Family Stories: Playing the game – Monopoly!

Family Stories

Playing the game… Monopoly!

While reading a recent story in Reminence magazine, I asked hubby… “so what are your Monopoly stories?” Me… I never even remember playing the game as a child!


Steve: “I spent two weeks at my grandmother’s (Nonni) house in Shelton during the summer when they lived at 107 Kneen St. My aunts still lived at home, so there was always someone to spend time with and always… game partnes. I’ve never forgotten the old Monopoly gameboard at their house… complete with wooden hotels and even wooden playing pieces, no metal car, shoe or thimble; the year 1936 was written on the box. From the first time I was allowed to play with it, I knew I wanted that game, and often asked to take it home; even being an older game, the board and all the pieces were still like new… they kept everything in great condition.

One summer, they finally relented in letting me have the Monopoly game and I brought it home. While I always kept my things in good condition… my brother never took care of anything. I was completely the opposite, and am still the same way today. In as we shared a room in growing up until I was fourteen, it was hard to keep my things away from prying eyes… and hands. Even later after having my own room never stopped him from destroying things, especially after I left for the Air Force; he took possession of most everything while I was gone.

The record jackets with the artist’s pictures on them were the best!

I returned home from the Air Force to find most of my favorite 45 record jackets with the pictures of the artist on them… now with holes cut in the center so he could see the record name… those jackets were works of art… but now no more! My brother never cared about putting the records back in the correct jacket! Most of those 45’s had once belonged to Dolly… somehow I had talked her out of her entire collection! While I still have most of those records today… the holes cut out of them still tick me off!

1936 monopoly game

A game board with all wooden pieces… just like the one they gave me!

We never played games when my grandparents lived on the farm, but after moving to First Avenue, my uncles went through a phase of board games… Monopoly mostly, and always for money. Sometimes they played the game of Life, but Monopoly was more of a challenge… often playing back to back games on the weekends.

After my grandparents moved to First Avenue, to a house alongside Long Island Sound… Monopoly became “the” game. My uncles, Freddie, Johnny, and Frankie always enjoyed playing games… but never without money on the table… never playing games for fun. They usually played with my mother Celia, while the other sisters, Nancy and Catherine, were busy with housework; their youngest sister, Dolly… closest to my age… played games with me. Dolly and I knew, if we played our cards right (pun), we could serve them coffee and they’d throw us some change! Dolly and I were always ingenious at making money… off of them! Serving them coffee when they played games, and later, after they left the living room… scouring the sofa and chairs which often yielded our pocket change, fallen out of their pockets. I only had an allowance of $2.00 weekly, so I had to work at other jobs for money… returning bottles to the corner store was also a favorite of mine.

Often in the summer, they played games outside on the table under grandpa’s grape arbor, but after Freddie brought home a “real” card table one day, they began playing in the cellar. They put a pull-down light over the center making it resemble a real gambling table… which it soon turned out to be! Every Saturday, you’d find my uncles, and my mother, downstairs… with dollars on the table… and Dolly and I serving coffee… hoping for money from the “kitty.”

One game I specifically remember about Monopoly was the afternoon Johnny lost… he jumped up and grabbed the board off the table… hotel pieces went flying… and before you knew it… he’d ripped off a corner of the boardgame and tossed it and the board on the floor! Johnny never liked losing! That was the first and last Monopoly game ever played on the card table… it was all cards after that!

I quickly retrieved that game… even with its missing corner… as the board was almost brand new… only seeing a few games. My uncles were older, with jobs, and able to buy a new game… while my access to having money was limited. I”m sure they went through several Monopoly games during their phase of playing board games.

Dolly and I soon came up with a plan for that game board after I found a piece of cardboard, almost matching the board thickness… Dolly spent the afternoon drawing on it to match the board. We were excited… now having an “almost” new game… at least to us! I’m sure we began playing a game right away when finished… to us it was just like we’d opened up a new game, as we’d also salvaged all the pieces that went flying. My favorite playing piece was always the metal car… zooming around the board!”


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© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Nancy Drew: My Mother was Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew:

My Mother was Nancy Drew… well almost!

My Mother was Nancy Drew!

Mama (left) with best friend Willie Mae Sisson

My mother, Helen Rebecca Bryan (McKinley) was a big fan of Nancy Drew, being born the same month (April) and year (1930) as Nancy Drew was first published! Before 1940, mama was reading every copy of Nancy Drew she managed to lay her hands on… often daydreaming about living Nancy’s life… wanting to be a detective just like Nancy… but of a different type of detective from Nancy… wanting to be a private eye chasing cheating husbands!

Mama grew up on a Southern farm in Siloam, Georgia… a small town just South East of Atlanta. Even though she never personally owned not one Nancy Drew book, she managed to read several through the generosity of her friend June Boswell, who lived in town. June’s grandmother bought her every new book and she never hesitated in loaning them to mama. When I asked her about what she remembered of the colorful dust jackets, she said… “I never even knew there were dust jackets as I only took the tweed book to borrow. Often I’d read it overnight, staying up late… I just couldn’t put it down until I finished… that meant I could return it the next day to borrow another. I loved following Nancy’s escapades and pretending I was right there alongside her.”

I’m sure mama wished she was old enough to have a roadster and flit about on the back country dirt roads chasing villains! Actually, her father had an old T-Model sitting under the car shed when she was the young girl reading Nancy Drew… maybe she even pretended to drive and chase those cheating husbands!

Through the stories mama read, she patterned herself after Nancy… a girl who did more like what boys did and wanted nothing to do with girl duties in the home. Nancy never swept the floors or washed dishes, and she definitely didn’t have to lug in buckets of water… which was my mother’s chore on the farm; she so hated filling those water buckets every day… lining them up on the porch, just outside the kitchen.

Those books gave mama a glimpse of what all a girl could do, but what she mostly remembers today from those books, was how much they made her want to be a detective! She and Willie Mae both wanted to be girl detectives… and I bet they would have put their sleuthing skills to good use!

Mama climbed trees, followed her father to the fields, and hunted with her brother. She was a tomboy… fighting with the boys as well as girls. She wanted nothing to do with housework and never wanted to stay in the house with her mother… lest she’d be put to work sweeping the floors or churning butter… another chore she hated!

When mama and best friend, Willie Mae, were young… they were a force to be reckoned with and always had each other’s back… just like Bess and George would have had for Nancy! While mama never walked away from a fight, Nancy never walked away from a mystery! Mama wanted to solve mysteries like Nancy, but there weren’t many mysteries to solve on the farm except maybe the oddities like who was going to collect the eggs or why hadn’t her brother milked the cows yet? But she often day-dreamed about solving a mystery!

Probably the biggest mystery to solve between her and Willie Mae was… “who was going to wear which dress?” That could easily turn into quite a tussle on the ground! It was always either a dress or a boy that had them wrestling to decide the outcome! They both were the same “skinny” size and often both always wanted to wear the same dress… at the same time. Sometimes it took a few roll-around’s on the ground to make that decision! Then it was get up and continue the friendship… just like nothing happened.

Those two girls had been “besties” from the very first day of kindergarten… where they both had looked at each other, saying… “I don’t think I’m going to like it here.” They’ve stuck together through thick and thin through the years, and when serious dating came on the scene, they ended up with boyfriends who also were best friends… they married and continued being close while both raising only daughters.

Mama didn’t live the easy life that Nancy Drew led… she grew up on a small farm… the daughter of a hard-working farmer, sweating daily under the hot sun to make a living. Nancy Drew, on the other hand, was the daughter of a very prominent lawyer, and their household had a housekeeper… Nancy never had to lug any water buckets. Two different households and lifestyles, but two girls who could somehow relate to each other!

Even though they both led such different lives, mama was just as fearless as Nancy Drew. Her father liked the strong girl in her… she followed him as he plowed, helped him string barb-wire fencing, was able to shoot, and quite the expert in climbing trees and champion of “riding the pines.” I bet Nancy Drew never climbed a pine seedling, zipping her coat around the tree trunk for a ride! That was entertainment on a farm!

Sometimes today when mama reminisces about her and Willie Mae’s escapades, they remind me of Thelma and Louise, or should that be Nancy, Bess and George! I’ve never forgotten the story of how one night after work, they decided, on the spur of the moment, to go to Florida… this would have been at midnight! They went home, packed a bag, and definitely a bathing suit… just like Nancy, never going anywhere without it! The funny part I’ve remembered all these years is of the return trip… after loading their suitcases, Willie Mae locked her purse in the trunk. Just like Nancy Drew would have said, or done… mama quickly opened her purse and said, “I bet one of my keys will open it.” She fished out her keys and within a minute or two, she had that trunk open! It left Willie Mae’s uncle standing there flabbergasted and shaking his head, saying, “a girl after my own heart, and a girl who knows how to handle her keys.”

While both of those “Nancy Drew wannabees married best friends, they both also later divorced those best friends; even now living a couple of hours away, they never lost touch. After I graduated from high school, mama moved back to the farm to care for her father… she and Willie Mae were once back together again… working, gallivanting, and living life together… always having each other’s back! Willie Mae was Bess and George wrapped up into one!

The one thing Nancy and my mother didn’t share was the style of clothing they wore… while Nancy wore more girly clothes with accessories, mama was more conservative. The first time she saw an airman wearing a one-piece flight jumpsuit… she most definitely wanted one! There were no such patterns for a woman at that time, but that didn’t stop mama… as she had sewed her clothes all her life. Daddy’s Navy whites were long gone soon after leaving the Navy… as mama wanted white slacks! She often re-designed a pattern to suit her style, and it wasn’t the silly frilly frocks that Bess might have worn… but I bet George would have definitely liked one of those jumpsuits! She eventually made herself a jumpsuit by taking two patterns and piecing them together to make a one-piece suit. The very first time she wore it… every woman wanted one and wanted to know where she’d bought it. If she had a business head back then, she might have patterned it, making a fortune. We often laugh about that now! Today she could have gone on Shark Tank to make a deal… they would have loved her!

At age 88, some of mama’s spunk has gotten away from her, especially after a recent fall in early April when she broke two ribs, but she’s entertaining physical therapy with a few stories and often tells me she can still take me down! I don’t think I’ll challenge her… I just might lose!

No matter what, she’s my Nancy Drew!


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© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Dear Uncle Leroy

Family Stories… Dear Uncle Leroy

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Dear Uncle Leroy:

On this Memorial Day (May 27, 2018) I’m writing to “Thank You” for your service during WWII, where at the young age of 19, you gave your life for this great country of the United States. A life that should not have been lost to parents Edgar and Ola McKinley… their one and “only” son and “only” brother to my mother Helen Rebecca McKinley.

What would life have held for you if you had returned home safely from the war? You often wrote home in your letters of how you looked forward to helping your father plow the fields once again when you came home. Funny how often the very thing you once disliked doing, became the very thing you dreamed of coming home and once doing again. I’m sure your letters gave grandmamma and granddaddy much comfort as they read your words… words of how you dreamed of home and helping them on the farm. It seems the young boy they saw off on the train had grown quickly into a man, now thinking of his parents… while he himself is surrounded daily by war! Funny how being away from home somehow changes a person… you have seemingly realized that life at home wasn’t so bad after all… as you sat around with the guys talking about home.

You wrote of no sadness while being surrounded by the cold, snow and war… writing often about home and how you should have done more for your parents in growing up. Your main chore had been the evening milking of the dairy cows… while often making your father angry when you squirted milk to the waiting mouth of Clark Gabel… your large golden kitty who perched himself in just the right spot… waiting for a drink. Your father always yelled… “that cat gets more milk than what goes in the pail.

Life would have been so much different for everyone if you had returned… as you probably would have taken over the running of granddaddy’s farm, especially after he became sick. Granddaddy so loved that farm and I know it pained him when he had to leave it to come live with us… it wasn’t where he wanted to be. Possibly grandmama wouldn’t have shut her mind off… like she did when she learned of your death, and my mother wouldn’t have grown up an only child, she would have had her older brother to lean on.. and still calling her “sis.”

Mama has always said that while you were grandmama’s favorite… she was her daddy’s favorite. I’m sure you both were loved the same, but somehow one always gets along better with one parent than the other. Mama didn’t like hanging around under her mother so much… as she’d put her to work in the house… and she so hated that. She enjoyed being outside with her father… never asking her to do any work… willing to listen to her all day as she looked at the Sears and Roebuck catalog… talking about all the pretty dresses, of which he’d always reply, “yes, that’s nice.” If she tried to show her mother the pretty dresses, she only cried!

Those letters you wrote home to your mother, my grandmother… she not only read them once, she read them over and over to herself and carried them in the pockets of her apron,.. never wanting anyone to hold them. They meant more to her than you could ever know… they were her lifeline to you, her only son… and on that day when the news came… she shut herself off to the world, lost forever to her husband and daughter and me, her only grandchild. I only knew her in body, never in mind… never to fully have the grandmother and grandchild relationship… she slowly slipped away from us… slipping into another world that took her pain away.

If only you had come home Uncle Leroy… how things would have changed, but things did change in America for you gave your life to make our country a better place… and although I do think of you often, so wishing I could have had conversations with you and heard your stories. On Memorial Day, I always say a special prayer for you, knowing you are once again somewhere on the farm plowing with granddaddy and grandmama is in the kitchen baking your favorite jam cake!


Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, is a federal holiday for remembering those who died while serving in the armed forces; a holiday currently observed on the last Monday in May. The practice of decorating soldier’s graves with flowers began even before the Civil War, but today the graves of those who lost their lives during the war are decorated with small flags.

While you celebrate Memorial Day with friends and family this year, take a few minutes to think of the true meaning of the day… a day to honor those who fought for the freedom of the United States… so you may live free!

Fatalities from U.S. Wars and Conflicts

American Revolution (1775-1783) 4,435
War of 1812 (1812-1815) 2,260
Mexican War (1846-1848) 13,283
Civil War (1861-1865) 620,000
Spanish-American War (1898-1902) 385
World War I (1917-1918) 116,516
World War II (1941-1945) 405,399
Korean War (1950-1953) 36,574
Vietnam War (1964-1975) 58,220
Gulf War (1990-1991) 383
Afghanistan War (2001-present) 2,381
Iraq War (2003-2012) 4,500


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© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved





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Nancy Drew: The Case of The Traveling Nancy Drew Books

magnificator Nancy DrewNancy Drew

The Case of The Traveling Nancy Drew Books

As I look at the signatures lovingly written on the pages of Nancy Drew, I thought I’d write a post and list the names of the girls who once owned my books… so let’s see from where they have traveled and once belonged to!

As a collector of Nancy Drew books… and currently building back my collection and more, I often stop and look at the inscriptions written in the books I buy… and wonder! Have these girls thought about their books and wonder what happened to them… like me? I have no memory of what happened to my books when I outgrew Nancy Drew… did my mother box them up and give away… she doesn’t remember! Or did my father throw them in the trash when we moved to house no. 2 in Perry, Georgia. I think I’ll opt for what my mother did… sickens me to think of daddy dumping them in the trash! But whatever happened to them, I’d like to hope that they have ended up on someone’s bookshelf today… and if my name was written on those front pages, I’m hoping they will travel back to me one day!


What would Nancy Drew do in solving the Case of the Traveling Books?

The Secret in The Old Attic: This dust jacket early copy actually has two inscriptions. A sticker of a unicorn with words “From the Library of” was pasted on the front inside cover, covering many of the blue illustrations; the name Ann Marie Robinson was written. I dislike in finding those library ownership stickers pasted on the pages, especially over my favorite blue illustration endpapers. I don’t know where this book originated, but it’s traveled to me from California.

The Bungalow Mystery: On one of the front blank pages is written… “I bought this book July 18, 1952″, Susan. There is a Hudson’s Book Shop, Detroit sticker on the back endpaper; possibly this book came from Detroit, Michigan? Was this a birthday gift, as the date was written. (dust jacket)

The Hidden Staircase: Lovingly written… From Jane Noyes for Christmas 1958 – 10 years. On the next page is written the name, Judy Tobin. Did Jane give this book to Judy? Often they inscribe as to who it was given to, but Jane only wrote it was from her. Probably many Nancy Drew books were given as Christmas presents. (dust jacket)

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall: On the page opposite the title page was written… Luann Russel, 306 Perkins St., Tallahassee, Fla. Phone 3-0147 or 3-1318, Elizabeth Cobb School. I laughed at how Luann felt the need to write her complete address. Note that she did not include a zip or area code, so that dates her book possibly before 1963 when the post office began using zip codes; although they were non-mandatory even then. AT&T introduced area codes in the late 1940’s, although they weren’t really used across the country until the 1980’s and 90’s. What I really questioned on her “signature” page was why this young girl had “two” phone numbers? It seems this book was first purchased possibly in Florida… I bought it from someone in California, and now it’s travelled to CT. I’m sure it has had other traveling locations along the way! (dust jacket)

The Clue of The Black Keys: This “tweed” 25 chapter book was bought locally in New Haven, CT…. one of the many books I bought at tag sales for my daughter in the late 1980’s, of which she never read. Being a Nancy Drew reader myself, I tried hard to encourage her, but she just wasn’t a reader; telling me later that they bored her. On the blank page after the “digger” endpapers is written… This book belongs to Anne Marie Buss, 188 Alton Ave., City Fu72237.

The Clue of The Tapping Heels: Another “tweed” 25 chapter book, and belonged to the above Anne Marie’s sister, Judy Bussmann. I had wondered about Anne Marie’s last name of just “Buss”, but as she was at the edge of the page, there was no room left for her to write her entire name. Judy also lived at 188 Alston Avenue, New Haven, CT. Funny to find two sisters who shared a love of Nancy Drew, but as they each wrote their names in their own books, they didn’t share books… they clearly defined who’s book was whose! A little sister rivalry there? This was another book from my daughter’s collection of unread books… that I have clearly taken over. I wrote or rather penciled in a small “m” in each book on the first blank page to identify her books… just maybe one day her daughters might like to have their mother’s Nancy Drew books. I work hard at encouraging all my five granddaughters to become Nancy Drew readers!

The Clue in The Old Album: Another tweed book saved from my daughter’s collection of non-read books… opposite the title page is written Patty D… and there is also three more signatures of Patty Darmstatter in cursive. I think she was practicing her name writing!

The Mystery of the Fire Dragon: This yellow spine matte book once belonged to Brenda Brown, 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506. I bought this book, along with many others at a Friends of the Library book sale in Southport, CT. It seems her entire collection was donated… but how it came to be in Ct., from Michigan… I’ve wondered! I even tried searching for her there, as well as CT., but no luck, as this was most likely her maiden name; maybe her family actually moved to Ct?

The Phantom of Pine Hill: A yellow spine matte book also belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506.

The Mystery of The 99 Steps: Also from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506. Brenda was quite the Nancy Drew reader, most of the books there in one box all came from her collection. Funny, but I felt guilty breaking her collection up, but I didn’t need them all. Anyone else ever feel that way?

The Clue in The Crossword Cipher: Another yellow spine matte book from Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506. Brenda wrote her name and address in cursive in almost all her books.

The Secret of the Golden Pavilion: A yellow spine matte book, with my favorite blue illustrations in the front… her other books were newer with the white and black illustrations on the endpapers. Book belonged to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506.

The Secret of Red Gate Farm: Another yellow spine matte book with the blue illustrations and belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506. Not all include their phone no., but Brenda clearly was identifying her books and wanting them returned if they became lost. At some point, it seems she lost interest in keeping her books.

The Secret at Shadow Ranch: A yellow spine matte book with the black and white illustrations, and belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506. Thank You Brenda for taking good care of your books!

The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk: Another yellow spine matte book with the blue illustrations and belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park, Ill. Tel: 832-1506; also a twenty-five chapter book.

The Clue of the Tapping Heels: A yellow spine matte book, again with my favorite blue story illustrations; belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park,  Ill., 60181 – Tel: 832-1506. The first book of hers that I’ve found a zip code written. She put check marks by most of the books listed by Carolyn Keene on the next page; checking off 40 books she had read… quite the reader!

The Haunted Bridge: Yes another yellow spine matte book belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Vilea (Villa) Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Another 25 chapter book… most all her books were twenty-five chapters.

The Mystery of The Ivory Charm: Another 25-chapter, blue illustrated endpapers and belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. 2nd, Vilea (Villa) Park,  Ill., – Te2:-1506. She printed her name in this book, and wrote the address a little different; all the others were written in cursive.

The Message in The Hollow Oak: In this 25-chapter, blue illustrated endpapers belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Her name was written in cursive in this book and it came out the year before The Mystery of The Ivory Charm, where her handwriting clearly looked like that of a young girl. Possibly her mother was the one writing the cursive in her books?

The Sign of The Twisted Candles: Another book from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Her name is written in cursive and this is book No. 8; also having the blue illustrations and 25 chapters.

The Clue in The Old Album: This book has the blue illustrations and 25 chapters and also is from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., (Villa) Park,  Ill., – TE2: 832-1506. Her name is printed, but the printing doesn’t look like a young girl wrote it. Note that she didn’t write her phone no. as 832-1506, she wrote TE2 for the 832.

The Mystery of The Tolling Bell: Another well taken care of book from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Blue illustrations on the endpapers and 25 chapters. Her name and address are written in cursive.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall: A yellow spine matte cover book from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506 with blue illustrations and 25 chapters.

The Secret in the Old Attic: Another yellow spine matte book once belonging Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506; she wrote her name in cursive. It’s also illustrated on the endpapers in blue and has 25 chapters.

The Quest of the Missing Map: A yellow spine matte book with blue endpaper illustrations and 25 chapters belonging to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second Ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Her name and address are written in cursive on the title page, and on the second title page after the chapters, her name is printed – definetely not the same handwriting! Brenda printed her name and address using the phone no. as Te2-1506 and wrote a zip of 60181, writing “zip” above it. She was clearly identifying what it was! The first book I’ve found where her name was written twice.

The Mystery at The Ski Jump: Another book from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 North 2nd  ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506. Again written in a fancy cursive, not the printed younger writing I’ve found in a few books. It’s also a 25 chapter book with the blue illustrations on the endpapers.

The Scarlet Slipper Mystery: This blue illustrated endpapers, yellow spine matte, and 25 chapter book also belonged to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506, with a zip code of 60181… all written again in cursive.

The Hidden Window Mystery: A yellow spine matte book with blue illustrated endpapers and the last of the 25 chapter books. It also was part of the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506; name and address written in cursive. On page listing books by Carolyn Keene, Brenda checked off in pencil 41 books she had read.

The Haunted Showboat: Another yellow spine matte book with blue illustration endpapers, but now only 20 chapters. This book is also from the collection of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506; Brenda’s name is written in cursive on a blank front page.

The Clue of the Dancing Puppet:  A newer yellow spine matte book with black and white illustrations. Brenda Brown wrote her name in cursive on the very top of the endpapers in the front. While the name and address of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506 is written in cursive, I can tell that it was written by a young person… it seems Brenda has now learned cursive and can write her own name. (abt. 1963)

The Moostone Castle Mystery: Another yellow spine matte book with the black and white illustrations on the endpapers. It seems that Brenda Brown didn’t write her name here, as her name of Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506 is written in cursive of someone older.

The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes: This book once belonged to Brenda Brown of 338 N. Second ave., Villa Park,  Ill., – Tel: 832-1506; her name is writen in the usual cursive on the inside of the first blank page… it’s also inscribed a second time with the name of Kelley Hammett, 520 W. 77st. #139… and also written 6-420 PS-158… was she writing her school no? Now the dilemma… who owned the book first… this is the first time I’ve found a second name in Brenda’s books. I owe a big “Thank You” to Brenda for taking such good care of her books, as I’ve preserved 25 of them now in my collection!

The Ringmaster’s Secret: A yellow spine matte book with blue ullustrations on the endpapers with 25 chapters. Julia Olson, is written in green ink, and  below in black ink is an address of 119 Wedgemere Rd., Stamford, CT. I had to turn to google to help me on the spelling of the address as it blended in too much with the illustrations… I found the actual house for sale now at a price tag of $731,000.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall: Another yellow spine matte book with blue illustrations and 25 chapters… it belonged to Allison West.

The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion: A yellow spine matte book with blue illustrations in front, 25 chapters and once belonged to “Bliven.” I’m assuming that is the last name!

The Strange Message in The Parchment: On the front cover of this yellow spine matte cover the owner wrote words near the edge, “name inside“, and circled those words… I wondered why she defaced the front of the book like that, but who knows why young girls do what they do. The inside name is Dale Edwards, 23 Evergreen Place, North Haven, Ct. 06473. Below is a phone no. of 239-1489 with words, “please call“, written in red. Possibly Dale was a boy? Not sure why they wrote please call in red… but I think they were contemplating if they lost the book… they wanted it back! That could have been why they wrote “name inside” on the front of the book… they were telling you that a name was inside if you’d found their lost book.

Password to Larkspur Lane: A yellow spine matte book belonging to Barbara J. Van Houten, McGettigan Road, Milford, NH, 03055 – a sticker was placed on the front black and white endpapers. On the next blank page was written Barbara J. Van Houten with an address of Windsor Drive R.F.D. 1, Amherst, NH 03031.

The Secret of The Old Clock: This specific yellow spine matte book has special meaning to me, as it once belonged to my daughter… and out of all the books she had, this was the only one she wrote in. She inscribed, “this book belongs to Melissa.” I believe this was the first and only book she read… telling me later that they never grabbed her interest. She wasn’t a big reader, Barbie was more her thing!

Imagine if the books were stamped with locations along the way… what a story they would tell!


Click for more … Nancy Drew stories or to read my A to Z: 2018 – All About Nancy Drew

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #47

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #47

conversations with mama

April 5, 2018: I told Mama about Grace and her boots today, and how she hates to wear socks. She tried to sneak her rain boots on and thought I didn’t notice she had no socks on. After she clumped up the stairs in the boots and finished brushing her teeth, I told her to march in her room and put on socks and take the boots off, as she wasn’t wearing them to school today. She gave me a look, but went to her room and put on socks. Mama said… “I can only imagine what she said under her breath.” LOL, “but I didn’t hear it!”

“We had a cloud come in today, but it was gone soon. It came off a hurricane, up from Florida. Boo came on the bed, he knows when there is a storm. Whenever he hears a storm coming, you’re not going to find him… he usually hides. I went to the center today and let myself be seen. LOL”

Somehow I mentioned making a drink, and… “It was fun being a bartender. The guys always said, “if you don’t want Angel to know something, you better not say it… she reads all lips.”

April 6, 2018: When I asked her what she did for her birthday, she said… “I took the day off and laid in the bed… that’s how I celebrated. It’s just another day… it’s going to be a long time before I have another birthday. I didn’t go to the center today, but I went yesterday, so that’s enough for the week.”

I mentioned how Grace was running around today with no socks on… “My feet used to be tough but now I can’t even walk outside like that now. Even when we went to school, most of us would take our shoes off when we got there and put them under our desk.”

“Mr. Burke was my favorite teacher… I was a tomboy and he’d call me ET after my father… especially if he was mad at me; he was friends with my daddy. He taught me Algebra, and if it hadn’t been for him being my teacher, I’d never have learned. He taught in Siloam and Greensboro, but he had been the principal in Siloam.”

As mama talked about her classmates in school, she said… “I’d love to go to another class reunion and see who is still living. I’d also like to see Kendrick Lewis again, we grew up together, more like brother and sister.”

“I remember how Mr. Burke would get us all together to play baseball or basketball in the lower grades. He always knew I’d play – as I was a tomboy. I liked to play more with the boys than the girls. Mr. Burke lived just up the hill behind the schoolhouse in a yellow house. He always liked me, and I was often accused of being the teacher’s pet.”

Mama mentioned her mother and siblings how they were all so different and said… “My mother was stubborn, she wouldn’t budge on anything; Liza would cuss you out in a quick minute; Lewis was my favorite uncle, I loved when he came and spent the night as he took up time with me… they called him “kid” as a nickname; Christine would be with anyone who buttered her bread… if you fed her, she was your friend; Rolph was easy going and quiet, he often came and spent time with us; Mary was autistic, but she’d cuss you out quickly.”

In mentioning the Navy, mama said… “Some of the boys that were with your father at Millington Naval Base, just outside of Memphis, were the same boys that had been out on the ship with him at Bikini Atoll… I wish I’d thought to ask them about what happened there. He never talked about being out on the ships.”

Mama then asked me what Steve was doing… “he’s down in the cellar hammering and sawing… fixing that old Coca-Cola cooler he brought home from your house. He’s restoring it because that’s what he enjoys doing.” Mama said, “I think I had flowers planted in it at one time.”

April 8, 2018: I told mama about McKinley’s tooth incident… the tooth had been loose for several days and Melissa was worried so she took her to the dentist. He put a cotton ball around it and wiggled… and out it came. McKinley was so excited to put it under her pillow… receiving a one dollar bill the next morning, but… the day before the nurse at school had given her a special box to put her tooth in. Well, she had put the box under her pillow with the tooth inside… and was upset the next morning as the tooth fairy took her box… she had wanted it. Melissa told her to talk to the tooth fairy when she went to bed, and she could probably return it… she didn’t know you had wanted it. So that’s what McKinley did, and the box was returned, but she was still upset as the tooth fairy had not taken the special bracelet she had made her at the YMCA… another dilemma! Melissa told her again to talk to the tooth fairy and tell her about the bracelet and then she’d come for it. So I guess problems were eventually solved. Mama said… “who knew it was so difficult nowadays to deal with the tooth fairy, I never even knew about a tooth fairy when I was a kid. You lost a tooth…. And that was it, you got nothing!”

In talking about cats, I told mama about the 5 solid black cats I saw today sitting on someone’s front porch steps at the end of my street… I’d never seen them before. Mama said, “Well, then they will have good luck. Boo needs one, bring him a female black cat. After hearing his name said, he jumped up and I heard him talking. Usually, whenever she says his name, he jumps up on the bed and meows… loudly.”

April 10, 2018: I called mama, and no sooner than she answered… I yawned, and then she yawned. “That just doesn’t make sense to me, that you’re so far away yawning and you make me do it over the phone.”

“I don’t know what the kids would do today if they had to live on a farm. When my daddy told me what he wanted me to do, I had better do it or he’d have told me to get a hickory switch. When he said to do something, I better do it, or else! Kids today are out of control, that’s why too many young boys are locked up at the local jails. This world is getting to be a mess! It’s getting to be nothing but a big stinkpot.”

I mentioned that someone had gone on a cruise… “I don’t think they had cruises with gambling like they do now. If they had, your daddy would have gone. He always won when he gambled, he was a pretty good gambler.”

April 15, 2018: We were en-route to Mama’s house to spend a week with her when I received a phone call from the neighbor that an ambulance was in front of her house. She was going to run over and call me back. This was not the call I was expecting… and we were at least 5 hours away and driving in pouring rain. June called back, only knowing that she had shortness of breath and they were taking her to the local hospital… EKG had shown no heart attack. We finally arrived at the hospital to find that Mama had broken 2 ribs… and wanted to go home. LOL… They were going to transport her over to the Athens hospital so doctors could look at the cat scan of her head to further determine if they saw anything… which they didn’t. The only thing she could tell me was… “I had gone out to pay Johnny for cutting the grass and when I came back in, I stumbled going into the bedroom and fell. I crawled to the bed, hoping I’d feel better in the morning, but then I didn’t so I called 911.” So it seems, this happened on Saturday, and by Sunday morning she was short-winded because of the broken ribs.

April 17, 2018: It was not a good two-day stay in the hospital and she constantly told them she wanted to go home. They must have mentioned re-hab to her and she refused… and they didn’t tell me! I think she was already developing or already had a UTI and it was making her delirious somewhat, to the point of getting out of bed and I’m not quite sure what she did, but they called security to her room. I arrived to find she had removed her IV and bleeding… she was released to go home with no instructions other than to see her doctor. I brought her home, but it was a nightmare as she became more delirious and incontinent.

April 21, 2018: After a few days, I called the ambulance as I couldn’t even get her up, she was very disoriented on this Saturday morning. There was no way we could take her to the hospital ourselves. The doctors back in Athens now told me she had a UTI and pneumonia… the droplet catchy kind. We had to wear masks while in her room; very uncomfortable to wear for a long period of time. She became very combatant with them on the 4th floor that they called to tell me they had to restrain her. After a few days, they moved her to the cardiology floor, and that was all dissolved… as she was more agreeable, but still wanting to go home still!

April 26, 2018: Mama was sleeping when I arrived, but after occupational therapy came, she became more awake. She sat up in her chair and when lunch arrived she seemed to be hungry. She ate a little, I brushed her hair and she talked about her hair and what a mess it was, and told me… “When I get well, I want to go down to the farm and see how the people have remodeled the old farmhouse where I grew up.” They’ve been giving her sleeping aids as this UTI and pneumonia seem to make her delusional at night, although it didn’t every night. One Dr. called it “sundowning”… meaning that some people had issues with the nighttime and would become agitated. I think she had had more compassionate nurses on the orthopedic floor and this all started when she was moved to the medical and later the cardiology floor. They finally moved her down to a room directly across from the nursing station, so they could remove the restraints and be able to see into her room. Once there, she changed and the nurses there were better with her, although there were a couple on day 1 that didn’t sit well with me… they never came into her room again. That was good as I hadn’t been happy with the way they came in and answered my questions… I wondered why they were even a nurse? It takes special people to be a nurse… and they definitely didn’t fall into that category!

April 30, 2018: While visiting with Mama today, I mentioned meat boycotts after reading something on a blog… mama said, “I didn’t really cook much back then when that was happening. I was waitressing at The Nathanial Greene Restaurant and Mr. Caldwell always had the kitchen fix me a plate to take home to my father every night. I lived with him back on the farm then. Half the time he hardly ate much of it, he never had an appetite, just like me. When growing up on a farm, you can always find something to eat.” I thought Mama was going home today, but I arrived to find she had a 102 temp overnight, but really no fever now. She had eaten no breakfast and ate very little lunch of the mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and turnip greens; turned her nose up at it, and picked at it like a bird. One thing she did like was the sweet tea and had two glasses. Then I got her a chocolate Ensure… naturally, she downed it! “I’m so stuffed now, that sweet tea sure tasted good.”

In talking about my father she said… “your father was a daredevil in the Navy. He didn’t listen to them at the Bikini Atoll bomb blasts and jumped in the radioactive ocean water anyway. That’s what caused him to lose his teeth while in the service. One time my father showed him his double-barrel shotgun when he acted up. Daddy didn’t take any shenanigans. My father worked hard for his farm and for what he had… he loved that farm!”

“I wish I could go home as a young girl again and play basketball… I was Mr. Burke’s favorite on the basketball team. That was because I’d do whatever he asked of me and play whatever spot on the team he asked me to. I loved to shoot, but I didn’t always get that spot, but I could have if he’d have let me. He knew my father very well – he’d always sit with daddy at the filling station on Saturdays.”

May 1, 2018: While back at the hospital with mama this morning, I brought her strawberries. “Oh Boy, those look good. I remember one time when I was at Aunt Annie’s (Askew-McKinley), and I ate all the strawberries out of her patch; I bet she was mad when she found out later. I planted some in my flower garden, not sure if they’re going to come up this year.” Mama ate only one!

May 2, 2018: While sitting with Mama today, we watched Pickers on TV… “Daddy had all that stuff up in his barns. Those wooden boxes there on TV, he had those… they fit under the plows and the seeds dropped through them as he plowed. There were plows, hay rakes and all kind of farm machinery up there. It was all probably worth a fortune, but who thought to even sell it back then. After I rented the farmhouse and lived with Allan in Monroe, someone came in and stole it all. I hadn’t even thought about you taking it when you took the other things home, sure wish I had.”

When Mike on Picker’s was buying arrowheads, Mama said… “Daddy used to dig up so many, even solid black ones. All those arrowheads were probably worth a fortune, but I never thought about them being worth anything. When I was a kid, I’d go back on the back-forty and pick up all I wanted. When daddy plowed, I could just walk behind him and pick them up… his land was loaded with them… there were so many that he didn’t even pay any attention to them and just left them to lay in the fields. You had a box of them, but they slowly disappeared through the years.” I think I have one left out of all I once had!

As Mike was looking at an old T-model… “Daddy had one of those when he courted Mama. When I was a little girl, he bought an A Model. Later on, he bought one of the first Fords out with a rounded top. My brother and I used to play in the old T-Model when it was parked after he didn’t use it anymore.

In sitting in Mama’s room here in the hospital and listening to the many who came in and out of her room… and saying “well bless your heart”…. I hadn’t heard that said in a long time. And while they’ve been giving her diuretics to keep the fluid build-up out of her lungs, I’ve never heard someone say so much… “I have to pee.” LOL

May 4, 2018: The past couple of days, Mama was supposed to have left the hospital for rehab… she’s finally relented, after much persuasion… but not happy! The Dr. has finally given the OK for her to leave after the last cat scan and x-rays have given good results. She will be going to Park Place, a local rehab and nursing facility in her hometown… much easier for me and hopefully her friends will visit once I return home for a few weeks.

We arrived about the same time the ambulance did with Mama… I’m hoping she will settle in and not fight her therapy. She wasn’t happy as she watched me unpack clothes and mark them… “you think I’m staying here for forever, I don’t need all those clothes?”

May 6, 2018: While visiting today with Mama I told her that I just learned from June (neighbor) that the new Nancy Drew movie was being filmed in her hometown later this month into late June. Nancy Drew books debuted 22 days after Mama was born… if only grandmamma had bought one and saved it, it’d be worth over $10,000. “My mama probably didn’t even know what a Nancy Drew was back then.”

June 7, 2018: I arrived to find Mama en-route to physical therapy this morning, so I followed to see how it would go; it was more of an evaluation session, but they did have her walk out into the hallway with a walker. She was pooped after that session. If she only had an appetite, then she’d have more strength, but she basically turns her nose up at all the foods they bring her… she never turns her nose up at a chocolate Ensure though! I don’t understand the loss of appetite thing, but she drinks enough of those energy drinks a day. I called the doctor about trying a pill to attempt to bring back her appetite so the sight of food interests her more. He did prescribe one, so hopefully, we will see soon if it works.

June 8, 2018: In knowing what time therapy would be, I arrived to find her already there and beginning to work out… she made a face at me when I came!  She did good in all they asked of her, and I think she’ll do better as she gets more comfortable with them and being there. She chatted them up, making them laugh. She walked about halfway back to her room before sitting down in the wheelchair… pooped. Even after that workout, she wanted no lunch, drank an Ensure and took a nap. I told her we’d be back after her nap to say goodbye as we were leaving for home the next day. “I’m going to really miss you,” she said.

We came back that evening to say goodbye and bring Mama an early Mother’s Day present… brought her some goodies of candy and cokes for her room and a fluffy velour pillow that said Happy Mother’s Day! Her eyes lit up… “I love it, it’s so soft.” “I hate that you have to go home, I’m going to really miss you guys… and I know Boo will be missing you too!”

June 9, 2018: I called mama when we stopped for the night in VA… the nurses have phones they bring to their room when you call, but whether she was groggy or the phone had a bad connection, she wasn’t hearing me too well. She did tell me… “I’m doing my therapy, I’ll do whatever they tell me to do, I just want to get out of her. How much longer do I have to stay here?”

June 13, 2018: I called mama around dinner time to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and asked if she had received anything today. “I don’t think so, but I might not remember. When I asked about how therapy was going… “Yes, I like the therapy, I can walk pretty good. I just hope I’m not here much longer as I want to go home and see Boo and sleep in my own bed. I feel stronger. They cut my hair the other day if you can call this a haircut… she chopped it! That woman shouldn’t be allowed to even hold a scissor in her hands… she wasn’t friendly, had a mean face. I won’t let her ever cut my hair here again.” (I messaged Donna to check out her hair when she goes this week and let me know) I called back to the nurse’s station and they said yes the chocolate covered strawberries that Melissa had sent, arrived. They took it to her and read the card, but in trying one, she said it was too cold so they took it back to put in the fridge. I asked them if they could take her back one so it could warm up a bit and she’d eat it later.


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© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Celebrating my 1st Year of Retirement

Family Stories

Celebrating my 1st Year of Retirement

I remember hearing people say, “I’m Retiring”, and I’d think, WOW… when will that happen to me… probably never! Well, it finally happened after much hesitation…  making that transition from a stable job to a “No” job. While I had been thinking, and procrastinating, as I was turning 65 last year! Ouch… where has the time gone… it’s definitely flown by way too fast. But it’s here and I had to make a decision – whether it was right or wrong!


As I threw the retirement thing around in my head, work ended up making the final decision for me when the news came out that a “buyout” was being offered to anyone with twenty-five years or more! Never pass up “free money”! While it wasn’t a huge offer… I’m not a rocket scientist… it was money you’d not walk by if you found it – and it definitely helped to sweeten the pot a bit!

So finally on June 2, 2017, it was over… it felt ever so strange, but in a way, it felt good! While many people walk out, amidst everyone saying goodbye and wishing them well… I chose to walk out just like it was another day, with no one really knowing it was my last day. Why? I am not one for being the center of attention for anything, and I just didn’t want everyone hugging me and saying goodbye… it would have been so hard for me, and I’d definitely have needed a big box of tissues to do that! I can’t just smile and say goodbye, I would have cried, and that was the last thing I wanted to do on my last day… so I had it my way… just like another day!

I kept such a good secret, that not even my husband knew it was my last day until after he picked me up. It was then that I told him, well today was my “last” day… I’m done! I actually took a vacation week the week before everyone was retiring who also took the buyout.

In a few months, I will have been retired for a year and while I’m not missing the daily routine of work, I do miss the friends I had there and our daily rants and laughs we had on all that went on daily. My days now are staying up late, sleeping late the next morning, and going anywhere we want! I’m still not in any pattern other than writing more on my blog and during this past winter, I’ve been knitting more. Finally, I’ve conquered my fear of knitting socks!

I started off strong in my commitment to decluttering my house, but once winter came, that went by the wayside and I knitted most days while watching Netflix. My companion during the day into the evening seems to be “Netflix”… and lately I’m wondering why I haven’t pulled the plug on my cable… as I never seem to watch regular TV.

Our only weekly commitment now is taking the granddaughters to school and daycare once a week… but getting up at 6 a.m. is quite out of the ordinary now, as staying up late has us sleeping in most mornings!

We’ve taken off on several weekend trips to Vermont, New Hamshire and Rhode Island… love those Walt Roast Beef sandwiches that can only be gotten in RI; I think another trip there will be planned soon. The one New England state I haven’t been to yet is Maine and I hope to take a trip there this year. It is good, that when the mood strikes to go… we can just go!

Hubby keeps quite busy doing the day catching up on all the jobs he put off while working… and one by one they are getting done. He’s made himself quite the workshop in the basement, so now when I need something made in wood… it gets done! Just recently I asked for tiny sock blockers (keychain size)… and every time he comes up he brings a couple. Now I just need to knit the tiny sock that goes on them! I’m sure all the granddaughters will want one when they see mine… so either make them one or lose mine!

I’m not nearly as organized as he is… but I do try and keep all my knitting needles in one place, as nothing is more frustrating than when you can’t find the exact size needle you need at the moment But even though I manage to keep most together, I sometimes have to hunt down the ones I somehow mislaid.

I suppose retirement has gone so well, that it’s almost taken me over a year since retiring to finalize this post. Does that mean I’ve been having way too much fun… or just gotten a little lazy. Whichever it is, I do declare I’ve procrastinated on finishing many of the blog drafts I started!


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© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Family Stories: Motherhood Through the Generations

Family Stories: Motherhood Through the Generations

I recently read a post on women reflecting the years of motherhood… and it gave me the inspiration for writing this specific post to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sadly I did not log the post that inspired me… and I’m still searching… so I might give credit. Update: I’ve finally found the blog which inspired this writing… love to have you stop by Jenns Midlife Crisis.

Having and raising a baby has changed so much over the years… whether for the good or bad… but nothing changes in the way a mother loves her children!

4 generations

Me, mom, Melissa and granddaughter McKinley

I can’t imagine how my grandmother, Ola Askew McKinley, handled her pregnancy in 1930 while living on a farm. As grandmama had always performed chores every day, I can only imagine being pregnant didn’t sideline her. She began every morning by starting up the warmth of the house… the kitchen cast iron stove. What I wouldn’t give to have had a glimpse of that stove in my many ramblings through granddaddy’s barns. I crawled all over those barns… so what happened to it? Maybe it was traded in when he bought grandmama her first electric stove, but my mind is wandering way ahead now.

When grandmamma gave birth to my mother on April 6, 1930, she already had one child… a son, Leroy Edgar McKinley had been born on May 19, 1924, in the log tenement cabin that Edgar Thomas and Ola Askew McKinley lived in. Granddaddy grew up firsthand helping his father to farm, so he was destined to be a farmer. By working someone else’s land, he shared a part of the crops… hence called sharecropping. This was widely done in the South, and if you managed the land well, you eventually saved enough to buy your own land… which granddaddy did. The land he worked was owned by the local doctor, Dr. William Hill Lewis. The very same doctor who delivered my mother, along with Mrs. Credille, the local midwife. In mama’s words, “I was born on a straw mattress, in a log cabin, on April 6, 1930.” I can’t imagine the endurance my grandmother had, to endure labor on a straw mattress.

In the late 1940’s Granddaddy finally relented and electricity was brought by poles down through his field, but Grandmama never seemed to take well to actually having electricity in the house… she often tried to blow out the bulb, just like she’d done all her life with the kerosene lamps. Hard to teach an old dog… new tricks! What a life event to have lived through!

What a sight that must have been when she first turned her new electric stove on and the “eyes” lit up… being from the South, we call the burners, the “eyes”, or at least my mother did. I can only imagine that she burned a lot of food, as on an electric stove, that “eye” turns red pretty quick… and if you’re not standing there… it burns!

Leroy boy man soldier_0006My grandfather, standing outside the very same log cabin where my mother was born. This photograph was taken in 1926 with their first child, Leroy McKinley. In looking through the door… you would be looking into the hallway where the very straw mattress lay… where my mother was born. The cabin is still standing and we visited it once several years ago, slightly trespassing… while it didn’t seem safe to walk into, we did peek inside to see the hallway mama often talked of and the stairs leading to the attic where she and Leroy played… losing all of grandmama’s thimbles playing “hide the thimble.

Times changed for the next generation of when my mother was pregnant with me in 1952… babies were no longer born at home. My mother was so determined to have me share her birthday, that she trudged off to the hospital on April 6th and told Dr. Lewis that she was having me on that day! He promptly laughed at her and told her to go home… I’m sure she trudged out of there very mad! Ten days later, she called her mother and told her she thought she was in labor and her parents soon arrived to take her to the hospital. I’m not quite sure where my father was or why she didn’t call him as he worked locally in town, but maybe she felt more comfortable calling her mother. They arrived to find her cleaning the house and mopping the floor. While they waited for her to finish, as she wouldn’t leave until she’d finished, her water broke. I imagine that was the deciding vote! Arriving at the hospital, Dr. Lewis chastised her for waiting so long as there wasn’t a long wait until I arrived on that very day of April 16th, 1952.

jeanne babyfix

Me with all my dark hair!

As my mother had lost a baby girl, Monica Yvonne, to Spina Bifida, it took much urging to convince mama that I was born perfect with no medical defects. I was born with a full head of dark hair… so much that the nurses took turns plaiting my hair with ribbons daily. Mama didn’t have much to do with me in the hospital, or for the next few months… she couldn’t bring herself to be convinced that I was truly perfect. My Aunt Chris came and lived with us at that time, taking care of me as Mama slowly came around and soon became herself again… finally becoming my mother. We soon bonded, and she quickly tied me to her hip… hardly ever letting me out of sight. If you’re an only child, do let me know if you felt your mother was as obsessive.

Being an only child had its advantages, but it also had disadvantages. You had no one to break the ice for you in growing up… in as mama had lost one child, burying her at six months… she kept me close, and sometimes I felt too close and smothered. While I never considered myself “spoiled”, I never wanted for anything. As a young child, mama said I never asked for anything even when she took me to town… and in asking me if I’d like this or that… I usually showed no interest and said no. At times, she was frustrated as she wanted to buy me things… but I didn’t seem to want them. That quickly changed as a teenager… I never refused, especially when my grandfather offered to buy me my first car! I was his only grandchild, so he had no one else to splurge on! My first car was a 1965 yellow Mustang! What could be better!

Being an only child has its drawbacks, as I”m finding out now with my mom (88) presently in rehab after a fall, breaking two ribs. While I’ve seen a change in the past few years with memory issues, she still remained living alone with Boo… her kitty. I’m not sure where this is all heading, as the memory seems to have worsened. She’s walking, with a walker at present, and striving to leave there… which I hope she will… or it will be devastating to her, not to return home, but…! This is the hard part, having no one to shoulder the questions to of what decisions to make… it’s just me! My husband has been my lifeline on this, helping me to clean, or rather he’s doing the cleaning of her house and yard, as we’re hoping to bring her home. One of the hardest parts is that my mother lives almost a thousand miles from me… we’ve just returned home after spending almost four weeks at her house. I’ve now left her in rehab, while I return home for a while before returning… hopefully to bring her back to her home. Decisions, decisions, decisions… I’m not enjoying the making of them!

When I first became pregnant, I lost my first child around 5 weeks into the pregnancy… a condition known as placenta previa. It wasn’t until about three years later before my son was born. It was difficult in losing my first child, I couldn’t handle being around anyone who was pregnant and I’d just about given up hopes of getting pregnant again until… I came home from the laundromat with a tiny baby sock amongst my clothes… a sign! Somehow that gave me hope again, and not long after… I was finally pregnant! I never had a difficult time during those nine months… hardly any nausea or even cravings. The only craving I remember was the want for oranges… not quite sure why the orange unless my body needed more vitamin C. I didn’t gain much weight, only about twenty-three pounds and often you couldn’t even tell I was pregnant from behind. I carried all in front… and all

Not having my mother nearby, my mother-in-law and all hubby’s aunts offered the stories of their births… some being horror “war” stories I didn’t really want to hear. Sometimes I think back, and wonder if they wished their pain on me. For the most part, I just ignored them, as I felt wonderful during those long nine months… I was out and about, even trudging to OTB (off track betting) to play our daily horse bets. When OTB came to the state, we were hooked for a short time… having fun playing the trotters, and for the most part, we won! I bought my rocking chair with one of those winning tickets! Even at almost nine months, I was still playing our tickets… I’m sure I got some looks! Hubby worked 11 to 7 a.m., so I was usually on my own during the day while he slept.

On the early morning hours of Nov. 12th, 1976, I called the doctor to tell him I had stomach cramps… must have been something I ate, or so I thought… as I wasn’t due for a couple of weeks! He asked me how far apart, and when I replied, “oh about five minutes“… he replied, “what are you waiting for, for the baby to be born at home, get to the hospital.” I called hubby at work, and within a half hour, we were on our way. Upon arriving at the hospital, after being checked… I heard, “get this woman in delivery, she’s having a baby.” Hubby was whisked away by a nurse to “gown up“… just about making it into the delivery room before he heard “it’s a boy.” My son was born within thirty minutes of finally arriving at the hospital? After he was born, the doctor yelled at me for waiting so long… well, what did I know? It was my first child, and I thought I was just having a stomach ache from something I ate… who knew I was in labor! I knew nothing about babies… much less having one!

Hubby was so excited that our son was born before his work shift ended, that he returned to work to punch out… or to gloat that he was a father! I was left alone with this new little guy that petrified me to even hold… while hubby was taken out to the bar at 7 a.m. to celebrate. There’s something wrong with this picture… I did all the work and I celebrated by laying in a hospital bed! Later when he called me before laying down to get a little sleep… I could tell he had had a few drinks!

Stephen XmasStocking 1year oldFIX

Baby No. 1 – My Son Stephen Joseph – Age 1

As the doctors had all agreed I was having a boy, we thought of only boy names… actually I only thought of one… my husband’s name Steve. After much balking on his part… I finally said, “ok, then I won’t name him after you.” All things quickly changed with that phrase… and the baby soon became Stephen Joseph Insalaco… with the Joseph middle name coming from his grandfather.

My mother wanted me to name him Bryan… using my maiden name, but I didn’t like it as a first name… later I felt bad that I didn’t contemplate using it, especially since my daughter named her first daughter after my mother’s maiden name of McKinley. I was determined to name this baby boy after my husband.

I knew nothing about babies… growing up with no siblings or any family around with babies… I had no experience in even holding them. As my son lay in that little plastic bassinette next to me, I remember being afraid to even pick him up… and the thought of changing a diaper petrified me! Hubby, on the other hand, had all the experience as he had babysat all the family cousins, being the oldest, and changed plenty of diapers. Good thing at least one of us had! It wasn’t long before I became a pro!

Baby no. 2 came just three years later… I was determined to not have an only child! The doctors constantly called as my due date neared, asking if I was having contractions… telling me that if I didn’t come in early, I’d be having my baby at home, or in the car en route! I don’t think they scared me, but when the time came, she also made a quick entrance upon arriving at the hospital…  born one hour after arriving.

Hubby had a little more time to suit up for the delivery room when baby two was born, but when the doctor said: “it’s a girl“… we both looked at each other and said, “I thought we were having a boy?” From all the doctor visits, all three doctors assured me I was having a boy again, by the heartbeat… boy were “they” all wrong! We had been prepared with a name for no. 2, naming him Paul after my grandfather Paul Pinkney Bryan… so now what? We hadn’t even picked out a girls name, although we had talked about a few… me wanting Scarlet… hubby definitely squashed it! He liked Melissa or Melanie after two favorite singers of his. He won with Melissa, and I added my middle name of Lee to name her Melissa Lee Insalaco… we both agreed!

Melissa with Dolls cropped

Baby No. 2 – My daughter Melissa Lee – Age 3 months

As things had been a little hectic in the delivery room with Melissa, I didn’t get a close look at her when she was born. It wasn’t until I was in my room did they bring her to me… and after taking one look at her, I told the nurse, “this isn’t my baby, she has red hair.” I’m sure that nurse thought me bonkers, but she quickly took her back to the nursery, but soon arrived back with her, assuring me… she was mine! I called hubby right away, telling him how could this baby be ours… I have brown hair and he has dark hair… so why was she a red hair! While there was some red in his beard, I never thought that enough, but in talking to mama she assured me that many in our family had auburn hair, and later I discovered that many of his great aunts had auburn hair when they were young! Seems all that red hair skipped a generation to show up in our family. One of the funny things about having a redhead is going to parties with “one” little redhead running around… and hearing people question as to who does this little redhead belong to… and how did that happen!

A big change in labor and delivery came with my daughter Melissa became pregnant –  the fourth generation of women in my family giving birth. Melissa always hoped for a short delivery after hearing my stories on labor, but it didn’t work out that way. After almost 29 hours of labor, I finally got a phone call to come to the hospital that she was going to have a cesarean; she now wanted mommy there! I hadn’t gone earlier, as she’d only wanted her husband… we stayed home until we were called that our first grandchild had arrived. How different from my time… she knew exactly what she was having. Today’s mommies have sonograms and see pictures of there baby instantly, and if lucky…. they see onscreen the sex of the baby! By the time we arrived at the hospital, mother and baby were waiting to greet us… my baby had had a baby! I think I just aged a few extra years! Now I was a grandmother… but I already knew I wasn’t going to be called grandma… I was going to be called GiGi. This little-redheaded bundle of cuteness was named McKinley Lee… McKinley after my mother’s maiden name and Lee is my middle name, as well as Melissa’s! Did I mention my daughter is also a redhead?


Redhead No. 1 – McKinley Lee Gillon

Two years later, Melissa was having another baby… and another girl. McKinley stayed with us when mommy went to the hospital and of course, we took her shopping for her own new baby and carrier so she wouldn’t feel left out. Baby no. 2 was a planned cesarean since her sister took the same route after a long labor. Red-head no. 2 arrived on April 25th, the very birthday of her paternal great-grandfather, Guiseppe Cambino. As her sister McKinley was named after my side of the family, this little red-head was to be named after the paternal side; Grace Kathryn is named after her grandfather’s mother, Grace Kathryn Gillon.

mckinley daddy and grace

Redhead No. 2 – Grace Kathryn Gillon

While sitting in the waiting room… we began hearing a baby cry… hubby and I both looked at each other and said… “that’s Grace, she’s arrived.” We were both right, Grace Kathryn was letting everyone know that red-head no. 2 had finally made her entrance into the world… and she was a force to be reckoned with. Lucky for daddy Frank… having not one, but three redheads in his life!

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My three redheads: McKinley and Grace with mom Melissa

By the time these two redheads marry and have children, what will change in how babies are born? Nothing can change with the nine months of carrying that little bundle, but maybe delivery will improve for the moms… hopefully, I’ll be around to see!

Image may contain: 7 people, including Steve Insalaco, Melissa Gillon and Frank Gillon, people smiling, child and outdoor

I’ve truly been blessed with five granddaughters!

Happy Mother’s Day to all!


Click for … more Family Stories

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2018: A to Z Reflection Post on All About Nancy Drew

2018: A to Z Reflection Post

All About Nancy Drew

Reflection Post

I made it…. all the way to April 30th… Again!

Congratulations to everyone who participated this year. It’s my third time participating in the A to Z challenge… and still loving it; I think this year was my best! Even though it’s sometimes, somewhat hectic…. I’ve enjoyed meeting new bloggers and learning from their blog posts. This year I started much earlier in preparing, researching and writing… six months to be exact. If you’re reading this and haven’t read my past blogs, well here are links… 2016: Southern Foods and Memories –  2017:  A to Z of Conversations with Mom 2018: All About Nancy Drew... hope to see you around!

This year, I once again kept a list of blogs I read, as the first year I didn’t even think of doing that and so regretted it… I lost touch with many blogs that I had enjoyed reading. You learn from your mistakes!

My Stats on my A to Z… All About Nancy Drew

Total word count of all 26 posts: 64,368 words

Longest word count post: Letter C – 6559 words

Most Viewed post: Letter A – 133 views

Most Liked post: Letter A – 15 likes


Wow… 1,543 views – 607 Visitors – 199 Likes – 299 Comments


stats countries

Nancy Drew is quite popular in other countries!!!



A few of my favorite A to Z Blogs from the 2018 challenge

Tossing it Out:  One of my favorites that made me laugh as I could so relate. This A to Z is the brainchild of the founder of A to Z… check out Arlee Bird’s A to Z Cleaning the Clutter.

Susanne Mathews Living the Dream  wrote her A to Z on words… my favorite one was “yonder”… with immediately coming to mind – way down yonder in the paw paw patch. I recently learned that the paw paw is really a fruit; I always thought it only a Southern saying!

Sara’s Baked Creations: cooking, baking, decorating… who doesn’t enjoy baked goods!

Dusting The Soul:  Writing on Alice in Wonderland. While I don’t think I ever read this book as a child, I enjoyed reading her take and explanations of it.

Less Beaten Paths of America Travel: A blog that shares what my husband and I enjoy… traveling off the beaten paths. Hubby always says… “you don’t see the country traveling the highways.”

More Than Words: Great blog to get lost in and view his fabulous photos of places off the beaten path. This blogger has found so many places I’d love to visit, like Alligator, Mississippi and even Chunky, Miss – who knew!

First Time Mommy: Writing about her life…  of Yesterday Today and Tomorrow.

Backsies is What there is Not   This blogger wrote her A to Z on Pinterest pins (a challenge within a challenge), recreating them to see if they can be a win! My fav was Letter C – Creepy Baby.… creating a herb garden out of doll heads, if you haven’t seen it, do go check it out! And the Colander used for drying your hair into curls… well not!

The Frugal Veggie   Always love discovering new veggie recipes.

JMDV Creative is a baking and craft A to Z.  Loved the Banana Bread!

A Heep of Everything blog. I love postcards, so this caught my eye.  Who knew about “Postcrossing” until I read about it on her blog. It’s a website that allows users to exchange postcards. You send a postcard to a random person worldwide, and once it gets there, someone else in the world draws your address and sends one to you. You won’t know where it’s coming from until it arrives in your mailbox.

Tracking Down the Family…     A blogger touching home with me as she writes an “All about Me”… I did that last year but on my own for the year. I knew I could never write it all in 30 days and drive myself crazy.  Here’s my All About Me!

CollectinTexasGal... crafts, and knitting. I enjoyed the B for Knitting Books.

 The Curry Apple Orchard .. telling stories of her ancestors. I enjoyed her photos and words… A blog designed to remember the past and celebrate the present

Jollette Inc… Writing on her family heirlooms. I write on mine at… Friday Night Family Heirlooms.

EverythingbutaMoose caught my crafty eye with C for Colanders, I’ve always wanted to make some of these.

Finding ELiza  Although she’s not writing this year, she has awesome 2017 A to Z posts on tracing her enslaved ancestors. Update: Finding Eliza 2018 did write in the 2018 A To Z – writing on small social items from The Emancipator newspaper, published between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Genealogy Challenges    Dianne Nolin challenged herself of genealogy challenges and writes on her ancestors.

Anne’s Family History    I always enjoy finding another family history genealogy A to Z.

Women’s Legacy Project    Barbie caught my eye on her blog as she’s writing her A to Z on – 2018 – Feminine Icons… will be interesting reads this month. Who doesn’t love Barbie!

Part-Time working hockey mom – writing about the many places she’s visited… Vienna was lovely…  The Mozart Bonbon intrigued me, so I searched them out and found them on Amazon.

Coast of Illinois – sail away on an A to Z of sailing adventures.

Stories Served Around the Table: Fantastic A to Z on Italian foods and memories. I could really relate to this in marrying into an Italian family. My first A to Z was writing on my Southern foods and memories.

Weekends in Maine… As Maine is the one New England state I haven’t visited, this blog caught my eye.

Janet’s Smiles loves to craft and shop and wrote her A to Z on all the many crafts she’s discovered in Michaels. I probably could open my own craft store… but isn’t it always the case, you never have what you need and off you go to the craft store!

Tui Snider – author and speaker… writes on cemetery symbolism… I enjoy older cemeteries and the unusual gravestones I find there.

My road trip will continue as I’m still stopping in on blogs I missed and my favorites listed here… I’ll be checking in on you again. To all who stopped in on mine, “Thank You“… and hope to see you back again next year! I know I missed logging some blogs as I went along, and I apologize if I forgot you in my going back and forth in reading and blogging!

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Want to read my A to Z, click below….

2018: A to Z – All About Nancy Drew 

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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2018 A to Z: Z. All About Nancy Drew

2018 A to Z: Z… All About Nancy Drew

Z glassIn 2016 I learned of the first annual April A to Z… it immediately intrigued me and I began racking my brain for a theme. After much reading, and thinking… I finally came up with the theme of Southern Foods and Memories… it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share Conversations with Mama to the world… the best of my on-going blog post that has generated from nightly talks to my mother. It’s now 2018 and as Nancy Drew has been on my mind… since I began re-building my collection back… well, I hope you will join me in celebrating All About Nancy Drew during the April A to Z Blog Hop!


Z is for Zippity Doo Dah… I’m Done!

collectibles 1

I’m done writing, but not finished with my reading, or rather re-reading of all the first 56 Nancy Drew books. When I started this project, I didn’t realize that the first 34 were revised, so those 56 books have now turned into 90 books!

I became so involved in my writing, that I didn’t spend as much time reading as planned! Sometimes it’s just hard to stay off social media; so I’m blaming Facebook for putting me behind?

Have I written “all” about Nancy Drew entirely? Absolutely Not! I’ve written my memories and what I’ve found interesting about Nancy. I never knew Nancy Drew was so complex until I rediscovered her again and began reading… and as in always thinking of a yearly A to Z topic… Nancy found me! I have had a great time in re-reading Nancy Drew and meeting up with others… just like me! And once again, I’ve begun another hobby… which I said… I’d never do again! But it’s been such fun and at a time in my new life of retirement… well I needed something fresh to think about daily.

If you’ve never read Nancy Drew, I hope I’ve encouraged you to do so… or pick up your old Nancy Drew books and read again. And if you by chance have Nancy Drew books that you’d like a home for, well I’m available to care for them!

box of books

The day before the A to Z ended, I was sent this photo and asked… “would you like these?” My friend didn’t have to ask me twice! I picked them up and was even treated to dinner… nothing better than that!

If you’d like to learn even more about Nancy Drew, then let me point you over to the website of Jenn Fisher at nancydrewsleuth. She is the true “aficionado” on All About Nancy Drew; just read her bio! And if you become hooked on Nancy… I might just meet up with you on one of the Nancy Drew conventions that Jenn runs yearly!

Thanks for following and reading along in my A to Z Nancy Drew adventures… and I hope I’ve enticed a few of you to read Nancy Drew if you never have. And if you were a Nancy Drew fan – I hope to hear from you, especially if you still have your books, and please check your books for my name… as my books somehow mysteriously disappeared! So many girls inscribed their books, and I’m sure I probably did… what I wouldn’t give to find… just one book with my signature! HELP me find my book!

“THANK YOU” Nancy Drew… it’s been a fun “Blog Hop” writing on Nancy’s escapades!

Stay tuned for my… A to Z Recollection post of all my favorites… see you there!

Answer from Letter X: The Mysterious Mannequin

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Want to read more, click below….

2018: A to Z – All About Nancy Drew

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


Posted in 2018: A to Z - All About Nancy Drew, Daily Writings and funnies... | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

2018 A to Z: Y… All About Nancy Drew

2018 A to Z: Y… All About Nancy Drew

Y glassIn 2016 I first learned of the annual April A to Z… it immediately intrigued me and I began racking my brain for a theme. After much reading, and thinking… I finally came up with the theme of A to Z 2016: A to Z: 2016 Southern Foods and Memories; it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share A to Z: 2017 Conversations with Mama to the world… the best of my on-going blog post that has generated from nightly talks to my mother. It’s now 2018 and as Nancy Drew has been on my mind… since I began re-building my collection back… well, I hope you will join me in celebrating All About Nancy Drew during the April A to Z Blog Hop!


Y is for… YOU might be Nancy Drew if, Years, and Yes I Made It

You might be Nancy Drew if…

  • you’ve been repeatably knocked unconscious… and seldom have a concussion!
  • your father is a lawyer and often asks for your help in solving a mystery… but never pays you! Nancy must receive a big allowance!
  • you always have a packed bag tucked away in the trunk of your roadster/convertible… just because!
  • you find yourself in an old mansion full of secret passageways and ghosts!
  • you have never had a job by the age of 18, but somehow never without money.
  • you never have a curfew!
  • your father has given you a handgun while you’re on a case, and you’re only 16!
  • you’re always proficient in whatever needs to be done.
  • you never have to ask permission to go on dangerous mystery hunts.
  • the police ask you to help in solving their mystery cases.


Contributions from my Nancy Drew Facebook group…

Eric WoodYou must be Nancy Drew if you’re always hoping a mystery comes your way to solve. LOL!
Christy Jordan: You must be Nancy Drew if boating always leads to mishaps.
Christy Jordan: You must be Nancy Drew if you’re had more concussions than an entire NFL team.
Amanda Arkebauer: If no matter how many times you wreck your car, your father always buys you a new one!
Noralee Owsley: Even after being hit on the head and left for dead, you wake up after being rescued with just a ‘slight headache and ready for more adventure!
Kelsey Reese: If you have a flashlight, a magnifying glass and can write SOS on a mirror with lipstick and think WWNDD.
Dean Burcham: You have two good friends, one athletic and one perpetually hungry… One of your oldest friends ditches you after getting married… The police chief is on a first name basis with you, not for felonious reasons… You have many odd talents, like obscure foreign language dialects and random sports… You have encounters with rascals with strange names (Mortimer Bartiscue, Bushy Trott for example).
Dean Burcham: Most importantly, 88 years after your debut, you have devoted fans of all ages that still love you to this day.
Sarah Beth: You just happen to be a natural at every sport and hobby you try!
Dean Burcham: You can write mirror image on a window in lipstick. You can get out of most troubles by mentioning your father’s name. You have a loyal boyfriend even if you pay little attention to him.
Tonia Dempsey: You get hit on the head a lot and wake up in a confined space.
Betsy Hoit-Thetford: You must be Nancy Drew if you can run and climb ladders in your heels, be tied up without mussing your outfit, have impeccable manners, and always outwit the bad guy.
Sophia Rentzing: You must be Nancy Drew if you started out as blond and your hair turned titian.
Sophia Rentzing: You must be Nancy Drew if you’re forever eighteen!
Christy Jordan: Breaking and entering and tampering with evidence is ok because you are a teenage girl with a lawyer father.
Karen Delano: You’re a teenager who can fly off to foreign countries at the drop of a hat with only 2 other teenage girls as companions. (even tho you should rightfully have a bodyguard at all times because you keep getting kidnapped)
Suzy Perkins: Really enjoyed all of these!
a) you have a fashionable and stylish outfit for every occasion
b) you are an “instant expert” in everything you do and never have to practice.
Christy Jordan: you remember everything you ever learned in your entire life well enough to teach others
Christine Claire: You stay 18 for life!
Andrea Samuels-Robinson: You chase bad guys, for free!
Geoffrey S. Lapin: you can skillfully back out of the driveway!
Cynthia Jones: You’re close with your father, and he listens to your legal advice even though you never went to law school. You never brag about your accomplishments and are always very modest. And you probably have had more bangs, knocked on head concussions then all detectives put together, and still, you say “I’m alright let’s go capture……..(fill in villains name)
Christine Claire: Let’s be honest we’re all a bit jealous of her.
Valerie Carmody: You must be Nancy Drew if your dog spontaneously changes from one terrier breed to another. (He first shows up in the OT “Whispering Statue” as a bull terrier, morphs into a wire-haired terrier in an illustration of a later book, then shows up again looking like a short-haired terrier of some sort in an illustration in “Mysterious Mannequin.”)
Sharon Donahue-Conway: Yes she wrote in lipstick when she was on the airplane in The Fire Dragon Mystery, and idiot Ned watched her be kidnapped 🙄 
Austin C. Stanley: You must be Nancy If you listen in on conversations from a keenly hidden area or come up with a solution to the mystery before the law enforcement does.

So… would you want to be Nancy Drew and be able to do all these things?


Nancy Drew turned 88 this April… just like my mom! Happy Birthday to them both!

Yes, I Made It:

nancy drew bag FIX

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Yes, I Finally Made It… after much procrastination. I’d actually bought a kit with Nancy Drew fabric, but I ended up making my own pattern and using fabric I had collected over the past year! I’m quite proud of how it turned out, and I’ll be carrying it when I check out the new filming of the new Nancy Drew movie… The Hidden Staircase… which is being filmed in Monroe, Ga. May-June 2018.

Want to read more, click below….

2018: A to Z – All About Nancy Drew

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

Posted in 2018: A to Z - All About Nancy Drew, Daily Writings and funnies... | Tagged , , | 13 Comments