Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Wentzels

I received an e-mail from a relative of Elwood Wentzel and that reminded me of some wonderful times I had in Runnemede because of that family.

Let me begin at the beginning. Elwood and Blance Wentzel were like an Aunt and Uncle to me, in fact I called Mr. Wentzel, Uncle El, and Mrs. Wentzel, Aunt Blanche.

Aunt Blanche was the children's Sunday school teacher and she taught the children aged 6-10. She was also the children's church teacher. She was also a wonderful teacher for me to want to love teaching. She used flannel graphs as her means of getting our attention. She's the lady who was really instrumental in my coming to the Lord, although I did settle that matter in the small bedroom at our home with my mom in attendance. And the Sunday's Aunt B wasn't in children's church, we fought to sit next to her because she always had Life Savers in her purse which she shared with us during church.

Aunt Blanche's flannel graphs were something I emulated and copied for years and years and years. Even when I was teaching Sunday school in recent years I used her method to teach both the Bible verses and the Books of the Bible to my students. It still worked, even in these days of video games and many other attention grabbers, her tried and true methods of teaching children to learn God's word still worked.

Aunt B and Uncle E had only one child, Elwood, Jr. Elwood, Jr. was a Bible study leader for the teenagers and was in charge of the youth group before Uncle Sam drafted him in the late 50s.

At least once a month during my growing up years we would go to the Wentzel's for dinner (after church). And Aunt Blanche was a great cook, and I remember that she made a great lemon meringue pie, which was one of my father's (and my) favorites. Mostly she made us a lamb dinner. Leg of lamb, mashed potatoes, peas, jello salad (that's the one with orange jello, celery, and carrots, and not one of my favorites) and she would always give us a choice of water WITH ICE CUBES or Kool Aid. I say WITH ICE CUBES because we didn't often get to have ice cubes in our water, mainly because the ice was reserved for my father, and secondly our freezer was too small to make more than one container of cubes at a time.

Uncle E was the primary driver for a long time in taking us to various youth outings. He had a truck and we'd all pile in the back -- yes, no helmets or seat restraints, just 10 to 15 of us piled in the back of that pick-up having a blast. God protected us, I guess, because we never lost a single teenager not even on the bumpiest country roads. Actually, we never horsed around in the back because he wouldn't allow it. If he caught one of us not sitting as he had instructed, he would not permit us to ride with him again for at least a month -- that's what you call a time-out!

The Wentzels had a cat -- Buffy? Anyway, every time I went to Aunt Blanche's home -- and I was there at least once a week until I went to high school for Good News Club -- I would sneeze and wheeze -- and never figured out that it was the cat until I was about 16. Then it was decided that I was allergic to cats. That allergy is not nearly as bad as it used to be. I know this because I can tolerate my children's cats without too much discomfort. Oh I get that throat itch and eye watering part of the allergy, but not the bronchial discomfort I used to suffer.

Aunt Blanche gave me a linen shower when I was approaching my wedding day and she took what few pictures I have of my wedding. I recall I received lots of sheets and lots of towels -- green, mostly. Why I chose green as the color, I don't know. I guess it was a popular color back then.

I have to thank God for those two people, who gave so much of their time to the children and teenagers of Mt. Calvary Union Church.

I must add one more thing -- if you wanted something from God, you asked Aunt Blanche to pray for it -- her prayers were very effectual.

(To the Mandukas -- another family that gave and gave and gave -- this in no way diminishes all the love and service you extended to us as children and teenagers. You, too, were a gift from God to that tiny church.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple taffies

Also known as candied apples. Only apple taffies always have a red, hard, candy coating with NO nuts. All you get is apple and hard taffy.

So why am I writing about apple taffies? Well, Alan and I visited the local Piggly Wiggly today and there they were -- red taffy apples, just like I used to get in Runnemede on Halloween from Gardner's Funeral Home. That was the "treat" they handed out to the first 100 or so children who showed up at the Home. I made sure I got there as soon after school as I could so I could get one of those delectable treats.

So, I'm sitting here, writing about candied applies or apple taffies with a taffy in my hand between sentences, biting the delicious crunchy taffy and getting a mouth full of delicious applies (that's also Delicious Apple -- the type -- a very sweet, hard apple works best). Yummmmmmm.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday night tradition

I don't know whether I wrote about this before, perhaps I have, but I can't find it if I did.

It was a tradition on Saturday night that mom would make a coffee cake for Sunday breakfast. She would mix up the recipe on the Bisquick box for coffee cake and then bake it. Of course, it was only good while it was hot, but we had this dry, cinnamon-y cake each and every Sunday morning. Apparently my father really enjoyed it and that's why she made it. I personally would have preferred having day-old Kelly's bakery donuts, and I would have walked all the way to Glendora to get them if I had been permitted to do so.

But another tradition of which my sister reminded me was my mom's obsessions with clean floors.

Each and every Saturday night, after most of the children were in bed, she would get down on her hands and knees and scrub every inch of the kitchen floor. Then she would mop it again after the scrubbed floor had been rinsed and dried. She also did this in the bathroom (after all the baths had been taken).

I personally never picked up on the down-on-the-knees, every Saturday night thing. I do have floors that one could eat from, if they were so inclined because they get washed every day -- at least as often as I am phsycially able to do that, which seems to have dropped off recently to every other day. Now, I don't just sweep them (tile floors, I'm talking about), I wash them and then dry them with a clean cloth after they're washed. So, in that respect, I guess I'm copying my mother in the clean floor thing. I just don't scrub them with a scrub brush.

I do use a Mr. Clean Eraser to get in the grooves to get the crud out -- an instrument which was not available in my mom's cleaning days. I have to say, that the Mr. Clean Eraser is one of the best cleaning inventions ever made. It cleans everything from dried on gunk on Corningware casseroles to gunk on the drain in the sink to the stuff that sticks to the stove that you can't get off unless you take off the enamel. Mr. Clean Eraser gets it off without taking off the enamel. What a product.


I guess I'm obsessive about clean floors, too.

More family sayings

I spent a day with my sister recently and she reminded me of some more of daddy's (family) sayings.

When daddy was preaching against the modernists -- they were a group of theologians that didn't believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, -- he would refer to their ramblings as those of higher, liar critics.

If someone in the family was ticking one or the other off, they would be referred to as a miserable wretch.

If we really wanted to insult someone we would tell them we would say: I hope your toenails fester.

Or who of us Drexlers could ever forget being called a pickle. Daddy's favorite for one of us who pulled something over on him.

Another expression that was used often, but I can't remember in which context was: Great Caesar's Ghost. Actually, I think it was a line from a movie and dad would yell it out when something was happening over which he had no control, like when my sister pooped her pants and it was running down her legs.

And finally, for this episode, whenever dad was talking about evolutionists and the untruths they were spreading about billions of years and man beginning as pond scum, he would say to each and every new revelation by these "higher, liar critics" -- Vas you der, Charlie? (Were you there?) Sound familiar?

Any of you who know I worked for Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, know that one of his favorite expressions when questioning evolutionists is: "Were you there?" Of course, they weren't there, but God was and he left us a description of how it all began in the Bible, starting at Genesis 1:1, where it is written: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 'Nuf said.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The longest living Sbaraglia

Well, this isn't about the Sbaraglia who lived the longest, because I really don't know who that was, but this is about our Cousin Micki -- she will be 84 in a couple of days (September 25) and she is our longest living (notice I didn't say oldest) relative on the Sbaraglia side. I think Herb Young (my father's cousin) is still alive and he would be about that same age.

Now, Uncle Joe Egitto -- he's still alive, living in an assisted-living facility in Western Philadelphia -- he's 92, but he isn't a blood relative. He was Aunt Annie's husband, so he is related by marriage.

So, here's to Micki. Lively, vivacious still. I talked to her a couple of days ago and she's still mowing her own lawn; albeit tentatively. I would post her address -- as she doesn't have e-mail -- but privacy reasons prevent me from doing that. I have included a very recent picture of her.

The Yodelling Cowgirl -- Micki Evans (Martha Evangelista, her mom was Daisy Sbaraglia Evangelista, my mother's (Rose's) sister).


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fur coats in the closet

I know I've mentioned before that our home in Runnemede only had two closets. One was in the bedroom which was really a room that connected to the stairway that led to the attic, and the other was in the hall from which the two bedrooms and bathroom had doorways. That little closet -- and it was little, probably 2.5 feet x 4 feet deep -- held two fur coats and one coat with a large fox fur collar. The coat with the fur collar was the coat my mother wore for most of my childhood -- at least until I was 10 or 11. The other two coats -- the fur coats -- were stored in the closet and rarely worn.

One was a big, beaver coat -- man-sized -- I think it was a man's coat -- the type men wore in the 1920s to college football games. It was warm, though. I know because I wore it a couple of times. One time I wore it on Christmas Eve when the youth group at church was Christmas carolling around the town, and it was very cold that year, made even colder, I suppose because there was at least a foot of snow on the ground, and the streets were snow covered. I remember begging to wear that coat on other occasions, but not being permitted to do so. I loved the feel of the fur.

The other coat was a gray squirrel fur coat. I had that coat in Cincinnati, I think. My daughters would know. It sort of started to shed, though, and I had to get rid of it. It was beautifully made, when it was wearable, with the waist narrowed in and a single button holding it shut at the waist. It, too, was warm. It only fit me for a short while, because it was made for a very small woman -- and I was only small before I had children. After that, I was no longer small.

So, that closet held those three coats, my dad's overcoat, and the Electrolux vacuum cleaner -- which was on the floor under the coats. I think mom used that closet for storage for off-season items such as the coats that we weren't wearing. It had a very small shelf over top of the rod that held the coats, which held dad's felt hat, or was it hats, I'm not sure. I only know that daddy always had a felt hat of some sort. I recall one was gray, but I also recall he had a black one.

He went in for the type that Humphrey Bogart would have worn, not the type that a golfer would wear. I'm not sure what they're called, but it was the type that you imagine a 1930s detective wearing.

So, that's the story of the closet with the fur coats.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


This post harkens back to my days in Runnemede. I have linked in the above title to an umbrella website. Aren't the ones in the picture pretty and feminine? If you click on today's BLOG title, it links to an umbrella website.

I just love umbrellas. I don't have a collection of them as my father did, but I still love them. I don't even use them any more. At least not hardly. I just don't go outside when it's raining, so there is no use for one, unless I just want to get one out and use it as a decoration near the front door. Hey, there's a thought. I could get an old fasioned umbrella holder -- they were tall jars with wide mouths that usually stood just inside the door to collect the wet umbrellas.

Anyway, back to why I love umbrellas.

My dad always had an umbrella with him -- after all, you never knew when it was going to rain,right? (Or when his blindness was going to come on and he needed a cane!) And don't forget we didn't have TV or much radio weather forecasting back when I was a child. My father owned several umbrellas and he gave my mom a new umbrellas at least once every three years, maybe even more often than that. Each umbrella was unique.
Dad's umbrellas were always black and large, but the handles were what distinguished the uniqueness of his umbrellas. How I wish we had saved the umbrellas that were in the house when we cleaned it out, but we didn't. I have ONE of my mom's umbrellas. It's yellow and has a tortoise-shell curved handle. Alan has one of dad's umbrellas -- plain black with the usual curved "J" shaped handled, but the handle is made of oak, not plastic.
Oh, I have a collection of my own -- all those "put in your purse" umbrellas that have seemed to multiply over the years. I know I have at least four of those in my closet. But they're useless when you have the hips I have. They cover the head, and that's about it.
We did not have an umbrella stand near our front door or our back door, so my father generally left an umbrella on the front porch and another one on the back porch, as did my mother. The rest were stored in the small hall closet along with the vacuum cleaner (an Electrolux tank model) and the fur coats. Yes, fur, real fur, coats.
I recall that when I was in third grade I didn't want to wear a rain-coat any more. I wanted my own umbrella. Now the pictures above are nothing like the type of umbrella I desired, but the pictures in the link in the title do show several umbrellas I would have desired, and still wouldn't mind owning -- go the the garden umbrella link. So, I requested an umbrella for Christmas, along with a doll, and probably a new bike. I thought for sure that I'd get an umbrella, but I didn't. Then I started the nag -- you know -- hey, it's only 60 days until my birthday and I want an umbrella -- nag. Well, it worked an I got an umbrella, and not a kid's umbrella either. I got an adult umbrella. It was navy blue with a straight handle -- not a "J" handle. I loved that umbrella. I know I wore it out.
After that I forever had my own umbrella to carry with me if I thought it was going to rain. And as I got older and started working as a legal secretary in Philadelphia (another tale for another day) and had to start coordinating my outfits, I had at least three or four umbrellas to switch out. All these umbrellas were before the days of Totes --- no small umbrellas for the purses back then.
And one final thing about umbrellas. When you take a bus to work, and it's raining outside, those umbrellas drip as they come down the aisle and if you sit in the front as I always did because of motion sickness, I was usually soaked from the knees down by the time I got to work because of being brushed against by all those wet umbrellas of boarding passengers!

Shared birthdays

I just realized that my niece Heather (my brother Carl's oldest daughter) and my Cousin Micki (about whom I wrote a lot about in March 2008) were born on the same date. September 25.

Well, Micki is going to be 84. She won't mind that I mention her age. I think she's rather proud of it. And she seems to be still going strong. Heather will be the same age as my son Phil, and you will have to figure that out for yourself. I don't think she would want me to mention her age as she's way under 65 and women don't start bragging about their ages until their on Medicare. Oh yeah, the teenagers pad their ages when they are growing up, but they don't really even brag about their age or really want it mentioned, I don't think.

As an aside, I remember the day Heather was born -- or rather the night her mom went into labor. Linda (her mom) called me because I had just had Phil a few months prior, and wanted to know if she was, in fact, in labor. Well, I had to tell her that I didn't remember a thing about labor pains. I was drugged and really didn't remember any pain at all -- no epidoral, just scapolamine and darvon. My water broke, nothing happened -- no contractions, so they induced him, and I recall a couple of back breaking pains, but that's all I recall until I woke up about an hour after he was born. Scapolamine (also known as truth serum and I can't imagine what secrets I let loose with) knocks you out like either, but apparently it was considered safer. It was a nice evening, though, and Linda decided to go to the hospital and she had Heather only a few hours later. Good thing she went to the hospital and didn't rely on my non-recollection of labor.

Back to the issue at hand -- shared birthdays (and other dates).

I know, I used to subtract 10 years from my age after I hit 27 -- the year my first child was born (another clue to Heather's age).

Other shared birthdays? I'm not aware of any, but there has to be, doesn't there in such a large family.

I know my mom and dad and my son, Phil, and his wife, Amy, and Alan's brother David, and his wife, Libby, share a wedding anniversary -- March 21. First day of spring must be a date for a lot of people to get married on!

I think I'll go through all the Facebook people in the family and check out birthdays and see if there are any more share birthdays. If there are, I'll add them in here.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Just thinking

Today I was just thinking about Runnemede and being young and some of the good times about which I've written over the past year.

And I was just thinking about my children and the house in which they grew up.

And I was just thinking that maybe they remember things I don't about their growing up years.

And I realized that it must be so, because I remember so little of what occurred in those years.

I woke up the other morning and panicked because I hadn't fed the dog (Tigger). Now, folks, Tigger has been dead at least 20 years, so why would I recall that dog, which I really didn't like anyway, and panic because I hadn't fed her? (Yes our dog Tigger was a she.)

Let me explain about Tigger before I go any further. We got Tigger from a pet store for a very small price. Tigger was part cocker and part dacschund -- she was a cocker-shund. We think she was abused as a really small pup because any fire-crackers, gun-shot sounds, thunder would cause her to cringe and try to hide. And she would wimper until someone tucked her in their lap and comforted her. She also had a thing about hot-air balloons. We would hear her barking and knew there was one (or more) hot-air baloon approaching the house. She could hear it before we could see it. Amazing.

Tigger was a she. And she was named Tigger because the day after we got her and the children saw her -- it was around Christmas time and there was snow on the ground -- when I put her out the first thing that morning, she hopped, just like Tigger, from place to place until she found her "spot." So, the children and I thought that Tigger was a good name for that dog. Tigger was a Christmas gift to the children in 1975 -- our first Christmas in Cincinnati.

So, I wonder how much the children remember about that dog, and I was just thinking about why I should recall her so vividly to my mind that morning not long ago. That dog was the bane of my existence for 14 years. She had a mind of her own. She was not an obedient dog a lot of the time and that so frustrated me.

Oh, she was obedient in that she never entered the kitchen. She was obedient in that she waited until her plate was filled and I gave her the signal to eat, but she just wouldn't come when she was called. And if she got out the front door -- which she did frequently because she was so fast -- I had to chase her down.

She didn't like children hanging on her and bit several young children who were just trying to be affectionate. But she never did that with our children who were 3, 4, and 6 when we got her.

I always thought that if I could harness the power in her wagging tail, I could get my house cleaned better than one of those little robots they sell now.

Tigger brought me presents from time to time. She was a moler. And she would dig out our moles and bring them to me in her mouth and drop them at my feet. Yuck! But, I did tell her "Good Dog" when she did that. Our neighbors liked to use her to ferret out their moles as well.

We had a fenced back yard, but she would tenaciously dig her way out and then, frustrating me again, she'd be wandering the neighborhood and I would have to try to get her in.

I think finally, I just let her go praying that the SPCA would pick her up and take her to their facilities and find another home for her.

Unfortunately, my daughter, Cyndi, loved that dog. And when it was time to put the dog out of her old-age miseries, we all cried. One year later, on the anniversary of Tigger's death, she reminded me that this was the date on which I killed Tigger. I guess that says it all.

Anyway, I was just thinking....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cranberry Juice

I mentioned in my previous BLOG that I hate cranberry juice. I always have. But that's okay.

Growing up we only had it one day a year -- Thanksgiving Day. We had a choice -- we could have one of a choice of three drinks: cranberry juice, tomato juice, or ginger ale. Why my mom chose those three drinks, I have no idea.

I do know that I liked the color of the cranberry juice, and all the adults were drinking that, so I thought it was an "adult" drink, and that drinking with the adults was a fancy, shmancy thing to do. So I opted for cranberry juice (unsweetened was the way it came back then). Oh, my but it was awful. But I didn't learn my lesson, because for four or five years straight I stuck with the cranberry juice.

By that time I was a teenager and being or mimicking adults was no big deal, so I switched to tomato juice -- which wasn't just a Thanksgiving thing. Mom did stock tomato juice in the fridge -- as she did ginger ale. Tomato juice and ginger ale were available year round.

Tomato juice was more available, though, than ginger ale. Ginger ale was "soda" and soda was only something you drank during the week, never on Sunday. And I never got the reason for that either. But tomato juice could be drunk any day of the week, 365/24/7. Get it?

So, that's the cranberry story.

One more thing. My dad HAD to have cranberry sauce with his turkey. I have never appreciated that either. I have made my own cranberry sauce for 42 years -- that is I get raw cranberries, cook them with sugar and orange juice and a few apple slices, then when it's almost jelled, I turn off the heat. After the mixture cools, I add some crushed walnuts. Alan likes it. I can swallow it. Again, it's made with cranberries, and I just don't like them.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yikes, Ike!

Yikes, Ike! This is a picture of the building next to us. I went out (had to use the stairs as the elevator doesn't work when there is no power) and checked out our building -- because we live upstairs I was concerned with roof singles being gone and getting rain in the house. I didn't see any pulled up shingles on the front of our home, but the back, I couldn't get out to see, as my knee kept popping out.
If I could have gotten my cart out of the garage, I would have ridden around and checked out more damage. But what I did see was enough -- there were roof shingles all over the place. Tree limbs (we still have small trees), leaves, garbage -- one of the garbage bins got sucked over. What a mess! So what is written below is what I was thinking when the storm first started.
Here goes!

We are in the middle of a wind storm as a result of Ike. No rain, though, just wind, and lots of it.

I was sitting on my porch and the doors of glass – the sliders which allow us to have air circulate are bowing in the middle with each gust and I’m just praying they don’t break. I finally pushed the heavy table against one of the doors so I won’t bow as much, then I piled all the chairs together and pushed them against another door so it won’t bow.

The wind is coming straight out of the South, and the roofs that face that way are losing shingles all over the place. One building is down to the bare wood on the roof. I think we’re okay, but how would I know until it rains and I start having dripping through my ceiling.

I’m writing on the computer – we’re without electricity, and I’m recording this in a Word document.

Since we have no electricity I have no wireless. Funny, it doesn’t work when the electricity is off! Anyway, I see people pushing against the wind, getting in lose plants and flags, many of which have blown around the neighborhood. I guess I should go down and check out my pots and see if they’re still where I put them near the front door. I don’t want anyone to get hit by a flying flower pot. (I did, they hadn't moved an inch -- that's on the north side of the building).

I did notice that several hanging ferns are no longer hanging. They are rolling around on the ground.

This morning some men wisely stacked all the swimming pool furniture into one corner and turned all the tables upside down and removed all the umbrellas. The pool looks like someone denuded a tree and just dumped all the leaves into it.

Oops, there go three more roof tiles from across the street. I pray they don’t land on someone’s windshield on Route 27. That would be bad.

Okay, I’m signing off now and I’ll post this when our power comes back on. We also only have cell phone service, which is probably dead because I haven’t had it charging for a week. Nice being isolated – NOT!

We got electricity back around 10 p.m. and were settling in with candles -- we both decided around 7 o'clock to go to bed. But I woke up around 9 and was hungry, so I made us sandwiches. I cleared out the ice dumpster, in which the ice had melted just enough to become one solid block. So, we have no ice and won't for at least 12 hours. Oh, well.
Because I didn't want to drink the water, and not knowing whether there were any boil water orders -- which I couldn't do anyway without electricity -- I opted to drink 1/2 gallon of cranberry juice. Man, I hate that stuff. That's the story for another BLOG, though.
And to the two people I was able to talk with before I lost ALL telephone service, including my cell phone, we're okay. The wind has died down to a gentle breeze of about 30 mph, which seems tame compared to the registered 85 mph winds that hit our area.
All schools are closed tomorrow and there are orders to stay off the roads unless it's an emergency, which I think going to the doctor and getting some pain relief is. If I get stopped, I'll just head over to the already over-extended ER at the local hospital. Who knows? Dr. Caoili may not even have power tomorrow and won't be open anyway.
As of right now 11:30 p.m., September 14, there are still 750,000 people in our area without electricity. We have underground lines, so that may be why we're back on, because they fix transformers first, then they get to the downed wires. I don't know, but maybe that's why we're back online with power. I notice, thought, that over on Cyndi's hill, and beyond, they'll still blacked out. Duke Energy says it could be three days before all power is back on. There are still some downtown (Cincinnati) buildings without power.
Sad note: There was a fire at Findlay Market today which, because of the winds, took off and destroy several of the Market's buildings. I don't know which "shops" were destroyed at this point, just that there was large fire at Findlay -- and the TV pictures showed total losses in several buildings.
Well, I think I will sign off for now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rainy days

I always get nostalgic on rainy days. Runnemede wasn't exactly the rainy-est place in New Jersey, but I recall several nice rainy days growing up. Of course, it didn't matter if it rained, we had the front porch and the back porch on which to play.

I know I've written about that front porch many, many times, but days like today just bring it all back. Playing with my doll and the little doll buggy I had -- which I believe was my grandmother's. It was repaired several times by my mom. It was basically a sling held between two bars -- one bar being the handle, the other bar being the lower part of the buggy, and then it had three wheels.

I used to have a picture of me with that buggy, but I don't know what ever happened to it. I do remember the last time my mom fixed it, though. She had some green upholstery material left over from slip-cover material she used on an old chair we had in our living room. It wasn't very pretty material, but it was sturdy.

I would put my doll(s) in that sling, cover them with a blanket, and walk back and forth across the porch singing my baby to sleep. Where I got the idea that one had to sing their baby to sleep, I don't know. I dont' remember my mom singing any of us to sleep, but perhaps she did, and in my baby-mind I recalled that as I sang to my dolls.
And, of course, as I got older, weather permitting, I would just sit out there and read. I always loved to watch the storms coming in and they usually came at us from the northwest or west, both directions were easily visible from the porch.
I also remember having to sweep the porch once a week -- a job I really didn't mind -- and then sweep the steps and the walk that led to the street. I was proud -- yes, the kind of pride that goes before a fall type of proud -- of the job I did when I cleaned the porch. I felt like I accomplished something. And once the walk was cleaned of debris, I could sketch my hop-scotch blocks back onto the walk. said sketch would last until it rained.
So, tomorrow, I'll take my computer out on my porch here in Kentucky, and enjoy being outdoors, but dry while it rains. Or, maybe I'll read another Louis L'Amour book -- I picked up three more at the library the other day. Or maybe, I'll clean the house -- nah -- can't see well enough on cloudy days. How's that for an excuse?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The head of the table

That was where my father always sat. But my mom did not sit at the other end. She either sat right next to dad or next to a child who was strategically placed between her and dad.

We had two eating places. When I was small -- when all the children were small -- we always ate in the kitchen, precisely at 6:00 o'clock. And the clock in the kitchen was adjusted almost everyday to be synchronized with dad's wristwatch. The clock in the kitchen was a wall clock and seemed to lose 5 minutes or so a day. After a few years of the daily reset, I guess dad decided it was time to get a new clock -- a clock he only had to adjust maybe once a week. He had a "being on time" thing.

So, dad sat at the "head" of the table in the kitchen. I was always on this left (in the kitchen) then next to me was Deb. My mom sat on dad's right -- which was nearest the stove so she could keep the meager amounts of food we had coming -- and next to her was Mark, and then Carl was on a stool at the other end of the table. It was a very small table, in a very small kitchen. And at the end of dinner, at 6:45 p.m. we would listen to Lowell Thomas (news) -- all of us, not just dad and mom. I never resented having to sit there and listen to Mr. Thomas. I found his rendering of the day's news fascinating.

When we got larger -- physically -- we were moved to the dining room where dad sat in the chair at the head of the table which was located at the kitchen end of the table, rather than at the living room end of the table. In the dining room I sat to dad's immediate right, and next to me was either Deb or Mark. Mom sat at dad's immediate left, and next to her was Carl, and then Mark was at the end.

I never sat anywhere else, but next to my father at the table. Even when we had guests I sat next to dad. When Alan was sharing meals with us on almost a daily basis (before we were married), I still sat next to my father, and we squeezed a chair in between me and my brother Mark (he had rotated around the table at that point) for Alan.

Dining in our house was not a quiet affair. It was always full of conversation, Italian-type fighting, and lots of laughter.

The end of dinner was signified by my father getting his bread and jelly -- which he always ended his meal with. The rest of us, however, ended our meal with salad -- usually just lettuce with a vinegar/olive oil dressing. I still end my meals that way, although now I add cucumber, celery, tomatoes, walnuts, dried cranberries, and blue cheese chunks. Then I top that with balsamic vinegar and oil. That's it, and even Alan likes that salad. I think it's the sweetness of the balsamic vinegar that he likes along with the nuts and cranberries. And, of course, he really loves the blue cheese. 'Nuf said about that.

I was reading a book the other day, and bread and jelly seems to be "dessert" in some cultures. So I guess when mom didn't have junket, or pudding, or jello, dad would eat his bread and jelly for dessert. If we had junket, or pudding, or jello, or apple sauce, then he got a double dose, because he always ended his meal with bread and jelly.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Potato Chip Sandwiches

I wasn't sure whether to put this at this BLOG site or at The Fat Lady Singeth, but since this food delicacy comes from my growing up time in Runnemede I thought I'd put it here.

Today I had one of my favorite sandwiches (I didn't say hoagie which, if made in an Italian deli, is my all-time favorite). It was liverwurst, white American cheese, and potato chips. Yes, potato chips, piled high inside the bun -- it was, of course, masterfully built on a hamburger bun. Yum.

As I was wolfing it down, I thought about the potato chip thing.

My mother was NOT a gourmet cook. Oh, I loved her cooking, but it was meat and potatoes, bread and jelly cooking. For a treat, we would get something other than PB&J for lunch. I dislike immensely PB&J, always have. By the time I got to my school lunch the bread would be so soggy because of the jelly bleeding through the bread. Yuck!

Some of you may recall the episode of The Cosby Show where Bill Cosby was piling potato chips on his hoagie (you see he's from Philadelphia and knows how to properly prepare a hoagie). Well, my mom invented that, and I will go to my death with a sword in my hand defending my mom as not only the inventor, but the champion maker, of potato chip sandwiches.

These sandwiches were a very special treat. Now, you NEVER have potato chips on a PB&J, so that sandwiches is eliminated from the contest at the very beginning for which I am eternally grateful.

But, most anything else is fair game to be classified as a potato chip sandwich. Today, I had liverwurst and American cheese piled high with potato chips -- so that was first and foremost a potato chip sandwich. Cream cheese and olives are secondary when you add potato chips between the bread slices. Tuna fish and chips (fish and chips Drexler/Sbaraglia style) is exceptional.

Now, I'm not talking about the potato chips being an accompaniment to the actual sandwich, I'm talking about the sandwich accompanying the potato chips. Very simple really.

So you nieces, nephews, daughters, and son, cousins, and anyone else who reads this -- spice up your life, make your next sandwich a potato chip sandwich. Forget the carbs and calories, enjoy a treat.


Friday, September 5, 2008


I was watching the Republican convention and was particularly aware of the obvious pride Mr. Palin had for his wife, Sarah, and the pride with which Mrs. McCain looked at Senator McCain.

You know there have been moments in my life with Alan when I know I must have had that same kind of pride, but I don't remember too many of them. That doesn't bode well for me, does it?

I just don't remember bursting with pride when he graduated from Rutgers, nor when he got his masters from Rutgers. Nor do I recall pride when he graduated from Planning Associates school at Fort Belvoir after a year of being AWOL from the family in Cincinnati.

I do, however, remember the pride I felt when he was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant. Now, that was something I shall never forget. Yet, it was at a time when very few Americans had pride for our servicemen. It was at the time of the Viet Nam war, and while I was very proud of his commission, I was scared that he would be sent to that country to fight in a war against communism -- at least I think that's what that war was about.

I recall his commissioning as a First Lieutenant as well. I got to pin the bar on him, and then he became a Captain, that, too was a time of pride for me. And what did I do? Nothing. I just endured his long days of classes, physical training, and sleepless nights.

I recall an other instance when I was proud of Alan, albeit it was a funny pride. We were on our honeymoon and he was doing his dives -- have I related this story before? He was quite good at diving, twists and turns, and swans, etc., and because I had seen him "show off" like this before, I thought nothing of it. Then I heard a little girl say, "Look at that man, mommy. Isn't he diving well?" Then it dawned on me that she was talking about Alan. At that point I was proud to be married (albeit only three days) to a wonderful man.

I think that my pride regarding Alan's accomplishments -- and there have been several that I didn't mention here, has not been so obvious to me because he is so much a part of me, that when something great happens to him that should elicit pride from me, it's just another step in my life, and that pride for him is wrapped up in me, for which I don't feel that pride. Does that make any sense?

Alan is a very humble man, and I guess that humility just exudes from him when something for which there should be pride occurs and his humility, or lack of pride carries over to me. It's not that I'm any less proud of him, it's just that I don't FEEL proud.

Now, if we were to talk about my children and grandchildren, there would be many instances in which I could tell you of my pride for them, probably because they needed to know that mother or MeMom was proud of them. I guess I never thought that Alan needed to know that I was proud of him. It was just assumed that as my husband I was proud of him in all things. I guess I need to tell him more often that I am proud of him -- past and present.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008


BLOGging has fulfilled a childhood desire of mine -- writing.

I recall when I was in second grade I wrote something about autumn and it appeared in the school (grades 1-8) newspaper. I was so excited. There was my name in print and my article had found a space in that little paper. It was the beginning, and I wrote articles for almost every school paper that was published while I was in the Runnemede Grade School system. That's not to say that the articles were great, they certainly were not, but it did start something.

Unfortuntately, I didn't keep copies of those essays.

In high school I also wrote little articles, not on current events, or reporting things that were going on in school, but articles about what the clubs were like, who was in them, why people should join them, etc.

Then when short skirts came out, I remember that I asked if I could write an article for the high school paper on short skirts -- not the fact that we weren't permitted to wear anything that was above the knee (which led to the kneeling test), but how the girls felt about them and whether it was a fad that would last or not. It was almost a full column. And the responses to my questions were interesting, to say the least. When I asked the teachers what they thought, most thought it was a fad and that it wasn't a good fad. Too much skin showing on girls. I mean, why didn't the girls just wear their Bermuda shorts to class? And those knobby knees? Who wanted them to show? Apparently most of the girls in the high school.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep copies of those essays either.

In college I wrote a couple of articles for the literary magazine. And then nothing for a long time.

When I was in politics (minor politics, not national) I wrote several articles for the local newspapers. Some were published some were not. But they were basically reporting on the state of education in the State of Ohio, and who would read them.

Well, BLOGging has fulfilled my aspiration for writing. I have really enjoyed telling tales (that's sounds like they aren't true, but they are) about my growing up years. This is not the end of the writings, just thought you might like to know that I'm enjoying the writing experience.


Monday, September 1, 2008

What a weekend

I don't remember Labor Day being a big thing when I was growing up. I grew up in a community where almost everyone worked at New York Ship Yard, or the Philadelphia Navy Yard. So, I know they were union employees. But Labor Day was just the end of summer, that's all. No big deal.

Oh, the traffic on the pike going toward Philly was bad -- those were the days before the bridge was put in that went over to South Philadelphia. And that was just another sign that people were coming back from the shore and summer was truly over.

School would start the next Monday. School in New Jersey never, ever started before Labor Day. Out here in Kentucky, every since we moved here in 1975, school has started at the end of August -- usually the last Monday. Lately, though -- that is in the last couple of years -- school has been starting earlier and earlier and earlier (in August) and this year in our county (counties are big things out here in Kentucky) school started on August 5th.

I think it's terrible that they take a whole month of summer away from children. They got out of school around June 1, so they only had June and July. Two measly months! Man, I'm glad I was kid back in the good old days when we got a FULL Summer's worth of days off!