Archive for February, 2012

Leap Day

“Oh, Mr. Hare, I really should have listened to you and cancelled my hair appointment today. You were right. It’s never a good idea to get a perm on Leap Day”, said Dolly.

“I tried to warn you, Dolly. ‘Tis a confusing day here on the Cutoff, what with Leap Day and 40 mile per hour winds and 60° temperatures” said Mr. Hare. “I, myself, am confused. I woke up today thinking it was March 1. Mrs. Hare caught me just as I was hopping out the door.”

Dolly asked “Where we you going, Mr. Hare?”.

“To see Louie Lion who usually comes storming in the first day of March”.

“Oh, dear” said Dolly “He will be confused this year, won’t he?”

“Indeed, he will. Let’s just hope that March will go out like a lamb. Now, Dolly, let’s see if Mrs. Hare can help you with your hair.”


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Virtual Music

I have a secret.

Some of you, like Tom, Jennifer, and Katy know about it. I think my sons-in-law are on to me. Janet (Country Mouse) likely remembers from our youthful days in college, and I’m sure my sister remembers. I will guess that most of you, however, do not know my secret, even if you attend the same church or have gone to a concert with me.

I’m tone-deaf.

Can’t carry a tune.

Can’t even remember the words to songs, often making up my own as I go along.

Oh, I’ll sing in the shower and Kezzie has heard me sing, though I worry about my influence on her. If you are nearby, I can be very, very quiet, so as not to frighten you with the sounds that come out of my mouth.

It was with amazement that I watched a feature on a national newsmagazine show about Erik Whitacre’s Virtual Choir.

Whitacre started with “a simple experiment in social media”.  He invited visitors to his blog to submit videos of  themselves singing. He imagined himself conducting these singers, posting himself doing just that. The singers were then digitally put together into a virtual choir made up of a range of voices from around the world singing Whitacre’s piece.

The first virtual choir morphed into a second and a third is soon to be released.

What an interesting concept and what a joyful sound, especially to someone like me. This idea of singers, now in the thousands, singing together, yet never standing next to each other, miles, oceans, hemispheres apart, following one conductor, Eric Whitacre, their voices  soaring across the heavens.

 Click this link to hear one of the virtual songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7o7BrlbaDs

You can click here to find out more at Eric Whitacre’s website.

I’ll sing along with, but, I promise, I will not record myself doing so.

It really is an amazing world, full of possibilities, don’t you agree?

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To My Shadow

To My Shadow

You stand behind me at the podium,

a mute accuser, and refuse to speak.

Words mean nothing to you.

Late, you rush ahead of me

on a deserted street, a total stranger,

while I hurry to catch up to you. 

You have the floating liquidity of

a ghost who disappears around corners

and takes on odd shapes in the dark. 

Sometimes you cling to me, a shady

figure slouching in doorways and alleys,

but other times you vanish completely.

Shadowy self, lonely double, I don’t know

which of us is more insubstantial. 

  Edward Hirsch. Special Orders.

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Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me

From Tiptoe Through the Tulips by Al Dubin

What joy it was to see the sunshine as it danced among the tulips in the vases on an icy cold February morning.

Here on the Cutoff. we managed to dodge most of the snow that caused winter havoc in other areas, for which we are grateful. It was easy to appreciate the sunshine on Saturday, and the clear sky with a fingernail moon in a starlit sky come evening. They were gifts to our winter weary souls, and a welcome reminder that spring is waiting in the wings.

Come, tiptoe through the tulips with me for a few minutes here.

Or, if you prefer Laugh In, Tiny Tim, and a brief glimpse of a very young Goldie Hawn, go here.

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Peppers and Eggs

I knew what he was going to say as soon as he walked into the room. He was holding a pen and a post-in note pad. With an ear to phone, I asked my sister to hold for a minute. Tom was getting ready to write me a note, but said it instead.


Tom and I both grew up in traditions of meatless Fridays, especially during Lent. Old habits die hard – not that I’m trying to kill them off, mind you. I appreciate setting aside a day without meat or a time for fasting and I respect the tenets that honor this.

Tom’s Lenten Fridays were more in the tradition of salmon patties. Mine were of lentil soup. I always have been interested in what others had for dinner on Fridays. In fact I still am.  A simple supper of tomatoes on a platter with hard-boiled eggs, some Feta, a drizzle of olive oil and some crusty bread work for me. Smelt fried in batter with a bit of lemon were a treat growing up and, once on my own, I made a pretty good tuna casserole.

What do you serve if you observe no meat on Friday? Do you do a fast for communion or a spiritual cleansing? What is a quick dinner for you or a favorite vegetarian meal.

I would often make peppers and eggs on Fridays, tucked into some good Italian bread, especially when our girls were around Lately,  Tom and I have enjoyed a quick trip for lunch to an area hot dog/Italian beef chain come Friday.


 Like many eateries in the Chicago area, they serve pepper and egg sandwiches during Lent on Fridays.

We each had one today!

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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”

Daphne du Maurier. Rebecca

I do not know how I have managed to get through all these years of books and not have read Rebecca. I’ve known the opening line for as long as I can remember, but, have never read the book.

Well, dear friends, I finished it, just in time for our book discussion tonight. I’m looking forward to a good talk about the first Mrs. de Winter , the second Mrs. de Winter, who is the narrator, Maxim, Frank, and the horrible Mrs. Danvers. This atmospheric  novel, where the reader can almost feel the fog roll in, the water lapping the shore, the presence of the deceased Rebecca, is sure to make for a lively discussion.

Have you read Rebecca,  seen the movie, or read any of du Maurier’s works?

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During yesterday’s lunch, we talked a bit about growing up with Civil Defense drills and whether or not our bottoms would give us away in the event of a nuclear attack whilst hiding under our desks. Three women, products of the era in which they grew up;  threats of the nuclear age, something ominous called “the cold war”and what our fear levels were as children. Mine, it seems, was the highest, but, I defended myself. Our little house was, you see, the victim of space age testing.

It was one of those long-ago days that both my sister and I remember clearly and the same way. This fine  autumn day was warm, the windows were open, and we were sitting with our grandmother at the kitchen table with an after school snack and homework. The scene still comes back as so vividly as pleasant and safe; an idealized vision of mid-century.

We all heard the loud crash at the same time, shattering the peaceful setting. Two elementary school sisters and their loving grandmother flew in a mad dash through a tiny hallway to the front door. The Eisenhower Expressway rolled past our house. The metal on metal sound of automobile crashes were familiar. We assumed an accident had occurred and it sounded as if it was right in front of the house. So we thought, until Dottie turned around and let out a scream.

There, on the carpeted living room floor, were hundreds of slivers of glass, dropped like a bomb, from our mid-twentieth century television set. Nothing else was disturbed. No windows or door or knickknacks. Just the television screen.

It is a long stretch of the imagination to remember what television screens were like in the early 1960′s. This was not the era of flat screen TVs, but, of big, bulky television sets with tubes and wires, rabbit ears and inches thick screens.

It was incredulous that only the television screen had blown out. Logic defied reason. The television had not fallen, just the screen, and a screen that size should have broken into several large shards, not slivers of glass.

Yia Yia tried to keep us calm, sending me next door to get my aunt, who was as perplexed about the scene as we were. We checked the house for other damage. Nothing else was shattered. Nothing else broken. Adjacent neighbors were fine. Of course, our shock soon settled into annoyance; no Bonanza or Mayberry. No Saturday Night at the Movies. We did feel a bit like Lost in Space.

The next day in school a classmate, Roseanne, announced that the back window of the family station wagon had exploded. Just the back window. It was shattered, like our television screen, into hundreds of little pieces. It happened at the same time of day as our own little explosion. They lived down the block from us.

Several days later, buried deep into the afternoon edition of one of the many newspapers then printed in Chicago, my dad came across a little article.  It described complaints received about the random breakage of glass in the area. Our television screen and Roseanne’s family car, were the victims of space exploration and military might. Jets from Great Lakes had been conducting tests, breaking the sound barrier, miles up in the sky the day our television screen exploded.  We never heard the sonic boom that day. Just the breaking of  glass. Neither my sister, nor I, never forgot that day.


Have you ever experienced an unusual phenomenon?

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Sometimes the words and the ideas come pouring out and I can’t get them written down fast enough. They line up like planes waiting to take off at O’Hare.

Other times, they brew for a bit. A germ of a thought that knows it has somewhere to go, just doesn’t quite know how to get there.

Then there are times, like right now, when the thought process stalls. I know it won’t last. At least I hope it won’t, but, there is always the possibility that it could.

So, while my words decide where to go, I will tell you of my day, which was hectic to start as I prepared lunch and then finished as delicious a delight as this apple and cranberry galette.

I had the pleasure of the company of two dear friends today.

Phyllis, Janet and I went to high school together way back when. They are the kind of friends who know your history and who you might not hear from for many years but who slip right back into the conversation with ease each time you meet.

The time had come for me to have them to lunch. I made a simple meal of tortellini tomato soup, biscuits, cheese and such, while we sat for hours around the table sharing our stories of gardening and grandmothering, places to see and books to read and all the sorts of things women sit and talk about wherever they meet. Janet and Phyllis are the kind of friends who keep me grounded. They don’t care if the words come tumbling out, bubble about, or stall.

They are the best kind of friends, don’t you agree?

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Isn’t it amazing what you can find on the internet?

Downton Abbey. Google. A few clicks of the mouse here and there. Up pops Lady Violet – as a paper doll! There are Ladies Sybil and  Mary. Even Thomas and O’Brien. You can enlarge them, print them out, and have your own collection of paper dolls to while away the hours as you brave the long months ahead before season 3!

Speaking of Lady Violet, wasn’t she was in rare form Sunday night on Downton Abbey? After her girlish gushing over Lord Hepworth’s father’s long ago attentions, I just loved how she laid into this cad. After Sir Richard and Matthew Crawley slug it out over Lady Mary, I loved Violet’s snappy  retort of “Do you promise?” as he states he won’t return. It sent me cheering her on. Richard was despicable, the leering villain of old, lashing the fair maiden to the railroad tracks, sneering and demanding her to “pay me the money”.

I digress. I know that Downton Abbey is a bit of a soap opera, but, I simply do not mind. I love the characters, both upstairs and down, and the historical eras it takes us through. The costuming – oh, the costuming. Did you notice a bit more ankle showing in Mary’s elegant ball gown? A hint of the Roaring Twenties?

I felt a sense of relief that Lady Cora finally told Lord Grantham about Famuk. Lord Grantham’s encounter with Mary warmed my heart as he told her to go to America, marry a midwestern cowboy and shake things up at Downton. He freed her from Sir Richard. Now, he needs to set things right with Sybil.

I wonder about that story line of Famuk. What DID he die from?  We know where he died – in Lady  Mary’s bedchamber – but of what? Methinks Thomas slipped something into his drink and as I’m methinking, could Thomas be the murderer of the first Mrs. Bates?What do you think? Whodunit?

The very last scene, in the snow, at the dawn of 1920, with Matthew on bended knee proposing to Mary. It bids all the foretelling of a wedding next season and hints that exile to America for Mary won’t happen.

Or will it?

The most touching story line, for me, has been the character development of Daisy. Her conflicted feelings, the deathbed wedding in earlier episode to the war injured William, her refusal to accept William’s military pension, her scenes with Mrs. Patmore and the Ouija board, Lady Violet’s conversation with Daisy, and Daisy finally going to tea at William’s father’s farm where she finds a father and some self-esteem. They are all wonderfully acted out scenes. Daisy is an endearing character. What are your thoughts?

I loved every minute of the Christmas episode, as I did this second season of Downton Abbey. I thought, however, that last week’s episode with the horror of the Spanish flu, the death of Lavinia and Bates being led away in handcuffs should have been the season’s cliff hanger. Did it have that effect on you? I think I wanted season 2 to end there. I would have savored the wait until next December to have last night’s episode be a bit of a Christmas gift and a teaser for the new season in January.

Well, dear reader, this is getting a bit lengthy, but, I promised some of you I would share a few thoughts on Downton Abbey. Please share your thoughts. I look forward to them.

To pass the time, you can download those paper dolls here. Just in case . . .

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It’s hard work being a toddler.

First you have to feed Baby and then put all her things under a tiny blanket.

Then ALL of the Kingdom of Stuffed Animals needs to put down for a nap.

Stories need to be read,

and even Kezzie needs a nap!

The best time of all is when Daddy reads Kezzie a book. This one was about the old woman who swallowed a fly.


(Click on the pictures to get a better look. Sorry they are so dark.)

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