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Goodbye, Hello. New Blog!

Dear Readers,

After 8 years blogging as cyclingrandma, I’ve decided to change my blog name and look.

I’m of course still a grandmother, (of 10!) but don’t cycle nearly as much as before. Adopting a dog two years ago (link) has cut into our cycling time, and I’m not longer as eager to speed downhills or struggle climbing up them. I still love cycling and no doubt we’ll be searching for a cycling trip once we can safely travel again.

So hello lisakwinkler. Still opinions and observations. Still same range of topics from food to family, travels to television, reading to reviews.

I appreciate all my followers – those that have been with me since the beginning, and those that have joined over the years and hope you’ll hop over to my new site, sign up, and comment.


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Covid DeCluttering: Cookie Jar?

Like many during the past several months, I’ve managed to unload a few unused, not needed items.

An enormous pot I used to make marmalade. Another one for chili. A glass trifle bowl. Some yarn and needles. I could easily go through the entire house, tossing, donating, recycling.

Our town created a residents’ only virtual free market site. Most things posted usually are gone in a nano-second. If an item doesn’t go; it probably won’t. Users are encouraged to remove those. I posted a turkey roasting pan– it’s still on the basement shelf.

Which brings me to the cookie jar. I haven’t used it in years. Years. The once children and then teenagers who enjoyed availing themselves of its contents as they passed by are now adults. None want it.

I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to put it on the free site; there’s bound to be a younger family who’d take it.

My husband, the least sentimental person I know, balked.
“I look at that cookie jar and think of all the Anzacs that used to be there.”

Yes, Anzacs. And  chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, and oatmeal raisin. Maybe some molasses.

It’s not that I don’t bake. I make muffins for the grands, mostly to use up brown bananas. I make summer fruit pies, crisps and crumbles; and cakes all seasons. Just not so many cookies anymore, or when I do, I parcel them out– a can for the grands, a can for my parents; and a few left for us. Never enough left to fill the jar.

So the cookie jar is staying. Empty. Some day I guess it will sell in an estate sale.

My neighbor suggested I put dog biscuits in it. That’s an idea.

Posted in aging, Family, food, Recipes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Social Distancing #8: Be a Mask Monitor

I’ve become that woman. The one who when seeing someone not wearing a mask while shopping, will call you out on it. I take my cue from Dr. Laura Popper, a  Manhattan pediatrician, who posted photos of maskless New Yorkers, publicly shaming them. Her public service announcement garnered attention from a local newspaper,  she’s officially the Mask Monitor.

Yesterday, I took my grands food shopping while they’re visiting at our lake house in northeast Pennsylvania. No matter that the refrigerator and freezer are overflowing; I wanted to ensure they had the right brands of cereal, yogurts, breads they prefer.

We wore masks. As did everyone in the store, except one man we encountered in the cereal aisle whose mask dangled around his neck like a loosened necktie. While I’ve seen maskless people before, I think the fact I was with the grands, brought the whole issue into greater focus. My blood boiled; how dare this jerk toy with their health? With their futures?

I bluntly said, “Put on your mask.”

He grinned and pulled it below his nose. Not good enough. I countered, “Cover your nose, too. We’re all trying hard to do our bit, you’re putting my kids’ and my health at risk.” I walked away, steaming, and sad that my grands had to see me get angry.

Unless parents want to keep home schooling, unless local businesses want to continue curbside only sales, and restaurants want to be limited to outdoor, six-foot apart dining, and unless we no longer want to travel, attend concerts and theater, or go to a doctor’s office or get a haircut without wearing masks, Covid 19 won’t go away too soon.

Mask shaming will be my mission. It should be everyone’s.

Posted in Blogging, commentary, Family, Grandchildren, health, news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Black Lives Matter: Stand Up!

I grieve for the black lives lost to police brutality.

I seethe about the disparity in loss of black lives to Covid-19 compared to everyone else.

I loathe income inequality and lack of educational opportunity.

I can’t imagine the fear parents of black children swallow every time their child leaves the house.

I applaud the protesters, taking to the streets, risking exposure to Covid-19, from small towns to large cities, from coast to coast and across the globe. I praise the politicians and police forces who are taking to their knees, who are joining the conversations.

Is Enough finally Enough?

I’ve struggled with my own response. I’m sad and mad in depths I’ve never felt. Wondering when I can get a haircut or fly to see my children or hug my neighbor pales by comparison to what we face as a nation right now. I have white privilege and I hate that I do.

I know I could easily pat myself on the back– I taught in urban schools, teaching African American students my entire teaching career. I wrote a book about a teacher who rode his horse across the country to honor the contributions of African Americans to the history and development of the country. Many of these unsung heroes were unknown to me when I began researching, and also to the staff I worked with and the students we taught. I sat on a board of a non-profit devoted to providing mentorship to African American males who’ve lost their fathers to violence.

I have black friends.

Yet I stood by when my friend, a professional journalist, couldn’t hail a cab in New York City just a few years ago. I stood by when African American cycling friends were dissed while we pedaled along a rural road or waited to buy coffee and sandwiches. I stood by when my 8th grade students received nasty looks when we attended a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream at a local theater.

I could have stood up.

I was brought up to not stand by.

My parents marched on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  My dad sobbed in front of our black and white television when he learned of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. That fall, we were preparing to move to Mount Bijou, Mississippi for my father to teach poultry raising skills to farmers. The program, part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society dream, died when funding was diverted to the Vietnam War.

So now I want to stand up. I’m beginning by joining my state League of Women Voters’ Social Justice Committee.

I will work to register voters and to get out the vote. I will moderate debates between candidates. We must encourage voting, among all citizens. Votes count in every election from local to county, state, to federal.  Every single time.

I will read. I’ve always included books, fiction and non-fiction about the African American and immigrant experiences in my lists; there are many sites listing more titles. I’ll write and talk about my reading as I believe we learn empathy for others if we walk in their shoes and listen to their stories.

Here’s a few I recommend:

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

And if you need further justification why the statues need to come down:

In the Shadow of Statues by Mitch Landrieu

Finally, I’ll donate all proceeds from sales of my book to Black Lives Matter.

What are you doing? What are you reading? What can we do?

Posted in Books, Civil Rights History, commentary, Family, Friendship, news, politics, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Social Distancing #7: Books & the Bard

Yesterday, William Shakespeare would have been 456 years old. What an amazing publishing career he’s had:  plays continually performed in all languages, all over the world.

The Shakespeare & Company theater company, based in Lenox, Massachusetts, posted this on its Facebook page:

“William celebrated not one but two birthdays during the plague years of 1604 and 1606 and it seems that his isolation may have fueled his creative engine. Born under the sign of Taurus, Shakespeare is often associated with the positive traits of the Bull: determined, loyal, focused, and generous.”

I’m a big Shakespeare fan, and wrote about him and his plays, teaching and acting, Here: Fire at CT’s Shakespeare Theater and here: Brushing up my Shakespeare  and here:Brown’s “R3,” Actors on Shakespeare

A few weeks ago, I ordered a two fiction titles for my mother. At nearly 90, stuck at home since Covid-19 forced her Y to close, eliminating her bi-weekly swim class and her weekly senior center visit from her life, the one thing she can enjoy is reading. And while the scourge of age and side effects from her stroke have stolen some of her memory, she retains what she reads and can conduct meaningful conversations afterwards.

I ordered Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, two World War II novels I thought she’d like. When I called to tell her to expect the deliveries, she mentioned a book she really wanted to read based on a review. She requested Shakespeare in a Divided America, by James Shapiro, a Shakespearean scholar who’s written many books on the subject.

Not wanting to wait for a mail order delivery, I called the local bookstore near my parents and arranged for someone to pick up the book. I bought the ebook for myself, planning to read along at the same time. Alas I had already started Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road, and figured I’d finish it and then begin the Shapiro. I liked Redhead; it’s short, with punchy, quick dialogue, an endearing main character and easy plot. However, my mother has already finished the Shakespeare book and eagerly awaits our discussion. Yet, she’s not adept at technology, thus Zoom, Skype, and the like elude her and I haven’t been able to travel to CT to visit.

I’m hoping the curve flattens soon and I’ll be able to go; even if we chat six feet apart, wearing masks.

Shakepeare & Company posted this cartoon today:


Posted in aging, Books, Family, Reading, Shakespeare, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Social Distancing #6: Crafts & Passions

My sisters and I started texting today about our various crafts we’re engaged in while in isolation. We shared photos. So I thought I’d put it out on Facebook to see what others are up to.

Of course there’s A LOT of walking and cooking. Many are making masks from everything from bras to yarmulkes; donating or for their own use.

What we’re doing to keep sane runs the gamut. Here’s a sampling from my respondents:

Baking, gardening, raking leaves, cleaning, watercolors, knitting, quilting,

embroidery, playing guitar, playing piano, singing, yoga, sewing, learning Spanish, learning Portuguese, whittling, writing, hand building with clay, reading, listening to old CDs, sharing cooking videos on Instagram, jigsaw puzzles, making swords out of wood for kids, shopping vicariously through Instacart and watching Instacart videos, and of course, binging.

A few others stood out: Marla says she’s kicking things. She didn’t elaborate and I’m afraid to ask. Ellen wrote: Scotch. Says everything. And Jeri is doing Zentangle. I’d never heard of it but it looks really cool.

As for me and my sisters: I’m finally finishing a needlepoint project  I started at least five years ago.  My sister Naomi has nearly completed this crewel embroidery. For each of us, we have to wait for the stores that cater to creating the final products, (pillow for me and wall hanging for her), reopen. My sister Madeline made a doll for a present and has been repairing and making jewelry.

Keep safe and sane with your crafts and passions.

Posted in art, Family, Knitting, Music, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Social Distancing #5: Passover Prep


I called my friend Robin this morning to catch up. We’re missing our walks together. I told her I was in the midst of making chicken soup and matzo balls for Passover. She said she was too! So we chopped and chatted, and pretended to smell each other’s concoctions of simmering chicken stock, onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, dill and parsley. I use my mother’s recipe.

The other day, I talked to two other friends, also preparing for Passover that begins Wednesday night. This year is presenting challenges to families, accustomed to getting together to share the Seder and the traditional foods. Some are holding “virtual” seders, with each family member cooking their own food but meeting online to recite the Haggadah. Some (like us) are paring down quite a bit, and for me, I’m making soup and brisket to deliver to a couple neighbors. I’ll freeze some to bring to my parents for when I can visit them again.

Next weekend is Easter. I imagine people who celebrate are in the throes of their own preparations: planning menus, dying Easter eggs and filling Easter baskets. Church services are virtual and there won’t be egg hunts.

Here’s hoping these holidays bring renewal and courage as we carry on in isolation.

Posted in commentary, Family, food, holidays, Judaism, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Social Distancing #4: Happy 66th Anniversary, Mom & Dad

Today’s my parents’ 66th anniversary.

Here’s what I wrote about their 58th anniversary:

Due to Covid-19, we can’t join them to celebrate and I couldn’t find anywhere that delivers dinners where they live. After 58 years in their house, where I grew up, they sold the property. My brother, who lives nearby, and has already been in and out of their house in the past several weeks of social distancing, is working like mad to clean things out and prepare for their move to a senior living apartment. Unfortunately, my sisters and I can’t travel from out of state to help.

I know the isolation is hard for them, as it is for the rest of us. For many months, they’ve already been quite housebound. Family and friends have taken them to medical appointments. When I visit, I do errands and we visit my father’s sister, Lillian, who lives in New Haven. Now she’s quarantined in her apartment.   This latest social distancing is harder. My mother, until three weeks ago, enjoyed a senior exercise aquatic class at the local YMCA. They aren’t technically skilled– facetime, zoom and all eludes them .

I can only hope that we can celebrate their milestone at some point. They grew up during the Depression and World War II. They faced many challenges. This is another one.

Posted in aging, celebrations, Family | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Social Distancing Diary #3: A Hike & Ice Cream

Our son met us at a local park for a short hike yesterday. My husband remarked that the scene was surreal– on one hand a gorgeous, sunny, warm day; lots of people outside hiking, biking, walking dogs, all keeping distant from each other. Yet on the other hand, we’re all anxious.

Seeing the grands after more than two weeks during which their world and everyone else’s has turned upside down provided some comfort and semblance of normalcy. We hiked through the woods and the boys especially loved climbing on rocks, exploring hollowed out trees, and chasing each other over bridges. My grand-daughter preferred to walk the dog; she misses seeing him on a regular basis.

I had bought ice cream sandwiches and took great care to  keep them frozen: insulated freezer bag inside a hard-sided cooler, surrounded with as many ice packs as I could cram inside. They kept frozen enough to enjoy and I had plenty of hand-wipes for washing before and after eating. We hope to do this sort of outing again next week. In the meantime, I sent them some cards with jokes and art projects. Maintaining a normal grandma relationship is challenging but not undoable.

A college friend sent me a letter from the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, that described the efforts being taken to keep poet’s legacy and the many natural wonders of the location alive. Several species of rare butterflies and dragonflies have been identified on the property, known as Steepletop.  We had visited the farm in 2017. Edna St. Vincent Millay: Happy 125th Birthday!

The letter closes with some apt lines of Millay’s,  written in 1950, about living in postwar America.

From the apprehensive present, . . .
Let us turn for comfort to this simple fact:
We have been in trouble before … and we came through.

Try to find some normalcy in every day. Ice cream helps.

Posted in commentary, exercise, Family, food, Grandchildren, Nature, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments