2023: A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal! The Best of our Journals

It’s that time of year again, the “Oscars” of blogs…. and Coming Soon to my blog on April 1st!

Theme Reveal” day is super exciting… as it means I’ve finally decided on a theme… and believe me it’s not always easy… as there is usually several floating through my head. A few were axed, sadly… but there wasn’t always time in fluffing to finalize… and be on-time for the April preview. My first choice had been “Cleaning up Unfinished Drafts” from my draft folder. I don’t know if you’re like me… having several, or even hundreds of drafts, just waiting… yet never finding the time to finish… (My hand is up way-high… leaning to the hundreds of un-finished’s)!

Drumroll….. and the winner is “The Best of our Journals”… bringing me back for Year 8 of the “A to Z April Challenge”!

Are you scratching your head about now… wondering what is this A to Z challenge… then head on over to my post explaining it all… HERE. It will explain what its all about… and just maybe might have you jumping down the rabbit hole yearly with me. See ya down there!

If you’ve followed my journey in the A to Z saga’s, you might have seen my April 2017 A to Z of Conversations with Mama. In moving away when I married… over 900 plus miles to be exact, I lost the chance for daily conversations and visits… now occuring only by phone. During my early life of being a new mom, raising children… and all that goes along… well, it didn’t leave much time for even phone conversation. It was much later in life when I began to enjoy nightly phone calls with mama… and even more so after becoming more absorbed in family research… it was then I began purposedly asking mama more questions on those calls. I soon was rewarded with new tidbits and family stories often remember during those calls …. and I began scribbing them down… which is how my journal of those such stories was born. Often at times, she’d ask “what are you doing, are you writing down everything I say?”… Yes, mama I am! She’d laugh…“better you than me, as I hate to write!” Without my mother, I’d never have my stories… but sadly those stories ended in 2020 with Mama leaving this earth at age 90… which has left a missing void deep within me. Funny how years later, I’ll almost get a quick thought of something I want to ask her… and for almost a fleeting minute, I’m thinking of calling… but then I’m reduced to only hoping she’s thinking of me from high above. I have a story soon planned on my mother… her last days and closing her home; yes, there are drafts, but it’s so hard to write when tears can’t stop flowing… but I hope to finish mama’s story this year.

… but back to this years A to Z

My journaled conversations with mama, soon led me to record the many conversations with my husband from day to day. Steve, just like mama, has, and remembers so many of his life stories… but he, also like mama, would never think, or want to write them down. When I married into his family… I also married into a family full of stories… and I was thrilled and enthused to hear them over and over… and soon began scribbling them down. I’m a firm believer in story saving… as I want my children to know our stories. I’m just one of those people who become more excited over stories and photographs than shopping for clothes… call me crazy… but just call me with a story, and I’m quickly transformed from that quiet person at a party… to a person who might not stop talking so easily once a story is told to me!

Anyone that truly knows Steve and I, knows that you hardly see one without the other right behind. We’re like Barbie and Ken... and have gone through life together now, by each other’s side, for almost 52 years… which happens this year on May 5th! We have remained “best friends” from the first night we met on October 31, 1970″… meeting at a Halloween party… at a place I was not supposed to truly be at… being underage, but it was meant to be! Unknown to me, behind the scenes, we seemed to have been set-up… but only he seemed to have know about me; being told that I had wanted to meet him? Me… I was told nothing about him, and had no clue of this “behind the scenes” of someone hooking us up. While I was at the club (The Sandpiper) that night for a Halloween party… but there just to have fun… and was dressed in one of my high school formals… silly me dressing as a fairy princess… how lame in thinking back! Steve remembers seeing me dancing all night… with several guys he tells me, and never leaving the dance floor… but for some reason he never came to ask me to dance… saying now he felt uneasy in approaching me amidst my dance party all night on the floor… so he watched! My girlfriend and I were later invited to his house for a party afterward; Steve was in the Air Force, and lived off-base with his buddies. I had no clue where we were really going, other than knowing friends of ours lived just next door… of whom, one of them had been the culprit in hooking us up.

I walked into his house, after changing out of my dress… in fringed, bell-bottomed jeans, an army field jacket, and very giggly… he still tells me. I tripped and fell into his waiting arms… never leaving his side after that. I still can’t walk a straight line today! He said when I walked in, he knew I was all he wanted in a girl… long dark hair, long legs and a southern drawl… he was a Yankee!

So that’s how we met… and how our conversations began!

Steve has a good memory… never forgets anything… well almost! When he talks about the details of school life, cars, weddings, living with his parents… I think to myself… why don’t I remember such details of my life? Where are my memories hiding… surely they must be somewhere in my cerebellum. If not for mama telling me my life stories… I often wonder what memories would I have?

For many years I’ve journaled our stories… so I don’t have to worry about forgetting them. Having an I-phone, often makes it extra easy in having a place to jot notes when paper and pen aren’t available. I still have a bulging folder of jotted down memories… and hating to throw away those scribbled, hand-written words. I’m just a paper-chase girl of papers and scribbled notes… hating to part with.. even though they are now written.

As Steve and I became empty nesters, we soon began enjoying those “all” alone times… bringing us back to our early years before the children… now once again enjoying quiet conversation of just us… often yielding in even more stories. By this time, I was begining to ask more detailed questions as to specifics on his Boy Scout days, family life, parents and even his military life. We often took drives through his home town, where we still spend much time even now, and he stills surprises me with new memories… as every road we take brings memories back to him.

One of the first things that caught my interest when I moved to his home-town of West Haven, CT… was the telling of stories of a place called Savin Rock. It had once been a shoreline amusement park, similar to Coney Island… a place he grew up enjoying… while thinking it would never disappear. It actually began way back in the late 1890’s… dwindling through the years, but much still hung on, like rides, fun housees, and the famous racetrack where his uncle races… all for him to enjoy as a boy. I was quickly fascinated with these stories, which yielded me even more more family stories to write; Savin Rock stories can be read over HERE.

I hope my A to Z this year, has you remembering your own life stories… possibly coinciding with his of the Boy Scouts, joining the Air Force, weekly hair cuts, school memories, uncles you idolized, the family home, weddings, summer memories, jobs held, fishing, family foods… and so much more!

In reading through “The Best of our Journals” in editing… it has been like falling down a rabbit hole of memories… and who doesn’t enjoy remembering some of the best times of their life? Steve has given me the best years of my life, and I can’t imagine life without him… which brings me to tears even thinking about it for a glimpse of a minute. Honey if you’re reading this… I “Love You” more than any words I can say… Thank You truly for giving me the happiest days I’ve ever had. Like Steve always says, you show someone love by doing, not saying… proving that every day! He is truly my knight in armor!

So if you dare to follow us down this rabbit hole of our memories… I hope it encourages you to remember yours… as they are a precious part of a life and marriage. Just maybe… next year I might see some of you writing your memories! This has been a labor of love in writing ours… for our children, grandchildren… and future great-grandchildren to know us… know us as once being young… doing things they never would have known we did, or even thought of. A few things I’ve left out of those journals… only remaining in our minds… as some glimpses just can’t be shared!

If you’ve made the read through to now… Thank You for reading… as I often become pretty long-winded in writing, as well as talking. But again… once I begin writing, the words just can’t stop flowing! I’m looking forword to reading all your “theme reveals” this week… seeing my old A to Z buddies from previous years, and discovering new ones. I’ll be logging your reveal sites in a “to visit” post I usually begin… just so I don’t have to remember… as on April 1st, I want to hit the road posting and reading!


Previous Years A to Z April Challenges…

2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
2020: A to Z Family Stories… writing the stories of my husband’s family.
2021: A to Z of Mama in Photos... blogging on my mother through photos and memories 2022: A to Z The Best of our Journals… Time Traveling through my blog… and more.

If you haven’t planned to write in the A to Z this year… there’s still time to join in and write… and even if not in April… start writing your memories! Remember… just words, turn into something memorable… Your Memories!

Hope to see ya soon…..

To read more Family Stories… click HERE

Like to read more 2023: A to Z… The Best of our Journals, click HERE.

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Recipes and Memories: Marbled Brownies

Marbled Cheesecake Brownies

In settling a dispute of… if I wrote my recipe correctly… I pulled out my recipe box today, along with several recipe books… in searching for a copy of the original Duncan Hines “Marbled Brownie” recipe! Yay… I found the original recipe! It seems they printed their recipes on the wax package mix inside the box… who remembers this?

The dispute of… “was my handwritten recipe correct“… came after my daughter asked me to send her my recipe. I snapped a picture of it from my handwritten recipe book and off it went. Later the phone call came in asking for clarification on the mixing part of the brownie mix. I know I’ve made them within a few years, but the only part I could actually remember was… “yes” there were 5 eggs between the brownie mix and the cream cheese mixture… and so the search began!

After much searching through my several recipe books and box… my problem was soon solved of how many eggs… and had I left out oil in the recipe. I’m not one of those who will give you their recipe, but slightly omit an ingredient… or a step. If I’ve left out something, it’s truly by accident… but that wasn’t the case in my Marbled Brownies… which are one of the best brownie cheesecake recipes I’ve used. The only change I made to my original recipe was in substituting a 1, 8 oz. package for the 2, 3 oz. packages the original recipe called for. I’m curious now when they stopped producing 3 oz. packages. Personally I think a little extra cream cheese goodness is never a bad thing!

In having a box of Duncan Hines family-style brownie mix in my cabinet… I decided to make them! The box directions only said 1 large egg, 1/3 cup water and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. So what has changed from the original recipe? Well, in my brownie box of long ago, it came with a package of chocolate syrup that went in the mix… addling 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons of water. If you wanted cake-like brownies… you added 3 eggs… and that is what my original recipe called for. I’m curious how they have changed the brownie mix now, in only adding 1 egg… vs the 2 eggs before… and why?

I didn’t swirl much of the brownie mix into the cream cheese mixture… as I like more of a cheesecake bite, but it’s your preference… if you so choose. The frosting on the brownies… really enhances it… even more chocolate goodness!

In baking them today, I followed the brownie recipe on the box of adding the 1/2 cup oil and 1/3 cup water, but I added 3 eggs… unlike it saying 1, or 2 if you want more cake-like. In googling the extra eggs, I read that it would add more fat… which would create a fudgier brownie, but I also read that it would make them lighter, drier, and more cake-like. I know there will be another batch, and on that batch… I’ll add 2 eggs plus 1 yolk. The recipe also called for a baking time of 35-40 minutes, but in using my convection feature on oven, they were ready at 30 minutes.

Marbled Brownies are cut and test tasted. Hubby says they taste just fine… but I think on the next go-round, I will try adding 2 eggs, plus 1 yolk to the brownie mixture. I’m curious now about adding just the yolk to make it more fudgy (from what I read)… but I will be perusing the baking aisle to see if any brownie mixes offer a licquid chocolate packet inside.

Love to hear from you… if you dare to make these brownies!

More Family Recipes and Memories, click HERE

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Family Recipes and Memories: Zucchini Apocalypse makes Squash and Eggs

In reading a post entitled Zucchini Apocalypse by fellow blogger Vera Marie Badertscher… I laughed as I thought about the many summers of having more zucchini than recipes in my overstuffed recipe box, but today the abundance of zucchini hasn’t arrived yet… having to resort in buying mine in the dead of February winter.

After chuckling over Vera’s chosen word of “apocalypse” and clearing my head of zombie attacking zucchini… I began to think of my introduction to this strange vegetable. It was only after I married and living with my in-laws, did I learn the many ways to prepare this simple, and very tasty vegetable.

Today’s recipe on zucchini is an old Italian comfort food of zucchini and eggs! Another dish I’m sure I turned my nose up at… but it soon became a favorite. My mother in law could whip this up in a second… a fast easy meal! A dish of this, along with a slice of Italian bread… and often hard to stop taking seconds, and thirds. My father in law was always happy with any meal that required Italian bread in one hand whle eating.

Chopped zucchini and onion… I like to leave a little green when I peel my zucchini.

Zucchini was one of the first vegetables my father in law planted in his garden… along with tomatoes… and just like tomatoes, once they began coming in… they didn’t seem to stop. I remember dad bringing me out to his garden in teaching me how to pick zucchini… as there are tricks. First, they must grow the “coveted” yellow blossoms… and that is another post (HERE) as you need to know exactly which blossoms to pick… there are both male and female. The zucchini grows only from a female blossom, and once they start, and after the garden has had enough water… they grow quickly like weeds… you must check every day.

Dad often inspected his garden morning and evening… so easy to miss that one hidden among the many vines. And if you miss one… and find it days later… it’s grown three to four times its picking size by the time you discover it… now only usable for frying like eggplant. I remember many evenings when dad returned from his garden with one of those gigantics… of which had escaped him for days! They do enjoy playing “hide and seek” with you!

Directions: Saute the chopped onions and squash together, adding a small amount of either olive, or vegetable oil. Cook on low so they don’t brown too much. Add salt and pepper to either squash and onions, or your egg mixture… or both. When squash feels soft, pour the mixture of eggs and parmesian cheese in. Let cook for a minute, then lift sections with spatula… keep turning sectons until all egg is cooked thoroughly.

Recipe: Zucchini and Eggs

Ingredients: zucchini, onion, eggs, parmesian/romano cheese, oil, salt & pepper, Italian bread

It’s hard to give amounts on this type of “feel good” meal… often depending on how much zucchini you have, or how many people you’re feeding. For the two of us today, I’ve tried to give measurements, with always a little extra. Who doesn’t want extra?

  • 2 cups zucchini abt…. chopped in bite size pieces. (I don’t peel my zucchini completely of all skin, but instead cut a peel, but then leave a peel… continuing around; this leaves some green showing.
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion abt… depending on your taste and want
  • 5 eggs (scramble well in bowl)
  • 1/2 cup abt. Parmesian/Romano cheese; whatever your favorite; the mixture of eggs and cheese should be thick.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil… 2/3 tablespoons to ccok squash and onion in.

There’s no set rule on amounts… depends on how many you are feeding, so judge from my ingredients which would feed two very hungry people, or possibly three… with bread and salad on the side.

Another family favorite way to prepare the apocalypse zucchini in the summer, is the zucchini quiche… the one my mother in law was famous for. She was always the first one to make it every summer… and everyone said hers tasted the best! My husband seems to have inherited her cooking genes… as I think his is the best… and everyone else who’s lucky enough to be around! I can never resist it warm… but it’s also great cold. Family zucchini quiche recipe is highlighted above.

Do drop me a line if you make!

More Family Recipes and Memories, click HERE

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Family Stories: I Pack my Suitcase with…

The famous yellow suitcase!

I Pack my Suitcase with… 

I’ll never forget the time my son and I landed at JFK with over 6 pieces of luggage… just the two of us, plus more bags I was carrying! He never grumbled as we made our way to the shuttle van… laughing all the way as we struggled to carry them. The drivers in New York never complained about our weighty luggage, but the early morning shuttle driver in Georgia taking us to the airport always grumbled “what are you trying to do, bring it all home with you”. We never liked seeing that “one” very overweight grumpy driver at 6 a.m. He never was without a comment, and I bet he doesn’t miss me either!

Just as the title of this story says, I did pretty much pack my suitcase with everything. Remember the old game, “I Pack my Suitcase” that you played as a child? For some reason I felt very compelled to bring many Southern items home with me every year – and I still do today.

Holcomb’s Bar-B-Q

Until I finally learned how to make Bar-B-Q sauce with Mama’s help of devising a recipe, I lugged three gallons of Holcomb’s special sauce home every year on the plane. The legal limit today of carrying liquid on-board is 4 oz! I would surely be arrested today if I tried sneeking that on! After I learned that the TSA allowed you to also bring frozen food on-board, I quickly packed my carry-on suitcase full of frozen BBQ and Brunswick Stew. I never breathed easy until I was past security; they always seemed to open it… probably thought me crazy. I didn’t care what they thought, just as long as my BBQ made it to the plane.

Even though I already had a yard full of mama’s flowers, I still couldn’t resist more plants from her garden… and she expected me to, and always had flowers waiting for me to pack. She rooted hydrangeas for my daughter to bring home one year. I’ve never seen anyone with a green thumb like mama; she could stick a root in the ground anywhere, and presto, roots appeared. Of course there’s a drawback to going anywhere with someone with a green thumb… as everywhere we went, mama couldn’t resist pinching off a piece of whatever she coveted. Sometimes I looked the other way and kept walking … just waiting for the flower police to appear!

Later I began shipping through the post office as the airlines became more strict, and began x-raying all the luggage under the plane. I’m also not in the gardening mode now as I once was, but I enjoyed when hubby dragged out my treasured “Ola” lily and Elephant Ear plants in the summer.  I kept them in pots, as they are more tropical and cannot weather through our winters outside. Sadly both of my plants stopped growing and flowering… no more beautiful blooms.

The Ola Lily at Mama’s house

I recently discovered that mama’s Ola lily is from the Crinum lily family, and considered an heirloom Southern lily. They can only be puchased at special nurseries on-line that continue to grow and reproduce them; you’ll never find them in local nurseries. In searching online, I’ve discovered that they are actually called the milk and wine or confederate lily.

Driving around Georgia, you’ll see the Ola Lily occasionally, but usually only more in the country. We mostly see them around Siloam, and that’s where mama’s plants came from. It’s definitely one of the “pass along plants” – that you only have because someone has shared one with you from their garden. When someone shares a plant with you, feel truly honored – you’ll remember that person always when the plant blooms. I think of my grandmother Ola (McKinley) every time I looked at my lily when it bloomed. I even named it Ola, after her, because no one knew the real name of the plant years ago… and even today, I still call it the Ola Lily.

My favorite Tara House… The Nolan Home

My suitcases in previous years came home packed with Georgia treasures such as… bags of Georgia red clay soil, scooped up from Lumpkin and Greene County, bricks from the home of Granddaddy Bryan and Granddaddy McKinley’s fallen chimneys, bricks that once held up the southern porch of my favorite Tara house… cuttings of country pink roses from the yard of my Civil War 4th-great grandfather’s log cabin across from Cane Creek in Lumpkin County, cast iron frying pans that belonged to my grandmother Ola and my mother. One year I even brought home a 14-inch cast iron frying pan I bought in an antique store; it arrived safe and sound… after its airplane ride!

It was never easy leaving my mother’s house with light suitcases… no matter how hard we tried… it just wasn’t going to happen! Besides all the shopping in our favorite antique stores there, mama always had things she wanted to pack in my suitcase; and no one could say no to Mama! And those Southern antique stores always had “finds” there that I’d never find in Connecticut… and so they had to come with me also!

Besides bringing home antiques, there were other food items that I had to find room for in my suitcase, such as boxes of Luzianne Tea… like I can’t buy tea bags at home, but it makes the best sweet tea! Bags of green peanuts is always a must… have to make boiled peanuts upon returning home. White Lilly flour is another must have every year… which comes in 5-pound bags, and there are often two or three of those packed somewhere in my several suistcases! I just can’t make mama’s southern biscuits without that flour – it’s a must!

And do you know how hard it is to carry loaves of Sunbeam BBQ bread through the airport without squishing? One man evem stopped to ask me why was I carrying so much of that bread – he said he was just curious as to why. It’s another staple I can’t buy here. I contacted Sunbeam about them selling it here, but their answer was, “no one would buy it there.” Boy is he wrong, people in Connecticut love bread… and it was always one of those “asked for things” from my son when he didn’t come. Now my son lives in Florida… and he still can’t buy it there. I guess Sunbeam doesn’t think anyone in Florida will eat it either!

Mama fussing around in her gardens…

From one visit to the next, mama collected things for us… things that “she” thought we might want,,, and expected us to bring home… in our suitcases. The night before leaving mama’s, we began playing the game of… I pack my suitcase with!  We packed, unpacked, and repacked… then weighing the suitcases… only to start asking who had room in theirs, for whatever wasn’t fitting in ours! Then after our suitcases were packed to the brim, here came mama with more things… telling us to just stick them somewhere!

I still remember many of the looks that the check-in-guys gave me before finally tossing my suitcases on the traveling belts, and sending me on my way… I always gave a generous tip when they took my suitcase! I would tell my son, “well I do want my bags to come along for the ride… on our plane!

On one trip, mama had over fourteen new baby dresses and books for me to bring home for the granddaughters, and when I didn’t pack all the books, she seemed disappointed. Granted the dresses didn’t weigh much, but they still took up room!

The extra shopping bags were usually dragged out on our last night… for the hard-to-fit breakables that never made it into the suitcase. I carried them nonchalantly, pretending I’d just purchased gifts at the airport…. and I was never questioned! When I tell you our bags were filled to every nook and cranny – Believe me!

So you can see, besides packing my suitcase with ancestor memories, I also include other strange items like flour, peanuts, bricks, red dirt, plants, BBQ, Brunswick Stew, bread, peach pickles, cast iron pans and whatever goodies I found in the antique stores and hiding around mama’s house; Lots of  goodies always hiding there!

The last time I packed goodies from Mama’s house was in 2021 when we sold the house. Even though I was no longer traveling by plane… we still managed to pack many suitcases and bags with the last goodies salvaged from Mama’s house. While I knew there were many things I shouldn’t be bringing home, I just wasn’t ready to let go of many of Mama’s treasures just yet. There was nothing there worth big bucks, but they held dear memories to me.

Mama’s biggest treasures was always her jewelry and clothes… and I always promised her that I wouldn’t throw them away… and I didn’t. I packed all her jewelry to bring home… hoping to make a craft with them oneday, but haven’t come up with just the right “idea” yet. She always said, “buy a big jar and put them all in.” That would take a really “Big” jar! Jewelry and clothes were her favorite possessions, and I even brought some of her clothes home for sewing projects down the road. I better get busy!

What do I pack in my coming home suitcase today… still the White Lily Flour, and BBQ if we are anywhere near Holcomb’s in Greensboro.

 “So, What do you pack in your suitcase?”

To read more Family Stories, click HERE.

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Recipes and Memories: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

We have been in a deep freeze the past couple days in Connecticut… so extra cooking keeps your mind busy… off the frigid temps… while keeping the house warm… and what’s better than the smell of cookies throughout the house?

We woke up this morning to a frigid – 6 degrees this morning… BRRRRR! Which really felt more like – 20 degrees! Even though we’ve enjoyed pretty decent weather this past winter… and still have no snow on the ground as of today… Feb. 4th! I have no memory of not ever seeing having snow by this time… and I came here in 1971. Fox weather said the other day that this hasn’t happenend since 1973… guess I was too much of a newlywed to have been paying attention to snow!

When we have really cold weather… it seems to push me to bake more… which benefits a warmer house without having to turn up the thermostat… especially with home heating oil at $3.69 a gallon. While it has been lower than it was… it di escalate to over Five Dollars a gallon the past couple of months… which is not good for your pocketbook!

As hubby was putting away the new oatmeal I bought the other day… he muttered, “Oatmeal Chocolate Chip” cookies sure would hit the spot today! And I complied… after he measured out all the ingredients for me…. how sweet of him, but! Hubby doesn’t like using measuring cups… he prefers the glass measuring larger cups. Even though I’ve told him how they won’t give correct measurements… it’s what he likes to use; you really need to be more precise in baking vs cooking!

While my butter softened slightly, I decided to re-measure his measurements… and he was amazed at how much flour, sugar and oats I left in his measuring cups! Will it deter him from measuring again in the glass cups… probably not!

I used the recipe that was printed on the inside lid of Quaker Oats today… minus the raisins and cinnamon… instead adding 1 cup chocolate chips. I decided to go with half semi-sweet and half dark chocolate chips… adding extra yummy in using multiple chocolate flavors! If I had had milk chocolate chips, I would have included them also.

Love the “Vanishing” part of the cookie name!

I choose to always use parchment on my baking pans, chill my batter, and use a cool pan on every batch. In as today was super cold, all I had to do was sit the hot pan on my porch to cool quickly! Keeping your dough and pan chilled, helps to keep your cookies from spreading more than you want. In reading about measuring exact on the flour and sugars… it also seems to make the cookie spread, but today… I measured very exact!


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter – plus 6 tbsp. (softened)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I use light brown, but you can use dark)
  • 1/2 cup grandulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon… only use if adding raisons, but you could add
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) I usually use salted butter so don’t add
  • 1 cup raisins; optional (I substituted the chocolate chips instead)
  • 1 cups chocolate chips; optional (I used 1/2 semi sweet & 1/2 dark chocolate chips)
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned – uncooked) I used old fashioned
  • walnuts optional; hubby doesn’t like nuts in his cookies, so I alter pans in adding nuts on top of cookies before baking… so we both have our favorites. I personally think walnuts taste better than pecans in most cookies… but that’s just my preference. But then again, I have other cookie recipes like butter balls or thumbprints… and I strickly only use pecans… as walnuts just don’t give the right taste to me.


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars with mixer until creamy… mixer works best.
  • Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  • Add flour, baking soda… cinnamon and salt if using… mix well with mixer.
  • Add oats and raisins (if using); mix well now using a wooden spoon.
  • Add chocolate chips, stir in with spoon.
  • Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking pan… I always use parchment in baking… no greasing needed for cookies. I use my small cookie scooper… so much easier!
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown on edges. I used the convection feature on my oven and used exactly 8 minutes; my edges were lightly brown, but cookie still looked light and wet, but as they cooled, they looked perfect… so don’t overcook!

I cooled cookies on pan before removing to a dish, but you can cool one minute on pan and remove to a wire rack. Cool completely before storing… if you don’t eat them all! Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

What’s your favorite… chocolate chip or oatmeal chocolate chip?

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© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: National Puzzle Day 2023

National Puzzle Day… January 29, 2023

My mother in law, Cecelia, diligently working on a puzzle… sure wish I could see the photo on the box! I’m sure dinner was late on days she became absorbed… in loosing track of time!

My mother in law was always a puzzler… often having one set up in the back room… always nice to have an area where it can be left out. You’ll never finish if you have to keep putting it away. We recently bought a puzzle board with drawers on both ends, which is great in seperating pieces out of your way until needed… but there’s always one hiding in there that you’ve been looking for… and swearing it’s missing! Funny story on the purchase of this board bought through Amazon… as hubby pulled it out of the box, I was like… “this doesn’t look right, look one side is missing.” Sure enough, they left off one of the sides… so I called Amazon. They credited me and said either donate, dispose of, or keep it. Problem solved… I kept it, and told hubby to add a side using one of his yardsticks… they were the perfect size. I guess the guy on the assembly line went home early that day… wonder how many left the factory like mine… in missing one side of the puzzle board? We’re loving our “free” puzzle board!

So when did puzzles first come into existence… and after a little research I learned!

  • 1767: Mapmaker John Spilsbury created the first jigsaw puzzle… it’s said, he used a saw in cutting out a map; it was mounted on a hardwood sheet… hence the name jigsaw.
  • 1908: Puzzles became a full-blown craze in the United States.
  • 1913: The first crossword puzzle was published in 1913 on the 21st of December in the New York World Newspaper… a Sunday Newspaper. The creator of this first published puzzle was Arthur Wayne, a journalist.
  • 1933: During the Great Depression, puzzles sales soared at 10 million per week… and I find that so hard to believe, as I would think they wouldn’t spend money on unnecessary items.. such as puzzles!
  • The study of puzzles is known as enigmatology… I don’t know about you, but I am tongue-tied in even trying to pronounce it!
  • Lewis Carroll, the author of the famous Alice in Wonderland, is the inventor of word ladder puzzles… well this puzzles me, as I’m not sure what a word ladder puzzle is… hey Google!
  • New to me… National Puzzle Day was established by Jodi Jill in the year 2002 in sharing her love of puzzles with everyone. Jodi is a professional quiz maker and a syndicated maker of puzzles. I will be googling her puzzles!

Regular jigsaw puzzles are quite popular among all ages… as I’ve seen on a couple of Facebook puzzle groups. I’m amazed when they show a 1000 piece puzzle and say it only took them a couple of days… all I can say is… did they come up for air? I can’t be glued to a puzzle, as I have too many irons in the fire… as mama liked to tell me. I just began a new knitting project, even though I have a few knitting projects also on needles. I’m also working on an April A to Z Blog Challenge, and I have a dining room table that needs cleaning off so I can finish a few sewing projects. Maybe I need to give up sleeping!

At a recent estate sale… there must have been over a hundred puzzles for sale… someone had been very busy. But the oddest thing I’ve ever seen was at a tag sale last summer… with almost just as many for sale… but the puzzler had written on the back of them… writing exactly where the puzzle went! I wished later that I had bought just one of them… even his writing was perfectly sized for the puzzle piece. (I did have hubby hold up one of the puzzle backs for me)

In thinking about the many types of puzzles besides the jigsaw… think about newspaper crosswords, sudoku, word search, 3-D puzzles, Rubik’s Cube, puzzle brain teasers where you have to unlock something, or release the rings through the square; hubby has a box of those type puzzles we’ve acquired through the years. And who hasn’t jumped on the craze of Wordle… I jumped on last year a couple months after it began, although my first thoughts were… I just don’t understand it. Every morning hubby and I work to solve, while muttering outloud, “Oh I have nothing and I’m on line 3.” As of late, I think they are becoming a wee bit tricky… as I often have to make sure my Nancy Drew cloche hat is snugged on tight! As to those New York Times puzzles… I’m lucky to figure out a few and envious of those who solve the entire thing. I’m told though, that the more you work them, you learn the ins and outs of what the answers will be… but I think I’ll pass. I do keep a couple word puzzles and word search for our afternoon beach sitting… in trying to keep me off my phone and scrolling through Facebook. While I know its still a chilly January… my mind is only thinking of my soon-to-be beach days… it’s all downhill now waiting for summer!

Hubby putting together the globe… he didn’t think it would go together, but needed the help of a tool in securing the very top pieces.

My husband, for as many years as I can think back to… always did the TV Guide puzzle… I remember having to buy it weekly as soon as it hit the stands on Monday mornings. It was just one of those things, that you had to have on that very day… and if for some reason, it didn’t come into the stores… you were devastated, in not having next weeks guide. Once they changed the format though… well, it’s never been the same… and we stopped buying. My husband was a collector of old TV Guides… and in all of them that were ours… his DNA is on the puzzle page… and he never left a square empty!

One of hubby’s TV Guide puzzles… he faithfully completed weekly!

So what do puzzles do for you, other than maybe creating a pretty picture to frame! They are great for stimulating your brain cells, regardless of your age… and it’s an activity where all ages can join in and work together. We have a 2000 piece Coca Cola puzzle with all the family’s DNA on those pieces! I was a very bad girl when putting that one together though… as I hid one piece… to ensure I put the last piece in! Very tricky of me… glad I didn’t lose it! The few puzzles we’ve done in the past, we framed… as I’ve never been one for taking them apart… as I loved the images and couldn’t bear to take them apart. Yes, they’re up in the attic… along with my Christmas puzzle I hang yearly. The one puzzle we still have hanging is that 2000 Coca Cola puzzle… it brings back so many memories of all the family who sat around the table. When we cleaned out hubby’s moms house, I found several laying on the attic floor… lots of hours went into those!

The well-remembered 2000 piece Coca Cola puzzle!

I never saw anyone make puzzles in growing up… so my first experience with them was seeing his mother sit in front of a puzzle. The only time I heard my mother mention puzzles was in telling me that they had them at the senior center… where she went daily. In asking her if she worked on any… “that’s not for me, I’d throw them in the trash and walk on.” She was absolutely not interested in making a puzzle… and even when I tried telling her how it’s good for her brain… I received the look of “find another topic!”

Our “free” puzzle board… and hubby is already saying he thinks there are 3 pieces missing! (Note… the ruler side we added.)

Hubby put this together… as his aunt gave up. It was quite hard… and as usual he said… there are pieces missing. He first thought it was an outside piece, but I later found that one in the box, but there was one missing piece in the end; I made one from the box cover… getting too much practice in that lately!

Hubby, aka… “Pop” with granddaughter Ana working another chicken puzzle! Pop wearing his famous welding hat!

Daughter in law, Rose, with daughter Nina, and mom, Anna… all putting in the last piece of Rose’s chicken puzzle. While it didn’t look hard… it was… as those darn chickens shared too many colors, but Rose worked diligently to assemble!

So put down those I-Pads, Cell Phones, shut the television… and work a puzzle with family… make memories!

To read more family stories, click HERE.

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Husband’s Family Stories: Saturday Night at the Races

Saturday Night at the Races

Steve Insalaco

Saturday mornings as a young boy was often spent hanging around with my best friend Ronnie (Kessler)… waiting for the race cars to start rolling by – as they headed down to Savin Rock Speedway. I had the best seat for viewing as they traveled down Sawmill Road – sitting on the cement wall of the bridge at Voss Street… right next to the pond. What boy didn’t like to hang around a pond, but that’s another story.

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a town that offered such great local attractions as Savin Rock and the Speedway – right in my own backyard! What else was in Connecticut at that time – sure it was a pretty state – but what was here? People didn’t travel back then all over the state like they do today, so to literally have this right in your backyard was a treat. And of course, like everything else in life, you don’t realize what you have, until it’s gone! I remember seeing the advertisements for the Racetrack and Savin Rock in the newspaper, especially remembering the luring words of “ride one of the only roller coasters that takes you out over the water” – you’d also hear the spiel on the radio – it’s what enticed you to want to come to the “Rock” – as it was called by the locals.

By three in the afternoon, Ronnie and I were sitting in our favorite spot on the Voss Street Bridge – waiting for the cars. Even if we weren’t going to the races, it was still exciting to see all the cars as they rolled right by us on Sawmill Road. It was that very road, which led directly down to the Savin Rock Speedway. Usually in the morning we would have already seen all the many buses which came from New York and New Jersey – loaded with people ready to spend their last dime to win a prize at the “Rock.” The race cars from the furthest away like Pennsylvania, were often the first ones to roll by as early as three o’clock in the afternoon. Many of the racing teams had a lot of money invested in those cars and drivers, and wherever there was a race – they went! They came pulling the cars on a trailer and often a second truck carrying all their gear followed; the local drivers came later in the afternoon, with much less gear.

I-95 had not even opened until late 1958, so before then many took the back roads or US Highway 1 to West Haven Speedway. Once I-95 opened we often saw the cars backed up on the Exit 42 ramp waiting to head down Sawmill Road. If only we had a camera on those Saturday afternoons, what history we could have saved. But like everyone else, it’s only in my mind now.

As a little kid I never went to the races other than maybe once or twice a year if my Uncle Mikie took me with his boys. While he talked to the gate attendant, we’d sneak in. I’m sure we weren’t pulling the wool over his eyes… he probably did that for all his buddies. People didn’t have money back then to afford to go weekly, and bring all the kids. So if you had a buddy at the gate, he often looked the other way.

Johnny… The King… Cambino

I never remember my parents ever going to the races and I couldn’t understand – “why not!” My mom had a brother racing, and a famous one racing at that – and she didn’t want to go! To a small boy, that made no sense to me. My father never wanted to go either and as far as I can remember, he never went. He thought the whole idea of putting your life at risk when you had a family to support, and ruining good cars was a waste. That was his thinking – his priorities were to take care of his family by working, pure and simple. My aunt Catherine was the only sister of Johnny’s who went often, and she took me a few times until I was old enough to go by myself. Even my grandfather didn’t go… but he always knew when his son won… he was a barber, so he always knew the news!

Over the years there were several troupes who came to the Speedway to put on “Thrill Shows.” A couple of shows that I remember were the Thunderbird Hell Drivers which were billed as two hours of “Automotive Fury and Motorcycling Insanity.” Another troupe was the Lucky Hell Drivers who put on quite an unforgettable show, but you can’t forget the Midgets who Harvey Tattersall always said the crowd demanded! Those events kept you spellbound for a couple of hours as they flipped cars through the air, awed you with T-bone crashes, always comedy and enough rollovers to make the girls jump. It was an evening that you didn’t want to end, but then again you couldn’t wait for the 25 lap non-Ford race to start. Those were the nights Harvey called his “two for one” show.

By the time I was around twelve, my friend Ronnie (Kessler) and I went to the races every Saturday night. We often snuck in on Oak Street – which was eye-shot of the Sky Blazer just across on Summer Street. If I’m remembering right, tickets were about a buck seventy-five for adults and fifty cents for a kid – which was still a lot of money for a kid only receiving a two-dollar a week allowance.

There was always a cop patrolling around the track and we’d wait for our moment of when he turned the corner; you only had a short window of opportunity. I’m sure he knew what we were doing but probably didn’t care that some of us kids jumped over the fence. You had to be strong enough to pull yourself up, and over quickly… if you weren’t in shape – well you didn’t get in. We always jumped over near the short section of bleachers that weren’t under the overhang. Soon as we were over we scurried under the bleachers – not touching anything – coming out on the side. We were then free to walk around sporting our peg pants, looking cool, trying to impress the girls! peg pants were the fad at one time and like everyone else you wanted to always be in style. The craziest fad I remember is when everyone carried a thin black umbrella with a long point at the end – no matter what the weather – it was the style to just carry it.

Once I turned 16 and had a car – a 1961 blue Valiant – I drove to the races. Parking was everywhere down there, from the paid parking areas to all the side streets. By late Saturday night, there wasn’t a parking spot left. We didn’t mind walking so we often opted for a side street – which meant free parking for us. We didn’t have extra money to pay for parking as by that time we weren’t jumping the fence any longer and now paying to get in. It was always a full house… it was the place to be on a Saturday night!

The warm ups for the cars began around 6 p.m. – and once they revved their engines, they were heard pretty far away. Just ask anyone living in West Haven, that’s the first thing they talk about – hearing the roar of the cars on a Saturday night as they revved up those engines. They began the warm-ups by allowing a small group of cars on the track, giving them time to take several laps to warm up. They then opened the gate for them to go back in the pits and let another group out. This gave the crew time enough to adjust anything wrong with the car. Once they all warmed up, the heats began. Sometimes I remember seeing a quarter of the track filled with cars competing for a spot in the regular Saturday night twenty-five lap race. After a few heats, and only picking the first five or so from each heat, they ran a consolation race; this gave cars a chance who’d had earlier problems and missed the regular heats. Once the cars were picked and slots drawn, you began hearing their engines roar as they lined up to exit the pits onto the track. We loved the moment of when the gates opened and they lined up on the track, edging into their pole positions. The main race of the night was the 25-lap stock car event which my uncle Johnny often drove in. This is what drew the crowd! There were also earlier races for the novice classes which weren’t as fast as the stock cars. It was the stock cars – the main event – of what everyone waited for.

Johnny Cambino – Car 39 – Sponsored by Marshall’s Garage

My uncle never cared which spot he drew, and often said that he never thought the front pole was the best place to be; he felt a good driver could win from any pole position and often said, “I’ll just sit right there on the track and wait for an opening and if they give me that opening, I’m gone.” And that’s exactly what he did – once he had an opening, he never hesitated – he’d floor it and the crowd would go crazy. That’s why he won so many races, he was never afraid of taking a shot when it was handed to him.

I remember Johnny telling me about the other drivers, and saying “if they can’t beat me, then they don’t deserve to be on the track.” And that him talking when he drove at an older age, against the young twenty-or-something ones. They hated having him on the track, calling him an old man… but he showed them. Getting beat by him was an insult to their driving ability –  Johnny laughed about beating them. He had more skill and knowledge in driving then they had of just being alive at that point.

Johnny Cambino – The Flying 5 – Sponsored by Greco’s Garage

It took money to run those cars and it was the garages and sponsors who owned the cars and footed the bill for the drivers. Johnny drove for several garages around West Haven but I mostly remember Marshall’s Garage – he drove no. 39 for them and it often was in the winner’s circle. He also drove  the Flying 5 for Greco’s Garage – that was one of his favorite cars and it flew! At that time Georgie Greco’s one-car bay garage was on Forest Road in Allingtown, but if they weren’t working on it you usually found the race car sitting in his driveway across from Armstrong’s Warehouse.

Much work went into preparing a car for racing – you ripped out pretty much all its interior, installed a special front seat for racing and braced the roof with a roll bar; basically making a cage inside to keep you safe. Those cars had a lot of power coming from the rear, unlike the front-wheel power driven cars today. Besides the makeover of the car, you also needed special tires called “slicks” which gave you the slide needed on the turns. Those stock cars were made from actual cars, not like today’s NASCAR cars, which are built just for racing.

It took talent to build those stock cars and it took talent to get behind the wheel. Johnny told the story that when he first drove, all he knew about racing was just from his own driving experience; he was then a carpenter and a tire builder at Armstrong Rubber, but he had arms of steel. Johnny was hanging around one of the garages one day when someone came  looking for a driver – and not being afraid of anything or anyone, he said “I’ll drive” – and that’s how his driving career began.

Johnny & Maggie Cambino

Whenever Johnny won, which was often, we usually were able to go back in the pits; especially if we had run into his girlfriend Maggie (later his wife) in the stands – being his nephew had its rewards at times. Maggie always went in the pits after the race and was in the winning circle with him most nights when he won.

Harvey Tattersall even attended Johnny’s wedding. He had even tried to talk Johnny into getting married in the infield, but Maggie quickly squashed that. Their wedding was a big affair and many friends and fans attended; Tattersal presented him  and Maggie with a big trophy after they married.

The Savin Rock Speedway is one of my most remembered memories of growing up in West Haven. I do remember Savin Rock but much of it was already gone, and a young boy only had so much money to spend!

I wrote this story from hearing the many stories my husband told me through the years… and hearing it so often made me feel like I had also been there at the track. Unfortunately I married Steve in 1971, long after all the glory of Savin Rock.

To read more of hubbys stories, click HERE.

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Remembering the Best of 2022!

Remembering the Best of 2022!

In looking back at 2022, my writing wasn’t as strong as in past years… only 49 posts this year. There certainly wasn’t a lack of stories to write, as there are hundreds of posts in my draft file… patiently waiting to be finished! While it’s always hard to pick favorites in writing… you always have a few that really pulled you in to write… pulling at your heart… and the Nancy Drew in me always perservered to write that story.

Enjoy a look back with me…

“My New Years” post often begins in rememberences of the previous year of writing… and early January Ist of 2022 began with Superstitions and Sayings... superstitions of celebrating the new year. New Years is often sad, as it brings back memories of my parents and grandparents… times long ago… and never to be again. It’s funny how I never fail to think of New Years without remembering daddy’s phone call at midnight and mama talking about eating black-eyed peas and turnip greens. I often think it funny in remembering mama opening the front door at midnight to let the new year in… and while I never did, I do remember my kids running out and ringing my grandfather’s farm bell… which stood in our front yard. That tradition has passed now to my son… and his girls running out to ring that very bell… which has transplanted itself now in Florida. From stories told, that very farm bell traveled to Georgia from North Carolina… from Georgia it came to Connecticut, and now it resides in Florida; it definetly has endoured many miles of traveling!

I began 2022.. in hopes of journaling a “Monthly Musing”… writing on family events… along with my regular family stories. It was a struggle all year to continue those writings… and often I combined a few months in one post. It was the end of the year when I really struggled to play catch-up. Not sure if I’ll commit to those in 2023… maybe I’ll decide to only surprise you with a musing here and there! The granddaughters enjoyed them as they often found themselves in pictures on the internet… it’s exciting to them and often have said… “I’ve made them famous“! If you’d like to check out my first January Musing... click over there; more musings can be read HERE.

Writing on family photographs is always fun… as the sleuth in me really pulls my detective hat on… in writing those stories… while also learning. It’s funny how a simple short story can be written on just a single photo… often rewarding you in more history than you ever knew. If you’ve never written a story on dissecting a family photograph… do give it a try. In writing on Daddy in Balboa Park, San Diego, California… I first had never even known where this photo was taken, or its story until I took a deeper look at the writing on the back… and from there I pieced together a story on how my father came to be at Balboa Park in California.

Another family group of photographs I wrote on was of my husband in the Air Force… and while more were planned, I never finished. Hopefully in 2023 I will add more, but I began with this photo of hubby’s locker in Thailand… with so many familiar items. I never really looked deep into this photograph until I began my writing… and it began to tell me so many stories.

January also began my Wordle craze… I had just jumped on the bandwagon a couple months earlier, never knowing how fast this the craze would grow. It was actually late December of 2021 when Wordle first became very popular on social media. I remember seeing a few of my family and friends playing from day 1… but I hadn’t been hooked. The statistics show that it quickly went from around 90 players on November 1st 2021 to quickly 300,000 by January 2nd, 2022… and later spiking to over 2 million players only a short week later… and today ? It’s written that popularity has declined since the takeover of The New York Times; I’ve found no exact number count for players today.

March had only 6 writings… from musings to more family photograph stories of Mama and Me in our Yard and Me in My Room. When the 1950 Census release was announced… I immediately began writing, 1950’s Census and Stories: Anticipating the 1950 Census. While I did draft more stories when it was released in April, I sadly never finished them… 2023 needs to be my year of tidying up my so-neglcted draft folder.

April seems to be my busiest writing month with the addition of the A to Z writing challenge that hooks me ever year… 2022 made 7 years of writings. 2022 had me “Time Traveling” through my previous 8 years of blogging… although it was my very last “Z” post which really had me excited to write… do check out “Z… Zee Last Thing I Expected to Discover on the A to Z.”

Previous Years A to Z April Challenges… incase you want to take a browse through!

2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
2020: A to Z Family Stories… writing the stories of my husband’s family.
2021: A to Z of Mama in Photos... blogging on my mother through photos and memories

“Cowgirl Jeanne”

Take a peek through my May postings and discover a couple “musings”, a blog on Cowgirl Jeanne, Memoria Day, and Uncle Leroy. My cowgirl photograph was such fun to research and as usual, I always learn something new in scrutinizing a photograph… the begin to talk to you!

June, July and August kept me very busy at the beach… as you can see from my catch-up musing. I can’t wait for summer of 2023 to arrive… already feeling depressed with winter rolling coming in. The one thing I always think about on January 1st is… it’s all downhill now… and I’m counting the days to spring… and then summer! How are… or will… you deal with the winter blues?

Seems like only yesterday when I wrote September Musings… lot of happenings that month… along with my annual 911 post… and the begining of writing my Family Homes posts... of which I need to also finish in 2023.

October musings was a late write-up… finally written and posted (in December… ouch)… but November and December still sit in my draft folder; at this late date, they won’t be finished until into the New Year rolls in. I really need to commit to a better writing commintment! Do hold me to that in 2023!

While 2022 wasn’t my best and most productive writing year… I continued to write and that’s always better than no writing! Hopefully 2023 will push me to commit in finishing those unfinished drafts!

© 2023, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Nancy Drew: Nancy Solved The Missing Delivery

The Missing Delivery… solved over three years later!

While this sounds like just missing mail… it does have a story… and if only the package could talk, I’d have the complete story…. but I do have my side of the story.

It was over three years ago… exactly on October 26, 2019 when I ordered Nancy Drew bags from a friend. They were being custom made with specific drawings I selected. I followed the package with the tracking number… and finally I was notified that they’d arrived, but nothing was in my mailbox. I waited another day, thinking the mailman had scanned them, but hadn’t delivered yet… and nothing again the next day. So what do you do next… you call the post office, which is a job in itself… just in trying to find the local number for your area. All they could, or wanted to tell me was… that their computer showed the carrier scanned them a few doors away from my house… on my street. Well that wasn’t much help! Sadly I waited… hoping if he delivered to the wrong address, that they’d be returned to the carrier. Not!

Mailed date stamp of Oct. 26, 2019

It was during this time that we seemed to not have a regular carrier… so no one wanted to take blame. I called back to the post office a week later, but was told the same story… how they were scanned on my street… no one wanted to take blame! It seems that if you’re going to scan the item as delivered… shouldn’t you scan at their address, rather than somewhere along the route?

Well, 2 months and 3 years later… and after me pretty much forgetting my loss… a package arrived on Dec. 23 (2022) in my mailbox… enclosed in a plastic bag from the post office apoligizing how my package had been damaged. Even though the top of the package had been ripped off, all the contents were inside. While I recognized the sender’s name, but didn’t remember placing another order, I contacted her with a photo of the package and contents… thinking maybe she accidently sent me someone else’s order.

The sender immediately answered with… “could this be the order that was lost?” After researching through our notes, I located that conversation from 2019 and there was the very same tracking number that was on the package in my hands. I was shocked!

Nancy Drew bags

So… had my package literally sat in someone’s house for over three years before returning to the carrier? I can just picture it sitting under mail and papers… sometwhere!!! Or had it been hiding in the post office truck, fallen behind somewhere… or possibly never made its way out of the post office, caught in one of the sorting machines and thrown to the side… and three years later they are just taking care of it? If the latter, then I guess their messages to me of “the carrier scanned it on your street” is the very message everyone receives… and how can you argue with them? There are so many scenarios you could conjure up, but in seeing how it was opened… with the top ripped across as you normally would in opening a package, it looks like someone actually opened it… and maybe Nancy played on their conscous to finally return it to the post office. I’d like to know what the post office thought in looking at the date of 2019!

You hear about letters and packages going astray… arriving years later, but you always wonder how they are really true! This package delivered three years and two months later has definetly made a believer out of me… but the sleuth inside will never stop thinking about the how and why it was never delivered in 2019.

Even though I wasn’t able to play Nancy Drew in locating the package when it was originally lost… someone played Nancy Drew, or maybe it was Nancy herself in returning my package to me… however it happened, it definitely made my holiday!

Merry Christmas Nancy Drew… wherever you are!

To read more Nancy Drew stories… click HERE!

© 2022, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in Daily Writings and funnies... | 4 Comments

Monthly Musings: 2022 November Catch-Up

Somehow I slipped off the writing ship after September… I kept montly notes, but just couldn’t bring myself to pound the keys in putting those words online. I might blame my preparing for our annual Florida trip… or maybe I was just plain lazy! Who knows… but I’m trying to climb back onboard before the year ends… and play catch-up!

Car was packed… just enough room for hubby to see through… and I’m sure it will be just as packed coming home. Not quite sure why, but it usually is! I always take my pillow… hubby didn’t, and we ended up buying two more pillows as he didn’t like the hotel pillows on this trip. And somehow, we can’t seem to travel without our “must haves” of coffee maker, toaster oven and more toilitries than we ever need… and I always bring a heating and ice pad. Now you can see why we travel so heavy! I think as we grow older… we seem to acquire more “must haves” that you can’t seem to live without… even while on vacation!

We left early enough on the 6th… first stopping for a breakfast sandwich before hitting the road… as our plan was to make Verona, Va. before the sun went down. Traffic was light on Sunday and running smooth, so we made it in great time, arriving by 4 o’clock that afternoon.

One of the first things hubby begins to notice, when traveling, are the many dead deer alongside the road… and he’s always counting. I began jotting down the counts by states… and this trip counts were… NY 2, PA 8, WVA 4, NC 11, SC 7, GA 3 and Florida 0… total 35! Odd to do… but it passes the time! There have been times when caught in very slow-moving traffic when I searched out license plates in looking for all 50 states… and I think we found them all!

The next morning we planned to only drive a short distance, stopping in Mount Airy, N.C… with the next day arriving early afternoon in Savannah. If you’ve never stopped there… it’s the hometown of Andy Griffith… and quite an interesting town. Plans quickly changed when more talk escalated of Hurricane Nicole arriving in South Florida on the very day we planned to leave Savannah. As I didn’t want any part of driving those last seven hours in pouring rain and wind, I cancelled our stay in Savannah and hubby drove almost 11 hours from N.C. to Royal Palm Beach, Florida; our hotel offered to accomodate us in our room three days early… what a relief! For most of the trip we had good weather, only hitting rain late in afternoon… and boy was it a relief when we exited I-95, finally heading to the hotel. Nothing worse than driving in rain… and in the dark. Hubby did all the driving… never complaining once, except for the occasional complaint on other drivers… driving ability!

November hurricanes are a rarity in the United States… with the last one, Hurricane Kate, hitting Florida in 1985.

We only had one day of rain after arriving, so we hunkered down in our hotel, hardly hearing anything unless we looked out. At least we were safe and off the road and not traveling. The granddaughters were not so patient in waiting for us to finally arrive at their house… only a short twenty minutes away.

I began following Isaiah Glen Shields on his walk across America (before leaving for Florida)… he was walking from the most western part of Washington state to reach the most north eastern part of Lubec, Maine. Isaiah arrived amidst cheers from family and friends… who arrived earlier to great him on Day 495 of his walk; He arrived on Nov. 11, 2022… walking a total of 8593 miles! I wonder how many pairs of shoes he walked through? And I always wanted to walk the Appalachian Trail… haha… in my dreams!

November is our choice of months to visit Florida… first to celebrate our son, Steve’s birthday, spend Thanksgiving with the family and an entire vacation week with the granddaughters. We surprised our son with a gift I know he’s had on his wish list… a pizza oven; after much research I went with the Ooni Karu which cooks with both wood and charcoal. Living in Florida will give him the opportunity to enjoy cooking pizza all year. I kept it a tight secret from almost everyone… as I had sent all the gifts to his mother in laws house… and she kept the gift a secret! He was definitely surprised!

Steve testing out the new pizza oven… nice to find a gift someone really loves! And… that was this gift!

You only see a quick glimpse of Mar-a-Lago as you crest Southern Boulavard bridge crossing into Palm Beach… it isn’t possible to drive inside to see the front… unless you want the secret service to greet you!

We took a ride by Mar-a-Lago on the morning of the 15th… the day President Trump was to make his announcement on if he would run for president again. As we began to cross the bridge alongside his residence, we saw much police presence along with a crowd of photographers lining up for glimpses of the back of Mar-a-Lago. As it is set behind much schrubbery and walls, you only see a quick glimpse of the property as you reach the top of the bridge. I’m not sure what they were hoping for unless they are there daily in hopes he walks the property. We drove along the beach area for awhile before returning back to our hotel. It was on the drive back when I had a nice surprise. As we approached the Palm Beach airport, hubby asked me what was the dark colored plane sitting near the back fence. I turned my camera toward there and was shocked when I saw Trump’s plane come into view. I don’t believe it was there when we rode by on the way down… so either he had just landed or was planning to leave soon. We travel by the airport several times when there and I’ve never seen it before.

What I wouldn’t give to actually go inside, but my son was lucky enought to have gone to his work Christmas party there a few years. I had asked him to take pictures and bring me a napkin, but they were told to take no photos inside or take anything… although I think my daughter in law managed to conceal a napkin in her purse. Photo: Town & Country Magazine:

In searching for a photo of Mar-a-Lago I discovered the history of this beautiful place. It was in 1973, upon the death of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather, that her mansion of 128 rooms in Palm Beach, was donated to the U. S. government. It was to be used as the “winter White House.” She had built Mar-a-Lago in 1927, at a cost of $7 million dollars. In 1981, the government returned Mar-a-Lago back to the Post Foundation as they felt the annual maintenance of over $1 million dollars was too high. It was then that Donald Trump offered to buy the property for $28 million, but his offer was turned down. Later the market slumped and he ended up with it at a bargain price of $10 million in 1985. What a bargain, as I can only imagine its worth today.

President Trump’s plane parked at the Palm Beach airport… our hotel was just up the street from here.

Granddaughter, Ana, is the crafty one, and this year we worked on creating a junk journal. Of course, she wanted to make it all in one day… but I tried teaching her that it takes time in deciding how to create… with no actual set rules. My husband often sat with Nina watching old movies like Them or Godzilla… with Nina asking on every scene… “what are they going to do now?” Ella often serenaded us across the table on her flute… it’s never far from her hands.

In between crafting with Ana, we worked on a couple chicken puzzles for my daughter in law. The girls might have found a few pieces, but they weren’t as dedicated in working as was hubby and Rose (daughter in law). My son, Steve and Rose, have amassed quite a few chickens in the past couple years… and three roosters… Diesel, Sunny and Sir Cockatoo… who serenaded us daily as we sat on the back porch moaning over where the puzzle pieces were hiding. Hubby mumbled daily that there were missing pieces… and there were none, but their newest puppy, Daisy, managed to find a couple on the floor and quickly left teeth markes; making me have to partially create a new piece.

The larger (1000 piece) chicken puzzle was a doozy to finish… so many chickens… so many “like” colors! While hubby and Rose worked diligently on the chickens, I worked on all the wordy names and phrases. We hoped to finish before leaving… and we did… thanks to Rose’s perserverence in completing those so-hard roosters! And, Yes… all the pieces were there! It was Rose, her mom Anna, and Nina who placed in the last piece! And, yes… Daisy managed to leave teeth marks, once again on a piece she discovered on the floor!

Thanksgiving in Florida is so different… so nice and warm (85)… allowing us to eat outside in their screened-in back porch. It was definitely a holiday meal… begining with soup, lasagna, followed by lemon sorbet to clean our pallet before filling our plates with turkey, two styles of stuffing, sweet potato souffle, fresh creamed corn (per son’s request), asparagus, broccoli rabe, twice-baked potatoes and cranberry sauce; the turkey was one of the best ever… so juicy and tender. I left the table more stuffed than the turkey… but it wasn’t over yet as desserts soon appeared… and I was too stuffed to even think to take photos, but there was apple, pumpkin and blueberry pies, cherry cheesecake, sweet potato pie, and Italian cookies… way more than anyone should even think about eating. Like I kept telling the granddaughters… my eyes were way bigger than my stomach, as I said yes to small slices of cherry cheesecake and sweet potato pie. I took two bites and asked my son to wap it up for me… ate it for breakfast the next morning. Even though I was still feeling full at breakfast… I just couldn’t resist it.

My granddaughter’s ready Ella, Ana and Nina by the Thanksgiving table… Ella is always eager to serenade us on her flute.

Christmas Eve for our granddaughters comes early when we visit… always the last Sunday before we leave. How lucky are they to enjoy two Christmas. Even though the girls are excited in opening gifts… it soon becomes very teary toward the end of the day. We celebrated with Steve making us pizza in his new pizza oven… he’s really getting the hang of pizza making! The worst part of our last day is when the tears begin… it’s not easy saying goodbye. I cry, the girls cry and we all become one big mess! It breaks my heart in giving them all a last hug, as in between the crying, they’re begging us to stay longer. This trip was almost three weeks in Florida.

Heading home seemed to be just as packed… I don’t understand why!

As we had to cancel our Savannah stop on the way down, we decided to stop for one day before heading home. Originally I had planned to go back through Georgia, but I’m finding it hard now since my mother died… no family home. I so miss mama’s hometown… but now it feels empty to me when I stop there. Maybe next year… as I so miss going there.

We took a cruise along the Savannah riverfront on the Georgia Queen riverboat, and we sailed under the Talmadge Memorial bridge… where we will say our final goodbye in heading home. If you watched the series Ozarks on Netflix, this was the boat used for their final scene at the end of the show.

The morning sunrise over Savanah seen from the Talmadge Memorial Bridge as we heading home.

This photo popped up in memories today… my husband and Ella, our first granddaughter. Time flies, as she turns 13 this year… seems like just yesterday we were rushing to the hospital to meet her!

© 2022, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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