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When I was a little girl, my favorite “teddy bear” was a black and white panda.  I cuddled and slept with it every night, and dragged it around, by its arm (or leg) all day.  I had other stuffed animals, but this one was my real buddy and companion. I didn’t want to share it.  I didn’t want to wash it.  I didn’t want to be away from it.  Over the years, it became withered and torn and kind of sad looking, until one day…..I just forgot about it as I grew up into other interests.

Many years passed:  grade school, middle school, high school, engagement, marriage and a child.  A beautiful baby girl with blue eyes and a bright smile.  The joy of our lives.  We all had great hopes for her happiness and success and made plans for her future as a grown up girl.  You never realize how much impact a child can be until you hold her in your arms and look into those innocent eyes and see a little bit of yourself in them.

On my 30th birthday, August 21,1987, my daughter was just past turning 5 years old and my father gave me the most precious gift. It was a framed picture of a panda with a note he had written on the back. It told me that my ownership of this special picture was only temporary, as I was to give it to my own daughter on her 30th birthday and she to hers and so on and so on.  In this way his love and legacy would be passed through the generations to “all the little girls”.

This year, my daughter turned 30 years old – where did the time go?  It was my priviledge to turn the picture over to her loving care until another “little girl” in our family reaches 30 years old.  Even more special, was that my father was able to see his legacy passed on to another generation.

The Panda that was “born” in 1957, will live on and on, bringing joy and comfort and love on behalf of Dad, GrandPa, Great-GrandPa and on and on.  Thank you Dad, for thinking of your “little girls”.

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I just discovered that they are going to discontinue the Blogstream that my Mom used to post her “Memories and Moments by Granny Jo” blog series.  We are trying to copy all of it to preserve it, but in case we fail to get it in its entirety – I wanted to post one of my favorite stories  that she posted.  So – let Granny Jo transport you back in time for pleasant and loving memories…



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The first Valentine Day ever (for me) came on February 14, 1942. I don’t have a memory of any celebrations or card exchanges in all of our family before that time. Only with the start of school did the excitement of making valentines and giving them to classmates and family begin.

I remember how surprised and happy my mom and dad were when I
presented them with a bit lopsided, but colorful heart, featuring a lace
background made by folding a white sheet of paper over and over and cutting
little holes and diamonds in it, until it was more holes than paper. We would
have put Hallmark out of business in those days.

The image of the carefully decorated box with a slit in the top through which we’d mail our valentines at school until party day still comes to my mind, (if I take a moment or so to carefully search the old memory banks). Usually a couple of mothers would bring some heart shaped sugar cookies and bottles of chocolate milk to give a festive feeling to the day. That was also probably the first time I was exposed to doing anything by ‘vote’. We nominated a couple of classmates to play ‘postman’ (post person, now) and then we were given a chance to vote on a slip of paper and deposit in a bowl on the teacher’s desk. Since we were just six months into school, Mrs. Randal, the teacher, block printed the three names on the board, telling us who each one was. Quite the learning process…reading, printing and civics….all for a holiday!

Further along in school, third through sixth grades, we began to use the commercial valentines, those little things that came fifty assorted to a bag. How can I ever forget laying each one out, picking the best for that favorite boy and special good friends, and wondering if I should give any at all to some not so good friends. Of course, I’d quickly remember how bad it would be not to get any valentines, so I’d reluctantly write out one to everybody. It was at that time that we began to be social animals. We discovered that if we planned the parties, including the refreshments, they would be a bit more elaborate…thus more time off from studying! That’s just what we did. We contributed some cash toward decorations and a big sheet cake from the bakery. Parents would bring finger sandwiches and the ice cream and we went for Kool-Aid, served in a punch bowl, instead of milk.
What fun!!

Naturally, junior high and high school brought significant
others that meant fancy cards, candy and sometimes a ‘date’. There was always a Valentine Dance in the gym and we all took turns at decorating through the different years. It didn’t matter if you went stag, and girls danced with girls very easily then. Of course, girls were the best dancers! They practiced more, never lacking a partner. The boys…well, we’ll skip that. However, there was always that ‘special’ valentine, that ‘special’ dance partner, that very ‘special’ boy who grew to be my friend, my husband….









I’m trying to set the words to music with the
help of one of our sons. If it works I’ll bring it here, if it doesn’t, it will
always be a song in my heart.
Now on to more wonders of Valentine Days
and Love.8-)

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All the males in our family are adults, but all of them are still enamoured with the electric train set.  Sadly somehow, the original set was lost in the midst of a move or a cleaning frenzy and for quite a few years, there was no train under our tree.  My brother got a replacement set for my Dad a few years back, and since then it has grown into a semi-permanent display in their home. But it truly reaches its pinnacle of beauty and fascination during the Christmas season.  Once the tree goes up in the middle of the train board, it seems to complete the scene.  It is especially magical at night when the tree lights send a warm and colorful light down on the field of white “snow” and the little houses are lit up along the “Main Street”.

The evolution of the scenery came along in stages, some purchased, some assembled from kits and some built from scratch.  In years past, the infrastructure of the board was measured and built and the track assembled and affixed to the board which was placed in front of the picture window on a seasonal basis only which then evolved to a permanent display in front of the picture window where the Christmas tree is placed each year.  Next came the blanket of soft cloth snow with strategically placed folds and curves that create snow drifts and hills. This year flocking snowflakes were added to give a frostier and more realistic effect. The ice-skating pond is a mirror top with snow flocking on its edges and skaters gliding gracefully while others lace up their skates to join them.  The houses are a set of old Americana-style homes and businesses that tease you with their warm lights, begging you to look through the windows to see if anyone is home. Rounding the bend, the steam locomotive passes under a tressel bridge fashioned from a metal Erector set from yars past and revealing a festive Santa themed billboard at its exit. Frosted evergreens and fences define sections of the town where adults and children go about their preparations for the holidays.

“Going vertical” has added a new dimension to the display this year. Dad built a ski-slope mountain to give height and character to the landscape. He artfully sculpted the exterior to give it a realistic craggy look and mechanically reinforced the inside to stand the test of time, which took precision and patience to make it fit just right. This required an additional support section that allowed the track to be lengthened and directed through the mountain’s tunnel.  Atop the mountain, a Lego castle and a Lincoln Log farmhouse are perched and overlook the town below. After the Christmas season is over and the tree is taken down, it will be time for the train board to become a plant display and Dad will move his indoor plants to catch the morning sun and the train will travel through “jungles” of greenery and flowers. Some of the pots will take residence on the new mountain and will have the best view of the warm sunlight above and their leafy neighbors below.

Last night, the boys (I mean men) turned on the train and were instantly transported to the world of fantasy as they watched it round the track.  Smoke liquid was added to enhance the reality. The headlight lit the track and emerged from the darkness of the new tunnel with a triumphant “whoo-whoo” wail from the steam engine sound effect.  Their eyes sparkled in the low light as the tree’s star sent stained-glass images dancing around on the ceiling in the same way as when my brothers were toddlers in PJs. Smiles spread from ear to ear as they were mentally projected into the scenery and wondered about the potential stories and possibilities within that microcosim of fantasy. It was great to see them all share this experience and to share in the boyhood imagination of the moment.  Talk turned to plans on how to further enhance the scene for next year and pleasant memories of train sets of their past.  They shared, they laughed, they played.  We all need to play more!

Follow this link to see the train in action:




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My memories of Christmas long ago

are those of a feast of aromas. Always, there was the
crisp cold blast of fresh air when I left the warmth of our house to go visit Grandma across the street. It wasn’t exactly going to Alaska, but Mom made sure I was bundled up like a little Eskimo, which made it a bit shaky waddling through the snow piled up at the curbs when you crossed the streets, but I could still breathe the intoxicating air deep into my lungs. It never seemed quite so clean and fresh as it did right after the first snowfall.

Christmas also meant the scent of evergreen in the house. There were no ‘forever’ Christmas trees in those days, just the fragrant, fresh cut tree (we always got a short needle, easier to trim) that stood in our front window. We did use electric lights, though…I’m not quite old enough to remember candlelit trees…I think. It does get a bit harder to remember each year.

Naturally, as soon as we were up, doing the
gift scramble on Christmas morning, we’d be smelling peppermint candy sticks that had found their way between the packages. Mom always said that Santa’s Elves had left them, just because we’d been extra good that year. If you were sitting on the floor, fairly close to the coffee table, you would also get a good whiff of the fudge that sat on a tiered tray there. Homemade, too!

Not too long after we were involved in giftdom, Mom would escape out into the kitchen and the Maxwell House Coffee song would come bubbling in on a beckoning tune of fragrance. Soon it was followed by the aroma of toast and, all our gifts opened, we’d trot out to the kitchen to breakfast on fresh sliced ham, Dad’s Italian sausage, Mom’s bread toasted, with a jar of her orange marmalade to go with, and cheeses and olive salad left from the Christmas Eve extravaganza. You could bet that in just a few moments, the door would open and Uncle Al from across the street would be bouncing in to have
some breakfast and a Café Sport with Dad. Uncle Al always smoked a pipe, and at Christmas time you could count on him trying out some new exoticblend he’d received. I never was much for the scent of any tobaccos, but that pipe is still one of my memories of the Scents of Christmas, like it or not.

As soon as breakfast was over, Mom got another big turkey ready and popped it into the oven. Thanksgiving and Christmas, our big turkey days,
meant a house full of the scents of spices and mince, fruit pies and quince and of course the promise of the roasted bird to come!

Once all the preparations for dinner were done, I’d usually get dressed up in my new outfit – there was always something taffeta that rustled, a frilly slip, and new Mary Jane shoes to wear for the holidays, along with my usual stash of skirts, blouses and sweaters to wear until spring. All dressed up, my
dad would take me over to visit Grandpa Tony, Aunts Lucy and Angeline and Uncles John and Rocky, my dad’s family who lived next door to us. (Didn’t have to bundle up so much, this time, because Dad carried me through the yard and over
the snow!)

They would have a great tree in their living room, also. Aunt Lucy was a whiz with angel hair. The blue lights peeping out from behind the veil of white fluff, placed expertly all over the tree, looked etherally beautiful. Dad’s family was much more simplified in their Christmas celebrations. Grandma died before I was born, and most of the fixing and doing was in the hands of the kids, so it was simple. Not that they weren’t great cooks, though! Aunt Lucy made cavatelli to die for, and Grandpa had a greens and beans minestrone that made your mouth water just to smell it; not to mention his goat cheese, made from the milk of his own goats.

So, the scents from their Christmas house in my memory are the sharp smell of cheese curing in cheese cloth hung from a rack in the kitchen,
coffee simmering forever in a big steel pot on the back of their stove, sauce bubbling away to cover their cavatelli dinner, fresh rolls baking in the oven
and the piney, fragrance of a Christmas tree, weaving its way into the kitchen from the parlor.

The Four Tree Christmas
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Christmas 1980 was probably our last ‘real tree’ year. We ended up
with 3 big trees and a small live table tree you can see right behind the
“Frosty” Cake.

Things are just abit different on Christmas Days in the later 1990’s for my family. For years we did the big turkey dinner, after the Christmas Eve feast, but several years ago we thought we’d try something different.

We’ve been spending Christmas Day at daughter Lori’s ever since the grandchildren got big enough to open presents. It’s great fun taking all our exchanges to the one house and watching each other open gifts ‘one by one’. The kids take turns being “Santa” and selecting a gift from under the tree for everybody in turn, and we all ‘watch’ as the gift is opened before someone else’s gift is selected. That usually lasts from around 9 a.m. till noon — what can I say, we are all so good, Santa is extra generous with us! Lori always has a buffet breakfast for us to nibble at, as we see fit during the gift opening. Plenty of Eve leftovers, just as in the olden days, find their way up to the house and serve as lunch. Again, catch as catch can.

What’s really new, though, is that early in the a.m. I set enough dough to raise to make about six pizzas for our Christmas Day Supper. Lori gets a big pot of chicken soup started, so that we can put together a great wedding soup and of course, a monster salad is mandatory. There’s always plenty of cookies, nut roll and pies for dessert, and we may even have some punch left from the night before. A bit of wine or beer, some hot coffee or cold soda and ahhhhhhh.

This much simpler supper instead of a huge Christmas dinner, is easier on the cooks, better for the diners and leaves a lot of time to play cards or games, or just nap a bit after lunch. Of course, it suffices to say that these goodies lend a whole new adventure to our Scents of Christmas Day
memories. That’s the best part!









Wedding Soup

Large 6-Qt Soup Pot
2 lb+/- Chicken–4 Qt Water–3T Chicken Base–1 Medium UN-peeled Onion
3 Eggs–2 Carrots–1/4C Chopped Parsley–2 Stalks Celery with Leaves
¼ C Romano Cheese–¼ tsp Black Pepper–1 Head Escarole, Wash, Chop
1/2 lb ground beef
½ lb Fine Pastini, Cooked According to Recipe on Box
Bring Chicken, Water, Base, Celery, Whole Onion and Carrots just to a boil in pot. Lower heat immediately and simmer slowly 2 hours. Do not boil. Skim as


Make tiny meatballs with the ground beef by adding salt, pepper, grated Parmesean, breadcrumbs, 1 egg and 1 tsp dry beef boullion. Mix all together and roll meatballs about the size of a penny.

Remove the Chicken to cool so that it can be handled. Add the meatballs to the hot broth to simmer. When chicken is cool, remove the skin and bones and chop Chicken bite size. Return to pot. Add the Chopped Escarole and continue cooking very low until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, stir in the cooked Pastini, mixing well.Whisk together well
the Eggs, Romano Cheese, Black Pepper and Chopped Parsley. Bring Soup to the
simmer and stir Beaten Eggs into soup in a steady thin stream. Cook about five minutes more, or until egg sets up. Serve with extra Romano and Pepper
to taste.

Tossed Salad

Your preference of
lettuce and greens, vegetables or a variety of each. Anything goes with this
Italian dressing.

Italian Dressing

Blender or Large Bowl and Mixer
2 C Red Wine Vinegar — ½ C Cold Water — 2 T Balsamic Vinegar
½ C Olive Oil — 3 T Sugar — 1 T Garlic Granules
3 T Onion Flakes — 1 T Parsley Flakes — 1 T Oregano — 1 T Basil–3 T Salt — 2 T Brown Mustard — 1 T Black Pepper
Blend well in blender or mixer. Makes about 1 Quart. May be stored in refrigerator.
Serve at ROOM TEMPERATURE, Shaking well before

Pizza Platter Recipes

Pizza DoughLarge Bowl for Mixing and Raising
6 Large Cookie Sheets or Large Round Pizza
Corn Oil for coating pans
2 Packs Instant Fast-Rising Yeast — ½ C Very Warm Water — 1 T Sugar
Dissolve Yeast in Water. Add Sugar; stir until
dissolved. Set aside.
4 C Hot Water–1 C Milk Warmed–2 T Corn Oil–1 T
Sugar–1 T Salt
About 5 lb. All Purpose Flour

Dissolve Sugar in Warm Milk. When Yeast mixture bubbles, add to Milk. Add the oil to Hot Water in a
large bowl. Pour in Milk/Yeast mixture. Whisk in Flour, 2 C at a time. Add Salt with the first addition.
Whisk well after each addition.

When you can no longer use the whisk, switch to a heavy wooden spoon. Continue adding flour and mixing until a stiff dough forms.

Flour work counter/board very well and turn out dough onto board. Continue folding over and working in flour until it starts to spring back.
Add a bit more flour to the board and knead for about 5 minutes, until dough is very springy and does not stick to board.

Oil a large bowl that will allow the dough to raise double. Form a big ball with the dough and put it into oiled bowl. Punch down a bit and flip over, oiled side up. Cover with clean towel, set in a warm place and let raise until double.

Punch down, turn over and let raise until double
again.Dough is now ready to make pizzas, rolls or

Pizzas (Use about 450-475 degree oven to bake pizzas to insure crispness. Slip off pan last few minutes to further brown the bottom.)

Cut six balls of dough, big enough to spread to about ¼ inch thickness on an oiled pizza pan or cookie sheet. Place each ball onto a tray and proceed to spread dough, letting it rest a few minutes every so often, until all sheets are covered.

Left over tomato sauce for Pasta makes a great pizza sauce. Just add more oregano to your taste. Spread over pizza shell; add toppings of your choice.
(Always pre-cook loose sausage or ground beef before using in a pizza. Pepperoni should be placed beneath the cheese so that it doesn’t burn in the baking.)

A “White” Pizza can be made by beating eggs
together with Romano Cheese, parsley, garlic salt, and pepper, then spreading it over the pizza dough. Add slices of provolone or grated mozzarella before

A “Greens” Pizza can be made by frying spinach or escarole greens (that have been boiled or thawed and squeezed of all water) in olive oil, minced
garlic, crushed red peppers and salt. Spread over pizza shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Roll up like a Jelly Roll.Let raise until double.
Brush with oil, sprinkle with Coarse Salt. Bake at 350 until golden brown.

Isn’t that just like a big family? Going off and making NEW
TRADITIONS? You’ve got to love it!


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In 1978, I bought a Hallmark dated ornament for my boyfriend (now my husband) to commemorate our love for each other.  Annually, thereafter, I bought another one and another one to commemorate more love, our marriage and our first home.  Then, our daughter was born and we bought one for her in 1982.  Others started hearing about our tradiition and started giving us dated ornaments – so we in turn started giving ornaments to them as well.  As the years march on, this legacy continues as markers of our family tree.

We use the ornaments to mark milestones in our lives – births and the toddler years, anniversaries, Eagle Scout, marriages and deaths.  We use them to celebrate accomplishments, unique talents and interests that are part of our individualism – rowing, Pharmacy, Tae Kwan Do blackbelts, classic cars and trucks, Wizard of Oz and Disney characters and many beautiful, hand-made keepsake ornaments made by and given to us by my brother and his talented ex-wife. Other ornaments express sentiments of love and pride and support.  Our travels and adventures are chronicled – Chicago when my son won the Craftsman Invent-a-Tool national contest, Niagra Falls and Disneyland which are my favorite magical places, Big Bear Lake and many other destinations where we vacationed as a family and Alaska cruise memories, among many others. Some make us laugh, some make us cry – but all of them have meaning and memories associated with them and often invoke conversations about them as we all trim the tree together.  For some, I suspect this is a somewhat tedious task, but for me, it is a special start to the season and I thank them all for indulging me this simple pleasure of their time and love to do this every year. My hope is that this tradition will continue long after I have passed to another plane and I can look down and hear the stories told and the laughter fill the room with love and sweet memories.

As the years march on, our collection has become quite large but someday they will be passed on to our children and hopefully, their children and on and on…so they can continue the stories of our family tree.  This year our new ornaments commemorated our 30th wedding anniversary, our son’s passions for photography and fine wines, our daughter and son-in-law’s pregnancy and personalized, hand-made ornaments about each of us as pain-stakingly created by my daughter.  They will hang in the place of honor at the center of the tree that is always reserved for new ornaments and then they will reappear next year and many years after with all the others – shiny bits and pieces of what makes us a family.

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Nobody said it better than my Mom, so I will turn this blog over to her “Thanksgiving – Then and Now” post from November 2006.  She has passed, but we still all get together to keep the traditions and are in the midst of preparing some of her recipes for the big day (which are included in her blog that is attached).  My brother is going to bake the big turkey and my husband will deep-fry a large breast.  Look at the October 11 post from our Road-Trip to Beantown for a great Yams in a Pan recipe that I will be using this year. The rest of us will fill in the meal with hor d’ourves and side dishes and desserts.  We hope that your celebration with family and friends is also blessed.  Now, I will turn over control of the mouse to Mom…click on this link to open the file: HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE







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My Dad and his two siblings got together today and we all traveled out to a Gulf-side restaurant (with my Aunt Kathy as well).  We had a pleasant lunch with a water-view and a photo taking fest.  After we got back home, we settled down into chairs in the living room and conversation evolved to memories of their childhood.  Kathy and I were basically spectators, but it was interesting to me to sit back and hear the three of them talk. 

The years peeled away like the rind on the Florida oranges and revealed the sweet fruit of times gone by, but not forgotten.  They seemed to transform into younger versions of themselves as they told stories of mischief and child’s play.  Once again, they were rooting through dump sites for “treasures”, making forts and tree-houses, climbing trees and eating apples until they were physically ill.  They spoke of their parents with affection and laughter as they recanted the ritual of decapitating (sometimes less than successfully) and removing the feathers from chickens and canning fruits, vegetables and juices.

Then more ominous subjects arose (not that be-heading chickens with a home-made guillotine is not ominous enough) – the dead bodies along the side of the road and the man in the burning car and the scary door. The “scary door” was not an issue for my Dad, but for his brother and sister it has been a recurring and haunting nightmare, of sorts.  It was merely unable to be locked with its skeleton key, but the possibility of what lurked behind it, ready to pounce in the night was conjured in their minds and provided a sense of fear and foreboding. Spooky.

Back to lighter fare, my aunt talked about going into the deep woods and engaging all the possibilities that their imagination could muster.  They made Indian weapons out of rocks, sticks and vines or rope and then buried them to hide them until the next day’s playtime.  She recanted the time whe entered an apple orchard during apple blossom time and how she found a “magical, princess world”.  Dad remembered looking at the stars and dreaming of becoming an astronomer.  My uncle (who is several years younger than his siblings) had a different circle of friends but knew all the local haunts and played in the same woods and had the same sweet memories of home and family. They picked blackberries and grapes and peaches and apples and grew corn, rhubarb, peppers, tomatoes and pickling cukes, just to name a few.  They enjoyed the fruits of that labor all year through as they used the canned goods and visited the root cellar (what a different world we all live in today).  My uncle is still trying to locate my grandmother’s piccadilly recipe, which may be lost in time, but his memory of it still makes his mouth water.

Smiles were on their faces and laughter filled the room and they were as comfortable and natural with each other as if they had never been apart. It was sad to see them have to separate again and leave more stories for another day in the distant future. I am so glad that I was able to bring Dad here and that my uncle traveled down so that they could have this special day.  I was a privileged spectator to the whole purpose of this blog – nurturing and developing family connections.

Just like the home-grown tomatoes we discussed: “there is nothing more sweet and delicious than what you find in your own backyard”.  No truer words of the day were ever spoken.

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We start with the words of the day from the Apollo 13 Mission. A testament to the human spirit of survival, ingenuity and success. More about that later.

The day started out with Dad saving a life – literally. His routine trip to the bathroom in the early morning found a man writhing on the floor in a seizure.  He assisted him, while calling for help and the office called 911.  Dad stayed with the man until professional help arrived.  That will get your heart started in the morning!  It appears that the man will be OK – and Dad will too.






We went to Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral – which was about a 20 minute drive.  I was on the lookout for alligators and saw a few in the canals along the road, but none close enough to get a good photo. We crossed over a scenic bridge/causeway that crossed the Atlantic to Merritt Island.  In addition to the Space Center, there is a museum of Astronauts, a Museum for Police and a bird/animal sanctuary.

I must say that I was impressed with the Space Center experience.  The admission price was reasonable, the parking, wheelchairs and strollers were free, and everything was included (except food and the Shuttle Lift-Off thrill experience). The 3D/IMAX movies were excellent and the other attractions were informative and fun.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the whole place was very clean and well maintained.  There is a HUGE amount to area to cover, but they handle that with air-conditioned tour buses that run on schedule and are handicap friendly.






As expected, Dad was consumed with the science and I was bewildered with the concept of infinity and beyond.  Over lunch, we had a deep philosophical discussion about outer and inner space and the fragility of our tiny planet – while others only engaged in idle chitter-chatter. Life-size replicas or original equipment hung above us and were displayed around us.  We touched a moon rock and saw original control-room monitors and space suits and gear of the astronauts. The movie about the Hubble Telescope took us deep into space to view other galaxies, light-years away and spectacular stars in various stages of birth and death emitting gaseous plasmas that could form into new solar systems.  Mind-boggling and beautiful.







In the Apollo 11 Lunar Theatre, my Dad and I sat side by side, just as we had on the couch in our living room when I was twelve years old.  It was way after midnight, but we were up and glued to the set.  All of the lights were off and we watched by the glow of the TV screen as Neil Armstrong took that first historic step while Walter Cronkite narrated the events with the emotion and pride that every American (every WORLD) citizen felt at that moment.  For that brief moment in time, we were united as citizens of the world and marveling at the achievements of man and the belief that there is always more tomorrow than there is today.  Sitting there today, I got a lump in my throat – thankful that I could share that with my Dad again and hopeful that the human race may survive long after I am space dust.

Tomorrow, lunch with my niece-in-law by the ocean and then we head inland to swamp country.  Maybe I will get a pic of an alligator then – before he gets a bite of me!  In the meantime, I will share some buzzard pics in preparation for creepy Halloween…See ya’ tomorrow from the bayou!


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We will be spending two days on the Outer Banks, so I have decided to combine their blog into one. Let me start by saying that the Cape Hatteras region has some pleasant (and not so pleasant) memories for us, as we vacationed here as a family a couple of times in many years past.  Back then, the area was pretty sparse and we stayed at the Sea Gull motel.  I ALMOST learned to swim in their pool, but chickened out in the end. My brother Rick and my husband Mike both endured the sand with 3rd degree sunburns. Whenever I look at the Lighthouse, I am brought back to the time when I saw my little brother with his bucket and his swimsuit walking toward me after a long day in the sun and surf.  The poor thing was sunburned beyond belief and spent the next several nights and days shivering and blistering. We all felt his pain and we all felt guilty as we soaked him in wet towels and sprayed and slathered him with coolants and anesthetics. Both brothers devoured pancakes rolled up with peanut butter and jelly.  We watched the Bicentennial fireworks on the small TV and picked tiny, elusive clams out of the sand so Mom could make a chowder.  I got stuck in a hole, while clamming, and as the tide came in (almost to my chest), I panicked and had to be rescued by someone who walked out without getting their shorts wet to give me a hand up and out. Mom and Dad’s deep-sea fishing netted a small shark, a blue-fin dolphin (not Flipper-like) and a toothy mackeral which were mounted and displayed on our walls for decades. Sand castles, sand forts and sand in our shorts…We climbed the Lighthouse’s winding stairs and looked out of the top for pirate ships – not sure we will be able to physically do that now…

In Norfolk, VA we descended into a tunnel beneath the ocean depths to make our way into North Carolina – it made me marvel at the degree of engineering that it would take to build and maintain the integrity of such an undertaking with all the stress of the water pressing against the shell – it was kind of scary.  Next, we crossed over the huge expanses of causeway, sometimes almost skimming the choppy ocean which made us feel like we were moving across the top of the water with no support beneath us – just free.  We felt the immensity of the vast Atlantic. Seabirds swooped on the winds and vessels sailed in the distance. Our return to land destination was visible in the distance – the Outer Banks, NC.







We find now that the area has grown up with more commercial businesses, condos, cell towers and vacation homes.  The sleepy sea-town ambiance is somewhat gone, but it is still a picturesque area and has some smaller towns which still haven’t been urbanized as much. Hurricane Irene was the last storm to take its toll on the OBX – but certainly not the only storm, by any means.  It is kind of a way of life around here, but they rebuild and restart, over and over. Even today, the winds are gale force and there is no real “storm” on the horizon.  It shows the vulnerability of this strip of peninsula stuck out into the elements of the sea – beauty and the beast.

We started our visit at Kill Devil Hills – the site of the Wright Brothers famous 59 second flight of 852 feet that set the course for modern aviation.  Dad was intrigued by the science and years of dedication of experimentation and fortitude to overcome failures to reach their goal.  Quirky person that I am, I noticed a small flock of Canadian Geese who had stopped by to rest and nourish themselves.  I tried to think from their perspective:  “What is the big deal about? This flying stuff is SOOO easy, just spread your wings and lift-off!”  They can do effortlessly and naturally, what it took man years and years to accomplish…however, they do not serve complimentary beverages and roasted peanuts on THEIR flights. Our words of the day come from Orville Wright, “Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!”  May we never lose our sense of wonder!

Next, on to Jockey’s Ridge –  the tallest sand dunes on the Eastern Coast, followed by Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. This little strip of land is home to many migrating birds and waterfowl and we also saw deer grazing by the roadside.  I found it a rather harsh environment sitting between the sound and the surf with the wind lashing salty air and sand pelting the RV.  But there was some cushion of protection in the marsh grasses and reeds that sprouted up like fences that likely are the resting havens for the weary winged travelers and their four-footed companions.

Since it was getting late afternoon, we headed for camp to hook up before dark.  Did laundry, re-organized the RV and ate Tuna Noodle casserole.  I am sitting in the RV writing this as Dad “snorks” in bed after another long day.  The wind is still strong and is buffeting the RV which is swaying and shaking – but still a sturdy vessel.  I will sleep tonight near the ocean with the surf and wind lulling me to relaxation – my favorite place to be, as my family will tell you. The only thing that could make this any better is if they ALL could be here with us. Tomorrow we will travel to the Lighthouse and other sites further down the Cape. I promise to not get stuck in any holes this time…See you tomorrow night to finish the adventure!

We started the 21st with a sweet potato pancake breakfast (remember that recipe?  Well, mash up the leftovers, sans skins, and mix into pancake batter for a fall treat – yum).  I took a walk along the beach and could not resist some of the beautiful shells.  Finding myself ill-prepared without a yellow sand bucket, like when we were kids, I stuffed them into my pockets and then off-loaded them to a plastic bag when I got back.  I also copped a large and small piece of driftwood to display on our back-yard porch at home.  Just as I was heading for the beach egress, I found another heart shaped stone – white this time – thanks, Mom!






Then it was time to take off for the day’s excursion – a trip farther down the Cape. The hurricane devastation was far worse in the southern portion of the peninsula. The KOA campground about a half-mile down the road was all splinters and rubble, as were many homes and businesses.  One section had been completely razed, while the one next to it stood virtually unharmed.  Trash and debris lined the road-side, including small boats, RVs with whole sections bashed in and furniture and personal belongings that were water-logged and useless.  Water still swamped and flooded properties and sections of the roads.  Work crews were busy on repairs and recovery was in the making, but it was sad nonetheless. Still, there was a sign of hope that we found as our words of the day on a portable electric sign in front of a pizza shop – “Living the Dream”.

We passed an architectural oddity – a flying-saucer home that seemed to have survived the storm. We also found the Sea Gull motel in tact, though physically different (updated, but not too modern or huge) and without their swimming pool.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was still a statuesque building – but it was not in the same place that we last left it!  It seems that the beach that was its home was eroding at an alarming rate, so the decision was to move it to an alternate location – another immense engineering feat – think of the weight and the height of the structure and then off loading it onto a platform and moving it a significant distance to its new home…amazing.  It was closed for the season, so you couldn’t climb it (and I was SO looking forward to that).  We visited the site of its original home and I found some brickwork pieces that I believe were part of the original foundation – a keepsake of a memory – the same, but different.

Back at camp, we started our homemade seaside dinner for two – New England Clam Chowder, Crab-cakes, Grouper and fresh tomato salad. Before dinner, we took another walk along the beach, more shells and rocks, and talked to some shore fishermen who had some modicum of success. I saw a scary Halloween sight – some kind of skull, a hoofed animal, I think – devoid of flesh and its eye-sockets peering up at me.  I DID NOT take that as a keepsake.  The sun dipped behind me, setting in the west as I faced the ocean breezes coming from the east.  The clouds hung low on the horizon and the gulls drafted on the wind. I will miss this place…


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New Beginnings

We are proud to announce that our family will be getting a new addition in May 2012.  Our daughter is having a baby!  This will be our first grandchild and we are looking forward to welcoming him or her into our loving arms.  As you can imagine, this will be a transition for all of us (especially the new parents) as our “youngest” is now 23.  You can see the anticipation and excitement in their eyes and also remember our own joys and fears when you realize that you are pregnant and your whole life is about to change. Hopefully, I can pass on some of my wisdom and experience to my daughter and help her adjust to her new motherly role, but we all know there is a crash course of motherhood and fatherhood that awaits them once their little bundle arrives!  We all survived it and I have confidence that they will also.

While walking with Dad in the park today, we reminisced about our own experiences.  He and my my Mom were barely past 20 years old and had been already “trying” for over a year – but timing was a bit off and my Mom was 5 weeks pregnant (same as our daughter is today, give or take) when she had to get on a ship to come back to the mainland from Hawaii (where my Dad was stationed).  Technically, she was not allowed to sail because she was pregnant, but she kept silent, fibbed (a little) and did it anyway.  Morning sickness + an ocean voyage – THAT must have been a real stomach turner!  How I wish that she was still with us to see her great-grandchild with my Dad.  I pray that she is watching over us, smiling and being a guardian angel for our daughter and her developing child.

It has been a long time since we had to have diapers (haven’t missed those much!), cribs, highchairs, strollers, security locks, bottles and binkies, baby food jars and little spoons that go zoom like an airplane, sippie cups and toys, toys, toys (if they can get them away from their uncle, great-uncles and Dad).  Looking forward to lullabies, first tooth, first step, first word, trips to Disneyland, Chutes and Ladders, Sing-Along DVDs, Peek-A-Boo, Patty-Cake, Little Piggies and “I Love You One…I Love You Two…I Love You Three…etc”, Christmas and Easter Egg “hunts”, Butterfly Kisses and Bear Hugs.  Then comes the whirlwind of years that fly by:  potty-trained (at last!), first day of school, taking off the training wheels, science fairs, recitals and sports, homecoming, puppy love, teen-angst (yuck!), prom, graduation, college, career, engagement, marriage and children of their own.

First official advice from Grandma and Grandpa:  Time goes quickly so make the most of every precious day.


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