Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 ends and a New Year begins

New Year  Edgar Guest
2013 has been an overall good year to us, and yet we look back and wonder, where did that year go.  Our health is good, we are aging well and are comfortable financially.  Jerry was dismissed by the pulmonary specialist who had been monitoring a now three year mysterious spot on his lung detected by a doc-in-the-box in North Carolina on our travels when Jerry  got a severe cold bordering on pneumonia.  Despite the tests, scans and careful watching, it remains a mystery to Mayo but has not changed and definitely not cancer, always the fear; the MD speculates it may have been a life scar after Jerry's childhood pneumonia but we wonder why the Air Force never detected it his years on flying status.  Nevertheless, he was pleased to not have any further follow ups.  

I have triumphed over a potential health challenge by getting onto the right track and restoring my heretofore good health.  As I wrote on this blog, in July at my annual, the doc cautioned me that my fasting blood glucose levels were rising and  I was carrying around some extra weight from travels over winter and that spring.  I enrolled in the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program and began to monitor and limit  my daily fat gram intake to 33 grams, while writing down everything I eat and drink in a daily journal, and added more physical activity every single day so have achieved success.  I've shed 28 pounds just since September and learned that the healthy way I thought I was eating was not so healthy for me. The calculations were that I lose 15 pounds but I have been known as an over achiever often and did so on the weight.   I have maintained the loss so far and not gained  over this feasting season of holidays, a first in years.  I am committed to maintenance. 

My doctor's follow up and retest in December left me a good to go from a very pleased MD who called me skinny and wished he could bottle my dedication for his patients who live in denial about their health conditions. I have met some new friends at the Y and learned a lot about nutrition, but the biggest revelation was that my daily consumption of  nuts and  cheese (which I love) was too much for me.  I still mourn my inability to consume all the cheese I'd like at one setting along with those delicious Wisconsin deep fried (melted) cheese curds, or my own gooey mac and cheese, any melted cheese is my weakness, but it's a small price to pay for good health.  I am better off than many who crave and eat sweets all the time or just over eat as a way of life.  I could continue with my daily wine or vodka consumption, no fat grams there, only calories which we really do not count daily, just consider. 

 I have actually enjoyed the weekly program meetings and although the scale will never be my "friend" at least I have accepted daily weigh ins, so much that we are purchasing another scale to take along in the motor coach on our travels. This from a woman who would avoid the scale every and anyway possible and monitor how her clothes felt.  Oh, more good news, Jerry suggested I do some shopping for  new clothes especially shorts for the skinnier me as we prepare to head south.  I have already purchased some skinny jeans and courds.  If I have any advice, it is accept and take action--lose the weight, live healthier, shed the tobacco....get out of the land of denial. Otherwise you pay the consequences  in the long run and are fooling only yourself.   Denial or the land of DABDA (denial, acceptance, bargaining, depression and acceptance)  is all consuming  and becomes familiarly comfortable for many. 

We had some travel adventures in 2013 and I learned that tours are not for me after our Alaskan adventure.  I have written about that on this blog all year and not much more to be said.

We will be home this New Years Eve and Day  as the doctor had one last assignment for me before we flee for the south and warmer climates, time for my 10 year follow up colonoscopy. Yuk, it is scheduled for 10:00 AM January 2 and the preparation remains worse than the procedure. So New Years Day while I take down the tree and pack away decorations, I will be fasting--clear liquids only all day preceding the early evening consumption of that dreaded, "Go Lightly" a misnomer if ever there was one. Why in this age of scans, lasers and high tech medicine must we endure this process?  Still, I anticipate  no issues and then will have another 10 years to go until the next one.  

We gained a great grandson this year in July but have only seen him through photos and Facebook, no idea when we will ever see him.  
Maxwell John Morrison 5 months
Maxwell John Morrison born to grandson Brian and wife Jackie appears to be happy and healthy and looks like his mom, especially in the face and chin.  They live in and are committed Californians, just like Brian's parents and tribe, they know no better having lived nowhere else just like that old saying, "mediocrity knows nothing above itself." We have no travel planned that direction. In fact for me, the longer I am away from California the happier I am. That part of my life was fun while it lasted but it is the past.  We thought we would always stay there but CA changed, became too crowded, hours long commutes, hours to wait in lines to eat out, hectic,crowds and crime, even in the northern part, just not how we want to live, so here in the Midwest, despite frigid arctic winter this year, we enjoy a high quality of life.  We can afford to keep our home warm and our house is built well for four seasons.  Where else do folks leave their cars running outside when they run into the grocery stores and the cars are still then when they come back out?  Where else can UPS deliveries sit on a doorstep for weeks and not be stolen when the folks are gone for  months?  That really happened here with our next door neighbors who were in Arizona, we thought their son would set them into the house but he never did the few times he came by their home to check on things. We had no way to contact him and considered picking up the package but watched instead.  

Some souls departed this earth this year beginning in April with Jerry's 96 year old mother who died a rough death as I blogged here.  December was a triple hit with a long time 98 year old father of a California friend, Carol--another friend suddenly without warning in California, and a contemporary a Pennsylvania classmate, Bev, who suffered ill health ravages for years.  May they all rest in peace.  

We are planning our January departure south, Florida and the Alabama gulf coast call; perhaps a reunion in Mississippi at the Bay St. Louis RV park where we spent last year.  Jerry is watching the roads and weather conditions because the mid part of the country seems to be experiencing far worse weather than here where we have only frigid cold, colder than any winter so far.  Sub zero temperatures a few times like last night.  Snow has been minimal and we are shielded from ice by the river bluffs.   

A Happy New Year ahead to one and all.  If I have any resolution it is to decrease my Facebook time and blog more.   Lord Alfred Tennyson sums it in his well known poem,  "In Memoriam"                                Ring out the old, ring in the new,
                         Ring happy bells across the snow:
                         The year is going, let him go;
                          Ring out the false, ring in the true. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sepia Christmas week 208 Dec 21--27, 2013

A very Merry Christmas and  Happy blessed New Year to all Sepian colleagues wherever you are in the world this season..finally a prompt that I just could not allow to go unanswered....

Every year with the postage increases, now at 46 cents, I consider "this year fewer Christmas cards to send out."  All the old folks who most enjoyed them are all gone now and today the people who keep in contact with us do so by text, email, Facebook or by cell phone. Sure the total number is down, yet annually, there are some with whom I  am compelled to exchange cards and this year a total 59 recipients indicates the number is growing again adding folks we meet on our travels and well, we live across the country from our many friends who have also moved around.  We are mobile in retirement. 

I have fully realized this year that our treasured friends are really our family.  This year we had a photo card pulled together to commemorate our Alaska adventure and our 46th year of marriage; really could not have done it without the expertise and software of a local friend, Ann who was able to crop out, edit and fix our photos to display just the two of us.  In every photo we took in Alaska, no matter how hard we tried to avoid it,  someone would be there, I suppose that happens on tours.  Fortunately, Ann has professional skills and software so she performed magic making our 2013 card just the two of us.  Because we only bought 40 of these at 90 cents each, some received another annual greeting card.  But here, Sepians is our 2013 greeting, which I share with you.   

Left to right starting on top, first  Jerry next to an Alaskan moose carved and assembled from trees, the two of us at the sign entering Alaska after a trip deep into the Yukon (Ann cropped 30+ others out of this), bottom it was raining in Anchorage when we arrived, middle is somewhere near Fairbanks (again Ann deleted all the extra people) and last is in Syracuse New York in May at the Good Sam Rally on our way to the rehitching ceremony where despite the thousands of couples renewing vows in a mass ceremony, we did not beat the Guinness records...ah well, this was 46 years for us and time to renew vows.  Here's my little secret, at our 1967 ceremony I was so fraught that I never said "I do"  and here in May, a potty call which was far from the seating was uppermost in my mind, so I did not say "I do" again..Jerry laughs and reminds me that the third time is the charm..

But there you have it a Very happy holiday season however  and whatever you do or don't celebrate, warm wishes....until 2014 Sepians.  The following is the link to our community of Sepians....warmest wishes, bloggers all.  http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2013/12/sepia-saturday-208-christmas-new-year.html

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The secret to success: Never settle for being content

An all time favorite Christmas album

The quote in the heading is attributable online to Ray Coniff on a webpage dedicated to his music, 


This Conniff Christmas music is possibly my all time favorite and I am enjoying it this afternoon as I hem jeans and do other sewing related chores inside avoiding more time out in today's 9 degrees. I own this as a 33 1/3 album (very vintage stuff) and on a cassette (which is nearly worn out) as well as the newest a CD which my late closest  friend, Roberta found for me one Christmas because she knew of my fondness for Coniff music. Oh haw thrilled I was to get a CD of Conniff.  But the record album is also very special to me, my Grandma Rose bought it for me when she came to CA to help me in 1965-66.  She enjoyed the music too. She laughed that it was the first music she had bought since she did not remember when, maybe since their old record player became extinct.  I remember it like yesterday and I believe she is  still listening to it in the beyond as I am 48 years later.  1965 was in the time of the record stores where we could go in and pick up an album; there was one store near to where she grocery shopped with me in California; for an old Polish lady she was sneaky because I did not know what she was doing and later when we returned home she gave me the wonderful album with the biggest smile, so proud of herself for dodging and fooling me; it would be  the last Christmas gift she'd ever buy for me.  The music of our lives usually brings memories and I never listen to Conniff without remembering my Baba  and this album.      

Back of the CD shows Ray Conniff conducting.
I googled Conniff today and was pleased to learn that some Public Broadcasting Stations still feature his Christmas show, but today I wonder if he will be watched and enjoyed only amongst the likes of us vintagers...it makes me laugh, I would listen to Ray Conniff anything, much as  my late MIL did with Lawrence Welk, to our amusement. 

 Just a bit about him for those who are unfamiliar with this great musician.  The following is excerpted from Wikipedia and the Conniff webpage:  Joseph Raymond "Ray" Conniff, also known as "Jay Raye," (November 6, 1916 – October 12, 2002) was an American bandleader and arranger best known for his Ray Conniff Singers Singers during the 1960s.   After serving in the US Army in World War II, he joined the Artie Shaw big band and wrote many arrangements for him. Then Mitch Miller, Columbia Records,  hired him as their home arranger, working with several artists like  including Rosemary Clooney, Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray. He wrote a top 10 arrangement for Don Cherry's "Band of Gold" in 1955, a single that sold more than a million copies. Among the hit singles he backed with his orchestra (and eventually with a male chorus) were "Yes Tonight Josephine" and "Just Walkin' in the Rain" by Johnnie Ray; "Chances Are" and "It's Not for Me to Say" by Johnny Mathis; "A White Sport Coat" and "The Hanging Tree" by Marty Robbins; "Moonlight Gambler" by Frankie Laine; "Up Above My Head," a duet by Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray; and "Pet Me, Poppa" by Rosemary Clooney. He also backed up the albums Tony by Tony Bennett, Blue Swing by Eileen Rodgers, Swingin' for Two by Don Cherry, and half the tracks of The Big Beat by Johnnie Ray.  Now if those titles don't bring some memories to you, you must not be of my generation.  

In these early years he also produced similar-sounding records for Columbia's Epic label under the name of Jay Raye amongst them a backing album and singles with Somethin' Smith and the Redheads, an American male vocal group.

Between 1957 and 1968, Conniff had 28 albums in the American Top 40, the most famous one being Somewhere My Love (1966). He topped the album list in Britain in 1969 with His Orchestra, His Chorus, His Singers, His Sound, an album which was originally published to promote his European tour to Germany, Austria, Switzerland in 1969. He was the first American popular artist to record in Russia in 1974 when  he recorded Ray Conniff in Moscow with the help of a local choir. His later albums like Exclusivamente Latino, Amor Amor, and Latinisimo made him very popular in Latin-American countries.  In Brazil and Chile he was treated like a young pop superstar in the 1980s and 1990s when he was in his 70s and 80s.

If you have never heard Ray Conniff or have become nostalgic for the music after reading this, you can go to his webpage and listen to selections.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Made in the USA

When I hear laments  about how nothing is made here in this country anymore, or that all the jobs went overseas, etc. I often ask the people  what brand of car they drive, or brand of  TV or receiver, cell phone and how often they shop at Wal Mart, Dollar Stores, Target etc,  because there is part of the reason. We have become a country of over consuming whining commentators about the circumstance to which we have all contributed.  Consumer demands for more and more, bigger, better, newer and above all, Cheaper prices have led us just to where we are today.  Then don't even get me started on unions and their greed, demanding ever higher wages for less skills and less production and well, it does not take a genius to see what has happened.  

I try to buy Made in the USA (except for shoes made in Italy when I can find them) which means I buy fewer  things and often pay more for an item, but really in our retirement life, I need less so have diminished what was a big past time for me years back, shopping and grazing the aisles.  Of course online shopping can be done easily in the comfort of home and pj's but being an old school kind of gal, I like to see, feel, touch and observe what I might buy.  I use to excel at browsing, one never knows what they need unless they look.  I admit to purchasing frequently on Amazon, QVC and other online sites, but still get more satisfaction from the in person experience.  I like thrift type stores and decent craft shows, gravitating to "vintage" goods and or something made by someone with whom one can speak about the merchandise. While not particularly wild about goods, made in China, I have purchased them and sometimes the quality is amazingly good.  

Labels from new chair  cushions
When we are traveling we do a lot of shopping at Wal Marts which are handy with usually easy access off interstates and have ample parking for our big rig motor coach.  But here at home, I avoid WalMart.  However last Saturday, we were out and about and Jerry suggested we stop at Wal Mart because they carry the type of anti itch cream he uses at the cheapest price.  While there I decided to browse for new cushion for the new kitchen chairs.  I approached that aisle with my nose in the air, surely there is nothing, because I do not want "made in China."  I was astonished to see exactly what I was looking for, cushions with rubber gripper bottoms that do not slide and in color tones I liked.  Even more pleasantly astonished that the cushions were Made in the USA and of recycled materials.  And being Wal Mart the price was certainly cheap enough.  Victory, new cushions for the new chairs which are solid wood, that quickly tires the butt when sitting on them unless cushioned.  To find Made in the USA in Wal Mart was quite the deal for me.  Don't get me wrong, I am not anti Wal Mart by any means, they provide jobs and bargains  but I just try to support Made in America as much as I can. 

The temporary kitchen table and chairs
I am a fussy, very particular shopper, too which is why it took three years for me to find replacements for our kitchen table and chairs, but  find it we did at a new local furniture store to this area, HOM furniture. HOM handles a great variety of goods and some is imported as well as Amish made, imported from Indiana and  locally made. Criteria for replacement was fold down sides as it is in a small area and we liked that feature on the old set which we bought "cheap"  for something temporary in 2004 when we were still not living here full time.  Right, 6 years of "temporary."  I also did not like the bistro styles with high chairs and tables; I am short and do not want to use a step stool to climb up to a chair in my kitchen and then have my feet dangling.  When we bought the temporary set which has a mightily battle scarred top worn from Jerry there were many and plenty of these side fold down sets around. But today not so.  We use this seating for the two of us and it is just right, ala Goldilocks.  When we have others here we use the dining room table.  Let me introduce here the 2013 replacement, which has grown on me.....I would have preferred plain wood, not the painted black but all in all it is a substantial set and the temporary is downstairs right outside the door from Jerry's gym room and work spot, where it replaced an old card table that has been there since we moved in 2005.  
2013 new kitchen set

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 http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2013/11/sepia-saturday-204-23-november-2013.html

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 weather..it 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. 

Click here to visit other houses and posts by the international  Sepian community http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2013/10/sepia-saturday-201-2-november-2013.html

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Senior slips or fidgety blips

The phone rang as I was checking one last thing on the computer, right  afterwards I'd  venture out into this grey dreary day for a walk.  I  have nearly conquered this cold that has bothered me a  few days and am really  missing my physical activities while my body demanded a couple days rest to recover.  We are waiting word from a roofer and the contractor  who did our addition in 2007 about a seeping in the roof line over the guest bedroom,  that happened some time ago, we are not sure when but noticed a spot on the ceiling when we had the windows washed this month.  Lots of things going on, but I am used to juggling  many things at once, being a multi tasker driven sort while Jerry is a one thing at a time no rush kind of guy.  I might have known it would be this kind of a day when  I immediately began to gather clothes for a washer load, as I walked out to the kitchen this AM.  Usually I first get a big glass of water, take my meds, and  make a cuppa, but with the cold and sore throat I've  resumed hot tea instead,  likely I am lacking caffeine alertness. 

As soon as I answered the phone and heard Barb, the dental  hygienist who cleans my teeth every six months say, "Pat I expected to see you an hour ago?", I shreiked "OH NO"   I completely forgot my dental appointment  which might not sound like that big of a deal but it is bugging me.  I had to call their office to confirm this appointment a couple weeks ago; it was on my calendars on my  tablet and smart phone, neither of which I use much or look at  while at home and it was on the kitchen calendar which I walk by mindlessly entering the kitchen.  Jerry sits right near the calendar reading the daily newspaper with his morning coffee and usually looks at it and can remind me of things but he said nothing today either.  Well Barb laughed to hear I had just flat blanked out and said, "senior moment?" Because I never miss my appointments, she called to be sure I was alright.  We rescheduled for a couple of weeks from now and I circled the day in red on the kitchen calendar....now I have to look at it.  

I  Googled and reaffirmed what I  have learned that such things can just happen; here's a  link to interesting info on  a Psychology today website.  http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/p/forgetting.htm

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve and Study
Forgetting like this or being absolutely mindless may seem no big deal, but to me whose Mom had Alzheimer's, I  worry.  I think many of us aging pre and  baby boomers worry about dementia, memory loss, and certainly the big A more than other generations.  We have seen more of it and are more aware.  Jerry shrugged and counseled, "well it's not fatal, no one died, go on about your day, be happy."  I did leave for my walk, out into the misty grey to clear my cobwebs and I started to hum  "don't worry, be happy" the old Bobby McFerrin . Released in September 1988, it became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the  Billboard 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. It was a philosophy I never quite adopted but here it came back clear as a song.  

Maybe I shouldn't worry about my senior moment so much or is it a blip from my fidgety?  Must I begin to pay better attention, one thing at a time?  Certainly  I must look at that calendar each morning first thing.  Here in retirement I make my own schedule but live a rather uncomplicated routine.  Deliberate forgetfulness or mindlessness?  I have  heard that simply forgetting is nothing to show concern  about unless it becomes routine and or unless one does not immediately recall when reminded, as I did in horror today.  That's my Halloween fright 2013 style. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 Rerun from Week 13 Frank Ostrowski

So here I sit at keyboard in Minnesota, USA looking back oh so fondly at how many years it has been since I first learned of and participated in Sepia posts. Sepia got me to blogging and researching my roots and afforded the way to use so many old photos. Now as we are celebrating our 200th week of Sepia posts, I have chosen my contribution from Week 13,  February 27, 2010.  I am excited about Alan's proposal to publish our collection into a volume for week 200. Here with very slight updating is  my Sepia Week 13 post about my great grandfather, Frank ( Francis) Ostrowski. 
Frank Ostrowski
Frank Ostrowski is my maternal great grandfather who was a coal  and sometimes iron ore miner in Poland, Prussia and in the United States. I knew my family was entirely Polish on all sides, (2013 note:but after submitting my DNA to Ancestry.com for analysis in 2012, I learned there is a very slight trace of Ireland or the British Isles as well, proof that the British Navy was everywhere in the world once.   I have found no connection to that Brit ancestry yet, despite periodic Ancestry.com suggestions of 8th or so cousins however many times removed).  However, I have learned a lot more since 2010 and my research indicates German, Prussian, and  Polish heritage matching with my study of  Poland's history that reveals how often it was invaded, conquered and annexed to another country.  Those Poles are a hearty stock though and do not go down without a  strong fight.

My grandmother and her sisters spoke Polish as did my mother and aunt; it was especially annoying to me as a child because I could not understand what they were saying. I know that was the reason they spoke it around me! But little by little I learned enough to eaves drop and discern the secrets.  I discovered Frank in 1977 when my great aunt Francie gave me the photo of the Ostrowski (aka Ostroskie) gathering which I posted last week on Sepia Saturday. I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother, Rose, Frank’s daughter from his second wife. How I wish I had known about him back then and could have asked my Baba (babacis in Polish) about her father. She talked very little about her family or else I paid little attention, but said that her father died of stomach cancer as did several others in the family; she feared that and sadly she died of pancreatic cancer and  diabetes; perhaps that was Frank’s diagnosis too.

Frank Ostrowski my maternal great grandfather
Coal miner, pick axe,  lantern hat and white shirt
After Aunt Francie gave me the gathering photo she also found this snapshot of Frank in his miner’s hat which I had copied and enlarged into a 5 x 7 Sepia print that has been prominently displayed in our home ever since.  It is a good conversation piece. My grandmother’s hand writing is on the back so at one time she had the photo but there is no date. I adore the old coal miner hat. Those were the most dangerous days of the mines and many Europeans flocked to the states to do the dangerous dirty work. My mother and aunt were of no help in verifying dates, saying that they never knew any grandparents but lots of aunts and uncles. Notice the clean shirt and the pick axe over his shoulder, arm crossed and holding hands with someone.  Likely this was not what he wore into the mine, but there must have been some special occasion to pose.  Someone really had to work at keeping that shirt clean and starched, back then, without today's automatic  washers and dryers.

Frank married three times and outlived two wives. By his photo he does not appear to be that handsome, but staunch, determined and I suppose an employed coal miner in America was a good catch for the times. If the historical fiction “A Coal Miner’s Bride “by Susan Campbell Bartoletti has any truth, the old miners wanted a woman to care for them. Frank fathered many children so that would also account for his need to remarry when one wife passed on. I notice he has one eyelid that droops and my grandmother had the same affliction; I in 2013 notice the same has happened to my right eyelid so that ultimately I will have to have that "fixed" or lifted..

The spelling of the name Ostrowski changes depending on who recorded it, Ostrowski, Ostroski, Ostroskie, etc.  I have two different years for his birth 1855 and 1857 and have been unable to confirm which is correct. However, the date of November 11 is certain making him my fellow Scorpio. Perhaps on our next trip to PA I can visit the Union cemetery in Arnold where he is buried and that may clarify date of his death. I should hope it will not add yet another date. (2013:  Note several years ago we visited the Union cemetery; the office building was not open but there was a note on the door that if one wished to locate a grave submit a letter in writing and pay a fee of $15 or more and allow several months.  We tried roaming and found some  caretakers who directed us to the area known as Polish hill, far in the back, with few gravestones, quite over grown with shrubs, etc.  No luck finding Frank's grave.  I suppose one of these days I will send that letter and the fee and wait and wait.  This is a strange thing as most older cemeteries are very helpful at no cost and willingly look in their records.) 

Frank was born in Prussia, Poland or Germany to Franz Ostrowski and Katazinea (Kor Catherine) Biegonski. who likely immigrated to America with the children, but the records of when and where they arrived are sketchy. His sisters were Kate, Mary and Pauline who is recorded to have been born in Cleveland, and a brother Maryn John. It is possible that they came through Canada, but I have hit a block wall with that as well.

Information shows Franz was buried in Detroit, Michigan in 1893 and Catherine died in 1910 and is buried in Cleveland, Ohio.  That date makes me wonder if the mystery Ostrowski photo taken in Ohio which I dated at about 1910 could have been for Frank’s mother’s funeral; perhaps confirming some of what my mother alluded to of a funeral in Ohio. ( I used that photo last week for my Sepia contribution; here is the link  http://patonlinenewtime.blogspot.com/2010/02/sepia-saturday-mystery-ostrowski.html  )While some of her research is flawed, I am grateful to my 2nd cousin who attempted to piece all this together with infrequent trips to PA. Maxine lives in Utah today is in poor health but as a member of the LDS church had access to many records. Still, I know she had some errors in the lineage and names and am skeptical of some of the information where dates show as "appx."   Maxine spent some time interviewing my grandmother in the 1960’s, but I know that my grandmother could be evasive as  were many of the Polish.  Whether they were untruthful to avoid attention or sometimes could not understand the questions,  I cannot determine. I know that they feared and respected government authority and as immigrants escaping tyrants or worse in Poland, or the old country, they kept quiet about many things. Someone usually knew someone back in “the old country” though and kept in touch, frequently sending some  cash along to help out.

Frank married his first wife Frances appx. 1877. Her last name is incorrectly recorded as my maternal grandfather’s last name on the documents so I know that is wrong. She was born in Poland and died appx 1888 in PA. They had three children Joseph (born 1878 with a twin John who did not survive the birth), John (the second son to be so named born appx. 1882), and Benjamin Frank who was distinctly given the middle name (born 1883 appx.) Years ago Sharon, a cousin I had not previously known, granddaughter of Benjamin contacted me. When I asked my mother and aunt about this, they shrugged their shoulders. While they knew nothing about a grandfather they recalled their aunts and uncles and made no distinction of their being half brothers and sisters.

Frank’s second wife who was my grandmother’s mother was Frances Swartz (aka Schwartz) whom he married about 1889. Frances came from Poland, was born in 1869, died in 1902 in PA. Sometime during this marriage they dropped the “w” from Ostrowski off and on. They had five children although I recall my grandmother mentioning that some of her brothers died when very young; there is no record of others. These were Walter  (born 1889 in Detroit, MI who went by Bill and changed the family name to Austin), Mary (born 1891 in Salamanca New York), Veronica Bernice (born 1892 in PA), and Rose (my grandmother born 1894) and Adam Maryan who died at birth in 1899 or shortly thereafter. My grandmother said he was her mother’s last child and did not live. I never referred to any of her sisters or brothers as "Great" they were all aunt and uncle to me; I  called them the Polish word for aunt, “czotczhe”.
Helen Sajikowski aka Sekoski, Frank's 3rd
and last wife

Frank married his third wife, Helen Sajowksi (aka Sekoski) in 1905. Their only child was Frances born in 1906 and was always known as the baby sister. Helen is seated next to Frank in the Ostrowski Ohio gathering, the photo I shared last week.  Helen would survive Frank who died April 19, 1915 making him either 60 or 62 depending on which birth year is correct.  My grandmother was fond of her step mother Helen and spoke well of her.   Whether Frank fathered more than nine children is unknown but each wife seemed to give birth annually. How they traveled around from Michigan, to Ohio, to New York and to Pennsylvania is a mystery; I suspect it was by rail car. They certainly did not own vehicles to drive. Tracing the different places the Ostrowski's moved from Salamanca area of New York, Michigan and Ohio before settling in Pennsylvania,  it appears Frank was following the mines in the heyday of coal mining; some how Pennsylvania must have offered him steady employment because he set roots there and his children did so as well. It was hard dirty work that the immigrants took on.  Today, his descendants are all over the eastern United States, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and on to Michigan and Ohio into Newfoundland, Canada as well as some in California. All my years living in California I was never aware of any Ostrowski relatives there. (2013 note:  A few years ago another contacted me from southern California where she still resides.  They spell the last name Ostroskie).  When I see the Ostrowski (Ostroski) name today I wonder if that is a shirt tail relation. Writing this piece I googled and found many; one example is Frank, a "falsely accused murderer in Canada" released on bail to his daughter. 

Coalfield in Pennsylvania, father,  Frank and son , John
Finally here is the last photo I have of Frank with his son, John. I found this in a drawer after my mother died in 2004. The back has the names and says "coalfield", but no date. My grandmother told that she learned to cook as a very young girl because her father was skinny but ate like a horse and said that her daughter, my aunt, Virginia took after him. Not all Frank’s progeny were as lean as this photo where Frank is poking John’s belly! John who was born in 1882 must be at least  20 years old here which would date this to 1902. I can only imagine what was being said.  But there he is my great grandfather, Frank Ostrowski, I wish I could have known him or learned more when my grandmother was alive. 
Click here to travel across the pond to the    http://sepiasaturday.blogspot.com/2013/10/sepia-saturday-200-26-october-2013.html   Sepia website and visit other posts from shared stories.