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Category Archives: Childhood Reminiscing

What I Learned This Week – 5/1/16

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This week I ran into a woman I hadn’t talked to in years. She used to work at the bank when I was a little girl. When I was young I lived in Riga. My mom would be like “we are going to run errands. We are going to go to the bank and the post office.” They were both on the same road we lived on, not a half mile away. Having never known anything else, I just assumed this was normal for everyone. For the grocery store and the laundromat, we did have to turn left and drive about two miles.

The woman, I’ll call her Mrs. B, had her husband with her.  Mr. B was like “Who’s this?”, which I found slightly amusing. Mrs. B said, “This is Lorie’s daughter.”

My first thought was “Lorie who?”  Then I remembered that my mom said that everyone used to call my dad Lorie. My mom told me this because of course she didn’t like it, so she called him by his full first name Loren, which I have never understood. It’s not like his nickname was Stinky or something. If that is what he went by, why didn’t she just call him that too? But I know why. Because she didn’t want to.

Just as a reminder, my dad died before I was born. I know it is terrible to day, but days go by where I forgot that I have a never parental figure that I never met. Another reason why I like Memorial Day so much, because he is a part of it.

That is what it is like in a tiny town. Everyone knows each other. I don’t know what my dad was like. I only have snippets of stories my mom has told me that I must then transform into memories that are not mine. Stories of him wetting down his hair before walking to his one-room school in the winter time, only to have it freeze by the time he arrived. I’ve heard that he used to get the mail off the train when it arrived and carry it over to the post office. Not a fancy job, to be sure, but for a kid who loved trains, it sure sounds interesting. And I have spent years wondering if the mail came on the old Erie and Kalamazoo line that is still there, the first railroad west of the Alleghenies, that is still there today or the Toledo & Western interurban line that has long since been removed, known to locals as the Teeter & Wobble. Did my dad ever ride the Teeter & Wobble? I would assume so. The T&W is such ancient history that they put on programs about it at the county historical museum. I guess that must mean my dad is ancient too.

Toledo & Western engine

Toledo & Western engine

“Lorie’s daughter” is something I almost never hear. Once in 1997 when I worked at the gas station which was geographically Riga adjacent, an old farmer asked me, “Who’s your father?” out of the blue, for no reason. And that was perfectly normal in my small town. Everyone was just used to knowing everyone. I told him, not expecting him to know me from Adam.  He said, “Lorie? Well I grew up with him.” The cleaning lady overheard this conversation. She had been a year or two behind my dad at the Riga school, which was so long ago it didn’t even exist anymore. (They tore it down to build the bank, which I think presently has been turned into a church building of some sort.) Her and I became good friends after that. I’m sorry to say she is in ill health these days.

And it literally has probably been twenty years since I have had the experience of someone realizing they knew my dad. And with a dad who would be 95 years old if he were still alive, how often is that going to happen again? Very possibly never. I NEVER knew my dad, and soon all the links of people who did know him will be gone.

Mrs. B left telling me that I had made her day. But after I left and kept smiling, I realized that she had really made mine. And the kicker? She saw me in the local paper and says she would like to buy my books. Maybe my dad would be proud?…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Remember This?: Old McDonald’s Apple Pies

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I dreamed last night that I went to Taco Bell for a caramel apple empanada. When I got there, they were revising their menu and most of it was covered over in pieces of cardboard. My delicious, sweet, fried empanada was no longer there.

It made me sad. The dream was very realistic because usually my favorite foods get discontinued. Does anyone else remember Kraft having frozen meals? I was particularly fond of the ravioli filled with mozzarella. There is a great family (meaning just my mom and I) story about me turning around quickly in the kitchen and all the ravioli and tomato sauce slopping off the plate with the centrifugal force my body created. Man, what I wouldn’t give for that plateful of cheesy, tomatoey gooey goodness one last time.

At McDonald’s? Chicken nuggets have stood the test of time, with varying degrees of quality through the decades. A Big Mac, supposedly their signature sandwich? I could care less. I only ate them when I had a year’s worth for free. Even then, I had to order it without the special sauce. But their apple pies? Oh, how I loved those. And no, not the BAKED doughy version they have now, filled with apples slices that are too large and topped with a pile of cinnamon. I love cinnamon, I truly do, but I don’t want it all piled in one spot on top.

Oh God, I would give my pinky toe nail for one of those right about now.

Oh God, I would give my pinky toe nail for one of those right about now.

No, I loved the McDonald’s apple pies of my youth. I believe they went by the wayside in the early 1990s. They were fried, because the outer shell was all golden and crispy. The texture was all these tiny little air bubble bumps along the outside. When you bit into it, it crunched with deep-fried deliciousness. Usually you also burned your lip on the steam, if not on some of the extra-sweetened apple goo that would get stuck to your lip that would continue to scald until you could manage to lick it off and burn your tongue in the process.

Such uniform, processed steaming-hot perfection!

Such uniform, processed steaming-hot perfection!

Inside were diced apples, all uniformly sized in their heavily processed form. It was the definition of DESSERT, as much as you can have without chocolate anyway. It wasn’t a half-assed attempt to make your dessert healthy, with the baked and the less sugar nonsense.

The caramel apple empanada dream upset me so because that is the closest thing I have found that I can still get that reminds me of the old McDonald’s apple pies.

I am apparently not the only one still pining for this fruity delight. There are recipes all over the Internet trying to duplicate the taste and consistency of the original: you can find one here. I am afriad of hot grease, so my attempting it seems highly unlikely. There are still infrequent fried apple pie sightings across the United States, but they seem to be harder to find than a needle in a haystack.

Holy crap! Look at what they serve in Japan. I would totally try that.

Holy crap! Look at what they serve in Japan. I would totally try that.

Now go on about your day. Just try not to think about the crunchy, gooey deliciousness that you can no longer have. Because you can’t. It’s gone. It has gone by the wayside, just like MicroMagic cheeseburgers and old Wendy’s French fries.

Now you can’t stop thinking about them, can you? Your mouth is watering. It would be a great trifecta of garbage food filling up your stomach. Excuse me, I need to take off now and, um, drive thru, I mean drive to the store. Yes, yes….that’s what I meant…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

I <3 Koala Yummies

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Koala Yummies have been around for a long time. So long, in fact, that their name has since been changed to Koala’s March. They are delicious filled cookies and used to be hard to find, but in recent years they are stocked in the cookie aisle of all major grocery chains.

They come in packaging shaped as a hexagonal prism. The shell of the cookie is thin and tastes a bit like a sweetened cracker. It has adorable pictures of cartoon koalas stamped on it. The inside has a chocolate fudge filling. They are made in Japan by Lotte, so they have a cute Kawaii appeal. (Kawaii means “cute” or “adorable”. Think Hello Kitty—it always makes me happy when I think about her!) Apparently the cookies are also available in strawberry, but I can’t recall ever sampling that variety. I usually only buy one box at a time as I tend to inhale them. But on the occasion I took this picture, I bought a family pack.

Koala's March, formerly Koala Yummies

Koala’s March, formerly Koala Yummies

I learned something from the Koala’s March website that I never knew before. Koala’s March supports the Australian Koala Foundation, a conservation group. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say whether buying more boxes will increase the support they receive or not. But, buy more anyway because they are delicious.

Koala’s are super cute, but if I ever have the means to support a threatened animal Down Under, I would choose the dingo because my dog looks like one.

My wild dingo, the first day we got her back in 2004.

My wild dingo, the first day we got her back in 2004.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It CLICK HERE TO WIN!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Remember This?: Charms

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Me wearing my charms at my favorite lighthouse

Me wearing my charms at my favorite lighthouse

This post will only be appealing to Gen X girls. And actually I was only at the very tail end of Gen X, so am not even sure how accurate that assessment is.

When I was in elementary school, it seemed like there was a new fad every week. I didn’t always understand them at such a young age, but I tried to keep up anyway. I’m sure I mostly failed.

I remember in first grade people had something called “friendship pins.” They seemed to consist of beads on safety pins that you hooked on your shoe laces. I think this was just before the majority of shoes switched over to velcro closure in the mid-1980s. I still have some of the beads I got from them, although I can’t imagine who claimed to be my friend at that time.

I also remember stickers. It seemed as though they lasted longer; long enough for me to fill up five books full. (My favorite was always the scratch’n’sniff cinnamon roll. Yum.) Our local mall had a little store that  sold only stickers–rolls and rolls of stickers hanging off the walls.

Garbage Pail Kids sharing a box with charms and New Kids on the Block cards

Garbage Pail Kids sharing a box with charms and New Kids on the Block cards

I remember Garbage Pail Kids. I participated, but didn’t like them as well. They were harder to get because I only knew one place to buy them and my mom had to make a special trip there so that I could purchase them. And they were more expensive than regular stickers. I had some cards from series 1-4, having the most for series 2, but never a complete set. I had a mother who convinced me that I never needed a complete set of any toy–it was her way of not having to buy me so much stuff. (Pretty genius on her part, actually. Doesn’t seem to work as well on my own child.)

There were friendship bracelets and jelly bracelets. But I think my most favorite fad was charms.

Vintage 1980s charm necklaces

Vintage 1980s charm necklaces

They were these little colored pieces of plastic, shaped into everything you could imagine, that hooked onto a necklace. It was very popular to trade them. I don’t think I traded much, because I liked the ones I had and didn’t want to part with them.

The chains were plastic too, and came in small links and large links and every color of rainbow, sometime on the same chain. Once again, it seemed like stores at the mall were the best place to purchase charms; whatever was the equivalent to Claire’s at that time. Charms came in the shape of radios, headphones (non-functioning, of course), roller skates (this was pre-roller blades), and shoes. I had one of the iconic Coca-Cola bottle. Rumor was that it contained real Coke (for sure it contained a brown-colored liquid). I felt fortunate to have some that were thought to be hard-to-find, such as a toilet, with opening lid and seat, a baby bottle, and a clear bottle with colored pills in it. Ya, seeing as kids were buying these, I never thought the pill bottle was age appropriate. Or the bottle with the Old Grand-Dad whiskey label. But they were fun to possess anyway.

Close-up of my awesome charms

Close-up of my awesome charms

I still have my charms. I have hauled them from my childhood home to my first apartment to my first home. I keep my charms in a shoebox. I know they are silly junk I should have sent to the landfill decades ago. But they are all so pretty and colorful. Some have little bells on them that jingle when you lift them out of the box.

And it is a good thing I still have them so that I can provide pictures for this post.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It CLICK HERE TO WIN!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

What I Learned This Week – 3/6/16

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This week I learned that you can go home again.

Especially if that home is the “painted lady” where the Tanner family resides in San Francisco.

I binge-watched Netflix’s Fuller House this week. I was a fan of the original: on my list of Top 10 shows, it probably comes in at 10.5. If you have hung around me or my blog for any amount of time, you know by now that I am a big fan of cheesy 80’s sitcoms, so I am the target audience for this resurrection. Was it lightning in a bottle? Well, no. There are rough edges and things that can be improved. But the many critics who spent their time panning it WASTED their time. I guess they got a paycheck out of it (which I won’t get for my review). They bashed it as “nostalgia culture”. Um, hello… I freakin’ LOVE nostalgia culture. It is so prevalent that Entertainment Weekly caters to it with at least one article every week. But before there was ever an announcement that Full House was coming back, the audience was already decided. It would be loyal fans of the old show who didn’t mind seeing that the characters had, in fact, aged, and a new younger audience brought up on cheesy Disney sitcoms, which were crafted from the mold of the original TGIF anyway.

Recently, I was at my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday party. I found myself in the same room with three other women from my same high school graduating class. It was familiar, but in a new weird way. I used to spend eight hours a day in school with these people. And while years and years had passed, essentially they were the same people I had passed everyday in the halls or sat next to in French (or Art) class.

The women of Fuller House.

The women of Fuller House. I think there is lots of TV magic happening here, with spanx and extensions, but they look fabulous.

That is exactly how it felt to watch D.J., Kimmy Gibbler, and Stephanie as adults and mothers on Fuller House. Sure, they were different. But it was like a weird high school reunion. Except now Stephanie, played by Jodi Sweetin, is set up to be the “cool, hip aunt”, filling in for the former cool, hip Uncle Jesse. And she is great in the part. Although I can’t help but remember that in real life she is a recovering meth addict. It makes me happy to be able to see that she is winning that battle.

If you loved the old show but aren’t interested in watching a reboot, then just watch the pilot. It is like a Tanner family reunion, and the one episode that contains the highest concentration of stars from the original run of the show. No, there is no Michelle. But even though she was a highlight of the original run, I really didn’t miss her here.

Future episodes rely heavily on guest stars and the aforementioned nostalgia. There is dancing and music from both New Kids on the Block and Dirty Dancing, unarguably two of the best things to come out of the late 1980s. Now that I mention it, there is A LOT of dancing on this new incarnation of the show. Here is what else I learned this week from Fuller House: As a woman, mother, and member of Gen X, I am apparently not dancing OR DRINKING enough. I will have to remedy that soon.

The men of Fuller House

The men of Fuller House

While the children were a big draw in the original run, the new batch of children are only agreeable. The romantic leads for the women actually make the show. D.J.’s coworker Matt Harmon (John Brotherton) and Kimmy’s soon-to-be ex Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) steal all the scenes they are in. By the end of the season, you see where D.J.’s competing suitors, good ol’ Steve and Matt could have the beginnings of a beautiful bromance.

You will see some things in this full house that only time has allowed to appear in this reboot, such as men dancing with (and kissing) men and women dancing with (and kissing) women. I fully believe D.J.’s middle child is already being written to be set up as the gay child.

I have heard that a season 2 of Fuller House has already been greenlit. Probably because it got a large audience, because Netflix subscribers have already watched the stale movies and first-run TV series that are already a full season behind what the networks are airing.

Welcome back Tanners, Fullers, and Gibblers.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It CLICK HERE TO WIN!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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