Archive for the ‘Family and friends’ Category

DSCN5533A deliciously divine brunch filled us on a recent Sunday afternoon. We ate and our small gathering chatted for hours thereafter at Rick and Patty’s house. Their charming home reminds me of a secluded cottage, even though their front door is but steps from their street. They are such dear friends and gracious hosts with an easy manner and comfortable home.

This is the view from their front window. The lace from the valance within evoked the textures of leaves and flowers from without.  If I were a painter, I would brush this scene for eternity; an heirloom of life and nature.

Several of us retreated to their cozy front porch.


Don’t you love porches? I’ve heard it said that when we replaced our front porches with backyard decks, we lost the sense of community around our homes. There may be some truth in that, for it is on front porches that one can see the neighborhood pass by; children on bikes, walker, runners, and strollers; the joys and the sorrows of those passing by who live among us.

As I sat, I found myself missing the front porch of our first home. It wasn’t very big, and it faced the west, so was often quite hot in the late summer afternoon, but, it was where I sat and watched children returning home from school, read books in the early evening, sipped tea with a bouquet of flowers nearby, for it was the best place for the garden’s cut bounty. Kids would come up our long wooden walk to sell Girl Scout cookies or popcorn for the Boy Scouts, petitioners approached, looking for signatures, or the wave of a friendly arm from a car going by greeted me and my thoughts.

It was just an arm’s length from this porch where I placed Casa Blanca lilies, exhaling their perfume at night. It was where the lightening bugs danced, and where frogs often appeared.


As my memories wafted in the summer breeze, I felt the grace of friendship and the ethereal beauty of the flowers around me, imagining their sweet aromas at nightfall.

I think it is good to reap memories – and equally good to sow new ones.

Do you have a porch, or memories of a porch?

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Taking the Hands

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand. 

 from “Silence in the Snowy Fields” by Robert Bly


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For my dear friend, Sharon, who is celebrating a special day.

Happy Birthday, Sharon – and many happy returns!


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DSCN4838As soon as I squirted the glass with the contents of the bottle, out, like a genie, came thoughts of my Aunt Christina.

It was the fragrance of Sparkle. It doesn’t cure mosquito bites, like Windex in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, but, it does evoke fond memories of my Greek family, especially my Aunt Christina.

It was my Aunt Christina who took me each summer, mid-August, Downtown, to the Loop. In the heart of Loop was that emporium of magnificent merchandise, Marshall Field’s. My aunt knew every floor, every department, every corner of Field’s. Off we charged to the children’s department, then the young girls, eventually juniors, where I would try on dresses, picking out one to buy for the start of school. I loved every minute of our yearly adventure. I cherish those memories now.

Aunt Christina bought be my first pair of nylons, to the horror of my mother, and showed me how to use a garter belt. Do you remember those? She bought me my first princess heals, and I’m sure laughed, robustly, as I attempted to walk in them.  My love affair with Elvis was her doing, for a record player with “Return to Sender” was a birthday present, my dad’s turn at horror.

My aunt loved Erma Bombeck. We would phone each other, trying to read a particularly humorous column out loud; failing miserably because neither of us could stop laughing enough to finish a sentence.

Tom always, ALWAYS knew when I was on the phone with my aunt; unless, of course, she got Himself on the phone, for she appreciated his Irish wit.

When I was about 12, I slipped next door to her kitchen, $6 in hand, and asked her if she could buy my parents an anniversary gift with it.  The next day she called me over and opened two boxes of glass plates and cups; the little lunch sets of the 50’s and 60’s that ladies would use for parties. Did your mom have them? They were more than $6, though she never said so, only that she put in the money for the tax. My parents were thrilled that I thought of them – but, it was my aunt who made it possible.

So, here I was yesterday, a cloudy day, spiffing up windows and glass tabletops, thinking of Aunt Christina, and the Club girls. When it was my aunt’s turn to host these card sharks, there was a housecleaning flurry. She would call me to come over and sit in her kitchen next door and then start her sales pitch. “Penny,” she would say, “the club girls are coming tonight and I need your help. No one cleans the tiles in the bathroom as good as you do. Will you help me?”  Of course, I would. I was the best, after all, at spraying and sparkling those mid-century tiles. Off came my shoes and my socks. Out came the paper towels and a big bottle of Sparkle. Oh, I was good. I was very good, squirting each and every square of her gray tiled bathroom walls, especially those around the tub. Aunt Christina would pop her head in and say how great they looked.  Eventually I would stagger out, high as a kite on self-esteem and Sparkle fumes, a few shiny quarters in my palm – and a life-long affinity for Sparkle Glass Cleaner.

I thought of my aunt as I erased fingers smudges on glass – and she sparkled like a star in my heart and mind.


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Some nights are so perfectly sweet that the only music one needs is the melodious flow of a meandering creek and a simple supper at waters’ edge.

DSCN5469So it was on Friday night. We were perched on director’s chairs at a coveted outcropping of rock near the old gristmill at Fullersburg Woods.  We dined al fresco on a simple dinner of turkey, brie and apple sandwiches, rounded out with a fresh fruit salad.

Two children frolicked around us, under the watchful eyes of their grandparents, as they climbed the rocks and fallen logs.

A wedding party was gathered behind us, the bride in a sari and crown of the most brilliant of colors, mimicking the seasonal jewelweed that bloomed along the forest path, her attendant standing nearby in a striking red gown.

As we ate, under the canopy of ancient maples and oaks, a Black Crowned Night Heron emerged from the stream below. He posed for a time on a branch at the waterfall, perhaps DSCN5463looking for a meal of his own before swooping majestically across the creek to a podium he claimed his own.

A simple supper.

The setting sun.

A perfectly sweet night all our own.





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William Glackens The Soda Fountain1-2-324-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0b1n0-a_349The musical tunes of an ice cream truck coming down the street still gives me the urge to run inside for pocket change and the promise of a Good Humor Bar. Long lines at Dairy Queen bring back fond memories of my dad and our ice cream summer; the year he took us out every Saturday night, to a different place each week, for ice cream. The first of the Saturdays was my introduction to a chocolate dipped ice cream cone.

The other day, running errands and dosed with decongestants and antibiotics, I stopped at the local MacDonald’s for something to quench my thirst. A carbonated soda. I know. I know. They aren’t good for me, but, at $1, any size, a diet Coke was ordered at the drive-up window. Soda in hand, I pulled into a parking space to unleash the papered straw. As I backed out of the space, I glanced at the cherry red economy car parked next to me. The window was rolled down and there, inside, sat two very intense girls, neither a day younger than 80. Their perfectly coifed hair was as white as the ice cream cones they were eagerly licking. These were women on a mission. I watched them engaged in what looked like pure girlish bliss, not a word between them for all I could tell, as they tackled their 49 cent cones, and I’ll just bet they had a pact not to tell a soul what they had been up do.

I wonder what it is about ice cream that brings out the child in us?

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The garden gods DID smile down upon us, and the day dawned with promise. An overcast sky allowed homeowners to open their gates and vendors to unload their wares without theDSCN5318 heat of the sun beating down. Later, the clouds lifted, the sun came out, the humidity dropped and it was a most excellent day for a garden walk.

The ladies of the club, the Elmhurst Garden Club that is, and their sons, daughters, husbands, nephews and friends arrived to help, bring coffee, set up welcoming ticket tables at the featured gardens  (and decorate them with flowers and hard candy). Area organizations volunteer at these entry tables. Scholarship winners were available in Wilder Mansion where members were available and where many of members brought floral arrangements they crafted for sale. Isn’t it amazing how a vase of flowers can bring a smile to one’s face?

All-in-all, it was a delightful affair – our Afternoon in the Garden. Please, come with me, through the garden gate, and see a bit of what I saw along the way – and please accept my gratitude for all your well wishes. :)



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