Archive for April 2011

Easter Egg Hunts and Jellybeans

April 23, 2011

The black ones are mine

Tomorrow many of us will celebrate Easter. This holiday is quite late this year and because April is nearing its end, we might expect warm springlike temperatures to greet us over this weekend.

That’s not what’s happening here along the shore of Lake Michigan. 😦  The green stubs of my daffodils have been shivering in the strong lake winds; tomorrow is likely to be a repeat.

Our weather has been a bit like the jelly beans found in an Easter basket—lots of different flavors and usually one or two that are clearly a person’s favorite.

Mine were always the black ones since no one in my family liked them. That way I knew they would last as long as I wanted them to last.  Our weather’s been like that also but no one’s has choices lately. It’s mostly been miserable and like the lonely jellybeans left when everyone’s taken what they like. I think all the good weather has gone somewhere, I don’t know where, but here in my neck of the woods we’ve had nothing but bad weather—or those lonely green jelly beans no one wanted in our family. 🙂

In addition to jellybeans in Easter baskets, in my family it’s been tradition to get together at some point during the day. As a child I loved those times because we’d share foods and desserts not usually served outside of that particular holiday. And Easter meant Easter eggs, baskets filled with candy—again not something we’d have much of, and if the Easter bunny was “rich” that year, a toy or something we really wanted. That seemed a fair reward for long hours spent in church during Holy Week services.

When I had my own family and my siblings and their families would gather together for Easter, my sister started the tradition of the Easter egg hunt to give all the little ones something fun to do. One particular Easter we had a glorious, favorite jellybean kind of day. The skies were sunny, the temps warm enough to set up the picnic tables and chairs and serve dinner outside. That also meant the day was perfect to conceal the eggs in spots not so easy to find since the yard had many great hiding places.

My youngest son Steven was the oldest of the group of “little nieces and nephews.” At times he used his oldest title to tease and torment the younger ones. (Probably fueled by the fact that he’d been teased and tormented by his three older brothers.)

Anyway, the rule was “find your own egg and if you find someone else’s egg, don’t reveal the location.” Well, all the little ones found their eggs rather quickly while all of us adults enjoyed the activity. However, Steven couldn’t find his egg. My sister kept giving him hints and he’d scurry off looking but couldn’t find it. The younger ones loved that they beat Steven in finding their egg and those got their baskets filled with the kind of candy they liked.

Now Steven loves candy and he had his reputation to maintain as smartest and oldest; needless to say, he felt thwarted. His face was turning redder and his temper was rising. I’m sure it didn’t help that two of his brothers were “egging” him on. Finally, after about half an hour of his frantic looking, and the final hint from my sister, Steven found his egg and got his Easter basket full of candy.

We still remember that beautiful Easter when we picnicked outside and foiled Steven. I thought of it today especially as my nephew, now a father, sent a photo of his daughter on an Easter egg hunt. Time flies…

This Easter many of those who picnicked with us that day are no longer here: my two sons, John and Jimbo; my sister’s beloved husband, Erik; my mother; my two brothers, Jerry and Ed. The “little nieces and nephews” are grown and celebrating with families of their own. My oldest son is in Alaska. One sister will be out of town and my brother lives in California and will be celebrating Easter with his family and friends out there.

Moon last Sunday seen from my office window

We will be a small group—my sister who started the egg hunt tradition, our youngest son, Steven, hopefully feeling well enough to be in his wheelchair, my hubby and I. We won’t be picnicking outside but at my dining room table. We won’t be doing an Easter egg hunt. But we have phones to connect us to those not here with us. We have Facebook and email too. And we have our memories of those departed. They will linger with us while we gather for we carry them always in our hearts.

I’m hoping for a few black jelly beans in addition to our traditional Easter ham.

I hope you all have the Easter you want.  And I hope you get all your favorite jellybeans.

A Bowl To Remember

April 17, 2011

Scilla in lawn & shrubs in bud

One day this past week, I hitched up my courage, tamped down my emotions, and drove in to check on Jimbo’s home. (For those of you new to this site, Jimbo died about two months ago. He was my youngest biological son.)

I had listed the house with a realtor a few days before. While most personal items were gone from the house, (thanks to help from my oldest son Steve and his friends) I wanted to check on the painting happening the dining room. I also wanted to do another run through the house to determine what else will have to disperse once the place is sold.

Notice the optimism in the previous statement? 🙂

Well, the painting is coming along very nicely. One room is completely done and looks so much brighter and fresher. That lifted my spirits almost as much as a sunny day would have. Finished with that, I went through the house again—from back porch to front porch, basement to top floor. The whole time I thought about the hidden charms this bungalow contained. (For example, an incredible number of huge walk-in closets–with windows.  One bedroom has 3 such closets!)

And I found the loveliest bowl, setting on a table in a corner of one of the bedrooms. I then remembered something Steve said about finding a bowl he thought I should look at. However, that was a week after Jimbo died. I didn’t have much space in my heart or my mind to think about looking at bowls. Especially when I had to portion out to the appropriate people, a lifetime’s collection of fishing and hunting equipment, tools, and stuff—things I had no idea for what they were used.

Now think about it for a minute. Why would Jimbo have a bowl I should look at in the same closet that held 4 bows, tons of arrows, at least 20 assorted fishing poles, hundreds of lures, and two trolling motors? Are you serious????

But last Monday during my walk-through, I spotted that bowl. Its hand-painted lilacs hinted of spring and renewal. Steve’s words skittered back into my memory. I figured I better bring this home with me.

My new treasure--bowl

Back home, when I took the bowl from its ragged old cardboard box and removed the ancient newspapers that cushioned the bowl, I realized it was porcelain—very good porcelain. I carefully washed the bowl and discovered the gold trim. The bottom of the bowl showed it was made in Germany, and it was numbered.

I don’t know anything about antiques or porcelain but my friend does. I called her. She sounded excited when I explained what I saw.” Would I bring it over?” she asked.

My bowl and I arrived in 15 minutes.  She examined the bowl and before she said anything I spotted excitement spark in her eyes. “This was at Jimbo’s?” she asked.

I nodded as amazed as she that my beloved son who loved flannel and torn jeans and lived a simple life would have kept such an item around.

But he had—and since I knew he knew every little thing he had in that house, he knew of its existence. I suspect my mother left it there when she sold the house to him. I suspect she left it there because she didn’t like it, probably because it most likely came from her mother-in-law. I suspect this because my father’s mother liked to entertain and always talked about the treasures/lovely things she inherited from her mother, the woman my dad referred to as “Agnes Sarah Craney of the tight ringlets and the skinny feet.”

Of course, I’m a writer, and I’m doing a great deal of suspecting here since I love to create stories (though my dad did use that phrase often and my grandmother regaled her granddaughters about the elegant parties of the past). Since this bowl wasn’t something cheap and was used for large parties, my story could have some truth. The bowl is what is called a Tom & Jerry bowl. Tom & Jerrys were a hot drink served during the winter holidays. The drink first became popular around 1820. Its ingredients were many and expensive.

None of this information fits Jimbo’s lifestyle or interests. It doesn’t fit my mother or her family either. So I like the story I’ve woven about this bowl. Since I love lilacs and I have shades of purple in my living/dining room, this bowl will be filled with some lavender potpourri and sit on my table. Every time I glance at it, I’ll think of family.

Thank you, Jimbo and your sensitive soul, for saving this lovely bowl.

Have you found any treasures lately in places you’d never expect?

A Spring Fashion Show: Vintage & Contemporary

April 10, 2011

Corsets & Hoop skirts, oh my!

Yesterday I went to the Kemper Center. It’s one of our historic landmark structures in our town and located right on the lake. It used to be an Episcopalian Boarding School for young women. A gorgeous well restored Victorian home, called the Durkee Mansion is part of the complex.  This house was the original home for the Charles Durkee family. He was a senator from Wisconsin in the Civil War era. 

The Kemper grounds are lovely, and today the buttery cream brick school complex includes an exquisite example of French Renaissance Revival style home. We refer to this home as the Anderson Art Center. Weddings, parties, art events, funerals all take place either in the school buildings or the Art Center. 

In the spring, summer and fall the grounds and gardens are spectacular. In the winter, the stark beauty of the trees and icy rocks along the shoreline conjure up fantasies of wintry fairy tale settings. At Christmas the Durkee Mansion is decorated for Christmas in the Victorian style and tours occur on weekends. 

Is that an 18 inch waist?

The reason for yesterday’s visit was a fashion show put on to raise funds to continue the maintenance and renovation of these historic buildings and grounds. The event took place in what used to be the gymnasium of the school. The wood work and murals were fantastic. 

The vintage part of the fashions had clothes worn in the last half of the nineteenth century. They were displayed on a raised stage area at the front of the mural-walled gymnasium. These pieces of clothing, shoes, hats, and jewelry were on loan from local families whose ancestors wore these items. 

Looking at them gave me shivers as if I were looking into a cheval mirror and stepped into a different time. I was very glad I’d gotten to the event early enough to take my time and appreciate these small tableaux. I also wasn’t hurried by others seeking to get closer to view the displays. 

Our desserts

But soon I’d finished taking photos and moved off to the table where my friends were gathering. 

Heavy white linen tablecloths draped over the tables which seated eight. Mismatched but delicate, old china dessert plates were set out around artfully displayed homemade desserts. These served as centerpieces for each table. Navy blue linen napkins, stemmed water glasses, and silver cutlery finished the place settings. 

Our luncheon entre was excellent and fit the theme of vintage blended with contemporary. We were served a traditional ladies’ lunch–chicken salad. However, it had a contemporary twist: served on a bed of fresh spring greens (never available here in earlier eras, not at this time of year 🙂 ). The dressing melding the chicken, herbs, and celery was a lighter concoction, perhaps buttermilk and sour cream, but not full of mayonnaise; that suited me just fine. In addition to the usual green grapes, the salad had dried cranberries which added a texture and taste that was different. And since many people today veer away from nuts, this salad had none. 

One of the wall murals in the gymnasium

Totally scrumptious and perfect for the event. My mouth is still partying with memories of the salad’s flavors. 

After lunch came the contemporary fashions. 

What I appreciated with this fashion show was the fashions were on women of all ages with bodies of real women. They wore trendy clothes that we might consider wearing as we go about our social, daily, and career lives.  From shoes to jewelry, we saw many outfits which pleased us. I suspect some similar items may soon infiltrate some of our closets. 

I wondered if 100 years from now these fashions might be part of a fashion show and luncheon for future generations. They might be displayed in tableaux reflective of today’s less formal homes. Then I wondered how different those future fashions might be since yesterday’s contemporary clothes and accessories differed so greatly from the vintage ones worn by those people who first used these buildings 150 years ago. 

I love the chair here!

Would I do something like this every month? No. It wouldn’t be special then. However, for a dreary Saturday in early April, I enjoyed walking back into history through clothing that might have been in people’s closets. Then in a blink, I returned to present day to see items I could visualize in my closet. Or in the closets of those characters about whom I write. 

Have a great week, everyone. Let’s hope spring really does arrive here soon. Until then, I’ll be dreaming along the shores of Lake Michigan—dreaming of daffodils, violets, baby robins and bunnies. What will you be dreaming of?

Baby Kai

April 3, 2011


Yummy cake made by Tanya

Apple Salad in my hands, I went to a baby shower today for my nephew/godson’s wife. This is their first child and their anticipation for parenthood and jubilant love for the yet-to-be-born babe in glorious to see. Somehow, while I had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the baby or all the preparations involved to get that special room ready, I know I already love this little boy to come.

He will be named Kai. Not a name we’ve used before in our family but very reflective of this little one’s parents. The name is of Scandinavian origin which reflects the ancestry of his parents. It means “strength.” That’s a character trait to live up to. Since I studied Chinese for many years while I was in graduate school, the name also means “triumphant” and is often paired with Li which means “strength.” My wish for him is he has an abundance of both to get him through the pitfalls and joys of life. We all have them.

I also thought about how different pregnancy is now and the whole act of labor and childbirth compared to when I had my children, back in the dark ages. Births can be taped now, growing bellies get photographed, babies are presented in black and white within the womb. We had to wait until a baby was born to know what we were having; so always you had a boy’s and girl’s name picked out.  So many new theories abound for parenting, preparing for parenting, having the right equipment with all the proper safeguards. Sometimes I’m amazed my children and the children of my friends lived to their first birthday.


The start of Kai's library

For example I held my babies in my arms in the front seat of our car while my husband drove us home from the hospital; today you need a very special seat which faces the rear back set and is buckled into the back seat. No nuzzling into mommy’s breast these days—at least not in the car. If we had a car seat, it went over the front seat, between the driver and the passenger and had little restraints other than the hand or arm of the driver or passenger and blankets tucked securely around the baby. Scary, isn’t it? Fortunately, we never had a close call.

Back then disposable diapers were yet to arrive as a parents’ helper. With my first child I did regular diapers using a wringer washing machine and the clothesline to dry those white pieces of cloth.

And parenting is different is some ways now. For example, dads didn’t generally take an active interest in the whole parenting thing until the baby was much more self-sufficient. Sure there were exceptions, but with my first two births their father was relegated to the waiting room and I pushed and panted and brought those babies into the world with strangers around me. Much different from today where these soon-to-be-first-time parents are going to birthing classes and parenting classes and Scott will be as involved with this baby as Melissa will be. I wish that might have been so when my babies were little.


My donation to Kai's library shelf

We can’t wait to welcome to our family, little Kai.

As part of the celebration today we guests were asked to bring a book for Kai. I could have chosen many but I have a dear friend who makes soft, washable books for little ones. I chose the one that gives colors, shapes and animals in 3 languages: French, Spanish, and English. We were asked to sign it with a note. I did in three languages:

                  I love you.
                 Je t’aime.
                 Te amo.