Friday, June 28, 2013

Another Year Older

 That picture of me on my first birthday was the first of many wonderful, happy parties.  This first one was spent quietly at my grandparents house where we were living, with my Godparents in attendance.  The cake was a lovely buttercream with a pretty blonde haired doll popping out of the middle.   I don't believe they had smash cakes way back in the 50's, and besides that, I was much too dignified to get icing all over my party dress.   My mother would always order a beautiful chocolate cake with buttercream frosting for all of our birthday parties.   Mine usually had ballerina's dancing around the edge, my brothers mostly had circus figures and they were the most delicious cakes made by our favorite local bakery.   They don't make them like that anymore.   It's become a lost art to make a delicious cake.  But that's a subject for another day.   We're here to celebrate my birthdays.
 My birthday is June 28th and I had many, many birthday parties all documented in our family albums.  My mother always said my parties fell on the hottest day of the year - I'm sure that was a slight exaggeration but this is in the era where it was a luxury to have an air conditioned house and my mother always had my parties either on the covered patio or in the garage.   It was sweltering in either location.   My scratchy, itchy party dress would stick to me, making me so uncomfortable but being the party girl I was, I never let on that I was uncomfortable.   That would have been unheard of.  I loved dressing up.   I just wish my birthday had fallen on a cool autumn day or the early days of winter.  But, I made due with the birthday I was given and in every pose, there is no clue that I'm feeling like a drenched washcloth.   My guests were troupers as well and went along trying to enjoy the festivities as best they could on the "hottest day of the year".   Of course it helped that they were bribed with all kind of party favors, prizes from games played like musical chairs and pin the tail on the donkey.  My childhood parties were always a mixture of cousins, school chums and neighbors, but mostly the cousins.   There would be tons of food, my moms fabulous sloppy joes, hot dogs and chips and lots of bottles of Canfields flavored pop.  My favorite flavor was fruit punch.   It just wasn't a kids party without fruit punch which did nothing to quench your thirst on the "hottest day of the
year".   There were little cups of spanish peanuts and pastel mints at each childs place setting, blow out horns with paper fringe, decorated sunglasses, party hats, plastic leis, balloons, party cups and matching plates with some festive birthday decoration - Martha Stewart eat your heart out -  and the "Piece de resistance", a cake decorated so beautifully with sugary buttery cream made into colorful roses, with my name written on top, toasted coconut pressed around the sides of the cake.  Oh, it was too pretty to cut, but once my wish was made and the candles were blown, it was time to forget about how pretty it was and savor the creamy sweetness of the chocolate cake, the fresh strawberry filling and that wonderful buttercream frosting.  Oh, please let there be left over cake for tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.   I alway observed the way my mother handled cutting my cakes, not wanting my guests to get too big a piece, after all, I didn't want to be responsible for them getting a  tummy ache.   Just big enough for them to enjoy and me to have extra cake for the rest of the week.   To me the cakes were and still are better than all the gifts I could ever receive.  Well, except for that 40th birthday when I drove off the car lot that night with a candy apple red Sebring convertible.
 So, this year will not be a milestone birthday except that it is a year spent cancer free, so I will be spending it quietly with my husband and parents which is fine.   I've had the parties and have lovely memories and pictures to last a lifetime.  I enjoy quieter birthdays as I get older with time spent reflecting on all the journeys I've gone through in my 57 years.   My life has been great so far and I'm looking to celebrating ( quietly ) many more in  an air conditioned home or restaurant, not out in the sweltering heat in a sticky, scratchy party dress.   Those days are over.   Comfort rules!  Happy Birthday to me !   And thank you Mom for the best birthday parties ever!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice

 It is here!   Finally!   The first day of summer, the longest day of the year.   Thousands will make their pilgrimage to Wiltshire, England to celebrate among the Stonehenge ruins which were constructed around 2600 BC, though no one knows exactly how they achieved such a construction.  To think that the site was dug using picks made of antlers is mind boggling.  If you are intrigued, I suggest you research it on the internet, the facts and myths are fascinating.
So to all who have waited for Summer, it has arrived.   Celebrate and embrace it.   Be an observer of nature, not just in this season, but in all seasons.   For now, be on the look out for fireflies, fat bumble bees, hummingbirds and butterflies of all colors.   It isn't too late to add flowers to your surroundings be it a garden, a porch or deck, even a balcony if you're an apartment or townhouse dweller.   The insects and hummingbirds will be ever so grateful and the garden centers are still bursting with beautiful plants to pick from due to the cool spring we had.   So, support your local nurseries and greenhouses and drop by this week, give yourself a gift to celebrate this glorious season.   I leave you with a quote from Frank Lloyd Wright, a master at observing nature and creating dwellings that enhanced their natural surroundings.

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you".

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Happy Fathers Day!  I will be spending it with my father who I am blessed to still have around.   He's 80 years old and still going strong.   He wasn't around much when we were growing up, always eager to work as much overtime as he could to help provide for us so holidays and birthdays were special times spent with him.   His work ethic rubbed off on me and I spent my life working as he did, to better myself and acquire the things I wanted in life.  He's always had my back and I have always known that he was there for me if I ever needed anything.   I feel sorry for people who haven't had a father in their lives or had ones that were cruel and damaging to their heart and spirit.   My father was like his father, quiet, hard working but always generous and supportive.   While I never became a parent, I have observed how much he has enjoyed being a Grandfather and hope he continues to be in good health and happy for years to come.   Love you Dad!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

That New Car Smell

 I hope in your lifetime you have the opportunity to enjoy the smell of a new car, there's nothing quite like it.   I've had the good fortune through hard work  and smart choices, to have experienced it five time in my life.  My father gave me my first real car as a high school graduation gift, a 1970 bright yellow Chevy Nova with black vinyl seats which he presented to me the day of my graduation.   Previously I had been driving a former car of his - a 1963 Chevy Impala which was huge like an armor tank.   But the Nova was mine and even though it wasn't brand new with that special smell, it was new to me just the same.   I got his money's worth out of that car and was so grateful for his gift.   With that car I entered the work force and never looked back.  I found that working hard ( a work ethic I learned from my father ) got me the nice things in life that I desired.   And so, after a few years I wanted to pick out my own car which my father counselled me on and co-signed my first car loan for a 1976 Buick Skyhawk hatchback which I totally adored.   Again, it was not brand spanking new and didn't have that "new car smell" but it was new to me and I worked hard to diligently pay that car loan and make my Dad proud.   When I paid that off and proved to him I was trustworthy and responsible, he agreed to come look at new cars with me and helped me purchase a 1985 1/2 - yes Ford called it a 1985 AND A HALF Ford Escort.   Brand new, baby blue with you guessed it!   That brand new car smell.   Oh, God there was nothing like it.  I wanted it to last forever which it didn't.   But I took great care of that car and made my payments on time faithfully and the man I married got me and that car in the bargain.  A couple years after we married and started a side business selling at arts and crafts shows, we needed larger transportation and traded his Toyota in for a brand spanking new 1989 Plymouth Voyager mini van, fully loaded with all the bells and whistles and the "new car smell".   We definitely got our moneys worth out of that car.   Soon after that, we started talking about me getting a convertible, so on June 28, 1996 ( my fortieth birthday ) we drove off Chrysler's lot with a spanking new candy apple red Sebring convertible after trading in my beloved Escort.   I enjoyed that "new car smell" any time I happened to have the top up.   That car served us well as my work car and our weekend driving around fun car.  After ten years it started showing its age even though we pampered it, so we traded it in for wah - lah, my VW Beetle convertible with the leather heated seats and that "new car smell".   Again, I enjoyed that whenever I happened to have the top up.   Well, my partner in crime never did warm up to that "girlie car" as he called it.   Well, that was one of the nicer phrases he used to describe it - I won't mention the other words he used.   While I drove the Beetle, my husband had his Toyota RAV4 which I referenced a few days ago.   The car was totally destroyed in a car accident but it saved our lives because the door kept the other car from coming right at me.   We decided then and there that our convertible days were over and since we were both home, why have two cars and two insurance payments?  We rarely drove the Beetle and the new car smell of both cars was long gone.  So, we decided to trade in my beloved Beetle and get a brand spanking new 2013 Toyota RAV4 in Barcelona Red, with all the bells and whistles, heated seats, you name it AND that "new car smell".
I can only add that I hope you all someday have the chance to experience the "smell" even if it means visiting a showroom and sitting in a new car just for the experience.   We have been fortunate enough to have worked hard, made good choices and have enjoyed our car experiences.   This will probably be our last new car purchase and I'll enjoy the experience and smell of the car while it lasts which I hope will be for a very, very long time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Heart Melter

Funny how, no matter what mood you are in, all you need to do is look into the eyes of your pet and become totally consumed by them.   They lift our spirits, make us forget our cares and concerns and they love us unconditionally.   Our big guy here has become more dog than cat.   We have had other cats who acted like  cats - aloof, detached, conceited, temperamental, moody but lovable just the same.   But none have the attributes that this cat possesses.  He demands attention quite often where the other cats were content to go off to a quiet part of the house and sleep the hours away.   This cat has to be with us most of the day and night.   Don't get me wrong, we love that about him.   He's always demanding our attention, demanding to be pet, to have treats given to him, to be let out on the front porch to watch the birds and nap the day away.   No matter what he does, you just can't get mad at him, at least not for long.  Since he was a kitten he has had this naughty streak in him which I've always referred to as his "terrible twos".   Even though he's now twelve years old, his terrible twos still surface occasionally.  Thank God he's too darn big to climb up on tables and knock things over or set his tail on fire from a lit candle like he did as a kitten.  And who can forget how he snuck into an opened dryer only to have me close the door and start it, hearing this thump, thump, thump.  I thought my husband had put in a pair of tennis shoes and as soon as I opened the door, wah lah, out tumbles our boy, shaken but still in one piece.  He's way too big for those antics anymore.   He tips the scale at 30 lbs.   I know dogs smaller than that!   That's part of the reason we treat him like a dog.   We forget he's a cat.   He listens.  He knows what we're saying to him.   Our other cats played dumb, not wanting to deal with us unless it was dinner time or they were cold and needed a warm body to cozy up to.   This big boy has turned into the spoiled child we never had and I can't imagine life without him.   He eats us out of house and home and we joke that he needs to get a part time job to support the kitty crack ( treats ) he demands so often.   But we love and adore him and wouldn't change a thing about our Monty.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

National Donut Day, did you celebrate it?

Yesterday the media was all over it.   Yes, it was National Donut Day and you'd have thought it was a major holiday.   The Today Show, GMA, CNN and other media outlets were all aflutter about donuts, with most of them featuring the trendy $5.00 cronut croissant donut which has them lined up at a New York bakery for hours.   The baker only makes 40 a day and refuses to make more or hire more help, so they sell on the black market for forty bucks a pastry.   Crazy!  It didn't even look that good to me and I've never met a donut I didn't like.

Which brings me to some donut trivia for today.
Have you ever seen the classic "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert?   Well, there is a scene where he's dunking a donut in his coffee and she's looking at him like he has a third eye.   He explains what he's doing and has her dunk one, which she leaves in the coffee way too long and he patiently explains to her that dunking it too long gets it all soggy and it falls apart and is inedible.   Well, I guess that scene started the trend of dunking your donuts because it took off in the 1930's like wildfire.   Maybe it's a Hollywood myth, maybe fact,but I think it's a delightful story about the origins of dunking.

So while we're on the subject of donuts and pastries and bakeries, have you noticed the neighborhood  bakeries are becoming extinct?   They have either closed their doors or sold to someone who didn't carry on with their original recipes.   It seems that the small Mom and Pop shops can't compete with the larger grocery chains which have their own bakery goods of sickening sweet tasteless goo they call pastries.   They don't compare to the small bakeries which used the best, freshest ingredients.   Today, the sweets you buy in the grocery store bake shop all taste the same, bland cake, sugary icing with no hint of vanilla or chocolate, tasteless fruit filling and outrageous prices.   I'm sorry to see the privately owned bakeries closing and whenever I have the chance I buy from them.   I'd rather pay a little extra for a decadent Caramel cake form Angelica's or a cannoli filled buttercream birthday cake from the bakery my family has used for years.  So next time you need to pick up a dozen rolls or you need to order that special cake for a graduation or birthday, consider the neighborhood bakery instead of the grocery chains.   You won't be disappointed and you'll help them stay in business and that is what we need - to keep the small business owners thriving!  So, there!  I've said my peace.   Time for coffee and a cinnamon roll.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pride In Penmanship

I received an invitation in the mail the other day from my twenty-one year old niece.   It looked like it had been printed by a seven year old.  No offense niece since I spoke to your mother and she informed me that children of your generation were not taught cursive writing.   I find that appalling and totally unacceptable.  Talk about the dumbing down of America.  Can it be true?   I am not a parent, so I am not familiar with the curriculum of todays schools, but my sister in law informed me that teaching cursive was stopped years ago since keyboarding and texting became the norm.   What I asked?   A generation who have no personal signature?   How will they write checks, make lists, write in diaries, send love letters and handwritten personal thank you notes?   They do it in chicken scratch printing.   I fault all the parents of these children for not insisting that their school districts continue to teach their children how to write.   I for one have always prided myself on my penmanship.   I remember being taught in school by Miss Royer and I loved the flow of the pencil as I practiced my cursive letters.   I would practice my signature for hours, doodling it in my notebooks.   As I went through school, I observed different teachers penmanship and I picked and chose whose I liked and imitated until I mastered their style.   To this day I can write in different styles depending on my mood.   I love writing in my journals and garden logs and while texting and keyboarding have their fine points, one should always still be able to express oneself by setting pen or pencil to paper and letting the words flow with beautiful, unique penmanship.   I have heard that certain states - Indiana being one of them - plan on reinstating cursive teaching in their schools and I applaud them.   To have generations of Americans  never master the art and joy of writing in cursive is a disgrace and should be a national issue, not just a state issue.   Teachers wake up and insist that your students learn handwriting!

Since 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, which do not require cursive instruction but leave it up to the individual states and districts to decide whether they want to teach it.  Several states have tried to resurrect cursive writing. California, Georgia and Massachusetts have laws mandating cursive instruction, and last month, legislators in Idaho passed a bill instructing the state Board of Education to include cursive in the curriculum.  Some experts contend that nice handwriting can lead to better grades in school.  According to a 2006 College Board report, SAT essays written in cursive received a slightly higher score than those written in block print. But only 15 percent of the essays were written in cursive.