Friday, May 29, 2009

Tripping Down Memory Lane

I have been struggling to write this article, yet, every time I abandoned the thought, it continued to haunt me. My best friend and partner in crime insisted I draw to see what comes up. Mind you, its’ been many years since I’ve put any energy into my art, and that combined with my music; elicits a degree of anger…which brings me to this week’s story. Those of you who have lost their Mother will understand.

30 years ago my best friend, Beth, & I went out of our way to do anything but what our Mom Barbs expected. Beth, being a bit older, had certain social obligations that weren’t as appealing as sneaking off to the park to listen to Todd Rundgren, or head down to the Medieval room @ the Cleveland Museum of Art for a flashback. We didn’t have cell phone back then so we couldn’t easily be tracked down.

Cleveland has many museums and cultural activities, most of which are located on University Circle. Old carriage houses transformed into charming bistros and coffee houses dot the surrounding neighborhood where we would get lost in our dreams. We relived that adventure while visiting the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

My mother still visits after her death 12 years ago. When she presented herself yesterday (always in the form of Hough cake) I knew to pay attention. On one rare occasion when she encouraged, I mean insisted that I go off and have fun with my friends for the weekend, a terrible accident occurred. I had a similar opportunity today and knew something wasn’t right. As if no time had passed in between, the details of that horrible memory are still clear and palpable. Then I smelled cake, and for a brief moment, I got the connection between my relationship with my Mother as the spirited girl I was and the grown woman I am now.

It was appropriately Memorial Day weekend and we were surrounded by the memories of our now past Moms. Such an incredible day, we felt like we were getting away with something. The conversation we shared recalling our flashbacks of 30 years past put me in mind of being a teenager. Beth was 21 and a great person to hang with, being “of age”. My Mother didn’t think so. She always said emphatically “She’s too worldly for you”. “Whatever that means” I used to snap, knowing damn well what she was implying. Ironically, we were never really doing anything wrong or bad, just not what we were expected to be doing at that moment. Beth still exercises free will when it comes to certain obligations. That’s what I get from her, lapping up every foreseen opportunity from life like she laps up the lobster thermador served at The Cape Cod Room, creating possibilities filled with excitement; and there were many…

As we sat under a pergola in an almost secret garden, we found ourselves surrounded by rhododendron and dogwood that were undeniably each of our Mom Barbs. We were in a themed garden named “The Cotton Club”, which harkened back to an era that was their own. Who knows, maybe that’s what they did in their youth, frequenting night clubs and dance halls, swing bands filling the air with the sounds of reckless abandon while their Moms thought they were somewhere else, being good.

We both have grown children we have been open with about our activities during our teens and 20’s. Perhaps we made a mistake by sharing our secrets and not keeping the mystery among ourselves, like our Mothers and their Mothers and other women from generations before who just wanted to have fun!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mom's Best Medicine!

Every good recipe starts with a story and here's mine. Like my apple pie (I will share with you come harvest), I cannot take full credit for my chicken soup since I was deeply inspired by my late Mom Barb. I remember her making turkey soup after Thanksgiving & Christmas in the huge pot built into the back burner of our stove. In spite of the amount it yielded, it never lasted long. What a treat to prolong the holidays, even if just twice a year. Well, holidays didn’t occur often enough so Mom decided a smaller bird will work during the rest of the year, holiday or not!

Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the Spring of 1972. After having a radical mastectomy and undergoing almost 2 yrs. of radiation therapy, she didn't have much energy to prepare regular meals for a family of five, hence the soup. She mastered her recipe over the years and shared it with neighbors and other friends who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Mom became kind of known for her soup since it was appealing to those who otherwise had lost their appetites. It must have been pretty potent since she lived another 21 years herself! I was fortunate to have held onto a portion from her very last batch I found tucked away in my freezer. A few months after she passed away, Dad had come down with a bad case of pneumonia while living alone in his now empty and drafty house. With fever and frustration, he looked up at me and said "I wish I had some of your Mom's soup right about now." I teared-up and smiled because I knew Mom was still able to make his wish come true. Nothing made me happier than to nourish his body and soul with Mom's special healing chicken soup. As if that's not magic enough, I added a pinch more.

Now here's the beauty of the story. I've had an opportunity to bring the legacy full circle by sharing it with our old next door neighbor recently diagnosed with Cancer and the wonderful new couple of Dr.s who bought Mom & Dad's old house. Their home isn't drafty anymore!

Ok, here's the secret formula...

Healing Chicken Soup

Not just for colds. Rosemary & collagen are helpful for people suffering side effects from cancer treatment.


1) Cover medium size chicken carcass (some meat intact) with filtered water.

2) Cook on “high” in Crock Pot for 4 hours. Simmer on “Low” for 2 more hours.

3) Remove everything from the stock.

4) Store stock broth overnight in refrigerator.

5) Remove meat from the bones and other non-edibles.

Skim fat from surface of the stock. Filter stock broth through a sieve.

Heat stock in Crock Pot on high and add the following:



Handful (1 ½ cups)


2 cloves (or 1 large clove)


1 small to medium


3 stalks

Basmati Rice

¾ cup

Chicken pieces

1 to 1 ½ cups

Chicken Stock

6 to 8 cups

Organic Vegetable Stock (bullion)

3 to 4 cups


To Taste


To Taste

Organic Oregano

2 Tbsp.

Organic Basil

2 Tbsp.


2 Tbsp.


1 ½ tsp.


1 ½ tsp.

Cinnamon Basil

1 ½ tsp.


1 ½ tsp.

Lemon Thyme

1 ½ tsp.

Tri-Colored Sage

½ tsp.

Garlic Chives

½ tsp.

Bay Leaves

2 Leaves

Cook (on “high”?) for an additional 3 hours, stirring periodically.

Best when served for friends, family & neighbors!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I have a collection of fine perfumes that I forego wearing during the summer months while I spend most of my time outdoors gardening. The sweetness of commercial perfumes and colognes tends to attract unwanted insect attention. However, I personally don’t feel “complete” without donning my jewelry and fragrance. Why not have your cake and eat it too? This simple mixture of essential oils and herbal tinctures discourages bugs that are attracted to the vibrant flowers you are tending. This potion serves a dual purpose; whether you’re entertaining outdoors on those irresistible moonlit nights under the stars or when alone with your sweetie, it is both a powerful and a romantic solution – naturally!

Insect repellent Spray:
4-6 oz. distilled rosemary water
8-10 drops lemongrass essential oil
8-10 drops peppermint essential oil
8-10 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops angelica root essential oil

Mix the above items well and store in a dark glass or spun aluminum spritzer bottle. This repellant is safe on skin and clothing but be careful to avoid the eyes. For application on children and pets, cut the solution by half with distilled water. Remember to shake well before each use.

The cost of purchasing commercial products and the smell of such products can be overwhelming. Here are a few additional alternative pest control suggestions for use indoors…

ANTS: Sprinkle cinnamon, bay leaves and cayenne pepper along baseboards and sills.
COCKROACHES: Spread equal parts of confectioner’s sugar and baking soda on problem areas.
MICE: Cotton dipped in peppermint oil or used kitty litter will act as a deterrent.
FLIES: Place a potted basil plant and/or sachets of crushed mint around the home

These simple treatments are friendly solutions for making your home and yard a welcoming environment for invited guests!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The "Write" Way

I was fortunate to have been influenced by my Grandmothers, who were born during the Victorian era. I’m not that old but I value the ways of life necessary at that time. My Grams carried the tradition into the space age when I was instructed to write with care. It is nearly 2010 and the custom of hand-writing personal notes is appreciated more than ever. What could stand out more during an age of high-tech communication than a hand written note?

A quarter of a century ago, while interviewing for my first career oriented jobs, I always sent a thank you letter. I was offered most of those positions because of that simple gesture. I always write “thank you(s)” for every occasion and people know me for that; it’s what I do. Every “thank you” is written expressly for that person and for a specific occasion or gift. For most notes of a more personal nature, I carefully select my stationary or card, and hand write in calligraphy a personal sentiment and then hand address an envelope. I didn’t give the practice much thought about the impact it had. When I first went off to college, I wrote letters which begat hand written responses. Most replies were prefaced by a familiar disclaimer; “I’ve never written to anyone before, don’t expect to get another”, or “This may be the last letter I write…” It occurred to me that others simply don’t communicate in this form and the fact that they took the time to write a reply made me feel quite special!

At first I kept a shoe box of these cards, letters and postcards replacing it with a larger box, which grew into multiple storage bins. I still receive hand written notes I display for a season or two, then slip between the lid and the overgrown stack I’ve accumulated. Periodically, I sit down and shuffle thru the library I’ve accumulated, re-visiting the people and events that made up my life. It’s like taking a trip! I enjoy it more than looking through photos, of which I’ve also acquired a collection. The cards and letters tell a story and illustrate a 3D picture I can relive and share -memories that are truly etched in my heart.

Dedicated to the many Moms and Grand-moms whose precious sentiment- filled notes I dearly miss.