some way by their shared livelihood, coal.  Whether you own it, mine it or cart it away, coal mining touches most families in the state. The mean income per capita and per household in West Virginia both rank forty-ninth out of our fifty states, with averages hovering around $22,000 to $38,000 per year over the last ten years.  Only Mississippi ranks lower on both counts. With this sort of struggle in its residents to stay afloat, one might suspect an “every man for himself” mentality when, in fact, it is quite the opposite. There is a common bond to keep their coal industry, and their beloved mountains that hold it, alive.

I was checking out at Walgreens and when the check out girl asked me if I had any coupons. I said I did not, lowering my eyes and thinking about what a lazy, spoiled person I am. With that she pulled out a black, plastic-lidded box with index card dividers delineating products. Shuffling through, she pulled one out and said brightly, “Here’s one for your razor blades.  And here’s another one for those batteries.” “Where do you get those I asked?” as she continued gliding her blue polka dot fingernails across the tabs. “A lot of the time I cut them out of the Sunday paper to bring to work. Just to help people out,” she replied.  She was all of 25.  I exited saving $7.00 as she waved me off with a smile.

In it together.

I suspect some of this unity is derived from the fact that West Virginia was the first, last and only state ever granted the right to secede from another state.  Passionately divided by northern and southern viewpoints during the Civil War, President Lincoln allowed western Virginia to separate from Virginia to become a new state, West Virginia. Something he safeguarded in the young nation’s Constitution to never be allowed again.

e card (1)

And so we were free.  Free to be the wild, wonderful state that we are.  A beautiful mountainous state with bountiful natural resources–the least of which is its people.

And I’m damn proud to be one.







My Mama

Sarah Noble (adjusted v2)So for all my avid readers–all five of you–you must have been wondering where I have been for the last couple of months. For starters, my son got married three weeks ago so the last six or so months have been spent scurrying around doing mother-of-the-groom duties (rehearsal dinner, finding a dress, rehearsal dinner, finding a dress, finding a purple dress, daughter hates the purple dress, daughter finding the new perfect dress in twenty minutes a week before the wedding, rehearsal dinner…)

But scurry or not, the muse has just not been sitting on my shoulder inspiring me to write. No muse.  No blog. I refuse to succumb to bland perfunctory entries to stay afloat.  If I lost you, I will miss you but at least I didn’t bore you with some trite everyday sort of dribble.

Part of my time of late has also been spent with my mom. Her health has been failing so I have had more than my usual trips to visit her.  It is so difficult at this stage in her life, and mine, the role reversal of mother and child. After an eight hour drive, I arrive at her door wanting to be held in her arms and feel safe, like I did as a little girl but she is fragile and her hugs are warm but she is weak.  I long to talk to her and ask her advice on wedding plans or chat about the roadside stop where I lost my keys.  And sometimes, we can do this and sometimes we can’t.  Her memory is failing and she works hard to focus.

It breaks my heart to watch her struggle; to search for words she used to teach me.

She is smart and she knows she is confused or has forgotten something that used to be second nature. I ache seeing that in her eyes. Walking is nearly impossible but with her trademark determination she pushes on, literally, refusing to succumb to a wheelchair and willing her walker and legs to get her where she needs to be. And usually she wins. Brave face held high.  A smile for each passerby. Teaching me how to maintain your dignity with a mind and body that wants to destroy it.

Two of my friends lost their mothers recently.  Really fine and special women, not only to their families but to our community.  Their obituaries reflected their individual spunk and personal passions. One husband was quoted as saying he “honestly couldn’t remember a bad day” with his wife. I thought my husband probably wouldn’t be able to say that about one week with me, much less a lifetime of marriage.

I left my last visit with my mom thinking about how her obituary might read. I had written my father’s with a newspaper deadline and a heavy heart.  I thought maybe thinking about mom’s while she is alive would be easier.

So as I drove across the country, I started dictating some thoughts to Siri; what I might want to have others know about my mom after her death. I started with the usual preliminary details and quickly launched into memories of my mom–the beautiful, loving and big-hearted woman that she is. Then midway through the second paragraph, I was surprised by unexpected tears, remembering the mom I grew up with, not the one I’d just left. The reality that she is slowly slipping away wrenched my heart and I finally felt the pain that had been slowly rising to the surface with each visit to find noticable decline in her health.

Mom is 91.  She has lived an incredibly long and lovely life.  She was married to my father for 64 years, raised three great (I happen to like us all) kids, worked as an executive secretary to put us through college but also spent many hours of her days with the luxury of doing what she wanted.  She loved birds, flowers, sitting in the sun at the beach, and adored, and still does, every second spent with her seven grandchildren. She had equal affection for “the elderly” and grade school children and spent countless volunteer hours reading to them both.

Those of you who had the good fortune of knowing the mother I grew up with, will remember her striking Elizabeth Taylor good looks mixed with an open and fearless heart.  She was charming, spunky, a bit of a flirt who loved to laugh.  At herself and a good joke. In spite of her present struggles, much of this woman still shines through. Her invincible spirit is just that and something I admire most about her.

Reflecting on this and so much more of my life with my remarkable mom, is a bittersweet mixture of love and gratitude combined with a few regrets and “what ifs.” My thoughts drift to “I wish I hadn’t said that” or “I wish I had said more.” But lucky me, I still can.

And I am immensely grateful for that.



Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs, or eggs that have been boiled, cut, yellows removed and restuffed in the whites, have been served as an appetizer and even a main course as far back as ancient Roman times. In the 1700’s, the name “deviled eggs” attached itself to this mode of serving eggs with “deviled” being a culinary term for chopping and adding spices. So if this historical tidbit is correct, Caesar might have been popping in some spicy eggs between those grapes right before old Brutus executed his stab in the back trick.

History aside, and really only added here for the purpose of putting a little “ask” in my “mrsmom” title, I just love deviled eggs.  They are right up there with “sheep in the meadow” for the ultimate comfort food.  (Soft boiled eggs, peeled and tossed with torn up heavily buttered toast with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.) The latter was my go-to antidote to most childhood illnesses, especially for a first real meal after stomach flu.

My son is especially fond of deviled eggs. At least until he graduated from high school, he called them “doubled eggs,” first with the earnest innocence of a child and later with a twinkle in his eye that always makes us both smile. Gotta admit, the name makes sense.

In the south, where deviled eggs are especially popular, they have come to be called “angel” eggs by some right wing born-again Christians.  As I have always said, that born-again thing must be hard on their mothers.  I’m just fine with one round of delivering a 10 pound baby, thank you very much. And a name is a name is a name. Until I discover angel dust in my egg bowl, they will always be deviled to me.

But whatever you call them, however you serve them and whatever part of the meal they comprise, deviled eggs for me are much more than food.  They are warm, fuzzy reminders of a mother’s love all bundled up in one delectably, squishy, delicious bite.

Which is why, no doubt, I often take deviled eggs to a friend who is sick or had a death in the family. My mom always took eggs, or her famous apple pie, in those situations so I have carried it on to this generation. I am going to share my recipe but it is so embarrassingly simple, just remember the main ingredient–love.

Deviled Eggs

10 eggs

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

French’s Yellow Mustard

Salt and Pepper

First you boil the eggs.  I use 10 eggs for 12 halves because I like to have big overstuffed eggs and the egg to yolk ratio of 1:1 is never enough for me.  And I also like to taste test as I go and wipe the yolk bowl clean with a left- over white.  Another in the kitchen with my mama memory. That is if I could pull my stool to the counter fast enough before she had polished it off all the scrapings in the bowl with her mixing fork.

I have a new boiling method that eliminates that ugly bluish/green color that can invade a hard boiled egg and makes the whites melt in your mouth soft.  No rubber.

Put eggs in cold water in a medium sized pan and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for two minutes.  Turn off heat and cover, and allow eggs to sit in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to cold water and throw in some ice cubes to create an egg ice bath. Gently tap the larger end of the egg on side of pan to slightly crack and allow water to seep in. Makes shell removal much smoother.  Let sit for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove eggs.  Pat dry and peel. Cut lengthwise and place 12 egg white halves on a serving platter.  I am partial to Fiesta’s pictured here.  Very durable and most importantly, made in West Virginia.

Put egg yellows in a small mixing bowl, including 4 extra yellows.  Save extra whites for bowl swiping.

Now the rest is to taste.  I start with about two heaping tablespoons of mayo and a healthy teaspoon of mustard and begin mixing, smashing and whipping the mixture together. I used to do all this with a fork but lately I have been using a small flat whisk and like what it does to the texture. I alternate between fork and wisk til the mixture is creamy but not too whipped.  A few small egg chunks are fine.

If it seems too dry, add more mayo. Too bland, more mustard.  But I do this slowly.  Too much of either is just that. Too much.

Add S and P to taste along the way.  When you think you have died and gone to heaven or are transported to your mama’s kitchen by taste testing your mixture on one of the extra whites, take a spoon and gently dollop the yellow mixture into the white halves, careful to keep as much as you can in the hole and not smeared on the edges.  Any attempt to clean the edges later is messy and usually fruitless.

Sprinkle tops with paprika or chili powder.  I prefer to us paprika and don’t sprinkle it directly but put it in my palm and pinch it on like you would salt.  Don’t want to over do it.

And there you have it in an eggshell.  Or out.

And don’t let anyone convince you to add olives, pickles, pickle juice, bacon or parsley.  Definitely no Miracle Whip for Hellmanns. You will regret it.









As a writer and a lover of words, I am a purist about my vocabulary and a bit hyper-vigilant about my word choices and the word choices of my children and grandchildren and even innocent bystanders I pass on the street, or hear on their cell phones in Walgreens. This universal phenomenon deserves an entire post of its own, by the way. Not my snooping on others’ conversations but the fact that they think I want to hear their cell phone chatter.  I was beside a woman in my local grocery store recently who was talking to a friend (I hope) about the results of her pap smear.  Really??! I bee lined from spices to dairy before I could hear the sordid details of her latest STD or her sex life. Neither, or the thought of someone else’s cooter, was anything I have interest in while picking up ingredients for chicken artichoke.

But on to my self-perceived impeccable vocabulary.  It has developed a tragic flaw, and ugly fracture in its well protected veneer.

I have begun to say “awesome” at everything.  I mean everything.  A worse case than the middle school kids I hear waiting at the bus stop. Not eavesdropping.  They all yell.

If my daughter says her baby learned to ride a scooter, I’m all “awesome.”

If the wireless phone bill  is under a hundred dollars, it’s “awesome.”

If my car is fixed and still under warranty, it’s “totally awesome.”

New shoes, new dress, fresh peaches, light turns green, no rain in the forecast–it’s all suddenly, amazingly “awesome” to me.

It took me a bit for this to sink in, this ridiculous overuse of a word so cliche in our society, I might as well be saying “whatever” (which my eldest might argue also needs some work) or “literally.” Gone is the true meaning of this word that implies reverence or admiration or majesty and in has crept this teeny bopper, Justin Beiber of a word that pops up at least once a conversation in my daily speech.

When I realized this I was horrified.  I think it happened one evening when my husband chuckled back to me (and he is not much of a chuckler or a responder at all past 7:00 PM) with something like, “Was it awesome or totally awesome?” Man, he might as well have told me I had ended a sentence in a preposition or said, my all time bugaboo in American speech, “with Jane and I.” One of Bryant Gumbel’s favorite ways to sign off before a commercial on the old Today Show.  It’s “me,” Bryant, “me.” For me, to me , at me, after me, with me.  It was enough to make me flip the station to CBS.

So husband’s point made, verbal gaff noticed, I have spent the last week trying to irradicate “awesome” from my vocabulary, and truth be told, I cannot tell you how painful it has been.  And alarming.

First of all, so many of the replacement words have been equally overused to near extinction of meaning.

“Excellent” started in Wayne and Garth’s basement on SNL and went on to permeate conversation as the pat response for anything from “dinner’s ready” to “the sky is clearing.”

“Nice” has taken on a whole new meaning of superiority in all things hip and cool and must be said in a long slow breath of appreciation rather than casually quipped as in, “N-i-c-e.”

“Great” has been a bit tarnished by taking on it’s opposite meaning as in, “The movie is sold out.”  “Great.”

So for now I am going with “wonderful” and “lovely.” Haven’t noticed them being bastardized by rapper’s jargon or adorable Jimmy Fallon’s opening monologue.

But, give ’em time.  Until then, I am going to enjoy the rest of this lovely day and tell my son I hope his trip to Mexico is wonderful.

And save awesome for when I finally see Mount Rushmore.


Mother’s Day thoughts…

A mother’s love and its eternal challenge:

“It’s come at last,”she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“‘Can anything harm us, mother, after the night-lights are lit?’

‘Nothing, precious,’ she said; ‘they are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children.’”

Peter Pan

Blue funk

You may have wondered why you haven’t heard from me in awhile.  I have been in a blue funk.  Appears this is a yearly phenomenon as you have seen two past March entries of similar post-winter doldrums.  And given the winter we recently survived in Chicago, I must say I am amazed that I am still standing at all.

My last post was the beginning of my downward spiral, talking about back aches, stiff knees and hip replacements rearing their ugly heads. No, life beyond our forties, ain’t for the faint of heart. And it’s downright exhausting. Just rolling out of bed in the morning (something for years I arrogantly took for granted) is an event in itself and getting through the day in one piece becomes an accomplishment.

So much to my surprise, my turn around from poor pitiful middle-aged me was a simple thing. Most of life’s “ah-ha” moments are seemingly nothing moments and often unexpected.

But in the flick of a wrist, I am back.

I swatted a fly mid-air and killed it.  And believe me, the fly was as stunned as I was.

It was one of those huge black and green-striped things that spontaneously combust from every crevice in your house right as spring is springing. God knows where they lurk all winter but first warm day with a hint of above sixty and out they pop, the size of small dive bombers, flying in frenzied circuits all over the house and then dopily banging into windows as they run out of gas.

Mine, of course, was in its first rush of post-hibernation exuberance which made my victory all the more satisfying. I was walking toward the computer to actually attempt a post on a completely different subject, which now escapes me.  Another sign of being “on in years.”

Anyway this fly, or small bird, was wildly circling the office, the roar of his buzzing louder than the tinnitus in my ears (don’t even get me started) and in a flash,  I knew my moment had come.

I dashed to the kitchen and returned armed with my swatter.  I had a few failed attempts at ensuring his demise, using perfectly precisioned swats on his ADD intermittent touch downs, but missing.

Then, I felt a burst of confidence.  A return of my youthful devil-may-care entusiasm and throwing caution to the wind, I smacked at him mid-flight and with that, he fell to the ground. No buzzing.  No irritating attempts at another take -off.  Dead. Done.

After a few victory laps around the room, my warrior weapon thrust proudly in the air, I sat down with the swatter swinging lazily from my fingers.  A sort of a post tennis match pose the pros use when their opponant is dripping in sweat and the victor is calmly pondering his racket in mock humility.

And I thanked that fly.  I thanked him for helping me get my mojo back.  He was a sign of spring, rebirth, renewed energy and in spite of the fact that I squelched all that good stuff for him, my moment of athletic prowess was just what I needed to reemerge myself.  To remember that there is more juice in this engine and plenty of miles to cover on the road ahead.

I fell asleep quickly and slept soundly, for the first night in weeks. New hope welled in my chest and other than the bag of ice I have tied to my game point elbow this morning, I am a new woman.

Tonight, I am sleeping with my swatter by my bed.

Next victory, I might  start that novel.


Are you a windshield or a rear view mirror type?

I had a birthday last week.  Not a hallmark year just a regular garden variety getting older year.  I celebrated surrounded by family. My favorite way to spend an evening, birthday or not.

I would venture to say, no one loves their birthday more than I do.  Especially no adult I know.  I have always loved it. My kids tease that I have a “birthday eve” and a “birthday week”  and we talk about it for days before the actual event.

I don’t love my birthday for the gifts and the cake and the special attention but for the fact that it’s just my day. A day where I kick back and let whatever happens come without my planning and stewing and most of all, me not controlling any of it.  It doesn’t matter if it rains or snows or is dark or bleak or cold.  My birthday always feels warm and full of love and I am happy.

But this year–I am sure you could feel me inching toward an epiphany–my birthday was different.  First of all, it was the number.  Not a bad one, and we all are thankful for every year we reach in good health and have those we love here to celebrate another year together.

It was just the number that jolted me into the realization that I have lived more decades than I have to look forward to.  I don’t feel like I am peddling along in the middle of the pack anymore, but drifting back toward the group that gets the applause just for finishing.

I don’t mean this in a “woe is poor little me” sort of way but more as a shift in my perspective that “tempus is fugitting” faster than I am peddling and it is time to realize, if I ever am going to, that these really are the days to make each moment count.

What is becoming increasingly more poignant to me is something my father said to me before he died. He was a good Christian, church every Sunday kind of guy who never strayed from the straight and narrow and dutifully did eveything with the best of intentions and a clean conscience.  If anyone was going to walk through the Pearly Gates with no questions asked , it was Dad.  But in spite of that, I’m sure he was just a little unsettled about that huge unknown of what really happens after all this.

He looked at me one of the last times I saw him before he died and said, “I just don’t want to miss how it all turns out.”

And now twelve years later, I know exactly what he meant.  If I do the math, I will be using a walker when my oldest grandson graduates from college and will definitely need assistance getting into the stands when his younger brother plays fullback or goalie for the Hawks.

I know Matthew McConaughey has gotten some flack for his Oscar acceptance speech, but I liked it, rambly and slightly egotistical as it was. (Or maybe I am just a sucker for a hot guy in a white dinner jacket.) But what I saw and heard in him on that stage was a man hitting his stride and spouting out some pretty good goals.

“Someone to look up to.  Something to look forward to.  Someone to chase.”

Until now, I have always been a rear view mirror sort of girl.  Living in the now but always second guessing my decisions and the  paths I took to get here. Letting my regrets and “what ifs” overshadow some of the best “nows” that were sitting in my lap. So I am hoping to take this little meaningless number birthday and try to switch my perspective from looking backward to forward. Only.

As for who I look up to, that would have to be my children. They are all taking brave paths with confidence and determination I either didn’t have or lacked the chutzpah to exercise.

And with or without that walker, I’m going to chase this little dream of being a published author some day.

And my grandsons while they still squeal with joy when I catch them.


Askmrsmom channels Hints from Heloise!

I had to laugh just writing that title.  I am a little ashamed and a lot relieved to say, I don’t clean my own house. Well sometimes, but I have help.  I am very fortunate. And appreciative I am able to have someone else do what I hate to do. I can be  a whiz in the kitchen, love sparkly countertops (Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner a favorite)  and rarely leave dishes in the sink unless it is a stubborn skillet that needs to soak and even then, never overnight.  Nothing worse than waking up to last night’s spaghetti noodles floating lazily in tomato-tinged soapy water.

So what got me on this subject this morning, it’s Wednesday and my “person who helps me” (I refuse to call her my cleaning lady) is here. I was walking into the living room to sit down and read the paper with a hot cup of tea and tripped over the vacuum cleaner that was lying across the entrance to the room.  I know, there is so much to needle me about here.  Yes, I was in my PJ’s.  Yes, I was going to repose with some tea and the morning news while someone else dusted and vacuumed around me and yes, I might have been looking at my cell phone when I fell instead of looking where I was going. Only checking weather and headlines, of course.

Anyway, I twisted my ankle on the bad foot I had surgery on two years ago and as I went down, the contents of my tea mug went flying across the room and splattered all over the taupe linen chair I was headed toward. In my scramble to right myself and get at the tea stains ASAP, I  set my warm mug on a lovely old–like in antique old–desk my husband’s father gave us.

First things first, I addressed the brown tea splats that were quickly soaking into my chair with a bottle of club soda that I sprinkled rather dumped all over the stained areas and began quickly dopping the extra up with a terry cloth rag I grabbed from “the person who helps me’s” supply caddy. Club soda is a known helpful hint for most any stain–anywhere–but the dopping motion (a term my mom taught me) is key.  Dopping is a quick patting, not rubbing,motion in a press/release sort of wrist action. It’s hard to explain in words, but you get the picture.  Don’t rub the soda and stain in, pat it out and up and away from the fabric in fluid quick motions.

If you can picture that, you should see my jump shot.

Anyway, as the wet spots on the chair were drying and hopefully disappearing, I turned in triumph to see a huge white circle growing on the desk top at the base of my mug.  I grabbed the cup and thought as my dad used to say, “You have really done it now, Nancy Noble.” Not to be deterred, I ran/limped to the computer and googled very articulately, “how to get white moisture rings out of varnished wooden furniture” and voila!  What to my wondering eyes did appear not one but several solutions, and I tried them all.  Here is what I found:

–First tip was cover the area with a thin cloth and iron, yes iron, the spot on low heat to hopefully remove the moisture.  Did that, worked sort of, but  pale white ring still remained. Was surprised though that one:  the heat didn’t hurt the not spotted surface and two:  I knew how to turn on the iron.

–Second plan of attack was mayonnaise.  I only use Hellman’s, even love it over Duke’s, but for furniture repair, I doubt it matters.  I was instructed to rub the mayo gently into the wood in a circular motion for five minutes. Being a bit ADD, I did  this for about three minutes and then wiped the surface clean. Gave the desk an awesome shine, but still had a pale white ring.

–Bachelor number three was the most aggressive and much to my amazement, did the trick!  I was told to mix white toothpaste (not gel and no whitening agents) with baking soda and water to make a thick paste.  I was lucky to have Tom’s natural toothpaste on hand so I mixed that with the soda I keep in my frig for odors, a helpful tip but everyone knows it, and rubbed away at the stain.  At first, I thought I had ruined the desk as the surface seemed sort of dull but after rubbing the paste off with the mayo cloth, it looked brand new!

Bingo, bango, bongo, as my husband likes to say, mission accomplished.

Maybe I will have a weekly helpful hint.  Or maybe that will go the way of my weekly recipes that show up more monthly or quarterly.  But I will sign off with a few of my favorite stain/spot averters, just as a teaser for future posts:

Cream of Tartar with water paste to clean small stainless steel appliances. Wipe in circular motion and buff dry with clean cloth.  Microfiber cloth and water is simplest and best to remove fingerprints from large stainless surfaces like frig, stove or dishwater. Damp cloth to clean and dry to buff.

Carbona Stain Devils are amazingly good for wine and tea stains on clothing. Even if the piece has been washed and dried.  Use as directed.  Shallow bowl of hot water and soak with Carbona granules.  Works like magic. In laundry section of most grocery stores or in bulk on Comes in many different stain solutions:  oil, crayon, ink, etc.

Wine B’ Gone for red wine stains on carpet or table cloths. What is a party without a spill? I purchased at a wine store and it is also magic. Spray and it goes away.

So until the Heloise part of my brain reappears, happy Wednesday, happy cleaning and happy hump day. Hopefully that Geico camel won’t lump through here and tip my replenished tea mug.

But if he does, I am now fully armed.





My son-in-law did me the honor of tweeting about the delicious “1970’s” meatloaf  I dropped off at his kitchen door yesterday around dinner time. Since he is thirty years younger than I, 1970 would seem like antiquity to him and  a pretty “old fashioned” food.

I, on the other hand, think of meatloaf as a 1950’s dinner staple. It certainly was in my house growing up. Similar to other recipes I have posted, my recipe is a family one I have used for years and copied from my sister. It is by far the best meatloaf you will ever taste.

But after the “tweet”, I started wondering just how far back meatloaf goes as a dinner table food. I sort of put it in the southern weekday dinner category or roadside diner menu stuff.  I guess what I am saying, I don’t think of meatloaf as a sophisticated food but a warm and fuzzy, Leave it to Beaver kind of dinner meat.

Comfort food.

So I decided to do a little research on this country cook delicacy and I was a bit surprised.  Fact is, meatloaf has European origins and dates back to Roman cookery as early as the 5th Century. It is a traditional German and Belgian dish and a not-so-distant cousin to the Dutch meatball. It appeared on American tables as early as Colonial times but did not show up in cookbooks until the 19th Century.

So there you have it, more than you will ever need to know or care about the history of meatloaf.  So on to the good stuff. Perfecting the art of meatloaf.

Having made it since I was first married, I have learned some tricks of the trade. First, since it is a loaf, it involves some kneading and squishing not unlike mixing dough for a loaf of bread.  Until recently, I always did this with my bare hands (freshly washed, of course), something I sort of dreaded. I’m not sure there is anyone who relishes working with raw ground meat but the result is such a crowd pleaser,  I always forged ahead. Until recently when said son-in-law’s nanny commented, as I was whipping up a couple loaves for dinner,  that she always uses thin rubber gloves.


So now I keep thin rubber surgical gloves on hand, pun intended, and they work perfectly. Some folks use pork or lamb mixed with beef for their meatloaf and you can often find that mixture in meat departments by the pound ready to go.  I am a purist and only use beef, in fact, I use grass fed these days for my organic kids. Recently discovered an organic grocery delivery service that arrives fresh on your doorstep for no extra charge. Not just local but in larger cities across the country. But that is the subject of another post.

So without further ado:

Kay’s Best Meatloaf Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


2 1/3 lbs. ground sirloin, round or  chuck

2 eggs

1 c. quick Quaker oats

1 pkg. Lipton or Knorr dried onion soup mix

1 1/4 c. whole Carnation Milk (Sorry, not hip or chic.  In a red and white can near baking goods.)

3/4 c. catsup

Fresh pepper

BBQ sauce, Kay’s personal favorites are Masterpeice or K.C. Original

In a medium-sized mixing bowl (I use stainless) whip eggs with a fork unitl smooth and then combine with all other indredients except BBQ sauce.  Add meat and mix well using bare or glove-covered hands. Split mixture in half and shape into two loaves.  Can put in two separate glass or metal loaf pans or side by side in a 9×13 baking pan. (I rub either with oil or butter to make for easier clean up.)

Top each loaf with BBQ sauce, spread evenly over loaf.  Catsup will do if you don’t have any.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Remove and let cool a bit.  Tastes better warm than hot and is great leftover next day on a sandwich, slathered with mayo and my brother adds left-over baked beans.

I know, so un-PC, but so much better than quinoa and kale.