The weird warm weather continues. I’m getting the idea that it might be better to plan for a cool weather biking and walking vacation in late January than count on a cross-country ski vacation. We’re thinking of going someplace in Michigan, but plans are vague yet. After a lazy Sunday afternoon (David did go for a bike ride) we went to his dad’s so David could sign the mat for a photo he’s having framed for Shel. It’s another in a series of landscape photos – kind of high end “my kid’s art on the fridge,” if you will. It’ll look very nice. Afterwards we went to dinner at one of Shel’s favorite places with another family friend. It’s one of Shel’s favorites because they have GREAT coupons.
According to the Facebooks, my sister Timmy is enjoying the first major snowfall of the season up in her pretty Idaho Panhandle valley, and my sister Tudy reports a bunch of heavy, wet snow in Salt Lake.
Today must be Donut Day, as we say in the fambly: the day Mom would make homemade donuts to celebrate the first snow of the season. Going to Krispy Kreme would not cut it; Mom used to make a fairly dense deep-fried donut that was a solid dunker, not one of those greasy loops of yeasty puff that Krispy Kreme makes.
I remember as a kid the phone would start ringing when the first flakes appeared; people would call from all over and ask if it was “Donut Day” or not. Mom would not pull out the deep fryer until the forecast was pretty certain for snow, and then she’d wait for that first magical day when it “stuck” and covered the lawn AND the sidewalks. My niece Raeanne and I would both bring schoolfriends home when it happened on a schoolday; “My mom is making donuts today!” or “Grandma’s makin’ the donuts!” and my sisters and cousins and aunt would drop by… there would be a pot of coffee and a fire in the fireplace, and people would just show up, nab a couple of donuts or donut holes and a cup of coffee, and hang out for a while.
She’d make plain, cinnamon sugared, and powdered sugared – that’s it, no fancy stuff. The batter she made resulted in crusty, wrinkly donuts that had a “snap” when you bit into them; not soft or tender cake, it was a more substantial bite held on to the sugar coating, but tasted good plain, too. Any kids that showed up early were put to work rolling donut holes in jelly sheets and plates full of sugar, and there was lots of laughing and “Hey! No eating until everybody gets here!” jokes.
That rule was frequently broken.
The thing is, I had a major “moms’ moment” earlier while reading my sister Timmy’s Facebook update about the “first snow of the season” and how it was Donut Day in northern Idaho. I started to type out a comment about missing the taste of Mom’s donuts, and Facebook helpfully supplied a link to my “other Mom,” Leah. I had to… just stop for a second and feel the absence of my two moms all over again, while David snoozed by my side.
I should explain that Saturday mornings are generally spent sleeping in, listening to the radio (WBEZ’s Saturday lineup includes Morning Edition, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now This American Life). I generally have my iPad handy, reading the Internets news and the Twitter and the Feeddler (a blog and news aggregator that I can share stuff with). So I was catching up with Facebook friends and family (Hey! My niece Holly is playing golf in Africa! With zebras!) and sharing silly Finnish videos) when I ran across my sister’s snow post (and my other sister Tudy’s “it’s snowing in Salt Lake too” post) and commented.
I cried a little, very quietly but intensely. David slept peacefully while I looked at Leah’s little pop-up link and thought how much I missed her (she passed in May this year) and my own mom (she passed in June 2006). It seemed like a thing to be blogged; I started to set up the post and all the techy things that go with that, like grabbing a screencap image and hunting down a wireless Bluetooth keyboard to make it easier to type on the iPad. I didn’t want to drag out the laptop, since I still had to at least start the post this way in order to get the image. Blah, blah, techy bullshit blah.
So while writing this up my niece Raeanne (who lives just below my sister Timmy in their little valley) called to say, yes, “It’s Donut Day! I’m makin’ the donuts!” while I was still in the middle of my “moms’ moment” that inspired this post. This makes me have a happeh and a sad, because of course I’m not there to help roll out donut holes in sugar (and sneak some of the “ugly” ones) and laugh and talk with family.
We talked for an hour, catching up. Her daughter Paige ordered her not to make donuts yesterday, when it also snowed, because it hadn’t snowed in Kellogg where Paige was, so it didn’t count. She had to wait for today, and Paige would make the donuts herself.
Now THAT’s tradition.
Ranny has to get ready for a houseful and get all the stuff set out, but we still gabbled on about family stuff and all the little things that you miss out on when you’re not hanging out in the same room, drinking coffee and eating donuts with a bunch of friends and family.
I sure don’t need the donuts (working from home has been a very sedentary experience) but I expect a care package soon, dammit!
Love you all. It’s Donut Day!
Once upon a time in my childhood, my year revolved around the “kid holidays;” the beginning of “school’s out” for summer, Halloween, and Christmas.
In my candy-addled mind at the time, Halloween loomed pretty large – not quite as big a deal as Christmas, but one in which kids were kind of autonomous. We had to work for the biggest candy haul possible, whether we or our parents made our own costumes or had store bought ones. The year I was old enough to go out trick-or-treating on my own was probably when I was… 7 or 8, although I stuck with the other neighbor kids in an area bounded by about 1 or two blocks on either side of our street, but not across the busy street west of us. A block east of us, there was a gully, so that served as an irregular border on that side.
As I got into my 9th, 10th, and 11th years, I had a bigger range: my costumes were never pretty princesses, they were generally tomboyish ones like pirates and gypsies and hobos. Once I think I was some kind of space alien with googly eyes Mom found on a crazy craft-glue yarn base built on a balloon – although that may have originally been my niece Ranny’s costume. Anyway, my costumes had to be practical and allow freedom of movement, because I had a lot of blocks to cover. Toward the end of my career as a trick-or-treater, I went several blocks on either side of our house, almost as far as my school 6 long Salt Lake blocks north, and I went east along all the streets that hung on the edge of the gully until the curve brought me uncomfortably close to the range of a childhood enemy, into whose turf I didn’t care to stray. Mostly, I was out on my own then, until 9 o’clock at night. I’d return with my plastic pumpkin full of goodies – and yes, my last year I took a pillowcase, like the “big mean guys” who still went around in their teens (pathetic, really, but I had to admit the pillowcase got me some negative comments that last year).
I had a strategy: any house that was lit was fair game. Any house that was highly decorated or appeared to have an extra fun feature like a “spook alley” out the back or in their garage was a big draw, and sure to have lots of candy. I mostly remember ringing a lot of doorbells and hollering “TRICK OR TREAT!” and glimpsing the inside of a lot of Salt Lake bungalows. I stayed out as late as I dared but when the streets started to feel empty and the only other ones out were the big kids with pillowcases (who were not above taking a smaller, weaker kid’s candy) it was time to head home and survey the haul.
Any house with no lights showing or an unlit porchlight was to be avoided, however, because they were OLD MEANIES who DIDN’T HAVE CANDY.
I quickly learned which of the elderly and middle-aged people with no kids living on our street were useless for Halloween candy-gathering purposes; they were nice enough the rest of the year, but mean at Halloween. Oh, they might give an actual neighborhood kid something home-made, but there was a protocol. Home-made stuff was okay only if we knew them and greeted them by name. Strangers, not so much. Even then I remember the warnings about needles and razors in apples and popcorn balls, and so reluctantly I threw those out (the popcorn balls, anyway). People living on other streets with their lights off and not showing any decorations were just mean and not to be bothered with.
Well, last night I officially became the mean lady that doesn’t give out candy at Halloween. I have become the kind of adult I loathed as a trick-or-treater.
Yes, I barricaded the front walk to prevent kids from getting to the front door. And then I blocked the front door with a lawn chair, and placed a large pushbroom over the doorbell so the li’l dollinks couldn’t ring the damn thing.
In this woefully fallen modern era, kids no longer go around in full darkness; most of the activity ends after the light fades. The littlest kids, toddlers really, are still taken around by their parents, but now they’re loaded into the family car and driven to the neighborhoods of friends and family (or simply driven to richer candy hunting grounds, sadly). The evening hour sees a few older kids going around, and then it’s over. But there’s no way for the early ones to see if the porch light is on; they come to the door in packs and ring and knock.
Other years here in the neighborhood, I’ve actually dressed up to give out candy, but always had a lot left over which inevitably got eaten by yours truly (David never was big on chocolate candy, and now he’s eating much too healthily). The last couple of years we haven’t bothered to get candy, and it got to be pretty irritating listening to the doorbell ring during the “early shift” of very young toddlers whose parents couldn’t tell the porch light was off. So we started putting chairs and things on the walkway, but they’d just push them out of the way or come around on the side where there’s a bare spot in the flowerbed.
So yesterday, after about the 4th or 5th doorbell rang AFTER placing lawn chairs on the walkway, between two big lilac bushes leading up to the door, I did the Mean Neighbor Lady thing.
I opened the door with a crash, stuck my head out (there were about 5 or 6 little kids running across the lawn, with an adult or two out on the sidewalk) and hollered,
“I’M SORRY, CHILDREN, THERE IS NO CANDY HERE. NO CANDY. THE WALKWAY IS BLOCKED.”
I heard a male voice calling to them “You guys have to pay attention – you have to look to see if the porch light is on.”
I sighed and retreated to the hall, and after they left, rebuilt my barricades more thoroughly. That’s when I propped the second chair up against the door (which is not that great an idea if the house burst into flames set by aggravated trick-or-treat toddlers bent on candy-deprived revenge). And I also grabbed a big push-broom from the garage and propped it up over the doorbell. A broken mop stuck through the sides of the other chair into the lilac bushes on either side completed my anti-toddler defenses, but of course like the Maginot line there was a big gap on the side where we took out a juniper tree that was too close to the house.
Yes, my childhood self hates what I have become. Maybe I’d better buy some candy while it’s still in the stores but on markdown.
They open the doors for you when you arrive, and the warm welcome sets a nice tone.
We had a double queen wheelchair accessible room; probably could change it now that the weekend is almost over, but won’t bother. The amenities, besides the golf course on-site, include a small conference center, a small but nicely arranged indoor pool, two jacuzzi tubs on the deck, and dining in a big lodge room with a 3-story river cobble fireplace. There’s screened deck seating and a deck bar when the weather is fine (and it has been). The food is very good although the service is a bit slow (which was partly due to a large tour group in-house the first morning).
My sister Timmy and her hubby Frank would like this place, it’s a nice drive from their home in Kellogg, especially after turning off of I-90. Attention, Frank: fly fishing galore on the way, and also on the way up to West Glacier. And there’s a spa and gift shop here, too. The van picks up in town until 2am (at least on the weekends) so dinner and entertainment are no problem.
We will definitely stay here on a future trip, maybe break it up with a stay on the east side of the park as its a haul to get over there for some of the activities.
The scenery is amazing – not visible from down in town, but a dramatic reveal as you drive up from the entrance (once past the ugly sprawl in the area of Columbia Falls, between Whitefish and West Glacier).
We’ll return the car to Whitefish airport Wednesday, which was cheaper than dropping it in West Glacier, and the hotel van will follow us and bring us back. Then they’ll take us to the train station in Whitefish the last morning. It’s worked out pretty well, staying here, and I give it at least 4 stars.
The only drawback; the wheelchair accessible room looks a bit unfinished compared to the other rooms I’ve glimpsed. The shelves need a bit of trim and the shower needs a curtain of some kind (it’s a nice roomy roll-in). The bedding is really nice, the towels are wonderfully fluffy, and there’s wifi.
Nice property, nice people; Grouse Mountain Lodge is a great value and a good home base for touring the Glacier Park area… And I might need a massage later, so that’s covered, too.
Grouse Mountain Lodge is ideally located in beautiful Whitefish, Montana, minutes from Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as Glacier National Park.With 143 beautifully appointed guest rooms, extensive meeting & event space, an on-site activity planning company, sumptuous dining, and a substantial list of services & amenities, Grouse Mountain Lodge truly is the premier choice in Montana resorts.
So far, we’ve
- Flown from Chicago to Seattle
- had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with boats
- explored the Seattle Underground with tourons and alleged rats
- hiked on a beautiful forested trail by a remote beach
- had delicious beers with friends
- had circus with bread, which is a little different than having bread and circuses.
- avoided Seafair, but not the Seafair Pirates
- driven to Idaho
- hung out with family
- walked on a rails to trails route
- been licked by dogs
- eaten huckleberry ice cream (me only)
- eaten Vienna Sausages (again me only)
- seen 2 deer
- seen innumerable ground squirrels and chipmunks
- driven over Moon Pass
- eaten coconut shrimp
- booed a villain at the mellerdrammer
- ridden bikes through old railroad tunnels and over trestles
- watched satellites and shooting stars
- laughed a lot
- seen BATS!
- Had a slow leak BOO!
- Gotten it fixed at least temporarily YAY!
We’ve had a wonderful trip so far.
We flew into Seattle last Friday and stayed downtown at the Silver Cloud Lake Union – of course the nav system misguided us but we eventually got there (it sits on a narrow lot between two streets, but the entrance is on Fairview, NOT Eastlake). The room was very nice, with a fridge and wet bar, and they had a good hot breakfast each morning in a really beautiful third-floor breakfast room with comfy couches and tables, overlooking the boatyards at the south end of Lake Union. The SLU Trolley (which used to be known as the S.L.U.T. until somebody pointed it out to Sound Transit) ends just a block down, in front of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (and the Residence Inn Hotel).
We hardly took the car out of the garage that weekend – the hotel van does Pickoop Andropoffs at the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, and Pioneer Square, so we took advantage of it 2 days running. David had never been on the Seattle Underground Tour, but I had done it many years ago and wanted to see it again (somewhere at home I still have the book).
On Sunday, we went for an urban hike in Discovery Park and put in about 5 miles or so (maybe a little farther according to David’s GPS). It took a while to find parking, it was such a nice day; everybody in Seattle not at Seafair was at the park.
After that and a little break, we went downtown to meet up with Kevin and Lynn at the Central Saloon (one of my old hangouts) for some tasty beverages, before they had to take off for the Sounders game. We walked back up to Pike Place, which was closing down for the day… but I found my way back to the Pink Door! It was awesome, the look on David’s face, when I pushed the “anonymous” looking door open on Post Alley and went inside. He was like “where the HELL are you going??”
They had a circus performer doing tricks from a big ring suspended from the ceiling. The food was incredible; I had a pasta dish with prosciutto, garlic, excellent olive oil, more garlic, and mint. David had Cioppino Pink Door and pronounced it excellent.
After that we wandered back to the pickup point. JUST MISSED a van, but waited in front of the Chocolate Box shop and the cupcake-and-ice-cream place; David bought me a tin of Chocolate Tea, and we wondered about the QR code and the Post-It Note art up in the windows of the building across the street (I was really into the architecture, we really need to plan ahead next time and take a tour). The QR resolved to some kind of SEO firm.
We left Seattle in our rented Ford Escape and headed to Idaho to see my sisters (Timmy lives there, my sister Tudy was up for the week from Salt Lake) and my niece Raeanne and her kids Collin and Paige. Timmy and her hubby Frank have this great house they built up the gulch from the Interstate, but it’s remote feeling enough that you get wildlife (like the bear that visited them a few weeks back). Frank built a Bear Alarm in case it comes back; he’s got concertina wire strung along the lower level deck that leads to a Diet Coke can full of gravel outside their bedroom window on the level above. Because of the slope of their lot, both levels have decks – the living room/kitchen/bedroom level is where the “front” door is behind the house.
We hung out there in the evening the first night watching for satellites and the ISS and talking about everything… including the amazing pictures sent back from the Curiousity rover right after it landed on Mars the night before:
Yeah, the Internets were fun the other night, hard to explain to my sister and brother-in-law, as they’re not that into that geeky stuff.
We spent the last four days visiting, going to Melodramas, soaking in the rooftop hot tub at the Silver Mountain Resort, walking on bike paths with family, riding on bike paths with just the two of us, and generally having a ball. I highly recommend the Trail of the Hiawatha mountain bike path! But also recommend that you either bring your own bikes, or rent from a bike shop in town rather than from the bike shop up at Lookout Pass Ski Resort, which is the concessionaire for the trail access. The bikes we rented were in need of a little TLC – my front wheel was out of true and had to be swapped out by a friendly trail marshall about 2 miles down the trail from the East Portal tunnel.
As you ride, you go through several spooky (and cold!) tunnels and over several high trestles. David and I almost got run down by a deer in one long tunnel, which kept getting spooked by bikes and reversing direction. I heard it coming with this “galumphy galumphy” noise in the dark ahead of me; suddenly my dim headlight illuminated something that was all hooves, knee joints, and terrified eyes and ears before it executed a mid-air pirouette and went back up the trail to daylight. The tunnels were inky dark (did I mention cold) and headlamps would be handy, as the lights they rent to you are okay but not really that bright.
Gosh, it was FUN, though. Even with my creaky, rattling bike it was fun. It’s a steady 2% downgrade for 15 miles, so you have to pedal to have any kind of speed, but it’s easy pedaling. A series of old buses run shuttle schedules from the bottom of the trail back up to the WEST portal of the first long tunnel – you have to ride back up through the tunnel to the parking lot at the EAST portal, but the grade was level at that point and no problem. I had a nice skunk tail when I was done, but I also won the trivia contest that Sheri the bus driver did, so I got FREE ice cream (but also bought 2 nice T-shirts to commemorate our ride).
We would definitely do that again – it was busy even on a Thursday, so get there early in the day and to avoid delays, check your equipment with a test ride if you rent.
We’re leaving for the “third half” of our vacation in Glacier National Park. We’re about to pack up and go – after a short delay caused by 2 (TWO) nails in our rear left tire. Slow leak, we called Avis, they sent a guy from local operator Nicholson’s to get us on the spare, and David got it fixed for free at Les Schwab. So we’re good to go – time to button up and see what happens next.
We’ll be in Glacier at Grouse Mountain Lodge for a bit less than a week, then on Amtrak to go home to Glenview, IL. Should be interesting, as delays are expected due to summer heat and the usual “slow freight” backups. Better pictures to follow, too. Here’s what I took on the iPhone in the meantime.
Leah gets lei’d at Maui Kahului Airport in September, 2007
Leah Sharron Gibbs, nee Green, age 70, beloved wife for 50 years and best friend of Sheldon. Loving mother of David (Virginia), Daniel, Mitchell (Gloria) Gibbs. Cherished grandmother of Melissa, Joshua, Jennifer and Naomi. Dear sister of the late Seymour Green. Devoted daughter of the late Abrasha and Udasha. Fond sister-in-law of Norma and Bill Brown. Loving aunt of many nieces and nephews. Long time teacher at Serena Hills School in Chicago Heights, IL. Member of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. Services Thursday, 11 A M. at B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom, 1424 183rd Street, Homewood. Interment Shalom. In lieu of flowers contributions in her name to the Cancer Support Center, 2028 Elm Road, Homewood, IL 60430 would be appreciated.
A rare flower bloomed for a time, but lives forever in the garden of memory.
She lived in amazing times, from Saturday, November 8th, 1941 to Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th, 2012. She was a month old when “a day that will live in infamy” dawned. Ironically enough, that day took place in Hawaii too, but this picture shows Leah being greeted at Maui airport with 2 flower lei and a hug by my husband David. She and my father-in-law Sheldon joined us there to help me celebrate my 50th birthday in 2007.
She loved, loved, loved so many things. Purple, books, flowers, good food, good friends, and travel; most of all, she loved her family deeply and wanted the best for each of us. She welcomed me, even though we come from different backgrounds, without hesitation and with open arms. I was proud to call her a friend as well as my my mother-in-law; after my own mom died in 2006, Leah became my second mom. She also had a deep connection with my sister-in-law Gloria, who was able to spend a lot of time with Leah in the last few months, attending meetings in Leah’s home with her “Goddesses” support group.
The Cancer Support Center meant a great deal to Leah, and we will be donating in her name for as long as it takes. Please consider making a donation on their website, or check out their amazing yearly fundraiser/silent auction/talent show.
I haven’t been able to say much here on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter about what was going on with Leah, but she passed away today surrounded by friends and family. She was in home hospice care until last Monday, and then it was decided that she needed to go into the hospice unit in a hospital farther to the south from her home. For the last week we’d been making the long drive back and forth between here and a place I thought of as the “Borderlands Hotel.”
We’re grateful for the care she received, and thankful that she no longer needs it. She’s at peace now.
While all of us in the family were at her home tonight, decompressing from the enormity of losing a wife, mother, sister, and grandmother, I browsed in the pile of books on a side table by her favorite sofa. One passage, just 2 short pages, was marked by not just one, but FOUR bookmarks AND a dog-ear. I should have borrowed that book, but there will be time to retrieve it with all the to-and-fro we have to do this week. It had interesting insights on life, living with cancer, and doing it with humor and grace.
If you’re not aware of how awesome Carl Kasell is as the official “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” scorekeeper, you’re completely missing the point of this post and there’s very little hope for you. However, there’s still time to catch up if you get to work immediately listening to old episodes in the archives. Or check out their excellent blog, which seems to be mostly about food.
My brother-in-law Mitch pulled off an incredible coup recently; some time ago he wrote to our local public radio station (the mighty, mighty, WBEZ) and simply asked if he could get a “Carl Kasell on your home answering machine” recording as a surprise for his (our) parents’ upcoming 50th wedding anniversary, which is June 10th.
We’ve all listened to the message, and as my husband David likes to say, it’s TREMENDOUS.
It makes us both laugh and cry at the same time, which is quite a feat as we’re not that dramatic a family. It even references the name of the restaurant where the party was originally planned to be; in the meantime a much smaller and quieter gathering will happen, probably at “the folks” house. Sadly, we will be short one beloved person that day.
This change of plans does not prevent us from getting a lot of mileage out of the recording, which we can now play via our smartphones at any time -we do not need to wait for a phone call. No operators need stand by. Modern technology is a miraculous thing.
Thus, we can laugh (or what have you) at any time we wish. This is a TREMENDOUS blessing.
Carl Kasell is, quite simply, teh awesome. Sir: you rock. You helped us laugh. Thank you.
Riley is doing pretty well on his kitty chemo regimen.
Work is good, my desk will be next to a window starting Monday.
My doctor is now satisfied that my weird blood tests are “normal for me.” But, ow.
We’re looking forward to vacation in a few weeks, but trying to stay flexible.
Family is mostly good, though there is lots that must remain unsaid.
Church is good, but need to catch up on some updates for the website.
Our niece Melissa is coming over for a few hours; we’ll hang out with Rileycat and then head off to see the new Muppet movie, and after that we’ll all go down to see her grandparents and have dinner. She’ll stay with them tonight.
It’s a social whirlwind when she comes to town – she lives pretty quietly down in Southern Illinois, so we try to pack a lot of “family time” into her occasional visits up here for holidays.
Thanksgiving was a nice time… David’s Aunt Norma did a lovely job as always, hosting 42 (!) people at 4 different tables. Mmmmm, stuffed mushrooms, my favorite horse doover!
Oooh! She’s here!