Hip Hip Hooray, Sandy came to stay!

My excellent friend, Sandy, came to visit!  She and I were neighbors when we were married to our first husbands.  Sandy moved on shortly before I did.

We each bought small Sears Bungalow homes in the Village of Barrington.  We would meet early every morning and walk for hours, covering mile after mile.  Following our rambles, we’d go to the local Starbucks, sit outside with coffee, and watch the commuters heading to the train.

We often bumped into a former neighbor, Ned.  Ned was reputed to be connected with the Mafia.  He always sat in a corner with his back to the wall.  I have no idea if the Mob rumors were true.  Sandy and I liked to imagine they were.  It made Ned seem mysterious and vaguely dangerous.  We envisioned long-lensed cameras trained on us as we sat chatting with him and his brother, the head of the local Teamsters union.

In spite of Mafia speculation, both guys were friendly, made us laugh, and paid for our coffee. ( Tony Soprano was often fun and funny too.  Until he wasn’t.)

Clearly, the law thought Ned had done something nefarious. He ended up doing a stint in the men’s penitentiary.  Each holiday Sandy and I would sit at Starbucks, write him letters, and clue him in on who was swilling coffee that day.  He always wrote back.  Following his release, he told us how much he appreciated those wacky notes. (*see note at end of this post)

My first Thanksgiving as a single person was spent with Sandy.  We’d both been invited to share the day with different large families, but we chose to put on our walking shoes and hoof around town.  I remember kicking dried autumn leaves and smelling the scent of roasting turkey wafting on the chilly breeze.   Unconventional, we planned to cook a Thanksgiving meal of steaks, baked potatoes, and asparagus.  Instead, we ended up swilling apple martini’s and too schnockered to turn on the grill.  Fortunately, my daughter Mo turned up and did the food prep.  The parts of the evening I remember were lots of fun.

Ultimately Sandy made the decision to move to Colorado.  She loaded two bikes on the back of her car, set out alone to parts unknown.  Now she’s as happy as a clam (where does that saying come from?  How does anyone know if clams are happy?), spending her life teaching Pilates, mountain biking and taking long rocky hikes.

I have a million happy Sandy stories.  She’s delightfully childlike.  But also really deep and into metaphysical reading.  I will give her Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Maybe she’ll get it.  I sure didn’t.

Here is a curious Sandy fact–In the early ’80s she and I lived within two miles of each other in Buck’s County, Pa.  We both happened to shop at a tiny independent grocery store.  Mo threw up there several times.  (I blogged about Mo’s constant car sickness and was going to reference the blog date here….Can’t ferret it out. ) Trust me, Mo tossed her cookies frequently for the better part of her first four years.  I clearly recall being in the produce aisle at that independent grocery when Mo was puking.  I noticed a petite young mother with a cart full of tiny girls.  Three blonds and a red-head.

Fast forward to the Chicago suburbs.  I met the petite young mother and her four little chicks!  She and I put it together she had lived in Yardley, Pa. when my family was in nearby Washington Crossing.  Clearly destined to be friends, eh?

Yesterday Sandy and I spent the entire day in silly and serious conversation, reminiscing, and putting Ina Garten’s cookbooks in the order we figured they’d been published.  Ina has gotten chunkier with each volume.  We examined Ina’s book jacket photos, peering at her freckled, round face.  Sandy devised a competition.  Who could line up the books in chronological order based on the fullness of Ina’s face?  Sandy won.

I served only Ina recipes during Sandy’s stay.  I’ve gotten chubby on Ina’s good food.  Ina’s gotten chubby on Ina’s good food.  But Sandy didn’t get one ounce fatter!  How does she do that? Furthermore, she gobbled darn near an entire bag of Dove dark chocolates.  Not fair.

Friday Sandy went to the fancy schmancy Don Cesar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, where she attended a wedding.  I loaned her Gracie, my designed-to-impress Honda mini-van.  I know the well-heeled guests were awed when they got a gander of Gracie’s Dollar Tree steering wheel cover.

Only the best for my Gracie girl.  Yes, I’m a hillbilly at heart.

Jim and I took Sandy to the Tampa airport on Saturday.  When we got home we read what she had written in our guest book.



Jason is Jim’s son.  Jason has scads of entries in the guestbook.   We are delighted Sandy has chosen to compete with him.  Go forth and depose Jason as king of the guest book.  I’ll  start stocking up on Dove dark chocolates.

Yay  Sandy!  We are thrilled to know you will be back again in July,  September, November (bring my birthday gift. cash is king)….and so forth.  Love you, sweet friend.

*Sandy read this and reminded me we got one letter back, “return to sender.”  We’d glued bits and bobs of random stuff to the card.  Seems glue is penitentiary prohibited.  So, gentle readers, keep that in mind when next you write to felons.


How knitting saved my marriage

I have a wonderful vintage button collection, but still love to purchase buttons I don’t need with money I don’t have.
This is my latest project.  I’ve found a victim and will ship it in the fall.  Isn’t the  big green button great?  Found it in a Chicago thrift store, as well as those rust colored ones.  They even have a hint of purple. Perfection.

I am an awful knitter…and that’s good because practicing my knitting makes road trips with my husband way less stressful.

When I first began knitting I dropped so many stitches you could fit your head through the holes in my scarves.  So I’d knit patches to cover the holes.  Then I’d sew buttons over the holes in the patches.  My early scarves were really weird.  Twelve inches wide in spots, four inches wide in other places.  But that didn’t stop me from handing those odd rags out to (long-suffering) friends.  One was so heavy and thick I’m pretty certain my buddy had to crawl when wearing…it dragged her to the pavement.

Here’s how my bad knitting has saved my marriage.  I only knit in the car when Jim and I take long road trips.  He hates the way I drive.  I hate the way he drives right back.  He follows too closely causing me to have to press the imaginary brake in the passenger seat foot well.  And occasionally gasp loudly.

I took up knitting so I am looking down when he’s driving.  Eyes on the needles!  We’re both happier that way.

I suppose he hates my driving because I’m quite a bad driver.  I never knew it until a whole lot of people informed me.  I’m slow.  Hands nervously at two and ten.

In 2005 I bought myself a darling Mini Cooper. I chose the fastest engine, manual transmission, British racing green and SO CUTE.  That zoom-zoom engine was totally wasted on me.  I probably never drove that Mini over 55 mph. I swore I’d NEVER sell that car–her name was Maude.

Then, much to Jim’s dismay, I opted to trade Maude in for a mini-van– a baby blue, Honda Odyssey named Stella. We travel with our beloved dog, Bronson. More about him in future posts. I wanted Bronson to have total comfort and several cup holders.

The day we mini-van shopped Jim brought along Maude’s title. He swore he’d only mini- van shop ONCE, so we’d better damn well find the right car that day.

Well, he was wrong. We mini-van shopped twice.  I traded Stella in for a newer, slicker model. Gracie. She’s gray.  Creative, eh? She has a little refrigerator in the front seat. And, happily, she has a fine brake in the foot well of the passenger side.

We’ll take Gracie to Chicago in August.  Jim will be driving.  I will be knitting.  Anyone want a scarf?  I’ve gotten better! Rarely drop stitches, but still add patches and buttons for fun.  All my new friends are Floridians.  I need some cold weather victims. LMK if your neck needs warming up.

honda odyssey                mini cooper