Archive for the ‘Family and friends’ Category


Went to a garden party 
to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories 
and play our songs again . . . Ricky Nelson

A morning meeting followed by flowers and food and friends old and new –  it was a perfect panacea for mid-March madness and the anticipation of spring!
Each year, round-about now, the District II area garden clubs, of which my club belongs, has its annual meeting.
It is, as these events tend to be, a bit of work and flurry of preparation for those in charge, a distance to travel for many of the member clubs, and an event that often competes with other events such as St. Patrick’s Day, Lent, the Chicago Flower and Garden show, spring break and more.
Gardeners are sturdy folks, however, and they brave whatever March weather may bring, squeeze in time in their own busy schedules, bring baskets of goods to raffle off, and get all “gussied” up. As the banquet room slowly fills up, it is akin to a glorious garden slowly opening up and then in bloom.
The tables were adorned with vases of tulips. There were bundled in ribbons and attendees were able to take some home.
The food was quite good and I won’t mention the chocolate mousse. I managed to lick the parfait glass clean.
Gaily wrapped and adorned raffle baskets were distributed to winning ticket holders. I love these events which bring out the child is us all – especially when we win!
 The highlight of this meeting is the program. This year we were treated to a floral presentation – Flowers by Christine. I will let Christine’s exquisite arrangements speak for themselves. Lucky were the ladies who were able to take one of them home.
This was a delightful event and a precursor to Spring which, by the way, officially arrives today here in the Northern Hemisphere!



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When not in the kitchen baking with Kezzie, or stuck in the computer’s photo booth with this young man, we have been off on mini-adventures to familiar places with our Up North family who came for a visit.

Ezra has grown so much since we last saw him. He amazes me with his burgeoning intellect, eagerness and inquisitiveness. His attention to detail astounds me as he carefully builds tracks for his Thomas engines and shows signs of reading readiness. He’s a charmer, for certain, and knows he “has me” with just a pleading look in his sky blue eyes. Life is full speed ahead with Ezra.

I remain smitten.

We visited the Morton Arboretum’s children’s garden on a sunny but brisk March afternoon.  Kez & Ez explored the many features, including this rope challenge. I find it quite wonderful that places like the Arboretum have developed areas of their acreage for youngsters. Child-friendly, fun environments that bring children out into nature, developing respect for trees, flowers, animals, and all that our good earth provides.

Our adorable tree hugger,  this bundle of energy brings so much joy to our lives.


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. . . a Lenten Dump Cake.

That all American Girl, Kit, came to visit this week. She brought with her my “cook fantastic”,  Keziah. Actually, Keziah came and brought her doll, Kit with, but, you already figured that out.

Kez and Kit have matching aprons, crafted by a woman who turns old shirts and blouses into aprons which are as adorable as they are practical. Kezzie packed away both her apron and Kit’s. She knows her Yia Yia well and anticipated a few baking opportunities, one of which presented itself on the first morning here.

Actually, I was anxiously awaiting their arrival with the ingredients already purchased.

Earlier in the week, I saw a video with my cousin Pam demonstrating how to make a Lenten Dump Cake, which looked quite delicious. It was also something I could easily make with my granddaughter, Keziah. With most of the ingredients already in the house, the only thing I needed was a can of cherries and a can of pineapple tidbits. I managed to forget the pineapple on three separate grocery runs. Do you ever do that?

So it was, bright and early on the first morning we were together since Thanksgiving that Kezzie, Kit and Yia Yia began their baking marathon, spreading canned cherries into a large pan, followed by pineapple, dry cake mix, nuts, etc. with several liberal pinches of giggles and grins. It is such tasty fun cooking with Kezzie and it was particularly nice to have Kit in the kitchen to help.

Do you have a favorite dump cake you like to make?

Pam, if you read this, thank you for the inspiration and please know the this was a fun, and quite delicious,  cake to make my granddaughter.






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It was a long ago night in the deep end of winter. February. The pay phone was in the stairwell on the 6th floor of Hamilton Hall. I made a collect call home. It was the last time I heard the full volume of my father’s voice. It was raspy. “A bad cold.” he said. “Laryngitis. Don’t worry, just do your studies. We’ll see you at spring break.”

It was the last real conversation I had with my dad and the last time I heard the voice that had guided me through my formative years.

Spring break was early in April that year. My week home was spent with family, in the hospital, visiting Daddy. His voice by then was much altered as his vocal chords collapsed from a particularly virulent form of cancer that had invaded his body. He was dead less than two weeks later.

It was 1969.

It was deemed that Penny would get Pete’s books and Dottie would get Pete’s records. I was the reader, she was the dancer. Both were boxed and stored until Tom and I bought our first house. My Aunt Christina, who had custody of the boxed books and records, said it was time for me to store them. We had a house with a basement, so custody came to us. They were stored deep in the bowels of our basement. They did not see the light of day until 12 years ago. Before we moved, I called Dottie and asked her to take the records and we moved the books here.

On a recent February day, my brother-in-law, Rick, came for a visit. He arrived laden with a coffeecake (that deserves a blog of its own), a box of some of Dottie’s treasures he thought I might like (and I do) and a new-fangled record player that imports old 78’s, 33’s, 45’s and whatever other digits. The record player basically converts old vinyl to digital. It took the three of us -Tom, Rick, and Penny – a fair bit of time (okay, a few hours) to figure it out, which we finally did.

Among the records were several small, military issued recordings. I knew they existed but had not heard them clearly. Rick kindly gave them to me after Dottie passed away. We were unable to play them on our turntable (yes, we still have one). Rick’s gift of the portable player made it possible for us to listen to a few short recordings, made in Hollywood,  when my father was on leave while stationed in San Diego during WWII.

There we sat, in our kitchen, with dusk settling in, listening as the recordings were transferred to my laptop. An official sounding military woman identified herself, the date and the location of the recording. Then, there he was, a young sailor in the US Navy, sending greetings home to Violet and wishing his mother a Happy Mother’s Day. It was recorded more than 70 years ago on May 6, 1944!

 I stood, in awe, on another February date, once again hearing my beloved father’s voice – a voice I had not heard in 49 years.

We bristle at times over technology, but, I have no doubt that a young woman in 1944 was as appreciative to be a benefactor of the technology of her time as I am more than seven decades later.



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I opened them as they arrived, silently slitting the sealed envelopes with the swift glide of a butter knife, easing the card stock and folded notes out, reading the condolences offered and holding the givers close to my heart.

The cards kept coming, from near and from far, Hallmarks and American Greetings, local artists, prayer cards and postcards, encouragement and understanding. There were cards intricately crafted by the sender and personal letters, remembrances and poetry, words from songs and reminders of the past.

They waited for me. For over a month, they waited, each one in turn holding up the most recent arrival, a pillar of paper strength to soothe my soul.

They waited until one fine day, while the sun streamed through the dining room window. The sun warmed the house within and belied the frigid temperatures without. On that fine day, I carried the cards to the table, brewed a cup of English breakfast tea, and sweetened it with the last of my local honey. I gathered my many sad thoughts that crept in as sure as the dust motes visible in the illuminated slant of the sun’s rays, and I set to work.

As I sipped my tea, I savored each message, grateful for family and friends, and I remained in the moment, still and silent, until my eyes caught sight of a box that rested just beyond the door into the living room. The box had been a gift some years ago from my dear friend Sharon, who knows how much I like boxes. This box sat on a small side table and held a few random items. I looked and it beckoned “come pick me up”,  which I did. I lifted the lid, appreciated its charm, and realized that THIS was the perfect container to put the sweet sentiments that I have received since my sister’s passing.

I took my time as I nestled each piece of correspondence into the box, cognizant of the time and attention each sender took in choosing the card, the words, even the postage stamps. I felt a small sense of accomplishment over such a simple task while Angels’ rays continued to dance about in the old, worn dining room where I found  safe harbor at just the right moment on one fine day.

I am doing fine, dear readers. I will take my time with this thing called grief, with tears, of course, but, with laughter as well. I want you to all know that there is one more item that I will put into my box – you. Your comments have meant a great deal to me. I come back to them, read them anew, gather strength from them. I want you to know that I will be printing them out and placing them along with the cards and letters already inside the box and there they will remain with my most sincere gratitude.


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All Things Being Equal

It was on a recent afternoon, after a snowfall, amid single digit temperatures that I ventured off-road and entered the cemetery where my sister was recently laid to rest. It is a peaceful cemetery with curving lanes and stately trees, but, like most cemeteries in northerly climates, locating a gravesite can be a bit of challenge in snow.

As I rounded a bend in the road, the crunch of my tires moaned softly as wisps of snow occasionally wept upon the windshield.

I wended my way past the historic windmill and the new mausoleum then navigated the car a short distance on my slow, snowy pilgrimage. I located the section marker and followed another gentle curve.

I looked for a bench that I knew to be close to the grave, passed one – not the one I was looking for – then suddenly a hawk swooped past my windshield, the span of his wings nearly four feet wide. With all of his majestic splendor, he dipped down, right over Dottie’s grave, issuing a cry, as if to say “here she is” then rose again to claim a perch high atop a neighboring tree.

The hawk, a red-tail, still and respectful, watched over me as I had a brief chat with my sister. As I returned to the car, he circled around then disappeared as I rounded yet another bend in the road, grateful for the soft solace of nature, a balm for my soul.

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At Journey’s End


So it was, on the day after Christmas, just shy of sunset, as the clock chimed four that my sister closed her eyes for the very last time and breathed her last breath.  Dottie’s journey was over and she was home at last with a chorus of angels who had been beckoning her to come.

For as long as I can remember, Dottie and I have been part of a duet, coined “PenDot” by our cousin Ted. As different, and as alike, as two sisters can be, we shared, above all else, a love of family and a treasure trove of stories and reminisces which we told and retold, not only with each other, but, with family and friends who helped care for her and who visited her this past year. I cannot speak highly enough or be more grateful for the family, friends and hospice nurses who helped care for Dottie, and especially of her husband, Rick.

A friend remarked that when we lose our siblings we lose our past. Her words hit home with me. It is that shared past that is silenced. There is now no one left who can call and say “I’m making Ma’s meatloaf” and leave me tasting the words, nor is there that one sister who can ask if I remember the seventh verse in the Our Father – in Greek – and thus begin an hour- long discussion of learning it in Greek school when we were very young girls.

My heart is heavy and my soul so sad, even as I count among my blessings the privilege of helping to care for Dottie during her battle with pancreatic cancer and of being present as she lifted her eyes toward the heavenly angels calling her home.

A very special thank you to my Katy, who made the special montage of PenDot for me – a sweet gift to ease my sorrow.



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