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My Blog

March 2014

Bakeries...No Longer the HOT item

Good morning to everyone.  Another weekend passed.  How quickly those weekends go.  Well, today looks promising here In the Chicago land area.  Hopefully we will be in the 60's.  What a change from just a couple of days a go..  I have a few quick errands to run and then it will be clean up time and preparations for another Red Hat event.  It is a small gathering this time, but still will be fun.  We will be making unusual cards using a mixed media.  I will provide some Deco Art paints, their Deco Paige which by the way is awesome and some photos, stamps, trims, stones, and anything I can pull out for the girls to create with.  What an awesome project.  We are doing Pot luck..so I am hoping that we get some real food and not all desserts.  With 4 people...you never know.
Well, on to today's blog.  I thought that it would be about bakeries.  It seems that in todays world bakeries are becoming a rare find.  I know that we can get bakery goods at the local grocery stores, Costco's and Sam's Club, but where have all the bakeries gone?
When I was a child, we would go to the bakery a few times a week.  I remember the amazing rolls that were still warm when we brought them home.  And then there were the coffee cakes.  I know that we can purchase coffee cakes at the local grocers, but they do not, on any level compare to a coffee cake or sweet roll that came from a bakery.  I remember my Aunt coming every Wednesday to visit my Grandmother and it was a day that we looked forward to, because on her way over, she would stop at Reuters bakery on Grand Ave in Chicago. It has been running for 80 years now.      We would have lunch meat from the small local grocery store on Laramie Ave.  There was nothing better that a sandwich on those rolls. 
Recently, at a Salvation Army event, someone brought in a coffee cake from Reuters...I was surprised to hear that they were still in business, since so many of the small bakeries have closed. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel that passed my lips.  It immediately took me back in time. 
On another occasion, a friend brought over some sweet rolls from a bakery that she lives by in Norridge.  Once again, my taste buds were happy with the taste of a delectable apple sweet roll. 
I am sure it is no longer feasible, financially to keep a small bakery open because of the large stores, but oh what this generation is missing. 
I lost both of the bakeries near where I live.  I used to have Gladstone bakery not that far away.  That bakery made everyone of my cakes.  From the time my children were Christened right up to a wedding shower cake.  They were phenomenal when it came to unusual cake designs and shapes.  Both of my daughters christening cakes were made to look like bassinets.  Their first birthday cakes were sprayed in beautiful colors with clowns and the old type ice cream cone with marshmallow tops adorned it. Whenever I needed bread tinted in various pastel colors for layered sandwich loaves, I always knew where to go.  It wasn't just the decorating or the ability to make the items that were different, but also the taste of the baked goods were so different. 
Another bakery near my home was Heidi's bakery and they made the most delicious Almond Custard coffee cake.  I knew it would always impress anyone who I served it to.  But alas, I no longer have them here to go to.  They have closed up.  I cannot help but wonder why.  Has our generation become too impatient to go to a bakery?  I know that the costs of purchasing a cake at a local store is much less than those purchased at a bakery...but they come no where near in taste.  Are we really ready to give up the flavors?  I also think that the bakery items purchased at the local stores also have so many preservatives in them that they last so much longer.  The shelf life is evidently good, but what about all those preservatives that are being ingested? 
I recall a time when having a bread machine was all the rage.  The last time I walked down the aisle at the local thrift store...these machine were lined up, one after another.  Seems that even that craze was short lived. 
I am sad to say that there is no longer such a demand for good breads and cakes .  At least there are less and less places to purchase the goods. 
I am thinking that it is our duty as someone of the older generation to educate the young about how good those pastries and bread and buns really can be.  
I also know that it is regional.  I was amazed years ago when visiting my mother in Reno, that I couldn't find any bakeries.  It was her birthday and I wanted to order a cake from a bakery and couldn't find any.  When questioned about it, my mom told me that there was really no need for one, since you could go to the Casino's restaurants with their amazing buffets and get almost any type of dessert needed. 
When I visited my daughter in South Carolina...come on...the SOUTH...I could only find a tiny little one with very little there!   When I watch all these television programs I see all these shows that showcase wedding cakes and cupcakes...but you don't seem to find any of the everyday type baked goods.  I for one, would like to see them come back...but I am realistic and realize that the day of the neighborhood bakeries are long gone.  How very sad.  Well, it won't stop me from making my own just like my grandmother did.    .   

Findings in a Cemetery

Good morning to everyone...well, here it is...the last day of the weekend already. 
The sun is shining outside and it promises to be a good day.  AMEN!  Today's blog is about Peace in a Cemetery.  Not for the patrons of the cemetery, but for those who visit. 
Yesterday, I spent hours at the cemetery, not really visiting any particular person. but instead to take pictures.  My dearest friend was over and she is a new photographer.  I wanted to have a project done that involves photographs.  She is amazing at taking pictures, even at this early stage.  So yesterday, since I wanted some pictures of angels and perhaps some of soldiers, we went to the cemetery near my home.  We drove up and down this very old cemetery and were on the lookout for the perfect statues.  Well, I must say, there were plenty to choose from.  As I drove up and down the winding curves in the road at about 1 MPH, I really started to notice the names and some of the dates on the gravestones.  This was a predominantly Polish/Slavic background cemetery.  We stopped at George Hallis' mausoleum where the door donned blue and orange ribbons that were tied on the door.  For the first time in 50 plus years of visiting this cemetery, I noticed the magnificent stained glass windows inside the mausoleums.  Each one was more beautiful than the next.  I then began to notice the doors of the mausoleums as well.  Each one had something just a little different about them.  They all were made of metal, but the designs and the cutouts were different.  Some had the patina look, where others had a rusted feel.  Then I began too nice all the different types of designs in them.  There were stars and florals, there were some linear designs as well.  It was amazing to begin to see the artwork in a Cemetery.  Each statues features and the character that they had.  Some of the statues were worn with age and yet, event though they were worn created so much more character to the piece.  As April got out of the car I watched and looked around.  I would hear the sound of silence.  What an oxymoron statement is that!  Well I did.  It was still and calm and peaceful.  the loudest noise I could hear came from the sound of the robins...which were by the way....EVERYWHERE.  All I could think was YEA..signs of spring and the earth was coming alive...which by the way was also strange considering where I was. 
We discovered the huge monument honoring the branches of the service with ginormous bronze statues of soldiers.  So finely detailed that even one of them you had the veins in his hands highlighted.  What an awesome experience...then onward to an old cemetery in Park Ridge.  I wanted not go there because in the past, I had noticed some headstones of civil war soldiers and wanted to check it out a little more.  Well, as we drove down the row, April and I were both enthralled with the stones and some of the most endearing sayings on them.  Then we came to a huge stone monument of a Civil Was soldier honoring those lost in the battle.  What an unusual place to find it.  I don't necessarily equate Park Ridge with the civil war, but they surely honored the men that fought.  There were more statues of angels to be found there as well as the remains of them.  So many children were there.  One in particular stood out.  It was the grave site of a young man named Hank.  His grave was all decked out with wooden baseballs, footballs, bears, baseball bats holding a wired bin of baseballs.  It was decorated with shamrocks everywhere and upon the cement bench there was a bottle of Green River soda. This grave indeed told his story of what his life meant and was about.  Just below the area was a grave of a twelve year old girl with angels all around.  We continued our journey finding more statues for the pictures which was our goal, yet we both couldn't stop and give honor to those lying beneath them.  As well were in the second cemetery, I noticed the change of names.  Here the names were predominately German.  By the time we had finished, a number of hours had gone by and it was now, too late to drive over to another, so we began our drive home.  We both left with such a calmed and peaceful attitude.  We had found so much more in those cemeteries than what we initially started out to find.  There was such a sense of tranquility and peace there.  For me, a sense of usefulness having seen the headstones.  I felt as though for some, they had a visitor.  As I read or spoke their names out loud...it seemed as though it acknowledged those souls.  April commented that she thought initially what were had set out to do was perhaps a little creepy, but she too felt the peace of the surroundings. 
Upon arriving home, she loaded the pictures onto the computer and the results were outstanding!  The pictures were breathtaking and for those who will see them when they are finished will never realize where they came from. So much joy will continue to be had from a simple trip to the cemetery.  I cannot wait for another trip.   

PROM memories

Good morning.  Well, another weekend is upon us all.  As I picked up my computer this morning I read that the high today will be 36.  REALLY???  I cannot believe this is spring.  There was a time, years back where I was already half done cleaning up my yard, and now I am still awaiting more snow.  This has just been the craziest weather I can ever remember. 
Well, today's blog takes me back in time from when I was a teenager.  Back to Prom season.  I remember them all so well. Why prom?  Well, my granddaughter was recently asked to prom and the young man made it so very special for her.  I am most amazed at what lengths this young man went to. 
He had my daughter preoccupy her out of the house.  He came over all dressed up in dress pants, vest, nice shirt and tie.  He came with a huge bouquet of stargazer lilies and roses and enough candles to spell out  PROM.  What an amazing memory that this young man created for her.  He of course had all the candles lit and stood next to it to await her answer.  Of course the answer was YES!!
When I think back on my prom dates...and there were quite a few through my sophomore through senior year...nothing quite that romantic or sweet was part of the asking...but the proms were most memorable.  My first prom was with a young man name Don who went to Weber HS.  I remember the excitement over shopping for that prom gown It landed up being white with yellow and green velvet flowers as a trim.  I remember having my hair done up it curls on the top of my head and the excitement of the prom was nothing compared to the after prom event.  It was quite the tradition for us in those days to go to a place called Shanghai Lil's on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.  They had a fantastic Hawaiian floor show and we would have appetizers and virgin fancy drinks.  We would arrive at home at 1 or 2 AM...which was a huge deal and then sleep for a couple hours and then prepare a picnic basket to take to the picnic.  That year we went to Lake Geneva...a pretty usually location for after prom.    The only time I went elsewhere was after my own prom as a senior...we went to Starved Rock.  My senior prom was quite the different prom for me.  You see, in my senior year of HS I had an emergency surgery with complications.  I was out of commission for quite some time and the young man that I was dating...well, we broke up and so when prom time rolled around..I didn't have a date...so instead I went with a somewhat of a cousin.  Landed up that a girlfriend of mine also went with her cousin...so we did a lot of switching to put some added fun into the evening.  That gown was a turquoise southern belle gown layered with ruffles and a big hoop underneath.  The whole time at the prom the sisters kept after me...making sure I was alright physically.  It was like having a mother in every direction.  Bless their hearts.  The minute they saw me on the dance floor...they were right there...watching.  Prom was probably the most memorable times in my years back then...but nothing as memorable as what this young  man did for my granddaughter.  I can't wait to hear about the prom itself.  He has certainly raised the bar pretty high...so we will wait and see and of course...it will give me a topic to blog about.  Memories...something that we all hold onto in our later years.  I am so thrilled that my Sarah is having such wonderful one to stack away in the back of her mind for years to come. 

Whole Buttermilk...what is it?

Good morning.  Okay, the start of this day has already dampened the day..snow dusting on the rooftops and ground...and a call about a friend who has had their appendix burst yesterday.  This past month has probably been the worst I have ever known.  Between illnesses and the weather...it is tough to keep a positive attitude.  But I will continue to try. 
Today's blog is about Buttermilk.  Probably sounds like a lame topic, but if you lived for more than 50 years...you will understand the dilemma if you live in Illinois.  Now I am not sure about any of the other Northern states, not actually any of the southern states except for South Carolina. 
You see, years ago, my Grandmother used to make a polish dessert called Kolacz.  It was made with buttermilk and was absolutely delicious.  A number of years back, my cousin decided that she would make it from Gram's recipe.  Now this was not the first time she had made it...but it had been a number of years since she had, and when she made it...it was not right in her mind.  It tasted way different.  She made it again and once again, it didn't taste the same as many years prior.  That started her thinking about what could be wrong or different.  It turned out to be that buttermilk was no longer named buttermilk....but now lowfat buttermilk.  Could this be the problem?  She started searching around different stores and couldn't find anything but LOW fat. She asked me, and of course I began to look to avail.  We assumed that it was no longer being made...but why?  Now, one summer I was down in South Carolina and was shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and lo and behold...there it was...BUTTERMILK.  Not LOW fat but real buttermilk.  I began a search then to see whether it was the same at other stores.  I went to the Food Lion and there was BUTTERMILK...the same at the IGA.  Evidently, BUTTERMILK was still available in that state....but why not in Illinois?  Now, I had noticed as the years have passed that some foods don't taste as good as they did when I was younger...I just assumed it was my aging taste buds...but it seems that the change of products has much to do with it.  The southern recipes call for a lot of buttermilk.  Nothing better that buttermilk biscuits or buttermilk battered fried chicken.  I started to compare some of the other recipes that I had...a lot of things are hard to find.  Society has changed the way that we cook these days.  All this talk of low or no fat has changed the way that food is prepared.  I don't ever remember my Grandma using any oils...she used lard or shortening.  Cream was always in demand as was buttermilk. 
I know that in one of my best banana bread recipes it calls for making milk into buttermilk by adding lemon or vinegar.  I must say that is one of the best banana breads I have ever had...but I wonder now how it might taste if I use real buttermilk? 
I would love to be able to test this out...only in Illinois...I cannot find any.  So I attempted to try and find out what the difference is between what we had and what we have now...but not with great results.  I have found places that carry buttermilk, but they are all a great distance away.  It is not the type of thing that you would ship here. 
So this is what I discovered about buttermilk...Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream . This type of buttermilk is known as traditional buttermilk.  I was astonished at the different names of buttermilk...
They are as follows:
  • traditional buttermilk
  • cultured buttermilk
  • acidified buttermilk
  • & powdered buttermilk
  • So what is the difference?  Traditional is what Grandma used to use...
    Originally, buttermilk referred to the liquid left over from churning butter from cultured or fermented cream. Traditionally, before cream could be skimmed from whole milk, the milk was left to sit for a period of time to allow the cream and milk to separate. During this time, naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk fermented it.  Now not only is this an interesting bit of info...it was much more healthier for you as it contains probiotic microbes and is sometimes referred to as "Grandma's probiotic".  KNEW there was a difference!  And to top that..it soothes the skin and the stomach, it is beneficial to your gut and helps protect your immunity.  Then there is the calorie factor...I thought for sure that it would be substantially higher, but believe it or not....One cup of whole milk contains 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat whereas one cup of buttermilk contains 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat.  Now when I considered the previous benefits of buttermilk...the above info was enough to convince me on the health benefits...but then there is more...Buttermilk contains vitamins, potassium, calcium, and traces of phosphorus.
    Cultured buttermilk...which is what is labeled as the commonly found buttermilk in the store is milk that has been homogenized and also pasteurized.  Then it has been injected with chemicals to simulate the naturally forming probiotics. 
    Acidified buttermilk is what I have done to the milk that I add either the lemon juice or the vinegar to make my banana bread, and powdered buttermilk is what is used in cake and pancake mixes.
    Well, if you ask me, I think that we have been conned into believing what is on the shelf is still the original buttermilk that Grandma used to use...and it is definitely not...but who questions that?  I just attributed the changes to my aging taste buds...never thinking that a pure product had been changed.  It really makes me think more and more about how we need to become more conscious of what is on our grocery shelves.  LOW FAT...does not necessarily mean better for us...contrary to what the medical industries make us believe.  They say that it is the Western countries where traditional buttermilk is seldom found....and yet it is everywhere in Pakistan and other countries.  The Amish more than likely have the real buttermilk. My next trip out to Shipshewana will be an investigative tour.  I am in search for the REAL thing!

    Finding The Other Half of Me

    Good morning to all.  It is a gloomy morning here in the Chicago land area.     The one good thing about that is that it is raining instead of snowing.  The temperatures are to hit up in the 40's  I am doing the happy dance over that!  I have a lot on my work table to do and today would be the perfect day to get it done and put away. 
    Today I sat here thinking of what I should write about.  There can be so many things that pop through my head and yet I can't just seem to pick any one unless it really resonates with me.  That might sound silly, but when I write it is like a journey for me.
    So today, I thought that I would my blog would be about finding out about the other half of me.  That might put some questions up. I guess, I will start at the beginning.  You see, my parents were divorced when I was very young.  I grew up never knowing my father, or any of his side of the family .  I was only told stories about him...never about anyone else.  Now growing up with out a father for me was an unsettling emotional journey.  Everyone else I knew seem to have a father...so at the father daughter dances my Uncle stepped in to fill those shoes, but what I was told about my father was a horrible story and unsettling for me to accept.  I know we are not our parents...but when you are a child, we imagine that we take on their life story as part of who we are...I was just plain embarrassed back then and made up stories that appeared a whole lot nicer than the real one.  Well, I suppose all of that is another story! 
    I didn't think a lot about him or his families background until I became pregnant.  When I was sitting in the doctor's office and the doctor posed all these questions about my family background's health information....for the first time in my life...I felt like half of a person.  I didn't know any of the health issues.  I was 21 years old by now and realized that I had been cut off from some very important background. 
    Now, this was just the beginning of a new journey.  The journey to see and hear about where I came from. When I was pregnant with my first child, my paternal grandmother passed away and left me something in her will.  I was contacted and given my inheritance.  The guilt I felt at that time was overwhelming.  Another grandmother?  I didn't really even imagine that there was another grandmother!  There had to be a grandfather...but he was deceased already. 
    Now, what I did know, was the town in Wisconsin that they were from.  One vacation, I wanted to go there and see where the other half of me came from...so with our two daughters, my husband and I drove to the town.  Mind you, I didn't have an address or anything...just the name of the town. Upon arriving, my husband asked what next?  Well, I said..it is a tiny town...let's find a church.  I assumed that since I was Catholic that they would have been as well, so we found this Catholic church.  I went inside and asked if they knew of my grandparents.  Well surprisingly they did!  They knew them very well.  They told me where they were buried and how we could get to the cemetery.  Not only did they reveal their final resting place, but also where to find the farm that they once owned.  So we were off to find it all.  First we drove to the cemetery and walked the area and finally found their graves.  I took videos of the graves and also placed flowers on the grave.  It was a big moment for me.  A void in my life was finally filled.  I stood over the grave in silence on the outside, but with a whole apologetic conversation with them on the inside.  Years of never knowing they existed and not ever stopping to think about them. 
    Our next drive was to where the lady from the church explained where we might find the farm they once owned.  Her directions were on target and we pulled up to the farm and just sat there staring out the window.  Then all of a sudden, I opened the door and got out.  My husband questioned what I was doing.  I told him I was going to ring the doorbell...he thought I had lost my mind.  I marched right up to the door and after the bell was answered, chatted with the new owner of the home.  I explained who I was and asked whether I might be able to walk the land that my grandparents once walked.  He not only gave me permission to do that, but he also asked me to walk the house as well.  You see, he knew my grandparents.  I called my family and introduced them and then we stepped over the threshold into my other half of life.  I toured the home and could remember bits and pieces that I saw from pictures of me there.  We walked the land with the gentleman as he told us the story of how my grandparents came there.  They originally lived in a old train car...my grandfather picking up stones to prepare the farm for farming...only to discover more stones.  They finally gave up on the idea of farming and decided to raise cows.  It had become a dairy. We entered the barn and there was something so familiar about it...I quickly remembered a picture of me in a babushka (a woolen scarf) on my head and I was in a sweater in that barn with an armful of hay feeding the cows.  My daughters, who were about 12 and 13 picked up some hay and began to feed the cows and it was like dejavu.  Then, suddenly, one of the cows licked one of my daughters faces...she was so shocked and till this day we still talk about it. 
    There I was, finding my roots. then the gentleman said I might want to go to the next farm over.  When asked why, he informed us that my grandmother's brother lived on that farm.  He was my Great Uncle!  A REAL piece of my other half...we ventured over and once again I rang a doorbell into my past.  We were greeted with open arms.  I was shown pictures, got an earful of stories about my grandparents and the whole time they spoke it was as though I could feel a part of me being awakened.  There I was...with family...a family I never knew existed and finding out about who I was.  Questions that in the past had raised their ugly heads like "where did that come from"?  were now being answered.  
    What a journey...not only on land but also emotionally.  There are still questions that I have today and unfortunately, they will never have an answer, but I am so grateful to have some of the pieces to the puzzle.  
    As a child, I was always told I was too bold for my own good....maybe it was my boldness that enabled me to search out the truth...and that WAS for my own good after all.   

    The movie GOD IS NOT DEAD

    Good afternoon to everyone.  I started to blog this morning and then got distracted...then had so much to get done and had to run some errands...and needless to say, upon returning..I forgot the idea I had for the theme of the day. I think there might just be too much on my plate at the moment. 
    Well, today I saw the movie GOD IS NOT DEAD.  It is not a movie that is being advertised on television to see...I saw it posted by a friend on facebook.  I looked it up and it is only showing for 3 days in selected theaters.
    Today I had a call that rearranged my day a bit which allowed me the chance to see it.  I truly believe that there are no accidents in life.  What an amazing and inspiring movie of courage and faith.  Trust me...look it up right now and get to a theater to see it.  If you believe and have faith it will certainly inspire and strengthen it.  If you might be on the fence...it might make you think about God and sway the direction you are facing. 
    I have worn the shoes of wondering whether or not God is there....well..maybe not...maybe I have just gotten mad, because my demands...which I called prayers had not been answered.  But the day I gave the problem over to Him...all my answers came swooping in.  They may have not been what I wanted...but certainly what I needed...even if I didn't know it before hand. 
    Faith is a struggle.  It is not just black and white...it is all the grey in between. 
    It is accepting what is meant to be...it is listening to that voice within.  I am certainly not a preacher...I am not going to tell anyone what they should and should not believe...but I KNOW in my heart....GOD IS NOT DEAD.  He has given me some of the most amazing gifts of my life.  Some of those gifts were lessons.  Those lessons were hard...but well worth the learning. 
    Last night I had taken some dinners over to a friend who is suffering with cancer.  We had a long discussion and to hear her making plans for the future was inspirational.  She told me that because of the cancer...she had received such a gift.  The gift of knowledge.  She learned how many friends she has, how much she is loved and cared about.  She learned that money, material things, etc. are all superficial compared to those she loves and loves her back unconditionally.  She shared with me that from that day forward...she is not going to sweat the small stuff...you know...the hair, the nails, the way she looks.  She said that in the end..it just doesn't matter.  How inspiring.  She is rooted in her faith and this catastrophe hasn't weakened it...it has strengthened it. 
    I hope that they make a copy of this movie...I would really love to get a copy of it.  I would love to share it with her. 
    So today, I will be the movie critic....2 thumbs up for the movie....GOD IS NOT DEAD....go see it and let me know what you think?  There is a comment area in  my blogs...I would love your comments. 
    At the end of the movie they ask you to text GOD IS NOT DEAD...I figured I would reach a much bigger audience this way. 

    In an Instant

    Good morning to all...well here it is March 25th and I have snow on the ground.  I really done with snow...I am now considering a move.  Really Father Frost?  The Easter Bunny needs to come out and play a while now!
    Well, today's blog might pose a couple of questions or thoughts as to where I am going to go with this.  I wish I could tell you what possessed me to think about this...but, I sat here and watched a one minute video of the ocean wave that my dear friend Linda posted and the sound of the calming waters rushing onto the shore, took me back in time...not to the ocean, but to the thoughts of water.  Bathtub water in fact.
    Sometimes things happen in an instant.  In the blink of an eye.  That is what this story is about.  About 33 years ago, I and my 2 daughters were home, had finished supper and the eldest, who was six years old had some math homework yet to finish.  She sat down at the kitchen table to work on it.  In the meantime, my  younger daughter, who was 5 at the time, was ready to take her bath.  She had a little bit of a head cold and so I thought the bath would perhaps aid in opening up the sinus'.  I prepared the bath for her.  Now I usually sat in the bathroom while the girls were in the tub.  I used to wait until they played a bit, as most children do...then I would proceed to wash their hair and get it all rinsed and help them dry up afterwards.   Pretty much the common thing most moms would do. 
    Well, she had played and was finalizing the washing when my other daughter called from the kitchen to ask how to do one of her math problems.  I told the younger one to finish up and I would be right back to do her hair.  I left the bathroom and walked into the kitchen...perhaps 30 steps away.  I looked at the math problem, explained it to my daughter, which took about 2 minutes...walked back to wards the bathroom and as I walked I called out to my younger daughter whether she was ready.  No answer.  I yelled it again as I continued to walk and nothing.  When I stepped into the bathroom, there she was lying under the water.  Her eyes were shut and she wasn't moving.  In that instant....those 2 minutes away...something went wrong.  I reached down into the water and pulled her up...fortunately startling her.  Her eyes opened and she started to cry.  Well, she wasn't the only one.  It seems, to the best of my knowledge, that she had just fallen asleep.  When she was little, she could fall asleep at the drop of a hat.  Never in a million years did I ever imagine that she would fall asleep in a bathtub while playing and washing up...and never in the matter of 2 minutes.  I must have walked in just as she had gone under...thank God.  You never know  what came happen in an instant.  In that instant, I might have lost my daughter, but I cut the instant short.  Who would have ever imagined that you this would be something to worry about with a 5 year old.  We never know what can happen to any of us at any moment.  From that day forward, if I ever left the bathroom for any reason, I continued to talk to my daughters and make them continue to speak back.  I can still close my eyes and see her under that water...looking as peaceful as anyone could be.  I thank God that He was there to watch over her.  There are so many things that can happen to us in an instant that can change our whole lives.  There have been other moments in my life where in an instant...things have happened that you never dreamed could...so my advice for the day is...never think everything is just okay...because in an INSTANT...your whole life can change. 

    Strength

    Good morning everyone.  I hope that your weekend was spent doing all the things you wanted.  It amazes me how quickly time goes on the weekends.  Seems like it begins and ends in a flash. 
    Today, I am sitting here contemplating  what today's blog should be.  Some days are more inspiring than others.  Sometimes, I have the ideas or thoughts and then I am perplexed on whether they are of any interest to anyone else but myself.  I encourage you as readers to comment when something is of interest to you.  It truly helps to know what really interests you as the reader. 
    Blogging for me has become a sense of journaling.  It at times has strengthened me as a person.  It allows me to share, to vent and sometimes just to dream out loud.  So, I encourage you to help me along on this journey. I hope that some of the blogs may have caused you to think, encouraged you to learn and perhaps even research more.  Perhaps you were able to identify with a situation or share a place in time.   Whatever it may have been or is still to come...I would love to hear your thoughts as well. 
    Well, today's blog  is about Strength.  I am in a  place in my life that I am thinking more and more about what is Strength?  Strength is a complex feeling and action that one must have.  I began to think about it after seeing an article posted today by a friend.  Some days we need more strength than other.  Each of us may need a different type of strength.   Most of us think of strength as some super power...and yet it takes a great deal of work to actually muster up some of it. 
    I thought about my friends today and what they are tackling.  What kind of strength is needed?  Then it dawned on me all the different types of situations need strength. 
    One dear friend lost her husband.  They were a happy couple and now, they are apart.  She is left to continue this journey alone.  When I say alone...we know that she has children and friends...but her inner soul is now in a search for how she begins a new path.  She holds herself high, full of poise and dignity and somehow, when I think of her...I cannot help but imagine the pain she is dealing with inside and the strength that she may need to just put one foot in front of another.
    I have another friend who is battling stage 4 cancer.  She needs strength both physically and emotionally to get through each moment.  Strength to look mortality straight in the eye and go to battle.   She needs the physical strength to go through the steps of the chemo and all the other things necessary in this battle.  Strength to not fall apart in front of her husband, children and friends. 
    I have worn battle shoes myself.  I know how I needed strength to get me through each moment when my daughter left our home 18 years ago. 
    I have needed strength to deal with work, family and daily living.  Some days...we don't need as much strength as others.  I look at all the things that go on in this world and know that not all are capable of having that strength.  There are some who can't handle life or those that make our lives so miserable and give up...they feel they have no where to go, no one to share their feelings with and have landed up ending their lives.
    So that poses the question...where does strength really come from?  When we think of being Strong...we associate that with physical power.  Strength is more of an emotional power.  Strength comes from within us...it is just up to us to find it.  How do I find my strength??  I look for it in prayer.  I look for it in God.  He is my rock and my strength.  It has only been with Him that I have found the courage to move on...to step ahead...one day at a time.  I am grateful for my faith and those that have guided me there.  When ever I feel weak...I pray to God to help me through it.  I once saw a movie...it was called Love Comes Softly...where a woman who feels she has lost everything...asks this man who climbs a mountain to pray...how he can do this when God has allowed such troubles to happen in his life?  His answer simply was.."I am a father...and when my child falls...I cannot prevent this from happening...I can only promise to be there when she does.... God is my father and He is always there to help me back up". I found great STRENGTH in that statement.  I know that when I fall...or when I am weakened...that He will always be there with me.  Some may say when you fall off a horse you need to dust yourself off and get right back on.  Now, I know this is not as easy as it sounds....it takes courage and fortitude.  It takes faith...at least it has for me.  
    So if you are at the bridge of a situation...if you are at a loss...if you are weak..STOP and SEARCH.  There is STRENGTH to be found, but to find it...you must first search it out.   
    As a story teller, I want to share this story with you.  I am unclear as to who the author is, but is a wonderful example of strength.
    Once, an old man was very ill and lay dying in his bed. He had four sons who were al­ways fighting with each other. He always worried about them and wanted to teach them a lesson and asked his sons to come to him. When they came, the old man gave them a bundle of sticks and said, “Can you break these sticks?”
    The first son tried to break the bundle but nothing hap­pened. He tried very hard and finally gave up. Then it was the turn of the second son to try his luck. He thought it would be an easy task and picked up the sticks easily. He tried his best to break the sticks but nothing happened. Then, the third son tried to break the bundle of sticks, but he couldn’t do anything either.
    Meanwhile, the youngest son jeered at his brothers and thought they were very incom­petent. He thought he was very clever and took one stick at a time and easily broke all of them.
    The old father then smiled at his sons and said, “Children, do you understand what hap­pened? It is always easy to break the sticks one by one. But when they are bundled together, none of you could break them. In the same way. you four brothers should always be together. No one will be able to hurt you then.” The four brothers realized what their father was trying to teach them and forgot all their enmity and learn that unity is strength.
    From that day onwards, they never fought with each other and lived together in peace and harmony.

    Control Issues

    Good morning.  I have sat here and watched out the window as the sun came up this morning.  There is something to be said about the morning's first glow.  It somehow gives me the sense that all is well in the world. 
    I thought that today's blog would be about control.  I sit here and was contemplating how much control anyone has over anything....and especially over anyone! 
    In this lifetime, it seems as though the issue of control is something that everyone may want, but most cannot have.  The one control that is there for the taking is that control of our own being.  WE control our selves in whatever manner we choose.  We can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic.  We control who we decide to be with...although it seems that even in that aspect, some make bad choices.  It may be that we control it...yet our sense of what is right and what is wrong may be distorted. 
    When I stop and looked at situations that have occurred to people in my life..I think that CONTROL is an infectious disease.  Not only for the individuals who choose to control their lives...oftentimes, they  land up making others take control of situations. 
    Those who want to control other things and other people in their lives seem to come from an out of control situation in their own lives.
    Control of another human being seems to be one of the most complex thing that happens in todays society. 
    Today I am looking back at my mother's life and realized that the women who put on the façade of being in control of everything...had no control whatsoever!  I would have loved to have seen her when she was a small girl.  What point in her life did she lose control of her life?  What caused her self esteem to plummet to the point of losing herself?  I am so saddened when I think about what caused this?  All I can imagine is that when she married her husband and he was an alchoholic...that was the beginning to an end.  She lost control of herself....by the control of this man.  She lost control over him and their lives...so she tried to control the lives of others...and yet not in a malicious way, but in hopes of protecting the next person.  Only this type of control backfires....because you can't control another persons life...no matter how justified you may think that is! 
    Later in life...she remarried...only to repeat the mistake.  Another person who could control her every waking moment.  If I described a character to you to symbolize who she was...I would have to say that during  my whole life..I perceived her to be just like the character played by Bea Arthur...Maude.  that was my mother....yet in reality...she was more like Edith Bunker in All in the Family.
    Along with control issues comes secrets.  Hiding and pretending are also partners to this disease. There are consequences that occur when you are attempting to control someone you love.  Many times, that removes them from your life altogether.  Unfortunately, it oftentimes is too late when the person who is being controlled has the foresight to realize that perhaps the person who was taking control, either was vicious and unruly or loved them so much that they were trying to protect them. 
    I think that in every person there is a modicum of the control factor.  It just all comes down to whether we use it for good or bad...or whether or not it comes out of necessity. 
    I know that the fear factor has a lot to do with dealing with control...fear of another person, fear of a situation, fear of someone hurting or damaging themselves....or even perhaps of another hurting someone you love. 
    The long and the short of it is....everyone has some type of control issues...how you proceed to handle them and the example to others that it leaves is important...and hopefully there is still time to change it. 

    The Fear of Falling

    Good morning everyone.  Saturday once again.  Hope everyone has some exciting plans for the weekend.  It seems as though the older I become, the quicker the week goes by.  I guess, perhaps, it is because we think about the days more than when we were kids.  I think the only time we thought about what day it was...was during the school year! 
    Well, it seems like the weather so far is going to be gloomy...By now I see the sun rising above the houses across the street and nothing so far!  Well, it really doesn't matter to me...I will be painting all day.   
    I painted most of yesterday, but with a migraine that just grew as the day went on.  I finally gave up about 7 last night.  I hate getting the migraines....I am sure it has everything to do with allergies.  Here we go...the season is here.  I am not sure why I was blessed with so many, but I do believe on some levels...my body is saving me from a toxic environment! 
    Well, as for today's blog....it is about my fear of falling.  Now, anyone that knows me, knows that I am a pretty strong and independent women.  I have always been that way....I suppose it came from my upbringing.  I came from a household that was comprised of only women from the time I was 12.  Before then, the only man in my life was my grandfather.  I learned to be the man around the house since my mother always worked and my grandmother was old.  That left me to tend to most of the things that men might have done around the house. 
    But falling...hmmm....a story in itself.  I think subconsciously it must have had something to do with my weight.  I wasn't a fat child, just a little chunky.  But I can remember my cousin having me on a diet since I was 5 years old.  She lived with us, and she was obsessed...to say the least with weight.  I must say, I think I have been on a diet ever since those days.  Now...I think because of that...the thought of falling down frightened me. I always thought that if I fell and someone had to help me up....I would be embarrassed.  I was not by any means obese, I just wasn't thin! 
    Well, this fear prevented me from doing some of the things I really wanted to do...like roller skating and ice skating. These were things that had the probability of falling and I was not about to take the chance. 
    I remember when I was in Girl Scouts...they had an Roller skating event....I wanted to go...but I didn't know how to roller skate.  I remember using my cousins skates and I put them on in the house and practiced on the carpet...can you imagine.  Who can roller skate on a carpet...but I had furniture and walls and a carpet to protect me...just in case.  Well, I put on my big girl panties, and went to the event.  I was shaking on the inside...but I really wanted to do this...so I sat down and donned the pair of skates.  I was on the seats just by the wall and when I stood, I could hold onto the wall as I walked to get onto the rink.  I was petrified the entire time as I got closer and closer to the entrance opening.  Just as I was ready to step into the arena...a girl fell down right in front of me and cracked open the back of her head.  Blood was coming out...the person in the rink that watched out for everyone came skating over...the next thing I knew, they called an ambulance and took her to the hospital.  Well, now there's an invitation to step out into the rink...NOT IN THIS LIFETIME.  I felt my way right back to the seat and removed the skates.  Needless to say...I will be 60 this year and have never roller skated! 
    Now years went by and by the time I became 17, I was dating a young man who ice skated and played hockey.  He convinced me that it would be a fun to go on a date ice skating.  Well, here we go again.  Ice skating has the risk of falling.  But I braved up.  I went out and purchased a brand new pair of ice skates.  I was going to prove to myself that I could do this!  He picked me up and we drove to Bell Park right off of Oak Park Ave in Chicago.  They froze the park and made it into a big ice rink.  I sat down on this bench and the young gentleman knelt down and helped me put on my skates.  Being that this was my first time, he wanted to ensure that they were on properly and that my ankles were supported.  I held me breath as he reached out his hand for me to take and we walked over to the ice.  I was almost there...and all I could think about was that moment when that girl fell. I reached the iced and panicked.  I couldn't do it.  I started to cry...I couldn't believe that I was crying, but the tears just kept flowing.....I couldn't do it!  He walked me back to the bench, and after collecting myself, told him to go and skate.  I would watch him.  After some encouragement, he did.  I think he thought that after seeing how easy it was, that I would be encouraged to try...well, that never happened!  So, here I am....never roller skated or ice skated.  I married a man who not only ice skated, but skated well into his 40's on a hockey team.  I made him teach our daughters to skate and granddaughters as well.  He has many times asked me to join them.  Vowing that he would not allow  me to fall....but unless they can wrap me up in bubble wrap, it just isn't going to happen. 
    The hardest thing about it all, is that I am frustrated that I let my fear get in the way of trying something that I have always wanted to do.  The only good thing that came out of that was that It helped my to encourage my daughters to try everything.  It helped me to instill in them not to fear anything. 
    I remember going with my mother to the Ice Capades.  Oh how fabulous that was.  When I watched those skaters in those gorgeous costumes float across the ice, I dreamt about the possibilities...they were so graceful.  Well, some many years later, as I watch the Olympics and the skaters...my heart yearns for a chance...but I am resigned to never stepping out on the ice.  I sure hope  that in heaven, wings will allow me to flat across that icy ground and wipe away the fear of falling down. 

    Playing House

    Good afternoon.  I am a little late on the blog today.   So many things on my plate at the moment.  I have been working on things to submit for jury for the Grove craft show.  Working on some brand new ideas for some of the themes that will be highlighted this year.  Always a challenge. 
    Today it is so sunny and lovely outdoors...I really am having a bit of a time concentrating.  I just want to go out and play.  Boy, that statement sure takes me back in time. I started to think about how different it was when we were children.  There wasn't a worry in the world...all we needed to remember was to go home when we were hungry and be in before the street lights turned on.  Every day was such an adventure.
    I started thinking about those times and tried to remember what might have been considered my favorite thing to do.  There never seemed to be a time when I was growing up that I can remember ever being bored or at a loss for something to do...so the more I tried to narrow this idea down, the harder it became.  I finally decided that the one thing that I probably enjoyed the most was having the opportunity to go across the alley to play in my neighbors garage.  Now, for most playing in a garage might not seem to be the most exciting thing to do...but you see, she had a garage that was made over by her patents as playhouse.  It even had ruffled curtains on the windows.  They actually made rooms inside the garage for her and each room had a different theme.  It really was the coolest thing ever!!  Funny how when we are young...playing house was such a fun thing to do.  I can remember mimicking washing clothes and ironing....ironing...really??? as I grew up this was not something I enjoyed,.  I can remember having a basket of clothes waiting to be ironed and would use a chair and lower the ironing board down so I could sit and do it, but as a kid, I loved it.  I loved playing mommy the most...but of course the doll always did exactly as I asked it to do...not at all like real life...really??/ a child doing everything that they are asked to do??  I remember the joy of dusting and washing the windows.  But it sure did keep us busy!  We used our imaginations because all the things we had didn't really DO anything!  The dolls didn't talk, walk, cry or pee.  I remember, the biggest gimmicky item I had was a baby bottle that looked like it was filled with milk and while you tipped it to feed your baby doll...it looked as though it was being emptied!  We burped the baby after we feed it and then made a pretend burping sound.    We sat and played tea party with imaginary tea and cookies...the most real it ever got was if we played kitchen and made cookies and pies with our play doh.  We played school often.  There was a great big black board in the room and chalk and erasers.  We would take turns being teacher and the others were the students. We actually did spelling bees and math work.  Spelling bees were a really big thing back when I was young.  We would practice spelling all kinds of words and actually ask our parent to ask us to spell.  We competed just for the fun of it...and no one cared about whether the other person won...it was all just the fun found in the challenge.  Back when I was young...there weren't any real dreams about being much more than a wife and mom...that was something to aspire to...mostly because most of us wanted to be just like our mothers.  I was the odd girl out, because my mother was a working mom.  You didn't have that back in my day...that was a real rarity. 
    In that garage...we learned a real taste of what life was like being a housewife and a mom in real surroundings.  I remember our other neighbors.  One was a boy named David.  Of course he was always rooked into being our husband.  Not sure how much he enjoyed it...I know he would have rather been playing super heroes, but when you were surrounded by girls...the girls RULED!!  Looking back on that...I would hope that he learned about being a considerate husband and father....which he probably turned out to be since I saw recently that he just celebrated his 35th wedding anniversary.  Funny how at the time, we never thought of any of it as anything more than just playing, but I suppose it really did mentor us into the adults that we are now. 
    Watching how the new generation of children play.  Noses into the electronic games...I have to wonder.  The may be a whole lot faster on the keyboard than we are...but our minds might just be a little sharper...we can add and subtract and multiply and divide in our heads with out using a machine.  We know how to clean with old cleaning products like soap and water and the main ingredient...elbow grease.  We know how to read and remember stories like those from Mother Goose and the Grimm tales.  We grew up jumping rope and play hopscotch to learn co-ordination and motor skills...and never worried about politically correct songs...because they were just that....SONGS. 
    That may have been a garage, but what her parents gave us was a life lesson in adulthood with it.  Years went by, and they eventually sold their home and moved and the new owners tore apart those rooms and returned it to the standard garage.  It was a sad day in the neighborhood...Even Mr. Rogers would have had nothing to sing about that day!

    Maple Syrup Time

    Good morning to everyone.  Well, here we are....officially into the season called Spring and there is snow on the ground this morning.  Just a dusting of snow...but STILL snow!!  Father Frost certainly needs to go into hibernation!
    Well today's blog is about Maple Syrup.  It is the time for the Maple Syrup Festivals here in Illinois.  I am not sure whether you have ever had PURE maple syrup...if you haven't you are missing one of the most wonderful things nature has to offer! 
    If you haven't ever had the opportunity to go to a festival...this is the time.  You can walk the nature preserves and see how the trees are tapped and have buckets hanging off of the taps.  The maple syrup is then gathered and cooked down and made into the pure syrup. 
    The making of syrup seems to come from the Native Americans of the United States and Canada. They seem to be the first creators of maple syrup, taking the liquid from maple trees and removing the excess fluids.  Maple syrup is derived from sugar maple trees or from red maple trees.  I hadn't realized it, but  the sugar maples will produce a popular of variety syrup, while the red maple is also quite sweet.
    How much sap can you get from a tree?
    The average amount of sap you can extract from a tree is about 5 to 15 gallons.  Now that may seem like a lot...but that is only the sap and not the syrup itself.   Once the sap is cooked down...it takes 50 gallons of sap to produce 1...that's right...1 gallon of syrup.  Any wonder why pure maple syrup is so expensive?  That's about 4-6 trees needed to produce that gallon of syrup. 
    Now for years and years, it was a tradition for us to go to the Maple syrup Festival in the area.  We preferred the one that is in Northbrook...but there is another in a Northern Chicago Park District as well.  There we would walk the grounds with our children, parents, aunts and uncles and enjoy the process of the tapping and with an outdoor demonstration of the boiling and making of the syrup.  The most enjoyable thing was sitting down outdoors in the tent to a pancake breakfast served with piping hot syrup.  Oh how wonderful an experience.  We would walk through the nature center and enjoy some storytelling and see the exhibits on display. 
    This was always an annual event that I enjoyed and looked forward to. 
    I have always equated maple syrup with pancakes, but as the years have gone by...I learned that I love adding it to my oatmeal.  I use it as well in cooking.  I love substituting it for sugar in recipes.  It makes an amazing BBQ sauce and wonderful on fruits and squashes as well as in smoothies. There are desserts galore that can be made with maple syrup. 
    When I think back to the days when I was a kid, I remember Log Cabin Syrup and then along came Mrs. Butterworth. All good...and enjoyable....until you have the pure syrup.  It doesn't get any better than that!! 
    Now the health benefits of maple syrup include a healthy heart and a healthier immune system. It also has antioxidant properties that protect our body from free radicals. So far, Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup followed by the United States.  I consider myself so fortunate that I live in one of the 10 US states that produces this divine syrup!  The largest US produces is Vermont.  The largest importer is Japan. 
    So, check out you local area's this weekend and enjoy a stroll along the wooded areas and check out the wonder that comes from those Maple trees.  It is a whole lot more than just shade. 

    Rabbit...a naughty word?

    Good morning.  It  is barely morning...I had a late start to the blog today.  It is so gloomy and dreary outside...I thought that I would get some work done first....and of course...I get carried away!  I started decorating for Easter.  I put on a lovely lavender quilt on the table and some bunny chair covers...took off all the shamrocks from the tree and now I need to get all the eggs and bunnies to put up...but looking at the rabbits made me decide on todays blog. 
    I am sure you looked at the title and wondered how rabbit could be a naughty word.  law, God rest her sweet soul, taught my daughter that if she ever got really mad about something...that she should yell out the word RABBIT! 
    Now...I don't know about you...but thinking back on this...that was a pretty smart thing for her to teach her.  Today with the type of swear words that come out of mouths...RABBIT was pretty ingenious. 
    Well, one day, my daughter was playing with the neighbor boy Michael.  He had finally gotten her so riled up that she evidently couldn't take it any more.  She stood up tall and straight, placed her hands on her hips and looked him straight in the eye.  She then proceeded to scream out at the top of her lungs....YOU....RABBIT!!
    I have to tell you...if you think that is funny...it was even funnier to see the expression on his face!  He stood there, completely puzzled!  You could have knocked him over with a feather at that point.  He stared at her as though she had gone mad!  He looked over to me....and said..."She called me a RABBIT!???" 
    We couldn't have laughed any harder than at that moment.  I couldn't let on as to what it meant...or it would ruin it...so I just smiled and nodded yes! 
    He shrugged his shoulders and just gave up and walked away.  She had beat him down with the word RABBIT. 
    In her mind of course...this was the most terrible word in the world that you could use...I wish she still thought that way.  Unfortunately, as time went on, she realized that there were other words in vocabulary that could replace it....but oh, how I wouldn't give to hear that word more often from children than some of the words that they do you....the world would just be a nicer place to live! 

    Memories and a Rocking Chair

    Good morning one and all.  Well, another day has begun.  I sat here watching s the sun is beginning to rise.  St. Patrick's Day is over and it is onto the next holiday...Easter and Passover.  I will take down my Irish decorations off of my tree and decorate it for Easter.  I love that it is that time of year....it means spring is upon us..I hope!! 
    Well, today's blog was inspired by a recent purchase of mine at the Goodwill Store. 
    I had recently gone to a funeral and on my way home, spotted a Goodwill.  I can never resist the search...especially at the moment...I am in search for some items to paint.  Well, this was a very fortunate day for me.  As I perused the aisles...picking up small items and inspecting them...searching the bake ware department looking for cake pans...I spotted something down at the end of the aisle in the furniture area.  Now I must tell you...I was not in the market for furniture...but this piece of furniture was screaming my name...there was the most beautiful rocking chair sitting in the midst of some raggedy looking pieces.  From a distance it looked pretty good and I assumed once I reached it...there surely would be something majorly wrong with it.....but to my surprise...it was in beautiful shape!!  Now, this is a solid wood rocking chair with a signature of the furniture company carved under the bottom of the seat.  I then imagined the price that might be on it...well, another surprise.   The chair cost a mere $6.99.  That chair got whipped up so fast it didn't know what hit it. 
    So home I came with this rocking chair that I wasn't really in the market for...but I thought and thought for days about it.  Should I leave it as is, or do I paint it?  Deco Art has a brand new paint out that I just picked up at my nearest Home Depot!  The paint is Americana Chalky Décor.  I had recently purchased a butler's table that I wanted to use the paint on and here I am now with this rocking chair...so I decided that I would like to use the paint to do the chair...This paint will go right over most finishes and stains without stripping it down to raw wood.    Well, that settled the dilemma of what I am going to do with the chair.  I just wish the weather would get a little nice so I could take it outdoors to do...but no matter..it will get done. 
    So the next thing that happened to me was a flash back in time and also a huge question in my mind. 
    The flashback took me to my home growing up.  My Grandmother never sat in a normal chair.  In our kitchen...right next to the kitchen table sat her rocking chair.  If I close my eyes, I can still see her sitting there.  I remember through all the years, one of the gifts that was welcomed by her was a set of cushions for the chair.  They were always in 2 pieces...the top and the bottom and she would tie them on with the attached strings.  She would change them out for the different season.    I thought and thought about how she rocked baby after baby in that chair. 
    I remember when I got married and was expecting my first child...the first thing I imagined in the nursery was a rocking chair.  I thought that was were I would put the rocking chair for those peaceful nights of gently rocking my baby to sleep.  Well, that worked well for the first few months and then my daughter took forever to get her to sleep, so the rocking chair then moved itself into the living room.  I would rocking and hum and simultaneously watch TV.  We couldn't afford to purchase a new Rocking chair back then, so it was one I found at a garage sale.  It got me through many days of rocking and then eventually gave out.  It was years before another rocking chair entered the house.  A new form of glider/rocker entered when my first granddaughter was born.  I spent many a days rocking her...or I should say gliding her to sleep.  Although it was a decent chair..it wasn't made the same as a good old wooden rocker.  Eventually it found it's way to the garbage after countless pieces of it began to fall apart when they couldn't be repaired. 
    But now...here I am with a yearning for that rocking chair.  Every time I visit Shipshewana Indiana I gaze at them.  They are everywhere there.  I hum and haw about whether I should get one...which one would I want?  I never some home with one.  I never really could decide whether it was time for me to have a rocker...my grandchildren are all gone out of state.  What would I do with a rocking chair anyway?  And then, the rocking chair found me! 
    At first I thought maybe it would be a nice gift for a baby shower if I painted it in the nursery colors and then the thought crossed my mind...would a new mother want an old style rocker?  Do mothers rock their babies anymore.  It seems that every new mother I know don't seem to want to do anything the old fashioned way.  Doctors today contradict all the things we used to do with babies years ago.  I wondered....and pondered the thought?  I had just recently spoke with a young mother who told me her baby was experiencing diarrhea problems because of the antibiotics she was on and I suggested giving her some yogurt...the baby is almost a year old.  She told me that her doctor told her not to introduce any milk products to the baby yet.  HMMM....I thought...we can give the baby antibiotics...but not milk?  I guess I am ready for the rocking chair...I must be old and outdated.  I remember, when all the doctors couldn't figure out what to do when my first granddaughter was sick and couldn't drink the formula's...I made one that I remembered that was used 40 years prior and it worked.  I started her on fruits and vegetables at 1 month and by the time she was 6 months old, one of her favorite foods was spinach pie rolls that I used to make just for her.  That granddaughter is turning 18 next month and has had the healthiest life ever!! 
    The way that the mothers these days listen to the doctors before they listen to their babies is a little scary sometimes. But then again...that is just my opinion. 
    I remember a long time ago, I stitched a wall hanging and still think of it these days.  I wish I would have kept it.  It was a picture of a rocking chair and a mother with child in it and it said
    "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, cause babies grow up, I've learned to my sorrow.  So quiet quite down cobwebs and dust go to sleep...I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep".

    What About the color Green?

    Well good afternoon to all.  HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY to everyone!!  The day to wear green and ask for good luck.  As I thought about this day, I have come up with what is it with the color green.  What about the color green you ask?  Well, I thought I might look at where it lies in history.  Green is known to be the symbol of good luck...although, we perceive that the luckiest thing to get would be the GOLD at the end of the rainbow.  It is true, that in America, our money is green and to have money is to be lucky...especially in these days. 
    When I look at what phraseology has presented...Green with envy?  That is because on the charka green is governed by the heart....hence when you are jealous of someone...you want what your heart desires. 
     In the scale of vibrations...green is meant to be a quieting or calming color.  It represents life and nature. Green plants and trees stand for breathing in & out - photosynthesis .
    If one has a preference for green...it would be because green brings peace, rest, hope, comfort and nurturing, calmness and harmony. It can intimate that one who loves the color green had an  interest in nature, plants, fellowmen, children and animals, health and healing, natural and plain life. They are people who long for a safe home and a family-life. It also means they may have a dislike of conflicts.
    It is no wonder why on St. Patrick's day, everyone seems to become one big happy family.
    When I think of Green, I think of lying in the grass on a warm summers day.  I think of green dandelions sprouting from the green grass that produces flowers that Grandma told me not to pick because it would make me have to pee.  I think of Dr. Suess and Green Eggs and Ham , but mostly, I think of Kermit and his "It isn't easy being green"....I wonder if the wicked witch ever thought that way?  Gumby was green...there is green slime and Green River Soda.  Green River soda was introduced to Midwestern drinkers in 1919  right here in Chicago at The Schoenhofen Edelweiss Brewing Company in the Pilsen neighborhood at 18th and Canalport.  In fact there are still 2 of the original buildings that can still be found there.  Green River was a big hit for decades as soda fountain syrup, trailing only Coca Cola in popularity.  I remember so well having those Green River Floats at Lockwood Castle and then making them for my girls at home.  It is not all that easy to find that wonderful tasting green drink these days, but on rare occasion, I find it and pick up a bunch.  For some reason...it is easiest to find around St. Patty's day.  Well, here's to you and the color green. 

    The Irish of Chicago

    Good morning to all.  Hope you are having a great weekend.  Just a few more days until it is officially Spring....with the winter we have had...I am really waiting!!  I had a rough night sleeping and when I finally decided to stop the tossing and the turning, I made a cup of tea and as I passed the window...I couldn't believe that once again, there was snow covering the car in the driveway!  Spring...you are sorely missed...please hurry and come already!
    Well, today's blog is about some Irish history in Chicago.  By the year 1860, Chicago had the fourth highest population of Irish settlers.  They had made a phenomenal contribution the Chicago's growth.  The laborers worked on the canal, the lumber and stockyards, wharves and the steel mills.
    The Chicago Irish are perhaps best known for their political skills in winning elections and creating a multiethnic Democratic  machine.  In fact, in Chicago, we have had  twelve Irish mayors who have governed for more than 80 years in this fair city. 
    Now not all the important Irish happening were due to the Male population...The Catholic Schools  contributed to the growth and development of this larger city. The University of St. Mary of the Lake was dedicated on July 4, 1846, and  was Chicago's first institution of higher learning, and Saint Xavier Academy was also founded by the Irish Sisters of Mercy in 1846, and had enrolled more Protestants than Catholics in its early years. It was an Irish woman by the name of Agatha O'Brien, who was  a working-class immigrant from County Carlow, Ireland, and her Mercy Sisters taught school, operated an employment bureau for Irish women.  She  established Chicago's first orphanage.  Many of the Irish woman were nurses and worked the orphanage and the hospitals in the city as well.  Our historic landmark, St. Patrick's church, on Adams and Desplaines Streets in 1856  is one of the best-known example of Celtic Revival Art in America.
    It is no wonder that Chicago hosts a parade in honor of St. Patty's Day, and not only do they host a Parade...but we even dye the Chicago River bright green.  You don't need to have any Irish blood in you to be Irish....on St. Patty's Day....EVERYONE is Irish!   It is a time honored tradition here in Chicago. 
    Now...on a side note...I have to also reveal something I learned once on a trip to Rockford, Illinois at the Midway Museum.  One year, I took my husband there to spend the day on Fathers Day.  One of the historic buildings that we toured was the stone police station.  The tour guide explained many things about the jail...the cell itself and also told us a bit of information that was one of those pieces that you stop and say "wow, really?".  Back in the olden days, many of those hard working Irish men would have quite a bit of fun out on the town.  Of course, there wasn't anything serious going on...just a bit over the top on their consumption of Irish Whiskey.  The police would be called and they would be hauled away to the jail for a place to sleep it off.  It seems that it was such a repeated occurrence....the police would say "Let's get them Paddy's into the wagon....well, from that time on...we have referred to the police wagon as the "PADDY WAGON".  I, growing up had always referred to it in that manor....but never really had given much thought of why it was called that. 
    So, there you have it a bit of history on the Irish here in Chicago.  I-RISH you a pleasant day!

    To Iron Cabbage

    Well, good morning to all...another day and the sun is shining.  So much to be grateful for. 
    I have decided that the closer we approach St. Patty's Day, the more I begin to think about food.  It is such a big deal in all the restaurants around and yet, growing up...I don't ever remember celebrating the day with food.  It wasn't until I was married and we bought our first house that I learned about Irish food.  Being raised in a Polish/American household...Irish food wasn't something that perhaps my grandmother knew much about! 
    Our new neighbors were Irish and the wife's name was Maureen.  The first St. Patty's Day that we lived there, we were gifted with a load of Irish Soda Bread.  Oh my goodness...it was the best bread I had ever had.  Most and filled with raisins.  I later learned that this was not the typical Irish Soda bread, but her recipe for it.  Well, I, of course got the recipe from her and made it for St. Patty's every year from that moment on...along with learning to make the traditional Corn Beef and cabbage dinner.  It was a new tradition in our home.  It came also with Green River Soda.  We were Irish for the day.  What a fun and wonderful treat. 
    As years went by, I have made countless corn beef and cabbage...and so I started thinking about that Green vegetable.  Of course being Polish...we always had Sauerkraut at home and cabbage soup.   I never gave it a lot of thought until I started studying about minerals and alternative health treatments. 
    Now, one of the the strangest things that I had come across was ironing the cabbage leaves...yes, you read it right...IRONING the leaves...and I used to do it for my dogs who had arthritis in their hind legs to give them relief.   A home remedy using cabbage for joint pain includes rubbing the joint first with honey, then tying a cabbage leaf around the joint. Place a warm cloth over the cabbage leaf and leave overnight for joint pain relief.   I used to iron the leaf and just apply it to my dogs hind quarters.  I made sure they were not too hot to touch the body and then just held them in place.  Of course, the dogs couldn't tell me that it helped or not...but they laid in place as though they gained relief and seemed to get up and more somewhat better afterwards. 
    When most of us think of cabbage...the first thing that comes to mind is it's odor when it is cooking.  So what makes this have such a smell and why then do ...or should I say SHOULD we eat it?
    Cabbage contains anti-inflammatory properties that help combat and relieve painful joints. In addition, cabbage helps flush the body of damaging free radicals that harm and damage organs and joints.This curative vegetable contains antibodies, vitamins, minerals, and assist with tissue repair and muscular construction, all which help painful joints.
    It has multiple vitamins and minerals good for our intestinal tract as well. 
     Cabbage is rich in various phytonutrients and vitamins like vitamin A, C & K. These all are natural antioxidants. 
    There are studies that have shown it to help prevent Alzheimer's as well. 
    As I looked up Cabbage, I realized that there are over 400 varieties  of cabbage...that's a whole lot of heads. 
    So, with all that there is to learn about that green vegetable...why not go ahead and give it a try.  This is the perfect season to put it to the test!  Treat yourself to a corn Beef and cabbage meal...and don't forget the Irish Soda Bread and a tall glass of Green River...or perhaps an Irish Stout!   








    Shillelagh..a weapon!

    Good morning to everyone.  I hope that you are enjoying the day.  As I sit, I am all aglow from the sun streaming through my living room window.  Although there is still snow on the ground.  It appears to be a lovely day outside.  They predict that the temperature will rise to 50.  A very pleasant thought indeed. 
    My blog for the day is a continuance about St. Patty's Day.  I started thinking about a shillelagh.   I have heard of it...seen pictures of it, and perceived it to be no more than the terminology of the Irish for a walking stick. 
    When I get a thought in my head ...it just seems to fester until I find the answers.  Well, to my surprise, a shillelagh is not only a walking stick, but a weapon as well.
    It is made from the wood of a Blackthorn and is usually covered with butter or lard and then placed up a chimney to cure which in turn, gives it that dark black look.
    It may often be filled with molten at the hitting end to give it more weight....you see, the shillelagh is a form of weapon that was often used in a duel. They usually have a handle of some sort at it's top to also use as an aid in striking the blow. 
    By the 19th century Irish shillelagh-fighting had evolved into a practice which involved the use of three basic types of weapons, sticks which were long, medium or short in length.
    Shillelaghs are sometimes referred to in a similar context in folk songs, such as in "Finnegan's Wake," in which the term "shillelagh law" refers to a brawl, and in the 19th century song "Rocky Road to Dublin," in which references are made to fashioning a shillelagh, using it to hold a tied bag over one's shoulder, and using it as a striking weapon.
    Now I am beginning to understand when there are remarks about the fighting Irish.  It was quite amazing to me to hear the description of this walking stick.  I have always connected them to just an aid to get up a hill or to help in clearing brush away from the path you may tread.  All the stories of Leprechauns and rainbows, pots of gold and trickery...never made me think that there was any weapon in the picture. 
    So let it not be said that the search of walking sticks not be ended here.  I discovered that although the first sticks were probably used to help one stand, they became both weapons and symbols of authority.  The larger and stronger the man, the larger the stick.  As centuries passed, man added stones, points and hatchets to the sticks, which then became weapons as well as walking aides.  The most elaborate of sticks would belong to the chiefs of tribes.  These were often elaborately carved with emblems pertaining to the particular tribe itself. European kings used canes or sticks as a symbol of authority and in fact jewels were often added to their sticks. 
    We are so accustomed to a stick being used as a cane or a walking aid...I never imagined it to be anything more.  Well...that just goes to show you that no matter how old we get, there is still so much more to learn.  I am pleased  to learn that the use of the shillelagh has been outlawed as a weapon these days, but I must admit...the vision of someone shaking the stick now not only makes me chuckle...but brings a whole new concept to mind. 

    The Leprechaun in our Neighborhoods

    Good morning to all.  Hope your hump day proves to be a good one.  As I look out my window...once again the ground is covered in powder.  SNOW....please go away....I so enjoyed the twittering yesterday on the window sill bird feeder, where today there is silence...and birds heads are covered with snow.  I must say, I did have to chuckle a bit at the site.  Poor little things! 

    Well, today's blog is about Leprechauns.  Since this is the week of St. Patty, I was rehearsing some of my Irish stories for an upcoming performance and read the description of a Leprechaun.  It is a short male fairy who is the keeper of the pot of gold.  He spends his days cobbling shoes.  Well, I must say, I may have never met a Leprechaun...but it took me back in time to when I was growing up in Chicago. 

    I lived in a neighborhood of Chicago called Cragin.  Chicago is so very large that they subdivided areas and called them by names.  Well, in the area that I lived, there was a store called the Shoe Repair.  Made me stop and think about how different things are today versus years ago.  We didn't have the amounts of shoes like we have in our closets today.  You were fortunate enough to have a good pair of Sunday shoes, a good pair of work or everyday shoes and a good pair of sneakers.  They weren't disposable either.  When you had a pair of shoes whose heel had worn down...you took them to the cobbler.  If there was a tear or sole repair...it was magically repaired by the same man.  You would polish your shoes with shoe polish...even if you were female.  I can recall that my mother wore a heavy pair of white work shoes, touch and strong for the need to be on her feet all day.  when she returned home each day...the first thing that happened once she removed them from her feet was that my Grandmother took the shoes over to the sink, cleaned them up with soap and water and then applied white shoe polish over them and set them on newspapers to dry and be ready for the next day. 
    On Long ave., right across from St. Stanislaus B & M, there was a Shoe Repair shop. 
    I remember walking to the Shoe Repair with a pair of shoes to be fixed. When you walked into the shop, the first thing that you noticed was the smell of leather, and the walls were a dark shade of green.  I would instantly see the cobbler with his apron tied on  hammering away at the iron lift that had a shoe form on the top.  He would set down his tools and walk over to help us.  You needed to leave you shoes with him and get a ticket and the day that you would return to pick them up.  There was never an instant fix!  If a Leprechaun has magic...or keeps the pot of gold...back in my youth...I guess he would have been the shoe maker. 
    I remember as well, that the best known shoes to be had came from Florsheim shoes.  The factory was at Belmont and Pulaski in Chicago.  They cost a lot of money...but were known as the best shoe to be found. 
     Florsheim & co. was founded in 1892 by Milton S. Florsheim. He and his father Sigmund Florsheim made the first shoes in Chicago.
    The company helped people who wanted to sell the shoes around the country, so many small towns had stores selling Florsheim.
    Eventually, some cities had stores owned by and selling only Florsheim. By 1930, Florsheim was making women's shoes and had five Chicago factories and 2500 employees, with 71 stores partly or entirely company-owned and 9000 stores around the United States selling Florsheims. 
    The factory was huge and I remember it well since I went to the high school right across the street. 
    Back in those days, there were around 75,000 shoe repair stores in existence compared to the mere 7,000 that are around today. 
    Well, I guess there are less and less cobblers because there are less and less people who believe in the magic of restoration.    I know that today...it is easier to buy 10 pairs of shoes at $15.00 each than to buy one at $100.00.  I remember that that we followed the before and after memorial day code as to what shoe to wear...no white until memorial day and never after labor day.  That was the choice...not which shade or hue...it was black and white.  The only time that a color ever came into existence was to have a shoe dyed for a wedding...and that was a BIG deal! 
    Not only did the cobbler know how to fix your shoes...but they also could repair your purse as well.  Need a new zipper or clasp..off to the cobbler you went. 
     How we have changed our ways today. We are most certainly a disposable community.  I sit and wonder what the memories will be 50 years from now for our younger generations.  I suppose the drive to the mall and the 30 pairs of shoes in the closet.  They spend a lot of money these days on shoes these days that are tossed after the trend is over...which usually a season away from when they were purchased.  I guess the Leprechaun is off somewhere else with his pot of gold.  He doesn't need to worry about any of us looking for it...we seem to throw money away quite easily these days. 


    The Search For a 4 Leaf Clover

    Good morning to all of my readers.  Just a quick thank you for those of you who comment and those of you who have chosen to follow my blog.  I am honored and touched.  I hope that I give you some interesting food for thought or some doorway back in time or into the future perhaps.
    Today's blog is inspired by a childhood memory.  Being that St. Patty's is just around the corner, I thought this might be an appropriate story to share.
    When I was a young girl, about the age of 8-9 years old, my mother worked at the Woolworths  five and dime on School and Ashland in Chicago.  She was the manager of the food counter.  Now at the end of the food counter, there was a door that lead down a flight of stairs to the basement.  In the basement was a huge kitchen area where there also was a glass windowed office that belonged to my mother.  There were all types of cooks and pastry chefs working down there preparing the food for the day.  There was one woman in particular who I thoroughly loved to get to see when I would visit. She was a short, somewhat chunky.    gray haired lady named Fran...I called her Mrs. Fran.  she was not only a great cook, but also a good friend to my mother.  Now, Mrs. Fran lived not too far from our house..it was perhaps a 15 minute drive by car.  I honestly cannot remember why I would be dropped of by Mrs. Fran's for a day...perhaps to be babysat...although I cannot ever remember a reason that my Grandmother wasn't home...but non the less I would spend a day there   with her.  Now back then, it seems that we were, or at least I was easily entertained.  Mrs. Fran had a nice large back yard.  She lived above her daughter and her family.  I can remember how charming it was in her smaller apartment.  She was of German descent and had touches of Germany all around.  There was this small table with a crocheted tablecloth near the door and upon the table was a small frame with a 4 leaf clover inside.  I remember it amongst all the other statues and vase of flowers that joined it on the table.  I asked about the clover.  Mrs. Fran proceeded to tell me about how finding a 4 leaf clover was believed to be good luck to find.  She asked if I would like to go search for one.  I was so excited.  We walked down the back wooden stairs right into the garden and Mrs. Fran explained how I must get down on my hands and knees and begin the magical search.  She told me that if I was lucky enough to find one, that she would have it framed for me, just like hers.  Well, the one thing anyone knows about me, if I am nothing else...I am persistant...so hours went by as I crawled over and over the grass looking for a 4 leaf clover...unfortunately, to no avail.  After quite a long time, and me, being disappointed, Mrs. Fran called me upstairs for lunch.  I remember how special it felt to sit down at her table.  It was so elegantly prepared for us.  She had the most amazing pumpernickel bread, fresh butter and liver sausage sitting on the table with fine china and beautiful floral china teacups.  We really didn't drink tea at home unless we were sick, so this was a very special meal.  We would chat and talk about the country she came from and other countries that she had visited and snacked on those pumpernickel sandwiches.  There were fantastic.  When we were finished, she would bring out cookies for us to have with our tea.  Before I knew it, my mother was back to pick me up.  I hated that the day had come to an end. 
    I never did find a 4 leaf clover in her yard, although every time I visited, I would search over and over again.  Perhaps there was no luck in finding the clover...the fortune came in the visit....and I must say, even though it has nothing to do with St. Patty's day, I still remember the precious gift of those days and Mrs. Fran.  I know that she is now gone and perhaps smiling down on me when I occasionally bend over to look for that 4 leaf clover.
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