Friday, February 28, 2014


Frank and I have made several trips across the Atlantic. We’d love to travel again – and if we did we’d join a tour group because I am just not up to all the planning and navigation, and Frank’s not up to all the driving. When we really think of it there’s little we’d like to see except perhaps the castles along the Rhine – those Viking Cruise ads are as enticing as the Lorelei. 

The two of us in Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre, years ago!

We went to Norway twice. Frank’s mother was born there, and I’d always wanted to go there, so it was a foregone conclusion that we’d go there on our first trip to Europe. (In grade school I chose Norway for my geography paper, so I wanted to see the country for real. I’ve also done papers on Hong Kong and Siam, which I’d love to visit, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to Asia.)
 A letter to the tourist board in Kristiansand led us to a years-long friendship with a great gal who took us all over the area.  She arranged for us to go out to the island, Ny Hellesund, where Frank’s grandmother lived, and brought us for a visit to some of his Mom’s relatives.
An arrangement with a friend of my college roommate led us to a years-long friendship with a Norwegian navy officer and his family. With them we visited a stave church, saw the Viking Ship Museum, the Holmenkollen and other sites in both Oslo and Bergen. It’s wonderful to be with the natives who share the wonderful foods (oh, the calories – just think of Norwegian cream cakes!) and wonderful sights of their areas, as it was with our daughter-in-law's Italian friends who showed us the many wonderful sights and treated to some of the wonderful food in Liguria, and prepared a must-see list of places to visit on the rest of our Italian trip.
Just think of that luscious ice cream and fresh berries in Portofino
When we really think about it we realize that we’ve seen quite a lot. I’m an anglophile, and I got to see all of what I most wanted to see in England: Stonehenge, Cornwall and the moors, and Canterbury Cathedral. And to Kew Gardens – Come down to Kew in Lilac time (it isn’t far from London!) - with a wonderful couple from Surrey whom we’d met on our first trip to Norway. We were big fans of All Creatures Great and Small, so, of course, we had to travel up to Yorkshire to drive over the bridge at Langthwait from the start of the show, and tour the area. All told, all trips, we spent almost two months there and saw wonderful things.
We’ve been to France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy – we’ve never seen Paris, tulip fields, the Matterhorn, Berlin, or Rome.  But we’ve seen Provence, Santa Claus, Lake Geneva, driven the Nordschleife at the Nurburgring, and toured Tuscany.  We’ve had some of the best times being with native friends. We’ve done a lot, seen a lot, tasted a lot of great food. When we see something on TV that we happened to miss, we can say that when traveled weren’t sitting around twiddling our thumbs – it was just a case of so much to see – so little time. C’est la vie.

Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


This morning, flipping through the file I call Fun Fotos, I came upon this gem.  You do see those two black beasts out there? Bears, of course, the bane of my existence in rural upstate New York. This picture was taken one year in the spring. You see that pole out there? The one with the triangular thingie on it?
That's an aluminum cone meant to keep the squirrels out of the bird feeder. I did a dandy job fending off the little critters, but the bears just helped themselves - to the whole feeder! In this case it's flown off into one of the beds, completely empty. Not only did they love the birdseed - any thing edible was on their menu - they also loved taking naps in the middle of the flower beds. Just flattened them into submission.

Had I known years previously that they'd be moving into the neighborhood, perhaps I'd have created a different garden - maybe raised beds. But I did enjoy seeing them on their regular rounds through their new territory. I do miss the critters now that we are down here in a suburban area of South Carolina. We had some wonderful wildlife up there - everything from the bears and deer, of course, to cute chipmunks, and birds galore. Life's a bit tame now.

Monday, February 24, 2014


A Sunday supper was in the planning – I was thinking of chicken. I had two nice slices of cooked bacon left over from breakfast and I had an idea for a take-off on Alice Springs Chicken. Here’s what I did:

I fileted a large chicken breast into two nice pieces.  Next I sliced up an onion and sautéed it in a bit of butter and some bacon fat.  Once the onion started to soften I moved them to the sides of the pan then put in the chicken.

Meanwhile, I opened and drained a small can of sliced mushrooms, crumbled the bacon, and got out the bag of shredded cheddar. Once the chicken was browned on the first side I flipped them over, piled on the onions and the mushrooms, and topped each with the bacon and a nice portion of the cheddar. I popped on a lid to keep in the heat and melt the cheese.  In a few minutes, once the cheese melted, it was all done and ready to serve.

I regret to say – as you can see – I didn’t even think to get out the camera. My Hancock Shaker Village chicken picture will have to serve.

Friday, February 21, 2014


The mind is a wonderful thing, and it’s strange the things people remember.
That's Uncle Bill, the oldest, in the back.
Looks like he'd turn out to be a rip, doesn't it?

I remember my mother telling me about her oldest brother, Bill, and his job as a New York State Trooper, stationed out of Malone, New York.  She didn’t pass on all the stories; some must have been pips because he was a sort of a wild and crazy guy. When he was younger he left school and worked his way around the world on tramp steamers. I think I once asked my mother why his face was so scarred. In one port somewhere in Asia he got a treatment for teenage acne that must have been an acid because it left his face looking a bit like the craters of the moon.

He was a Trooper during prohibition, and Malone was just below the Canadian border. Evidently he and his partner, a native Indian called Smoke, blazed through the back roads, back and forth over the border, headlights off on moonlit nights, chasing smugglers. Mom and one of my aunts, and perhaps another of my uncles, were visiting up there and went driving with him one afternoon in his own car. Mom was sitting back in the rumble seat. My uncle spotted someone he was after and gave chase. Talk about hair-raising, Mom said it took her hours to comb the knots out of her hair.

One of the best stories was about Smoke. He hated cats. The landlady of their boarding house owned a cat. It had a regular routine, a regular route around the center of the house. It would tear around from its favorite perch on top of the parlor piano, through the parlor to the stair hall, back through the dining room, through the sliding door and up again onto the piano. One day though, while the cat was mid-route, Smoke closed the sliding door and you guessed it, the cat, going all out, smashed into the door. No more cat. Poor landlady, poor cat, but I always get a mental image of this and something perverse in me has to just smile.

I thought him the most interesting of my uncles, perhaps because my mother had told us stories about him.  Of course he’d told his brothers and sisters many of the stories, and they had passed them on. When we were all at the wedding of my cousin Paul, my brother and I were seated across from Uncle Bill and his son, my cousin Edwin. We asked Uncle Bill to tell us some of the Trooper stories.  Poor Edwin was hurt: his father had never told him any of the stuff his cousins already knew. Uncle Bill had to explain to him that they weren’t storied he’d ever tell his own young son.  I’m hoping that after that my cousin did get to hear some of the good stuff.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014



 While searching old magazine ads for another picture, one of an evening gown
 I remembered, I came upon this ad for Canoé. Today I was searching for something to prompt a blog, I came upon this picture I'd saved back then.

For years I called just canoe, as with the name of the boat, but further research today found this YouTube ad from the 70’s. It is pronounced canoé  =  kan-oh-ay. Ooo la la! I never realized the e was accented. The next time I'm in a department store, where, of course, the first place you come to is the fragrance and cosmetics department, I'll have to find it and take a sniff. I’ve not smelled this aroma in ages.
I didn't even know they still made it.


Monday, February 17, 2014


We had a fun weekend, starting with Jenna’s 6th birthday. Tooth and nail she is resisting reading – “it’s boring” to her. I hate it when kids say they are bored – it just means their brains lack imagination. She was over here the weekend before and brought the books she was supposed to be reading – no luck. She was supposed to read them aloud to an adult – that was me that day. Her mom thinks I’m wrong, and perhaps I am because Jenna was sandbagging that day, but she read nowhere with the proficiency she should have by now. And this is a very smart kid (aren’t they all these days?)  
I am the "Book Grandma" and have been for 25 years. At her birthday dinner, on the q.t., she asked her grandfather why we always give them books, and he gave her a very good answer designed to make her appreciate our efforts, but I’m sure she wanted to convince him to convince me to give her something else – probably money like her other grandparents did. Both she and her sister are saving up for iPads.  Now they beg to do chores because their mom gives them cash for it. It’s an iffy precedent, I know,  but at least they are learning the value of work and money and doing a great job of it too.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Ah, it's Friday, it's Valentines Day, it's a great chance for lazy me to repost this blog from three years ago.  I must say though I'll have to do a bit of fiddling because the heart symbol I used last time won't work now. I'll just have to use the word heart instead of the symbol. Ah, that's progress for you: two steps forward, one step back.             

February is National Heart Month.  All seriousness aside, how did we come to have the heart shape?  It doesn’t look much like the human heart, and it certainly does mean more than just a representation of it. I won’t bore you with the details, but there are even mathematical formulas for arriving at various heart-shaped curves.  Well, you just know I had to google it! I tell you, I’ve yet to find a topic on which I can’t find at least a few entries on Google. Of the thousands of entries, it turns out that almost everything you wanted to know about the topic is available on The heart shape has been one of the most common symbols in Western culture since before the last Ice Age. Fascinating!! The shape can symbolize romantic love, passion, and strong emotions. The symbol is of significance, always positive, in most major world cultures and religions.

We may laugh at this today, but from the time of the ancient Egyptians, classical scholars thought the heart was the center of reasoning, thought and emotions.  The Egyptian priests, believing the heart to be the seat of the soul, left it in place and discarded the brains of those they were mummifying. It seems odd because we all realize that we’re thinking from our heads, so why would they disregard the brain. The brain has made our symbols - but what is the symbol for the brain? There it is! The interrogation mark.  Inquiring minds want to know.

I think my first contact with the heart would have been in association with Valentine’s Day. February was chosen as National Heart Month because we associate the heart with St. Valentine, patron saint of lovers, whose feast day is February 14.  Hearts on the little cards we exchanged in school, heart-shaped doilies, or heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. (Me, I’d rather have a Whitman’s Sampler so I know just which ones - the caramels - to pick first.)  I remember a grade school Valentine’s Day party where the table was decorated with lots of pink and red crepe paper hearts and flowers, table cloth and all. Someone tipped over a candle, and the whole thing went up in a moment. Who wouldn’t remember that Valentine’s Day?

Home is Where the Heart is. Have a Heart. Hard Hearted Hannah. Peg o’ My Heart. Heart and Soul. With a Song in My Heart. Idioms, expressions, song titles. Our lives abound with references to the heart. The symbol shows up every day. I heart New York: that rebus started the current heart trend back in the 70‘s.  New York tourism took a big boost with the clever idea. Now everyone is trying to get the same boost, heart-ing everything from dog breeds to heart-healthy foods.  From yester-year’s lacey paper hearts and simple expressions of love, we now have a Valentine’s Day so commercialized it includes dozens of long-stemmed roses and heart-shaped diamonds, the more money the merrier. Well, maybe not for all of us - though we can dream, can’t we?



Wednesday, February 12, 2014



Did you ever have someone teach you a great time-saving trick, and forever after that you remembered them as you did what they’d suggested? This morning I was peeling hard-boiled eggs and I thought, as I always do when I do this, of my sister. It’s just a fleeting thought, a little smile, and my thoughts proceed along the path they’d be on before.    
Her trick: when the eggs are done, drain the water, put the lid back on the pot, and then shake it five or six times. Then put in cold water. All the eggs get cracked at once and the water helps cool them.
I miss my sister – she was a really good egg.

Monday, February 10, 2014


I am in a bit of a fugue state this morning. I heard from one of my 'long lost' cousins: he is the third oldest of thirty-five, I am seventh oldest. What got me going was his remembering that I was called Lee Lee. He may be the only one I know who remembers that.  At age seventy-one it is nice to be brought back to a bit of my childhood. He taught college English, and, being as I am, I'm thinking that we'll enjoy a rousing correspondence.

Friday, February 7, 2014


The mind is a wonderful thing, and it’s strange the things people remember.

That's Aunt Ruth, fifth from the left in the front row.
My mom is the one with 'attitude', the one with the 'boyish bob',seated three more from the left.
That's Aunt Louise, second from the right in the top row.
I remember...

…that mother said my grandmother would call to my Aunt Ruth: “Come here you homely little redhead.” (Geeeeze)  And while her sisters always had their hair curled, my mother was always given what she called a ‘boyish bob’. You can see the three of them in their school picture. They lived in Evanston, just blocks off of Lake Michigan, and they enjoyed the summers there. They were all good swimmers.  My mom tanned very easily, and evidently she tanned very deeply when she was young. She said one day some ladies chased her off the beach saying that they didn’t allow little black boys there. Mom thought that was a lark.

...they lived near Lake Michigan, but several summers they traveled to Delavan Lake in Wisconsin. My mother said that my grandmother was not too appreciative of this because she and Tante Fine had to pack up everything and everyone and set up housekeeping in a strange place when they could have been comfortable at home at the home lake.  Evidently, before the crash, they had quite a bit of money from my grandfather’ inventions. Mom said that her mother, Tante Fine, and her sister Lou had fur coats, and the older boys were sent away to school to Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.

…that after the crash they lived in Menands and then moved ‘next door’ to Albany, New York. My husband and I lived very near there, and one day, oh about twenty years ago, Mom and I took a drive to see if we could find where she’d lived.  She recognized a lot of Menands, and Albany’s Vincentian High School where my Uncle Peter had gone, and Washington Park, but we couldn’t locate either of her homes.

I think they must have moved there around 1931 or so when my mother was in high school, perhaps a freshman. I say this because in New York State you study state history in that grade, and she had just come from Evanston, Illinois, knowing nothing about New York.  On one history test the students were asked to draw the outline of New York State. My mother was lost, but the teacher came by and whispered “draw the number 4,” and that was close enough.

My mother remembered that her mother shopped at many stores across the Hudson River from Menands in Troy, a much bigger town. My Germanic grandmother must have had the soul of a Scot, and in those hard times in the 30’s she made every nickel count. Mom remembered seeing her mother on the way home one day, crossing the bridge from Troy, carrying a whole pork leg over her shoulder.  That fed the family for a long time.  Mom remembered once having porcupine. My grandfather would go hunting and whatever he shot they ate.

My older uncles worked in Troy for Cluett Peabody and Company, the manufacturers of men’s removable shirt collars and, later, Arrow shirts. Eventually, when they moved back to Richmond Hill, my mother along with, I think, both Uncle Fred and Uncle Peter, worked for them in New York City.

My second-cousin Karl is the keeper of the family archive for our Drucker family, my mothers’ family. He’s been researching our history and collecting stories and pictures from all of us. These Things I Remember postings are pieces from of one of the letters I sent to him.

My mother was a hoot - she's looking right at me in this picture.
 I think I've inherited some of her attitude.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


... and as our son would say, "It's a no day, Dad." On this dull January day I thought a pink picture would be in order.

Later - it just shows to go you that the day has fogged my (alleged) mind: this is February.  O.K. - Back to the drawing board.

Monday, February 3, 2014


In my family this is comfort food. I suppose  mother originated it, because I don't remember hearing of it anywhere else in my parents' families. She just called it 'Mushel', and we never knew how to spell it.  I've been messing around with this mixture for years. I've followed this particular recipe three times now and we've decided it's no fluke that we like this taste.  Though I don't remember my mom's recipe tasting quite like this because I'm sure she didn't use the red peppers and the Worcestershire, this one is a bit on the sweet/spice side.
This is not a quick recipe because you have to let the mixture 'flavor up' and let the beef absorb the juices for at least a half an hour. This also means that you can make it whenever you have time and it will be ready when you want it.

And - I did remember to take some photos!

This is how it now appears in my recipe .doc files:

½ lb. ground beef                       2 Tbsp. tomato paste*

1 onion, chopped                        ¼ cup ketchup                                   

¼ tsp. oregano                           2 tsp. Worcestershire

¼ tsp. Garlic powder                   1 2oz. jar roasted red peppers

Salt and pepper                          1 16 oz. can red kidney beans

                   ¼ cup water or more for ‘sauce’        
                       Toppings of your choice

Begin to sauté beef and onion. When the beef starts to brown add seasonings and stir them in.  Add the tomato paste, ketchup, and Worcestershire, and the peppers, undrained. Add the water to create a sauce and simmer all this for about 5 minutes.

Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pan. Add more water if you want a thinner sauce. Bring this to a simmer again then cover the pan and turn off the heat.  Let the mixture ’flavor up’ for at least a half an hour.
   Bring the mixture back to a simmer, then top and serve.

Topped with shredded mozzarella and sliced green onions.
You could try cheddar or Swiss - maybe even sour cream.
Here's a trick you may or may not have used if you were opening up a new can of tomato paste. There are usually 5 two tablespoon 'servings' to a can.
Take 2 tbsps. for this recipe and dole out the other four on to an oil-sprayed plate.  Pop the plate into the freezer for a while. Bag up the blobs and put them back in the freezer for future use.