Book Talk: Tidying and Memorizing

Today I’m going to talk about a book and about a family story. The book made a real impact on me, and it cleared the way for me to memorialize a family story without keeping the artifact. That’s what this book is all about.

Tidying Up Book

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Wonderful World of Disney Tablescape

This week’s tablescape was inspired by my vintage Ferris wheel (I talked about its history here), and seemed the perfect week to showcase it in Cuisine Kathleen’s “summer whimsey” tablescape party.

GotMyReservations Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

J. Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

Growing up, we traveled in the summer since my father was a teacher. Every June, we packed up the trailer and headed off on a long car trip. The longest — and my brother says the most interminable — trip we ever took was from Ohio to California. It was on that vacation in about 1965 that I first went to Disneyland and was enchanted by Walt Disney’s vision. Continue reading

Vintage Ferris Wheel Tablescape Inspiration

When Cuisine Kathleen posted her “summer whimsey” challenge, I knew that the time had come to bring out my vintage Ferris wheel and feature it in a vacation tablescape.

GotMyReservations Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

J. Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

I grew up with this toy and played with it whenever we visited my great-grandmother’s house. I was named after her, and the toy was passed down to me eventually. I had it evaluated at one of those appraisal parties and they said at the time that it was worth about $100, but to me it’s priceless and will be one of the last items to pass on to family members when it’s my turn. The Ferris wheel brings back good memories of playing at Grandma Jennie’s house. Continue reading

Travel Diary: A Travel Trip Through Memory Lane

As I was thinking about family this week, remembering that August 22 would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday, I decided to memorialize my parents by a trip through our travel memory lane. My father took all of the old slides with pictures of my brothers and me and converted them to photos. He gave us a photo scrapbook of all of these photos and they are a precious treasure trove that chronicles our growing up and our travels.

This is a personal journey that I’m making today, so if you’re not family or a really good friend, you may find you want to skip my grainy photolog. 🙂 Or maybe you have a similar set of photos in your closet that you’re willing to share …

GotMyReservations -- Mount Vernon Flower Garden

Flower Garden at Mount Vernon

Although there are lots of photos of me as a baby, it appears that we mostly stayed home or visited family in my early years. My father annotated the backs of the photos and he thought this first one was taken in about 1957 at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia. I turned five that summer and my brother was two. Since Dad was a teacher, we often took extended driving trips in the summer, dragging a variety of camping trailers behind us.

Here's a more current version of the garden at Mount Vernon.

Here’s a more current version of the garden at Mount Vernon.

My dad’s side of the family was from Cincinnati and we used to go to visit relatives fairly frequently. A visit to the Cincinnati Zoo was a treat, and Dad could not resist taking a leggy photo of Mom. Since she’s not pregnant here, this is probably about 1957.

GotMyReservations -- Cincinnati Zoo

Next on the memory lane is me at John Bryan State Park in western Ohio. Dad says this photo was taken about 1958. We always used to go on a fall color trip every year.

GotMyReservations -- John Bryan State Park

We visited the Ross County Historical Society Museum, in Chillicothe, Ohio.

GotMyReservations -- Chillicothe Historical Museum

My grandparents lived near Kansas City, so we sometimes visited them there. We also must have made a visit to the Harry S. Truman Library in about 1958.These two photos appear to be taken from about the same spot, but the second (professional) one has a lot more polish and landscaping!

GotMyReservations -- Harry Truman Library

Every Easter Sunday, after church we would go to what we called Mrs. Aull’s Garden (apparently we weren’t the only people) and take photos in our fancy clothes. My youngest brother is about two here, so it’s probably 1961.

GotMyReservations -- Mrs. Aulls Garden

Those yellow blobs on the hill behind us are all daffodils!

The hillside of daffodils still exists, and can be seen here via these copyrighted photos. Aullwood Garden Metropark is still a beautiful place to visit in Englewood, Ohio.

With our little family of five complete and mobile, we began to travel further afield.

And I began to get into those awkward years.

GotMyReservations --Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountain High

GotMyReservations -- Rocky Mountain Rocks

Occasionally my mom took a picture, but she didn’t seem to get the knack of focusing either.

In 1964, we went to the World’s Fair in New York. My husband, who had a traveling childhood similar to mine, remembers that they served $2.00 hamburgers and everyone thought that was highway robbery!

 

GotMyReservations -- Mount Vernon 2

We went back to Mount Vernon…

GotMyReservations --Monticell 2

… and to Monticello.

 

GotMyReservations -- Appalachian Mountains

I fell in love with the Appalachian Mountains all over again in 1967.

By the time I was sixteen, I had pretty much stopped traveling with my parents and was working during the summer to save money for college. The love of travel that they instilled in me never went away, however, and it’s a rare day that doesn’t find me dreaming about the next reservation to travel I’m going to make.

I’m linked up today to Wanderlust Wednesday at Time Travel PlansThe Tablescaper for “Oh, The Places I’ve Been”, Travel Photo Monday” at Travel Photo Discovery, and “Travel Photo Thursday” at Budget Travelers Sandbox, so stop by and get some more inspiration for your travel bucket list!

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford. 
Like a child in wild anticipation, 
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”

Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)

Writers Workshop: A Revisit to the “Grossest Family Recipe Ever”

Every family has its traditions. Apparently, one of mine is the grossest family recipe ever.

Originally published last year, talking about family food traditions was an important story to tell. With another year under our belts, Grandma’s Oyster Dressing is still part of my Thanksgiving tradition and it’s even more poignant when compared with others’ viewpoints of my favorite turkey day recipe. 

2012 has been a year of blessings. Our grown up kids are flourishing in their adult lives. Music Man and I are happily adjusting to my retirement and his more positive work environment. Our son is engaged to a beautiful woman whom we are eager to welcome into our family.  Libbie is now four, David is almost two, Jessie is expecting another family member in March, and I love being a great-aunt. Our band will grow and flourish and getting together at Thanksgiving is so very important to its health. Although it’s a pain in the neck to travel 600 miles, it’s worth it. We have a lot to be thankful for.

From November 19, 2011

As we enter our weekend of Thanksgiving and gluttony, I would like to pause and give thanks for the many creatures that give up their lives for us at this time of year.

 

Insert. Silent. Pause. Here.

My little family band gets together with my brothers and their families on the day after Thanksgiving. We have been doing this since 1976; I have not prepared a Thanksgiving meal in my own home since then. Every year, we drive the 600 miles round trip to be with our family to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year we decided to forego our gift giving to each other and donate to Heifer International instead. We’ll still be giving gifts to the young ones, and it will be fun to see them open their presents. We also sing Christmas songs — we are THAT family that could make our own Trapp Family Singers — and I’m looking forward to hearing three-year-old Libbie sing her part in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

For me and some of my family, it just isn’t Thanksmas without oyster dressing. It’s unclear where our family recipe comes from, but my mother started making oyster dressing for our holiday gatherings a long time ago. In fact, I can’t remember when she didn’t make it. It was just always there.

My mom passed away in June, and as the eldest child, it has become my job to bring the oyster dressing. I’ve been making it for events here in our Chicagoland home for a while, but no one loves oyster dressing as well as my brothers and I do. My niece Jessica wrote about our family recipe on herVanderbilt Wife blog, calling our treasured oyster dressing our “grossest family recipe.” I beg to differ, but as she is allergic to clams, I wouldn’t want her to get sick on oysters. I do, however, want to share the recipe for what I consider to be the crowning glory of our holiday buffet table.

And just we’re clear about the popularity of oyster dressing, even the fabled Ree Drummond published a recipe for Oyster Dressing on her Pioneer Woman blog. I’m not alone in my love for this succulent awesomeness. Ree’s is a little different from ours; hers is more like traditional tossed bread-cube dressing. Grandma’s Oyster Dressing is more of a souffle-like scalloped oysters. It might be fun someday to make both recipes and see which one we like better!

Grandma's Oyster Dressing

Grandma's Oyster Dressing

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • Four cans frozen or canned oysters (fresh would be fine, but not necessary)
  • Four ribs finely chopped celery
  • Four cans mushrooms
  • One box saltines crushed
  • one pound butter pats
  • About two cups of milk

Instructions

First spray a 4.8 quart (15" x 10" x 2") rectangular casserole dish with cooking spray, and then add a layer of crushed crackers. Begin layering the ingredients -- oysters, celery, mushrooms, butter, and another layer of crackers. After each cracker layer add some milk and the juice from the mushrooms and oyster cans. You should have about four layers of crackers and three of “goodies.”

Cover it with foil so that it doesn’t dry out and take the foil off for the last 15 minutes so the top gets a little crusty. Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour until the texture is puffy like a souffle. It is okay to prepare it in advance and let the liquids sink in.

A large Pyrex casserole dish will serve eight people comfortably as a side dish.

Notes

http://gotmyreservations.com/2012/11/22/writers-workshop-a-revisit-to-the-grossest-family-recipe-ever/

I’m linked up today to the Writing Workshop at Mama’s Losin’ It. It’s been a while since I’ve linked up because I’ve been converting my blog over to being self-hosted. If you have my old version on your blogroll (and I heartily thank you for your support), please change the link to gotmyreservations.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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Writer’s Workshop: Just Listen!

I’m linking up with Mama Kat again this week. As usual, the prompt pretty much jumped off the page at me as something I needed to say.

Prompt: Share something your child taught YOU about parenting.

I think I was a late bloomer when it came to understanding that my children had something to teach me about parenting and about adult relationships in general. I’ll admit it; I’m kind of a control freak. I generally feel that I have figured out the best way to do something, and I am also happy to share my opinion of YOUR problem. I know for sure that my general bossiness has sometimes been detrimental to relationships in my life — and I’m sorry about that.

My understanding of what my children had to teach me probably started about the time my daughter was sixteen and has built since then. At her ripe old age of twenty-seven, I understand fully, but I don’t always perfectly apply the concept. After all, I AM the mom, as the saying goes.

So what is the lesson I’ve so painfully learned?

The lesson is that most of the time, my kids don’t want me to solve their problems; they just want to vent their feelings.

That’s a difficult lesson for a mother to learn because we spend their childhoods fixing boo boos, protecting our precious ones from bad guys, and keeping them safe in the world. We know best, not them. The transition to allowing them to know best is difficult, but obviously is a rite of passage that we all go through in our path to adulthood.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has trouble with this; does the term helicopter parent ring a bell?

In a lifetime of teaching, I have seen too many children who were crippled by their inability to make choices and solve their own problems. Parents stepped in much too early and never allowed the children to build the skills that lead to resiliency.

I’m sure you’ve read the parenting material on this; it has been everywhere in the media. The problem starts in the elementary school and is even reported in the workplace. Parents are not allowing children to grow up and become responsible for themselves.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. It’s the job we signed up for when we became parents.

When my daughter calls in tears because she doesn’t feel well and still has to maintain her commitments, I sympathize, but I don’t generally offer to drive the 30 miles to her house to bring her cough syrup. After all, there is a store right across the street that delivers. Usually she doesn’t really want me to give her medicine; she wants me to listen.

When a relationship is rocky, she needs me to listen to her complain. Without offering a solution. I’m not the one in the relationship, she is, and she’s the one who will figure out how to fix it or how to go on. She just needs me to listen; sometimes talking through a problem will also bring about a solution.

When a situation at work is not going as planned, a story about a similar situation in my life is probably not going to help. I just need to shut up and LISTEN.

The wonderful thing about learning to just listen to one’s children rather than trying to fix things for them is that it allows an adult relationship to grow between you and your child. Hopefully, I’ve laid a groundwork for success that allows them to take control, own their own problem, and fix it themselves.

I’m not perfect at being a good listener, but I know what I SHOULD do.

I learned that lesson from the children in my life, both my own son and daughter and the thousands of sons and daughters of other parents that I’ve worked with over the years.  Just listen and let them learn to fix it themselves.

I’m eager to see what other lessons my friends at Mama Kat’s write about. I hope that you’ll check them out as well.

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Ironing My Pillowcases

I received David Lebovitz’s lovely memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, for my birthday. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years, and my son’s darling Curly Girlfriend gave it to me. I gave a little shriek of delight when I opened the Amazon package; I’ll admit it. I love Lebovitz’s blog — I’ve talked about it here and here and here! If you like the blog, you’ll also love the wry humor and great recipes in his book.

The book is a series of essays about an American learning how to live in Paris, and is full of juicy tidbits and advice. This one just hit home.

If anyone had told me ten years ago that I’d be standing over an ironing board, pressing the wrinkles out of pajamas and kitchen towels, I would have told them they were insane. What kind of idiot irons his pajamas, let alone kitchen towels?

Lebovitz goes on to describe his discovery of vintage French linen, which he bought by the armful whenever he saw it at tag sales and stockpiled it, thinking that he might never see such fine linen again. It turns out he was wrong, by the way; he says that fine linen is common in France and he didn’t need to become a bedsheet hoarder. 🙂

Then he realized that he had a problem laundering  those gorgeous high-thread-count cotton sheets and cases. 

I … realized that [the beautiful linens] would come out of my mini washing machine a wrinkly ball, looking like one of those Danish modern white paper lamps; a tight, wadded-up sphere of sharp pleats and folds. So unless you’re a masochist and enjoy waking up after a rough night with bruises and abrasions on your arms and legs — which I don’t — those sheets need to be starched, ironed, and pressed into submission.

David Lebovitz solved his problem by sending them to the laundry to be washed and ironed, because he doesn’t have a dryer in his apartment and sheets have to hang up to dry. If you’ve ever stayed in a Paris hotel room, you know that space is at a premium, and there’s no room in a Parisian apartment to hang sheets to dry.

Being a servantless American, I have a lovely large washer and dryer, and my beautiful high-thread-count linens come out of the dryer pretty well, if I catch them quickly enough after the dryer stops. But I’ve always hated wrinkly pillowcases. Now that I’m a stay-at-home-wife, I’ve started ironing my pillowcases and the top trim on the sheets.

Which leads me to some recent responses to a post I made about ironing pillowcases on my other blog, Retirement 365.

I am blessed to have friends and relatives who take trains, planes, and automobiles to come to visit us, and we’re thrilled to host them in our home. We recently had a visit from college friends and spent two wonderful days running around Chicago eating, taking photos, listening to music, and drinking good wine. My husband’s brother and his family travel every summer from the West Coast, spending a fortune to fly five family members to Chicago, so that we can all attend the family reunion together. And they’ve been doing this for thirty years, never missing a summer. It’s hard to even put in words how much this annual opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our family means to me.

I think they are worth ironing my pillowcases for.

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Writing Workshop: Lessons from Dad

I’m linking up to Mama Kat this week —

My prompt: Share a lesson you learned from your father.

On Friday, while visiting our son in Oakland, California, we also visited a salvage store. I had been struggling with this week’s prompt, since I’m also struggling with poor internet connections at the hotel, and wasn’t sure I could do my father justice this year. Then the visit to the salvage store made it all clear.

My father taught me to value the unlikely, to see the beauty in the ignored, to have the joy of creating something out of nothing.

Today I met another dad — one who would have loved being friends with my dad. It was hard for me to see all of his work, because it reminded me of my dad and how much I miss him. It was, however, a powerful reminder of how important it is to keep the memories of our loved ones alive through the legacies they leave behind.

Thanks to Grandpa Nick for the new memories I have of Father’s Day.

Linky Love: Friday’s Child Is Loving and Giving

This week I’ve decided to hook you up with blogs that I follow and love EVERY day. Using the ancient British nursery rhyme, I’ll take you on a tour of my favorite blogs.

When I learn that a young family member or friend is going to have a baby, I think to myself, there goes twenty years of your life. It’s not easy giving up the self and couple-centered activities that young people enjoy, and I’m not sure that everyone who chooses to have a baby is actually ready for the just-plain-hard work that goes along with being a parent of a young child. Thank goodness the joy of having kids usually outweighs the bad. I’ve been blessed to see my two children grow up to be wonderful adults, but there were moments along the way that I would have easily sold them to the gypsies (JK, kids). Images like this one make me remember those first steps and that first Easter egg hunt. These were times when I loved my kids so much I could barely hold it in — and I still do.

Today I’m featuring the blog of my niece, Jessica, who writes as Vanderbilt Wife. Her honest appraisals of her life as the mother of two toddlers have made her popular among “mommy bloggers” but she is more than that.

As the nursery rhyme goes, Friday’s child is loving and giving, and I think that Jessie epitomizes that in her relationships with her little family, with her sister, with her father and mother, and with her many cousins and aunts and uncles. She was a dedicated and thoughtful granddaughter to my mom and dad, and in her role as houseparent to boys in a private school, she is a mother figure as she bakes her way into their hearts.

If you want to connect to a real person who writes about real life and is honest about the trials and joys of being a parent, try out Vanderbilt Wife. She also shares a lot of recipes which are all delish! And then there’s the photos of my adorable grand-niece and nephew. 🙂

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