Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Gratitude and feasting

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog pals and FB where this link will appear.  Mother nature may not cooperate with my plans to join the annual Lacrosse Turkey Trot tomorrow AM.  Our weather has been frigid, too early this year to suit me and predictions for tomorrow 8:00AM appear to be  15 to 20 degrees. We  had picked up our bibs with our participant numbers and t shirts today...but we shall see.  I will be disappointed if not but at this stage, nothing to be proven only to challenge our boundaries....  There seems to be an abnormal amount, excessive clap trap, chattering going on against Thanksgiving day shopping, protests abound on Facebook from friends and acquaintances.  Frankly, I don't understand why everyone has to object; I would not be interested in shopping tomorrow but to each his or her own.  Some do not have  big families around so they are not gathering with others; some workers relish the overtime; some people just like to shop and so be it.  Why does everyone have to condemn others for their choices?  It sure seems like we are more and more becoming too condemning of others and for something as minor as when they  shop and spend money.  Why don't people just chill out and mind their own business?  Wouldn't we be better off instead of trying to impose our choices onto others?  

2008 November Jerry & Me in Colorado, visiting his sister.
We had not a clue then how our trip would be diverted
It was quite funny to find this old country store, with our name. 
It's a bit of wistful time here with just the two of us on Thanksgiving day, thinking about those we have lost on this earth and past Thanksgivings.  Life holds no promises of the future, but plenty of time to look back....we will miss Steve all the rest of our lives, sometimes we look at each other when the moment clouds with darkness, we know what the other is thinking and we hug.  It was only five years ago that downward spiral started although it seems like another lifetime away. That's one reason and likely the major why today we are starting different traditions for us empty nesters. We thought we would already be snow birded south  by now, but again those best laid plans go astray.... some final medical appointments in December have curtailed us until January departure, so here we are.  Eating out does not appeal, no left overs, no  wonderful smells of the roasting in the oven and just too crowded, so we will enjoy a turkey breast at home with plenty of accompaniments.  Jerry does not eat stuffing nor cranberry sauce and I do; so I will have a small amount of stuffing that will last me for some time.  As I was chopping the  celery, onions, and carrot this week to mix with the bread that I have curing in a bowl, I thought, "why am I doing this for myself?"  Well why not, who else will do it for me?  The fixings are on a much diminished scale to accompany our feast tomorrow, but the preparation is the same and really compared to years back in California when I worked through the week and then still put on the family feasts, this is nothing.  It really is a blessing to enjoy good health and be able to do it all.   

Well while I have been assuring myself that winter came earlier this year, Jerry suggested not so.  Found some photos from November 2006 that recall an early snow as this of the front roses,  hmmmm.  At least there is no white stuff here on the grounds, that is one more reason for thankfulness this Thanksgiving.  
Roses in the snow, here November 2006


Friday, November 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday 204 Life changing times

The week's prompt brings many thoughts and having been around the planet for 68 years, I have experienced many life changing events, some  heart warming, some tragic.  Here in the States we are marking 50 years post John F Kennedy's assassination; he was the first president I ever paid attention to and my generation's most loved politician.  Up until then it was innocence of beliefs, faith in all being right and no doubts about what might come next.  JFK's murder, for that's what it was is an event that cut a wide swath through my beliefs as a Catholic and girl of the 60's.  That particular day I was prone on a sofa in  the apartment in Sacramento, CA, fighting the most horrid morning sickness ever suffered by a pregnant woman, and yet stirred with the TV reporting what could not be happening in front of me.  As if it were not bad enough now that I knew I was in a big dilemma, across the country from all family and wondering WTH I could have been thinking to get myself into that pitiful, dreadful marriage anyway, my President was killed.   Ahhhh life twisted along from there some uphills, some flat times and some joy, some scathing downhill jolts. 

I did get out of that mess but found myself a young single Mom, determined to stay in CA and not to return to Pennsylvania and readily admit that my mother was right.  Oh I was 20, didn't I know everything?  Not so by a long way.   To my rescue then by rail road, journeyed my maternal grandmother aka Baba Rose alone across the country from Pennsylvania,  to stay with me, help me with the baby, get me on my feet  and provide  the love she had all my life. She did not scold nor say "we all told you so....." No none of that, she was absolute strength and support.  I regret that perhaps I did not appreciate her as much as I should have although she knew I loved her very much.   

Here she is in December 1965 with Steve who is  18 months old.  We were all surviving on very tight finances; I was working two shifts at McClellan AFB and she was encouraging me to go back to school, to finish college because she knew I was too smart to stay below what I could achieve.  Above all, she told me, "you will marry again, but next time be careful, don't jump into anything and choose a good man; you learned a lesson, don't  ever forget it."  Very prophetic as Jerry would come along shortly after she left.  Wish she could have met him.   

Rose was already only 70 years old here but looks much older.  She was the grandmother who raised me; she and the family helped Mom, her daughter who was a WWII widow pregnant with me.  Rose had experience in spades with us young Moms.  She stayed less than a year before returning home to Pennsylvania.  She helped me get my head on straight and never criticized my decision to stay there in California, on my own.  She said, "You'll make it, you are smart and pretty and headstrong, don't look back, look ahead."  Before she departed for home, she found another grandmotherly woman who would babysit Steve for pittances when I worked, and who would adopt us like family.  I don't know what would have happened without her, my grandma Rose who helped me in the crisis of a lifetime.    I did a lot of growing up then, fast, through a life changing time. 
1965 Steve at 18 months with his great grandmother,
my grandma Baba,  Rose Ostrowski Kochanowski
This has been just one life changing event for me.  To see what others in the Sepia community have to say this Saturday, click here to the site

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday 203 Doorways and beyond

While looking for doorway photos for this week's prompt, I found  two in my  file of mystery  people ... Their identities were likely well known to my relatives who kept the photos, but here in 2013 as the surviving person, I have not a clue.  This first iconic photo taken as so many with someone out the door and very close to the step of the porch.  But another person is  standing in the doorway.  This was with photos from my late Aunt Marge and among hers from 1941-42 in Cleveland, Ohio.  She was better than most at identifying the people in her photos but not here.  It might be in early fall or spring, the woman has a coat over her shoulders and open toe shoes, purse along side, ready to  come or just returning.  A story waiting to be told.  Aunt Marge lived in Cleveland when she was a young single hair dresser before marrying Uncle Carl and some of the time when he was away in the Army during World War II.   

The second photo is from Pennsylvania and while not in the doorway, behind her ,the lady is on the porch. This was in my late Aunt Virginia's collections..It could be my grandmother's sister, Mary who lived across the river from us in a house with a big porch. I've written before about Sunday's with my Great Aunt Mary and the Janosky clan.    The back of the photo has labeling which  identifies it as a "Kodacolor Print, Week Ending May 26, 1956."  Whoever she is, she means business and might be  just leaving  for church;  my grandmother and her sisters usually display that down to business look in their photos.   She has likely just come out the door, dressed in hat and coat, while the photo is fading the hat and coat were a pink shade.  While Aunt Mary might have splurged on a new spring coat, I cannot imagine it would have been any color but a basic serviceable dark, color, navy perhaps, but pink?  

Finally another photo that is more meaningful to me today with both Mom and our son, Steve gone.  Not a doorway, which they have passed through but still posed in front.  Taken in July, 1972 in Pennsylvania at my old home; Steve and I  were there for a visit from California, it was for my 10th high school reunion.  Steve is on the front steps and Mom, grandma, is behind on the edge of the porch. Her hands are on her hips while Steve has hung his thumbs inside his pockets.  It is pre-digital photo ability and not close enough for good detail, that we could get today.  I am also surprised that this was developed in black and white, but it was with Mom's things and likely taken by Barney, her 3rd husband.  They have both just come out the door; we hardly ever used the front door to that house where I grew up, we came in from the side or back doors only.  The front door opened into the living room and we would not have thought of entering there, that was for company.  By the way, relatives also came to the side or back doors, so it had to be someone special to come to the front door.  But after I left home, and would return to visit,  Mom allowed use of the front door.  Still, I would revert to the side door mostly, it's what I was used to, an old habit.  This is one of the few photos I have of the old home which is still standing but is owned by a nephew with whom I have no contact.  He has changed the house color and I know not what else, because after Mom passed in 2004 and Jerry  and I stayed there for the funeral,  I have never again been inside the house. 

From doorways and unknowns to dear departed loved ones, this has been a Sepia Saturday post.  To see what others in our international community are sharing this week, use this link

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin time

My healthy carrot pumpkin muffins
It's pumpkin flavor time of the year.  But, with my participation with great success in the nutrition program at the Y I have become a fat detective investigating all foods.  I am not baking  nor buying some pumpkin treats I most enjoy, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie cake and Culver's pumpkin frozen custard although I am saving room for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and will build an allowance for that in my daily consumption tallies. 

 In my search for more pumpkin to fill the void, I remembered a healthy, low fat muffin recipe from several years back that used a can of pumpkin in a chocolate cake mix...but I did not want chocolate, I wanted pumpkin.  Why not  a healthy muffin, cakelike and moist, carrot pumpkin.  I seldom post recipes on this blog, but have been so happy about this modification that satisfied my pumpkin seasonal craving that I share it  today.    It is a very easy thing to put together.  These are good for a breakfast treat as well as a desert or snack.  The fat grams are minimal and since that is what I watch, it's a winner....

Here's my adapted recipe:
  • 1 box butter pecan cake mix       Do not use a brand with pudding in the mix as it adds to the fat.. This is what I had in the cupboard but you could use spice, carrot or plain yellow cake.    The entire box of mix had only 3 grams fat and 170 calories.
  • 2 eggs    The original recipe calls for 3 egg whites, lower fat content, but I do not like to throw away the yolks, so I use  the entire egg.  That adds 9 grams fat and 150 calories.
  • 1 16 oz can of pumpkin     Not pumpkin pie mix, just plain pumpkin.  This adds only 2 grams fat and 160 calories.
  • 1/2+cup very finely diced carrot bits  No fat appx 25 calories
  • 1 teaspoon each  all spice, nutmeg, ginger, mace, pumpkin pie spice,  sugar    No fat  15 calories from the sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon  No fat
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rum  Can use brandy instead or omit liquor if you prefer and use 1/4 cup more water. No fat in rum but one ounce has 65 calories, so 2 oz is about right for 1/4 cup  adding 130 calories. 
Set carrots aside and beat  everything else together with mixer until completely smooth.  Add diced carrot bits  at last...and blend or stir well.  Fill 2/3 into paper lined cupcake tins.   Makes 20 cupcakes/muffins.   Sprinkle each on top with a dash of sugar, less than 1/8 teaspoon of sugar for each.  

Bake 350 degrees for 32-38 minutes.  My oven took only 32 minutes, but some take longer.    Test with toothpick in center to ensure done, when toothpick comes out clean  muffins are ready.  Cool a bit and serve...enjoy.

Each muffin has about 33 calories  and 1.5 grams fat.  My daily fat gram allowance is 33.  Jerry is not a pumpkin fan so I had plenty muffins to share  and have frozen others.   I can take out one, thaw and or nuke it in the microwave and good to go.   

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sepia Saturday 202 Cloche hats and the same couple or?

Oh what a treat, I offer this week a couple unknown to me who posed sans camera and whose photo was  amongst those of my late Uncle John Irwin, grandson of the  very late JR Irwin last week's post.  I have suspected that this small photo might be of  Uncle John's parents, Ned and Jessie Irwin....but since it was not labeled, I am unsure.  If it is it is only one of two photos I know of Ned, his father.  The cloche hat and the auto in the background make me think of the early 30's.  I cannot identify what she is holding in her hand, a treat?  He appears to have a cigarette hanging from his mouth and his left arm has moved blurring the photo...And what's up with the man behind them?. Ned and Jessie traveled extensively, Europe and especially England, are they off to parts unknown or just returning?  Why is he bare headed when all other photos of this era have men in  hats?  She appears bundled up in trench coat and hat and he is sans overcoat too?  So many questions and suppositions, for this photo of mystery to me today a couple out and about, no beach no camera..

To see what others have shared this week, click here to the International Sepia site....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Turkey Time

Grandma's old washer
adorned for autumn.  Foot
of the stairs 
The TV camel might say, "Guess what month it is?  GUESS WHAT MONTH IT IS?"  November, the most wonderful month of the year!  That's so because it is my natal month and this year I will be in the last of the 60's as I celebrate my 69th year here in less than a week.  I am very fond of November but as our current weather has turned a bit too frigid too soon, my outdoor walks have partially given way to physical activities at the Y.  The diabetes prevention program I started in September has been eye opening especially in nutrition and healthy eating changes and left me  20  pounds lighter, more than the weight I was tasked to lose, a  few more pounds that I felt would be just for good measure. No more though lest I begin to  appear too gaunt in the face. Now it's maintain, especially through the holiday eating season here upon us again, all too soon.  

This year since we will not snowbird fly aka depart until January, I pulled out my small collection of ceramic and glass turkeys and other decor.  I am still pondering whether or not to participate in the annual Thanksgiving day  5 K turkey trot run or walk across the river in La Crosse; I guess it will depend on the is an early AM event and 8:00AM can be chilly. The event's orange t shirts are quite cute and reward is a 5 inch  pumpkin pie at the end; the last 5 k Jerry and I did was in 2007 in the hills of La Crescent during Applefest, this route is flat.  We shall see.
Cherubic pilgrims
 I have not added to the autumnal Thanksgiving decorations for many years nor have I been tempted with today's all made it China trinkets.  I know if I could spot some older pieces in antique or thrift stores they might find a place with the rest of the collection.  There are three Fontanini figurines from my extensive collection that I amassed for years in California; although most Fontanini's are part of the Christmas village these three share space on the Thanksgiving  tables, Hannah, Judah and John.   They are  from Italy and all hand painted although a type of resin that has been the Fontanini specialty.  All were limited editions and long since out of production.  The tones of the colors are remarkable. 
Hannah another Fontanini
Fontanini figurines Judah in front and
John in back, holding sheaves

And a few select turkeys beginning with the pair of salt and peppers that are the oldest, from Jerry's late  Aunt Marie; faded, paint wearing demonstrating the long years of prior use including a chip on one side of one. 

I think these were the first turkeys I purchased, nothing overly valuable but neither were they made in China.  I love these brilliant oranges and reds. Unlike Aunt Maries's these were never used as salt and peppers but they looked grand. 

I remember when I discovered this old gobbler turkey gravy boat at a thrift store in California, just the kind of thing that most folks might not care to store away and use once a year, but that's been it's task in our household ever since the late 80's.    The detail in the ceramic is truly artistic. 

And for today's post, last photo, not the total collection is a wooden hand painted Angel of Thanks from Penryn, CA  where a local gal and friends opened her eclectic farm home several times a year, selling their crafts.  I always went to each showing and always acquired something unique, very unlike  mass crafting I see so much of today where people buy precut things at Michaels or elsewhere and slap some paint atop hoping to make good money for less effort.  To her left is a small November angel who joins the Thanksgiving celebration.
.  There, for today, a post of gratitude for sharing another year on the blog and allowing me to share with you a few of my favorites.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sepia Saturday 201 The Irwin Houses

Today's theme is houses while I had many thoughts, I'm sharing a couple that  I have mentioned in the past, the magnificent mansions of the Irwin family, of Freeport and Clinton,  Pennsylvania.  Here is the only photo I have of the magnificent Glen Irwin, the country estate built by John R Irwin,  the wealthy grandfather of my late Uncle John R Irwin namesake of the grandfather and who married  my late aunt Virginia, Mom's sister.  More on Uncle John elsewhere on this blog.  
From a newspaper photo run in 1960 to celebrate 100 years
 history in the Valley
Here is the summary the Leader Times of Kittanning, Pennsylvania included with the above photo you can click on the photo below to enlarge and read about Glen Irwin.  

It is a life of grandeur, the likes of which would have been a wondrous tale, a lifestyle which I imagine but have only read  about in history and novels or seen in glorious movies.  That same article continued about the tragedy and the aura of the mansion and Mr. Irwin.  Stories vary but Uncle John told me that his grandfather dropped dead in the doorway as he entered the mansion the day before they were to move in, August 18, 1895. JR would never live in the fabulous Glen Irwin whose name he had carefully chosen. At one time he owned all the land that has long since become Clinton Township.   What the following article does not reveal are the tales about  the widow Irwin, Margaret Truby Burns, aka Maggie, who was Uncle John's grandmother. She was a former washer woman, previously widowed and of great size and girth who snagged the  widower John Irwin shocking the likes of all society.  He was  a wealthy  tycoon who increased his fortune hauling iron ore on the Great Lakes and building a railroad in the last decade or so of the 19th century.    

By 1942, Maggie's daughter from her first marriage, Susan Burns had fallen, broken a hip and died bequeathing the property to her niece, Mrs Margaret Matthews of Huntsville, Alabama who sold off the  estate completely to pay taxes.  Glen Irwin was put on the auction block. We are fortunate to have inherited several wonderful antique pieces from the Glen Irwin era and home and if these pieces could talk, they might protest this much less magnificent home where they abide today in Minnesota; on the other hand, I can only fantasize about the servants who kept the fancy curlicues on the furniture gleaming back then; today all that dusting falls to  me and I doubt I do as meticulous a job  as  the paid help did back in the day.  Glen Irwin was bought by a lumberman but demolished many  years later,  reportedly he razed  the grand old home and built a  much smaller single level home in place, then sold off the land  to other builders. 

The Irwin's had a town home too built in about 1888 which still survives in Freeport, Pennsylvania but has become the Redmond funeral home.  This 1912 photo is from the Valley Dispatch, 1969 Special edition. The Irwin's are reported to have purchased this for $8400 in 1907.  When he married Margaret aka Maggie, she insisted on returning from Painesville, Ohio to her old hometown of Freeport  to show off her catch of the millionaire JR and to impress  the townspeople.  It was said that Maggie weighed 400 pounds, huge for the times and certainly beyond portly today, but he doted on her and commissioned a  carriage  specially built  with a double door to accommodate her girth and so that she could enter and exit in a grand manner.  Reportedly  despite her size she was loved and admired. She had an especial fondness for carriages and owned several including the surrey of President William McKinley, after his assassination   Uncle John  said that he remembered the carriage with the magnificent gleaming black horses adorned with solid silver bridles and harnesses and how they glistened.  After JR's sudden death Maggie withdrew quietly from most activities and  developed a phobia and incessantly built one house and another until her death in 1927.  
The Irwin town home in Freeport
We took these photos in 2008 in a visit to Pennsylvania while my late aunt Virginia was still alive.  Now a funeral home, imagine the tales this wonderful house could tell.

My Uncle John's father, Edwin B was adopted by Maggie and JR.  Edwin married Jessie Ayers, whom I knew as the grand old Mrs Irwin, or Grand Dame.  From my visits with her, I learned to sit  very properly and drink tea from the finest porcelain cups and saucers, some of which reside in my hutch today.  Edwin and Jessie ran a chicken hatchery in Freeport and I really did not enjoy having to visit with her, but as Uncle John would say, "Mother insists we bring you to tea today, Patty." When she insisted there was no way to not comply.  She gave me a magnificent old English tea pot along with a sizable check when I graduated from high school; I still have that lovely teapot today.   This last  photo  taken in 2008 is the last home for the Grand Dame, in Buffalo Township, Freeport, Pennsylvania.  It has not the same sense of grandeur it had it in it's day, but they ran the hatchery successfully and enjoyed traveling.  She survived into widowhood. died in January 1963 when I was away at college and was the only Irwin I knew besides Uncle John.  I spent many uncomfortable afternoons there,  a young girl and teenager, taking tea with the Grand Mrs. Irwin; she  had a fondness for me but because I always had to mind my p's and q's in her presence I dreaded the visits. Mom always alerted me to "be at your best with Mrs Irwin."   My aunt always  warned me, "don't fidget around her and be still,"  She was a formal lady, everyone I knew addressed her as Mrs.  I remember the inside of the home as dreadfully dreary; I wish I had paid more attention and knew more. 

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