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. . .  in the 1844 presidential campaign with the lithographic printing process.

Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster 1844-2012*

On a cloudy, cold Saturday at the end of March, snow flurries and gray skies dampening one’s spirit, I opted to head over to a small but significant history museum hidden in plain sight. I checked with the Antler Man to see if he wanted to meet me there. He did.

The Elmhurst History Museum sits in the historic Glos Mansion, just steps from the train station and the downtown business district of Elmhurst.

 

We parked and walked through the portico, climbed the steep steps to heavy, wooden doors and were greeted by a museum volunteer who welcomed us, handed us a brochure, and told us to enjoy the exhibit and museum, which we promptly and enthusiastically did.

This is an extraordinary exhibit with 50 outstanding reproductions of presidential campaign posters spanning two centuries, and reflecting the politics, printing and artistic techniques of their times. There is also a large collection of campaign buttons on display – and a voting booth in which to vote for certain posters with plastic chips.

I was especially excited as I finally got into the Oval Office.

These campaign posters reflected the decades they represented, as well as the candidates and campaigns, from all political parties, as well as artists and techniques of their eras. Jamie Wyeth to Alexander Calder and Ron English are among famous artists represented, but, there are “insiders and outsiders” represented as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in the Chicago area, or are visiting, I highly recommend this exhibit. If not, this is a traveling exhibit which might be coming to a museum near you, which brings me to your own hometown or area. There are so many small museums, often in historical homes or buildings, established by local citizens and societies who have endeavored to save their town’s history, stopped bulldozers, steadfastly raised funds and lobbied locally elected officials. Whether a one room schoolhouse, a gristmill, a windmill, a factory or a farmhouse, these museums are treasure troves of local history and reflections of who we were and are.

Do you have a small but significant exhibit near you?

 

* title of exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum, March 29 to April 28, 2019

http://www.elmhursthistory.org/315/Exhibits

 

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The morning was bright and clear with dashes of sunshine stroking my life. Decorations were scattered about our rambling abode; angels rested on high, books stacked within reach, and there were even a few batches of cookies stored in decorative tins. A rare December day with no meetings on the calendar, a tank full of gas and a list of wonders that I wanted to see, so, off I went with a purpose in mind.

My first stop was to see an exhibit about one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life,  at the Elmhurst History Museum. Alas and alack, I arrived to discover it would not open for several more hours, so . . . I promptly reversed my plans and headed, first, to the Wilder Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is an oasis of growth and warmth, history and soulful nourishment nestled into an award-winning park in the western suburbs.

Opening the door, a couple I have known were exiting, two charming grandsons toddling out with them. These two youngsters informed me that there were “fishes” and “elves” inside.

Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, elves here and there and everywhere in the conservatory, along with this poinsettia tree and a cheerful display of the plants all around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In need of a “cuppa” of something warm and a bit of bite to eat, I headed to the north end of town and Brewpoint Coffee and Roastery where I had a tasty blueberry scone and a hot mocha (called Sacagawea).

As luck would have it, on a day filled with good luck, a perfect parking spot awaited me smack dab in the center of town. Like many suburbs around Chicago, parking is at a premium, so I quickly signaled my intent to park, claiming my curbside cradle. My first stop was The Pink Elephant, a well stocked charity shop. I chatted for quite sometime with a woman I did not know as we good-naturedly tried to talk each other into buying something we did not need. Do you ever do that? As a result, this caroler sang her way into my arms and followed me home.

I stopped at a new store, Bread and Butter, where I had purchased a darling pair of earrings a few weeks earlier. It is such a cute shop and the owner, a enterprising young woman, is as delightful as her products. I left with these cute stocking caps meant for bottles that Rudolf absconded with to keep his antlers warm.

My final stop, which was my first on what became a delightful circuitous route, was a tour of the exhibit at the Elmhurst History MuseumIt’s a Wonderful Life. Posters and “stills” from the movie lined the museum’s wall with informative narratives describing scenes, props, biographical information and other tidbits of knowledge about a beloved movie.

Included in this exhibition are photos and information about Elmhurst’s own Christmas traditions and photos of the city around the time depicted in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I did not take many photos, in part to maintain the integrity of the exhibition, and in part to lure you into the museum if you live in the area or are visiting. It is truly worth the visit and is within a short walking distance of not only the conservatory, but, of the renowned Elmhurst Art Museum.

Here are two characters from the movie, the original Bert and Ernie, and another character you might recall, Toots, with her earrings dangling and her infamous red coat.

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“Gratitude can transform common days into
thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change
ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

 William Arthur Ward

I rolled over, checked the clock, and wished for a few more moments of sleep and a dozen or so more degrees in temperature.  At an unseasonably cold 17 degrees (F), I was signed up for a guided walk with a friend that I had not seen in quite a while. A nature enthusiast and photographer extraordinaire, I didn’t want to let Peggy down – nor myself – so, a mantra of “up and at ’em”  pushed me forward and into the frigid early November morn. After a cup of tea, an English muffin and then a shower, I layered warm clothes on: a hooded fleece jacket, my blue winter coat, and a red shawl to brace myself against the wind, and headed out to the Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Peggy greeted me as I got out of my car and we headed in to the mansion where other attendees had gathered. We  met our docent, signed in and chatted while waiting for others to arrive before hearing an overview of our morning’s walk with a focus on gratitude.

I can not say enough good things about our docent. She was knowledgable about the mansion, the property, and the history of the area, while having a calming aura about her, encouraging us to observe what was around us while being mindful of the beauty and sense of place. At several locations, taking from the indigenous people who once lived here, we had moments of instruction and then moments quiet solitude.

As we were guided through the grounds, we were encouraged to feel the pull of the land we stood on and to feel the encouragement of those who may have helped us or lifted us up in our lives. While this wasn’t the intent of my participation, I none-the-less felt the overwhelming sadness of this past year as well as the abiding appreciation of those who helped in the caring of my sister, Dottie, as she entered into the final stages of her journey with pancreatic cancer. There were many who lifted us up and in so many ways eased the load of caring for someone at end-stage cancer. Unintentional in my choice to participate in this walk, I was quite mindful of a cathartic elements this walk afforded me.


We spent some time around the chapel, used by the monks who inhabited the estate after Mr. Peabody suddenly passed away and the property was sold to them. A few walkers remembered the youthful legends of Peabody’s Tomb and the monks who lived there; teenaged adventures of the fearless and those who dared to trespass on the property. We walked around, admiring the chapel and the site, some of us writing thoughts down, others taking photos, talking or just being present in the moment.

 

We walked the restored prairie amid native grasses and plants. My shawl helped keep me warm, however, I may never get all of the seeds I brushed against off of it. I wondered if the owl found me to be a foolish human!

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The oak savanna helped shelter us from the wind and the rustle of leaves was a soothing sound. Soon, we arrived at Mayslake, which is manmade. It glistened in the sunlight and sparkled in its iciness.

 

One of the many gifts of this walk was the flocks of Sandhill cranes that gathered overhead. They were close enough for us to watch as they swooped and floated and joined together for their long migration south. I felt such gratitude for this sighting. These cranes are most often heard but are only seen as specks high up in the sky. The photo (below) does not do the migration justice, I am sorry to say. If you zoom in, you might be able to see the groups circling as they join together. It was only when I downloaded my photos that I noticed the hawk landing on the top of the tree.

Our docent encouraged us to keep a gratitude journal of small things and large that we have to be grateful for. She suggested that just writing a few words down each day is all we need to get started to trigger our memories. There is an action between writing something down that helps the brain remember. Hmmm . . . maybe that is why when I write down a grocery list then forget to bring it with, I do remember most things on the list.

Peggy and I warmed up a bit in the mansion, thanked the docent and decided to grab something warm to drink and lunch – and talk some more.

On my way home, I stopped at a newly opened home furnishings store. As I walked in, this journal caught my eye. I bought it and keep it near my bedside table, where I endeavor to write down words or phrases; things I am grateful for, starting with my very first entry.

 

https://www.dupageforest.org/places-to-go/forest-preserves/mayslake

For an interesting article of the history of Peabody and the tomb, here is an interesting article: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-history-cop/2015/08/the-chicago-legend-of-peabody-s-tomb-and-the-masochistic-monks-turns-93-today/

 

 

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Winter has settled in, with cold and snow and slush and mittens and with all the beauty and the bother that winter in the midwest brings. So it was that I finally took out my bright red coat to wear to the grocery store. I love red coats. This one fits me perfectly, has weathered many cold days, and is easy to find among all the blacks and blues of winter warmth.

As I buttoned up for my first fire-engine red warmth of the season, I remembered the last time I wore this coat, late in last winter’s season, and to the very same grocery store I was headed to.

On that blustery March day, after checking out, my shopping cart laden with food and flowers (which I can’t resist), I headed to my car, pushing the cart through the slush of winter. Suddenly, a voice called out “Hey, Toots, I like your coat!“. I looked around and realized it was the man who gathers the shopping cars to bring in. I will call him Chuck.

Chuck is a friendly chap who talks to everyone and never seems to be at a loss for words. He always talks to me, whether about the flowers in my cart, the sleek sports car that just pulled out of a space, how to make spare ribs (when he bags groceries) and just about anything else. Chuck is a hard worker, enthusiastically directs traffic while gathering carts and is a good soul. He always has something to tell  me, though this was the first time he called me “Toots“.

“Thank you. It is a warm coat and I can always find it” I answered, as he took my cart to add to his growing line-up. “I like it” Chuck repeated. Then, just as another shopper passed by, Chuck proclaimed, with all the gusto of a March wind, “Your coat reminds me of my red drawers! I like to wear them all the time, too!” 

I always enjoy random conversations, especially at the grocery store. Chuck meant his words as a compliment and I took them as such, as did the Antler Man who occasionally calls me Toots when he knows I’m headed off to Chuck’s store. I’m actually headed there now.  I wonder if Chuck will notice my glare resistant glasses (and I wonder if they will work). I hope he doesn’t mention my coat.

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What to do? When the clock is ticking, the rain pattering on the roof is more annoying than soothing and you have just remembered something that should have been done, but wasn’t. When sleep, that restful place you were just an hour past deeply into, is now what seems to be a lost cause, What do you do?

I took the book poised rather precariously atop my teetering TBR pile, descended the stairs to the kitchen and put the kettle on. In a cabinet where I keep my teas, I procured a sachet of Ahmad’s Decaffeinated Evening Tea. The tea was one of many “tea time” items in a raffle basket I recently won that had been filled with tea related items. This tea is quite tasty as well as calming. I was hoping it to be the perfect antidote for a restless night.

While the kettle heated, I threw a load of clothes into the washing machine and folded another before hearing that slow, rolling sound that commences just before water starts to boil. Cup and saucer ready, I turned off the flame just before the teakettle began to sing and set my teabag in the cup to steep. It is amazing how much can be accomplished while brewing a spot of tea!

I fired up my laptop as the tea steeped, checked my Facebook feed and discovered that my long-time blogging friend Kate had just posted a gem that fit my immediate circumstance; the obsolete word of the day!

A serendipitous moment for sure.

QUANKED

To be overpowered by fatigue is to be quanked!

Infused to perfection in a vintage, handleless lustreware cup, upon which I cupped my hands. I sipped my tea, listening to the soft sound of clothes tumbling about in the dryer. I read for a bit, then closed my eyes and drifted off into the second chapter of sleep.

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They looked so temptingly delicious; green and orange and red and ready! I couldn’t help myself, standing at the farm stand, looking at them. 

We had just finished the stuffed peppers; a meal and then leftovers. The second act of leftovers was even better than the first act. I felt like clapping, but, really, who claps for her own cooking?

I bought more peppers. They have been so firm and flavorful this year; I simply can’t resist them. Five, big bell peppers and a bag of the smaller, snack-sized ones, which are really quite delicious and make great snacks, followed me home. A few of the bell peppers went into a stir-fry, the rest were exiled to the refrigerator as they were beginning to soften. There they languished – until yesterday afternoon. A half-dozen or so of small, new potatoes, with dirt still hanging on, were sitting on the counter, along with some sweet onions and a bunch of freshly picked oregano from the herb pot on the deck.

I love cooking, following recipes, reading food blogs, magazines and books, but, I’ve been cooking for so long now that I often find myself just making meals up from what I know, what I’ve read, and what I like. Do you do this too?

I turned the oven on, washed and cut the potatoes, leaving the skins on, and threw them in a pot of water. While they rumbled around in the pot,  my afternoon cup of tea sat brewing. I sliced the peppers into strips, tossed some olive oil and seasonings on them and put them in a large, glass baking pan. I took the teabag out, dripped some local honey into the cup, sliced one of the onions, then quartered two Italian sausage links, which followed the drained and parboiled potatoes into the pan. Lid on, pot in oven, and teacup in hand, I settled down for a late afternoon read.

Our evening’s meal slowly roasted, the flavors melding together; a peasant’s meal that turned into a candle lit feast!

When Janice commented, on my recent stuffed pepper post that she and her mother would clean and freeze a bushel’s worth of peppers, slicing some, dicing others and leaving some whole, for the long winter ahead, I imagined the scene with a smile. I think I will buy some more peppers and do the same, and promise I will stop writing about peppers.

Do you freeze or can your summer’s bounty?

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I have her hands; the small hands of a girl. I can still wear children’s gloves. I tend to fold my hands in my lap as she did.

I have her hands – and I have her name. Penelope.  She never, ever called me Penny. I was always Πηνελόπη . Penelope.

While I have her hands, I do not resemble her, but, her hands, ah, her hands they are always with me. I feel them when I roll dough into balls for Greek powdered sugar cookies (kourambethes) and how I hold a knife when I cut vegetables for briami (vegetable stew). My meatballs are shaped as Yia Yia’s were – she always seems to be with me in my kitchen. I see her hands in my own when I water the flowers in my garden and when I pinch the dried seeds off of spent blooms. How I wish I had her zinnia seeds, which she carefully harvested and placed in different colored tissues, then tied them in little bundles with thread. Yia Yia could neither read nor write, but, she had her own filing system that allowed her to sow her seeds come spring in the colors she chose.

I wish I had the descendants of those seeds.

I am grateful to have this photo. It is one of only a few I have of the two of us. It is the last one taken before she passed away less than wo years later. She held her hands this way because they hurt. Yia Yia never complained from the arthritis she had. She would rub her hands to ease her pain or retreat quietly to her bedroom.

Dottie gave me this picture, about a year ago, before cancer debilitated her. It was among our mother’s things. Dottie thought I might like to have it, which I do, especially since I did not have this particular likeness of the two of us.

This photo was taken in the kitchen, on the day in June, 1968 that I graduated from Proviso East High School. The sleeves of my gown are too long. 50 years later, my sleeves are still almost always way too long. I keep hoping I will grow into them. I did, however, manage the near perfect “flip” under my cap.

Yia Yia looks sad. It is her aching hands that give her that look. I know she was pleased that afternoon. She was pleased that her namesake finished high school, and she was pleased that Πηνελόπη could read and write and would vote when she turned 21. Though she never indicated it to me, I am sure she was also a bit sad that summer’s end would find me traveling away to college. She never told me to stay, nor did she tell me to go.

Our television sat on the counter top , behind me, in the kitchen. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, my world turned round and round in our kitchen. It was from the chairs around the kitchen table that Yia Yia and I watched the many turbulent events of 1968 unfold. It was at that kitchen table that I would sit, after coming home from school, and read her the news of the day. I would stop and pick up a late afternoon newspaper on my way home from school – back-in-the-day when we still had late afternoon newspapers. “Πηνελόπη, sit, Eat. Read me the news” – and so, I did, my fingers dusted with  newsprint, the tragedies, turbulence, troubles of the times passing from my lips to my Yia Yia’s ears. Sometimes, we would discuss an event or she would ask me to re-read a few lines. Mostly –  I would read and she would listen and we would be together, sharing the moments, me at the beginning of my time, she so close to the end of hers.

I treasure this image. My own world, like the world around us, changed dramatically in less that a year that followed my high school graduation. This image of  us, however, the two Penelopes, is forever frozen in time.

 

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