Columns

Memories made worth travel trauma

As last suppers go, it was pretty pathetic.

Diet Pepsi, a bag of mixed nuts, one package of Trump-orange crackers and cheese, evenly divided, and a Fig Newton a piece.

It’s amazing what you’ll endure when your only grandchildren live thousands of miles away.

When the gate agent had announced our flight home from Ohio was delayed due to fueling difficulties, I went into survival mode.

We were supposed to depart at 5:30 p.m. It was already 6. The small gift shop at the airport had closed and restaurants in this terminal hadn’t reopened since the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Gimme your cash,” I said to Derek, and headed to the vending machines.

Our lovely lunch at a bistro in downtown Grove City had been hours ago, and the only food you get aboard Alaska Airlines these days is a cookie or a tiny bag of snack mix.

Turns out my vending machine raid likely saved us from starvation. We were due to arrive in Spokane at 10:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Instead, we arrived at 10:30 the next morning.

I think we spent more time in planes on the ground than we did on planes in the air.

But before that series of unfortunate events we’d enjoyed a blissful five days with our 11-month-old twin grandsons, Adam and Nick.

We’d debated flying out for their first birthday on Nov. 23, but Derek wisely reminded me the weather would be better in October. It seemed fitting to celebrate these healthy boys early; after all, they’d showed up seven weeks before their due date.

Derek was right about the weather. On the day Spokane was being buried in snow, we were loading the boys into their double stroller and enjoying a long walk in a picture-perfect 77-degree day in Grove City. Thankfully, I’d optimistically packed my flip-flops.

The twins have changed so much since we last saw them in June. Now, The World’s Most Beautiful Boys are sporting teeth and have mastered locomotion. They are crawling, cruising, perpetual motion machines just like their daddy was at this age.

Nick discovers Adam in lockup!

Nicholas will be taking his first solo steps any day now, and Adam is close on his heels.

Our son dropped them off at our Airbnb each day, and then he and Brooke joined us for dinner in the evenings. Alex is still working from home, which can be difficult with active boys underfoot. Brooke’s daughter Farrah was on a getaway with her other grandparents, and we really missed her, but daily respites allowed Brooke to catch up on the million and one things mothers usually have to try get done while their kids are sleeping.

Our delightful days with the boys were spent reading books, playing ball and patty cake, and taking walks.

Adam adored the outdoors, soaking in the sights and sounds from his perch in the stroller. Nick enjoyed the walks, too, but after a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air, he’d quickly nod off.

Nick and Adam find a Minion while on a walk with Nana and Papa in Grove City, Ohio. October 2020.

That wasn’t a bad thing, because they never really got the hang of napping in their travel cots. As usual, Nick snoozed next to Derek, while Adam preferred the comfort of Nana’s arms. Of course, we were happy to snuggle them as much as possible. Our arms already ache for them, and we won’t see them again until spring. By that time our travel trauma will have faded.

You see, the first leg of our return flight wasn’t the only problem we encountered. That fueling problem prompted a detour to Denver, where we sat on the tarmac and watched the window of time to make our connecting flight in Seattle close.

We arrived at SeaTac at midnight. The folks at Alaska Air had already secured hotel and meal vouchers for us, and booked us on an early morning flight to Spokane.

Unfortunately, that meant we only got a four-hour nap at the Marriott before hustling back to the airport where we were greeted with the news that our 7:30 a.m. had been delayed due to mechanical difficulties.

I mean, what are the odds?

All I know is I now understand why people returning to America from foreign lands kiss the ground when they get off the plane.

During our long delays, we’d scrolled through the copious photos and videos we’d taken during our visit. They filled our hearts if not our bellies.

And honestly, a vending machine food dinner is a small price to pay for the privilege of making memories with The World’s Most Beautiful Boys.

Columns

Go home chicken, you’re drunk

Tears poured from my eyes as I thumbed through the pages. My sides ached with laughter. I snorted. I guffawed. I giggled.

Who would think a cookbook could provoke such hilarity?

Just when I caught my breath, I spotted a recipe for Pheasant- All Drunk and Spunky, and I howled again.

But first a little background. My mother collected recipes like there might not ever be another Dorothy Dean column or Campbell’s soup cookbook. She clipped them from newspapers, magazines, flour bags and shortening cans. She filed them in index card boxes and three-ring binders. Cookbooks lined a shelf in her kitchen and filled drawers in her buffet. Even after my dad died and she didn’t have anyone to cook for, she kept on clipping.

Her cookies were legendary. For years, she supplied my boys with enough baked goods to feed a small platoon. Her dessert plates were the first to be emptied at every church potluck.

In recent years, she tried to downsize. I’m not sure which sibling ended up with her battered copy of Irma Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking,” but she gave me my grandmother’s vintage “Good Housekeeping Cookbook” and her own copy of “Better Homes and Garden Cookbook,” which I still haul out every time I bake apple pies.

My recipe box is filled with her handwritten recipe cards.

When she moved into a retirement home, the cookbooks and clipping collection had to go. I didn’t have time to sort through her recipe-filled envelopes, but somehow I snagged a cookbook and brought it home before her house sold.

With the holidays approaching, I finally sat down to go through it. The 270-page cookbook has no cover, no back and no title. I have no idea who produced it. I think I grabbed it because it features Mom’s handwritten commentary. Some recipes had checkmarks or stars. Some said “try,” and others had “good!” written next to them.

The source of my amusement came from the many, many recipes that called for some kind of booze.

Mom is such a stringent teetotaler that she’s never even purchased cooking wine or sherry. She certainly never had the ingredients for Drunk Chicken, or Bourbon-Pecan cake, or New Bacardi Chocolate Rum cake. And even if she had the ingredients for Beer and Sauerkraut Fudge Cake, I can’t imagine that she’d inflict that on anyone.

It’s wasn’t only the alcohol-laden recipes that gave me giggles, just the names of some of the recipes induced mirth.

Creeping Crust Cobbler anyone? How about some Liver Surprise? (Spoiler alert, the surprise is cinnamon, or maybe it’s the applesauce.) Beef Birds with Olive Gravy gave me pause, but Carrot Loaf- a Meat Substitute made me queasy for hours. The recipe calls for rice, carrots, eggs, milk and peanut butter!

Not every recipe proved as stomach-churning. Amazed, I discovered the original source for Mom’s Five-Hour Stew, her Busy Day Chicken and Rice, and the zucchini fritter recipe I’d assumed was my grandmother’s. The titleless cookbook is proving to be a treasure.

My husband enjoys my culinary escapades, but he was a bit bewildered last week when he called and asked about our dinner plans.

“I thought about making Pheasant- All Drunk and Spunky,” I said.”But catching a pheasant and getting it drunk, seemed like a lot of work. And how can you tell if a pheasant’s spunky?”

“Uh…” Derek murmured.

“Nevermind,” I continued. “We had some poultry in the freezer, but you’d better come home soon.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because the chicken’s already drunk,” I replied.

Unlike my mother, I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the recipe.

All Write, TV

Check out the Front Porch on YouTube!

54409184_2264170203837556_1334691813428035584_n[1]That handy little button at the top of my homepage will take you to my new YouTube channel.

That’s where you can find all the Front Porch episodes that air each week on the Spokane Talks television show on Fox 28 Spokane.

You know. In case you aren’t tuning in at 8 AM Saturday morning 🙂

I hope you’ll check out these segments and I look forward to hearing what you think!

 

 

Columns

Keep the Orange in Halloween!

Sometimes you just have to take a stand – a produce stand.

After two back-to-back zucchini columns, I really thought I was done writing about squash.

I thought wrong.

You see, autumn is my favorite time of year. There’s nothing better than taking a stroll around the neighborhood under a crisp blue sky. Leaves crunch underfoot and trees show their best colors; a riot of russet, red and gold.

Halloween and fall decor comes out with bats, witches, spider webs and jack-o’-lanterns appearing on porches and lawns.

But the past few years I’ve noticed a rather alarming trend – ghostly white pumpkins. At first I thought folks were painting them, but then I saw the pale imitations popping up in grocery stores.

Turns out farmers are growing varieties of albino squash with names like Lumina, Cotton Candy, Full Moon, Polar Bear and miniature Baby Boos. They’re planting them mostly to keep up with decorating demands.

That’s right. Pinterest is ruining pumpkins!

An article on a travel website about the new crops, stated, “Orange is so yesterday.”

Have they even noticed who’s in the White House?

Speaking of, I don’t mean to be divisive, but unlike the Lorax, I didn’t speak for the trees, the Christmas trees, that is, and look what happened.

White flocked trees meant to simulate a dusting of snow, quickly devolved into madness when the new generation of artificial trees arrived. You can now purchase Christmas trees in most any hue; silver, pink, blue and even rainbow.

Taking the green out of holiday trees is an abomination. We might as well jettison Santa’s red velvet suit and put him a tux. While we’re at it, we could color his snowy white hair, trim that fluffy beard and give him a man bun and a soul patch.

Obviously, I’m a holiday purist.

Pumpkins have been orange since the Garden of Eden and I see no reason to adulterate them. Honestly, I find the albino variety ugly. Our landscape is soon going to be buried in white; can’t we enjoy a bright splash of tangerine before winter dulls our vistas?

As expected, when posting a potentially controversial opinion on social media, the haters came out in force. I was called “squashist,” “gourdist” and even “orange supremacist.”

I accept the charge of pumpkin profiling and am not ashamed.

This slope has already proved treacherously slippery. One Facebook friend admitted to owning a pink pumpkin. PINK! For the love of gourd!

My sister told me she’s even seen a teal squash. That’s something you can’t unsee.

It’s enough to put me off my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread and my Spicy Pumpkin muffins. Well, almost.

Another friend posted a meme of a field of albino squash captioned, “White pumpkins drained of their spice by illegal poachers. Please demand ethically sourced Pumpkin Spice lattes.”

Someone else replied, “#allpumpkinsmatter.”

I admit that gave me pause, and I briefly considered aborting my “Keep the Orange in Pumpkin” campaign, but I’d already gone to the trouble of creating a #pumpkinpurist hashtag, and feel it could be trending soon. It would be a shame to lose momentum.

When a friend wrote, “I judge a pumpkin by the content of its character,” I had to admire the sentiment. To be fair, if you slice into an albino pumpkin, you’ll find orange flesh, and supposedly these pale imitations have thinner skins, making them easier to carve.

Nevertheless I must persist.

And while I’m at it, pumpkins are fruit, so don’t go saying you got your vegetable servings in for the day, after three slices of pie.

As I wrapped up my research, I read this headline, “There’s no rule that pumpkins have to be orange.”

To that I can only say, well, there should be.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval


All Write

Preview my new book “Tiaras & Testosterone”

On Friday night, October 27 at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane I’ll be reading a sneak peek of Tiaras & Testosterone as part of author Kay Dixon’s launch of her newly released book Tales of Family Travel: Bathrooms of the World.

Kay has four daughters and I have four sons– we’ve got the family bases covered, and we covered it (and survived) with a huge amount of humor.

My first book War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation (Casemate 2015) has been well-received and is still garnering great reviews. This time I’m tackling a more personal topic. For 10 years I’ve written a popular column for The Spokesman Review, chronicling my experience of life in a “man’s world” with poignancy, affection and a whopping dose of humor.

“Your columns read like what would happen if Anne Lamott and Erma Bombeck had a love child,” said one longtime subscriber.

Now, I’m collecting those columns in Tiaras & Testosterone.

Sections include Boy Crazy, Working from Home and Other Technical Difficulties, It’s a Woman’s World and Terrible Teens: Boys to Men.

Join Kay and I Friday night at 7 PM.  I would offer a money back guarantee of a good time, but the event is free.
And I’m an author 🙂

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Kay Dixon

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Cindy Hval at Auntie’s.

 

 

 

 

Columns

The Great Zucchini

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Unfortunately, the most valuable life lessons are often learned the hard way. This summer I’ve been schooled in the veracity of the adage “be careful what you wish for.”

Last year my husband experimented in the Glorious Garden. He tried growing zucchini, vertically, in pallets. The experiment failed, and I was disappointed.

“Next year, I want zucchini. LOTS of zucchini,” I told my hardworking spouse.

He heard me. Boy, did he hear me.

Two weeks into this summer’s zucchini season had me yelling for mercy – praying for drought, pestilence or plague. No such luck. Our bumper squash crops shows no sign of slowing down.

It’s come to this – last week, I went to a party. I took zucchini as a hostess gift.

I returned my sister-in-law’s baking dish – with a squash tucked inside. Our relatives are starting to avoid me.

Our teenager used to eagerly ask, “What’s for dinner?”

Now, he hesitates.

In the last few weeks I’ve made zucchini cornbread casserole, cheesy zucchini, zucchini and rice, zucchini fritters, zucchini chips, zucchini stuffing casserole – and that’s just for dinner.

I’ve also baked dozens of zucchini chocolate chip muffins and many loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.

I have bags of shredded frozen zucchini in the freezer, and Derek recently bought a spiralizer. He wants to try zucchini spaghetti, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make the vegetable-in-place-of-pasta leap. Ask me next week.

And yes, I should know better, because many years ago, I used to write for a now defunct section of this newspaper, called HOME, and one of my assignments was to cover ‘The Great Zucchini War’ between two Spokane Valley neighbors.

It was actually more of a story of the gift that kept on giving. In the 2006 article, I chronicled the tale of a super-sized squash that made its way from bench, to birdbath, to treetop, as two neighbors escalated the art of re-gifting.

The Pedens and the Fairhursts took the squash war to unheard of heights. The much maligned vegetable was camouflaged in orange, black and silver and set afloat in a koi pond. It was transformed into a replica of a Flying Tiger fighter plane. Sporting wings, tail fins and the snarling teeth of a tiger, it perched in the upper branches of a walnut tree where it remained until a ladder tall enough to reach it could be found.

When last seen, it was Halloween and the re-gifted gourd was growing soft in the middle. It had been painted white, covered in ghostly draperies and encased in concrete – on a neighbor’s porch.

That was 11 years ago, and one can only hope the extra-large zuch was given a decent burial somewhere, or at least turned into enough bread to feed the ’hood.

Which brings me back to my squash stash. I’ve been trying to make eye contact with my next-door neighbors, but surprisingly they always seem to be in a hurry to peel out of their driveways or slam shut the sliding doors on their decks.

I’ve pondered placing the surplus squash in a box in our front yard with a “free to good home,” sign, but I worry they will rot in the hot summer sun before they are adopted.

There’s always Craigslist, but I don’t relish getting caught in some kind of undercover sting operation. I can just picture a jaded cop in a deserted parking lot mocking me. “You thought you’d get cash – for squash!?”

Last week I interviewed a longtime greengrocer who told me, “If you have to buy zucchini at a store, you must not have any friends.”

Well, at the rate my freezer is filling, I won’t have any need for zucchini or friends until roughly, 2020.

Listen to me dear readers; be careful what you wish for – especially if it involves produce.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

 

 

Columns

Barely bothered by roadwork

I’m not at my best in the morning. I admit it. I don’t relish the sunrise. In fact, I’d prefer not to be notified of its occurrence.

I say this to explain why I inadvertently exposed more of myself than strictly necessary to the road crew working on the gas lines in front of my house last week.

It’s not like I was unaware of their presence. I mean, it’s pretty hard to ignore a backhoe parked across your street. Or a guy with a jackhammer breaking up the asphalt at the end of the driveway. Or the port-a-potty perched up the hill. After all, it’s the first thing I see when I open my living room blinds in the morning.

Still. It was the crack of dawn on a Monday morning (OK, 8 a.m.) and I hadn’t yet had my first cup of coffee. I usually enjoy my coffee while I read the newspaper. My husband or sons set it inside the door when they leave for whatever they do before 8 a.m., but on this day, there was no newspaper to be found.

I slumped down the stairs, opened the door and found our delivery person’s aim had been a bit off. The paper wasn’t nestled against the door; it was perched precariously on the edge of the porch.

Squinting my eyes against the morning glare, I stumbled forward, bending down to retrieve my sun-warmed newsprint.

A slight breeze shifted my short summer nightgown. The garment I hadn’t bothered to throw a robe over, since I was home alone.

Newspaper in hand, I straightened up. That’s when I saw the flagman with the STOP sign at the end of my driveway. That’s when I noticed the half-dozen hard-hatted workers swarming across the street.

Mortified, I gathered the slim remains of my dignity (and the even slimmer fragments of satin fabric) and shrunk toward my doorway.

The flagger slowly, raised his hand to his hard hat in a solemn salute. Then he grinned.

I know from my husband’s days as a military officer that I should have returned the salute, but like I said, I’m not my best in the morning.

I backed in through door, holding the tightly wrapped newspaper in front of me like a shield. Unfortunately, Monday’s paper is the slimmest shield The Spokesman-Review offers.

I took a few deep breaths, gulped some coffee and called my husband.

“Can you pick up something for dinner tonight? I can’t leave the house.”

He found my humiliation hilarious.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ve seen worse,” he said.

“Worse? Do I look that bad in the morning!?”

Turns out my husband isn’t at his best or brightest in the morning, either.

Of course, I couldn’t hide in my house all week, but when it came time for my afternoon walk, I admit, I snuck out through our backyard and took a shortcut through the neighbor’s yard to avoid making eye contact with the friendly flagger.

The week and the street work on. Many mornings I awoke to the jarring sound of a jackhammer. Waking up is hard enough for me. Waking up to a jackhammer proved positively painful.

I finally penned a poem and posted it on social media.

Ode to a Jackhammer and the Man Who Wields it Outside My Front Door

For the love of God,

STOP!

Yeah. So, I should probably stick to journalism. At any rate progress is proceeding at a glacial pace. Replacing gas lines can’t be done quickly. But I’m rather fond of hot showers and my gas fireplace warms my basement office all winter. Plus, the crews are working long, hard days in horrible heat, so I keep all this in mind when I navigate our torn-up streets.

I drive slowly and always try to offer a smile or a greeting when I’m forced to wait for a backhoe to move, or truck to rumble by.

On Friday, the flagman at the end of my driveway motioned for me to roll down my window as I backed out.

“Thank you for your smiles and friendly waves,” he said. “You would not believe how many dirty looks we get.”

I’m sure his appreciation had nothing to do with the nightgown-newspaper debacle. And his words of gratitude prompted my own thankful reflection.

The noise and inconvenience of the roadwork hasn’t been pleasant, but as I sat on my couch and gazed out my front window that evening, I realized things could be worse.

We could be the house that’s had a Porta Potty parked in front of it for two weeks.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

War Bonds

Things no one tells you before you write a book: hazards of grocery shopping

I was hot, sweaty and tired after a long afternoon of writing followed by a brisk three-mile walk, but someone has to buy the groceries for my family and that someone is me.

Wearing my favorite emoticon-covered work-out tank and some scruffy shorts, I hopped into the car. I thought about running a brush through my hair, but it was  windy day. Why bother?
I thought about slapping some make-up on, but why would I do that when I just needed a few things from the store?

You know where this is going don’t you?

While I was selecting some Walla Walla sweet onions, a woman near me said, “I like your shirt.” I smiled and thanked her.

That’s when she said, “Oh my gosh! Are you Cindy Hval? Did you write that book of love stories from World War II?”

When I nodded. She grabbed the guy stocking produce and gushed, “Do you know who this is?” And said some very lovely and kind things about War Bonds.

Of course, the produce guy wanted to know more. And then he said, “Hey! I DO know who you are, I read your column in the Spokesman Review!”

There’s a moral here. There’s a lesson to be learned.

For me it’s this: I can’t go grocery shopping anymore, ever again.
The end.

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Columns

Falling For You

This column first ran in the Spokesman Review November 12, 2009

I made a painful discovery on Spokane’s mean streets a couple of weeks ago. You might say it just hit me: Falling down hurts a lot more at 44 than it does at 4.

Now, I’ve been walking and talking, sometimes even while chewing gum, for quite a few years. I don’t mean to boast, but it’s a skill I’ve worked hard to develop, and I’m pretty darn good at it. Yet, as my editor and I left a downtown coffee shop, I suddenly found myself facedown in the middle of the street.

After hearing about my accident, a journalist friend shook his head and said, “Well. That’s one way to trim the newspaper budget.” But I think I would have noticed a hard shove.

All I know is one minute I was walking and talking and the next I was flying. Kind of. My takeoff was good, but my landing needs a bit of work.

When I described what happened, a young friend exclaimed, “Oh, not the run-fall!” Apparently, the run-fall, as opposed to the stumble-fall, slip-fall or windmill-arms-almost-fall, is the most embarrassing kind of public tumble. Who knew?

In the few seconds it took for me to launch myself from sidewalk to street I had time for one thought: I hope I don’t spill my coffee. It was good coffee.

Alas, my coffee and I both splattered on Cedar Street. As I scrambled to my feet, I could hear my mother’s voice echoing inside my head. “Pride goes before a fall, dear.” I hadn’t realized it until that moment, but I was very proud of my ability to simultaneously walk and converse. Mom is always right.

My editor rushed forward, horrified. “Are you all right? You hit hard! You need ice!”

Actually, I felt OK at the time, just a bit shaken. “Am I bleeding?” I asked. But aside from a sore knee and a rapidly swelling cheekbone, the only blood appeared to be a few spots on my lips. Which were also rapidly swelling. Asphalt works even more quickly than Botox, but the application is probably more painful.

“I’m OK,” I said. “I’ve got an appointment.” And off I tottered to my car. After checking the damage in my rearview mirror, I decided to heed my editor’s advice to get some ice. I canceled my meeting and drove home.

Then the fun really started. Apparently, I was wearing the ladies version of Toughskin jeans, because my pants had nary a nick. My knee however, was a bloody, bruised mess. While that hurt, examining my face in the mirror was far more excruciating.

My new Angelina Jolie lips sported scuff marks around the edges and the swelling along my cheekbone was growing more colorful by the minute.

After swallowing several ibuprofen tablets, I applied ice everywhere I could and lay down. I felt like a fresh salmon packed for shipping. I then called everyone I knew to report my misfortune, but it’s hard to talk with a bag of ice on your mouth. Frustrated and bored, I decided to get back up. That’s when I discovered I hurt all over. I wondered if I’d been hit by a truck while prone on the pavement.

When my husband and kids got home I received appropriate amounts of sympathy and even a kiss from one of my teenagers, which almost made the fall worth it – almost. In the following days, my facial swelling receded, but my shiner sported an ever-changing rainbow of colors.

I grew used to pitying glances in the supermarket and snarky cage-fighting comments from friends. One quipped, “Well, no one can say you’re just another pretty face.” Interestingly, my husband managed to avoid appearing in public with me for an entire week.

So, now I’m mostly healed and have resumed walking and talking at the same time. I’m not yet brave enough to chew gum, but that will come.

Meanwhile, readers might want to say a prayer that I’ll stay properly balanced as snow-and-ice season continues. I don’t want to have to chronicle another mishap. After all, columns like this can give journalism a black eye.

War Bonds

More wit from the Greatest Generation

This weekend I called the wife of a 99 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor to schedule an interview. She repeated the details back to me and I said, “You’ve got it.”
She laughed and replied, “Honey, I lost it so long ago, I don’t even remember having it!”

When I’m an old woman, I don’t care if I wear purple with a red hat, I just want to be as fun and witty as these folks are. How wonderful to retain the ability to see the humor in life, even when other vision fails.