Columns

Taking the unexpected gifts of COVID-19 into post-pandemic life

On Jan. 17, 2019, Derek and I whooped, hollered, and danced at Northern Quest Resort & Casino as REO Speedwagon made us feel like teenagers again – albeit teenagers whose ears rang for hours after the high-decibel show.

We had no idea a global pandemic meant it would be three years before we’d return to the casino for an indoor concert.

On April 24, we eased our way back into the live music scene to see Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. Clad in his trademark polka-dot shirt, he promptly tore into a number and busted a string on his guitar.

The enthusiastic crowd roared.

Guy, 85, delivered a lesson on the blues, tracing the history of the music and downplaying his part in its evolution.

Then he grinned

“I’m gonna play you a song so funky, you can smell it,” he said.

And he did.

Last week, we upped our funk level when we saw “Hamilton” at the First Interstate Center for the Arts. The promise of seeing this award-winning show is what prompted our purchase of Best of Broadway season tickets, oh so long ago.

While we’ve enjoyed the season, this is the show we’d most anticipated. Some things are worth waiting for and “Hamilton” is one of them. Who could have imagined a Broadway show about the architect of the American financial system would be such a phenomenon?

The stellar cast captivated the crowd with the musical’s mix of hip-hop, R&B and big Broadway sound and we were thrilled to see downtown Spokane bustling again.

I’m happy our calendar is again filled with all the activities we missed during the pandemic, but despite the fear, isolation and loss COVID-19 ushered in, the shutdowns also offered some unexpected gifts.

Recently, my friend Jill reminded me of our pandemic walks along the Centennial Trail. For years, we’ve stayed connected via lunches, coffee dates and countless happy hours. Suddenly, none of those things was possible.

So we took our conversation outdoors. Every week, we met at a trailhead and walked and talked – relishing in movement, in the beauty around us, in seeing another human face-to-face.

Spokane River seen from The Centennial Trail

Those outings were a bright spot in a dark, scary time.

It’s great to share a meal again, but I think we’ll lace up our walking shoes and hit the trail before our next happy hour.

Speaking of meals, weekly family dinners, including our two sons who don’t live at home, became sacrosanct during the shutdowns. Cooking is how I show love, so feeding these young men fed my heart.

Our little “bubble” of five savored the connection of familiar faces around the table, and we even brought back family game night. It gave us all something reliable to look forward to during an uncertain time.

Now that our activities have expanded, we’re considering making family dinner a monthly event instead of weekly. But I miss my grown-up boys, so you can be sure this mom will still regularly gather them around my table.

I got the hospitality gene from my mother. Not being allowed to see her for six months, even though she lives less than a mile away, was one of the worst things I experienced during COIVID-19.

When I finally received notice from her care facility that outdoor, masked visits were allowed as long as there was no physical contact, I immediately scheduled a visit.

We met under the portico.

“Oh, I can’t tell you how beautiful you look to me,” she said.

I laughed through my tears.

“Yeah, these masks make us all look good.”

Thankfully, now I can visit her room as often as I want, and though masks are still required, hugging is allowed.

While I’m delighted by the return of live entertainment and dining out, and all it means to our local economy, I hope I never lose the pandemic-sparked appreciation for things I used to take for granted.

The healing balm of a walk outdoors with a friend.

The boisterous conversation of a shared family meal.

The joy of a warm hug from my mom.

Perhaps I needed a pointed reminder that the things I value most don’t cost a dime.

Columns

Replacing one earworm with another

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I invited readers to share what they consider the most annoying songs ever, but I truly regret it. And so perhaps will you.

“Baby Shark” had been stuck in my head since we returned from visiting our 2-year-old twin grandsons, and I thought sharing my woe and inviting readers to share their own might be helpful. And it has been. It’s also been painful.

My sister reminded me that you don’t even need a television or radio to suffer the miseries of annoying songs. Take family road trips, for example. Our family took a lot of them. This was back in the dark ages when there were no cellphones or handheld video games to distract us. Instead, we played Bug Slug (Slug Bug to some of you), the license plate game, and I Spy.

When the games ran out the tunes began. Namely, “Ninety-nine Bottles of Coke on the Wall (we weren’t allowed to sing about beer) and “Alfalfa Hay,” a song in which every verse and the chorus features only two words….alfalfa hay.

The best part of this ditty is after every verse we chanted.

“Second (or 10th) verse, same as the first. A little bit louder and a little bit worse!”

Good times!

And a Facebook friend reminded me of the old standby, “Found a Peanut.” On road trips, we could milk that one for a good half hour.

“Found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut just now.

Just now I found a peanut, found a peanut just now.”

It’s no “Baby Shark,” but may well have been responsible for my mother’s hair turning gray.

However, readers have their own earworms that they seemed to take great pleasure in passing along to me. So, of course, I need to share them with you.

Pattie Felland wrote that many years ago, a friend gave her a cassette of “Sesame Street” tunes. She’s still trying to forget a Cookie Monster tune. “Your article this morning brought back the infamous ‘Breakfast Song,’ ” she said. “It’s been 30+ years, but now I’ve got ‘I’ll have a soft boiled cookie with a glass of cookie juice on the side’ running on and on through my mind.”

After listening to this for research purposes, I can now sing the entire song. Repeatedly.

It’s hard to argue with David Tiffany who wrote, “The all-time worst earworm (annoying song) has to be ‘It’s a Small World After All.’ Sorry if I just started it going through your mind!”

For Rose Lewis, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” has staying power. “It was a bouncy catchy tune and could really imbed itself in your brain,” she said.

Advertising jingles can be an extremely irritating source of earworms.

“The most annoying song that gets stuck in my head is that old radio jingle for Beefaroni,” Kerry Masters wrote. “The song starts ‘We’re having Beefaroni, beef and macaroni’ and ends ‘Hurray! Whee! for Chef Boyardee!’ This song is particularly horrible for me to get stuck singing since I’m an animal-loving vegetarian and haven’t eaten beef for probably 55 years.”

Though it’s been a week since I listened to this jingle, it’s still echoing in my brain. I really should have taken Masters’ word for it.

At least the song ends, unlike this final nomination. (This is your last chance to stop reading. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Francie Radecki and Carol Bellinger both reminded me about “The Song that Never Ends,” which was the closing theme of “Lamb Chop’s Play-Along.” on PBS. The lyrics and the tune are impossible to forget.

This is the song that never ends

Yes, it goes on and on, my friends

Some people started singing it not knowing what it was

And they’ll continue singing it forever just because….

The song never ends, but this column does. Thanks to the readers who shared their musical memories with me. It did help me shake the “Baby Shark” song.

Until now.

Columns

Twin time with a side effect of earworm

Every generation of parents has that one song.

A song that’s a repetitive staple of a preschool children’s program. The one that gets stuck in your head no matter how hard you try to shake it.

For my generation, it was the Barney “I Love You” melody. It played at the close of every episode featuring the big purple dinosaur.

I love you; you love me

We’re a happy family

With a great big hug

and a kiss from me to you

Won’t you say you love me, too?

This song is so incredibly obnoxious it was used to torture detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

I don’t bring this up to inflict pain upon parents who still have flashbacks of childrearing in the ‘90s, but to explain why this morning I woke up singing, “Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo….”

Yes, we recently returned from a trip to Ohio to visit the World’s Most Beautiful Boys, our 2-year-old identical twin grandsons, Adam and Nick.

Technology is a wonderful thing. We haven’t seen the boys in person since October, but thanks to Skype video chats, when we walked through their front door, their excited shrieks echoed through the house. It’s like their favorite TV characters magically showed up in their living room.

Derek, Adam, Cindy, and Nick Hval

Adam launched himself at Derek, jabbering a mile a minute, and I corralled a half-naked Nick into a big embrace. Nick has reached the clothing-averse stage, just like his dad at this age.

When you live thousands of miles from your only grandchildren, a welcome like that does a lot to help you endure five days of “Baby Shark.”

For these COVID-era boys, getting in a car with Nana and Papa is a big adventure, and now they’re getting verbal enough to express their enjoyment.

The first day we took them to our Airbnb it was raining.

“Swish, swish, swish,” said Adam, watching the wiper blades across the windshield.

This prompted a rousing version of “The Wheels on the Bus,” with Adam doing all of the hand motions.

The next day, as Nick watched the budding trees fly past the car windows, he uttered his amazement.

“Wow! Tree! Wow!” he said.

After a couple of drive-thru restaurant visits for lunch, we decided to take them into Wendy’s for their first dine-in experience.

Adam and Nick Hval “dining out.”

Saucer-eyed they looked at the bustling lunch crowd, too enthralled to make much of a dent in their chicken nuggets. However, the french fries and barbecue sauce were a huge hit for Nick. He carefully dipped a fry in the sauce, tasted it, and then scooped the sauce up with his fingers.

Let’s just say we all wore barbecue sauce that afternoon.

We knew they were ready for an outing when Nick looked out the window and pointed to our rental car.

“Car go! Go car!” he said.

In addition to language development, their play skills and fine motor abilities are dramatically different since our last visit.

While Adam still likes to taste a crayon or two, he spent almost an hour every day quietly coloring in the coloring books we’d brought.

Nick enjoyed putting the animals in the zoo train and pushing them all through the house. As always, I brought a new stash of board books. This Nana’s heart melted when at different times, I caught them both quietly turning the pages of a book.

Despite their exuberant energy, when tired they’d crawl up into our laps with a blanket and zonk out in our arms. And no, we didn’t put them down. We held them and sometimes dozed along with them.

No matter what educational children’s television program we tried to find when we cuddled up on the couch with them, every single one seemed to play “Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo …”

But the lingering echoes of that annoying tune seem a small price to pay for the memories of our sweet grandsons in our arms.

All Write

Northwest Passages Book Club Event

Please join author Mark Cronk Farrell and me, Wednesday, April 13, for a discussion of her latest book, “Close-Up on War.” It’s the amazing story of Catherine Leroy, who documented the war in Vietnam through compelling photos.

Columns

The cat’s out of the bag

The text from my son flashed on my phone while I was at the gym pedaling my way to fitness on an exercise bike.

“Is this a bad time to talk?” Sam texted.

I picked up my phone and typed, “I’m almost done with my workout. Can it wait?”

A few seconds passed before he texted, “We have a situation with Walter.”

Sir Walter Scott is our 2-year-old rescue tabby. We often have “situations” with him. As the kids say, “He’s a bit spicy!”

Walter epitomizes the cartoon of a cat wearing a T-shirt that reads, “What doesn’t kill me makes me curiouser.”

Usually, his situations involve food – specifically anything involving bread or chips. Recently, I enjoyed a slice of cold pizza for breakfast. Well, I tried to enjoy it while fending off Walter’s grabby paws.

After I ate, I wadded up the foil and finished reading the Sunday paper. When I got up to take the detritus to the garbage, I couldn’t find the foil. Then I looked down the hall and followed a trail of shiny scraps to my bedroom where Walter was doggedly shredding the tightly wrapped ball in hopes of scoring a bit of crust or fragment of pepperoni.

Aluminum foil is not a healthy snack and we anxiously watched him for signs of intestinal distress, but he was fine.

A couple of days later, we had homemade sub sandwiches for dinner. Like all the young men I’ve raised, our youngest gets a bit peckish before bed. He came upstairs and made another sandwich after Derek and I had turned in. What he didn’t do was hide the last hoagie roll in the microwave or stash it in a cupboard.

I know this because in the morning when I groggily got the cats’ breakfast ready, I stepped on something wet and squishy. Stepping on wet, squishy things is just one of the joys that occur when you’re owned by cats. This time I’d stepped on the well-chewed roll, still encased in its plastic bag. It seems Walter had the midnight munchies.

The situation that prompted Sam’s urgent text, however, didn’t involve food. He’d been getting ready to clean the litter box and dropped a plastic bag nearby while he went to do something else. A few minutes later, he heard banging and crashing and ran downstairs. The plastic bag was gone, and so was Walter.

I called Sam on my way home, and he said he’d found Walter cowering under the TV cabinet with the bag wrapped tightly around his back leg. Evidently, he’d tried to rummage through it got stuck.

“He won’t come out,” Sam said. “He’s so freaked out he peed himself, and he actually hissed at me!”

We didn’t even know Walter could do that.

By the time I arrived, he was missing again.

He took off when I tugged at the bag on his leg,” Sam reported.

I discovered the terrified tabby hiding under the stairs. He didn’t run when I reached for him, but he did hiss. He’d managed to get most of the bag off his leg, and Sam and I finished freeing him and checked for damage. Walter walked a bit stiffly at first, but quickly began winding himself around our legs.

After some cleaning and cuddling, he appeared to recover – until Sam took a new bag out to finish the job he’d started. At the sound of rustling plastic, Walter bolted and ran to his safe place – under my bed.

Walter hiding from the SCARY plastic bag monster.

“I think he’s got permanent plastic bag PTSD,” Sam said.

When I relayed the sorry tale on Facebook, my friends found the bright side.

“Perhaps food in plastic bags will be safe, now,” one said.

Another replied, “You could experiment with plastic-bagging those carbs just to see what happens.”

I have brilliant friends.

Will Walter’s bag phobia be stronger than his love of carbs?

Stay tuned.

Columns

Feeling Deflated, Ruby Sue Got New Shoes

Pride goes before a fall, or in my case before a pothole.

I should have known better than to extol the virtues of my Ford Escape, Ruby Sue. The day after my column ran, Ruby Sue and I had an inescapable encounter with one of Spokane’s meanest potholes.

The small strip of Lincoln Road that runs between Crestline and Market streets is notorious for potholes and I usually avoid it. But that Friday I was leaving later than I planned and thought I could just drive down the center of the street avoiding the worst of the potholes. But traffic turned out to be heavy that morning and with a sickening jolt, I hit a crater that’s likely visible from the moon.

Immediately, my tire pressure light flashed. I called my husband and asked his advice. He thought I could probably continue to my destination and check for damage when I arrived. While on the phone with him, Ruby Sue started pulling to the right. I was just minutes away from Derek’s office, so I drove straight there.

Good thing I did. Ruby Sue’s right front tire was flatter than the Seahawks’ hope for the playoffs next fall. Derek hauled out our spare. Guess what? It was flat, too!

Car ownership can be a pain, but in response to my previous column readers shared the joys of a sweet ride.

Mike Storms didn’t learn to drive until he was 22.

“When I was in Vietnam the Army couldn’t believe an American my age didn’t know how to drive, so they had me take a test in a deuce and a half,” he wrote. “Pretty big truck, but it had an automatic transmission.”

Turns out his bike-riding skills didn’t transfer to a big rig. He ran into a Vietnamese garbage truck in front of the motor pool.

Back in the states, he took a AAA course while in college and earned his license. His first car was a $25 1950 Chevy. He’s driven a long way in a lot of vehicles since then.

“My most recent car is a 2014 Honda Insight hybrid. I’ve had it almost a year and love it,” he said.

Lynda Gorman Parry’s 1967 GTO got her in trouble at intersections.

“How many times have I been unable to resist the urge to show some teenage guy that this ’67 GTO could still move?” she wrote.

She and her husband purchased the car right off the showroom floor in 1966 when they were fresh out of college.

But 14 years later, when she was a 35-year-old mother of three, she realized the car no longer fit her image.

Gorman said she knew it was time to get a new ride when she got tired of explaining to her daughter’s classmates on field trips that, “Yes, this GTO can reach 80 in a few seconds, but no, I’m not going to prove it on the way to the museum!

“We’ve since purchased several more practical cars, but none as memorable.”

Mary Hunter’s first car was her favorite – A 1971 Volkswagen 411. She bought it from her mom and named it Heinrich.

Heinrich took her on her first road trip, from Caspar, Wyoming, to Laramie, Wyoming.

“A beautiful sunny summer day, I will never forget that first real taste of freedom,” she recalled. “I now drive a VW Passat, which I also love, but that little 411 is still in my heart.”

Reader Jim Perez came of age in the 1950s and ’60s and developed a lifelong love of hot rods. He had a very specific car in mind for his first purchase.

“The gleam in my eye always seemed to have a reflection of a Sierra Gold and Adobe Beige, two-door hardtop 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, complete with a 283 cubic inch V-8 engine and, hopefully, a four-speed, manual transmission,” he wrote.

His plans changed when he spotted a 1956 Chevy for sale.

“For some reason, it captivated me and I wound up buying it, forgetting all about the ’57 Bel Air,” Perez said.

He and his brothers worked on the Chevy, replacing the upholstery, installing a bigger, faster engine, and some shiny chrome wheels.

“It became my pride and joy,” he said.

Perez sold the beauty for $700 when he joined the military, even though his dad had offered to store it for him, telling him he’d regret parting with it.

“It was much later in life that I came to realize that the older I got, the smarter my dad was,” Perez said.

He pined after that car for decades.

“Amongst other things, I’ve learned not to give up on dreams,” he said. “About the time I retired, I found the exact same model of ’56 Chevy as the one I had in high school.”

Perez lovingly restored it to close to its original glory.

“I still get that carefree feeling when I drive it,” he said.

I love happy endings, so I’m glad to say that Ruby Sue’s tale has one, too – an expensive ending, albeit a happy one. Thankfully, the pothole incident didn’t damage the wheel or the front end and Ruby Sue ended up getting new shoes–four of them.

Derek shrugged.

“She was going to need new tires this fall, anyway,” he said.

My ride has been restored. Now, I just need to work on my evasive driving skills until pothole season gives way to street repair season on Spokane’s mean streets.

Columns

Limping My Way to Another Birthday

Quick question. Don’t cheat by Googling.

What do columnist Cindy Hval, former Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, former Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson and former New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd have in common?

Answer: all have suffered meniscus tears. (The meniscus is a c-shaped piece of soft and fibrous cartilage in the knee.) Sure the injuries of the latter all occurred while playing for the NFL and this columnist’s injury apparently happened while strolling around the block, or sleeping, but still – I’d like to think the four of us could bond over a beverage whilst discussing physical therapy protocols.

The hitch in my gitalong happened last fall shortly before we visited The World’s Most Beautiful Boys (our twin grandsons). I noticed a twinge in my left knee during my regular walk but dismissed it. I’m prone to dismiss twinges, which is why we arrived at the hospital a scant 20 minutes before the birth of two of our sons.

While in Ohio, chasing after toddlers proved painful, so the day our plane landed in Spokane, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. An X-ray showed no fractures and very minimal arthritis for “a woman my age.” Diagnosed with a suspected sprained knee (though I hadn’t fallen or even twisted it that I recalled) my doctor prescribed ibuprofen, ice, elevation and rest.

Then my knee started buckling without warning. The swelling didn’t abate and the stairs in our split-level home became my idea of the old lady Olympics.

With another visit to the twins coming up, I finally sought physical therapy. After some poking and prodding, the therapist said she suspected I had a slight tear in my meniscus. She felt optimistic that with diligent home exercise and physical therapy I could avoid surgery.

That was six weeks ago, and I have seen lots of improvement, though how the injury occurred in the first place is still a mystery.

Last week I celebrated another 50-something birthday and I’ve noticed one side effect of aging is the increase of mysteries.

Example: Yesterday, I brushed my teeth after breakfast, but when I got ready for bed at night I couldn’t find my toothbrush anywhere! I scoured cabinets, tables, nooks and crannies, before finally finding it behind the coffee maker.

Obviously, I wasn’t caffeinated enough to wield a toothbrush.

A sore neck puzzled me for weeks. No amount of pillow-fluffing alleviated the ache. Then I read that many who work at computers all day don’t have their monitors at eye level which causes neck strain. Currently, my monitor rests on a copy of “E-Myth Mastery” and “Greenhouse Gardner’s Companion.”

Recently, my husband and I planned a Netflix binge of a suspense series we’d wanted to catch up on. Halfway through an episode, I awoke with a start. What woke me? Derek’s snores. We had to start the entire episode over.

“That’s what we get for trying to watch late-night TV,” I said.

Derek cleared his throat.

“It’s 9 p.m…”

Earlier this month my 90-year-old mom had another dental emergency. I scheduled her appointment and we arrived early. A full day early.

“That’s OK, sweetie,” she said. “I’m used to it. Your dad got everywhere early. He even showed up in Heaven early.”

Speaking of Mom, last week I was at her senior-living apartment making a list of items I needed to pick up at the store for her. It was a mental list, which turned out to be a big mistake.

“Did you say you needed paper towels or toilet paper?” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes.

“Aren’t I supposed to be the one with dementia?”

I may be aging, but I’m still young enough to get schooled by my mother.

Unfiltered 57 🙂
Columns

“CIN” Relives Racing Glory Days

My glory days aren’t exactly the ones Bruce Springsteen refers to in his iconic song.

I wasn’t a high school softball champ or a beauty queen, but once upon a time I consistently placed in the top three on the Pole Position arcade game in the SUB (Student Union Building) at Spokane Falls Community College.

For those unfamiliar with 1980s arcade games, Pole Position is a racing simulation video game that was released by Namco in 1982 and licensed to Atari, Inc. Wikipedia refers to it as “one of the most important titles from the golden age of arcade video games.”

So. That’s how old I am – ancient enough to have been there for the “golden age.”

I’d play between classes, using my tip money from my waitressing job at Pioneer Pies.

The game features a steering wheel, a gear shift for all two gears, and a gas pedal. No braking needed – kind of the way my dad said I drove in real life.

For most of 1984, “CIN” (my video game moniker) consistently placed high in the winner’s circle. I also loved pinball. The bling! The bang! The gaudy, glitter glory of Flash Gordon and Medusa!

When Derek and I married in 1986, I was waitressing at the Grill (formerly The Men’s Grill) next door to the Apple Tree restaurant at Frederick and Nelson’s downtown. As newlyweds and college students, we couldn’t afford fancy dates. Every couple of weeks, we’d take my tip money to a North Side arcade or the old Lilac Lanes Bowling Alley on Division and play.

Obviously, we were early adapters to home video game systems.

My brother bought our boys a Nintendo 64 to keep them entertained at Grandma’s house. Guess who would go over to play it after the kids were in bed? Guess who beat Super Mario 64 first?

I was less enamored with the Game Cube; however, the Nintendo Wii stole a lot more hours than I’d like to admit. They were supposed to be workout hours with the Wii Fit, but, well, Super Mario Galaxy had to be conquered.

Imagine my delight when my sons told me I could relive my glory days at an arcade without hauling a bagful of quarters?

When the Jedi Alliance finally opened at their new location on Broadway in March, my boys checked it out and then encouraged us to go.

After one visit, Derek and I added it to our list of favorite date night destinations.

For a $12 ($15 on Friday and Saturday) contribution, guests can play 120 arcade and pinball games as many times as they’d like.

Contribution, because the Jedi Alliance is a registered church, and owner Tyler Arnold is an ordained minister through the Universal Life.

“As far as I know, we’re the only physical Jedi church in the world,” owner Arnold said.

“Church is a community – a place for people to belong.”

That’s just what he’s created. While the gaming is great, there’s more to experience. Arnold has housed his eclectic pop-culture collection in the 7,400-square-foot building.

A shrine to one of his favorite bands, The Ramones, has a home on the second floor along with dozens of one-of-a-kind movie props. A collection of life-size scary clowns mingled with Star Wars characters. vintage games, movies and collectibles are available for purchase.

On a recent visit, kids from 6 to 60-plus reveled in the old-fashioned fun of games without handheld controllers or headsets.

“I teach kids how to play pinball all the time,” Arnold said.

As to his own favorite game?

“My favorite is the newest one I got.”he 1980 Black Knight pinball, held his attention at the time of this interview, but he planned to have a QBert game up and running in December.

Meanwhile, Derek found he hadn’t lost his Ms. Pac-Man chops and I reconnected with Phoenix, a fixed shooter arcade game.

Of course, there was Donkey Kong, GoldenEye pinball, and so much more, including a couple of cool Terminator games that wore out our trigger fingers.

And of course, the pinnacle of my glory days – Pole Position. Alas, my arcade driving skills have grown rusty with disuse and CIN didn’t place anywhere near the top.

“Maybe you should try the cockpit version – it has a brake,” my husband advised.

As if.

At any rate, our visits provided me with a New Year’s resolution I hope to achieve. It may take a lot of visits to Jedi Alliance, but someday I hope to make it into the top 10 in Pole Position again.

And I don’t even need to save my quarters.

Columns

Made with Love: Kitchen Memories

During the holidays my house smells like sugar and spice and everything nice. The aroma doesn’t come from scented candles; it emanates from the shortbread, sugar cookies, three kinds of fudge, and two loaves of Amish cinnamon bread I’ve made.

Shortbread and sugar cookies

The cinnamon bread cools in my mother’s aluminum pans. Last month, I wrote about the memories those pans hold for me and invited readers to share their stories of memory-laden kitchenware.

Below you’ll read about everything from pie tins to rolling pins, as readers reminisce about recipes, traditions and warm memories made in the kitchen.

Tom Peacock said his mother and grandmother were “pie goddesses.” It seems he inherited their skills, along with her flour sifter and Spode Christmas dishes.

“I baked my first pie (cherry) when I was around 12,” he wrote. “I picked the cherries from the next-door neighbor’s tree, pitted them with Mom’s old-school pitter, and the pie turned out nicely.”

From there he progressed to banana cream, pecan and blackberry cream pies.

“I did get to bake side by side with Mom, especially in her later years. The last few years before she went into assisted care, I did most of the Thanksgiving cooking using the skills I learned from her,” Peacock said.

Every baker knows you can’t make a good pie crust or sugar cookies without a quality rolling pin. John Kafentzis and his family use an irreplaceable one.

“A rolling pin from my grandmother is still very much in use at our house,” he said. “It was carved by her grandfather from a single piece of maple around 1920. It’s substantial. The family joke is that it was carved from the last tree in Kansas as that’s where they lived at the time.”

Pier Sanna’s mom was a pastry chef and taught Sanna to make everything from croissants to wedding cakes.

“After her death in 1980, I had first dibs on her bakeware – 50-plus-year-old cast iron pizza pans and cookie sheets. Try finding those at Williams Sonoma,” Sanna wrote. “Every time we use her bakeware, we suspect she is standing next to us smiling and resisting the urge to supervise.”

Jan Erickson uses a braising pot that her grandfather gave to her mother on her wedding day in 1947.

“I remember wonderful roasts, ribs, and so many favorite dishes coming from this pan,” Erickson said. “My grandparents did not have much money, but they splurged on this pot for my mom. Granddad told Mom that this pot would last her through her entire life. It surely did!

“I know my daughter wants this pot when I’m done with it, so it will continue in our family for years to come.”

Many of us revel in holiday baking traditions. For example, Leslie Olson Turner’s mother embraced her Norwegian roots when it came to Christmas cookies, making spritz cookies, berlinerkranser, rosettes, almond crescents and krumkake. Turner has continued the tradition, using her mother’s cookie press and rosette irons.

“I reserve the holidays to kick in my own version of a baking frenzy,” she wrote. “The krumkake iron I now use I inherited from my Aunt Sonja. It’s identical to the one my Mom had used – made of heavy-duty cast iron. And while I could have bought an electric one, it just wouldn’t have been the same.”

Michael Paul also continues cultural traditions. His great-grandmother was born in Hawaii to Portuguese immigrants.

“The Portuguese brought with them many new foods, including what is today known as Hawaiian sweet bread. Each Christmas, Nana Schultz would bake sweet bread for everyone, blessing each loaf with a cross and a tiny piece of garlic in the center of the cross as it went into the oven,” Paul wrote. “Today, I am just about the only one left in my family making this bread and the pickled pork also served at Christmas time.”

He still uses his grandmother’s metal measuring cups and Nana Schultz’s recipes.

“There’s no telling how old those recipes are. They came ‘around the horn’ from Portugal in the late 1800s,” Paul said.

Sometimes, the most practical items are treasured.

“After my dear mother passed away, going through her things there was one kitchen item, in particular, that was the golden ticket – the jar opener,” Julie Hoseid said. “Since I did most of the help for her, I rewarded myself with it, however, my sister and I are discussing shared custody.”

It seems pie-baking stirs up many memories.

“I’m not sure how old I was when Mom taught me her pumpkin pie filling tweaks, but I remember her setting me up at the kitchen table the first few times because I was too short to reach the countertop,” Carol Nelson wrote.

When Nelson married her, mother gave her the LustreCraft stainless mixing bowl, the pie plates that ensure an evenly baked crust, and her rolling pin. But it was her mother-in-law that gave her a never-fail pie crust recipe.

“Fifty-one years later, both moms have passed, but each time I take out my pie plates and the now-stained recipe card, I think of them, and their gifts of love to a new bride.”

Gail Justesen said her mother was known as one of the best pie-makers in Whitman County. When her mom was out of town, a teenage Justesen decided to step in and bake two pies for a pie social.

“The first two I cooked too long: the crust was brittle, apple filling overflowed. The next batch, the crust was raw and the filling soupy,” she recalled.

But Justesen kept trying – making seven pies in all before she had two that were pie social-worthy. Her dad didn’t mind gobbling up the mistakes.

“My friends moan when they think of making pies and usually cave to the store-bought pie crusts. However, I love to make them and am so thankful for the ‘pie genes’ I received from my mom,” said Justesen.

I’m not the only one with aluminum bread pans. Lisa Meiners treasures four that belonged to her mother.

“My mother passed away Aug. 1, just four months shy of her 100th birthday,” Meiners wrote. “She raised six children in Alaska and was a wonderful cook and baker. We always had homemade bread. Four of Mom’s bread pans moved with her from Alaska to Washington. I’m the only one of her five daughters who bakes bread regularly, and now have the honor of owning those bread pans that were used to bake loaves of love every week.”

So readers, as you sit at your holiday table this week, I hope you’ll enjoy more than just delicious food. Sometimes sharing memories and traditions with those you love is the most satisfying feast of all.

Columns

Pet Tales: Readers Share Pet Stories

Recently, I wrote about Sir Walter Scott’s terrible 2s. No, not the Scottish novelist and poet, but rather our rescue tabby, with the lofty literary name.

Our Walter is anything but lofty and having reached his second year, shows no signs of settling down to a sedate feline life. Why should he when there are plastic bags filled with noodles, chips, or marshmallows to plunder? And obviously, Walter feels that I’m the one in need of constant supervision. (He’s precariously perched on the back of my desk chair as I type.)

I invited readers to share stories about their quirky pets. Below you’ll meet canine pals who need their blankets adjusted properly and take their recycling responsibilities seriously. And there are cats who lounge in cupboards, stand up to big dogs, and switch on lights and radios if breakfast isn’t served promptly.

Readers’ pets

Theodora Sallee adopted Jack. an 18-pound ginger cat at Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service about five years ago. She said he was the calmest cat she’d ever seen, so she felt comfortable taking him out on her deck. She spotted a new neighbor and walked over to introduce herself.

The neighbor’s large dog barked and ran toward Sallee.

“Suddenly there was this shrieking and growling yellow streak that ran past me directly towards the dog,” said Sallee. “It was Jack! My neighbor and I were both surprised and the dog so scared he retreated about 10 feet.”

They were both thankful for the fence that separated them, and Sallee has since learned that Jack tolerates well-behaved dogs, but if they bark or act aggressively he will put them in their place.

Speaking of dogs, Beverly Gibb’s whippet is also named Jack.

“He requires a ‘Jack-nap’ every day around 1 p.m.,” she wrote. “After an hour or so, he lifts a bit to indicate he’s ready to rotate. At that point I am expected to hold up his blanket, so he can rotate around to his other side. If I don’t hold up the blanket, he’ll get all tangled up and drag the blanket around.”

Debbie Walker’s 10-month-old gray tabby likes to have an early breakfast. Really early.

“About 4:30 every morning he starts walking around on top of me to wake me up,” Walker wrote. “If I don’t get up within a few minutes, he turns on the light and if that doesn’t work he turns on the radio. Both the radio and the lamp have buttons on top that he pushes with his paw to turn them on. The first time was probably just an accident but as soon as he figured out it got me up he began deliberately waking me that way. Always the light first, then the radio. By then I’m fully awake, and breakfast is served.”

She’s then allowed to go back to sleep.

“I love him anyway,” Walker said.

*

My Walter is in good company when it comes to his plastic bag obsession. Denise Hanson’s rescue kitty JerryBoy also adores plastic bags.

“JerryBoy loves playing with big paper grocery bags, too,” Hanson said. “He will crawl in and want me to take him for a walk around the house while he’s in the bag (which, of course, I do).”

Sarah Sledge’s cat Chippie likes to curl up in the cupboard atop her clean dishes. He’s also partial to reclining on her washing machine and the alcove above the television.

“I’ve got to watch him every minute, just like a toddler,” she said.

Virginia Utley’s dog cattle dog Gem may be retired from obedience competition, but he still likes to help out around the house.

“Gem recycles my Amazon boxes,” wrote Utley. “I hold up the box and say ‘recycle!’ Gem grabs the box, puts his foot on it, and rips it up in a frenzy of canine destruction. It’s our way of going green.”

They may be exasperating, adorable, comical, or sweet, but for many of us, the pandemic brought into focus just how much our furry friends add to our lives.

As Utley said, “Our fuzzy companions give us just what we need during the dark times.”

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