Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Throwback Thursday: Wedding Gift Still at Work Nearly 35 Years Later

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2020 is the year of Kevin and Angie. At least that’s what my honey says. He wants to celebrate our 35th anniversary all year long. I can live with that.

Our actual wedding anniversary date is June 22, 1985. Happy anniversary to us!

I realize that many of you may not even have been born yet. Wow.

I’ve also lately realized that many of the gifts we received on that sunny Saturday so many years ago we still have, use, and enjoy. If it ain’t broke, keep it and use it. Sentimental value makes these gifts even more special.

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Like my casserole dish. I have really come into my own in using this versatile beauty over the last couple of years. For one, the size is perfect for the tiny RV stove. And the lid is an added bonus which allows me to cook covered dishes or uncovered foods. Perfect! An added bonus is how easy this is to clean. Nonstick without the Teflon.

This casserole and lid were originally part of a set. There was a smaller casserole dish and matching lid. I’m pretty sure the smaller dish did not make it to the 35th anniversary year. Unless (let’s all hope so) it has been in storage so long I can’t remember what happened to it.

I’ve cooked everything from quiche to apple crisp to salmon to tater tot casserole in the larger casserole. One of my favorite recipes is a no/low carb bacon cheeseburger casserole. You serve it with relish and diced red onions! The next time I make that I’ll try and remember to take some photos. But photos will not do it justice. One must taste it, relish, dill, and all.

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Featured in this casserole dish (again, the pictures are not great) is a no crust apple crisp. Sliced apples (unpeeled), oatmeal, cinnamon, and grated cheese. I sometimes add a tiny bit of water for moisture. Bake until apples are softened and cheese is melted. My stamping and eating buddy somehow came up with the recipe. Super easy and tasty. Thanks, Alyson.

Back to my casserole dish. I love the French words and images on the side. Many memories have been made when sharing foods baked in this wedding gift. Thank you, to the thoughtful giver. Who knew I would still have it so many years later?

If I could find my “wedding stuff” box, I bet I could even figure out who gave us this set. Now that would be fun. New goal before the actual anniversary date: FIND the wedding box.

How about you? Do you have any wedding gifts or sentimental items that you’ve kept over the years? I’d love to hear about them.
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Throwback Thursday: The Beginning of My Love of Horses

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The date on the photo reads May 1966. But I’m positive I’m not 3-4 years old in this picture. I will guess I’m 2 or 2 1/2 because I can just see the crib in the bedroom. That means my baby brother has been or soon will be born. We are about 2 1/2 years apart. Sometimes it takes a year or three to remember to take the film for developing.

So. Already I love horses. This one is special because I am carrying it, instead of the other way around. I’m looking pretty strong, the way I’m hauling my ride. I have my rocking chair, my horse, and I’m dressed for (guessing) church. Pretty styling with my navy coat and white hat and socks.

Signs of the times include rabbit ears on the television, the television, dish used for cigarette ashtray on the side table, glass decor, and pale yellow walls. This house was a rental as far as I know. During the early years, my dad was transferred quite a bit for his job, so moving was a part of our lifestyle.

What signs of the times do you remember seeing in old photographs from the year you were born?


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Throwback Thursday: Horses in the Desert

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Hello, friends. Allow me to introduce you to Royal Blaze, my scrappy and rotten Appaloosa filly. Blaze for short.

Mom and Dad surprised me, the lover of all things horses, with a four-month-old filly when we lived in southern Arizona between Huachuca City and Tombstone. Talk about hard to wait! I couldn’t ride her for quite some time. We had friends nearby with horse breaking experience, so they had Blaze for about a month. And poof, she came back and we started riding together. Not to say that we didn’t have moments of extreme excitement when we miscommunicated or she decided to make her own choices, but for the most part, we enjoyed our time together.

In this picture, probably taken between 1976-1977, I am in 8th or 9th grade. We lived, literally, in the middle of nowhere. The closest “town” was Vernon. I think that was a six mile drive, but I’m not positive. Vernon had a gas station/mini mart, post office, and maybe one church. Dad worked in Show Low to the west and we took the a little bus over a pass to the east to Springerville/Eager. Our bus driver lived right in Vernon. The bus stayed at her house. I have no idea what she did during the day while we were at school. But we all lived for snow storms and school announcements calling all Vernon kids to leave early to get over the pass.

You can see the mountain lion tree. That huge scrubby tree to the right. Our collie, Jody (Princess Josephine-hey, we had royal animals in our family), went ballistic one night. The next day, we found the huge paw prints. Mind you, this tree is in our front yard. I am sitting on Blaze IN the front yard. Mom is probably on the steps of the trailer taking this picture, due to the angle. That cat was very close to us, probably scoping out little kid or cat snacks.

You can also see the old car in the background, hood open, dad leaning over the engine. Good thing he was a great mechanic, since we owned cars needing regular attention. I wish I could ask my parents about this picture. I think the car belongs to my grandparents on my dad’s side. They made one trip to visit us out in the sticks. Actually, my grandmother or grandfather probably took the photo.

Now. Back to Blaze. In the White Mountains (named for the snow in winter, since they are obviously NOT white in this picture), we roamed far and wide. I shudder to think of the dangerous situations we avoided. I know God was protecting me at all times.

Our property bordered forest land. That meant plenty of wide open spaces for us to roam. Sometimes Jody went with us, sometimes not. She loved to find dead stuff to roll in, and was happiest when she came trotting home stinking to high heaven. The times she wasn’t allowed to go, I had to sneak into my boots and out the door. This did not always work. She was crushed when I left without her.

Timber Knoll was south of our trailer and Blaze and I explored the land on all sides. Once, a HUGE something was causing a ruckus in the underbrush. Loud. Scary. Both of us were skittish and beat a retreat off the knoll. I’m guessing it was a bear, judging by Blaze’s reaction and size of movement. Other times we avoided rattlesnakes and scary shadows. That horse. What a nut. She loved to spook and if I wasn’t paying attention, off I went. And off she ran to home. Or to the neighbor’s barn, which she deemed nicer than our place. I did spend quite a bit of time walking home and looking for that horse. I eventually learned to reflexively hold the reins if she spooked. That frustrated her but kept me in possession of a ride.

We had grand adventures, just me and the horse. Blaze was willing to tackle pretty  much anything except water and steep hills. I’m sure my mother had a heart attack every time I left. The area was pretty much wilderness with neighbors far and wide. And I’m sure she prayed for me and uttered words of thanks when we (or the horse, followed later by me) trotted up the driveway.

How about you? Did you have any special pets or adventures when you were growing up?


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Throwback Thursday: Mama’s Cooking

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my mom lately, especially in the car, which usually leads to driving through the tears. I truly miss all those phone calls, hugs, and visits since she passed away in May. She is happy. I will be fine. But I do miss her.

Which is not the main focus of my thoughts. For some reason, perhaps the upcoming season of feasts and gatherings, my inner foodie is on high alert. Mama was an excellent cook. Sure my dad usually had smart comments about biscuits being hard like hockey pucks or gravy being thick enough to plaster walls, but that was just dad. He loved to tease. That was how he showed love.

I know mama worked hard to keep us fed. She also worked as cheaply as possible, cutting costs, stretching meals, and making most meals from scratch. Even without much in the pantry, Mama was so creative, we still had filling meals. She might have been short on stature, but she was a giant in love and resourcefulness.

Not every meal did I LOVE. I avoided fried grit pancakes with syrup if possible and cornbread milk toast. Eggplant, no matter how much she battered and fried it, did not agree with my taste buds. But she was famous for so many of my favorite foods. I’m going to do a quick brainstorm list and see how many I can remember. Just consider that each dish was made from scratch…

Grits and eggs

Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits

Hash browns and gravy

Tortillas and refried beans

Burritos

Homemade bread, butter, and jam

Spaghetti (my go-to birthday request favorite meal)

The Gasser (her noteworthy casserole, aptly named, which included beans, onions, green chilies, corn, hash browns, corn tortillas, and enchilada sauce)

Chicken and dumplings

Pancakes

Homemade syrup

Jam

Fried bologna and cheese sandwiches

Sliced hotdogs baked with ketchup

Fresh corn (either frozen or on the ear)

Macaroni and milk, the first meal after stomach flu

Homemade noodles

 

Mama was always purchasing, harvesting, preserving, and storing food. I still remember the 50-pound bags of dried pinto beans, onions, and corn on the cob. We had goats, cows, chickens, and ducks. Eggs were plentiful and the milk was sold for extra cash. Nobody can drink that much milk! I was not a fan of the bits of cream lingering in the whole milk, regardless of how much we carefully skimmed it off the top. Unpasteurized to boot! It’s amazing that we survived.

How about you? Did you have favorite home-cooked meals? If you know my family, do you remember any other special foods my mama made?

 

 


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Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten in the 60s

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I remember living in Cle Elum the same year I attended kindergarten, 1966-67.

Kindergarten. This monumental first year of school was so much different in the 60s than in the here and now. In fact, many students didn’t even attend kinder, but started school when they were old enough for first grade.

Kindergarten in Cle Elum? Mandatory dresses for girls, must be able to tie shoe laces, and had to be 5 before school started. I must have been fine for tying my laces, since I remember wearing saddle ox shoes. Which (I just googled) was the common name for saddle oxford shoes quite popular at the time. I always thought they were called saddle LOCKS. Haha. Celebrating my birthday in November placed me among the oldest in my class.

I loved kindergarten. We had art, easel painting, music, recess, lunch, NAP time, stories, play time, and so many other fun activities. I remember my mother telling me that my teacher put me at a table full of noisy boys, hoping that I would calm them down. What she probably meant was that I was bossy and would tell them to be quiet. I’m sure I did. Tell them to be quiet. My oldest kid personality came out shining.

If you are familiar with Cle Elum, you know that it is a small town near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. We had winter. The type of winter where snow fell, temps were frigid, and everyone knew winter had arrived. We used to live in a two story home. I distinctly remember the year when so much snow fell, we had snow mountains piled high around our house. It became a game to jump out a second story window, land in the snow, follow the tunnel back to the door, run up the steps, and jump out again. Never fear, adults were involved in this seasonal sport. Honestly. I am not making this stuff up.

Also. The “girls must wear dresses” rule. My mom finally got so tired of me standing at the bus stop shivering and freezing that she sent me to school wearing, hold on tight now, pants! She was really stepping out and being rebellious. But she also wasn’t about to let her little girl get frostbite while wearing a cute dress with tights.

I’m pretty sure the above picture was taken in our backyard in Cle Elum. That is me on the left and my brother on the right. We loved playing on that swing set. Our family did so many fun activities when we lived in the mountains. We camped, explored, visited family and friends, climbed mountains, and spent time beside rivers. The northwest became our big backyard.

I remember another funny story about our time in Cle Elum. Mom could hear my brother and I giggling and the toilet flushing repeatedly. She quickly ran into the bathroom and we were entertaining a guest raccoon. Apparently we had let it in, or it had invited itself in. I have no idea how we discovered its love of running water, but the flushing toilet was a perfect play area. My poor mother!

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Learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels also happened during my Cle Elum and kindergarten years. I was so proud! Good thing there wasn’t a car parked in front of me when my dad was taking this picture!

What do you remember about kindergarten? Were you a paste taster? I still remember the smell and the urge to sample, though I don’t remember eating any. Share a favorite kinder memory. Let’s compare notes.


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Throwback Thursday: Flowers and Me

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I was pleased to find this little gem of a photo in my baby book. After losing mom in May, every treasure I uncover has become much more precious. My mama loved her little Angie.

I don’t remember seeing this photo before, though I know I’ve had it for years. Mom despaired of my hair growing and I was often seen sporting a comb-over wave to give the appearance of ample hair. Curly and fine, just like it is today. Though with much more gray.

These irises bloomed in front of my Grandma Wheetley’s house in Sunnyside, Washington. We visited often, I imagine, and this is also the town where my mother and father met and started the journey of lifelong marriage.

Little Angie, as I was nicknamed by grandparents on both sides, is nearly as tall as the gorgeous irises. What I love, besides seeing a much younger, cuter me, is that I obviously love flowers. Just like I do now. These days finds me planting more sunflowers, wildflowers, and blooming bushes, but the beginning of my love affair with gardening sprouted right there with me playing in the irises.

My mama was an excellent seamstress. I can’t ask now, but I think she or my grandmother probably made this dress. I so wish I could sit and pour over these childhood photos with her one more time. My siblings and I were blessed to have a mother who loved us unconditionally. Not that we didn’t get called on the carpet, but good mothers have to do that to straighten out our stubborn bits.

What special memories do you have of your parents or grandparents?


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Throwback Thursday: Kids & Nature in the Arizona Desert

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I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.

It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.

I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.

Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.

Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.

I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.

Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.

How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?


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Throwback Thursday: Things I Adopted Back Then That Are Still With Me

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Can you date this photo? Judging by the sandals, tank top, shorts, hair style, watch . . .

Well, I know the exact week. This picture of me (waayyy back before selfies-my honey had to take this, with an actual film camera) was taken on our honeymoon in June of 1985. So if you guessed mid-80s, you were spot on.

Looking back, I recognize signs that make me, well, me. Things I always do, have with me, or wear.

Tote bags. I LOVE tote bags. Just ask anyone who has traveled with me. One of my favorite souvenirs is a tote bag commemorating the location or adventure.

Minnie Mouse. Disney. I LOVE taking trips to Disneyland. We spent our honeymoon in Southern California, hitting Disneyland, the wax museum, and Knott’s Berry Farm. But Disney is my favorite.

Sandals. These pour things! I can’t believe I traipsed all over Los Angeles with them. Of course, now I am so much better at wearing appropriate shoes. 😉 TEVA sandals are all I wear. Much sturdier than these babies, and oh, what a fashion statement. It only takes one week in March to get back my TEVA tan. On my feet I mean.

Notepad and pen. I cannot comfortably leave home, travel, visit, meet, plan, or do anything without paper and pen. I can see I was already in the habit on our honeymoon.

The watch. Back then, no cell phones. People actually wore watches that ONLY told time. Like this one. Now, of course, cell phones do everything but put food in the oven. I’m sure they can turn the oven on though, for some tech-advanced families.

The brace. That’s a freebie. I tore my knee ligaments at college while playing in a racquetball tournament. This is the LITTLE brace! I was so happy to graduate from the full-leg version just before our wedding. Still, I walked with a limp, as evidenced by the wedding video. After our honeymoon, I returned home to multiple sessions of physical therapy to regain my graceful gait. ;0

Hair. Oh my. I actually had hair! And it was fluffy. Now with thinning and lots of products, most days my hair is under control. Or in a bun. A nana bun.

Shorts. Short shorts. Mine were not too bad, but the people in the background had much shorter shorts. You can’t see the waist band of mine, but it was one of those huge wide belts that were in fashion. Eww. Now I’m all about comfort. And skorts. I adore skorts. Skorts are me.

Generally speaking, this is me. I still sit with my foot out of my shoe like I did in this picture, I feel happiest when I have pen and paper, and my hair curls (or frizzes) wildly.

How about you? Do you have a picture of a younger you that showcases what you are today?


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Throwback Thursday: Cousins

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I found this picture while looking through my baby book, well, what is essentially my baby book from back in the days before instant photos, digital prints, and fancy printed books.

My baby album is one of the huge, sticky-paged tomes filled with blank space for inserting photos. The albums of sticky-is-not-good-for-photos type. Perhaps I should remove the photos and put them in something safer . . .

As the oldest of four, I am thankful that there are photos of me as a child. The more mouths, the less opportunity, time, and energy for mom and dad to click off oodles of pictures of their ever moving and hungry offspring.

If you squint just right, you’ll notice I look a little out of it. Kind of scary! But boy am I rocking that big bow and the golds and browns of the late 60’s.

It’s Christmas, complete with Aunt Helen’s tree trimmed in tinsel and flocking. The photo is cut in half, so I was thinking, “Why is a Christmas picture cut in half? We’re not old enough for bad relationships or family discord.” But after reading half of the back, my brother is listed in the photo, hand-written by Grandma Wheetley. My guess is that she or my mom cut it in half and my brother has his half with his baby photos. Best guess anyway.

Besides my towering appearance (and at barely 5’1″ now, this was nearly the extent of my towering over anyone), my cousin Melissa stands next to me. I wonder if this is when she started loving red clothes? She has some great red pieces I’ve seen her wear as an adult. She doesn’t suck her fingers (that I’ve seen). Instead she is an accomplished pianist, mama, and professional woman. Those jobs probably keep her fingers out of her mouth.

Family and friend, that’s what Melissa is to me. We’ve had each others’ backs for a very long time. Proximity, similar ages, family gatherings, overlapping interests, and time spent together through the thick and thins of life have cemented both our family love and our deep friendship. Blood AND friend.

(Pinterest= One of our favorite relaxing time activities, sitting beside each other in recliners and sending Pinterest ideas back and forth, even though we could easily just tilt our tablets and share. LOL)

So. I love all of my cousins, even if we don’t get together as often. Life is busy, and my calendar is just as crazy as the next person’s. Merry Christmas to my cousins, even if you were cut in half by Grandma and shared elsewhere! Love to you all. Anyone want to Pinterest?

Do you have any special friends or relatives? Of course we know they are ALL special, but what life pieces came together to build that bond? We’d love to hear.

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Said brother, Mark, who may have been cut off in the other half of the photo. I’m about 3 1/2 here. Since it’s May, Mark has probably just turned 2.

 


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#TBT Annabelle and The Garden

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My little girl, Annabelle! How she loved the garden and being outside and snuggles on my lap. I miss her mama personality. As you can see, Anna Banana owned the garden. The house. The yard. The couch. The bed. The chair. As any true cat does.

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This Throwback Thursday flings us back to when we first started a little kitchen garden in our old house. This triangle plot used to be cement. TOTAL concrete. Ugh! After my honey worked his fingers to the bone removing icky cement, I went right to work, planting tiny rows of radish, lettuce, beans, peas. We added flowers, parsley, thyme, and even strawberries. And every year, I continued to remove bits of broken concrete that worked its way to the surface.

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It bloomed, grew, produced, this little potager, and gave me hours of pleasure. It also transformed over time to include a fence (to keep tiny grands from trampling tender shoots), blueberries, a host of insects and pests, and a wide variety of vegetable experiments and floral specimens. The very best year of production was when our neighbor found and homed a swarm of honeybees. Oh, did we miss those bees when he moved!

Do you have a potager? A secret garden? A weed patch?

I’d love to hear.