Bella Rum

A Grand Visit

What a great weekend for a visit with the Grand Trio. It was in the seventies and sunny with the bluest skies you’ve ever seen. It was a three-day weekend because of Presidents’ Day, so they didn’t have to leave until Monday.

The meatloaf and mashed potatoes went over just fine with my grandson. That kid makes me feel great. No matter what I cook, he likes it.

The oldest grand will turn eleven soon. I’ve smartened up about the older ones. I got her to show me what she wanted online. The little one is still pleased with anything you give her, but the older they get, the more selective they become. You can’t just pick up a doll with magnetic clothes or a stuffed doggie anymore. She chose something very inexpensive (I didn’t even know what the thing was). I wanted to give her more than what she chose, so her mom took mercy on me. She told me I could contribute to a larger gift they’re getting for her. That makes it so easy for me. I think this is the way to go as they get older.

img_2332Lilou loved the bike that H found for her at Goodwill. It looked brand new, and it even had a basket on it. H bought pink handlebar streamers, and that was all the fancying up it needed. A man who can choose pink streamers and knows all the names of all the Disney princesses is a rare find, and she knows it. She loves him so much. If he goes to the bathroom, she instructs me to tell her as soon as he’s finished. When it was time to leave, she told him she didn’t want to go.img_2334

It came equipped with a princess license plate: wrong state, correct title.

Since it was such a pretty day, we took them to a nearby park. On the way home, out of the blue, Lilou asked, “Do you know what would make me happy?” Impersonating the intensity of a talk-show host, her dad said, “No, Lilou, but we’d love to hear. What would make you happy?” She said, “A puppy!” Still the baby – for now – but it’s fleeting.

I did not see a blow-up swimming pool this weekend, but I did see bare feet. And no one caught pneumonia.

Bare feet in February!

Today is detox day: clean food, exercise and lots of water.

Some Like it Thin

The kids will get here this morning. I decided to make garlicky green beans, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I’ve done very well on the scales this week and decided I’d enjoy this weekend but… small portions. No dessert, just sherbet for the kids.

Yesterday, I unintentionally jumped all over the last nerve of the lady-at-the-deli. H stood in line at the deli in Kroger, and I ran all over the store gathering the other items we needed. When I finished, he was eating a sample of hard salami as the lady-at-the-deli sliced it. I tasted it and said to H, “I hope the rest of it isn’t this thick.” Okay. I like my salami thin. He usually tells the-lady-at-the-deli “thin” if he’s the one getting it, but I guess he forgot. This salami was wad-up-in-your-mouth thick.

The lady-at-the-deli must have heard me when I told H that I hoped the rest of it wasn’t that thick, because she took a deep breath and said, “I’ll do the rest thinner.” She then took a slice of the thin meat and brought it over to us. Saying nothing, she held it out… toward me. H said, “That looks good.” She then shoved it further toward me, getting eye contact and still saying nothing. I smiled and said, “Thank you. That’s perfect.” She went back to slicing. She did the same routine – glaring and never saying a word – with the cheese and ham. Awkward. Here’s the thing, I felt kind of guilty and picky. So picky. I think I ruined her morning because I like thin salami. It’s hard to serve the public, and I don’t relish being one of “those people” that they go home and tell stories about.

Look at this:

Meet the Free Electric hybrid bike. Billionaire founder Manoj Bhargava and his team developed the Free Electric hybrid bicycle to take advantage of mechanical energy created by humans to solve one of the world’s most pervasive problems.


When an individual pedals the bike, the action drives a flywheel, which turns a generator and charges a battery.
… this free power invention has the potential to lift the 1.3 billion people who presently live without electricity out of poverty.
Having access to clean, free energy will enable poverty-stricken communities to not only light their homes but to connect to the internet and get educated. Bhargava says the reason the majority of those who are poor stay poor is because they have no power. He aims to fix this with the free energy bicycle.
— Source: Expand Your Consciousness

There are so many challenges in the world and even more on the horizon. Inventors and those who fund them can impact huge problems on a wide scale and change lives forever with one invention. It’s kind of inspiring.

Valentines and Politics (sort of)

We were in Dollar Tree for something and saw all the valentine cards, and all the people choosing valentines for their valentines. So we stood there and chose cards for each other. We are not romantic types or big on gift-giving. We’re pretty good to each other all year long… except when we’re not. With every year that passes, it’s easier to be good to each other. Egos have settled down, you finally really know each other (to the extent it’s possible to know another person), there are no trust issues. If there ever were, they’re long gone by now. We can still muster up an attitude occasionally, but it is short-lived and infrequent. H said the other night that neither of us has improved that much, we’ve just accepted each other, so each of us seems better to the other than we really are. That’s probably true. And who else is going to take us at this late date? There is that.

Can I just say, to those of you who’ve followed this blog for a few years, our practically brand spank’n new refrigerator is sick. It isn’t even two-years-old, and this is the second time we’ve had to call someone out. It’s always the ice maker. We lived in our other house thirteen years, and we had to buy three – that’s 3 – different refrigerators. One even caught fire. We always get a warranty now, so this will not cost anything other than the inconvenience. It’s definitely classified as a first world problem.

I just read this:

“The terms third-world and first-world are often potentially offensive code words. Except where their original meanings are meant, they are best avoided in formal communication and in texts meant for diverse audiences.”

What? If it’s a code word, the code is written in invisible ink for me. I cannot keep up. It originated during the cold war to describe countries aligned against the Soviet Union (NATO) and now means capitalist/wealthy countries. Right?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the definition has instead largely shifted to any country with little political risk and a well-functioning democracy, rule of law, capitalist economy, economic stability and high standard of living. Various ways in which modern First World countries are often determined include GDP, GNP, literacy rates and the Human Development Index.[1] In common usage, “First World” refers to the rich nations of the world. Source: Wikipedia

Lately our country is a teensie tiny bit questionable on one of those requirements up there: “rule of law” and maybe “well-functioning democracy” (emphasis on well-functioning). Oh lordy, I’m back to watching the news. It’s fascinating, and educational, and well, fascinating. Then there’s that Russian spy ship off the coast of Delaware.

Added Later:
I found this: “first world” or “third world” can be interpreted as xenophobic or ethnocentric because they imply third-world countries are inferior.

Good grief, I said nuclear sub… no, no, NO. Russian spy ship! That’s it.

Fish and Foul

1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible
2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable

Incredible Weather
I know I’m obsessing about the weather, but no matter what I say, you will not get how incredible our weather has been recently. It was 82º F today – balmy, breezy and drop-dead gorgeous. It’s scary. It’s been 82º before in February, but only once since 1949, and we still have a chance to beat that. The kids are coming next weekend. If this continues, Lilou will want H to pump up her blow-up pool. The fact that it’s February will not impress her.

I remember wanting to go barefoot at the first hint of warm weather when I was a kid, but my mother wouldn’t let me. I wanted to shed those socks and shoes, but I had to wait. It was always too early. I think this February would shock her. I loved going barefoot. And yes, we did that when we were kids. I guess people don’t let their kids do that anymore, and I guess they don’t let them get into swimming pools in February either.

Fish & Foul
When we got up yesterday morning, the kitchen smelled foul. H noticed it first. He remembered that he’d put the skin from the salmon we’d had for dinner the night before in the trashcan (salmon is so much moister when you bake it with the skin). The trash bag had a hole in it, and a disgusting liquid had leaked into the bottom of the container. I sprayed a mold and mildew product into the trashcan because it had bleach in it. The fetid mixture almost made me gag. This is the exact reason double bagging was invented.

Locked Out
H went to the grocery store today for cream, eggs and fresh green beans. When he walked out of the store, an older gentleman asked him if he could use his phone. He had left his keys in the car and couldn’t get inside. H said, “Sure.” The guy called his wife and told her what he’d done, and that he was at Food Lion. He thanked H, and H went on his way. A little later, H’s phone rang. It was the guy’s wife. She said, “Are you the man who let my husband use his phone?” H told her, “Yes.” She said, “Could you please tell me which Food Lion he’s at? There are three of them around here.”

Old people have to stick together.

Aunt Ruby

Aunt Ruby called yesterday. There are two things you need to know about Aunt Ruby. She has a good heart, and she is a compulsive talker. She’s been this way her entire life, and it isn’t easy for those around her. It can’t be easy for her either. She’s aware that she talks constantly, and I believe she knows that she drives others to distraction, but she cannot stop herself.

It is impossible for me to convey how much she talks, how many words she can put into thirty seconds, a minute, an hour.  She never stops. Being a compulsive talker is not the same animal as being a regular extrovert. They need little if any response, they only need to talk, they are compelled to talk. Aunt Ruby never met a period. No periods. She’s just one long narrative.

I answer the phone. She says, “Bella, it’s me. How are you?” I say, “Fine.” She says, “How is H?” I say, “Fine.” And those are the last real words I say until the end of the conversation. The rest of the time I grunt, uh huh, laugh, aah, etc. If I do say something, she will stop for a second, I will think she heard me, then she will pick up exactly where she was, as if I’ve never uttered a word.

She adores H. Why? Because he is a polite and patient man who will listen to her. At family gatherings, we sit with her.

Bless her heart, Aunt Ruby is neurotic. Usually compulsive talkers are. They often drive people away faster than a mad man wielding a large stick. She has a gentle spirit, but strangers would never get a glimpse of it. It’s impossible to see through all the chatter about new babies in the family, friends of friends of friends of her children, sick people, dead people, old people, young people, church, the weather, her health, life in Georgia when she was growing up, and on and on. She jumps all over the place. It’s difficult to follow sometimes.

I’ve learned to put the phone on speaker, and do other things while I sort of listen. This is good for her. She just needs to know I’m there. Every now and then I catch something about a relative or old friend that interests me, and I have to stop her, and get her to go back because I missed it. This is not easy, because she’s entrenched in the next topic, and it’s near impossible to pull her back. If I really want to know, I have to ask about three times.

At the end of the conversation, which she tries to end several times during a conversation, but cannot stop talking long enough to do it, she apologies for talking so much and so long, and she allows me to tell her it’s okay and to tell her I love her and to say goodbye.

I have more tolerance for Aunt Ruby’s talking than some, but you’d be surprised by her supporters; they are legion. I think this is in large part because she’s lived in the same neighborhood since she married Uncle Wishie over sixty-five years ago. Everyone knows her. When you live in a small town or community, it’s harder to ignore or shun your fellow-man. You know him, and he is you or part of you. I’m amazed at the people who help her, who take her to church, do her taxes, take her to the grocery store, repair something in her house. Aunt Ruby may drive you to distraction, but she has a sweetness that seems rarer and rarer every day. She also has one daughter who is very devoted to her, and a niece.

Sorry about the length of this post. I do run on a bit myself.

A Visitor, a Puzzle and a Book

I wrote this yesterday, but I was interrupted and didn’t get back to publish it before midnight.
H went to the dentist this morning, something that doesn’t bother him in the least. :/

While he was at the dentist, I made a cake, something that doesn’t bother me in the least. 🙂

A friend is coming for lunch tomorrow. The cake I made has carbs galore, but we’ll eat only a very small slice for dessert. Moderation is a skill, but rationalization is an art. To be safe, I’ll probably freeze half of it, and give her the rest to take home. Lying is skill and art combined.

img_2319Idle Time by Heritage 

We’re in the middle of another puzzle, and she is a puzzler, too. So we have built-in entertainment.

I finished The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. It was a page-turner and  worth the read. I didn’t guess the ending until fairly close to the end. If you prefer an audible version, I should tell you that the narrator was pretty awful, the worst I’ve come across. It didn’t stop me, though. I enjoyed it in spite of her monotone voice and robotic cadence. Think Siri.

I started a new book today, a complete departure. Remember the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg? If you don’t, you may remember the movie starring Kathy Bates and Mary Stuart Masterson. I’m reading another book by Flagg, The-All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. I just started it a few hours ago, but it’s light and hilarious. Fannie Flagg narrates it. She does not sound like a robot.

If anything major happens in the world, I’ll miss it because I’ve recently buried my head in books and cooking shows. I still watch enough news to get a heads-up in case Putin decides to occupy Virginia so I’ll have time to hide the silver in the well (what well?) (what silver?).

It was 73 degrees today. I’m not complaining, but that is just wrong. It’s February.

Ronald Reagan


Ronald Reagan 

I added another president to my esteemed list of presidential dreams – another Republican. I seem to dream more often about Republicans than Democrats, though one of my funniest presidential dreams was a cheesy affair that included President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary John Kerry. A trifecta.

Last night, I dreamed about Ronald Reagan for the first time. I was at a celebration of his life. There were speeches, a movie and lots of food and drink and people. There was standing room only. I found one of his daughters (I don’t know if it was Maureen or Patti), and said nice things about her father.

Free post cards were available for people who wanted to write a note for the family. For some unknown reason, I wanted to put mine in an envelope. I found a stack of envelopes on a table. I put my written post card down to pull an envelope out, and when I was ready to put it in the envelope, I realized there were hundreds of other post cards on the table, and I couldn’t find mine. It had disappeared in the pile. It seemed very important that I find it, but it also seemed an impossible task. It was extremely frustrating.

This is not an exciting dream, but I had to post it because it adds another president to the collection. I wonder who will be next?

Sleep Stuff

My brother called early yesterday morning. He said he goes to bed at 9:00 pm and wakes at 3:00 am. “Welcome to the club,” I said. For years, he’s gotten up at 4:00 am to go to work. So his clock is a little off anyway. He asked if I use sleeping pills. I don’t. His doctor asked him if he wanted them, but he said no. The doctor told him to let him know if he changes his mind. I didn’t talk about my sleepwalking. It’s enough already.

I kill myself trying to stay awake at night, trying to make it until 10:00, always thinking I will sleep later if I go to bed later, but my body likes to wake at 3:00. Not every night, but often enough. The guard rail arrived. I haven’t had another episode since the marble-top dresser incident.

I’m reading a book about sleepwalking: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. It’s fiction but factual. Does that make sense? There are facts about sleepwalking; the story is fictional. Lianna’s  mother, Annalee Ahlberg, is a sleepwalker. In the clutches of a sleepwalking incident, she spray paints the hydrangeas in the front yard of her Vermont home silver; another time Lianna pulls her back from the edge of a bridge. Then Annalee receives successful treatment that involves lifestyle changes and medication. The bizarre dreams and sleepwalking stop. She suffers no incidents for a decade. This is where the story begins. Annalee’s husband goes on a business trip. Even though it’s been years since her last sleepwalking episode, he tells the 21-year-old Lianna to be vigilant, but you know what happens next. The next morning Lianna is awakened by her 11-year-old sister who’s in a panic because …. dum dee dum dum… her mother is missing. At first the police don’t show great enthusiasm about finding the missing mother of two, but when they find a torn swatch of Annalee’s nightshirt on a tree branch, the drama begins.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten.


At first glance, January doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s cold, rainy, snowy and dark. It’s so dark. It isn’t my favorite month. That would be October. What’s not to love about October? October brings the first welcome nip in the air after long, humid summers. Nights are brisk and fresh, and the end of October sets Virginia ablaze with color. Who wouldn’t want to live in October all year long?

Though not as obvious, January brings its own advantages.

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January offers quiet time, good-book time, old-or-new movie time, day-trip time, and best of all, January is working-around-the-house-with-no-partucular-urgancy time. That means finally getting around to all (or most) of our inside projects that were deferred to a more agreeable time. January is that more agreeable time… and February.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, we usually make a list of January/February projects. We H is very productive during the first two months of the year. Well, he’s productive every month of the year, and not a man to sit around at any time of year, but he dedicates January and February to me for inside projects. Don’t think this is torture for him. He enjoys it… mostly. You’ll have to take my word for it because he doesn’t get to give his side here.

January and February projects became a “thing” for us a very long time ago. It evolved because H loves yard work, golf, and all sorts of outside projects that need good weather. I learned a long time ago that it’s hard to get him interested in anything inside when the weather is nice. So I’m very prepared by the time January arrives. Anything that isn’t done by the end of February will probably have to wait until it’s cold again.

Light in the Hall

We’ve (H mostly) accomplished a lot since New Year’s Day. During the first week of January, unintentionally (not even on the list), we fell into organizing the guest room closets while putting Christmas decorations away. You can’t beat organizing a closet to start a new year. It should be a rule. Then H replaced a faucet that started leaking in the kitchen, painted the bathroom in our bedroom, put in new light fixtures and installed a new towel bar and toilet paper holder. Then he installed two new light fixtures in other parts of the house and one outside the front door that was badly rusted. He also repaired one of the toilets that broke at Christmas: the one he rigged until a more convenient time.

Yesterday, I worked on our closets in our bedroom which produced a laundry basket full of stuff for Goodwill. This project led to another project for H. He remembered a shoe rack that he bought with other shelving when we first moved in. He said he will install it in my closet. He had plans to replace another rusted light fixture over the garage today, but that’s now been pushed back to the February list? Why? Because last night, when he turned the water on in the shower, it started spraying all over his new paint job. This morning, he made a run to Bed, Bath & Beyond for a new nozzle, and he’s going to install it in a little while. Does every piece of plumbing in this house need to be replaced? :/

The only rooms left unpainted are the powder room and laundry room. He says the powder room is next. I’ll do the trim and cutting in. Then it will be time for something fun, something that does not include paint, electricity or plumbing. The man deserves a break!

Can you believe the first month of 2017 is gone. Whoosh! Never to return!

Taking My 20% All in One Day

img_2289Saturday, we took a day trip to Smithfield and stopped off at the Virginia Diner on the way home. It was to be one of my 20% days to indulge a little.

I’ve written about Smithfield before. It isn’t a big-deal place at all. It’s a pleasing little town with a few antique stores, an artsy place, a bakery, a café, and a Smithfield ham store/restaurant.

img_2283We checked out Taste of Smithfield first (a.k.a. The Genuine Smithfield Ham Shoppe). They have a nice array of hams and offer samples of Virginia peanuts and all sorts of other nuts. We bought a can of double-dips (peanuts double dipped in chocolate).img_2280

Then we checked out a few antique stores (found nothing to buy), took a few pics and headed to Wakefield to eat fried chicken at the Virginia Diner: featured in an episode of FoodNetwork’s Diners, Drive-in’s & Dives. I’ve mentioned the Virginia Diner before. Not a fancy place, it’s an honest to goodness diner that serves home-style Southern cooking: pork chops, ham, fried chicken, collards, black-eyed peas, stewed tomatoes, spoon bread, etc.img_2290

It’s a curse and a blessing to be raised with Southern cooking. To indoctrinate a child to it at a tender age should be a crime. You never get over it. Nowadays, we’re all about the olive oil and crisp-tender vegetables: steamed or roasted. We seldom fry or season with bacon drippings. These days, we bake, broil or grill our meat, and I haven’t made spoon bread in ages, but our palates never forget. We only indulge a few times a year. It’s powerful dangerous stuff. I do eat black-eyed peas seasoned with a ham hock on New Year’s Day, but that doesn’t count because not to do so is blasphemy. Southern cooking to me is like kryptonite to Super Man.img_2279

So H and I enjoyed our fried chicken and spoon bread. “Life is short” is my motto lately, but it will be shorter if I eat too much spoon bread. Ha! Once in a while is a good thing, and maybe that’s what the 80/20 diet should be called, “The Once in a While Diet.”

I told my DIL that I would not get on the scale for three days, but I couldn’t stop myself yesterday morning. I didn’t gain an ounce. I can’t believe it. I exercised and drank tons of water yesterday to wash all that salt away.

I still can’t understand how my father ate that way every day of his life and lived to be 96. I guess it’s called genetics. He was not a diabetic and took very few medications until the last few years. When they started preaching about how bad eggs were for our cholesterol, with all seriousness, he told me, “They say eggs are bad for you so I stopped eating them and doubled up on my bacon and sausage.” One of my favorite quotes by him.