Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category

IMG_3987Last Sunday, this young lass and I made granola.

We also made a mess. Papa thoughtfully cleaned up for us.

Kezzie is a “cook fantastic”.


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Where Kind Ladies Are

IMG_3484Hobos of the 1930’s had primitive symbols scribbled in perhaps charcoal, chalk or whatever else was available. They fashioned directions and information onto posts, boards and whatever else was at hand; a precursor, perhaps, of today’s text messaging. One of their signs was a simple cat, which meant “a kind lady is here”. These signs showed hobos houses where food would be shared by the kind lady there.

I first learned of hobo signs from a good friend who remembered her grandmother being known as a kind woman who would share food for those in need at her back door. My friend’s grandmother didn’t live in a rural area, but, rather in a suburban home. In the Great Depression, there were many in need, everywhere. Food was scarce and those who shared what they had were appreciated.

In a year of celebrating our garden club’s 90th anniversary, we are marking each meeting by revisiting a decade. Monday’s decade was the 1930’s. We used this hobo sign in the entryway of the Wilder Mansion, where our garden club holds their monthly meetings. Teri kindly drew it, copying a sign shown on a website. Teri is an incredible artist and was the one who made the fabulous dishes and pottery I shared from the Elmhurst Garden Walk. In this endeavor, however, we needed something very basic. This was drawn on a piece of cardboard, which was fitting, as was the Soup Line sign.

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Our hostesses for October made a fabulous buffet of the kinds of food that would have been eaten during the 1930’s. The overlying theme was a soup kitchen. The food was tasty and nourishing, as it always is at our club’s meeting.

As we put the final touches on Monday’s “spread”, the tables groaned with food, not to mention the row crock pots that were heating up five different kinds of soup. Have I ever told you what great cooks our members are? Did you know that Nestles’ Toll House cookies were introduced in the 30’s? SPAM? Fiestaware? Depression Glass ? All were from the 1930’s.

Wee were setting everything out, as women do, when we  noticed the strains of a guitar. We looked at each other. “Who arranged for that?” It was a wee bit loud, but, sounded good and helped hurry us about in finishing up our preparations, for hungry women were waiting, with their own bowls in hand. Some brought bowls, others brought tin cups, Mason jars, there was even a Mickey Mouse bowl, for rumor had it that Mickey was popular in the ’30s.

We asked and were asked who the musician was, and, dear reader, this is where art imitates life, or some such thing. The troubadour, a handsome young man, walked into the mansion and asked if he could play for awhile. The powers-that-be let him, and so he played, then, was offered some food, which he heartily ate before packing up his guitar and going on his way.

I think the sign was “spot on”, Monday. Kind ladies were, indeed, there.

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Would you like to take a walk with me today?

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It is walk through a private garden graciously opened for the Landscape Design Council of the Garden Clubs of Illinois.

Positioned on an elegant North Shore estate, the garden sits under the watchful eye of a historical Georgian mansion. I am not part of the Landscape Design Council, but, my membership in the GCI affords me, and all our members, these rare opportunities. I am glad a few of us were able to attend.


Fairlawn Estate is a testament to texture and structure in landscape. The several acres of property has few flowers. A potted plant here, a few roses there. It is the estate’s grand garden rooms that provide the pleasure of place where one can observe the purpose and need of good “bones” in a garden.

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I was amazed by the owner, who led the tour, and her honest respect for trees while she was still being rooted in the harsh nature of the midwest and the cruel reality of the predominance of the hard, unyielding clay underneath its soil. I was struck by her words of reality that tree roots do not have far to travel to reach clay, which eventually becomes impossible to penetrate. It is why we do not have trees that survive and thrive hundreds of years here. In spite of this reality, great care has been taken to judiciously prune and stake where need be on this elegant estate, which is brimming with structure, both living and modeled.

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It was not just the predominance of statues in this garden, but in how they were positioned and how they lent to the landscape design. I am not a landscape designer, nor a landscape architect. I am a simple gardener who has dirt under her nails and grass stains on her knees, but, a gardener no less and one who is most sincerely appreciative of the beauty of this magnificent estate,


as well as the sense of playfulness the owner.


I learned a great deal on this tour; about trees and structures and statues – and yet another way to garden.

I also learned quite a few things about myself. Our garden structures here on the Cutoff, aka garden art, will never be as grand or significant as the ones on this estate. Although I do ponder and place and move my “things” about to find just the right angle of the sun or the view from the arbor, the perspectives of our living room window, or the view from the road, I can be more purposeful in my placements.


and more aware of texture and the subtleties of tone and color.




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Mother’s Day.

One of those mellow days of love and recognition that seemed to flow slowly and deliberately into a forever memory.

After Sunday worship, we went to Jennifer and Jason’s for brunch. Egg strata, bacon, salad and Mimosa’s. As I sipped and savored, I remembered another Mother’s Day, more than three decades past, where a toddling Jennifer brought me breakfast in bed. On that long ago morning,  I opened my eyes to a wee darling saying “happy Mother’s Day Mommy” as she slowly settled a plate of breakfast in front of me.

I remember it vividly.

A dollop of strawberry yogurt with Cheerios on top, toast, and a few slices of hard salami on the side.

This year; mimosas, egg strata, salad, coffee and Kringles.


On our way home, Tom and I stopped at Lilacia Park in Lombard, where it is lilac time. Though the skies were gray and it was cool, the lilacs and tulips were resplendent.


I took too many photos. Everywhere I looked was color and contrast, statements of nature painted on every stem, beads of moisture clinging to petals and leaves, a concert of color singing all-the-more brightly in the absence of sun. You can imagine my bliss as I tiptoed among the tulips, my indulgent and supportive  husband at my side.

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You are a blessing to my day.” IMG_7234

That’s what he said.

You are a blessing to my day”, which I thought to be a very nice thing to say.

I was in the same parking lot, going to same cleaners that was the framework of another post.

It must be the parking lot. Some cosmic energy or force or forget-me-gas must be emanating from the cleaners or out of the pavement. Perhaps, a drone overhead, waiting for me to show up and film another segment of  Penny in the Parking Lot.

As I headed out for usual errands, my cell phone buzzed with an email message from the cleaners. My order was ready. Isn’t that nice? It was on my circuit of things to do, so, I grabbed the claim tickets and off I went. First, the post office, which is not the place to go on April 15, then a few other quick stops, leading me to the cleaners.

I pulled into the lot, parked, gathered the tickets and my purse, closed the door to the car then noticed something amiss with the car next to me. I hadn’t seen anyone get into or out of it, but, there was a pile of clothes on the back seat in their plastic covering with the receipt attached from the cleaners.. The odd thing was that the driver’s door was open. Not ajar, mind you, but open as wide as a mouth in the dentist’s chair.

I looked into the window on the passenger side. A cup of coffee, some paperwork, a brown paper bag; the sort of stuff many of us have in the front seat of the car, especially running lunchtime errands.

I eased around the trunk of the car. “Hello. Anyone there?

Miss Marple I’m not. There I was, looking for a clue as to why the door was open and hoping, no praying, there wasn’t a body on the other side. Did someone fall out? have a heart attack? slip on the cleaner bags? “Hello?”  No answer. No body. Nobody.

People were walking around the lot, to and from their cars, going about their business. I asked, but, no one belonged to the car, a dark gray Toyota.

I sleuthed about a bit more, making sure no one was prone on the pavement.  I’ve come upon bodies in parking lots; a man who tripped and needed a hand up. A woman showing symptoms of a stroke. I’m amazed at how many people pass by, especially when an elderly person is in distress.

Inside the cleaners, I asked a patron if it was his car. No, not him.

Back at my mocha VW with the latte interior, I hung my clothes and went around to see if the neighbor’s car door was still open. It was. Now what should I do? What if someone was abducted returning to their car? What if he or she were wandering around the lot, looking for whatever they needed to remember? It happens.

By now, sure that surveillance cameras had clear pictures of me, a Medicare Maniac, staring at an open car door, shaking her head and calling to no one.  I thought to shut the door, but, what if it locked when it shut and the owner didn’t have another set of keys and was late on the rent and had amnesia? Really. What should I do?

I could walk away, but, if it were my car with the door wide open (and we all know that’s a possibility) I’d want someone watching over it/me.

I decided to check the stores closest to the parking lot, muttering “please, please don’t let it be Payless Shoes“.

First stop was a hair salon. I walked in and was greeted “Can we help you ma’am?“. I explained the open door and no driver. The stylist said “Maybe it’s Mildred’s.  Hey, Mildred, did you leave your car door open?” .  Mildred looked rather indignant, her hair changing colors. “Why would I leave my car door open?“, but, the stylist took her keys and we both checked, for, Mildred had a Toyota. Nope. Not Mildred’s.

As I walked back to my car, trying to decide if I should just drive away, which is not my style, when I noticed a man, dressed to the nines, coming out of Payless Shoes. More than middle-aged, but not quite an octogenarian, he strolled across the lot. Lo and behold, he was headed toward the open doored Toyota. I watched, as did a couple who I’d already queried who were returning from the cleaners with bags draped over their arms, waiting to see what would happen.

Well, my friend, Mr. Dapper Dan walked to his car, threw the bag of shoes on the backseat,  looked at me, then the couple.

Is there some problem with my car?”

Well, sir, do you realize you left you car door wide open?

I did?

Did he not see it open when passed by the door to put his clothes on the back seer?

You did, mister“, said the he of the couple as the she nodded in concurrence. Good. Character witnesses in case I needed them. I was starting to channel Mrs. Pollifax.

” I really must be more careful. Thank you, miss.”

I said “I’m just glad you’re okay and all is well” as I walked away, and then he proclaimed “Thank you, ma’am, you are a blessing to my day.”

A very nice thing to say.

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Just taking some time to smell the flowers. 

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UnknownThere I was, driving along the byway, “The Rosie Project” on audio, mentally clicking off the things I needed to do, didn’t get done, or would rather be doing, when I saw the pair of black slacks and equally monochromatic shell sitting primly on the passenger seat. I meant to take these items to the cleaners on Monday, and here it was, Wednesday. A quick right. A quick left and a parking space. I whipped out my wallet, grabbed my monochromatic clutch of garments, waddled across the parking lot – and right into Payless Shoes.

Huh? Shoes?

It was just one of those days when my mind stayed home while the rest of me was out to lunch.

Around I turned, to the quizzical stares of the shoe clerk restocking shoeboxes, and continued my Aunt Jemima Puddle Duck waddle into the cleaners, where there was, of course, a long line.

There is always a long line at high noon.

Taking my place in the queue, I tapped my toes to the bouncy, iron pressing music, counting it as my day’s exercise, and inhaled the cleaning fumes, which surely made my brain foggy for when my turn at the checker came up, and she sweetly asked for my phone number, I went blank. BLANK!  The fog of steam eroding my cranium.  I could not remember my phone number. The sweet but clueless girl looked slightly bemused. Honestly, who am I to call her clueless? We stared at each other. “Now, wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait;  I seem to be having one of THOSE days” as I gave her my name, which was surely in the computer. Aha. Just then a phone number popped into my newly fumed brain. “Er, try . . . ” which she did while I inwardly cringed, for I’ve been known to give out my sister’s phone number instead of my own, which my sister finally realized after several months of odd messages from hair stylists and the doctors’ offices looking for Penny or Penelope. That is a story for another day, friend, for this day has a page of its own.

My pants and shell were whisked off to be cleaned, my receipt was firmly in hand, I muttered an “Ach, Columbus” – and off I went to wherever was I going next, which was really not where I was supposed to be.

So it goes on these monochromatic days, here along the Cutoff.



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