Archive for February, 2011

I missed the opening reception of an art exhibit my good friend Kathryn had several paintings in this past January. We have been trying to get to the Hinsdale Center for the Arts for several weeks since. Today we were finally able to meet up. I’m so glad I was able to see her paintings in such a fine setting in Katherine Legge Park and I am so very proud of her. Over the years of a long friendship, I have grown to appreciate watercolors largely through my gifted friend’s influence and exceptional work.

I’ve also been the recipient of several of Kathryn’s watercolors, one of which hangs in a special place here in the library/den where I am usually found working.

Rarely do Kathryn and I meet when food is not involved. Today was no different. Lunch at the Moon Dance Diner and then desert at Kirstin’s Bakery a few doors down made for a most enjoyable time to talk, laugh, and generally solve the world’s problems.

Not a bad way to spend the last day of February.

Our world was covered in millions and millions of tiny droplets of ice this morning as we met up. They were so beautiful dripping in frozen disbelief all around the park and up the walk to the art center.

Thank you, Kathryn, for all the beauty your paintings bring.



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We were at an antique fair at the beautiful Emmanuel Episcopal Church, in La Grange. An annual event on a tree-lined street adorned with turn-of-the-century Victorians and American Four Square houses, many wearing welcoming wrap-around-porches, we just discovered the event last year. My dear friend called me early last week to see if I wanted to meet her there  on Saturday. Indeed, I did!

Run for 55 years by the ladies of the church, the sale was at once elegant and approachable, with just enough antique vendors to have a great variety, and not too many to be hard to rummage around.

We laughed and we teased each other with “I think you need to buy this” or “Don’t you need another one of that” and took our time, respected each other’s appreciation of differing items, stopped here and there to chat with merchants and other attendees, and we had a most delicious lunch.

The church is a magnificent Victorian Gothic structure. Built in 1926. The church was established in the mid-1800’s. Its second building, completed in 1883, the year of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, burned in 1924. This long, leaded glass passageway in the photo is from the church to the meeting rooms and classroom areas. It was so inviting in the gloom of the snow, still falling. I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.

Our lunch was a $10 purchase and bought us a prix fix meal, on porcelain plates and silverware, of chicken rice soup, a salad, and a ham and cheese croissant followed by desert of coconut lime cake, served by teens from the church with the most gracious of manners. This wasn’t a catered cuisine from the latest fashionable food vendor. It was prepared and served by the women’s auxiliary and was delectable! I bought a beautiful cut-work tea cloth – for $12.  Not a bad day!

About half way through our adventure, we were in small room where there was a lone dealer with beautiful jewelry, purses, china. The dealer was such a pleasant woman, who professed to be 6’2″. She had long, flowing grey hair and the bearing of aristocracy – with a hearty sense of humor. Someone asked about the provenance of a very large portrait, which was especially noticeable in the tiny room, wondering at the prim and proper woman, seated in a chair, winged eyeglasses fashionable for the era and a pin curl “do”. The painting, an oil, was dated 1953.

I didn’t quite hear the first comment. I heard the vendor say ” . . . but she really isn’t. Look at the cigarette resting in the astray”.

Oh, the conversation that followed. A room full of women like a gaggle of geese with everyone having an opinion on the identity of the matron in question. She was married to a lawyer, a judge, a politician.  She was an educator of higher learning, thwarted by her male peers. A defiant spinster. No, a missionary who had taken up smoking in the Congo. The real Bess Truman. The bishop’s wife, trying to hide the cigarette. Oh, the stories we started to weave and the more we wove, the sillier we got, with this unknown picture – a prompt in our impromptu creative stories class at the 55th Annual Antique Show!

Don’t you just love the people you meet at church antique shows, bazaars, and sales?

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Still snow

The clouds were a warning, reminding us that it was still winter.

There is a change in the air, however. A warming in the winds rolling through and a friskiness to the wildlife that are out and about here on the Cutoff.

Turning into our driveway late Friday afternoon, I noticed that a committee of deer was hovering just at the edge of our property in front of the house. One lifted his head and the motion was princely. It was one of the bucks with his crown still in tact. I did what any modern-day woman would do. I stopped, sat quietly in the car, grabbed my cell phone, and called Tom, who was in the barn working. “Honey, one of the bucks is in the side yard”. We have binoculars in both the house and the office on the second floor of the barn. Doesn’t everyone? I could hear him scurrying from his vantage point above the trees to see what he could see.

As I slowly inched the car to the back, the yard opening up to view, I saw what looked like the entire herd. What a sight to behold! Two, three, four doe, prancing, leaping, circling and bowing, running, their breath hovering in the crisp winter air, their white tails flagging, either  warning others of danger or spreading the word that the prince was close by. I wish you could have seen them all. The doe who stood under the bluebird house, head looking in, curious. The dance of the forest as several took turns, running round and round in circles while others played tag, and the two deer, probably males without their racks, who reared up on hind legs, sparring with each other.

Then he appeared, having taken his time wandering over from the front. All but this one fled to the next yard, where we could see them, prancing, leaping, circling and bowing. I wish I could have gotten a good photo of him, this prince of the forest – an eight pointer at least.

Today dawned crisp and white. Those storm clouds living up to their warning. Though I am tiring of winter, this long winter that has broken records for snowfall. I am ready for change – for the promise of spring.

Still, there is beauty to new fallen snow that is a wondrous sight.

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What better way to prepare for a predicted snowstorm than to check out the larders for provisions, run errands, return library

Logo from Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, IL http://www.centuriesandsleuths.com/

books (and check out a few more), fill up the car with gas, go to the bank . . . you know the drill. Wherever you live, there are sometimes seasonal weather conditions that you have to prepare for.

With a new batch of library books, and some audio books as well, I headed to the doctor’s office in Elmwood Park. It’s not really that far, but, all routes are heavily trafficked, and just about any of them requires crossing railroad tracks, which inevitably means being stopped by freight trains. As I was driving, I realized I had veered too far east. That little misstep provided me with a great opportunity to stop in Forest Park.

Forest Park is a western suburb of Chicago that borders the windy city and has made a come back from despair in recent years. It’s main street, Madison, is now alive with a wide variety of eating establishment, a bevy of Irish pubs, gift and antique shops, cooking and knitting shops with schools, and Todd and Holland Tea Shop. Since it was a cold and blustery day, not that I needed an excuse, I decided to stop at this pleasant shop, where I knew several teas would be ready for testing as I browsed.

Nourished with tea, I wandered, a bit further down Madison to a small, intriguing bookshop, specializing in “histories and mysteries”. These are the only genre they sell. I don’t get to Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore as often as I would like, but, each time I do is a thrill.

A compact shop, it is lined with oak bookshelves. Upon entering, you step onto a Bruce plaid rug. A Holmesian cape and hats fit for the noted detective and his assistant, Watson, hang, like clues, from a clothes tree. Among the well-displayed rows of books are a church pew, a rocker and a few Windsor chairs for sitting a spell. It is a cozy, charming, atmospheric bookstore filled with books specifically about history and mysteries. Most books are new, but, there are some smaller table-sized shelves of used books, nothing more than $7, where I picked up two wonderful Agatha Christie reference guides. In the back is a banquet table, piled with short stacks of books bound with cords, each a stack of assorted, gently used mysteries and histories selling for $5 per stack. There are also tempting bundles of Ellery Queen mystery magazines.

The proprietor is a charming chap, eager to help and courteous enough to just let one browse. Making my purchases, which included Death a Hull House by Frances McNamara, a local writer and librarian at the University of Chicago, he slipped the usual establishment type bookmarks and an itinerary of store events into my bag. I couldn’t believe the extent of the activities sponsored at Centuries and Sleuths; a G.K. Chesterton Society, a mystery discussion group as well as a history discussion group and an author discussion group, not to mention the many book signings and lectures.

Sure did make my trip to the doctor less daunting!

I don’t seem to have any more luck with my book diet as my caloric one!

Are there any specialty bookshops you like to visit?


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I don’t know if it is because this is her birthday month, or because I am a grandmother myself now. Maybe it is this hankering I’ve had to crochet something. Whatever has precipitated my longing, I have been thinking a great deal about my paternal grandmother lately. She’s in my dreams and seems to be sitting on my shoulder, guiding me these days.

I see her when I look at my hands.

I have my Yia Yia’s hands. She had small hands and so do I. Like Jo’s hair, which sister Meg cries is her one true beauty in Little Women when Jo sells it,, my one true beauty may just well by my hands. They are older now and showing their wear and tear, but, they have served me well – and I can still wear a pair of children’s gloves!

I love to take pictures of hands, especially of this little darling, just learning to pick up bits of cereal to put into her mouth. I love young hands and old hands and all hands in between. They tell a lot about a person, don’t you think?

When I was in high school and on the student newspaper, I had the opportunity to meet the actress Carol Lawrence. Besides being married to the handsome Robert Goulet, whom all young girls at the time pined for, she was a singer and dancer and star in her own right – and a graduate of my high school. I remember the sponsor of the newspaper remarking that Miss Lawrence was so talented, and she was a hard worker as well, just look at her hands! I did, of course, and they were the hands of someone not afraid to use them. It is funny what things we notice in life and what things stay with us.

My grandmother did beautiful work when she crocheted. My sister has an intricate doily that Yia Yia made, long before we were born. It is long and made with ecru thread and spells out our family surname. My sister displays it and I admire it when I see it, glad that it is in a good home. I wonder however Yia Yia came to craft it. She couldn’t read or write, yet, somehow must have followed a pattern to create such lasting beauty.

There is among the family lore, told around the dinner table, passed around like dishes laden with dolmades or spanakopita or pastichio, a story of how our Yia Yia crocheted. It seems our cousin Mary Jane, while still very young, did or said something untoward about her mother. My grandmother heard it and quickly retorted, in her broken English and strong sense of rightfulness,

“Mary Jane, you don’t crochet your mother!”.

Of course, she meant appreciate, but, the message got across just the same.

Do you crochet  or knit?

More importantly, do you crochet your mother?

What do your hands say about you?

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Driving home at dusk after a busy day, filled with meetings and weighty personal decisions and peppered with interesting conversations, I kept company with the early evening news on the car radio. The snow had stopped falling after not much ado, but, the pavement was wet and messy, the wipers constantly moving to clear the windows. A small annoyance, indeed, compared to the lives lost and the people injured and homeless after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, the chaos in Libya, or the hundreds of other places today where natural or human disaster has rained down on civilization.

As I stopped for a long freight train to roll past, I found myself thinking, humbled as my thoughts went upward in prayer for so many today.

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A touch of sunshine

Gloomy, grey skies hovered overhead all day and sleet made travel difficult for a time. Snow is predicted tonight. It is still winter in the midwest. I’m glad I took this picture last week when the sun did stop by and shone upon this rose, compliments of White Castle. I didn’t make it this year for our group Valentine’s Day celebration. I was tending to our little granddaughter, but, our friends went and then stopped over for desert and brought me this one. Kezzie entertained us and we had warm brownies with vanilla ice cream on top. All-in-all, it was pretty special.

I took the picture the following morning and, though the rose is now faded and spent, the picture is not and brings me happy thoughts of good friends, pleasant times, and a touch of sunshine on a cloudy day.

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