Saturday, April 30, 2016


It's tulip time here.  This morning PH and I went to Holland, Michigan to see what we could see a week before the tulip festival begins.  The city plants millions of tulips and the festival is the highlight of the year for springtime in Holland and it just gets bigger and bigger.  But if you don't want to jostle crowds, drive in circles looking for parking or have someone always in your photo, you go early.  The tulips are blooming now.  

I gave PH the iPad to use and I carried two cameras.  We opted to just wander around the city park rather than go to Windmill Island.  A tulip is a tulip, right?  And we were just looking for a few photos.  The weather was overcast and by the time we left the city it was raining so there are is no shadow play in the photos.  New to this, PH had fun using the iPad! 
  We found ourselves on opposite sides of the same bed of flowers and took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


OK, it's a cop out, I know, but I'm a little exhausted from having to think of a blog everyday and even more exhausted coming up with a topic beginning with a certain letter.  Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was so easy I worked ahead and scheduled the post.  Sometimes on the day before a due post I sat here sucking my thumb and humming to myself.  Sometimes I reached out to Susan in Australia and said, "I'm done losing sleep...your turn!" and she would send along some ideas that got my mind going again. Sometimes I reached out to Friend Laurie and asked if she was going crazy, too. And she was because she teaches full time and has many other things on her mind and demanding her time, but this thing was all her fault, she got me into it.  All in all, I can work at a frenetic pace for just so long and am really not good at all at being told I have to do something. So, can I say that I have finished the task or is this considered running the marathon but calling a taxi for the last mile?
All in all, it was a mind stretching activity that took me down paths I might not have thought about as blog posts. I received encouraging feedback on posts that were thought filled. So, I am declaring myself finished three days early, I'm taking the taxi for the last mile, and hope if you are new to my blog you'll come back again sometime.  In the meantime, here's a zebra of a different stripe to ponder.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Day of Wonder

Wonder was what I felt all day at the girls' school the other day.  The third grades had Market Day, a day devoted to a real life lesson in economics.  Each third grader ( 8-9 years old) researched a product or service to produce themselves and sell on this day.  They worked up a plan, they made their product or offered a service, and offered it for sale to the entire student body in 2 hours. The kids made posters advertising their product, made flyers to hang up around the school alerting the student body to their product,  decorated their booth and talked up their product or service.  There was a lot of parent help and even some grandmas.

There was everything from popcorn, brownies, minion rice krispy treats, grab bags, necklaces and bracelets, bookmarks, lemonade, stress balls, chocolate covered pretzels, puddings, silly putty, cookies, magnets, felt purses and pins, lip balm, one boy was giving guitar lessons, you could take a turn at a  game of chance,  there were even a couple of baby goats to pet (for a price!) As the kids made a sale they put a tally mark on their 'sales sheet.'

 I was astounded at the variety of  goods offered and all for sale at increments of 25 cents.  This made the money changing much easier.  Three of us were money changers and we were busy!  The customers came with any amount from $1 to $20 to spend and they needed quarters to do that.  You can see at the lower left of this first picture our money table.  All monies earned from this day were to be donated to a charity the classroom supports.  I was astounded at the amount at the end of the day!

Elizabeth's teacher started this endeavor a few years ago in the classroom using play money but it soon grew to something all third graders could and should take part in and now it's something the whole school looks forward to.  She puts an enormous amount of work into this day, and a sleepless night of worry the night before.  But you sure couldn't tell that by watching the day unfold.  It was seamless.

 Elizabeth is a tactile, detail oriented person and she made animals of clay.  She made 30 and sold 20 so that's not a bad showing!  I bought that cute little bumble bee sitting on the table on the left.  It's sitting on my computer screen right now.   A nice little reminder of a day of Wonder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


As I wondered about a word for 'V' day I realized one of the biggest 'V' words out there is Volunteer. 

When I worked in a school I realized how essential volunteers are in that environment.  We had volunteers who would come in and help with anything.  One of them wrote a cute poem about that and at the end of year volunteer appreciation lunch he read it and one line struck all of us...."If you walk into a school and ask if you can do anything for them...Watch Out!!"  The volunteers I had helping me in the library were a life saver for me. I still keep in touch with a couple of them.  I had one grandma who came in and shelved books for years. When I left, so did she.  I took that for a compliment.

Look around you. Who do you think cleans and decorates your churches for holidays?  Who gives you a cookie and juice at the blood bank or wheels you to your car after a hospital stay or brings in a comforting pet or books?  Who keeps your relative in a nursing home engaged?  Who is at the Veteran Hospitals talking to our veterans, walking them, taking them to doctor appointments, out for a stroll in a park?  Who are the Friends of the Library or companions at the Senior Centers.  Who rocks the babies at the hospitals or reads to the children or walks them down the corridors or makes quilts and knits hats for the neo-natal darlings?

Who keeps the hiking paths clear and who picks up trash along the highways and who works tirelessly to organize and establish new parks and then maintains the pathways?  Who paints the playground equipment at your child's school and plants flowers near the front door and maybe builds benches for the children to sit on?

Who writes the newsletters?  Who helps out at the Salvation Army or Goodwill stores?  Who are your docents at the museums and botanical gardens?  Who teaches your children during their day camps? Who teaches your children during Sunday school? Who coaches your child's ball team? Who organizes your child's ball team?  Who is your child's Scout leader or 4-H leader?

I am quite sure there are hundreds more examples because  there isn't a segment of our society that isn't organized, run or manned by a volunteer, people who do for the love of doing and for the love of others. They couldn't do these massive tasks without loving it and the people they serve.  I recently met a woman who, when she retired, said she was not going to learn how to drink coffee or play cards.  She started a historical society for her tiny village and in her zeal for the village and its history found other like minded people.  They eventually even bought a building to house their village's story.

If we didn't have volunteers we couldn't afford to live the lives we have. No organization could afford to pay the many someones who do what needs to be done.  These jobs are done from the kindness of many hearts and cannot be bought.  Our quality of life would not be what it is.  So, next time you see someone walking along the highway, bending over to pick up a piece of paper or you see a notice in your church bulletin asking for help cleaning the church for Christmas or Easter, or a notice in the local newspaper from an organization asking for help, remember someone is going to do that job.  It might as well be you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Product DetailsEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

     What a gem of a book!  Everyone Brave is Forgiven is set at the outbreak of World War II, and while there are many novels set during that war, there is always something new to discover when a story is in capable hands.
     Chris Cleave loosely used his grand parents’ story to tell us this one.  Mary North could easily have sat out the war enclosed as her mother was in an elegant home with servants and the protection of the government.  But when the war broke out she immediately saw herself as a spy and went to the War Office to volunteer her services.   They assigned her as a teacher. While she might not have had much experience as a spy, she had even less as a teacher.
     Tom Shaw is her superior, but not by much, and makes sure Mary has what she needs mostly, students.  Tom doesn’t understand Mary’s fierce determination to teach the children the rest of London doesn’t want.  In less than a week the children in her first class are sent to the countryside to be kept safe from possible London bombings.  But there are children that the people in the countryside don’t want, the crippled, the feeble, the black and so they send them back.  These are the children Mary is determined to stand by, keep safe and teach.
     Tom also decides he is going to sit out the war but his roommate and best friend Alistair Heath does not. It is when Mary, who is engaged to Tom, and Alistair meet that hearts are examined and the war makes its own decisions.
     Author Chris Cleave has given us a book that is tender, funny, emotional,  and breaks your heart.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Two Words

Welcome Home
Thank You
I'm Sorry
Good Night
Love You
Good Job
For Sale
We're Home
Let's Eat
Drive Safe
Be Careful
I'm Sick
Happy Birthday
Merry Christmas
Happy Anniversary
I'm Pregnant
Help Wanted
I'm Scared
Get Well
It's Alright
I do

Friday, April 22, 2016


 Do you remember my brother's recipe file from yesterday?  Well, somewhere in here is the recipe for our Sicilian grandmother's spaghetti sauce.  Silly me, I never asked him for the recipe.  But my daughter did.  She jumped out of her chair when she was told at Christmas that there even IS a family spaghetti sauce recipe.  From Sicily yet.

In this family we don't believe in not sharing a recipe.  I mean, really, why hoard a good thing just so someone can say it's a deep dark secret?  In this family, all you have to do is ask. But no, I'm not going to post it.
My brother believes the secret is in the pan.  He uses our grandma's pan.  After the liquids have been added and seasoned he puts in a healthy piece of pork steak for flavor and simmers the sauce till the meat falls off the bones.  Then it's taken out and the tasty bits are fought over. The sauce  simmers for two whole days.
Like me, this is how he measures.  You have to be more exact with baking, but we measure savory dishes the old world way.  Pinches, sortas, somes.  He was right, though, when he said he does follow this recipe because "if you want it  to taste like hers you have to do it the way she did."
The meatballs are formed and slightly browned in olive oil then added to the sauce to simmer within the sauce for a whole day.   The meatballs are on day two.  Everyone everywhere has their own spaghetti sauce recipe and they're all different from each other. This one is ours.
In the end, we filled a big bowl, covered it and took it home.  His house smelled like our grandma's did on spaghetti Sundays.  This day was documented with recipes, photos and stories lest one of our grands asks for the recipe.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


 Does your recipe file look like this?  Mine used to but I kept mine in a large mailing envelope, and then a tote bag and then I started getting real and purging here, too.  This is my brother's file.  It holds recipes he's cut out of newspapers back in the day that newspapers printed recipes.  He said some he never used, some just sounded good at the time, some he's actually tried.  I've found lately that if I try one and it's not so successful I toss it.  If it was good I make a comment on it so I know that I tried it and it's worth keeping.  Some, like a particular cookie recipe I have in mind, became family favorites.
My file is now not this thick but it's just as messy.  One of the pages is completely burnt from the notebook because I put it on a hot burner.  My son has already claimed mine.
 One of the things I realized years ago was that the recipe box tells a lot about the cook in the house.  In mine you'll find more desserts than meals.  But the real reason I want to keep the recipe box of someone who has passed away is I want the recipes written in their handwriting.  I want to remember the penmanship of the person who sent the birthday and Christmas cards. It keeps them still a little real and here.
I want the recipes they copied down because they thought them delicious and important enough to copy from someone else.
 Not something cut from a newspaper, but something they've actually tried, liked and asked for.

 I want to see that there are splatters on the page, sometimes hiding the ingredient or directions because the recipe was such a favorite.  And now we, too, know it was a favorite.
 So many of our grandmothers were old world cooks and  cooked by taste.  They just knew and you had to be standing next to them writing things down as they used pinches and tea cups and stirring spoons as their measure. Since they've been gone, many is the time we've asked each other, "Did you get mom's sauerkraut recipe?"  "Did you get the brownie recipe?"  "Does anyone remember how Busia made her pie?"  We find out we must use lard for the crust and Northern Spy apples and cook the onions and bacon till they're almost burned for the sauerkraut and no, we didn't get the brownie recipe. 
When my kids got married I made a recipe book for them of all the things I cooked that they liked and things from my torn and stained notebook, the things they will ask each other about when I'm gone, my recipe for whatever they remember.  In it I told who I got the recipe from,  gave detailed directions about my technique or the quirks I discovered when I made it.  It's all there.  Except for my handwriting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


One can drive through the country side and see more and more quilt squares showing up on the sides of barns. Big 4 x 4 sheets of plywood are divided and conquered by paint instead of cloth showing various quilt images.  I think the beginning of this countryside art show began in Ohio.  I think.  I could be wrong. Could be Iowa. At first it was a surprise to be driving along and see a bright patch on a usually weathered old barn.  We would point and decide, just like with cloth, whether we liked the color choices.  Is there enough contrast? Would I pick those colors?

Now, we see them more often and it occurred to me over the weekend that it's so appropriate to have a huge quilt square brightening up the size of a weathered barn.  Isn't that what farm women did?  Make quilts to keep their families warm?  Cutting up worn clothing giving a shirt or skirt one last chance to live?   Can you imagine that most pioneer and farm women in decades gone by knew how to quilt?  Quilting was as much associated with farm life as the mule was.

 I like to look at them, it feels right making the connection between barns and quilting and the lives that went into them.
Last weekend PH and I went back to the lakeshore to visit friends and stopped at one of the vineyard/wineries in the area.  It's great grape growing country so tasting rooms are popping up like dandelions. 
It took me a minute to realize this square shows a bunch of grapes made with hexies! Not only is this imaginative, colorful and fun, making the connection between the use of the land and the quilt square 
is really what this countryside phenomenon is all about.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Recently a friend and I had a conversation about the death of our history.  The deleting of our lives.  There was a time when we stored the story of our lives in shoeboxes in the back of the closet and occasionally we would drag those boxes out to share, to remember, to laugh, to explain, to compare, and mostly, to pass on to the next generation their history.  How many times have I pulled out a picture of my children to show to their children what their mommy or daddy looked like when they were their age.  This is what your dad looked like when he lost his first tooth.  Here's a picture of your mommy in her dance recital costume when she was four years old.

But no more.  We are digital now and there's a delete button.  While digital photographs are much easier to take with a telephone or camera and so very much less expensive because we no longer have the pictures developed at the pharmacy and have to pay for a whole roll of what we can now delete, we are also deleting the crowd shots at the birthday parties.  The shots where old Uncle Joe is in the background telling a joke to the other guys, like he always did, but we forgot about till we see that picture.   I recently read an article about an old crowd shot of soldiers at Gettysburg and is that really Abraham Lincoln waaaayyyyy in the back on horseback?  If so, it's the ONLY photo we have of him on horseback?

We keep photos on our computers until the computer crashes and we lose them all (I know, I know, there's something called a cloud.)  We keep them on the phone in our back pocket until the file is full, then we scroll through and deletedeletedelete to make room for the yet again, selfie.

We are raising a generation who will on one more level think they are it.  There was nothing before them, no record of grandma because she was the one who took all the family photographs, no record of great grandpa, nothing to compare those eyes to.

Yes, some people have some photos developed through online services and some even have yearly books made for their grandchildren.  I think those books are fantabulous.  An incredible record of the child's life.  But the pictures are usually only of the child.  You don't get the 'oops' shots, you don't get the crowd, you don't get the spontaneity in those books because you were so very careful to choose only certain photos.  You also don't have them developed to hang on the refrigerator.

Have you noticed....and I am just as guilty....we no longer pass around a pack of pictures, we pass around the phone or camera.  And when the camera or phone fill up, deletedeletedelete.

As a person who values history, family everyday life history, this makes me very sad.

Monday, April 18, 2016


When people discover we moved from the lakeshore to a small town an hour inland, they think we are crazy.  Maybe. Who knows?  Now that it's been a year they ask if we miss it.  As in: did we make a mistake.  The answer is always no.  We didn't make a mistake, we don't miss it.  The trade-offs are more than we gave up.  The lake will always be there.  There is one thing we miss very, very much.  We miss the orchards.  At the lake we were no more than two miles from an orchard.  It's my policy in the summertime to pick my own fruit.  Usually I say, "I don't eat it if I didn't pick it."  There are several reasons:  it's cheaper,  it's fresher, I know what's on the bottom of the container because I put it there. The sun is warm, the birds are singing, sometimes other people are around and sometimes I am alone.
We have no orchards here.  This is serious farm country, not fruit farms.  I made just one strawberry pie last summer because I discovered I had to drive about 20 miles to a strawberry U-Pick.  That rocked my boat no end.

 I miss this vista of fruit just waiting to ripen and be picked.
 It's one of the things the girls love doing and we made sure we did this everytime they came to visit.  Now it's a special trip, but very much worth it.  I love watching them run toward the trees to get started. Friends are giving us their house for a week this summer and this is most definitely on the list of things to do.
 Adelaide wants the ladders.  She's a fearless climber and heads for the ladder every time. Elizabeth climbs but needs to know where the ground is.

These pictures were from last summer so we did make the effort to go back to the lake to pick- or rather we made the effort to pick when we went back to the lake.  But that's just it.  No longer is this summer ritual effortless. That's what I miss.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rare Objects

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

      Everyone in this story has something to hide.  We meet Maeve Fanning while in a psychiatric hospital because she is wild and miserable and loves her bootleg gin a bit too much and had an abortion.  That’s a lot to hide if you are Irish in 1930’s Boston.  She meets there a young woman who is a mysteriously miserable young lady.
      Maeve is released from the hospital and goes home to her mother in the Italian neighborhood of Boston and is determined to remake herself with a job and opportunities that will get her out of said neighborhood.   Despite being in the middle of the Great Depression, she uses her wily personality to change her appearance and finds a job at an elite antique establishment that caters to the very moneyed  of Boston and New York museums.  After delivering a purchase to the Van der Laar  family, she recognizes their daughter  Diana as the young troubled woman she met in the hospital.   And this is where Maeve’s real remaking begins.
      Diana is determined to bring Maeve into her life, though she can’t wait to escape it.  Maeve is star struck by the money and privilege Diana enjoys, but trying to live a double life is exhausting and rarely handled sober.  When she is at work and home and in her neighborhood she is one person.  When she is with Diana’s family she is another, and when she is with them she might as well be on the moon.
As I said, everyone has something to hide and eventually it all comes to play, some with better results than others. 
      I was mistaken about what I thought might be a story that for me was overly light.  Like the characters, the story hid it’s message well, but that made the hunt more enjoyable.