Monday, June 29, 2009

Dish towels, dogs and dingos

We just finished a fun and interesting weekend.

Son Dan and daughter-in-love Jenny arrived, along with dog-in-law Bauer. The occasion? Daughter-in-love-to-be Jill's bridal shower. Bauer wasn't invited to the shower: no boys allowed. But he certainly brought, shall we say, vitality to the weekend.

Bauer's presence reminded me of having toddlers underfoot. He's young with lots of energy. He clamored through the house, chewed up tennis balls, enticed our dog Ellie to play, and left slobber on the glass doors. I hadn't heard so much thundering up and down the stairs since Christmas morning when the kids were little.

We looked for activities to wear out the dogs. Dan and I took them to a nearby park to romp the trail, a sort of mowed mile-long path around a meadow. Now, Ellie generally, obediently follows the trail, however Bauer had other ideas. Off he lunged, into the thicket to see what he might find. Ellie willingly followed. Trouble was, the weeds and wildflowers are high and every so often, the dogs bounced up to get their bearings. Dan called them dingos.

OK, enough about the dogs. I like dogs, really. Better than cats or goldfish and certainly better than birds, who shouldn't qualify as pets. Ever. But dogs aren't the beginning and end of life and please stop me if I ever get too long-winded about them. They are, after all, just dogs. Not people. And not "children with fur."

So. The focus of the weekend, when it wasn't dogs, was Jill's bridal shower. She was a bit nervous, but it went beautifully, thanks to Jill's long-time high school friend Jamie and her mom Becky. This photo: Jill and Jamie.

We played shower games (this is why boys aren't invited) and Jill opened lots of fantastic gifts, including many, many dish towels. In an envious moment, I wished it was me opening all those gifts. I sure could use some new dish towels; ones I don't have to pick out myself.

Every shower has food. Jamie and Becky made a mountain of quiches, all delicious. And now, I will brag. Jenny, Katie and I made white chocolate pound cakes. I don't like the expression, "to die for," but they almost were. One of Jill's relatives told me it tasted like some special German recipe her grandma used to make.

Well, this cake uses a cake mix. With a classy name like White Chocolate Pound Cake, no one's the wiser! Here's the recipe. Feel free to impress at your next gathering!

White Chocolate Pound Cake

1 plain white cake mix
6 ounces white baking chocolate
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

To avoid burning it, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Empty cake mix into a large mixing bowl and begin adding all ingredients, mixing with electric mixer until smooth.

Recipe says to oil ("Pam") and flour 3 loaf pans; I used one bundt pan and it was perfect. Pour batter into pan(s) and bake at 350 until done. 35-45 minutes? You know how to test cakes.

Let cool after removing from pan. Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar through a little strainer. Sliced strawberries and mint leaves can be added for beauty.

You might even be able to hire these beautiful young ladies to serve for you!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

good bye to bad buys

Done. I'm done, done, done with [unnamed popular department stores] for my wardrobe purchases. Probably. Maybe. Here's why:

1. Most of my exhausting shopping trips are completely fruitless.
2. I find most clothing in [unnamed popular department stores] to be designed for those under age 20 or over age 70. I am neither.
3. As a rule, the sales people either do not exist or have better things to do than serve customers.
4. The purchases I have made tend not to satisfy over the long haul.

In a word: bad buys!

There exists a retailer where the sales women know the meaning of the word SERVICE. They've dusted off an old concept and SERVE the customer: running back and forth to the fitting rooms, giving advice on fit and style and - get this - even looking for shoes that might match your outfit.

The store is TALBOTS and I tootled in yesterday. The Talbots saleswomen know how to do things the old-fashioned way. Yes, old-fashioned: it's sometimes the right way. A young woman named Sylvia gave me style advice, fit advice and shoe advice. Not pushy. Just helpful.

Ok, everything's pricier. And nicier, too. Is that a word? I won't say I deserve better clothing. I don't. But I'm past having baby spit-drool down my shirt so why not invest in better quality? Once the grandchild arrives, I'll wear an apron.

So here's a Talbots report card.
Quality: very good.
Price: higher than what I'm used to. Hit their sales.
Service: excellent. The saleswomen took care of me and it's refreshing and ... nice. (Mr. Stanko hated that word: sorry, John.)

I detest shopping, really. But visiting Talbots sure lessens the sting.

Men: if this post bores you, I hope you can apply it to your situation. Or if you're satisfied with your shopping experiences, don't fix what ain't broken.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happy birthday, Jill!

A sweet side to having raised a houseful of rambunctious boys is when they marry. The smelly rooms and horse-like appetites fade as distant memories once a cheery, feminine girlfriend enters the picture. . . especially a girl you grow to love.

Four years ago my son Mark brought home a cute redhead and, thankfully, she's been part of our lives ever since. In fact, Jill will become my daughter-in-LOVE in just a few weeks.

Jill brings laughter (really, a wonderful laugh), an upbeat attitude, thoughtfulness and love to our family. When she's not around, I truly miss her loving and laughing spirit. I am enormously blessed to have her for a new daughter. Jill also loves God. I watched her grow in this regard and it was about the neatest thing ever.

Today is Jill's 22nd birthday and I wish her the happiest birthday yet! (And, as you can tell by the photo, our Ellie absolutely loves Jill, too!)


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Seventeen years have passed since I snapped this photo. My gap-toothed 7-year-old boy will soon become a father himself.

I am faithful that Dan, and surely my other sons, will grow into a most amazing father.

It won't happen the night he brings the babe home from the hospital. It will happen as he comforts his feverish child through the night. As he encourages his child's first steps and to eat broccoli. When the child falls off a bike and strikes out swinging. It'll happen when they play "rough boys." It will happen as Dan's child sees in his/her father the attributes of the heavenly father: compassion, strength, a shield and defender of the family. In short, it will happen imperceptibly, moment by moment through all the days of the child's life.

How do I know? I am married to a man who did all this - and more - for our children. Does he falter? Sure. But the very best father doesn't have to be perfect. He admits his faults and points his children to God as the ultimate, perfect Father. The One to emulate. Bottom line, a child needs to see God in - and beyond - his earthly father. For one day, the child will answer to someone other than dad.

Were more fathers to embrace this simple truth, I'm pretty sure we'd see a lot of changes in our world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

messy progress

This is my space. (As the nest emptied, I claimed a bedroom as my study ... ooooh, I just love a desk.) But what a mess it is today. A new bookcase! Time to sift, sort, file and toss.

Slow but solid progress ... I hope!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


One cold Connecticut winter, my parents rented a house for us while our new house was being built. Mom was amazed that the retired couple, heading to Florida for the winter, would entrust their beautiful home to a family of six.

We all thought we'd landed in heaven. After a flat Detroit suburb, our temporary digs in the Connecticut countryside was a fairyland. The house sat on a private road halfway up a mountain. We never saw the grass that winter: mounds of snow surrounded us. My three siblings and I spent hours sledding the hills and building snowforts. A neighbor even brought over his massive dog who pulled a sled and hauled us around.

Inside the house, I found a new friend: a piano. When I wasn't out sledding, I sat at the piano, picking out tunes and pretending I could really play. Mom and I played "Heart and Soul" over and over. It would be more than thirty years before my first piano lesson. But that's another story.

The piano is, hands-down, my favorite instrument. Two of my children took piano for many years and I never tired of hearing them practice. Canon in D. The Entertainer. David Lanz's compositions. Hymns. It's all good and soul-soothing on the piano.

Which explains one thing I've missed while Katie was at college the past year. She's become proficient at the piano, and more, her playing comes from somewhere deep inside her. I can hear it as she plays. It's not about practicing for a recital: it's about music as a sort of food for the soul.

So, it's summer and I have college kids to feed. But I get a little food, too, when my daughter sits down to play.

Friday, June 12, 2009

a new ballpark

This evening hubby and I had the pleasure of a few hours out together. We grabbed a yummy dinner at Applebee's and headed downtown to Huntington Park, new home of the Columbus Clippers, our triple-A baseball team.

It's a honey of a park. There's even a "knothole" stretch where passersby can watch the game through a fence for free. How about that?

I thoroughly enjoyed shooting some photos on this perfect June night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

falling in love … again

It happens every single year. Recently I’ve been holed up in our 65-year-old cottage in northern Michigan. In almost five days, we had roughly 36 hours of really nice weather. But the high yesterday was 45 degrees with a relentless, driving rain and wind.

Some might see this as jail time, but as the days progress I am settling into a lake rhythm. I read and write. I laugh with my family and challenge them to games of speed Scrabble. I visit an old friend, the 170-year-old lighthouse up the road. I cook simple stuff, making do with what’s on hand. I gaze up the lake, a majestic and ever-changing waterscape of God’s handiwork. He outdid himself in this part of the world.

About a year ago I wrote a piece on this topic and submitted it to … I’m not kidding … the northern Michigan electric cooperative magazine Michigan Country Lines. They ran it (entitled Loving Michigan) and you can read it here. (Well, maybe you can; I'm experiencing techno difficulty.)

Anyway. After a winter of identifying the many reasons not to keep this cabin, being here lures me right back into a love affair with her. Wind and waves. Chilly nights and crackling fires. Gleaming birches. No microwave or dishwasher. Hauling out a kayak to paddle in the bay. And lots of chores. For now we’ll keep her.

This time next year, I suspect I’ll be in a new love affair. Do you think my son and daughter-in-love will allow us to keep our new grandbaby up here for a month next summer?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back to the future

What woman ever feels ready for motherhood, or grandmotherhood, for that matter? The passing from one season of life to the next has a way of sneaking up on us, like the first September frost that withers the geraniums when we weren't paying attention.

Ready or not, changes come and we rise to celebrate what they represent. Our son Dan and daughter-in-love Jenny called to ask what Bill might want for his birthday in January. Huh? Um, hadn't really thought about it yet. "How about a grandchild?" they said in their sweet, nervous, 20-something voices.

And so a new season and new generation begins for our family. They're excited and I am, too, yes. But I'm a little bewildered. Old enough to be a grandmother? Where did the years go?

My own mother didn't live long enough to realize her dream of grandchildren. I remember clearly her telling me how she looked forward to that time of her life: enjoying grandchildren. Since that never happened, my life now feels a little like "Back to the Future," where I am going back in time to observe something that lies in my future. Does this make any sense?

A grandchild. Oh, my. Whatever the future, I'm along for the ride!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

chilled banana

The staple of lunchboxes and bowls of cornflakes everywhere, bananas turned unpleasant to my palate. If I try to eat a whole banana, in fact, a gagging gets going.

Then! Today I wrapped half of a banana in a baggie and threw it in my lunch bag. While working at my morning job, little lunch bag sat in the fridge. (OK, I'm not green: it was a paper bag. I'll work on that.) By the time the sandwich was gone, I figured I'd skip the banana.

But, not a food waster, I peeled it and took a wary nibble. And an amazing discovery. A chilled banana resembles ... banana pudding, or ... banana cream pie. Just ... sweeter and creamier and no gagging.

So. I think I'll indulge in a banana now and then. But only if chilled.

I'll also make an effort to blog about something other than food next time around.