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My Blog

October 2013

The Tradition of Halloween

Good morning and Happy Halloween.  It is finally here.  A day children look forward to.  Unfortunately here in the Chicagoland area, it is supposed to have thunderstorms all day. That will surely put a damper on the kids trick or treating.  I hope that the perhaps will get a window of opportunity to be able to go out later in the day!
As for today's blog, I got to thinking the other day about how long  Halloween has been around. 
Folklore has it that Halloween is said to have its roots in paganism in Europe, before the beginning of Christianity. It was to symbolize the start of winter; the burning of leaves, and purifying by fire, everything that is evil or old.
It has been attributed by scholars as the origin of Halloween to harvest festivals of the Celtic culture and pagan festivals that commemorate the dead. The celebration is particularly connected with the Roman feast called Pomona and a Celtic festival known as Samhain.
Samhain is a harvest festival celebrated around the world on October 31 (Northern Hemisphere) and November 1 (Southern Hemisphere). It marks the end of harvest, and thus, that of the lighter half of the year. Thus, at the same time, it marks the start of the darker half of the year. Celebrations of this festival are similar to most of Halloween's, such as Guising and Apple bobbing
In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get together than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties were focused on games, foods of the time of year and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations.  Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century due to this.
It was originally known as All Hallow's Eve around the 16th Century.  The first celebration known to be held in the United States was in Anoka, Minnesota in 1920
The first officially store bought costumes began in the year 1930.  Before then handmade costumes were the rage.  I feel that today, people are becoming more and more creative with their costumes.  Now with the computer...it is so easy to find ideas to help you along. 
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. It is interesting to me that  in particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces. Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.  There are still superstitions and still traditions that are carried on by many. Paths that  black cats walking in front of you should never be crossed , never walk under a ladder, breaking a mirror can cause 7 years of bad luck.  Superstitions, by some are still held onto.  Whether they are true or not it totally up to you. 
So have a safe Halloween today.  Trick or treat...smell my feet, give me something good to eat.  Let's enjoy a safe day and pray that it is a day in history where no bad comes from it, or that anyone is harmed because of it.  Let it be a day of fun for children to enjoy.

The Versatility of the Pine Cone

Good morning to all.  The day looks a little strange outside...you can almost see the moisture in the air.  I am looking to having a very full day ahead of me.  YYesterdays ghost stories went very well.  The audience was amazing and I loved seeing those eyes widen with anticipation as the stories unfold. 
Today's blog is about Pine cones.  It seems that come fall we all can identify the season with them.  It is amazing to me how many pine cones there are out there.  From different trees grow different cones.  From their shapes to their sizes they are all individual.  If you ever crafted with a pine cone you know that they are amazing.  There are endless possibilities to them.  I know that I have made owls, gnomes, snowed them, bleached them, painted them, and I have even taken the petals apart off of them to create a very elaborate angel years ago.  One year my mother decided she wanted this particular angel that was all made up of individual petals of the short fat type pine cones.  For hours I sat cutting apart the pine cones and this was in the days before that marvelous invention called a Glue gun.  The body of the angel was a tall styrafoam cone and 2 smaller ones made up her arms.  They were completed covered with layered petals from the cones.  Using a tacky glue, this was one messy project.  The angels head was a pretty doll type head and I used felt and ribbons to make her collar.  She was gorgeous...I was so glad to have finished that angel.  But my mother, bless her heart...took it to work to show everyone her angel.  Well, I suppose you might know what is coming....she came home with orders for it.  Not just 1 or 2, but dozens.  My poor fingers were raw by the time I finished those angels.  Now adays, I see layered pine cones on products everywhere that come from China.  I know how much work goes into making anything like that.  Sometimes that is the way that you truly learn to appreciate the art of things. 
I know most of you have never thought of pine cones as a changing object, but it is interesting to me that when wet, the pine cone closes up and when it dries it reopens.  I have baked them in the oven to dry them and remove any little pesky bugs.  I have used them for fire starters, and have even dipped them in wax and cinnamon. There is a lovely story about Pine cones as well called the Legend of the Silver Pinecone.  This legend comes from Germany.  I think it is quite a nice and lovely legend so I am sharing it today.
There once lived a poor family without enough food to eat or enough wood for their fire. The mother decided to go into the forest to search for pine cones. She was planning to use the pine cones to build a fire for her family, and she was also hoping she could sell some of them to get money to buy food.
After walking for hours, the mother finally reached the forest and started gathering pine cones into her basket. Suddenly, she heard a voice say, "Why are you stealing my pine cones?" With that, an elf appeared beside her.
She explained her sad story to the elf. With a crooked smile, the elf said, "Go into the next forest. The pine cones there are much better."
Hesitantly, the mother set off to the next forest, which was even farther away. When she reached it, she was very tired. She leaned against a tree and sat her basket on the ground.
No sooner had she set down her basket, and dozens of pine cones started falling to the ground. Filled with renewed energy, she gathered all the pine cones into her basket and returned home.
Tired again, once she returned home, she set down the basket for a moment on her doorstep. When she looked down at the basket of pine cones, they had all turned to silver.
The family would never be poor again.
Because of this legend, many people believe that a silver pine cone is lucky. It is customary to keep one on your dresser or hearth to make sure good fortune comes your way.
May you enjoy this legend and keep a silver pine cone in your home.

Grandma's Tapioca Pudding

Well, good morning to everyone.  Hope that your day will be filled with good things today.  As I hear the birds twittering outdoors, I sit here and wonder what the day will be like.  So far, the sound is magnificent, even with the windows closed, their sweet voices ring though.  Well, another tough day ahead of me.  Preparing the homes for the show at The Grove in Glenview's  craft faire along with storytelling at a Senior facility, I know when I come home to paint, I will probably want to just sit and relax, but....at this time of the year...that is not an option. 
Well, today's blog is about Tapioca Pudding.  Now, I know that it might be a strange topic, but last night I had dinner at Sweet Tomatoes.  Great place for loads of fresh vegetables, great chili soup and wonderful sour dough bread...but my favorite thing there is their Tapioca Pudding.  Now, normally this would not be a choice in a restaurant, because most come from those number 10 cans and taste pretty gooey.  They usually have a pretty odd taste to them...at least to me.  It tastes more like a sweet pudding than anything else.  But at Sweet Tomatoes, the tapioca is light and airy and really delicious!  As I sat eating my bowl....well, alright...two bowls...I told my husband how much I enjoyed it...there was only one thing missing.  When he asked what, I told him pineapple.  My grandmother used to make tapioca pudding for me as a child and she would substitute some of the liquid with pineapple juice and then add the pineapple.  She always used the version where you whipped in the eggs whites.  It was always fluffy and totally delishious.  I asked him whether he had tapioca growing up.  He said he thought that he might have.  But didn't recall the name.  He was brought up with parents who barely spoke the English language and said that they ate all types of puddings, but they just call them all pudding. 
I remembered back to when we first got married and I bought my first box of tapioca.  I made the normal recipe and couldn't for the life of me figure out what went wrong.  It didn't taste anything like Grandmas.  It wasn't like there was a huge choice in types of tapioca back then.  It was the red box or nothing.  As I read the box further, I discovered there was more than one way of making the pudding.  So I tried it that way...still not the same.  I finally called Grandma up to figure out what I was doing wrong.  That is when she shared her secret of making tapioca.  Of course....pineapple!  How could I have not realized it.  Did you ever just eat something for the pure pleasure, time and time again and not stop to even think about what it was you were eating?  Well, there was my answer.  From then on, tapioca had a whole different meaning for me.  That is, until I went to the bulk food store in Shipshewana, Indiana and saw tapioca in bags and there were all different sizes of balls of tapioca!  Now I was being educated all over again. I never imagined that there was anything but the one kind. 
Later, as years went by, we went to an ice cream parlor owned by a Chinese family and they had something called a Bubble drink.  Upon trying the drink, I wondered what the jellied things on the bottom were.  With a little research, I discovered that the drink was actually a type of Chinese tea made with tapioca.  Another discovering. 
Well, last night , my husband asked me whether I knew where tapioca came from.  Stumped!  I had no idea...I had never thought about it.  It was just TAPIOCA!  So we had to find out.   Tapioca comes from is the dried and processed cassava root which is grown in Africa and Latin America. It was originally found in Brazil. Like most roots it has a tough brown skin with a white interior flesh. Cassava roots can be bitter or sweet and should be cooked before eating as they contain the poisonous chemical hydrocyanic acid. They are an important source of carbohydrate calories in tropical regions throughout the earth.  The one thing is that it is used as a thickening agent and is also gluten free. 
I am sure my Grandmother never knew about the history or the background of Tapioca..but one thing was for sure...she sure knew the best way to prepare it!

Singing in Library!

Good morning.  Back to the grind Monday.  It was very hectic on my end this weekend, I had a hard time remembering what day of the week it was.  Years ago, my mother in law used to check of the day on the calendar and I always questioned why she did that...now I know!!  Well, yesterday's performance at the Country Club was fun.  In the later part of the evening, many of the children stayed on the hayride so they could hear more stories as we went around the property.  It is so awesome to see how excited they become.  What is even funnier, is to see how much the adults enjoyed the stories as well.  Sometimes, I think they laugh and clap more than the children. 
Well, as for today's blog, last night after I left the country club, I went out to dinner with my husband and while we were eating I was reminded of something that happened so very long ago. 
When our children were young, we would often take them to the library.  Today it seems that with the computer age and everything at your fingertips, I must question whether the attendances at a library have spiraled down. Anyway, we would always be there reading,  taking home books, renting projectors and movies and later, when videos came out, we rented those as well. 
Well, one particular day, we were at the library on Narragansett Ave. in Chicago.  I was on one side of the library going through the card index...remember those?  and my husband and one of our daughters were in the children's section when she decided she had to go to the bathroom.  Well, my husband walked her to the bathroom and it was a one stall room.  He let her go in...she was about 5 at the time and he stood outside of the door waiting for her.  Now, all of a sudden, I hear this singing on the other side of the wall where I am at.  I immediately recognized the voice...I couldn't believe that my husband could possibly allow my daughter to be singing in the library.  I snapped the drawer closed and raced to the other side to find them.  Then, I spotted him standing next to the bathroom door. The look on his face was priceless!  He had turned every shade of red you could ever imagine.  I could barely keep my wits about me.  Inside the bathroom...our daughter, evidently had a longer visit and it was singing la-la-la to pass the time away while nature took its course.  I am not sure that it was that loud....but in a place like a library where you could here a pin drop....it was hysterical!  Once I realized what was happening, I ducked around the corner to wait and see how long this would go one.  About five minutes passed when she finally exited.  My husband could not get out of that library fast enough.  I don't think we ever went back to that particular one again.  You know what they say...out of the mouths of Babes...well, this was a total serenade!  Most people sing in the bathroom while they are in the shower...but not our daughter...she must have thought she was royalty...her singing was done on the throne.
As years went by...you know how us parents love to tell those stories....well all we ever had to do was sing La-la-la and it was then her turn to turn shades of red.  Oh the memories that seem to just pop up out of nowhere. 

Hallween Party Preparations

Good morning to everyone.  Last day of the weekend.  How quickly the time flies.  Hope that everyone's day will be everything you hope it could be.  There is a lot for me to do today.  I begin the setup at the Grove for the Holiday craft fair...My house will begin getting emptied of some of the items that I have been painting all year long....then off to a performance later on.  I came home yesterday with the feeling of being totally drained.  It took everything in me last night to even sit and price tag ornaments.  I could not even finish.  This is one time of the year in which I get totally drained.  But I am so grateful for the opportunities and am so happy to see how happy it makes people.  Yesterday's audience was wonderful in both locations.  I went from the eldest to the youngest and the twinkles in their eyes were both the same. 
Well, today's blog is about Halloween parties.  Yesterday, when I performed, one was in a private home.  It was wonderfully decorated, and to top it all off, the hostess was a real Pinterest fan.  I commented as I walked around and saw her food and decorations.  I had seen so many of them off of Pinterest.  So nice to see that someone just doesn't save the ideas, but actually puts them to use.  She had juice boxes for the children wrapped up in white duck tape with eyes to look like mummies.  There were black goodie bags all cut and tied to look like tombstones.  Pumpkin treats made from clementine's.  There were hot dogs wrapped like mummies with crescent rolls and so much more.  I commend this mother in all the effort she put into preparing for this day.  Sometimes people don't realize all the work that goes into such preparations.  She was dressed adorably as Alice in Wonderland.  What a fun evening that was in store for all her guests.  I would have loved to have seen the types of games I am sure she had ready to play with everyone. 
I remember as a kid going to Halloween parties.  I remember the doughnuts tied onto a string suspended from a ceiling and we had to try to eat the doughnuts with our hands behind our backs.  There was always bobbing for apples, and passing the hot potato game.  I remember one particular party that I got to attend.  It was at a friends house and it was on an evening, not an afternoon party.  I remember walking there in my costume and thinking about what the house might be like.  They made the basement into a haunted house that we had to walk through.  I was really nervous because I didn't want anyone to think I was chicken.  It was pretty cool back then, although nothing compared to what is available today.  We had black lights and red lights and a cardboard box coffin that someone popped out of.  There were spider webs that dangled overhead that we could feel but not see.  They put a lot of effort into that party now that I look back on it.  Even back then, moms put everything into making a party special for their family and friends.  
When we get invited to a party, we are excited to get ready to go and have a good time, but often, don't consider all that goes into the person who hosted the event.  The cleaning, the cooking, the decorating and preparing all the games and entertainment.   
One year I hosted a Halloween party when my girls were in their later teens.  I held a road rally event.  It was fun writing the road rally.  If you have never been on one, it is a map of where you need to drive, but done in riddles.  There are things to find on the way as well. There are also check points along the way.  One of the ones we set up was by the forest preserves and the 2 guys there were dressed up like Dracula and a monster.  The ending point was at my home.  It was all decorated and food was ready to be had upon everyone's return.  I remember one couple dressed up as Barbie and Ken, another dressed as the lion from the Wizard of Oz, a scarecrow,  and even my mother in law played along and dressed as a witch.  It was a real hoot to see her all decked out in a long black wig and hat!  I made trophies for the winners from toy cars and wooden blocks.  We enjoyed hearing the stories of their escapades along the way.  We played games and just had a great evening.  Now, I have to clue you in that it took my husband and I a couple of weeks to plan that road rally.  We would drive out and first plan the route.  Then after we had decided on that, we had to go over it and begin to find ideas of places to use in the directions along with how we would write the clues. We would go over and over the route, looking for more ideas.  Finding things that were identical that we could get people to count along the way...that is, if they were clever enough to catch the clues that they were to count something...and that was for extra points.  Then we had to secure a few places for check points that didn't infringe on private properties or break any laws.  After numerous times of those trips, then we would choose someone who was not coming to the party to drive the route and we would go along to see how well the route actually was.  If that were not enough, then , two days before we drove the route again to make sure nothing had changed to through anything off.  I then typed it all up and made copies for each person that was going.  There were emergency envelopes that needed to me made...they lost points if they opened them, bt it would get them to the next check point if they got lost.  All the work was well worth it because everyone had such a good time!  The nice thing about everyone being out on the road doing the rally, was that I had an empty house to get everything prepared.  You know how when you have a party, somehow, everyone lands up in your kitchen while you are trying to get everything done! 
Well, I know that you don't really need a reason to have a party, but Halloween can be a fun time to have one.  There are so many things you can do to enjoy.  So many new ideas for decorating and games....but don't leave out some of the old ones.  The old games are a blast from the past....and remember...the young ones might have never done them...like dropping clothespins in a bottle, or passing oranges from neck to neck...and let us not forget passing a lifesaver down a line using toothpicks!  Have fun! Enjoy....and have a safe a Happy Halloween party.

Do you believe in Ghosts

Good morning and happy weekend once again.  I will be in the storytelling mode all weekend.    This is prime season for ghost stories.  I will be using a variety of them for all ages this weekend.  Funny, how ghost stories are always on demand.  I love to tell them, it is amazing to see the eyes of my audiences as they await  the terror.  People love to be scared and at the same time are so invested in the learning about ghostly apparitions.  I would love to get feedback from you, my readers, if you have a ghost story to share.  Just make a comment.  Do you believe in ghosts?  Do you think that there are both good and evil?  Do you think it is just our imaginations?  How do you think they appear?  Do you think that when you dream of someone who is dead that they are really communicating with you? 
If you haven't guessed by now...today's blog is about ghost hunting.  I have been intrigued by ghosts since I was a young girl.  Now for many, you may think that ghosts just are in our imaginations.  Well, when I was 5 years old, I was awaken by a ghost of my next door neighbor.  It happened shortly after her death and she appeared in the lavender chiffon dress that she wore in her coffin along with the orchid that was pinned onto her dress.  She wasn't in the least bit scary, after all, she wasn't scary while she was alive!  She told me to take care of my Grandmother.  That was all she had to say.  As a little girl, I paid no great attention to it all, but as it turned out...I took care of my grandmother all my life.  I often think back on that day and wondered why such a message?  I guess it is not for me to understand, but happy that I did what I was asked to do on many counts.  Now as years went on, I was very perceptive to spirit activities.  I read book after book on the paranormal.  I am totally intrigued by all the various experiences that I have encountered along the way.  I love watching the stories on TV that show the debunking of paranormal happenings, and I myself try to debunk such experiences as well. 
I remember as a teen going with a group of kids to the legendary Bachelors Grove on the South side of Chicago. I returned there later in life as an adult looking for proof of the paranormal.  I went with a group of women who were also researchers and we found the graves in the cemetery desecrated.  When we arrived we took pictures of the surrounding area and they proved to have some paranormal orbs to them.  Each of us went in different directions and then gathered at the end to discuss anything found or felt.  Turned out that each of us concurred on one particular area and one particular grave.  We each had felt a menacing feeling and also a very sad soul.  Turned out, that the grave was of a mother and child.  There are many stories associated to Bachelors Grove Cemetery from floating orbs, roaming monks and  a disappearing building.  There are many ghosts that roam the city of Chicago.  there are reports of ghostly appearances at the Harpo Studios....that building once was used as the morgue during the Eastland disaster on the Chicago River.  Ghostly sightings have appeared as well on the river where the Eastland went down.  911 has been called many times to report a drowning victim there and when the rescue teams arrive, nothing is there.  There are spirits that roams the alley next to the Oriental theater where many have jumped down from the second floor to their death during the time when the Iroquois theater resided there.  Casts members of wicked have reportedly seen apparitions of a young family dressed in the time period  of the fatal fire.  Chicago's own Resurrection Mary is still reported to be seen as she travelled down the road from the Dance hall in Willowbrook.   The underground tunnels by Capone from the Dance Hall to the restaurant across the street, where once a brothel was owned, and men were walled up in the basement still have a sense of doom and gloom.  There are stories and stories of ghosts everywhere.  Many will think that it is crazy to believe in ghosts.  I have equipment that I use during my hunts for the paranormal.  Me...I  am not superstitious...I am just plain old cautious!

The Love in a Sweater

Good morning to everyone.  The sun is a fooling us  this morning.  There is frost on the car windows.  A high of 49 is expected here today.  I will spend the day wrapping up some of my work and getting ready for tomorrows 2 storytelling jobs.  So much to do and so little time.  I am awaiting next week when we gain one hour.  Don't forget that we turn the clocks back one hour.  Isn't it sort of an oxymoron that they say spring ahead and fall back?  When there is a spring in your step...don't you usually move forward?  And I don't know about anyone else, but I usually have always tripped and fallen forward.  Guess it just is what it is.
Well, on to today's blog.  This is the season for wearing sweaters.  The types of sweaters that are out there.  the types of people who are blessed to have the talent to make sweaters.  I was very blessed with the ability to be able to make sweaters and have made many throughout the years, but this story is about my mothers talent. 
One year, my mother went and took knitting lessons.  She already knew the basics of knitting, but wanted to go much further with her knowledge and become more advanced in the art.  She worked so hard at it.  It seemed as though there was never a day that went by that you didn't see her with out her knitting needles.  Well, one year, for my birthday which is at the end of September...perfect timing for a sweater!  My mom knitted me the most gorgeous raspberry pink long sleeved sweater top.  It was not your average button down the front type sweater.  This was a designer top.  the sleeves were puffed towards the top, then tapered and then puffed again towards the wrist.  There were various designs of stiches in the sweater and it was made from a very expensive yarn.  It was so soft and comfortable and really warm at the same time.  I was absolutely in love with that sweater.  It was both hers and my pride and joy.    It truly was a piece of art.  Well, the day finally came for me to wash the sweater.  I was careful to use Woolite and washed it in cold water on the delicate cycle of the washing machine.  I was quite busy that day, doing errands and such and knew that I needed to lay the sweater out on a towel for drying.  Well, that day...of all the times....my husband decided to help out...unknown to me...and put the sweater into the dryer.  Imagine my horror when I discovered the sweater gone from the washing machine and found out what he had done.  The sweater was now the size for a 2 year old to wear.  It had shrunk down so small that there was no hope at all.  I was totally devastated and didn't dare to tell my mother what he had done.  I have no idea of what she might have done.  I know how horrible I felt.  I was left to lie every time she asked about it.  I would always say that I had just worn it the day or two before.  I have never stopped thing of that sweater.  It was my most favorite thing in the world.  Well, one day, years later, my mother made me a grey, black and white  variegated knitted jacket sweater.  It is heavy and delightful.  It even has pockets to the side which I love.  Mom has since passed away, and with the weather cold now, the sweater has come out of storage and is now my everyday jacket.  I loved the sweater when she gave it to me back then, but appreciate it even more so today.  When I wear that sweater, I have to stop and imagine her arms around me.  As I brush my hands along the soft fluff of the yarn, I cannot help but think of her and the time spent making that piece of warmth for me.  It not only warms my body, but it also warms my heart.  A lot of love goes into a handmade piece.  I am just grateful that I recognize it.  I am grateful that she cared enough to make those things for me.  That today, I have something to hold onto that her hands touched.  I would give my anything to get that raspberry pink sweater back to frame perhaps with her picture and knitting needles.  I am sorry today that I didn't keep that small piece of memory, but grateful for the story and the memories.  When they were cleaning out her things, the one thing I asked for was her knitting needles. When I use them, I will ask that she stay with me during the times that they are used and help put some of her magic to them.  

Treats for Trick or Treaters

Good morning readers.  Hoping that you made it through past hump day and are looking forward to another productive day.  I spent the day working on painting with a new paint which I must say I love!!  I was able to accomplish quite a bit yesterday and hope that today will prove to be just as productive.  This weekend will be busy with a couple story telling jobs for Halloween and next week as well.  I have told my share this year of ghost stories and am actually looking forward to some winter time to catch up on some new stories for my repertoire. 
As for today's blog, my inspiration came from a letter I saw posted on Facebook.  the letter was written by a father to all of the neighbors that he and his son would be visiting for Halloween's Trick or Treating.  His son's illness does not allow him any sweets but is very much looking forward to the act of the day.  The father wrote a letter and delivered it with a small toy, asking they give that toy to his son when they arrived.  He gave them his son's name and said that he would introduce himself at the door.  He didn't want to have his son disappointed with treats that he could not have.  Imagine the thoughtfulness of this father. 
That made me think about the act of giving.  That is really what is going on that day.  I can remember that for a number of years in the past, I have a warehouse nearby that has a clearance sale each year.  One year they had all these packages of colored glitter pens. I believe there were 3 in a pack.  I bought a case and that it what I handed out for Halloween.  The kids were blown away at the door, receiving a gift instead of candy...and not in a bad way!  I remember one year, I purchased a bunch of those lips that had a whistle in them and they looked like the old waxed lips.  Those were enjoyable even for me to fool around with.  I know that the children enjoy the candy, but imagine a prize of sorts.  When I read about this particular child, it really made me think that perhaps this tradition just might have to return to my house. 
When I thought about the giving factor of Halloween, I was quite pleased.  It is a time, when adults actually look forward to a giving day.  A day that is set aside to share with children.  I know that especially for the older generation it is often times a real joy to see the children and their costumes.  I remember when my mother in law was alive, she would sit in a chair on the front porch and await the children with a bowl of candy.  She would talk with the kids as they came up to get their treats.  Without really even realizing it...the children are giving as well.  For many adults, the children are giving them a smile.  A moment of joy, perhaps even a moment of remembering when their children, or even themselves for that matter were dressed up for the holiday.  What a "Sweet"  thing that happens on that day.   It is more that those sweets that get handed out.  It is the "Sweet" gestures by those who participate.  Let's face it..it is an added expense....and in the economic times, the last thing that anyone really needs to do...but somehow....almost everyone finds the joy in the giving.  When thinking about it, I have to smile.  My faith somehow gets restored in the generosity of mankind.  
Last year, I had a group of handicapped children brought out by their caregivers.  I was told that it was their first time trick or treating.  the young people were probably in the late teens.  They were just as thrilled as the 3 year old.  I was so overcome by the kindness of the caregivers to take them out and share with them the excitement of the day.  I walked down the stairs to place treats in all their bags and talk with them.  There is so much good that happens in our world...we just need to see it.  
When you hand out candy or treats this year, smile and think about how much joy that youngster is having.  How much joy and time that their parent may have put into their costumes.  Smile because you helped to make them a memory that they someday will look back on.    

A Gourd-geous Season

Good morning to everyone.  One very brisk morning outside, yet the sun is shining and I have two feet placed on the floor.  So much to do these days as I am getting ready for the Craft Faire at the Grove in Glenview.  Yesterday was spent painting wine bottles using a new paint by Deco Art and I must say that I love it.  I painted birch trees in a winter scene that will have lights in the bottle.  I love them. 
I thought about today's blog and decided on gourds.  This is so typical of the season since a pumpkin and squash fall into that category. 
One of the things that I paint is gourds.  I have gone gourd picking in Michigan for them and I must say the cleaning of the gourds is biggest deal.  I spent a few days this summer out on the patio with hot water, bleach and steel wool and scrubs them clean.  They are then painted and sealed.  I have purchased a drill to carve one out one day.  That perhaps will become next years project.  I have seen them stained, carved, made into bowls and spoons.  I often wonder if that is where pumpkin carving and Jack O'Lanterns came from. 
Well, then the curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out more about these wonderful objects. 
The carving of vegetables has been a common practice in many parts of the world, with gourds being the earliest plant species domesticated by humans 10,000 years ago, predominantly for their carving potential. Gourds were used to carve lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago, with the Māori word for Gourd'ue also was  used to describe a lampshade. But the innovation of carving a Jack-O-Lantern specifically to celebrate Halloween was first recorded in the U.S., with the earliest known reference occurring in 1866. There is a common belief that its carving came to the U.S. from Ireland.
In Storytelling, the story of the Jack-O'-lantern comes in many ways retold in different forms across the world, with variations being present in the folklore of Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Italy and Spain. An old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells o f Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who used a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down. Another tale says that Jack put a key in the Devil's pocket while he was suspended upside-down
Today, pumpkin carving has really changed from the days of old.  Sections of the pumpkin are cut out to make holes, often depicting a face, which may be either cheerful, scary, or comical. More complex carvings are becoming more commonly seen. Popular figures, symbols, and logos are some that can now be seen used on pumpkins. A variety of tools can be used to carve and hollow out the gourd, ranging from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments, typically sold in holiday sections of North American grocery stores. Printed stencils can be used as a guide for increasingly complex designs. After carving, a light source (traditionally a candle) is placed inside the pumpkin and the top is put back into place. The light is normally inserted to illuminate the design from the inside and add an extra measure of spookiness. Sometimes a chimney is carved, too. It is possible to create surprisingly unique and artistic designs. Today they even use drills and cookie cutters to help in the cuttings.  Amazing how ones mind can create some of the wildest looking art. 
Well, one of the better things about carving a Jack O'Lantern is the seeds that you get to bake and salt for eating.  That has always been the one part of the ritual enjoyed by my children growing up.  I, myself, love the small pumpkin that I cut up and make into Pumpkin Soup with cream, bacon and onions, accompanied by some homemade noodles.  That's the way my Grandmother did it and the tradition continues on. 
I hope that you have been enjoying this months reflection of the season.  Next month, being the month of Thanksgiving, I thought a thanks for the day might be an appropriate blog...I welcome anyone's suggestions.  Just post your comments.  I look forward to reading some of them. 

S'more of That This Season

Good morning to all my readers.  Hope that if you live in this area that you are keeping warm.  The chill is here and snowy rain expected to arrive this afternoon.  That makes me think of campfires and snuggling.
As for campfires...I don't know why, but I do associate it always with chocolate.  Hot chocolate with floating marshmallows seem to be connected to the thought of sitting by a campfire.  Not to mention those delectable chocolate and marshmallow and graham cracker smores.  Made me think about when that all started. 
I seems that he very first printed record of the recipe was in 1927 in a girl scout's manual entitled, "Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts".  S'mores original name was actually "some more", because of the constant requests for more and then it was  later shortened to simply "s'more". It is thought  that this new word was perhaps born from sticky mouthed individuals who may have been unable to properly say, "some more, please" . I am surprised that the Girl scouts didn't come up with a cookie with those ingredients. 
When we look at the ingredients....don't you wonder where they came from?
Well the marsh mellow far beats the s'more in an age because it is  over 4,000 years old. It was first discovered in  Egypt by squeezing a mallow plant and was reserved only for gods and royalty, however it didn't receive it's more common appearance until the 1800's.  It so happened the some French candy makers whipped the plant extract into egg whites and sugar to make medicine. Marshmallows originally were used to treat sore throats, suppress coughs and help heal minor cuts and burns, but it  became so popular that they need to find a faster way to make them. Unfortunately this method also put an end to the use of actual mallow, the plant in marshmallows, and resulted in the modern recipe of corn syrup, corn starch, sugar, and gelatin. Marshmallows no longer have any medical use, but Americans still purchase more than 95 million pounds per year.
As for the Graham cracker's history ,  Sylvester Graham  created the cookie in 1829. Graham created the cookie as part of a vegetarian diet as a high fiber, slightly sweet cracker made with whole, unrefined wheat flour. 
And then there is the beloved chocolate  bar  which has a rich history dating all the  back to it's sister ingredient the marshmallow's time more than 4,000 years ago in 2000 B.C. Chocolate originated in the amazon and has been used all throughout history by almost every culture ever known at some point in time. In Spain it was once even used for money. It was made into an actual candy bar in the year 1847, when  a man named Joseph Fry created a paste from chocolate that could be pressed into a mold.  Today it is claimed that Chocolate DOES have medical uses. Harvard's school of medical health claims that
a few pieces of chocolate a month can actually lengthen your life! Chocolate is also high in antioxidants and essential minerals such as iron and copper.    I do think that for most of us today associate chocolate though with Herseys. 
And in case you might not have known this piece of trivia...National S"mores Day is celebrated on August 10th each year.  I myself think it should be sometime in fall because when I think of S'more making...I think of fall.
There are more and more recipes now surfacing using those basic ingredients. From cheesecakes to waffles sandwiches to fudges and muffins and martinits. I am sure that the Girl Scouts never imagined what would have become of their simple fireside snack.

Mum is the Word

Good morning to everyone.  Hope your weekends were enjoyable.  Here in the Chicago land area the frost is just upon us.  Brrr...I am not fond of damp and cold...but if you live the  this area, you just have to buck up!  The last few days have been chilly and I have begun drinking my loved Chai tea for comfort.  It is so warming and delightful.  Love it with cream and a touch of Honey. 
Well, onto today's blog.  I was thinking about the outside and flowers that are displayed for fall.  It seems that the only flower that comes to mind is the mum plant.  They are in the beautiful colors of Autumn and are a lovely potted plant to place either on your front porch in pots or in your ground.  I started to think about the word chrysanthemum. Now that is always a word that seems to get used in spelling bees.  I thought about how we have shortened the named to mum and in an instant, began to think about the phrase...mum's the words.  I wondered where it came from and whether there was any connection to the plant.  When I looked it up, the following was it's explanation.  Meaning

Keep quiet - say nothing.

Origin

Mum; not mother but 'mmmmm', the humming sound made with a closed mouth. Used by Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2:

"Seal up your lips and give no words but mum."
I suppose there was no connections to the plant, but interesting fact to know.  I began then thing of other words with "mum" in it.  Mummy was the next that came to mind. Now that is a word for some of the Halloween decorations and costumes of this time of year.  The word "mummy" is not of Egyptian origin, but is derived from the Arabic mumiyah, which means "body preserved by wax or bitumen." This term was used because of an Arab misconception of the methods used by the Egyptians in preserving their dead.
The actual process of embalming as practiced in ancient Egypt was governed by definite religious ritual. A period of seventy days was required for the preparation of the mummy, and each step in the procedure was coordinated with relevant priestly ceremonies.
The embalmers' shop might be a fixed place, as in the case of those connected with the larger temples. Often, however, it was a movable one sometimes a tent--which could be set up near the home of the deceased.
Seems that mum is a silencing word.  Seems almost appropriate for this time of the year.  A time when everything in quieting down.  The end is near.  Death of the earth is almost upon it's living splendor.  There is a stillness to this season.  It's changed colors have begun to fall and leave it's bare branches for all to see.  All things in nature have begun their own sort of embalming to preserve them for their new awakening.  How amazing is our world.  Looking around at this time of the year surely makes me go "mmmmmm" how wonderful.  It is so picturesque and beautiful all I want is to sit still and take it all in.  So in the end, I think MUM is a perfect plant name and perfect for the season. 
 

A Full Moon Effect

Good morning to all.  Hope your weekend was full of good things.  I was busy with ghost stories this weekend at a couple of parties and they were wonderful.  Having a full moon overhead just seems to make the evening even more mystical. 
Now, for my blog today, I thought that I would discuss the effects of the full moon.  It is speculated that a lot of strange or unusual things happens when the moon is full.  They have linked strange behaviors, more women going into labor when there is a full moon and you would have to question why. 
It comes down to a much more scientific explanation than anything.  The moons position has an immediate relation to the pull of the tides in the water.  We are made up of mostly water and therefore it can effect the way we might behave or act.  When I have spoken to teachers in the past, they confirmed that they have noticed that their classrooms are much more disrupted on a the days of a full moon.  Doctors and nurses have confirmed that there are more women who go into labor during the full moon as well. 
Well, yesterday, when I went into the Senior Center to work I saw the effect of the full moon going on.  One of the residents who is normally quite the sweetest of ladies was in a complete dither.  She was upset, angry, a bit violent...to say the least.  I felt so bad for everyone there.  The staff are wonderful and took control of the situation.  All the other residents of course were disturbed by the outburst and I did my very best and switched gears in what we would do to help calm them down.  By the time I had left the center all was well with the world.  Last night as I drove to the home that I was entertaining at, I stared up at the moon in it's fullness and made the connection. 
We have heard stories of werewolves and creatures, stories of doom and terror and they all seem to be with the full moon overhead.  It is a questioning thought to me about just how much the moon relates to our mental changes.  Popular legend has it that the full moon brings out the worst in people: more violence, more suicides, more accidents, more aggression. The influence of the moon and behavior has been called "The Lunar Effect" or "The Transylvania Effect." The belief that the full moon causes mental disorders and strange behavior was widespread throughout Europe in the middle ages. Even the word "lunacy" meaning "insanity" comes from the Latin word for "moon."
Now there are many theorist who will negate these theories, I myself have seen many strange occurrences happen during the full moon phase and I guess it really is up to your own individual beliefs. 
When I thought about years past and Moonshine....it surely meant more than the larger illumination from the phere....it was a drink made in the hills and caused much upset and crazy behaviors...perhaps that was where it got its name!  And then I thought about the word Honeymoon....
The custom of a “honeymoon” began over four thousand years ago in Babylon.
When for a full lunar month after the wedding, the bride’s father would supply his son-in-law with all the honey-beer he could drink. 
There is the word Moonstruck whose meaning is adj. - Insane and believed to be affected by the phases of the moon.
We have so stop and wonder why our language is put together the way that it is.  Sometimes, there just seems to be a little more to it that just some jumbled words put together. 
 

Holiday Spirit

Well good morning...although almost close to afternoon.  It has been a pretty busy start to my day. Painting ornaments and trying to get in some home time before I go to teach at the Senior Center.  Today is art for the Alzheimer's for Halloween.  I am planning on Pumpkin wreath frames.  I have a late performance this evening at another Halloween party.  Last night's was awesome.  The guests were all in costume and they were really well done.  the hostess did an outstanding job in decorating and setting the tone for the evening.  It was wonderful to be telling scary stories to all adults.  I love watching them as they sat and huddled around.  That sort of evening is a true pleasure.
Well, today's blog is about Holiday spirit.  It was sparked by last night's job.  As I watched the adults gathered and having a good time, I thought about what a shame it is that as we get older we sometimes tend to loose out enthusiasm for the holidays.  We seem to get so bogged down with all the extraneous things in life that we tend to not take time to just let go and have a good time.  I was a revival of the spirit last evening.  Everyone was really into their costumes and the décor and the stories.  It was a feel good moment.  I was sitting here this morning with my friend and we spoke about what a holiday is all about.  Is it really about the particular day...or is it about the people that you spend time with, the things you do, the traditions that you follow? Sometimes, reminiscing back helps you to recall what is really most important about the celebration.  Being with the people that are part of your life and can share in the same excitement as you.  She talked about needed to change their routine for the holiday because of her family having moved away from down the block by her and how important it is for her to be with them.  If that is what you need to do..then that is what you should do.  I shared with her how I had to change my years of having Christmas Eve to a day in January.  I remembered the first time that I no longer had Christmas Eve and it totally bummed me out!  I cried the entire evening because my children were no longer spending it with us.  they had to go to the other side of the family, it was the same year my mother in law passed away and nothing was ever going to be the same.  Then I slapped myself into reality.  It was the day....for goodness sakes...it was what we did on that day that was important and so I changed our Christmas Eve to a day in January.  My main concern was that I didn't want the granddaughters to not understand or experience the traditions.  We spoke about holiday parties that I used to throw and how wonderful they were.  Now, I get so wrapped up in the business of the holidays, I have lost some of that holiday spirit and glow that used to burn in my heart.  I decided that it was time to make some changes.  It is time to rekindle the holidays back to the times when life was happy and fun.  Why do we ever let go of that feeling to begin with?  I shared with her a story of the Green Pajamas...a quaint story of the love of a child for her hard working mother during the holidays and the importance of making her mother happy with a special gift....and 20  years later...that mother gives a gift to her daughter....who is now a mother....and is now tired and had lost her spirit.  Some times I think we need to look back to be able to move forward.  Sometimes we need to see what is lost to appreciate a way to find it again.  Life is a bowl of cherries...they are delicious, but they also have pits.  Just like life.  Enjoy the wonderful parts and toss out the rest.  When I think about using cherries as an anlagy, I cannot think that while eating cherries, sometime it leaves a stain on your fingers.  That is sort of like our past and our traditions.  Those stains are the memories...sometimes they are the stain that is hard to remove, so why even try?  Take a moment and act like you want to.  Laugh from deep inside your belly.. remember how wonderful it is to hear an innocent child laugh with joy and do the same. 

Thank God for Carnation Evaporated Milk

Good morning everyone.  Well, this morning so far the sun is up and my eyes are open.  I am grateful for the day. 
Yesterday as I was painting, I was listening to my old time radio shows.  While listening...and crying during one of them....sometimes they are just so sweet and endearing, so many things came to my mind.  First there was a touching Christmas story of a mother who lost her spirit for Christmas and as she reminisced back...well there went the tears.  Along with singing of Christmas Carols and the explanation of the song Our Father by Amos and Andy...I was truly touched.  That is never heard anymore on public TV. 
Anyway, the reason for today's blog was initiated by the radio show.  During the show, the commercial was for Carnation Evaporated Milk.  It started me thinking about that red and white can and what it was used for long ago.  It probably isn't the first thing on everyone's shopping list today, but back when I was young it was a staple in the house.  First off, we used it for our coffee.  Yes, for our coffee.  At home that was the best thing in a cup of java.  I remember that my Grandmother used Carnation and my Aunt used Milnot.  I remember when I first got married I used carnation as well.  Well, yesterday, in the commercial, they advised you to use it in you coffee...that it was like cream and it even whipped up....and that brought me to Jello.  My grandmother used to make Jello special by whipping in the Carnation milk.  I still do the same thing today in my Jello.  But the best thing I remembered them using Carnation milk for was for babies.  Yes, that is what they used for formula way back when. 
Now, when my Granddaughter was born, we needed to use formula, but all the formulas at the time contained iron.  My Granddaughter is just like me....she cannot tolerate iron orally and continued to spew all the formula all over everything.  Doctors didn't have an answer and the poor little thing was losing weight.  I remembered that we used to use the Carnation Evaporated milk to make formula years ago.  I used to help my older cousins make it for her sons.  I remembered seeing it in a baby book years and years before.  I tried searching everywhere for it, but had no luck.  I finally called Carnation the company up and explained my dilemma.  I asked if they could give me the recipe.  I remembered what went into it...just not all the proportions.  The company told me that they were not allowed to give out the recipe because of the new FDA regulations.  They said that because they claimed there were not the proper vitamins in the milk can, they could not validate it as a proper formula.  That is when I remembered that years ago, we used to give the babies vitamins called PolyViSol. 
Well, after I hung up the phone, I was desperate...I made up what I thought would be the proper measurements for the formula...it was the can of Carnation, a can of boiled nursery water, a tablespoon of light Karo Syrup.  That was what I used....I do not recommend this to anyone...it is just what desperation had me do and it worked.  She no longer was spewing out the milk.  Today she is the healthiest young lady of 17 years old.  I began giving her baby cereal at the tender age of 3 weeks and by the time she was a month I had added fruits.  By the time she was 6 months, she was eating spinach pies and loving them. 
As I listened to the commercial yesterday,  they advertised it for babies...it is so much cheaper than the cans of formula that you need to buy in the store as well.  I remember I used to buy it by the cases when I was using it and saved a ton of money. 
Sometimes I have to question exactly what goes on with regulations as to what is good and what is bad for your health.  I am grateful that I had had the experience with making the formula some 50 years ago and even more grateful to have remembered it when nothing else would work for my granddaughter. 

Why is There a Differnce Finding Products regionally

Good morning to all.  Today is a bit gloomy in the Chicago land area.  It is the slow and steady rain since I arose this morning.  Glad that I plan on staying in and painting for the day.  I really hate damp humid days, but am glad for the rain for the ground.  At least it is not snow yet. 
Well today's blog is about Regional Foods.  I know you are probably wondering why such a topic, but I started thinking about how regional something's are. 
Here in the Chicago area...the one item that I can no longer find is pure buttermilk.  It seems that all the buttermilk available is lowfat.  Now to the average person this may not make any difference, but to a baker...it makes a huge difference.  Yet, when I am in South Carolina...they carry the 100% buttermilk everywhere.  I guess that is why the south has such great buttermilk biscuits. 
The first year that I went down to the south, I went grocery shopping to purchase what I needed to make Kolacky.  Kolacky is a Polish cookie with a filling.  I was amazed and bewildered that I could not find any Kolacky filling anywhere.  I was in a little bit of a snit one day while searching when my daughter reminded me that the Southerners don't make Kolacky.  What a disappointment.  I am adaptable, I purchased some jams and use them. 
Then on another occasion, I was down in the South and decided to make some poached pears in Shiraz wine and top it with Mascarpone Cheese.  Well, there was another surprise!  I went to every store I could find in the area in search of it, but could not find any.  I landed up purchasing some cream cheese and whipped in some powdered sugar instead. 
When we are going to the South, the one thing that is an absolute must for me to take is Polish Sausage.  I know that they can buy it in the store, but what is sold in the store is nothing like the Polish Sausage from a Polish Deli up here in Chicago.  My Granddaughters go crazy for it.  It is rather funny, but my daughter rations it out for them when I do take it down. 
Hot Dogs are another thing that is so different down there, along with Roast Beef Sandwiches.  They don't have the little stands everywhere you look.  One day some of my daughters neighbors were over when we were grilling hot dogs.  They looks at the toppings that we were putting on our dogs and it blew them away.  They were not used to dressing their dogs that way.  We had them try one and they were hooked. 
The one thing you can readily find in the South is Bacon.  They even have it on their buffets, and I am not talking a breakfast buffet.  It is such an education to see how different and ethnic different parts of the country are here in America.  I guess I would compare the states to the different countries in Europe.  Each state would be like a different country.  It was revelation to me.  When you become so used to one thing and then relocate, you not only have to adjust to the geographic but also to the dietary changes.  It was like when we used to go to Wisconsin and they had well water.  I used to buy gallons of distilled water to use to make my coffee. 
It now is clearer to me why food or cooking and baking magazines from different areas have such different recipes.  It reminds me of looking back in the recipe books of my grandmothers.  They used ingredients like lard and oleo.  They also used a brick of fresh yeast.  My grandmothers recipe for bread called for fresh yeast and I have been in search for quite some time to find it.  I finally found it in a fruit/deli market the other day.  I was thrilled to see it.  I will be making some homemade bread this week.  The one thing that I did find amazing was the price.  It was $3.09 for a cake of it.  That is about a 2 inch X 1 inch cube.  I thought that to be rather high.  I now need to see if I use the whole cake and how many loaves of bread it will make.  But just the thought of having Grandma's bread again makes my heart jump with joy! 
It seems like every day in our lives, there is something new to learn.  We become used to what we have and think it is the same everywhere.  We forget that things are very different in different regions. The same goes for customs and the individual people.  I must say, I do enjoy exploring the differences.     I have been fortunate to have the opportunities to notice them.  Well, I will let you know about the bread and the yeast.  Till next time...have a great day.

The Message From a Squirrel

Good morning everyone.  What a gloomy and cool brisk morning.  In the forties here in the Chicago land area.  It seems as though the weather has turned for the time being.  Just in time for my outdoor storytelling...yeah!  I will need layering this weekend.  I have 2 private parties that I will be entertaining for.
I love telling ghost stories...one of my personal favorites.  These will be enjoyable to tell , because they are for adults.  I can then get into the scarier types.
Well on to today's blog.  I was thinking about all the gathering we seem to do.  I was driving home from the Senior center the other day and it seemed like every block I went down had a couple of squirrels.  They are truly the gathering creatures and I started to think about how we all gather and collect. 
Recently we got new neighbors and while talking with the one man, he was telling me how in getting ready to move, he had to sort and clean out and discard.  He talked about how much you collect when you don't realize it. 
That started me thinking about how I need to really get my mind set on cleaning out.  I decided that starting the first of the year, I will make a very large attempt at cleaning and discarding.  I am such a memory keeper.  I cannot bear to through away anything that has a memory attached to it...and believe me....almost everything in my mind has a memory attached to it. 
I still have my communion dress along with my daughters communion dresses.  I have my wedding gown and my mothers wedding gown.  I even have my wedding shoes...after 39 years...I don't think I need to hold onto to them any longer...I cannot imagine why I held onto them in the first place.  I will ask the granddaughters if they would want either gown to wear..if not, perhaps it is time to cut a piece and make a shadow box with a picture and let go of the rest.  I know that someday all the things that I cannot let go of will soon land up somewhere.  I know that there won't be the same attachments to any of the items that I have, so the time has finally come. 
The biggest problem that I have is that I have some wonderful keepsakes.  There are items that I have that perhaps I should donate to a museum.  Items that were kept by my inlaws from when they were in a work camp in Germany during the war.   There are way too many items that I have held onto that it is time to let go of.  As I have gotten older...I know that I don't want to leave a lot of work someday for everyone to have to do.  I just wish someone would come up with an easier way to do it.  I feel like a traitor when I want to throw something away.  I guess because I have this uncanny way of having remembered each person that gave it to me.   I guess I am more like a squirrel than I had ever imagined.  If  there is a theme party to throw...I would be able to go through the boxes and find the items to make the theme.  Now that is not a good thing.  I have so many holiday items that it is time to scale down.  I  will have to see whether the granddaughters may want some of it.  I used to put up an entire village at Christmas and now with just myself and husband...I don't bother anymore.  I have enough decorrations to decorate 10 trees.  I used to put up many and now I am happy to get one up.  It just doesn't feel the same without the children around to enjoy it. 
When I looked up the meaning of the totem of a squirrel, this is what I found. Amazing, because this so describes me and where I am at the moment. 
Gathering, Activity, Preparedness
The gathering power of Squirrel is a great gift. 
It teaches us balance within the circle of gathering and giving out. 
They remind us that in our quest for our goals,
it is vital to make time for play and socializing.
 
Squirrel teaches us to conserve our energy for times of need. 
If your totem is Squirrel or Squirrel has recently entered your life,
lighten your load of things that are unnecessary –
things that you have gathered in the past and may be cluttering your life –
thoughts, worries, and stresses.
Squirrel is also the totem of action. 
Ask yourself are you too active, not active enough, afraid of enough,
hung up on accumulating and collecting. 
Squirrel people tend to be a little erratic – trying to do many things at once. 
Take the time to stop and listen to your inner self – and don’t forget to play!
I suppose that it is right on...I  am needing to have more time to play and enjoy, but lately I have been pushing myself in many ways.  Doing the show and all the storytelling...this time of the year is my crunch time.  I don't even like to celebrate my Birthday because it comes during my busy season.  I will have to make some time soon. 
So, if squirrel seems to be in your path as well, perhaps it is time to take heed of it's message. 

What is to Be Said About Commercials

Good morning everyone.  Not sure how this day will prove to be.  Too early in the morning to see anything yet.  I am looking forward to the changing of the clocks.  It will be nice to have the sun earlier in the day. 
Today I thought I would take on commercials.  I was painting yesterday, and of course one of my favorite things to listen to is old time radio.  I love that I can just hear the stories and imagine in my head what is going on.  I really don't need any visuals whatsoever.  Well, while you listen to old radio shows, you also hear all the commercials that come in between the breaks of the shows.  Anchor Hocking Glass was one of the ones, Jello and  War Bonds were another. I thought about those commercials compared to the types that used to be fit right into the first TV programs. I can remember carnation milk on the George Burns Show.  Today, it is a whole different concept.  You break to see the actual commercials and I must say, those that I have seen lately are a slap in the face to the public.    And the things that are shown today would have never been advertised years ago.  One day while watching TV, my husband looked at me and asked me if bladder leak is really such a problem for women that they need those types of products.  I would imagine that the commercial brings to the forefront products that would have never been discussed before, perhaps educating some who would have never thought about it...but really...I would imagine that some things are just not that necessary. 
I listen to the commercials of long ago and a great many are of cigarette companies...we at least are no longer faced with those.  Now it seems to me that many of the commercials instead advertise the use of liquor.  Beer and Vodka predominantly.  With the statistics of Alcoholics and drunken drivers...is this really what we need to promote?  Then there are all the Drugs that are advertised.  I have to be honest with you...I question why we as the public need to have them advertised.  Is it not a shame that we cannot have enough faith in our doctors to know what should be the best drug to be used?  Plus, after hearing those commercials....and all their side effects...does that really make the average person want to take the drug?
There was a period when they promoted dinner around the table.  Why don't we see commercials advertising buying in to farming or more on organics?  Instead we see a million and one places to meet up with someone to marry.  I know that in the older days, going to a dance was a concept where you could meet someone...and a bar was another place...but it amazes me that people can't think of going to a coffee house or a bookstore.  Walking around a mall might be another idea.   
And let me not forget all the political commercials that arise with millions of dollars being fed into those.  How in the world did our statesmen ever get elected without slander campaigns on television.  I would vote more if I heard that the money was being allocated to help feed the hungry and homeless in the streets. 
The focus of the first lady is on feeding kids healthy and yet on television we see nothing but prepared foods and sugared products, not only for the children, but for the adults as well.  Perhaps, we need more advertisement on how to become healthier and where to find those foods.  
Commercials are like a temptress.  How many mothers have endured the ranting and ravings of a child over what they want because of a commercial? 
I totally understand the premise that to have a television show be able to exist that they need companies to fund the show....but I sure wish some shows could become more elective in their choices. 
I guess that is just how commerce works.  I guess it is truly up to us as the consumer to be more selective in what we choose to do with what we see.  Commercials for me are the time to run to the bathroom.  It is the time I get to refill my glass of water or tea.  I DON'T have to watch what I don't want to.  That is what is so great about choices.   

Memories of Blueberries And My Granddaughter

Good morning to all.  It is quite a brisk morning here in the Chicago land area.  I guess fall has arrived.  It is however, a beautiful day outside.  I had a good performance yesterday with the Senior Center.  I did the program on Christopher Columbus...and I must say, I ever surprised myself.  I researched him thoroughly...or at least as much as could be found...and the presentation came off rather well.  It surprised everyone there.  Amazing history that seems to have eluded the history books.  Those are the types of stories I must admit that although difficult, I enjoy doing. 
Yesterday, I received a number of texts from my eldest granddaughter.  It began with the announcement of her marching band having won first place at the competition on Saturday night.  I am so proud of this young lady.  She is an absolutely amazing child....but she was that way from the very beginning.  You see, I raised this young girl for the first 4 1/2 years of her life.  She is my special gift from God.  Now, don't get me wrong...I love all of my girls to pieces, but having raised this young lady, there is just a different bond. 
So, today's blog is about my Sarah and a very special time.  When I think about what would have been a special time with this child...there are many to choose from.  Her and I went over many of them yesterday on the phone.  We were like 2 peas in a pod.  Where ever I went, so did she. 
Sarah was the epitome of the perfect child...and I am truly not saying that because she belonged to me.  Anyone who knows her and had been with us can tell you the same thing.  She was just a surprise to everyone.  We could go anywhere and she would always be a good child.  I could wake her up at 4 A.M. to go on a trip and she would smile, let me dress her and play with her toys for a 3 hour drive in the car quietly.  We could go into any store and she would never touch anything or whine about wanting anything.  Our rule was...I would buy one thing when we went somewhere...but only one...so she was to pay great attention to what she wanted.  When she found it...it was bought...but she was not to ask for anything else.  She always abided by the rule...and it taught her to be selective. 
Well, the story today is about a trip to Indiana and back.  We went to the Amish area in Shipshewana for the day.  While we were there, we went Blueberry picking.  Her and I in the field picked and picked the blueberries and placed them in these buckets that were ice cream gallon plastic containers.  We laughed and had a great time and picked 3 gallons of the blueberries.  We talked about all the wonderful things we could do with them when we got home.  We each got our fill of munching on them straight off the bushes and when we were finished, we paid the lady a whole $9.00 for the 3 gallons and loaded them into the car.  We spent the rest of the day enjoying the area.  Sarah was 4  years old at the time. 
The next day when we got up, we put on our aprons and began to work.  Sarah was in charge of helping me clean the berries and then she was the masher.  She sat in the kitchen with a big bow half filled with berries and an old potato masher and mashed them down.  These mashed berries were used for ice cream that we made.  We then began the jelly making.  Sarah was able to measure the sugar and fill cups of water and berries and place them in the pot to cook on the stove.  While the jelly was cooking we began making blueberry cookies, pound cake and pies.  It was a totally BLUE day...except for our spirits.  We loved being in the kitchen together.  We even made some homemade bread for the jelly. 
Well, the next day, we decided to visit The Grove.   It is a historic landmark with so many trails and things to do.  We loved going there to spend parts of our day, and aside from that, we know everyone there because of my working at the show there and my friend is the supervisor, so we could stop and have a visit. 
Sarah decided that she wanted to take my friend Kris some of her blueberry treasures.  We packed up some of everything and off we went.  When we arrived at the Grove, we went upstairs to my friends office and Sarah told her all about our day blueberry picking and then took out all of the goodies that she brought. 
Well, Sarah was a very caring and giving young girl and when we got there she realized that there were all these other employees, so she had me cut everything into small pieces and she ran around giving everyone that worked there some of her homemade goodies to taste.  When I reminded her yesterday of that, she just commented "So, I was a leader even back then!".  I just had to smile.  She was so proud of what she had done and that year, we made a cookbook at the Grove to sell as a fundraiser and we decided to put Sarah's recipe's into the cookbook and named her as a "friend" of the Grove.  While we were discussing that story yesterday, she said "Grandma, now you are making me hungry for some of your blueberry muffins!"  That just made me smile once again.  It is nice to hear that they have their favorites and their memories.  Blueberry muffins became one of her favorite morning snacks and she and I would make them often.  Oh, how grateful I am for having had those days with her.  From those days spent together...she often will make breakfast for her siblings and for her family.  She has continued to make me proud of the young lady that she has become.  She is now in her Senior year of High School and has recently received an acceptance letter into college.  She in an honor student and will graduate with honors and works nights.  She has many outside activities and does charity work that involves serving the less fortunate during the holidays. 
With so many troubled teenagers today, it is such an honor to sing her praises.  I hope that those special moments that we spent together will stay with her always.  As we chatted more yesterday, we went on a real stroll down memory lane and talked about some of the things we did together.  The picnics we had in front of the fireplace, the days in the hot tub in the basement where she learned to swim across it, or the days at the pool when we played the Little Mermaid and Ursula.  When I choose to raise Sarah, I gave up the dream of becoming a doctor so that I could stay home and take care of her....most would think that crazy...but I was the blessed one.  I wouldn't have traded a single moment of those days together.  I gained so much during that time together.  She was part of my soul.  She still is and will remain there forever. 

A Phone Call From the Grave

Good morning once again.   Sunday already is here.  The weekends go by so quickly.  Today is a work day for me though, I have a performance mid day and until then will go over the materiel for the performance.  Later, I will continue on with painting to get ready for the Grove craft show.  One spectacular show.  It is all handmade and will run Nov 7th through the 10th and then again the 14th through the 17th.  Email me if you would like a postcard with $1.00 off the entrance.  Well worth the days there.  There are 6 wonderful building filled with handmade art and crafts that are displayed beautifully in a boutique stlye fashion.  If you want to view some of it, you can go to http://glenviewparks.org/index.php/grove-arts-craft-faire for info and to print a coupon.  See me there as Mrs. Claus.
Today's blog is about phone calls from the grave.  Now I know that this may sound like a ghost story...and perhaps in a sense it is, but not the kind that you may think.  I know that there are many types of stories, in fact I even tell one about the husband who calls and the wife almost passes out when she gets the call from her dead husband.  She goes to the gravesite and discovers that over the grave is lying the telephone pole that has fallen from a lightening and thunderstorm.  This story that I am about to tell you is true and you may take it for all it is worth and make your own assumptions. 
When I got married, it was the first time in my life that I had moved away from home.  My Grandmother and I were always very close and remained that way until the end of her life.  She was like my mother, she was my mentor, she was my best friend.  Now through all the years that we were apart, we were constantly in touch thanks to Alexander Graham Bell.  We would talk to each other sometimes 10 to 15 times a day.  It was about almost anything and everything.  I would call just to see what she was up to, I would call to ask for advice or for recipes.  Sometimes, I would call to let her know that a good movie was coming on TV and what time and channel.  There were old movies that she loved, Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby movies were some of her favorites....hmmmm... I wonder why those became my favorites? I would call just to keep her company.  And to tell you the truth, there was comfort in my knowing that she was okay.  We didn't live that far away from each other.  It was about a 15 minute drive and I would often drive there and visit or when I didn't have a car, I would take the bus and go there.  My Grandmother was my in my daily life until the day she died. 
When my grandmother passed away, it was the worse time in my life.  I absolutely could not imagine a day with out her.  I am sure that for the first time in my life, I truly was having a nervous breakdown.   How do I exist?  I cried constantly.  There were days when thinking about her, I would begin to shake all over.  I missed her so terribly.  But the worse part of it all was when I would go to the telephone to call her.  I was on rote.  It was just such a natural thing for me to pick up the phone and call.  It got to the point that one day, I looked at the telephone on the kitchen wall and just stood there and screamed at it.  My children must have thought for sure that their mother had lost it.  I yelled and yelled and said to my God...why can't you let me talk to her???  Why can't you let her call me and let me know that she is alright??  Why???  I sat down at the kitchen table and placed my head into my hands and began to cry.  Then suddenly, the most unusual thing happened.  The telephone rang.  Now this was not a normal ring that would come from a telephone...it was just a simple small ping like sound.  The girls and I just stared at the phone.  Grandma???  Could it be possible?  Did God answer my prayer?  Well, if you think that it was a one time occurrence you would be wrong!  Every so often, the phone would make this odd sort of ping ring.  There was never a regular call to follow it.  There was no other reasoning behind the sound that we could figure it out.  But it happened!  It happened so often that when it came we would all just look at the phone and say "Hi Gram!".  It was the most comforting sound I had ever heard.  It was a sign to me that she was fine and still there.  Just a check in to let me know all was fine in her world.  It went on for years.  I knew that whether of not it was something wrong with the phone or with the phone wires, it gave me a sense of comfort.  A phone call from the grave doesn't have to be a scary tale.  This phone call was just pure love.  It just left me with a feeling of still being connected!  Paranormal researchers say that spirits use electricity as their conduit to reaching out and touching someone...maybe that is where AT&T got there slogan years ago for their commercials.  If that is true, than perhaps Grandma was really reaching out through the wires of the phone...at least I like to think so.  It was the one place we spent enough hours together on..I would have never associated anyone else with the telephone except for her.  It is a case of the strange and odd phenomenon.  But for me....I like to think that it was a case of a phone call from the beyond.   

Autumn Leaf Splendor

Good morning to everyone.  Once again, the sun is shining.  I am enjoying these wonderful days that we have been blessed with.  I expect to work on painting all day once again.  Hoping to turn on the kiln as well.  I will first need to go out and prepare the slates for the kiln and let them dry.  Tomorrow is a storytelling day again.  This time it is on Christopher Columbus...so part of this day will be spent preparing the story.  This, I must say, has been a tougher one to prepare a 45 minute program for. 
Well today's blog  is about Autumn leaves.  As I notice the changes with each passing day, I began to really think about the leaves.  As I walk along the street and the leaves crunch under my feet it takes me back in time.  So much has changes through the years.  Back when I was young, we would rake the leaves and then burn them.  I remember the smell of the burning leaves.  It was a scent that set the tone for the season.  Winter would soon be here.  Today, we rake the leaves, scoop them up, fill bags with them and then pay to have them transported away or if you are fortunate enough, you can rake them into the street and the leaf machine comes by to get them.  I often laugh about that.  Often times, all those leaves are raked and drug out into the curbs of your street and then a mass wind blows through and they are all over everywhere again.  You are then returning to redo the job. 
Now, I understand that supposedly the reason for no longer being able to burn the leaves comes down to the pollution it makes. It rather makes me laugh to think that those trucks with their gas being used and the smells that it gives off into the environment are really making things better. 
We spend a great deal of time cleaning off the leaves from our properties and then spend a fortune come spring with chemicals to add to the ground to make it healthy when, if the leaves were left, the nitrogen from the leaves would naturally compost into the ground.    I can't imagine that anyone worries about what happens to the fallen leaves in the middle of the woods, and yet it manages to continue to grow abundantly.  Nature can take care of itself...I wish we could be just as wise. 
Since I have become an artist, leaves have become more and more of an interest to me.  From learning to paint them, learning to paint on them, and learning to inspect them and how to create the delicate imperfections that make them so wonderful.  No matter how many leaves I have looked at, I have always admired the autumn leaves the most.  They say that you are attracted most to the season you were born with and I suppose that in my case that is true.  I am an Autumn baby and love this season the most. 
To me the seasons also represent our lives.  It is the constant circle of change and metamorphous that we go through.  I have found that each year, I have a brand new look on things.  I see more with each passing year.  I see the blemishes and the imperfections and have learned to appreciate them more.  I have learned that nor everything is perfect, but that with the imperfections there are many lessons to be learned, an education that lies before us in even the simplest spot on a leaf.  All I can say is that we need to learn to accept the changes in life and be glad that there is always a dormant time and a new beginning.
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