A Time of Togetherness. And Not.

Just like everyone else who has been following the stay-at-home orders, the Think Beyond the Nest household has been a bit cozy these days. Togetherness has been a blessing and we’ve found many ways to enjoy this time together. We’ve reinforced those things that we enjoy doing together. Thanks to input from friends via the many Zoom calls, we’ve also discovered some great TV programming. The good news is we are on the same page on most stay-at-home-living activities.

But, hey, let’s be honest. With this much together time, we’ve also found some things where we aren’t totally seeing eye-to-eye. It’s OK. We all need our space, but the stars are definitely not in alignment on everything.

So, here’s a short recap of some of the things we’ve been doing, where we are in sync, and…where we aren’t! 

  • Total agreement on Schitt’s Creek (aka “the best show ever”). I even found a Rose Apothecary shirt online and immediately ordered one for Lailan. Just a little thank you for being my quarantine, Schitt’s Creek buddy! Thanks, Lailan.
  • Total agreement on The Kaminsky Method and The Voice (please vote for Thunderstorm – great vocalist, cool guitarist from Hawaii. He actually performed with Lailan’s best friend’s son in their Honolulu back yard.
  • Not in agreement. Ozark. Nope. Not even close. I love this series. Lailan can’t even walk by the TV when Marty and Wendy Byrde are yelling about another money-laundering crisis. Lailan’s dislike of this show is a real problem. I have two episodes left and I still have to sneak around in my own home to wrap up this latest season.
  • Not in agreement. The latest movie version of Emma. And Downton Abbey – the movie. Anything related to Victorian, obscure love stories. Not grooving. Hey, if I watch a few of these do I earn the right to watch Ozark? Well, I found out it doesn’t quite work that way. Haha.
  • Total agreement, sort of. We spent some quality time together on bike rides, walks and golf. We were on a roll. But, then the indoor sport of card playing happened. While Lailan was full of much happiness, I, on the other hand, apparently have a real phobia for cards. Just not my thing. Guess we’ll stick with outdoor sports and Lailan can get her card-playing fix with her weekly ladies’ bridge group!

And, just for fun, let’s throw in a few other COVID-19 Lockdown 2020 activities that we’ve checked off our list:

  • Getting Cozy or “hygge” in Danish – This is a Danish/Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. Coincidentally, Lailan and I both just read a thought-provoking book authored by Helen Russell titled “The Year of Living Danishly – uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country.” During the long, dark days of winter, the Danes embrace staying inside and focusing on family time together. Pretty ironic given our current stay-at-home situation. Anyway, this is a very interesting read and maybe there is something to how their lifestyle supports happiness.
  • Closet Declutter 2020 – Goodwill and the Salvation Army must be overwhelmed (but hopefully in a good way) as America cleans out their closets. Lailan has been very busy getting rid of old clothes, organizing high school and college yearbooks, musty music books and boxes full of family memorabilia. It feels so good and our closets look great. Visitors who will someday return and stay in our guest bedroom will be happy to know you will actually be able to hang up your clothes now. There is room in the inn AND in our closets!
  • Mystery Paint Can Project – Quick contest – how many paint cans do you think we had piled up in the basement? Too low. Guess again. Actual count = 42. What the heck? We organized which ones can go to recycling and which ones we need to keep. We inspected the date on the cans to see if the paint was still from this century. The problem now? The local paint recycling centers are still closed so actually disposing of the old paint will have to wait.
  • You Know You Have Quarantined Too Long – When you decide to paint the interior of your garage. Of course, the 42 existing cans of paint did not include “suburban garage white.” And as you might predict, the painting project led to more decluttering (yipee), blowing out dust bunnies the size of  West Texas tumbleweeds, and even installing a snazzy new wall organization system. 
  • The Perfect Margarita – Perhaps most importantly, Lailan has officially perfected her unique concoction to create an amazing low-calorie Margarita. The truth is it’s never made exactly the same way twice, so this recipe is simply meant to be a foundation. If we continue to sequester, you’ll have time to give this recipe a try and add your own embellishments.

Lailan’s Hydrating and “Good for You, Haha” Margarita

  1. Fill glass completely with ice.
  2. Splash (or more) of Dulce Vida Lime Tequila.
  3. Splash (or more) of Tres Agaves Margarita Mix (organic of course)
  4. Add big splash of Vita CoCo Coconut water
  5. Squeeze a lime wedge and add lime wedge to drink
  6. Enjoy
  7. No judgement on what time of day happy hour begins

IN CLOSING: Sipping a margarita from an actual bar/restaurant, gathering with family and friends, returning to in-person church, and developing a vaccine are all things we long for. Until then, we are thinking about all of you, we thank our health care workers and other first responders, and we pray for those who have or are suffering from the coronavirus.

This too shall pass. Be well and stay safe.

It is well.

Deprivation, Quarantine, and Coping – circa 1940-1954

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The following message was written by Phil’s mother, Laura Shoffner, on March 25, 2020 and sent to all of her grandchildren in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Laura is a long-time English teacher in both public and private schools as well as a published author.

My precious grandchildren, I write the following with the hope that you will take from it strength, resilience, and hope in these strange times in which you find yourselves.  Yours has been a generation of abundance, independence, and, dare I say it, instant gratification.  To be faced suddenly with the lack of taken-for-granted creature comforts, restriction, and social distancing must be not only weird, but scary.  From earliest childhood I have been blessed with a vivid memory of my formative years.  What I share with you here is based on my recollections of years of my life when hardship, doing without, and, yes, fear were “normal.”  May you take from it the knowledge that, clichéd as it might be, “This, too, shall pass.”

In 1941 my parents built a new home in Johnson County, KS, the site chosen primarily because of the excellent independent K-8 grade school, Westwood View.  For this move to be financially viable, my family had for a time lived with my maternal grandparents.  In 1939 all of us moved to a rental home on The Paseo in Kansas City, and my parents took in a boarder, as well.  By these sacrifices, my parents were able to realize their dream of their own home.  Still, for the first year we had the same boarder, and my recently widowed grandmother lived with us.  How thrilled my parents must have been to find optimism after the dark days of the Great Depression.

That idealism was shattered by the events of Dec. 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was in kindergarten and could hardly understand my father’s relief that he had just a week prior purchased a new green Nash, a car that somehow made it through until new cars were once again produced around 1947.  Posters demonizing the Nazis and “Japs,” as we called them, filled us with concern as did the bomb drills we had in school.  Nelle Word, whom we called Nay and had been a long-time boarder with my grandparents when my mother was growing up, now had no place to live since she had to return from her job on Oahu. My parents invited her into our home.

Because everything was geared toward the war effort, rationing was put in place.  A short list of our “deprivations” included strict rationing for sugar, chocolate, rubber, gasoline, leather, cooking oil, heating oil, chewing gum, meat, and other groceries.  Each adult had a ration book with stamps (coupons) entitling them to obtain certain goods.  Here are some of my memories about rationing.

We made oleo margarine by kneading a yellow food coloring button into a Crisco-like substance. When we kids outgrew our shoes, ration stamps had to be found for new ones.  Later in life, I understood more about the cracked leather slippers my grandmother wore most of the time; clearly she had forfeited her new shoes so we kids could be shod.  The pediatrician made house calls when we were sick because only doctors and other essential providers had sufficient gasoline and rubber stamps to get around town.  Remember, cars back then had rubber tires aired up frequently.  Because of reduced driving, all of us had to use public transportation except in rare instances.  Mother could make a meatloaf last for two meals for six or seven of us, and prune whip was a frequent “dessert.”  I remember Nay making cookies using turkey fat because we had no shortening. During the war, there were no Country Club Plaza Christmas lights.  Our Yuletide gifts would seem ludicrous to you now, but even the smallest “surprise” was a delight.  Long distance phone calls were outrageously expensive, so in that way we, too, were isolated from family who lived elsewhere.  Letter writing, however, was a godsend, helping folks to keep in touch.

Looming over all of these measures was the concern for our fighting forces and fear that one day we might be invaded.  Movies often were propaganda-based, and our only lifeline to what was happening other than the radio was the newsreel at the beginning of each film.

My father was in an essential business, and while he didn’t have to go to war, he worked day and night for war-related engineering construction projects.  I can still see his drooping shoulders and red-rimmed eyes.

At school we kids could “escape” into a school full of creative and dedicated teachers who made our days fly by.  To help with the war effort, we collected old newspapers in our little red wagons.  We would pile them, grade by grade, in the school yard in an attempt to win that month’s prize for the largest collection.  All tin cans used at home were saved, stomped on to flatten them, and taken to the occasional “scrap” drives at the school.

When we had childhood diseases—mumps, chicken pox, measles, scarlet fever, etc.—the family was quarantined.  On the front door would be a large sign that said “Quarantine” in red letters.  Shortly after WWII, there were several polio “scares” during which swimming pools closed and few attended movie theaters.  In 1952 when my brother Chuck came down with polio, we were quarantined for three weeks.  I was a junior in high school, and my friends would shove my homework into our mail slot.

Small pleasures included the carton (not pack, mind you, but CARTON) of Juicy Fruit gum my Navy cousin gave me from the PX, being able to lick the bowl of brownies my mother had made (after scrimping on coupons) to send her brother in New York City, and the thrill of my very own Hershey bar when chocolate was again more widely available after the war. 

So here I sit at eight-three seeing and hearing echoes of that long ago time when our country sacrificed and “went without.”  Now, as then, we can do this.  We must do this!  And on the other side, may we be better people for the sacrifice.

Trader Joe’s – A Quick Recap of Your Faves!

Wow! Thank you for all the awesome feedback on our Trader Joe’s post! We loved hearing your customer service stories, your favorite products, and your love of aloha shirts! Me too! Below are the items many of you shared with us. We are eager to try them, but to be honest, I am scared silly to try the Salted Caramel Gelato and the Gone Bananas! I’m a tad bit afraid I’ll like them a bit too much. Thank you for taking the time to connect with us, and happy shopping at Trader Joe’s!:)

 

 

 

Why We Love Trader Joe’s – And It’s Not Just About Food or Wine!

IMG_3933

Like many of you, Phil and I have been long-time fans of Trader Joe’s, and more so recently since we have become empty nesters. It’s hard to believe our Leawood, Kansas store opened almost seven years ago! Yes, Phil and I have our favorite TJ items that we will share with you, but I first wanted to highlight something that has really endeared me to the store even more – the customer service.

About a month ago, while I was in the store, I picked up a sympathy card for a friend who had recently lost her parents in a terrible accident. As I was paying for my items, the checker commented on the sympathy card I had found. (By the way, does it seem the Trader Joe’s checkers always comment on what you are getting?:)) We started chatting about the reason I was purchasing the card, and before I knew it, the checker was telling me how sorry he was and handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers! I was completely blown away by the kindness and thoughtfulness of that employee and awed that he had the freedom to easily do something like that without having to first consult a manager. The expression of thoughtfulness displayed by that TJ’s employee that day made a lasting impression on me and made me wish we had more companies with this kind of warm, friendly and “going above and beyond” type of customer service. Thank you for the inspiration, Trader Joe’s!:)  Continue reading

Pickleball Craze Hits the Empty Nest

IMG_3484The sport of pickleball has officially been in existence since 1965. But like many things that originated on the west coast, it took over fifty years for pickleball to find Phil and me. Now that we’ve given it a try, we have yet another activity to pursue in our empty nest years. 

Continue reading

Destination: Symphony In The (Flint) Hills

Symphony in the Hills

It’s Symphony In The Hills time of year here in this neck of the woods. Many of you have probably been. But since tickets usually sell out on the first day they become available, perhaps an equal number of you have not attended. It’s an amazing and incredibly unique experience. It sounds like a cliche, but believe us, there really is nothing like it. That’s mainly because there is nothing quite like the Flint Hills of Kansas.  The hills are simple, wide open and ever-changing in color.  The hills seem to tell a story of another time in their tranquility. Combine that with symphonic music (from the full Kansas City Symphony), colorful sunsets, stars, a cattle drive, and to Lailan’s delight – real cowboys – well, it makes for a truly memorable occasion.

 

While we can’t make the concert this year (it’s being held on June 10 near Junction City, KS), Lailan and I went last year to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Nothing says anniversary date like a night on the prairie, but remember what I said above?  Stars, music, sunset…and cowboys!   Enough about that!  I’m pretty bummed to miss this year as the special guest is Michael Martin Murphey – y’all know the song “Wildfire” from the mid-70’s.  “She ran calling, Wild….fire….!”  Yup. Love that song. Continue reading

Remember and Help Our Warriors

warriors

On this Memorial Day, I know we will all stop for at least a moment to remember and thank those brave soldiers who have given their lives in the defense of our country. If you’re interested, consider going one step further and check out a Kansas City-based organization called Warriors’ Ascent.

I became involved with this 501(c)3 group a couple of years ago and continue to do what I can to spread the news of the amazing work they are doing.  You’ve probably heard the stats, but approximately 20 veterans commit suicide each and every day. And many thousands of others suffer from the daily impact of post traumatic stress. Continue reading

Bicycling Built for Two

Prairie Star Bike Trail

Ever since I was a little kid riding my orange Schwinn Sting Ray with the classic banana seat, I’ve always loved getting out on a bike (I still call a bicycle a bike, even if that’s confusing to you Harley riders).  There’s nothing quite like a little speed, feeling the wind on your face, all generated by your own effort.

While I’ve been a road bike rider almost my entire life, Lailan and I have found more casual cycling is another fun and healthy thing to do together. It’s easier on the knees than running and rest stops seem to include some sort of liquid indulgence, because “we earned it!”  Right? Continue reading

The Easter Bunny – Then and Now

Easter PhotoI hope you had a wonderful and blessed Easter. We certainly had a nest-full with our oldest bringing home three friends with him from Fort Riley (Army base) to spend the weekend and to celebrate Easter. A one-year old German shepherd was also along for the visit! One of the things we wanted to do with his friends was to take them down to our famous Country Club Plaza here in Kansas City to see the ceramic, life-sized bunnies that have displayed every Easter season back to 1922. As I was thinking about the Plaza bunnies, I remembered a photo of our boys that we had taken many years ago with “Bryan,” one of the guy bunnies. I recall that being important at the time.  Anyway, I thought how fun would it be to find that photo and have the boys recreate the exact same scene with the same bunny sixteen years later? To my delight, our boys were willing to help go along with this marvelous plan. There was no whining or complaining about it at all. And, the boys even seemed to have fun meticulously recreating the same pose. Oh the joys of adult children!:) I love that we can all have fun together – even if that means recreating silly Easter bunny photos!