Thursday, January 30, 2014

ladies in the line

The Ladies in the line: prompt words—threat, viewpoint, birdless, blimp, drive, singing, spit, float.

The ladies in the line were singing a happy tune in the south yard of Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage, near the gravel drive where the limo was waiting. From their viewpoint, the day could not be finer. This conclusion was enhanced by the spiked punch they sipped at lunch. Ignoring the signs that all was not right with the world (the midsummer sky was birdless and not a butterfly floated by the bushes), they continued to dance. Irritated by their joy, the gardener angrily spit his tobacco into the raked grass and threatened the universe with his tight fist. The Goodyear Blimp took a photo of the scene which was published on the inside page of LIFE magazine with the caption "Ladies frolic with the First Lady while the stockmarket hits a new low." (148 words)



Monday, January 27, 2014

Car Happy

Mark took this photo and captioned it so well I am just using it as ":

I am standing next to our new car, a Subaru Impreza Sport Limited, with Beau Overfelt, our fantastic salesperson from Tucson Subaru.  This decision was an unplanned event.  But when the 16 year old Camry Mark had been using from his dad needed more repairs than it was worth, and, we determined over the next few days, we were not yet at the point of being a "one car family"--we started shopping.

We had been viewing Subarus on the road, reading about their safety record (very high), but hadn't driven any during our various car rental experiences.  So Beau took us out (very patiently and with good humor as well as detailed info) with three different models: the Impreza, the Crossfit and the Forester.  We thought we would want a bigger car, but we really liked the ride in the smaller model.  We went back another day (Beau was off) and Kevin took me out for a spin.  Mark did his homework on Costco leasing and so we went back for a loooong session with Beau, his manager, Terry, and Tim, the "financial guy."

It's been 13 years since our last (and successful Royal Isuzu) lease-purchase and our brain cells were popping with the new details and amazing technology in a new 2014 car.  Besides seven air bags and a transmission that is as smooth as silk, Mark is bursting with gear-head info.  I, however, will comment on the comfort (for my back) of the seats, super sound system and fantastic visibility, including a rear-view camera.

But, we would have turned around on the first day in the first five minutes if Beau hadn't approached us with a smile and wry sense of humor.  He never pressured us into a decision, but answered all of our skeptical questions and when he "didn't know", he checked it out with his manager.

We highly recommend this dealership (newly relocated on Oracle, just south of River) and ask for Beau or Kevin.

P.S. The dozen red roses I am holding in the photo are from Beau--that's a first in my history, i.e. a car agreement resulting in a bouquet.  Classy and kind:).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Making Divinity

Making Divinity—A Illinois Holiday Memory (from Poets & Writer’s “The Time is Now” prompt:

Once Thanksgiving passed, my mom would start checking the weather reports on a daily basis.  She wasn’t worried about snowfall or frigid temperatures.  She was watching for the humidity levels, because, only when the humidity was low, could she make her Mistletoe Mart Divinity. 

Our church, First United Methodist in Elgin, had an annual event that women of the church contributed to with their baked goods and craft products.  Although mom was a very able sewer (she made delicate clothes for our Ginny, Jill and Shirley Temple dolls), she really glowed when she baked.  Not an enthusiastic meal cook, she put her love and attention into cookies (butterscotch blondies, Grandmother’s sugar cookies, ginger snaps, toffee squares), cakes (upside down pineapple, spice cake with caramel icing) and the occasional summer pie (rhubarb).  But divinity was her specialty and when she prepared for it and produced it, my sister and I learned to stay out of her way, yet be close at hand to help her quickly spoon out the delights and clean the beaters.

She would drop the spoonfuls on waxed paper, pressing alternate pecan halves or jarred cherries into the centers.  Sometimes she would make a batch with pecan pieces swirled inside the dollops of egg white, Karo and granulated sugar syrup.  I don’t recall my Grandmother Dice making this candy, so perhaps Mom inherited it from her grandmother.  In any case, she would make several batches of the candy for the church, storing them in metal tins after they had set.

Dad would help her bring the tins early to the church basement and, for as long as I could remember, the pieces were sold out to the other church women before the Mart opened to the community.  Mom would return from the event with empty tins and a full heart, all ready to start to work—again, as soon as the weather would permit—on holiday batches for her family and neighbors.

As Mom aged, it wasn’t until her mid-eighties that she would “move over” and begin to teach me how to make divinity.  The year before she died, we made it in her tiny assisted-living kitchen, and I had to choke back tears as we pushed the hardening texture around the milk-glass bowl.

For the first two years after she died, I did make—or try to make her recipe.  The first year, it took me three attempts and it wasn’t due to the weather.  Living in the desert, low humidity is almost a given.  No, it was the accuracy of the syrup’s temperature that did me in.  The second year, I again had multiple attempts and, unlike the first year of my succession, I could not get the weight of the dollops correct, even with my husband’s patient assistance.  And I found I no longer experienced joy in the process.  It felt more like a duty and one that I was not fulfilling very well.  So, I have let go of that tradition (for now), and felt happiness this holiday in making my version of Mom’s toffee squares.  They remain my son’s favorite holiday cookie and really, that’s what Mom’s legacy is about: making a recipe with joy and love, whipping those feelings into the batter, and passing it on to another generation.  The key ingredients are not in the recipe, or even the hands; they are in the heart. (Note: this is close to, but not exactly, my mom’s recipe—that’s a family secret for nowJ).



Thursday, January 9, 2014

First poem of the Year

from a prompt via Poets & Writers, The Time is Now, 1/9/2014

Winter Storm

I had just started to read “War and Peace.”

Borrowed from the public library,

its weight impressing my imagination,

parchments papers crinkling under my fingers.

When the storm came with wind and cold rain,

ice formed on the wires and hung from our gutters.

My mother warmed our beds with a cast iron skillet,

heated in the basement stove—the electricity in the kitchen,

And throughout the house was gone.

I bundled in blankets and sat in the basement,

oddly warmer than the rest of the house.

My grandmother gave us an oil-lamp so I could read at night.

Natasha swirled in her Russian house,

Blood dripped on the battlefield,

And I was in awe as ice formed daggers,                                                                                     

sharpening as the storm cut me from Illinois life,

binding me to Tolstoy’s turbulence.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday and Happiness Bright Spots

This sculpture, made of horse shoes, stands in the sunlit shadows as you enter Hacienda Del Sol Resort.  We had a wonderful lunch on patio on New Year's Day and I even indulged in a mimosa!  The resort offers four star meals and also opens up to blues and jazz on the weekends, so check out their schedule (and online menu) for a happy way to begin 2014.

On New Year's Eve, we ate at the Olive Garden with my dad and that was a nice meal for him, satisfying his Italian taste buds.  But what wowed us was our first visit to was the authentic gelato(smooth, light and not served in the garish "super size" of Frost).  My dad swooned over the lemon cheese cake and Mark and I slowly savored the chocolate caramel sea salt (my choice) and Mexican Chocolate Coffee (his).  They cater and have a cute dessert cart to bring to your events.  Fresh gelato is made twice a week at the welcoming cafĂ© in Williams Center.  Check them out at

Just to wrap things up for this New Year's Post, here's a graphic of happiness for you to enjoy.  According to the 2014 Calendar developed by Henry S. Miller, January is the month for hope and plans.  A friend of mine added "intentions" and I like that addition as well.  What about you?