…a world away…in our own “backyard”

A typical scenic view on just about any Washin...

A typical scenic view on just about any Washington state freeway. This is northbound I-405 in Bothell, WA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past weekend hubby and I enjoyed some nice get-away time, thanks to it being combined with company business.

Thursday afternoon found us driving east toward wide open country, where buildings disappear from view only to be replaced by oceans of evergreens. God’s land, as He had envisioned it. Before He relinquished all to us.

Over the next couple of days, I breathed air that was free of pollutants. The great outdoors, whether bathed in brilliant sunlight or the shadowy gray of falling raindrops, was nonetheless boldly painted in varying shades of green. Only Mother Nature, keeper of our planet, could’ve imagined such a pallette.

Though reminiscent of our time years ago in Banff, Canada, Suncadia Resort Lodge lay only a short distance from our home in the suburbs of Seattle. We plan to return mid-summer to spend some quality family time with our 24-year-old daughter in tow. After a month’s dancing with a contemporary company in Pittsburgh, she’ll be ready for a day at the spa.

Nights are earmarked for challenging games of Bananagrams. All bets are off as to who will be declared the winner. Although my loved ones know…

…if hugmamma ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy!…

………hugmamma.   😆   

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blogging, still mind-boggling

With our recent spate of inclement weather, blogging has not been smooth. My Comcast connection has been operating in “fits and starts.” Is that the right cliché? I can never nail those. One minute I’m typing away, churning out the words, then “poof,” I get kicked off the internet.

Lately I’ve been running between my laptop upstairs, and the household computer down here in the “bowels of the earth.” You’d think the exercise up and down stairs would’ve lost me a few pounds. But no luck, with the holidays comfortably ensconced upon me, there’s no let up in shoveling tasty morsels into my eager mouth throughout the day. Frustration only increases the number of times, and the portion sizes.

I’m writing to forewarn you about the regularity with which my posts may appear. I’m still here, but most of the time I seem to be blogging in isolation, that is until Comcast gets me back out into cyberspace. I do plan to call them today, and ask if there might be a problem. I wonder how many buttons I’ll have to press to get through their programmed customer service menu, to actually ask my question? I just wish the darned computer would work without any hitches. At times like this is when I feel like flinging it through the nearest window.

The other item I wanted to mention is the modification in my blog’s title. For regular readers who know that my site was known as “Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail,” you might have wondered “Whaaas up?” My lovely daughter and I put our pretty, little heads together is “whaaa happened.”

Maintaining a blog is an ongoing challenge, especially if I want to continue attracting readers. All bloggers face this dilemma. While remaining true to its core message, I must tweak my site every now and then, until it finally evolves into a product with which I’m fully satisfied.  I’m not there yet. Much of it is to do with my limited computer skills, like uploading photos and videos. Yes, I can learn; but no, I haven’t the patience. I simply want to write. So as soon as I established the basic platform from which to launch my passion, I stopped wanting to learn. And so it’s my fault that all the “neat stuff” still eludes me.

While I do congratulate myself for coming this far in 4 short months, I’m itching to go farther. Long story short, I felt that the previous title of my blog was not helping to get my “voice” further out into the internet community. The title needed words which were more likely to be “clicked on.” But I didn’t think too hard upon the subject, only mentioning it to my daughter in passing.

As if waving a magic wand, my daughter immediately proclaimed that the title of my blog should be “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul.” She explained, very eloquently, that my posts already fell under these 3 categories. Pet topics like Alzheimer’s and bananagrams involve the mind; food, and all its subcategories, as well as alternative health practices involve the body; and my travel commentaries and philosophical ramblings are “food” for the soul.

Like me, “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul,” continues to evolve. I hope you’ll stay with me as I continue sharing my thoughts and feelings about the minutiae of every day life, mine…and hopefully, yours. 

huge hugs as we head toward 2011, when we’ll all bloom…hugmamma.  

 

gray skies above, warm hearts below

Our “signature” weather here in the Pacific Northwest never goes out of style. So it’s with little fanfare that we welcome the return of menacing gray skies, upon whose heels arrive the downpour of “angels’ tears.” Our family has learned to take it all in stride.

The dismal weather gives us a chance to burrow under blankets, read a mountain of books, piled high magazines and Wall Street Journals, sup on homemade soups, play endless rounds of Bananagrams, and just recently, cribbage.

Once-in-awhile, my daughter and I settle in to watch old films on DVD, like “Anna and the King of Siam,” starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunn. Totally different from “The King and I,” the colorized version with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, my daughter was enthralled with the more serious story told in the older version. Unlike its successor, it was a drama, not a musical. In it the king does not dance with the teacher, nor does Tuptim stage the story of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

After Mass yesterday we decided to drive out to Snohomish, where antique stores abound. Enroute we stopped at a favorite haunt, Maltby Cafe. It’s not a restaurant we frequent because of its distance, and because the meals taste like mom’s cooking, which means lo-cal is not a high priority. The few times we’ve driven to partake of this gastronomical feast, there has always been a lineup of hungry customers. But everyone minds their manners. We put our names on a list, and wait patiently, the cafe’s “monster” cinnamon roll making me salivate at the thought of biting into it, melted icing escaping out the corners of my grinning lips.

The Cafe is cozily ensconced in the basement of a building. After 20 minutes or so of eager anticipation,  we were comfortably seated at a table. We took our time looking through the menu, deciding what to eat. My husband is always the first to make a selection. His pick was some gigantic omelet, whose name  escapes me. Meanwhile, my daughter and I read the menu as though it were a novel, poring over each page from top to bottom.

I started with “desserts” on the back of the menu. The “melted caramel sundae” sounded divine, and loaded with calories! Coming to my senses, I chose French toast with marionberries and creme fraiche on the side. With it I ordered a dish of red, fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms and diced ham. Of course, half of it came home in a “doggie bag.” The same was true of my daughter’s meal, homemade Italian sausages with  scrambled eggs, and biscuits with gravy.

While awaiting our main courses, we began with an appetizer. We sliced the long-awaited cinnamon roll 4 ways. We still brought home half of it. As we “oohed and aahed” and hungrily devoured morsels of the heavenly pastry, our eyes wandered around the spacious dining room. Devotees of HGTV, we agreed that the Cafe could easily be transformed into a basement apartment. The long breakfast bar along one side of the room could serve as informal family dining, while the main room could easily house a living space, office space, dining space, and perhaps spare sleeping area. Through a door towards the back would probably be a bedroom. At the very back of the restaurant were a men’s and women’s restroom. And, of course, there was a kitchen through a door behind the breakfast bar. Beams running the length of the ceiling added to the warmth and charm of the room. I think our family qualifies for its own designer show on HGTV. My husband and daughter would probably say “Yeah, right.” They’re not as full of ideas as I am. Or am I… just full of it? Hmmm. Whatever…

Tummies full, we drove on to our final destination. Hunting for bargains in antique shops is a “high” for me. Most dealers, if not all, thrive on finding treasures for unbelievably fabulous prices, in other words, cheap. Once upon a time it was possible, and it may be again, given the current economy. But the difficulty now is that while something may be a bargain, how much of a markup can the market bear? Where nearly 2 decades ago I could double the price of what I paid for an item, I’m no longer able to do so in most cases. So the profit margin has shrunk considerably. Why remain in the business?

All antique dealers are passionate about “old” stuff, their history, their  craftsmanship, and the idea that these items are very much relics of the past. Walking through aisles of artifacts usually stirs up memories of bygone days, before all the modern conveniences like dishwashers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, computers. Instead, my eyes linger over dishracks and colorful dish towels, vintage clothes drying racks or clothes lines that unwind from a green or blue tin box, pie safes that use to store perishable foods from pesky flies, and typewriters, Royals and Underwoods.

With the holidays approaching, I opted to purchase several silver plated serving platters of various shapes and sizes. The prices were reasonable, most $12, a couple $16. They’re not in mint condition, but for the right price, customers will purchase them as beautiful accents for festive celebrations. Shabby chic is in these days, especially at stores like Crate and Barrel. Why pay their exorbitant prices for “knock-offs,” when the real thing can be bought for half the price or less? “Used” means it’s been loved in its former life.

Meandering the back roads under a threatening, gray sky in verdant Washington State, is as special as lazing under the tropical sun, on a white sand beach in Maui. 

found anywhere, blessings…hugmamma.

bananagrams, quiz

Since I’ve been at my daughter’s we’ve played BANANAGRAMS every evening after dinner. On weekends we go at it a couple of times a day, afternoon and late evening. Our vocabulary has multiplied tenfold. It helps that I blog, and my daughter does crossword puzzles. We’ve learned some new words from each other. After we’re done playing, we continue tossing out words we hadn’t thought of, especially consonants for which words do not quickly spring to mind.

Tonight we thought it’d be fun to ask you, the reader, to submit your answers to the following quiz in the “comment” box below. We’d like to see what words you come up with; we might use them when we play  BANANAGRAMS.

In ONE MINUTE, write at least one word for each of the following letters:  J, K, Q, V, W, X, Z.

Here’s my results:  jalopy, kangaroo, quill, evangelist, cowl, oxygen, Zeitgeist, Jo, ankle, quota

Second attempt:  jail,wrinkle, equal, vase, web, ox, zebra, jilt, kibble, quaint, veil, wuss

Third attempt:  adjoin, kegel, quibble, visible, wed, sox, ozone, jingle, inkling 

Notice I couldn’t get through the list of letters twice, i.e. 2 words each. My second attempt only got as far as “w.” Can you come up with 2 words for each letter in ONE MINUTE? 3 words?

 challenge you…hugmamma.

parenting, a forever “job”

When my daughter called asking if I’d visit with her, I didn’t hesitate. My husband quickly arranged for Southwest nonstop tickets to the east coast. I’ve been here a couple of weeks, enjoying a very relaxing time doing what I do best, mothering. Gone all day to rehearsals, my daughter arrives home to a hot meal, lovingly prepared. Cooking for her, someone who not only appreciates a delicious meal, but also the labor involved, motivates me to be the gourmet chef I know I can be. It’s not always in evidence, for I am prone to bouts of laziness, preferring to order take-out. But seeing my daughter walk through the front door, sniffing the air, “oohing and aahing” over the smells emanating from the kitchen, I relish being “Mother of the Year” to my 24-year-old, independent, career ballerina.

Scarfing down a delicious meal, clearing away the dishes and food, we settle down to playing  bananagrams. A nightly ritual, we go several rounds. Where I may have won most games when I first arrived; we are now evenly matched. My daughter wins some; and I win some. We both like the odds so much better than when my husband joins us.

Having been a voracious reader for decades, my husband almost always wins at word games, including crosswords and Scrabble. I’d given up playing these and other games, like cards, with him because he was merciless in his desire to win. He still is. My only recourse then (and now) was to threaten to throw over the game, board, pieces, cards, whatever. Threats and pleas fell on deaf ears. The man was (and remains) a gladiator in his own home, battling until he’s defeated his opponent, left whimpering and pouting, swearing never to enter into another match again…ever! Game playing is the rare occasion when being the youngest sibling in my family and his being the eldest in his, has the hairs on my neck standing straight up in defiance. Unlike the old days of my childhood, I refuse to give in and give up. In other words, I’m no longer inclined to “lay down and die.” Perhaps not engaging in game playing for decades has contributed to our happy marriage of 40 years. Hey, whatever it takes!

Time to get dinner started. Showtime is in an hour or so. Don’t want to disappoint my audience of one. She always appreciates my mothering, whether long distance or in person. It’s wonderful that my 24-year-old still needs me at 61. Parenting has always been my favorite job!

and am glad it’s, forever…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.

family fun, friends too

Our daughter introduced us to a new game she learned from dance friends, which has become a family favorite, “Bananagrams.” It plays like the game “Scrabble,” without a board.

Tiles are placed face down on the table. Players take the same number of tiles to begin play. For the 3 of us, the number was 21. The tiles are placed face down in front of each person. At the same time, everyone flips the tiles. As they do, they begin creating words connecting them to one another as in crosswords. When a player uses all her tiles, she yells “peel” and everyone must take another tile. As more tiles are taken, players can rework their crosswords to make new words. If a player gets stuck and cannot make a word using a tile, she yells “bruised” and trades that tile for 3 from the pile. The game continues in this fashion until the first player uses all her tiles and yells “Bananagrams!”

Great way to spend an evening with family and friends, learning new words, having lots of laughs. And it doesn’t require the internet, a computer, a cell phone, a Black Berry, or any other fandangled gadget. Just good old-fashioned book-learning! Let’s hear it for the “Good old days!” Hip, hip, hooray!!!

now if I can only beat you know who…hugmamma.