Archive for the ‘Sayings & Addages’ Category

DSCN4684In the cool, crispness of  our sunny Sunday morning, I wandered out to the deck to check the newly arisen morning glory vines on their way up the path of strings laid out to train them into some sort of vine-like order. Tea cup in hand, I headed down the steps to a seat in the arbor.

An American goldfinch arrived on the rim of the bird bath, his bright yellow and black body alit for a moment, then flitted skittishly away at his awareness of my presence.

The wren, ah, they sang soprano and darted back and forth as wren are wont to do.

A male cardinal sat on a humble branch, in his royal red plumage, giving what sounded like a sermon.

A young buck, his antlers a mere suggestion, played shadow tag among the rays of sunshine in the trees further back.

In my arbor pew, I sipped my tea, steam drifting upward in the cool morning air, while the prairie grasses bowed with the reverence of prayer.

I finished my tea, whispered amen, and arose from my arbor pew. I walked away from this outdoor chapel and into the house, where I got ready for church, another sermon, and other distinctive voices in the choir of life.

It is good for the soul to begin one’s day on a wing and a prayer.



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With childish, glee, I stopped the car and called Tom. He answered with “the mallards are back”, remembering seeing them earlier in the day and sensing just how long it took me to go down the drive and up the road, where I first saw them.

Actually, they were in the street. The pond, a messy bit of swamp and cattails and grasses, had melted its frozen self upon the road, where the mister and missus were happily courting, oblivious to the me and my auto machine as I braked, grateful that I saw them cavorting about in a fowlish way on the Cutoff.

We missed the Mallard family last year. There simply wasn’t enough water to paddle in. This year; well, this year the snow melt has provided a waterfowl haven. As I slowly drove away, muttering quack, quack, quack, I remembered a little ditty for McDonald’s that aired on television here in the 1980’s. It was a catchy little jingle about Nippersinkers and rain and waddling.

We eventually discovered there really was a Lake Nippersink, just over the Illinois/Wisconsin border. A golf resort/family vacation spot with little cabins, a big lodge for eating, and all manner of activities for young and not-so-young alike. Jennifer took arts and crafts lessons and was in a talent show; something with wishy washy washing machines. Katy, about three at the time, opted to take water aerobics with me. Tom took them canoeing, I went antiquing and we all ate and ate and ate . . .

. . . and we all sang the Nippersink song. Do any of you remember it? Did you ever go to summer camp?

We are Nippersinkers. We’re in luck. If it rains all week, just pretend you’re a duck.  Quack, quack, waddle, waddle!




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There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions.  

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

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DSCN3259It has been raining here on the Cutoff. Big, noisy storms full of thunderous booms and skies streaked with lightning. Black clouds roiling to the east and sunshine in the west and the rush of rain on the rooftop. Quite a bit of daytime drama.


In between cloud bursts, I wandered out to the mailbox, then walked around as I do most days to see what was happening in the back garden, where I found the Japanese anemone peaking through the slats in the lattice. They are such a stark white of blossoms at this time of year. A nice intermission from the storms, reminding me, again, that every cloud has a silver lining.

What’s blooming around your neck of the woods?



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Having just read Belle, Book, and Candle’s thoughtful writing on commonplace books, and a bit too busy right now to write a new post myself. I am reposting my own post on commonplace, which I wrote several years ago, in hopes that you will not only take the time to read Belle, but that you will consider keeping a commonplace book yourself – or tell us about the one you do have. Belle, Book, and Candle’s post can be found here. Thank you, Belle, for the inspiration I needed today.  Penny

Commonplace. The recording of words and ideas in a common place. It was started many hundreds of years ago and became known as commonplacein the 1600′s. It is used to this day by writers, poets, speechwriters and songwriters – even scrap bookers. I started thinking about the practice of gathering ideas in a commonplace book as I was reading a blog about books.

Do you have any idea how many blogs there are just about books? There are blogs about mysteries and children’s literature and authors. There are Pearl Buck and Jane Austen blogs. There are blogs about decorating with books and making books, and, of course, many authors these days have their own blogs.

They are all commonplace.

I have kept card files on books I’ve read since my first Kiddie Lit class. I no longer include such things as publisher and copyright date, but, I do write a brief synopsis of the book, what it was about, the month and year I read it and sometimes, when I’m really full of myself, I rate it. ★★★★★ Commonplace.

I also have kept a book with quotes. If I hear something notable or read something, I will write it down and cite the author. Sometimes, I will cut a quote out of a magazine or on a greeting card and paste it onto a page of my quote book.  Commonplace.

Emerson and Thoreau, Jefferson and Whitman, Hardy and Twain all kept such personal books. Many even learned the practice of commonplacing at Oxford or Harvard – or at their tutor’s direction.

My mother kept scrapbooks of pictures and memorabilia  that I enjoy today and my father kept succinct books that recorded good fishing spots and articles.

dscn6694I first heard such a collection of phrases mentioned as a commonplace in “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Tudor was, among many things, a crafter of dolls. Her dolls lived in intricate, homemade doll houses, so famed that they were attracted to the folks at the Smithsonian and displayed there. Her dolls, clothed and appointed with furniture evoking the 1800′s, had their own commonplace book with tiny writing on the pages.

I love the idea of a commonplace book and was intrigued by the realization that I have kept such books not knowing their origins for much of my adult life. Quite exciting for something so common to me.

Do you practice commonplacing?

Do you keep a journal, special notebook, scrapbook, or log?

The image is from “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Photography by Richard W. Brown.

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Mid-century. That’s what it is being called; that warp in time so many of us, now of a certain age, grew up in. It was as magical and idyllic as it was frightening and confusing and many of us, we baby boomers, had a playmate of sorts that we grew up with. The television. Big cabinets with little screens, three or four channels in shades of gray that went off the air at midnight, when the pictures would start to fill with snow and the national anthem would play, signing off for the night. When I was old enough to stay up that late, I always stood, in my pajamas, at sign off time.

We of the mid-century club watched Romper Room and Howdy Doody, Bonanza and Dr. Kildare, along with those commercials with jingles that still linger, like the one I started singing the other day as I cut up a banana for Kezzie.

I’m Chiquita Banana and I’m here to say

Put some rubber in your blubber

And you’ll bounce away!

 “Mom” cried Katy, “I always thought that was the song until friends said it wasn’t”.

Well, it really wasn’t the jingle, but, we all sang it that way and it became real to us. We would put our hands in the air or on our hips and belt it out like Carmen Miranda as we walked across the narrow bridge over the Eisenhower Expressway, giggling at the thought of all that blubber bouncing on the trucks speeding below us on the Ike.

When bananas, just being introduced into our midwestern stores, were in season, it was a rare treat to have one, carefully peeling so as not to bruise. That first bite, each time, so rare and delicious, was like visiting a foreign land . . . and then someone would start blubbering and we’d try not to bounce.

I don’t really remember if I saw this commercial on television or at the movie theater, where the jingle aired and whose purpose was to teach us all how to eat a banana. My sister and cousins would pile into Aunt Christina’s black and white Plymouth. The car always reminded me of saddle shoes. We would spend a hot summer day or Saturday afternoon watching double features at the Lido Theater.

As Kezzie ate her banana, Ezra cuddled in his mommy’s arms, and Yia Yia washed some berries. Suddenly, mid-century music escaped out of that little device we call a cell phone, which is not only a phone but a typewriter and a tape recorder and a camera and the repository of all YouTube has to offer. There was Ms. Chiquita Banana, teaching us how to eat a banana.

Do you remember this jingle? Are there others you remember from your childhood? Did you or your friends do your own interpretations of commercials?

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A lot happens in a day. In a week. In a life. We go from babyhood to childhood, teenagers to adulthood, and then we become, what?

A croc-a-while?

How does one become a croc-a-while?

With burp cloths and snuggle time,

Storybooks and nursery rhymes.

Bubble baths and dinnertime.

When we played and snuggled and did all the things we are supposed to do when we are about half past two years old, Mommy and Daddy explained that when Kezzie woke up in the morning, Yia Yia would be gone. On her way home to Papa. We kissed and rubbed noses and hugged, and then, like Tigger, Kezzie bounced off to bed as Yia Yia said “see you later, alligator”, a pause, followed by “after while” in a little girl voice,


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Pin money.

I have never heard a man use this term I have known for as long as I can remember. It has always been the women who have said it.

Women of my family, working around the kitchen table, kneading dough for kourambedes, brushing butter on paper-thin sheets of phyllo, working grape leaves around ground meat, casually mentioning that Patty was taking in laundry for some extra pin money.

Ma, slipping a few dollars to her friend Laura for coming over on her day off to give us a perm, saying it was pin money.

My Aunt Christina said it to me the first time I baby sat as I walked past her kitchen window with 50 cents held like Midas’ gold in the palm of my hand. “Now you have some pin money, Penny” as she smiled down at me.

“Penny, put this away for something special. It’s your pin money” said my Aunt Babe after my first week of stocking shelves for Burney Brothers Bakery at a grocery store in the City.

I mentioned it the other day as I thought out loud about ways to make some extra money and was asked what pin money was. Pin money, to me, has always meant small change or a few dollars, squirreled away here and there for something extra. At 50¢ an hour, it netted me the $3 I needed to buy a mohair sweater, spun in sunshine yellow, from the Ben Franklin Five and Dime when I was twelve years old. Quarters stashed away in a little tin can allowed me to purchase a leather-bound book held together by a strong, gold cord. “A Treasure Chest” is filled with wonderful quotes. It followed me to college and marriage and children and sits on a shelf. It was a book recommended to me my high school creative writing teacher. The chord remains taut. I still have a change purse where coins are tossed and eventually go toward something special; a book, a present, a new scarf.

Pin money, it seems, claims many origins, most of them about the purchase of pins. One source calls it “a small allowance to buy clothes”, another for  the purchase of pins, which were once an extravagant expense. Pins were, and still are, used for dressmaking, though they were paid for dearly in the past. Centuries ago, men would leave “pynne money” to wives or daughters in their wills. Nineteenth and twentieth century women were given an allowance, pin money, for expenses and, perhaps if one was frugal, a pair of silk stockings.

Pin money.

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Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength.

 Corrie Ten Boom

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 It was the root beer, on tap,  that had me as wide-eyed and eager as an eight year old girl at a backyard graduation party recently. With a grin on his face and a foamy cup in his hand,  my Tom endeared himself anew as he handed me the best fresh drawn root beer I’ve had in decades.

I closed my eyes, smelled the distinct essence of licorice, and slowly drank in my childhood.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago mid-century, we didn’t have extra money for many vacations. Dinah Shore’s blowing of a kiss after singing “see the USA in your Chevrolet” was usually our only entrée to cross-country family adventures.

Our own backyard was our summertime retreat, especially on weekends when relatives and friends would come by for conversation and laughter, circling the driveway in dance as the record player sat in the open window of the kitchen, blaring the songs of the Old Country . . .

. . . and food. Always food. Pastries and cookies, coffeecakes and bowls laden with fruit of the season. Sometimes, there would be bricks of ice cream from Walgreens; squares of New York Cherry or Neapolitan, lined up like boats on a sea of plates, the spoons for oars.

The best treat of all would come home in gallon jugs from a screened in porch attached to a service garage on Maywood’s 5th Avenue. Strutzels root beer stand made the most heavenly root beer there ever was. My anticipation would begin when Ma pulled out the huge glass containers from under the kitchen sink. More often than not, we children would climb into our own Chevy, Penny and Dottie and Teddy and sometimes Louie, and ride along with Daddy to that orange screened in porch of root beer renown.

There was always a line at Strutzels; high school kids gathering on date night, a baseball team after the game, folks from the neighborhood. One could buy a glass of foamy root beer for five cents. There was also a schooner for just a bit more. A few tables were set up inside and out, but it was mostly lingering on the sidewalk along the street. Our jugs would be filled and I’d watch the foam rise to the top, licking my lips, wishing for hurry.

Off we would go, the glass jars with their handles safely positioned in PenDot’s interior; homeward bound as dusk thought of settling in.

Out came the ice cream scoop, the napkins, the spoons, the straws and the glasses. Slowly the scoop, dipped in water first, would carve out a mound of ice cream and be placed in a glass. Slowly the root beer would flow and then fizz and then foam as the ice cream floated about in the best volcanic eruption of summer. Layers of ice cream and foam and root beer. Layers of summertime all in a glass.

Brown cow, black cow, root beer float; whatever you call it, I call it heaven on a hot summer’s eve.

Image of Elsie, the Borden mascot, from texasarchive.org.

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